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From Alternet:”Lately, there would seem to be a whole lot more people who have a direct channel to the Big Guy Upstairs than one could have humanly thought possible.
It is oft-said that “God works in mysterious ways”. But when Michele Bachmann hears voices telling her to run for president, am I the only who thinks the most likely explanation is a batch of bad clams or one-too-many nights role playing The Book of Eli with her equally demented husband Marcus?
Perhaps, these are the very same voices that have shared with her the important role “Founding Father John Quincy Adams” played in ending slavery as he battled the oncoming scourge of puberty? I don’t know, just a stab in the dark.
Regardless, whether it is gay marriage or spotting the Virgin Mary in your gordita, our re-embrace of culture-by-theology in the United States (not unlike much of the rest of the world) has led supposedly “serious people” to say things that not so long ago would have landed them a starring role in Girl, Interrupted.
In our current age, in fact, possessing a direct cerebral channel to Deus (or at least claiming you do) would seem to be a requirement for receiving an invitation to a GOP presidential debate.
It equally pervades the rest of right-wing political culture in the US, as twisted scripture both provides ready justification for those who hate everything about the this country post-1930, and renders more difficult the job of the media to effectively criticise any crackpot theory-lest they lose their “objectivity” for a moment and offend some True Believers.
For example, in light of the recent law passed by the New York state legislature providing full marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples, dingy-old-Hammerhead-Bat Pat Robertson offered his expert testimony that “there’s never been a civilisation ever in history that has embraced homosexuality and turned away from traditional fidelity, traditional marriage, traditional child-rearing, and has survived.”
He went on to compare the United States to Sodom and pleasantly predict we’d suffer the same fate – complete annihilation.
In case you’re keeping score, Jesus is apparently cool with Rev Robertson’s having befriended the al-Qaeda-harboring, genocidal thug Charles Taylor, in order to fatten his wallet from a steady diet of Liberian blood diamonds. When it comes to loving couples of the same sex tying the knot, however, not so much.
Thankfully, for the rest of us, Robertson’s many past predictions of our collective demise were so inane they might as well have been announced on an aircraft carrier with a “Mission Accomplished” banner in the background.
So to pick up the slack, Missouri GOP Congressman and apparent Mary-Shelley-creation Todd Akin also jumped into the God interpretation game last week – likely as a strategy to forward his US Senate campaign. Akin, in an obvious moment of clarity, puked out that “at the heart of liberalism really is a hatred for God.” Because, as we all know, nothing is closer to the teachings of the Bible than Akin’s record of lying about his address for voting purposes and cutting taxes for 8-figure earning CEOs while gutting health care for impoverished children.
Sadly, however, our God Culture isn’t limited to just the political game, but also allows some of those clever cats, professional athletes, to get in on the action.
I must admit to finding it rather amusing – as in completely ridiculous – whenever an overpaid ballplayer hits a three-point shot or bashes a fastball over the center field wall, only to respond by pointing up to the Heavens as if it were Divinely ordained. Because we all know any Higher Power has nothing better to do – like ending conflict in the Sudan or curing cancer – than taking in some sport and using his/her powers to ensure Arsenal wins the FA Cup.
Somewhere Jacob is trying to best that blood-sucker Edward and win the affections of Bella, and God is going to worry about the Stanley Cup? How arrogant.
It is this hubris that must explain why one of the heroes of the 2007 Super-Bowl-winning New York Giants, David Tyree, thought it his place to tell us what His God would think of gay marriage in New York - much like Brother Robertson. As you can imagine, according to Tyree, it just up and freaked God out.
I guess he missed the part where he’s the guy we trust to catch the ball on the field, not make public policy according to his translation of the will of his Deity off of it.
For, in the end, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Believer or not. Most of us to the north of birdbrain can agree that no matter what Bachmann, Akin, Robertson or Tyree have to say on the matter, it is in fact societies ruled by faux-pious numbskulls that, to quote the elegant and articulate Robertson, have “never, ever survived.”
Perhaps he and his Republican buddies can ponder–and share on Google+ with their circles of friends, family, and even acquaintances, for the rest of our sakes–the words of the founder of their party, Abraham Lincoln, who once counseled that it is “better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt.”
Cliff Schecter is the president of Libertas, LLC, a progressive public relations firm.
“In his 2009 book Who Made God: Searching for a Theory of Everything, Christian chemist Edgar Andrews challenges many of the statements made in new atheist writings including my 2007 book God: The Failed Hypothesis. I have placed a point-by-point rebuttal to Andrews’ criticisms on the Internet. Here let me address just a few of his objections relating to proposals for how the universe came from nothing and how complexity arises naturally from simplicity. See also my earlier post “Did the Universe Come from Nothing?”.
Andrews asks, “Doesn’t Dr. Stenger’s idea that simplicity begets complexity totally contradict Richard Dawkins’ argument that God, having created an exceedingly complex universe, must be even more complex and thus highly improbable?”
Here’s exactly what Dawkins said in his 2006 blockbuster The God Delusion:
A designer God cannot be used to explain organized complexity because any God capable of designing anything would have to be complex enough to demand the same kind of explanation in his own right. God presents an infinite regress from which he cannot help us escape. This argument . . . demonstrates that God, though not technically disprovable, is very very improbable indeed (p. 109).
The point Dawkins was making is that if William Dembski, Michael Behe, and other proponents of intelligent design are correct in their claim that complexity can only arise from higher complexity, then God would be even more complex and an explanation would then have to be found for his complexity. But Dawkins does not believe for a moment that this is the case. No one has been more eloquent than Richard Dawkins in describing how complexity arises from simplicity in biology, so it is ludicrous to suggest he supports the ID view.
I have personally checked with Dawkins and he agrees with my interpretation of his words.
Note that when Dawkins says the existence of God is “technically unprovable, he is not disagreeing with the statement made in God: The Failed Hypothesis that God does not exist beyond a reasonable doubt. Of course we cannot disprove the existence of all conceivable gods. However, Andrews does not understand the argument for the non-existence of God. He repeatedly says it is based on the lack of evidence. He misses the whole point. The case is not solely based on the absence of evidence but on the absence of evidence that should be there. The God worshiped by Jews, Christians, and Muslims plays such an active role in the universe and in human life that he should have been detected by now.
Andrews also tries to undermine proposals I describe about where the universe and the laws of nature come from, namely, that they came from nothing — from the void. He distinguishes between two kinds of void: Void-zero is “the eternally pre-existent, non-physical framework in which the physical universe began and must, by definition, lie beyond the reach and remit of science.” He says I confuse this with void-one, which “lies entirely within the material universe” and is “a constituent of the cosmos” that is composed of empty space.
He further adds, “The laws of nature . . . are just part of the created physical order . . . . The symmetries of void-one (if they exist) do nothing to explain the origin of the laws of nature, being themselves simply an expression or manifestation of those laws.”
Andrews is making a metaphysical assumption that this “void-zero” exists in reality. He cannot know that. He is basing that statement on his faith that another world exists, not science which finds no evidence for such a world. He is also making a metaphysical assumption that the laws of nature are something inherent to the universe, part of the “created order” that we scientists discover. He cannot know that either by any credible means.
When theists ask, “How can something come from nothing?” they have the burden of defining what they mean by nothing. Assuming they can, then there are two states of existence: something and nothing. The theist then assumes nothing is the more natural state and so the transition nothing-to-something requires an agent, which is what we call God.
Now, why should nothing be more natural than something? In natural processes, the transition from simple to complex is spontaneous, that is, not the result of any causal agent as in the phase transitions gas-to-liquid-to-solid.
Assuming that, however we define it, nothing is simpler than something, we expect that the natural state of existence to be something rather than nothing–not requiring God. It would take an agent such as God to maintain an eternal state of nothing!
