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A Particularly Toxic Brand

June 5, 2019

Before we begin with the usual Heresy, I just want to take a moment and thank all the pro-homeopathy folks who have posted about our Walmart lawsuit to your various message boards, because the deluge of angry emails we’ve been getting are, let me just say, a delight. They. Are. HILARIOUS. They really make it all worthwhile.

(Relatedly, this guy says homeopathy will make you taller. Now they tell me.)


Sean Illing at Vox talks to Diana Pasulka, author of the book American Cosmic, who says UFO enthusiasm has turned into a kind of religion:

One way we can make sense of this by using a very old but functional definition of religion as simply the belief in nonhuman and supernatural intelligent beings that often descend from the sky. There are many definitions of religion, but this one is pretty standard. … [Some scientists say] we’re going to find life, we’re going to find habitable planets and things like that. So that gives this type of religiosity a far more powerful bite than the traditional religions, which are based on faith in things unseen and unprovable.

But the belief that UFOs and aliens are potentially true, and can potentially be proven, makes this a uniquely powerful narrative for the people who believe in it.

On the other end of sort-of religions, Tara Isabella Burton at RNS looks at the commercialization of paganism and the “witch aesthetic”:

Not that today’s millennials are casting spells or hunting down newts for dissection. For the approximately 20 percent of Americans who identify as “spiritual but not religious,” items like Anthropologie’s palo santo represent an easily accessible approach to spiritual practice divorced from its original context in the occult, and from any identity as a shaman. Sage can be burned to cleanse a home of vaguely conceived “negative energy,” devoid of any specific metaphysical referents. Nor does engaging in indigenous smudging one day prevent anyone from practicing yoga the next and reading tarot the day after that.

FiveThirtyEight reports on polling about the presidential preferences of nonreligious Democrats. No, really! Someone actually ran that poll! Among atheist and agnostic Democrats, Bernie Sanders is at the top at around 25 percent. Once you move into “nothing in particular” is when Joe Biden retakes the lead he has everywhere else. Interestingly, Elizabeth Warren’s best numbers are also with atheists and agnostics.

Don’t get your hopes up for the Democratic Party trying to overtly win our favor. Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux writes:

Marshaling Democrats by invoking their secular identity, though, would be risky for Democratic politicians in a number of ways. Atheism, in particular, remains a fairly politically toxic brand. As FiveThirtyEight’s Perry Bacon Jr. noted recently, big segments of the electorate, including 28 percent of Democrats, say they wouldn’t vote for a well-qualified presidential candidate who was an atheist. So messages directed specifically at nonreligious voters could alienate the religious Democrats who make up the bulk of the party — not to mention voters in the general election.

This may surprise you to hear, but not everyone in Congress knows everything that’s going on in Congress. They are very busy people, I am told. We would like you to help us make sure that every Member of Congress knows about the Congressional Freethought Caucus (bonus: they don’t have to be nonreligious to join it). Go help your rep see the light.

The State Department says it will form a commission to promote human rights based on “natural law and natural rights.” Sound fishy? It is. Rob Boston at Americans United reminds us what that’s all about:

The problem is the term “natural law.” Although many Americans may not realize it, that’s a loaded term – code language, really. It’s often used by religious conservatives to undermine church-state separation and argue that public policy should be anchored in faith-based rationales. A better term for it is “God’s law.” …

The problem with natural law is that while it’s often dressed up in a lot of academic jargon, pseudo-philosophizing and claims to be a reason-based system, at the end of the day, its fundamental argument is this: “I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I’m convinced that my religion is true, so let’s base ours laws on it.”

It must be tough for California governor Gavin Newsom. On the one hand, he wants to stop the measles epidemic. On the other, he wants to look like a champion of the people against Big Pharma. How does one strike a balance? That’s a trick question. The LA Times editorial board takes He of the Swoopy Hair to task for his vaccination vacillations:

We sincerely hope that Newsom’s derisive comment over the weekend about “bureaucrats making decisions that should be personal” is another one soon to be clarified. … Surely the leader of a state that recently suffered a measles outbreak should be wary of lending credibility, intentionally or not, to the false narrative peddled by vaccination skeptics that politicians and evil pharmaceutical companies are in cahoots to sicken and kill children with unsafe vaccines.

But that’s exactly what Newsom did when asked about the bill, which would guard against unscrupulous doctors handing out vaccination exemptions to kids who don’t really need them.

Pope Francis is really sorry and the Vatican convenes panels and commissions and conferences to deal with the sexual abuse crisis, but hey, don’t actually expect the Catholic Church to actually have to pay for its crimes. NBC News reports:

The U.S. Catholic Church spent $10.6 million on lobbyists to prevent victims of clerical sex abuse from suing for damages.

According to a new report, the money was doled out from 2011 through 2018 in eight northeastern states where bills to reform statute of limitations laws were either in the works or being considered.

Craig Northcott, a district attorney in Tennessee, says he refuses to acknowledge the validity of same-sex marriage, and therefore they will not be afforded the protections of domestic violence laws. The Post reports:

When reached by phone, Northcott said, “There’s no marriage to protect with homosexual relationships, so I don’t prosecute them as domestic,” and refused to comment further.

There’s more!

Less than two months ago, he was severely criticized for saying that Muslims have “no constitutional rights.”

“There are only God given rights protected by the Constitution. If you don’t believe in the one true God, there is nothing to protect,” News Channel 5 quoted him as saying in response to a claim that Muslims worshiped the same God as he.

Meanwhile, Mark Chambers, mayor of Carbon Hill, Alabama, writes on Facebook that liberals should be killed. I’m not kidding!

We live in a society where homosexuals lecture us on morals, transvestites lecture us on human biology, baby killers lecture us on human rights and socialists lecture us on economics. … By giving the minority more rights than the majority. I hate to think of the country my grandkids will live in unless somehow we change and I think that will take a revolution. … The only way to change it would be to kill the problem out. I know it’s bad to say but without killing them out there’s no way to fix it.

Louisiana Republicans really want it to be okay for little girls to get married. What is wrong with these people.

Derek Lowe at Science laments the misinformation apocalypse the internet has set loose, recalling the halcyon days when the internet was going to free us all. “I really thought that making information available all over the world was a wonderful thing, and on Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays I still do.”

This will not surprise you: alt-med practitioners overdiagnose and misdiagnose celiac disease. Because everything is gluten’s fault. But THEY have the power to cure you of your fake celiac disease.

Quote of the Day

At Vox, Mary Annaise Heglar of the Natural Resources Defense Council says that the climate crisis isn’t your fault, and you, personally, are not the enemy if you don’t recycle that plastic bottle:

The belief that this enormous, existential problem could have been fixed if all of us had just tweaked our consumptive habits is not only preposterous; it’s dangerous. It turns environmentalism into an individual choice defined as sin or virtue, convicting those who don’t or can’t uphold these ethics. When you consider that the same IPCC report outlined that the vast majority of global greenhouse gas emissions come from just a handful of corporations — aided and abetted by the world’s most powerful governments, including the US — it’s victim blaming, plain and simple.

When people come to me and confess their green sins, as if I were some sort of eco-nun, I want to tell them they are carrying the guilt of the oil and gas industry’s crimes. That the weight of our sickly planet is too much for any one person to shoulder. And that that blame paves the road to apathy, which can really seal our doom.

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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.