Tag: christian

Religious Liberty Does NOT mean taking away others rights

Source:National Memo

Author: Cynthia Tucker

Emphasis Mine

Just after Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis was released from jail, she appeared at a raucous rally to thank a throng of cheering supporters.

Her stance on same-sex marriage has attracted the high-profile attention of other ultraconservative political figures, including GOP presidential candidates Ted Cruz, who attended the rally, and Mike Huckabee, who organized it.

They seem to believe that Davis has a constitutional right to discriminate against other citizens and to violate the laws of the land. Defending her on CNN, Huckabee said, “We have the first example of the criminalization of a Christian for believing the traditional definition of marriage. It is very, very shocking, to say the least.”

Though he mentioned such luminary historical figures as Jefferson and Lincoln, Huckabee has completely misunderstood the First Amendment and its protections. Davis’ beliefs have not been criminalized; her actions have been. She has every constitutional right to oppose same-sex marriage, to attend a church that denies those marriages, to organize opposition to marriage equality.

But she has no constitutional right to hold the office of Rowan County Clerk and deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Succeeding her mother, who held the office for 37 years, Davis was elected just last year. Still, she has a very easy solution at hand: If her religious views are so rigid, she can resign her office. (A handful of clerks have done that rather than give licenses to same-sex couples.) As a private citizen, she may freely practice her brand of Biblical fundamentalism.

It’s important to get that distinction right.

After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that the government cannot deny marriage to homosexual couples, county clerks around the country were ordered to issue licenses to all couples who wanted the legal bonds of matrimony. A few refused initially, but most came to their senses.

Davis, however, chose to defy the specific order of U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning, and she was jailed for six days for contempt. She was released only after deputies in her office started to issue marriage licenses to “all legally eligible couples,” as the judge put it. He further ordered Davis not to interfere

f she wants to continue as clerk, she should recognize the generous compromise that she’s been offered. She can continue her bluster and Biblical traditionalism on the speaking circuit if she chooses. But, as Rowan County Clerk, she represents the government. And the government may not discriminate. The First Amendment was adopted by the Founders to ensure that the government did not legitimize any particular set of religious beliefs over another.

Think of it this way: While marriage is often a religious ceremony, it is also a civil rite. Couples get married in city halls and before justices of the peace every day. Those ceremonies may not be offered to one group of citizens — heterosexuals — and withheld from another — homosexuals.

Churches, meanwhile, are free to follow their own theological traditions, which in this country are many and varied. There are churches that endorse, bless and perform same-sex marriages, while others are abhorred by the idea. That’s one example of the nation’s vibrant religious pluralism.

After the high court’s marriage ruling, conservative preachers around the country panicked, insisting that their beliefs were under attack, that they were being persecuted, that they would be ordered to perform marriage rites for homosexuals. Not gonna happen. For centuries, clerics have chosen to perform those ceremonies — baptisms, weddings, funerals — they believed appropriate. No law has ever challenged their decisions.

But the United States is a secular democracy, not a theocracy. We are committed to protecting religious liberty, but the nation cannot allow any group’s religious ideology to strip away another group’s human rights. Sometimes, those conflicting ideals require a delicate balance, as when Catholic hospitals are allowed to refuse to perform abortions — even when doing so jeopardizes a woman’s health.

But Davis’ intransigence requires no Solomonic decision making. She has no right to be Rowan County Clerk. If she won’t do the job, she needs to step aside.

(Cynthia Tucker won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2007. She can be reached at cynthia@cynthiatucker.com.)

See:http://www.nationalmemo.com/religious-liberty-does-not-mean-taking-away-others-rights/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Morning%20Memo%20-%202015-09-12&utm_term=MM_frequency_six

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A Christian Nation? Since When? The biggest lie ever told!

Source: NY Times

Author: Kevin Kruise

Emphasis Mine

AMERICA may be a nation of believers, but when it comes to this country’s identity as a “Christian nation,” our beliefs are all over the map.

Just a few weeks ago, Public Policy Polling reported that 57 percent of Republicans favored officially making the United States a Christian nation. But in 2007, a survey by the First Amendment Center showed that 55 percent of Americans believed it already was one.

The confusion is understandable. For all our talk about separation of church and state, religious language has been written into our political culture in countless ways. It is inscribed in our pledge of patriotism, marked on our money, carved into the walls of our courts and our Capitol. Perhaps because it is everywhere, we assume it has been from the beginning.

But the founding fathers didn’t create the ceremonies and slogans that come to mind when we consider whether this is a Christian nation. Our grandfathers did.

Back in the 1930s, business leaders found themselves on the defensive. Their public prestige had plummeted with the Great Crash; their private businesses were under attack by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal from above and labor from below. To regain the upper hand, corporate leaders fought back on all fronts. They waged a figurative war in statehouses and, occasionally, a literal one in the streets; their campaigns extended from courts of law to the court of public opinion. But nothing worked particularly well until they began an inspired public relations offensive that cast capitalism as the handmaiden of Christianity.

The two had been described as soul mates before, but in this campaign they were wedded in pointed opposition to the “creeping socialism” of the New Deal. The federal government had never really factored into Americans’ thinking about the relationship between faith and free enterprise, mostly because it had never loomed that large over business interests. But now it cast a long and ominous shadow.

Accordingly, throughout the 1930s and ’40s, corporate leaders marketed a new ideology that combined elements of Christianity with an anti-federal libertarianism. Powerful business lobbies like the United States Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers led the way, promoting this ideology’s appeal in conferences and P.R. campaigns. Generous funding came from prominent businessmen, from household names like Harvey Firestone, Conrad Hilton, E. F. Hutton, Fred Maytag and Henry R. Luce to lesser-known leaders at U.S. Steel, General Motors and DuPont.

In a shrewd decision, these executives made clergymen their spokesmen. As Sun Oil’s J. Howard Pew noted, polls proved that ministers could mold public opinion more than any other profession. And so these businessmen worked to recruit clergy through private meetings and public appeals. Many answered the call, but three deserve special attention.

The Rev. James W. Fifield — known as “the 13th Apostle of Big Business” and “Saint Paul of the Prosperous” — emerged as an early evangelist for the cause. Preaching to pews of millionaires at the elite First Congregational Church in Los Angeles, Mr. Fifield said reading the Bible was “like eating fish — we take the bones out to enjoy the meat. All parts are not of equal value.” He dismissed New Testament warnings about the corrupting nature of wealth. Instead, he paired Christianity and capitalism against the New Deal’s “pagan statism.”

Through his national organization, Spiritual Mobilization, founded in 1935, Mr. Fifield promoted “freedom under God.” By the late 1940s, his group was spreading the gospel of faith and free enterprise in a mass-circulated monthly magazine and a weekly radio program that eventually aired on more than 800 stations nationwide. It even encouraged ministers to preach sermons on its themes in competitions for cash prizes. Liberals howled at the group’s conflation of God and greed; in 1948, the radical journalist Carey McWilliams denounced it in a withering exposé. But Mr. Fifield exploited such criticism to raise more funds and redouble his efforts.

Meanwhile, the Rev. Abraham Vereide advanced the Christian libertarian cause with a national network of prayer groups. After ministering to industrialists facing huge labor strikes in Seattle and San Francisco in the mid-1930s, Mr. Vereide began building prayer breakfast groups in cities across America to bring business and political elites together in common cause. “The big men and the real leaders in New York and Chicago,” he wrote his wife, “look up to me in an embarrassing way.” In Manhattan alone, James Cash Penney, I.B.M.’s Thomas Watson, Norman Vincent Peale and Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia all sought audiences with him.

In 1942, Mr. Vereide’s influence spread to Washington. He persuaded the House and Senate to start weekly prayer meetings “in order that we might be a God-directed and God-controlled nation.” Mr. Vereide opened headquarters in Washington — “God’s Embassy,” he called it — and became a powerful force in its previously secular institutions. Among other activities, he held “dedication ceremonies” for several justices of the Supreme Court. “No country or civilization can last,” Justice Tom C. Clark announced at his 1949 consecration, “unless it is founded on Christian values.”

The most important clergyman for Christian libertarianism, though, was the Rev. Billy Graham. In his initial ministry, in the early 1950s, Mr. Graham supported corporate interests so zealously that a London paper called him “the Big Business evangelist.” The Garden of Eden, he informed revival attendees, was a paradise with “no union dues, no labor leaders, no snakes, no disease.” In the same spirit, he denounced all “government restrictions” in economic affairs, which he invariably attacked as “socialism.”

In 1952, Mr. Graham went to Washington and made Congress his congregation. He recruited representatives to serve as ushers at packed revival meetings and staged the first formal religious service held on the Capitol steps. That year, at his urging, Congress established an annual National Day of Prayer. “If I would run for president of the United States today on a platform of calling people back to God, back to Christ, back to the Bible,” he predicted, “I’d be elected.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower fulfilled that prediction. With Mr. Graham offering Scripture for Ike’s speeches, the Republican nominee campaigned in what he called a “great crusade for freedom.” His military record made the general a formidable candidate, but on the trail he emphasized spiritual issues over worldly concerns. As the journalist John Temple Graves observed: “America isn’t just a land of the free in Eisenhower’s conception. It is a land of freedom under God.” Elected in a landslide, Eisenhower told Mr. Graham that he had a mandate for a “spiritual renewal.”

Although Eisenhower relied on Christian libertarian groups in the campaign, he parted ways with their agenda once elected. The movement’s corporate sponsors had seen religious rhetoric as a way to dismantle the New Deal state. But the newly elected president thought that a fool’s errand. “Should any political party attempt to abolish Social Security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs,” he noted privately, “you would not hear of that party again in our political history.” Unlike those who held public spirituality as a means to an end, Eisenhower embraced it as an end unto itself.

Uncoupling the language of “freedom under God” from its Christian libertarian roots, Eisenhower erected a bigger revival tent, welcoming Jews and Catholics alongside Protestants, and Democrats as well as Republicans. Rallying the country, he advanced a revolutionary array of new religious ceremonies and slogans.

The first week of February 1953 set the dizzying pace: On Sunday morning, he was baptized; that night, he broadcast an Oval Office address for the American Legion’s “Back to God” campaign; on Thursday, he appeared with Mr. Vereide at the inaugural National Prayer Breakfast; on Friday, he instituted the first opening prayers at a cabinet meeting.

