Tag: Amanda Marcotte

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.

 

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Why the Christian Right Is Obsessed With the Collapse of Civilization

article-2386882-1B330734000005DC-507_634x720-630x715Source: Alter Net

(In a few words: ” The culture of white conservative Christians is Not the culture of America”.)

Author: Amanda Marcotte

“Most of us are so familiar with the cluster of issues that compel the religious right—opposition to gay marriage and abortion, hostility to the separation of church and state, hostility to modernity—that we don’t often think about the underlying theme holding these disparate obsessions together. It might even be tempting to believe there isn’t a unifying theme, except for the fact that conservatives themselves often allude to it: “civilization collapse.”

Over and over again, right-wingers warn that all the things they hate, from pro-gay Broadway shows to immigration to multiculturalism, are not just signs of an evolving American society, but portend the actual end of it. The Roman Empire is often darkly alluded to, and you get the impression many on the right think Rome burned up and descended into anarchy and darkness. (Not quite.) But really, what all these fantasies of cities burning down and impending war and destruction are expressing is a belief that the culture of white conservative Christians is the culture of America. So it follows that if they aren’t the dominant class in the United States, then America isn’t, in their opinion, really America anymore.

Once you key into this, understanding why certain social changes alarm the religious right becomes simple to see. Hostility to abortion, contraception and gay rights stems directly from a belief that everyone should hold their rigid views on gender roles—women are supposed to be housewives and mothers from a young age and men are supposed to be the heads of their families. School prayer, creationism and claims of a “war on Christmas” stem from a belief that government and society at large should issue constant reminders that their version of Christianity is the “official” culture and religion of America.

It’s hard to underestimate how much of a crisis moment the election of Barack Obama for president was for the religious right because of this. And his re-election, of course, which showed that his presidency was not a fluke. Even before Obama was elected, the possibility that a black man with a “multicultural” background was such a massive confirmation of their worst fear—that they are not, actually, the dominant class in America–that the campaign against Obama became overwhelmed completely by this fear. The media frenzy over the minister in Obama’s church was about racial anxieties, but it was telling that it was his church that was the focal point of the attack. The stories were practically tailor-made to signal to conservative Christians that Obama was not one of them.

Sarah Palin’s campaign as the running mate to John McCain made right-wing fears even more explicit. On the trail, she notoriously described conservative, white, Christian-heavy America with these words: “We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard-working very patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation.” McCain’s campaign tried lamely to spin it, but the subtext was text now. The Christian right believes their culture is the only legitimate American culture, and the election of Barack Obama was a major threat to it.

Birtherism, a conspiracy theory movement that posits Obama faked his American citizenship, is easy enough to understand in this light. It’s an expression of the belief that Obama cannot be a legitimate president, because, in white Christian right eyes, they are the only legitimate Americans. So how can someone who isn’t one of them be president?

That’s why the election of Obama has triggered an all-out response from the Christian right. If they seem more enraged and active in recent years, especially with regards to attacks on abortion rights, it’s because they really are afraid they’re losing their grip on American culture and are casting around wildly for a way to regain what they perceive as lost dominance.

Of course, the belief that they ever were the dominant group in America was always an illusion. It was an illusion when Jerry Falwell started the Moral Majority in 1979. The name obviously indicates a belief that white Christian conservatives are the “majority,” but even then, it had a protest-too-much feel to it. While most Americans, then and now, are nominally Christian, most of them do not belong to one of the fundamentalist groups—including the subset of Catholics who are in bed, politically, with fundamentalist Protestants—that make up the religious right. But it was easier for the Christian right to delude themselves into thinking they spoke for the nation in an era when white men who identify as Christian were nearly all the power players in politics and when the percentage of Americans who identified as non-religious was relatively low.

Nowadays, nearly one in four Americans is not even labeled a Christian, and non-religious people are a rapidly growing minority. More importantly, it’s much harder for members of the religious right to ignore evidence that they simply aren’t the representatives of “real” America and that real America is actually quite a diverse and socially liberal place. Contraception use and premarital sex are nearly universal, the pop charts that used to be mostly white and male are sexually and racially diverse, gay people are rapidly approaching equality, and no matter how hard they try, most Americans just don’t think there’s anything offensive about greeting someone with “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” Oh yeah, and we have a black president who doesn’t seem to be bothered that his wife used to be his mentor.

If you ever want an explanation for why some Republicans have grown downright giddy at the prospect of shutting down the federal government, this helps explain why. It’s not a coincidence that some of the biggest Bible-thumpers in Congress are those who are most supportive of finding some way to shut down the government. If you believe America isn’t really America unless the Christian right runs it, it’s not a short leap to look to destroying the system altogether. “If we can’t have it, no one can,” seems to be the guiding principle behind the push to shut down the federal government. They like to frame their claims that America will collapse if they aren’t in charge as warnings. But really, a better word for what they’re doing is “threats.””

