The Growing Importance of the Atheist Community

Source: AlterNet

Author: Dan Arel

“Like it or not, atheism has become more than a “lack of belief in gods.”

Sure, if you want to pull out a dictionary you can prove me wrong and say that is all atheism is. Yet doing so would be naive as to the world we live in and ignoring the movement that is happening all around the world.

Many people want to call this movement by many names, humanism, secularism, skepticism, or your choice of label that strategically avoids the word atheist, but when your movement is made up of at least 99% atheists, guess what, you have an atheist movement.

Perhaps though, a better term would be atheist community. Because we don’t have leaders, we don’t elect people to speak on everyone’s behalf, but the media does take to certain voices more than others and we use these outlets to our advantage. This community is a necessity to the lasting effect atheists can have in the political arena, and you cannot ignore that atheism is entrenched in politics.

Now it can be said that for many, the only thing atheists have in common is their rejection of god claims, because atheists can come from many different political and social backgrounds. Republican talking heads like S.E. Cupp claim to be atheist yet support the most theocratic political party in the US. Ayn Rand, another famous atheist was a staunch free-market libertarian who condoned pure selfishness as a part of human nature.

These atheists are rare, and for some like Cupp, I question her sincerity in either politics or atheism and wonder if one or the other is a good money making gimmick.

So maybe not all atheists agree on the same political ideologies, though I would ask anyone to show that the overwhelming majority is not liberal, leftwing based ideologists, instead of selfish or theocratic ones. If there is one thing all atheists have in common politically it is that we are not the religious right.

Atheists want the benefits of a secular society, but too many refuse to do the work. They are more concerned with a dictionary definition of atheism that they forget what is at stake.

Without atheists united in some form of community, the US would be lost overnight to a theocratic right. Ready to overturn whatever secular laws remain in the constitution. While some atheists are worried about definitions, the right is worried about overturning women’s rights, ending marriage equality and enforcing bad economic policies that drive more Americans into poverty.

While we are busy infighting claiming, “no one speaks for me”, the right is speaking and gathering followers. If we continue to run around unorganized, they will overtake this nation.

So there is, and should be a strong atheist movement, groups like American Atheists, American Humanist Association, Secular Coalition for America, Freedom From Religion, The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science and countless others are atheist based organizations all fighting to enforce secular laws in this country and around the world.

These are the groups who put the weight on their shoulders to make sure the theocratic right do not overtake the US and anyone who believes in upholding the secular history of this nation and the further secularization that rebuilds the wall that separates church and state that the right has spent decades taking apart. We should be thanking these groups and individuals in this fight, not chastising them for being “the face” of atheism as many have.

We may not elect atheist leaders, but many people shine through and stand up for all of us. We don’t have to claim to agree with what every group does or says all the time either. Just as each atheist is unique in many of their own ways, so are groups.

You can get behind the groups you like and ignore the ones you don’t. You never have to state that any particular person speaks for you, but you can allow those people to speak and make your world better, and if you disagree, then speak up. Ignoring it and simply saying it is not a movement means you will let others speak for you. Silence is an action, the action of inaction.

The community is forming whether you like it or not, you can either get on board and help in this struggle or you can simply opt out and watch change happen one way or the other and do nothing to help or stop it. The good news is, while some sit back and criticize the work of these community activists, these activists don’t stop working. They do the dirty work even when some in their own community refuse to thank them.”

Dan Arel is a freelance writer, speaker and secular advocate residing in San Diego, CA. He writes on secular and humanist values on subjects such as secular parenting, church and state separation, education reform and secularism in public policy.  Follow Dan on Twitter @danarel.

Emphasis Mine

See: http://www.alternet.org/belief/growing-importance-atheist-community?akid=11534.123424.pVve_G&rd=1&src=newsletter961574&t=17

Dominion Theology, Christian Reconstructionism, and the New Apostolic Reformation

From Religion Dispatches, Post by JULIE INGERSOLL

(N.B.: Separation of Church/State, anyone?  Contact Au NorthEast Ohio Chapter on Facebook or at auneohio@gmail.com)

“In the current discussion about dominionism, and whether it is an invention of paranoid “leftists” or an actual theological system with political implications, worth understanding in its own right, there is a conflation of two groups that (while similar in some respects) are also quitedifferent from each other: Christian Reconstructionism and the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). RD readers will be familiar with both groups, because both Sarah and I have written extensively about Reconstructionists and Sarah has written about the New Apostolic Reformation here and here. Moreover Sarah and Anthea Butler have just posted a terrific overview of the NAR, Pentecostalism, and dominionism in which they critique both the denialists who say that dominionism doesn’t exist, and alarmists who fail to properly contextualize dominionists‘ activities.

Christian Reconstructionism is the older of the two movements (though the NAR has its roots in Pentecostalism that pre-dates both). There are two of the core aspects of Christian Reconstructionism that are relevant here. First is the view that the Kingdom of God was established at the resurrection, that its establishment is progressive through history and Jesus will return at its culmination when Christianity has transformed the whole world (a view known as post-millennialism). Second, all knowledge is based in one of two sets of assumptions: the God of the Bible is the sovereign source of all authority or human reason is autonomous from God. Reconstructionists drew this dichotomous view, known as pre-suppositionalism, from reformed theology, and pushed it beyond being a merely philosophical critique to develop a thorough strategy in response. That strategy, broadly speaking, was to cast secular humanism and pluralism as being in conflict with Christianity,conferring a duty on Christians to transform earthly institutions in order to combat non-Christian influence. In other words, establishing the kingdom on earth to prepare for Christ’s return required Christians to transform the world, or take dominion, a view that became an article of faith for the religious right, which popularized versions of post-millennialism as dominion or “kingdom now” theology. The pre-suppositionalist view became the basis for attacks on secular humanism and pluralism, which positioned the “biblical worldview” as being on a collision course with the others. Despite recent comments by journalists, the term “dominionism” has a history within these movements and is indeed, areal thing—not the imaginings of some “leftists.”

The New Apostolic Reformation is one of many strands of neo-Pentecostalism that draws on dominion theology and the critique of humanism/pluralism. There was a good bit of cross-fertilization between representatives of Reconstructionism and Pentecostalism in the 1980s. Though Pat Robertson has said he doesn’t know what “dominionism” is, Rushdoony was, more than once, his guest on The 700 Club. People like Jack Hayford (of the Pentecostal Church on the Way-Foursquare) were reading Reconstructionists (for example, David Chilton’s Postmillennial Paradise Restored). Gary North was in conversation with several charismatic leaders, perhaps thinking that the energy and vitality of those movements made them a more promising vehicle for spreading Christian Reconstrutionism than the “frozen-chosen” Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC). North even dedicated his book Unholy Spirits(Dominion Press, 1986) to Bob Mumford of the Shepherding Movementand 75 Bible Questions (Dominion Press, 1984 and 1986) to Bob and Rose Weiner, founders of Maranatha Campus Ministries.

The Pentecostals never really embraced post-millennialism but blended dominion theology with their pre-millennialism. Less explored, though, is the way that the critique of pluralism functions.  As I wrote last week, Reconstructionists “hold a view of knowledge that says that there are really only two possible worldviews (a biblical one and a humanist one that comes in several varieties) and that both worldviews are in a conflict for dominion,” a point that engendered some discussion among RD readers. This framing is derived from pre-suppositionalism. In Reconstruction, the original sin in the garden of Eden occurred when Adam and Eve chose to eat of the tree of knowledge, substituting their own reason for obedience to what God had commanded. From then on all systems of thought (philosophies, religions, worldview, ideologies, etc.) not based in God’s word as revealed in the Bible were really just variations on the decision to claim autonomy for human reason
(“humanism” is defined as making “man” the measure of all things). For Reconstructionists, those two worldviews are inherently mutually exclusive, thus real pluralism is impossible (see for example, Gary North’s “Political Polytheism: The Myth of Pluralism“). And in fact, in their view, the two sides are engaged in a battle for dominion. Throw in the militant spiritual warfare, Christians-versus-Satanic-forces rhetoric, and you see how the battle for “dominion” is, for those who believe they are engaged in such a battle, a cosmic showdown between good and evil.

For some in these movements that have cross-pollinated with one another, their opponents (i.e. the rest of us) literarlly are the spawn of Satan.”

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.religiondispatches.org/dispatches/julieingersoll/5037/dominion_theology%2C_christian_reconstructionism%2C_and_the_new_apostolic_reformation__/

Political Reporters Start Reading Religious Right Books

N.B.: This is why the First Clause of The First Amendment is more important than ever!

 

From RD, by Sarah Posner

“There’s a somewhat refreshing development taking place in political reporting. Not only reporters are noticing that Republican candidates coalesce with religious right leaders, but they are also discovering a crucial truth about the movement: that its followers aren’t just motivated by opposition to abortion and LGBT rights. They are motivated by something more fundamental, a reimagined “truth” about what America is (and isn’t) and how a “biblical worldview” should guide politics and policymaking.

This is a good thing, of course, because as Joanna argued this morning, candidates should be asked tough questions about how their beliefs would impact their governing. Michele Bachmann thinks that God is trying to send a message through earthquakes and hurricanes, and that message is not (in her mind) that Republicans should stop obsessing about energy efficient lightbulbs being “tyranny,” or talking about closing down the Environmental Protection Agency.

Twitter lit up this morning after Jonathan Martin’s piece in Politico (“Is Rick Perry Dumb?”) noted that he was reading Charles Stanley’s book, Turning the Tide. Stanley is pastor of megachurch First Baptist Church of Atlanta and one-time Southern Baptist Convention president whose broadcasts through his In Touch ministry are seen and heard on radio and television across the country. Stanley, although widely known, is not without controversy: after years of marital trouble, his wife divorced him in 2000. Despite longstanding SBC denunciation of divorce, Stanley remained as pastor of his church despite an unwritten SBC prohibition on divorced men serving as pastors (the SBC prohibits ordination of women, but this resolution is not binding on local churches, who can decide otherwise). At the time, a church spokesperson said, “God has positioned Dr. Stanley in a place where his personal pain has validated his ability to minister to all of us.”

