Tag: christianity

Exploring the Radical Roots of Roy Moore’s Theocratic Christianity

screen shot via youtube

Source:Salon via AlterNet

Author: Amanda Marcotte

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

Emphasis Mine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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4 Reasons the Christian Right’s Claims of Moral Superiority Over the Rest of Us Just Don’t Hold Water

Source: AlterNet

Author: Valerie Tarico

Emphasis Mine

When Bill O’Reilly recently tried to pin America’s spree of mass shootings on atheism rather than guns or mental illness, he hoped to tap a specific set of beliefs that is common among Bible believers— that morality derives from religion; that Born Again Christians are a light unto the world while atheists (who lack any basis for ethics or morality) spend their empty lives in pursuit of money and sex; that when Christians get raptured or otherwise lose the upper hand, America will descend into the orgy of sex, violence and anarchy depicted in the Left Behind books and movie.

This view feeds both righteous superiority and genuine anxiety among conservative Christians. Calvinists and other fundamentalists teach that humanity is “utterly depraved,” and that the only hope for our fallen world and for fallen individuals is the saving blood of Jesus. In the words of megachurch minister Mark Driscoll, “If the resurrection didn’t literally happen, there are guns to shoot, there are people to shoot, there are parties to be had, there are women to be had.”

In this view, the architects of America’s much lamented moral decay are godless atheists, and the growth of secularism means the growth of moral bankruptcy. Modernity is a grim slide into an end-times world where everybody lies, cheats, and takes whatever they can get. And here in America, this dark tide can be held back only by Christians in high places. 

But this common wisdom among right-wing Christians is being challenged by the public behavior of both the godly and the godless, by atheists who publicly embrace humanity’s moral core and spiritual quest; and by Christian leaders who keep getting caught, literally or metaphorically, with their pants down. The combination paints a picture that more than anything reveals our shared humanity—that the godless have their share of moral leaders and inspiring spiritual values, and the godly have their share of scoundrels. 

Atheists Bare Their Beliefs and Values 

Tired of being stigmatized and shunned, some atheists have set out to daylight the moral values they live by, and why. Some are specifically reclaiming words like morality and spirituality, which have long been owned by the religious sector. This summer, photographer and filmmaker Chris Johnson began screening A Better Life: Joy and Meaning in a World Without God. The movie follows a related coffee table book in which prominent atheists (and full disclosure: a few ordinary nonbelievers like me) discuss the values, loves, dreams and projects that give their lives purpose.

Small Sunday Assembly congregations around the world are continuing to experiment with building community around a three-part motto: live better, help often, wonder more. Blogger Neil Carter, a theology-trained former teacher, has amassed a following of thousands who read his wry, tender musings as he navigates being Godless in Dixie. Humanist chaplaincies like the Harvard Humanist Hub have been springing up on college campuses. Even the Satanic Temple (actually an atheist religion that eschews supernaturalism and embraces Satan as a literary rebel against tyranny a la Milton) has stepped into the public eye with a mission and a manifesto affirming broadly held humanistic values.    

Scandals Expose Hypocrisy, Rock Christianity 

Meanwhile, scandals have been hitting conservative Christianity, hard and fast. 

After Christian abortion foes launched a blood-and-guts media campaign based on staged entrapment interviews with Planned Parenthood staff, public opinion wavered. The campaign crumbled as forensic experts found 42 splicesincluding in “unedited” videos, rendering them useless as evidence. A seemingly unimpeachable witness, a disgruntled Planned Parenthood employee who claimed she had been forced to sell body parts, was impeached by past statements contradicting recent testimony, suggesting she was unreliable and a likely plant. Anti-abortion leaders found the moral high ground crumbling beneath their feet. 

Another Christian publicity stunt turned out to be fabricated by—to borrow a phrase from investigative journalist Chris Rodda—Liars for Jesus in the military. Republican presidential contender Ted Cruz has built his campaign around religious opposition to anti-discrimination laws, which some Christians claim violate their religious freedom and cause them to be persecuted. One ad features the story of Air Force Sergeant Phillip Monk who was fired by a lesbian superior for “expressing a traditional view of marriage”—except that he wasn’t. Oops. So much for the Bible’s prohibition against false witness. If Cruz had read some of the anti-Semitic, homo-slurring hate mail sent by military Evangelicals in the name of Jesus he might have been more wary.

A John Oliver August expose of televangelists exposed so much corruption, from multi-million-dollar tax-exempt parsonages, to personal trips on private jets, to manipulative but unfulfilled promises of healing, that if religion wasn’t exempt from truth-in-advertising laws the ministries in question would have their butts sued off. The wide blanket of “religious freedom” may provide legal cover for preachers like Robert Tilton or Joel Olsteen but it can’t cover the up the fact that their ministries stink of moral rot. Oliver launched his own church, Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption, with dollars (and seeds and beef jerky) that flowed in from eager viewers, challenging the IRS to investigate—and not just Oliver.