Emphasis Mine

See: http://www.alternet.org/belief/why-christian-right-obsessed-collapse-civilization?akid=11274.123424.uMsmoE&rd=1&src=newsletter936195&t=3

5 Christian Right Delusions and Lies About History

Source: AlterNet

Author: Amanda Marcotte

“The Christian right is most known for their denial of inconvenient science, but in many respects, they’re just as bad when it comes to the facts of history. After all, no matter what the topic, they know they can just make stuff up and their people will believe it. So why not do the same when it comes to political history? Here are five examples.

1. Joe McCarthy was a good guy. A new and extremely toxic myth is beginning to percolate in on the Christian right: Insisting that Sen. Joseph McCarthy, a paranoid alcoholic who saw communist subversives in every corner, was actually an upstanding guy fighting for God and country. In 2003, Ann Coulter published a book she claims vindicates McCarthy, but its impact wasn’t felt until 2010 when the Christian right members who stack the Texas State School Board tried to get the pro-McCarthy theories into Texas school books.

Christian right fanatics attempted to claim that McCarthy had been vindicated by something (wrongly) called the “Verona papers” (they’re actually named the “Venona papers”). There is a Venona project that has reputed historians who show that the Soviets did have spies in the country, but saying that means McCarthy was right is like saying I’m right to call your mother a serial killer because there are serial killers in America. Harvey Klehr, one of the experts working on the Venona project, denounced Christian right efforts to exploit his work to vindicate McCarthy, noting that McCarthy mostly just fingered innocent people in his paranoid haze.

The new information from Russian and American archives does not vindicate McCarthy. He remains a demagogue, whose wild charges actually made the fight against communism more difficult. Like Gresham’s Law, McCarthy’s allegations marginalized the accurate claims. Because his facts were so often wrong, real spies were able to hide behind the cover of being one of his victims and even persuade well-meaning but naïve people that the whole anti-communist cause was based on inaccuracies and hysteria.

That the Soviets spied on the U.S. is neither surprising—not even to liberals—nor indicative that the communist witch hunts were an appropriate response. The Christian right’s interest in rehabilitating McCarthy probably has less to do with readjudicating the anti-communist cause and more to do with their modern-day obsession with promoting paranoid liars in the McCarthy mold to leadership positions. If they can instill the idea that McCarthy was vindicated by history, it will be easier to argue that the current crop of politically powerful right-wing nuts such as Michele Bachmann and Ted Cruz will actually “be proven right by history.” But McCarthy wasn’t and neither will they be.

2. What the Founding Fathers believed. For people who downright deify our Founding Fathers, the religious right is really hostile to accepting them as they actually were, which is not particularly religious, especially by the standards of their time. But David Barton, a revisionist “historian” whose name comes up again and again in these kinds of discussions, has spread the belief far and wide in the Christian right that the Founders were, in fact, fundamentalist Christians who are quite like the ones we have today. Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas confirms this, saying that Barton “provides the philosophical underpinning for a lot of the Republican effort in the country today.”

Barton has convinced the right to believe in their fervent wish that the Founders were religious and even theocratic with quote-mining and outright lying. He likes to whip out this John Adams quote: “There is no authority, civil or religious — there can be no legitimate government — but what is administered by this Holy Ghost.” Problem? Adams was summarizing the opinion of his opponents; that wasn’t Adams’ view at all.

Barton’s reputation took a hit recently. His most recent book, which tried to portray Thomas Jefferson as a “conventional Christian” who wanted a religious government, was so bad that even his Christian publisher decided to reject it.  But according to Politico, that’s just a small setback and Barton is quickly being restored to his position as an authority on history for gullible right-wingers. So that means his lies continue to grow and spread in right-wing circles—such as the completely made-up claim that the Constitution (which only mentions religion to insist the government stay out of it) is based on the Bible.

3. God’s protection. If you believe the lie that the Founders intended this to be a religious nation and that secularism is only a recent development, it’s not much of a leap to decide next that God, in his anger, has turned his back on the United States. And therefore that bad things are happening to us because he doesn’t protect us anymore.

You see this belief throughout the Christian right all the time. Every bad thing that happens is blamed on God removing his “hedge of protection” from the U.S. to punish us for turning our back on God in recent decades.School shootingsGlobal warmingHurricanes9/11.

The problem with this theory should be obvious: If God is turning away from America because we’re supposedly becoming more secular, then things were better back in the day. But when was this supposed Eden of American life supposed to have happened? During the Civil War? The Gilded Age of abusive labor practices? The Great Depression? WWI? WWII? Bad things are always happening, so the notion that they can only be blamed on God’s irritation with us sinners now makes no sense at all.

4. Roman civilization. The Christian right doesn’t just like to lie about our own history; they lie about other nations, too. A popular theory on the right is that the Roman Empire “collapsed” because growing decadence and liberalism caused people to, I don’t know, be too busy screwing to govern. It’s always a little hazy, but the formula is standard: Romans started having a bunch of sex, stuff fell apart, warning for America. Not a day goes by that you don’t hear this theory floated.