The rest of Washington consecrated itself, too. The Pentagon, State Department and other executive agencies quickly instituted prayer services of their own. In 1954, Congress added “under God” to the previously secular Pledge of Allegiance. It placed a similar slogan, “In God We Trust,” on postage that year and voted the following year to add it to paper money; in 1956, it became the nation’s official motto.  During these years, Americans were told, time and time again, not just that the country should be a Christian nation, but that it always had been one. They soon came to think of the United States as “one nation under God.” They’ve believed it ever since.

See: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/15/opinion/sunday/a-christian-nation-since-when.html?_r=2

White Christian America in Decline: Why Young People Are Sick of Conservative Religion

Source: AlterNet

Author: Amanda Marcotte

Emphasis Mine

There’s been a lot of media attention recently to the changing demographics of the United States, where, at current rates, people who identify as “white” are expected to become a minority by the year 2050. But in many ways, the shift in national demographics has been accelerated beyond even that. New data from the American Values Atlas shows that while white people continue to be the majority in all but 4 states in the country, white Christians are the minority in a whopping 19 states. And, nationwide, Americans who identify as Protestant are now in the minority for the first time ever, clocking in at a mere 47 percent of Americans and falling.

The most obvious reason for this change is growing racial diversity. Most Americans still identify as Christian, but “Christian” is a group that is less white and less Protestant than it has been at any time in history. The massive growth in Hispanic Catholics, in particular, has been a major factor in this shift in the ethnic and religious identity of this country. White Catholics used to outnumber Hispanic Catholics 3 to 1 in the 2000s, but now it’s only by a 2 to 1 margin.

But another major reason religious diversity is outpacing the growth of racial/ethnic diversity is largely due to the explosive growth in non-belief among Americans. One in five Americans now identifies as religiously unaffiliated. In 13 states, the “nones” are the largest religious group. Non-religious people now equal Catholics in number, and their proportion is likely to grow dramatically, as young people are by far the most non-religious group in the country. This isn’t some kind of side effect of their youth, either. As Adam Lee has noted, the millennial generation is becoming less religious as they age.

These changes explain the modern political landscape as well as any economic indicator. While not all white Christians are conservative, these changing numbers definitely suggest that conservative Christians are rapidly losing their grip on power. And while some non-white Christians are conservative, their numbers are not making up for what the Christian right is losing. And whether conservative leaders are aware of the exact numbers or not, it’s clear that they sense that change is in the air. Just by speaking to young people, turning on your TV, or reading the Internet, you can sense the way the country is lurching away from conservative Christian values and towards a more liberal, secular outlook. And conservative Christians aren’t taking these changes well at all.

To look at the Christian right now is to see a people who know they are losing power and are desperately trying to reassert dominance before it’s lost altogether. The most obvious example of this is the frenzy of anti-abortion activity in recent years. Anti-choice forces have controlled the Republican Party since the late ’70s, but only in the past few years have they concentrated so singlemindedly on trying to destroy legal abortion in wide swaths of the country. In 2011 alone, states passed nearly three times as many abortion restrictions as they had in any previous year.

None of this is a reaction to any changes in people’s sexual behavior or reproductive choices. It’s not like there was a spike in abortions causing this panic. In fact, the abortion rate has been declining. And despite continuing media panic over adolescent sexuality, the fact is that teenagers are waiting longer to have sex, on average, than in the past. Despite this, not only are you seeing a dramatic increase in attacks on legal abortion, the Christian right has expanded its attacks to contraception access, suggesting that something has worked them into a panic they believe can only be resolved by trying to reassert their religious and sexual values.

That something isn’t changes in sexual behavior, but it’s reasonable to believe it’s because of changes in sexual values. People might not be having more sex, but they are feeling less guilty about the sex they are having. Since Gallup first started polling people in 2001 on moral views, acceptance of consensual sex between adults has skyrocketed. In a decade’s time, acceptance of premarital sex swelled from 53% to 66% of Americans and acceptance of gay Americans grew from a mere 38% to a majority of Americans. Even polyamory has become more acceptable for Americans, rising from being accepted by 5% of Americans to 14%.

The fact that these changes in attitude are rising alongside the growth of irreligiosity is not a coincidence. More perhaps even than the 1960s, Americans are in a period of questioning rigid sexual and religious mores, and concluding, in increasing numbers, that they are not down with guilt-tripping people for victimless behavior and demanding conformity for its own sake. Some of them–now a whopping 22% of Americans!–are leaving religion entirely. Some are continuing in their faith but choosing to interpret their values differently than Christian conservatives would like.

And so we see Christian conservatives cracking down in a desperate bid to regain control. They claim that they’re being oppressed by increasing tolerance for religious diversity. They have latched onto, with some success, the claim that “religious freedom” requires giving Christians the right to oppress others. The Republican Party is in complete thrall to the religious right, to the point where giving the Christian right one go-nowhere symbolic bill instead of another one created a major political crisis.

The irony is that this panic-based overreach is just making the situation worse for the Christian right. One of the biggest reasons the secularization trend has accelerated in recent years is that young people see the victim complex and the sex policing of the Christian right and it’s turning them off. And they’re not just rejecting conservative Christianity but the entire idea of organized religion altogether. In other words, the past few years have created a self-perpetuating cycle: Christian conservatives, in a panic over changing demographics, start cracking down. In reaction, more people give up on religion. That causes the Christian right to panic more and crack down more. In the end, Christian conservatives are going to hasten their own demise by trying to save themselves. Not that any of us should be crying for them.

See: http://www.alternet.org/belief/white-christian-america-decline-why-young-people-are-sick-conservative-religion?utm_source=Amanda+Marcotte%27s+Subscribers&utm_campaign=499cf549dd-RSS_AUTHOR_EMAIL&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_f2b9a8ae81-499cf549dd-79824733

Survey Shows That Christian Media Doesn’t Really Reach People Outside the Bubble

source: patheos

author: 

emphasis mine

Christian media is everywhere: TV stations, bookstores, radio shows, etc. But a new survey by LifeWay Research suggests that, for all the money spent trying to spread the Gospel over those mediums, the message doesn’t really break through the Christian bubble:

Two-thirds of Americans (67 percent) rarely or never watch Christian television. Those who skip church all together (94 percent) or have no religious affiliation (89 percent) rarely or never watch.

Seven in 10 Americans (72 percent) rarely or never listen to Christian radio. They include those with no religious affiliation (94 percent) or who rarely (84 percent) or never (97 percent) attend church.

Keep in mind that some of us without religion watch or listen to these broadcasts purely for shits and giggles, or because Joel Osteen is so damn cheery and fun, or because we lost the remote and it would take too much energy to change the channel. Point being: Those of us who tune in aren’t all doing so because we feel connected to the message.

They didn’t ask this in the survey, but I wonder how many people have been turned off of Christianity because of these forms of outreach. I mean, Pat Robertson alone is probably responsible for creating a bunch of atheists over the years. Throw in the televangelist scandals and the constant fodder for Right Wing Watch you almost have to wonder if this media does more harm than good for Christians trying to reach out to non-Christians.

(via Religion News Service)

Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2015/02/26/survey-shows-that-christian-media-doesnt-really-reach-people-outside-the-bubble/#ixzz3SsacBlyx
Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2015/02/26/survey-shows-that-christian-media-doesnt-really-reach-people-outside-the-bubble/#ixzz3SsaRq7yD

see: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2015/02/26/survey-shows-that-christian-media-doesnt-really-reach-people-outside-the-bubble/?utm_source=SilverpopMailing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=friendlyatheist_022615UTC050210_daily&utm_content=&spMailingID=48112110&spUserID=MTIxNzQwMzMwMDkyS0&spJobID=623256450&spReportId=NjIzMjU2NDUwS0

Neil deGrasse Tyson Squashes Creationist Argument Against Science on National TV

The evolution of humans anc culture
The evolution of humans anc culture

Source: AlterNet

Author: Dan Arel

“Episode two of “Cosmos,” hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, aired this week. Toward the end of the program, Tyson made one of the best statements one could hope would sink into the minds of young and old viewers alike and—most importantly—creationists.

The astrophysicist proclaimed that there is no shame in admitting you do not know something and that the real shame is pretending to know everything.

Just as we saw Ken Ham do when debating evolution with Bill Nye, Ham was able to claim he knew everything Nye honestly claimed he did not know by simply saying, “Bill, I do know how X happened, it’s all explained in this book,” referencing the Bible. Ham is ashamed about the fact that he cannot admit what he does not know. Instead, he would rather go on pretending to know things he does not know, which is the definition of faith.

Ham even claimed he believes in his views so strongly that nothing can change his mind — a sure sign of someone who believes to know things they do not know and does not care about finding the truth, only sticking to what he wants to believe.

During this week’s episode, Tyson discussed the evolution of the eye, something declared for years by creationists as unexplainable by evolution, and thus evidence that life must be intelligently designed. Tyson masterfully explained how the eye evolved and how well scientists understand this evolution.

The “Cosmos” host also touched on how many species have evolved an eye, but did leave out the fact that there are over 40 known independent eye evolutions, something that very clearly discredits any intelligent design.

However, these facts mean nothing to creationists. Not long after “Cosmos” aired, Jay W. Richards, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute (DI), a non-science, religious based foundation that fights to discredit evolution and replace it with faith based creationism,  tweeted:

On eye evolution, the #Cosmos editors again failed to do a Google Search[.]

Richards’ Twitter missive linked to a Discovery Institute  PDF download that supposedly debunks the evolution of the eye claim. Yet the PDF is nothing more than praise for the Christian Right pundit Ann Coulter and a lambasting of Richard Dawkins, DI’s public enemy number one.

Watching the Christian Right, especially the creationist wing, struggle to counter “Cosmos” each week is like watching a frightened, cornered animal that knows it is about to die. What else could explain the weekly grasping at straws, and the unremitting blasting of social media links meant to reel their following back in as their eyes are opened to the scientific method’s greatness.

