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An Odd Stage of Development

June 10, 2019

Please allow me to gloat as Portland, the one in Maine, which I’ll call Portland Prime,  ranks number 2 on the Barna Group’s “Most Post-Christian Cities in America”:

To qualify as “post-Christian,” individuals must meet nine or more of our 16 criteria (listed below), which identify a lack of Christian identity, belief and practice. These factors include whether individuals identify as atheist, have never made a commitment to Jesus, have not attended church in the last year or have not read the Bible in the last week.

And hey, where’s the other Portland? You know, the one waaaaay over there, the hipster Portland, the Pretender Portland? NOT EVEN IN THE TOP FIFTY. Good ol’ Number 54. Yeah, that’s right. In your FACE, other-Portland! Portland Minor! More like Fifty-Fourtland. Yeah, I said it.

Janan Ganesh at the Financial Times laments “the constant groping for profundity by people who stop well short of any religion or organised belief system themselves”:

It comes from a society at an odd stage of development: no longer religious, but not quite not religious. Hence the religion-substitute of lifestyle wisdom. It offers everything bar a deity: rules to live by, set texts, an admixture of personal empowerment and utter submission to fate. It even has mediating “priests” of the Chopra-Paltrow ilk. … To state that the material world is all there is, and that it is quite enough, thanks, still feels faintly subversive.

A 7-year-old boy in Italy died of encephalitis in 2017 when his parents treated his ear infection exclusively with homeopathic “medicine,” and his parents have been found guilty of aggravated manslaughter, but given only a three-month prison sentence. in Newsweek‘s write-up of the case, they note our efforts to expose the fraud of homeopathy:

At the end of May, the Center for Inquiry filed a lawsuit against Walmart over its sale of homeopathic medicines. The group, which campaigns for secular, scientific values, accused Walmart of “committing wide-scale consumer fraud and endangering the health of its customers though its sale and marketing of homeopathic medicines.”

The Guardian reports on how autistic children in the U.S. are being put on homeopathic regimens to “cure” their “condition”:

At least 200 homeopaths in the US are practicing a controversial “therapy” known as Cease that falsely asserts that it has the power to treat and even cure autism. The acronym stands for Complete Elimination of Autistic Spectrum Expression. …

In addition 250 homeopaths, some of whom also practice Cease, are promoting “homeoprophylaxis” that advertises itself as an “immunological education program”. More than 2,000 American children have been put on the program which claims to build natural immunity against infectious diseases, though there is no scientific evidence that it works.

Parents who opt to follow Cease or homeoprophylaxis are potentially exposing their children, as well as others around them, to life-threatening illness. The implicit message behind both therapies is that vaccines are harmful and should be avoided.

Benjamin Radford clears up for the record that the FBI did not, repeat, not “investigate Bigfoot”:

It did not deem it credible or even worthy of investigation. It agreed to use its technical expertise to analyze some unknown hairs for a respected Bigfoot researcher, which turned out to be deer.

Kevin Roose at the New York Times takes a deep dive into the swamp of YouTube’s alt-right conspiracy-theory radicalization vortex, and it’s not the kind of thing that gives one hope for the Republic or the species in general:

[Caleb] Cain, 26, recently swore off the alt-right nearly five years after discovering it, and has become a vocal critic of the movement. He is scarred by his experience of being radicalized by what he calls a “decentralized cult” of far-right YouTube personalities, who convinced him that Western civilization was under threat from Muslim immigrants and cultural Marxists, that innate I.Q. differences explained racial disparities, and that feminism was a dangerous ideology.

“I just kept falling deeper and deeper into this, and it appealed to me because it made me feel a sense of belonging,” he said. “I was brainwashed.” …

… The radicalization of young men is driven by a complex stew of emotional, economic and political elements, many having nothing to do with social media. But critics and independent researchers say YouTube has inadvertently created a dangerous on-ramp to extremism by combining two things: a business model that rewards provocative videos with exposure and advertising dollars, and an algorithm that guides users down personalized paths meant to keep them glued to their screens.