And then, of course, there’s the ongoing scandal surrounding Ashley Madison, the matchmaking site for would-be adulterers hacked by possible extortionists who released member names to the public. Early controversy focused on the membership of Christian patriarchy leader, Josh Duggar, whose teen pattern of molesting younger girls—and the family’s response—recently cost his parents their multi-million-dollar reality show. “Family values” politicians like Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum and Ted Cruz, who flaunt their Christian credentials and lament how gays and feminists are destroying marriage appear to have lost their voices when it comes to adultery, a sin that—in contrast to gay marriage or abortion—the Bible unambiguously condemns.  

Moral Decay or More Transparency?

Have traditional Christianity’s claims of moral superiority always been mere conceit, now visible to all, or has something changed? Certainly the internet has made it harder to live a double life or hide hypocrisies, or to protect the faithful from outside information. I wrote about this in “Religion May Not Survive the Internet.” But there’s also reason to believe that Bible-believing Christianity once worked better than it does today as a guide for individual and community behavior:

  • Archaic sex and gender scripts drive hypocrisy. As gender roles and intimate relations become more flexible in modern society, the rigid Iron Age sex script gets harder and harder for Bible-believing Christians to impose, not only on society at large but even on themselves. Trying and failing, young Evangelicals vow abstinence until marriage but instead engage in impulsive, high-risk sex (because planning and protection would signal premeditation). Pastors, priests and patriarchal men—who often find the old script equally impossible—pay queer prostitutes, exploit their positions to fondle children and female parishioners, and fill the coffers of Internet porn providers, all the while loudly condemning the sexual obsessions of gays, women and youth.
  • Clinging to creationism drives rabbit hole reasoning. As evolutionary theory gets incorporated into computer science and the next wave of engineering and even manufacturing, creationists find themselves backed into a corner, needing to cast aspersions on the whole scientific enterprise(with a peculiar corollary emphasis on undermining climate science). More and more, the only way to preserve and protect a biblical world view is to engage in self-deceptive rabbit hole reasoning—a very bad habit for any individual or group that hopes to be a moral light in the midst of humanity’s darkness.
  • The quest for political power drives corruption. The fusion of conservative Christianity and conservative politics into the Religious Right has corroded Christian values and priorities in America and soiled Christianity’s good name. In the words of Sean Illing, “This unholy union of religion and politics has proven disastrous, particularly in the era of PACs, which allow economic libertarians to manipulate conservative Christians for political purposes.” Politics is a notoriously ruthless no-holds-barred affair in which power corrupts—sometimes absolutely. Right-wing candidates and politicians who tout their close relationship with God may baptize their own reputations, but they simultaneously foul the Church.
  • Bibliolatry drives moral stunting. As culture continues to evolve and moral consciousness deepens, the tribal, racistsexist worldview of the Bible writers appears ever more cruel and morally stunted. Bible literalists, who insist on treating ancient texts as if they were the literally perfect word of God, and their own interpretation of these texts as if it were the only one possible, end up coming across the same way. As their views become less appealing, young people motivated by an honest search for truth and compassion find the Church less and less appealing, leaving those with other priorities to wave the Christian flag.

In sum, conservative Christians are being Left Behind morally and spiritually; and they have responded by looking for love—and answers and power—in all the wrong places. If they find that Americans increasingly turn elsewhere for inspiration and moral values, maybe they should do a little soul searching instead of pointing the finger at atheists.

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.

 

See:http://www.alternet.org/belief/4-reasons-christian-rights-claims-moral-superiority-over-rest-us-just-dont-hold-water?akid=13434.123424.Klc0Lz&rd=1&src=newsletter1041798&t=8

Good news from Oz: parents fight back against Christian proselytizing in public schools

Source: Why Evolution is True

Author: Jerry Coyne

Emphasis Mine

This morning we have some good news and some bad news about religion. First the good news: reader John sent me a photo and this link to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald. Apparently, at least in the state of New South Wales, “Special Religious Education” (SRE) is offered to students in many public schools, and it’s an education in Christianity (“General Religious Education”, GRE, is also offered). I thought that parents can opt out of either, but the report below suggests this isn’t the case. I’m a bit confused, and perhaps readers from Australia can enlighten us. Here’s part of the report:

Parents concerned about religious evangelism in public schools will launch a campaign urging families to opt out of scripture classes as a high profile minister calls for a “quality general religious education program” to replace instruction in specific denominations.

The parent-run lobby group, Fairness in Religions in Schools, has paid for a billboard attacking Special Religious Eduction classes in public schools, to be erected at a busy intersection in Liverpool on Monday.

Fairness in Religions in Schools chief executive Lara Wood said the billboard was in response to what the group sees as evangelism in public schools which they claim is poorly regulated by the NSW government.

