Evangelicals and the 2010 Election

How Republicans and Their Big Business Allies Duped Tens of Millions of Evangelicals into Voting for a Corporate Agenda

By Frank Schaeffer, AlterNet
Posted on November 10, 2010, Printed on November 10, 2010
http://www.alternet.org/story/148795/

Tens of millions of American voters got duped badly in the 2010 election. The bible-thumping white underclass thought they hit back at what they regarded as the nefarious forces trying to “take our country away.”

They were bought, paid for, sold, traded and manipulated by the most powerful in the US election: a Billionaire Lynch Mob led by Rupert Murdoch, Karl Rove, the Koch brothers, and hundreds of millions in organize corporate cash. They peddled a fear agenda: fear of immigrants, fear of government control of our lives, fear that their country would become irrevocably changed.

Here’s how it happened:

Where the fear and loathing began

A bedrock article of faith among many of the anti-Obama white voters is that America had “Christian origins,” and that today America must be “restored” to “our religious heritage.” The “Puritan heritage” of America is constantly cited as evidence for our need to return to our “biblical roots.” The Constitution is also waved around as if it too is some sort of Bible to be religiously believed in. Of course the Billionaire Lynch Mob doesn’t care about such quaint ideas as individual liberties, let alone “biblical absolutes,” but many of the people who believed the anti-Obama lies did care.

The earnest, mostly Evangelical dupes have a point: by calling for a “return to our roots” (be they biblical and/or constitutional) they are actually maintaining a grand old American tradition: religious delusion as the basis for conquest. The Puritans believed that they were importing “authentic Christianity” to America, especially as written in the Old Testament. They said that they were on a divine mission, even calling themselves “The New Israel” and a “city set upon a hill.” John Winthrop (governor of Massachusetts Bay) transferred the idea of “nationhood” in biblical Israel to the Massachusetts Bay Company. And the Puritans claimed they were God’s “Chosen People.” They said that they had the right to grab land from the “heathen.” These were the American Indians whom the Puritans thought of as the “new Canaanites,” to be slaughtered with God’s blessing and in the case of the Pequot Indians burned alive.

There are many threads in the anti-Obama tapestry but three are ignored at our peril: 1) The End Times fantasies of the Evangelicals; 2) The rise of so-called Reconstructionist theology and 3) the culture war launched over the legalization of abortion.

These “threads,” not the economy alone, are also the source of the vote where white lower class and white middle class Americans voted in droves against their own self-interest.  Let’s unpick these fraying threads one at a time.

1. “End Times” Fantasies

The evangelical/fundamentalists/Republican far right is in the grip of an apocalyptic “Rapture” cult centered on revenge and vindication. This “End Times” death wish is built on a literalist interpretation of the Book of Revelation. This fantasy has many followers. For instance to take one of many examples, Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye’s “Left Behind” series of sixteen novels represents both a “reason” and a symptom of the hysteria that grips so many voters.

The “Left Behind” novels have sold tens of millions of copies while spawning an “End Times” cult, or rather egging it on. Such products as Left Behind video games have become part of the ubiquitous American background noise. Less innocuous symptoms of End Times paranoia include people stocking up on assault rifles and ammunition, freeze dried food (pitched to them, by the way, by Billionaire Lynch Mob-handmaid Glenn Beck), gold (also sold to them by Glenn Beck), adopting “Christ-centered” home school curricula, fear of higher education (“we’ll lose our children to secularism”), embracing rumor as fact (“Obama isn’t an American”) and fighting against Middle East peace iniatives, lest they delay the “return of Jesus,” for instance through Houston mega church pastor John Hagee’s Christian Zionist-centered “ministry.”

A disclosure: My late father, Francis Schaeffer, was a key founder and leader of the American Religious Right. For a time in the 1970s and early 80s I joined him in pioneering the Evangelical anti-abortion Religious Right movement. I changed my mind. I explain why I quit the movement in my book CRAZY FOR GOD — How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All – Or Almost All – Of It Back.

