Diplopia, Estropia, Nystagmus, and Strabismus

August 11, 2016


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

Okay, now we’re talking. The State Department releases a new religious freedom report and comes down hard on countries with blasphemy laws on the books, particularly Muslim countries:

Such laws conflict with and undermine universally recognized human rights … False accusations, often lodged in pursuit of personal vendettas or for the personal gain of the accuser, are not uncommon. Mob violence as a result of such accusations is disturbingly common. 

Before Trump has even been elected (cough cough), and well before the much-derided “Muslim ban” has been enacted, Mike Pence decides to get an early start on the snowball effect, saying that other faiths could be added to the list of prohibited religions. What year is it? 

Max Bearak at the Washington Post reports on a massacre in Quetta, Pakistan where “a generation of lawyers has been wiped out” after 60 young lawyers were killed in a blast in a hospital where they were seeing a colleague who’d been shot. Apart from the horror of it all, the tragedy is worsened by the desperate need for lawyers in Pakistan, particularly in the province of Baluchistan:

Pakistan’s largest province by area, it is the home of a decades-old separatist insurgency, fueled by real grievances over neglect and lack of political representation. It is also increasingly the target of Sunni extremists, who bomb and kill its Shiite minorities. What leaders the province has are widely considered corrupt. Dozens of local journalists have been kidnapped in the past few years. It is nearly impossible for foreign reporters to enter Baluchistan. Lawyers are almost all that give the province a semblance of justice. 

In Riverview, Florida, a school principal is given the business by his superiors when they find out he’s been leading prayers and engaging in other religion-endorsing things in the context of school activities. Employees are now going to get some training on what they can and can’t do, and not noted in this article is the fact that this change was spearheaded by local freethought groups incuding our own CFI–Tampa Bay.

Michelle Nijhuis at the New Yorker considers whether wildlife conservationists are too concerned about climate change, as opposed to more immediate threats to the ecosystem. As Jonathan Foley, the executive director of the California Academy of Sciences, tells her, “The good thing about really stupid things is that you can stop doing them.”

Religious conservatives who really want universities to be able to discriminate against gays are pushing to stop California’s SB 1146 which would require religious schools to be up front about their discriminatory practices, and forego any hope of state funding. Zack Ford at ThinkProgress shows the jaw-dropping gall of these people:

On Tuesday, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) released a letter opposing SB 1146. It claims that the bill would unfairly punish the “low-income students” and “racial minorities” who depend on state grant programs by not allowing them to attend those religious universities. The bill threatens not only religious liberty, its signatories claim, but “the protection of American society and American democracy.” … [They] argue that they must be able to continue discriminating against LGBT students, because “the future of a free America requires the full participation of religion in public life.”

Has Ray Comfort finally DESTROYED atheism with his new sort-of-documentary The Atheist Delusion? Hemant Mehta doesn’t think so (“it isn’t even nicked”), and Comfort himself says:

[Critics] are understandably skeptical and of course, mocking, saying things like if I had real evidence for the existence of God I would be getting the Nobel prize. 

Cough cough.  

The Economist declares the Olympics to be a kind of global religion:

Both the modern contests and their ancient Greek predecessors share many of the features of a giant sacramental feast. People coming from many different places and circumstances lay aside their differences and in spectacular ceremonies, declare their commitment to a single noble ideal. The games are intended to be inspiring, self-denying and uplifting. As all global religions must, the ceremonies affirm both human diversity and human universality. And thanks to television, the entire population of the world seems to join in. 

The new Seth Rogen animated film about sentient food, Sausage Party, is apparently stuffed with religious allegory, as Josh Bell at Las Vegas Weekly describes it as “the atheist equivalent of a VeggieTales movie.”  

Quote of the Day

Former Wall Street Journal foreign correspondent Barry Newman details for Longreads the twisting rat hole he found himself lost in when he tried to diagnose himself on the Internet:

I am not, at this writing, yet dead. Thirty years ago, watching “Hannah and Her Sisters,” I laughed when Woody Allen’s character mistook hearing loss for proof of brain tumor. (“It’s over. I’m face-to-face with eternity. Not later, but now.”) He was an analogue hypochondriac. I was a digital cyberchondriac, though I didn’t know the keyword yet. I did not die that weekend, but decided I soon would—once past the seizures and coma to come after the operation that the Web told me I needed in a hurry. Guided by the neuro-ophthalmologist’s notes, I pursued my search down a trail of maladies, from diplopia and estropia to nystagmus a
nd strabismus. An invitation to my cousin’s son’s wedding, four months away, lay on my desk. I checked “will not attend” on the RSVP card.    

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