Tugging on My Kuiper Belt

May 16, 2012

Your daily digest of relevant news and links from Paul Fidalgo

Urgent new action alert: The House version of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act strips away crucial protections based on sexual orientation, religion, and nationality. We need you to take action right now to oppose this version of the bill, and to tell the House to take up the Senate version, which CFI supported.

There’s a new issue of Free Inquiry out, and it’s a big deal for two reasons.

  1. It features a new study showing just how much the U.S. loses in revenue thanks to taxpayer subsidization of religion. A mind-boggling sum.
  2. It has contributions from heavy-hitting scholars and writers to once-and-for-all answer the question, “No really, is America a Christian nation?” (I bet you’ll never guess where our writers come down on this one!)

Press release on the new issue here

Guys and gals take note: The Women in Secularism conference is this weekend! It’s not too late to register!

This is cool: Tom Flynn reveals, on the 112th anniversary of the publication of The Wizard of Oz, that the book is just busting with freethought:

Force yourself to think of The Wizard of Oz afresh. The pivotal characters — Dorothy and the Witches of the East and West — are women. The principal male characters include a fraudulent bumbler (the Wizard) and three sidekicks (Scarecrow, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion). And the book’s climax concerns a mere farm girl who uses common sense and Toto’s animal intuition to unmask a false god. Heady stuff for a Victorian children’s book, much less for a studio movie of 1939.

Speaking of Tom, the Freethought Trail is bringing its history to your high-tech gadget. He posted to Facebook:

Attention, history buffs: the Freethought Trail is now smartphone friendly. The Council for Secular Humanism’s celebration of the radical-reform history of west-central New York state (within about 100 miles of the Robert Ingersoll Birthplace Museum) now serves the complete web site to smartphones and is easily navigable on any iPhone or Android device.

Steven Novella takes on the Ghost Box, kind of a low-rent PKE meter

While, as I have noted, Jessica Ahlquist and family have nothing to do with the Woonsocket cross flap, WPRO radio reports that she does support its removal, which, I know, comes as a total surprise

Friendly Atheist’s Mark Turner: Pentagon suspends Joint Forces Staff College anti-Islamic course that is really, really scary if you, say, live in Mecca or Medina

Blogger at Bad Catholic says Hemant Mehta has “beautiful and educated eyes.” Um.

BuzzFlash looks at Obama’s handling of the faith-based initiatives program:

While the new guidelines may help to clarify some key concerns, there is another elephant in the room for faith-based projects: are they actually achieving positive results? This question has haunted the faith-based initiative from its very inception. There is little, if any, evidence to suggest that faith-based organizations deliver services more effectively than government or secular agencies.

Explicit Atheist opines on how atheists and secularists can best frame their arguments in the face of prejudice:

So I think it is a mistake to only focus on the “important” policy issues and to avoid addressing the underlying thinking that constitute the prejudices against the non-religious. Furthermore, there is no way to do this effectively without confronting those prejudices and thus arousing them. But instead of being counter-productive, this is actually a necessary step to making progress over the longer term. It would be nice if we could dissolve, or even just attenuate, the prejudices while avoiding confronting the prejudices without the risk of arousing the prejudices. But tip-toeing around the tulips isn’t a good approach here, it has little chance of being effective.

I love this. New owners of a psychic shop say the previous shop owners were fake psychics. But we’re real psychics.

Rob Boston: Reno County Commission in Kansas will no longer open meetings with sectarian prayers

Mikel Hensley says the Women in Secularism conference (did I mention it’s this weekend?) is an example of the movement heading in the right direction as far as making it more possible for women with child care responsibilities to take part

Fox News: New study on acupuncture suggests more and more people getting themselves poked for all sorts of reasons

More Than Men blog: Skeptics need to aspire to be more compassionate:

Smart people are good at rationalizing stupid things, and that’s why Skeptics have to be doubly sure that they’re living up to the standard they’ve set for themselves while still being good people.

NatGeo: Something’s tugging on the Kuiper Belt, and it might be a new 9th planet

No, silly Canadians, that’s not a UFO, it’s a helicopter (Really, though? People thought that was a spaceship? Really?)

Okay smart guy, you say, if that’s not a UFO, then what is THIS???

Wingnut E. Ray Moore: Public school turns kids atheist, and there should be more God in math class

And since today is kind of a light news day, enjoy this video of my two-year-old son Toby singing three versions of “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” in the bathtub. YOU’RE WELCOME.

Quote of the Day

Not much quotable in the news today, so I’m reaching back to a review I did of Richard Holmes’ book The Age of Wonder, where I highlighted this bit about the power of science:

[Samuel Taylor] Coleridge was defending the intellectual discipline of science as a force for clarity and good. He then added one of his most inspired perceptions. He thought that science, as a human activity, ‘being necessarily performed with the passion of Hope, it was poetical’. Science, like poetry, was not merely ‘progressive’. It directed a particular kind of moral energy and imaginative longing into the future. It enshrined the implicit belief that mankind could achieve a better, happier world.

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. 


Follow CFI on Twitter: @center4inquiry 

Got a tip for the Heresy? Send it to press(at)centerforinquiry.net! 

The Morning Heresy: “I actually read it.” – Hemant Mehta