Republican Insider Explains How Religion Destroyed the GOP

Source:Alternet

Author: Mike Lofgren / Viking Press

Link:https://www.alternet.org/republican-insider-explains-how-religion-destroyed-gop?src=newsletter109undamentalism and how the GOP devolved into anti-intellectual nuts. 

Emphasis Mine.

Having observed politics up close and personal for most of my adult lifetime, I have come to the conclusion that the rise of politicized religious fundamentalism may have been the key ingredient in the transformation of the Republican Party. Politicized religion provides a substrate of beliefs that rationalizes—at least in the minds of its followers—all three of the GOP’s main tenets: wealth worship, war worship, and the permanent culture war.

The following exceprt is reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of the Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from “The Party Is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless and the Middle Class Got Shafted,” by Mike Lofgren. Copyright © 2012 by Mike Lofgren.

Religious cranks ceased to be a minor public nuisance in this country beginning in the 1970s and grew into a major element of the Republican rank and file. Pat Robertson’s strong showing in the 1988 Iowa presidential caucus signaled the gradual merger of politics and religion in the party. Unfortunately, at the time I mostly underestimated the implications of what I was seeing. It did strike me as oddly humorous that a fundamentalist staff member in my congressional office was going to take time off to convert the heathen in Greece, a country that had been overwhelmingly Christian for almost two thousand years. I recall another point, in the early 1990s, when a different fundamentalist GOP staffer said that dinosaur fossils were a hoax. As a mere legislative mechanic toiling away in what I held to be a civil rather than ecclesiastical calling, I did not yet see that ideological impulses far different from mine were poised to capture the party of Lincoln.

The results of this takeover are all around us: If the American people poll more like Iranians or Nigerians than Europeans or Canadians on questions of evolution, scriptural inerrancy, the presence of angels and demons, and so forth, it is due to the rise of the religious right, its insertion into the public sphere by the Republican Party, and the consequent normalizing of formerly reactionary beliefs. All around us now is a prevailing anti-intellectualism and hostility to science. Politicized religion is the sheet anchor of the dreary forty-year-old culture wars.

The Constitution notwithstanding, there is now a de facto religious test for the presidency: Major candidates are encouraged (or coerced) to share their feelings about their faith in a revelatory speech, or a televangelist like Rick Warren will dragoon the candidates (as he did with Obama and McCain in 2008) to debate the finer points of Christology, offering himself as the final arbiter. Half a century after John F. Kennedy put to rest the question of whether a candidate of a minority denomination could be president, the Republican Party has reignited the kinds of seventeenth-century religious controversies that advanced democracies are supposed to have outgrown. And some in the media seem to have internalized the GOP’s premise that the religion of a candidate is a matter for public debate.

Throughout the 2012 Republican presidential campaign, Mitt Romney was dogged with questions about his religion. The spark was a hitherto obscure fundamentalist preacher from Texas, Robert Jeffress, who attacked Romney’s Mormonism by doubting whether he could really be considered a Christian. The media promptly set aside the issues that should have been paramount— Romney’s views on economic and foreign policy—in order to spend a week giving respectful consideration to an attention-grabbing rabble-rouser. They then proceeded to pester the other candidates with the loaded question of whether they thought Romney was a Christian. CNN’s Candy Crowley was particularly egregious in this respect, pressing Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann for a response and becoming indignant when they refused to answer. The question did not deserve an answer, because Crowley had set it up to legitimate a false premise: that Romney’s religious belief was a legitimate issue of public debate. This is a perfect example of how the media reinforce an informal but increasingly binding religious test for public office that the Constitution formally bans. Like the British constitution, the test is no less powerful for being unwritten.

The religious right’s professed insistence upon “family values” might appear at first blush to be at odds with the anything but saintly personal behavior of many of its leading proponents. Some of this may be due to the general inability of human beings to reflect on conflicting information: I have never ceased to be amazed at how facts manage to bounce off people’s consciousness like pebbles off armor plate. But there is another, uniquely religious aspect that also comes into play: the predilection of fundamentalist denominations to believe in practice, even if not entirely in theory, in the doctrine of “cheap grace,” a derisive term coined by the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer .. By that he meant the inclination of some religious adherents to believe that once they had been “saved,” not only would all past sins be wiped away, but future ones, too—so one could pretty much behave as before.  Cheap grace is a divine get- out-of-jail-free card. Hence the tendency of the religious base of the Republican Party to cut some slack for the peccadilloes of candidates who claim to have been washed in the blood of the Lamb and reborn to a new and more Christian life. The religious right is willing to overlook a politician’s individual foibles, no matter how poor an example he or she may make, if they publicly identify with fundamentalist values. In 2011 the Family Research Council, the fundamentalist lobbying organization, gave Representative Joe Walsh of Illinois an award for “unwavering support of the family.” Representative Walsh’s ex-wife might beg to differ, as she claims he owes her over one hundred thousand dollars in unpaid child support, a charge he denies.

Of course, the proper rituals must be observed before an erring politician can obtain absolution. In November 2011, at a forum sponsored by religious conservatives in Iowa, all of the GOP presidential candidates struck the expected notes of contrition and humility as they laid bare their souls before the assembled congregation (the event was held in a church). Most of them, including Cain, who was then still riding high, choked up when discussing some bleak midnight of their lives (he chose not to address the fresh sexual harassment charges against him, which surely would have qualified as a trying personal experience preying on his mind). Even the old reprobate Gingrich misted up over some contrived misdeed intended to distract attention from his well-known adventures in serial matrimony.

All of these gloomy obsequies of repentance having been observed, Gingrich gave a stirring example of why he is hands-down the best extemporaneous demagogue in contemporary America. Having purged his soul of all guilty transgressions, he turned his attention to the far graver sins bedeviling the American nation.
If we look at history from the mid-1960s, we’ve gone from a request for toleration to an imposition of intolerance. We’ve gone from a request to understand others to a determination to close down those who hold traditional values. I think that we need to be very aggressive and very direct. The degree to which the left is prepared to impose intolerance and to drive out of existence traditional religion is a mortal threat to our civilization and deserves to be taken head-on and described as what it is, which is the use of government to repress the American people against their own values.

That is as good an example as any of cheap grace as practiced by seasoned statesmen like Gingrich—a bid for redemption turned on its head to provide a forum for one of the Republican Party’s favorite pastimes: taking opportunistic swipes at the dreaded liberal bogeyman. How quickly one forgets one’s own moral lapses when one can consider the manifold harms inflicted on our nation by godless leftists!

– – – – – – – – – –

Some liberal writers have opined that the socioeconomic gulf separating the business wing of the GOP and the religious right make it an unstable coalition that could crack. I am not so sure. There is no basic disagreement on which direction the two factions want to take the country, merely how far it should go. The plutocrats would drag us back to the Gilded Age; the theocrats to the Salem witch trials. If anything, the two groups are increasingly beginning to resemble each other. Many televangelists have espoused what has come to be known as the prosperity gospel—the health-and- wealth/name-it-and-claim-it gospel of economic entitlement. If you are wealthy, it is a sign of God’s favor. If not, too bad! This rationale may explain why some poor voters will defend the prerogatives of billionaires. In any case, at the beginning of the 2012 presidential cycle, those consummate plutocrats the Koch brothers pumped money into Bachmann’s campaign, so one should probably not make too much of a potential plutocrat-theocrat split.

Most of the religious enthusiasts I observed during my tenure on the Hill seemed to have little reluctance to mix God and Mammon. Rick Santorum did not blink at legislative schemes to pay off his campaign contributors: In 2005 he introduced a bill to forbid the National Weather Service from providing weather forecasts for free that commercial forecasters—like AccuWeather, a Pennsylvania- based company which had contributed to his campaign—wanted to charge for. Tom DeLay’s purported concern about the dignity and sanctity of human life, touchingly on display during the controversy over whether Terri Schiavo’s husband had the right to tell doctors to remove her feeding tube after seeing her comatose for fifteen years, could always be qualified by strategic infusions of campaign cash. DeLay’s quashing of bills to prohibit serious labor abuses demonstrates that even religious virtue can be flexible when there are campaign donations involved.

