News From Around The Blogosphere 5.11.11

May 11, 2011

1. Indians pissed that Hindu goddess appears on skimpy swimsuit – And while I do enjoy me a good blasphemy story, the only real reason I’m posting this is for an excuse to post the pictures of the sexy model in the swimsuit. Now I know what their gods need with all those hands.

2. T-Minus ten shopping days till the Rapture! – Richard Dawkins has perhaps given the best public response in the news media yet to the completely idiotic Harold Camping prediction that the Rapture will occur on May 21, chastising the Washington Post within its own pages for even having the audacity to report on it as if it were real news. And perhaps on a related note, May is Zombie Awareness Month!

3. Simpsons’ actress Nancy Cartwright brings Scientology program to Springfield schools – Cartwright is the voice of Bart Simpson. She’s also a crazy as fuck Scientologist who’s now pushing a learning program based on the unsupported ideas of non-educator L. Ron Hubbard on the students of Springfield, Illinois.

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Religion news lightning round

June 27, 2010

I’m really behind on my religion news, so here’s a quick list of some of the major reliigions stories of the last few days:

1. Pope more outraged over Belgian raids of Catholic Church than child abuse – Belgium officials seized nearly 500 files and a computer from the offices of a Church commission investigating allegations of sex abuse. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, said the Belgian bishops were left all day without food or drink even though that was a lie. The Catholic Church in Belgium has apologised for its silence on abuse cases in the past, and for some reason they seem to think that is sufficient justice.

Jeffrey Newell contemplates how many boys he can rape today

2. Sex abuse victim charges Catholic Church with fraud – Sixteen years after being molested by a priest for several years, the victim discovered his rapist, Rev. Jeffrey Newell, is still operating as a priest and his MySpace page lists a half-dozen teenage boys as friends.

That discovery led to a lawsuit filed Tuesday against the Los Angeles archdiocese alleging that church leaders engaged in fraud and negligence by allowing Newell to continue serving as a priest long after his alleged crimes were reported.

3. ‘One Nation Indivisible’ billboard vandalized only days after going up – Several days ago, I wrote about the billboard that the North Carolina Secular Association put up above the Billy Graham Parkway. Well, apparently this incredibly benign sign pissed someone off so much that they felt it essential that they break the law to further demonstrate why religion is evil.

4. But another one is going up in Florida

5. Fundies further crusade against the Friendly Atheist – Last year, I wrote several pieces about Laurie Higgins and her Illinois Family Institute’s crazy attacks on Hemant Mehta, the Friendly Atheist. Well, she’s back with some more wild accusations about Mehta, who responds to her latest attacks himself here and here.

6. Scholar suggest Jesus didn’t die on the cross – I’d agree on the grounds that Jesus never existed but historians but theologian Gunnar Samuelsson just says the text has been misinterpreted:

He claims the Bible has been misinterpreted as there are no explicit references the use of nails or to crucifixion – only that Jesus bore a “staurus” towards Calvary which is not necessarily a cross but can also mean a “pole”.

Mr Samuelsson, who has written a 400-page thesis after studying the original texts, said: “The problem is descriptions of crucifixions are remarkably absent in the antique literature.

“The sources where you would expect to find support for the established understanding of the event really don’t say anything.”

7. Detroit Catholics fighting for the right of rapists to go unpunished

Victims of abuse by Catholic clergy are expressing dismay at the strong lobbying the church is doing in Lansing to halt an effort to remove Michigan’s statute of limitations on sex abuse cases. In Michigan, victims must file criminal or civil complaints by the time they turn 19 — what some say is an unrealistic limit on kids who often are traumatized for years by the abuse.

The church maintains that removing the statute of limitations could open the floodgates to abuse cases that are a half-century old and could take money away from programs that benefit the poor.

Yeah, everyone knows that crimes cease being bad if you sweep them under the rug for long enough .

8. YouTube censors music video critical of the Pope

The alternative rock band Fuji Minx recently released a music video for their song, “The Music Made Me Do It.” The video was uploaded to YouTube and then taken down by YouTube without explanation after six days.

The video is dedicated to “Recovering Catholics Everywhere” and features the burning of a photo of the Pope with the word “Confess” written on it in red. There is also a photo of musician Sinead O’Connor in the video which is placed on a dresser covering a picture of Jesus. O’Connor made headlines a number of years ago by ripping up a photo of the previous Pope live on TV.

And you can find an embedded copy of that video in the link above. And the lead singer of the band, Greta Valenti, discusses the controversy in an interview here.


News From Around The Blogosphere 6.17.10

June 17, 2010

1. Montgomery County, Maryland rejects ban on paid fortune-telling services – Few people are more passionate about protecting the First Amendment right to Free Speech than I am but there’s nothing in the first amendment that protects fraud. A court ruled that alleged “psychic” Nick Nefedro can continue to sell his services as a fortune-teller without having any responsibility to prove his claims. Now I have no issue with people saying they have psychic powers when they don’t. That’s free speech. But the moment they start charging people for their bogus services, then it ceases being a free speech issue and becomes a fraud issue. There is a very clear line here, and it’s the moment money exchanges hands for alleged services being rendered.

