Podcast #263 – Too Faithful to Be Faithless

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A Texas member of the Electoral College has resigned rather than cast a vote for Donald Trump, stating that the president-elect is not “biblically qualified” to hold office.

Also in Texas, the Republican-controlled government is implementing a new regulation requiring abortion clinics to dispose of fetal tissue only via cremation or burial. They cite health and public safety concerns, but offer no explanation as to how such tissue differs from other medical waste like removed organs, amputated limbs, etc. in terms of its danger to the community.

Finally, Donald Trump has selected Georgia Congressman Tom Price as his Secretary of Health and Human Services. Yes, an anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-regulation, anti-global warming, anti-Obamacare crusader will be in charge of the nation’s healthcare system.

To listen to this episode click here.

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Podcast #262 – Democracy Good and Hard

trumpH. L. Mencken said, “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.” They (and we) are about to get Donald Trump, a crooked businessman with no governmental experience who channels old-school misogyny, racism, bigotry, and near-complete ignorance on almost every topic of importance. Trump has pulled off one of most unlikely upsets in political history. He stunned the Republican establishment, as well as nearly every pollster and pundit, to capture the most powerful office on the planet.

So how did he do it? How could voters support a candidate like this? To help us understand, we talk with political scientist Arthur Lupia, author of the new (and incredibly timely) book Uninformed: Why People Know So Little About Politics and What We Can Do About It, available in hardcover and for Kindle. (Please note: a technical glitch which led to some problems in sound quality and continuity. We apologize for the inconvenience.)

To listen to this episode click here.

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Podcast #261 – SPLC vs Ayaan Hirsi Ali

ayaanhirsialiWhy has the Southern Poverty Law Center placed Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Maajid Nawaz on their list of “anti-Muslim extremists”? Certainly both Ali (who was the victim of female genital mutilation and narrowly escaped an arranged marriage before making a success of herself in the Western world) and Nawaz (himself once a jihadist who spent jail time in Egypt, and who now heads a counter-extremist think-tank in the UK) have been critical of Islam, but is it fair to call them extremists in turn?

Plus:

Virginia pastor Terry Wayne Millender and his wife have been arrested, accused of orchestrating a $1.2 million scam that victimized members of their church.

In recent years, churches have organized “Hell Houses” at Halloween. Instead of traditional scares like vampires and zombies, Hell Houses showcase sadistic fundamentalist fantasies of the horrors that await the unsaved in the afterlife. This year, a Chicago area church abandoned a plan to recreate Orlando’s Pulse nightclub massacre (which took the lives of 49 LGBT victims) as part of their annual Hell House. The key word here is “abandoned”–but it’s pretty disturbing that a church would think of doing such a thing, even going so far as to put out an ad for actors to play the victims.

The 2016 election will be over soon, and Republican candidate Donald Trump is widely expected to lose. Most analysts and consultants expect the GOP to face an “existential crisis,” an epic tug-o-war between the more traditional leadership (the mundane pro-business foreign policy hawks who would ordinarily be happy to compromise with the Democrats so both sides can win something) and the rabid “base” who are so desperate to burn “the system” to the ground they were willing to vote for Donald Trump. Grab the popcorn.

To listen to this episode click here.

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Podcast 260 – Moore No More

roymoore2Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore has been suspended without pay from his office until the end of his term, effectively putting an end to his judicial career. Moore becomes (as far as we can tell) the only judge in US history to be removed from office TWICE (the first time over his installation of a 2.5 ton Ten Commandments monument in the judiciary building; the second time over his obstruction of the US Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling in Obergefell v Hodges. Moore is appealing the decision, although there seems very little chance it will be reversed. Good riddance, we say, although it wouldn’t surprise us to see him continue in the political arena; e.g. running for governor or for Congress.

Plus:

Teresa MacBain, who left the Methodist ministry in 2012 and “came out” as an atheist, has in recent months quietly returned to religion. The freethought community is obviously dismayed and disappointed by this decision, although we wish her the best as she explores what she has describes as a more “progressive” Christianity. (Listen to our interview with Ms. MacBain back in episode 160.)

