The Universe is an Echoing Void

June 13, 2017

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

I’m quite proud of this new episode of Point of Inquiry, my second as the new host, where I talk to The New Yorker‘s Elizabeth Kolbert about how we might honestly come to grips with inevitable climate change. She was super cool and really informative. PLUS, there’s a bonus “exit interview” with now-former POI producer Nora Hurley.  

Taimoor Raza, charged with blasphemy in Pakistan Facebook posts deemed “derogatory” to Islam, is sentenced to death. To be clear, he is going to be executed over the kind of Facebook post readers of this blog would make without a second thought.

There’s some really interesting new survey data on the partisanship of clergy, as opposed to congregants. Emma Green at The Atlantic reports (emphasis mine):

[Researchers] discovered that religious leaders generally tend to be more partisan than their congregants, including those on either end of the ideological spectrum. Not only that: Religious leaders’ denominational affiliations seem to shape their political leanings in a way that’s not the case for their congregants. Once factors like age, race, gender, and geography are considered, denomination isn’t a very strong predictor of regular people’s political affiliation, they write. Among pastors, however, the partisan split by denomination is “dramatic.” 

And there’s a lot more to mine from this massive survey, like the degree of partisanship among specific denominations’ clergy (Reform Jews are the most Democratic, Wisconsin Lutheran the least, while Brethren are the most Republican and Unitarians the least) and even the gender balance among clergy, which, you know, is really unbalanced. NYT reports:

In all, about 85 percent of the pastors the researchers matched were men, and most of the women were concentrated in a handful of denominations. … The Unitarian Church was the only denomination in which women represented the majority of pastors. 

Megyn Kelly’s upcoming interview of Alex Jones on NBC is NOT GOING OVER WELL, and NBC has managed to make enemies of the grieving families of the Sandy Hook massacre victims. Trying to “shine a light” on an influential-yet-malignant figure is not a bad thing per se, so Julia Belluz explains one aspect of why it looks so bad:

…the teaser suggests that Jones will be shown sitting across from the anchor, as heads of state, important authors, and serious scientists have in NBC interviews before him. It suggests he’ll be given lots of latitude to promulgate nonsense. 

Also terrible: Jerry Falwell Jr. will be part of Trump’s higher education task force. I have a few ideas about what their “tasks” might be. 

Abstinence-only advocate Valerie Huber is joining HHS in the adolescent health division, as the revived movement now rebrands its mission as “sexual risk avoidance.” The jerk store called…

What is happening on this planet: A Missouri state legislator, Rep. Mike Moon, records a video of himself — and I am not kidding — beheading a chicken and ripping its heart out in order to make some point about abortion legislation. What universe is this. What is life. I can’t. 

Nina Liss-Schultz at Mother Jones reports on something that is less crazy but only in comparison to the chicken thing, because it’s still crazy: An alleged abortion-reversal treatment that forced-birth advocates are pretty excited about and want to make it a requirement for doctors to inform abortion patients about — never mind that there’s little proof the thing even works and could be dangerous.

Rob Breakenridge at Canada’s Global News celebrates the likely demise of the country’s absurd blasphemy law.

“God is great” and “God is a myth” should be equally protected speech. Freedom of religion entails the freedom to reject a religion or reject all faith entirely. The state itself must remain neutral on such matters — what we might also refer to as “secularism.”

A tax court in Edmonton, Canada rules that a woman cannot get a tax break on her alt-med/”natural remedy” expenses.  

That good old Ninth Circuit appeals court upholds the block on the Muslim ban. Fake judges! Out of order! Sad!

An Australian Christian lobby wants Christian groups to be able to discriminate against the mentally ill, via an exemption to the Disability Discrimination Act, because they might disrupt church services. Wowee wow wow that’s cold.  

Julie Rehmeyer at Slate offers a guide to assessing cures offered to you on social me
dia and whatnot. For example:

Constantly look for contrary evidence and alternative explanations. Or, to put it another way, stay humble. The more you invest in a solution, both physically and emotionally, the more likely you are to want it to work. That desire makes it easy to come up with ever-more elaborate theories to explain away contrary evidence. This is the best way to deeply delude yourself. 

Michael Gerson hits Bernie Sanders over the senator’s questioning of Russell Vought about the nominee’s religious beliefs that certain folks are “condemned” to hellfire and whatnot:

How strongly does a belief need to be held to be disqualifying for employment? Would he permit a Christian colleague to shoot down a government job seeker if that man or woman believed that the universe is an echoing void and that human beings are merely bags of chemicals?

That’s crazy. We’re not “bags.” Clumps, maybe. Clods, one might say, in the lump-of-dirt sense.

The New Yorker has a feature by Rachel Aviv on the strange phenomenon of folks who are falsely convicted of murder, and then exonerated by DNA evidence, but with false memories of having committed the crime

Quote of the Day:

Self-proclaimed psychic Blair Robertson gets hit by a car (he’s okay), and immediately gets ahead of the joke, telling reporters:

I didn’t foresee it happening.

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