Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

He doesn’t believe in evolution, but when it comes to social Darwinism, well, that’s another matter. Social forces can have their way with the poor and disadvantaged; however Rick, along with his like-minded zealots, won’t lose any sleep over it because these social casualties simply weren’t fit for survival.

What guys like Rick don’t understand, though, is that a mutation will develop such that these poor, disadvantaged folk will evolve into very pissed off and vengeful people with long memories.

You see, Rick, it’s just evolution.

Justin Hollander’s 10/10/12 New York Times op-ed entitled Long Live Paper makes a good case against the replacement of paper textbooks with digital technologies. Despite the reasons he cited for keeping paper textbooks around, none will likely prove as compelling as the cost benefits associated with going digital. That said, I think the author missed the most important reason to stick with textbooks: because they cost more and are, therefore, more resistant to casual and frivolous change.

We have seen the circus called the Texas Textbook Adoption where the conservative Texas School Board of Education has pushed for ideologically driven changes which reduce the prominence of Thomas Jefferson in favor of Tea Party hero John Calvin, and the inclusion of doubts about evolution. And that’s with paper textbooks! Imagine the trouble that Darwin will be in, and how Christian our nation will become if it becomes easier and cheaper to make changes reflective of the tooth fairy politics of the Right?

 

English: Rep. Albert Wynn (left) joins Gloria ...

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The subject was civility in politics. The show, I think, was Melissa Harris-Perry’s assemblage of refreshingly bright talking heads (although it could have been the Chris Hayes show). The takeaway for me was a recommitment to the belief that the Left should never compromise its principles when dealing with the Right. Consider the abortion debate, for example.One side wants the freedom to choose, the other an outright ban. In the old days…not so long ago, really…both sides would try to resolve differences through compromise. Were they to try to do it today, the conversation might go something like this:

Mediator: Can we agree that abortion is bad and that we wish it didn’t exist?

Voices on both sides of the table: Sure! Abortion isn’t something to like. It’s a terrible thing.

Mediator: Ok. Can we also agree that abortion has been with us for a long, long time, and that the consequences of illegal, back-alley abortions were often tragic?

Voices: Sure. Terrible consequences. Very sad…

Mediator: Can we also agree that if Roe v. Wade were reversed that illegal abortions would reemerge in order to satisfy at least a portion of the demand?

Voices: Yes, that will happen, but there will be far fewer abortions. That’s good.

Mediator: Ok, if we know that illegal abortions will once again flourish, which is bad, but that the number of abortions will go down, which is good, then let’s shift the discussion to what steps we can take together to reduce the number of abortions without having to suffer the tragic reemergence of illegal abortions.

Voices: Sounds good. What do you have in mind?

Mediator: Well, we know that sex education in the schools works, and that easy access to birth control works…

Voices: What? You’re calling for more sex education in the schools and contraceptives? Forget it. Those things are off the table.

Mediator: Why? Won’t it accomplish what you want?

Voices: Contraception is wrong. Sex education in schools is wrong. Sex outside of marriage is wrong. No deal.

Mediator: Really?

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This is what happens when religion masquerades as politics. It’s what happens when dogma trumps common sense. It’s why the Left must never give in to the Right-wing ideologues who would impose their beliefs on the rest of us.

If politics is the art of compromise, where did all the artists go?

It’s like they’ve all left town, leaving in their wake a bunch of ideologically-driven, my-way-or-the-highway crazies who believe that God is on their side, and that they have the right to impose their views, religious and otherwise, on the rest of us. Well, if their objective is to piss off and galvanize the left, they succeeded.

Who didn’t get pissed off at three-plus years of endless obstructionism, the record number of filibusters, and the unwillingness to approve the President’s appointees simply to impede the functioning of his administration? And how about the birther bullshit, and the oft-heard claim that Obama isn’t “one of us”…that he’s different…that his theology isn’t rooted in the Bible, and that he channels his Kenyan, anti-colonial father?  Do you think racism has something to do with it? No matter, though, because we’re pissed off and that’s good.

We’re pissed off because protecting the profits of health insurance companies is more important than saving lives, and that no medicine at all is better than “socialized” medicine, which works just fine for the rest of the developed world, but which isn’t good enough for America. Whose America? Not yours and mine, that’s for damned sure. But no matter because pissed off is good.

And how do you feel about voter ID laws or, as they are known in some circles, Jim Crow lite? Targeted against poor and minority populations, these laws have no reason to exist beyond the Republican desire to suppress voter turnout. Yet, Republicans talk about the sanctity of the vote as if they give a damn. Perhaps they think we are no longer pissed off about Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004. But, alas, we are still pissed off. We’re just more pissed off, now.