The problem with that theory is it makes no kind of sense. It’s not really right to suggest there was some kind decline in “moral values,” by which the Christian right means sexual prudishness, at all. Romans were pretty uptight.The rumors that they turned all perverted and debauched were made up by Christians trying to smear pagan culture. Rome didn’t really “fall” in the sense the Christian pundits mean, anyway. It was more a gradual decline of centralized power.

Anyway, the decline coincided with the rise of Christianity, which under the “God’s protection” theory means that God was punishing Rome for dropping paganism and adopting monotheism.

5. French revolution. One problem with characterizing the American revolution as Christian instead of secular is that there was another one shortly thereafter, built on the same basic ideals, that was undeniably secular due to the aggressive attacks on Catholic power. If the French were so secular, how could the Americans not be? The answer to the conundrum is to lie and claim there was some kind of gulf between the ideals of the French Revolution and the American Revolution.

Rick Santorum floated this theory at the 2013 Values Voters Summit, where he claimed the French revolutionaries were bad because they believed that rights and democracy stem from the social contract, instead of being handed down from God. Fair enough, though really the “reason” is probably closer to how they would have described it at the time, but where he goes off the rails is to insinuate that they were rejecting the values laid out by their fellow revolutionaries in America when they did this. In reality, the arguments of French and American revolutionaries are nearly identical, echoing philosophers like John Locke who were trying to construct an ideal of rights and freedoms that is frankly secularist in nature. “

Emphasis Mine

see: http://www.alternet.org/belief/5-christian-right-delusions-and-lies-about-history?akid=11177.123424.GM743e&rd=1&src=newsletter928098&t=3&paging=off&current_page=1#bookmark

 

America Is Not a Christian Nation and Never Has Been: Why Is the Right Obsessed With Pushing a Revisionist History?

Source: AlterNet

(N.B.: It might be noted that the first four of the ten commandments directly contradict the First Amendment.)

Author:  Amanda Marcotte

“It’s common to hear conservatives say things like Paul Ryan did during the campaign: “Our rights come from nature and God, not from government.” Liberals shrug most of the time when they hear such rhetoric. It sounds like an empty platitude, much like praising the troops or waving the flag, that makes audiences feel good but doesn’t actually have any real-world importance. What liberals don’t understand, however, is that what sounds like an empty platitude actually signifies an elaborate, paranoid theory on the right about sneaky liberals trying to destroy America, a theory that is being used to justify all manner of incursions against religious freedom and separation of church and state.

The Christian right theory goes something like this: Once upon a time, a bunch of deeply religious Christian men revolted against the king of England and started a new nation with a Constitution based on the Bible. Being deeply religious fundamentalist Christians, they intended for their new society to reflect Christian values and the idea that rights come from God. But then a bunch of evil liberals with a secularist agenda decided to deny that our country is a Christian nation. Insisting that rights come from the government/the social contract/rational thinking, these secularists set out to dismantle our Christian nation and replace it with an unholy secularist democracy with atheists running amok and women getting abortions and gays getting married and civilization collapse. For some reason, the theory always ends with civilization collapse. The moral of the story is that we better get right with God and agree that he totally gave us our rights before the world ends. Insert dramatic music here.

None of this actually went down that way, but there are Christian right revisionist historians who are pushing this claim hard. David Barton is a major advisor to all sorts of Christian right figures and he has long promoted the completely false theory that the Founders wanted something very close to a Christian theocracy. Indeed, in their desperation to make people believe what simply isn’t true, activists on the right have even gone so far as to try to push Barton’s lies about the Founders into public school textbooks. The notion that America’s founders believed rights come “from God” goes straight back to Barton’s making-stuff-up style of “history.”

Despite the fact that liberals rarely engage them on this point, Christian right thinkers are forever ranting on about it. Rick Santorum’s speech at the Values Voter Summit this past weekend is an excellent example of the form. He delivered an inane, inaccurate lecture about the French revolution, describing it as doomed from the get-go because the revolutionaries believed in “equality, liberty, and fraternity,” which he contrasted with the Americans who supposedly believed in “paternity,” i.e. the theory that rights come from God. Rick Santorum debated the long-dead French revolutionaries, assuming that the word “fraternity” was an attempt to avoid admitting there was a God and then blaming everything bad that happened to France since then on its secularist government.

Glenn Beck is forever fired up about the debates he has in his head with imaginary liberals about where rights come from. On a recent rant emphasizing the importance of the “rights come from God” narrative, Beck got so wound up he recommended screaming at and even pushing your kids in order to get them to agree that rights come from God.