The theological claim that science cannot describe the origin of the universe and its laws in purely natural terms is refuted by the existence of plausible scenarios consistent with all knowledge that are fully worked out mathematically and published in reputable journals. These scenarios need not be proven. And until all conceivable natural scenarios are disproved, they suffice to show that the origin of the universe is not beyond the reach of science.”
From Alternet, By Adam Lee
“What do atheists actually have in common? What’s the agenda for an atheist political movement? Here’s a proposal for the issues we can unite around.
If atheists were as politically organized as the religious right, we could accomplish a world of good in combating theocracy and standing up for human rights and secularism. But whenever an atheist political alliance is proposed, the objection is inevitably raised that “atheists don’t all agree,” and that this would be an insurmountable obstacle to forming a unified political movement.
I believe, however, that this objection overstates the difficulty we would face. In fact, atheists have more in common than most people realize.
It’s true that we disagree, and would be expected to disagree, about issues unrelated to atheism. But just by virtue of being a minority, sharing a godless outlook on the world, we tend to see things that non-atheists often overlook — things like the harm done by faith-based zealotry, the undeserved privileges granted to religious people, and the unfounded assumption that religious belief is the only source of morality. And whether we like it or not, we have a common enemy in the theocrats and fundamentalists who want to oppress us, silence us and punish us harshly for the imaginary crime of not sharing their peculiar superstitions. Even if nothing else unites us, this gives us ample reason to band together to defend our rights against the people who are trying to take them away.
There’s much historical precedent for this. In trying to organize, we wouldn’t be trying to create something completely new or do something that’s never been done before. On the contrary, all atheists have to do is follow in the footsteps of the many other successful political movements that have organized to fight for a common cause, despite having a membership that doesn’t agree on other issues.
A telling example, as my friend and fellow blogger Greta Christina suggests, is the gay rights movement. Obviously, gay, lesbian and bisexual people don’t think alike about everything, and why should they? What do they have in common, after all, other than not being straight? In spite of this, gay rights groups have organized and fought for equality very effectively, and they’ve brought about a sea change in public opinion. They’ve won major legal victories such as ending the military’s discriminatory “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, securing the passage of a federal hate-crimes law, and establishing the right to marry under the laws of six states and the District of Columbia. Anti-gay discrimination has by no means ended, but these are tremendous political victories that would have been unthinkable just one or two decades ago, and large, supportive majorities among the younger generations promise more advances in the near future.
Atheists, who are treated as a despised minority just as gay people were and often still are, should use the success of the gay-rights movement as our template. We don’t need to be a political party with a platform specifying what we’d do about every issue — we just need to reach agreement on the issues we have in common and that affect us the most. And if there are a few oddball atheists who care nothing for equality and don’t want to join our effort, or who think that religion should have special privileges and shouldn’t be criticized, forget about them. We don’t need them. Given that atheists make up as much as 12 percent of the population of America, over 36 million people, a political movement that united even a fraction of us would be a formidable voting bloc.
So what do atheists have in common? What would the agenda of an atheist political movement look like? Here’s my modest proposal for the issues we can unite around:
1. Atheists can be good people.
This seems so obvious it’s not even worth saying, much less uniting around politically. But it is. Millions of religious people, not just in conservative red states but even in the allegedly liberal regions of the country, hold the prejudiced belief that religion is the only possible means of acquiring morality, the only possible justification for being a good person and treating others with respect and kindness. The inevitable corollary is that being an atheist necessarily means being hate-filled, selfish and untrustworthy. This prejudice is undoubtedly the reason majorities say they wouldn’t vote for an atheist candidate for president, even if that atheist was a well-qualified member of their own party.
To counter this myth, we don’t need to prove that we’re better than everyone else. We don’t need to prove that atheists are all incorruptible paragons of virtue. All we need to prove is that atheists, on the whole, are the same as everyone else: not saints, but honest, compassionate, trustworthy people like everyone else. And we can cite abundant evidence: There are atheist doctors, teachersand firefighters. There are active-duty atheist soldiers and atheist veterans. Atheists donate to charity, give blood, join civil rights marches, and help with disaster relief. And we can always point to the amazingly low percentage of atheists among prison inmates (although, admittedly, this may just prove that we’re better at getting away with it).
2. Greater support for separation of church and state.
This is a point that atheists from across the political spectrum should agree on, and one that’s more than sufficient to build a political movement on by itself. For obvious reasons, atheists don’t want to see religious beliefs being used as the basis for law. We don’t believe that religion should be outlawed, or that religious people should be banned from preaching their beliefs, but we want the laws and the government to be truly secular; we want that wall of separation between church and state to be reinforced, built up and topped with sandbags and barbed wire. We demand that laws affecting all of us be justified by reasons and evidence that anyone can examine, and not merely by private faith.
Since church-state separation is constantly under assault by theocrats, this issue alone ought to be enough to occupy politically motivated and energized atheists. There are the never-ending efforts to water down science teaching in schools and replace it with creationism and other pseudoscience, some of it by hostile school boards, some of it by teachers who preach in class on their own initiative. There are state, county and city legislatures bent on putting Ten Commandments monuments, crosses and Christian manger scenes on government property, or opening legislative sessions with sectarian prayer. There are government programs that pour money into the coffers of churches, especially the George W. Bush faith-based initiative, which President Obama hasn’t reined in despite his campaign promise to do so. And there’s the religious language inserted into the Pledge of Allegiance and put on money, which sends a subtle message that atheists are outsiders and second-class citizens.
3. Greater support for free speech.
One of the greatest political concerns for atheists ought to be the advance of hate-speech laws, which punish people for expressing ideas that others deem offensive. In many countries, these laws have been repeatedly used to stifle legitimate criticism of religion. In Spain, for example, an atheist group was forbidden to march during Holy Week; in the Netherlands, the right-wing parliamentarian Geert Wilders was prosecuted for expressing his political ideas; in Italy, Catholic lawyers file defamation suits based on fascist-passed laws that shield the “prestige of the pope” from criticism; in Russia, critics of the Orthodox church are persecuted by the state; in India, the law allows the censorship of any internet content deemed to be “disparaging” to religion. Ireland has gone so far as to resurrect the medieval idea of a law prohibiting blasphemy!
In the United States, the First Amendment is a bulwark against hate-speech laws, but still not a complete defense. Too many colleges and universities, for example, have “speech codes” that don’t stop at the legitimate goal of preventing bullying or harassment, but which punish students for constitutionally protected speech if their ideas are deemed offensive, disruptive, or upsetting to others.
Atheists from across the political spectrum should have no trouble understanding why these laws are a terrible idea. Even if written with the best of intentions, rules that ban “disparaging” or “offensive” speech are inevitably perverted and used by hostile majorities to silence unpopular minorities. After all, the very existence of atheists is considered highly offensive by millions of religious people who’d like nothing better than to censor us.
4. Greater support for science and reason.
Atheists should understand, and generally do understand, that irrational and dangerous faith flourishes in societies that don’t value evidence and rational thinking. Surveys show that less educated people are more likely to believe in demons, creationism, biblical literalism, and all other kinds of harmful superstitions. And as a growing population strains the bounds of what the Earth can support, as our technology makes us more and more powerful, it’s crucial to let science and reason guide us if we’re going to thread the needle and avoid disaster. If we don’t, as Carl Sagan said, then sooner or later “this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.”
