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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
I just hope the ark has room for the dragons and unicorns.
(Thanks, Bob Pescovitz!) Read the rest
Zain Khalid pens the perfect McSweeney's humor-short: self-reflexive (snark, indeed!), demographically loaded, and ha-ha-only-serious. Read the rest
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