Baseball legend Curt Schilling (lately an infamous anti-evolution tweeter and anti-transgender pinhead) has said he’s considering running against Senator Elizabeth Warren in 2018. This could be interesting, but it seems a fair bet at this point that Warren would crush him like a bug.

To listen to this episode click here.

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Good Riddance, Roy Moore…

…although I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of him.

In case you haven’t been following the news, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore has been permanently suspended without pay for the remainder of his term by the state’s Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC) for ethics violations related to his actions in the aftermath of the United States Supreme Court decision Obergefell v Hodges, which ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marriage. Moore must also pay court costs. The fact that, at age 69, Moore will be barred by law from re-election in 2018 is just icing on the cake.

Alabama is America’s perennial second-worst state (I’m lookin’ at you, Mississippi!),  consistently ranking near or at the bottom for just about anything you’d care to measure: poverty, health, teen pregnancy, etc. Alabama also ranks at the very top for religiosity: a recent Pew Research poll revealed that 77% of Alabamians “say religion is very important in their lives.” And let’s be clear: by “religious” Alabamians mean “evangelical fundamentalist Protestantism,” the infamously conservative, regressive strain of Christianity that hates abortion and gays with near equal intensity, and (troublesome for the rest of us) insists that everybody else does, too. [There is a strong correlation between religiosity and lack of education, which leads to the high levels of misery outlined above, but details of that are a discussion for another day.]

Which brings us back to Roy Moore. What’s so frustrating about Alabama’s now-suspended Chief Justice is that, with his resume, he could have been a force for good in the state. Rising from humble beginnings, he graduated from West Point, served in Vietnam, was appointed a circuit judge in 1992, and was elected Chief Justice (for the first time) in 2000.

Unfortunately, Moore’s burning religiosity and abrasive personality have tainted his career almost from the beginning. He was so hated by his troops in Vietnam he feared being fragged, and while a circuit judge he could not resist forcing his religious beliefs on everyone else, prominently posting a hand-carved Ten Commandments plaque in his courtroom and inviting clergy to lead jurors in prayer before deliberations. This led to a long and complicated lawsuit in the mid-1990s that Moore basically lost until the state supreme court threw it out on a technicality.

(As an aside, my entrance into freethought activism began around this time, when I attended a presentation at the Atlanta Freethought Society by one of jurors who objected to Moore’s shenanigans. At that presentation I met several people who are friends to this day, and I have been involved in the freethought community and secular movement ever since.)

Riding a wave of pious indignation, Moore was elected as the state’s Chief Justice in 2000, in which capacity he upped the ante by having a 2.5-ton marble Ten Commandments monument installed in the Alabama Judicial Building. The ensuing kerfuffle ended with the Ten Commandments removed from the building, and Moore removed from office by the JIC for ethical violations. Moore spent his years of exile honing his crackpot theories on the “moral foundations of the law” (meaning his own narrow, willful misinterpretation of the relationship–of which there is none, really–between Christianity and the Constitution).

Of course, no one ever lost money betting against the stupidity of the American voter, and in 2012 we was returned by Alabamians to the office of Chief Justice. At first it looked like he would stay below the radar, but soon he butted heads with the federal courts when he issued an administrative order in the wake of Obergefell v Hodges, ordering that “Until further decision by the Alabama Supreme Court, the existing orders of the Alabama Supreme Court that Alabama probate judges have a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage license contrary to the Alabama Sanctity of Marriage Amendment or the Alabama Marriage Protection Act remain in full force and effect.” Which was unadulterated bullshit, since the opinion of the United States Supreme Court was crystal clear that states cannot deny couples the right to marry based on sexual preference. Period, end of sentence.