One might imagine that the religious right’s agenda would be incompatible with the concerns for privacy and individual autonomy by those who consider themselves to belong to the libertarian wing of the Republican Party—the “don’t tread on me,” “live free or die” crowd that Grover Norquist once called the “leave me alone” conservatives. Given their profound distaste for an oppressive and intrusive federal government, one would think they might have trepidations about a religious movement determined to impose statutory controls on private behavior that libertarians nominally hold to be nobody’s business, and particularly not the government’s business.

Some more libertarian-leaning Republicans have in fact pushed back against the religious right. Former House majority leader Dick Armey expressed his profound distaste for the tactics of the religious right in 2006—from the safety of the sidelines—by blasting its leadership in unequivocal terms:

[James] Dobson and his gang of thugs are real nasty bullies. I pray devoutly every day, but being a Christian is no excuse for being stupid. There’s a high demagoguery coefficient to issues like prayer in schools. Demagoguery doesn’t work unless it’s dumb, shallow as water on a plate. These issues are easy for the intellectually lazy and can appeal to a large demographic. These issues become bigger than life, largely because they’re easy. There ain’t no thinking.

Armey had previously been an economics professor at several cow colleges in Texas, and when he came to Congress in 1985, libertarian economics was his forte. I do not recall religious issues motivating his political ideology; instead, economics was what gripped him, particularly the flat tax, which he tirelessly promoted. I believe his departure from Congress was impelled not only by the fact that he was not on the inside track to become Speaker, but also because of his disillusionment with the culture wars, as his passionate denunciation of Dobson suggests. But later, Barack Obama’s election and the rise of the Tea Party induced a miraculous change of heart in Armey, as no doubt did the need to raise money for his lobbying organization, known as FreedomWorks. By 2009, Armey had become a significant voice of the Tea Party. As such, he attempted to declare a truce between fiscal and social conservatives, who would thenceforth bury their squabbles and concentrate on dethroning the Kenyan usurper in the Oval Office. That meant soft-pedaling social issues that might alarm fiscally conservative but socially moderate voters, particularly women, who lived in the wealthier suburbs.

In September 2010 Armey took one step further in his reconciliation with the people he had called thugs and bullies when he announced that a GOP majority in Congress would again take up the abortion fight, which was only right and proper for those who held such a sincere moral conviction. When the Republicans duly won the House two months later, they did precisely that. State legislatures across the country followed suit: Ohio, Texas, and Virginia enacted the most severe abortion restrictions in any legislative session in memory. Suddenly Armey didn’t seem to have any problem with social issues preempting his economic agenda.

The Tea Party, which initially described itself as wholly concerned with debt, deficit, and federal overreach, gradually unmasked itself as being almost as theocratic as the activists from the religious right that Armey had denounced only a few years before. If anything, they were even slightly more disposed than the rest of the Republican Party to inject religious issues into the political realm. According to an academic study of the Tea Party, “[T]hey seek ‘deeply religious’ elected officials, approve of religious leaders’ engaging in politics and want religion brought into political debates.” The Tea Party faithful are not so much libertarian as authoritarian, the furthest thing from a “live free or die” constitutionalist.

Within the GOP libertarianism is a throwaway doctrine that is rhetorically useful in certain situations but often interferes with their core, more authoritarian, beliefs. When the two precepts collide, the authoritarian reflex prevails. In 2009 it was politically useful for the GOP to present the Tea Party as independent-leaning libertarians, when in reality the group was overwhelmingly Republican, with a high quotient of GOP activists and adherents of views common among the religious right. According to a 2010 Gallup poll, eight in ten Tea Party members identify themselves as Republicans. Another study found that over half identified as members of the religious right and 55 percent of Tea Partiers agree that “America has always been and is currently a Christian nation”—6 points more than even the percentage of self-described Christian conservatives who would agree to that. This religious orientation should have been evident from the brouhaha that erupted in mid- 2009 over the charge that the Obama administration’s new healthcare reform plan would set up “death panels.” While there was plenty to criticize about the health-care bill, the completely bogus charge garnered disproportionate attention. Republican political consultants immediately recognized that they had found a classic emotional issue that would resonate with the same people on the religious right who had been stirred up over the Terri Schiavo case. The Tea Party, a supposedly independent group of fiscal conservatives outraged by Obama’s profligate spending plans, fell prey to the hysteria Republican Party operatives whipped up over end-of- life counseling. This self-unmasking of the Tea Party may help explain why, after three years in existence, public support for the organization has been dropping precipitously.

Ayn Rand, an occasional darling of the Tea Party, has become a cult figure within the GOP in recent years. It is easy enough to see how her tough-guy, every-man-for-himself posturing would be a natural fit with the Wall Street bankers and the right-wing politicians they fund—notwithstanding the bankers’ fondness for government bailouts. But Rand’s philosophy found most of its adherents in the libertarian wing of the party, a group that overlaps with, but is certainly not identical to, the “business conservatives” who fund the bulk of the GOP’s activities. There has always been a strong strain of rugged individualism in America, and the GOP has cleverly managed to co-opt that spirit to its advantage. The problem is that Rand proclaimed at every opportunity that she was a militant atheist who felt nothing but contempt for Christianity as a religion of weaklings possessing a slave mentality. So how do Republican candidates manage to bamboozle what is perhaps the largest single bloc in their voting base, the religious fundamentalists, about this? Certainly the ignorance of many fundamentalist values voters about the wider world and the life of the mind goes some distance toward explaining the paradox: GOP candidates who enthuse over Rand at the same time as they thump their Bibles never have to explain this stark contradiction because most of their audience is blissfully unaware of who Ayn Rand was and what she advocated. But voters can to some extent be forgiven their ignorance, because politicians have grown so skillful at misdirecting them about their intentions.

This camouflaging of intentions is as much a strategy of the religious right and its leaders—James Dobson, Tony Perkins, Pat Robertson, and the rest—as it is of the GOP’s more secular political leaders in Washington. After the debacle of the Schiavo case and the electoral loss in 2008, the religious right pulled back and regrouped. They knew that the full-bore, “theoconservative” agenda would not sell with a majority of voters. This strategy accounts for Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition (who famously said that God sent a hurricane to New Orleans to punish the sodomites), stating the following in October 2011: “Those people in the Republican primary have got to lay off of this stuff. They’re forcing their leaders, the front-runners, into positions that will mean they lose the general election.” I doubt he thought the candidates held positions that were too extreme, merely that they should keep quiet about those positions until they had won the election. Max Blumenthal, author of Republican Gomorrah, argues that this is a “lying for Jesus” strategy that fundamentalists often adopt when dealing with the snares of a wicked and Godless world. Since Satan is the father of lies, one can be forgiven for fighting lies with lies.

Hence the policies pursued for at least two decades by the religious right on the federal, state, and local levels. It usually starts at the school board, after some contrived uproar over sex education or liberal indoctrination. The stealthily fundamentalist school board candidates pledge to clean up the mess and “get back to basics.” After a few years they capture a majority on the board, and suddenly “Catcher in the Rye” is heaved out of the curriculum and science teachers are under pressure to teach the (imaginary) controversy about evolutionary biology. This was the path to greater glory of Michele Bachmann: Her first run for public office, barely a dozen years ago, was for a seat on the school board in Stillwater, Minnesota. Up until then she had drawn a taxpayer-funded salary for five years working as an attorney for the Internal Revenue Service, not, of course, because she was one of those lazy, good-for-nothing government bureaucrats that Republican candidates routinely denounce. She was secretly studying the ways of the government beast so as to defeat it later on.

Bachmann, Rick Perry, and numerous other serving representatives and senators have all had ties to Christian Dominionism, a doctrine proclaiming that Christians are destined to dominate American politics and establish a new imperium resembling theocratic government. According to one profile of Perry, adherents of Dominionism “believe Christians—certain Christians—are destined to not just take ‘dominion’ over government, but stealthily climb to the commanding heights of what they term the ‘Seven Mountains’ of society, including the media and the arts and entertainment world.” Note the qualifier: “stealthily.”

