August 5, 2020


Bad ideas, zealously held, are dangerous things. Beliefs based on irrational dogmas, superstitions, and ideological agendas don’t leave any room for inconvenient facts or concern for anyone harmed by those beliefs. As Linda Greenhouse puts it in her New York Times op-ed on the Supreme Court’s conservative bloc, “Crusades don’t take no for an answer.”

How true that is. Try dissuading any religious conservative from the myth of the United States’ heritage as a “Judeo-Christian” nation and see how far you get. This week we’ll look at the roots of this cliché and how it excludes all those not on either side of its hyphen.

By now you’ve heard about Dr. Stella Immanuel, the anti-mask doctor applauded by President Trump, and her pseudoscientific assertions about alien DNA and demons. Even more disturbing than her outlandish claims is the fact that she is hardly alone in espousing them.

The Center for Inquiry held its first Skeptical Inquirer Presents talk last week, in whichJoseph Uscinski showed us that belief in conspiracy theories—about COVID-19, aliens, or anything else—are part of the human condition. While less prevalent than we might assume, they have nonetheless always been with us, and none of us are immune to them. (Make sure you sign up for the next event!)

Immunity is the ultimate goal for those working toward a COVID-19 vaccine, but once again, those with ulterior motives, political and ideological, threaten to upend what is both an urgent and delicate process.

Perhaps even more delicate, and no less monumental, is the massive endeavor to find evidence of life on Mars. The rover Perseverance is on its way to Mars with its sights set not on any beings that might currently be lurking there, but on those that might have thrived there long ago.

It’s more important than ever that our community stays connected and active. Make sure you’re following us on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram and sharing the pro-science, reality-based content that comes every day from the Center for Inquiry universe. If we can support each other and our cause, the crusades won’t be able to tell us “no.”

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

The Top Stories

The Doctor’s Demon Seeds

When President Trump shined a spotlight on the hydroxychloroquine-promoting, mask-dismissing Dr. Stella Immanuel, millions of Americans were introduced to ideas about how modern medicine contains alien DNA and that ailments are caused by our intimate nocturnal relations with demons. But Dr. Immanuel didn’t just make this stuff up on her own. Her beliefs come directly from Mountain of Fire Ministries, part of the larger African Pentecostal and charismatic church movements. More alarming still: Many American evangelicals believe a lot of the same stuff.

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The Supreme Court’s Crusade

Twice now, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against churches challenging their states’ restrictions on indoor gatherings during the pandemic. But in both cases, the four most conservative Justices brought to their dissent a particular, well, religious zeal. Analyzing the fervent dissents of Justices Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh, Linda Greenhouse at the New York Times marvels that they would make a “religious crusade” out of the pandemic. She writes, “That even a minority of justices would seize this moment to advance their religious agenda, especially given that agenda’s nearly unqualified success in recent years, is deeply unsettling.”

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The Judeo-Christian Myth

The term Judeo-Christian has long been employed by those whose agenda is much more aligned with the latter than the former. The claim that American ideals are founded on this theological shorthand are usually used to justify agenda items such as the collapse of the wall of separation and the curtailing of LGBTQ rights. James Loeffler at The Atlantic explains how this “ecumenical marketing meme for combatting godless communism” excludes “not only Muslims, Native Americans, and other non-Western religious communities, but also atheists and secularists of all persuasions.”

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NEWS: Vaccine at Ludicrous Speed

Operation Warp Speed is the White House initiative to develop a COVID-19 vaccine as quickly as possible. The New York Times reports on the fears of government researchers who are worried that political pressure will mean safety is jettisoned for the sake of expediency. “There are a lot of people on the inside of this process who are very nervous about whether the administration is going to reach their hand into the Warp Speed buckets,” says virologist Paul Offit, the next speaker for Skeptical Inquirer Presents.

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SCIENCE: Looking for Long Lost Life on Mars

On July 30, NASA’s Perseverance rover was launched on its journey to Mars, where it will explore the planet’s surface for signs that life might once have emerged there. As explained by Marina Koren at The Atlantic, the focus on previous life, as opposed to any that might currently inhabit the planet, is very intentional. “Finding live aliens, even microbial ones, would force NASA to confront questions about interference and contamination,” she writes. “Ancient life has the advantage of being both more likely to exist and inert.” Sounds like a plan.


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VIDEO: Conspiracy Theories and COVID-19 on Skeptical Inquirer Presents

Last week, the Center for Inquiry held its first Skeptical Inquirer Presents, a new series of free, live online talks from some of the brightest minds in science and skepticism, hosted by Leighann Lord. Inaugural speaker Joseph Uscinski looked at what drives people to believe in conspiracy theories and explained why we need to be skeptical about our own assumptions as to who we think is likely to fall for them. The full event is now available to watch any time.

Watch Now

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