The poisonous effects of irrationality are everywhere to be seen in our politics. Religious right demagogues openly say that climate change can’t be happening because God wouldn’t let the climate change too much, or that it’s futile trying to make peace in the Middle East because Jesus predicted there would be war there until he returns, or that there’s no sense conserving natural resources because the world is going to end before we run out. On the other end of the spectrum, the purveyors of fashionable New Age nonsense teach that the way to end war, cure cancer or create a fairer distribution of wealth isn’t to implement progressive taxation, march in antiwar rallies or support scientific research, but tosit at home and use our magical powers of wishing to reshape reality to suit our desires.
Atheists have good reason to oppose irrationality in whatever form it rears its head: from religious fundamentalists who try to inject creationism into schools, to anti-vaccine activists who want to get rid of our most effective defense against killer diseases. We ought to advocate a society where science is respected and valued as the most reliable arbiter of truth, where scientists have the funding and the tools needed to do their job, and where politicians take scientific consensus into account; and we ought to act in concert to slap down any purveyor of pseudoscience who tries to claim there are other ways of knowing superior to reason.
5. Support for marriage equality and LGBT rights.
More than anyone else, atheists ought to have sympathy for oppressed minorities whose oppression has historically been justified by appealing to religion, and no group fits that definition better than LGBT people. The arguments against marriage equality and gay rights are purely religious in nature, with no legitimate secular basis. And for the most part, the bigots who make these arguments don’t even try to disguise this.
For example, the Archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan, wrote in vain to urge legislators to defeat a marriage-equality bill because he believes that “God has settled the definition of marriage.” In Delaware, pastors screamed that a civil-unions law was “biblically incorrect” and “contrary to the will of God.”
Left unexplained by all these people is why any group’s opinions about God’s desires should influence lawmaking in a secular, democratic republic like ours. Should we ban alcohol and coffee because Mormons think they’re sinful to consume, or require all women to go veiled in public because Wahhabi Muslims think we should, or outlaw zippers because the Amish reject them? If not, why should Catholic views about marriage be any more relevant?
I grant it’s possible that some atheists are anti-gay, even if their position is based on nothing more than a gut feeling of “ick, gay people are gross” (which is more or less the only rationale for homophobia, once you can no longer rely on God’s decrees regarding the proper usage of genitalia). But in my experience, the overwhelming majority of atheists do support equal rights for LGBT people, and recognize the religious arguments against homosexuality as the rank bigotry they are.
6. Greater support for reproductive choice.
With this point, I know I’m wading into deeper waters, and I anticipate that agreement won’t be as high as with others. Nevertheless, atheists have a very good reason to support strong protection of reproductive choice through comprehensive sex ed, free access to contraception, and the availability of safe, legal abortion.
Many religions, especially the fundamentalist ones that atheists fear the most, demand their followers have as many children as they possibly can. And when religion has the power to make this the law of the land, women and children both suffer. Women are forced to endure the direct risks that pregnancy and childbirth pose to their health and life, whether they want to or not; children suffer from deprivation when their parents have larger families than they can reasonably provide for.
In cultures where women’s ability to plan their own families is taken away by theocratic laws, it perpetuates the poverty and dependency that’s fertile soil for harmful superstition to grow. If we, as atheists, want to reduce the numbers and the power of aggressive, fundamentalist religion, our course of action is clear: we ought to be unyielding guardians of a woman’s right to make her own reproductive choices.
* * *
I don’t expect that every atheist will line up behind all these goals, though I do believe the majority of atheists support them. Nor do I expect that, in every race, there will be a politician willing to take our side on all these issues. For the foreseeable future, we’ll probably have to make a lot of hard choices between a bad candidate and a marginally less-bad candidate. But this is mainly because of the excessive influence of the religious right, which has successfully convinced politicians of both parties that the way to win elections is to be as right-wing as possible. The stronger and more influential the atheist movement becomes, the more effectively we can counteract this, and the more we can expand theOverton window on the left to create space for genuinely progressive candidates to get elected.
What I find most encouraging about this list is that the goals uniting atheists aren’t supported only by atheists, but ought to be shared by every progressive who supports justice and human rights. This means that atheists should be able to make common cause with other liberal activist groups. There’s real potential for a strong, organized atheist movement to give the country a much-needed jolt of progressive energy. This isn’t an idealistic or unattainable goal, but one that, if we’re willing to work and to organize, lies entirely within our power.
Why Rupert Murdoch Love$ God: World’s Biggest Sleaze Mogul Also Getting Rich from Christian Moralizers
From Alternet By Frank Schaeffer
Here’s what you might not know about Rupert Murdoch: he’s one of the leading religion publishers in the world.
Maybe one day soon Murdoch will go to jail as might his son, as will several of their UK editors if many alleged and disgusting and illegal acts of pirate “journalism” are proved true, ranging from bribing the police to hacking the phones of bereaved family members of killed service men and women and child murder victims. Make no mistake: when it comes to the Murdoch media “empire” we’re talking about the lowest form of “journalism” as detailed by the Guardian newspaper.
So are religious moralizers and others writing about religious and/or “moral” themes prepared to enrich the Murdoch “ media juggernaut” forever while Rupert Murdoch further corrupts UK, American and Australian politics while his companies trade in human misery for profit by hacking murder victim’s phones, paying off the police, elevating smut to a national sport and even hacking the phones of killed soldiers’ families?
Rupert Murdoch is one of America’s number one publishers of evangelical and other religious books, including the 33-million sellerPurpose Driven Life by mega pastor and anti-gay activist Rick Warren. Murdoch is also publisher of “progressive” Rob Bell’s Love Wins.
Rick Warren, Rob Bell and company helped Murdoch fund his tabloid-topless-women-on-page-3 empire, phone hacking of murdered teens and Fox News’ spreading “birther” and “death panel” lies about the president. They helped Murdoch by enriching him. And these weren’t unknown authors just lucky to get published anywhere, they could have picked anybody to sell their books.
Do the religious authors making their fortunes off Murdoch wear gloves when they cash their royalty checks? Do they ever dare look in the mirror?
The authors publishing with Murdoch serve a religious market so fine-tuned to grandstanding hypocrisy and moralizing, that, for instance, my novels about growing up religious (Portofino, Zermatt and Saving Grandma) will never be sold in the thousands of CBA member (Christian Bookseller’s Association) bookstores because – horrors! – my books have profanity and sex in them!
But those same CBA stores gladly sell tens of millions of books — annually — published by Murdoch, a man with the moral rectitude of the herpes virus, a man who runs the companies that gave Glenn Beck a megaphone, that hacked a dead girl’s phone, that lied about Iraq’s involvement in 9/11, and thus contributed to the war-of-choice needless killing of almost 5000 American soldiers by George W Bush.
You see, Murdoch has bought into and now owns a huge chunk of American religion and is suckling from the profitable God-teat along with the likes of Rick Warren and Rob Bell et al.
Murdoch bought the venerable evangelical Zondervan publishing house. I knew the founding Zondervan family, a clan of strict Bible-believing Calvinists who’d have bathed for a week in the Jordan River to purify themselves if they’d ever even brushed up against Murdoch and his minions! Later generations sold out.
Murdoch also bought the all purpose all-religion-is-great-if-it-sells-something “religion” site “Beliefnet” and ”Inspirio” – religious “gift production,” specialists making tawdry religion-junk of the one-more-pair-of-praying-hands made of pressed muck kind.
And Murdoch publishes Rob Bell and other so-called progressives evangelical “stars” as well as run of the mill evangelical right winger’s books though Harper One, the “religious” division of Harper Collins, another Murdoch company.
Murdoch knows something I found out way back in the 1970s and 80s, when I was still my founder-of-the-religious-right Dad’s sidekick and a right wing evangelical leader/shill myself: There’s gold in them-thar God hills! James Dobson alone once gave away 150,000 copies of one of my evangelical screeds that sold more than a million copies. (I describe why I got out of the evangelical netherworld – fled — in my book Sex, mom and God.)
