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They’ll Be Blowing

October 14, 2019

I was sick on Friday, so of course that’s when a slew of church-state news has to pile up.

For example, the Attorney General of the United States, William Barr, went to the University of Notre Dame and said this:

The campaign to destroy the traditional moral order has coincided and I believe has brought with it immense suffering and misery. And yet the forces of secularism, ignoring these tragic results, press on with even greater militancy.

I’m sorry, what?

Among the militant secularists are many so-called progressives. But where is the progress? Those who defy the creed risk a figurative burning at the stake: social, educational and professional ostracism and exclusion waged through lawsuits and savage social media campaigns.

Yep. That’s who’s in charge of law enforcement, folks. That guy. Oh, not to mention that the Secretary of State just gave a speech titled “Being a Christian Leader.” Criminy.

And at a CNN town hall event for the Democratic presidential candidates focused on LGBTQ issues, Beto O’Rourke said churches should lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage. Everyone in politics then cartoonishly wagged their heads at the same time and uttered, “Jigga-what?” Beto went on:

There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break, for anyone or any institution, any organization in America that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us. And so, as president, we’re going to make that a priority, and we are going to stop those who are infringing upon human rights of our fellow Americans.

A couple days later, Pete Buttitgieg said “I’m not sure [O’Rourke] understood the implications of what he was saying”:

That means going to war not only with churches, but I would think with mosques and a lot of organizations that may not have the same view of various religious principles that I do. But also because of the separation of church and state are acknowledged as nonprofits in this country.

Plus, Elizabeth Warren broke the internet with her response to this question:

Question: Let’s say you’re on the campaign trail and a supporter approaches you and says, “Senator, I’m old-fashioned, and my faith teaches me that marriage is between one man and one woman.” What is your response?

Warren: Well I’m gonna assume it’s a guy who said that, and I’m gonna say then just marry one woman. I’m cool with that.

[Huge applause. Beat. Beat. She shrugs. Wait for it. ]

Warren: Assuming you can find one.

[Even bigger applause. She walks away, rubs hands together.]

At the event itself, Mayor Pete said:

Religious liberty is an important principle in this country, and we honor that. It’s also the case that any freedom that we honor in this country has limits when it comes to harming other people. … A famous justice once said, ‘My right to swing my fist ends where somebody else’s nose begins.’ And the right to religious freedom ends where religion is being used as an excuse to harm other people. … When religion is used in that way, to me, it makes God smaller.

For the record, it should make no difference whether a policy or position increases or decreases the mass or volume of a deity.

Surprising no one who pays any attention, the religious right is sticking by Trump, no matter what the impeachment inquiry unearths. The AP reports:

The religious leaders are representative of Trump’s unwavering support from the evangelical community. No degree of skepticism about Trump’s character has shaken his support from white evangelicals, an overwhelming majority of whom have consistently registered approval of the president in polls. A Pew Research Center survey in August found 77% of white evangelical Protestants approving of Trump’s job performance.

Indeed, Ralph Reed’s upcoming book was at one point going to be titled Render to God and Trump. So, so gross.

On the flip side, Tara Isabella Burton shows how the occult is being seen as a rebellion against rendering to God, Trump, and whatever else you’ve got:

… the truth is we have been in an extended season for witches since at least the election of Donald Trump. The “witch aesthetic,” which features transgressive makeup and Goth-inflected fashion, is a counterculture look that says #resistance. … In a culture that demands women look “pretty,” it allows women to reclaim sexual and personal power. So while glamour is the goal, [authors of a book on being all witchy] Saxena and Zimmerman recommend that would-be witches place a “hex” on standard expectations of femininity by shaving their heads.

CFI’s Nick Little watches as the rights of LGBTQ Americans hinge on the whims of the Trump-appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch:

Gorsuch, as part of a conservative, religious majority on the Supreme Court, is set to rule in multiple cases that a private business owner’s dislike of LGBT people, provided it is based on religion, is sufficient for them to gain an exemption to whole swathes of civil rights laws. A baker who feels they cannot as a result of their religious beliefs bake a cake for a gay couple is likely to also feel their beliefs threatened by hiring, or working with a gay man. If simply claiming a religious objection is sufficient to be allowed to discriminate against the LGBT community, then there is a gaping hole already torn in Title VII. It no longer matters what discrimination Title VII forbids if your employer can simply say that Title VII no longer applies to them because of God.

The Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science is glowingly covered by EdHat Santa Barbara:

TIES has been well received by teachers. They appreciate the online resources. [TIES presenter Nikki] Chambers teaches three hour teacher workshops to use these resources. The only criticism? They need to be longer!

Eight men in Bangladesh have been indicted in the 2015 murder of Faisal Abedin Deepan, a publisher of secularist books, such as those by Avijit Roy, who was also hacked to death earlier that year, beginning of a series of killings by Islamic militants.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom releases the Freedom of Religion or Belief Victims List, a “lists of persons [USCIRF] determines are imprisoned or detained, have disappeared, been placed under house arrest, been tortured, or subjected to forced renunciations of faith for their religious activity or religious freedom advocacy.”

Alas, the USCIRF is chaired by Christian extremist Tony Perkins, who also plans to send 90,000 baby hats to Speaker Pelosi’s office because abortion.

Richard Ostling at GetReligion notices something odd: Muslim world leaders aren’t making much noise about China’s horrific crackdown on Uigher Muslims.

Facebook changes its rules again, and says political ads on its platform can lie.

A researcher for the Navy who churns out “UFO-like” ideas, Salvatore Cezar Pais, just patented a compact fusion reactor.

David Gorski says Wikipedia is doing a pretty good job of keeping pseudoscience at bay, evidenced by the fact that peddlers of pseudoscience are really mad at it:

I was a skeptic of Wikipedia at first … but now I grudgingly conclude that if people like Deepak Chopra, Mike Adams, Gary Null, and Joe Mercola hate Wikipedia’s coverage of them, alternative medicine, medicine, and vaccines so much, maybe Wikipedia’s doing a pretty good job after all, at least with respect to these topics.

David Silverman is attempting a return to the atheist movement after his dismissal from American Atheists surrounding allegations of sexual misconduct, taking the position of Executive Director at Atheists Alliance International. He talked to Hemant Mehta on the phone:

Bizarrely, he said of the two women who accused him of misconduct, “They probably feel bad about it in the back of their minds.” After a lengthy silence from me, he added, “At least I hope they do.”

Because things are getting worse everywhere, Uganda is once again considering the infamous “Kill the Gays Bill.”

If you have $3000 you could just as easily throw in the toilet, you could also buy Jesus Shoes, which would look like a parody product if they weren’t actually selling out. Hemant explains:

[They are] customized Nike Air Max 97s — a.k.a. “Jesus Shoes” — which include a steel crucifix, are made of 100% frankincense wool, come with 60cc of “holy water” from the River Jordan tucked under the sole, and are inscribed with Matthew 14:25, the verse where Jesus supposedly walks on water.

Mara Hvistendahl at Popular Science goes to meet the Flat-Earthers:

Like almost everyone I meet over the coming three days, Foertsch switched to flat Earth ideology as a result of clicking on a YouTube video. That clip led to another, and before long, he was a believer.

In Sacramento, police are on the hunt for a fake psychic going by the name of “Eva Maria” who is said to have bilked people out of $100,000.

The Boston Herald gets a tour of the Satanic Temple’s HQ in Salem:

Unlike any fixer-upper you might see on HGTV, the temple’s notorious Baphomet statue dominates the main sitting room. Unsurprisingly, the house once served as a funeral home.

In Free Inquiry, Steve Cuno advises God to hire an editor:

Far be it from me to tell God how to god, but it seems to me that you could spare the world a good deal of mayhem if you learned to be a more effective speaker and writer.

Quote of the Day

Phillip Adams at The Australian remembers the lessons of James Randi (and cites CFI’s Committee for Skeptical Inquiry):

He plucked a cigarette I was about to light from my lips (“dirty habit!”) and placed it on Dick’s desk. Then, as a dozen journos and cameramen crowded around Randi, he extended vibrating fingers towards my Marlboro. And it began to move! Up and down the desk! When Randi asked us to guess how he’d done it, everyone had a theory – mostly involving static electricity. “No,” he said. “While your eyes and cameras were on the gap between my fingertips and the cigarette… I was blowing it. Simple as that. And none of you trained observers noticed.” …

… Watch the lips of politicians – when they’re moving, they’re probably lying. But one thing is absolutely 100 per certain. They’ll be blowing.

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.