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WEEK IN REVIEW: The Religious Response to Damar Hamlin's Injury
Kirk Cameron's latest lie, a stunning veto from Gov. Kathy Hochul, why "He Gets Us" still doesn't get it, and more!
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In the days since Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed during a football game and had to be taken to a hospital in Cincinnati, some people have used his near-fatal injury as a vessel to spread their particular flavor of Christianity.
That included ESPN football analyst Dan Orlovsky, who delivered Christian prayers on TV on behalf of Damar Hamlin rather than useful analysis.
Orlovsky got plenty of praise for that stunt but that’s the sort of act that should’ve happened off the clock. There’s no benefit to viewers for watching a football analyst shove his religion in the face of viewers—and if you believe I’m overreacting, just ask yourself how that act would have played with a non-Christian commentator.
The content of the prayer didn’t help either. At one point, he said, “Some things are unanswerable,” sounding more like an NFL public relations staffer than an analyst who could use his huge platform to call out possible league decisions that lead to more injuries on the field.
As always, I appreciate your support through Patreon and Substack, which allows me to write articles like this one.
In a move that's both long overdue and shocking, the government of Norway has rescinded the "religious community" status of the Jehovah's Witnesses. While that move won't ban members of the religion from gathering or practicing their faith, it will prevent the JWs from receiving taxpayer-funded subsidies and performing legal marriages.
The main reason for this has to do with the JW practice of Disfellowshipping, where Witnesses who leave the religion are effectively excommunicated from the flock and members are told not to have any interactions with them. That, to the Norwegian government, is a violation of the “right to free withdrawal” from religion, and why the group need to be sanctioned.
The group’s leaders are furious and say they’ll appeal the decision.
Still, this is a huge blow to the Witnesses and a long overdue punishment for a group that wanted to have its cake and eat it too.
An art history professor at Hamline University in Minnesota was fired after showing students an ancient depiction of the Prophet Muhammad in class. The dismissal came after a Muslim student complained to administrators that the act was offensive and disrespectful; those school officials eventually agreed.
But unlike the purposely blasphemous images that are intended to cause a rise, this art was created by Muslim scholars, in a devotional way, at a time when there wasn’t an Islamic taboo against it. Furthermore, the (unnamed) professor explained all this in advance, told students he was going to show them the artwork, and made clear that anyone uncomfortable with that could skip that class without punishment.
The professor did everything he could have possibly done to warn students about what they were about to see and why he was doing it.
And yet a student who also happened to be president of the school’s Muslim Student Association complained anyway, arguing that the professor disrespected her. It was an unreasonable complaint from an unserious student.
But the professor lost his job anyway. The question now is whether the backlash will lead to a reversal from the university.
After a bizarre set of twists and turns in the Pennsylvania legislature, a place where House Democrats have a theoretical majority but enough vacancies to put them in a functional minority, State Representative Mark Rozzi, a self-identified “freethinker,” has become the surprise pick for Speaker of the State House.
He made a name for himself fighting on behalf of child sex abuse victims, in part because he himself was a victim of sexual assault by a Catholic priest when he was 13. One of the pledges he has made is creating a retroactive two-year window for past victims of childhood sexual abuse to sue their abusers if they’re currently timed out of the legal system due to a statute of limitations. He may soon turn that into a constitutional amendment while serving as Speaker.
Mark Rozzi, in my estimation, is now the most powerful openly non-religious politician in the country.
Speaking of which, the 118th congress (if it’s ever sworn in) is as religiously diverse as ever... which isn't saying much. But, for the first time, there's finally a "Humanist" in the mix. Over 20 members have no faith label (or didn't respond). 99% of Republicans in Congress are Christian. (Of the rest, two are Jewish and one is "Jew-ish.")
Most importantly, people who are religiously unaffiliated represent 29% of the American population, but only 0.4% of Congress. (That's two members.)
My analysis of the latest Pew Research survey of religious labels in Congress.
Kirk Cameron is still spreading lies to publicize his new book, with his latest attempt at relevance taking place at the Indianapolis Public Library.
I mentioned last month that Cameron, the Christian evangelist and former TV star, was claiming libraries were censoring him despite welcoming drag queens and hosting LGBTQ-friendly events.
Last week, however, his team went ahead and rented space from the Indianapolis Public Library to host their own event. Cameron’s publisher Brave Books put the attendance number at “over 2,500” while FOX said it was “the biggest crowd the library had seen in 137 years.”
All of that was debunked by… the Indianapolis Public Library. (Kirk Cameron just got owned by a library!)
If Christian parents want to see courage and morality and excellent storytelling in one place, maybe they should come to a Drag Queen Story Hour next time.
Defying common sense and decency, New York Governor Kathy Hochul vetoed a bill that would have expanded treatment options for secular people struggling with substance abuse and addiction.
Her explanation didn’t clarify anything. Hochul claimed signing this bill into law would allow other people in other situations to claim some sort of religious right to avoid other court mandates… even though this bill wouldn’t allow atheists to avoid anything.
American Atheists said it would work with Assembly Member Harvey Epstein to introduce a similar bill in the next legislative session. That is, if there’s a way to address Hochul’s non-existent problem.