The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza, whose piece on Michele Bachmann brought dominionism to the forefront of the political conversation (even though reporters who cover the religious right have reported on it for years), started tweeting quotes from Stanley’s book, such as “Pray to help leaders ‘reaffirm our Christian heritage and reestablish Your biblical precepts as the basis of American society and law.’” He also observed, “Can’t remember another campaign bragging that candidate was reading a book that asked people to pray for conversion of all Jews and Muslims.”Perhaps Lizza can’t remember, and perhaps a campaign didn’t explicitly brag about reading a particular book, but considering that conversion of non-believers is a standard evangelical imperative, it shouldn’t be too terribly surprising that an evangelical candidate would brag about reading a book that contained such an exhortation. And as I’ve argued before, creating candidates like Perry (or Bachmann) has been years in the making. Doug Wead, in his 1985 memo to George H.W. Bush, named Stanley as one of the leading religious leaders in America whose support the candidate should cultivate. Stanley, then the president of the SBC, “is said to be ‘intrigued’ by the [Pat] Robertson candidacy but ‘leaning to George Bush.’” Oh, yeah, that guy, Pat Robertson! Remember when he ran for president?Wead continued: Dr. Stanley is the key to building relationships with the seven or eight pastors of the largest SBC churches. Like Stanley, these pastors will probably endorse someone for president. They will influence others through the use of their mailing lists, radio and television programs, and printed materials which get across their message without violating their government awarded 501 c3 status. They will even have voter registration booths in their church lobbies which will be open after a rather pointed sermon, “I don’t want to influence how you vote but . . . .” Let’s not forget how a mere four years ago Mike Huckabee (himself an SBC pastor considered a moderate by some in his denomination!) gave a Christmas sermon at John Hagee‘s church,said that the Constitution should be amended to conform with “God’s standards,” said that allowing “seculars” to govern America would lead to Nazism, rallied a church in New Hampshire to enlist in “God’s army” to be “soldiers for Christ,” appeared to be the anointed one of some religious right godfathers, and drew the wrath of the late Robert Novak, no less, because of his ties to Christian Reconstructionism. Or that John McCain wrapped his arms around Rod Parsley and Hagee, or that even Rudy Giuliani sought and gained Robertson’s blessing. And that was just ’08; it’s all been going on much longer than that.  While GOP candidates’ cultivation of conservative evangelicals is not a surprise, it is a good thing that it’s being discussed more. Perhaps, if nothing else, it will put the lid on the inevitable “is the religious right dead?” piece.

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.religiondispatches.org/dispatches/sarahposner/5028/

From “Faith No More” Why I am an Atheist

Earlier this year, Andrew Zak Williams asked public figures why they believe in God. Now it’s the turn of the atheists – from A C Grayling to P Z Myers – to explain why they don’t.

Maryam Namazie

Human rights activist
I don’t remember exactly when I stopped believing in God. Having been raised in a fairly open-minded family in Iran, I had no encounter with Islam that mattered until the Islamic movement took power on the back of a defeated revolution in Iran. I was 12 at the time.

I suppose people can go through an entire lifetime without questioning God and a religion that they were born into (out of no choice of their own), especially if it doesn’t have much of a say in their lives. If you live in France or Britain, there may never be a need to renounce God actively or come out as an atheist.

But when the state sends a “Hezbollah” (the generic term for Islamist) to your school to ensure that you don’t mix with your friends who are boys, stops you from swimming, forces you to be veiled, deems males and females separate and unequal, prescribes different books for you and your girlfriends from those read by boys, denies certain fields of study to you because you are female, and starts killing in­discriminately, then you have no choice but to question, discredit and confront it – all of it. And that is what I did.

Philip Pullman
Author

The main reason I don’t believe in God is the missing evidence. There could logically be no evidence that he doesn’t exist, so I can only go by the fact that, so far, I’ve discovered no evidence that he does: I have had no personal experience of being spoken to by God and I see nothing in the world around me, wherever I look in history or science or art or anywhere else, to persuade me that it was the work of God rather than
of nature.

To that extent, I’m an atheist. I would have to agree, though, that God might exist but be in hiding (and I can understand why – with his record, so would I be). If I knew more, I’d be able to make an informed guess about that. But the amount of things I do know is the merest tiny flicker of a solitary spark in the vast encircling darkness that represents all the things I don’t know, so he might well be out there in the dark. As I can’t say for certain that he isn’t, I’d have to say I am an agnostic.

Kenan Malik
Neurobiologist, writer and broadcaster

I am an atheist because I see no need for God. Without God, it is said, we cannot explain the creation of the cosmos, anchor our moral values or infuse our lives with meaning and purpose. I disagree.

Invoking God at best highlights what we cannot yet explain about the physical universe, and at worst exploits that ignorance to mystify. Moral values do not come prepackaged from God, but have to be worked out by human beings through a combination of empathy, reasoning and dialogue.
This is true of believers, too: they, after all, have to decide for themselves which values in their holy books they accept and which ones they reject.
And it is not God that gives meaning to our lives, but our relationships with fellow human beings and the goals and obligations that derive from them. God is at best redundant, at worst an obstruction. Why do I need him?

Susan Blackmore
Psychologist and author
What reason for belief could I possibly have? To explain suffering? He doesn’t. Unless, that is, you buy in to his giving us free will, which conflicts with all we know about human decision-making.

To give me hope of an afterlife? My 30 years of parapsychological research threw that hope out. To explain the mystical, spiritual and out-of-body experiences I have had? No: our rapidly improving knowledge of the brain is providing much better explanations than religious reasoning. To explain the existence and complexity of the wonderful world I see around me? No – and this is really the main one.

God is supposed (at least in some versions of the story) to have created us all. Yet the Creator (any creator) is simply redundant. Every living thing on this planet evolved by processes that require no designer, no plans, no guidance and no foresight. We need no God to do this work. Where would he fit in? What would he do? And why? If he did have any role in our creation, he would have to be immensely devious, finickity, deceitful and mind-bogglingly cruel, which would be a very odd kind of God to believe in. So I don’t.

Richard Dawkins
Evolutionary biologist
I don’t believe in leprechauns, pixies, werewolves, jujus, Thor, Poseidon, Yahweh, Allah or the Trinity. For the same reason in every case: there is not the tiniest shred of evidence for any of them, and the burden of proof rests with those who wish to believe.

Even given no evidence for specific gods, could we make a case for some unspecified “intelligent designer” or “prime mover” or begetter of “something rather than nothing”? By far the most appealing version of this argument is the biological one – living things do present a powerful illusion of design. But that is the very version that Darwin destroyed. Any theist who appeals to “design” of living creatures simply betrays his ignorance of biology. Go away and read a book. And any theist who appeals to biblical evidence betrays his ignorance of modern scholarship. Go away and read another book.

As for the cosmological argument, whose God goes under names such as Prime Mover or First Cause, the physicists are closing in, with spellbinding results. Even if there remain unanswered questions – where do the fundamental laws and constants of physics come from? – obviously it cannot help to postulate a designer whose existence poses bigger questions than he purports to solve. If science fails, our best hope is to build a better science. The answer will lie neither in theology nor – its exact equivalent – reading tea leaves.

In any case, it is a fatuously illogical jump from deistic Unmoved Mover to Christian Trinity, with the Son being tortured and murdered because the Father, for all his omniscience and omnipotence, couldn’t think of a better way to forgive “sin”.

Equally unconvincing are those who believe because it comforts them (why should truth be consoling?) or because it “feels right”. Cherie Blair ["I'm a believer", New Statesman, 18 April] may stand for the “feels right” brigade. She bases her belief on “an understanding of something that my head cannot explain but my heart knows to be true”. She aspires to be a judge. M’lud, I cannot provide the evidence you require. My head cannot explain why, but my heart knows it to be true.

Why is religion immune from the critical standards that we apply not just in courts of law, but in every other sphere of life?

Paula Kirby
Writer

I stopped being a believer when it became clear to me that the various versions of Christianity were mutually contradictory and that none had empirical evidence to support it. From the recognition that “knowing in my heart” was an unreliable guide to reality, I began to explore other types of explanation for life, the universe and everything, and discovered in science – biology, chemistry, physics, cosmology, geology, psychology - answers that genuinely explain, as opposed to those of religion, whose aim is to shroud their lack of substance in a cloak of mystery and metaphor.

All-importantly, these scientific answers, even when tentative, are supported by evidence. That they are also far more thrilling, far more awe-inspiring, than anything religion can offer, and that I find life fuller, richer and more satisfying when it’s looked firmly in the eye and wholeheartedly embraced for the transient and finite wonder that it is, is a happy bonus.

Sam Harris
Neuroscientist

The most common impediment to clear thinking that a non-believer must confront is the idea that the burden of proof can be fairly placed on his shoulders: “How do you know there is no God? Can you prove it? You atheists are just as dogmatic as the fundamentalists you criticise.” This is nonsense: even the devout tacitly reject thousands of gods, along with the cherished doctrines of every religion but their own. Every Christian can confidently judge the God of Zoroaster to be a creature of fiction, without first scouring the universe for evidence of his absence. Absence of evidence is all one ever needs to banish false knowledge. And bad evidence, proffered in a swoon of wishful thinking, is just as damning.

But honest reasoning can lead us further into the fields of unbelief, for we can prove that books such as the Bible and the Quran bear no trace of divine authorship. We know far too much about the history of these texts to accept what they say about their own origins. And just imagine how good a book would be if it had been written by an omniscient Being.

The moment one views the contents of scripture in this light, one can reject the doctrines of Judaism, Christianity and Islam definitively. The true authors of God’s eternal Word knew nothing about the origins of life, the relationship between mind and brain, the causes of illness, or how best to create a viable, global civilisation in the 21st century. That alone should resolve every conflict between religion and science in the latter’s favour, until the end of the world.

In fact, the notion that any ancient book could be an infallible guide to living in the present gets my vote for being the most dangerously stupid idea on earth.

What remains for us to discover, now and always, are those truths about our world that will allow us to survive and fully flourish. For this, we need only well-intentioned and honest inquiry – love and reason. Faith, if it is ever right about anything, is right by accident.

Daniel Dennett
Philosopher

The concept of God has gradually retreated from the concept of an anthropomorphic creator figure, judge and overseer to a mystery-shrouded Wonderful Something-or-Other utterly beyond human ken. It is impossible for me to believe in any of the anthropomorphic gods, because they are simply ridiculous, and so obviously the fantasy-projections of scientifically ignorant minds trying to understand the world. It is impossible for me to believe in the laundered versions, because they are systematically incomprehensible. It would be like trying to believe in the existence of wodgifoop – what’s that? Don’t ask; it’s beyond saying.

But why try anyway? There is no obligation to try to believe in God; that’s a particularly pernicious myth left over from the days when organised religions created the belief in belief. One can be good without God, obviously.

Many people feel very strongly that one should try to believe in God, so as not to upset Granny, or so as to encourage others to do likewise, or because it makes you nicer or nobler. So they go through the motions. Usually it doesn’t work.

I am in awe of the universe itself, and very grateful to be a part of it. That is enough.

A C Grayling
Philosopher

I do not believe that there are any such things as gods and goddesses, for exactly the same reasons as I do not believe there are fairies, goblins or sprites, and these reasons should be obvious to anyone over the age of ten.

Steven Weinberg
Nobel laureate in physics
I do not believe in God – an intelligent, all-powerful being who cares about human beings – because the idea seems to me to be silly. The positive arguments that have been given for belief in God all appear to me as silly as the proposition they are intended to prove. Fortunately, in some parts of the world, religious belief has weakened enough so that people no longer kill each other over differences in this silliness.

It is past time that the human race should grow up, enjoying what is good in life, including the pleasure of learning how the world works, and freeing ourselves altogether from supernatural silliness in facing the real problems and tragedies of our lives.

Peter Atkins
Chemist

In part because there is no evidence for a God (sentimental longing, desperation, ignorance and angst are not evidence) and in part because science is showing that it is capable of answering all the questions that the religious have argued, without any evidence, require the activities of a God, I dismiss holy scripture as evidence. I also discount the argument that a majority of people in the world claim to be believers, because truth is not decided by majority vote.