CFI is backing the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, and we think you oughta help get it passed:

The religious entities that turn away willing families because they are the wrong religion, the wrong sexuality, or the wrong marital status are bringing out the absolute worst of religion: elevating dogma over the health and safety of orphans. We need to put a stop to this inhumane, archaic practice.

U.S. embassies have been forbidden by the Trump administration from putting up rainbow pride flags. A bunch of them are doing it anyway.

Other things the Trump White House tries to stop: Testimony on climate science. Lisa Friedman at the Times reports:

The White House tried to stop a State Department senior intelligence analyst from discussing climate science in congressional testimony this week, internal emails and documents show. … in a highly unusual move, the White House refused to approve Dr. Schoonover’s written testimony for entry into the permanent Congressional Record. The reasoning, according to a June 4 email seen by The New York Times, was that the science did not match the Trump administration’s views.

Sarah Pulliam Bailey at the Post reports that at the Southern Baptist Convention’s big annual meeting, they’re supposed to deal with the sex abuse crisis within their ranks, but they seem all riled up about the REAL menace: women preaching!!!

Southern Baptist teaching prohibits women from holding the position of pastor but does not bar women from preaching in front of men. In reality, however, many Southern Baptists believe that women should not have authority over men and that by teaching men, let alone “preaching,” they are exerting authority.

Sarah Stankorb at the Post profiles the bloggers who are trying to expose the sexual abuse crisis within Protestant churches:

Most of these bloggers are women; many come from churches that teach women’s submission and deny women’s spiritual authority. “Investigative blogger women started a revolution at their kitchen tables,” says pastor Ashley Easter, who hosts the Courage Conference, a Christian, survivor-focused gathering. They have advocated “for victims of abuse from where they were, where they could find a platform — blogs and social media.”

Elizabeth Dias at the Times profiles how one family’s life is being destroyed by the unwillingness of their church, Village Church in Texas, to confront the sexual abuse perpetrated by their children’s minister.

Richard Land, the guy who heads the Southern Evangelical Seminary, backs the idea that God put Trump in the White House as a “reprieve.”

Where / in-the-world / is/ Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò? After he called upon Pope Francis to resign, he sort of disappeared. He’s fine, though, and telling the Washington Post why he hates him:

Many in the Catholic world feel that Viganò — long known for his hot temper and inner-Vatican rivalries — is neither credible nor interested in stopping sexual abuse. …[they say] his testimony last summer was a barely-veiled attack against homosexuals in the upper ranks, and that his real goal was to weaken Francis rather than help the church. …

… “The results of an honest investigation would be disastrous for the current papacy,” Viganò wrote to The Post. He also acknowledged that such an investigation may harm the reputations of more traditionalist pontiffs, Benedict and John Paul II, who presided over McCarrick’s rise.

“But that is not a good reason for not seeking the truth,” Viganò said. “Benedict XVI and John Paul II are human beings, and may well have made mistakes. If they did, we want to know about them. Why should they remain hidden? We can all learn from our mistakes.”

The Legion of Doom (the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops) generally gets its news from Fox. Surprise, surprise. But their flock prefers CNN. Jack Jenkins reports on the news bubble disconnect:

According to data compiled in 2014 by Pew Research and made available to Religion News Service this week, one of the most popular sources for government and politics news among U.S. Catholics was CNN, with 43% noting it as something they watched within the past week. It was followed closely by Fox News (42%), and MSNBC also claimed 28% — significantly more than the 4% mentioned among bishops.

Only 12% of Catholics said they had read The New York Times recently, while 9% said they read The Wall Street Journal.

The dean of St. Bonaventure University’s communications school, Pauline Hoffmann, says she was pressured to resign (and give up a chance to be provost) because of her gender and her religion: Wicca. The Buffalo News reports:

[T]hen-Provost Michael J. Fischer approached her and demanded she sign a document vowing to uphold Catholic values, she claims in the suit.