John Hagee, mega church pastor and founder of Christians United for Israel said: “For 25 almost 26 years now, I have been pounding the Evangelical community over television. The Bible is a very pro-Israel book. If a Christian admits ‘I believe the Bible,’ I can make him a pro-Israel supporter or they will have to denounce their faith. So I have Christians over a barrel you might say.” The assumption Hagee makes — that “Bible-believing Christians” will be pro-Israel — is the dominant view among American Evangelical Christians. These are the people who goad us to make perpetual war worldwide. And these are the people who supposedly follow a teacher who said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

Few within the Evangelical community have dared to publically question such Haggee’s approach. The Christian Zionists led by Hagee et al even went after their very own George W Bush for backing peace talks between Palestinians and the Israeli government. So can you imagine the hatred the Christian Zionists have for President Obama, who also wants peace in the Middle East?

The momentum for building a subculture that’s seceding from mainstream society (in order to await “The End Times” has irrevocably pried loose a chunk of the American population from both sanity and from their fellow citizens. The Christian Zionist franchise holds out hope for the self-disenfranchised that — at last — everyone will know “We born-again Christians” were right and “They” were wrong. But here’s the political significance of the Christian Zionist dominance: the evangelical/fundamentalists’ imagined victimhood.

I say imagined victimhood, because the born-agains are hardly outsiders let alone victims. They’re very own George W Bush was in the White House for eight long, ruinous years and Evangelicals also dominated American politics for the better part of thirty years before that by enforcing a series of “moral” litmus tests that transformed the Republican Party into their very own culture wars lickspittle.

Nevertheless, the white evangelical/conservative Roman Catholic sense of being a victimized minority only grew with their successes. “You are not alone!” said Glenn Beck, playing to these “disenfranchised” “victims,” who – as the midterm results once again proved — turn out to look more like a majority of white voters who had the power to turn Sarah Palin into a multimillionaire overnight and send the likes of Rand Paul to the Senate.

2. The Rise of Reconstructionist Theology

Where did the “victims” on the Far Right get their “theology” of perpetual damn-the-facts victimhood from? The history of theology (Christian or otherwise) is the history of people desperately trying to fit the way things actually are into the way their “holy” books say they should be. And since the facts don’t fit and never will, religious believers can either change their minds, embrace paradox, or find someone else to blame for their never-ending loss of face and self-esteem.

Most Americans have never heard of the Reconstructionists. But they have felt their impact through the Reconstructionists’ (often indirect) influence over the wider Evangelical community. In turn, the Evangelicals shaped the politics of a secular culture that barely understood the Religious Right let alone the forces within that movement that gave it its rage.

If you feel victimized by modernity (let alone humiliated by reality) then the Reconstructionists have The Answer to your angst: apply the full scope of the Biblical Law to modern America and to the larger world! Coerce “non-believers” to live in your imaginary universe! In other words Reconstructionists wanted to replace the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights with their interpretation of the Bible.

Most Evangelicals are positively moderate by comparison to the Reconstructionist “thinkers.” Most libertarians, who formed the backbone of the Tea Party (at least until the Far Right Evangelicals began to take the Tea Party over) would hate them. But the Reconstructionist movement is a distilled version of the more mainstream evangelical version of exclusionary theology that nonetheless divides America into the “Real America” (as the Far Right claim only they are) and the rest of us “sinners.”

The Reconstructionist worldview is ultra Calvinist, but like all Calvinism has its origins in ancient Israel/Palestine, when vengeful and ignorant tribal lore was written down by frightened men (the nastier authors of the Bible) trying to defend their prerogatives to bully women, murder rival tribes and steal land. These justifications probably reflect later thinking: origin myths used as propaganda to justify political and military actions after the fact—i.e., to justify their brutality the Hebrews said that God made them inflict on others and/or that they were “chosen.”

In its modern American incarnation, which hardened into a twentieth century movement in the 1960s and became widespread in the 1970s, Reconstructionism was propagated by people I knew personally and worked with closely when I too was a Religious Right activist claiming God’s special favor. The leaders of the Reconstructionist movement included the late Rousas Rushdoony (Calvinist theologian, father of modern-era Christian Reconstructionism, patron saint to gold-hoarding Federal Reserve-haters, and creator of the modern Evangelical home-school movement),  his son-in-law Gary North (an economist, gold-buff, publisher and leading conspiracy theorist), and David Chilton (ultra-Calvinist pastor and author.)

