Weekend Coffee: January 14
• Here's the top story for this week: After Jessica Ahlquist's court victory over illegal state-sponsored prayer in her high school, she's been receiving a torrent of vicious hate mail and threats of violence, presumably from good and pious Christians who support prayer. Here are some of the most appalling; some of the threats were sufficiently serious that police are investigating them.
This isn't a surprise, unfortunately - it almost always happens to atheists who speak up. As disgusting as this is, it just goes to show why it's so important for us to be activists. Religion isn't a benign force for good in the world: it divides people into artificial groups and reinforces feelings of tribalism and hostility toward outsiders.
• Earlier this week, a Muslim student association at the University College London demanded that the college atheist society remove a cartoon from the "Jesus & Mo" strip from their Facebook page, on the grounds that no one has the right to say anything that offends religious sensibilities. After a strong response from the atheist community pushing back against censorship, the demand has been dropped.
• On a similar note, a leading Islamic seminary has demanded that the Indian government ban Salman Rushdie from a literary festival in Jaipur by denying him a visa. (Rushdie was born in India, for the record, and doesn't need a visa to attend.)
• An astonishing story I want to return to later: In 1993, a San Francisco priest who was a personal friend of Mother Teresa's was removed from ministry for sexually abusing a boy. Teresa wrote to his superiors saying that she had "confidence and trust" in the priest, Donald McGuire, and urged them to return him to duty, which they did. He proceeded to molest more boys, resulting in his eventual arrest and conviction on sex-abuse charges. (HT: Violet Blue - site very NSFW).
• The Italian government's subsidies to the Catholic church cost the recession-strapped country 6 billion euros per year, according to the International Humanist and Ethical Union. (HT: Butterflies & Wheels)
• An 11th-century monk explains why the Catholic church doesn't permit priests to marry:
The priest's wife was an obvious danger. Her wanton desire, suggested the 11th-century monk Peter Damian, threatened the efficacy of consecration. He chastised priests' wives as "furious vipers who out of ardor of impatient lust decapitate Christ, the head of clerics..."
...priests' wives should beware a religious tradition that views them, in the words of Damian, as "the clerics' charmers, devil's choice tidbits, expellers from paradise, virus of minds, sword of soul, wolfbane to drinkers, poison to companions, material of sinning, occasion of death..."
• Slacktivist writes about the churches who are sending a loud and clear message that supporters of GLBT equality aren't welcome. I, for one, couldn't be happier that they've made this their hill to die on.
• Peter Singer on euthanasia: "mainstream politicians fear religious institutions that oppose voluntary euthanasia, even though individual believers often do not follow their religious leaders' views".
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- Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
- At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
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Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?
- Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
- The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
- If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.
Research has shown that men today have less testosterone than they used to. What's happening?
- Several studies have confirmed that testosterone counts in men are lower than what they used to be just a few decades ago.
- While most men still have perfectly healthy testosterone levels, its reduction puts men at risk for many negative health outcomes.
- The cause of this drop in testosterone isn't entirely clear, but evidence suggests that it is a multifaceted result of modern, industrialized life.
Michael Dowling, Northwell Health's CEO, believes we're entering the age of smart medicine.
- The United States health care system has much room for improvement, and big tech may be laying the foundation for those improvements.
- Technological progress in medicine is coming from two fronts: medical technology and information technology.
- As information technology develops, patients will become active participants in their health care, and value-based care may become a reality.
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