At the same religious forum where the GOP candidates confessed their sins, Bachmann went so far as to suggest that organized religion should keep its traditional legal privilege of tax exemption while being permitted to endorse political candidates from the pulpit. The fact that government prohibits express political advocacy is in her imagination muzzling preachers rather than just being a quid pro quo for tax-exempt status equivalent to that imposed on any 501(c)3 or 501(c)4 nonprofit organization. But for Bachmann and others of like mind, this is persecution of a kind that fuels their sense of victimhood and righteous indignation.

Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of the Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from “The Party is Over” by Mike Lofgren. Copyright © 2012 by Mike Lofgren

 

 

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Renowned mathematician Michael Atiyah claims to have solved the Riemann Hypothesis

Atyyah

Source: ZMEscience

Author: MIHAI ANDREI

Link:https://www.zmescience.com/science/math/michael-atiyah-riemann-algorithm-24092018/

Mathematics doesn’t usually make headlines and yet, to say that the announcement from Sir Michael Atiyah caused a stir would be an understatement. The renowned mathematician claimed to have solved the long-standing Riemann Hypothesis, with potentially massive implications for worldwide digital security. Well-aware of the skepticism that would surround his announcement, Atiyah pushed on, announcing that he would present his “simple” proof at the Heidelberg Laureate Forum.

It’s not just that the hypothesis is inherently challenging to solve — it stood unsolved for almost 160 years — but the fact that Atiyah himself claimed this solution struck people as unusual. It’s not that anyone doubted his ability: having won the two most prestigious awards in math (the Fields Medal and the Abel Prize), he’s one of the most renowned and respected mathematicians alive today. But most people in the field make their big findings in the earlier stretches of their career, before they’re 40. At a ripe 90, Atiyah stands in stark contrast, and he says recent papers tend to get rejected because people doubt his ability due to his old age.

So few people (if any) knew what to expect coming into the presentation, which made things all the more exciting, of course. The presentation itself was nothing if not entertaining — which is something you wouldn’t really expect, although Atiyah prides himself on his ability to explain everything at a fairly simple level.

“Solve the Riemann and you become famous. If you’re famous already, you become infamous,” he quipped in an almost hasty David Attenborough tone.

Riemann’s hypothesis has been repeatedly observed to be accurate over a wide range of domains. However, it was never fully demonstrated — which is why it’s a hypothesis, rather than a theory. In science, ‘theory’ has a very different (and strong) meaning, as opposed to how ‘theory’ is used in our day to day lives.

But as the minutes went by, it became clear that Atiyah wasn’t squeezing any long, compelling proof into the 45-minute presentation. At points, it felt like an introduction to mathematical history, with numerous sidetracks and backtracks. But there was also a sense of anticipation — a sense that the simple slides he was presenting were more like puzzle pieces, inconspicuously falling into place to reveal a much bigger picture.

Atiyah wasn’t even looking to solve the Riemann hypothesis — he was working in physics, trying to derive something called the fine structure constant. But sometimes, he says, when you solve problem A, you might end up solving problem B and not even know about it — this transposition of ideas makes math so great. The Riemann hypothesis was merely a problem B, something that came along almost accidentally.

Then, there it was — the “punchline”, as Atiyah himself referred to it: a relatively simple slide, with only a few lines. This is where all the “meat” of the demonstration is.

Michael Atiyah’s “punchline” for the Riemann Hypothesis.

If you’re not a mathematician (or if you are, but work in a different field), that probably looks like gibberish — and that’s fine, we won’t go into specifics; in all honesty, we couldn’t, even if we wanted to. But here’s the thing: extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, and extraordinary proof rarely fits into one slide.

There was a sense of bewilderment after the presentation finished. When it was time for the questions, no one stood up and no one raised their hand, and for the next 30 seconds, you could cut the atmosphere with a knife. Timidly, one young man raised his hand — and he spoke the words that were on everyone’s mind: has the Riemann hypothesis been proved?

The comments which could be heard in some sections of the room were unflattering at best, and don’t belong in any scientific environment. But the concerns raised are, in a general sense, valid. Atiyah made several assumptions which permitted his leap. For instance, he worked with something called infinite iterations — something which is extremely dangerous; it’s the mathematical equivalent of treading on thin ice. Atiyah says he wouldn’t trust himself enough to take this step, but he builds on the work of John von Neumann, widely regarded as the foremost mathematician of his time (first part of the 20th century). Empowered by von Neumann’s work, Atiyah felt confident enough to claim the solution to this problem.

There was also an issue regarding the scope of his demonstration — had he really “solved” the problem, or has he merely tackled a particular aspect about its application? Atiyah’s answer to the question from the audience was, like the entire speech, charming, but left a bit more to be desired:

“This is just the first step on a long road. But yes, the first step, the solution to the problem, I proved that,” he stated, right after he said that he thinks he deserves the Millennium Prize for solving the problem.

Naturally, the problem of verification popped up afterward. Mathematicians worldwide would like to poke and prod around this proof, and they will have the chance to do so. This is where things took an unpleasant turn.

Atiyah wants to be believed — of course he does. A mathematician of his caliber should not settle for anything else and communication is, after all, the end game of any study. But it can be quite hard to get your message across when you’re 90 years old.

“I do care who believes it. Mathematics involves two steps: creation and dissemination. If you don’t disseminate your ideas, you don’t get anywhere,” he said. But when you’re 90, it’s extremely difficult to publish, he adds.

“When you’re my age, people don’t really want to publish my papers. You’re too old, they say.”

As a knee-jerk reaction, you’d want to say this can’t possibly be true. Surely, his work is subjected to the same scrutiny as all others, regardless of age. But the inherent bias is hard to deny, even in a room full of Atiyah’s peers. In the aftermath of his presentation, age seemed to be the most common topic of discussion — perhaps even more so than the math.

Sexism is a big problem in science, Atiyah rightly points out, but so is ageism, he adds. At the end of the day, one can only feel that his paper should be judged by its own value — regardless of whether it comes from an Abel Prize winner or a 90-year-old man — as a paper coming from a mathematician, simple as that.

At this point, it’s not clear whether his papers were reviewed “double-blind” or if the reviewers were aware of who submitted the paper. We don’t know if age really was the decisive factor in the initial rejection of the paper, or if it’s simply invalid — but age shouldn’t be a decisive criterion.

Now, at the very least, his paper (see here) will receive attention and scrutiny. The few people who can truly attest to its worth will presumably review it thoroughly, and while it may take a while (math proofs are often difficult to confirm or invalidate), when the dust will settle, we’ll find out whether we finally have a solution for the Riemann Hypothesis or not. Regardless of that outcome, Atiyah made us all think about the largely overlooked problem of ageism in science.

His presentation was charming and entertaining — which in this context, almost feels like a sin. The stage was brilliantly set, but the final outcome is, as of yet, undecided, and the lead actor’s performance not entirely convincing. Has he really identified a solution? We’ll likely know soon enough. But he’s certainly highlighted a new problem:

The Riemann hypothesis

The Riemann hypothesis starts with prime numbers — rather strange numbers which can’t be divided by other numbers; one of the oddities of prime numbers is that their distribution is irregular — there’s no precise method to predict where the next prime number will occur. This unpredictability has been widely used in developing digital security systems.

While looking at prime numbers, Berhard Reimann, one of the most prolific German mathematicians, realized something interesting: the distribution of these prime numbers isn’t random at all, it’s very similar to a function, called the Riemann Zeta Function, described below.

ζ(s) = 1/1s + 1/2s + 1/3s + 1/4s + …. up to infinity

This is where it starts to get tricky. The variable can take any value, and Riemann’s work gives us an explicit formula for the number of primes in a given interval. This is done in terms of the so-called ‘zeros’ of the function — the values of under which the function becomes 0. You can think of this function as a way to predict the distribution of prime numbers.

Riemann observed this in action, but he was never really able to prove it. This is why this is still a hypothesis, and not a theory (which, in science and math, has a much stricter meaning than in regular talk). It still remains to be seen whether this will still be the case.

