The Same Side of the Mouth

August 7, 2019

Mauritanian blogger Mohamed Ould Mkheitir spent five years in prison on blasphemy charges, and he has now thankfully arrived in Europe (in an unspecified location) safely. He says:

So much has changed over the past five years and I am still adjusting to life outside of prison. Now I am free, my hope is to resume my education and return to school.

Emma Green at The Atlantic explores the role of American Christianity in the recent surge in white supremacist violence:

To some Americans, white Christians are partly to blame for facilitating this hate-filled political era, in which Hispanic immigrants are demonized and fringe, white-nationalist figures have been empowered. “All of this stuff has grown within the garden of people of faith,” [Pastor Jason] Morriss told me. “The truth is that we have mixed the Gospel in America with some deadly toxins.”

… “I’m not a fool. I know my conservative friends are not in favor of mass shootings,” Morriss said. However, “it’s not hard to see how white supremacy and ‘Make America great again’ come from the same side of the mouth.”

George Yancy, meanwhile, takes to the New York Times to plead with God itself:

Even as billions of religious believers across religious traditions prostrate themselves in ritualistic prayer, we continue to suffer from horrible acts of violence. …

… So, it is with this letter that I seek You, that I ask for something more than we seem to be capable of, more than the routine prayers that are said in response to tragedy and sorrow. I don’t want to simply repeat clichés and recall platitudes. I am a philosopher who weeps; I am a human being who suffers.

This letter is not for me alone. It can’t be. The suffering of others is too great not to be moved by it, not to feel somehow partially responsible for it. So, it is with this letter that I seek an original relation, one that seeks our collective liberation, one that desires to speak especially on behalf of children and to free them from our miserable failure as adults to honor their lives more than we honor flags, rhetorical mass distraction, political myopia, party line politics, white nationalistic fanaticism and religious vacuity.

Bart Worden of the American Ethical Union pens an op-ed for The Hill calling for the abolition of the death penalty:

Capital punishment is an example of morally wrong collective behavior. Putting someone to death forces society to make someone a premeditated killer of another human being and makes the rest of society accessories to wrongful acts. It is a wrong on top of a wrong that, far from cancelling out the injury, ensures the cycles of violence and retribution will be continued.

The Islamic Society of North America will hold a conference and presidential candidates’ forum on August 31, and so far the only candidates slated to attend are Julián Castro and Bernie Sanders.

The supposed-to-be-a-joke-but-uh-oh-people-are-taking-it-seriously “Storm Area 51” event had its Facebook page taken down! AND THEN IT CAME BACK AGAIN! I’m not saying it’s aliens.

Some enterprising travel agents have decided that the Storm Area 51 madness is the perfect opportunity to promote vacations to Belize. No, really:

“If the people of Rachel [in Nevada, next to Area 51, which has 54 residents] would rather avoid the chaos – which they certainly didn’t ask for – we welcome them with open arms,” Belize Tourism Board director Karen Bevans told USA TODAY in a statement…

“We felt a kinship to the people of Rachel because their town – like our country – is a curious place,” she explained. “While Belizean tourism has increased significantly the past several years, we have the industry and infrastructure to support it.”

Also in Nevada, a humanist prison inmate is suing to have his humanism officially recognized and accommodated to the same degree as other faiths…except that he’s looking to have humanism officially recognized as a religion, which it’s not.

Courthouse News reports on a rather bold lawsuit against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a class action which charges:

The material facts upon which Mormonism is based have been manipulated through intentional concealment, misrepresentation, distortion and or obfuscation by the [church] to contrive an inducement to faith in Mormonism’s core beliefs…

… When the true facts are substituted for the longstanding false orthodox narrative, the story that emerges has shocked devoted Mormons who have made life-altering decisions based upon a scheme of lies.

Ooh! Ooh! Do the Catholic Church next!!! After all, 69 percent of Catholics already don’t actually think the bread and wine they consume at Communion are literally Jesus’s body parts.

At The Guardian, Caroline Fraser recounts the suffering of her father under the medical strictures of Christian Science, celebrates the faith’s dwindling numbers, and leaves us with this ominous warning:

[Christian Science] could disappear today or tomorrow or years from now, but its own beliefs, and the religious exemptions it has seeded in laws all across the US, will leave a disaster in their wake, resulting in lives ruined, in unnecessary suffering and death, and in legislation that allows every crackpot cult and anti-vaccination zealot to sacrifice their children.

Emma Frances Bloomfield offers ideas about how to reach climate science-denying Christians to get them to be open to engaging with reality.

The breatharians, you know the kooks who only get their sustenance from the air, may have been retconned to vindication as Solar Foods introduces Solein, a wheat flour-like food that has been pulled from the carbon dioxide in the air. Robby Berman at Big Think reports:

When the company claims its single-celled protein is “free from agricultural limitations,” they’re not kidding. Being produced indoors means Solar Foods is not dependent on arable land, water (i.e., rain), or favorable weather.

The company is already working with the European Space Agency to develop foods for off-planet production and consumption. (The idea for Solein actually began at NASA.) They also see potential in bringing protein production to areas whose climate or ground conditions make conventional agriculture impossible.

Kristen Stewart, who I am told is a famous actor, says she talks to ghosts:

I talk to them. If I’m in a weird, small town, making a movie, and I’m in a strange apartment, I will literally be like, ‘No, please, I cannot deal. Anyone else, but it cannot be me.’ Who knows what ghosts are, but there is an energy that I’m really sensitive to. Not just with ghosts, but with people. People stain rooms all the time.

Yes. Yes they do.

NPR reports on how a mysterious light seen in Paulding, Michigan, which has been explained as distant car headlights, is still treated like some big, spooky, supernatural thing.

Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene is the most-borrowed library book by a foreign author for South Korean elementary and middle school students. Now think about how cool that is. I mean, you’d think it’d be something like Harry Potter.

Quote of the Day

Benny Markovitch at Areo calls out religions for cheating in the marketplace of ideas:

… if religious moralities are not divinely inspired, where do their values come from? They come from the subjective values of humans. They come from authors and interpreters: humans with no more divine authority than anyone else. Thus, unless strong evidence for divine approval is provided, a rational marketplace of ideas should treat a given religious moral belief on equal footing with a secular moral belief. However, religion cheats by relying on false appeals to divine authority. This might fool participants in the marketplace of ideas, but it also means that religious moralities are likely to end up undermining the human values behind them. …

… Like most marketplaces, that of ideas is undermined when it is overrun by cheaters—which leads to a tyranny of unvetted ideas. If the marketplace of ideas is overrun by competing appeals to divine authority, it will lose its ability to demonstrate our shared values, and help us fine-tune our actions. In which case, changes to laws and norms will come about mostly through force, rather than agreement. The marketplace therefore ought to be protected from cheating arguments, which make false appeals to divine authority. Religious moral beliefs therefore have no place in the marketplace of ideas.

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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.