American Freethought Podcast

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

We interview comedian Ian Harris, whose new special Critical & Thinking is available now on iTunes and video-on-demand (check your local availability). As you'll hear, Harris is one of us, a skeptic and atheist whose humor tackles such topics as religion, the paranormal, astrology, pop-mysticism and alternative medicine. You can befriend him at facebook.com/comediocre.

Plus:

Our DragonCon wrap-up.

We mourn the passing of physicist, philosopher, author and skeptic Victor Stenger (1935-2014).

Direct download: 209_American_Freethought_Podcast_209.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 9:53 PM

David couldn't make it this year, so Allison jumps in to take up the slack! In this live version of the podcast we discuss recent Supreme Court decisions, take a look at Satanism, and share some really (really, really) bad Biblical puns. The song at the top of the show is "Modest Proposal" by the legendary composer/performer Mose Allison. (Photo courtesy of Dan Barber.)

Thanks again to Derek Colundano for organizing the Skeptrack. And thanks to Mark Ditsler and Company of Abrupt Media for providing stellar audiovisual infrastructure.

Direct download: 208_American_Freethought_Podcast_208.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 3:08 PM

Ken Ham's Ark Encounter continues to grasp for Kentucky taxpayer dollars, despite being a religious operation that promises to discriminate in its hiring policies.

The Supreme Court has put marriage equality on hold in Virginia. Presumably they'll hear this and other cases in the fall, and with a little luck SCOTUS will rule on behalf of rights and freedom in the spring.

Plus:

Strap on the lightning rods--David goes to church!

We have feedback! Mostly good, but at least one listener thinks we waste too much time on personal, non-freethoughty stuff. And for those interested in our discussion last time on Secular and Humanist Celebrants, here are some more organizations that endorse nonreligious celebrants:

Announcements:

Check out American Freethought Live! 10PM, Friday, August 29th at DragonCon's SkepTrack. David can't make it this year, so Allison is stepping in for him. Excitement! For more visit SkepTrack.org.

Get a discount on your Atlanta Star Party tickets by using promo code AMERICANFREETHOUGHT. The annual Star Party is upon us--Thursday, August 28th at Emory University. For more visit AtlantaStarParty.com.

Direct download: 207_American_Freethought_Podcast_207.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 5:33 PM

We interview Rachael Berman, Grassroots and Celebrant Program Coordinator for the American Humanist Association (AHA). AHA's Humanist Celebrant program is coordinated by the Humanist Society, an adjunct of AHA.

We discuss the difficulty nonbelievers have had when it comes to finding someone to officate at weddings, funerals, baby naming ceremonies, etc. They're usually faced with the choice of finding a random judge or county clerk, or of enduring a wedding infused with prayer and religious bromides. A number of organizations, including the Center For Inquiry and the AHA are challenging religion's monopoly on private weddings. There is still the occasional bump in the road: CFI recently won an appeal in Indiana against a state law that privileged SOME religions over others, and over secular groups. And in Georgia, a Humanist Celebrant encountered difficulty when a judge balked at her credentials.

And for what it's worth... John Snider is now a Humanist Celebrant, endorsed by the Humanist Society to officiate at weddings and other major life events! If you need help finding an officiant, or just want John to do the deed, give him a call.

Finally, check out this blog entry by John's niece, in which she discusses the difficulty of finding marital advice that doesn't have a religious tinge.

Plus:

American Freethought will be at DragonCon yet again, presenting a live show at 10PM, Friday, August 29th, at the Skeptrack. David won't be able to make this year, but Allison has generously offered to pinch hit for him so AF can keep our DragonCon streak going.

Also, if you're in town for DragonCon, you might as well include annual Star Party in your plans. This year it's on Thursday, August 28th, at the Emory Math and Science Center. This annual event features celebrity skeptics and astronomers, with the proceeds benefiting the Alzheimer's Foundation of American and CosmoQuest.

Direct download: 206_American_Freethought_Podcast_206.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 12:56 AM

We interview the Reverend Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. We discuss his (what shouldn't be) controversial position as a Christian minister who advocates for secular government and freedom of all religious--or non-religious--expression. For more about Barry and Americans United visit au.org.

Plus:

We discuss freethought pioneer Ethan Allen (yes, that Ethan Allen), as well as 19th century freethought publisher Charles Chilton Moore.

Direct download: 205_American_Freethought_Podcast_205.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 11:12 PM

A recent Pew Research poll shows that Americans express a (perhaps not so) surprising unhappiness at the prospect of an immediate family member marrying an atheist.

Plus:

The Secular Coalition of America has fired executive director Edwina Rogers, after just two years of service. Rogers has served under a cloud of controversy since her original appointment because of her previous years of service to Republican causes. Nonetheless, SCA has made great strides during Rogers' tenure. Let's hope they can find a suitable replacement soon.

John and Allison go with Pastafarian-themed "prestige" car license plates. Will anyone notice? Will anyone care?

Direct download: 204_American_Freethought_Podcast_204.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 6:23 PM

Congressman Louie "Don't Cast Aspersions on My Asparagus" Gohmert has a long history of saying ridiculous things. His latest blatherment occurred during the recent Judiciary Committee hearing on "The State of Religious Liberty in the United States," in which we wasted precious time nitpicking the flavor of Barry Lynn's Christianity. Rev. Lynn is both an ordained minister and <gasp!> head of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Apparently Gohmert a) doesn't like that a supposed Christian like Lynn should be advocating for religious freedom and b) doesn't think that Lynn is an authentic Christian if he doesn't believe exactly as Gohmert does.  Of course, Lynn's personal religious beliefs are largely immaterial (or should be) when it comes to support of the Constitution.

Also:

In Valent v Board of Review, a New Jersey court has ruled that a hospital's policy of allowing only religion-based objections to employee vaccinations violates the Constitution. While this is a victory for neutrality with respect to religion, it fails to resolve the question of whether nonsensical (but otherwise secular) anti-vax objections should be allowed.

Sigh. Neil deGrasse Tyson's reboot of COSMOS has come to an end. Nonetheless, it'll be available on disk and will likely enjoy a long life in reruns.

Plus: The Baseball Bat of Doubt and other listener feedback.

Announcements:

Finally, if you’re in Atlanta June 21-22, check out the Atlanta Coalition of Reason’s Summer Solstice Launch Weekend!

Direct download: 203_American_Freethought_Podcast_203.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 10:30 PM

American Atheists mull their next move after the court turns down their lawsuit to declare religion-based tax exemption unconstitutional. See AA v Shulman.

Plus:

The son (and grandson!) of snake-handling preachers who died handling snakes has SURVIVED being bitten by a snake. Now THAT'S news.

family in Pakistan stoned their daughter IN FRONT OF A COURTHOUSE and are expressing no remorse.

Finally, if you’re in Atlanta June 21-22, check out the Atlanta Coalition of Reason’s Summer Solstice Launch Weekend!

Direct download: 202_American_Freethought_Podcast_202.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 12:12 AM