I acknowledge the power of cultural conditioning, especially when it is larded on to the young and impressionable, and can even accept that there might be an evolutionary advantage in believing; but neither is an argument for the truth of the existence of a God. Moreover, the horrors of the world, both personal and societal, do not convince me that the creation is an act of infinite benevolence.

Jim al-Khalili
Theoretical physicist
It is often said that religious faith is about mankind’s search for a deeper meaning to existence. But just because we search for it does not mean it is there. My faith is in humanity itself, without attaching any metaphysical baggage.

Sir Roger Penrose
Physicist

I don’t believe in the dogmas of any religion (or any that I have ever heard of), because the associated myths sound far too fanciful and arbitrary for them to have any credibility, in my opinion. If you ask me about a belief in some more abstract notion of “God”, I would, of course, have to know what you mean by such a term.

I suppose the closest I could get to anything that bears any relation to the kind of notion that the term “God” might be used for would be something along the lines of Platonist ideals. These could include some sort of objective moral standpoint that is independent of ourselves, and not simply definable in terms of what might be of benefit to human society. This would imply, for instance, that conscious beings such as elephants would have rights, in addition to those of humans.

I am also prepared to accept that there might be objective (“Platonic”) elements involved in artistic achievement, and certainly I assign a Platonic objectivity to truth (especially unambiguous mathematical truth). But I am not at all sure that it is helpful to attach the term “God” to any of this. Moreover, thinking of God as a benevolent creator is particularly misleading, as is made clear, in my opinion, by the problem of the existence of evil – or natural, indiscriminate calamity.

If “God” is to be a sentient being of some sort, I also find that incredible. A conscious being would have to be one that I could just about imagine myself being. I certainly cannot imagine myself being “God”!

Ben Goldacre
Science writer

I think probably the main answer to your question is: I just don’t have any interest either way, but I wouldn’t want to understate how uninterested I am. There still hasn’t been a word invented for people like me, whose main ex­perience when presented with this issue is an overwhelming, mind-blowing, intergalactic sense of having more interesting things to think about. I’m not sure that’s accurately covered by words such as “atheist”, and definitely not by “agnostic”. I just don’t care.

Polly Toynbee
Journalist and president, British Humanist Association
The only time I am ever tempted, momentarily, to believe in a God is when I shake an angry fist at him for some monstrous suffering inflicted on the world for no reason whatever. The Greeks and Romans and other pagans probably produced the most convincing gods – petulant, childish, selfish – demanding sacrifices to their vanity and inflicting random furies. At least that’s a logical explanation. But an all-powerful God of goodness and love is evidently impossible. He would be a monster. Voltaire said so after the Lisbon earthquake.

Victor Stenger
Particle physicist

I not only do not believe in God, I am almost 100 per cent certain the God of Abraham worshipped by Jews, Christians and Muslims does not exist. This God supposedly plays such an important role in the universe that there should be evidence he exists. There is nothing in the realm of human knowledge that requires anything supernatural, anything beyond matter, to describe our observations.
Furthermore, religion is immoral. It is bad for individuals and bad for society.

Jerry Coyne
Biologist

There is simply no good data pointing to a supernatural being who either takes an interest in the world or actively affects it. Isn’t it curious that all the big miracles, resurrections and ascensions to heaven occurred in the distant past, documented by single, dubious books? Besides, the “truth claims” of the various faiths about prophets, virgin births, angels, heaven and the like are not only scientifically unbelievable, but conflicting, so that most or all of them must be wrong. To Christians, Jesus is absolutely the scion and substance of God; to Muslims, that’s blasphemy, punishable by execution.

The more science learns about the world, the less room there is for God. Natural selection dispelled the last biology-based argument for divinity – the “design” of plants and animals. Now physics is displacing other claims, showing how the universe could have begun from “nothing” without celestial help.

There’s not only an absence of evidence for God, but good evidence against him. To the open-minded, religions were clearly invented by human beings to support their fervent wishes for what they wanted to be true.

Our very world testifies constantly against God. Take natural selection, a process that is cruel, painful and wasteful. After Darwin’s idea displaced Genesis-based creationism, the theological sausage-grinder – designed to transform scientific necessities into religious virtues – rationalised why it was better for God to have used natural selection to produce human beings. Needless to say, that argument doesn’t fit with an all-loving God. Equally feeble are theological explanations for other suffering in the world. If there is a God, the evidence points to one who is apathetic – or even
a bit malicious.

To believers, testing the “God hypothesis” is not an option because they will accept no observations that disprove it. While I can imagine scientific evidence for God, even evidence that would make me a believer (a reappearing Jesus who instantly restores the limbs of amputees would do), there is no evidence – not even the Holocaust – which can dispel their faith in a good and loving God.

Stephen Hawking
Physicist

I am not claiming there is no God. The scientific account is complete, but it does not predict human behaviour, because there are too many equations to solve.One therefore uses a different model, which can include free will and God.

Michael Shermer
Publisher of Skeptic magazine
I do not believe in God for four reasons. First, there is not enough evidence for the existence of an omniscient, omnipotent being who created the universe and ourselves and hands down moral laws and offers us eternal life. Second, any such being that was supernatural would by definition be outside the purview of our knowledge of the natural world and would necessarily have to be part of the natural world if we did discover such an entity. This brings me to the third reason, Shermer’s Last Law, which is that any sufficiently advanced extraterrestrial intelligence is indistinguishable from God. (Because of Moore’s law [of increasing computer power] and Kurzweil’s law of accelerating returns, we ourselves will be able to engineer life, solar systems and even universes, given enough time.) Fourth, there is overwhelming evidence from history, anthropology, sociology and psychology that human beings created God, not vice versa. In the past 10,000 years there have been roughly 10,000 religions and 1,000 different gods. What are the chances that one group of people discovered the One True God while everyone else believed in 9,999 false gods? A likelier explanation is that all gods and religion are socially and psychologically constructed. We created gods.

John Harris
Bioethicist

There is no good reason to believe that anything that could coherently be called God exists. A rational person does not waste time believing or even being agnostic about things that there are no good reasons to accept. Even if there was a more powerful being (or, more likely, society or planet of beings) than ourselves with a technology that could have created even our solar system and everything in it, that would not give us anything but prudential and scientific reasons to take any notice of them whatsoever – certainly no reason to worship them.

Bertrand Russell pointed out long ago that the moral character of the Judaeo-Christian God as revealed in the writings of his sycophants leaves much to be desired. The same seems to go for other gods as well. So God is not only non-existent, but also wicked and useless.

Jennifer Bardi
Editor of the Humanist
The short and easy answer is lack of evidence. I also see no value in believing in God, because if you’re thinking clearly and honestly you necessarily must face the issue of suffering, and the ensuing existential crisis wastes precious time and energy. Alleviating suffering is what we should pour our minds and hearts into.

Moreover, I simply don’t want to believe, because the notion of an all-knowing, all-seeing God who lets bad stuff happen really gives me the creeps.

Richard Wiseman
Psychologist

I do not believe in God because it seems both illogical and unnecessary. According to the believers, their God is an all-powerful and almighty force. However, despite this, their God allows for huge amounts of suffering and disease. Also, if I were to believe in God, logically speaking I would have to believe in a wide range of other entities for which there is no evidence, including pixies, goblins and gnomes, etc. It’s a long list and I don’t have room in my head for all of them. So, I am happy to believe that there is no God. We are just insignificant lumps of carbon flying through a tiny section of the universe. Our destiny is totally in our own hands, and it is up to each of us to make the best of our life. Let’s stop worrying about mythical entities and start living.

P Z Myers
Biologist

I am accustomed to the idea that truth claims ought to be justified with some reasonable evidence: if one is going to claim, for instance, that a Jewish carpenter was the son of a God, or that there is a place called heaven where some ineffable, magical part of you goes when you die, then there ought to be some credible reason to believe that. And that reason ought to be more substantial than that it says so in a big book.

Religious claims all seem to short-circuit the rational process of evidence-gathering and testing and the sad thing is that many people don’t see a problem with that, and even consider it a virtue. It is why I don’t just reject religion, but actively oppose it in all its forms – because it is fundamentally a poison for the mind that undermines our critical faculties.

Religious beliefs are lazy jokes with bad punchlines. Why do you have to chop off the skin at the end of your penis? Because God says so. Why should you abstain from pork, or shrimp, or mixing meat and dairy, or your science classes? Because they might taint your relationship with God. Why do you have to revere a bit of dry biscuit? Because it magically turns into a God when a priest mutters over it. Why do I have to be good? Because if you aren’t, a God will set you on fire for all eternity.

These are ridiculous propositions. The whole business of religion is clownshoes freakin’ moonshine, hallowed by nothing but unthinking tradition, fear and superstitious behaviour, and an establishment of con artists who have dedicated their lives to propping up a sense of self-importance by claiming to talk to an in­visible big kahuna.

It’s not just fact-free, it’s all nonsense.

Andrew Copson
Chief executive, British Humanist Association

I don’t believe in any gods or goddesses, because they are so obviously human inventions. Desert-dwellers have severe, austere and dry gods; suffering and oppressed people have loving and merciful gods; farmers have gods of rain and fruitfulness; and I have never met a liberal who believed in a conservative God or a conservative who believed in a liberal one. Every God I have ever heard of bears the indelible marks of human manufacture, and through history we can explain how and why we invented them.

Andrew Zak Williams has written for the Humanist, the Independent and Skeptic. His email address is: andrewbelief@gmail.com


Emphasis Mine.

see:http://www.newstatesman.com/religion/2011/07/god-evidence-believe-world

Meet the Christian Dominionist ‘Prayer Warriors’ Who Have Chosen Rick Perry as Their Vehicle to Power

from AlterNet, by Rachel Tabachnick

“Since he announced his candidacy on Saturday, Texas Governor Rick Perry has been hailed as the great GOP hope of 2012. Perry’s entry into the chaotic Republican primary race has excited the establishment in part because he does not have Michele Bachmann’s reputation for religious zealotry, yet can likely count on the support of the Religious Right.

