American Freethought Podcast

President Obama disappoints (again) with his attendance at the "National" Prayer Breakfast, but... his observations on Christianity's checkered past and comments urging tolerance and humility have conservatives in a snit. Yay.

Plus:

Now that a federal court has cleared the way for gay marriage in Alabama, some counties are complying while others aren't. Some counties are refusing to issue ANY marriage certificates until this whole thing is cleared up. Meanwhile the state's Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy "10 Commandments" Moore has called for a Constitutional convention and declares that the US Supreme Court has no authority to rule on the matter.  Looks like he might lose his job. Again.

Resolutions have been introduced in both houses of Congress honoring Darwin Day. They have zero chance of making it out of committee, but this is farther than it's gotten in years past.

Creationist kook Ken Ham is upset over Carnival Cruises' Superbowl ad featuring a JFK voiceover in which the late president muses over our relationship to the sea.

Finally, we overstated the effect of the Constitution's "full faith and credit" clause as it applies to recognition of out-of-state marriages

Direct download: American_Freethought_Podcast_219.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:55 AM

The Supreme Court will finally hear arguments on two issues: whether states have the right to ban gay marriage, and whether states must recognize out-of-state gay marriages under the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution. We'll know by the end of June which way this goes.

In the meantime, count on conservative politicians at the state and local level to try to make life difficult for gay couples (and secular folk, for that matter) to get married. Several counties in Florida are already refusing to conduct courthouse ceremonies, lest they be forced to marry gays. And Republican lawmakers in Oklahoma have introduced bills to abolish courthouse ceremonies altogether, fire clerks who issue marriage certificates to gays, impeach judges who rule in favor of gay marriage, and even make it against the law to challenge these things in court!

Plus:

Christians on the warpath! Mike Huckabee (who half-jokingly favors mandatory America-is-a-Christian-Nation education at gunpoint) also thinks the United States is currently a "secular theocracy." (Huh?) A recent poll shows support for TORTURE is highest among evangelical Christians. Pat Robertson advocates corporate punishment for kids who disrespect their Christian grandparents. And a New Jersey preacher is in hot water after claiming to have "crumpled" a kid who wasn't taking God seriously. Whatever happened to turning the other cheek?

Direct download: 218_American_Freethought_Podcast_218.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 1:41 AM

We look at last week's attack on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which left 17 dead (not including the perpetrators). How much is Islam to blame for these and related occurrences? We also look at the overwhelming worldwide reaction AGAINST such violence, despite Charlie Hebdo's long history of incendiary humor. Some of the reaction has been equivocal, unfortunately, including the Catholic League's Bill Donohue (the Eye of Sauron himself!) calling the cartoonists little more than pornographers and tutting about "the necessity of restraint on the part of artists." Who decides what constitutes restraint? Does Donohue imagine that ANY open criticism of the Prophet will satisfy the extremists?

Plus:

Seventh Day Adventist pastor Ryan Bell just spent the last year living as an atheist, and now he has declared he IS an atheist. Was this a legitimate year of introspection, or just a way to buffer a decision he already made at the beginning of 2014?

David is disappointed that the AARP website (which is supposed to help ensure senior citizens don't get scammed) is promoting such woo as horoscopes and "holistic" remedies.

David recommends the Great Courses series "History of the Ancient World: A Global Perspective" presented by Gregory Aldrete. Also, here's a video clip by Professor Aldrete explaining how even St. Valentine's Day is a Christian hijacking of a pagan holiday.

Direct download: 217_American_Freethought_Podcast_217.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 8:15 PM

Blowhard Bill O'Reilly has declared victory in the War on Christmas. But who's been fighting this war? Christians cry foul whenever Jews or atheists or Pastafarians or (gasp!) Satanists want equal time at the county courthouse, but they forget that the sole reason these groups want attention is to prevent the Christians from monopolizing the public sphere. If only all parties could agree that government property is neutral territory (i.e. no religious displays of any kind), this whole problem would go away. But since it won't...

Satanists will have a holiday display in Detroit, but there won't be a Nativity because no Christian group is willing to commit to the daily grind of installing/uninstalling a display for three days. You snooze, you lose.