Those like Richards, Ham and the creationist lobby will simply stop at nothing to protect the industry they have created. A series like “Cosmos” will inspire a new young group of future scientists to put down their bibles and pick up “On the Origin of Species.” Countering make-believe with facts will encourage young people to leave church and walk into a science lab, to stop putting money into coffers and instead direct their resources toward research facilities.

Creationism’s days are numbered. “Cosmos” frightens the conservatives more than anything has in a very long time. Every day their numbers grow smaller and their grasp on America becomes weaker.

The time is now for a scientifically literate America to return, for scientific innovations to flow out of our borders and spread around the world. We can no longer take a backseat to the world of science and must return once again to the driver’s seat.

“Cosmos” is just the program we need to inspire people in this country and around the world with the wonders of science. Doing so, we realize that the facts offered through the scientific method are more beautiful and satisfying than the offerings of any religion on this planet. A series like “Cosmos” shows the world that facts are always better than fairytales.

Dan Arel is a freelance writer, speaker and secular advocate who lives in San Diego, CA. Follow him on Twitter @danarel.

Emphasis Mine

See: http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/neil-degrasse-tyson-squashed-creationist-argument-against-science-national-tv?akid=11610.123424.QucU1A&rd=1&src=newsletter971566&t=15

Standing Up to the Religious Right’s “Christmas Police”

Source: Humanist Magazine

Author: Rob Boston

“For some reason the Jehovah’s Witnesses like to work my neighborhood. It’s not uncommon for me to come home at night and see a copy of the Watchtower or Awake! crammed under the doormat.

A recent copy of Awake! contained several articles attacking Halloween, a holiday the Witnesses really don’t seem to like. They’re not big fans of Christmas either. In fact, I don’t know if there’s any holiday they enjoy. Devout Witnesses aren’t even supposed to celebrate their own birthdays.

The Witnesses are wasting their time with me. Putting aside their idiosyncratic theology, I could never be part of a religion that frowned so much on fun and celebration.

But their recent literature drop did me one favor: it caused me to stop and think about holidays, specifically how Americans celebrate them now and might do so in the future—and why some people are so threatened by those changes.

This can be a dicey topic for humanists and advocates of church-state separation. Christmas has undeniable Christian connections, but it also has significant secular elements—think snowmen, candy canes, and fruitcake—not to mention Pagan roots. What to do about it? Is it permissible for government to get involved in Christmas at all?

For years now, the Fox News Channel and other right-wing media have been carping about a so-called “war on Christmas.” The implication is that some nefarious force—usually described as a cabal of radical nonbelievers—is seeking to drive the holiday from public life.

The reality, of course, is more nuanced. Christmas is pretty ubiquitous. Trees, Santa figures, elves, tinsel, and so on often start appearing in stores not long after the leftover Halloween candy is put on deep discount.

Some Americans (Christians among them) object to the emphasis on commercialization and money. Others say they don’t celebrate the holiday at all and are weary of the “Christmas creep” that occurs every year.

Then there is a third category, one that a lot of humanists I have talked to over the years fall into: people who celebrate Christmas, but not in a manner approved of by fundamentalist Christians.

Many humanists grew up celebrating Christmas because they were raised in some variant of Christianity. As adults, they see no reason to let it go, so they retain the features they like (family visits, gift giving, parties, etc.) and discard the rest (midnight church services, hymns, prayers, and nativity scenes).

It’s this picking and choosing that so infuriates the religious right. They get so worked up by it that every fall they morph into a force that I call the “Christmas Police.” Religious right groups are certain there’s only one way to celebrate Christmas—theirs—and they don’t want to hear about people who dare to cherry pick. We’re doing it wrong!

Religious right groups take this matter very seriously. Every year, the American Family Association actually enlists people to pore over holiday sales circulars and catalogs produced by retailers and tally up how many times the word “Christmas” is used as opposed to more generic terms like “holiday” or “season.”

From this data, the AFA produces a “Naughty & Nice” list so upstanding Christians will know where to shop. AFA supporters are also instructed to harass any hapless store clerk who dares utter “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” at the checkout.

It all sounds just a tad obsessive. And furthermore it’s silly. Giant box retailers, after all, are hardly the place to go for a spiritual Christmas experience. Who cares what words they’re using? Most of us just want to know what the prices are like.

Humanists, of course, know their history and understand that Christmas was originally a celebration from the classical Pagan era that was given a quick Christian varnish during the time of Constantine the Great. Although we’re not classical Pagans any more than we are Christians, humanists recognize that a winter celebration—when it’s dark and cold in half of the world—fills some human need. If nothing else, it breaks up the monotony and gets people out of the house.

Whether the Christmas Police like it or not, Christmas is now a holiday with significant secular aspects. Government can acknowledge these, but it’s supposed to leave promotion of the religious side where it belongs—with the churches.

That’s never enough for the Christmas Police. Thus, to them, a nativity scene, which would look just right nestled in some greenery in front of a church, must instead be transplanted to the sterile, marble steps of city hall.

At that point, it’s no longer about celebration. By insisting that the government display the crèche or acknowledge other religious activities, the religious right changes the debate in a profound way. The state is being asked to endorse and promote a specific interpretation of Christmas, and it just happens to be the one favored by conservative Christians. That’s a constitutional no-no.

To the Christmas Police, the government’s refusal to embrace its interpretation of Christmas amounts to a “war” on the holiday. Never mind that people are still free to attend services at the church of their choice, decorate their living space as they see fit, pray as much as they like, and so on.

Deep inside themselves, religious right leaders know that Americans aren’t going to stop celebrating Christmas and that there is no “war.” (Have you been to the mall lately?) Rather, what’s really bothering them is that people are celebrating the holiday in a manner that the religious right does not approve of. And the possibility exists that even more people may do this, especially if fundamentalism begins to lose its grip on the nation and the “nones” keep growing in number. That’s what’s keeping the Christmas Police awake at night.

Humanists are a special threat because so many of us are old hands at celebrating Christmas in a non-religious way. That “have-it-your-way” holiday style is our signature, and it really torques off the religious right.

Humanists are leading the way—perhaps brandishing a “Festivus Pole”—and more and more Americans are taking notice and saying, “You mean I can have all the fun with none of the dogma? Sign me up!” It’s a real threat as far as the Christmas Police are concerned. We’ve spiked the wassail bowl with the forbidden fruit of doubt; one delicious sip and there’s no turning back.

The right to celebrate Christmas in a way that is meaningful for you (or not celebrate it at all) is an extension of the right of conscience as codified in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Just as you can read the Bible as a religious tome or as a book of ancient stories and myth, you can infuse Christmas with as much or as little religious content as your conscience dictates.

At the end of the day, that’s what’s really bothering the Christmas Police. It’s not that there’s a war on Christmas, it’s that some people decline to celebrate it as a 24/7 Jesus-a-thon. To them I say, “Get over it.” And to the American Family Association I’d like to add a hearty, “Happy Holidays!”


Rob Boston is director of communications at Americans United for Separation of Church and State and a board member of the American Humanist Association

– See more at: http://thehumanist.org/november-december-2013/holiday-hassles/#sthash.OMNKWVK2.dpuf

Emphasis Mine

See: http://thehumanist.org/november-december-2013/holiday-hassles/

 

Should Atheists Slam Religion or Show Respect?

From: AlterNet

By: Valerie Tarico

“A Midwestern (sic) atheist tells of sitting in her lunchroom at work and listening as conversation opened up around her about religious differences. Her co-workers included several kinds of Protestants, a Catholic, even a Jew. Sensing they were in risky territory, they worked to find common ground. “At least there aren’t any atheists around here,” one woman said in a warm inclusive tone.

What’s a girl to do in a situation like that? Should she out herself or just keep quiet? In his seminal book, Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity, sociologist Erving Goffman posed the perennial quandary of stigmatized persons: “To display or not display; to tell or not to tell; to let on or not to let on; to lie or not to lie; and in each case, to whom, how, when, and where.” (p. 42)

Disclosure feels risky because it is. In 2008, Atheist Nexus gathered “coming out” stories from over 8000 visitors who described themselves as atheist, humanist, freethinker, agnostic, skeptic, and so forth.  Some of the tales are painful to read. One woman said, “I’ve had people literally, physically BACK away from me upon hearing I am atheist. My children were told to run away from our evil home.” A man’s confession of lost faith almost cost his marriage: “My wife told me that I’m caught in Satan’s grip, and confessed that after I deconverted she considered leaving me. I believe the only reason she didn’t is because she’s financially dependent on me.” Elsewhere a young woman tells of losing thirty-four Facebook friends when she announced her lack of belief.

The consequences of anti-atheist stigma are public as well as private. Most self-described atheists are acutely aware of survey results showing that U.S. atheists are less electable than reviled minorities including Muslims and gays. Seven states still have laws on the books that ban nonbelievers from holding public office.  A Florida minister whose deconversion recently made national news said that job interviews were cancelled when prospective employers found out.

In the minds of many believers atheism is linked with immorality, and despite mounds of evidence to the contrary, religious leaders reinforce this stereotype. I once attended a Palm Sunday service at a popular Calvinist megachurch in Seattle. The minister was determined that his congregation should believe the resurrection of Christ to be a physical, historical event. He said, “If the resurrection didn’t literally happen, there is no reason for us to be here. If the resurrection didn’t literally happen, there are parties to be had. There are women to be had. There are guns to shoot. There are people to shoot.” I found myself thinking, if the only thing that stands between you and debauchery, lechery and violence is a belief in the literal resurrection of Jesus, I’m really glad you believe that. But what are you saying about the rest of us?!

Anti-atheist stereotypes work to bond believers together in part because many Americans think that they have never met an atheist. A stigmatized minority can be the nameless faceless “other” that people love to hate as long as members remain nameless and faceless. But as the gay rights movement has shown, things get more complicated—and attitudes start changing–when we realize we are talking about our friends, beloved family members, and co-workers. Coming out has been such a powerful change agent for gays, that atheists (along with other faceless groups like Mormons and women who have had abortions) are explicitly taking a page from the gay rights movement and launching visibility campaigns.

That is easier than it sounds. Among atheist and humanist leaders, passionate disagreements have erupted about what kind of visibility will actually help advance acceptance and rights for those who eschew supernaturalism.

