New York Times Essay Calls for More Respect for Astrology

By Bo Gardiner.  Excerpts from the full article at Patheos.

Are astrology and other New Age beliefs a kind of religion for those without religion?  Real or not, should that religious stature grant them greater respect and less scoffing?  The stars say yes in a New York Times op-ed this past week by writer Krista Burton.  Does she make a good case?

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“Wonder Girl” is one of countless popular YouTuber astrologers offering daily life advice.

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Eyes that see behind, a bill like an elephant’s trunk, a magical twilight dance: the weird Woodcock

Eyes that see behind, a bill like an elephant’s trunk, a magical twilight dance: the weird Woodcock

Don’t tell me Porgs are the Star Wars version of puffins.  Puffins don’t have huge eyes and camo brown colors.  Clearly Porgs were inspired by woodcocks.

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“Puffin?  You’re kidding, right?”

In February and March I’m often out tramping in the twilight, where meadows meet woods, in hopes of witnessing what Aldo Leopold called the Sky Dance of the American woodcock.

Here in Virginia’s Blue Ridge, by mid-February these Porg-shaped, foot-tall, nowhere-near-a-shore shorebirds are already excitedly deep in spring courtship.

Painting by C. Ford Riley.

In late winter’s milder, tranquil evenings, about twenty minutes after sunset, the woodcock hen strolls to the edge of her woods to judge the males’ seductive song and dance, performed just beyond in an open field.  Her bizarrely huge dark eyes. set near the top of her head. give her an incredible 360-degree view, allowing her to hunt earthworms on the dark forest floor while watching for predators behind.  Equally bizarre is her extraordinary long bill, more elephant’s trunk than bird’s bill, whose tip she flexes to grasp her prey. Continue reading

Jill Stein: Swing-State Voters Should Still Vote for Me Even If It Means Donald Trump Gets Elected

Jill Stein: Swing-State Voters Should Still Vote for Me Even If It Means Donald Trump Gets Elected

[Excerpt.  Read the full article at Patheos].

Al Jazeera’s UpFront host Mehdi Hasan confronted Green Party presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein last week about continuing her campaign knowing it could produce a Trump victory.

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Her responses seemed startlingly detached from reality, by

  • pretending she might win, despite polling at only 3-4%
  • denying that a progressive should be more alarmed by Donald Trump than Hillary Clinton
  • dismissing any personal responsibility to “get out of the way” of those working to stop Trump
  • rejecting the advice of prominent fellow Green Noam Chomsky to swing-state Greens to vote against Trump by voting for Clinton
  • immaturely insulting the man she asked to be her running mate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, who now passionately urges voters to stand with Clinton, by suggesting he’s not acting on deeply held principles but rather that he’s someone who has “drunk the Kool-Aid.”

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Instead of Feeling ‘Blessed’ and ‘Praying for Haiti,’ Please Stop Voting to Make Their Storms Worse

Instead of Feeling ‘Blessed’ and ‘Praying for Haiti,’ Please Stop Voting to Make Their Storms Worse

The BBC reports that Hurricane Matthew has killed over 900 people; nearly wiped out whole towns; left tens of thousands of families homeless; destroyed crops, livestock and food supplies;  contaminated the drinking water; and released sewage that’s spreading disease.  The U.N. says “Haiti is facing the largest humanitarian event witnessed since the earthquake six years ago.”

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[A scene in Haiti following Hurricane Matthew, photo via the U.N.]

While the U.N. and other nations help Haiti rebuild, some missionaries have gone to take some supplies and most likely the opportunity to evangelize victims, like Franklin Graham’s Christian mission Samaritan’s Purse.  The charity is asking the public for donations and “prayers in Jesus’ name.”

But part of their work, at least for its CEO, Rev. Graham, is to ensure the situation only worsens for Haiti.  He must like the hurricane-relief business, since he’s also America’s leading Christian crusader for Donald Trump, going to all fifty states to get out the vote for him in his Decision America tour.  Trump, who says climate change is a hoax concocted by the Chinese, will almost certainly increase our CO2 emissions and threaten global climate treaties if elected.  Graham himself calls climate change treaty efforts “godless,” “frightening,” and leading toward “moral depravity:”

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In Medieval Superstition News, U.S. Presidential Delegation Honors Mother Teresa’s Miracle Cures

In Medieval Superstition News, U.S. Presidential Delegation Honors Mother Teresa’s Miracle Cures

For mysterious reasons, U.S. politicians and major media outlets are today hyperventilating over one religious group’s unproven claims of ghostly miracle cures.  President Obama has sent a presidential delegation to pay tribute to the ghost faith healer. 

I’m speaking, of course, of today’s canonization of Mother Teresa by the Catholic Church, making her a saint. A saint is someone Catholics believe has special after-death powers to which they can appeal for miracles, as evidenced by at least two miracles so far.

The political and media honors would be slightly more understandable if this were one of the secular tributes for her that have also taken place for her non-miraculous work.  Work, that is,  which largely involved raising vast sums of money to convert Hindus to Catholicism and crusade against contraception and abortion, thereby increasing poverty and suffering.  Using the funds to bring modern medical cures and comforts went against her belief that poverty and physical pain made sufferers more holy to Jesus.

But no, in this case the honors are for her elevation in heaven to God’s miracle broker.

