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Infect Your Mind

November 1, 2019

The city councilors of Toronto pass a resolution denouncing Quebec’s “secularism bill,” calling it “a strategic attempt to stifle and limit the civic participation of individuals who choose to wear religious symbols under the guise of secularism.”

In the Lexington Herald-Leader, Lincoln Christensen (whose bio is an adjective buffet: “a life-long Unitarian Universalist, political independent, socially liberal fiscal conservative and free thinker”) responds to Bill Barr’s anti-secularism diatribe:

Prayer in school is not banned. Religious people and children of religious people may pray as much as suits them. However, the government agency may not endorse or participate in religious activity. … as the Attorney General uses it, “religious freedom” is a code word for government approval of Christian evangelism. …

… Secularists do not care about believers continuing in their faith practices. It is unimportant what one does in the worship of one’s deity. Politicians and religious leaders will use victimhood to garner votes and forge ahead with their own political agenda that is wrapped in the sanctity of the religious.

The Columbian‘s op-ed columnist Jay Ambrose says we just don’t get what Barr was really saying about the problem with secularism, since we’re all idiots:

Now let’s turn to secular morals.

Relativity is a biggie. No moral truth is objectively true, some secularists tell us, and you wonder if they ever heard of the philosopher who asked if it is then sometimes OK to torture a baby to death for the fun of it?

You got that? Bill Barr’s Christian-specific morals are the only things keeping us—well, I’ll just speak for myself; me—from torturing infants. Dodged a bullet there, I guess.

Mark Silk at RNS has a simple explanation for why Democrats get people like Frank Bruni and Nick Kristoph all upset for not talking about God enough:

I suspect that one of the reasons we’re not hearing much from Democratic operatives about dealing with the God gap in this election cycle is because they think it matters less and less. Sure, frequent attenders continue to vote Republican, but there are fewer and fewer of them — and more and more nones.

This is sort of depressing. In the journal Secularism & Nonreligion, Joshua Doyle posits that creating a cohesive group identity for atheists (or anyone else) requires picking a “them” to be worse than the “us”:

My findings suggest that atheists characterized Christians as less rational and in need of external comfort more than themselves, whereas Christians described atheists as disturbed by suffering and the behavior of some self-identified Christians. Defining one’s in-group and reaffirming the correctness and inherent social benefit of the in-group’s views were essential components of out-group characterizations.

In the New York Times, climate scientist and evangelical Christian Katherine Hayhoe explores how to reach her fellow believers when it comes to accepting climate science:

I’ve grown to understand how much of this opposition to the idea that the climate is changing, that humans are responsible, that the impacts are serious and that the time to act is now, comes from fear: fear of loss of our way of life, fear of being told that our habits are bad for society, fear of changes that will leave us worse off, fear of siding with those who have no respect for our values and beliefs.

But as a Christian, I believe the solution to this fear lies in the same faith that many non-Christians wrongly assume drives our rejection of the science. In the Apostle Paul’s letter to Timothy, he reminds us that we have not been given a spirit of fear. Fear is not from God. Instead, we’ve been given a spirit of power, to act rather than to remain paralyzed in anxiety, fear, or guilt; a spirit of love, to have compassion for others, particularly those less fortunate than us (the very people most affected by a changing climate); and a sound mind, to use the information we have to make good decisions.

And you know what? These are the very tools we need to address climate change.

Benjamin Radford rounds up some common myths about Halloween and its demonic or toxic threats, and concludes:

The real threats to children don’t involve tampered candy, Satanists, scary clowns, terrorists, or sex offenders; instead they include being hit by a car in the dark, or wearing a flammable costume, or injuring themselves while walking on curbs because they can’t see out of their masks.

I can speak to this, as the giant toucan head I wore last night essentially eliminated by peripheral vision and was like wearing a sail as the wind pushed my head around. (I soon took it off.)

President Trump’s “personal pastor” (whatever that means), Paula White, is officially joining the White House’s Office of Public Liaison to do faith outreach, because there hasn’t been enough of that from this White House.

Ed Brayton declares that Dave Rubin has completed his “descent into full-time right-wing hack” by blaming the California wildfires and power outages on diversity efforts. What?!?! Yes. There are people who actually think that.

Because the first 91 minutes of horsecrap wasn’t enough, get ready to endure Vaxxed II: The People’s Truth. Good lord I wish I was kidding. And it’s one minute longer than the first!

A Des Moines Register article on “Long Island Medium” Theresa Caputo cites Massimo Polidoro’s takedown of her con in Skeptical Inquirer.

Remember that news about how researchers had determined the location of the very first modern humans’ origins? At Ars Technica, Niona N. Smith says, actually, no:

“Although it’s been touted as interdisciplinary, [the paper] ignores the swathe of fossil and archaeological evidence that supports an older origin for our species,” paleoanthropologist Eleanor Scerri, of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, told Ars.

Ira Hyman at Psychology Today says beware of internet memes:

When I encounter a meme, I don’t always bother to check if the statement attached to the cute puppy photo is true. I see it and I scan onward. Then I see it again and again. I don’t realize how often I’ve seen it. But the idea is easier to process and may feel true.

Memes are menacing because they can infect our minds when we are likely to be vulnerable. Memes are also menacing because people are purposely using them to infect your mind with false information. So be careful when scanning your social media feeds. Beware of simple, attractive ideas with pictures. Be careful, or the memes will infect your mind.


The Washington Post looks at the recruiting firm HireVie, which uses computer algorithms to scan job candidates’ facial movements and voice during an interview to determine whether they get hired. Meredith Whittaker of the AI Now Institute says:

It’s pseudoscience. It’s a license to discriminate. And the people whose lives and opportunities are literally being shaped by these systems don’t have any chance to weigh in.

Joe Biden does not have a secularism outreach director, and was apparently unaware that he does have a faith outreach director, at least at the state level for South Carolina, and, shockingly, doesn’t really want to get to deep into the topic of appealing to atheists.

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.