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I Can’t Hear You, I Have Seeds in My Ears

January 15, 2020

I’m back, after a Flu to End All Flus. A Paulfluenza. Influenzageddon. Fluclear bomb. Anyway, it was bad.

CFI is joining with American Atheists, Black Nonbelievers, and Ex-Muslims of North America in an amicus brief to the Supreme Court urging them not to further inflate the scope of RFRA by using it as a means to award monetary damages against federal employees…even when said employees have done things that are definitely bad, like persecuting Muslims who didn’t want to act as informants.

Greata Thunberg writes at The Guardian about her plan for the Davos World Economic Forum:

We demand that at this year’s forum, participants from all companies, banks, institutions and governments immediately halt all investments in fossil fuel exploration and extraction, immediately end all fossil fuel subsidies and immediately and completely divest from fossil fuels.

We don’t want these things done by 2050, 2030 or even 2021, we want this done now – as in right now.

Here’s something you might not have known was all tied up together: anti-debt zealotry espoused by folks like Dave Ramsey (who I should note is well loved by the minimalist community) and Christian dominionism. It doesn’t look good. I’m looking forward to diving into this piece on “grappling with the loaded theological heritage of evangelical personal finance teachings” at Longreads by Eve Ettinger.

Ryan Burge, who is sort of the font of all data-based wisdom lately, looks at how the beliefs of frequent church-goers compare to those who go only occasionally or never:

… it’s clear that the gap on church attendance has become a chasm, separating those who attend at least a few times a year from everyone else. More important, perhaps, the chasm also exists in religious belief. While two-thirds of those who attend at least sometimes have no doubts about their belief in God, half of those who rarely or never attend struggle to believe in God most of the time.

This may make it more difficult for churches to attract these never attenders. Can people who are plagued with doubt feel welcomed by a church that is filled with those who are certain about what they believe?

Adam Gabbatt at The Guardian looks at why evangelicals have not only fallen in line with Trump, but deified him:

The unlikely alliance between those nominally following biblical interpretations of right and wrong, and a thrice-married man who has been credibly accused of sexual assault and infamously paid off a pornographic actor, has thrown up a rich – and bizarre – cast of characters.

A sustained effort by influential Christian voices to justify Trump’s personal misdeeds and political cruelty has led to the frequent portrayal of Trump as a flawed vessel for God’s will. In particular, Trump has been compared to King Cyrus, who, according to the Bible, liberated the Jews from Babylonian captivity, despite himself being a Persian ruler.

Mark Boyer writes at the Hartford Courant about how, in the Trump era, religious liberty doesn’t mean what it used to:

Whether embedded within executive orders allowing political advocacy on the part of clergy or its use as a rationale for why the earlier Muslim travel ban was actually not aimed at Muslims, the term religious liberty becomes a mask for discrimination dressed in the garb of Christian fundamentalism.

Where religious liberty rears its offensive head, it is quite explicitly used to allow bigotry. You hear statements like “I shouldn’t have to serve a gay person in my restaurant if it’s against my religious views.” Or “we need to force people into the bathrooms for the gender of their birth.” In all cases, religious liberty is being used to isolate the “other” and to keep them away from a “purer,” holier way of life that the proponents of religious liberty purport to live.

The Atlantic runs a piece by Nick Sibilla of the libertarian Institute for Justice in which he cheers on the possibility of the Supreme Court overturning states’ Blaine amendments, “no-aid” clauses that forbid state funds from being used for religious purposes. He says it’s because of the anti-Catholic bias (which was bad!) in which the amendments were first conceived. Yes, yes, but, Mr. Sibilla! What about the whole don’t-give-my-money-to-churches thing???

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts issues a proclamation making January 22 a “Statewide Day of Prayer” to end abortion. Dude, don’t you have actual, you know, governing to do? Are things just really slow in Nebraska?

Gov. Bill Lee of Tennessee will see to it that taxpayer-funded adoption service providers can discriminate against LGBTQ folks and anyone else they think God wants them to.

Arizona State Senator Sylvia Allen seeks to remove the word “homosexuality” from all school materials and make sure no one under 12 years old attends any sex education. Seriously, do these state legislators have actual work? Or is kicking gay people all that’s left for them?

It’s all enough to make you think that Republicans just hate education! Not so, says Ben Radford, as he clears up a partisan myth about alleged Republican opposition to education-writ-large, as opposed to their cultural mistrust of higher academia.

