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Laughing and Cooing at Dead People

November 21, 2019

Secular Rescue, CFI’s program for helping freethought activists and writers around the world get out of danger, has a new website and it’s awesome.

UPI reports on the push for secular alternatives for addiction recovery, noting the work CFI and its allies have been doing to lobby for evidence-based approaches to recovery for a growing nonreligious population.

Yet another federal judge blocks a Trump administration rule to allow health care providers to refuse to give care if it offends their religious sensibilities. The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

“An ambulance driver would be free, on religious or moral grounds, to eject a patient en route to a hospital upon learning that the patient needed an emergency abortion,” U.S. District Judge William Alsup said in his ruling, the third federal court decision to declare the rule invalid.

The administration’s plan “upsets the balance drawn by Congress between protecting conscientious objections versus protecting the uninterrupted defective flow of health care to Americans,” Alsup said.

The Washington Post examines Ohio’s Student Religious Liberties Act to suss out whether it indeed prohibits teachers from rejecting wrong-yet-religiously-based answers in school, and as you can imagine, the letter of the law is less clear than the obvious intent of the law:

[The ACLU’s Gary] Daniels, who spoke against the bill to lawmakers, told The Washington Post that he was concerned the legislation would tie teachers’ hands if students ignored an assignment’s instructions and instead stated their religious beliefs. Given the bill’s vague language, Daniels said many teachers would let students’ actions slide.

“In a small town, in a small county, where these issues tend to attract more attention, how much is a teacher going to push back on a student’s religious beliefs and create a controversy in a classroom?” Daniels said.

A couple of weeks ago, Pew Research told us that 63 percent of Americans want churches to keep out of political matters. So what is up with this new survey from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty (a right-wing organization) says 65 percent of Americans are in favor of churches endorsing candidates and getting all political. What? For what it’s worth, Pew spoke to over 6000 people, Becket to 1000. Maybe there’s something else going on in their methodologies?

The AP reports on how so-called independent review boards meant to deal with the Catholic Church sexual abuse crisis have, well, not dealt with it in a good way:

… review boards appointed by bishops and operating in secrecy have routinely undermined sex abuse claims from victims, shielded accused priests and helped the church avoid payouts.

The AP also found dozens of cases in which review boards rejected complaints from survivors, only to have them later validated by secular authorities. In a few instances, board members were themselves clergy accused of sexual misconduct. And many abuse survivors told the AP they faced hostility and humiliation from boards.

When a victim in Florida went before a board, a church defense attorney there grilled him about his abuse until he wept. When another man in Ohio braced to tell a panel of strangers how a priest had raped him, one of them, to his disbelief, was knitting a pink sweater. And when a terrified woman in Iowa told her story of abuse, one member was asleep; the board’s finding against her was later thrown into doubt by a court ruling in her favor.

Self-identified religious-conservative lawyer Bryan Gividen writes in The Independent that Trump must be impeached, regardless of his political preferences, and particularly cites the fact that if Trump goes, Pence comes in:

“But what about my judges (or abortion or religious liberty or the 2nd Amendment)?” First, realistically, we’re talking about Mike Pence becoming President. He will be as good as Trump was on all those issues.

The theocratic Liberty Counsel releases its “Naughty and Nice” list (more like a Christmas-themed enemies list) to classify businesses by how much they slobber over a very Jesus-y “Merry Christmas” or give in to the secular-Marxist-Satanic “Happy Holidays.” Look out Barnes and Noble and Burlington Coat Factory. Your days are NUMBERED…like on an ADVENT CALENDAR…which you WOULDN’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT…and you don’t get ANY CHOCOLATE.

A church in Wisconsin was about to get a $10,000 grant from the city of Fitchburg, but then FFRF shook its fist and gave it the stink-eye. No more grant.

Alex Morris at Rolling Stone interviews Pete Buttigieg about all that God stuff:

Morris: Being a Christian myself, I feel like I come to Christianity with a little bit of the reverse of Pascal’s wager, where I’m like, if I’m wrong about Christianity, I don’t want to have made decisions based on my faith that hurt other people.

Buttigieg: Yeah, it’s a smart way to think about it. I mean, part of it maybe has to do with if your faith has a lot to do with doubt, which I think is very rich in the Christian tradition. Obviously not everybody sees it that way, yet Scripture is full of things that I think touch our sense of doubt and call us to that kind of humility. I never thought about it that way, but I like that reasoning.