Another advantage for Perry is support from an extensive 50-state “prayer warrior” network, organized by the New Apostolic Reformation. A religious-political movement whose leaders call themselves apostles and prophets, NAR shares its agenda for control of society and government with other “dominionists,” but has a distinctly different theology than other groups in the Religious Right. They have their roots in Pentecostalism (though their theology has been denounced as a heresy by Pentecostal denominations in the past). The movement is controversial, even inside conservative evangelical circles. Nevertheless, Perry took the gamble that NAR could help him win the primaries, a testament to the power of the apostles’ 50-state prayer warrior network.
While it may not have been obvious to those outside the movement, Perry was publicly anointed as the apostles’ candidate for president in his massive prayer rally a few weeks ago, an event filled with symbolism and coded messages. This was live-streamed to churches across the nation and on God TV, a Jerusalem-based evangelical network.
There’s little doubt that Perry is NAR’s candidate – its chosen vehicle to advance the stated agenda of taking “dominion” over earthly institutions.
The Prayer Warriors and Politics
Perry’s event is not the first time NAR apostles have partnered with politicians. (See previous AlterNet articles by Paul Rosenberg and Bill Berkowitz.) Alaskan Apostle Mary Glazier claimed Sarah Palin was in her prayer network since she was 24 years old and Glazier continued to have contact with Palin through the 2008 election. Prior to running for governor, Palin was “anointed” at Wasilla Assembly of God by Kenyan Apostle Thomas Muthee, a star in promotional media for the movement. The Wasilla congregation is part of a Pentecostal denomination, but it’s leadership had embraced NAR’s controversial ideology years before and has hosted many internationally known apostles.
A partial list of those who have made nationally or internationally broadcast appearances with apostles includes Sam Brownback, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Michele Bachmann, and Jim DeMint. Numerous others, including Rick Santorum, have participated in less publicized apostle-led events.
The list of state and local candidates partnering with the apostles’ network includes Hawaii gubernatorial candidates James “Duke” Aiona, a Republican, and Mufi Hannemann, a Democrat. The conference call that got U.S. Senate candidate Katherine Harris in hot water with Jewish voters back in 2006, was led by Apostle Ken Malone, head of the Florida prayer warrior network.  Apostle Kimberly Daniels recently won a seat on the Jacksonville, Florida city council — as a Democrat.
Why would Rick Perry take the risk of partnering with such a controversial movement? The apostles’ statewide “prayer warrior” networks link people and ministries online and also includes conferences, events, and training. Many of the ministries involved have extensive media capabilities.  The “prophets” of the NAR claim to be continuously receiving direct revelation from God and these messages and visions are broadcast to the prayer warriors through various media outlets. For instance, in the 2008 election, prophesies concerning Sarah Palin, including one from Mary Glazier, were sent out to the prayer warrior networks. Palin repeatedly thanked her prayer warriors during and after the election.

The prayer warrior networks could work as an additional arm for Perry’s campaign in early primary states. South Carolina’s network is led by Frank Seignious, a former episcopal priest who joined the movement and was ordained into “apostolic ministry” by Apostle Chuck Pierce of Texas. Seignious has incorporated the spiritual warfare and prayer network under the name Taking the Land. His network is under the “apostolic authority” of  the Reformation Prayer Alliance of Apostle Cindy Jacobs and the Heartland Apostolic Prayer Network, led by Apostle John Benefiel. Both Jacobs and Benefiel endorsed Rick Perry’s prayer event.

Jacobs announced in March that the movement hopes to mobilize 500,000 prayer warriors or intercessors to “prayer for the nation for the 2012 elections to shift this  nation into righteousness and justice.” She made this statement while speaking at Alaska’s Wasilla Assembly of God, the church where Sarah Palin was anointed by Thomas Muthee in 2005.
Ideology of the New Apostolic Reformation
The leaders of the movement claim this is the most significant change in Protestantism since Martin Luther and the Reformation. NAR’s stated goal is to eradicate denominations and to form a single unified church that will fight and be victorious against “evil” in the end times. Like many American fundamentalists, the apostles teach that the end times are imminent, but unlike most fundamentalists, the apostles see this as a time of great triumph for the church.
Instead of escaping to heaven in the Rapture prior to the battles of the end times, the apostles teach that believers will remain on earth. And instead of watching from the grandstands of heaven as Jesus and his warriors destroy evil, the apostles believe they and their followers will fight and purge the earth of evil themselves.
This includes taking “dominion” over all sectors of society and government, which, in turn, will lead to a “Kingdom” on earth, a Christian utopia ruled from Jerusalem.  The end times narrative of the apostles is similar to that of the Latter Rain movement of the late 1940s and 1950s, which was considered heretical by traditional Pentecostal denominations.
Prerequisites to bringing about the Kingdom on earth are: the restructuring of all Charismatic evangelical believers under the authority of their network of apostles and prophets; the eradication or unification of Christian denominations; and the total elimination of competing religions and philosophies. Their mandate to take control over institutions of society and government is similar to the dominionism of Christian Reconstructionism, founded by the late Rousas Rushdoony, but NAR’s version has been wrapped in a much more appealing package and marketed as activism to “transform” communities.
The apostles have a number of sophisticated promotional tools used to market their agenda for taking control over society, including the Transformations movies, Transformation organizations in communities around the country, and the Seven Mountains campaign. The latter is about taking control over the mountains or “power centers” of arts and entertainment, business, education, family, government, media and religion. The apostles who lead in areas outside of church are called Workplace or Marketplace Apostles.
The apostles teach that the obstacles to their envisioned Kingdom on earth are demonic beings who hold control over geographic territory and specific “people groups.” They claim these demons are the reason why people of other religions refuse to become evangelized. These demons, which the apostles address by name, are also claimed to be the source of crime, corruption, illness, poverty, and homosexuality. The eradication of social ills, as claimed in the Transformations media, can only take place through mass evangelization; not through other human efforts to cure societal ills. This message was repeated throughout Perry’s prayer event, although it may not have been apparent to those unfamiliar with the movement’s lingo and narratives.
The apostles teach that their followers are currently receiving an outpouring of supernatural powers to help them fight these demons through what they call Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare (SLSW). They have held ceremonies to “divorce Baal” and claim to burn and otherwise destroy icons and artifacts of other religious belief systems.  These unique SLSW concepts and methodologies, previously unknown in the evangelical world, include spiritual mapping to identify and purge both demons and their human helpers. The humans are often identified in training materials as witches and their activities as witchcraft.
Many of the evangelical “Reconciliation” programs popularized over the last decade are an outgrowth of the apostles’ SLSW efforts to remove demons, including “generational curses,” which they claim obstruct the evangelization of specific racial and ethnic groups. These activities have political significance not apparent to outsiders. Kansas Governor and former Senator Sam Brownback worked extensively with leading apostles in pursuing an official apology from the U.S. Senate to Native Americans. However, NAR has promoted this apology as part of Identificational Repentance and Reconciliation, an SLSW method to remove demonic control over Native Americans and evangelize tribes. Curiously, this apology is also viewed as a required step in their spiritual warfare agenda to criminalize abortion.
Apostle Alice Patterson and Pastor C. L. Jackson stood with Rick Perry as he addressed the audience at his Houston prayer rally. This went unnoticed by members of the press, but sent a strong message to those familiar with Patterson and Jackson’s activities in convincing African American pastors in Texas to leave the Democratic Party and become Republicans. This is done by outreach to African Americans through “reconciliation” ceremonies. They also utilize David Barton’s revisionist American history,  which ties Democrats to racism and civil rights to conservatives and Republicans. Patterson has written that there is a “demonic structure behind the Democratic Party.”
History of the New Apostolic Reformation
A wave of religious fervor swept through the U.S. in the early 1900s resulting in Pentecostalism and the establishment of  denominations emphasizing supernatural “gifts of the Holy Spirit,” including speaking in tongues. A second wave swept through other Protestant denominations and Roman Catholicism beginning in the 1960s, producing pockets of Charismatic believers. (“Charismatic” is usually used to describe those who embrace the belief of supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit but are not in Pentecostal denominations.)
Some remained in their respective churches while the remainder left to join other nondenominational Charismatics in what would become the largest single (and largely overlooked) block of Protestantism in the world — Independent Charismatics, also called neo-Pentecostals or the “Third Wave.” By the late 1980s, Independent Charismatics began to be networked under the leadership of self-appointed apostles and prophets who view the reorganization of the church as crucial to preparation for the end times. C. Peter Wagner, a prolific author and professor for 30 years at Fuller Theological Seminary, became the primary force behind organizing one of the largest and most influential of apostolic and prophetic networks. He dubbed it the “New Apostolic Reformation” (NAR).
Wagner and other NAR pioneers refined their unique Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare training and demon-hunting methods through the latter 1980s and 1990s. Due to Wagner’s international reputation as an expert in “Church Growth” (his most famous pupil is Rick Warren) and Wagner’s leadership role in the frantic rush by international missions to evangelize the world prior to the year 2000, these unusual techniques gained surprisingly widespread acceptance in some evangelical circles.
Wagner had a major role through the 1990s in the Billy Graham-endorsed AD 2000 and Beyond, working closely with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) and Independent Charismatic groups in what they would dub as the “world prayer movement.” Ted Haggard, who would later become president of the National Association of Evangelicals, claimed that the effort involved 40 million people worldwide. As 2000 AD and Beyond was winding down in the late 1990s, Wagner left Fuller Seminary and resettled in Colorado Springs.  Wagner partnered with Haggard and continued his international networking from the World Prayer Center adjacent to Haggard’s mega-church.
Wagner claimed that the New Apostolic Reformation, a new era in church history, began in 2001 and organized several hundred apostles with their own networks into the International Coalition of Apostles (ICA). In addition, Wagner oversaw: an inner circle of prophets (ACPE or Apostolic Council of Prophetic Elders); demon deliverance experts (ISDM or International Society of Deliverance Ministries); faith-healers (IAHR or International Association of Healing Room Ministries); an international training network (Wagner Leadership Institute); and their own educational accreditation system (ACEA or Apostolic Council for Educational Accountability, now called the Association of Christian Educators and Administrators).
Transformation is the movement’s buzzword for taking control over communities. The Transformation entities usually begin as prayer networks of pastors and individuals that are advertised as nonsectarian.  Charitable activities are emphasized as a way to gain a foothold in financially strapped municipalities and they provide faith-based services from emergency response to juvenile rehabiliation. Today NAR has “prayer warrior” networks under the authority of their apostles in all 50 states, some now organizing by precincts.
The movement has had a widespread impact, spreading ideology to other Charismatics inside Mainline Protestant denominations and Roman Catholicism, although non-Charismatic Roman Catholicism is viewed as controlled by a powerful demon named “The Queen of Heaven.” Over the last few years, the apostles have taken visible leadership roles in the Religious Right in the United States and numerous nations in Africa, Asia, and South America and claim Uganda as their greatest “Transformations” success story and prototype.
After years of political activity and increasing power inside the American Religious Right, NAR has suddenly been propelled into national press coverage by presidential candidate Rick Perry and his supposedly nonpartisan and nonpolitical prayer rally. Now that he has been chosen and anointed by the movement’s apostles, the prayer warriors across the nation can be mobilized on his behalf.

Emphasis Mine

see: http://www.alternet.org/story/152034/meet_the_christian_dominionist_%22prayer_warriors%22_who_have_chosen_rick_perry_as_their_vehicle_to_power?page=entire

Goodbye Religion? How Godlessness Is Increasing With Each New Generation

From Alternet, by Adam Lee

“This demographic transformation has been in progress ever since World War II, but in recent years it’s begun to seriously pick up steam.

Something strange is happening to American teenagers. If you believe popular wisdom, young people are apathetic, cynical and jaded; or, they’re supposed to be conformists whose overriding desire is to fit in and be popular. But if you’ve been paying close attention over the past decade, you might have seen any of a growing number of cases that conspicuously defy these stereotypes: stories of teenagers who have strong principles they’re unashamed to display and which they’re committed to defending, even at great personal cost, against the bullying of a hostile establishment.

For example, in 2002, an Eagle Scout named Darrell Lambert was threatened with expulsion from the Boy Scouts, despite his having earned dozens of merit badges and having held literally every leadership position in his troop. His crime? He’s an outspoken atheist. When the news of his beliefs reached scouting officials, they demanded that he change his mind. He was given a week to think it over. All he had to do was lie, but if he did that, he said, “I wouldn’t be a good Scout then, would I?” For his honesty, he was kicked out of the organization he’d devoted his life to.

