Psychic Fraud to the Nines

September 3, 2013

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

Whew! This weekend, Hemant Mehta done got himself “Hitched.” (Cute photo!) The Morning Heretic of course offers its sincere congratulations. But while he was being nuptial’d, Hemant tasked me with the stewardship of Friendly Atheist. Despite this being an obvious mistake, I did my best not to crash his Ferrari of a blog.

What did I blog about? GLAD YOU ASKED. Well, an Indian novelist was charged with blasphemy, the South Jersey prayer-at-council-meetings fiasco got weirder, I found a great example of apologetics leading to nonbelief, E.W. Jackson nailed himself to a proverbial cross, EWTN explained how Hell actually works (and how Karl Marx is probably there), looked at the universality of messiah-wishes, and a teacher in India is fighting for his right to NOT pray in school. Like I said, whew!

It’s always all about them: Build-up to a US attack on Syria seen by some Christians as a harbinger of the End Times. But what isn’t, really? 

Sara Lin Wilde decodes the first Pope Francis encyclical, and finds it’s not too nice to nonbelievers, despite how cuddly Frankie can seem

NYT profiles Eugenie Scott and her battles against science denialism in schools. (Speaking of which, not teaching creationism is now “big government.” Of course.)

David Gibson on the increasing religious diversity of the American workplace. Interesting highlight:

[B]oth nonbelievers and evangelicals shared a heightened sense of bias: Nearly 6-in-10 atheists said they think people look down on their beliefs, and nearly 6-in-10 of white evangelicals agreed that discrimination against Christians has become as big a problem as discrimination against other religious minorities. 

Blasphemy law victim Asia Bibi tells her story to Anne-Isabelle Tollet, who is helping her to write a book on her experience. 

What could possibly qualify as “the greatest breakthrough in agriculture since the plough”? Why, radio wave energized water of course! 

At Skeptical Inquirer, Barry Fagin calls for recognition of libertarian skeptics’ positions in the movement:

Were our views proportionally represented in skeptical writings, on skeptical websites, and at skeptical conferences, I suspect the discussion on policy issues would be more civil, more dispassionate, and healthier for the skeptical movement as a whole. 

One day, The Human Bible came unto us. And then, lo, it vanished. But behold! It doth return with great cheer and parsing of texts! Though curb thy enthusiasm, for The Human Bible‘s end is nigh.

CFI’s John Shook on religion and humanism as polar opposites, despite some overlap:

Across the world’s civilizations, all of them religious to some degree or another, it becomes a truism that religiosity and noble ethics were found together. One might as well argue that since all the foundations of mathematics originated from religious cultures from Egypt and Babylon to India and China, then mathematics is not opposed to religion. So what? 

The outreach team has a wrap-up of the second On Campus On-Air Session, with meticulous notes. 

Jerry Coyne explores what made his hero, Clarence Darrow, tick, and finds some surprises:

I realized that Darrow’s entire philosophy of criminal justice hinged on his notion that criminals had no free will: they couldn’t choose to commit or refrain from crime, but were conditioned completely by their constitutions and environment. 

Oregon parents who, in keeping with the teachings of their “Church of the First Born,” deny their daughter medical treatment. The daughter died, and now the parents have been arrested for manslaughter.  

Pakistani woman Salma Fatima distributed fliers asserting she was a prophet, and for this has been arrested for blasphemy

A panel full of Skeptic
al Inquirer and CSI skeptics talks conspiracy theories at Dragon*Con

Recalling an essay from 1997, Dawkins clarifies his stand on religious expression:

Of course I  have never tried to “deny anyone with religious faith any access to the public square.” Free speech is precious, and I of course defend the right of anybody to go to any public square and speak, preach or proselytize freely about their religion. I also defend my own right, and the right of my fellow atheists, to go to the same public square and criticize what the religious preacher says. And I defend his right to come back and attempt to criticize what I say in return. Incidentally, one of the most effective ways to ridicule religious beliefs is to quote them, verbatim and without comment. 

Defending Dawkins against accusations of racism, Indian writer Aravindan Neelakandan says it is the West that is to blame for radical Islamism gaining momentum:

Secular humanism would have triumphed in the Islamic world, and also in countries like India where there was sizable Islamic population, had colonialism not intervened. British were not averse to use pan-Islamist sentiments to gather support as well as win Islamic princes to their side when they were establishing their empire in India. 

Here’s a bucketful of Vines about science! (Vine is a video service where the limit is 6 seconds of footage, kind of the Twitter of video.) 

Defense attorney for fake psychic Rose Marks says it was the clients making things up

Another pair of fake psychics are charged with grand theft in San Bernardino:

In December, [fake psychic] Uwanawich reportedly told a woman that the spirit of a drowned person had attached itself to her, authorities said. In order to rid the woman of the spirit, Uwanawich reportedly told the woman to give her nine pennies, nine nickels, nine dimes, nine quarters and $9,000 for nine days. 

Sigfried Gold says atheists should be a little nicer to believers:

We are particularly well-suited, given our clear-headedness about the natural world and the fit between scientific theories and reality, to provide a corrective force to the harmful use of religion, but only if we also cultivate our compassion for religious people and our understanding of the good religions do in some people’s lives. 

Edinburgh Secular Society releases a report of rampant proselytizing in Scotland schools.

Want to poke people with needles and pretend it heals them? In California, lack of English proficiency is no obstacle

Siberia sees more scary things falling from space. This time, it looks like a dead satellite.  

Mark Twain, demon spawn

Quote of the Day

WaPo’s Gene Weingarten visits a psychic, and watches the machinery work:

She spoke very rapidly. There is cancer and diabetes in my family. True enough! My mom died of cancer and my father was partly blinded by diabetes, however I must note that based on health statistics I have just pulled up, and doing some actuarial computations, it turns out the odds of both cancer and diabetes existing somewhere within, say, three generations of anyone’s extended family is roughly four in five. Still. 

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