So here’s my question to Rob Bell of the God-loves-everybody school of touchy-feely theology and/or to the right wing “family values” crowd who worry about gay marriage between responsible loving adults while they perform financial fellatio on the mightiest and most depraved/pagan media baron to ever walk the earth:
What serious, let alone decent religiously conscious person – left or right, conservative or liberal — would knowingly work to enrich this dreadful man who will go down in history as the epitome of everything that all religion says its against: lies, greed, criminality, and sheer disgusting exploitation of the defenseless that would shame a sewer rat?
Secular “un-saved” and “godless” and “liberal” authors like Jeff Jarvis have pulled books from Harper Collins because it’s owned by Murdoch as he writes: “[my] next book, Public Parts, was to be published, like my last one, by News Corp.’s HarperCollins. But I pulled the book because in it, I am very critical of the parent company for being so closed. It’s now being published by Simon and Schuster.”
Where are the big time religion writers like the “I-give-all-my-royalties-to-the-poor” Rick Warren to be found refusing to publish with Zondervan, Harper One or write another word for Beliefnet? What’s mildly lefty Rob Bell’s defense for enriching Murdoch and helping to finance Fox “News” via publishing with Harper One when he could publish with anyone?
For that matter where are the evangelical/Roman Catholic/Muslim—or just minimally decent — people, religious or irreligious guests and commentators now refusing to be interviewed by Fox News even if it will help sell their books?
Knowing what we know about the union-busting, slime-spreading Murdoch empire and it’s disgusting and criminal actions can a moral person work for or use the products of this all-encompassing web of profit, far right politics and corruption?
I don’t think so.
But of course the religion writers have plenty of company.
What about journalists working for Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal?
What about Deepak Chopra?
He publishes with Harper One. Thus Chopra is helping finance Fox News. And so is Desmond Tutu. He’s also a Harper One author.
And what about all the “progressive” stars, producers and writers doing deals with the Fox movie empire? Such Hollywood moralists used to boycott working in the old apartheid South Africa, but will work for/with Murdoch today as he empowers the far religious racist right through Fox News! Desmond Tutu used to call for boycotts of far right religious nuts in South Africa oppressing blacks in the name of God, and now he’s a Murdoch contributor!
Why should the people – religious leaders, writers, actors, agents, producers et al — who help Murdoch wreck America and the UK — remain respectable in our countries?
Okay, they deserve a second chance.
I published two books with Harper Collins some years ago after Murdoch had taken over. I had a deal with the Smithsonian that was tied into Harper Collins for distribution, then the Smithsonian backed out but my books stayed at Harpers. After they were published I thought about – and regretted — helping Murdoch. I’ve never published with them again.
I only have one excuse, I didn’t know much about Murdoch then. But who would willingly publish anything with any Murdoch paper, magazine or book publisher now, knowing what we all know?
Post UK meltdown, will Tutu, Bell, Chopra et al – big time authors with a choice of publishers – still publish yet more books with Harper One, and/or with Zondervan?
Will liberals in Hollywood still underwrite Murdoch with their lives and continue to work for Fox TV and Fox Films?
It’s time to hold all Murdoch’s collaborator’s feet to the fire, especially the big and famous sell outs who can go anywhere with their books or scripts. And why would any decent paper or blog review any book, film or TV show that enriches Murdoch? He should be blacked out before he takes us all down with him.
No more excuses. We all know about Murdoch now.
From here on out it’s time to out those who choose to stay in bed with the sleazy man from down under who elbowed his way into America and the UK, damaged our political systems, perhaps fatally, all the while insulting our intelligence and aiding and abetting our war machine.
We can’t boycott every dubious corporation on earth. But with Murdoch’s sleaze-infested ambition to control the politics of so much of the world a reality a line’s been crossed. It is time to pull an “Arab Spring” on the whole Murdoch empire and overthrow it. And we of the outraged “street” can do it at last because so many political and media leaders, who have sucked up to Murdoch for decades, are running for cover.
I know it’s not considered polite to be judgmental but I’ll say it: to work for any part of News Corp, Murdoch, Fox and/or any or all of his companies, let alone to publish books with him makes you an accomplice to a very bad person.
Frank Schaeffer is a writer his new book is Sex, Mom, and God: How the Bible’s Strange Take on Sex Led to Crazy Politics–and How I Learned to Love Women (and Jesus) Anyway
From Alternet, by Victor Stenger
In my previous blog I claimed that science and religion are fundamentally incompatible. To reiterate, the reason I gave was their differing epistemologies. Science relies only on what we observe with our senses, while religion claims an additional inner sense that reveals another world beyond.
Now let me take a look at some specific examples where these contrasting notions on the sources of knowledge lead to incompatibilities in their comprehension of the nature of reality.
1. The Transcendent
All religions, even Buddhism, teach that a reality exists that goes beyond — transcends — the world that presents itself to our senses and scientific instruments. While science is willing to consider any evidence that comes along, so far we have no empirical anomaly that requires us to introduce supernatural causes into our models.
In this regard, it is often claimed that science has nothing to say about the supernatural. But this is wrong. If the supernatural exists and has effects on the sensory world, then those effects would be observable and subject to scientific study. A God that plays such an important role in the universe and in human lives as the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God should have been detected by now. The fact that he hasn’t forces us to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that a God with those attributes does not exist.
Let me take a moment to show why I can make such a claim. Even the most pious believer has to admit that there is no scientific evidence for God. If there were, it would be in the textbooks along with the evidence for neutrinos and DNA. But then, the believer will say, “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”
While this may be true in general, it is not true when the evidence that is absent is evidence that should be there. The absence of evidence for elephants in Central Park (droppings, crushed bushes) can be taken as a good sign that there are none.
- If the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God exists we should see evidence that he answers prayers. We do not.
- If he reveals truths by extrasensory means, we should be able to verify those truths. We do not.
- If God or the supernatural is glimpsed in religious experiences, we should be able to confirm it. We do not.
In short, the world looks just like it should look if there is no God with these attributes. True that this does not rule out other gods, such a deist god that does not act in the universe. But we can rule out the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God to a high degree of probability (see God: The Failed Hypothesis).
2. The Origin of the Universe
Fundamental to most religions is the notion of divine creation. At one time it seemed impossible that the universe could have come into existence naturally. Christians saw the success of the big bang model as a further confirmation of the biblical creation story. At least it seemed to prove that the universe had a beginning and it followed, by their reasoning, that the cause of that beginning could only be a personal Creator God.
Modern cosmology has considerably dampened this hope. It has shown that the big bang need not have been the beginning of space and time and that the universe could be eternal. At least, theological claims that an eternal universe is mathematically impossible can be proven false. It now seems possible or even likely that our universe is just one of an unlimited number of other universes.
Several plausible scenarios for the natural origin of our universe have been published by reputable scholars. While we cannot say exactly how our universe came about, these scenarios, which are completely worked out mathematically and consistent with all existing knowledge, at least prove that a divine creation is not required.
Many theologians and others have claimed that the parameters of physics are so delicately balanced that any slight changes in their values and life would not have been possible. Therefore they conclude that a creator must have fine-tuned these parameters so that we, and our form of life, would evolve.
This claim can be refuted on several fronts. The most popular explanation among most physicists and cosmologists is that many universes exist and we just happen to live in the one suited for us.
However, even if only our universe exists, adequate explanations within existing knowledge can be found for the values of the most crucial parameters. Others can be shown to have ranges that make some form of life probable (see The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning).
4. The Argument from Design
For centuries theologians have argued that the observed order we see around us is evidence for divine design in the universe. However, the universe does not look at all as if it were designed by a perfect, all-powerful, benevolent God. It is too imperfect, too filled with evil and suffering. And, as time has gone by, science has provided plausible explanations for the observed order.