In New Jersey in 2006, a public high school teacher named David Paskiewicz was openly preaching Christianity in the classroom, advocating creationism and telling a Muslim student she would burn in hell if she didn’t convert. A junior named Matt LaClair reported this illegal government preaching to the school administration. In a meeting with the principal, Paskiewicz denied everything — whereupon LaClair produced audio recordings of him saying the things he specifically denied having said.

In Indiana in 2009, the senior class at a public school was asked to vote on whether to have a prayer as part of their graduation ceremony. A senior named Eric Workman, knowing full well that school-sponsored prayer is illegal even if a majority votes for it, filed a lawsuit and won an injunction against the prayer. The school administration responded by announcing it wouldn’t review graduation speeches in advance, clearly hoping that some student would use the opportunity to say the same prayer — except that the class valedictorian was Eric Workman, and he used his graduation speech to explain why the school’s actions were unconstitutional and to explain the importance of the First Amendment.

Stories like these are multiplying all over the nation. In South Carolina just this year, a graduating senior named Harrison Hopkins put a stop to school prayer with help from the Freedom from Religion Foundation. In Louisiana, a senior named Damon Fowler fought against similar school-sponsored prayers at his graduation. In Rhode Island, an amazing sophomore named Jessica Ahlquist is leading the fight to get an illegal “School Prayer” banner removed from her school’s auditorium.

Granted, stories like these aren’t entirely a new phenomenon. There have always been brave young free thinkers who dared to stand up for their rights, and there has always been a hostile, prejudiced religious majority that’s tried to silence them with bullying, persecution and harassment.

For instance, when church-state hero Ellery Schempp prevailed in a landmark First Amendment case against school-sponsored Bible reading, his principal wrote to the colleges he had applied to and asked them not to admit him. (It didn’t work: Ellery was accepted to Tufts University, graduated with honors and became a successful scientist.) Likewise, when Jim McCollum and his mother Vashti challenged their school over a released-time program, raving bigots assaulted him, got her fired from her job, pelted their home with rotten fruit and killed their cat. (The McCollums didn’t relent, and won a precedent-setting Supreme Court decision striking down religious instruction on public school time.)

Regrettably, this hasn’t changed as much as I’d like. Most of the student activists I named earlier have faced harassment, some from peers, some from the teachers and authority figures who are supposed to be the responsible ones. Damon Fowler was demeaned by a teacher and disowned by his own parents for opposing prayer at his graduation. But what’s different now is that young people who speak out aren’t left to face the mob alone. Now more than ever before, there’s a thriving, growing secular community that’s becoming increasingly confident, assertive, and capable of looking out for its own.

When Fowler was kicked out of his house, a fundraiser on Friendly Atheist netted over $30,000 in donations to pay for his living expenses and college tuition. The Secular Student Alliance, a national organization that supports student atheist and freethought clubs, is growing by leaps and bounds in colleges and high schools. (This is especially important in the light of psychological experiments which find that it’s much easier to resist peer pressure if you have even one other person standing with you.) Student activists like the ones I’ve mentioned are no longer just scattered voices in the crowd; they’re the leading edge of a wave.

All these individual facts add up to a larger picture, which is confirmed by statistical evidence: Americans are becoming less religious, with rates of atheism and secularism increasing in each new generation. This demographic transformation has been in progress ever since World War II, but in recent years it’s begun to seriously pick up steam. In the generation born since 1982, variously referred to as Generation Y, the Millennials, or Generation Next, one in five people identify as nonreligious, atheist, or agnostic. In the youngest cohort, the trend is even more dramatic: as many as 30% of those born since 1990 are nonbelievers. Another study, this one by a Christian polling firm, found that people are leaving Christianity at four times the rate that new members are joining.

What could be causing this generational shift towards godlessness? There are multiple theories, but only one of them that I’m aware of both makes good sense and is corroborated by the facts.

Over the last few decades, society in general, and young people in particular, have become increasingly tolerant of gays and other minorities. For the most part, this is a predictable result of familiarity: people who’ve grown up in an increasingly multicultural society see less problem with interracial relationships (89% of Generation Nexters approve of interracial marriage, compared to 70% of older age groups) and same-sex marriage (47% in favor among Nexters, compared to 30% in older groups). When it comes to issues like whether gays and lesbians should be protected from job discrimination or allowed to adopt, the age gap in support is even more dramatic (71% vs. 59% and 61% vs. 44%, respectively).

But while American society is moving forward on all these fronts, many churches not only refuse to go along, they’re actively moving backward. Most large Christian sects, both Catholic and Protestant, have made fighting against gay rights and women’s rights their all-consuming crusade. And young people have gotten this message loud and clear: polls find that the most common impressions of Christianity are that it’s hostile, judgmental and hypocritical. In particular, an incredible 91% of young non-Christians say that Christianity is “anti-homosexual“, and significant majorities say that Christianity treats being gay as a bigger sin than anything else. (When right-wing politicians thunder that same-sex marriage is worse than terrorism, it’s not hard to see where people have gotten this impression.)

On other social issues as well, the gap between Gen Nexters and the church looms increasingly wide. Younger folks favor full access to the morning-after pill by a larger margin than older generations (59% vs. 46%). They reject the notion that women should return to “traditional roles” — already a minority position, but they disagree with it even more strongly than others. And they’re by far the least likely of all age groups to say that they have “old-fashioned” values about family and marriage (67% say this, as compared to 85% of other age groups).

In a society that’s increasingly tolerant and enlightened, the big churches remain stubbornly entrenched in the past, clinging to medieval dogmas about gay people and women, presuming to lecture their members about how they should vote, whom they should love, how they should live. It’s no surprise that people who’ve grown up in this tolerant age find it absurd when they’re told that their family and friends don’t deserve civil rights, and it’s even less of a surprise that, when they’re told they must believe this to be good Christians, they simply walk away. This trend is reflected in the steadily rising percentages of Americans who say that religion is “old-fashioned and out of date” and can’t speak to today’s social problems.

The Roman Catholic church in particular has been hit hard by this. According to a 2009 Pew study, “Faith in Flux,” one in ten American adults is a former Catholic, and a majority of ex-Catholics cite unhappiness with the church’s archaic stance on abortion, homosexuality, birth control or the treatment of women as a major factor in their departure. But evangelical and other Protestant denominations are feeling the same sting. According to a survey by the sociologists Robert Putnam and David Campbell, moderates and progressives are heading for the exits as the churches increasingly become the domain of conservatives:

From the early 1970s to the late 1980s the fraction of Americans age 18 to 29 who identified with evangelical Protestantism rose to 25% from 20%, but since 1990, that fraction has fallen back to about 17%….Today, 17% of Americans say they have no religion, and these new “nones” are very heavily concentrated among Americans who have come of age since 1990. Between 25% and 30% of twentysomethings today say they have no religious affiliation — roughly four times higher than in any previous generation.

Even the mainstream, relatively liberal Protestant churches are dwindling and dying at an astonishing rate: collateral damage, perhaps, in a political war that’s led young people to view them as guilty by association. As the journal First Things observes in an article titled “The Death of Protestant America,” the mainline churches have fallen from more than 50% of the American population in 1965 to less than 8% today.

What all this means is that the rise of atheism as a political force is an effect, rather than a cause, of the churches’ hard right turn towards fundamentalism. I admit that this conclusion is a little damaging to my ego. I’d love to say that we atheists did it all ourselves; I’d love to be able to say that our dazzling wit and slashing rhetorical attacks are persuading people to abandon organized religion in droves. But the truth is that the churches’ wounds are largely self-inflicted. By obstinately clinging to prejudices that the rest of society is moving beyond, they’re in the process of making themselves irrelevant. In fact, there are indications that it’s a vicious circle: as churches become less tolerant and more conservative, their younger and more progressive members depart, which makes their average membership still more conservative, which accelerates the progressive exodus still further, and so on. (A similar dynamic is at work in the Republican party, which explains their increasing levels of insanity over the past two or three decades.)

That doesn’t mean, however, that that there’s nothing we freethinkers can contribute. On the contrary, there’s a virtuous circle that we can take advantage of: the more we speak out and the more visible we are, the more familiar atheism will become, and the more it will be seen as a viable alternative, which will encourage still more people to join us and speak out. This is exactly the same strategy that’s been used successfully by trailblazers in the gay-rights movement and other social reform efforts.

At the same time, the churches aren’t entirely oblivious to what’s happening. The rising secular tide of Generation Next hasn’t gone unfelt or unnoticed, but is increasingly being reflected in dwindling donations, graying congregations, and empty churches across the land. As John Avant, a vice president for evangelization of the Southern Baptist Conference, lamented:

A study by New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s Leavell Center for Evangelism and Church Health showed that only 11 percent of SBC churches are healthy and growing… And we are doing worse with young people, with 39 percent of Southern Baptist churches in 2005 reporting baptizing no teens. (source)

The Catholic church is experiencing a similar slow fade, with declining Mass attendance and a crippling shortage of priests worldwide. Land once owned by religious orders is being sold off for conservation or public use, turned into schools or nature preserves. The Pope’s response, meanwhile, is to accelerate the decline by ordering bishops not even to discuss the possibility of ordaining women or married men, even as he welcomes Holocaust deniers and ex-Angelican misogynists.

And religious giving has declined as well, leaving shrinking churches grappling with layoffs and angry creditors. The recession has worsened this trend, but didn’t create it; like all the other patterns, it’s generational, with each increasingly secular age group giving less than the last. As one conservative rabbi says, the dip in giving stems from a “growing disinterest in organized religion.”

Of course, Christianity is still by far the largest religious affiliation in America, and likely will be for some time. But the numbers don’t lie, and the trends of the last several decades show more and more evidence of the same secularizing wave that’s overtaking most countries in Europe. The major churches, clinging to the inferior morality of long-gone ages, are increasingly out of step with a world that’s more enlightened, rational and tolerant than it once was. And the more they dig in their heels, the more we can expect this process to accelerate. I, for one, can’t wait to see the young atheist activists who will emerge in the next few decades.”

Adam Lee is the author and creator of Daylight Atheism, one of the largest and most popular weblogs on the Internet whose primary focus is on atheism. His original essays written for the site explore issues in politics, science, history, philosophy, and popular culture. Lee is the author of a forthcoming book, also titled Daylight Atheism, which advances the atheist viewpoint and argues that lack of religious belief is a positive liberation and the gateway to a moral life filled with purpose and joy.
Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/belief/151947/goodbye_religion_how_godlessness_is_increasing_with_each_new_generation/?page=entire

Meet the Right-Wing Hatemongers Who Inspired the Norway Killer

N.B.:More than ever, we need, really need, the First Amendment…

N.B.: It was interesting to watch Fox News scramble on Breivik’s religious and political views.

From Alternet, by Max Blumenthal.