Oh, lest we forget the recent assaults on women’s rights, are we really talking about contraception in 2012?

So, if pissed off leads to getting involved, being heard and making a difference, let’s give a big round of applause to all those who would make America the Christian nation the founding fathers tried so hard to prevent. Let’s make sure we bury these people at the ballot box.

The Rick Santorum phenomenon only makes sense in the context of what the Republican Party has become. He is supported by a significant number of people who vote as a group, and who possess a world view that is disconnected from any sense of reality other than their own. But to me, the problem isn’t Rick Santorum per se, nor is it any other Republican candidate because, after they are relegated to the political scrapheap, the right-wing, evangelical whack jobs who breathed life into them will still be around questioning evolution, promoting the Christian-nation baloney, removing Thomas Jefferson from social studies textbooks in favor of John Calvin (Texas schoolbook adoption), denying global warming, discriminating against gays and the transgendered, denying women the right to manage their own bodies, and burning an occasional witch. Can you imagine any other developed nation where a guy like Rick Santorum would be given even a puncher’s chance of becoming president, prime minister or whatever?

In a New York Times article by David Kirkpatrick entitled, “For Evangelicals, Supporting Israel Is ‘God’s Foreign Policy’” (November 14, 2006), he wrote:

Many conservative Christians say they believe that [President George W. Bush’s] support for Israel fulfills a biblical injunction to protect the Jewish state, which some of them think will play a pivotal role in the second coming. Many on the left, in turn, fear that such theology may influence decisions the administration makes toward Israel and the Middle East.

Well, I’m on the left and it sure scares the hell out of me; it should scare anyone who gives a damn about how the most powerful nation on earth conducts its foreign policy. But remember that Kirkpatrick was referring to the presidency of George W. Bush, a guy who talked the talk but didn’t walk much of the walk…thank God :).

An evangelical Christian like Rick Santorum will be another matter, altogether. Surrounded by like-minded cheerleaders and hounded by extreme-right supporters with markers to cash, would anyone be surprised if the U.S took up arms in support of Israel and, along the way, seized a little oil? In fact, would anyone be surprised to learn that our involvement in Iraq was a nod to the same evangelical forces?

But, once again, the issue is less Santorum than it is those who pull his strings. For this group, the ends justify the means. That’s the way it is with Crusades and the next election is a Crusade. The Right is already in with voter suppression, and they know a thing or two about electronic vote fraud (Vote Fraud 2004: How Ohio was “Delivered” to Bush). So 2012 is going to be a war, and it’s a war that the Left can ill afford to lose. I hope we’re up to it.
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In a post on this site entitled Religion in politics, a line in the sand, I offer this test to determine whether ideas are suitable for political debate: when ideas cannot stand apart from the faith-based belief set from which they spring, especially when those ideas can influence domestic and foreign policy, they must have no standing in the public square debate.

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those who allow religious dogma to trump their own, god-given ability to think and reason believe they are on a never-ending mission to make the world “Christian.” Frankly, I think that the whole lot of them, including Rick Santorum, are both nuts and dangerous.

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I thought better of mentioning it at the time, but what she said reminded me of three song titles: “Don’t worry, be happy”; “What will be, will be”; and that perennial favorite, “I feel better when I outsource to God any personal responsibility that I might have for future generations.”

So, I’m watching Meet the Press this morning. One of my least favorite theocrats, Rick Santorum, commented on Presidential candidate John F. Kennedy’s speech before the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in which Kennedy said he believed in an “absolute” separation of church and state. Rick Santorum said that Kennedy’s words almost made him throw up, and that and absolute separation was never the intent of the founding fathers. Really? (Read the full text of Kennedy’s speech.)

Of course, David Gregory didn’t take the trouble to call him out on this…I suspect that challenging Santorum wasn’t part of a pre-appearance agreement setting the interview ground rules…so I just muttered what the f*** to myself, figuring that there must be another Constitution out there that I hadn’t read.

He then goes on to say that the founding fathers wanted a public square filled with a diversity of ideas, and that the ideas belonging to people of faith were not meant to be excluded from that debate. You’re right, Rick, the founding fathers did not intend to exclude people of faith…or people of no faith…from the public square, but I am equally confident that the ideas they had in mind were those that were well reasoned and intellectually based, rather than those rooted in religious myth and custom. The latter, no matter how widely they are believed, have no more place in the public square than do beliefs in Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny or, my personal favorite, the Tooth Fairy.