Reconstructionism, also called Theonomism, seeks to reconstruct “our fallen society.”  Its worldview is best represented by the publications of the Chalcedon Foundation, which has been classified as an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. According to the Chalcedon Foundation website, the mission of the movement is to apply “the whole Word of God” to all aspects of human life: “It is not only our duty as individuals, families and churches to be Christian, but it is also the duty of the state, the school, the arts and sciences, law, economics, and every other sphere to be under Christ the King. Nothing is exempt from His dominion. We must live by His Word, not our own.

It’s no coincidence that the rise of the Islamic Brotherhoods in Egypt and Syria and the rise of Reconstructionism took place in more or less the same twentieth-century time frame—as modernism, science and “permissiveness” collided with a frightened conservatism rooted in religion. The writings of people such as Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna and those of Rushdoony are virtually interchangeable when it comes to their goals of “restoring God” to his “rightful place” as he presides over law and morals. Or as the late Reconstructionist/Calvinist theologian David Chilton, writing in PARADISE RESTORED–A Biblical Theology of Dominion (and sounding startlingly al-Banna-like) explained:

Our goal is a Christian world, made up of explicitly Christian nations. How could a Christian desire anything else? Our Lord Himself taught us to pray: “Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6: 10)… The Lord’s Prayer is a prayer for the worldwide dominion of God’s Kingdom… a world of decentralized theocratic republics…. That is the only choice: pagan law or Christian law. God specifically forbids “pluralism.” God is not the least bit interested in sharing world dominion with Satan.

The message of Rushdoony’s work is best summed up in one of his innumerable Chalcedon Foundation position papers, “The Increase of His Government and Peace.” He writes: “[T]he ultimate and absolute government of all things shall belong to Christ.” In his book Thy Kingdom Come — using words that are similar to those the leaders of al Qaida would use decades later in reference to “true Islam” — Rushdoony argues that democracy and Christianity are incompatible: “Democracy is the great love of the failures and cowards of life,” he writes.  “One [biblical] faith, one law and one standard of justice did not mean democracy. The heresy of democracy has since then worked havoc in church and state… Christianity and democracy are inevitably enemies.”

3. The Culture Wars Launched over the Abortion Debate

The significance and rise of the Reconstructionists and their (often indirect) impact on the wider evangelical subculture can only be understood in the context of the January 22, 1973 Supreme Court ruling on Roe v. Wade.

Roe energized the culture war like nothing else before or since. This war has even fed the passion that burned within the so-called Tea Party movement’s reaction to Obama’s moderate legislative health care reform predicting “Death Panels.” Roe also indirectly energized even those members of the Far Right – for instance the Tea Party’s pro-choice libertarians — who didn’t care about abortion per se. Roe had such far-reaching effects because reactions to Roe defined the scorched-earth, winner-take-all and rabidly anti-government tone of the culture war fights since 1973.

Fast forward thirty years to the first decade of the twenty-first century: The messengers and day-to-day “issues” changed but the volume of the anti-government “debate” and anger originated with the anti-abortion movement. “Death Panels!”, “Government Takeover!”, “Obama is Hitler!” and all such “comments” were simply updated versions of “pro-life” rhetoric.  And ironically, at the very same time as the Evangelicals who began the anti-abortion crusade (along with conservative Roman Catholics) had thrust themselves into bare knuckle politics over Roe, they also (I should say we also) retreated to what amounted to virtual walled compounds.

Evangelicals created a parallel “Christian America,” our very own private world, as it were, posted with “No Trespassing” signs. Our new “world” was about creating a Puritan/Reconstructionist-style holy-nation-within-our-fallen-nation.

This went far beyond mere alternative schools and home schools. Thousands of new Christian bookstores opened, countless Evangelical radio programs flourished in the 1970s and 80s, and new TV stations went on the air. Even a “Christian Yellow Pages” (a guide to Evangelical tradesmen) was published advertising “Christ-centered plumbers,” accountants and the like who “honor Jesus.” New Evangelical universities and even new law schools appeared, seemingly overnight with a clearly defined mission to “take back” each and every profession – including law and politics – “for Christ.” For instance, Liberty University’s Law School was the creation of the late Jerry Falwell, who told me in 1983 of his vision for Liberty’s programs: “Frank, we’re going train a new generation of judges and world leaders in the law from a Christian worldview to change America.” This was the same Jerry Falwell who wrote in America Can Be Saved: “I hope I live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won’t have any public schools.”