I appreciate how Sarah Levin of Secular Strategies put it: “The governor’s veto message… fails to recognize that a constitutional right is a right in name only if not enforced by our justice system.”
Christian hate-preacher Greg Locke proved yet again that he cares more about trashing liberals than acknowledging truth, defending Andrew Tate, a former professional kickboxer best known for spreading misogyny and alpha male arrogance online.
After Tate was arrested for alleged sex trafficking, shortly after getting dunked on, on Twitter, by climate activist Greta Thunberg, Locke chimed in to assume his arrest had to do with the Twitter beef and not the obviously more important allegations.
Incidentally, Locke lost his latest YouTube channel, which shouldn’t be surprising given that he was violating the site’s rules by creating a new one after his previous channel was banned.
Congressman Jamie Raskin released a statement revealing his diagnosis of “Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma, which is a serious but curable form of cancer.” It’s a devastating blow for one of the most admirable members of Congress.
In his announcement, I was amazed by how Raskin spoke about the path forward. It’s not just that he was able to joke about it—it’s that he made clear that this one’s in the hands of experts. There’s not a single reference to God. I wasn’t expecting one, to be sure, but it’s striking to see the lack of God in a statement like this. Despite being devoid of religious faith, though, the ardent champion of secular government managed to be just as hopeful and inspirational.
In an essay that inspired unintentional laughter all over social media, right-wing commentator Dennis Prager expressed deep concern about how so many conservatives are no longer welcome in their kids’ homes over Christmas because of their politics.
To which I can only say… why is that surprising? If you care about LGBTQ people, civil rights, or reproductive rights—or you’re someone personally affected by those battles—you know damn well that the Republican Party opposes all of that. These aren’t differences of opinions that can be set aside or debated over dinner. These are harmful beliefs that threaten the lives of you and the people you love. Your kids will suffer more because of decisions made by their conservative grandparents. Shared blood and genes doesn’t make up for any of that.
This isn’t about political differences. Families aren’t breaking up because members have different ideas about taxes. This is about values and decency and the fact that one side revels in hurting others.
If Prager’s conservative fans want to be loved, they should try being more loving. Apparently, they have plenty of free time over the holidays to rethink their life choices, so there’s no better time to get started.
You know things are going bad for Republicans when Rep. Bob Good, a former administrator at Liberty University, celebrated Christian missionaries on the House floor, was met with silence, and had to literally ask for applause.
A group of Christians, funded by anonymous donors, said last year that they planned to spend over $100 million to shove Jesus in as many faces as humanly possible by way of TV spots, billboards, and online ads telling viewers one message about Jesus: "He Gets Us."
Nearly a year after the launch, though, the desperate attempt to promote Jesus is still failing to get a positive reception. Part of the problem is their refusal to acknowledge that most of the people who use their product aren't worth admiring.
More than anything, though, it’s their refusal to explain what their version of Jesus stands for. To me, it seems a lot like Andrew Yang’s pathetic “Forward Party,” a group with no actual policies and a desire to avoid any actual politics.
In this case, the Christians won’t say what Jesus stood for on matters of abortion, LGBTQ rights, immigration, etc. because they know taking a position on anything will alienate people. Unfortunately, they’re so afraid of alienating bigots that they won’t spend their money to make Jesus actually look good.
They never define Jesus. Instead, they say Jesus is just like us. But notice how they never say who “us” is.
I made a short video about how Lyft and Uber allow drivers to proselytize to riders (and why that shouldn't be allowed).
Humanists International has published the latest version of their annual “Freedom of Thought Report,” which details discrimination and persecution against non-religious people around the world. It’s worth your time to look through to get an idea of what actual religious oppression looks like.
Where is Christian Nationalism in the January 6 Committee’s final report?
The short film “Debutante” is about a Jehovah's Witness "forced to reconsider her beliefs during a judicial committee hearing led by three congregation elders." I watched it a while back and I wished others could see it. It's available on demand now!
I still have questions for the 40% of people with graduate degrees who think the birth of Jesus story is historically accurate.
This is a neat symbolic move: The recent Omnibus bill signed by President Biden includes support for a monument to Thomas Paine, author of "Common Sense" and an opponent of organized religion.
Weird how the “groomer” crowd has nothing to say about videos like this.
You’re going to want to see every image in this tweet:
Remember this bizarre clip on The Jim Bakker Show?
Now enjoy April Ajoy’s glorious reenactment:
This week in red-pilled atheism:
Fundamentalist Christian grandmother Lori Alexander, a.k.a. The Transformed Wife, finally got a well-deserved surprise… when she wasn’t saying the worst things imaginable.
And now for your weekly dose of fundie insanity and right-wing preaching:
This week in Atheist Bible Study? Numbers 34: We need to figure out the boundaries of Canaan and assign some leaders to chop up the land and hand out parcels.
And a bonus! Numbers 35: It's time to learn about the suburbs, the sanctuary cities, and how to get away with murder.
I spoke with my co-host Jessica Greiff about many of the stories in this newsletter during this week’s podcast:
Finally, who’s the threat to kids?
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