The controversy over Monty Python’s Life of Brian

It should be no secret to regular readers of the blog that I am a big fan of all things Pythonia. The five surviving members of the six-person troupe are currently having a reunion stage show and this made me recall the controversy over the release of Monty Python’s Life of Brian back in 1979, one of the funniest films of all time. It amazes me that there was so much opposition to the film from Christians and Jews at the time of its release. Most of the opposition seemed to be from religious authorities and the heads of lay groups of prudes whose job it is to be offended, because they have taken it upon themselves to be the protectors of the delicate sensibilities of the general public.
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US Supreme Court upholds Hobby Lobby’s decision to not provide contraception

It looks like Hobby Lobby has won its case. In a 5-4 decision along the usual lines (Roberts, Thomas, Scalia, Alito, and Kennedy, all of whom are Catholics by the way), the court said that ‘closely held corporations’ (a specific type of for-profit corporation) each owned and controlled by members of a single family cannot be forced to provide contraception coverage for its employees and should be given the same accommodations as the government gave nonprofit organizations.
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Anti-vaxxers suffer legal defeat in NYC

The anti-vaccination movement has resulted in a serious health hazard being created for everyone. One simple way to make sure that people vaccinate their children is to require vaccinations for all children attending school. But it turns out that all you have to do is claim that you object to vaccinations for religious reasons and you are exempt from that requirement, another example of the ridiculous ‘respect for religion’ trope that plagues the US.
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Debate Q/A videos are up

Thanks to Mark Tiborsky of the Cleveland Freethinkers, the Q/A portion of my debate last Saturday with Joe Puckett has been posted. I find the Q/A parts the most interesting because I enjoy dialogue more than giving speeches because you often address specific points.

The creators of the videos were hampered by not getting a direct sound feed from the microphones but had to pick it up from the air which is the reason for the slightly inferior quality.
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My reflections on the radio show

[The podcast, either just audio or audio/video, can be obtained here.]

I thought the radio show went pretty well. These shows always tend to generate interest and we run out of time for the callers. Craig Bauman, the president of the University of Akron Secular Student Alliance who put up some of the atheist billboards in the region, contributed via phone and I thought he made some excellent comments, both about the billboards and his own disbelief that he said started in fourth grade, helped by a supportive family. Tracy Lind, a well-known minister of a local church, also called in and made the often-heard point that some people in her congregation are scientists and see no problem with science and a belief in a god. She is a liberal Christian and so speaks of god in more abstract terms, unlike Joe who is an evangelical and more literal in his approach to the Bible.
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Should the debate have been held in a church?

When my debate with Joe Puckett was announced, some members of the skeptic community expressed dismay that it would be held in a church. Some said that by choosing such a venue, it stacked the deck in favor of the religious advocate because they would be speaking on their home turf in front of a friendly audience. They felt that it should be held in a neutral venue with a neutral moderator.
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I will be on the radio tomorrow

The Cleveland public radio affiliate station WCPN 90.3 FM will be having Joe Puckett and me on their morning call-in talk show The Sound of Ideas that runs from 9:00-10:00 am tomorrow (Tuesday), with a break for national news from 9:01-9:06. We will be joined by Tim Beal, a professor of religious studies at my university, whom I have known for a long time and is a very thoughtful scholar, and a rabbi whom I do not know. The show was triggered by the debate I had with Joe Puckett but will not be devoted exclusively to the question of god’s existence but will be broader and look at the rapidly changing landscape of religious beliefs.

[Update: I have just been informed by WCPN that Tim Beal will not be on the show but Peter Haas, another thoughtful scholar of Judaic Studies from our department of religious studies, and Craig Bauman, President of the University of Akron’s Secular Student Alliance, who will be calling in.]
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