What’s weird about all this is that, in the real world, liberals don’t really spend much, if any, time thinking about this supposedly world-shatteringly important question of where rights come from. The debates conservatives are having on this point are occurring mainly with imaginary liberals hiding in their heads (or dead French revolutionaries). If pressed, most liberals would probably agree rights stem from a combination of the social contract and a general understanding of what’s fair and not because God wrote down our rights on some stone tablet somewhere. We might even note that as much as right-wingers wish otherwise, our secular vision is what the Founders originally imagined. But for liberals, the very idea that we’re having a “debate” about this is asinine. Most of us are less worried about trying to figure out where rights come from than we are focused on defending human rights, usually from attacks from conservatives.

So why do conservative Christians care so much? Why is it so important to them to establish that rights come from God that they will make up imaginary liberals to argue the point with, rather than just move on?

Two reasons: One, this argument makes it easier for the right to actually restrict the number of rights they will accept that people have, all while pretending to be pro-rights. Two, it gives them an excuse to ignore the First Amendment and the well-established fact that the U.S. is, like France, a secular democracy and not a Christian theocracy.

What’s nice about the “rights come from God” theory is that it makes it easier to deny that new rights can be established. Since the 18th century, a lot of rights have been granted that didn’t exist back then: The right not to be enslaved, the right of all adults to vote, the right to have some time off from your job. Conservatives resisted each of these rights and continue on that path today, resisting more recently established rights, such as the right to be free from discrimination based on race, gender, or sexual orientation. By saying that God informed the Founding Fathers what rights there were, conservatives can claim that any rights that have been developed since then are illegitimate. Sure, it’s a lie, but it’s an awfully convenient one.

Second of all, by claiming that rights come from the god of fundamentalist Christians, conservatives can simply dismiss the idea that the rest of us have a right not to have their religion imposed on us. Santorum was very clear on this point, angrily railing that the secular view of rights meant that while Christians are allowed to go to church, they are prevented from imposing their views on others. Since rights come “from God,” in his view, an employer who believes in that God has a right to toy with a woman’s insurance benefits to try to stop her from using contraception. The “rights come from God” argument is used to distort the very idea of religious freedom.

In the right-wing view, “religious freedom” becomes the “right”—given to you by God—to force fundamentalist Christianity on others. That’s how they can claim it’s “religious freedom” to force their religion on others by government-sponsored prayer, teaching creationism in schools, restricting access to abortion and contraception, and banning gay marriage.

What are liberals to do? Well, as tempting as it is to take conservative bait and try to argue a secular version of where rights come from, the smarter move is to refocus the conversation. Where rights come from is less important than emphasizing how important rights are for people’s lives. The right to vote, to get an abortion, to have food on the table and access to a doctor, to marry whom you like: These aren’t rights because your version of God whispered it in your ear. We respect these rights because we know that people’s lives are made worse if they don’t have them. At the end of the day, distracting from real people’s lives is what conservatives are trying to do with all this talk about rights coming from God. Liberals shouldn’t allow that to happen.

Emphasis Mine

see: http://www.alternet.org/belief/america-not-christian-nation-and-never-has-been-why-right-obsessed-pushing-revisionist?akid=11049.123424.sF_rCS&rd=1&src=newsletter911096&t=9

 

Are Religious People More Depressed?

Source: AlterNet

Author: Amanda Marcotte

N.B: An interesting perspective!

“While non-religious people tend to reject religion because they find the evidence for a supernatural deity unconvincing, a new study shows that rejecting religion can be good not just logically, but emotionally.

While previous studies had suggested some emotional and social value to being religious, a new study that examined a huge number of people from around the world discovered that being religious is a risk factor for depressionAs explained by the Huffington Post, over 8,000 people from different countries from the UK to Chile, had their levels of religiosity measured. The study covered various economic and social groups and looked at the relationship between religiosity and depression.

The researchers found that religious people were more prone to depression, with rates of developing depression in places like the United Kingdom being three times as high for believers than non-believers. Studies like this are merely measuring risk factors and not necessarily suggesting a causal relationship so much as suggesting to clinicians traits to look out for when determining a patient’s chances of developing depression. However, the fact that the finding was both cross- and intra-cultural suggests that there may be more going on here than a simple correlation.

Is there anything about religion that might make people more prone to depression? Or is it that people who are prone to depression are more likely to be religious?

The latter is certainly an intriguing possibility. It would make a lot of sense if people who are prone to depression find themselves drawn to religion, precisely because it offers the kind of hope depressed people often find difficult to muster by themselves. This is particularly true when one considers how religion imagines hope as a thing external to the believer. All the believer is required to do is believe and follow a set of rules, religions like Christianity promise, and they will go to heaven.

Depression is described as a state where the sufferer experiences “feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and worthlessness and of being out of control.” Depressed people have a hard time looking on the bright side of life, and muscling up that optimism that allows non-depressed people to feel confident in their ability to go out and conquer the world. It’s not a coincidence that religion offers exactly what is missing in a depressed person’s life.