As a social cause, rather than just a life stance, atheism was catapulted forward by 9-11 and the ascendancy of the Religious Right. Cognitive scientist Sam Harris says that he began writingThe End of Faith the morning after seeing the trade towers bombed with jet fuel and airline passengers. Biologist Richard Dawkins, who had previously hosted a gracious series of televised interviews exploring faith and non-faith, shifted tone and became a patriarch of anti-theistic activism. Journalist Christopher Hitchens wrote his scathing indictment, God is not Great. Doubters started coming out of the closet. I, myself, began publically challengingEvangelical Christian teachings when George Bush pointed to heaven to indicate where he had sought advice before invading Iraq.

It takes energy and guts to buck taboos and norms as strong as those surrounding religion, and so the first out the door were anti-theists who felt so strongly that they were willing to throw themselves into the fray, do or die. The “New Atheists” attracted a preponderance of young males who largely fit godless stereotypes: some defiant, some nerdy, many hyper-intellectual.  All were, for one reason or another, either impervious to rules protecting faith from criticism or willing to pay a price for breaking those rules.

Some of these firebrands can be counted among today’s leaders, and many have kept an edge that is honed by the seemingly relentless assaults on science and civil rights perpetrated by Christian and Muslim fundamentalists. They remain fiercely defiant, unapologetic about their scorn for religion, willing to use shock tactics if that’s what it takes to break what they see as a terminal religious stranglehold on society.  Several years back, a group called the Rational Response Squad promoted a “blasphemy challenge” urging people to videotape themselves denying the Holy Spirit because one Bible writer calls such blasphemy an unforgiveable sin. In 2010, a Seattle cartoonist launched “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” after learning about death threats against Trey Parker and Matt Stone for depicting Mohammed in Southpark . This winter American Atheists provoked quite an outcry with a billboard that quoted a Bible verse: “Slaves Submit to Your Masters – Colossians 3:22.”

The organizers of these irreverent events see them as advancing values that they cherish deeply –perhaps one could say values they hold sacred: freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom of conscience and freedom from cruelty grounded in dogma or superstition.  And yet, criticism of such in-your-face attacks on religion has often come from people who share their goals. As the atheist visibility movement has expanded, quieter, more diplomatic leaders have emerged.  Many of them insist that aggressive confrontation does more harm than good –that atheists need to be changing stereotypes, not reinforcing them, and that there is such a thing as bad publicity.

Biologist P. Z. Meyers and Harvard Humanist Chaplain Greg Epstein have staked out two very different positions in the naughty-or-nice controversy.  Meyers writes a popular blog,Pharyngula, which evolved from a primary focus on biology and politics to include broad-based uncensored anti-religious news and commentary. Meyers doesn’t suffer fools lightly and makes no bones about letting people know that he finds most religion not only destructive but also stupid. Epstein, by contrast, seeks to build ethical and spiritual community that builds bridges between faith and non-faith. His Humanist Community Project encourages humanists to develop the traditional virtues of religion: communities built around shared values and social service. Where Meyers might rail against “faith in faith,” Epstein’s colleagues find common ground with open, inclusive religious groups like the Interfaith Youth Corps.

Blogger Greta Christina has said that atheists should “let firebrands be firebrands and diplomats be diplomats.” She argues that both confrontational and collaborative tactics made the gay rights movement stronger and will do the same for non-theism. But what kind of confrontation? Ugly partisanship can backfire. For example, Fred Phelps and Sean Harris give homophobia such a vile face that they trigger disgust, pushing people in the opposite direction. Some atheist activism may do the same.

Even reasonable confrontation tactics can backfire –especially in the hands of a hostile journalist. Cathy Lynn Grossman of USAToday attended the April Reason Rally in D.C.,  a gathering she described as “hell-bent on damning religion and mocking beliefs.”  There she found plenty which, when taken out of context, could be used to reinforce stereotypes.  Her article headlined with a quote from Richard Dawkins, encouraging nonbelievers to “show contempt” for baseless dogmas. It was accompanied by a picture of Jen McCreight  cheerfully carrying a sign that read: Obama isn’t trying to destroy religion, I am. Other speakers were depicted as ornery, offensive and more than a little scary.

Ad campaigns by nontheist organizations reflects a struggle to find messages that connect with either teetering believers or closeted skeptics while avoiding backlash. In 2009 a London publicity campaign went viral internationally with bus ads proclaiming, “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”  A variety of billboard campaigns have followed, some more provocative than others:  “Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence,”  “You Know It’s a Myth.  Solstice is the Reason for the Season.”  “In the Beginning Man Created God.”  “We are all Atheists about Most Gods; Some of Us Just Go One God Further.” “Don’t Believe in God? Join the Club.”  All have drawn protests or vandalism from indignant theists.

It may be almost impossible to avoiding causing offense while challenging the religious status quo. Nontheist organizations have traditionally ignored communities of color, but African Americans for Humanism recently launched an outreach campaign with the tag line, “Doubts About Religion? You’re one of many.” Billboards and posters show faces of familiar Black leaders – as well as ordinary group members. Coalition of Reason organizer, Alix Jules of Dallas says that even this understated approach is plenty controversial for two reasons:  Almost 90% of African Americans express certainty about the existence of God, and honoring religion is seen as a matter of loyalty.

In Halifax, Nova Scotia, Humanists of Canada wanted to run a bus campaign that said, simply,You can be good without God . But the public bus agency refused the ads because they “could be too controversial and upsetting to people.” One reader commented,

I think we should make atheist ads as innocent and non-confrontational as possible. Not because we should avoid controversy, but because it we will get the controversy no matter what we put up, and the kinder and gentler our message the more obvious the hypocrisy of our critics. I’m hard put to think of one more innocent than this one, though.

Humanist blogger and speaker James Croft, a doctoral student in educational philosophy at Harvard, insists that it can be done:

There are ways of conveying our values that are both strong and civil, which avoid insults and (except in certain cases) ridicule without giving one inch of ground on the battlefield of our core values. All the evidence shows that this hybrid approach is more effective than simply seeking to be likable, or relying on confrontation alone.

In their effort to find the balance that Croft calls “strong and civil,” the Freedom From Religion Foundation has moved toward more personal messages, ones that offer a glimpse into a godless individual (or family) rather than some form of universal claim. Since 2007, they have purchased billboard space for messages including “Imagine No Religion,” “Beware of Dogma,” and “Thank Darwin: Evolve Beyond Belief.” But their latest campaign, “Out of the Closet,” puts real names and faces together with simple statements of values or disbelief: “Atheists work to make this life heavenly,” says Dr. Stephen Uhl of Tucson on one sign. “Compassion is my religion,” says Olivia Chen, a Columbus student whose appears on another.  A recent campaign in Clarkville, Tennessee, merely shows a young woman identified as Grace beside the words, “This is what an atheist looks like.”

Atheist visibility is more than ad campaigns.  In 2009 psychologist Dale McGowan, author ofParenting Beyond Belief, launched the Foundation Beyond Belief , a tool that lets the non-religious visibly contribute to nonprofits working on education, health, human rights and the environment. Last year, the foundation add a donation category called “Challenge the Gap” that builds bridges by contributing to the work of religious groups with shared values. Hemant Mehta of “The Friendly Atheist” hosts news and commentary of interest to young nonbelievers—absent the edge that characterizes an earlier generation of blogs. He brings more humor than anger when he talks with secular student groups about outreach.  Small local groups are doing their part. Seattle Atheists dress as pirates and carry a Flying Spaghetti Monster in summer parades. But they also participate in food drives and blood drives. They hand out water during an annual marathon. The aim is not only to make themselves more visible but to show that they too are compassionate members of the community of humankind.

As nonbelievers gain recognition as normal and ethical members of society, I think we will find that confrontation diminishes and bridge building grows.  It’s not only that both are necessary but that one paves the way for the other. The Stonewall riots and San Francisco drag scene laid the foundation for Feather Boa Fathers and It Gets Better and  pride parades that include local businesses and church banners. Early feminists who stayed defiant even when beaten and jailed made way for the apple pie tactics of Moms Rising, which has stenciled messages on onesies and delivered cookies to congressmen to get their equal pay message across.  In the words of Ecclesiastes, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” The questions are in each case, to whom, how, when, and where.

Greta Christina has estimated that atheist visibility is about thirty-five years behind the gay rights movement. That sounds close. We’ll have caught up when a majority of Americans know they know a nontheist – and that friends, family members, and fellow citizens really can be good without God.

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


Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/story/155278/should_atheists_slam_religion_or_show_respect?akid=8723.123424.sDTZId&rd=1&t=5

How I Left My Evangelical Christian Faith

From: AlterNet

By: Valerie Talico

“I am what you might call a slow learner. I managed to make it all the way through high school, despite an eating disorder I couldn’t pray away, and all the way through college, despite a suicidal depression triggered by the same eating disorder, and almost all the way through grad school before I finally gave up on my religion and god. 

By contrast, my friend Geoff figured things out in the second grade. One day a nun at his Catholic school tried to pour holy water on the one Black kid in the school to exorcise the devil because he kept getting in fights. But Geoff thought to himself: It’s not Satan, it’s because all the other kids pick on him. Today Geoff is a psychologist working for Seattle Children’s Hospital –which is, ironically, the same place that did in the last shreds of my Evangelical beliefs.

I can’t recall the name of the small person who severed the final strands of my faith. There’s just a vague image of soft brown hair and trusting brown eyes. I was 26, in the last stage of my PhD program, which required a year-long internship at the University of Washington. In one of my rotations, the one at Children’s Hospital, interns provided mental health consultation for families of patients on the medical wards. He was two, and in the first phase of treatment for a spinal cord tumor that would leave him paraplegic even if the nightmare course of chemotherapy were successful. I don’t know how long he survived.

Maybe it was his eyes, or his inability to comprehend why he couldn’t walk anymore, or why people who looked kind kept hurting him. Maybe it was the unbearable tenderness of his parents, who simply wanted to take their child home and love him rather than watch him suffer inexplicable months of “treatment” for a long shot at extending his life. But something inside me broke.