Proponents of intelligent design creationism argue that complex structures require an architect and builder, and that natural processes cannot generate increasing complexity. They are wrong. The generation of complex systems from simpler systems can be seen in many physical situations, such as the phase transitions in which water goes naturally from gas to liquid to solid in the absence of external energy. In the physical and biological worlds, simplicity begets complexity.
The reason for much of the mistrust of science is the fundamental incompatibility of science and religion and the religious know that. At least evangelicals are honest about it. They recognize science as the enemy. Liberal and moderate believers, on the other hand, are fooling themselves if they think that can be both religious and scientific without being schizophrenic.
The Providence Journal, Friday, June 24, 2011
By J. Stanley Lemons
The greatest contribution that the U.S. has made to world religion is the concept and practice of separation of church and state, and that was started in Providence with Roger Williams in 1636.
Even if nothing in the rest of the history of the state was remarkable, Providence would still have that one world-class contribution to its credit. It was the first place in modern history where citizenship and religion were separated, where freedom of conscience was the rule.
While his ideas were reviled and attacked in the 17th Century, they became embodied in the U.S. Constitution in 1789 and the Bill of Rights, appended to it in 1791.
Have you wondered why there is a Roger Williams Lodge of B’nai B’rith? Why the oldest synagogue (Touro Synagogue, in Newport) in America is in Rhode Island? Have you ever wondered why Rhode Island never had a witch trial? Or blasphemy trials? Nor hanged, whipped or jailed people because of religion? All the other colonies executed witches, but not Rhode Island. Most had blasphemy trials, but not Rhode Island.
Nearly everywhere else in colonial America, people of faith were persecuted, but not in Rhode Island. Massachusetts hanged four Quakers, and Virginia imprisoned dozens of Baptists. Maryland, which was created as a haven for Roman Catholics, came to outlaw Catholic priests and prohibited Roman Catholics from inheriting property. These things did not happen here because Roger Williams founded Providence to be a “shelter for those distressed of conscience.” Rhode Island’s freedom of religion prevented such religious laws and abuses.
It is well to recall how this came about. Roger Williams got into serious trouble in Massachusetts when he challenged both the political and religious establishments by asserting that the government had no role in religion. Moreover, he challenged the legitimacy of the colony itself by charging that it had stolen its land from the Indians. So he was tried and convicted of sedition, heresy and the refusal to take an oath of allegiance to the colony that required him to swear in God’s name. In October 1635 he was ordered banished to England, whence he had fled in 1630 because of religious persecution.
Before the banishment could be carried out, however, he fled from Salem into the snow in January 1636 and trekked to the Narragansett Bay. In June he left the shelter of the Wampanoags and crossed the Seekonk River into the domain of the Narragansetts. From Miantonomi and Canonicus he acquired Providence. His relations with the Narragansetts were so cordial that Providence and the Narragansetts remained allies for the next 40 years against the efforts of Massachusetts, Connecticut and Plymouth colonies to destroy them both.
When the householders first gathered in Providence to form their town government, they agreed that they could make rules and laws in “civil matters only.” In 1644 when Williams secured his charter for the “Province of Providence Plantations in Narragansett Bay in New England,” that charter was for a “civil government.” It did not mention religion because Williams did not believe that government had any role to play in religion. “Soul liberty” was God’s gift to all humanity; it was not something granted by any government.
Soul liberty was the freedom of every person to follow the dictates of conscience. A government could only acknowledge this freedom and stand aside to allow full freedom of religion. This meant that one had to have complete separation of church and state. For Roger Williams, separation of church and state was for the protection of the church from the corrupting effects of government. Williams wrote repeatedly that true religion needs no support of the government and that government support invariably corrupts religion.
All of the neighboring colonies regarded Providence Plantations with undisguised horror and worked for the first hundred years to dismember and destroy this “hive of heretics.” But they failed, and the principle that Roger Williams planted in Providence in 1636 came to be the law of all of Rhode Island and then a basic principle of the United States. And, Roger Williams, whose ideas were roundly rejected by everybody in his lifetime, would be seen by the 20th Century as the quintessential American of the 17th Century. What was the founding principle of Providence — freedom of religion (which demands separation of church and state) — now holds out a hope for the whole world where religious intolerance is the basis of so much strife.
Williams believed that it was God’s command that everyone (including people that he regarded as heretics, pagans, atheists, and infidels) had a right to freedom of conscience. He believed that anyone had a right to be wrong, and that only civil debate could be used to change a heart or mind. The only tools of religion were those of the spirit, never the sword. For him, the state had no role to play in religion. He believed that whenever and wherever the government tried to meddle with religion by trying to define it or control it or enforce it, or even to support it, religion was corrupted by such efforts.
Williams and his good friend John Clarke, of Newport, shared the view that the key to a peaceful society was complete separation of church and state. Nearly everyone else believed just the opposite: They believed that peace was possible only when everyone was united in a single church in a single state. Williams’s core religious principle held that each person had freedom of conscience and freedom to practice their faith. Nearly everyone else thought that the state had to punish and coerce those who had divergent religious beliefs, wrong practices, or wayward ideas.
His position on freedom of religion was wildly radical in his day and, nearly four centuries later, this basic principle is still wildly radical in great swathes of today’s world. Religious freedom does not exist in most nations on the planet.
What would Roger Williams think of the idea that our nation was founded as a Christian nation? Certainly Providence and Rhode Island were not founded as a Christian government. It is deeply troubling to know that a pastor of one of the largest churches in Texas declared on national TV that “separation of church and state is the product of some infidel’s mind.”
To call Roger Williams an infidel reveals profound ignorance of our nation’s history. Roger Williams utterly rejected any such concept and regarded the idea of a “Christian nation” as “blasphemy.” So, he established a government that was confined to “civil matters only,” and this has become a model for the world.
J. Stanley Lemons is an emeritus professor of history, Rhode Island College and church historian for the First Baptist Church in America.
(N.B.: this is why Separation is So important today!)
(N.B.: David Barton is neither an historian nor an attorney.)
“University of Pennsylvania historian Richard Beeman was yesterday’s guest onThe Daily Show with Jon Stewart following an appearance by pseudo-historian David Barton. Beeman, like other real historians, notes that Barton greatly embellishes the religious views of the Founding Fathers and misrepresented the Constitution.
“The Constitution is federally devoid of any mention of religion except for one provision which says there shall be no test for public office or any position of public trust, so the only mention of religion is keep religion out of our government,” Beeman says, and “the debate in the [constitutional] Convention is virtually devoid” of religious references. Barton, on the other hand, made this pathetic case that the Constitution incorporates the Bible.
Right Wing Watch looked into Barton’s many fabrications, falsehoods,obfuscations, revisionist history, as well as his total neglect of the Fourteenth Amendment’s incorporation of the First Amendment to the states and his warped view of constitutional jurisprudence while he was on The Daily Show.
During part II of the interview with Beeman, Stewart noted that while Barton told him that he was OK with Sharia law in the US, he would likely make the opposite case to his conservative supporters.
Such dishonest actions reflect the fact that Barton is a political activist, not a historian — he even was paid by the Republican National Committee to mobilize church groups to support President Bush’s reelection and Republican candidates. As Kyle notes, even his documentary on African American history is brazenly partisan.
As Beeman and other credentialed historians make clear, Barton is simply distorting history for his own political purposes.”
