When George W. Bush created the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives in 2001, we knew there would be trouble. It doesn't take a political science scholar to to know that when the executive branch gives its “blessing” to a program for bolstering religious organizations through public funds, constitutional principles are going to get violated pretty quickly. Even under President Obama, the initiative allowed for federal funding of religious organizations that were free to discriminate in hiring. Now President Trump is taking his turn, and as we’ll find out this week, he’s needlessly made things even more problematic, while pleasing his political benefactors in the religious Right.
It’s a good thing, then, that a small number of courageous lawmakers are planting a flag for secularism. This week, we’ll meet the historic new Congressional Freethought Caucus, made up of believers and nonbelievers alike who agree that science and reason must form the bedrock of public policy.
Old problems have a way of reasserting themselves, as we’ll see this week with the arrest of atheist blogger Sherif Gaber in Egypt, a target of the government’s persecution since as far back as his first arrest and conviction for blasphemy in 2013. Even a TV snake oil salesman like Dr. Oz has managed to crawl back from the public drubbing he received when he was exposed for hawking false health treatments. He has not only survived, but has just been elevated by the president himself.
What’s a person to do, with so much going so very, very wrong? Well, maybe we can learn a lesson from some rapidly evolving plant species who have found a way to weather the changing climate, which involves very long naps.
Finally, we present a delightful and unscripted conversation between Richard Dawkins and Richard Wiseman from CSICon 2017. It’s no coincidence that we show you this as we’re all getting set for CSICon 2018 and for Richard’s appearances with Carolyn Porco this October.
Robyn E. Blumner
President & CEO, Center for Inquiry
Executive Director, Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science