Chronicling the follies of religion and superstition, the virtues of skepticism, and the wonders of the real (natural) universe as revealed by science. Plus other interesting and educational stuff.

"Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure."

-George Carlin

“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.

-Albert Einstein

“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”

-Carl Sagan

The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted.

-Christopher Hitchens

 

The peculiar history of the Pledge of Allegiance


(CNN) — Seventy one years ago — December 22, 1942 — Congress got the United States out of what had turned into an unexpectedly embarrassing situation.

It concerned the Pledge of Allegiance — specifically, something called the Bellamy Salute.

Most people today have likely never heard of it, but the Bellamy Salute was once a constant part of the country’s life.

Until 1892, there was no such thing as a Pledge of Allegiance.

Daniel Sharp Ford, the owner of a magazine called Youth’s Companion, was on a crusade to put American flags in every school in the country. He sensed that the U.S. needed a boost of patriotism. Keep in mind: Not even 30 years before, the Civil War had still been raging. National unity was a fragile concept.

As part of the campaign, Sharp gave an assignment to a member of his staff: Francis J. Bellamy, who was an author, a minister and an advocate of the tenets of Christian socialism. Sharp asked Bellamy to compose a Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. Bellamy wrote it, and it was published in the magazine.

It didn’t take long for the Pledge to become wildly popular, even omnipresent. At schools, at campgrounds, at public gatherings, in Congress, people routinely faced the flag and pledged their allegiance to it.

Because, inherently, there is something physically awkward about people simply standing in place, their arms hanging limply by their sides, staring at a flag and reciting a pledge, it was decided that devising a salute would be appropriate.

Instructions for carrying out the salute were printed in the pages of Youth’s Companion. The gesture came to be called the Bellamy Salute, in honor of the Pledge’s author.

The Bellamy Salute consisted of each person — man, woman or child — extending his or her right arm straight forward, angling slightly upward, fingers pointing directly ahead.

With their right arms aiming stiffly toward the flag, they recited: “I pledge allegiance…”

For a while, the salute wasn’t especially controversial.

But, as World War II was forming in Europe, and Italians and Germans began saluting Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler with extended-armed “Heil Hitler!”-style gestures…

Well, perhaps you can see the problem.

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Is it political if I tell you that if we burn coal, you’re going to warm the atmosphere? Or is that a statement of fact that you’ve made political? It’s a scientific statement. The fact that there are elements of society that have made it political, that’s a whole other thing.

Neil deGrasse Tyson (via socio-logic)

(Source: alwaysmoneyinthebnanastand)

Jews ordered to register in east Ukraine

Jews in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk where pro-Russian militants have taken over government buildings were told they have to “register” with the Ukrainians who are trying to make the city become part of Russia, according to Israeli media.

Jews emerging from a synagogue say they were handed leaflets that ordered the city’s Jews to provide a list of property they own and pay a registration fee “or else have their citizenship revoked, face deportation and see their assets confiscated,” reported Ynet News, Israel’s largest news website….

A study, to appear in the Fall 2014 issue of the academic journal Perspectives on Politics, finds that the U.S. is no democracy, but instead an oligarchy, meaning profoundly corrupt, so that the answer to the study’s opening question, “Who governs? Who really rules?” in this country, is:
 
“Despite the seemingly strong empirical support in previous studies for theories of majoritarian democracy, our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts. Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But, …” and then they go on to say, it’s not true, and that, “America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened” by the findings in this, the first-ever comprehensive scientific study of the subject, which shows that there is instead “the nearly total failure of ‘median voter’ and other Majoritarian Electoral Democracy theories [of America]. When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”
 
To put it short: The United States is no democracy, but actually an oligarchy.

US Is an Oligarchy Not a Democracy, says Scientific Study | Common Dreams

If we had a truly independent and adversarial press in my country, this would be a big news story, but they still haven’t found that plane, so … whaddayagonnado right?

(via wilwheaton)

Jerry Boykin Believes in the Return of Rambo Jesus — and Says That the Savior Wants You To Buy an AR-15

skepticalavenger:

atheistassessment:

Words fail, so I’ll just let this speak for itself. It’s the just-surfaced audio of a speech that Jerry Boykin, executive vice president of the Family Research Council, delivered at the WallBuilders’ Pro-Family Legislators Conference in November:




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And this is the kind of thinking that starts holy wars.  

Facepalm: Rep. Gohmert claims church-state separation means church plays role in state

In a breathtaking display of ignorance, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) claims that the constitutional separation between church and state is meant to be a “one-way wall” where the “church plays a role in the state.”

jtotheizzoe:

This artist’s rendition* shows the scene inside the South Carolina state legislature, where creationist lawmakers recently blocked a bill put forward by an 8-year-old girl to make the wooly mammoth the official state fossil. 
I bet you can’t guess why!





Check out the full story at The Daily Beast.
(it’s actually Charles R. Knight’s “Font du Gaume" but I want to bang my head against that cave wall after reading this story)

jtotheizzoe:

This artist’s rendition* shows the scene inside the South Carolina state legislature, where creationist lawmakers recently blocked a bill put forward by an 8-year-old girl to make the wooly mammoth the official state fossil. 

I bet you can’t guess why!

Check out the full story at The Daily Beast.

(it’s actually Charles R. Knight’s “Font du Gaume" but I want to bang my head against that cave wall after reading this story)

caracamoma:

Hobby Lobby apparently has no “religious” objection to sourcing its goods from China, a communist, atheistic country that restricts the number of children its citizens can have and has a history of forced abortion. What a joke! Except that their lawsuit isn’t a laughing matter. It’s costing taxpayer $ and threatening women’s rights in the U.S. Another case of: “If you are not outraged, you are not paying attention.”


