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The Emperor is Transformed

November 18, 2019

Behold, a sign we are rapidly approaching rock bottom: The Ohio Student Religious Liberties Act, passed by the state House, will clear the way for students to answer questions in school that correspond to their religious beliefs, whether or not they are correct, and teachers can do nothing about it. In our initial social media response, we wrote:

This bill is beyond absurd, beyond parody.

It’s not enough that religious conservatives seek to use “religious liberty” as an excuse to undermine basic notions of equality. Now they’re gunning for knowledge itself.

Every American has the right to believe whatever they like, children included. But just as it would be laughable to mark a student correct who answered that one plus one is forty-two because they like Douglas Adams’s books, it defies all reason to give a pass to answers in biology class based on creationist mythology.

In public schools, America’s students must be taught a shared set of facts about the world. They may be taught or believe in different or contradictory things at home or inside houses of worship, but public school is for all children, religious and nonreligious alike. Without a shared reality, education itself becomes pointless and irrelevant. Indeed, why not just cancel school altogether? It’s almost as though that’s the aim of this stupefyingly foolhardy measure.

If this bill becomes law, we will truly be through the looking glass.

Then in our more “formal” statement:

“This law represents a new low in the ongoing efforts of the religious right to force Christianity into our secular public school system,” said Nick Little, CFI’s Vice President and General Counsel. “Our schools should be about facts, not beliefs. Under this law, a high school teacher would be compelled to treat as correct student claims that the earth is 10,000 years old, or that evolution did not occur, provided that student held them as religious beliefs. Even in math class, a student could claim a biblical belief that the value of pi was 3, and could not be corrected. It’s completely contrary to the very notion of education.”

By privileging religious beliefs over and above all other student-held beliefs, the law violates the neutrality towards religion that both the state and federal constitutions mandate. “If you want to teach your children that cavemen rode dinosaurs, or that all but two of each animal were killed in a global flood, then the place to do that is at home or in church,” continued Little. “But you can’t insist that your children be allowed to essentially invent their own answers to questions in science class. That’s not science, it’s educational anarchy.”

Meanwhile, we’re trying to get the Supreme Court to keep Montana’s tax dollars from funding private religious schools:

“Montana’s state constitution is crystal clear on the question of using taxpayer dollars to fund religious schools. You can’t. You just can’t,” said Nick Little, Vice President and General Counsel for the Center for Inquiry. “That’s why it was a straightforward decision for the Montana Supreme Court to scrap the program, and why it’s so ridiculous that the Supreme Court of the United States is now being asked to reanimate what is a legislative corpse best left to rest in peace.”

The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston really, really wants to help children without families of their own to love them and care for them, but not, like, if they have to include those gay people or even those straight-but-unmarried freaks. So of course they’re suing:

“The archdiocese may only provide foster care services consistent with its sincerely held beliefs on Catholic doctrine and social teaching,” said the lawsuit filed on Oct. 31. “As such, the archdiocese cannot provide home studies and certifications for unmarried cohabitating or same-sex married couples.”


You know who also really cares about those in need? The bishops of the Kansas Catholic Conference who promise to fight tooth and nail any expansion of Medicaid to low-income folks unless the legislature puts an abortion ban into the state constitution. The Kansas City Star editorializes:

… there is nothing pro-life about withholding health care coverage that would prevent unwanted pregnancies, improve maternal and child health and significantly expand the mental health and addiction services that Republicans keep saying they favor over gun regulation.

The separation of church and state doesn’t need to keep religious groups from trying to convince lawmakers that they’re right.

But Catholic conditions on the expansion that should have happened years ago are inconsistent with their own stated interest in “effective, scientifically and ethically sound solutions.” And in this case, they’re not right.

It’s almost as thought it’d be better if religion just butted out of government altogether. Guess who else thinks so: The American people. Pew Research reports:

U.S. adults are resoundingly clear in their belief that religious institutions should stay out of politics. Nearly two-thirds of Americans in the new survey say churches and other houses of worship should keep out of political matters … [a]nd three-quarters of the public expresses the view that churches should not come out in favor of one candidate over another during elections, in contrast with efforts by President Trump to roll back existing legal limits on houses of worship endorsing candidates.

