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I Am Dirty in My Business

December 12, 2019

CFI’s Point of Inquiry podcast this week features special guest Richard Dawkins, where he talks to Jim Underdown about his latest book Outgrowing God.

Pope Francis says atheists are awesome. I’m lying. He actually said it’s better to be an atheist than a hypocritical Catholic, and I guess that’s maybe true, but he meant it as a diss to both atheists and hypocritical Catholics, so, you know, ouch, Frankie. Ouch. The Post reports:

The subject of Francis’s homily at the daily Mass was hypocrisy. He criticized the “scandal” of “saying one thing and doing another.”

Many of these hypocrites, Francis implied, according to the Vatican’s text of his homily, are Catholics who act rigorously in their ritual observance but don’t apply the religion’s values to their lives. “A totally double life: ‘I am very Catholic, I always go to Mass, I belong to this association and that one; but my life is not Christian, I don’t pay my workers a just wage, I exploit people, I am dirty in my business, I launder money …’ A double life. And so many Christians are like this, and these people scandalize others.”

He then quoted a sentiment that he said he has heard expressed repeatedly: “But to be a Catholic like that, it’s better to be an atheist.”

Okay, sure, whatever.

Reuters reports on the seemingly endless blasphemy case against Pakistani scholar Junaid Hafeez, who has been in jail since 2013 for allegedly blasphemous online posts. Hafeez’s case was just highlighted by the the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s report on blasphemy and apostasy, and today the court is supposed to hear final arguments. But there is a sick, Spinal-Tap-esque character to this whole trial:

Since the trial began, several judges have backed out of hearing the case due to death threats.

“The lengthy trial is now on its eighth judge and the prosecution has repeatedly failed to produce evidence of the alleged blasphemy,” the commission said, adding that one defense lawyer had been murdered.

India’s proposed Muslim Super-Ban (my term) has sparked massive protests, with NYT reporting tens of thousands taking to the streets and some committing awful acts of violence:

The government imposed a curfew Wednesday night and deployed hundreds of army personnel across the northeastern states of Assam and Tripura, where demonstrations also occurred, while shutting down the internet.

But the government show of force only seemed to enrage protesters further, with larger numbers of demonstrators gathering on Thursday. Protesters are angered that the bill will grant citizenship to thousands of Hindu, Christian, Jain, Buddhist and Sikh migrants from some neighboring countries where New Delhi says they are religiously persecuted. Demonstrators say this will flood their hometowns with unwanted foreigners.

The bill will make it harder for Muslim migrants to attain Indian citizenship, although many Muslims are also discriminated against in neighboring countries. Critics fear the bill will be used to harass Indian Muslims by forcing them to pass a citizenship test and prove their family’s lineage in the country while giving a blanket pass to people of most other religions.

Nevada governor Steve Sisolak is not inclined to reimburse the counties that spent a lot of money to prepare for the coming “emergency” of Storm Area 51, considering only a few thousand folks actually showed up.

At Skeptical Inquirer, Kenny Biddle investigates video of a UFO sighting in North Carolina. It’s not aliens:

The description of events gives us the details we need to determine the most likely cause: MK 24 flares. The location of the bombing ranges, the short burn time of the flares, the brightness, and even the reappearance and subsequent “disappearing one by one” a few short minutes later all points to illumination flares being the cause.

Speaking of aliens that aren’t there, the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg has been given 30,000 UFO-related documents from “ufologist” Chris Rutkowski, whose collection spans 30 years of reports of sightings. Have fun with that?

Merriam-Webster announced that their 2019 Word of the Year is “they”:

It reflects a surprising fact: even a basic term—a personal pronoun—can rise to the top of our data. Although our lookups are often driven by events in the news, the dictionary is also a primary resource for information about language itself, and the shifting use of they has been the subject of increasing study and commentary in recent years. Lookups for they increased by 313% in 2019 over the previous year.

English famously lacks a gender-neutral singular pronoun to correspond neatly with singular pronouns like everyone or someone, and as a consequence they has been used for this purpose for over 600 years.

More recently, though, they has also been used to refer to one person whose gender identity is nonbinary, a sense that is increasingly common in published, edited text, as well as social media and in daily personal interactions between English speakers. There’s no doubt that its use is established in the English language, which is why it was added to the dictionary this past September.

I think it’s a really cool choice. Right-wing groups of course hate it, which makes it all the sweeter.

Lila Guterman at Science looks into why only 3 percent of Nobel Prizes in the sciences have gone to women (one woman won this year along with eleven men), with an interview with the University of Copenhagen’s Liselotte Jauffred, who says:

There is one message that we could take out of this and that is to be careful not to think that we can foresee where the groundbreaking findings will come from. Maybe we’re not letting the right people do the right research. We’re creating a very, very small elite group of white men, but maybe we’re missing a lot of interesting research.

The Des Moines Register seems to think we need to read the personal story of a woman who says she’s a psychic medium. She met ghosts in a movie theater!

When it was over, three spirits remained. They said they were the guardians of the theater and that they would help my family. They told me that something scary was going to happen, but that everything would be OK. They showed me our car, and gave me the taste of something sweet.

Later on that year, my family was in a car accident and I had been eating Starburst candy.


Meanwhile, Sacramento police are looking for Perlita Afancio-Balles, a woman who bilked people out of $100,000 by claiming she was a psychic and could bless their money. I’m sure she’s a real psychic, too.

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.