January 22, 2020


In our current political and media environment, where each day brings new emergencies and outrages, it can feel like we simply cannot escape the chaos of the moment. An event as serious and historic as the impeachment of a president should provide some measure of a broader perspective beyond the here and now, but somehow we know that the next crisis awaits at the refresh of our Twitter timelines.

Perhaps we need to look at the bigger picture. For example, we know all too well that the Christian right acts monolithically, within the Trump administration and throughout the country, to seize as much power as it can before changing attitudes and demographics marginalize it forever. But as we’ll see this week, those opposing the religious right’s agenda are not responding by becoming monolithic themselves but by harnessing the diverse talents and expertise of a constellation of organizations—organizations like ours that look forward to a better future rather than attempting to resurrect some imagined past and cast it in amber.

The future will also bring an increasing variety of beliefs and attitudes regarding religion, and while atheists are growing as a share of the population, there will also be far more people who are simply not sure. We’ll consider a future religious landscape in which having doubts becomes the norm.

Sometimes a look at the bigger picture is required to see the problem with something that on its face seems benign. We’ll look at our organization’s response to a case before the Supreme Court in which Muslim Americans persecuted after 9/11 are seeking justice, but they are doing so in a way that could do lasting harm. Plus, we’ll look at how the Bible got mixed up with the new U.S. Space Force in what was a truly unforced constitutional error.

If the hubbub over Gwyneth Paltrow’s snake oil informercial The Goop Lab has you tearing your hair out, we heartily recommend you check out a video from CSICon 2019 with a presentation from the Anti-Paltrow, Dr. Jen Gunter.

Finally, scientists say they may have figured out how the glue that holds our DNA together got to this planet in the first place, and it turns out to truly be the stuff of stars. How’s that for big picture?

Robyn E. Blumner,
CEO and President, Center for Inquiry
Executive Director, Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science

The Top Stories

A Mosaic of Resistance to the Religious Right

The fight against the religious right’s oppressive, theocratic agenda has long been a rather lonely fight, but that’s beginning to change. At Salon, Paul Rosenberg heralds the rise of a coalition of groups, working in concert but from multiple angles, that are countering policies of discrimination and Christian privilege, highlighting the Center for Inquiry in particular. “The rich diversity of views outside the religious right has long been a significant disadvantage in confronting a highly focused minority,” writes Rosenberg, who says that the wide variety of perspectives, taken together, are “producing a richer, more nuanced framework for developing a multi-layered, multi-faceted understanding of the issues involved.”

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No Church for the Doubters?

If a person in the 1990s never went to church, chances were they still believed in God. About 65 percent of non-churchgoers said they had no doubts about it. By the end of the 2010s, that number had dropped to 35 percent, compared to about one-fifth of the churchless not expressing atheistic or agnostic views. Meanwhile, those who do regularly attend church are as absolutely certain about the existence of God as they have ever been. Political scientist (and scholar of all things “Nones”) Ryan Burge muses on what churches could possibly do to attract the religiously unaffiliated: How do you appeal to those harboring doubts if everyone else in a congregation professes to have none?

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He Should Have Gone with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

What could be more secular than a Space Force? Whether or not you supported the idea of a space-based military branch, at least it didn’t have anything to do with violating church-state separation or promoting Christian privilege like so many other things coming out of the Trump administration. Well, prepare to be disappointed. Last week, Air Force chief of chaplains Maj. Gen. Steven A. Schaick went to the Washington National Cathedral to have two Christian reverends give a blessing to the “official Bible” of the U.S. Space Force. The Anti-Defamation League tweeted that this “violates the constitutional right to exercise religious freedom that these Air Force officers swear to defend.” An Air Force spokesperson later denied that there was any “official” sacred text for any branch of the U.S. military. Someone please tell the Space Force.

Photo: Armchair Expert Podcast

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NEWS: RFRA Can’t Right This Wrong

The Supreme Court is set to take up a case in which Muslim Americans, who refused to become informants for law enforcement after the 9/11 attacks, were subsequently subjected to persecution and placed on Do Not Fly lists. While victims of persecution deserve justice, the Center for Inquiry opposes the means by which plaintiffs are seeking justice: through the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). In an amicus brief to the Court, in collaboration with allied freethought groups, CFI is urging that all parties find another way to resolve this important case, arguing that one wrong cannot be remedied by another.

“The notion that religious harms can be financially quantified, and compensated in dollars and cents, is nonsensical,” said Nick Little, CFI’s vice president and general counsel, in our statement. “It would require our judges to make determinations they are simply unqualified to make and unconstitutionally involve them in religion.”

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SCIENCE: Thank Your Lucky Stars (And Comets) for Phosphorus

You may not feel very phosphorescent, but without the element phosphorus, there would be nothing holding together the nucleotides that make up your DNA. In fact, there would be no life at all as we know it on Earth without phosphorus, and it also happens to be one of the rarest elements in the Universe. So how did it get here? Scientists at the European Southern Observatory think they have an answer. They posit that phosphorus monoxide formed during the birth of new stars was carried by comets to the primordial Earth. Given that comets are already thought to have delivered amino acids and even water to our planet, it seems we may owe a lot of gratitude to these snowballs from space.

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VIDEO: Modern Wellness, Women, and the Religion of Pseudoscience

The pseudoscience-promoting reality show/infomercial The Goop Lab has debuted on Netflix, so this is a perfect time to treat yourself to an antidote. From CSICon 2019 in Las Vegas, check out she who has been dubbed “Gwyneth Paltrow’s worst nightmare,” Dr. Jen Gunter, as she brings her skeptical eye to “the dark underbelly of the wellness industry,” which she calls “a successful rebranding of pseudoscience and patriarchy for profit.”

Watch Now

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