Blur Some of the Battle Lines

May 3, 2013

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

I was very proud to work under the skeptical-yet-welcoming glow of the Big Blue Meatball of CFI yesterday, as we and our allies held protests in cities around the world to raise awareness of, and demand action in response to, the persecution of atheist bloggers and other dissidents in Bangladesh. Things didn’t turn out as we had hoped a couple of weeks ago, as a tragic building collapse in Bangladesh killed hundreds, and as a result, some groups went ahead with protests on the country’s day of mourning, and others, including ours, postponed. So things were more thinly spread, but as a result, we got days and days of secular activists talking, tweeting, posting, and demonstrating against crackdowns on free expression. So while things did get a little confusing, and a little jumbled, what we did still mattered, and continues to matter. Thank you, sincerely, to everyone who made an effort.

We have pictures from the protests in Dhaka, and photos from CFI and CFI-Canada’s events are on the way; the one in this post is from the DC protest.

President Obama says he’s “comfortable” with the morning-after pill being available over the counter, which comes after his Justice Department announced its intention to appeal a ruling that made the pill available to women of all ages. The New York Times is not happy with the president, saying that his administration, in appealing the ruling, “betrayed both reproductive rights and science.”

This story made my brain explode. Well, no, but it did make me almost gag on my lunch. So first, yeah, Louisiana’s legislature is, as you would expect, keeping in place a bill allowing for the teaching of creationism in public schools. But then dig this hot mess: 

Sen. Elbert Guillory, D-Opelousas, said he had reservations with repealing the act after a spiritual healer correctly diagnosed a specific medical ailment he had. He said he thought repealing the act could “lock the door on being able to view ideas from many places, concepts from many cultures.” 

“Yet if I closed my mind when I saw this man — in the dust, throwing some bones on the ground, semi-clothed — if I had closed him off and just said, ‘That’s not science. I’m not going to see this doctor,’ I would have shut off a very good experience for myself,” Guillory said.

That’s where the gagging happened. (h/t Rob Boston) 

Curtis Brainard of Columbia Journalism Review blames the news media’s use of the “balance” crutch for the panic over vaccines’ safety

On that topic, Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL) introduces a bill to direct the HHS to study the nonexistent vaccine-autism link. 

WaPo favorably reviews the new film The Reluctant Fundamentalist, which examines the complexities of religious and ideological extremism in the post-9/11 world.

Students from Lincoln County High School in Kentucky put a stop to student-led prayers at their graduation. 

Check out some sharp-looking photos from CFI’s symposium this past weekend, “Why Tolerate Religion?”, with images of sharp-looking smart people in a sharp-looking theater (Wooly Mammoth, which is an awesome space, by the way). 

Olivia James at the On Campus blog says secular groups are uniquely positioned to advocate for mental health services at colleges and universities. 

Speaking of On Campus, Secular Students Alliance at Orange Coast College is our Affiliate of the Week

At Discovery News, CSI’s Ben Radford looks at what can and can’t really be gleaned about a person’s skills and attributes by examining their handwriting

Former faith-based office director Josh DuBois used to send the president little biblical nuggets to his BlackBerry to, I dunno, inspire him to be Christ-like or whatever. Sarah Posner, writing at The Guardianis less than impressed:

Knowing that he reads a daily devotional, via email, doesn’t make me admire the president’s moral compass or leadership capabilities any more than if he were reading his daily horoscope. And no, that wasn’t a New Atheist-like comparison of the Bible to astrology. Far from it. It’s precisely because I think the Bible is a complex, meaningful and often contradictory text that DuBois’ comments offend me. Reducing powerful material to bromides for political gain – by either side of the political aisle – is an insulting and dangerous business. 

Come on, guys. This Ohio Catholic school didn’t fire a teacher because they found out she was gay, but because she was involved in a “quasi-spousal relationship” with a woman! Totally different. 

Art restorers at the Vatican believe they’ve uncovered the first depictions of Native Americans. 

FFRF lands a full-page WaPo ad against the National Day of Prayer. 

A former Navy chaplain is offering money to students who pray at a public school graduation ceremony in Florida. 

Alan Strathern at BBC tries to answer what is behind the counter-intuitive violence of Buddhists against Muslims in many parts of the world: 

[H]owever any religion starts out, sooner or later it enters into a Faustian pact with state power. . . . The result can seem ironic. If you have a strong sense of the overriding moral superiority of your worldview, then the need to protect and advance it can seem the most important duty of all.  

A Muslim woman is charged with blasphemy in Myanmar for, get this, “colliding” with a Buddhist monk, which resulted in a street fight that left one person dead. 

Wingnut on Fox News is upset with Charlotte mayor Anthony Foxx (soon to be Secretary of Transportation) for getting behind the National Day of Reasob becaaaaaaause…<drumroll>…Hitler

Sean Faircloth comes down against fellow-liberals’ squishiness on calling out Islamic extremism:

[A]ny ideology, religious or not, that seeks to undermine the human rights of others must be condemned. This principle is particularly important when an ideology advocates or accepts calls to violence against non-violent people. Sound reasonable? Liberals eagerly apply this principle to Christian Right groups though violence is rarely seen from that quarter. And yet American liberals, so vehemently opposed to the Christian Right, will cry  “Islamophobia!” if one dares to apply the exact same standard I suggest above to Islam. 

Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev says his country is an “example to the world” for religious freedom. But Christian aid group Barnabas says the opposite is true, as churches and services are raided and people are arrested to being open about their Christianity.

CFI’s board chair Eddie Tabash can apparently stir up controversy by his mere presence, according to the Grand Rapids Herald-Review. That’s the kind of power you want from your leaders! 

BBC profiles couples opting for Humanist weddings in Scotland. 

Governor Jesus himself, Sam Brownback, meets with atheists, and no one dies or is hit by lightning. Man, Brownback smiles all the time.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) has a good reason for the U.S. intervening in Syria: Because it has a lot of Christian heritage there! Great call.  

Liberal Christian group Faithful America begins a petition to get ESPN personality Chris Broussard off the air for saying that Jason Collins can’t be a Christian because he’s gay. 

Video of Richard Dawkins and Herb Silverman chatting in Charleston

Quote of the Day 

Religious blogger Alise Wright is moved by the secular community’s efforts on behalf of the persecuted yesterday:

I often hear that the Christian faith is a relationship, not a religion, and while I think it’s a bit of an “and” proposition (I believe that my faith is based both on relationship and religious ritual and that the two are difficult to separate), I see some value in that statement. However, I have also often observed that when aspects of the religion are challenged, we have a tendency to abandon any kind of relationship that might exist here. We use battle language to describe disagreement. We stop listening. We say one thing, but our actions show something completely different.

Today I’m standing with my atheist writing friends and saying that questions and criticisms should be allowed, even of things that I hold dear. And while this may not do much to help those who have been imprisoned for those questions or criticisms, it may begin to blur some of the battle lines that are drawn between our communities.

Today, my obligation as a faith blogger is to pursue relationship. 

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Linking to a story or webpage does not imply endorsement by Paul or CFI. Not every use of quotation marks is ironic or sarcastic, but it often is. 

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