To the old-fashioned Goldwater-type conservative mantra of “big government doesn’t work,” in the 1970s the newly-radicalized Evangelicals added “the US Government is Evil!” Our swap of spiritual faith for the illusion of political power – I say “illusion” since even in the 70s and 80s the real power was in the hands of the Billionaire Lynch Mob — meant that we would tell people how to vote, but that we didn’t want our kids going to school with theirs. We’d wind up defending not just private schools and home schooling to “protect” our children from the world, but also private oil companies and private gas-guzzling polluting cars, private insurance conglomerates and so forth.

The price for the Religious Right’s wholesale idolatry of private everything was that Christ’s reputation was tied to a cynical political party owned by billionaires from the fast-food industry, raping the earth (not to mention our health), to the oil companies destroying our climate. It only remained for a Far Right Republican-appointed majority on the Supreme Court to rule in 2010 (Citizens United V. The Federal Election Commission), that unlimited corporate money could pour into political campaigns – anonymously — in a way that clearly favored corporate America and the super wealthy who long since were the only entities served by the Republican Party’s defense of the individual against the government. The “individuals” turned out to be Exxon, the Koch brothers, Rupert Murdoch, McDonald’s and Goldman Sachs et al.

Conclusion

It’s a question of legitimacy and illegitimacy. What the Religious Right, including the Religious Right’s Roman Catholic and Protestant “intellectuals” (like my father) did, was contribute to a climate where the very legitimacy of our government, even any government, is up for grabs. Then the internet came along and Fox News came along and Rush Limbaugh, Michele Bachmann et all came along and no fiction was too fantastical to be believed as fact. We passed into a high tech stone age, myth superstition and outright lies gained a new currency.

Following the election of our first black President, the “politics” of the Evangelical, Roman Catholic and Mormon Far Right was not the politics of a loyal opposition, but the instigation of race-tinged revolution first and best expressed by Rush Limbaugh when he said, “I hope Obama fails.” All that happened in the midterm election of 2010 was that the corporate interests (unleashed by the Supreme Court), the Republican Party leadership and the Tea Party built on and/or cashed in on, the “biblically-based” antigovernment passion.

This was the politics that won in the Republican gains in the 2010 midterm elections. This was the logical conclusion of the process of delegitimizing the Federal Government that was launched by the Reconstructionists, the anti-abortion movement and of course is fed by the “Left Behind”/Christian Zionist apocalyptic revenge fantasy.

The Billionaire Lynch Mob’s only sacrament is fear. Their reward for cashing in on white religiously-believing middle class American’s addiction to Bronze Age biblical mythology is to walk away with our country. And fear-filled white Americans don’t get anything in return, unless you count their fleeting visceral pleasure of putting “that uppity black man” in the White House in his place.

Frank Schaeffer is a writer and author of many books including Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back

http://www.alternet.org/story/148795/how_republicans_and_their_big_business_allies_duped_tens_of_millions_of_evangelicals_into_voting_for_a_corporate_agenda


© 2010 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/148795/

emphasis mine

YASFTHTAIACN

Yet another surprise for those who think America is a “Christian Nation”: ” WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Supreme Court today let stand a federal appellate ruling that that a government-sponsored Ten Commandments monument placed on a county courthouse lawn is unconstitutional and must be removed. By rejecting an appeal by the commissioners of Haskell County, Oklahoma, and declining to review the case, the Supreme Court left undisturbed a unanimous June 2009 decision by the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals that the county commissioners advanced their personal religious beliefs by erecting the monument. The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Oklahoma on behalf of a local resident.

“The Tenth Circuit’s decision was an important victory for religious freedom and we are pleased that the Supreme Court left that ruling undisturbed,” said Daniel Mach, Director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief. “The Ten Commandments undoubtedly have religious significance for many, and we would vigorously defend the right of individuals, churches, or businesses to display this monument publicly on their own property. But the government should not be in the business of promoting religious viewpoints.”