 

Exploring the Radical Roots of Roy Moore’s Theocratic Christianity

screen shot via youtube

Source:Salon via AlterNet

Author: Amanda Marcotte

link:https://www.alternet.org/right-wing/exploring-radical-roots-roy-moores-theocratic-christianity?akid=16436.123424.RXpiZi&rd=1&src=newsletter1085936&t=29

Emphasis Mine

Roy Moore, the Alabama Senate candidate and alleged high school girl enthusiast, was part of a fundamentalist curriculum on law and government that taught that women shouldn’t run for office — and hinted it would be best if they weren’t allowed to vote. On Wednesday, ThinkProgress published a piece examining “Law and Government: An Introductory Study Course,” which promised that in “addition to learning concepts of civil government and public policy, students will be strengthened in their understanding of biblical principles which govern us and which point us to the Lawgiver who governs us all — Jesus Christ.”

Moore was one of the lecturers and a co-author of the curriculum, which appears to be part of the Witherspoon School of Law and Public Policy, which is not a school in any formal sense, but rather a program of four-day seminars teaching a fundamentalist Christian interpretation of the law to male-only audiences.

The ThinkProgress coverage, which is worth reading in full, focuses largely on what this course teaches about women’s rights, which is basically that feminism is “a false ideology” and a “heresy.” But as Julie Ingersoll, a professor of religious studies at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, explained to Salon, the implications of this curriculum go far beyond Moore’s opinion of women’s rights. This discovery is more evidence of Moore’s links to Christian Reconstruction, a far-right, borderline theocratic ideology that has radical views on women’s rights, religious freedom and the role of government.

Christian Reconstruction is an obscure far-right ideology developed by a man named Rousas John Rushdoony. In her book, “Building God’s Kingdom: Inside the World of Christian Reconstruction,” Ingersoll writes that Rushdoony “started a movement — Reconstruction, which sought to remake the whole of society to conform to his reading of the Bible — that didn’t attract much support, but the movement’s ideas became a driving force in American politics.”

Moore doesn’t identify openly as a Christian Reconstructionist, but then again, hardly anyone does. Rushdoony was, among other things, a Holocaust denier, a slavery apologist and a virulent racist who opposed racial integration and called for the death penalty for gay people. Openly calling oneself a follower of his is unwise even in the Deep South, and Christian fundamentalists understand this. But Rushdoony’s ideas, Ingersoll told Salon, are pervasive in the Christian right.

The Reconstruction movement, Ingersoll explained, teaches that the role of civil government is to “to punish evildoers and provide for its own national defense,” while everything else should fall under the authority of church and family. There is to be no business regulation, no civil rights protection, no welfare, no environmental regulation and most definitely no public education. All these things are understood as responsibilities belonging to churches or families, living in a world “where ultimately everyone will be a Christian” in, to be sure, the Reconstruction movement’s “understanding of being a Christian.”

The libertarian bent of so much evangelical thought, then, owes a lot to the pervasiveness of Reconstruction, even as the word itself has fallen out of fashion. But the curriculum that ThinkProgress dug up, Ingersoll noted, is “run by the Vision Forum, which is about as close to pure Rushdoony-style Christian Reconstructionism as you get.”  The Witherspoon program, she added, even included Rushdoony’s best-known book, “The Biblical Philosophy of History,” in its reading list.

Vision Forum collapsed in 2013 after its head, Doug Phillips, was publicly accused of sexual and emotional abuse by a woman named Lourdes Torres-Manteufel, who said Phillips used his religious authority over her to move her into his house, bully her into sexual encounters and tell her that he that he expected her to be his new wife when his current one died. (His wife, Beall Phillips, is 50 years old and appears, from her blogging activity, to be in good health.)

The view that women shouldn’t run for office and possibly should not even have the right to vote, Ingersoll explained, is part of the concept of “Biblical patriarchy” that Phillips taught, which flows from Reconstructionist views about the proper roles of family, church and civil government.

“Women’s roles are to procreate and be in charge of the home and be in submission to their husband’s efforts at establishing dominion, as he was commanded to do in the book of Genesis,” Ingersoll said, describing Reconstructionist teachings. “Every aspect of a woman’s life is as this help meet to her husband as he seeks to exercise dominion.”

Beyond his relationship with Phillips and his participation in teaching for the Vision Forum, Moore’s public statements, Ingersoll said, indicate how deeply  influenced he is by Reconstructionist ideas. This is especially true of his battle over a monument to the Ten Commandments he had erected outside the Alabama Supreme Court.

“The church’s role should be separated from the state’s role,” Moore told Gwen Ifill in 2004. “That is the definition of separation of church and state. But separation of church and state was never meant to separate God and government.”

“When they say ‘government,'” Ingersoll explained of Reconstructionists, “they think of government as the process by which people order their lives according to the dictates of the Bible.”

Reconstructionists believe there are three spheres of government — church, family and civil government — which are “distinct and autonomous” but all ultimately “under God’s authority, so they’re theocratic in that sense,” Ingersoll explained.

This is how Reconstructionists reconcile their claim that the church and state are “separate” while maintaining what appears to the rest of us to be a pretty clear belief that the state should be controlled by a fundamentalist Christian church. Church and state have “separate” functions, because the church controls religious instruction and charitable services and the state controls police and military, but both are expected to adhere to a narrow fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible.

(N.B.: perhaps the term should be: ” Separation of Religion and State.”)

Ingersoll argued that the influence of Reconstructionist ideology is “really pervasive but not recognized” on the right. The libertarian style of conservative Christianity, where “small government” is held out as a Christian value, is a measure of how far Rushdoony’s ideas have percolated out through the modern and more “moderate” Christian right. Moore’s language and ideas are familiar to most Alabama conservative Christians, who have incorporated them in a watered-down form into their own worldview. That’s why it’s unlikely that many of them will understand how radical his views really are, and why he’s likely to be elected to the U.S. Senate on Dec. 12.

Amanda Marcotte is a politics writer for Salon. She’s on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte.

 

Gordon Klingenschmitt: Americans Won’t Need Healthcare If We Stop Funding Planned Parenthood Because God Will Heal All Disease

An example of curvature in space time…

Source:rightwingwatch.org

Author:Kyle MANTULA

Reference:http://www.rightwingwatch.org/post/gordon-klingenschmitt-americans-wont-need-healthcare-if-we-stop-funding-planned-parenthood-because-god-will-heal-all-disease/

N.B.: “HealthCare isn’t hard after all…”

 

Religious Right activist and former Colorado state legislator Gordon Klingenschmitt declared on his “Pray In Jesus Name” program last week that Americans would not need healthcare if this nation would simply stop funding Planned Parenthood because, if we do so, “God will heal your diseases.”

After declaring that Democrats and Republicans in Congress who are fighting to retain government support for Planned Parenthood “are being influenced by a demonic spirit because they want to kill children with your taxpayer dollars,” Klingenschmitt cited a passage from Exodus:

If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.

“You know what the solution to America’s healthcare crisis is?” Klingenschmitt asked. “Obey the Ten Commandments, stop funding abortion, stop funding child killing and God will heal your diseases, America. The supernatural blessing of healing is available if we stop working with the demonic spirit of murder.”

Klingenschmitt proclaimed that if America were to repent for the sin of abortion, then “we would receive [God’s] healing and wouldn’t need to rely on socialist healthcare.”

How playing Wittgensteinian language-games can set us free

Source: Aeon

Author: Sandy Grant – is a philosopher who works at the University of Cambridge. Following a distinguished academic career, in which she had both a Professorial Chair and a baby by the age of forty, she has begun writing philosophy for public audiences. Sandy has recently enjoyed writing for Aeon, Quartz and The New European. She still teaches in Tripos and for the Kings-Pembroke Faculty.

Emphasis Mine

We live out our lives amid a world of language, in which we use words to do things. Ordinarily we don’t notice this; we just get on with it. But the way we use language affects how we live and who we can be. We are as if bewitched by the practices of saying that constitute our ways of going on in the world. If we want to change how things are, then we need to change the way we use words. But can language-games set us free?