When the irony becomes hypocrisy.

caracamoma:

Hobby Lobby apparently has no “religious” objection to sourcing its goods from China, a communist, atheistic country that restricts the number of children its citizens can have and has a history of forced abortion. What a joke! Except that their lawsuit isn’t a laughing matter. It’s costing taxpayer $ and threatening women’s rights in the U.S. Another case of: “If you are not outraged, you are not paying attention.”

When the irony becomes hypocrisy.

(Source: editorialcartoonists.com)

Gays And Lesbians More Popular Than Evangelicals Among Voters, Poll

The moral cause embedded in the marriage equality movement is potent, but the debate may come down to a simple matter of popularity.

On Thursday the Human Rights Campaign and Americans for Marriage Equality released the results of a study, entitled “Victory In Sight”, conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and TargetPoint Consulting that investigated the nuances of voters’ views on marriage equality. More than a simple matter of “Should gays and lesbians be allowed to marry?”, the poll looked at shifts in opinions over time, reasons for such shifts, and differing opinions among ages, faiths, geographic areas and more.

The first question addressed acceptance, comparing voters’ favorable or unfavorable feelings towards gays and lesbians and towards evangelical Christians. In a nearly 80% Christian-identified country, the results might surprise you.

Fifty-three percent of voters said they felt favorably toward gays and lesbians, compared to 42% who felt favorably toward evangelicals. Eighteen percent said they felt unfavorably toward gays and lesbians, while 28% reported unfavorable feelings toward evangelicals.

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Gays And Lesbians More Popular Than Evangelicals Among Voters, Poll

The moral cause embedded in the marriage equality movement is potent, but the debate may come down to a simple matter of popularity.

On Thursday the Human Rights Campaign and Americans for Marriage Equality released the results of a study, entitled “Victory In Sight”, conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and TargetPoint Consulting that investigated the nuances of voters’ views on marriage equality. More than a simple matter of “Should gays and lesbians be allowed to marry?”, the poll looked at shifts in opinions over time, reasons for such shifts, and differing opinions among ages, faiths, geographic areas and more.

The first question addressed acceptance, comparing voters’ favorable or unfavorable feelings towards gays and lesbians and towards evangelical Christians. In a nearly 80% Christian-identified country, the results might surprise you.

Fifty-three percent of voters said they felt favorably toward gays and lesbians, compared to 42% who felt favorably toward evangelicals. Eighteen percent said they felt unfavorably toward gays and lesbians, while 28% reported unfavorable feelings toward evangelicals.

Continue

Terrifying Precedent: Woman to Be Tried for Murder for Giving Birth to Stillborn When She Was 16

bebinn:

ashkenazi-autie:

feministbatwoman:

bebinn:

Mississippi has one of the worst records for maternal and infant health in the U.S., as well as some of the highest rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease, and among some of the most restrictive policies on abortion…

"It is tremendously, tremendously frightening, this case…There’s real fear for young women whose babies are dying early who [lack the resources to] defend themselves and their actions."

Rennie Gibbs’ daughter was stillborn with the cord wrapped around her neck, but when autopsy results turned up traces of a cocaine byproduct in her baby’s blood, Gibbs was indicted for “depraved heart murder,” with a maximum sentence of life in prison.

It should come as no surprise that Gibbs is a young, low-income black woman, a member of a demographic disproportionately targeted by the legal system in cases like this and others, and more vulnerable to stillbirths.

A committee for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists determined that “pregnant women who fear the legal system avoid or emotionally disengage from prenatal care - the very thing that might help assure they give birth to health babies. Drug enforcement policies that deter women from seeking prenatal care are contrary to the welfare of the mother and fetus.”

Until we stop pretending punishment and stigma is an effective deterrent, and work to address the underlying issues in maternal health, women will continue to be targeted for addiction, mental illness, and self-determination.

This is disgusting. It’s part of a trend - the idea that once a person is pregnant, their body belongs to society, and thus they are answerable to society for the outcome of their pregnancy. 

It’s disgusting. And sexist, and racist, and classist, and ableist, to name a few. 

Is there another source for this?

Google?

A Stillborn Child, A Charge of Murder and the Disputed Case Law on “Fetal Harm”

A Young Mother Could Face Life in Prison for Giving Birth to a Stillborn Child

Outcry in America as pregnant women who lose babies face murder charges

The Criminalization of Bad Mothers

Brief of the Appellant

The case has been ongoing since 2007.

Jimmy Carter: Religion is the Cause of Horrific Abuse of Girls and Women All Over the World

confrontingbabble-on:

"Former US President Jimmy Carter’s new book, “A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power” will hit the shelves on March 25. The book “covers a system of discrimination that extends to every nation” and discusses topics such as discrimination, violence, forced servitude, child marriage, and genital mutilation.

According to Carter “The most serious and unaddressed worldwide challenge is the deprivation and abuse of women and girls … largely caused by a false interpretation of carefully selected religious texts and a growing tolerance of violence and warfare, unfortunately following the example set during my lifetime in the United States.”

http://aattp.org/jimmy-carter-religion-is-the-cause-of-horrific-abuse-of-girls-and-women-all-over-the-world/

When ‘Religious Liberty’ Was Used To Deny All Health Care To Women And Not Just Birth Control

bspolitics:

If the supreme court upholds Hobby Lobby’s religious freedom BS, my head is going to explode.