10 Great Things About America That Drive Conservatives and the Religious Right Insane
“Religious Right groups and their frequent allies in the Tea Party talk a good line about respecting American values, but much would change if they had their way. They seek not to restore our country to some Golden Age (that never existed anyway) but to recreate it – in their own fundamentalist image.An America rebuilt along Religious Right lines would be a very different place. And to get there, the theocrats among us first have to tear down some features of American life – some of which are longstanding. Here are ten things about the United States that drive Religious Right groups crazy:
1. Our history debunks Religious Right mythology: American history stands as a rebuke to the Religious Right. America’s founders established a secular government with freedom of religion and its necessary corollary, separation of church and state, built into the First Amendment. A “Christian nation” was not what the founders sought. How do we know this? They said so. Think about it: If an officially Christian nation had been the intent of the founders, the Constitution would prominently include that concept. It doesn’t.
And those Religious Right claims that separation of church and state is a myth? They’re a crock. As James Madison put it, “Strongly guarded…is the separation between Religion and Government in the Constitution of the United States.” Madison ought to know. He’s considered the Father of the Constitution and was one of the primary drafters of the First Amendment.
(N.B.: Historical revisionists – such as David Barton – always reference ‘other documents’: they must, as the Constitution is SECULAR! )
2. We support science: While polls show some confusion over issues like evolution, most Americans are big fans of science and are quick to rally around the latest medical breakthroughs and cutting-edge technology. Many religious people in America long ago reconciled their faith with modern science. But the Religious Right remains stubbornly insistent that any science that conflicts with its literalist interpretation of the Bible must go.
Religious Right activists hate science because it casts doubt on their narrow worldview – a worldview that teaches that all answers are found in a rigidly fundamentalist interpretation of an ancient religious text. To the Religious Right, evolution and the Bible can’t co-exist. They refuse to read the scriptures in a metaphorical or symbolic context. Since, to the Religious Right, evolution undercuts the Bible, evolution should not be taught in public schools.
3. America has a tradition of tolerance: Yes, we’ve fallen short of complete tolerance from time to time, but at the end of the day, most Americans believe in treating their fellow citizens decently, even if they have different religious or philosophical beliefs. But to the Religious Right, tolerance is entrance ramp on the highway to hell.
The idea that religions should strive to get along is dangerously close to the idea that all religions are on equal footing. This is bad, so says the Religious Right, because it leads people into “error” – that is, an embrace of any religion that’s not fundamentalist Christianity. Tolerance is ridiculed because it dares to suggest that a Unitarian, Buddhist, Jew, Hindu, Pagan or atheist might have an equal claim on truth alongside a fundamentalist.
4. We have a secular government: To the theocrats of the right, secular government, secularism and secular anything is the bogeyman of the moment. If you doubt it, just listen to some of our leading politicians (assuming you have the stomach for it). To most people, it just makes sense for government to remain neutral on theological disputes – remember the Middle Ages? To the Religious Right, such neutrality equals hostility toward religion and a “war” against Christianity.
Ironically, there is one place where the Religious Right backs secular government: Muslim nations. Those should be secular, of course – but only as a prelude to adopting fundamentalist Christianity.
5. The U.S. Constitution has endured: The Religious Right and the Tea Party claim to revere our basic governing document, the Constitution. So why do they treat it like a first draft? Just consider the list of amendments they’d like to add: pro-school prayer, anti-abortion, “parental rights,” fetal personhood, “traditional marriage,” the list goes on.
Why does the Religious Right distrust our founders? Maybe because the founders weren’t fundamentalists, and they dared to believe that the Bible could speak metaphorically yet still contain wisdom and insight. Consider this quote by Thomas Jefferson (from a letter to Benjamin Rush, May 21, 1803): “To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to himself every human excellence; & believing he never claimed any other.”
6. The nation has a legacy of freedom of religion: To the Religious Right, “religious freedom” means the right to use their religion to run other people’s lives. When it comes to groups they don’t like, ideas like liberty and freedom suddenly evaporate.
Consider the controversy over the proposed Islamic center in lower Manhattan and efforts to block construction of a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Normally, once religious groups comply with local zoning laws, get the necessary permits and so on, they can build houses of worship where they please. Yet Brian Fischer, a columnist with the American Family Association, argued recently that the Constitution grants religious freedom rights only to Christians (!!!) and said we can legally shut down mosques. Where does this appear in the Constitution? It doesn’t. Fischer made it up.
7. Americans support reproductive rights: The ability to control your own body when it comes to reproduction is the ability to control your own destiny. It’s a big no-no to the Religious Right. God is supposed to control your destiny. Who are you to interfere with His plans? Although most people think of this issue in terms of abortion, it’s worthwhile to look a little deeper. Increasingly, access to birth control is on the chopping block as well. (See attempts to defund Planned Parenthood and bills in the state laws granting pharmacists a right to refuse to fill prescriptions for the pill.)
Throughout recorded history, religious prudes have been obsessed with sex lives of others. They clearly have issues. There’s just something kind of icky about it.
8. Gay people live here: Where to begin? Not only will gay people not stay in the closet or become straight, now they want to get married! You can be sure that Bible Belt fundamentalists, who have the highest divorce rate in the nation, aren’t going to stand for that assault on the sacred institution of marriage.
The bile the Religious Right spews toward gays is unfathomable. You have to call it what it is: Hate. And as polls show increasing numbers of Americans backing same-sex marriage, it’s only going to get worse.
9. Most kids go to public schools: These godless hotbeds of secular humanism actually receive tax funding! They’re known to teach evolution, and some even dare to talk about how they human reproductive system works in Biology class. Since not everyone has the time for home-schooling, it’s best to distribute vouchers, says the Religious Right.
Here’s Tim LaHaye, author of the popular series of apocalyptic potboilers “Left Behind” on public education: “I have a pet concern, and I think it is the concern of everyone in this room; and that is we are being destroyed in America by the public school systems of our country. And it was Abraham Lincoln who said, essentially, let me educate the children of this generation and they will be the political leaders of the next generation. And, folks, we have let the enemy come in and take over the greatest school system in the history of the world.” (So, Tim, what do you really think?)
10. We fund NPR and PBS: Sure, the Religious Right and the Tea Party said they wanted to cut off funding to public broadcasting to save a few bucks, but in reality, they just don’t like the elitist, left-wingery of “All Things Considered” and “Masterpiece Theatre.” Snobs listen to and watch that stuff!
Don’t even get them started on the Muppets. Bert and Ernie have a suspiciously close relationship. ‘Nuff said.
Of course, there are many other things the Religious Right dislikes about our country – consider women’s rights, for example. For all of their flag waving, some supporters of the Religious Right just don’t sound too happy to be here. I doubt they plan to leave soon, so we can expect they’ll keep working to change our nation. Be warned – this list is just a start.”
How Republicans and Their Big Business Allies Duped Tens of Millions of Evangelicals into Voting for a Corporate Agenda
By Frank Schaeffer, AlterNet
Posted on November 10, 2010, Printed on November 10, 2010
Tens of millions of American voters got duped badly in the 2010 election. The bible-thumping white underclass thought they hit back at what they regarded as the nefarious forces trying to “take our country away.”
They were bought, paid for, sold, traded and manipulated by the most powerful in the US election: a Billionaire Lynch Mob led by Rupert Murdoch, Karl Rove, the Koch brothers, and hundreds of millions in organize corporate cash. They peddled a fear agenda: fear of immigrants, fear of government control of our lives, fear that their country would become irrevocably changed.
Here’s how it happened:
Where the fear and loathing began
A bedrock article of faith among many of the anti-Obama white voters is that America had “Christian origins,” and that today America must be “restored” to “our religious heritage.” The “Puritan heritage” of America is constantly cited as evidence for our need to return to our “biblical roots.” The Constitution is also waved around as if it too is some sort of Bible to be religiously believed in. Of course the Billionaire Lynch Mob doesn’t care about such quaint ideas as individual liberties, let alone “biblical absolutes,” but many of the people who believed the anti-Obama lies did care.