It was the maverick philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein who coined the term ‘language-game’. He contended that words acquire meaning by their use, and wanted to see how their use was tied up with the social practices of which they are a part. So he used ‘language-game’ to draw attention not only to language itself, but to the actions into which it is woven. Consider the exclamations ‘Help!’ ‘Fire!’ ‘No!’ These do something with words: soliciting, warning, forbidding. But Wittgenstein wanted to expose how ‘words are deeds’, that we do something every time we use a word. Moreover, what we do, we do in a world with others.

This was not facile word-nerdery. Wittgenstein was intent on bringing out how ‘the “speaking” of language is part of an activity, or form of life’. In Philosophical Investigations (1953), he used the example of two builders. A brickie calls ‘Slab!’ and his helper brings it. What’s going on here? The helper who responds is not like a dog reacting to an order. We are humans, the ones who live together in language in the particular way that we do, a way that involves distinctive social practices.

With this spotlight on language-games, Wittgenstein asks readers to try to see what they are doing. But if we are entranced by our linguistic practices, can we even see what we’re doing? Wittgenstein’s attempts to see met with the charge that he was stopping us from seeing anything else, from perceiving new possibilities: his linguistic obsessions were a distraction from real politics. The chief accuser was Herbert Marcuse, who in his blockbuster One-Dimensional Man (1964) declared that Wittgenstein’s work was reductive and limiting. It could not be liberatory, for the close focus on how we use words misses what’s really going on.

These objections are serious. But do they succeed?

Marcuse claims that Wittgenstein is reductive, seeing only language, and poorly at that. Wittgenstein strives to bring language-games to light: Marcuse says this is stupid. Well, is it? Yes and no. In Culture and Value (1977), Wittgenstein admits: ‘How hard I find it to see what is right in front of my eyes.’ All too often, he says, we miss the obvious. That which is close is the most difficult to see for what it is. When we use words, we partake of everyday understandings and carryings-on. Wittgenstein looks to these everyday usages, and remarks upon them.

One remark that Marcuse ridicules is Wittgenstein’s example, ‘My broom is in the corner…’ Marcuse is super-snarky about this, and denounces ‘the almost masochistic reduction of speech to the humble and common’. But, amid the bluster, Marcuse misses the point. The mundane example is apt given the everyday practices at issue. Moreover, if you look closely, even a statement so banal is not quite what it seems. There are numerous other examples of Wittgenstein’s that Marcuse ignores, for example on reading or the aroma of coffee.

This all-too-human stupidity is deep-seated. Wittgenstein is calling attention to the ways in which, by our everyday language-games, we entrap ourselves. So he looks closely at what he is doing and saying. He sees work in philosophy as therapeutic, in the sense of ‘a work on oneself’. And there is an intense self-scrutiny in Philosophical Investigations. It is quite remarkable, questioning the ways we use language to do mundane things such as telling the time, doing sums, or hoping that someone will come. This is not something to which we are accustomed. We can be resistant, not wanting to see things for what they are. Is this ‘masochistic’? It is a subjection of oneself to self-scrutiny, but surely only painful or humiliating for those who stand to lose from finding that they are not so clever after all. So, if we are to change, we must first face up to an imperative to ‘be stupid’, and to know ourselves to be. Marcuse could have welcomed this, for he gets that it is in everyday practices that we are unwittingly subjected: ‘magic, witchcraft, and ecstatic surrender are practised in the daily routine of the home, the shop, and the office’. In short, the lady doth protest too much.

Does Marcuse’s second objection fare any better? This is the claim that Wittgenstein is confining, ensnaring us only further within language. Marcuse says that Wittgenstein’s take on language is one-dimensional. But this is not borne out by a reading of Wittgenstein’s book, where we find a view of language as irreducibly multi-dimensional. Wittgenstein painstakingly shows how the basis for what we use as language is provided by shifting patterns of communal activity. Language is contingent and provisional, so language-games can’t but be open to change, in numerous ways. One arises from recognising that we can choose to see something as this, or as that. One of Wittgenstein’s most famous passages involves this picture-puzzle:

Look at the picture, and you can see it as a duck. Look again, and you can see it as a rabbit. Because language-games are played by humans, we can notice what is going on when we see things as this, or as that. A contemporary example is the controversy over all-male speaker events. You can look at the line-up and say ‘a panel of experts’, or you can say ‘manel’. But is it only a manel if you choose to see it that way? These examples invite us to question what we take to be given in everyday uses of language. But Marcuse doesn’t mention the duck-rabbit, or discuss its implications.

So language usage admits contestation and change, in virtue of what it is. Marcuse, on the other hand, denies this, and even says that societal processes close the universe of discourse. We don’t get from him anything like Wittgenstein’s suggestion that there is in language usage itself something recalcitrant to fixity.

Indeed, Wittgenstein’s position is rather more radical than Marcuse cares to notice. He says ‘something new (spontaneous, “specific”) is always a language-game’. This cryptic remark might suggest that we need to play language-games differently if we are to change anything. What of this prospect? Notably, on Wittgenstein’s account, we don’t play language-games solo. They arise through communal uses of language. One game is polari, the secret language used among gay men in Wittgenstein’s time. Language-games, with their beguiling snares, raise a collective action problem. We can’t extricate ourselves from them if acting alone. But this raises a further question, given how profoundly we are ensnared. It is one that Wittgenstein anticipates:

[T]his language grew up as it did because human beings had – and have – the tendency to think in this way. So you can only succeed in extricating people who live in an instinctive rebellion against language; you cannot help those whose entire instinct is to live in the herd which has created this language as its own proper mode of expression.

The rebels live in a state of dissatisfaction with language. They feel their alienation, cut off from others and themselves within language. But the contented are untroubled, and humans are inclined to think that way. Reading Wittgenstein brings us to such questions.

So Marcuse’s objections are unfounded. He fails to show that Wittgenstein’s astonishing scrutiny of language-games is either pointlessly stupid or enslaving. In fact, his efforts only heighten regard for Wittgenstein’s relevance in the darkness of these times.

Using language is an integral part of the human condition. We live within language, yet our way of life is something we find hard to see. Wittgenstein is not peddling ready answers to this predicament. Indeed as long as there is language it will bewitch us, we will face the temptation to misunderstand. And there is no vantage point outside it. There is no escape from language-games then, but we can forge a kind of freedom from within them. We might first need to ‘be stupid’ if we are to see this.

See: https://aeon.co/ideas/how-playing-wittgensteinian-language-games-can-set-us-free?utm_source=Aeon+Newsletter&utm_campaign=55c7fdbe70-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_01_24&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_411a82e59d-55c7fdbe70-68915721

Merry Christmas, Donald Trump!

Source: Tablet Magazine

Author:Adam Kirsh

Emphasis Mine

TO: America  FROM: The Jews

If I become president, we’re all going to be saying Merry Christmas again, that I can tell you,” Donald Trump promised more than a year ago. Well, he is not president quite yet; but the first Christmas of the Trump era is just around the corner, and, so far, this looks like one campaign promise that is not going to be kept. The use of “Happy Holidays” as an all-purpose December greeting is just too habitual in America to be banished by presidential edict. Indeed, Trump himself recently sent out a card to his supporters that contains the dreaded greeting.

Still, as so often with Trump, what matters is not the performance but the rhetoric; and by coming out so strongly against “Happy Holidays,” he was signaling his support for a certain vision of America. This is not so much a pious Christian vision—Trump himself is famously cavalier in matters of faith—as it is an ideal of homogeneity. The implied reasoning is that Americans stopped saying “Merry Christmas” and started using “Happy Holidays” because of the unwelcome arrival of people who did not celebrate the Christian holiday—people who forced Christian Americans to abandon a religious custom in order to cater, in politically correct fashion, to their alien sensitivities.  Theoretically, it might be possible to think of Muslims or Hindus as the guilty party here. But historically, of course, it is the Jews who were the first major immigrant group to change the complexion of Christian America. For a long time, this change was minimized by the adoption of “Judeo-Christian” as a new adjective for American religion. Jews, in this view, might not actually celebrate Christmas, but they could be comfortably grandfathered in as honorary members of the Christian tradition. But in recent years, this tolerance has been eroding as the notion of a “war on Christmas” gains traction, to the point that even so benign a figure as Garrison Keillor could complain about the Jewish conspiracy to replace Christmas carols with non-denominational holiday songs, like “White Christmas.” (This was written by Irving Berlin, who also gave us the all-purpose nondenominational hymn “God Bless America.”)

