SCA’s Morning Read for January 24, 2014

Religion & Politics 
Huckabee’s comments on birth control gift for Dems (AZ Daily Sun)Morning Read
Mike Huckabee’s comments about contraception proved quick fodder for Democrats and a headache for Republicans trying to market themselves as a better choice for female voters who have proved elusive to the GOP. The former Arkansas governor and potential presidential contender told fellow Republicans on Thursday that Democrats were trying to win over female voters by promising them birth control and telling them they cannot manage “their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government.”

Top Ten Ways GOP could avoid “War on Women” Label (Informed Comment)
Mike Huckabee objects to the charge that the Republican Party is waging a war on women. The GOP obviously is increasingly a party of angry white men. It suffers from a significant gender gap, which helped elect Barack Obama twice. Huckabee wants to just wish all these realities away. But in the spirit of bipartisan comity, let me just suggest ten ways the Republican Party really could cease waging a war on women and maybe get them back as voters.

A Catholic Right Double Standard — Koch Style (Daily Kos)
Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington, DC recently set off a firestorm by accepting a $1 million grant for its new School of Business and Economics from the Charles Koch Foundation.  Progressive minded organizations such as Faith in Public Life called on CUA to return the money, noting how Charles Koch’s extreme libertarianism is far out of step with Catholic social teaching on economics. Many on the Catholic Right responded by slamming Faith in Public Life  for being funded in part by philanthropist George Soros, who they point out is an atheist. But if George Soros’ belief (or in his case, non-belief) is in play, why isn’t the same standard applied to Charles Koch?

States 
These Are The Most Godless Cities In America (Time Magazine)
The two least “Bible-minded” cities in the United States are the adjacent metros of Providence, R.I., and New Bedford, Mass., according to a study out Wednesday from the American Bible Society. The study defines “Bible-mindedness” as a combination of how often respondents read the Bible and how accurate they think the Bible is. “Respondents who report reading the bible within the past seven days and who agree strongly in the accuracy of the Bible are classified as ‘Bible Minded,’” says the study’s methodology.

Divided Virginia Senate passes student prayer bill (Hampton Roads)
A divided Virginia Senate’s approval of a bill to vouchsafe student prayer in schools and give forums for faith speech at school events signified the first cultural battle of the year in the General Assembly’s upper chamber. Sen. Bill Carrico’s SB 236 moves to the House of Delegates after it passed on a 20-18 vote after roughly 30 minutes of debate Tuesday when supporters lauded it as a religious freedom measure and foes called it an unnecessary endorsement of one faith tradition.

Nebraska’s Atheist State Senator Introduces Bill That Would Force Churches to Pay Property Taxes (Friendly Atheist)
Ernie Chambers is arguably the highest-ranking openly-atheist politician in the country right now. The African-American Nebraska State Senator served for 38 years (beginning in 1970), making him the longest-serving senator in the state’s history, until he was term-limited out in 2008. When he was eligible to run again in 2012, he did so and won easily.

Atheism, Movement & Related
Books project helps atheists make the case for unbelief behind bars (Religion News Service)
Leslie Zukor was a 20-year-old student at Reed College studying prison rehabilitation programs when something jumped out at her. While there were programs tackling drug abuse, physical and sexual abuse, technical training and more, all of them were offered by faith-based organizations. Where were the options for those behind bars who are atheists, like her?

Kiss me, I’m an atheist (Al Jazeera)
Nonbelievers need a new PR campaign, one that emphasizes their civic engagement. Dislike of atheists might be surprising, given that we are a small and largely invisible demographic, making up less than 5 percent of the U.S. We are not known for terrorist attacks, secret cabals or any particular pageantry — we are not even a particularly cohesive group. As the comedian Ricky Gervais once wrote, “Saying atheism is a belief system is like saying not going skiing is a hobby.” But recent research has identified the primary source of prejudice against atheists: It is the distrust of those who are not scared of a watchful God. And the research suggests that current attempts to give atheists a PR makeover are severely misguided.

Climate Change 
A Win for the Climate Scientist Whom Skeptics Compared to Jerry Sandusky (Mother Jones)
In 2012—after writers for the National Review and a prominent conservative think tank accused him of fraud and compared him to serial child molester Jerry Sandusky—climate scientist Michael Mann took the bold step of filing a defamation suit. The defendants moved to have the case thrown out, citing a Washington, DC, law that shields journalists from frivolous litigation. But on Wednesday, DC Superior Court Judge Frederick Weisberg rejected the motion, opening the way for a trial.

Science 
A New Physics Theory of Life (Simons Foundation)
From the standpoint of physics, there is one essential difference between living things and inanimate clumps of carbon atoms: The former tend to be much better at capturing energy from their environment and dissipating that energy as heat. Jeremy England, a 31-year-old assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has derived a mathematical formula that he believes explains this capacity. The formula, based on established physics, indicates that when a group of atoms is driven by an external source of energy (like the sun or chemical fuel) and surrounded by a heat bath (like the ocean or atmosphere), it will often gradually restructure itself in order to dissipate increasingly more energy. This could mean that under certain conditions, matter inexorably acquires the key physical attribute associated with life.

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