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Berating the Bishops

January 30, 2019

The chief medical officer of health for Nova Scotia retweets a dismissal of chronic Lyme disease as the pseudoscience of some Lyme disease cult. (This is the first I’m hearing of this, but I’m having trouble understanding the appeal of a cult based on the idea that Lyme disease can be really bad. Might as well just be a Scientologist at that point.) This may have been a violation of province policy as government social media accounts are expected to “always maintain a respectful, constructive tone and always provide accurate and clear information that cannot be easily misinterpreted, and refrain from debates over matters of strict opinion.” Whoops.

Jim Underdown discusses whether atheists believe in Hell for “Ask the Atheist,” and describes the various Dantean (Alighierian?) circles of Hell, including this spot-on take on Circle 2:

A Unitarian Universalist Church on a fall Sunday morning. It’s not a hard-core service with a lot of pushy beliefs, but your Sunday’s still ruined and you still miss the first half of the football game (at least on the west coast.) Worse yet, you have get up to shower and shave and have to be nice to everyone despite not waking up early enough to get some coffee down your gullet. Here you’re sentenced to singing kumbaya songs and buying someone’s grandma’s THC-less brownies to raise money to fix the leaky roof.

Whoa, Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee are proposing making “so help me God” optional in swearings-in. Rep. Liz Cheney says this means that the Democratic Party has “become the party of Karl Marx,” because that makes sense.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court reaffirms Asia Bibi’s blasphemy acquittal and allows her to leave the country, which is making radical Islamists even angrier than usual, which is really saying something.

Relatedly, we have former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (aka “Ahok”), the ethnic Chinese Christian who was recently released from prison early after his blasphemy conviction in Indonesia. Tenzin Dorjee of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom reminds us that acquittals and early releases aren’t good enough:

Although we welcome Mr. Basuki’s early release, we’re troubled by the fact that Indonesia’s blasphemy law remains on the books and continues to be enforced in other cases. This law violates international human rights standards and until it is repealed, hardline and intolerant groups can continue to target religious minorities … simply for exercising their fundamental freedoms of speech and religion.

Persecuted atheist activist Sherif Gaber is asking for help to get him the hell out of Egypt.

In Greece, Orthodox Bishop Amvrossios is given a suspended sentence of three years in prison by a court for, as the AP reports, “violating laws against racism and abusing his office over an anti-gay blog posting.” Amvrossios has posted, among other things, that gays should be “spit upon,” and, “They are not human beings, they are rejects of nature.” He’s obviously a loathsome person, but you’re not supposed to jail people for being intolerant blowhard jerks.

Florida. Floooooooorida. Where state senator Dennis Baxley (which sounds like the name of a villain on a Hannah-Barberra cartoon) introduces a bill to allow teachers to teach “alternatives” to climate change and evolution and blah blah blah creationism. This isn’t the first time he’s pushed a bill like this, but observers say it has a much better shot this time around given the political climate in the state and the conservative judges coming to the state Supreme Court. Great. Floooooooooooorida.

Andrew Cuomo comes out swinging against…Catholic bishops! In recent events and interviews, the New York governor has been berating the bishops over the child sexual assault crisis:

Tell the truth. Jesus Christ teaches about truth and justice — social justice — and that’s not what the church did here.


I think the bishops have worked to protect the church over doing justice. … They compounded the problem by covering it up and not taking responsibility.

Religious studies professor Mark Chancey writes in the Post in response to Trump’s support of “Biblical literacy” courses in public schools, reminding us it’s already just fine to teach about the Bible, and actual Biblical literacy is a good thing. But we know that’s not what they mean:

In a pluralistic democracy and an age of globalization, students and citizens need familiarity not only with sacred texts but also with other expressions of religion, and not only with those religions grounded in the Bible but also with the world’s other great traditions. Students also need an understanding that, contrary to Project Blitz, religious freedom means equal respect for the religious and nonreligious alike.

This is surprising: A measure to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment from 1972 is introduced in Georgia’s state senate, and both of the senate’s Republican women have signed on to it. Georgia would be the 38th state to ratify the amendment (that’s an “if” the size of Atlanta), crossing the necessary threshold…if it’s decided the amendment is not too old to still count.

Rashaan Ayesh at The State looks at the practice of opening prayers in the North Carolina state legislature, and whether the increasingly diverse body will need to start reflecting that diversity.

The New York Times opens a big multimedia feature on climate change with this:

The continental United States is 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it was a century ago. Seas at the coasts are nine inches higher. The damage is mounting from these fundamental changes, and Americans are living it. These are their stories.

(Cue Law & Order “bonk-bonk” sound.)

Don’t eat your boogers, warns Business Insider:

Boogers serve as your body’s front-line defense against invading germs. When you breathe in, you’re not just inhaling air. You’re also taking in bacteria, viruses, and dirt. Which get trapped by a layer of sticky snot that lines your nostrils. It’s like fly paper for the flu. And as you continue to breathe, air hardens the mucus into a solid booger, a gooey prison cell for your ensnared enemies. …

But if you decide to eat it instead it stands to reason that you’re putting yourself at risk of infection. Because as your body digests the booger, it can release those harmful pathogens into your system.

Quote of the Day

Jack Jenkins at RNS profiles Sen. Chris Coons, the Delaware Democrat who makes a connection with Republicans (including and especially Trump) through faith:

Coons is a vocal supporter of the separation of church and state, saying during the 2017 confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch that he is “in awe” of Founding Fathers who called for it. But he appears to draw a distinction when it comes to the role of personal faith in politics.

“I wasn’t elected as part of an empire of Christendom. I was elected as part of a democratic republic where my state has lots of people who have different faith traditions and backgrounds or none at all,” Coons said. “But to pretend that my religious views shouldn’t influence my attitude and action — I think that’s fiction.”

And on Christian nationalism:

“Christian nationalism, understood as a view that God created and inspired the United States to be the nation on earth that is meant to be a Christian democracy and to carry forth Christ’s vision for the world … that is in profound tension with our founding as a pluralistic, multifaith, multiethnic, multilingual democracy, which in its founding documents recognizes a creator and recognizes natural rights but expressively declines to create a state religion, and to align … powers of the state with any particular faith,” he said.

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