Weekend Coffee: March 17

There's a heap of news I didn't get to write about in greater depth this week, but all these stories deserve at least a look:


• Remember the Anglican church, that blandly, Britishly polite bastion of modern liberal Christianity? So it turns out that they're officially against same-sex marriage. In a hilarious piece whining that they should get to vote on the rights of other human beings, Anglican homophobes also argue there should be no such thing as civil marriage in the U.K., that marriage should be an exclusively religious institution, and that the church should have the sole right to decide who's allowed to get one.

Also on that note, Rowan Williams, the relatively liberal archbishop of Canterbury, is retiring. The current favorite to succeed him is the archbishop of York, John Sentamu. Guess what his position on marriage equality is!

• An editorial about unbelievable court decisions in three states which held that churches aren't liable for failing to supervise known child molesters working as priests. I share the hope that the Supreme Court, as eager as it is to accommodate religion, will still find this one a bridge too far.

• U.S. Senator James Inhofe says that global warming can't be real because God wouldn't allow the climate to change. Again: a U.S. Senator, expressing the same viewpoint as a Jack Chick cartoon tract.

• Why did accidental burnings of the Koran by U.S. troops in Afghanistan spark riots and violence, whereas the mass murder of innocent civilians by an unstable soldier didn't? This article explores the topic, and while there are various cultural factors, one that clearly stands out is the extreme and unwarranted importance attributed to religion. Consider this quote:

"How can you compare the dishonoring of the Holy Koran with the martyrdom of innocent civilians?" said an incredulous Mullah Khaliq Dad, a member of the council of religious leaders who investigated the Koran burnings...

...by which he meant that burning a copy of the Koran is far worse.

• The Catholic church has decided to stop going so easy on victims of clergy sex abuse, pressuring the survivors' group SNAP with an absurdly broad subpoena apparently intended to burden and intimidate them.

• Big surprise: the church was also a major pressure source in the Komen Foundation's disastrous decision to sever ties with Planned Parenthood.

• And one more entry in the religious war on women, this one even more brazen and unbelievable than any previous effort (which, by now, takes some doing): a proposed law in Arizona would allow employers to ask their female employees why they're taking birth control pills, and fire them if it's not for medical reasons. At this rate, it won't be long before the Republican party is proposing Egypt-style virginity tests.

• But I'll leave you with some encouraging news: A Barna survey finds that the number of women who attend church weekly has dropped by an astonishing 20 percent in the last 20 years. The number of women who attend Sunday school or volunteer at church has dropped by a third. Could it be that women are starting to realize they don't have to support an institution that treats them as permanent second-class citizens?

China’s artificial sun reaches fusion temperature: 100 million degrees

In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.

Credit: EAST Team
Surprising Science
  • The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
  • Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
  • Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
Keep reading Show less

Project 100,000: The Vietnam War's cruel and deadly experiment

Military recruits are supposed to be assessed to see whether they're fit for service. What happens when they're not?

Flickr user Tommy Truong79
Politics & Current Affairs
  • During the Vietnam War, Robert McNamara began a program called Project 100,000.
  • The program brought over 300,000 men to Vietnam who failed to meet minimum criteria for military service, both physically and mentally.
  • Project 100,000 recruits were killed in disproportionate numbers and fared worse after their military service than their civilian peers, making the program one of the biggest—and possibly cruelest—mistakes of the Vietnam War.
Keep reading Show less

Here's how diverse the 116th Congress is set to become

The 116th Congress is set to break records in term of diversity among its lawmakers, though those changes are coming almost entirely from Democrats.

(Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Women and nonwhite candidates made record gains in the 2018 midterms.
  • In total, almost half of the newly elected Congressional representatives are not white men.
  • Those changes come almost entirely from Democrats; Republican members-elect are all white men except for one woman.
Keep reading Show less