August Brunsman

Greg Epstein

2. Are two atheists two too many? – Recently, White House officials met with atheist representatives from a secular organization for the second time ever (the first time was several months ago). This time it was just two representatives from the Secular Student Alliance, August Brunsman and Greg Epstein. Like before, it wasn’t just White House staff meeting with atheists alone but the atheists were simply included among 110 other people invited to discuss interfaith issues. Apparently though, according to Bill Bumpas of the Religious Right propaganda site OneNewsNow, that’s two atheists too many and despite there being 110 other people being invited, this was all part of a giant evil conspiracy to athe-ize America.

I will concede though that there was one atheist too many as I don’t much care for Epstein’s views.

3. Another piece of athvertising, another controversy – The Freedom From Religion Foundation actually showed some restraint for once in Chicago and posted an ad that no reasonable person could possibly find offensive. The slogan on the ad was simply:  “SLEEP IN ON SUNDAYS.” Surely no one could be offended by that, right? Wrong. Apparently, Rev. Michael Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina Roman Catholic Church, is having none of that. And wow, if he’s this upset about such a benign ad, I can only imagine how enraged he was when he learned his Church’s highest ranking officials protected child rapists. Right? Right?


News From Around The Blogosphere 5.26.10

May 27, 2010

1. Oh, the irony! – For a long time now “alternative” “medicine” fans have decried the wonders of supplements while condemning real medicine such as vaccines because of the evil toxins in the form of trace amounts of lead, mercury, and other heavy metals. Turns out though that these very same “toxins” they’ve been complaining about can be found in many, if not all, supplements!

Nearly all of the herbal dietary supplements tested in a Congressional investigation contained trace amounts of lead and other contaminants, and some supplement sellers made illegal claims that their products can cure cancer and other diseases, investigators found.

The levels of heavy metals — including mercury, cadmium and arsenic — did not exceed thresholds considered dangerous, the investigators found. However, 16 of the 40 supplements tested contained pesticide residues that appeared to exceed legal limits, the investigators found. In some cases, the government has not set allowable levels of these pesticides because of a paucity of scientific research.

Investigators found at least nine products that made apparently illegal health claims, including a product containing ginkgo biloba that was labeled as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and a product containing ginseng labeled as a treatment to prevent diabetes and cancer. They also described a salesperson at a supplement specialty store who claimed that a garlic supplement could be taken instead of blood pressure medication.

Any product that claims to treat, cure, prevent or mitigate a disease is considered a drug and must go through strict regulatory reviews.

Ooh, busted!

2. Illinois tax dollars going towards giant Christian phallus – Though Illinois is refusing to pay the money they owe to public schools, that didn’t stop them from paying $20,000 to Friends of the Cross to fix their giant crucifix. Ya think they’re overcompensating for something? Local atheists are looking to sue.

3. Spitzer Science Center’s IRrelevant astronomy videos continue to earn serious geek cred – They already did a funny video featuring Felicia Day from The Guild and various Joss Whedon projects. And now here’s a video featuring Wil Wheaton and Amy Okuda (Tinkerballa from The Guild). Wil Wheaton plays both Wil Wheaton and the voice of the robot:


News From Around The Blogosphere 1.30.10

January 31, 2010

1. Dinosaur Find Helps Solve Evolutionary Puzzle

A George Washington University expedition to the Gobi Desert of China has enabled researchers to solve the puzzle of how one group of dinosaurs came to look like birds independent of birds. The discovery extends the fossil record of the family Alvarezsauridae — a bizarre group of bird-like dinosaurs with a large claw on the hand and very short, powerful arms — back 63 million years, further distancing the group from birds on the evolutionary tree.

Until now, there was no direct evidence that dinosaurs of this type lived during the Late Jurassic, approximately 160 million years ago. George Washington University doctoral candidate Jonah Choiniere named the newly discovered species of dinosaur, Haplocheirus sollers (meaning simple, skillful hand).

Again, that’s 63 million years ago, which for those keeping count is 62,994,000 years before the existence of the whole universe, according to Young Earth Creationists.

2. Elmhurst, Illinois Mayor Pete DiCianni calls to waste tax dollars on prayer – DiCianni is calling from each City Council meeting to over with a prayer. Now besides the fact that this obviously tramples on the wall separating church and state, even rational Christians should be able to admit that we’re not paying these people to sit around and pray, but rather to run the local government. If these people wish to pray, let them do so on their own time and not on the taxpayers’ time.

3. Christian police force in UK who believe in power of prayer  receives £10,000 grant – If all it takes to catch criminals is prayer, why do they need any money? And for that matter, why do they need a police force?

4. Mennonites kidnap 14-year-old girl – The daughter of Doug Ramsey may have been brainwashed. Three church members were arrested for allegedly concealing the girl from her parents and police after she ran away from home. They intended to take her out of the state to Kentucky. Church members encouraged her to disconnect from her parents and helped facilitate her departure.

