We Are Barbarians

June 27, 2019

There was a presidential debate last night! It was fine.

The cynical twisting of the concept of “religious liberty” into a license to discriminate is working. PRRI polling shows that the percentage of Americans who think it’s okay to discriminate against people for their sexual orientation because of religious beliefs has almost doubled since 2014, going from 16 to 30 percent.

In fact, support for this backward, bigoted idea has gone up among every demographic they surveyed: every age group, political affiliation, education level, race, and religious affiliation. Yes, even the Nones have increased support for religiously-motivated discrimination, from 12 percent to 22.

Plus, 24 percent of Americans think that atheists are also fair game for discrimination. 22 percent say the same for Muslims, 19 for Jews, and 15 for African Americans. In other words, we are losing ground, and losing it fast.

But hey! There’s a new Point of Inquiry episode, and it’s Kavin Senapathy talking to our own Nick Little about our lawsuit against Walmart over homeopathy! Now, how cool is that? “Very” is the answer, but I would also accept “quite.”

Rabbi Jack Moline of the Interfaith Alliance says what ought to be obvious, but apparently needs saying: Tony Perkins has no business being on the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom, let alone leading it:

As this White House continues to carry the baton for the religious right – which many now consider intertwined with white Christian nationalism — the administration is standing alongside hatemongers and bigots. The version of religious liberty it seeks to enshrine privileges one brand of religion over all others.

How do we help people recognize when they’re being manipulated into believing something that isn’t so? Teach them to be the manipulators themselves. Steven Novella discusses ways of teaching media literacy, and notes the success of a particular study:

The idea is to have subjects play a game on their smartphone in which their task is to manipulate social media in order to maintain credibility while fooling as many people as possible. This may seem counterintuitive – aren’t we teaching these subjects to be deceptive? But I think it’s like teaching someone stage magic. Magicians are famously skeptical, because they know how easy it is to deceive others. It’s their job. Knowledge of deception inoculates them against those same methods of deception.

That is what the researchers found with social media as well. Teaching people the mechanisms by which social media can be used to manipulate emotions, because they themselves are doing it, inoculates them against those same methods. Essentially the game teaches them to be skeptical critical thinkers when it comes to consuming information online.

Joe Nickell recounts his investigation of New Mexico’s allegedly “bottomless” lakes, quipping, “Although as a paranatural naturalist I had again found no monsters or the like, I was still satisfied that I had gotten to the bottom of things.”

A Minnesota diocese filed for bankruptcy in 2017 as it became to target of several sexual abuse allegations. It’s just reached a settlement with 93 people worth $34 million.

A former Liberty University instructor, Brian Melton, is publicly decrying the school for being essentially corrupt:

Liberty University as a whole was as shifty, dishonorable, unprincipled, and hypocritical a work environment as could be offered. I could not trust my family to them, and I increasingly found it hard to have my reputation associated with an organization that had proved itself so often without honor.

A group of LGBTQ Google employees is petitioning San Francisco Pride to nix Google’s sponsorship for its festival, explaining:

We have spent countless hours advocating for our company to improve policies and practices regarding the treatment of LGBTQ+ persons, the depiction of LGBTQ+ persons, and harassment and hate speech directed at LGBTQ+ persons, on YouTube and other Google products. Whenever we press for change, we are told only that the company will ‘take a hard look at these policies.’ But we are never given a commitment to improve, and when we ask when these improvements will be made, we are always told to be patient.

A paper in Secularism & Nonreligion studies an atheist family and a pagan family in the Bible Belt, and looks at “unwelcomed proselytizing by Christian family members.” Oh, I think I can relate.

Anyway, cinnamon won’t cure diabetes, in case someone told you that it would.

Trump still sounds very impressed with himself over the fact that people say “Merry Christmas” at Christmastime. Like they always have.

Quote of the Day

You need more Nick Little? I get it. Luckily, he’s just written a piece on the abysmal Bladensburg cross ruling by the Supreme Court, and he sees big trouble from Justice Alito:

Alito has raised the possibility that all challenges to religious monuments in the United States are signs of hostility towards religion, and therefore invalid. To him, taking away the unconstitutional privilege of state support granted to Christianity is not leveling the playing field, but, instead, attacking his faith. And with that view comes an accompanying view of the non-religious population, and the groups such as CFI and AHA who seek equality for its members. That is a view of hostility towards us. We are barbarians, seeking to persecute Christians, and to tear down their art. To him, our desire is not for fair and equal treatment for adherents of all religions and those who hold no religious belief, but, instead, to remove rights from Christians. … He is hostile to the non-religious, and believes any efforts by us to ensure fair treatment is an attack on Christianity.

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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.