To say this in a less prejudicial way, when ideas cannot stand apart from the faith-based belief set from which they spring, especially when those ideas can influence domestic and foreign policy, they must have no standing in the public square debate. Maybe that’s what James Madison meant when, in a letter to William Bradford, Jr., April 1, 1774, he wrote, “Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprize, every expanded prospect.” Having channeled Madison on a number of occasions, I know, when he spoke of debilitations of the mind, he was referring to Santorum’s inability to embrace Darwin’s theory of evolution, as well as the threat of global warming.

Later on in the interview Santorum unleashed a Republican favorite; the government shouldn’t pick winners and losers. What drives me insane about this is that even left-wing pundits seem comfortable with the winners and losers thing as though picking them is some kind of transcendent evil. Tell it to China or Germany or Brazil. They find winners pretty easily, and then eat our lunch with them.

Of course, Rick Santorum will argue that American exceptionalism takes us down a different and better path…a path that includes exceptional ignorance.

Listen to how he positions President Obama as “not one of us,” how he said recently that Obama believes in some kind of “non-bible theology,” or claims that global warmists (as he calls them) are involved in a worldwide liberal conspiracy to concentrate more power in the hands of government while reducing individual freedoms. Salon.com has a good summary of what dominionism is all about . I also recommend that you visit the Talk2Action web site and sign up for periodic news summaries regarding the activities of the religious right.  To say that Talk2Action is eye-opening is like saying a tornado is a wind storm. And a related site, Barry Lynn’s Americans United for Separation of Church and State, is nothing less than a tireless, 24/7 check on those who would transform America into something that the founding fathers wouldn’t recognize.

Of course, there are those on the right who will argue that the alleged threat to our democracy as posed by those of the dominionist/evangelical mindset is wildly overblown. And there are those on the left who will say that Rick Santorum has little chance of being elected president so why worry. Even if both of these positions turn out to be factually correct, it is also correct to say that whatever traction Rick Santorum has been able to muster is due to his appeal to a voting block that has no problem with a domestic and foreign policy agenda that is guided by god’s law, whatever that is. In that regard, consider these ongoing stories.

Intelligent Design aka Creationism
When the judge in the 2005 case of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District (Pa) ruled that Intelligent Design was not science (duh!), rational people who followed the case breathed a collective sigh of relief. I was one of them. What I didn’t realize was that the fight is hardly over. It will be fought again and again until intelligent design finds a foothold somewhere, perhaps in Missouri where, on January 10, 2012, a bill was introduced in the Missouri House that would require “the equal treatment of science instruction regarding evolution and intelligent design.” The lesson in this is that those who allow religious dogma to trump their own, god-given ability to think and reason believe they are on a never-ending mission to make the world “Christian.”  Frankly, I think that the whole lot of them, including Rick Santorum, are both nuts and dangerous.

Home Schooling
In view of the ever-unfolding saga of intelligent design, it is little wonder that evangelical Christians would latch onto home schooling. That way they don’t have to deal with the heresies of science and other annoying worldviews. “According to the documentary Jesus Camp, 75% of all home schooled children are Evangelical Christians.”  The author of the piece (I found it on answers.com) notes that he wasn’t able to verify the percentage, but it seems to mesh with other information. Ian Slater, the spokesperson for the Home School Legal Defense Association, notes that the “majority of home-schoolers self-identify as evangelical Christians. Most home-schoolers will definitely have a sort of creationist component to their home-school program. And for most home-school parents, a Bible-based version of the Earth’s creation is exactly what they want.”

Not incidentally, Rick Santorum said he would home school his children if he is elected president, saying that “having a homeschooling family in the White House would certainly be a shock to the establishment.” It will even be a bigger shock to the rest of the world that American voters would elect this guy to be president.

Onward Christian Soldiers
“In the ’90s [the Air Force Academy] had a code of ethics that stated that no professional or commander will attempt to change or coercively influence the religious beliefs of their subordinates. And in ’05, the Secretary of the Air Force came out with a new code of ethics…which allowed proselytization in the military.”

How bad did it get? Damned bad, because the goal was to “convert Air Force cadets – future pilots with fingers on nuclear triggers – into religious zealots.” And, in a 2010 article in Truthout entitled “ ‘Underground’ Group of Cadets Says Air Force Academy Controlled by Evangelicals,’ the author, Mike Ludwig wrote: “An anonymous cadet at the US Air Force Academy (USAFA ) spoke out against alleged religious discrimination at the school last week, saying that some cadets must pretend to be evangelical Christians in order to maintain standing among their peers and superiors. In an email to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), the whistleblower stated that he is part of an ‘underground group’ of about 100 cadets who cannot rely on proper channels to confront evangelical pressure.”