For years I had been patching my Christian faith together, as I like to say, with duct tape and bailing wire. My beliefs had become more and more idiosyncratic as I tried to hold together the lot of moral and rational contradictions that make up born-again, Bible-believing Christianity. Now, finally, after two decades of warping my feelings, perceptions and intellect to defend the absolute goodness of the Christian God, I got mad. I said to the god in my head, “I’m not making excuses for you anymore. I quit.” And just like that, God was gone. All that was left was the frame of tape and wire: empty excuses, rationalizations and songs of worship that sounded oddly flat.

I tell you these two stories because they illustrate two extremes of leaving faith. On the one hand you have Geoff, whose parents were casual believers and whose skepticism kicked in early. On the other hand you have me, who took things to the brink of suicide because, as I thought, if I couldn’t pray away bulimia and depression then I was a failure in God’s eyes. There are many paths into religion and many paths out.

The Damage Done

Most freethinkers were religious at one point in their lives. Whether you need a recovery process to move beyond that — and how intensive that recovery process will be — depends on what you believed, how deeply you believed it, and how much of your social support depended on fellow believers. ExChristian.net hosts forums that give people a chance to talk about their exodus from faith with support from fellow travelers. As often as not, loneliness is one of the hardest parts of the process. A believer can go anywhere in the world and find a ready-made community of fellow Christians. But a former believer can find himself or herself alone at the dinner table surrounded by family members but harboring a dark secret that would trigger rejection and judgment — if they only knew.

Ministers who lose their faith often face the worst isolation, which is why Richard Dawkins and other have launched the Clergy Project to support those who are in transition. My friend Rich Lyons is a member of the project. He had to leave his home in Texas and excavate old radio skills he hadn’t used in over a decade in order to start life over in Seattle. Questioning cost him not only his livelihood, but also his wife, access to his beloved daughter, and his small-town reputation as a decent person. Rich now produces a podcast series called Living After Faith – his way of offering a helping hand to other exiles from Christian fundamentalism.

Getting out of the church can be a complicated process — but it’s easy compared to getting the church out of you. A while back, I wrote an article titled “Getting God’s Self-appointed Messengers Out of Your Head.” I talked about a concept psychologists call “introjects.” When you are a toddler, your mobility outpaces your good sense. Left to their own devices, many toddlers would play in traffic — without even being told to. Caregivers have to provide constant external supervision. One of the ways that a toddler becomes capable of greater autonomy is that the voices of those external supervisors get internalized. The toddler brain develops what we call an introjected parent — an internal model that can say, “Don’t follow that ball into the street,” even if the real-world mother or father isn’t there. We create virtual, introjected parents (and teachers and preachers), so that even if all of those authority figures disappear we will still know how to function. But at some point having your parents along in your head is a disadvantage — say, for example, when somebody really hot has just undone the top button on your shirt.

I think of recovery from religion like peeling layers off of an onion. Dissenting intellectually from teachings or doctrines you learned as an adult is like peeling off one of the outer layers. But if you keep going, you find scripts that got laid down earlier—attitudes, emotional conditioning, ideas you were taught before you had the capacity to question them. And some of these are tremendously harmful from a psychological standpoint.

I once was speaking to a group of Hindus who wanted to understand evangelical Christianity, because rampant proselytizing was dividing their villages and splitting families down the middle. After the talk, a woman named Mohini came up to me. She asked, “Is what you told us really true — that Christians believe children are born evil?” I explained again the doctrine of original sin. She was horrified. She said, “When babies are born into Hindu families, we whisper to them: ‘You are perfect. You are a spark of the divine.’”

Last week, I was working alongside my friend Al, who is a carpenter and used to belong to a Christian commune. I asked him, “If you were talking to a group of college students about recovery from religion, what would you tell them? What would you most want them to know?” He said: “Tell them they are OK just the way they are.” Getting rid of the sense that you were born deeply, unacceptably flawed can be a lifetime endeavor.

Triggers for Leaving

Like my own experience at Children’s Hospital, many former believers experience some kind of acute trigger. Religion has an immune system made up of promises, threats and behavioral scripts that keep belief from crumbling under pressure from outside information. In Bible-believing Christianity, that immune reaction includes disparagement of rationality: “Thinking themselves wise they became fools” (Romans 1:22) or “The fool has said in his heart there is no God” (Psalms 14:1). The Bible is full of threats against the faithless, from the story of Noah’s flood to the tortures promised in Revelation. Rules for believers prohibit emotional attachments to outsiders: “Be ye not unequally yoked with unbelievers, for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness and what communion hath light with darkness” (2 Cor 6:14).

When the religion’s immune system is working, it can seem like nothing gets through. A motivated believer will fend off any amount of linear reasoning or evidence. Backed into a corner he or she will simply insist, “I just know.” I picture some of my own family members surrounded by a polished wall of smooth steel—impervious, with no foot or handhold.

And yet, over time, life creates little windows of opening. Sometimes the trigger is unignorable hypocrisies or cruelty by church members. Sometimes it is a life crisis—a divorce, natural disaster, injury or loss of a loved one. Sometimes new social connections open up new ideas. Sometimes the accumulation of contradictory information reaches a tipping point. Bible-believing Christians, those who see the Bible as the perfect word of God, would be horrified to know how often loss of faith is triggered by someone deciding to read the good book and discovering the long litany of slavery, incest, misogyny, genocide, or scientific absurdities there.

Stages of Recovery

When the walls of faith start crumbling, people often go through a process that I think of as roughly four phases based on the dominant emotions of each stage:

1. Denial and fear. When religion has provided the structure to your life, doubt can be terrifying—especially if you’ve been taught that doubt is a sign of spiritual weakness or comes straight from the devil. In this phase, many believers redouble their efforts to shore up their faith. They may pray desperately for God to take away the doubts. Increased Bible-reading is common. So is missionary work: if you can convince others God is real, then surely it must be true. Psychologist Marlene Winell specializes in recovery from religion. For this phase of recovery, she offers clients two bits of advice that she sums up as “Get real” and “Get a grip”:

Be honest with yourself about whether your religion is working for you. Let go of trying to force it to make sense….Don’t panic. The fear you feel is part of the indoctrination. All those messages about what will happen to you if you leave the religion are a self-serving part of the religion. If you calm down, you’ll be just fine. Many people have been through this.

2. Uncertainty and guilt. At some point, doubt gains the upper hand. But that doesn’t mean the transition is over. When those final threads of my own faith broke, I kept my thoughts to myself. I didn’t believe in God anymore, so I told myself, but I didn’t want to drag anyone else to hell with me. A friend described this phase as “I don’t believe in Hell. Does that mean I’m going there?” It would take several years and several therapists after my Children’s Hospital rotation before I risked asking my brother Dan how he managed to hold onto our childhood beliefs. (I found out his beliefs were as long gone as mine.)

My book, Trusting Doubt, is particularly valuable in this phase because it digs into core evangelical teachings, showing how they can’t possibly be true. Information is powerful in helping to purge those last lingering shreds of doubt and the guilt that goes with them. Learn about yourself, the world around you and the history of your religion. Former Mormon Garrett Amini says his parents called books and articles that were critical of his religion “spiritual pornography.” Evangelicals don’t use this term, but the concept is probably familiar to anyone who has ever been a part of a sect that has to constantly fend off reality. So, read widely:evolutionary biologyanalysis of sacred textspsychology of religion, physics. Listen with open ears. The truth will set you free.

3. Loss, grief and anger. Once there’s no going back, it’s not unusual to feel bereft, spiritually, socially, intellectually and emotionally. The loss is real, even if Jesus is not. Religion offers clarity, identity, purpose, community, a channel for joy, a structure around which to sculpt the week and the calendar year. That is a lot to lose — even if your parents or spouse don’t kick you out. Grieving is important. So is anger. Anger is an activating emotion, it gives you the guts to say what is real—to yourself and to others, and to make hard changes. Christians often are taught that anger is bad, and many people will encourage you to shutter it during the recovery process. It can feel risky, too big or too out of control. But the reality is that each of our emotions has a purpose, and sometimes we need to express anger so we can learn how to take care of ourselves without it. Learning to express anger in a way that is appropriate and modulated takes practice.

When you get stuck in either grief or anger, it’s time to get help. Marlene Winell’s book,Leaving the Fold, has great self-help exercises for fundamentalists in recovery. But sometimes self-help isn’t enough. Winell offers long-distance phone consultations andRecoveringfromReligion.org is creating a referral list of mental health professionals who are able to work with clients in recovery.

4. Emergence, curiosity, affirmation. The very first ex-Christian Web site I ran across  — now almost 10 years ago — was called losingmyreligion.com. Its archive still exists, headed by the same banner it had then — a picture of a dead fish and an inscription that says: “Stay home Sundays, save 10 percent.” Just beneath the banner is this poem:

Awake

I woke up to an empty room

No more angels watching over me.
No more demons to be held at bay
by the invocation of
an Anglicized version
of a Hellenized version
of a Hebrew name

I woke up to an empty room:

Just a room. Four walls, ceiling, floor.
Just a room. Nothing more.

I woke up to an empty room
and embraced the solid air.

I woke up to an empty room and knew myself

awake.

What Comes Next?

In those wonderful interludes when you find yourself awake, the dominant emotions shift from focusing on who you were to focusing on who and what you want to be. Which values and habits from your religion do you want to keep? What do you want to call yourself? What new discoveries most excite your curiosity? What matters – really matters to you?

As a movement, atheism—freethought—secularism is just becoming strong enough to move beyond a defensive posture and beginning to ask these questions. Are there secular moral absolutes? Dare we talk about secular spiritual community? How do we build ritual, holidays and music back into our communal lives? Absent religion, how can we together express wonder and joy?

Joseph Campbell had this to say:

People say that what we are all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonance within our innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive….”

That is the quest of a lifetime.

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


Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/story/155155/how_i_left_my_evangelical_christian_faith?akid=8675.108242.CYiAp_&rd=1&t=5

Why 25 Dec?

From Me: The following are a series of snippets from a post by a theologian which should provide a course correction for any who are under any of the following delusions:

o Dec 25 is an actual birthday of part of the Christian god.

o and it is the “reason for the season.”

For the full post, see the link below.

from COGWriter:

Most who profess Christianity, as well as many who do not, now celebrate the holiday known as Christmas.