And in Florida, a Satanist group has been denied permission to install an "offensive" display in the state capitol.

Finally, although it's late notice, Symmetry Magazine has posted instructions on how to make cool science-themed "snowflakes" featuring Nobel Prize winning scientists Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, and Edwin Schrodinger.

Direct download: 216_American_Freethought_Podcast_216.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 4:15 PM

We interview Bill Reel, practicing Mormon, defender of the faith, and host of the Mormon Discussion Podcast. We discuss his conversion to Mormonism as a teen, and how he squares the latest scientific and historical revelations with his Mormon beliefs. For more visit MormonDiscussionPodcast.org.

Plus:

Former porn star Asia Carrera (born Jessica Steinhauser, now Asia Lemmon) had her new driver's license photo taken while wearing a colander to show her devotion to the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Ms. Lemmon was touched by many a noodly appendage back in the day.

Direct download: 215_American_Freethought_Podcast_215.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 3:41 PM

It's time once again to celebrate the non-existent War on Christmas. For those heathens who enjoy celebrating the holidays, here are our recommendations for gifts for nonbelievers. Even if you don't like our suggestions, you can buy whatever you want at Amazon.com through American Freethought using this link.

David's Recommendations:

EvolveFish.com - You're sure to find something on this site that will tickle the fancy of any nonbeliever.

The Unbelievers DVD - It's Planes, Trains and Automobiles with Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss as they travel across the globe, speaking publicly about the importance of science and reason in the modern world.

Think Like a Freak by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner - The authors of Freakonomics return, taking us inside their thought process and teaching us all to think a bit more productively, more creatively, more rationally—to think, that is, like a Freak.

Tickets to the 2nd Annual Freethought Cruise with David Silverman, President of American Atheists (Jan 26 - Feb 2, 2015).

Gift Membership to Freedom from Religion Foundation.

John's Recommendations:

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey Blu-Ray - Neil deGrasse Tyson's update to Carl Sagan's classic 1980 science series was a special treat on TV earlier this year. Now it's available on Blu-Ray.

Storm: The Book by Tim Minchin, artwork by DC Turner and Tracy King. This is an illustrated edition of Minchin's popular anti-woo beat poem, made famous by King's animated short. Foreword by Neil Gaiman, introduction by Tim Minchin. If you’re lucky you can find the hardcover limited edition signed by Tim. Otherwise, it’s available in paperback. Also, check out Timminchin.com/stormthebook 

Science…for Her! Megan Amram's satirical science-book-for-girls, available in hardcover, for Kindle, or as an audiobook.

Greenwood Space Travel Supply Co. This honest-to-goodness brick-and-mortar store in Seattle not only has nifty space- and science-related gifts (t-shirts, books, posters, etc.), it's also an extension of The Greater Seattle Bureau of Fearless Ideas, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center for the young people of Earth.

Newton's Attic - If you're looking to donate to a charity on behalf of a friend or family member, consider Lexington, Kentucky based Newton's Attic. Founded by David Cloyd in 1998, the organization's mission is to inspire young people to embrace science, math and engineering. Donate between now and December 11th at BGgives.org/newtonsattic. Newton's Attic is participating in the 2014 GoodGiving Challenge, and receiving donations through this site does two things: automatically generates a tax donation receipt for the donor and helps them achieve our goals during this challenge. In fact, donations between $10 and $1,000 made at noon EST or very shortly thereafter on December 11th will receive a 50% match thanks to a challenge grant. After December 11th, donate via check to Newton’s Attic, 4974 Old Versailles Road, Lexington, KY 40510; contact them by phone (859-233-3337) for a credit card donation; or go to the “Support Newton’s Attic” button on the left side of their homepage or to the “Donate” button on the bottom of this page: http://newtonsattic.com/support.html.

Plus:

It's almost over, but this month is Openly Secular Month!

School administrators in Montgomery County, Maryland have removed "Christmas" and "Yom Kippur" from the school calendar rather than add the Muslim holiday of Eid al Adha. Kids still get off on  Christmas and Yom Kippur, but the holidays just won't get listed as such. So much for inclusiveness.

