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Sycophants and Grifters

September 11, 2019

Trump says Democrats aren’t “big believers” in religion, which I guess is true relative to Repubicans, though not true in that most Democrats are, in fact, religious, but still, this doesn’t seem grounded in, well, anything:

You know, the other side, they’re not big believers. They’re not big believers in religion, that I can tell you. You listen to some of ’em. They’re trying. They’re trying to put out little statements. They’re not working too well. Those statements are a little bit, sort of, not too good, huh? What is the word we want to use here…? They’re pushing a little hard and it’s not working.


Part of the Skeptical Inquirer special issue on the health wars against fake medicine, Cees N. M. Rencken and Thomas P.C. Dorlo show how the World Health Organization has sold out to nonsense by legitimizing “Traditional Chinese Medicine.”

A painting of the Virgin Mary in Chicago was apparently weeping, and Newsweek correctly notes how CFI’s Joe Nickell has pointed out that this effect can be achieved with a squirt gun.

Harret Hall says Herbalife supplements may or may not damage your liver, but since they don’t do anything else, there’s no reason to buy them.

Steven Novella looks at a study correlating artificially sweetened sodas with — eek! — death. Chill, it’s okay:

I don’t think this study changes the bottom line recommendations based on existing research. People in general should avoid drinking lots of sugar. Low calorie sweeteners are a safe and effective way to help achieve this goal. Sure, drinking water is also healthful and a great option.

For about $60 you too can have a degree in ghostbusting. Kenny Biddle takes a look at the industry of paranormalists’ diploma mills.

Senastian Gorka, who used to be important for some reason, says this about imaginary bans on Bibles:

Well, when books, when the Bible, is being banned, or people are ashamed to actually have the Good Book in their possession in public, that way leads to the real concentration camps and the death camps.

Virginia Theological Seminary is establishing a $1.7 million endowment fund for reparations for the school’s history of supporting slavery and segregation. Adelle Banks reports:

“This is a start,” said the Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, president of the Alexandria-based seminary, in the statement. “As we seek to mark (the) Seminary’s milestone of 200 years, we do so conscious that our past is a mixture of sin as well as grace. This is the Seminary recognizing that along with repentance for past sins, there is also a need for action.”

Atheists: We’re anxious. Well of course we are.

Joseph Loconte at National Review says that in times of great religious tension, we should look to John Locke:

No political doctrine has been more integral to the success of the United States, for no nation has been so determined to regard religious pluralism as a source of cultural strength. America’s experiment in human liberty and equality is profoundly Lockean. It is also, in some important respects, deeply Christian. Locke believed that the gospel message of divine mercy — intended for all — implied political liberalism. The founder of Christianity, he wrote, “opened the kingdom of heaven to all equally, who believed in him, without any the least distinction of nation, blood, profession, or religion.”

Rick Rojas at the New York Times explores why atheists seem to be into the Rutgers Presbyterian Church in Manhattan:

Sharing a belief in God — any God at all — isn’t necessary. Instead, the community there has been cobbled together by a different code of convictions, pulled in by social justice efforts, activism against climate change, meal programs for the homeless and a task force to help refugee families. …

… “People who otherwise feel marginalized or pushed out by regular congregations, more thoughtful people, say, or those who like to ask questions about faith, started to gather around our congregation,” said the Rev. Andrew Stehlik, the senior pastor at Rutgers.

Valerie Tarico looks at how evangelical Christianity is of particular concern to church-state separation advocates, especially in regard to the military, because of the mandate to, well, evangelize:

Fundamentalist Evangelicals, though—especially in the military—are caught between a rock and a hard place. In their role as soldiers, their mission is to defend the United States including the American traditions of secularism and religious pluralism. But most religions teach that serving the will of God should take precedence over all else including any loyalties to nation or profession, and Evangelicals believe that the Bible commands them to win converts.

In Canada, the B.C. Humanist Association has put out an analysis of legislative prayers, showing that the practice is biased toward Christians (obviously) and that the whole thing should just stop.

Matty Roberts, the guy who first posted the joke event for Storm Area 51, and has tried to make lemonade of these lemons, has decided to get out while the gettin’s good.

Here’s a thing: When you stick needles in people for acupuncture, you’re gonna, you know, puncture things. In this case, a lung!

India’s Telegraph publishes an excerpt from Who Killed Liberal Islam by Hasan Suroor, where he discusses ex-Muslims:

It is claimed that the atheist-scientist Richard Dawkin’s God Delusion is the most downloaded book in the Middle East, particularly in Saudi Arabia. It is now being translated into Arabic and there are plans to offer it free to Arab readers. The trend is catching on despite the fact that in many Islamic countries, apostasy is punishable by death. Most Islamic countries oppose the universal declaration of human rights and have refused to sign it because it provides for the ‘freedom to change religion or belief.’

The exact figure of former Muslims may never be known as most remain in the shadows to avoid detection. Those who have ‘outed’ themselves say they live in permanent fear for their own lives and safety of their families. In Pakistan, preachers have called for the houses of apostates to be burned down. They communicate through anonymous online forums claiming tens of thousands of followers, and loose global networks under the umbrella nomenclature, ‘Ex-Muslims’ and ‘Muslim-ish.’

Hemant posts an excerpt from Phil Zuckerman’s new book, What It Means to Be Moral: Why Religion Is Not Necessary for Living an Ethical Life:

What exactly is it that rules us so — morally speaking? And what are the specific foundational sources of our moral proclivities and ethical tendencies? There are four: 1) our long history as social primates, evolving within a group context of necessary cooperation; 2) our earliest experiences as infants and toddlers being cared for by a mother, father, or other immediate caregivers; 3) unavoidable socialization as growing children and teenagers enmeshed within a culture; and 4) ongoing personal experience, increased knowledge, and reasoned, thoughtful reflection.

Quote of the Day

Michael Hiltzik at the LA Times points out how Trump’s whole sharpie-hurricane fiasco is one more example of the administration’s loathing of science:

… what amounts to an attack on the credibility of a government scientific agency fits the pattern in the Trump administration of trashing scientific agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency and units of the Interior Department, that don’t hew to the White House view of the world. The Dorian affair isn’t just about any ham-handed wielding of a black marker by the president. It’s about an all-out assault on government science. …

… The pattern replicated in this case should distress every American who depends on reliable, disinterested research from government science agencies — that is, all of us. Trump has stocked the EPA, Interior Department, and Health and Human Services Department with ideologues, sycophants and grifters who place scientific integrity last among their job concerns.

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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.