“Few political terrorists in recent history took as much care to articulate their ideological influences and political views as Anders Hans Breivik did. The right-wing Norwegian Islamophobe who murdered 76 children and adults in Oslo and at a government-run youth camp spent months, if not years, preparing his 1,500 page manifesto. Besides its length, one of the most remarkable aspects of the manifesto is the extent to which its European author quoted from the writings of figures from the American conservative movement. Though he referred heavily to his fellow Norwegian, the blogger Fjordman, it was Robert Spencer, the American Islamophobic pseudo-academic, who received the most references from Breivik — 55 in all. Then there was Daniel Pipes, the Muslim-bashing American neoconservative who earned 18 citations from the terrorist. Other American anti-Muslim characters appear prominently in the manifesto, including the extremist blogger Pam Geller, who operates an Islamophobic organization in partnership with Spencer. Breivik may have developed his destructive sensibility in the stark political environment of a European continent riveted by mass immigration from the Muslim world, but his conceptualization of the changes he was witnessing reflect the influence of a cadre of far-right bloggers and activists from across the Atlantic Ocean. He not only mimicked their terminology and emulated their language, he substantially adopted their political worldview. The profound impact of the American right’s Islamophobic subculture on Breivik’s thinking raises a question that has not been adequately explored: Where is the American version of Breivik and why has he not struck yet? Or has he? Many of the American writers who influenced Breivik spent years churning out calls for the mass murder of Muslims, Palestinians and their left-wing Western supporters. But the sort of terrorism these US-based rightists incited for was not the style the Norwegian killer would eventually adopt. Instead of Breivik’s renegade free-booting, they preferred the “shock and awe” brand of state terror perfected by Western armies against the brown hordes threatening to impose Sharia law on the people in Peoria. This kind of violence provides a righteous satisfaction so powerful it can be experienced from thousands of miles away. And so most American Islamophobes simply sit back from the comfort of their homes and cheer as American and Israeli troops — and their remote-controlled aerial drones — leave a trail of charred bodies from Waziristan to Gaza City. Only a select group of able-bodied Islamophobes are willing to suit up in a uniform and rush to the front lines of the clash of civilizations. There, they have discovered that they can mow down Muslim non-combatants without much fear of legal consequences, and that when they return, they will be celebrated as the elite Crusader-warriors of the new Islamophobic right — a few particularly violent figures have been rewarded with seats in Congress. Given the variety of culturally acceptable, officially approved outlets for venting violent anti-Muslim resentment, there is little reason for any American to follow in Breivik’s path of infamy. Before exploring the online subculture that both shaped and mirrored Breivik’s depravity, it is necessary to define state terror, especially the kind refined by its most prolific practitioners. At the dawn of the “war on terror,” the United States and Israel began cultivating a military doctrine called “asymmetrical warfare.” Pioneered by an Israeli philosophy and “practical ethics” professor named Asa Kasher and the former head of Israeli military intelligence, Lt. Gen. Amos Yadlin, and successfully marketed to the Pentagon, the asymmetrical warfare doctrine did away with traditional counterinsurgency tactics which depended on winning the “hearts and minds” of indigenous populations. Under the new rules, the application of disproportionate force against non-combatants who were supposedly intermingled with the “terrorists” was not only  justified but considered necessary. According to Kasher and Yadlin, eliminating the principle of distinction between enemy combatants and civilians was the most efficient means of deterring attacks from non-state actors like Hamas and Hezbollah while guarding the lives of Israeli soldiers. Asymmetrical warfare has been witnessed in theaters of war across the Muslim world, leaving tens of thousands of civilians dead in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Gaza Strip. The strategy was formalized in the Dahiya district of southern Beirut in 2006, when the Israeli military flattened hundreds of civilian structures and homes to supposedly punish Hezbollah for its capturing of two Israeli soldiers. From the ashes of the Israeli carpet bombing campaign emerged the “Dahiya Doctrine,” a term coined by an Israeli general responsible for directing the war on Lebanon in 2006. “IDF Northern Command Chief Gadi Eisenkot uttered clear words that essentially mean the following,” wrote Israeli journalist Yaron London, who had just interviewed the general. “In the next clash with Hezbollah we won’t bother to hunt for tens of thousands of rocket launchers and we won’t spill our soldiers’ blood in attempts to overtake fortified Hizbullah positions. Rather, we shall destroy Lebanon and won’t be deterred by the protests of the ‘world.’” In a single paragraph, London neatly encapsulated the logic of state terror. While Israel has sought to insulate itself from the legal ramifications of its attacks on civilian life by deploying elaborate propaganda and intellectual sophistry (witness the country’s frantic campaign to discredit the Goldstone Report), and the United States has casually dismissed allegations of war crimes as any swaggering superpower would (after a US airstrike killed scores of Afghan civilians, former US CENTCOM Director David Petraeus baselessly claimed that Afghan parents had deliberately burned their children alive to increase the death toll), the online Islamophobes who inspired Breivik tacitly accept the reality of Israeli and American state terror. And they like it. Indeed, American Islamophobes derive frightening levels of ecstasy from the violence inflicted by the armed forces against Muslim civilians. The Facebook page of Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer’s hate group, Stop the Islamicization of America (SOIA), is Exhibit A of the phenomenon. During a visit to SOIA’s Facebook page, which is personally administered by Geller and Spencer, it is possible to read rambling calls for killing “the diaper heads” and for Israel to “rule the whole Middle East.” A cursory glance at the website will also reveal visual propaganda reveling in the prospect of a genocide against Muslims. One image posted on the site depicts American and British troops dropping a nuclear bomb in the midst of thousands of Muslim pilgrims in Mecca. “Who ya gonna call? Shitbusters,” it reads. A second image portraying a nuclear mushroom cloud declares: “DEALING WITH MUSLIMS — RULES OF ENGAGEMENT; Rule #1: Kill the Enemy. Rule #2: There is no rule #2.” Another posted on SOIA’s Facebook page shows the bullet-riddled, bloodsoaked bodies of Muslim civilians splayed out by a roadside. “ARMY MATH,” the caption reads. “4 Tangos + (3 round burst x 4 M 4′s) = 288 virgins.” However pathological these images might seem to outsiders, in the subculture of Geller and Spencer’s online fascisphere, they are understood as legitimate expressions of nationalistic, “pro-Western” pride. Indeed, none seem to celebrate violence against Muslims by anyone except uniformed representatives of Western armies. The anti-Muslim fervor of Geller, Spencer and their allies reached a fever pitch during the controversy they manufactured in 2010 over the construction of the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” in downtown New York City. Meanwhile, hundreds of miles away, in North Carolina, a right-wing Republican ex-Marine named Ilario Pantano made opposing the mosque the centerpiece of his campaign for Congress, proclaiming that New York was “forsaking Israel” by allowing the mosque’s construction. During the height of the his campaign, a report relying on documented evidence and confirmed testimonies revealed that while serving in Iraq in 2004, Pantano had executed two unarmed civilians near Fallujah, firing 60 bullets into their bodies with his M16A4 automatic rifle — he even stopped to reload — then decorated their corpses a placard inscribed with the Marine motto: “No better friend, No worse enemy.” The incident did not hinder Pantano’s campaign, however. His Democratic opponent never mentioned it, Pam Geller hailed Pantano as “a war hero,” and he cruised to a resounding victory. Pantano was sworn into Congress alongside another US military veteran closely allied with the Islamophobic right: Republican Representative Allen West. While serving in Iraq, West was discharged from the military and fined $5000 after he brutally beat an Iraqi policeman, then fired his pistol behind the immobilized man’s head. As in Pantano’s case, reports of the disturbing incident only helped propel West to victory. In fact, West boasted about the beating in his campaign speeches, citing it as evidence of how hard he would fight for his constituents if elected. Though Breivik’s hatred for Muslims clearly spurred him to violence, he wound up murdering scores of the non-Muslims. He believed they were enabling an Islamic takeover of Europe, or what he called the creation of “Eurabia,” and that the “traitors” deserved the ultimate punishment. In homing in on liberal elements in Norway, Breivik borrowed from the language of right-wing figures from the United States, labeling his targets as “Cultural Marxists.” Initially introduced by the anti-Semitic right-wing organizer William Lind of the Washington-based Free Congress Foundation, Breivik understood the term as a characterization of liberal advocates of open immigration and sympathizers with the Palestinian cause. “Let us fight together with Israel, with our Zionist brothers against all anti-Zionists, against all cultural Marxists/multiculturalists,” Breivik wrote in his manifesto. The killer also sought to differentiate between good Jews (supporters of Israel) and bad Jews (advocates for Palestinian rights), claiming that “Jews that support multi-culturalism today are as much of a threat to Israel and Zionism as they are to us.” Breivik’s characterizations of the left and of left-wing Jews echoed those familiar to right-wing bloggers and conservative activists in the US, particularly on the issue of Israel-Palestine. The only difference seems to have been that Breivik was willing to personally kill sympathizers with Palestinian rights, while American Islamophobes have prefered to sit back and cheer for the Israeli military to do the job instead. The tendency of the American right was on shocking display this June when the Free Gaza Flotilla attempted to break the Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip (during the previous flotilla in 2010, nine activists were killed by what a United Nations report described as execution style shootings by Israeli commandoes). As the debate about the flotilla escalated on Twitter, Joshua Trevino, a US army veteran and who worked as a speechwriter in the administration of George W. Bush, chimed in. “Dear IDF,” Trevino tweeted. “If you end up shooting any Americans on the new Gaza flotilla — well, most Americans are cool with that. Including me.” While Trevino hectored flotilla participants, Kurt Schlicter, a former American army officer and right-wing blogger for Andrew Breitbart’s Big Peace site, joined the calls for bloodshed. “Sink the flotilla,” Schlicter wrote on Twitter. “Enough screwing around with these psychos.” Neither Schlicter or Trevino saw any reason to apologize for inciting the murder of fellow Americans, nor did Trevino appear to face any consequences at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, where he serves as Vice President. Instead, Trevino earned a rousing defense from prominent conservative personalities like Erick Erickson, a paid CNN contributor who lauded “the correctness of Josh’s opinion” that Israel should kill American leftists. Indeed, no one from inside the American right’s online media hothouse condemned Trevino, Schlicter or Erickson, or even brooked a slight disagreement. Meanwhile, the incitement against Palestine solidarity activists has continued, with pro-Israel operatives Roz Rothstein and Roberta Seid writing this July in the Jerusalem Post that “Flotilla Folk are not like other people.” When the smoke cleared from Breivik’s terrorist rampage across Norway, American Islamophobes went into  intellectual contortions, condemning his acts while carefully avoiding any criticism of his views. While making sure to call Breivik “evil,” the ultra-nationalist commentator and former Republican presidential candidate Patrick Buchanan insisted that “Breivik may be right” about the supposed clash of civilizations between the Muslim East and the Christian West. Pipes, for his part, accused Breivik of a “purposeful” campaign to discredit him by citing him so frequently in his manifesto, while a panicked Geller claimed that Breivik “is a murderer, a mass murderer. Period. He’s not anything else.” The comically revealing reactions by American Islamophobes to Brevik’s killing spree demonstrate the politically catastrophic situation they have gotten themselves into. All of a sudden, their movement was under intense scrutiny from a previously derelict mainstream media. And they were likely to be monitored to an unprecedented degree by federal law enforcement. These same figures who influenced Breivik had been printing open calls for terrorist violence against Muslims and leftists for years — while a few, like Pantano, went a step further. Before Breivik killed 76 innocent people, they had generally gotten away with it. Why were America’s Islamophobes able to avoid accountability for so long? The answer is not that their yearnings for righteous political violence had not been fulfilled until Breivik emerged. The truth is far more uncomfortable than that. America’s Islamophobic right was only able to make so much political headway because a broad sector of the American public had tolerated and even supported the kind of terror that they openly celebrated.”