Finally, in Fayette County, Georgia, county commissioner David Barlow (a Republican) greeted newly elected commisioner Pota Coston (an African-American and a Democrat) by issuing a statement bemoaning the "evil" of the "Demoncrats" and vowing to ensure a Republican wins the White House in 2016 "in the mighty name of Jesus." He later issued a non-apology apology, blaming his stupidity on his "passion for Jesus Christ" (which is probably correct but for different reasons). It's not surprising that such morons exist, but it is disturbing that they get elected.

Direct download: 214_American_Freethought_Podcast_214.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 11:15 PM

The Republican victories in the 2014 midterms are bad news not just for church-state separation, but also for reason-based policies on climate change and a host of other issues.

Meanwhile...

A self-proclaimed Satanist has damaged the controversial Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the Oklahoma capitol. We recommend legal means in removing such monuments, not vandalism.

Voters in Alabama have overwhelmingly approved an amendment that will ban application of "foreign law" (like, oh, say, Sharia law) in Alabama courts and prohibit the state from giving full faith and credit to out-of-state acts (like, oh, say, gay marriage) that conflict with Alabama law. Look for this one to be declared unconstitutional after much waste of attorney hours and taxpayer funds.

The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has upheld gay marriage bans in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. This is in stark contrast to rulings by other Circuit Courts that have declared such bans unconstitutional. This sets the stage for what will certainly be on of the most-watched Supreme Court showdowns in recent years.

For movies with a freethought spin, David recommends Snowpiercer (starring Chris Evans) and Hercules (starring Dwayne Johnson).

Direct download: American_Freethought_Podcast_213.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 12:52 AM

Signature Healthcare, a Louisville-based company that runs dozens of nursing homes, has taken religion in the workplace to a whole new level. "Spirituality" is one of their three core competencies. They even have a Vice President of Spirituality!

Plus:

Hobby Lobby president Steve Green, basking in the glow of his recent Supreme Court victory, has announced plans to build an $800 million Bible Museum just two blocks off the National Mall in Washington, DC.

There are a lot of Republican bad candidates for political office in the 2014 midterms, but Texas Lt. Governor candidate Dan Patrick might just take the cake. Mother Jones has a great exposé on him. Patrick is almost certain to win. Congratulations, Texas!

Finally, Pat Robertson (bless his withered, addled heart) is at it again. This time he's warning people not to go to Kenya lest they get AIDS from the towels there.

Direct download: 212_American_Freethought_Podcast_212.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 10:32 PM

Ben Affleck's cable-TV clash with Bill Maher and Sam Harris over liberalism and its (lack of) cricitism of Islam overlaps with Reza Aslan's recent criticisms of Maher and Harris. Is Islam a religion of peace hijacked by a handful of extremists, or does the orthodox core of Islam inconveniently overlap with the violent policies enacted by the likes of ISIS and al-Qaeda? Watch the sparks fly here. Also, check out this and this... and this... oh, and this, then see which side is closer to the truth.

Plus:

SCOTUS declines to hear numerous appeals from states seeking to overturn federal court rulings against same-sex marriage bans. Is this a signal from the Court that marriage equality has won, or is this a strategic pause awaiting the right opportunity for a conservative masterstroke?

Meanwhile, SCOTUS hears a ridiculous (but hilarious) case involving the religious infringement ramifications of state prison bans on beards. Is that a tiny revolver in your Van Dyke, or are you just exercising your First Amendment rights?

Announcements:

NUTS! Here's your opportunity to offer Kickstarter support for a documentary about the controversial fertility quack John Brinkley, could claimed he could cure men's problems by... well, let's not spoil the suprise.

Nonfiction book recommendations: John suggests John Hersey's atomic classic Hiroshima, as well as Ann Heller's 2009 (refreshingly non-hagiographic) Ayn Rand and the World She Made.

Direct download: 211_American_Freethought_Podcast_211.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 4:17 PM

We discuss Sam Harris's new book Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion

Waking Up is available September 9, 2014 in hardcover, for Kindle, and as an audiobook. For more about Sam Harris visit SamHarris.org.

Direct download: 210_American_Freethought_Podcast_210.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 7:34 PM