Funny Things about Socrates

July 16, 2012

Your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.

The exciting news over the weekend for us was that Alexander Aan, persecuted and jailed for his atheism in Indonesia, has written a letter to his supporters from prison, thanking them for their efforts and reasserting his commitment to “humanity and science.” Atheist Ireland’s Michael Nugent was first with the news.

CFI’s Michael De Dora has two posts on this development: The first catches us up with the story so far and posts the letter in full. The second gives a comprehensive list of things that you can do right now to lend Alexander a hand (like write back to him!).

I updated the readers of Friendly Atheist on the news (a little choked up, I don’t mind telling you), writing, “It moves me to no end to know that he knows we’re rooting for him.”

How’s this for a colliding of worlds: It’s 2006, and I’m in a Shakespeare company with a large, handsome, hilarious fellow by the name of Jake Hart. We share a love not only of the Bard, but of Macs as well. He comes to my wedding, I go to his, etc. Then I move away from theatre and into whatever the hell it is I’m doing now, and I never see this guy.

Then as TAM is closing up for the year, I find this video, a Cult Comedy music video about skepticism and TAM (with CFI friend Leighann Lord), which features a verse “performed” by “Neil deGrassse Tyson,” and who is the voice of Tyson? Jake Hart. (That’s not him lip syncing the Tyson part, he’s just the voice.) The coincidence is crazy enough for me to stop being a skeptic. Kidding! Kidding!

(To see Jake in the flesh, this is him as a “Banksta.” He’s the cigar chomping guy.)

Roger Ebert has a beautiful essay on the significance of the Higgs boson discovery and of the majesty of science itself. I couldn’t choose just one section to blockquote, so just go read the whole thing.

The Council’s chief Tom Flynn blogs on the decrease in religious donations in 2011:

. . . don’t expect the lights at your friendly neighborhood church to go dark anytime soon. Despite its decline, religion is far and away the largest single category of charitable giving, accounting for $95.88 billion – 32 percent of the $298.42 billion gifted to all U. S. charities during 2011.

CSI chief Barry Karr actually appears in a physical manifestation on the Internet, talking to Christopher Brown, but I think it might be a hoax. The only reason I think it might be him is that he’s plugging CSICon. As he should.

Louisiana judge overturns law banning fortunetelling. Law was on the books because fortunetelling is “inherently deceptive,” as opposed to, well, you know.

Oh wait, like this: A New Zealand church selling magic health juices (a “cure for everything”) and magic foot-washing water. Is this illegal in Louisiana?

If you’re in Michigan in August, CFI-Michigan wants your blood.

Mysterious “Baltic UFO” might be the anchor piece to a Nazi submarine-disruptor-thing.

Op-ed contributor in NYT claims choosing to wear the hijab is “the most liberating experience ever.”

Reader Jay sends in this tip about a link from a few years back: absurd superstitions about food. My favorite:

It was once (and perhaps still is) a superstition that if you found a hole in a loaf of bread you cut, it symbolized a coffin and meant that someone was soon to die. If a person found a loaf in this state, there would be days of discussion to guess who it might be that would be stricken down.

The SCA’s big 50-state ambitions get Christian Post coverage.

NPR: Stereotypes about women in science are, shock, keeping women out of science. Can we stop this please?

Press Democrat gives a puff interview to local homeopathy-slinger who tells folks, without laughing, I assume:

For example, if a patient has a skin rash—a dermatological reaction—it would be treated with stinging nettle to create a rash on the skin. By introducing nano amounts of nettle, the system recognizes that there is an issue and goes into action.

You hear that? Not just small amounts. Nano amounts. Way more sciencey.

Arkansas Department of Education rules that preschools getting taxpayer funding can’t teach religious worship. Guess who runs two of the Jesus-y schools in question: Two Arkansas state legislators. Ugh.

Ross Douthat says that churches who try to liberalize with the times are wasting their efforts.

Weird, glowy, twirly UFO things repeatedly sighted in China.

In Michigan, UFOs turn out to be military decoy flares.

Today’s edition of religion-getting-in-the-way-of-keeping-kids-from-dying:

An Auckland girl suffering a rare kidney disease has been put into the guardianship of the High Court because her Jehovah’s Witness parents will not consent to her receiving a life-saving kidney and liver transplant.

Cory Doctorow unearths a fantastic 1979 television debate between John Cleese and Michael Palin and some stuffy clerics about the effects of The Life of Brian. At one point Cleese says, “Maybe there are funny things about Socrates! Why shouldn’t we make jokes about him!”

Kylie Sturgess has a well thought-out post on the state of skeptic podcasting.

Spartanburg Herald-Journal covers the questioning nature of millennials toward religion.

Yep. Carnival games are rigged:

“When I see a small child standin’ there handin’ over their allowance money to play a game that I know they cannot win, that really angers me,” said Walstad. “It’s theft by deception, end of story.”

QualiaSoup has a new video on the concept of secularism. These are always really good.

Blackfoot man says he met Bigfoot. “I knew by the smell exactly what it was.” Mmm.

Pony up to hear about the ghosts haunting this Richmond, KY mansion. Or don’t.

Say “glub glub” to Dawkinsia!

Iranian man jailed for his son’s funny picture of one of the Twelve Imams on Facebook, featuring the donkey from Shrek.


Anti-quote of the Day: Some blah-blah from Deepak Chopra on the Higgs boson which (of course!) supports his metaphysics:

It only strengthens the notion that the universe comes out of a nothingness which is everything.

I promise you he doesn’t mean that in the way, say, Lawrence Krauss might.

Quote of the Day

Alexander Aan, in his letter to supporters:

I always concern with humanity and science. Forever.

Thank for support and love. Without this I feel alone.

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. 


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