Take Christianity, for instance. It promises that God loves you, that he has a unique plan for you, that you can exert control over your life through prayer and good works, and that even if things are bleak now, there is a promise of another life beyond where things are perfect. If you can work yourself into believing it, that might sound very much like a cure, especially if you’re not aware the feelings you’re suffering are clinical depression—which is a common dilemma for people suffering it.

Certainly there’s some reason to believe that if society protects people against some of the worst causes of depression, such as the fear of falling into poverty, that society will have more atheists in it. Stable, egalitarian societies repeatedly prove to be places where the atheist message takes off really well. We know that on a national level, if people feel like they have control over their lives and there’s hope in the here and now, those nations tend to have more atheists. So why wouldn’t that be true on an individual level?

Most atheists, including myself, like to believe we came to the conclusion that religion is not true and that there are no gods simply through rigor and logic. What this study may suggest, however, is that we’re underestimating the role our emotional states play in making us at least willing to hear atheist arguments. When you feel good about yourself, you’re less likely to need to hear there’s a God who does the loving of you for you. If you feel hope about tomorrow, the promise of heaven isn’t quite as tempting—or you’re less likely to be perturbed at the idea of death being forever if the life you’re living today is pretty good. If you feel you have some control over your life, you’re not going to see any need to beg a supernatural being to intercede on your behalf.

For those of us who want to both help people leave religion and improve the public image of atheists, this understanding of why religion so often appeals to people is critical. Instead of being angry with religious people for believing, it’s useful to consider that the hope that religion offers might seem like a lifeline to people who are hurting badly, and ask if there’s anything atheists can do to offer similar kinds of hope.

Indeed, one major advantage atheists have on their side is that there’s no reason to believe that religion alone is actually helping people. After all, religious people have higher rates of depression, suggesting that while they may hope religion will make them feel better, it’s often not working.

Luckily, more atheists are beginning to take seriously the idea that atheist activists need to be talking more about mental health, and reaching out to people who have mental health issues and getting them the evidence-based help they need. Some atheists, like Greta Christina and JT Eberhard have opened up about their own struggles with mental illness. Instead of offering prayer and heaven as answers, they point their audiences to more proven methods for getting help, such as therapy and the use of medication under a doctor’s supervision. Indeed, atheists are uniquely able to speak to the issue of getting help for depression, because they can speak directly about the environmental and biological causes without getting bogged down in talking about spirituality.”

Emphasis Mine

see: http://www.alternet.org/are-religious-people-more-depressed?akid=10955.123424.udQPK9&rd=1&src=newsletter898915&t=9&paging=off

Why Are Religious Conservatives So Scared of Gay Sex?

From AlterNet, by Amanda Marcotte

N.B.: Yet Another Example that Separation of church and State is more important than ever. 

 

“The past year has been a remarkable one for moving the ball forward for gay rights: the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the addition of New York to the list of states where gays can marry legally, and the Obama administration first declining to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act, and then going on the record opposing it as unconstitutional.

Subsequently, those on the right who are still willing to strongly oppose gay rights are becoming more shrill in their opposition. The National Organization for Marriage, which already had a gold medal in the “bigotry Olympics,” felt the need to respond to these changes by appointing a new leader who had criticized the supporters of Prop. 8 in California for not being bigoted enough, saying that any rights given to gays in relationships was too marriage-like for his tastes.

What gives with all the hatred for gay people coming from conservatives, even as the rest of country is beginning to get over long-held prejudices? Part of it is just straight-up protectiveness of heterosexual privilege. Part of being conservative is relishing things (like rights) other people don’t have, and so of course they object to letting gay people have the things that straight people have always had. But quite a bit of what’s going on is that anti-gay bigotry is just one piece of a larger picture of conservative fear and loathing of all forms of sexuality.

In socially conservative circles, sex is seen as illicit behavior at best, and criminally perverse at worst. The liberal model that imagines sex as a fun, life-affirming way to spend your time simply doesn’t compute. When you think of sex in terms of subversion and criminality, gay sex looms large in your imagination as the filthiest, most sexy-sex there is. Social conservatives simply can’t get past the images in their minds of dudes sticking it to one another, and it completely skews their ability to think logically and fairly about extending basic human rights to gay people.

While right-wing pundits speaking to a national audience have learned to temper their remarks about homosexuality and try to steer the conversation away from opportunities to say ignorant things about gay people’s sex lives, the religious leaders and more underground right-wing media is still singing the same song. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, recently went on the record saying that gay rights will bring in “an outright sexual paganization of society.” Anti-gay activist Scott Lively was on WorldNetDaily again recently suggesting that being gay is a matter of having a philosophy of “sexual anarchy,” as opposed to it simply being a sexual orientation. It’s common for conservatives to suggest that accepting homosexuality means accepting pedophilia, because they see both as outrageous perversions instead of making the distinction between non-consensual and consensual behavior.