5. Midlife crises are a myth – Here’s a great article debunking the myths surrounding the so-called midlife crisis.

6. Virginia School district bans Diary of Anne Frank – That’s right. I’ll repeat that. They banned Anne Frank’s book. Why you might ask? Because of a passage about her adolescent curiosity concerning sexuality. The offending passage reads:

There are little folds of skin all over the place, you can hardly find it. The little hole underneath is so terribly small that I simply can’t imagine how a man can get in there, let alone how a whole baby can get out!

The horror! The horror!

But that’s not even the worst part, according to the article linked to above:

Amazon.com lists Anne Frank’s diary as one of the most banned children’s books, “for being too depressing for students.”

Anne Frank’s diary is among the most banned children’s books? Anne Frank? Are we talking about the same Anne Frank? The young girl in hiding from the Nazis? Anne Frank’s diary is one of the most banned children’s books? WTF!!!!!!!

7. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledges $10 billion to vaccines – Suck it, Jenny McCarthy!

8. Do children need both a mother and a father? – Yup, once again science proves the bigots wrong:

The presumption that children need both a mother and a father is widespread. It has been used by proponents of Proposition 8 to argue against same-sex marriage and to uphold a ban on same-sex adoption.

. . .

The lead article in the February issue of Journal of Marriage and Family challenges the idea that “fatherless” children are necessarily at a disadvantage or that men provide a different, indispensable set of parenting skills than women.

. . .

In their analysis, the researchers found no evidence of gender-based parenting abilities, with the “partial exception of lactation,” noting that very little about the gender of the parent has significance for children’s psychological adjustment and social success.

9. Pope calls for crackdowns on marriage annulments “at all costs” – But still nothing about cracking down on the thousands of child rapists whose salaries he pays. That’s fine.


News From Around The Blogosphere 12.29.09

December 29, 2009

1. Some of the biggest science stories of the year – Steve Novella briefly discusses Ardipithecus, Darwinius masillae, the Large Hadron Collider, water on the moon, the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, and methane on Mars.

2. Scientists working on making Star Trek’s synthehol a reality – According to controversial neuropsychopharmacologist David Nutt, soon people may be drinking a non-addictive alcohol substitute that allows drinkers to experience the effects of alcohol while having the means to “switch off” those effects by taking a pill.

3. What the Illinois gobernatorial candidates think of Evolution – Wow, this is depressing. Despite no mention of religion in the question, all but one found it necessary to reference their religious views. What the hell does that have to do with accepting basic scientific facts? And Dan Hynes, the one that didn’t mention religion and answered with a clear, concise, unambiguous ““I accept the theory of evolution,” is also the only candidate who supports marriage equality. Unless Hynes wins it, it looks like Illinois is doomed with either an idiot religious wackjob or a chickenshit religious panderer for the next couple of years.

4. Molars further elaborate on ape-to-human evolution

The timing of molar emergence and its relation to growth and reproduction in apes is being reported by two scientists at Arizona State University’s Institute of Human Origins in the Dec. 28 online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

5. Cockroaches inspire future robot design

The sight of a cockroach scurrying for cover may be nauseating, but the insect is also a biological and engineering marvel, and is providing researchers at Oregon State University with what they call “bioinspiration” in a quest to build the world’s first legged robot that is capable of running effortlessly over rough terrain.


News From Around The Blogosphere 12.23.09

December 24, 2009

1. Mississippi named most religious state – The latest Pew Forum study showing the religious demographics of each state found Mississippi to be the most religous with 82% of the population. Apparently, it placed number one in worship attendence, frequency of prayer, and belief in god. My own home state of New Jersey was fortunately way down the list at #30, though I wish it were dead last at #46 (because of several ties), an honor that was reserved for both Vermont and New Hampshire. So congratulations to Vermont and New Hampshire for being the most godless states in the union! You guys rock!

Yes, I know these aren't chimps

2. Chimps have near-human understanding of fire

The use and control of fire are behavioral characteristics that distinguish humans from other animals. Now, a new study by Iowa State University anthropologist Jill Pruetz reports that savanna chimpanzees in Senegal have a near human understanding of wildfires and change their behavior in anticipation of the fire’s movement.

3. Top 10 scams of 2009 – All I can say is that this should be required viewing for everyone. Click the link.

4. Illinois comptroller candidate vandalizes atheist sign – Now granted, I don’t much care for the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s (FFRF) sign either. I believe it’s the same message verbatim that they used in Olympia, Washington last year that I thought was way too divisive for its public venue. But conservative candidate William J. Kelly has now violated the law and arguably has committed a hate crime by diliberately trying to turn the atheist sign in the Illinois Capitol building in Springfield upside down in protest. He was quite public about his desire to have it taken down prior to this, which makes it a premeditated action. Upon seeing him in the process of trying to pull off his stunt, police escorted him away.

Dan Parker of the FFRF knocked it out of the park with his response:

“We atheists believe that the nativity scene is mocking humanity,” by suggesting that those who do not believe in Jesus will go to hell, Barker said. “But notice that we are not defacing or stealing nativity scenes because we disagree with their speech.”