My question is, how exactly does  Pres. Obama determine which unproven miracle cures to honor?  Will we soon be seeing this?   Continue reading

Just In Case There’s Any Doubt Jill Stein Sows Distrust in the U.S. Vaccination Program…

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Let’s simply let her supporters answer.

Here are some comments from angry Jill Stein supporters on the Friendly Atheist Facebook page in response to my article criticizing her statements on the U.S. vaccination program.   It was gratifying to see these dwarfed by many thousands of likes and shares, as was a lovely mention as well by the national progressive humanist group Center for Inquiry’s Paul Fidalgo in his daily roundup of humanist news:

Speaking of Stein, Bo Gardiner does a good overview of Stein’s many pseudoscientific predilections.

But it’s a veritable online rule that people who disagree are the most likely to comment, and comment they did.  

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My Heartbreaking Conclusion: Jill Stein Is Anti-Science, Bad for the Environment, and Now Fully Earns Anti-Vax Label

[A version of this article appeared on July 27 at The Friendly Atheist.]

By Bo Gardiner

In a 2013 speech, Jill Stein calls for the imprisonment of GMO producers based on discredited claims, ignores the environmental damage that would produce, and says the difference between the major parties is mere “window dressing” [Source: YouTube].

 

I’m a strong progressive with socialist leanings, but more than anything else, I’m an environmentalist working for biodiversity – it’s my life’s passion.  I campaign hard for Greens running in local elections.  While a government environmental scientist, I successfully blew the whistle more than once on politicized agencies’ illegal actions to permit corporate pollution.  I pushed my agencies hard to put science over politics and stop dragging their feet on climate change.  While working for a nonprofit conservation group, I managed successful statewide biodiversity campaigns, criticizing politicians and government agencies who were obstacles.  In my personal life, I’m a naturalist and organic gardener, who lectures about gardening for wildlife.

For these reasons, I would not dream of voting for Jill Stein, and will be voting for Hillary Clinton for President.  Does this surprise you?  It shouldn’t if you’re looking deep enough.

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“Predatory” Illegal Christian Recruiting Program Uncovered at Many Virginia Public Schools

[A version of this article was published at The Friendly Atheist.]

Football practice at public school Hidden Valley High School in Roanoke County: the team bows heads in prayer led by Thomas Brown with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Al Soltis directs the Federation of Christian Athletes’ “Watermelon Ministry” at southwestern Virginia public high schools (photo from his Facebook)

On a sweltering August afternoon at a Virginia public high school’s football practice, the coach calls his hot, thirsty players to attention.  A guest, he announces, has brought them ice-cold watermelon—and a message. As the grateful young teens in uniform drop to the grass to savor their treat, the coach steps back and nods to his guest. The visitor is a preacher, and he’s there to bring the boys around to Coach’s particular brand of faith.

Coach figures all his boys and assistant coaches are Christian, because that’s what good Virginians are. And if they aren’t, they should be. He tells himself it’s part of his job because it’s good for the team.  A boy without Jesus isn’t as respectful, strong or reliable—you know, Christian traits.

The preacher reads “The Competitor’s Creed” from the back of the book he holds, God’s Game Plan: The Athlete’s Bible:

I am a member of Team Jesus Christ… I do not trust in myself… or believe in my own strength.  I rely solely on the power of God… I submit to God’s authority and those he has put over me.  I respect my coaches… My body is the temple of Jesus Christ… Nothing enters my body that does not honor the Living God… My sweat is an offering to my Master.  My soreness is a sacrifice to my Savior.

Many of the boys have their own deeply held beliefs that are not those of the Coach and this preacher.  Perhaps they’re Jewish, Muslim, Unitarian, Buddhist, or atheist.  But the situation is intimidating and they remain still. It’s a rare child who could find the courage to stand up first, alone, in front of his teammates, to walk away from them and the stern coaches with folded arms who control his athletic fate.

So they obediently bow their heads in prayer to Jesus, in a scene that’s replaying quietly at public high schools throughout southwestern Virginia, and has been for about a decade.

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Mandisa Thomas’s essay for CNN: Confessions of a Black Atheist

Excerpts from Mandisa Thomas’ essay yesterday for CNN.  She delivers a much-needed message.

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Mandisa Thomas founder and current President of Black Nonbelievers, Inc. She also serves on the boards for Foundation Beyond Belief and the Secular Coalition for America.

African-American atheists represent a small but growing segment of American atheists at large.

Most blacks, though, identify as religious, and the church is intricately tied to tradition, history and culture.

I am atheist — and I am black.

Yes, we exist — even if many in the media sometimes don’t notice us. In a CNN special that aired on Tuesday, for example, people of color were not as well-represented as American atheism’s more familiar face: You know, white males.

In fact, African-American atheists represent a still small — though growing — segment of American atheists at large…

Most blacks identify as religious. Belief in God is touted with pride, and the church is intricately tied to tradition, history and culture. It is not uncommon to assume that I attend services as a black woman. The question often isn’t if I go to church — it’s where. And even if one doesn’t go to church, surely they still have faith — because our people have endured and overcome so much hardship that it had to be the work of a god… It can be extremely difficult to discuss religion objectively in the black community. Many have social, emotional and financial stakes invested in this institution, so for one to even say they have doubts is like committing treason. Continue reading