1. New Pew Poll suggests atheists still unelectable – If the poll is accurate, atheists are less electable than a candidate who is Mormon, gay, divorced, or even an adulterer.
2. ‘Psychic’ leads Texas Rangers and FBI down dead end – Police followed a tip by an alleged psychic who told them where to find a supposed mass grave containing dozens of dismembered bodies. Now Craig McNair, head of the county commissioners, is looking to hold her responsible for giving a false tip and creating havoc.
3. ‘Expelled’ production company expelled from existence – Premise Media Holdings LP has gone bankrupt and its shitty creationist propaganda film starring Ben Stein is going up for auction:
The high bidder will become the owner of the movie that The New York Times (2008 Apr 18) described as “[o]ne of the sleaziest documentaries to arrive in a very long time … a conspiracy-theory rant masquerading as investigative inquiry … an unprincipled propaganda piece that insults believers and nonbelievers alike” and that was denounced by the American Association for the Advancement of Science for its “profound dishonesty” and condemned by the Anti-Defamation League for its “outrageous” misuse of the Holocaust to “tarnish those who promote the theory of evolution.” (NCSE’s Expelled Exposed provides a collection of reviews, commentary, and resources documenting the extensive problems with Expelled.)
4. Tennessee passes law banning images that “cause emotional distress” – Though it remains to be seen if anyone will actually try to enforce this new law signed by Gov. Bill Haslam, it’s hard to imagine a greater offense to the First Amendment.
5. Hot nun fired over lap-dancing past – Wasn’t there something in Christian mythology about turning the other cheek? Which cheeks the passage was talking about is unclear.
And on a related note…
6. Pole dancing for Jesus causes controversy – There’s a pole dancing class that allegedly is intended to help women stay in shape while simultaneously bringing them closer to God:
Set to Christian music, church-going women spin and slither around poles. But the instructor and the students say it’s not about sex.
But the organization says the jail has gone even further in its screening of mail to inmates by banning publications that contain any level of nudity, including beachwear and underwear.
Oh, and there’s a video in the link above.
8. Congratulations to my friend Page Van Meter, who’s been named the new president of the NYC Skeptics!
1. Actor Paul Giamatti identifies himself as an atheist – Yup, in keeping with centuries of Jewish tradition, Mr. Giamatti doesn’t believe in any gods. He even goes further than many other celebrity atheists in that he’s not afraid to even use the label “atheist.”
The Australian distributor of the controversial Power Balance wristbands will be placed into receivership today, with the owner of the business saying that sales have “evaporated” since the business provided undertakings to the ACCC to stop claiming the wristbands could improve balance, strength and flexibility.
Power Balance Australia owner Tom O’Dowd has exclusively told SmartCompany that while he had been “naive” in thinking that the business would not by [sic] subject to laws surrounding the regulation of health products, the ACCC’s aggressive stance against the products effectively killed off any survival hopes.
3. 60 Minutes reports on Lance Armstrong scandal – Last week, I defended a piece by 60 Minutes about the cult group calling themselves Sovereign Citizens, but this week, I’m taking issue with one of their stories. Now I haven’t been following the investigation into possible use of performance-enhancing drugs among professional bicyclists, nor the particular accusations against Lance Armstrong. But it seems to me, at least as it was presented on 60 Minutes, that the real story here is an abuse of government power. From what I could tell, the entire investigation has turned into a witch hunt based not on any empirical evidence, but on nothing more than hearsay.
Now maybe Armstrong cheated and maybe he didn’t. I have no clue, nor any commitment to either conclusion. Certainly, as with any professional athlete, there is a clear motivation to cheat…at least as long as one can keep it a secret, as exposure would almost certainly destroy one’s career. But if federal officials couldn’t even nab Al Capone for anything other than tax evasion, why is it that they can potentially bring down Lance Armstrong without anything other than the testimonies and conspiracy theories of people who may have a grudge against him?
1. Homeopaths and chiropractors invade Tanzania – One thing that medical science has firmly determined is that homeopathy and chiropractic are not legitimate treatments for pretty much anything. And among the long list of conditions these two pseudo-sciences cannot in fact treat is AIDS. And yet practitioners of both voodoo medicines are traveling to Tanzania to bring false hope to AIDS patients.
2. Anthony Hopkins slips skepticism into ‘The Rite’ – It seems Jody Foster wasn’t the only atheist starring in The Silence of the Lambs. In a recent interview promoting the latest alleged “inspired by true events” knock-off of The Exorcist titled The Rite, Hopkins revealed that as an atheist, he didn’t feel completely comfortable playing a character he couldn’t personally identify with and so managed to write some dialogue for his character that encourages skeptical thinking. Here’s how Hopkins explains his additions:
There’s a scene in the courtyard after the first exorcism, and I’m talking to the young priest [played by] Colin O’Donoghue, who in his character has grave doubts about [exorcisms]. He thinks it’s all a bag of tricks, he thinks it’s all mumbo jumbo and maybe there’s no such thing, which is the debate: Is there such a thing as anthropomorphic presence of the devil or is it mental disturbance? That’s the debate, I guess, in the film and probably in the world.
