Grand Theft Auto: Pale Blue Dot

June 29, 2016

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

Another terrorist attack, this time at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, Turkey. At least 41 dead, more wounded, at the hands of three attackers with automatic weapons and suicide vests. Turkish officials point to the Islamic State, but they have not claimed responsibility. 

The Supreme Court lets stand a Washington state law that prohibits pharmacies from refusing to dispense medications on religious grounds. That’s good!

It’s a new Point of Inquiry episode of podcast goodness, this week with Lindsay Beyerstein talking to journalist Autumn Whitefield-Mandrano about how society quantifies beauty, and women’s rock-and-a-hard-place problem, stuck between self-acceptance and humility, and striving to reach impossible (and arbitrary) beauty standards. (I tried to get Nora to call the episode “The Beauty Myth Myth,” but we then agreed that was a bit much.)

The Charleston Gazette-Mail cites our response to the Supreme Court ruling on the Texas abortion case in its own editorial on the decision. “Social conservatives — mostly white evangelicals and fundamentalists attached to the Republican Party — keep suffering political defeats in America.” Well, sometimes. 

Felipe Nogueira interviews Lawrence Krauss about the meaning and role of science for our Skeptical Briefs.

Tony Ortega reports that the Church of Scientology looks to be gaming Google by whitewashing its Narconon website of any reference to the church, and fake reviews of Narconon are showing up on Google Maps. 

Lorena O’Neil at Esquire profiles a gay couple struggling with a conflict between their love and their Mormon faith. The anxieties are existential:

Mormons believe families are eternal, and when someone leaves the Church by personal resignation or through Church discipline, the future of their relationships is called into question, here on earth and otherwise. “The Church has given LGBT youth a very bleak choice,” says Mitch Mayne, an openly gay Mormon and former leader in a California congregation, in response to the recent revelation. “Either choose a life of loneliness and celibacy and quiet desperation or be expelled from your family, your culture, and your church, not just for now but for all of eternity.” 

Astronomers are getting legit excited about the possibility of life on Saturn’s moon Enceladus (which sounds like a group of people demanding to be buried in leafy vegetables: “En-salad us!” Sorry.) Involved in this search is, of course, Cassini imaging team leader Carolyn Porco:

Earlier this month, she gathered a group of researchers including oceanographers, organic chemists and astrobiologists at the University of California, Berkeley, to strategize how to search for extraterrestrials on Enceladus—which, according to Porco, “is a total bitch of a problem to solve.”

I love her.

Relatedly, this Monday the Juno spacecraft will arrive at Jupiter, a 5-year, 1.8 billion-mile trip.  

The Christian Post covers Facebook’s hair-trigger deletion of atheist pages critical of Islam. 

The Telegraph in the UK explains to readers what humanist funerals are…in their “Retirement Solutions” section. smile 

Fireball UFOs over Buffalo. Come on, guys. It’s probably just someone at CFI practicing their sorcery. 

Stewart Hoover at Religion Dispatches analyses Trump’s claim that “we really don’t know anything” about Hillary Clinton’s faith, which just isn’t true. Hoover writes:

Its not that Clinton has been shy about the subject (other presidents—notably Reagan—have been remarkably reticent). She’s a lifelong Methodist, and has attended Washington’s Foundry United Methodist Church for years.  Her biography is an impressively complete account of how church and faith shaped her values.

So why is it that we don’t know this? It is because Hillary is a liberal Protestant of the former Protestant Establishment. To journalists, she is a generic Christian and generic believer. That kind of faith is tacit and taken-for-granted in the culture. The religions that stand out are the ones that are active at contesting presumed established power and authority. The old aphorism still holds: dog bites man is not news, man bites dog is news. Protestants or Catholics who pray, talk and think about their faith, and do good things as a result are not news. That is what we expect. 

Quote of the Day:

This gave me contradictory feelings. A machinima video of Carl Sagan’s narration over footage from Grand Theft Auto V:

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