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An Equal Among Gods

August 23, 2019

Is Donald Trump’s penchant for saying mind-blowingly awful/offensive/dangerous/ridiculous/dishonest/stupid things actually part of a devious strategy to distract us from “what’s really going on”? Benjamin Radford considers this position, and roundly rejects it.

In Free Inquiry, Mark Kolsen introduces us to 18th-century American poet Philip Freneau, a figure whose atheism, Kolsen says, has been ignored. For example, in one poem Freneau writes:

If prudence we possess

No other Deity we need

To work our happiness.

Jamie Hale writes at the CFI blog about mind-body dualism and concludes:

A comprehensive study of the mind requires neuroscience and psychology. The mind reflects electrical-chemical signals emanating from the brain. The mind is a product of biological systems; it is shaped by interactions involving the brain, body proper (body outside of the brain), and the environment.

Evangelical Jay Lowder, head of Harvest Ministries, says Trump’s deification has gone too far, calling it “shocking, blasphemous, and sacrilegious.”

Trump is neither the “Second Coming of God” nor the “Messiah.” … [Evangelicals] will continue to lose credibility and display a polluted brand of Christianity that is word without deed — completely unlike that of the true Messiah we claim to follow.

Michael Gerson sizes things up this way:

All narcissists believe they are at the center of the universe. But what happens when a narcissist is actually placed at the center of the universe? The “chosen one” happens. Trump is not just arguing for an alternative set of policies; he is asserting an alternative version of reality, in which resistance to his will is disloyalty to the country.

Cartoonist Tom Toles shows us what Trump-as-messiah really looks like.

The American Humanist Association’s Roy Speckhardt pens a letter to the Baltimore Sun to push back against private school voucher schemes:

Unlike public schools, private schools accepting these vouchers are free to discriminate against potential and current students based on bigotry disguised as, or rooted in, religious faith. In addition to violating people’s religious liberty, prioritizing access to private school vouchers runs entirely counter to evidence-based models of student success and conflicts with the core mission of the U.S. Department of Education.

Speaking of the AHA, their lawsuit against the Nevada Department of Corrections about the recognition of humanists is dismissed by the 9th Circuit. The Nevada Independent reports:

The judges noted that Nevada officials “represented to the court that the recognition is ‘very permanent’ and that Humanism is ‘entitled to all the same rights and privileges of all other recognized faith groups.’” …

… [Speckhardt said,] “We still see indications that Humanists imprisoned in the Nevada corrections system aren’t yet receiving the same rights and privileges of all other recognized faith groups.”

At The Diplomat, Kunwar Khuldune Shahid profiles the rise and struggles of Pakistani atheists:

The atheist boom online was a grand paradox in itself, given that not only was Islamic terrorism at its apogee at the time, but the Taliban and their apologists enjoyed wide approval and sympathy. And yet mainstream media gave coverage to atheists in the country, with English publications even providing space to some camouflaged critiques of Islam at the time as well. … Pakistani atheists say that the trend of abandoning religious orthodoxy has never been higher among the youth as it is today.

The Times reports on how the more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled persecution and violence in Myanmar, and despite assurances of their safety, just don’t want to go back.

California State Sen. Richard Pan, who authored legislation to plug vaccination loopholes, is allegedly assaulted by anti-vax activist Kenneth Austin Bennett, who captioned his video of the event with:

Yes, I pushed Richard Pan for lying, laughing at us and for treason. … [He] got what he deserved he would be hanged for treason for assaulting children, for misrepresenting the truth.

The UK’s former UFO Project leader Nick Pope understands people’s frustration with Area 51 and their perception that they are being lied to, but still doesn’t think all these people should actually storm the place.

Newsday talks to three clergy (Christian, Muslim, and Jewish) about how to talk to atheists, and the responses are pretty much what you’d expect. TL;DR: Be respectful about how wrong they are, and they’re not really atheists anyway, they just don’t know it. Yeah, that’ll go over well.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro says the Amazon is not actually on fire and that Mexico will pay for it. It is, though, and it’s going to worsen climate change.

Japan has a Buddha-bot. From the Post:

Its name is “Mindar,” a mostly aluminum androgynous robotic priest who gives plain-spoken sermons that are designed to stimulate interest in Buddhist teachings, according to the machine’s designers. Standing more than 6 feet tall and weighing nearly 70 pounds, Mindar preaches inside Kodaiji temple, a 400-year-old temple.

Don’t worry, parents. There’ll be no same-sex-vegatable marriages on the new VeggieTales. I mean, come on. Gay veggies? Please. Just ignore all those long cucumbers cavorting around in costumes and singing showtunes.

Headline of the Day, from Mother Jones: “Dr. Jen Gunter Wants to Protect Your Vagina From Gwyneth Paltrow.” YOU NEED ME ON THAT WALL!

Quote of the Day

Ken Layne at the Desert Sun begins his piece on “Storm Area 51” saying, “When you get mixed up with the UFO people, your life becomes deeply weird.” Yeah I bet:

UFOs are socially disruptive. The effects are unpredictable. An obvious meme or a science-fiction story can be taken at face value. Absurdities become reality. Jokes, hoaxes, lies, con-men and chaos are not bugs in the UFO operating system. They’re a feature.

Around the world but most vividly in the indigenous culture of the American Southwest, the trickster wreaks havoc for good or ill or just for the hell of it, right here in our everyday world. The trickster isn’t condemned to rule an underworld, because the trickster is an equal among gods.

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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.