You already know that RFK Jr is a zealous crusader against vaccines and for anti-vaxxer conspiracy theories. What you might not have known is that he’s the leading source of anti-vaxxer ads that run on Facebook.

NYT obtains 400 pages of documentation from China on the government’s mass detention of Muslims:

They provide an unprecedented inside view of the continuing clampdown in Xinjiang, in which the authorities have corralled as many as a million ethnic Uighurs, Kazakhs and others into internment camps and prisons over the past three years. …

… Even as the government presented its efforts in Xinjiang to the public as benevolent and unexceptional, it discussed and organized a ruthless and extraordinary campaign in these internal communications. Senior party leaders are recorded ordering drastic and urgent action against extremist violence, including the mass detentions, and discussing the consequences with cool detachment.

Children saw their parents taken away, students wondered who would pay their tuition and crops could not be planted or harvested for lack of manpower, the reports noted. Yet officials were directed to tell people who complained to be grateful for the Communist Party’s help and stay quiet.

Tara Isabella Burton looks at witchcraft as a kind of form of “resistance,” broadly speaking, but it is not a resistance in favor of emprical facts:

… in a modern world in which we decreasingly agree on a single set of facts and internet reality often doesn’t seem so concrete, magic is more likely to be practiced as a psychic upending. Witches don’t warp what we think we see. To cast a spell, they only need to cultivate an ideology or a value system that is at odds with the oppressive “real” world and impose it on others.

That, at any rate, is the view of writer and witch Sarah Lyons, whose new book, “Revolutionary Witchcraft: A Guide to Magical Activism,” out later this month, casts witchcraft as the spiritual arm of a wider subversion of the powers that be, ready to be harnessed to resist the forces of tyranny, patriarchy, white supremacy and capitalism. …

… the progressive witch-left and the atavistic right are in agreement: insofar as the world we live in is an utterly absurd one, magic has no more — or less — right to credibility than money, or politics, or information.

The Canadian Paediatric Society (don’t let the “ae” in pediatric throw you off, it’s just the Canadians) warns its members that patients are seeking out alternative therapies for kids with autism, but that these treatments “divert time, emotional energy, and financial resources away from more effective conventional treatments.” CBC reports:

“Clinicians must remain familiar with current evidence in the rapidly evolving field of CAM therapies,” the statement says, “and be ready to help families distinguish between proven and promising therapies and those that are unproven, potentially harmful, and expensive.”

Similarly, Prof. Maria Joao Cardoso is warning doctors to be wary of alt-med treatments for cancer. BBC reports:

The danger is that many products can interfere with hormone therapy or chemotherapy treatments, and certain ones prolong the blood clotting process – which can lead to wounds taking longer to heal and more scarring. …

Prof Cardoso said it was not surprising that patients and their carers went searching for complementary or alternative treatments that might make a difference. But she said people should know “they could end up doing more harm than good”.

Sasha Sagan talks to Inverse about understanding the appeal of pseudoscience for secular people, and why they really don’t need it:

For years, Sagan had found herself in social settings discussing others’ personal philosophies. They weren’t necessarily debates, although, she tells Inverse, “I do have a habit of getting into debates with the people I’m sitting next to at dinners.” But the topics — the power of crystals or astrology, for example — nagged at her.

“Those are two perfect examples of things that are popular because people want to feel connected to Earth and to the universe, which is such an ancient feeling,” Sagan says. “But, in my opinion, the things that really provide fulfillment in that area are backed up by evidence.”

Sagan is careful with her words. While secular, she is deeply respectful and fascinated by world-views distinct from hers. But she noticed that other secular people are turning to pseudoscience for a sense of spiritual connectedness. But they have another, better option that could provide the fulfillment they are looking for — actual science and the simple pleasures of the natural world.