With Religious Freedom Day coming tomorrow, Frederick Clarkson wants to clear up the language we use around religious liberty:

The truth is that ringing rhetoric in the 18th century can sound clunky today. For example, the key phrase in the Virginia Statute reads: “all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.” In addition to replacing “men” with “people,” a 21st century paraphrase might say that we’re free to believe and express ourselves as we will and that our religious or irreligious identity neither advantages nor disadvantages us as citizens. …

… religious freedom has both nothing and everything to do with faith or religion. It is the underlying right to believe as you will—or not—and to change your mind, free from the undue influence of government or powerful religious institutions. It’s a civil or constitutional right, not to be confused with religion in general, or any particular religion at all.

God wanted a juror in Florida to acquit a former state representative of fraud charges, but said juror made the mistake of telling the court that God told her this, so now she’s out.

Brazil’s Supreme Court clears the way for the satirical gay-Jesus film to return to Netflix. I love this:

“It is not to be assumed that a humorous satire has the magic power to undermine the values ​​of the Christian faith, whose existence goes back more than two thousand years,” Supreme Court President José Antonio Dias Toffoli wrote in his decision.

I mean, if only, right? Right? Hello?

This is troubling, as if you needed more stuff to be troubled about: Becca Lewis at FFWD says YouTube’s algorithm is not at the heart of its right-wing misinformation/conspiracy-theory problem. It’s YouTube itself:

YouTube could remove its recommendation algorithm entirely tomorrow and it would still be one of the largest sources of far-right propaganda and radicalization online. …

… For years, YouTube has described this in democratizing terms. Indeed, people in their bedrooms can broadcast directly to their fans, creating a sense of intimacy and authenticity not present in older forms of media. In practice, however, that means a range of anti-feminist, Islamophobic, and even white supremacist content creators share far-right propaganda in the form of incredibly intimate personal stories, spoken to their audiences as if they are speaking to close friends. Media historian Fred Turner has described this as a form of “charismatic, personality-centered” authoritarianism. In my own research, I have shown how YouTube creators build trust with their audiences by aligning qualities of authenticity and transparency with reactionary politics.

Julia Belluz says Gwyneth Paltrow is trolling us now, but that we need to keep calling her out even if it looks like it’s not helping:

Paltrow’s audience is doing more than hate-watching, hate-buying, and hate-reading her wellness claptrap. She has a cadre of devoted fans — and a celebrity megaphone through which to reach them, one that’s been allowed to grow despite the public criticism. … I’d also argue for another way forward: We should focus on preventing bogus health claims from taking off, by teaching people how to think critically about the information they receive from an early age.

While I was away, Marianne Williamson ended her presidential campaign. I guess she didn’t try hard enough to manifest her psychic energy or whatever. She’ll be fine, though, as she goes on the Goop cruise.

Vice, or Motherboard, or however one is supposed to give attribution to a sub-publication, reports that the U.S. Navy has some unidentified classified video of an unidentified flying object. We don’t know what’s on the video, they’re just reporting that it exists, probably. Vice-er-board spoke to Luis Elizondo, the former Pentagon official who got helped with the New York Times‘ big UFO story, and he said:

The Pentagon has a long history of sometimes providing inaccurate information to the American people. This is true as recently as this week regarding the draft memo involving Iran, and two weeks ago when the press finally received the truth about Afghanistan despite 18 years of statements to the contrary. As in the case involving [unidentified aerial phenomena], I can only hope that the inconsistent message is due to the benign results of a large and cumbersome bureaucracy and not something more nefarious like a cover-up or deliberate misinformation campaign.

Meanwhile, Newsweek reports on a newly-declassified CIA report on a UFO sighting from 1973 in present-day Kazakhstan, and involves alleged “laser weapons.” No aliens mentioned.

But look, there’s no reason to worry about aliens or anything ever again, because the commander of the U.S. Space Force has had the force’s “official Bible” blessed in a ceremony at the Washington National Cathedral. Nothing weird about that.

So here’s us, we’re all working our godless butts off to get states to let Secular Celebrants solemnize marriages, and then here comes mecha-priest! Sigal Samuel at Vox reports on experimentation with robotic and artificially intelligent clergy.

What? I can’t hear you, I’m making a “health statement” with my auriculotherapeutic ear seeds. Via GMA:

The seeds, made of magnets or vaccaria flower seeds, are often covered in gold or crystal, making both a subtle fashion and health statement. Like acupuncture and reflexology, the seeds purportedly stimulate relaxation, helping with anxiety and spiritual healing.

I can’t.


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.



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