And after that I say to him the problem with skeptics and atheists, is that we never know the truth. We’re always trying to find the truth. What would we do if we found it? And I asked [director Mikael Håfström] if I could write that line. To describe myself as an atheist, as a skeptic which makes the young priest turn [and say], “You?”, and I go, “Oh yeah, every day I struggle. Most days. Some days I don’t know if I believe in God or Santa Clause or Tinkerbell.”
3. NBA players sued over Power Balance endorsements – Power Balance bracelets have been debunked as a fraud and recently even the company making them was forced to admit the scientific claims they make are unproven. But what’s interesting is that now two NBA players, Boston’s Shaquille O’Neal and Los Angeles’ Lamar Odom, who endorsed the bracelets have been brought into a class action suit against Power Balance. I for one think this sets a wonderful legal precedent as for too long, athletes have been allowed to use their influence to profit off of any endorsement deal they sign without any accountability or fear of negative consequences. Of course, if they endorsed a brand of cigarette or any product that was known to directly cause serious health problems , they probably would get a lot of heat for it, but not for something like Power Balance that doesn’t cause any direct physical harm but simply doesn’t really perform the service it promises. Now maybe athletes will think twice before accepting just any endorsement that comes their way.
4. Help me Kinect. You’re my only hope. – Scientists are working on holographic technology similar to what we’ve seen in Star Wars and have even put together a short demonstration of the technology featuring a reenactment of the famous Princess Leia holographic message to Obi Wan Kenobi. You can see that demonstration in the link above.
5. Artificial retinas see well enough to balance a pencil – This will no doubt play a critical role in the evil plots of Skynet/the Cylons/the Replicants/Agent Smith’s.
Author’s Note: Though it wasn’t intentional, I discovered all these stories on The Friendly Atheist blog, so really this post is just drawing attention to several important stories that Hemant Mehta and his co-bloggers already reported. Sorry.
1. Tony Danza tells a priest to shove it – Well, okay. Not quite. Biographer Philip Carlo, a close friend of Danza’s recently died. At the funeral, the priest performing the service decided to talk more about Jesus than about the deceased. So Danza was all, “Ey oh, oh ey!” Actually, it was more like this:
“Tony, who was one of Carlo’s closest friends, walked right up to the priest and said angrily, ‘Excuse me, but this is not about you. It’s supposed to be about my friend, and if you can’t do that, maybe you should let someone else speak!’
Good for Tony! I remember attending the funeral service for someone I went to high school with and being really upset that the deceased was hardly even mentioned in the service, which was exploited to celebrate Jesus. And I wasn’t even close to the deceased. So I can imagine how I’d feel if it were for a close friend’s service. If it had been, I’d like to think I’d tell off the guy too.
2. Atheists & Christians unite for forest restoration – I’m always a big fan of these charity projects where atheists work with the religious. If I were running an atheist or secular organization, I’d be pushing to do more of it. Not only does make a positive difference in the world but it can easily draw positive media attention to the organization while promoting tolerance at the same time. It’s win-win.
3. Anne Frank is in Hell – An interesting discussion about the inevitable logical conclusions of many Christian’s beliefs that Christians try to avoid like the plague. So often Christian evangelicals declare all who don’t follow Jesus, particularly not the exact way they do, are hell bound while anyone can be “saved” no matter what their crimes on Earth are if they repent. I often point out that under this system, that would mean six million Holocaust victims are in Hell while many of their Nazi oppressors could have made it to Heaven. Christians typically respond by bending over backwards to rewrite their dogma using tortured logic to make it more consistent with secular morality. They do the same when presented with the question of whether it would be morally acceptable to lie to protect Anne Frank hiding in your attic from Nazis who come to your door looking for Jews after the Christians have already stated that even telling a single lie makes you deserving of Hell. Anne Frank makes for a superb example when demonstrating the absurdity of many Christian views about morality.
4. Battling Comfort with kindness – Possibly inspired by the Rally to Restore Sanity, one atheist group found a fun way to protest the preaching of hateful Jesus freaks, by killing them with kindness. They held up signs like “I’m an atheist but religious people are cool too!” and “You’re not going to hell. However you’re not going to heaven either!” as well as wearing t-shirts that said “Smile! You just met an atheist.” I don’t necessarily think this is the only approach atheists should take but it does still have the effect of highlighting the irrationality and hatefullness of the religious while displaying atheism in a positive light, so kudos.