Max Blumenthal is the author of Republican Gomorrah (Basic/Nation Books, 2009). Contact him at maxblumenthal3000@yahoo.com.

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/story/151881/meet_the_right-wing_hatemongers_who_inspired_the_norway_killer?page=entire

Because the Bible Tells Me So: Why Bachmann and Tea Party Christians Oppose Raising the Debt Ceiling

Serparation of  Church more important than ever.

From Alternet, by Adele M. Stan

” It’s a deal not even its parents could love, but if Congress manages to pass the plan to lift the debt ceiling arrived at last night by President Barack Obama and congressional leaders, the United States of America will manage to have avoided default on its debt — for the price of deep cuts to public programs.

In a scheme designed to cut $2.4 trillion in spending, the plan devised by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, with buy-in from House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, relies on a special bipartisan, bicameral committee of Congress to meet certain spending-cut targets, with the threat of automatic across-the-board cuts to everything from social programs (including Social Security and Medicare) to defense spending if Congress does not act. (You can see the PowerPoint presentation Boehner sent out to his caucus here[PDF]; note that the Washington Post‘s Ezra Klein says the speaker’s wrongwhen he asserts the plan does not allow for the raising of revenue.) If Congress passes the plan, it should push the next action needed on the debt ceiling to after the 2012 presidential election.

Dubbed a “compromise” by the White House, the deal looks like more of a grand capitulation than a grand bargain, effectively handing the Republicans a reward for dangling the economy off a cliff with their refusal to raise the limit on the amount of debt the nation could assume. It’s not “the deal that I would have preferred,” the president said while making a brief statement in the White House press room. The brinksmanship was driven by the most far-right members of the GOP majority in the House of Representatives, who embarrassed Boehner earlier in the week with their refusal to support a deal that would have given them nearly everything they demanded. That required Boehner to come back with a bill that seemed designed to waste time and bring the U.S. that much closer to default: it contained a requirement for passage of a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which led to its predictable rejection by the Senate.

‘A Sugar-Coated Satan Sandwich’

As last night’s agreement was shaping up, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus described it “shady” — a “sugar-coated Satan sandwich.” He did not rule out, however, the possibility of the CBC supporting it — apparently because the price for keeping the economy from crashing on all Americans just may be the devil’s ransom.

It remains to be seen, however, whether the far-right members of the Republican caucus will go for a deal that could, theoretically, cut defense spending. And then there are those even further to the right, such as Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, the Republican presidential contender and chair of the House Tea Party Caucus, for whom the devil isn’t simply in the details — it’s in the point of focus of the bill itself, its organizing principal, the thing that was used to create the hostage-taking crisis in the first place: the lifting of the debt ceiling.

Even some of the more right-wing members of the notoriously right-wing GOP House caucus began to get nervous last week, as the tick-tock of the doomsday default clock grew ever louder. The stock market had fallen every day, posting its worst week in more than a year, with the Dow dropping 4.2 percent for the week. Christine Lagarde, the newly appointed chief of the International Monetary Fund, warned, “A crisis in the US faith and credit has global implications.” By Thursday, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., House Budget Committee chairman and author of the draconian budget named for him, fell in line behind Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, ready to back his plan to lift the debt. So did House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Va., who had give the speaker a serious case of agita during the latter’s negotiations with the White House, and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, Calif.

But not Bachmann. Never, she said, would she vote for raising the debt ceiling. America should borrow no more.

If Bachmann’s oppostion — and that of some of her fellow Tea Partiers — to raising the debt ceiling seems fraught with a fervor best described as religious, perhaps that’s because it is. For Bachmann and some of her right-wing evangelical compatriots, financial, fiscal and economic issues are not matters to be considered with the knowledge imparted by economists and policy experts, but rather through the economic policy of ancient Israel as described in the Holy Bible.

The Hooey Offensive

For inside-the-Beltway political consumption, Bachmann keeps her ruminations on the debt ceiling strictly secular. All that talk of default on the national debt, and how that could destroy the economy, here and abroad? A whole lot of hooey, Bachmann asserts.

“The president has been scaring senior citizens and military veterans into thinking that we might be defaulting,” Bachmann said to supporters gathered in Iowa via telephone from Washington, D.C., according to the Des Moines Register.

Even if the debt ceiling isn’t lifted, she told a group of supporters on Saturday, the United States does not have to default on its debt. The nation can simply slash its way out of the mess, she contends. Last month, in fact, she co-authored a proposal with Iowa Congressman Steve King that would set priorities for just what the government would and wouldn’t pay if the debt ceiling, currently set at $14.3 trillion, was not lifted. The Register described it this way:

The U.S. could pay creditors as well as the military and fund Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid without increasing the debt limit, King and Bachmann said. Their list, however, did not contain such items as homeland and border security, federal prisons, veterans’ benefits or unemployment insurance.

“Shame on President Obama for casting the American people aside as collateral damage, as he continues his political gamesmanship with the national debt crisis,” Bachmann wrote in a statement issued last Tuesday, after the president’s speech about the current crisis in the nation’s borrowing authority.

For Bachmann, this position is likely borne from something other than secular economic conservatism: it seems more an article of faith, a product of what has come to be known as biblical economics. Its acceptance by Tea Partiers may indicate that the apparently upstart movement isn’t nearly as secular as its proponents would have you believe. A Pew poll released earlier this year found that while only a sizable minority of Tea Partiers said they agreed with the religious right (42 percent), a mere 11 percent expressed opposition to the religious right. And many of those regarded as Tea Party movement leaders — from Tim Phillips of Americans for Prosperity, to Rep. Mke Pence, R-Ind. to Bachmann herself, were part of the religious right before the Tea Party was a twinkle in David Koch’s eye.

The question is whether Bachmann and those who join her in opposing a raising of the debt ceiling actually believe the U.S. can avoid default through spending cuts alone, or rather, as Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner asserted last week on “Fox News Sunday,” they are actually “praying for default” — a scenario that would bear out a religious philosophy known as Christian Reconstructionism.

The Invisible Hand of Christian Reconstructionism

As I wrote earlier this month, Bachmann’s notions regarding gay rights appear to be shaped by the Christian Reconstructionist views that gave birth, as Sarah Posner of Religion Dispatches reported, to the law school at Oral Roberts University where she earned her degree. (The ORU law school has since been absorbed by the Rev. Pat Robertson’s Regent University.) Likewise, Bachmann’s position on the national debt, and her opposition to raising the debt ceiling or ending the Bush-era tax breaks for top income-earners, also finds commonalities with the interpretations of the Christian Reconstructionism founder, the late Rousas John Rushdoony, as well as several evangelical Christian writers who prescribe a “godly” approach to economic and even monetary policy.

Bachmann herself cites, as one inspiration, the religious-right philosopher, Francis Schaeffer, father of writer Frank Schaeffer, who authored the recently released book, God, Mom and Sex. (See Frank discuss Bachmann’s ideology with Thom Hartmann, here.) While the elder Schaeffer was not a Reconstructionist per se, the urgency with which he held Christians must act in the secular sphere to oppose laws they deem to be unjust overlaps in some ways with Reconstructionism, which author Frederick Clarkson says influenced the elder Schaeffer.

In the Christian Reconstructionist’s idea of a perfect state, the law of ancient Israel, with its death penalty for “homosexual” men and adulterers, would constitute the law of the land. Christian Reconstructionists assert there is no law but “God’s law,” by which they mean the law as laid out in the Bible. Any secular law that contradicts God’s law is viewed as invalid by a hard-core Reconstructionist. That may account for why there are so few hard-core Reconstructionists; to live literally by its precepts would likely mean doing serious jail time for all that defiance of ungodly laws.

But Reconstructionist thought has had a profound influence on Christian evangelicals from a wide range of sects — from austere Baptists to tongues-speaking charismatics. Bachmann, who says she was called to public office by God, would seem to be no exception. Indeed, many small-government Christians credit their poltiical views to the Old Testament story of Samuel, who advised the ancient Hebrews against installing a king, because, as Chad Hovind, author of the Godonomics blog on BeliefNet explains it, a king requires a government which, by its very nature, is essentially designed to steal from you.

Purveyors of biblical economics contend that most of the practices of modern government – especially government assistance to the poor — run contrary to biblical principles, and should therefore be halted. Alex McFarland, an evangelical author who appears regularly on “Fox & Friends,” sent out a press release this week stating that the answer to “stop[ing] the bleeding” of government spending is to “Stop the addiction and return to biblical principles when handling the country’s finances.” The government, the release says, is addicted to spending.

Hovind, on the other hand, doesn’t bother with newfangled theories of addiction, and instead goes straight to the Old Testment story of King Solomon’s son, Rehobaom:

There is no place in the Bible more “ripped from today’s headlines” than King Rehoboam’s cabinet meeting in 1 Kings chapter 12. His father, Solomon was a extremely successful leader who led the nation into incredible historic success.  His dad expanded government, over-committed the kingdom’s spending, and taxed the “little people” for many years.  His father was known for his building projects, national attention, and global influence; however dad had slowly eroded the liberty and love of the people through high taxation and high control. The people were ready for a new administration. There was buzz in the community about the high hopes for changes and renewal under the new king. All of Israel came out to cheer on their new leader.

Hovind goes on to explain how Rehoboam blew his chance to win the adoration of the people by liberating them, and instead vowed to visit scourges upon them where his father had oppressed them only with a heavy yoke. In the worldview of the Reconstructionist-influenced evangelical, Rehoboam makes a handy stand-in for Barack Obama, the man Michele Bachmann claims has “cast the American people aside as collateral damage.” (The collateral damage reference comes from Obama’s own assertion that in the wrangling over the debt, the American people were poised to become collateral damage of partisan political warfare.)

Hovind’s invocation of the Rehoboam story in order to make a case for spending cuts — as opposed to a raise in the debt ceiling — comes straight from the pages of the Institutes of Biblical law, the Christian Reconstructionist text penned by Rushdoony. Reconstructionist theologian Gary North, Rushdoony’s son-in-law, describes the story here.

Thou Shalt Not Tax

One can easily find, within the pages of Rushdoony’s tome, the roots of opposition to ending the Bush-era tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans. In a section called “Robbing God” in a chapter on the Eighth Commandment (“Thall Shalt Not Steal”), Rushdoony writes in The Institutes of Biblical Law that the rich should not be required to pay more than those who are not rich. (Never mind that a tax plan such as Bachmann’s would essentially remove 23,000 millionaires from the tax rolls altogether, according to ThinkProgress.) Rushdoony writes of the ancient Israelites: “The same tax was assessed on all men: ‘The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less.’ (Ex. 30:15)”

“A tyrannical state,” Rushdoony writes in another section of the same chapter, “always limits a man’s use of his property, taxes it, or confiscates that property as an effective means of enslaving a man without necessarily touching his person.” Remember that quote the next time you hear those ostensibly secular Tea Partiers go on about tyranny, enslavement and taxes.