(N.B.: What Do the Writers of “White Christmas,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” All Have in Common? Check out pretty much any list of the most iconic Christmas songs and about half of them were written by Jewish people. Johnny Marks may be the most prolific, he wrote “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” and “A Holly Jolly Christmas.” In addition to the songs listed above, you can also credit Jewish songwriters with “Silver Bells,” “Let It Snow,” “Santa Baby” and plenty more. So how do you explain this religious contradiction? According to Emmy Winner Michael Feinstein, “The Christmas songs that are popular are not about Jesus, but they’re about sleigh bells and Santa and the trappings of Christmas.” In other words, Christmas songs are really just about winter and family and being “Home for the Holidays.” (Also written by a Jewish person).)

Talk of a war on Christmas is, then, at least implicitly anti-Jewish, and sometimes quite explicitly so. Donald Trump’s promise to restore “Merry Christmas” was a coded message about reducing the Jewish influence on and presence in American culture—just as his notorious campaign ad about the “global power structure” robbing “our working class” made the same promise in economic and political code.

There are good reasons, however, to believe that “Happy Holidays” is here to stay as a public December greeting, especially in commercial and official contexts. This has nothing to do with sparing Jewish feelings, or even Muslim and Hindu and atheist feelings—though taken together non-Christians make up a growing minority in American life. It is, rather, because American public discourse lacks the ability to discuss religion in any kind of substantive way. Commerce, not religion, is the tie that binds Americans of many different faiths, including the various Christian denominations; it is what we all have in common, like it or not. That is why American Christmas, to the despair of many religious Christians, long ago became a holiday whose public expressions are not about the birth of Jesus, but about buying things and giving gifts. (In a sense, this represents a deep continuity with the ancient roots of the holiday as a pagan winter festival, in which a season of deprivation was symbolically banished by feasting.)

Indeed, the transformation of Christmas into a holiday of consumption tinged by humanitarianism is not just an American phenomenon; it happened across Europe as well, in tandem with the rise of capitalism. A splendid way to see this process at work is to read the new Penguin Christmas Classics, a charmingly designed box set of six stories about the holiday, each in its own slim, stocking-size volume. These range from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and E.T.A Hoffmann’s The Nutcracker to lesser-known tales by Louisa May Alcott, Anthony Trollope, Nikolai Gogol, and L. Frank Baum, the creator of Oz.

These are mostly 19th-century works, and though they come from several different countries and in a variety of languages, they have a remarkable amount in common. Most notable is that none of them is about Jesus, and few even mention the birth of the Christian savior except in a pro forma way. In the Dickens story, Scrooge’s nephew dispenses with the theological meaning of the holiday in a parenthesis: “I am sure I have always thought of Christmastime, when it has come around—apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that—as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time.” The language is significantly ambiguous: Christmas is about “having a good time” as much as it is a time for doing good, and indeed, for Dickens, the two are inseparable. At the end of the story, Scrooge’s reformation is signaled by his finally accepting his nephew’s invitation to a Christmas party, as if the ability to be jolly were itself a sign of moral grace.

This union or confusion of virtue and enjoyment is one reason why Dickens’ story has become the classic of capitalist Christmas. Scrooge is, of course, a famous symbol of miserliness, of the capitalist ethic run amok—his only purpose in life is accumulating money. But the opposite of miserliness is not only generosity; it is also consumption, the joyous, free-spending consumption that for Dickens is essential to the Christmas spirit. Just after Scrooge’s transformation, Dickens writes, “His hands were busy with his garments all this time: turning them inside out, putting them on upside down, tearing them, mislaying them, making them parties to every kind of extravagance.”

Extravagance is the key, and it is very Dickensian to transfer this word from the realm of emotion and behavior to the realm of physical objects, as though clothes themselves could embody it. But extravagance is itself a key capitalist virtue, because it is the drive to spend and consume that keeps the economy in motion. Scrooge’s miserliness can, in fact, be seen as a vestige the heroic age of the Protestant work ethic, the time when capital accumulation was necessary for the first stage of industrialism to take off. In a later day, in a consumer society, it is maladaptive, and Scrooge must learn to spend as well as earn—just as a capitalist economy needs demand as well as supply if it is to avoid a depression.

Extravagance, then, is one meaning of Christmas in the modern world. The Nutcracker, as readers familiar with the Tchaikovsky ballet will remember, is all about the voluptuous pleasure of getting presents. Here, again, consumption is seen as a blessed activity, as Hoffman writes: “The children, who kept whispering about the expected presents … added that it was now also the Holy Christ, who, through the hands of their dear parents, always gave them whatever real joy and pleasure He could bring them.” It is not until later, when the dolls and candy assume nightmarish proportions in young Marie’s fevered dreams, that there comes to seem something ominous about accumulating luxuries. But even then, the uncanniness of Hoffmann’s tale reads like a distant homage to the original uncanniness of the Christian incarnation, in which the eternal breaks into the temporal. Christmas is a time when the usual laws—not just of economics, but of nature—are momentarily suspended.

Scrooge must learn to spend as well as earn—just as a capitalist economy needs demand as well as supply if it is to avoid a depression.

Taken to the extreme of banality, as it is in Anthony Trollope’s Christmas stories, this means that Christmas is a time for lucky breaks and funny coincidences, of the kind familiar from sitcoms or romantic comedies. Trollope’s tales, such as “Christmas at Thompson Hall” and “The Mistletoe Bough,” were seasonal commodities produced for magazines, and what they show is that even in Victorian England, readers wanted Christmas stories with as little Christianity in them as possible. In these tales, a wife mistakes her hotel room number and accidentally applies a mustard plaster to a strange man—who turns out to be her future brother-in-law; or else a young man wins the love of a young woman after overcoming the slightest of misunderstandings. Christmas has no role to play except as a generally happy and benevolent atmosphere, which ensures that everything will turn out for the best.

Reading these classic Christmas tales helps to explain how American Jews could develop Hanukkah, previously a fairly minor winter holiday, into such a successful counterpart to Christmas. Religiously and ideologically, Hanukkah is just about the worst holiday possible for such a purpose—it is, after all, a story about Jews resisting assimilation by violence. But if Christmas is civically celebrated mainly as a day of consumption tinged by benevolence, as it is by Dickens and Trollope and Hoffmann, then it presents no obstacle for Jews who want to enter into its spirit. Singing songs and giving gifts requires no particular theological commitment, and we can all share in the secular magic of “the Christmas season,” even if we do it under the stern aegis of the Maccabees. Still, we should remember that the transformation of Merry Christmas into Happy Holidays predates the entry of Jews into Anglo-American society, and it happened as a response to Christian, not Jewish, cultural and economic needs. If it smoothed the entry of Jews into American society, that was only a side effect, though a wonderful one.

Speaking for myself, I knew perfectly well as a child that Christmas was not my holiday; but I never felt that it was wrong for me to attend friends’ Christmas parties or to enjoy their trees. I did have some compunction about singing Christmas carols, which are explicitly religious. But what matters is that I was invited to do it, by friends and at school, and I could do it in a spirit of friendliness and participation, rather than religious affirmation. This inclusiveness seemed only natural to me, and it is only as an adult, having learned much more about Jewish history, that I realize what a truly extraordinary thing it is. American Jews celebrate Christmas Eve by going out to the movies or eating Chinese food, making common cause with another non-Christian minority; and Christian America accepts this as a kind of endearing oddity.

