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Mockingly, Rather Than Literally

February 18, 2020

I know what you’re wondering: What are Protestant pastors really concerned about?? Barna Group did a survey to find out:

When presented with a list of possible challenges facing their church today, half of Protestant pastors note that “reaching a younger audience” (51%) is a major issue for their ministry. Just over one-third of pastors (34%) marks this statement as a top three concern for their church, with 12 percent noting it as the top concern.

Half of pastors also agree that “declining or inconsistent outreach and evangelism” is a major issue facing their local church (50%). Of all the pastors who affirm this statement, exactly two in five (40%) say it falls within their top three concerns, with 14 percent agreeing it is their largest concern.

And what do they worry about for Christianity at large? 72 percent concerned about the “watering down” of Christian teachings, and 66 percent are antsy about “the culture’s shift to a secular age.”

RNS’s Emily McFarlan Miller points out what’s not such a big deal for pastors:

What doesn’t worry pastors very much: religious liberty — the stuff of Supreme Court cases, executive orders, campaign promises and a recent task force and summit. Only 23% of Protestant pastors identify it as a major concern or issue facing the Christian church today in the U.S., and 32% said it was not a concern or issue at all.

France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, defends a teenage girl accused of blasphemy for remarks on social media:

“In this debate we have lost sight of the fact that Mila is an adolescent. We owe her protection at school, in her daily life, in her movements,” Macron said in an interview with Le Dauphiné Libéré newspaper. … “That necessity is separate from the criticism of religion. The law is clear: we have the right to blaspheme, to criticise, to caricature religions…”

Popular Mechanics opens a big feature on what the government knows about UFOs like this:

The government can’t keep its story straight about its involvement with UFO research. After a yearlong investigation, we bust open the files, break through the noise, and reveal the definitive, staggering truth.

Whoa! Go on:

… the path to understanding these mysterious government programs has taken me through the catacombs of informal secret societies, whose surprising memberships include accomplished professionals from the military, aerospace, academic, medical, and intelligence communities.

Though diverse or abstinent in how they define exactly what it all means, each of these enigmatic characters shares one common belief: unidentified flying objects are neither myth nor figment of overactive imaginations. With absolute conviction, they’ve all told me that UFOs are real.

Nothing about actual aliens, though.

Newsweek reports on research showing how fake news helps the spread of diseases like the coronavirus, but that it’s possible to sort of inoculate readers with a little herd immunity:

In the first study, looking at influenza, monkeypox and the norovirus, they found that they could mitigate the effect of fake news by reducing levels a small amount, from 50 percent of all information circulating to 40 percent. The same effect was observed by making one-fifth of the population “immune” to the effects of misinformation.

In the second, by reducing bad advice to 30 percent of the total amount of information circulated—or making 30 percent of people immune to its influence—they were able to counteract the negative effect of fake news related to the norovirus. And yet, even if 90 percent of news circulating was good (or true), the misinformation that was present was pernicious enough to still have an effect on disease spread, they found.

Gary Stix at Scientific American, however, reports on more studies showing that debunking fake news only makes it more powerful, sort of like a fake news Force ghost:

This new paper may point toward strategies that avoid an overemphasis on the role of furnishing debunking information in public health campaigns in favor of simple messages about the best measures to be adopted—a lesson that Nyhan says he derives from his research on public attitudes toward childhood vaccinations. “The more effective approach is to work in the community through trusted institutions and leaders to build trust and communicate the importance of vaccinations to public health,” he says.

There is apparently fake news being circulated about Pete Buttigieg via a fabricated newspaper article about how he was arrested as a teenager for killing dogs. NYT reports:

Robert Franklin, director of photography at the Tribune, also commented on [the fake news], saying that the newsroom had received calls about the fake post. “We were more upset about the style errors: Five not spelled out, no byline, no dateline, a jump in the middle of story,” Franklin said in his tweet.

I will admit, I thought this sign reading, “God bows down to President Donald J Trump; Declares ‘He is Perfect'” was sincere, but, no, it’s a joke. Snopes clears it up, saying, “The sign is one of many posted by a fervent Trump critic and is meant to be taken mockingly rather than literally.” You see, this is why Andy Borowitz isn’t funny. (Okay, one reason.) The satirical stuff sounds as plausible as the real stuff.