The earnest, mostly Evangelical dupes have a point: by calling for a “return to our roots” (be they biblical and/or constitutional) they are actually maintaining a grand old American tradition: religious delusion as the basis for conquest. The Puritans believed that they were importing “authentic Christianity” to America, especially as written in the Old Testament. They said that they were on a divine mission, even calling themselves “The New Israel” and a “city set upon a hill.” John Winthrop (governor of Massachusetts Bay) transferred the idea of “nationhood” in biblical Israel to the Massachusetts Bay Company. And the Puritans claimed they were God’s “Chosen People.” They said that they had the right to grab land from the “heathen.” These were the American Indians whom the Puritans thought of as the “new Canaanites,” to be slaughtered with God’s blessing and in the case of the Pequot Indians burned alive.
There are many threads in the anti-Obama tapestry but three are ignored at our peril: 1) The End Times fantasies of the Evangelicals; 2) The rise of so-called Reconstructionist theology and 3) the culture war launched over the legalization of abortion.
These “threads,” not the economy alone, are also the source of the vote where white lower class and white middle class Americans voted in droves against their own self-interest. Let’s unpick these fraying threads one at a time.
1. “End Times” Fantasies
The evangelical/fundamentalists/Republican far right is in the grip of an apocalyptic “Rapture” cult centered on revenge and vindication. This “End Times” death wish is built on a literalist interpretation of the Book of Revelation. This fantasy has many followers. For instance to take one of many examples, Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye’s “Left Behind” series of sixteen novels represents both a “reason” and a symptom of the hysteria that grips so many voters.
The “Left Behind” novels have sold tens of millions of copies while spawning an “End Times” cult, or rather egging it on. Such products as Left Behind video games have become part of the ubiquitous American background noise. Less innocuous symptoms of End Times paranoia include people stocking up on assault rifles and ammunition, freeze dried food (pitched to them, by the way, by Billionaire Lynch Mob-handmaid Glenn Beck), gold (also sold to them by Glenn Beck), adopting “Christ-centered” home school curricula, fear of higher education (“we’ll lose our children to secularism”), embracing rumor as fact (“Obama isn’t an American”) and fighting against Middle East peace iniatives, lest they delay the “return of Jesus,” for instance through Houston mega church pastor John Hagee’s Christian Zionist-centered “ministry.”
A disclosure: My late father, Francis Schaeffer, was a key founder and leader of the American Religious Right. For a time in the 1970s and early 80s I joined him in pioneering the Evangelical anti-abortion Religious Right movement. I changed my mind. I explain why I quit the movement in my book CRAZY FOR GOD — How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All – Or Almost All – Of It Back.
John Hagee, mega church pastor and founder of Christians United for Israel said: “For 25 almost 26 years now, I have been pounding the Evangelical community over television. The Bible is a very pro-Israel book. If a Christian admits ‘I believe the Bible,’ I can make him a pro-Israel supporter or they will have to denounce their faith. So I have Christians over a barrel you might say.” The assumption Hagee makes — that “Bible-believing Christians” will be pro-Israel — is the dominant view among American Evangelical Christians. These are the people who goad us to make perpetual war worldwide. And these are the people who supposedly follow a teacher who said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
Few within the Evangelical community have dared to publically question such Haggee’s approach. The Christian Zionists led by Hagee et al even went after their very own George W Bush for backing peace talks between Palestinians and the Israeli government. So can you imagine the hatred the Christian Zionists have for President Obama, who also wants peace in the Middle East?
The momentum for building a subculture that’s seceding from mainstream society (in order to await “The End Times” has irrevocably pried loose a chunk of the American population from both sanity and from their fellow citizens. The Christian Zionist franchise holds out hope for the self-disenfranchised that — at last — everyone will know “We born-again Christians” were right and “They” were wrong. But here’s the political significance of the Christian Zionist dominance: the evangelical/fundamentalists’ imagined victimhood.
I say imagined victimhood, because the born-agains are hardly outsiders let alone victims. They’re very own George W Bush was in the White House for eight long, ruinous years and Evangelicals also dominated American politics for the better part of thirty years before that by enforcing a series of “moral” litmus tests that transformed the Republican Party into their very own culture wars lickspittle.
Nevertheless, the white evangelical/conservative Roman Catholic sense of being a victimized minority only grew with their successes. “You are not alone!” said Glenn Beck, playing to these “disenfranchised” “victims,” who – as the midterm results once again proved — turn out to look more like a majority of white voters who had the power to turn Sarah Palin into a multimillionaire overnight and send the likes of Rand Paul to the Senate.
2. The Rise of Reconstructionist Theology
Where did the “victims” on the Far Right get their “theology” of perpetual damn-the-facts victimhood from? The history of theology (Christian or otherwise) is the history of people desperately trying to fit the way things actually are into the way their “holy” books say they should be. And since the facts don’t fit and never will, religious believers can either change their minds, embrace paradox, or find someone else to blame for their never-ending loss of face and self-esteem.
Most Americans have never heard of the Reconstructionists. But they have felt their impact through the Reconstructionists’ (often indirect) influence over the wider Evangelical community. In turn, the Evangelicals shaped the politics of a secular culture that barely understood the Religious Right let alone the forces within that movement that gave it its rage.
If you feel victimized by modernity (let alone humiliated by reality) then the Reconstructionists have The Answer to your angst: apply the full scope of the Biblical Law to modern America and to the larger world! Coerce “non-believers” to live in your imaginary universe! In other words Reconstructionists wanted to replace the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights with their interpretation of the Bible.
Most Evangelicals are positively moderate by comparison to the Reconstructionist “thinkers.” Most libertarians, who formed the backbone of the Tea Party (at least until the Far Right Evangelicals began to take the Tea Party over) would hate them. But the Reconstructionist movement is a distilled version of the more mainstream evangelical version of exclusionary theology that nonetheless divides America into the “Real America” (as the Far Right claim only they are) and the rest of us “sinners.”
The Reconstructionist worldview is ultra Calvinist, but like all Calvinism has its origins in ancient Israel/Palestine, when vengeful and ignorant tribal lore was written down by frightened men (the nastier authors of the Bible) trying to defend their prerogatives to bully women, murder rival tribes and steal land. These justifications probably reflect later thinking: origin myths used as propaganda to justify political and military actions after the fact—i.e., to justify their brutality the Hebrews said that God made them inflict on others and/or that they were “chosen.”
In its modern American incarnation, which hardened into a twentieth century movement in the 1960s and became widespread in the 1970s, Reconstructionism was propagated by people I knew personally and worked with closely when I too was a Religious Right activist claiming God’s special favor. The leaders of the Reconstructionist movement included the late Rousas Rushdoony (Calvinist theologian, father of modern-era Christian Reconstructionism, patron saint to gold-hoarding Federal Reserve-haters, and creator of the modern Evangelical home-school movement), his son-in-law Gary North (an economist, gold-buff, publisher and leading conspiracy theorist), and David Chilton (ultra-Calvinist pastor and author.)
Reconstructionism, also called Theonomism, seeks to reconstruct “our fallen society.” Its worldview is best represented by the publications of the Chalcedon Foundation, which has been classified as an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. According to the Chalcedon Foundation website, the mission of the movement is to apply “the whole Word of God” to all aspects of human life: “It is not only our duty as individuals, families and churches to be Christian, but it is also the duty of the state, the school, the arts and sciences, law, economics, and every other sphere to be under Christ the King. Nothing is exempt from His dominion. We must live by His Word, not our own.