In its June 2009 decision, the federal court of appeals ruled that the monument violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution because a “reasonable observer would view the monument as having the impermissible principal or primary effect of endorsing religion.” The monument is unconstitutional, the court held, because the proposal to erect the monument, its approval by the Haskell County Board of Commissioners and the commissioners’ expressly religious defense of the monument “strongly reflect a government endorsement of religion.”

Emphasis Mine

see: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/notes/american-civil-liberties-union/supreme-court-lets-ruling-stand-that-religious-monument-at-oklahoma-courthouse-i/340215745684

A ‘what’ nation?!

see: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/14/magazine/14texbooks-t.html?pagewanted=3&em

N.B.: I might note that one cannot simultaneously support the First Amendment and the First Commandment.

The Texas Bd. of Education chooses textbook content, and as it has a large market, it has influence on all textbooks.  The board is conservative, and one issue now under debate is “Christian Nation”.

From the above: ” The one thing that underlies the entire program of the nation’s Christian conservative activists is, naturally, religion. But it isn’t merely the case that their Christian orientation shapes their opinions on gay marriage, abortion and government spending. More elementally, they hold that the United States was founded by devout Christians and according to biblical precepts. This belief provides what they consider not only a theological but also, ultimately, a judicial grounding to their positions on social questions. When they proclaim that the United States is a “Christian nation,” they are not referring to the percentage of the population that ticks a certain box in a survey or census but to the country’s roots and the intent of the founders.  The Christian “truth” about America’s founding has long been taught in Christian schools, but not beyond. Recently, however — perhaps out of ire at what they see as an aggressive, secular, liberal agenda in Washington and perhaps also because they sense an opening in the battle, a sudden weakness in the lines of the secularists — some activists decided that the time was right to try to reshape the history that children in public schools study. Succeeding at this would help them toward their ultimate goal of reshaping American society. As Cynthia Dunbar, another Christian activist on the Texas board, put it, “The philosophy of the classroom in one generation will be the philosophy of the government in the next.

Member Don McLeroy – a dentist who makes no bones about the fact that his professional qualifications have nothing to do with education – states”

The men who wrote the Constitution were Christians who knew the Bible. Our idea of individual rights comes from the Bible. The Western development of the free-market system owes a lot to biblical principles.”

For McLeroy, separation of church and state is a myth perpetrated by secular liberals. “There are two basic facts about man,” he said. “He was created in the image of God, and he is fallen. You can’t appreciate the founding of our country without realizing that the founders understood that. For our kids to not know our history, that could kill a society. That’s why to me this is a huge thing.”

As one reads this long article, they can note: whatever influence religion had on the founders,:

  • The laws that they created are based on the Enlightenment, not any religion.
  • That religion was meaningful to many of the colonists during the Revolutionary period does not translate into our only source of Law: the Constitution.

Hamburger in Wilder Hall @ Oberlin -A.K.A the KKK and Separation, or WWJD?

Not a menu item in the canteen, but rather a lecture by Professor Philip Hamburger, Columbia University School of Law: “The KKK and the First Amendment.”

Prof. Hamburger is the Maurice and Hilda Friedman Professor of Law and an expert on religious liberty, individual rights, judicial review and censorship.  He has published extensively on constitutional law and history.  His publications include SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE (Harvard, 2002) and LAW AND JUDICIAL DUTY (Harvard, 2008).”

Wilder 101 was filled to near capacity, not only by undergraduate students whose attendance was undoubtedly “encouraged”, but by a few faculty and interested post twenty-something adults as well.

What did we hear? Prof. Hamburger had a warm, open, easy to listen to approach, and the event was (for me) a pleasant experience.  After listening to  him, speaking with him afterwards, and seeing a review of his publications, I came to one conclusion: he does not support Separation of Church and State.

