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Black Death’s Hometown

October 15, 2019

The great trek to Vegas for CSICon starts tomorrow, so the publication of the Heresy for the rest of the week is, shall we say, in question. We’ll see how the week goes.

Yesterday, I knew only of the press release announcing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s speech, “Being a Christian Leader.” Today, we see that the State Department blanketed its official homepage with the speech, with “Being a Christian Leader” in huge type with a photo of Pompeo bathed in heavenly/rock star lighting. Concluding his speech, Pompeo twisted the knife, saying, “No matter what comes before you, I pray you’ll help hurting people stay immersed in God’s Word.” YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO SAY STUFF LIKE THAT, MIKE.

Meanwhile, Sojourners’ Jim Wallis says he hopes the Democrats are open about faith in their debate tonight. (Aren’t they usually already?)

… normalizing the conversation on faith (even while affirming and embracing religiously unaffiliated voters) within the Democratic Party has the power to neutralize a politicized monopoly on faith and values by Republicans. Opening up this conversation will ignite a moral accountability that some Christians have shoved under the rug. Christian voters cannot be single-issue voters on such issues as abortion or same-sex marriage and ignore God’s greatest calling to “love each other as I have loved you.”

Oh, yes they can. And are.

Here comes more Florida Florida-ing, as NBC-2 gets student reactions to House Bill 341, which would require public schools to have Bible classes:

Another big concern, even for those who support this idea, is what version of the Bible would be taught in public schools. The bill notes students wouldn’t be required to use a specific translation of the Bible.

Oh, that should fix it. I’ll have mine in Klingon, please.

Others label the bill as a vague attempt of bible study in public schools.
“It’s sort of forcing people to be carrying around a bible in school and to have to bring it out during school to learn about specific Christian teachings could be a violation of students rights,” said student Jake Welling.

Sikivu Hutchinson writes about the David Silverman hiring at Atheist Alliance International for Rewire.News:

AAI’s appointment of Silverman foregrounds how the cult of charismatic white male atheist leadership makes mainstream atheism an untenable space for women of color, queer folks, and progressive white women pushing back against the ritual silencing of sexual abuse survivors and business-as-usual cosigning.

Oxford classics professor Dirk Obbink is alleged to have stolen ancient Bible fragments and sold them to Hobby Lobby. Something-something religious liberty, right?

Joe Scarborough of North Carolina, not the guy on MSNBC, saw big footprints in the woods so of course it’s Bigfoot. Q.E.D.

At The Atlantic, James Parker considers how Philip Pullman’s atheism influences his work (a lot) in His Dark Materials and The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ:

Is Philip Pullman a secret believer, religious despite himself? Uh, no. No church for him, no pews and no priests. But his medium is the imagination, and the imagination is a mystery: It precedes us and it outlasts us; it surrounds our own little disc of consciousness. The imagination is holy. Pullman knows this and honors it.

A chiropractor in Rhode Island who offers a sketchy “brain injury treatment” is under investigation over his uncanny ability to get taxpayer funding, like, just for him.

The second paragraph in Susan Gerbic’s study of fake-psychic Matt Fraser is the canonical example of an obvious fraud easily exposed, despite people deciding to believe otherwise:

Everything I’ve seen shows the hallmarks of a very good cold reader. But in the one video I reviewed of Fraser reading NBC Connecticut Morning News host, Shannon Miller, I saw something completely different. Fraser went directly to speaking about Miller’s dead grandfather, that he was a military man, and that he was proud of Miller. That was quite a tease. And then Fraser said, “You were just looking at photos of him.” Through tears, Miller responds that she had been. YEP, she sure had been. It took my team just a couple of minutes looking at her Instagram page to find three sepia photos that stood out from all the color photos. They were of a man in military uniform, along with a comment that it was Miller’s grandfather. I suppose Fraser would say that “Grandpa came through with a message to his granddaughter.” I have a skeptical mind and think that it is more likely that Fraser sneaked a peek at her Instagram page. If so, that is classic hot reading.

The Black Death that killed one third of Europe’s population may have entered Europe via the Russian town of Laishevo, reports Ars Technica‘s Jennifer Ouellette:

[Researchers] were able to reconstruct plague genomes from the teeth of 34 victims culled from a collection of 180 teeth from nine sites, including two from Laishevo, which is part of Russia’s Volga region. They also reanalyzed existing published data from the same time period.

A single strain did indeed prove to be the forerunner to all the strains from the second pandemic, although the team noted that earlier strains may yet be found in DNA samples from sites yet to be tested. Neither was there much genetic diversity between samples from victims during the Black Death, bolstering the view that Y. pestis found its way to Europe via a single entry point.

Quote of the Day

Catherine Rampell cuts to the chase on Bill Barr’s speech denouncing “militant secularism”:

This was not merely an affirmation — delivered by a devout Catholic, while visiting a Catholic university — of how privately taught religious values can contribute to character development or stronger communities.

No. This appeared to be a tacit endorsement of theocracy.

Amid calling for greater freedom of religion, Barr also called for religion (his religion) to infiltrate government at all levels. He specifically decried the fact that “public agencies — including public schools — are becoming secularized.”

The novel part of Rampell’s piece is the suggestion that maybe, nudge nudge, it’s all a “giant, coded subtweet of the boss.” No. No, it’s not that.


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.