The ex-gay movement is further evidence of the religious right’s obsession with gay sex that stems from a larger obsession with sex. The very premise of “ex-gay” therapy is that all it takes to stop being gay is to stop having gay sex. Many “ex-gay” people describe themselves as continuing to lust after members of their own sex, but identify as not-gay because they don’t do anything about it. This reduces being gay to a behavior, when of course most people understand gay as an identity. Just as you don’t stop being straight when you find yourself going through a dry spell, you don’t stop being gay because you’re not having gay sex. But the religious right is so obsessed by sex that they simply can’t get past it to look at people as whole human beings.

The religious right looks at sex the way most of us look at drugs. In their eyes, straight, married sex is an indulgence like a glass of wine at dinner–oh, you know you probably shouldn’t, but they shrug it off, especially if they view you as a wealthy, privileged sort who can “handle” the responsibility. You can extrapolate from there: premarital sex between engaged couples is like smoking pot, cohabitation is like having a cocaine habit, and hooking up casually is like doing meth. In their worldview, gay sex is like heroin, and they insist it’s actually as dangerous as heroin.

The overt hostility to most sex, and only tacit acceptance of in-the-dark-missionary-position-married-once-a-month-sex is pretty much the defining feature of the religious right. Many religious-right leaders are beginning to clue into the fact that their overt anti-pleasure attitudes aren’t good for PR, so there’s been some attempts to remake their arguments against all sex outside of heterosexual marriage to create something more enticing. Ted Haggard, for instance, tried to sell the line that if you’re Christian and wait for marriage, you’ll have “the best sex life.” Even when he was pushing the line initially, it seemed forced, but later revelations that he did not, in fact, think he had the best sex life and instead chose to have meth-fueled gay sex with prostitutes proved exactly how dishonest his claims really were.

Slightly more convincing are various grassroots attempts by religious-right women to actually live the claims that chastity before marriage means nothing but hot sex after marriage. (And of course, you have unmarried fundamentalists like Lila Rose working the “sexy virgin” angle as hard as they can.) It’s understandable that
fundamentalist women feel the need to take this approach.

The hostility toward sex for pleasure hasn’t prevented men in red states from becoming the biggest consumers of porn. Their claims that anti-feminism makes women happier has to butt up with images of sexually liberated feminists doing whatever they want to please themselves sexually. But even a site like Christian Nymphos is shot through with the belief that sexual pleasure is a dangerous force that must be strictly controlled, and that women may only have it if they
sacrifice their autonomy and dignity to a Biblically mandated female-submissive marriage. At their site, single women are not even allowed to leave comments or ask questions. Even knowledge of sex is considered too much for a woman who isn’t under direct control of a man. And for married couples, all sexual thoughts and fantasies are to be directly strictly toward their spouse, erasing their individual sexual natures. In other words, even pro-sex right-wing Christianity is still hostile to the concept that individuals have a right to their sexuality.

The religious right is much more comfortable treating sex like it’s dirty, and then obsessively cataloguing how dirty each act is in comparison with other acts. For an entertaining look at how outrageous this can get, I highly recommend watching this clip from “The Dildo Diaries,” in which the Texas legislature debated whether or not to make anal sex illegal. When challenged about whether or not the law should ban it even for married couples, Rep. Warren Chisum said it should be banned “especially” for married couples, and added, “I can’t believe anyone would do that if they was married.” Much hilarity on the floor of the legislature ensued, but the moment really stands out in history as a crystallization of the social conservative attitudes toward sex: it really shouldn’t exist at all unless it’s within in the confines of marriage and with as little imagination and frequency as possible.

Once you grasp how the social right sees this issue, many of the other issues that matter to them make sense: their hatred of Hollywood for suggesting that sex might be something people do for fun; their jihad against pornography; the war on birth control and Planned Parenthood; objections to abortion rights; support for abstinence-only education; and their objections to the HPV vaccine. And of course, extending any rights whatsoever to gay people. It all goes back to sex, and their sense that it’s a filthy thing to do in all circumstances, though of course filthier in some more than others. But the idea that sex is anything but a naughty thing you should try to avoid seems as much an anathema to them as adding a daily glass of wine to the food pyramid would be to teetotalers. ”

Emphasis Mine

see: http://www.alternet.org/story/152577/why_are_religious_conservatives_so_scared_of_gay_sex?akid=7644.123424.ov_pSD&rd=1&t=8

10 Myths Many Religious People Hold About Atheists, Debunked

From Alternet, by Amanda Marcotte

“In a regular poll conducted by political scientists Robert Putnam and David Campbell on American political attitudes, atheists recently lost their spot as as the most disliked group in America to the Tea Party. Still, number two is simply way too high in the unpopularity rankings for a group of people who just happen to spend Sunday mornings in bed instead of in church. Polling data shows that nearly half of Americans would disapprove if their child married an atheist and nearly 40 percent of Americans don’t see atheists as sharing their vision of American society, numbers that outstripped similar prejudices toward Muslims and African Americans.