He began by giving a brief history of the second period of the Ku Klux Klan – from the end of the 19th century through the 1920’s – chronicling the KKK as one of the nativist organizations in the US in this period of large immigration from eastern and southern Europe, and giving specific examples of how strongly they supported Separation.    (I might note that my hypothesis is that the KKK’s emphasis on Separation was primarily motivated by animosity toward the Roman Catholic religion practised by many of these immigrants.) Moving on, he  emphasised what he felt are the differences between ‘establishment’ and ‘separation’, observing that the former is a horizontal concept, the latter vertical, and stated that in his opinion Separation was not in the Constitution.  (Full disclosure: as a member of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, I am not in agreement with this conclusion).  More interaction of government and religion would be a good idea, he asserted.  (Disagree strongly, again).  He also raised the issue of politicizing from the pulpit, and to disallow this is – in his opinion – a free speech issue.  It is the money, not the principle of the thing, I reply.  Clergy can – like any tax exempt organization – support specific issues, but not specific candidates.

I spoke to him post event, and suggested that since the phrase “established church” had a specific meaning in the 18th century which is not familiar today, we use “separation of church and state” instead: he did not agree.

Why so much on the connection of the KKK and Separation”  I propose this is an attempt to discredit the latter – shall we say poisoning the well?

He also told me he would sent me some documents which would cause me to remove my ACLU lapel pin: I expect not, but I shall remain open.

It is often of value to clarify one’s mental inventory by hearing a contrarian view, and therefore this was a valuable experience.

N.B.: I wonder if those “social conservatives” who who oppose Separation but insist that “the government” never does anything well, are concerned that “government” might negatively impact their religion(s), if the two became entangled?

In conclusion we might ask WWJD?  (What Would Jefferson Do?)

On his publications:

Separation of Church and State

Philip Hamburger

    In a powerful challenge to conventional wisdom, Philip Hamburger argues that the separation of church and state has no historical foundation in the First Amendment. The detailed evidence assembled here shows that eighteenth-century Americans almost never invoked this principle. Although Thomas Jefferson and others retrospectively claimed that the First Amendment separated church and state, separation became part of American constitutional law only much later.

    Hamburger shows that separation became a constitutional freedom largely through fear and prejudice. Jefferson supported separation out of hostility to the Federalist clergy of New England. Nativist Protestants (ranging from nineteenth-century Know Nothings to twentieth-century members of the K.K.K.) adopted the principle of separation to restrict the role of Catholics in public life. Gradually, these Protestants were joined by theologically liberal, anti-Christian secularists, who hoped that separation would limit Christianity and all other distinct religions. Eventually, a wide range of men and women called for separation. Almost all of these Americans feared ecclesiastical authority, particularly that of the Catholic Church, and, in response to their fears, they increasingly perceived religious liberty to require a separation of church from state. American religious liberty was thus redefined and even transformed. In the process, the First Amendment was often used as an instrument of intolerance and discrimination.

Is Belief in God Hurting America?

When I saw this, I thought “Sure, if that belief contradicts scientific findings, and lead to policies which ignore science.”

From Alternet, by David Villano, Miller-McCune.com.

According to a new study, prosperity is highest in countries that practice religion the least.

From Dostoyevsky to right-wing commentator Ann Coulter we are warned of the perils of godlessness. “If there is no God,” Dostoyevsky wrote, “everything is permitted.” Coulter routinely attributes our nation’s most intractable troubles to the moral vacuum of atheism.

But a growing body of research in what one sociologist describes as the “emerging field of secularity” is challenging long-held assumptions about the relationship of religion and effective governance.  In a paper posted recently on the online journal Evolutionary Psychology, independent researcher Gregory S. Paul reports a strong correlation within First World democracies between socioeconomic well-being and secularity. In short, prosperity is highest in societies where religion is practised least.

Using existing data, Paul combined 25 indicators of societal and economic stability — things like crime, suicide, drug use, incarceration, unemployment, income, abortion and public corruption — to score each country using what he calls the “successful societies scale.” He also scored countries on their degree of religiosity, as determined by such measures as church attendance, belief in a creator deity and acceptance of Bible literalism.

Comparing the two scores, he found, with little exception, that the least religious countries enjoyed the most prosperity. Of particular note, the U.S. holds the distinction of most religious and least prosperous among the 17 countries included in the study, ranking last in 14 of the 25 socioeconomic measures.

Paul is quick to point out that his study reveals correlation, not causation….In other words, we’re not hardwired for religion.”

Emphasis mine.

For the whole article, see: http://www.alternet.org/story/144174/is_belief_in_god_hurting_america

Needed: A new National Day of Recognition!

