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Be Nice to Other People and Eat All Your Vegetables

February 11, 2019

An investigation by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News reveals that since 1998, almost 400 Southern Baptist church leaders have been accused of sexual assault, leaving more than 700 victims in their wake. And you won’t be surprised to know that a lot of the offenders were welcomes right back to the pulpit. And this:

Many of the victims were adolescents who were molested, sent explicit photos or texts, exposed to pornography, photographed nude, or repeatedly raped by youth pastors. Some victims as young as 3 were molested or raped inside pastors’ studies and Sunday school classrooms. A few were adults — women and men who sought pastoral guidance and instead say they were seduced or sexually assaulted.

The Supreme Court declined to stay the execution of Alabama death row inmate Domineque Ray, who requested that he have an imam at his side rather than a Christian chaplain, which the state refused. Ray is dead now. Justice Kagan, in her dissent, echoes what it seems like almost everyone else is thinking:

The clearest command of the Establishment Clause [is that] one religious denomination cannot be officially preferred over another. But the State’s policy does just that.

Dahlia Lithwick writes at Slate:

This is a court that has staked its moral legitimacy on the proposition that religion, above all, is at the very core of humanity, to be elevated in all instances no matter the competing interests. In so many faiths, there is no more sacred moment than entry and departure from this life. But never mind. For a court that cannot bear the thought of a religious baker forced to frost a cake in violation of his spiritual convictions to be wholly unaffected at the prospect of a man given last rites by a member of another faith borders on staggering. The court that had no problem with a transparently anti-Muslim immigration ban, promised and performed as an anti-religious measure, looks more and more like it has two standards for protecting religious liberty.

The International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) is changing its name to Humanists International. I like the old name, but no one asked me.

Samuel Freedman at The Guardian sees a silver lining in the religious right’s blind loyalty to “King Cyrus” Trump:

It has broken a spell.

In a way that secular or less-observant people are reluctant to admit, they often feel inadequate to the task of arguing politics, much less religion, with fundamentalists. … Under King Cyrus Trump, however, the religious right has laid bare its hypocrisy, and indeed its heresy. We can feel emboldened to fight our opponents like any other political movement rather than as devout believers whose direct line to the Almighty, and whose resulting presumption of moral superiority, we have no way of empirically disproving.

The Texas Observer reports on the backlash against Texas’s “fetal burial” law, which requires that remains from abortions and miscarriages be either buried or cremated:

A brief filed by a coalition of faith groups argues that the requirements “purportedly honor dignity of the unborn at the expense of the dignity of the women whose religious and personal freedom they curtail.” Yet conservative state leaders, generally crusaders for religious liberty, are arguing that religious-freedom concerns aren’t relevant.

Rep. Diana DeGette, chair of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight, did not make an oversight (see what I did there) when she omitted “so help me God” when administering the oath to a witness. “This is the oath we use, and that’s the oath we’re going to use today.” Skidoosh.

Newsday comes out against religious exemptions for childhood vaccinations:

Those who don’t vaccinate endanger not only their own children, they threaten others, particularly babies too young to be vaccinated and older children who cannot be vaccinated because of weakened immune systems or life-threatening allergies.

Alex Horton at the Post reports that some teenagers are not waiting for their antivax parents to wise up, and are getting vaccinated on their own.

Ani Bundel at NBC News notes how the upcoming Goop show would not be Netflix’s first dance with quackery:

Last year’s “Afflicted” was called out as harmful by both advocates for the chronically ill, and by some of the participants, who said their health issues were misrepresented. The American Council on Science and Health has warned multiple times that Netflix is a major promoter of junk science programming, going so far as accusing the service of rejecting pro-science documentaries in favor of shows like “GMO OMG,” which promotes anti-GMO hysteria, and “Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret,” which insists eating of meat is a bigger cause of climate change than fossil fuels.

Benjamin Radford debunks a conspiracy meme regarding someone falsely claimed to have been the “real” Lone Ranger, denouncing it as a cynical hijacking of Black HIstory Month and the African American man the meme purports to highlight, the remarkable Texas deputy marshal Bass Reeves.

A state legislator in Tennessee, John Ragan, introduces a bill to stop tax dollars from funding facilities that provide abortions because doing so violates the First Amendment. What? He says doing so is a government endorsement of secular humanism and abortion is a “modern day child sacrifice conducted on the altar of convenience.” Sounds like a really informed guy.

Here’s a thing I found: Vegan News (yes indeed) explores why a large plurality of vegans seem to be nonreligious:

Considering the overwhelming amount of data showing how disastrous animal agriculture is to the environment, to the animals and to human health, if one were to look at eating animals purely from a position of reason and science, as many atheists do, it is incredibly difficult to justify consuming animals.

Julia Belluz goes through the new book Good to Go by Christie Aschwanden on the science of recovery, highlighting its mythbusting of pseudoscientific therapies like cupping and cold therapy.

Ultima Thule, the farthest object ever explored by humanity, turns out not to be two spheres stuck together, but, well, something flatter and weirder. New Horizons lead Alan Stern (who I interviewed for Point of Inquiry last year) says, “We’ve never seen something like this orbiting the Sun.”

Thing I never need to experience: Going to a bar in rural Pennsylvania packed with dudes who think of themselves as Bigfoot hunters getting all liquored up.

Quote of the Day

I’ve been reading Scott Kelly’s book Endurance about his year on the ISS. This passage came up and I thought you’d all like it:

People often ask me whether I had any epiphanies in space, whether seeing the Earth from space made me feel closer to God or more at one with the universe. Some astronauts have come back with a new view of humanity’s role in the cosmos, which has inspired new spiritual beliefs or caused them to rededicate themselves to the faiths they grew up with. I would never question anyone else’s experience, but this vantage point has never created any particular spiritual insight for me.

I am a scientifically minded person, curious to understand everything I can about the universe. We know there are trillions of stars, more than the number of grains of sand on planet Earth. Those stars make up less than 5 percent of the matter in the universe. The rest is dark matter and dark energy. The universe is so complex. Is it all an accident? I don’t know.

I was raised Catholic, and as is the case in many families, my parents were more dedicated to their children’s religious development than they were to their own. Mark and I attended catechism classes until one day in the ninth grade, when my mother got tired of driving us. She gave us the choice of whether to keep going or not, and, as many teenagers would, we chose to opt out. Since that day, organized religion has not been part of my life. When Samantha was ten years old, she asked me at dinner one evening what religion we were.

“Our religion is ‘Be nice to other people and eat all your vegetables,’” I said. I was pleased with myself for describing my religious beliefs so concisely and that she was satisfied with it. I respect people of faith, including an aunt who is a nun, but I’ve never felt that faith myself.

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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.