Of course, the real reason atheists are so hated has little to do with jealousy for all their free time, but largely because most Americans are better acquainted with myths than with the realities of atheists’ lives. Unfortunately, atheists often have these myths tossed in their faces, usually by believers who would rather talk about what they heard atheists are like rather than uncomfortable subjects such as the lack of proof for any gods.

These myths do more than hurt atheists. They also harm the basic religious freedoms of all Americans, regardless of their beliefs. Religious freedom and tolerance don’t mean much if they can’t be expanded to include those without religion. With that in mind, here’s 10 of the ugliest myths about atheists, debunked:

1) There are no atheists in foxholes. There are many variations on this myth, but the basic idea behind it is that atheism is a luxury of the problem-free, and as soon as they feel fear or weakness, atheists will run straight into the arms of religion. This myth irritates atheists, because it tries to make a virtue out of preying on people’s weaknesses in order to sell them a lie. If you heard a marketer brag that he targets people who’ve been diagnosed with terminal illnesses because they’re easier targets, or a guy say he likes to cruise funerals because grieving women are easier to pick up, you’d think that person had no morals at all. But targeting people in moments of weakness to sell them religion is regarded as a normal and even virtuous strategy for proselytizing.

Beyond concerns about manipulation are the concerns about accuracy. Believers argue religion offers unique comforts to people in fear or pain, but what many atheists realize is that religion often provokes more anxiety and fear than it soothes. If we accept that God is all-powerful, as many religions claim, then it’s like being in an abusive relationship that can’t be escaped for eternity; a relationship with a God who will throw us into hell for not fearing him and who allows horrors like the Holocaust to happen. Many religious teachings aren’t actually that soothing at allif you take a step back and look at them clearly. For atheists, believing that evil is more an accident of nature than something imposed on us by an inscrutable supernatural being is the far greater comfort than any prayer could be.

2) Atheists are just angry with God. Atheists often point out the logical inconsistencies of many religious beliefs—such as the belief both that God is all-good and all-powerful, but he somehow also allows evil to exist—and believers use that to conclude that atheists are angry with God. We aren’t. You can’t be angry with a being that you don’t believe exists. I’m no angrier with God than I am angry with Zeus or the aliens that keep kidnapping drunks sleeping in their cars. Anger with religions for promoting false beliefs isn’t the same thing as being angry at the being that believers invented.

But I also have to quarrel with the very notion that a person’s arguments can be dismissed because of anger. Smugly accusing someone of anger doesn’t do anything to discount the content of the argument. I’d argue that people who see vile behavior in the name of religion and don’t get angry are the ones who have something wrong with them.

3) Atheists are aggressive and rude. This myth has been around in various forms for a long time, but it really took off after the rise of “New Atheism,” which focuses its energy on disproving religious claims instead of merely pleading for tolerance of atheists. This myth only persists because belief is unconsciously privileged over atheism, causing people to believe it’s somehow ruder for an atheist to say, “I don’t believe in God and here’s why” than for a believer to intrude in your personal space with pamphlets, attack people when they’re feeling low with religious claims, knock on your door to proselytize, or force your children to recite religious language in school. Objectively speaking, believers commit transgressions against good manners far more than atheists. But atheist arguments tend to disturb believers more than arguments for God disturb atheists, so atheists get an unfair reputation for being rude, even when they are merely outspoken or unapologetic.

4) Atheism is a white dude thing. It’s easy if atheism makes you uncomfortable to write off atheism as the hobbyhorse of a tiny minority of men with overly high opinions of their own intelligence. That men such as Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins get most of the media attention devoted to atheism only reinforces this myth. If you scratch the surface, however, you’ll see that the ranks of outspoken atheists have far more women that the media would let on. Atheist blogger Jen McCreight grew so tired of this myth that she compiled an extensive list of prominent female atheists such as Susan Jacoby, Rebecca Watson and Lori Lipman Brown. Greta Christina followed up with a list of prominent atheists of color, such as Debbie Goddard, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Hemant Mehta. Women are specially targeted for religious oppression around the world, so of course, many of us will be open to arguments against the legitimacy of religion.

5) Atheism is just a faith like any other. You occasionally see agnostics trot this one out, as well. The idea is that arguments for and against the existence of any gods have equal value, but it’s simply not true. The logical position toward an extraordinary, supernatural claim is skepticism until proof is offered, and so far none of the thousands of gods that have been claimed to exist throughout history have lifted a finger to prove themselves. In fact, most believers grasp this for themselves; they automatically disbelieve all religious claims except their own, barring actual proof that never produces itself. Atheists just do religious people one better, and make no exceptions for a religion because it happens to be the one we were raised in or convinced by friends to convert to.

I always flinch in embarrassment for the believer who trots out, “Atheism is just another kind of faith,” because it’s a tacit admission that taking claims on faith is a silly thing to do. When you’ve succumbed to arguing that the opposition is just as misguided as you are, it’s time to take a step back and rethink your attitudes.