The United States of America is a child of the Enlightenment, and an understanding of this fact is essential to understanding what we are, what we are not, and for what we stand.  What we are NOT is a christian nation,  and we were not founded on christian principles  (whatever that may mean).

What is the Enlightenment? “The Enlightenment has been defined in many different ways, but at its broadest was a philosophical, intellectual and cultural movement of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It stressed reason, logic, criticism and freedom of thought over dogma, blind faith and superstition. Logic wasn’t a new invention, having been used by the ancient Greeks, but it was now included in a worldview which argued that empirical observation and the examination of human life could reveal the truth behind human society and self, as well as the universe. All were deemed to be rational and understandable. The Enlightenment held that there could be a science of man, and that the history of mankind was one of progress, which could be continued with the right thinking.

Consequently, the Enlightenment also argued that human life and character could be improved through the use of education and reason. The mechanistic universe – that is to say, the universe when considered to be a functioning machine – could also be altered. The Enlightenment thus brought interested thinkers into direct conflict with the political and religious establishment; these thinkers have even been described as intellectual “terrorists” against the norm. They challenged religion with the scientific method, often instead favouring deism. The Enlightenment thinkers wanted to do more than understand, they wanted to change for, as they believed, the better: they thought reason and science would improve lives…The scientific revolution of the seventeenth century shattered old systems of thinking, and allowed new ones to emerge. The teachings of the church and Bible, as well as the works of classical antiquity so beloved of the Renaissance, were suddenly found lacking when dealing with scientific developments…In general, Enlightenment thinkers argued for freedom of thought, religion and politics. The philosophes were largely critical of Europe’s absolutist rulers…The philosophes were deeply critical, indeed even openly hostile, to the organised religions of Europe, especially the Catholic Church whose priests, pope and practices came in for severe criticism…The Enlightenment affected many areas of human existence, including politics; perhaps the most famous examples of the latter are the US Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen… The Enlightenment era saw a general turn away from the dominance of the church and the supernatural, with a reduction in belief in the occult, literal interpretations of the Bible and the emergence of a largely secular public culture, and a secular “intelligentsia” able to challenge the previously dominant clergy.”

see: http://europeanhistory.about.com/od/thenineteenthcentury/a/enlightenment.htm

The founding fathers were enlightened, and the founding mother was the Enlightenment.  One can find words and ideas from the  Enlightenment  in our declaration, but none from christianity, which is why we need to set aside a day each year where we pay homage to our true heritage.

Christ in the classroom

From alternet: “David Barton likens himself to a biblical prophet. He wants to destroy the separation of church and state. Why is he designing school curricula?

When the Texas State Board of Education issued a list of proposed “experts” to sit on a social studies curriculum panel, one name immediately leaped out to defenders of church-state separation: David Barton.

The panel is supposed to consist of academics and others with specialized knowledge to assist the board in drafting new social studies standards for public schools across the state. The selection of Barton, a Religious Right propagandist who for years has pushed a fundamentalist “Christian nation” view of American history, is a sure sign that trouble lurks ahead.

At the offices of the Texas Freedom Network (TFN), a group that monitors the Religious Right, staff members were alarmed.

“We believe there’s nothing wrong with teaching about the significance of religion in history and society today,” said TFN President Kathy Miller. “The problem comes when Barton and others try to use public schools to promote their own personal religious beliefs over those of all others.”

TFN, Americans United and other advocates of church-state separation are quite familiar with Barton and his antics. He’s been attacking that constitutional principle for years, as well as arguing that a proper “biblical worldview” means that fundamentalist Christianity must reign supreme over all areas of life – including government. Most recently, Barton has been hobnobbing with Newt Gingrich, as the former House speaker strives to re-make himself as a Religious Right champion.

From his base in Aledo, a town of about 2,000 just west of Fort Worth, Barton runs an outfit called WallBuilders that issues a steady stream of books, videos, DVDs, pamphlets and other materials designed to “prove” that the United States was founded to be a Christian nation. Barton argues that American law should be based on the Bible (or, more accurately, his fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible) and says church-state separation was never intended by our Founders.

