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The Flat Earth and Pseudoskepticism

by Brian Dunning, Nov 29 2012
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A hint from the Illuminati

This week my Skeptoid podcast episode was on the history of the Flat Earth Theory. By now most everyone knows that there really wasn’t a time when any governmental or scientific authority actually believed the Earth was flat, and most of us also know about the existence of a Flat Earth Society. But there is a fascinating, and sometimes quite dramatic, intertwinement of the two.

As I discussed, Flat Earthers have, for as long as they’ve been a movement, been of two basic varieties. There are the Biblical literalists who interpret certain Bible passages to mean the Earth is flat, and consider science to the contrary to be blasphemous. The second type consists of alternate science conspiracy theorists, cranks who think they’ve overturned Newton’s laws, and who point to the United Nations flag as a hint from the Illuminati as to the true shape of our world.

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Teaching Allah and Xenu in Indiana

by Michael Shermer, Feb 28 2012

Last month, the Indiana State Senate approved a bill that would allow public school science teachers to include religious explanations for the origin of life in their classes. If Senate Bill 89 is approved by the state’s House its co-sponsor, Speaker of the House Dennis Kruse, hopes that this will open the door for the teaching of “creation-science” as a challenge to the theory of evolution, which he characterized as a “Johnny-come-lately” theory compared to the millennia-old creation story in Genesis: “I believe in creation and I believe it deserves to be taught in our public schools.” In this bill Kruse is challenging the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1987 decision in Edwards v. Aguillard that the mandatory teaching of a bible-based creation story in Louisiana public schools was violative of the first amendment and therefore unconstitutional (by a vote of 7-2, with Rehnquist and Scalia dissenting). “This is a different Supreme Court,” Kruse defiantly said in an interview. “This Supreme Court could rule differently.”

The language of the bill, however, was expanded by the Indiana State Senate Minority Leader Vi Simpson, a democrat, and includes the possibility of teaching the creation stories of religions other than Christianity. “The bill was originally talking about ‘Creationist Science,’ and I thought that was a bit of an oxymoron,” Simpson told the Village Voice. “I wanted to draft an amendment that would do two things. First, it would remove it from the science realm. And second, school boards and the state of Indiana should not be in the business of promoting one religion over another.” The bill now includes the following proviso: “The governing body of a school corporation may offer instruction on various theories of the origin of life. The curriculum for the course must include theories from multiple religions, which may include, but is not limited to, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Scientology.” Continue reading…

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The Passion of Saint Mel (Gibson that is)

by Michael Shermer, Aug 03 2010

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To understand the lunatic rantings of Mel Gibson you need know only a few core characters of the man, starting with his first name, which comes from Saint Mel (or Moel), a fifth-century Irish saint who worked to evangelize Ireland in the name of the Papacy. Saint Mel is the patron saint of the Roman Catholic diocese of Ardagh, where Mel Gibson’s mother came of religious age.

The young (modern) Mel was brought up by his Traditionalist Catholic father, Hutton Gibson, where the doctrine of “Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus” (“Outside the Church there is no salvation”) was preached. Of course, what constitutes “the church” determines the circumference of the salvation circle, with religious liberals opting for those who accept Jesus as their savior as eligible for salvation, while religious fundamentalists, literalists, and apparently traditionalists holding to the strict dogma that if you are not Catholic you are not saved. Here is what Mel Gibson once said about his own (apparently long-suffering) wife Robyn, who is an Episcopalian: “There is no salvation for those outside the Church … I believe it. Put it this way. My wife is a saint. She’s a much better person than I am. Honestly. She’s… Episcopalian, Church of England. She prays, she believes in God, she knows Jesus, she believes in that stuff. And it’s just not fair if she doesn’t make it, she’s better than I am. But that is a pronouncement from the chair. I go with it.” The Chair. That’s refreshing. Here’s a bumper sticker for Saint Mel’s car: The Pope Said it, I believe it, That Settles it. Continue reading…

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Onward Christian Soldiers

by Michael Shermer, Jun 23 2009

An ironic coincidence — on Monday, June 15, I read two articles back-to-back: Andrew Newberg’s op ed piece in USA Today entitled “This is Your Brain on Religion” and Jeff Sharlet’s cover story for the May issue of Harper’s magazine, “Jesus Killed Mohammed: The Crusade for a Christian Military.”

Newberg is a neuroscience specializing in “neurotheology”, or the study of what happens to your brain when you do religious things, like pray, or think spiritual thoughts, or read scripture, or listen to a sermon. Newberg begins by recounting that in high school he had a Christian girlfriend (he is Jewish) whose family called themselves “born-again Christians”. Although they were always pleasant to him, “they were quite clear that in their view I had deeply sinned by not turning to Jesus. Oh, and because of this, I was going to hell.” That’s nice. Continue reading…

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Gay Marriage: Stone Them to Death!

by Michael Shermer, Nov 04 2008

What the Bible says about homosexuality and other abominations

Today voters go to the polls in California to vote for or against Proposition 8, which “Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry.” If passed, Prop 8 will “change the California Constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry in California.” A new section would be added, stating “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” Because of the importance of precedence in the law, and the size and importance of California in American politics, this proposition is historic. The issue of Gay marriage in particular, and homosexuality in general, is a case study in how religion, especially Christianity, has erred egregiously. Continue reading…

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