The regional council of Venice, Italy is flooded for the first time ever…right after voting to reject legislative measures to address climate change.

13-year-old skeptic activist Bailey Harris, who was a big hit at CSICon, presents her own video tour of Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter pseudo-museum.

MAAF gets records from the Defense Department that show that 2.05 percent of the U.S. military identifies as nontheist or humanist (I thought it was a lot more), which amounts to about 43,000 people. Meanwhile, the nontheist/humanist chaplains make up exactly 0.00 percent of the chaplaincy, which amounts to about 0 people.

After years of doing the Heresy, I am sick to death of Nativity-scene stories. But I will allow this one because of the concision of Rehoboth Beach, Deleware mayor Paul Kuhns when addressing the city’s prohibition on Nativity scenes:

“I don’t understand why Christians would be deeply offended,” Mayor Kuhns said. “We are basically saying that on public property, with public resources comes public responsibility and this [separation] of church and state is the city’s decision.”

Have to tip the hat to Ann Schmidt at Fox Business for rounding up some choice selections from Goop’s holiday gift guide, which includes a “luxury” brass fire extinguisher, a $1500 Connect Four style game (“from family camp to yacht cabin”), and the Infrared Sauna Blanket V3:

According to Goop, this blanket can burn up to 600 calories per hour and has layers of amethyst, tourmaline and charcoal in it.

These people just have money to burn.

Dave Rubin is no longer an atheist, so, like, can we just be done with him now?

Japan’s Emperor Naruhito spends a night with the goddess Amaterasu Omikami, but it’s totally platonic. Reuters reports:

Amid flickering torchlight and chanting by priests, Emperor Naruhito emerged from behind the white curtains of the shrine at around 3:00 a.m., concluding a ceremony observed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and 400 dignitaries in an outdoor pavilion.

“This ritual is basically a feast involving the sun goddess and the emperor,” said John Breen, a professor at Kyoto’s International Research Center for Japanese Studies, who added that most coronations have mystical elements.

“The emperor is transformed by partaking of this feast.”

Observance of the ritual has prompted lawsuits from critics ranging from communists to Christians, who say it smacks of the militaristic past and violates the constitutional separation of church and state, as the government pays the cost of 2.7 billion yen ($25 million).

Benjamin Radford parses coverage of a poll that reported to show that Canadians are way more racist than we thought. Nope:

There were many questions about many facets of racism among the Canadian respondents, but I found no reference whatsoever to the statistic mentioned in the headline. I checked again and still found nothing. …

News reports, such as the one I’ve focused on here, leave the false impression that racism is more widespread and socially acceptable than it really is. Racism is a serious issue, and understanding its nature is vital to stemming it.

Baptist minister Buzz Thomas writes at The Tenessean that politicans getting all up in our faces about how religious they are just aren’t doing it right:

Jesus did not take kindly to public displays of piety. In his most famous sermon, he lashed out at the pray-at-the-football-game crowd. Instead, he admonished his followers to pray in our closets, and our Father in Heaven, “who sees in secret,” would reward us. …

… Roger Williams – pastor of the first Baptist Church in America – called for a strict separation between the “garden of the church” and the “wilderness of the world.” His Evangelical progeny helped convince James Madison to include a provision separating church and state in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Not simply to guard against the slow slide to theocracy that plagued both the Puritans and their European forbears, but also to protect the integrity of faith and of our religious institutions. To paraphrase the late pastor of First Baptist Dallas, the fondness of politicians to foster religion has done the church more harm than all the persecutions ever did.

Kanye West is hanging out with Joel Osteen because of COURSE he is. At an event with the Guy-Smiley-like Osteen, Newsweek reports:

[West] complained that it often seems like “the Devil stole all the good musicians, all the good artists, all the good designers, all the good business people.” However, West then asserted that this was all about to change.

“The trend shift is going to change. Jesus has won the victory,” he stated. “Because now, I told you about my arrogance and cockiness already, now the greatest artist that God has ever created is now working for him.”

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.