The name of Barton’s outfit is somewhat ironic, since WallBuilders exists to tear down the wall of separation between church and state. But Barton was thinking of another wall when he chose that moniker. It comes from Nehemiah 2:17, an Old Testament passage in which the Prophet Nehemiah calls for rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem.

Perhaps somewhat egotistically, Barton apparently likens himself to a biblical prophet who has been ordained by God to rebuild the religious foundations of the nation.

Barton aims to do that by rediscovering an allegedly lost or suppressed Christian history of America. It’s an odd task for him, because although he poses as a historian, Barton isn’t one.

His official bio on the WallBuilders Web site says nothing about Barton’s educational background, probably for good reason: It’s not relevant to what he’s doing. Barton earned a bachelor’s degree in “Christian Education” from Oral Roberts University in 1976 and later taught math and science at a fundamentalist Christian school founded by his father, pastor of Aledo Christian Center.

Despite his thin academic credentials, Barton has managed to become a celebrity in the world of the Religious Right based on his research allegedly “proving” America’s Christian character. He has appeared on programs alongside TV preacher Pat Robertson and fundamentalist radio honcho James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family. Barton gives hundreds of lectures every year, rallying fundamentalist shock troops to oppose secular government and church-state separation…

TFN’s Miller said Barton’s rise comes in part because he tells fundamentalists what they want to hear – the nation was founded by them and for them.

“In some ways, it’s a product of the anti-intellectualism that’s become so prominent not just with the Religious Right, but in the conservative movement generally,” Miller said. “Barton’s pseudo-intellectual nonsense serves to validate the personal beliefs and emotions of people who have been exposed for decades to far-right rhetoric denouncing those with high levels of education as somehow ‘promoting a liberal agenda.’”

In 1998, a conservative member of the California Academic Standards Commission appointed Barton to an advisory position, asking the Texan to critique proposed social studies/history standards. From that perch, Barton attacked the portion of the standards that discussed the development of religious freedom, trying to remove every reference to separation of church and state.

He almost pulled it off. Commission members, unfamiliar with Barton’s agenda, seemed open to adopting his suggestions. They changed course only after intervention by Americans United’s Sacramento Chapter, AU’s national office and others….

see: http://www.alternet.org/belief/141867/christian_cowboy_plots_to_bring_christ_into_kids%27_social_studies_class/

Would you believe?

That we have elected a President who understands that the USA is NOT a’ Christian Nation’?

From Americans United:  “The United States was not founded as a Christian nation. NOTHING in the Constitution grants Christianity favored status. In fact, Article VI BANS religious tests for federal office, and the First Amendment bars laws “respecting an establishment of religion” while protecting “the free exercise thereof” – for all faiths.

It’s good to hear political leaders remind us of this fact from time to time, as President Barack Obama did yesterday during a press conference in Turkey…we have a very large Christian population – we do NOT consider ourselves a Christian nation, or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation,”Obama said. “We consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values.”

A few second later, Obama went on to praise the concept of “a secular country that is respectful of religious freedom, respectful of rule of law, respectful of freedom, upholding these values and being willing to stand up for them in the international stage.”

“…Newt Gingrich, who appears to be attempting to remake himself as some sort of Religious Right leader. In recent remarks to the media, the former House speaker drips with sarcasm as he criticizes the West for being secular. The contrast between Obama’s forward-looking vision and Gingrich’s regressive one could not be starker….Fox News Channel blowhard Bill O’Reilly rail against “secular progressives”? Gingrich, O’Reilly, et al, believe “secular” is a dirty word because they insist on conflating it with hostility toward religion. It’s not. In fact, the idea of government neutrality on questions of theology is THE PLATFORM upon which religious liberty rests.

In 1797, the U.S. Senate endorsed — and President John Adams signed — theTreaty with Tripoli, a document stating forthrightly, “[T[he government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion….” It was reminder to the Muslim states of North Africa that religion need be no excuse for conflict.”

(EMPHASIS MINE)

see:http://blog.au.org/2009/04/07/celebrating-the-secular-obama-says-us-is-not-a-christian-nation-2/

also: http://www.usnews.com/blogs/god-and-country/2009/4/7/obamas-religious-outreach-blitz-in-turkey.html?s_cid=rss:god-and-country:obamas-religious-outreach-blitz-in-turkey