Borrow the Librarian’s Broadsword

October 30, 2019

Pastafarian Richard Moser III of Ohio is getting help from the American Humanist Association as he fights for his right to don a colander for his driver’s license photo. The AHA wrote to the Ohio Bureau of Moter Vehicles, saying:

The BMV is not at liberty to decide which religions may be afforded this privilege and which religions may not. To deny any person the right to afford themselves of this accommodation merely because their religion is not sufficiently well-known or understood by the BMV would be a plain violation of the First Amendment.

Vice, which I have said just loves them some UFOs, reports on the merging of conspiracy theories (which is not surprising): Aliens and QAnon. What’s QAnon again? You’d be forgiven for forgetting, because it’s sort of a catch-all for any explanation that lets Trump off the hook. Or, as Vice‘s MJ Banias puts it:

QAnon [is] the often unintelligible conspiracy theory that our government is being run by the ‘Deep State’—and that there is a whistleblower within the government pseudonymously known as ‘Q’ who is trying to protect us from it. …

… [Conspiracy theorist YouTuber Jordan] Sather told Motherboard he believes Q “is an avenue to increase public awareness about the information and connections that these ‘Powers that Be’ have been trying to hide from us, with UFOs being one of those secrets. They are working for ‘Disclosure’ of many truths, not just extraterrestrial life and secret space programs already existing.”

YouGov tracks which of the Ten Commandments Americans consider important to follow, regardless of their religious views. There’s a lot of consensus on ‘don’t murder people’ (91 percent say it’s “an important principle to live by”), ‘don’t steal from people’ (90 percent), and ‘don’t lie about people’ (88 percent). But less than half of Americans think keeping the Sabbath day holy is important, and a little more than half say it’s not a good idea to “use the Lord’s name in vain” for whatever reason.

I’m pretty nervous about the 5 percent who don’t think it’s a good idea to live by the “don’t murder” principle and the 4 percent who “don’t know.” WHAT’S NOT TO KNOW? Okay, well, what about us awful godless types:

Christians and Americans who identify as Atheist or Agnostic are equally likely to see the importance of “Thou shalt not kill” (95% for non-religious Americans vs. 93% for Christians), “Thou shalt not steal” (91% for non-religious Americans vs. 93% for Christians), and “Thou shalt not bear false witness” (88% for non-religious Americans vs. 91% for Christians). …

… Non-religious Americans are more likely than religious Americans to forgo the first five commandments that focus on respecting a deity and parental authority. Fewer than one in ten (9%) of Agnostic and Atheist Americans see the importance of only worshipping the Christian God or not using the Lord’s name in vain. Even fewer (7%) see the point of keeping Sunday holy.

You know who does take these commandment’s deadly seriously? Italian soccer officials! This is so deeply stupid. Two Italian players have been hit with one-game bans as punishment for blasphemy. Yes indeed. Francesco Magnanelli and Matteo Scozzarella were punished for “taking God’s name in vain.”

Banjamin Zeller, who studies new religious movements, aka NRMs, aka cults, writes at Religion & Politics to rebut the idea that Trump and his followers represent a cult, but I think he’s taking this use of the word waaaaay to literally, and not in the spirit in which it is intended. Anyhow, he says:

… Donald Trump has amassed a colossal political movement, capturing nearly 63 million votes. Granted that many individuals voted for Trump while holding their noses, or out of shrewd political calculation, yet still millions are committed followers. How to explain that? The reason cannot be brainwashing or mind-control, disputed pseudoscientific concepts that lack any empirical support. His success rates are actually vastly higher than any cult or NRM. The actual reasons for his political success require careful analysis by political scientists, not pseudoscientific concepts such as mind-control. Personally, I think Trump’s rise must be assessed by the way he appeals to the power of tribalism, and with it the fears of others benefiting at America’s expense. It’s a simultaneous appeal to the communal solidarity of patriotism and American exceptionalism, and the resultant desire for isolationism and retrenchment of Us against the menacing Them. Others view Trump’s appeal differently, but the fact is, it’s not mind-control or brainwashing. However, it does parallel the sort of dualistic worldview of us/them, good/evil, insider/outsider seen in many new religions.