Since the date of Christ‘s birth is not mentioned in the Bible, it is not likely that the first century Christians could have celebrated it. Furthermore, the observance of Christmas is difficult to track to 2nd century Christians either, because there is no evidence that anyone kept Christmas that early. What is known, however, is that early Christians kept Passover, Pentecost, and other days considered to be of Jewish origin.

This is all taught, by the way, by the Roman Catholic Church, even though it now advocates the December 25th Christmas holiday.

Saturnalia and Christmas

The early Catholic Church did not celebrate Christmas. Furthermore, Tertullian (one of its leading 2nd/3rd century writers) warned that to participate in the winter celebrations made one beholding to pagan gods.

“…the modern Christmas celebration is at the same time as the old Gentile Saturnalia holiday (and with many of the same elements, like wreaths and gift-giving),”

“…those who teach “Jesus is the reason for the season” are in error. The reason for the season appears to be that those who professed wanted to have a party. And did not care if the party was related to pagan gods.”

The Catholic Encyclopedia teaches that:

Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church (Martindale C. Transcribed by Susanti A. Suastika. Christmas. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume III. Copyright © 1908 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

The above is true.

An Armenian scholar called Ananias of Shirak, circa 600 A.D., wrote:

The Festival of the holy Birth of Christ, on the 12th day before the feast of the Baptism, was not appointed by the holy apostles, nor by their successors either, as is clear from the canons of the holy apostles…which is 6th of January, according to the Romans.

But many years after their fixing the canons, this festival was invented, as some say, by the disciples of the heretic Cerinthus; and was accepted by the Greeks, because they were truly fond of festivals and most fervent in piety; and by them it was spread and diffused all over the world.

But in the days of the holy Constantine, in the holy Council of Nice, this festival was not received by the holy fathers (Ananias of Shirak, On Christmas, The Expositor, 5th series vol. 4 (1896) Translation. pp.323-337, as reported by ccel).

Twelve days before January 6th is December 25th (see also Conybeare F.C. The Key of Truth: A Manual of the Paulician Church of Armenia. Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1898, pp. 185). Hence, the above report suggests that December 25th was originally developed by the heretic Cerinthus.

Why would Cerinthus pick December 25th?

Probably because that was the day of celebration of the birthday of the sun-god Mithra. December 25th also took place during the Saturnalia, hence it was acceptable to at least two groups of pagans. Followers of Mithra represented an influential group in the Roman Empire. Other practices associated with Mithraism have become part of the Roman and Orthodox Catholic churches (such as their communion services) (for more details, please check out the documented article Do You Practice Mithraism?).

Cerinthus was a heretic who the Apostle John publicly denounced towards the end of the first century. Notice that Irenaeus wrote that John detested Cerinthus so much that he would not even take a bath in the same building as him:

There are also those who heard from him that John, the disciple of the Lord, going to bathe at Ephesus, and perceiving Cerinthus within, rushed out of the bath-house without bathing, exclaiming, “Let us fly, lest even the bath-house fall down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within.” (Irenaeus. Adversus Haeres. Book III, Chapter 3, Verse 4).

Why would anyone want to observe a holiday started by an “enemy of truth” that was denounced so strongly by the Apostle John?

Well, at least until the Council of Nicea, the December 25th Christmas holiday was not even accepted by the Roman Catholics.

The Roman Catholics have also condemned Cerinthus as a heretic:

Cerinthus A Gnostic-Ebionite heretic, contemporary with St. John…Cerinthus was an Egyptian, and if not by race a Jew…Cerinthus’s doctrines were a strange mixture of Gnosticism, Judaism, Chiliasm, and Ebionitism (Arendzen J.P. Transcribed by William D. Neville. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume III. Published 1908. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Yet, the Church in Rome did endorse Christmas, however, no later than by the latter half of the fourth century. Astoundingly the Roman Catholics adopted it when it essentially absorbed the followers of Mithraism (see also Do You Practice Mithraism?).

Notice the following:

Mithraism A pagan religion consisting mainly of the cult of the ancient Indo-Iranian Sun-god Mithra. It entered Europe from Asia Minor after Alexander’s conquest, spread rapidly over the whole Roman Empire at the beginning of our era, reached its zenith during the third century, and vanished under the repressive regulations of Theodosius at the end of the fourth century…Helios Mithras is one god…Sunday was kept holy in honour of Mithra, and the sixteenth of each month was sacred to him as mediator. The 25 December was observed as his birthday, the natalis invicti, the rebirth of the winter-sun, unconquered by the rigours of the season (Arendzen. J.P. Transcribed by John Looby. Mithraism. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume X. Published 1911. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor.Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

The World Book Encyclopedia notes,

In 354 A.D., Bishop Liberius of Rome ordered the people to celebrate on December 25. He probably chose this date because the people of Rome already observed it as the Feast of Saturn, celebrating the birthday of the sun (Sechrist E.H. Christmas. World Book Encyclopedia, Volume 3. Field Enterprises Educational Corporation, Chicago, 1966, pp. 408-417).

It needs to be understood that some scholarly sources believe that the celebration in Rome of Christmas may have began 2-3 decades earlier (by Constantine), but none I am aware of suggest it was prior Constantine in the fourth century.

There have been scholars who believe that Constantine was involved as tradition claims a certain church in Rome as the first site of a December 25th “Christmas” celebration as the following 2007 news account indicates:

The church where the tradition of celebrating Christmas on Dec. 25 may have begun was built near a pagan shrine as part of an effort to spread Christianity, a leading Italian scholar says.

Italian archaeologists last month revealed an underground grotto that they believe ancient Romans revered as the place where a wolf nursed Rome’s legendary founder, Romulus, and his twin brother, Remus. A few feet from the grotto, or “Lupercale,” the Emperor Constantine built the Basilica of St. Anastasia, where some believe Christmas was first celebrated on Dec. 25…

It opted to mark Christmas, then celebrated at varying dates, on Dec. 25 to coincide with the Roman festival celebrating the birth of the sun god, Andrea Carandini, a professor of archaeology at Rome’s La Sapienza University, told reporters Friday. The Basilica of St. Anastasia was built as soon as a year after the Nicaean Council. It probably was where Christmas was first marked on Dec. 25, part of broader efforts to link pagan practices to Christian celebrations in the early days of the new religion, Mr. Carandini said. “The church was built to Christianize these pagan places of worship,” he said. “It was normal to put a church near these places to try to ‘save’ them.” Rome’s archaeological superintendent, Angelo Bottini, who did not take part in Mr. Carandini’s research, said that hypothesis was “evocative and coherent” and “helps us understand the mechanisms of the passage from paganism to Christianity.” (Scholars link 1st yule church to pagan shrine. Washington Times – Dec 23, 2007 ROME (AP). http://washingtontimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071223/FOREIGN/924350661/1001 viewed 12/24/07).

And the December 25th date was adopted apparently because the Greco-Roman church was filled with people who did not care that this was the Saturnalis/Mithra birthday (see also Do You Practice Mithraism?), so calling it by the name of Christ somehow was believed to make the sun rebirth activities more acceptable.

And the December 25th Christmas did not become part of the observations in Constantinople until the famous hater of Jews, John Chrysostum, introduced it there:

We may take it as certain that the feast of Christ’s Nativity was kept in Rome on 25 December…It was introduced by St. John Chrysostom into Constantinople and definitively adopted in 395 (Thurston. H. Transcribed by Rick McCarty. Christian Calendar. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume III. Published 1908. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York ).

Furthermore, here is even more that The Catholic Encyclopedia admits this about Christmas:

Christmas…Irenaeus and Tertullian omit it from their lists of feasts; Origen, glancing perhaps at the discreditable imperial Natalitia, asserts (in Lev. Hom. viii in Migne, P.G., XII, 495) that in the Scriptures sinners alone, not saints, celebrate their birthday; Arnobius (VII, 32 in P.L., V, 1264) can still ridicule the “birthdays” of the gods.

Alexandria. The first evidence of the feast is from Egypt. About A.D. 200, Clement of Alexandria (Strom., I, xxi in P.G., VIII, 888) says that certain Egyptian theologians “over curiously” assign, not the year alone, but the day of Christ’s birth, placing it on 25 Pachon (20 May) in the twenty-eighth year of Augustus…

Cyprus, Mesopotamia, Armenia, Asia Minor. In Cyprus, at the end of the fourth century, Epiphanius asserts against the Alogi (Hær., li, 16, 24 in P. G., XLI, 919, 931) that Christ was born on 6 January…

Rome. At Rome the earliest evidence is in the Philocalian Calendar (P. L., XIII, 675; it can be seen as a whole in J. Strzygowski, Kalenderbilder des Chron. von Jahre 354, Berlin, 1888), compiled in 354, which contains three important entries. In the civil calendar 25 December is marked “Natalis Invicti”…

By the time of Jerome and Augustine, the December feast is established, though the latter (Epp., II, liv, 12, in P.L., XXXIII, 200) omits it from a list of first-class festivals. From the fourth century every Western calendar assigns it to 25 December…

The Gospels. Concerning the date of Christ’s birth the Gospels give no help; upon their data contradictory arguments are based. The census would have been impossible in winter: a whole population could not then be put in motion…

Natalis Invicti. The well-known solar feast, however, of Natalis Invicti, celebrated on 25 December, has a strong claim on the responsibility for our December date. For the history of the solar cult, its position in the Roman Empire, and syncretism with Mithraism, see Cumont’s epoch-making “Textes et Monuments” etc., I, ii, 4, 6, p. 355…The earliest rapprochement of the births of Christ and the sun is in Cypr., “De pasch. Comp.”, xix, “O quam præclare providentia ut illo die quo natus est Sol . . . nasceretur Christus.” – “O, how wonderfully acted Providence that on that day on which that Sun was born . . . Christ should be born.”…

Cards and presents. Pagan customs centering round the January calends gravitated to Christmas…

The yule log. The calend fires were a scandal even to Rome, and St. Boniface obtained from Pope Zachary their abolition (Martindale C. Christmas, 1908).