It’s no coincidence that the rise of the Islamic Brotherhoods in Egypt and Syria and the rise of Reconstructionism took place in more or less the same twentieth-century time frame—as modernism, science and “permissiveness” collided with a frightened conservatism rooted in religion. The writings of people such as Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna and those of Rushdoony are virtually interchangeable when it comes to their goals of “restoring God” to his “rightful place” as he presides over law and morals. Or as the late Reconstructionist/Calvinist theologian David Chilton, writing in PARADISE RESTORED–A Biblical Theology of Dominion (and sounding startlingly al-Banna-like) explained:
Our goal is a Christian world, made up of explicitly Christian nations. How could a Christian desire anything else? Our Lord Himself taught us to pray: “Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6: 10)… The Lord’s Prayer is a prayer for the worldwide dominion of God’s Kingdom… a world of decentralized theocratic republics…. That is the only choice: pagan law or Christian law. God specifically forbids “pluralism.” God is not the least bit interested in sharing world dominion with Satan.
The message of Rushdoony’s work is best summed up in one of his innumerable Chalcedon Foundation position papers, “The Increase of His Government and Peace.” He writes: “[T]he ultimate and absolute government of all things shall belong to Christ.” In his book Thy Kingdom Come — using words that are similar to those the leaders of al Qaida would use decades later in reference to “true Islam” — Rushdoony argues that democracy and Christianity are incompatible: “Democracy is the great love of the failures and cowards of life,” he writes. “One [biblical] faith, one law and one standard of justice did not mean democracy. The heresy of democracy has since then worked havoc in church and state… Christianity and democracy are inevitably enemies.”
3. The Culture Wars Launched over the Abortion Debate
The significance and rise of the Reconstructionists and their (often indirect) impact on the wider evangelical subculture can only be understood in the context of the January 22, 1973 Supreme Court ruling on Roe v. Wade.
Roe energized the culture war like nothing else before or since. This war has even fed the passion that burned within the so-called Tea Party movement’s reaction to Obama’s moderate legislative health care reform predicting “Death Panels.” Roe also indirectly energized even those members of the Far Right – for instance the Tea Party’s pro-choice libertarians — who didn’t care about abortion per se. Roe had such far-reaching effects because reactions to Roe defined the scorched-earth, winner-take-all and rabidly anti-government tone of the culture war fights since 1973.
Fast forward thirty years to the first decade of the twenty-first century: The messengers and day-to-day “issues” changed but the volume of the anti-government “debate” and anger originated with the anti-abortion movement. “Death Panels!”, “Government Takeover!”, “Obama is Hitler!” and all such “comments” were simply updated versions of “pro-life” rhetoric. And ironically, at the very same time as the Evangelicals who began the anti-abortion crusade (along with conservative Roman Catholics) had thrust themselves into bare knuckle politics over Roe, they also (I should say we also) retreated to what amounted to virtual walled compounds.
Evangelicals created a parallel “Christian America,” our very own private world, as it were, posted with “No Trespassing” signs. Our new “world” was about creating a Puritan/Reconstructionist-style holy-nation-within-our-fallen-nation.
This went far beyond mere alternative schools and home schools. Thousands of new Christian bookstores opened, countless Evangelical radio programs flourished in the 1970s and 80s, and new TV stations went on the air. Even a “Christian Yellow Pages” (a guide to Evangelical tradesmen) was published advertising “Christ-centered plumbers,” accountants and the like who “honor Jesus.” New Evangelical universities and even new law schools appeared, seemingly overnight with a clearly defined mission to “take back” each and every profession – including law and politics – “for Christ.” For instance, Liberty University’s Law School was the creation of the late Jerry Falwell, who told me in 1983 of his vision for Liberty’s programs: “Frank, we’re going train a new generation of judges and world leaders in the law from a Christian worldview to change America.” This was the same Jerry Falwell who wrote in America Can Be Saved: “I hope I live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won’t have any public schools.”
To the old-fashioned Goldwater-type conservative mantra of “big government doesn’t work,” in the 1970s the newly-radicalized Evangelicals added “the US Government is Evil!” Our swap of spiritual faith for the illusion of political power – I say “illusion” since even in the 70s and 80s the real power was in the hands of the Billionaire Lynch Mob — meant that we would tell people how to vote, but that we didn’t want our kids going to school with theirs. We’d wind up defending not just private schools and home schooling to “protect” our children from the world, but also private oil companies and private gas-guzzling polluting cars, private insurance conglomerates and so forth.
The price for the Religious Right’s wholesale idolatry of private everything was that Christ’s reputation was tied to a cynical political party owned by billionaires from the fast-food industry, raping the earth (not to mention our health), to the oil companies destroying our climate. It only remained for a Far Right Republican-appointed majority on the Supreme Court to rule in 2010 (Citizens United V. The Federal Election Commission), that unlimited corporate money could pour into political campaigns – anonymously — in a way that clearly favored corporate America and the super wealthy who long since were the only entities served by the Republican Party’s defense of the individual against the government. The “individuals” turned out to be Exxon, the Koch brothers, Rupert Murdoch, McDonald’s and Goldman Sachs et al.
It’s a question of legitimacy and illegitimacy. What the Religious Right, including the Religious Right’s Roman Catholic and Protestant “intellectuals” (like my father) did, was contribute to a climate where the very legitimacy of our government, even any government, is up for grabs. Then the internet came along and Fox News came along and Rush Limbaugh, Michele Bachmann et all came along and no fiction was too fantastical to be believed as fact. We passed into a high tech stone age, myth superstition and outright lies gained a new currency.
Following the election of our first black President, the “politics” of the Evangelical, Roman Catholic and Mormon Far Right was not the politics of a loyal opposition, but the instigation of race-tinged revolution first and best expressed by Rush Limbaugh when he said, “I hope Obama fails.” All that happened in the midterm election of 2010 was that the corporate interests (unleashed by the Supreme Court), the Republican Party leadership and the Tea Party built on and/or cashed in on, the “biblically-based” antigovernment passion.
This was the politics that won in the Republican gains in the 2010 midterm elections. This was the logical conclusion of the process of delegitimizing the Federal Government that was launched by the Reconstructionists, the anti-abortion movement and of course is fed by the “Left Behind”/Christian Zionist apocalyptic revenge fantasy.
The Billionaire Lynch Mob’s only sacrament is fear. Their reward for cashing in on white religiously-believing middle class American’s addiction to Bronze Age biblical mythology is to walk away with our country. And fear-filled white Americans don’t get anything in return, unless you count their fleeting visceral pleasure of putting “that uppity black man” in the White House in his place.
Frank Schaeffer is a writer and author of many books including Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back
© 2010 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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Yet another surprise for those who think America is a “Christian Nation”: ” WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Supreme Court today let stand a federal appellate ruling that that a government-sponsored Ten Commandments monument placed on a county courthouse lawn is unconstitutional and must be removed. By rejecting an appeal by the commissioners of Haskell County, Oklahoma, and declining to review the case, the Supreme Court left undisturbed a unanimous June 2009 decision by the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals that the county commissioners advanced their personal religious beliefs by erecting the monument. The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Oklahoma on behalf of a local resident.
“The Tenth Circuit’s decision was an important victory for religious freedom and we are pleased that the Supreme Court left that ruling undisturbed,” said Daniel Mach, Director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief. “The Ten Commandments undoubtedly have religious significance for many, and we would vigorously defend the right of individuals, churches, or businesses to display this monument publicly on their own property. But the government should not be in the business of promoting religious viewpoints.”
In its June 2009 decision, the federal court of appeals ruled that the monument violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution because a “reasonable observer would view the monument as having the impermissible principal or primary effect of endorsing religion.” The monument is unconstitutional, the court held, because the proposal to erect the monument, its approval by the Haskell County Board of Commissioners and the commissioners’ expressly religious defense of the monument “strongly reflect a government endorsement of religion.”