So let’s see…
We have a guy running for President of the most powerful county in the world who aligns himself with religiously fundamental group that believes that a Christian god is the only one that counts and who…just maybe…believes that the Crusades left some unfinished business to attend to. I’m a hell of a lot more frightened about Santorum than I am about Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

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Note about the Military Religious Freedom Foundation: The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is dedicated to ensuring that all members of the United States Armed Forces fully receive the Constitutional guarantee of religious freedom to which they and all Americans are entitled by virtue of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

This was written during President Bush‘s first term in office.

Letter to the editor…

We have a president (Bush ’43) who has an infallible view of good and evil, who doesn’t allow facts to get in the way of his vision, and who sends American sons, daughters, mothers and fathers into combat “knowing” that there will be no casualties. This irrational behavior makes sense only in the context of his “born-again,” evangelical beliefs which, when checked at the church door, are of little consequence. However, when those beliefs are allowed to guide the foreign policy of the most powerful nation on earth, they have the potential to thrust the world into the abyss of worldwide cultural and religious war. (For a summary of Christian evangelicals’ view of middle-east strife, click http://www.bitterlemons-international.org/previous.php?opt=1&id=55#226)

Christian evangelicals may argue that such conflict is the inevitable playing out of Biblical prophacy: They are entitled to their beliefs. But for the sake of good men and women everywhere who do not share them, this obsession with Armageddon must be made part of the national debate before it, indeed, becomes prophecy, not of the Biblical variety, but one tragically self-fulfilling.

We often hear pleas for moderate Muslims to reject the radical fundamentalism that has hijacked Islam. At the other end of the spectrum, where are the voices of moderate Christians who reject the back-door theocratic policies of this administration?

James Madison, Hamilton's major collaborator, ...

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Letter to a friend regarding the relationship between religion and politics.

My anger is focused somewhat differently than yours. I am angry at all those who claim to know God’s will and intent. How presumptuous of us! How presumptuous of any religion!

The events of the past few years have driven a wedge between me and organized religion. I resent those who think that they have some “exclusive” knowledge of things that can’t be known. In place of this spiritual chauvinism, my view of ethics and morality is derived, very simply, from the Sermon on the Mount. Everything is there that anyone needs. Everything else is politics.

I find it more than coincidental that many of our country’s greatest thinkers felt similarly about the role of religion:

“The Bible is not my book nor Christianity my profession. I could never give assent to the long, complicated statements of Christian dogma.” Abraham Lincoln, American president (1809-1865)

“I have found Christian dogma unintelligible. Early in life, I absented myself from Christian assemblies.” Benjamin Franklin

“In no instance have…the churches been guardians of the liberties of the people.” James Madison, American president

“This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it.” John Adams, U.S. President, Founding Father of theUnited States

“The time appears to me to have come when it is the duty of all to make their dissent from religion known.” John Stuart Mill

Looking at it another way, the religious right would have us believe that there is no morality without religion. History, both recent and past, proves that to be a tragically flawed notion and yet, here we are, walking down that path again.

The Discovery of Global Warming

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This was written in early 2005. It is as relevant today as it was then.

I was recently in Florida for a couple of days. During the trip I had lunch with two people of the evangelical/Republican persuasion. Inevitably, the conversation turned toward the recent presidential election (Bush 2). Because I like to frustrate myself, I made the point that I would have voted against George Bush even if Iraq hadn’t happened, arguing that his environmental, economic and civil rights records were more than enough to convince me he was bad for America. They were, not surprisingly, uncomfortable with this heresy, but I pressed on. I voiced my concern about global warming and what it might mean for my children and their children. Unimpressed, one of my two luncheon companions reminded me that she was a Christian woman, and that I was wrong for not putting more faith in God. She reminded me that if the world was going to come to an end, then it was God’s will.

I thought better of mentioning it at the time, but what she said reminded me of three song titles: “Don’t worry, be happy”; “What will be, will be”; and that perennial favorite, “I feel better when I outsource to God any personal responsibility that I might have for future generations.”

That evening I had dinner with someone of a similar mind. She is a nice woman who described herself as a “believer,” and did so often. We, too, discussed the election and, not being too bright, I shared with her my luncheon conversation in between the entre and dessert. She listened quietly. When I suggested that it was irresponsible for America not to take steps to reduce greenhouse emissions to protect future generations, she continued to listen quietly. So, with that sign of encouragement, I foolishly pressed on: Believing that God is going to solve the world’s problems is okay, I said, but when those beliefs influence America’s policies, they must become part of the national political debate. Seemed pretty reasonable to me.

Then we finished our coffee in silence and quietly left the restaurant.