old abandoned car

An Ethical and Moral Wreck

July 8, 2019

Susan Jacoby writes in the New York Times to take down the myth that politics has become our “new religion,” filling the vacuum left by rampant secularism:

… the concept of secularism as a breeding ground for aggrieved politics is a delusion, rooted in contempt for the beliefs of nonreligious Americans and ignorance of or indifference to the role of secularism throughout American history. …

To parse our politics into organized religion and secularism is an insult not only to secularism but also to the kind of open-minded religion represented by Enlightenment deists who were so prominent among the nation’s founders. … Although politics is not America’s new religion, it is much too important to be left solely to the religious.

And besides, everyone knows that our real new religion is Black Velvet.

Despite the fact that having a public school agree to teach within the bounds of the Catholic Church’s dogma is obviously unconstitutional, the Department of Education is giving the go-ahead for the Memphis school system to do just that. This is a case CFI jumped in on earlier this year, and Chalkbeat reports on the feds saying it’s fine if Memphis schools lease classroom space from a church and sign an agreement not to teach anything the church deems immoral.

Melissa Krawczyk is doing great work with CFI on both the Translations Project and Secular Rescue, and you can hear her talk about it on an episode of the Secular Jihadists podcast.

The New York Times looks at the “campaign” of Marianne Williamson and how she draws her “wisdom” (I guess?) from a 1960s counterculture book called A Course in Miracles. The lead photo seems to be of a debate watch party with her two supporters. Three if you count the dog.

Peter Wehner at The Atlantic examines the rot within evangelical Christianity and its reverence for Trump:

There’s a very high cost to our politics for celebrating the Trump style, but what is most personally painful to me as a person of the Christian faith is the cost to the Christian witness. Nonchalantly jettisoning the ethic of Jesus in favor of a political leader who embraces the ethic of Thrasymachus and Nietzsche—might makes right, the strong should rule over the weak, justice has no intrinsic worth, moral values are socially constructed and subjective—is troubling enough.

But there is also the undeniable hypocrisy of people who once made moral character, and especially sexual fidelity, central to their political calculus and who are now embracing a man of boundless corruptions. …

… evangelical Christians should acknowledge the profound damage that’s being done to their movement by its braided political relationship … with a president who is an ethical and moral wreck.

This is confusing: Mahua Moitra, a member of India’s parliament, listed some signs of fascistic behavior on the part of Narendra Modi, which people are saying was cribbed from Washington Monthly columnist Martin Longman, who says he unknowingly cribbed it from a 2003 Free Inquiry piece by Laurence Britt, “Fascism, Anyone?” It’s the article that never stops causing hubbubs.

At the CFI blog, psychologist Dr. John Anthony Glynn writes about the difficulty of diagnosing, and the fun and profit of being, a psychopath.

Benjamin Radford looks at the #BringBackOurGirls campaign after five years, finding that despite the popularity of the cause at the time, little to nothing has been done to solve the problem, adding, grimly, “Not only has Boko Haram refused to release its hostages as demanded, but their power has grown.”

Beth Mole at Ars Technica catches the New York Times credulously reporting on probiotics’ alleged ability to treat obesity:

Of course, the data behind the story does not suggest that. In fact, the study is so small and the data so noisy and indirect, it’s impossible to come to any conclusions about efficacy. There’s also the nit-picky complaint that the study deals with dead bacteria, while probiotics are generally defined as being live bacteria. More importantly, the study was authored by researchers with a clear financial stake in the treatment succeeding. They hold a patent on the treatment and have started a company based on it—two details the New York Times seems to have forgotten to mention.

What the actual hell, NYT?

On the Teardrop Glacier in Canada, scientists discover a sample of moss frozen in ice for over two centuries. AND IT’S ALIVE. It’s the Captain America (Captain Canada?) of moss!

Rick Snedeker at Godzooks thinks you should check out Robyn Blumner’s recent Free Inquiry op-ed on D.M. Bennett, Anthony Comstock, and the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, adding:

Note that under Comstock the crime of “obscenity” included “blasphemy” and “sacrilege” within its legal orbit, and that still today a quarter of the world’s nation’s have anti-blasphemy statutes … Ireland and Canada did away with theirs last year. No American has been prosecuted for blasphemy since 1971.

But, its now manifest how these laws, once inserted, can have long staying power in statutes even after they’re clearly obsolete.

Annika Merkelbach reports back from SkepKon 2019 in Augsburg, Germany for Skeptical Inquirer.

Edgar Mora, an atheist and once the education minister of Costa Rica, is pushed out of office for being too nice to transgender kids.

I dunno about you, but I want to bring my kids to the public park that’s been adopted by the Satanic Temple. It’s the Hitzman-Optimist Park in Pensacola, Florida! Wait, Florida? Never mind. Satan or no Satan.

Spanish River High School in Florida needs a new principal. I mean, it has one, but this is what he says:

Not everyone believes the Holocaust happened. And you have your thoughts, but we are a public school and not all of our parents have the same beliefs. … I can’t say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event because I am not in a position to do so as a school district employe.

Atheist Joseph Richardson of the Central Florida Freethought Community (what’s with all the Florida stuff today??) delivers an invocation to the council of Orange County:

As you are well aware, Orange County’s population is very diverse containing a wide variety or ethnicities, beliefs, cultures, gender identities, financial statuses, and other qualities. It is these differences help make us a vibrant, interesting, and growing community.

But it is our similarities, our hopes and dreams, our love for our friends and family, our desire to build a better future for our children, our common humanity that bring us together and allows us to cooperate to improve the lives of all our citizens.

Dena Churchill, a Halifaxian chiropractor who Hemant Mehta calls a “professional liar,” has been fined $100,000 (Canadian, roughly $1.50 American) for promoting anti-vax misinformation.

I choose to believe that this headline from one of Hemant’s posts is actually a secret code:

If These Birds Don’t Get Birth Control, an Australian Church May Be Destroyed

And my hovercraft is full of eels.

The Department of Veterans Affairs clarifies its policies on the display of religious symbols and literature, and the gist is “bring on the Jesus.”

Tunisia bans face-covering niqabs in government buildings.

Quote of the Day

First, the headline for Prof. Ryan Burge’s latest at Religion News Service speaks to me:

Rise of the ‘nothing in particulars’ may be sign of a disjointed, disaffected and lonely future

Well, I think I know something about all of that! And now lede:

The future of religion in America may be summed up in a single word.


Be still my heart!

By all measures, “nothing in particulars” appear to be a growing segment of society that is “checked out.” They don’t obtain high levels of education, they don’t get involved in the political process and they don’t affiliate with a religious group. In addition, they are three times more likely to say their political partisanship is “other” as well. They are adrift in modern society, refusing to be labeled by a religious group or a political party.

Future’s so bright, you gotta wear shades.


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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.