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Insert Coming Disaster Here

December 18, 2018

According to VICE, a 16-year-old immigrant came to the United States after being raped by a group of men and becoming pregnant as a result. Seeking to have an abortion, the girl was instead sent to an anti-abortion counseling facility and given Bible verses.

Smart Pakem, the Indonesian government’s app for reporting heresy to the authorities, is still being hosted on the Google Play Store. It makes one sick.

Oxford historian Faisal Devji writes in the New York Times about how Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are an example of long-standing caste discrimination, as Pakistan’s Christians (like Asia Bibi) usually trace their roots to lower-caste Hindu groups:

Caste discrimination in Pakistan often involves its non-Muslim population and its Hindu past, and allows Muslims to minimize their own caste differences by projecting discrimination outward.

In Skeptical Inquirer, Robert Blaskiewicz and Mike Jarsulic profile the early 20th-century skeptic Dr. Arthur J. Cramp, who actively debunked quack medicine from his position at the American Medical Association.

Also in Skeptical Inquirer, Eric Wojciechowski considers the amazing coincidence that aliens who have been reported to visit Earth usually have humanoid bodies, and goes further to compare belief in extraterrestrial contact to belief in deities:

Absent real evidence of aliens and their machines, faith is the operating virtue of the believer. Why are they here? Why did they come? Why are they not more communicative? Any day now, a big enough sighting will come that everyone will have to acknowledge it. Disclosure is always expected but never comes. Aliens are preparing humanity for full contact that never comes. Chosen people are picked to spread their message. Aliens have replaced the angels. Aliens will help us solve (insert coming disaster here). If there’s any evidence to Jung’s archetypes, aliens and flying saucers are the space age imprints on them.

A Jesuit order in Maryland releases its own list of sexual predator priests. The Post reports, “The men accused of sexually abusing minors worked for decades in high schools.”

A man devotes his life to proving some mystical theory about Stonehenge and its supposed alignment with other ancient wonders. Then he gets on the phone with Ben Radford and learns that the stones were moved a few times. Punch to the metaphorical gut.

Skeptics can be superstitious. Russ Dobler talks to more folks from the reality-based community about where their own reason sometimes fails them. For example:

Carrie Poppy (journalist, comedian, cohost of the Oh No, Ross and Carrie podcast): I won’t sign my soul over, even for a cookie. It’s too valuable an imaginary concept!

Drag Queen Story Time at the Lafayette Library in Louisiana is shut down as the library faces a lawsuit from people who have nothing better to do, aka Warriors for Christ and Special Forces of Liberty. (Because Christ’s warriors and special forces would certainly use their firepower to stop dudes in makeup from reading storybooks to kids.)

Bailey Basham at RNS reports from Sunday Assembly Nashville’s “Heathen Holidays” event, “a Christmas celebration for the nonreligious.”

The First Presbyterian Church of Miami has to pay $7.1 million in taxes for leasing its land to for-profit entities.

De Pere, Wisconsin City Council: Everyone has to stop discriminating against transgender and nonbinary folks. Churches in De Pere: No way we want to treat them as subhuman because Jesus. County judge: Yeah, okay, that’s fine because religious freedom.

In a paper in Secularism & Nonreligion, Nickolas Garth Conrad recommends that the atheist/secular/freethought community adopt “unbelief” as the blanket term for its theological position:

…the term “unbelief” is heterodox in relation to traditional or dominant forms of religious expression or practices and is understood to be a term inside a historical context. It is a whole or partial break with traditional religion that includes blasphemy, heresy, the rejection of belief, atheism, agnosticism, humanism, and rationalism (Stein 1985). The term has its merits especially as a historical term that helps make the connections to the criticism, decline, or attenuation of belief in supernatural agents, religious ideas, and religious practices. Unbelief thus conceived can include various forms of spirituality and heresies which represent the incremental steps that took people further and further from normative belief in religion, spiritual practices, and the existence of God. The openness and inclusion of “unbelief” is its virtue.

Gravitational waves detected by LIGO are confirmed by two independent studies, while a group of scientists from the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen say it’s “absolute rubbish.”

Catholics: Good news! You don’t have to comply with any law that conflicts with Catholic dogma. Thanks, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin!

Also in Ireland, a bill is being considered that would ban advertisements of alt-med cancer treatments if they encourage patients to forego actual science-based treatment.

Paul Rosenberg at Salon does a deep dive into “Project Blitz,” the not-at-all-sinister-sounding name of the religious right’s plan to make Christian supremacy the law of the land.

The city of Dubai shows one way of dealing with the unbearable heat of climate change: a lot of indoor spaces with air conditioning.

A video game featuring characters standing in for Jesus, Hitler, Trump, and others gives players the mission of killing gays, feminists, and whatever other group these dumbasses feel threatened by. The game’s title contains a spelling error (Jesus Strikes Back: Judgement Day), and the developers insist that Hitler is not a playable character:

Hitler is not mentioned or featured in this video game. Perhaps your [sic] mistaken by our entirely fictional character Dolph. You likely assumed that just because he is Austrian and has a mustache he is Hitler. If that is the case, your [sic] a disgusting, fascist, racist and you have offended the entire Austrian Male Mustache community.

Harriet Hall looks at a treatment for vertigo, the Epley maneuver, as an example of something that looks a lot like quackery but is actually scientifically sound.

An internet hoax involving a colon-cleanse with soy sauce winds up leaving a woman brain dead.

Unsurprisingly to me, it turns out that the younger a kid is when they start kindergarten, the more likely they are to be diagnosed with ADHD, which is as worrying as it sounds. (I was the youngest in my kindergarten class but didn’t get my ADHD diagnosis til I was 39, so, no problem there…I think.)

Quote of the Day

Philosopher Todd May (who it turns out advises for NBC’s excellent and hilarious The Good Place) considers whether human extinction would qualify as a tragedy in the dramatic sense. His arguments hinge on the unspeakable suffering humans have wrought upon its fellow creatures on Earth:

How many human lives would it be worth sacrificing to preserve the existence of Shakespeare’s works? If we were required to engage in human sacrifice in order to save his works from eradication, how many humans would be too many? For my own part, I think the answer is one. One human life would be too many (or, to prevent quibbling, one innocent human life), at least to my mind. Whatever the number, though, it is going to be quite low. … Unless we believe there is such a profound moral gap between the status of human and nonhuman animals, whatever reasonable answer we come up with will be well surpassed by the harm and suffering we inflict upon animals. There is just too much torment wreaked upon too many animals and too certain a prospect that this is going to continue and probably increase; it would overwhelm anything we might place on the other side of the ledger.

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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.