An Encyclopedia of Heresy in South Asia

We know fundamentalist religion is a particularly potent institution; it’s a subset of organized religion characterized by dogma, literal adherence to scripture, hostility to critical thinking, intolerance, indoctrination, and absolute faith.

Atheists (and even moderate theists) play a critical role in countering that type of thinking. Unchecked, not only can the power of fundamentalists grow excessive, but a lack of heterodoxy, generally, also stifles overall human progress.

South Asia is a particularly religious part of the world. Religious fundamentalists – chiefly Hindu and Muslim, but also others – wield significant power, as do allied charlatans of all sorts, from “godmen” to tantriks to peddlers in black magic.

For a heretic in the region, life has always been dangerous.

In recent years, however, promoting critical thinking has become a “crime” punishable by death. No fewer than 12 freethinkers have been murdered in South Asia by religious fundamentalists in this decade.

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Mike Huckabee: I Oppose Silly Boycotts, and That’s Why I’m Boycotting Rainbow Doritos

Mike Huckabee in 2014: I would never boycott companies like Starbucks, Amazon, and Apple even though I disagree with their owners’ politics.

Mike Huckabee in early 2015: Boycotts against anti-gay businesses are a form of “economic terrorism.”

Mike Huckabee in late 2015: Let’s boycott Frito-Lay and their gay Doritos!

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How Religion and the GOP Have Hurt Those Who Need Mental Health Resources

The nation is still grappling with the events that transpired in Oregon last week. As we process the carnage, many reactions have been a rerun of the discourse seen after the other 294 mass shootings across the nation this year. Progressives cry out for better gun control (including, in this case, the shooter’s father). Conservatives have a collective freak out about the government coming for their guns. And politicians, uneasy with the rhetorical war surrounding them, err on the side of caution and point the finger at mental illness.

But despite their best efforts to keep post-tragedy focus on mental illness, it’s not always the case. In fact, studies suggest that, most of the time, it’s not. As Dr. Jeffrey Swanson, a professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Duke University School of Medicine, explained last year:

A 2001 study looked specifically at 34 adolescent mass murderers, all male. 70 percent were described as a loner. 61.5 percent had problems with substance abuse. 48 percent had preoccupations with weapons; 43.5 percent had been victims of bullying. Only 23 percent had a documented psychiatric history of any kind — which means three out of four did not.

Studies like this frequently fall on deaf ears. It doesn’t matter that only 3-5% of individuals living with mental illness will ever participate in any kind of violent act. It doesn’t matter that the mentally ill are far more likely to be victims of violence than they are to be perpetrators. In the wake of a shooting, the age-old, inappropriate fear of the mentally ill is reinforced by linking them with incidents of mass violence. We decide political convenience is more important than the dangerous stigma it produces.

John Oliver had a scathing critique of this shameful trend last night, where he artfully highlighted the sordid history of mental health care in the U.S., the woeful state of those services today, and the solutions that could address the problems if only we’d allocate the resources to them. He called on the politicians so eager to point the finger at mental illness after a mass shooting to put their money where their mouth is and actually do something about the problem they so frequently lament.

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Dozens of Ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses Have a Message for Those Still Trapped in the Faith

There’s a horrible practice in the Jehovah’s Witnesses known as disfellowshipping. Essentially, if you leave the faith, the people who remain in it (including your own parents) are told to shun you indefinitely.

And if you leave, you can bet your reputation within the JW community will be ruined. If you’re an apostate, you’re not just someone who left the faith. You’re someone who lies and wants to siphon off other believers.

Now, 62 ex-JWs — all considered apostates — have a message for the people who remain in the faith. They’re not evil. They’re not angry. They’re just normal people with a difference of opinion who still love those who remain trapped in the organization:

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Four-Year-Old Boy Reported Beheaded in “Tantric Ritual”; Hindu Killer Sought Divine Powers

Kali, the Indian goddess of destruction and rebirth, whom we previously met here and here, seems to have needed fresh sacrifices.

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