6) Atheists don’t have a moral code. Atheist are routinely asked how people will know not to rape and murder without religion telling them not to do it, especially a religion that backs up the orders with threats of hell. Believers, listen to me carefully when I say this: When you use this argument, you terrify atheists. We hear you saying that the only thing standing between you and Ted Bundy is a flimsy belief in a supernatural being made up by pre-literate people trying to figure out where the rain came from. This is not very reassuring if you’re trying to argue from a position of moral superiority.

If anything, atheism correlates to better behavior on average. Atheists are under-represented in prison, for instance, and more religious nations have higher rates of violent crime, teen pregnancy, early adult mortality and even abortion. But setting the numbers aside, we can see that even religious people generally believe that morality exists outside of religion. After all, most religious people condemn people who commit acts of evil in the name of religion. If religiosity were the measure of morality, terrorists who murder in the name of God would be more moral than atheists who pay their taxes and give to charity. You’ll find few believers agreeing that a murderous terrorist for God is a better person than a nonviolent atheist, showing that believers grasp that morality doesn’t come from religion, but that we can measure religious claims against our pre-existing understanding of morality.

7) Atheist lives are bleak and lack meaning. Those in the atheist activist community find this one particularly insipid, because we so often deal with people who suffered religious abuse and were only able to find peace by abandoning religion. There’s really no reason to believe that happiness and fulfillment come from a supernatural place, or else believers would have no need for fulfilling work, loving families, friends, and hobbies, since their spiritual beliefs would suffice. Most atheists actually find our lack of belief in a supernatural being makes it easier to fill our lives with meaning and joy. Since we don’t believe in an afterlife, many of us find ourselves more motivated to make the most out of the time we do have instead of looking to the next life to make us happy.

8) Atheists are hedonists who don’t understand the true meaning of love. As an open reproductive rights supporter, I’ve certainly faced my share of believers accusing me of being an atheist so I can simply indulge my sexual appetites and avoid some abstract true meaning of love. It is true that one of the benefits of being an atheist is that you’re no longer crippled by religious phobias that assume that sexual fulfillment and real love are mutually exclusive, but that certainly doesn’t mean atheists don’t feel genuine love. I suspect some Christians enjoy making high-minded claims about feeling deeper love because they know there’s no way to measure their claims. But the higher divorce rates in more religious states don’t bode well for claims that sexual purity and Christianity make love deeper and truer.

9) Atheists have no way to cope after losing loved ones without the belief in an afterlife. The belief that religion has sole ownership over death is so ingrained that it often causes believers to behave in inappropriate ways toward grieving atheists, using the occasion of a loved one’s death to try to coax us into taking up religion. Some believers who do this are openly predatory, but some mean well, and simply can’t imagine how atheists cope without telling ourselves pretty stories about an afterlife. Atheists have every right to be skeptical of the argument that belief in the afterlife quiets the pain of grief. After all, many religions teach that the dead person could be burning forever in hell, which can cause far more anxiety than relief.

I imagine the nothingness of death is much like the nothingness that existed before birth. Believing in the afterlife seems to have more to do with the egos of the living than concerns about the dead, and by letting go of the need to make the end of someone else’s life about your own fears of death, many atheists can focus on working through the grief in a healthy way. So please, believers, don’t use the death of loved ones as an opportunity to proselytize.

10) Atheists are out to destroy Christmas. It’s September and so this myth is relatively quiet, but it tends to come out every year after Halloween, to accompany Christmas decorations going up. For Fox News, ratcheting fears about a “war on Christmas” has replaced caroling as the annual holiday ritual. It’s all very silly. Atheists don’t oppose ritual or holidays. Most atheists in America tend to see Christmas as a mostly secular holiday celebrating family that can be turned into a completely secular holiday with a few minor tweaks. Even the few atheists who don’t celebrate Christmas at all certainly have no plan to make war on the holiday, beyond simply requesting that the government obey the First Amendment by not promoting Christianity above other beliefs, no matter what time of year.

In my experience, non-believers have some of the best Christmas celebrations around. You can get a tree and decorate it in punk rock style, or put up a pro-atheist sign in your yard surrounded by festive Christmas decorations. My family tends to prefer all-night poker games for Christmas instead of going to Christmas mass–all the family togetherness, but with less boredom. Or you can choose to have “Christmas” in July and save yourself the expense and headaches of holiday travel.

Debunking these myths about atheists in print can only do so much to quell believer fears about the supposed atheist menace. Even better would be for believers to find themselves an atheist, and instead of simply attacking them with these myths in an effort to frustrate them into submission, instead get to know them better. You might find they’re basically like everyone else, except more rested on Sundays and less afraid that invisible beings are judging them for masturbating.

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/story/152395/10_myths_many_religious_people_hold_about_atheists%2C_debunked?page=entire