Compare this to the way Jews used to “observe” Christmas Eve in Eastern Europe, on what they referred to as Nittel Nacht: by holding vigil all night and refraining from Torah study, both for theological reasons and to avoid incurring the wrath of celebrating Christians. (The custom of playing dreidel may originate in the games Jews played to pass the time while locked in their houses on Nittel Nacht.) The fact that most American Jews today have never heard of this tradition is a sign of how completely our relationship to Christians and Christianity has changed for the better. That makes Christmas a holiday worth celebrating for Jews, and other non-Christians, as well.

***

All we want for Christmas … is Jew. Read Tablet’s holiday coverage here.

 

See: http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/219494/merry-christmas-donald-trump?utm_source=tabletmagazinelist&utm_campaign=78e77d25a3-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2016_12_24&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c308bf8edb-78e77d25a3-206691737

Young adults agree more with Karl Marx than the bible, a new study finds

time heals a lot of problems...

time heals a lot of problems…

Source: Pathos.com

Author: Dan Arel

Emphasis Mine

Socialism is on the rise in the U.S. thanks in part to Senator Bernie Sanders’ recent run for president and the spotlight he put on the once-taboo word.

Now, thanks to a new survey of 2,300 people conducted by YouGov and the Washington, D.C.-based Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, we know that young adults referred to as millennials in this study, agree more with the words of Karl Marx than they do with passages from the bible.

When asked if they agree with what Marx said, “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his need,” 64 percent of the millennials polled said, “yes,” while only 53 percent said they agree with the statement in the Bible that “if any would not work, neither should he eat.”

The study also shows, in my opinion, that millennials are more educated about what communism and socialism is. They are not stuck behind red scare, McCarthyist views of the USSR or Cuba. They instead seem to be more educated on the topic.

57 percent of Americans overall say they have a “very unfavorable” view of Communism, only 37 percent of millennials said the same.

The study also found that 45 percent of those aged 16 to 20 said they would vote for a Socialist, and 21 percent said they would vote for a Communist.

Only 42 percent of young adults had a favorable view capitalism.

The study found a growing acceptance of Socialist and Marxist viewpoints among a younger generation of Americans who did not grow up during the Cold War,” the report said. “When considered alongside the broad support among millennials for Bernie Sanders and his ideals —the poll, for example, found more support for quotes of Sanders than Milton Friedman and the Bible — Socialism has growing support in America.”

Ironically, the study was meant to shed a negative light on communism and socialism and wishes to imply that Stalin, Castro, and Mao are communist leaders instead of looking at the authoritarian systems they created they don’t meet even the basic necessities of communism laid out by Marx.

“One of the concerns the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation has had since its establishment is that an emerging generation of Americans have little understanding of the collectivist system and its dark history,” Marion Smith, the foundation’s executive director, said in the report. “Unfortunately, this report, which we intend to release on an annual basis, confirms this worrisome impression.”

The truth is, these young adults likely do understand it and realize it’s not socialism or communism. They are happy to work towards a system that actually helps all of its citizens rather than continue to try and fix a broken capitalist system that they understand only helps the wealthy.

See:

Study Links Religious Belief To Poor Understanding Of Physical World

cry1Source: Pathos.com

Author: Michael Stone

Emphasis Mine

Ignorance and defective thinking styles lead to religious superstition.

A poor understanding of the physical world is linked to religious and paranormal beliefs in a new study.

A recent study published June 2016 in Applied Cognitive Psychology connects belief in the supernatural (religious and paranormal beliefs) with poor reasoning skills, low information about basic physics and biology, and a propensity to assign intention and mentality to non-mental phenomena (magical thinking).

PsyPost reports the study shows that religious and paranormal (supernatural) beliefs are correlated with “poor intuitive physics skills, poor mechanical ability, poor mental rotation, low school grades in mathematics and physics, poor common knowledge about physical and biological phenomena, intuitive and analytical thinking styles, and in particular, with assigning mentality to non-mental phenomena.”

The following excerpt is from the summary of the article Does Poor Understanding of Physical World Predict Religious and Paranormal Beliefs?:

The results showed that supernatural beliefs correlated with all variables that were included, namely, with low systemizing, poor intuitive physics skills, poor mechanical ability, poor mental rotation, low school grades in mathematics and physics, poor common knowledge about physical and biological phenomena, intuitive and analytical thinking styles, and in particular, with assigning mentality to non-mental phenomena.

PsyPost reports that researchers conclude that “Nonscientific ways of thinking are resistant to formal instruction…” adding that this can “affect individuals’ ability to act as informed citizens to make reasoned judgments in a world that is increasingly governed by technology and scientific knowledge.”

In other words, low information coupled with defective thinking styles and limited cognitive abilities can not only lead to religious and supernatural beliefs but can also hinder the ability of individuals to “make reasoned judgments.”

Bottom line: The study results are not particularly surprising, and merely confirm what many others have long suspected: Religious and supernatural beliefs are often associated with poor reasoning skills and low information about the natural world.

 

See:http://www.patheos.com/blogs/progressivesecularhumanist/2016/10/study-links-religious-belief-to-poor-understanding-of-physical-world/?utm_source=SilverpopMailing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=progressivesecularhumanist_101116UTC011041_daily&utm_content=&spMailingID=52505320&spUserID=MTIxNzQwMzMwMDkyS0&spJobID=1022056390&spReportId=MTAyMjA1NjM5MAS2

What would Einstein do?

Source: Aeon

Author: Thomas Levenson edited by Corey S Powell

Emphasis Mine

Albert Einstein understood the power of science and scientific metaphors, and their ability to provide perspective on everyday experiences. Here is his oft-retold description of his best-known idea: ‘When you sit with a nice girl, an hour seems like a minute. When you sit on a hot stove, a minute seems like an hour. That’s relativity.’ The joke hardly captures the precise physics involved, but it brings home the reality that our experience of time is malleable. Particularly relevant today, his explanatory approach offers a lesson to journalists struggling to cover complicated topics in a polarised media world. Thinking like Einstein – thinking relativistically – can help to decode stories on topics as far removed from science as power, love or money.

Einstein’s relativity was born in 1905, often called his ‘miracle year’. The paper in which he lays out the theory is a rarity within the scientific literature, clear and citation-free. Some of Einstein’s celebrated thought experiments are there to help the reader grasp the deep ideas within the paper’s seeming simplicity. The most famous of these concerns his shocking redefinition of the idea of simultaneity. Einstein breaks down the old conception and introduces a new one, using the scenario of a train being struck by lightning, observed both on board and from track-side. From the start, he connected his relativistic thinking to the familiar world.

But there’s another important thought problem in Einstein’s paper, one that is mostly overlooked. It focuses on an oddity in the way that physics was understood at the time. Scientists knew well that if a magnet and a wire coil (or any conductor) move with respect to each other, a current flows through the wire. But Einstein noted that, in turn-of-the-century theory, the description of the event differed depending on whether the magnet moved and the coil remained at rest, or the coil moved and the magnet stayed. That duality, Einstein realised, shouldn’t be. Either way, the relative motion was the same, and the outcome was also the same – yet the way in which physicists grappled with the events was different. Einstein deduced that his colleagues were missing the broader, unifying context.

There is a direct correspondence between Einstein’s emphasis on the need to come up with a consistent picture of an event as seen by any observer (in this case, from the coil’s perspective and the magnet’s) and a critical demand for journalistic rigour. For example, consider the ruling made by President Barack Obama’s administration this May that made more than 4 million workers eligible for paid overtime if they work more than 40 hours a week. Peter O’Dowd, in a piece for the National Public Radio programme Here and Now, told listeners that the workers had just received ‘a raise’. Many other journalists offered the same interpretation. In one sense, that’s true: people earning overtime will take home more money than those who don’t. But it could also be said that there was no raise at all. A newly overtime-eligible employee receives the exact same base salary rate as before, but will now get paid for all the hours worked.

Here are two distinct and yet internally consistent descriptions of the same event. For a supervisor, spending more on wages feels like a raise. To subordinates, getting paid for all of their time on the job is just getting back to level. So how can a reporter get the story right? Think like Einstein, this time accounting for the categories of boss and worker instead of coil and magnet.