At the McGill International Review, Jordan Royt looks at the unholy union of the Putin government and the Russian Orthodox Church:

Russia’s citizenry is paying a high price for President Vladimir Putin’s close relationship with the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC). Their public spaces are being transformed into religious institutions, legislation influenced by Russian Orthodox officials, and government partnering with the Orthodox establishment to retain power behind the backs of voters. Though the Russian Government rarely pursues a secularist narrative, it is officially secular under its constitution. Yet, the ROC holds a prestigious place in the Kremlin, and Putin’s relationship with the church appears to be one of mutual endorsement. …

… While the ROC continues to claim its separation from political affairs, it remains a dominant policy influencer. Members engage in dialogue with public authorities to develop various laws and regulations. Consequently, daily life in Russia has an Eastern Orthodox flavour. Together, Putin and the ROC have targeted LGBT communities and dismantled abortion rights across the country in the name of traditional Christian values.

Putin has rationalized his promotion of the ROC through attacks on the morality of western societies. He argues that the west is morally corrupt, and their liberal values—such as LGBT rights—are the path to degradation. Therefore, he portrays himself and the ROC as protectors to Russian societal traditionalism—an ideal Putin sees as the key to a prosperous nation.

It seems President Edgar Lungu of Zambia is no fan of the godless, blaming a lack of rainfall on insufficient prayers. Hemant Mehta adds:

If those reports are accurate, it means a head of state is both ignorant enough to invoke supernatural solutions to environmental problems and eager to throw atheists under the bus to deflect blame from himself.

In other words, it’s a day ending in “y.”

Like plants reaching for sunlight, conspiracy theorists do not “stumble into problematic beliefs” online, but actively seek them out, according to research by Australian scholars published in PLOS ONE.

In what I think is a case of a newspaper doing a genuine disservice to its readership, the Lowell Sun runs a column by a “psychic” who, in this instance, encourages parents to perceive paranormal powers in their children:

Do you have a sensitive child? If your child seems to be entertained in his high chair, laughing and cooing while looking up or around, he could be seeing grandparents who have passed or angels.

Is your child highly sensitive or seems to sense how others are feeling or what they are going through?

Is your child creative or seems to have an imaginary friend she plays with?

Does your child have trouble sleeping without a light on or have vivid dreams?

Does she faces [sic] as she is falling asleep?

If your child seems older beyond his years, asking thought-provoking questions or talking about things they couldn’t possibly know about, he might be connecting to the spiritual world.

In other words, if you see your kid being a kid, they must have super-powers and talk to dead people.

Skeptical Inquirer contributor Rob Palmer writes about the work of the Guerrilla Skeptics on Wikipedia at Adventures in Poor Taste:

The GSoW add valid material and references, and remove unsubstantiated claims. We do everything from making small enhancements, like improving existing text, to writing entire articles from scratch. The team’s topics of interest are varied, and include bios of purported psychic mediums, documentaries, scientists, alternative medicine, skeptical movement issues, and even space travel. In fact, we did a re-write of the article for the first and only (unappreciated) astro-cat, Félicette.

And we do it by strictly following Wikipedia’s rules. The team is trained to edit in such a way that our work avoids being challenged and removed (removed changes are a problem commonly faced by untrained editors).

Jann Bellamy at Science-Based Medicine warns about how practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine are trying to get themselves legitimized in Colorado:

… we learn from the Application that Ayurvedic practitioners have taken a page from the chiropractic, naturopathic, and Traditional Chinese Medicine/acupuncture (TCM) playbook and set up a system of organizations that, on their face, mimic those of the medical profession, but are actually designed to incorporate and perpetuate their pseudoscientific belief systems and, via self-regulation, shield them from outside scrutiny. …

… for both “doctors” and Practitioners, the Application does not propose any limitation on the scope of practice. It includes diagnosis, treatment, and management “from the Ayurvedic perspective” of any disease or condition in any patient of any age, unsupervised by any other health care professional.

Here’s something to read every day. A headline from Business Insider says:

A pair of infant skeletons were found wearing other children’s skulls as helmets in a 2,000-year-old grave site

Bet those folks were fun.

Apparently during the filming of Return of the Jedi in 1982, while filming scenes taking place on the moon Endor (remember, Ewoks and whatnot) in Redwood National Park in California, Peter Mayhew was warned not to walk off set with this Chewbacca costume on lest he be shot at by hunters convinced they’d found Bigfoot. There was a neat idea that came from this, though, reports WYTV:

Oddly enough, an official Star Wars comic appeared in 2004 titled “Into the Great Unknown.” The Millennium Falcon crash-lands on Earth in the Pacific Northwest before the area was colonized. Han Solo dies but Chewbacca survives, becoming the mythical Bigfoot.

A century-plus later, an archeologist tracking Bigfoot finds Han Solo’s skeletal remains. The archeologist is Indiana Jones …

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.