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Newsletter
December 20, 2017

Hi Blue

This is our last newsletter of 2017, and in a way, it's a relief. In one sense, of course, the year 2017 is simply a set of dates on a calendar marking one revolution of the Earth around the Sun. But then again, it's difficult to look back on the events of 2017--especially those involving the challenges to science and reason--and not feel a little bit dizzy from it all.

Think of it. Donald Trump in the White House, religious zealots tearing down the wall of separation, climate change deniers taking over the EPA, an Education Department that wants to fund private religious schools, and the isolation of the United States from the world community as we reject the Paris climate agreements. And that doesn't even get into the explosion of propaganda and misinformation that has run rampant through our televisions and web browsers and the never-ending tide of false gurus and miracle cures that do nothing and siphon money from consumers' wallets.

And yet, for all that, it hasn't been nearly as bad as many of us feared. That's in large part because those who believe in the central importance of facts, evidence, and science and in the equal dignity of all people, people like you, have pushed back. This week, we'll see how the pressure put on Congress by secular and religious groups alike have saved the Johnson Amendment from repeal (for now) and how reports of the CDC obfuscating on science caused an immediate and considerable counter-response.

We'll also get some tips from Richard Dawkins on how to be more persuasive (incredibly valuable in times like these) and check in with a visitor from another solar system.

Finally, while most of us don't believe in the myths surrounding the holiday season, many of us will be celebrating with friends and family all the same. We'll hear from one atheist about how she grew up to love Christmas without its religious aspects, and we'll send off the year with a holiday-themed song from the incomparable Tim Minchin.

The year isn't quite over, of course, which means there's still time to double your impact in the fight for reason, science, and humanist values. Until December 31, Louis Appignani is generously matching every gift to the Center for Inquiry and the Richard Dawkins Foundation, all the way up to a quarter million dollars! Please give today.

What better way to kick off 2018 than to know our movement is ready to take on all the challenges ahead?

From all of us at CFI and the Richard Dawkins Foundation, please have a safe and happy holiday season and a wonderful new year.

Robyn E. Blumner

President & CEO, Center for Inquiry

Executive Director, Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science

How to Influence People Seven Words You Can Never Say to Republicans Holidays without the Holy
Richard Dawkins has not only been central in the effort to bring atheism into the cultural mainstream, but he has also managed to persuade untold numbers of people around the world, people who once believed in myths and rejected science, to see things as he sees them. How does he do it? In a new video for Big Think, Richard looks back at his time as a scientific tutor at Oxford, where he cultivated "the discipline of putting yourself in the shoes...of the other person." The Washington Post reported last week that the Centers for Disease Control had banned the use of seven words and terms including transgender, fetus, evidence-based, and science-based. It was soon reported that these terms had likely not been "banned," but rather avoided when getting a budget approved by the hard-right, science-denying Republican Congress. Either way, it's a terrible sign for where things stand for science and reason, and CFI told the CDC to stand firm for science and transgender Americans. Far from waging a "war on Christmas," as the president and Fox News would have you believe, many nonbelievers are gleefully embracing the holidays and all its trappings—only without the religious elements. At The Root, Kyla Jenee Lacey recalls her upbringing by an atheist mother who loved Christmas and taught her to enjoy the holidays without worrying about the theological implications. "Being raised by an atheist who loves Christmas meant I got to celebrate the season without all the bullshit."
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Video of the Week: White Wine in the Sun

Australian singer, songwriter, and skeptic Tim Minchin appeared on the Late Late Show with James Corden (guest hosted that evening by Bryan Cranston) to perform a song that is perfectly suited to these times and this particular time of year, "White Wine in the Sun."

NEWS

The Johnson Amendment: Embattled but Intact

In truly challenging times, small victories mean a lot. Last week, the wall of separation between church and state was spared having yet another hole blown out of it when the final version of Republicans' major tax bill did not contain a repeal of the Johnson Amendment, the law that keeps churches and other tax-exempt nonprofits from endorsing political candidates and becoming de facto super PACs for the religious right. It's more than likely that the Johnson Amendment will be the target of future attacks, but it is safe for the moment. As Jason Lemieux, CFI's director of government affairs, wrote, "CFI supporters like you helped to make a positive change. ... Your advocacy helped protect our system of government from the influence of religion."

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SCIENCE

Not Your Ordinary Asteroid

The various dwarf planets, asteroids, and comets hurtling around our solar system are fascinating enough, each one rich with mystery and the potential to teach us more about the universe we inhabit. But what about an asteroid from another solar system altogether? Enter 'Oumuamua, an honest-to-goodness visitor from another system. It had been speculated that this giant shard could actually be an artifact from, or even example of, an extraterrestrial life form. The object even seemed to be giving off some kinds of "signals." But now that scientists have had a chance to analyze the asteroid, it's become clear that it is indeed "just an asteroid." But don't let that disappoint you; it's still the first time humans have had the chance to get a look at a visitor that is truly from another star.

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Debate Richard’s Paragraph of the Week

Welcome to Richard’s Paragraph, a chance to read, consider, and discuss an idea that Richard has plucked from one of his books or from the book of a colleague to spur exploration and debate. This week’s paragraph is from page 186 of Coming Out Atheist by Greta Christina.

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Question of the Week

What do you think was the most important story or event from 2017 having to do with the challenges to science, reason, and humanist values?


Want to suggest a Question of the Week? Email submissions to us at qotw@richarddawkins.net. (Questions only, please. All answers to bimonthly questions are made only in the comments section of the Question of the Week.)

Join the Conversation
Become a member of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science.

© 2017 Center for Inquiry.
The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science is a divison of the Center for Inquiry.



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