Slightly Bemused Observations

May 10, 2019

Sixty percent of Americans now say they are willing to vote for an atheist for president, according to Gallup, which is a 2-point bump from 2015. Meh. Hypothetical Muslim candidates got a big 6-point lift from 60 to 66 percent, and evangelicals just keep cleaning up, going from a whopping 73 percent to am even whoppier 80. (Atheists, by the way, remain at the bottom of the pack mentioned by Gallup, save for socialists, stuck at 47 percent.)

Speaking of which, Hemant Mehta adds his thoughts to Max Boot’s op-ed advocating for an atheist president. For an atheist politician, says Hemant, “that may be the one job where your religious label, in theory, doesn’t matter because you’re supposed to represent everybody.”

It’s a position where you may get plenty of publicity for being an atheist even though it has nothing to do with your actual work.

There’s a huge opportunity there. A politician who fights for social justice, and health care, and civil rights — who also happens to reject God — would go a long way to changing what Americans think about atheists. (That said, it would be disastrous if that atheist president supported the current Republican agenda. It would be bad for atheists’ image and it would be bad for the country.)

Michelangelo Signorile opines at USA Today that voters must be made aware of Trump’s “brutal record of hostility to LGBTQ people,” which is glazed over with the language of “religious liberty”:

… it’s important that the agenda of anti-LGBTQ forces, including the coded language they use, be fully exposed. Some of the Trump administration’s hostile actions, such as the president’s Twitter announcement in 2017 that’d be banning transgender people from the military, are so overt they can’t be papered over. But others are disguised as protecting religious freedom. … At February’s annual National Prayer Breakfast, Trump defended a state-funded Michigan adoption agency’s efforts to ban gay and lesbian couples from adopting children, for example. “We will always protect our country’s long and proud tradition of faith-based adoption,” Trump said, without uttering the words “gay” or “lesbian.”

Lester Fabian Brathwaite at Logo says that if you’re in health care and your religious prevents you from providing said health care, perhaps you oughtn’t be in health care:

Health care, just like religious freedom, should be an inalienable right as everyone deserves access to medical services—but if one’s religion precludes providing those services, then how can one call themselves a professional? And medicine, being a science, should be free from religious objections because not only do science and religion, much like church and state, tend to be incongruent with one another, religion tends to hinder progress.

George Skelton at the LA Times worries over the ferocity of anti-vax activists, “single-issue voters who care about keeping their kids from being inoculated and little else.”

David Meyer a Fortune reports on the measures being taken in Europe to fight the measles resurgence and push back against anti-vaxxers. Many European countries’ vaccination rates are insufficient for herd immunity, and lawmakers have had to get tougher.

Meanwhile, Instagram is now blocking hashtags related to anti-vaxx propaganda, hiding search results that return misinformation.

Alabama’s state senate delays voting on its abortion ban as things got crazy in the state capitol. The New York Times reports:

Faced with a procedural dispute and open divisions among Republicans over how far the abortion ban should go, the Senate abruptly adjourned until Tuesday. As the chaos played out on the Senate floor, where lawmakers clashed over whether the state should allow abortions in cases of rape or incest, supporters and critics alike acknowledged that the bill, the most far-reaching effort in the nation this year to curb abortion, was still likely to become law.

Michael Blackmon at BuzzFeed reports that a judge in Florida has ruled against parents who don’t want their 3-year-old with leukemia to have chemotherapy treatment. They would prefer he be treated “with CBD oil, alkaline water, and mushroom tea” and to take “a homeopathic approach to the illness.”

At the Wall Street Journal, S. Joshua Swamidass, a professor of laboratory and genomic medicine, considers the recent Southern Baptist Convention’s statement on the ethics of artificial intelligence:

… the document notes that “God alone has the power to create life.” This phrase appears in traditional theology as an affirmation of God’s providence and authority. Of course it doesn’t prohibit creating life through reproduction. Nor does it proscribe scientific work like creating new viruses in a lab. Citing “God alone,” nonetheless, the document seems to declare artificial minds either impossible or immoral. Why not encourage scientific inquiry?

Pope Francis issues a new law saying that clergy are required to report sexual abuse by their superiors, and what’s really shocking is that this wasn’t already the case.

Kathleen Oropeza at the Orlando Sentinel laments the latest voucher scheme passed in Florida:

The very use of the word “choice” conjures up a different meaning for everyone. When a parent chooses to give up their child’s right to a free and appropriate public education, take a voucher and attend a private religious school there are consequences. Private schools reserve the right to discriminate against any child for any reason, they are not required to accept any student, … teachers may have little more than a high school diploma, curriculum is not subject to state review and can be loaded with alternative, even radical content, there are no required anti-bullying programs, safety protocols, facility standards or transportation.

I’m not so sure about this. Variety gives a positive review to a new documentary, We Believe in Dinosaurs, an “even-handed” and “slightly bemused observation of the Ark Encounter.”

Hank Green (who looks like he maybe needs a little more sleep) on SciShow looks at how science doesn’t support the idea that babies should only be fed breast milk to the exclusion of all else. “Breast milk is great, but that doesn’t mean formula should be framed as harmful, because the evidence is not there.”

The Advocate profiles entertainer Joshua Kane, who is not a psychic and doesn’t claim to be, but it, you know, sensitive:

“I don’t talk to dead people — or at least when I do they don’t answer,” said Kane, whose appearance is part of the city’s OnStage series. “And I don’t claim any other supernatural powers.”

Meet Judge Jim Lammey of Memphis, a guy who shares posts on Facebook calling Muslims “foreign mud” and that Jews should “get the f— over the Holocaust.” Or actually, don’t meet Judge Jim Lammey. He sucks. The Commercial Appeal reports:

He has denied racism or anti-semitism and says he has the right to free speech. He has also argued that nothing that he’s shared on his Facebook page will diminish his ability to judge all cases fairly.

ಠ_ಠ really.

Scientists use a quantum computer to send a virtual particle back in time, “undoing its aging,” like Doctor Strange using the Time Stone on an apple, by a millionth of a second. What…the..what.

Jeff Bezos reveals his Blue Origin company’s plans for a lunar spacecraft, and lays out a vision for humanity’s future in space, wherein our generation is laying the infrastructure for far-future exploration and colonization.

Then Elon Musk gets all spacebro and tweets, “…putting the word ‘Blue’ on a ball is questionable branding.” Okay, whatever.

Quote of the Day

Steven Waldmen has a big feature in Newsweek on the evolution of American religious liberty and its current fragile state:

Different faith groups must cultivate a heartier all-for-one, one-for-all solidarity around religious freedom. We have seen this develop between American Muslims and Jews, who have stepped up to support one another in the aftermath of attacks. We now also need to see American evangelicals fight against harassment of American Muslims instead of joining it. In fact, few things would better safeguard religious freedom than if American evangelicals regained their leadership position on the matter—adopting the posture of their ancestors who helped develop our national model. The key is viewing religious freedom not only as a way of advancing the position of one’s own religion but also as the cause of liberty more generally.

He also brings the nonreligious into it, but from a weird posture that presumes we’re not already on board:

Secularists need to compromise as well. Nonbelievers benefit when believers are protected. Most of the worst persecution of atheists around the world comes in countries that also harass and imprison religious minorities. Religious people need the freedom not only to worship privately but also to express themselves publicly and to associate with like-minded Americans.

Yeah, we already agree with you. No compromise needed.

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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.