Steven Salzberg is showing some wise Google-fu skills, setting up a who-is-Andrew-Wakefield article for anyone who’s seen or is thinking of seeing the pseudo-documentary Vaxxed or its sequel, which I have decided to call Too Vaxxed Too Deleterious.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit says a hospital worker who was fired for refusing to be vaccinated did not have her religious freedom violated. The Patriot-News reports:

“Nothing in Brown’s…complaint suggests that her opposition to the flu vaccine was religious,” they found. “At one point, she claimed that the vaccine was unnecessary for her because she scrupulously washed her hands, but any concern that the flu vaccine may do more harm than good…is a medical belief, not a religious one.”

Therefore, the judges concluded, hospital officials didn’t violate federal law which requires employers “to make accommodations for their employees’ religious beliefs and practices, unless doing do would result in undue hardship to the employer.”

Former Fox News contributor, psychiatrist Keith Albow, was known for spreading anti-LGBTQ pseudoscience, and later had his license revoked by the state of Massachusetts. Oh, and he’s in the middle of lawsuits for sexual exploitation of patients. Now his home has been raided by the DEA. Fox sure knows how to pick ’em.

Well this is different. Parishioners in Detroit are suing the Catholic Archdiocese for $20 million…for removing a priest accused of child sexual abuse. The Detroit Free Press reports:

The lawsuit alleges church officials “fabricated” a rape charge against Perrone because they didn’t like his conservative views and wanted him out, and because they wanted to avoid bad press. Perrone was removed from the clergy one month after reporters started asking questions about a fondling claim against him.

Bianca Bosker at The Atlantic looks into the rise of “witchcraft” in America:

Although [“seer” Juliet] Diaz has emerged as a leading voice for an inclusive, no-wrong-answers form of witchery, she and others prickle at the creeping tendency to claim the witch label without actually practicing magic. “A lot of girls, young girls, they post pictures of their house with their room with upside-down crosses, Goth clothes, with their potions. They don’t even practice witchcraft, and they’re like, ‘Oh, I’m a witch,’ ” Diaz told me. “It takes away from the sacredness of the word.” Diaz also says she’s troubled by what she sees as the commodification of witchcraft—though, of course, she’s benefited from its commercial appeal—and the cultural appropriation that’s come with it, such as white witches borrowing from indigenous or African-diasporic traditions. Palo Santo, a wood that is traditionally burned by shamans and is now a staple of yoga studios everywhere, can be purchased from Urban Outfitters, Bloomingdale’s, Madewell, Anthropologie, the Whitney Museum of American Art, Crate and Barrel’s CB2, and, once it’s back in stock there, Goop.

I just can’t have a Morning Heresy without Goop, can I. I mean, look at this: Rob Palmer at Skeptical Inquirer has psychic-busting detective Bob Nygaard with his take on Paltrow and Goop:

I, like you, fear that Paltrow’s The Goop Lab episode “Are You Intuit?” will increase the likelihood of more vulnerable people being defrauded. … Falling for a self-proclaimed psychic can be extremely dangerous because it often leads to the destruction of a person’s emotional health and financial well-being. Unfortunately, when victims of psychic fraud attempt to report the crimes that have been committed against them to police and/or prosecutors, they are often met with laughter, and/or misreporting, and/or ignorance. I use my training and experience, both as a former law enforcement officer and a private investigator, to help victims navigate their way through a criminal justice system that is largely unsympathetic toward their plight and help victims overcome the many impediments that often exist when they are attempting to obtain justice.

Senate Republicans want to vote on an anti-abortion bill called the “Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Act.” The thing is, that’s not a thing.

Carol Williams, a U.S. Army veteran writing for the Journal News in West Virginia, considers the collision of Flat-Earthers and the Space Force:

… I’m curious why the new service branch is named the “Space Force” instead of the “Outer Space Force.” Since the Flat-Earthers don’t believe in “outer” space, it’s possible that this administration is shrewdly avoiding alienating any potential voters. There would likely be a squabble if we ever restored the military draft, forcing Flat-Earthers to be conscripted into something they don’t believe in. Would they get deferments as conscientious objectors? On the other hand, they might be deemed unqualified to serve, lest they compromise the mission just to prove that a round Earth is a government hoax.

Or perhaps there’s a deeper conspiracy here that we’re overlooking. Maybe our Space Force is actually controlled by an undercover religious cabal determined to show once and for all that the literal interpretation of the Bible correctly describes God’s creation: it is shaped like a Frisbee, was completed in six days, and has a “use-by” expiration date that comes due when the rapture arrives.

Betelgeuse. Betelgeuse! Betelgeuse?


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.