Hence it is clear that even early Roman writers such as Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Origen did not endorse Christmas, nor did Augustine even list it as an important holiday. And that even later Catholic sources recognize that it is not likely that a census (as shown in Luke 2:1) would be done during the winter–making a December 25th date of birth unlikely (it was also too cold for shepherds to spend the night with their flocks out in an open field, as shown in Luke 2:8, making a December 25th birth basically impossible).

It appears that towards the beginning of the third century, there were some in Alexandria (not Asia Minor, or even Rome) who began to feel that Jesus’ birth should be celebrated, and that it would be on May 25th. But later, in the fourth century, Christmas began to be celebrated with January 6th or December 25 being the dates observed (and that is believed to be because the sun-worshiping Emperor Constantine, or one of his successors, wanted to have a Sun holiday at the time of Saturnalia and Brumalia to placate the Gentiles–it should be noted that while Catholic scholars admit the probable pagan origins of the date and celebrations associated with Christmas, they tend to not believe that it was derived from Saturnalia).

Although it contains certain errors, even the popular novel The Da Vinci Code understood some of the relationship between sun worship and Christmas when it stated:

In Constantine’s day, Rome’s official religion was sun worship–the cult of Sol Invictus, or the Invincible Sun–and Constantine was its high priest…By fusing pagan symbols, dates, and rituals into the growing Christian tradition, he created a type of hybrid religion…

The pre-Christian God Mithras – called the Son of God and the Light of the World – was born on December 25…By the way, December 25 is also the birthday of Osiris, Adonis, and Dionysus (Brown D. The Da Vinci Code. Doubleday, New York, 2003, p. 232).

While some may wish to argue with The Da Vinci Code, the truth, as even all the Catholic scholars admit, is that Christmas was not observed in the second century by the post-apostolic New Testament Church.

They also admit that practices associated with Christmas are of pagan origin, and many of them were condemned by early Catholic leaders. And even the name Natalis Invicti, which the Catholics admit the date of the Christmas celebration probably came from is a pagan festival that literally means invincible birth and that is referring to the so-called invincible birth of the sun, not Christ.

Why would the Gospels not be of no help in determining the date?

Precisely because God did not have the date recorded. Nor is it likely that Jesus was born in the winter.

It is of interest to note that God said He did not let the children of Israel see Him, lest they try to make images of Him (Deuteronomy 4:15-19). Thus it is logical that God did not have the date of Christ’s birth clearly recorded as He did not want it to be observed.

Perhaps I should add that a book I bought at the Vatican in 2004 states the following about the eighth bishop of Rome (now called Pontiffs) and Christmas:

8. TELESPHORUS, ST. (125-136)…He prescribed fasting and penance in the seven weeks before Easter, thus initiating a practice that is still alive in the Christian world. He established that on Christmas eve priests could say three masses and he introduced the Gloria in excelsis Deo, which he himself may have composed, at the beginning of the mass (Lopes A. The Popes: The lives of the pontiffs through 2000 years of history. Futura Edizoni, Roma, 1997, p.3).

That passage is clearly in error as there is no evidence that any in the second century celebrated Christmas.

More recently, a Roman Catholic author admitted the following:

So we don’t reject the use of trees at Christmas time because they were pagan, we continue to use them, because as symbols of life they now point to Christ. (Killian Brian. Halloween, as autumn celebration, reminder God’s name is hallowed. Catholic Online International News. 10/31/06. http://www.catholic.org/international/international_story.php?id=21818).

Yet, the Catholic accepted English translation of the Bible, Douay Old Testament Of Anno Domini 1609 (DOT), teaches:

2 Thus saith our Lord: According to the ways of the Gentiles learn not: and (a) of the signs of heaven, which the heathen fear, be not afraid:
3 Because the laws of the people are vain: because the work of the hand of the artificer hath cut a tree out of the forest with an axe.
4 with silver and gold he hath decked it: with nails and hammers he hath compacted it, that it fall not asunder.. (Jerermie/Jeremiah 10:2-4, The Original And True Douay Old Testament Of Anno Domini 1609. Prepared and Edited by Dr. William von Peters, Ph.D. Copyright © 2005, Dr. William G. von Peters. Ph.D. 2005 copyright assigned to VSC Corp.).

29 When the Lord thy God shall have destroyed before thy face the nations, that thou enterest in to possess, and thou shalt possess them, and dwell in their land:
30 beware left thou imitate them, after they be subverted at thy entering in, and thou require their ceremonies, saying: As these nations have worshipped their Gods, so will I also worship.
31 Thou shalt not do in like manner to the Lord thy God. For all the abominations, that our Lord doeth abhor, have they done to their Gods, offering their sons and daughters, and burning them with fire (Deuteronomy 12:29-31, DOT).

God does not approve of trees that are decorated in worship or other practices associated with pagan worship. Such things should not be done by Christians. This is also shown in Protestant preferred translations of the Bible, like the King James Version as any one can check.

Furthermore, God warns that some even past their children through fire for these ceremonies. By the way, a substitute practice like that was associated with the Saturnalia, now renamed Christmas.

The Day for the God of the Sun Became the Day for the Son of God?

21st century non-Catholic historian Craig Harline wrote the following:

To begin with, Sun Day mattered more than even among Roman pagans, who still far outnumbered Christians and who may well have influenced how Christians worshiped on their special day…

More important in raising the status of Sun Day among pagans was Mithraism. This movement was related to the emperor’s Invincible Sun Cult but carried much broader appeal, especially among the empire’s multitude of soldiers. Followers of Mithra did emphasize Sun Day, and with greater impact than early Christians. In fact they may have influenced the Christian choice of the first day of the week for worship and some Christian forms of worship. Purification by baptism, the virtues of abstinence…setting aside heaven for the pure…and celebrating the birth of their God on December 25 are all allowable parallels.

Another was Mithraism’s treatment of Sun Day. Christians assigned their own meanings to such practices…Christ was the true Sun, and east was the direction in which Christ ascended into heaven…the similarities in worship, the new status of the first day among both groups at about the same time, the pagan assumption that Christians were fellow Sun-worshipers, and the emergence of the Christian metaphor “Christ the Sun” all suggest a connection of some sort (Harline C. Sunday: A History of the First Day from Babylonia to the Super Bowl. Doubleday, NY, 2007, pp. 5,9-10).

Is that not astounding? There is nothing in the Bible to suggest Jesus Christ is the Sun nor that east was the direction in which Christ ascended into heaven (to verify that latter point, simply read the account in Acts 19-11). Actually, the Bible is clear that humans are not to worship any celestrial bodies, which includes the sun (Deuteronomy 4:19).

Although in English, the terms “son” and “sun” sound exactly the same, that is not the case in either Greek nor Latin. In Greek they are phonetically pronounced hwee-os and hay-lee-osrespectively (Source: Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible). In Latin, they are spelled filius and sol respectively.

Furthermore, the Greek for the expression Christ the Sun would be Χριστός τό Ηλiου. Ηλiου meant sun, but was also the name of the sun god (Helios). Wikipedia has this interesting statement:

In Late Antiquity a cult of Helios Megistos (“Great Helios”) drew to the image of Helios a number of syncretic elements, which have been analysed in detail by W. Fauth by means of a series of late Greek texts, namely: an Orphic Hymn to Helios; the so-called Mithras Liturgy. Notice that Helios is tied to Mithraism. And that the cult of Helios drew syncretic elements (Helios. Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helios verified 09/10/07).

Combining “Christianity” was pagan elements is syncretic.

Were Birthdays Celebrated?

The first century Jewish historian Josephus, who was familiar with some aspects of Christianity, noted that Jewish families did not celebrate birthdays:

Nay, indeed, the law does not permit us to make festivals at the birth of our children, and thereby afford occasion of drinking to excess (JosephusTranslated by W. Whiston.Against Apion, Book II, Chapter 26. Extracted from Josephus Complete Works, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids (MI), 14th printing, 1977, p. 632).

Since nearly all of the first Christians were Jewish, this may partially explain why the non-celebration of Jesus’ birth would be consistent with that custom.

However, even as more and more Gentiles began to profess Christ (so much so that they outnumbered those of Jewish heritage that did), the early Gentile leaders also did not endorse the celebration of birthdays.

The writings of the early third century Catholic theologian Origen show that most Catholics were against the celebration of birthdays.  

What Did Early Christians Observe?

Unlike with Christmas, God did inspire the recording of the dates of all the festivals that He called “my appointed Feasts” in the Bible (Leviticus, Chapter 23).

While everyone knows that Jesus kept the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7:10) and the Passover (Matthew 26:18), many do not realize that the first century Christians observed the all holy days listed in Leviticus Chapter 23. Specifically the New Testament shows that they observed the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread (1 Corinthians 5:7-8), Pentecost (Acts 2:10;20:16; 1 Corinthians 16:8), the Day of Atonement (called the Fast, Acts 27:9) and the Feast of Tabernacles (called the Feast, Acts 18:21). And that the fulfillment’s of the Feast of Trumpets is also described in the New Testament (1 Thessalonians 4:15-18; Revelation 8-11).

Actually, the Bible shows that feast days that God hates are those who have idols:

21 I have hated, and have rejected your festivities: and I will not take the odor of your assemblies…
26 And you carried a tabernacle for your Moloch, and the image of your idols, the star of your God, which you made to yourselves. 27 And I will make you remove beyond Damascus, saith our Lord, the God of hosts is his name. (Amos 5:21,26-27).

What is Christmas if not a renamed holiday to pagan idols like the above was?”

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.cogwriter.com/christmas.htm

Conservatives Want America to be a “Christian Nation” — Here’s What That Would Actually Look Like

From AlterNet, by Adam Lee

In a campaign speech in September, Rick Perry hit upon some familiar Republican themes. According to a Bloomberg Businessweek article:

Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry, in an appeal to evangelical voters, said “Christian values” and not “a bunch of Washington politicians” should be the touchstone guiding how Americans conduct their lives. …

“America is going to be guided by some set of values,” Perry told a crowd of 13,000 students and faculty members yesterday at a sports arena on the school’s campus. “The question is going to be, ‘Whose values?'” He said it should be “those Christian values that this country was based upon.”

