A Useful Gift to Dictators

September 25, 2012

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

International Blasphemy Rights Day is very close (this Sunday) and it could not come at a more relevant time. The B-word is perhaps the prime topic of global debate this very moment. 

President Obama is speaking to the UN as I type, and according to prepared text, he will address the violent protests in the Muslim world:

The attacks of the last two weeks are not simply an assault on America. They are also an assault on the very ideals upon which the United Nations was founded. … Today, we must declare that this violence and intolerance has no place among our United Nations. … There is no video that justifies an attack on an Embassy. There is no slander that provides an excuse for people to burn a restaurant in Lebanon, or destroy a school in Tunis, or cause death and destruction in Pakistan. 

ChiTrib editorializes against blasphemy laws, calling them “a useful, if unintended, gift to dictators and repressive regimes worldwide.” 

Frenetic YouTube commentator Philip DeFranco, surrounded by Angry Birds, expresses exasperation at blasphemy laws, including the case of Egyptian atheist Alber Saber.     

Jakarta Post: As Indonesia’s president prepares to address the UN to advocate for international blasphemy laws, human rights groups cry foul.

Greek Pastafarian is arrested for blasphemy for mocking an orthodox priest on Facebook. A petition is online, and an ultra-far-right political party is blamed for instigating the arrest.

Rimsha Masih is exonerated.  

In other news… 

As churches across the country get ready to turn their noses up at the law with “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” using their platform to electioneer, Ron Lindsay blows apart their justifications:

The argument that current law restricts religious freedom is, of course, pure poppycock. There is no abridgment of religious freedom because there is no compulsion to accept tax-exempt status. Any minister is perfectly free to say whatever s/he wants about any political candidate —provided the church first relinquishes its tax-exempt status. But the money-hungry pastors won’t do that, of course, because it is not religious freedom they are after. It is the freedom to conduct partisan political campaigns from the pulpit while receiving a government subsidy.  

Indre Viskontas talks to Dan Ariely about how we’re all a bunch of dirty cheaters on the latest Point of Inquiry podcast. 

CSI’s Ben Radford reflects on our missed opportunities to show some kindness. 

Rebecca Watson says the whole sexy-skeptic-charity-calendar thing is so done.  

AP notices that Bill Nye is making no bones about shutting down creationism:

“The Earth is not 6,000 or 10,000 years old,” Nye said in an interview with The Associated Press, citing scientists’ estimates that it is about 4.5 billion years old. “It’s not. And if that conflicts with your beliefs, I strongly feel you should question your beliefs.” 

Wendy Kaminer examines a deeply troubling trend against academic freedom on college campuses, as unpopular political speech becomes grounds for termination.

Mormon blogger thought to be in trouble with LDS for criticizing Romney is actually facing excommunication for writing about temple worship details.

Massimo Pigliucci and Julia Galef join the CFI Institute in Indianapolis for “Defending Science: Challenges and Strategies.” 

Not feeling well? Here, let me scrape your back with this spoon. No really, it’s a thing. WaPo reports on “gua sha.” 

German Catholic bishops decree: Pay your Catholic tax, or you’re out of the faith. 

Some say “folk atheism” is a cultural identifier in East Germany – will it be so in Europe generally? 

RNS has a look at the integration of Islamic values and American youth culture, mostly at IHOP. 

The Mythbusters determine once and for all the truth about God’s existence. Wait a minute.

CFI’s Center Stage podcast has the opening remarks and Investigators panel at last year’s CSIConThis years CSICon, of course, is almost here. 

Spiegel talks to Salman Rushdie about the fatwa and his time in hiding. (Rushdie will, of course, soon be a guest of CFI-DC.)

Op-ed in Arizona State University’s Herald laments the “considerable social penalty” of being an atheist. 


Yetis are running around Siberia. See that long white hair? Come on, that’s a yeti. What else could it be? Right? Guys? 

BBC’s magazine pops in on a UFO-hunters’ convention which is operating under a “crisis in ufology.” 

In the US, a former Air Force colonel is accusing the government of covering up the existence of UFOs, as well as a UFO-specific agency. 

Hey, there’s a lot of good stuff in the latest Free Inquiry, and a bunch of it is now online for the unbeatable price of nothing at allGet clicking

Deepak Chopra gives a glowing review to Set Science Free, a book that apparently wants science to “move beyond the dogmas that restrict free inquiry and imprison imaginations.” By “dogmas” of course he means “things that science has so far proven to be so.” But whatever.

Turns out that ginko biloba does not, in fact, help with…um…I forget

Quote of the Day        

Zainab Al-Suwaij of the American Islamic Congress in BaltSun is not impressed by the violent protests around the world:

Let’s be clear: a silly film on YouTube is simply an excuse. No American needs to apologize for the film’s existence, and nobody — no matter how offended by the film — should make believe that it can in any way justify the assault on U.S. embassies. . . . For Muslims, our Prophet deserves better defenders than these thugs. For Americans, our nation deserves better friends.

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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