Fine, but I don’t think anyone is seriously asserting that Trump is “brainwashing” his voters or using mind-control. Now, his followers almost certainly think that’s happening everywhere else, but that’s another story.

The liberal Christian organization Faithful America is filing an ethics complaint against AG Bill Barr over his Notre Dame anti-secularism tantrum, Jack Jenkins reports:

Faithful America said that Barr showcased a disregard for religious minorities, suggesting the speech may have been “coordinated” with Trump’s re-election bid. “He cited perceived attacks on conservative Christianity as evidence of ‘secular’ and ‘progressive’ attacks on religious liberty,” the complaint noted, “but did not mention any other religions, despite numerous recent attacks on American Muslims and Jews from supporters of the (Trump) administration.”

The group also pointed to Barr’s attack on “militant secularists,” as well as his assertion that “no secular creed has emerged capable of performing the role of religion,” which it argued amounted to “an inappropriate favoritism to religion over nonreligion.” … Favoring religion over nonreligion and Christianity over other faiths, the group alleged, “is a violation of Mr. Barr’s oath to support and defend the Constitution’s guarantee of religious liberty to all Americans, not just those who hold Judeo-Christian views.”

Mormons are not becoming less Republican, even if Trump makes them wince. If anything, polling shows they are becoming less Democratic.

Arizona’s Sen. Kyrsten Sinema says she won’t commit to voting for the Democratic nominee for president OR for the U.S. Senate from Arizona. I bring this up because at NY Mag, Eric Levitz notes Sinema’s drastic rebranding to a Joe Manchin-type Blue Dog Democrat from having once “proudly identified as a bisexual atheist in a red state.” (I don’t know that she ever overtly identified as an atheist, but she did help inaugurate the Secular Coalition for Arizona, the first state outpost for the national organization. I remember because I worked for SCA back then.)

Steven Novella looks at how Facebook is ill-equipped to enforce its rules against antivaxxer propaganda:

If we publish an article debunking homeopathy, the algorithms will see this as an article about homeopathy, and then feed ads promoting homeopathy and other alternative medicine pseudoscience. I have run into versions of this problem many times. Just writing about pseudoscience tags you with the pseudoscience. …

… are we all comfortable with a few giant corporations having this much power over the flow of information through our society (which is increasingly dependent on the flow of information)? I am glad that Facebook has decided to fight against anti-vaccine misinformation. But what if they decided not to?

How do actual journalists keep from laughing hysterically and then weeping in despair at having to report on the activities of so-called ghost-hunters, as we see hear in the Houston Chronicle:

The investigation includes determining whether the house is invaded by a run-of-the-mill “Casper-type” friendly ghost who is looking to reconnect with family or in the worst cases, performing “mild forms of exorcism” of “spirits who have not walked this earth.”

Just stop.

Thanks to a tongue-in-cheek post at Librarian Shipwreck, you can now be prepared the next time you encounter a ghost in the library, as one does. For example, here’s how to do battle if necessary:

… while many a museum may have a collection of arms and armor, a library is unlikely to have such a collection (this isn’t necessarily bad, most of the items of arms and armor held in museums are cursed). That being said, there are still certain things that you should pick up (assuming you have the right item proficiencies) that may be useful as weapons should you have no choice but to do battle with the ghastly force pursuing you:

– Fire extinguishers
– Large books (these can be decent bludgeons)
– Scissors
– Basic tools (borrowed from the library maintenance department)
– Icons that have been blessed by the head librarian
– Broadswords (ask a qualified librarian)
– A bookcart (make sure it isn’t haunted)
– Staplers
– A Master’s degree in Library Science (takes time to earn, but it really does keep most library monsters at bay)

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.