It’s worth calling attention to Perry’s obnoxious rhetorical ploy of using “Christian values” to refer only to his own very specific, right-wing set of beliefs — preemptive war, gay-bashing, tax cuts for the rich, creationism in schools, deregulating corporations, dismantling the social safety net, the standard Republican package –– as if he owned or had the right to define all of Christianity. In reality, there’s such a huge diversity of opinion among self-professed Christians past and present that the term “Christian values” could mean almost anything.

Christians have been communists and socialists (including Francis Bellamy, the author of the Pledge of Allegiance); Christians have supported empire and dictatorship (including Mussolini, who made Catholicism the official state religion of fascist Italy). Christians have advocated positions across the political spectrum, from environmental preservation to environmental destruction, from pacifism to just war to open advocacy of genocide, from civil rights tosegregation and slavery.

This broad range of opinion comes about because the Bible never mentions many of these issues, and addresses others in only vague or contradictory passages scattered throughout its individual books. This gives individual Christians wide latitude to find support in the text for virtually any political position you’d care to name.

However, there’s one area where there’s much less room for debate, and that’s the question of political organization. The Bible sets out a very clear picture of what its authors believed the ideal state would look like. Coincidentally, this is the same subject Rick Perry was speaking to: “those Christian values that this country was based upon.” We can compare this statement to the dictates of the Bible to see what it would mean to have a government based on “Christian values.” Then we’ll be in a better position to decide whether America has such a government.

According to the Old Testament of the Bible, after escaping Egypt and reaching the promised land, the twelve tribes of Israel were united into a single country under David and Solomon. After Solomon’s death, there was a rebellion, and the country split into two separate kingdoms, Israel and Judah, which lasted until the Assyrian empire destroyed Israel and carried its people off into exile. Both these kingdoms survived for several hundred years, and therefore there’s more than enough written history to tell what the Bible’s authors thought of as a good state or a bad state.

But right away, there’s a problem. The Bible never even mentions democracy — that concept was completely unknown to its authors. The system of government it enshrines is divine-right monarchy — and not just monarchy, but kingship. Under normal circumstances, the Bible is very clear that the throne passes only from father to son. (The sole exception was Athaliah, a queen of Judah who came to power in a bloody coup and whose reign lasted only six years.)

Even more to the point, the Bible’s ideal government is unequivocally a theocracy: a country where the church and the state are one, where there’s an official religion which all citizens are required to profess, and where law is made by the priests. There was no religious freedom in the ancient Israelite kingdoms: all people were required to worship the same god in the same officially approved ways, on pain of death. For instance, when Moses comes down from Mt. Sinai and finds the Israelites worshipping a golden calf, his immediate response is to order the butchering of everyone who participated in idolatry (Exodus 32:27). Many of Israel’s subsequent kings do likewise. The Bible goes so far as to say that, if pagan worshippers are discovered in any city, the entire city should be burned down and everyone who lives there should be killed (Deuteronomy 13:12-16).

The Bible also puts a high value on racial purity. The Israelites were the chosen people of God, and were instructed to keep themselves separate. Time and again, they were sternly warned against marrying people of another race, tribe or ethnicity. For instance, the Old Testament pronounces a perpetual curse on the neighboring Ammonite and Moabite tribes, saying that any person descended from either one, even down to the tenth generation, “shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 23:3). In one of the Old Testament’s most gruesome stories, a priest named Phinehas finds an Israelite man having sex with a Midianite woman, and impales them both on the same spear (Numbers 25:6-8). For doing this, he’s praised as a hero of faith, and God rewards him with “the covenant of an everlasting priesthood.” When the Israelites invade and conquer neighboring lands, God instructs them to massacre all the captives, including women, so that they’re not tempted to intermarry with them (Deuteronomy 7:2).

By the time of the New Testament, much of this had changed. Christians weren’t all of one ethnicity, nor did they have their own country. They were scattered throughout the powerful, militaristic Roman Empire, governed by absolute rulers who were brutally intolerant of dissent. In light of this, it’s little surprise that the New Testament teaches the virtue of submission to the authorities. It states unequivocally that earthly rulers, even when they act unjustly, are ordained to their position by God and that Christian believers should obey them without question — in fact, it states that those who resist are in peril of eternal damnation (Romans 13:1-2).

All these ideas, so clearly advocated in the Bible, are utterly contrary to what this nation stands for. The idea of divine-right kingship is what our founders successfully rebelled against in bringing forth this country. America is a democracy where the people choose their leaders, a constitutional republic where the powers of those leaders are strictly defined and limited by law. America is a multicultural, multiethnic nation founded on the idea of welcoming immigrants, the homeless and tempest-tossed of every land. Submission to the established authorities, of course, isn’t an American value: Americans have a long and colorful history of debate, protest, and civil disobedience, and the right to criticize our leaders is sanctified in the Constitution. And most of all, America is a secular nation with a separation of church and state. We have no official faith, no national church as many European countries still do.

But America’s Constitution is more than just a secular document; it’s literally godless. It doesn’t claim that the ideas it contains were the product of divine revelation. It states that governing power comes from the will of the people, not the commands of a deity. It doesn’t assert that God has specially blessed this nation or shown it special favor — in fact, it never mentions God at all. And it mentions religion in only two places, both of them negative mentions: in Article VI, which forbids any religious test for public office, and in the First Amendment, which forbids Congress from passing any law respecting an establishment of religion.

If America’s founders had meant to establish a Christian nation, this is where they would have said so. But they said no such thing. And this leads into a historical fact that the religious right would dearly love to forget: the godlessness of the Constitution was a point of major controversy in the debate over ratification. When it was drafted, the fact that it made no explicit mention of God or Christianity wasn’t a minor oversight. It was a major, deliberate omission that was obvious to all. Religious language was omnipresent in other legal documents and charters of the day, including the ones that inspired the Constitution in the first place.

For example, the Constitution’s precursor, the Articles of Confederation,explicitly gives God the credit for making the state legislatures agree to it: “…it hath pleased the Great Governor of the World to incline the hearts of the legislatures we respectively represent in Congress, to approve of, and to authorize us to ratify the said articles of confederation and perpetual union.”

Going back further, the 1620 Mayflower Compact, made by the Pilgrims just before their landing, begins, “In the name of God, amen” and describes the purpose of their voyage as “for the glory of God and advancements of the Christian faith.”

Another foundational legal document, the 1689 English Bill of Rights, was based on the political thinking of John Locke and may have been part of the inspiration for our own Bill of Rights. This document calls the U.K. “this Protestant kingdom,” states that “it hath pleased Almighty God to make [King William III] the glorious instrument of delivering this kingdom from popery” and declares that no Catholic will ever be allowed to hold the throne of the U.K.

And lastly, there’s the document at the root of the Western legal system, theMagna Carta. Like the others, it’s woven throughout with religious language: its preamble begins “Know that before God…” and states that it was created “to the honor of God” and “the exaltation of the holy church.”

In the light of these documents, it’s easy to see just how unique, unusual, even unprecedented the Constitution is. The United States of America was the first modern republic that was created on the foundation of reason, without seeking blessings from a god, without imploring divine assistance or invoking divine favor. And, as I said, this fact was not overlooked when the Constitution was being debated. Very much to the contrary, the religious right of the founding generation angrily attacked it, warning that ratifying this godless document as-is would spell doom for the nation.

For instance, at the Constitutional Convention, the delegate William Williams proposed that the Constitution’s preamble be modified to read: “We the people of the United States in a firm belief of the being and perfection of the one living and true God, the creator and supreme Governor of the World, in His universal providence and the authority of His laws… do ordain, etc”. A failed Virginia initiative attempted to change the wording of Article VI to say that “no otherreligious test shall ever be required than a belief in the one only true God, who is the rewarder of the good, and the punisher of the evil”. The Maryland delegate Luther Martin observed “there were some members so unfashionable as to think that… it would be at least decent to hold out some distinction between the professors of Christianity and downright infidelity or paganism.”

However, the Constitution’s defenders held firm, and all the attempts to Christianize it failed. And the religious right of the day bitterly lamented that failure. One anonymous anti-federalist wrote in a Boston newspaper that America was inviting the curse of 1 Samuel 15:23 – “Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee.” In 1789, a group of Presbyterian elders wrote to George Washington to complain that the Constitution contained no reference to “the only true God and Jesus Christ, who he hath sent.” In 1811, Rev. Samuel Austin claimed that the Constitution’s “one capital defect” was that it was “entirely disconnected from Christianity.” In 1812, Rev. Timothy Dwight, grandson of the infamous preacher Jonathan Edwards, lamented that America had “offended Providence” by forming a Constitution “without any acknowledgement of God; without any recognition of His mercies to us, as a people, of His government, or even of His existence.”

What the religious right failed to achieve at the Constitutional Convention, they kept trying to do in the following decades. The National Reform Association, founded in 1863 by a group of clergy, proposed a constitutional amendment which would have changed the preamble to read, “We, the people of the United States, humbly acknowledging Almighty God as the source of all authority and power in civil government, the Lord Jesus Christ as the Ruler among the nations, His revealed will as the supreme law of the land, in order to constitute a Christian government… do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” Throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s, they repeatedly brought this proposal before presidents and congresses, getting turned down each time. As recently as 1954, the National Association of Evangelicals was still trying to amend the Constitution with language such as, “This nation divinely recognizes the authority and law of Jesus Christ, Savior and Ruler of Nations, through whom are bestowed the blessings of Almighty God.”

Only within the last 50 or 60 years, now that they’ve finally accepted they have no realistic hope of changing it, has the religious right flip-flopped and started claiming that the Constitution meant to establish a Christian nation all along. This staggeringly dishonest, wholesale rewriting of history has become their stock in trade, to the point of having full-time propagandists who obscure historical fact and promote the Christian-nation myth. These falsehoods filter into the political mainstream, until we have absurdities like Rick Perry claiming that the United States, a secular and democratic republic, was based on the legal code of an ancient theocratic monarchy. We, as liberals and progressives, should know better than to accept this falsehood. We have every reason to speak out and uphold America’s proud history as a secular republic founded on reason and governed by the democratic will.

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/belief/152564/conservatives_want_america_to_be_a_%22christian_nation%22_–_here%27s_what_that_would_actually_look_like/?page=entire