Ross and Carrie become Scientologists: an investigative report 5 years in the making

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One of my favorite podcasts is Oh No Ross and Carrie, in which two investigative journalists join cults and fringe religions, and try out new age remedies and practices, and report back on the experience. Read the rest

Oklahoma's repeat-offender Republican Creationist lawmakers take another run at science education

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Every year, like clockwork, longstanding Oklahoma legislators in the state's house and senate introduce bills that try to find a way around the prohibition on teaching Biblical Creationism in American public schools. Read the rest

Pope Francis: atheists who follow their consciences will be welcome in Heaven

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The Pope's message, contained in an open letter, is more directed to the faithful than the nonbelievers, and is a repudiation of millennias' worth of Church doctrine that equates heresy with sin. Read the rest

Leaked Salvation Army memo details internal homophobia and discrimination

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The Salvation Army has struggled to distance itself from its reputation for homophobia, but a 2014 memo on "LGBT issues" by midwest Commissioner Paul Seiler spells out a number of ways in which the organization discriminates against LGBT employees. Read the rest

Young Earth Creationist will run Arizona Senate education panel

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Sylvia Allen, the GOP state Senator from Snowflake, AZ, believes the Earth is 6,000 years old. She will run the state Senate's committee to oversee educational legislation. Read the rest

The medieval origins of mass surveillance

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Many have remarked upon the parallels between Santa's naughty list and mass surveillance, but the idea that a supernatural being is watching your every move and judging you for it is a lot more pervasive than just the Santa story: it's the bedrock of Christianity. Read the rest

The evolution of anti-evolution bills

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In a new paper in Science (paywalled), Nicholas J. Matzke from the National University of Australia demonstrates the evolutionary connection between anti-evolution bills introduced into US state legislatures in a series of iterated attempts to ban or weaken the teaching of evolution by natural selection and to promote Biblical creationism in various guises in its stead. Read the rest

Top your tree with Baphomet, Cthulhu or Krampus

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They're from Middle of Beyond (who make the bigfoot and Krampus sweaters). $20 each, 8" tall: Krampus, Cthulhu, or Baphomet. (via Christian Nightmares) Read the rest

Iceland's fastest-growing "religion" courts atheists by promising to rebate religious tax

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In Iceland, tax-authorities collect "parish fees" from all residents and remit them to churches based on the stated religious affinities of those residents. If you're an atheist, your fees are collected and go into a general fund shared by all churches. Read the rest

Mesopotamian boundary stones: the DRM of pre-history

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Sarah Jeong had me standing up and cheering with her comparison of kudurrus -- the ancient Mesopotamian boundary stones used to mark out territorial land-grants -- and the way that laws like the US DMCA protect digital rights management systems. Read the rest

Blankets: New edition of Craig Thompson's graphic masterpiece

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Craig Thompson's second graphic novel, the 582-page mammoth Blankets, swept the field's awards, taking three Harveys, two Eisners, and two Ignatzes. More than a decade later, and buoyed by his later successes (such as 2011's seminal Habibi), Drawn and Quarterly has produced a beautiful new edition.

Former Westboro hate mouthpiece on leaving the church

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Be sure to read Adrian Chen's gripping profile of former Westboro Baptist Church twitterer Megan Phelps-Roper, who left the church after coming to realize the futility of its hate gospel.

Megan Phelps-Roper, picketing with Westboro when she was still an active member of the family hate cult.

On December 20, 2009, Phelps-Roper was in the basement of her house, for a church function, when she checked Twitter on her phone and saw that Brittany Murphy, the thirty-two-year-old actress, had died. When she read the tweet aloud, other church members reacted with glee, celebrating another righteous judgment from God… But Phelps-Roper had loved Murphy in “Clueless,” and she felt an unexpected pang—not quite sadness, but something close—over her death. As she continued scrolling through Twitter, she saw that it was full of people mourning Murphy. The contrast between the grief on Twitter and the buoyant mood in the basement unsettled her. She couldn’t bring herself to post a tweet thanking God for Murphy’s death.

If you're been wondering why Westboro's been kind of boring lately, it turns out that there was a coup of sorts within the church: day-to-day troll in chief Shirley Phelps-Roper (Megan's mother) was denounced, and a bunch of stodgy old men took over. Since then, women have been marginalized within the church and it has lost much of its media savvy.

Read Adrian's piece to the last sentence: there is an absolutely amazing ending to the life and mind of the church's founder, Fred Phelps.

[Image, top: Megan Phelps-Roper. Read the rest

LISTEN: William "Accidental Terrorist" Shunn on Mormonism and science fiction

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The latest installment of the Geek's Guide to the Galaxy podcast (MP3) interviews science fiction author William Shunn, author of the The Accidental Terrorist, a memoir that explains the bizarre circumstances in which Shunn, as a teenaged Mormon missionary stationed in Calgary, Alberta, was arrested and deported for terrorism. Read the rest

Kentucky's Noah's Ark religious attraction to open next summer

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Christian ministry Answers In Genesis report that their massive Noah's Ark attraction will open next July in Williamstown, Kentucky. This is the same organization behind the infamous Creation Museum where cavemen frolic with dinosaurs. The 510-foot-long, $90 million wooden Ark will be the centerpiece of a Christian theme park. The state of Kentucky had originally given Answers In Genesis an $18 million tax break on the project but changed their mind "over concerns of 'religious indoctrination,'" according to the Associated Press. Answers In Genesis has filed a federal lawsuit to try to get the tax incentive reinstated.

I just hope the ark has room for the dragons and unicorns.

(Thanks, Bob Pescovitz!) Read the rest

The Four Horsemen of Gentrification: Brine, Snark, Brunch, Whole Foods

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Zain Khalid pens the perfect McSweeney's humor-short: self-reflexive (snark, indeed!), demographically loaded, and ha-ha-only-serious. Read the rest

Religious children more punitive, less likely to display altruism

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In The Negative Association Between Religiousness and Children’s Altruism Across the World published this week in Current Biology, academic researchers from the US, Canada, Qatar, Jordan, South Africa, Turkey and China report on a study of about 1,200 children from around the world in which a "robust" correlation between religious upbringing in either Christianity or Islam and a lack of altruism was demonstrated. Read the rest

Awesome dance track made of clips of scamming televangelist who is also famous for his farts

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You know, I thought it wasn't possible to create anything funnier than “Farting Priest,” a now classic viral video in which scamming televangelist Robert Tilton is revealed as the gassy fartbag he truly is. Read the rest

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