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Soulless Creatures

June 14, 2019

The state of New York has ended religious exemptions to vaccine requirements. About damn time.

Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura at the New York Times reports on how Waldorf schools in New York are serving as host bodies for anti-vaxxer propaganda to thrive and spread. Get ready to lose whatever hope the previous news item gave you:

The mother of an unvaccinated child here in the New York suburbs says eating papaya helps to combat measles. The father of another child who has not been immunized believes that big pharmaceutical companies are paying millions of dollars to doctors, government officials and even judges to bury the truth about vaccine complications.

Another mother says the souls of her children are on a journey that vaccines would impede. “As a parent, for me, a lot of my job is to just not put extra obstacles in that soul’s way,” she said.

All three parents represent an anti-vaccine fervor on the left that is increasingly worrying health authorities. They often cluster around progressive private schools that are part of the Waldorf educational movement, and at the Waldorf school here, 60 percent of the school’s 300 or so students were not vaccinated against measles and other highly contagious diseases as of late last year.

A new Point of Inquiry episode has Kavin Senapathy talking to biologist Ben Allen and neuroscientist Katherine Bryant about their reboot of the organization Science for the People.

In Free Inquiry, James A. Haught says the best way to bring about positive political change is to get those damned lazy Nones to vote:

If they could be induced to participate more strongly in elections, America’s moral climate would improve. But there’s the rub: churchless Americans often don’t vote. They shun politics as much as they shun supernatural religion. So their potential power lags.

We have some very positive news on the Secular Rescue front, as Sudanese writer Mohamed Salih Aldsogi finds himself not only out of harm’s way, but helping further a great cause with a great organization: CFI Kenya:

“Mohamed Salih demonstrated courage in Sudan,” [CFI Kenya’s] George [Ongere] told us. “Salih is kind, respectful, open-minded, a friend, a free person, and a very intelligent person.” George reports that Salih will be helping to coordinate the university office, visiting with the Humanist Orphans, and helping to supervise other charitable programs.

Susan Gerbic interviews our youngest CSICon speaker, thirteen-year-old Bailey Harris, author of the books My Name Is Stardust and Stardust Explores the Solar System.

Here’s the opening to a Skeptical Inquirer piece you wish didn’t have to be written: “Exorcism is back.” Stuart Vyse says the resurgence of interest and belief in demon-extraction is largely due to “the Catholic Church’s own efforts to promote fear of the devil as a method of bolstering its own importance.”

Speaking of demons, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops passes some measures to deal with the sexual abuse crisis, none actually involving anyone outside the church having any power to do anything. But they did set up a hotline! So the problem is solved.

YouGov puts out a poll on millennials and their hypothetical presidential preferences, and this was interesting:

Millennials are the only generation where nearly one in five (19%) say a candidate identifying as an atheist makes them more appealing. That’s compared to 8% of Gen X and 5% of Baby Boomers. One in five (21%) of Millennials say a candidate identifying as an atheist would make them less appealing, compared to three in ten (31%) Gen Xers and half (51%) of Baby Boomers.

A Fresno Unitarian church is no longer allowed to serve as a polling place during elections because they once had banners that said “Black Lives Matter.” The church’s minister, Rev. Tim Kutzmark, said to RNS:

With Fresno County’s decision to place priority on one written complaint by an ill-informed white person — and to break the law by removing the church as a polling place — the county chose to support the denigration of black lives and support the societal prioritization of white lives. This is wrong, it is a violation of our First Amendment rights, and it is an assault on the religious values of Unitarian Universalism.

Once again, Quebec’s assembly is considering barring religious dress for public workers, but adding on something that seems just bananas. Jax Jacobsen reports, emphasis mine:

If passed, the law would bar Muslim women who wear the hijab, Sikhs wearing turbans and Jewish men wearing kippas, among others, from being able to work as teachers, police officers and judges. Christians would also have to remove their crosses.

More drastically, however, Bill 21 would also prohibit anyone from wearing religious symbols while receiving services from government bodies, including transit, doctors and dentists, school boards or subsidized day cares. If it passes, women wearing religious covering — including the niqab — would not be able to use a bus without revealing their faces.

I think the Pastafarians are going to need to start riding public transit with strainers on their heads and try to get themselves arrested.

The self-proclaimed “anti-theist” human garbage who murdered three Muslims in Chapel Hill, North Carolina in 2015, has been sentenced to life in prison. Three life sentences, technically.

Iranian activist Alireza Shir-Mohammad-Ali was murdered in a Tehran prison by inmates, after having been detained for what amounts to blasphemy. Voice of America reports:

[The Center for Human Rights in Iran] said Iranian authorities arrested Shir-Mohammad-Ali in July 2018 and charged him with crimes including “insulting the sacred,” “insulting” Iran’s supreme leader and “propaganda against the state.” It said he was sentenced to eight years in prison in February and was awaiting the result of his appeal before his death. …

… “A 21-year-old-person has lost his life in prison for charges that should not even be on the book,” Human Rights Watch Iran researcher Tara Sepehri Far wrote.

A nurse in British Columbia says he was discriminated against for his atheism after he was fired for refusing to attend an Alcoholics Anonymous recovery program, which of course is based on spiritual beliefs. His case will be heard by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.

Jessica Biel is buddying up with RFK Jr. to lobby against California’s bill to crack down on doctors who give out false medical exemptions to vaccinations. Just goes to show that just because you have starred on BoJack Horseman, it doesn’t mean you’re all that smart.

I think I found my next side-hustle. The Verge reports on human workers helping out where algorithms aren’t so great:

For years, Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (mTurk) has been a kind of open secret in the tech world, a place where fledgling algorithms can hire human labor on the cheap. If you need a hundred people to trace the boundaries of an object or fill out a survey, it’s the single best place to make it happen. … The biggest name in the current listings is Pinterest, which is currently offering Turkers 40 cents a pop to rule on whether a given post contains health misinformation.

I can totally do that.

Wingnut pastor Rick Wiles says the meatless Impossible Burger will “change human DNA so that you can’t be born again” and will “create a race of soulless creatures on this planet.” SIGN. ME. UP.

Quote of the Day

How tornadoes are formed, or, well, “tornaders,” according to a caller into a Pennsylvania radio show:

We didn’t have tornaders [sic] here until we started putting in the traffic circles. Cause, on account of, you wanna know why? When people go round and round in circles, it caused disturbance in the atmosphere, and causes tornadoes.

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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.