Rusdoony also decries paper money not backed by precious resources, as well as inflation, as forms of theft, and declares reserve banking illegitimate. (Still think Ron and Rand Paul are secularists?)

Julie Ingersoll, a professor of religious studies at University of North Florida, agrees that Bachmann’s position against raising the debt ceiling is rooted in a “theocratic reading of the Bible, arising out of the nexus between (Ron) Paul … Howard Phillips and his Constitution Party, and Gary North and the Christian Reconstructionists.” But she also puts forth a more sobering theory — that Reconstructionists, and perhaps neo-Reconstructionists such as Bachmann, actually want the U.S. to default on its debt. They want this, Ingersoll wrote last year at Religion Dispatches, not in spite of the destruction in would wreak on both the U.S. and global economies, but because of it:

North’s overarching schema is that there is an impending social collapse which will provide the opportunity for biblically based Christians to exercise dominion by replacing existing humanistic institutions with biblical ones. In Honest Money, he wrote:

First, the bankers and the politicians will continue to try to make the present system work. This will make the present system worse. Second, there will be a collapse in stages: inflation, then mass inflation, then price controls, then tyranny, and finally a worldwide deflationary depression. At that point, there will be new demand from the voters for answers. Third—and this is my hope and my prayer—people will at last decide that they have had enough moral and legal compromise. They will at last decide to adopt a simple system of honest money, along with competitive free market principles throughout the economy.

The current system, North maintains, violates the Ten Commandments, in particular the prohibition against theft.

Many believe Michele Bachmann to be a fool, finding themselves confounded by her success so far in her presidential bid, as she leads the GOP in the all-important state of Iowa. When she first ran for Congress, Michele Bachmann described herself to a church audience as “a fool for Christ,” whose will she believes she was doing by running for office. She may be a fool, but she’s not just anybody’s fool.”

Adele M. Stan is AlterNet’s Washington bureau chief. Follow her on Twitter:

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/story/151795/because_the_bible_tells_me_so%3A_why_bachmann_and_tea_party_christians_oppose_raising_the_debt_ceiling?akid=7345.123424.tkEmda&rd=1&t=2

The Big 10:Things I’d Say to the Anti-Choice Fanatics Trying to End Access to Abortion

Ohio State Senator Nina Turner, quoting the words of Margaret Sanger: “No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body. No woman can call herself free until she can choose whether she will or will not be a mother.

From Alternet, by Amanda Marcotte

“The anti-choice movement would be nowhere without a heavy denial of reality based on the promotion of myths about sex, about birth control, about women’s bodies, but especially about abortion. While the majority of Americans are pro-choice, the constant drumbeat of stories makes the public wonder if there isn’t some truth to the stereotypes, causing even pro-choice people to support regulations such as waiting periods, parental notification laws, and ultrasound laws that only serve to make it harder for women in need to get abortions.

With that in mind, here’s ten realities pro-choicers should throw in the face of anti-abortion fanatics they have the misfortune to get into arguments with:”

1) Most abortions take place early in pregnancy

2) If not for anti-choicers, even more women would get abortions much earlier in their pregnancies.

3) Doctors perform late term abortions because of medical indications, often on women who desperately wanted the baby.

4) Women who get abortions aren’t afraid of being mothers.

5) Abortion is physically safe.

6) Abortion is mentally safe.

7) Women who get abortions take responsibility for their decision.

8) Abortion providers are responsible medical professionals who work to make sure their patients are healthy and avoid future unintended pregnancies.

9) Women get abortions because they’re being responsible.

10) Conservative policies cause the abortion rate to be higher than it needs to be.

No one wants an abortion. Women aren’t getting pregnant on purpose so they can enjoy an expensive suctioning of their uterine lining. So why are there 1.2 million abortions a year in America? Part of it is just bad luck; sometimes contraception fails and unwanted pregnancies happen. That will always be with us.

However, 46% of women who get abortions weren’t using a contraceptive method the month they got pregnant, indicating that conservative policies that discourage regular contraception use—everything from abstinence-only education to objecting to any measures that make contraception cheaper and easier to obtain–-have been effective in keeping women from using contraception as regularly as they should. In addition, abortion rates are much higher for women living in poverty, and three quarters of women getting abortions say they can’t afford a child. If anti-choicers start moaning about the high rate of abortions, ask them what they intend to do about it. Do they want to make birth control free for all women? What about expansive social welfare that makes it easier for pregnant women living in poverty to say yes to having this baby? Most anti-choicers are generally conservative, and most will get really angry really quick if you start to mention concrete solutions to lower the abortion rate. “

(N.B.: we can also  add that because the anti-abortion dialog is driven by religious arguments, it is yet one more reason why we must support Separation of Church and State: no Christian Nation (or any other Theocracy) here!)

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/story/151800/10_things_i%27d_say_to_the_anti-choice_fanatics_trying_to_end_access_to_abortion?page=entire

Inside the Law School That Brought Us Michele Bachmann

Via Alternet, from Religious Dispatches, by Sarah Posner

“… IOTC founder Michael Peroutka presented the evening’s guest speaker, attorney Herb Titus, with a “Patrick Henry Award” for “his tireless and fearless telling of God’s truth to power.” Titus (best known for his representation of former Judge Roy Moore in his failed quest to install a 2.6-ton Ten Commandments monument in the Alabama Supreme Court building) is one of the few lawyers in America who, Peroutka noted, truly “believes God is sovereign and therefore God’s law is the only law.” For Peroutka, the Constitution Party’s 2004 nominee for president, this was his usual spiel on God and the law.

In the late 1970s, Titus played an instrumental role in launching the law school at Oral Roberts University (ORU), from which GOP presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann graduated in 1986. Titus, who rejected his Harvard Law School education after reading the work of R.J. Rushdoony, the late founder of Christian Reconstructionism, was moved to exercise what he believes is a “dominion mandate” to “restore the Bible to legal education.” To teach, in other words, that Christianity is the basis of our law, that lawyers and judges should follow God’s law, and that the failure to do so is evidence of a “tyrannical,” leftist agenda. Titus’ lecture, as well as the teachings of Reconstructionists, the Constitution Party, and the IOTC, provide a window into Bachmann’s legal education, and thus how her political career and rhetoric—so incomprehensible and absurdto many observers—was unmistakably shaped by it…The stated goal of the Constitution Party “is to restore American jurisprudence to its biblical foundations and to limit the federal government to its Constitutional boundaries.” Thatincludes, for example, “affirm[ing] the rights of states and localities to proscribe offensive sexual behavior” (i.e., homosexuality) and “oppos[ing] all efforts to impose a new sexual legal order through the federal court system” (i.e., civil unions, marriage equality, or adoption by LGBT people). It is more extreme than the Republican Party platform, to be sure, but the GOP is hardly devoid of allies of the Constitution Party—including Sharron Angle, who ran for Senate in Nevada last year, and presidential candidate Ron Paul.

The lecture series at the Institute on the Constitution, which also offers in-depth classes that are popular with tea party groups, has recently included presentations on constitutional law by Moore and one of his protégés, current Alabama Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker. In a dissenting opinion in a 2005 child custody case in which the majority affirmed an award of custody to the child’s grandparents, Parker cited not legal cases or statutes, but rather Romans 13:1-2, for the proposition that “there is no authority except from God.” That, he concluded, dictated that the state should stay out of such family law matters except in the most extraordinary circumstances… Titus insists that Christians are discriminated against by these conventional interpretations of the Establishment Clause, which are at odds with his own, and which he contends have contributed to the treatment of Christians as “second-class citizens.”

“I would say to you that someone who holds a Christianview such as Michele Bachmann does would be much more accommodating of different views than any liberals,” he told me, because her views would permit the public posting of the Ten Commandments, for example, but a liberal’s would not…

That’s because, of course, under a “liberal” (i.e., accepted by the Supreme Court, at least for now) view of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, the government cannot act in a way that does, or appears to, endorse a particular religion.

Titus contends, however, that religion, as used in the Establishment Clause (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”) does not mean, well, a religion. Rather, Titus insists that this clause means that Congress cannot make you do anything that you are otherwise commanded by God to do: in other words, Congress cannot flout God…In Titus’ view, the First Amendment prohibition against Congress establishing a religion was actually intended to prevent Congress from establishing institutions that he maintains are tantamount to a religion, like public education,or National Public Radio. “I don’t believe what they teach in public schools,” Titus told his IOTC audience. “They don’t even believe in the first thing—that God is the source of knowledge.”…

Indeed, Bachmann possesses an alarming misunderstanding of the history of slavery that at once celebrates it as a heyday of African-American family life, and engages in revisionism about the founders’ view of it. She recently signed a “marriage pledge” in Iowa that included the statement (since removed): “sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American president.” She has also stated,incorrectly, that the founders “worked tirelessly” to end slavery.

Peroutka and the IOTC, for their part, express affection for the Confederacy. In bestowing the “Courage of Daniel Award” on Moore on June 3, Peroutka, who frequently ribs people for being from the “wrong sideof the Mason-Dixon line,” cheerfully noted that it also happened to be the birthday of Confederate President Jefferson Davis…

Bachmann is one of several Republicans endorsed by the Gun Owners of America, another Titus client, which contends that gun ownership is not just a right, but an “obligation to God, to protect life.” Last year, Titus cited the “totalitarian threat” posed by “Obamacare” and told me that people need to be armed, “because ultimately it may come to the point where it’s a life and death situation.”…In 2003, motivated by Moore’s Ten Commandments crusade, then-state senator Bachmann participated in a “Ten Commandments Rally” on the state capitol steps, at which speakers called for the impeachment of federal judges who rule public postings of the Ten Commandments unconstitutional, and for a return to “biblical principles.” Bachmann, according to coverage in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, “told the crowd that the founders of the United States—including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson—‘recognized the Ten Commandments as the foundation of our laws.’”(N.B.:!???!)…

“When judges don’t rule in fear of the Lord,” he(Parker) concluded, “all the foundations of the earth are shaken.”…The law school at ORU was a first effort at creating a “Christian” law school that would teach the “biblical” foundations of the law—essentially substituting Rushdoony’s totalizing worldview for mainstream legal theory. His views are evident not only in the ORU education Bachmann received, but in the perspectives of other Christian law schools forged on the ORU example, such as Liberty University Law School, where students are taught to follow “God’s law” rather than “man’s law,” and where Rushdoony’s texts are required reading. The rise of Christian schools—not just law schools, but elementary and secondary education, and homeschooling as well—has been, in Titus’ view, a “silent revolution” that has “basically escaped the scrutiny of most journalists.”…I asked Titus whether it would be a big moment for him to see Bachmann, a product of the law school he helped found, ascend to the GOP presidential nomination. He replied, “It’s the kind of thing that we believe was one of our major purposes, which was to train people in such a way so as to make an impact in the leadership of the country.”

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/story/151695/inside_the_right-wing_christian_law_school_that_brought_us_michele_bachmann?akid=7283.123424.qLf-Z5&rd=1&t=5