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February 28, 2018

Hi Blue

What the Religious Right lacks in reason and tolerance they make up for in novelty and tenacity. Sometimes that leads to some bizarre and absurd situations. Other times, it's absolutely tragic.

On the absurd side of things, we have state legislatures attempting to blow up marriage equality with pseudo-logic and name-calling. But to make sense of it, you have to believe that secular humanism is in fact a religion (it isn't) and that all same-sex couples are secular humanists (they aren't). It would be funny if it were not also so cruel.

Also absurd, but dangerous on an existential level, is EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who is using the Bible to justify his dangerous, science-denying policies on climate change.

And then there are times when religious overreach goes beyond the pale. Notoriously, shamefully, the state of Idaho has given enormous leeway to extreme religious sects who insist upon foregoing modern medicine and subjecting their children to faith-healing. We'll learn what the deaths of at least 183 children has done to one Idaho community and what is being done to fix it.

Speaking of bad medicine, we'll get a charming refresher on what makes a treatment "homeopathic," where the active ingredient is so diluted that it's no longer there. And from dilution we move to annihilation, as when antimatter collides with regular matter. This begs the question: How does one move antimatter from one place to another without knocking things out of existence?

Finally, Billy Graham, the granddaddy of all mega-preachers, has himself ceased to be, and now comes the reckoning with a legacy of political revival for evangelicals and serious cracks in the wall of separation between church and state.

Robyn E. Blumner

President & CEO, Center for Inquiry

Executive Director, Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science

Prayerful Pruitt's Policies for Planet Prompted by the Pentateuch 183 Small Coffins Reckoning with the Life of Billy Graham
Sadly, it is all too common to find powerful government officials espousing sectarian mythology to justify particular policies (remember Rep. Shimkus and his assertion that climate change can't be real because the Bible says God won't destroy the earth with a flood). Rarely do we find the head of a major federal agency, one that is based in science, lay their theocratic beliefs so bare. Scott Pruitt, head of the EPA, told a Christian network that God told him how government should work and that the Bible tells him, "...we have a responsibility to manage and cultivate, harvest the natural resources that we've been blessed with to truly bless our fellow mankind." In the cemetery in Peaceful Valley, Idaho, almost a third of the grave sites belong to children, children who died unnecessarily when their parents refused them medical treatment when they were sick and instead relied upon "faith healing." Those 183 kids are estimated to have died as a result of the religious exemptions the state of Idaho provides for parents who risk their children's lives in the name of faith healing. A recent protest against this state of affairs had 183 small empty coffins placed on the steps of the Idaho statehouse. The Washington Post reports on how this tragedy has reached a tipping point where people are demanding change. Perhaps the best-known and most influential religious figure in modern American history, Rev. Billy Graham, died last week at the age of 99. His death is being mourned quite loudly by our most powerful political figures, and his body will even lie in state at the U.S. Capitol, which is problematic to say the least. Charles Pierce at Esquire levels with us about Graham, though. Acknowledging the political power Graham amassed for evangelicals, he says, "It is my considered opinion that the history of the last 40 years would have been infinitely better off if evangelical Protestants had stayed where the Scopes trial put them."
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Video of the Week: Homeopathy: Gentle Healing or Reckless Fraud?

To rely on fake medicine like homeopathy to treat illnesses is to, at best, waste one's money.At worst, it puts one's life (or worse, one's child's life) at risk. Homeopathy is not only utterly useless, but it is poorly regulated for safety, and when used in lieu of real medicine, things can go terribly wrong. The Center for Inquiry is at the forefront of the fight to get this centuries-old quackery under control.

Here, the video series Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell (which described its work as "videos explaining things with optimistic nihilism") presents a fun and informative explanation of what homeopathy actually is and why it's not just an "alternative medicine."


Anti-LGBTQ Legislation Is Beyond Parody

Even though same-sex marriage has been officially sanctioned since 2015, the darkest corners of the religious Right remain intent on finding any way they can to impose their discriminatory, dogmatic beliefs on the LGBTQ community. In both South Carolina and Wyoming, the state legislatures are considering "Marriage and Constitution Restoration" bills that would define any marriage that is not between one man and one woman to be a "parody marriage." As outrageous as that is all on its own, the justification for this line of unreason is the absurd idea that same-sex marriages are all "part of the religion of Secular Humanism." Except that not all same-sex couples are secular humanists, and secular humanism is not at all a religion. And yet...

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Antimatter Road Trip

You can move a thing from point A to point B, but can you move an anti-thing? Apparently so. The scientists at CERN know how to make antimatter in the form of antiprotons, which is pretty mind-blowing in and of itself. But to do further work on this antimatter, they need to move it to another building down the road, where the antiprotons will have the chance to slam into regular protons. So how do they get it from point A to point B? Quantum entanglement? Teleportation? Nope. They built a container, and they're driving it on a truck. The truck, we assume, will not be annihilated.

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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 75 of The Necessity of Secularism by Ron Lindsay.

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Question of the Week

The Winter Olympics have come to a close, and one can't help but wonder: What if there were an Olympics for science? Could there be a gold medal in experiment replication? Record times achieved in exoplanet discovery? What kind of events could there be in a Scientific Olympics?

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

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