The special theory of relativity gives the physicist a tool that allows her to reconcile different descriptions of the same event. Einstein’s answer in his 1905 paper turns on the concept of reference frames, the coordinates and clock ticks that mark where and when each observer views a given event. Observers in separate reference frames that are in constant motion with respect to each other (the coil or the magnet, the train passenger or someone watching from the embankment) will make different measurements of the same event. In the latter half of the paper, Einstein supplies the mathematical framework that connects those two views, but even the conceptual version is enormously powerful. Relativity is a misleading name, one that Einstein himself didn’t love; the key to special relativity is that it reconciles the differing, ‘relative’ interpretations of a single, invariant event.

Moving from physics to daily life: here, again, special relativity accepts the critical importance of point of view, the way observers interpret what they’ve just seen. At the same time, it affirms the unique reality of the event being observed. For a journalist, that sense of a formal relationship between interpretation – even spin – and the underlying event or action is vital. Relativistic thinking is especially helpful in any area that has accumulated a dominant narrative frame. The economics beat, for instance, naturally lends itself to the corporate perspective. Relativisitic journalism would help to ensure that no story about a change in employment rules talked only about raises and not about work hours.

There is no mathematical transformation that can precisely align the boss’s view with that of her workers, but the idea of reference frames maps directly from physics on to the shop floor. It does so, too, for many other stories that hinge on disparities of power. It helps journalists to hear the silent ‘…as much as everyone else’s’, after the slogan ‘Black Lives Matter’, and hew more closely to Einstein’s own generous views on racial equality. It sharpens the reporting of medical stories; in the recent debate over different countries’ mammogram frequency recommendations, for instance, it clarifies that the issue is at least as much about communicating risk as it is about performing accurate diagnostics. Frames of reference certainly impinge on stories about politics and policy.

To be clear, I am not calling for mere ‘both-sides’ journalism. We already have too much of that. Not every fact has two distinct, equivalent meanings. Human-driven global warming and disease-reduction from vaccination are real, and the complaints of a handful of dissenters doesn’t alter that reality. But many more stories exist in which a commitment to one perspective blinds the reporter – and the audience – to the alternatives. Not every reporter can be as smart as Einstein. But it is possible, and a damn good idea, to think at least a little bit like him.

Thomas Levenson is is professor of science writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His most recent book is The Hunt for Vulcan: … And How Albert Einstein Destroyed a Planet, Discovered Relativity, and Deciphered the Universe (2015). He lives in Massachusetts.

See:https://aeon.co/ideas/reporters-should-ask-themselves-what-would-einstein-do?utm_source=Aeon+Newsletter&utm_campaign=693ffc9a94-Daily_Newsletter_7_September_20169_5_2016&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_411a82e59d-693ffc9a94-68915721

How the Christian Right’s Sex Hangups Turn Zika Into a Bigger Crisis

Photo Credit: parinyabinsuk / Shutterstock

Photo Credit: parinyabinsuk / Shutterstock

Source: AlterNet

Author: Valerie Tarico

Emphasis Mine

Zika could have been an ordinary epidemic, like the ever-changing influenza that emerges each winter and spreads across the Northern Hemisphere with sad but rare complications. But the Religious Right’s antagonism to birth control and abortion—and honest conversation about sex in general—has transformed the Zika epidemic into a nightmare that will devastate lives for an entire generation.

In the absence of pregnancy, Zika usually isn’t a big deal. Only one in five people who contract Zika experience symptoms, and those who do mostly feel like they’ve gotten the flu. This is not to say Zika never does lasting harm to adults, just that, like the flu, those cases appear to be rare.

The difference, as most people now know, is that getting Zika while pregnant is really, really bad. The virus attacks the fetal nervous system, eating brain structures that have already developed and blocking development of others. Even babies who look normal may be damaged for life.

Unlike the flu, when it comes to Zika, pregnancy prevention or timing is everything.

Three Ways to Safeguard Families

Even if Zika spreads across its potential range of 41 states, a quick and targeted response could make lasting harm rare, at least within U.S. borders. The solution is simple and relatively cheap, but it consists of policies that the sex-obsessedpatriarchy-protecting Religious Right has been opposing for decades:

  • Information. Launch a huge public education campaign so all couples know how to prevent mistimed or unwanted pregnancy and can delay parenthood till the time is safe. Currently a third of pregnancies globally and almost half in the U.S. are accidents, with some of the highest rates where Zika-carrying mosquitos live.
  • Contraception. Make state-of-the-art birth control available to all free of charge, including the very best IUDs and implants, which drop the accidental pregnancy rate below 1 in 500. (With the Pill that’s 1 in 11; with condoms 1 in 6; with the rhythm method it’s closer to 1 in 4.)
  • Abortion. Ensure that couples who discover microcephaly and other fetal defects in utero can, if they prefer, abort a diseased pregnancy and start over. Millions of healthy children exist in this world only because their parents receive the mercy of a fresh start (like I did).Each of these steps is easier and cheaper than trying to eradicate mosquitos, prevent people from getting bitten, or develop and distribute a vaccine. With existing contraceptive knowledge and technologies, birth defects from Zika could drop to near zero. The problem is not a lack of means; it’s a lack of will brought on by religious teachings that generate resistance and controversy around anything that has to do with sex, gender roles or reproduction.You Reap What You Sow

    No matter what, tragic birth defects from Zika would have hit some families as the virus spreads out of Africa where it is endemic (and where most women appear to have immunity before they reach reproductive age). But without relentless promotion of ignorance and falsehood by priests and pastors—without anti-contraception campaigning by the Vatican in particular—birth defects from Zika would be a small fraction of what humanity now faces.

    Religious conservatives claim to love women and babies, especially unborn babies, but this claim is pure self-deception by biblical standards. The writer of Matthew warns of men who claim to speak for God but actually don’t. He says,

    “By their fruit ye shall know them.”

    What are the fruits of conservative Christian hostility toward judicious, planned, intentional parenthood? For generations, humanity has been battered by preventable harms from ill-timed and unwanted pregnancy: children bearing children in hopeless poverty, education foregone, abuse and neglect, family conflict triggered by stress, armed conflict triggered by population pressures and resource depletion; and starvation, illness and death.

    If the church hadn’t thrown its wealth and weight against family planning programs in the 1960s and every decade since, who knows how different life on Earth might be right now. Zika merely ups the ante.

    And the conservative Christian solution to it all? More prayer and less sex. If God’s self-proclaimed messengers actually loved women and children more than they love power and tradition, they would admit they have been wrong and would do what’s best for healthy families:

    • Stop using the political clout of the church to make birth control expensive and hard to get, especially for poor people and those at risk of Zika.
    • Stop goading conservative politicians to waste millions on bogus, indefensible anti-abortion laws, and work instead to make abortion less necessary.
    • Stop teaching young people that they should “let go and let God” determine how many kids they have (whether infected or starving or not). Start teaching that the ability to plan our families is a precious gift.
    • Stop pretending that vows of abstinence work for more than a few odd individuals. Start providing real information about healthy, respectful, responsible pleasure and intimacy.
    • Stop forcing doctors and nurses to follow anti-contraception, anti-abortion religious directives bordering on malpractice; and instead ensure that hospitals and clinics controlled by religious institutions provide model family planning care.The Zika wave will sweep over the Americas, and as immunity grows rates of infection will likely drop off. In that case, the suffering caused by church hostility to sexuality education and family planning will drop back to more familiar levels. But right now Zika presents a rare opportunity for religious leaders to show that they are not, as they often appear, so busy defending dogma that they have become morally bankrupt.

      Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington, and the founder of Wisdom Commons. She is the author of “Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light” and “Deas and Other Imaginings.” Her articles can be found at valerietarico.com.

 

See: http://www.alternet.org/personal-health/how-christian-rights-sex-hangups-turn-zika-bigger-crisis?akid=14602.123424.-FNXmC&rd=1&src=newsletter1063152&t=6