“I asked him, ‘Would this be happening if I was Jewish?’ ” she said during an interview Thursday. “And he said probably not.” …

… There is no doubt in Hoffmann’s mind that her religion and gender were a big part of the “Pauline problem” and that she never would have been forced to resign if she were anything but Wiccan.

In Alabama, where you can’t get an abortion even if it’s the result of a rape, the rapist can get custody of the kid you’re forced to give birth to. What madness.

Stephen Mansfield makes a case for truly objective public school curricula for religious studies, as opposed to the Project Blitz-prescribed “Biblical literacy”:

There is…common ground in this matter of religion in the classroom. The faithful of nearly every religious type contend that knowledge of religion is the mark of an educated person. Separation of church and state advocates like the ACLU contend much the same, so long as instruction in religion is “objective.” And our religiously tumultuous global society is waiting.

It is a crisis we can answer. School districts and state boards of education must set standards for religious knowledge. They must also recognize that the Bible can be objectively taught as literature in public schools and that few — not even the ACLU — will object.

Anne-Michelle Ruha at the Arizona Republic puts together some facts about vaccines and “toxins” and debunks some of the myths surrounding them:

Unfortunately, there are plenty of health practitioners who promote fears related to vaccine toxicity as well as to the general concept of being “toxic” from normal environmental exposures. “Detoxification” is a big moneymaking business.

Unscrupulous practitioners will diagnose everyone with some type of poisoning (their argument: we live in an environment filled with chemicals, so we are all exposed and therefore poisoned).

Did you know that Google invested $10 million in an attempt to achieve cold fusion? It’s true! But $10 million for Google is like me chipping in a dime. Steven Salzberg fills us in.

I am all about this headline for Jessica Knoll’s piece in the Times: “Smash the Wellness Industry”:

[“Wellness” is] a dangerous con that seduces smart women with pseudoscientific claims of increasing energy, reducing inflammation, lowering the risk of cancer and healing skin, gut and fertility problems. But at its core, “wellness” is about weight loss. It demonizes calorically dense and delicious foods, preserving a vicious fallacy: Thin is healthy and healthy is thin.

Here’s something a little less awful than, like, everything else. In Nigeria, Muslims and Christians are trying to heal some very deep wounds. Doreen Ajiambo at RNS reports on attempts at reconciliation after horrific violence:

Lately, Muslims have been reaching out to Christians in northern Nigeria to seek reunion and deliver a message of peace, hope and solidarity that all Muslims are peace-loving people.

“I urge Muslims and Christians to live in peace and harmony,” Emir Muhammadu Sanusi II said …“Jihad is not about killing people in the name of Jihad. That’s not Islam. People who are killing others and looting their properties are criminals. Islam promotes peace, and I urge Muslims to show their Christian brothers that Islam is a peaceful religion.” …

… Pastor Yohanna Buru of Christ Evangelical and Life Intervention Ministry welcomed this act of kindness by Muslims and reminded Christians to be peace-loving people. He urged Christians to also reach out to Muslims and help promote peace and unity among people despite their religious differences.

“Let us live in peace and tolerate each despite our religion differences,” he urged. “We should preach peace everywhere we go to bring the lost love between us. Christians and Muslims are one people and we should love one another.”

Quote of the Day

The Atlantic has five pieces on the controversy surrounding the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays. (There really isn’t much controversy, but it’s like anything else. One person claims a conspiracy and off you go.) Shakespearean theatre veteran Mark Rylance has an interesting take:

You may not like the way I act Shakespeare—only McDonald’s hopes everyone loves their burgers—but I can with all honesty say that being uncertain about how the works of Shakespeare were created and who was involved has in no way endangered, diminished, or restricted in any fashion my love, my understanding, or my ability to make a living playing Shakespeare. I would argue, on the contrary, that it has opened my consciousness to a much wider awareness of the universal beauty and multicultural, multidimensional appreciation of the work of Shakespeare that exists in so many different people in so many different ways—even in Tolstoy, who hated Shakespeare! How wonderful is that?

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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.