In the United States’ “Hardest Places to Live,” a Focus on Hell, the Antichrist, and the Rapture

If you rate every county in the United States for factors like life expectancy, income, and education, you can eventually pinpoint the country’s toughest places — as well as the locales where life is, by and large, pretty damn good.

New York Times writer David Leonhardt did just that. Then, using Google data, he compared the Internet search terms that were most prevalent in those two polar opposites — a proxy for what’s foremost on residents’ minds. “The [search terms offer] a glimpse into the id of our national inequality,” Leonhardt says, “a portrait of the very different subjects that occupy the thoughts of richer America and poorer America.”

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Chinese “Evil-Spirit Killers” of the Church of the Almighty God Go on Trial This Thursday

On May 28, a group of five Jesus-besotted proselytizers walked into a McDonald’s restaurant in Zhaoyuan, China and began asking customers for their phone numbers. When a 37-year-old woman declined to provide that information, the five, deciding on the spot that she was an “evil spirit,” beat her to death with chairs and a metal broom handle — in front of her seven-year-old son. Other customers caught the attack on cell-phone cameras.

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Embedded with the Fundies: How ISIS, a.k.a. the Islamic State, Recruits Children (and Bullies Adults Into Submission)

Yesterday, Vice News posted a completely engrossing documentary by a team in Raqqah, Iraq, the provisional capital of the new Caliphate that the fundamentalists of the Islamic State, formerly known as ISIS, are trying to establish.

Warning: The video is full of the kind of overbearing, power-drunk antics we may expect when True Believers are emboldened by the temporary successes brought about by their own violent revolution. Woven into the Vice material is brief other footage of newscasts and images of slaughter, including ISIS enemies’ heads displayed on spikes (so this is definitely NSFW and probably NSFL):

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P.Z. Myers is (Surprise!) Unmoved By Suicide of “Wealthy White” Robin Williams

I’m not exactly Mr. Sunshine, so you might think the curmudgeonly grousing of atheist blogger P.Z. Myers would resonate with me.

It rarely does, and yesterday I was reminded why. In writing about the suicide of comedian Robin WilliamsMyers went from prickly to prickish in three seconds flat. Under the telling headline Robin Williams Brings Joy to the Hearts of Journalists and Politicians Once Again, Myers sneered that

[Williams'] sacrifice has been a great boon to the the news cycle and the electoral machinery — thank God that we have a tragedy involving a wealthy white man to drag us away from the depressing news about brown people.

Myers was referring to the killing of African-American teenager Michael Brown by police in Ferguson, Missouri, this past weekend.

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Are Silent, Moderate Religious Leaders Co-Responsible For Fundamentalists’ Atrocities?

Moderate religious leaders bear serious responsibility for sectarian strife if they haven’t habitually spoken out against it.

That’s the take of Nobel prize-winning poet and playwright Wole Soyinka, who spoke to the annual World Humanist Congress via a video address yesterday.

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