The Squeakiest Wheel

April 30, 2018

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.  

Joe Nickell has a really great blog post up about belief in demons, responding to the recent “Exorcism and Prayer of Liberation” event held in Rome:

The 300 conservative Catholics who attended the 13th annual event (mostly clerics) believe there is a recent increase in evil. They attribute this to atheism, to the Internet, and even, supposedly, to the lax modernistic views of Pope Francis. … In fact, it is they, their religious ilk elsewhere, and the allegedly “possessed” who are out of place in time, ironically harking back to the Middle Ages and earlier. […] The Internet can help dispel these [reports of possession], and so it is not a cause but a remedy; atheism is not a consequence but, coupled with humanist values, a salvation. 

Here’s a video a lot of you have been waiting for: Richard Wiseman in conversation with Richard Dawkins at CSICon 2017. 

A group of Christian nationalist organizations has banded together to create model bills for state legislatures, ominously called “Project Blitz.”

Liberty University gives up its crown as the largest Christian university, bowing to the holy might of Grand Canyon University (which is apparently less severe in its religiosity).

As of now, going to an abortion clinic to “prophesy” a bombing does not constitute an actual bomb threat. Though one has to wonder if that would hold up if the one doing the prophesying was some religion other than Christian…

Religion News Service, which recently underwent some very public convulsions with firings and resignations, puts out a statement affirming its commitment to factual reporting:

Our commitment to the integrity of RNS, founded in 1934, includes ensuring it maintains the highest standards of accuracy. When we are notified that a story may contain errors, our process is to carefully review the facts and determine whether a correction is required. This process was not followed by our editor-in-chief in recent weeks, and contributed to our decision to make a leadership change. 

Humanist activist Leo Igwe gives a TED talk on “how humanism can free Africans from damaging superstitions and give them the power to rebuild the continent.”

Michael Powell at The Outline profiles the life and times of Art Bell, the recently-deceased paranormal enthusiast and former host of Coast to Coast AM.

Cynthia Romero of Catholics for Choice writes in The Hill that we can’t let one brand of Christianity get all the benefits of “religious liberty” just because they’re the squeakiest wheel.

Rep. Jared Huffman introduces a resolution for a National Day of Reason for May 3. Don’t get your hopes up for this being adopted by the House, but it’s good to see nonetheless. 

A Norse pagan (“Heathen”) in the U.S. Army gets to keep his beard under the “Sikh exception.”

Autism rates tick up slightly to one child in 59 according to the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network. Everyone FREAK OUT ABOUT VACCINES.

Jeff Bezos is coming for you, Elon. Bezos’s Blue Origin rocket, New Shepard, executed a perfect liftoff and landing

Science-Based Medicine posts a piece by former holistic nutritionist Denby Royal:

When I could no longer accept the world I had dedicated my career and identity to, I made the difficult decision to leave the Church of Woo. It was an ego-crushing experience to burst my own self-righteous bubble and to let go of the person I had become through a mix [of] ignorance, misinformation, and a misguided desire to be different. 

Faye Flam, writing at Bloomberg View, looks at how vitamin supplements continue to be recommended by physicians even though there’s little evidence they do any meaningful good:

Perhaps the enthusiasm for vitamins was also a product of that techno-optimism that was such a part of 20th-century culture. We were in the space age, and soon food would be replaced with technologically superior substances. But food is back in vogue, and finally, doctors are recommending people get their vitamins by eating it. If doctors are now concerned that too many people are hooked on vitamin pills, they might want to admit they were wrong.

Best headline-posed-as-a-question ever? “What if Aliens Met Racists?” Here, Andrew Whalen at Newsweek shows how the UFO-conspiracy community has more than its fair share of far-right racists.

Aw man, I missed the New England Para-Fest.

Bill Gates says 30 million of us are going to die in a pandemic the likes of which we’ve never seen, and we’re completely unprepared. Happy Monday! 

Quote of the Day

Matthew Yglesias has a little thought, and then a neat idea:

Thought:

There probably shouldn’t be a House chaplain.

Idea:

Alternatively, the Jobs Guarantee could be that anyone who needs work can get paid to show up at random people’s offices and do a non-sectarian prayer.

This seems easily scalable and to not require specialized skills. 

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