And so, Roy Moore finds himself permanently retired from the Alabama judiciary, and all freedom-loving, rational-thinking Americans should rejoice. But we should not be blind to the fact that there are many avenues still open to Moore’s mischief: he could run for Governor, for Congress or (although unlikely) for President. At the very least, he’ll continue to write columns and books spouting his church-and-state claptrap, and there are countless venues that will provide him a platform. Vigilance against Moore’s special strain of religious fascism is warranted for the foreseeable future.

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Podcast #259 – Karen Garst (Women Beyond Belief)

Basic RGBWe interview Karen Garst, editor of Women Beyond Belief: Discovering Life without Religion. This new collection contains 22 essays by women from various backgrounds, telling their stories of how the decided to leave religion and embrace secular, rational values. Women Beyond Belief is available in paperback and for Kindle.

For more about Karen Garst and her projects, visit faithlessfeminist.com.

To listen to this episode click here.

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Podcast #258 – Live at DragonCon 2016

dragoncon2016John Snider (sans David Driscoll, sadly) presents another live show at DragonCon’s Skeptrack in Atlanta. He’s joined by Mandisa Thomas (founder and president of Black Nonbelievers) and Gina Colaianni (student activist and former president of Kennesaw State University’s Secular Student Alliance) in discussing “Diversity in the Skeptic/Freethought Community.”

Many thanks to Derek Colanduno (organizer of the Skeptrack and co-host of the pioneering Skepticality podcast), as well as Mark Ditsler of Abrupt Media for providing stellar audiovisual services.

To listen to this episode click here.

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Podcast #257 – Is Intelligent Design Dead (or Just Regrouping)?

We discuss a recent article by Donald Prothero in Skeptic magazine, in which he looks at the state of the Intelligent Design movement, ten years after its stinging defeat in Kitzmiller v. Dover. The overwhelming majority of scientists are against ID (and Creationism in general), and the courts have ruled that it’s purely religious. They’re not gone, but the IDiots are shifting their tactics. Can Intelligent Design make a comeback?

Plus:

An anti-gay preacher who gloated in the aftermath of the Orlando nightclub massacre has been arrested on suspicion of molesting an underaged male.

Islamophobia at home and abroad! Newton County, Georgia has issued a moratorium on ALL religious construction, now that a Muslim group from metro Atlanta wants to build a mosque there. And in France (where they’re still reeling from devastating terrorist attacks) several townships are trying to ban the burkini (a modesty swimsuit favored by some Muslim women) from public beaches.

To listen to this episode click here.

 

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Podcast #256 – Matthew O’Neil (After Life)

afterlifeWe interview Matthew O’Neil, author of After Life: Solving Science and Religion’s Great Disagreement. In his new book, he looks at what the Bible actually says about things like Heaven, Hell, the soul and Resurrection, and how it differs from modern, mainstream Christian ideas. He also delves into what science can tell us about an afterlife and about the process of death.

We previously spoke with Matthew in episode #242 about his book What the Bible Really Does (and Doesn’t Say) about Sex.

Plus:

If you’re coming to DragonCon, come see American Freethought live at the Skeptrack, Monday, September 5th at 11:30am. The topic will be “Diversity in the Freethought/Skeptic Community” and there will be special guests.

To listen to this episode click here.

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Desert Resurrection

desertresurrectionFor the last nine years, the song “To Be Dead” by the long-defunct St. Louis-based alternative rock band Body Found has provided the intro and sign-off music for the American Freethought podcast.

Did I say “long-defunct”? I meant long-dormant. In recent years, the members of Body Found (including my brother, bassist Greg Snider), have gotten together for a couple of more-or-less informal jam sessions, blowing the dust off their instruments and reminiscing about the good ol’ days. But during their most recent reunion–in Phoenix, Arizona–they gathered in a professional recording studio to record (and re-record) a new album of their original songs. The result is the album Desert Resurrection, available starting today at Amazon.com, iTunes and most of the other places you can download music.

About half the tracks are new interpretations of songs–including “To Be Dead”–off their one and only previous release (a self-titled and nowadays extremely hard-to-find cassette from 1992); a couple are songs they demo’d back in the day but never distributed; and a couple are original songs they performed but never recorded until now.

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