“Scripture classes push messages about sin, death, suicide, sexuality and female submission onto children without the knowledge of their parents,” she said.

“The Department of Education has no control over the program and it is time these classes were removed or at least regulated by the government.”

A spokesman for the Department of Education said it works with scripture class providers to ensure the material is “sensitive, age appropriate and of a high standard.”

Screw that; this stuff doesn’t belong in public schools, whether or not it’s optional. What’s the educational point of teaching Christianity in such schools? Leave the proselytizing in the churches where it belongs.

Meanwhile, here’s the billboard designed by the parents, and it’s a good one.

Capture

See: whyevolutionistrue

If Our Founding Fathers Were All Christians, Why Did They Say This?

Source:  Tolerant Libertarian via Daily Kos

Author: Tolerant Libertarian

Emphasis Mine

Nobody can deny the fact that Christianity has played a huge role in our history. From the first Thanksgiving to the ideas of Jesus Christ that are embroidered in our culture today, Christianity and the Bible is responsible a big part of our heritage.

However, many conservatives will take this fact way out of context. They’ll think that you have to be a Christian to be patriotic, which is simply not true. Following the more secular teachings of Jesus Christ (being charitable, loving one another, treating strangers with kindness) is what the men who founded this country were for.

I don’t want to waste my time listing all these obscurant far-right arguments, so instead I’ll list the facts straight from our forefathers.

“If I could conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.”

– George Washington, letter to the United Baptist Chamber of Virginia (1789)

Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, then that of blindfolded fear.”

– Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr (1787)

“In regard to religion, mutual toleration in the different professions thereof is what all good and candid minds in all ages have ever practiced, and both by precept and example inculcated on mankind.”

– Samuel Adams, The Rights of the Colonists (1771)

“Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all religions established by law. Take away the law-establishment, and every religion re-assumes its original benignity.”

– Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man (1791)

“Congress has no power to make any religious establishments.”

– Roger Sherman, Congress (1789)

“The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason.”

– Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanack (1758)

“I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people build a wall of separation between Church & State.”

– Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Danbury Baptists (1802)

“To argue with a man who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead.”

– Thomas Paine, The American Crisis No. V (1776)
Note: You can read Paine’s whole pamphlet, where he expresses his atheistic beliefs, here.

Our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.”

– Thomas Jefferson, A Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom (1779)

Christian establishments tend to great ignorance and corruption, all of which facilitate the execution of mischievous projects.”

– James Madison, letter to William Bradford, Jr. (1774)

“There is nothing which can better deserve our patronage than the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness.”

– George Washington, address to Congress (1790)

“During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.”

– James Madison, General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia (1785)

Originally posted to Tolerant Libertarian on Mon Mar 17, 2014 at 10:52 PM PDT.

Also republished by Progressive Atheists, Street Prophets , and Daily Kos Classics.

See: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/03/18/1285607/-If-Our-Founding-Fathers-Were-All-Christians-Why-Did-They-Say-This?detail=emailclassic#

The Making of an Anti-Theist Mom

Source:valerietarico.com

Author: Valerie Tarico

Emphasis Mine

When my husband sent me the Pew Reportnews that the percent of Americans who call themselves Christian has dropped from 78.4 to 70.6 over the last 7 years, I responded jokingly with six words: You’re welcome. Molly Moon’s after dinner?

Not that I actually claim credit for the decline. As they say, it takes a village. But I have been busting my butt for a decade now—working as hard and smart as I know how—to undermine the corrosive influence of a weaponized Bible on communities and people I love. So I’d like to pretend that the poll results mean I deserve ice cream.

Two scoops. Stumptown coffee and melted chocolate, please.

If the past is any indicator, conservative Christian commentators will go batshit over the Pew numbers, citing them as proof positive that Christianity is under siege, that the hordes of darkness have broken through the gates of Hell.  Only by electing Ted Cruz or Bobby Jindal to the White House can True Christians restore America to her [fictional] glory days in which every red blooded American went to church in his or her Sunday best and there was prayer in every school and children behaved because they got hit and the Earth was 6000 years old by fiat.

The predictable frenzy of doomsaying is likely to ignore two rather obvious facts:

  1. Seventy percent is a supermajority.
  2. Conservative Bible-believing Christians (and, to be fair, fundamentalist Muslims) have done far more to bring on that that eight percent decline than outsiders ever could. From a marketing standpoint, a lot of believers are playing for the wrong team. Acting like you have a direct line to God . . . proclaiming that your tribe alone holds the keys to heaven . . . assuming that everybody else lacks a moral core . . . behaving like this beautifully intricate Earth doesn’t matter because God will create a brand new one when this one’s paved over. . . .and then trying to make your religion the law of the land . . . It’s just unappealing.

Satan’s not the problem.

So, if fundamentalists are running their own anti-marketing campaign, why does someone like me spend half of each week in front of a computer writing, unpaid, on topics like twelve really bad religious ideas that have made the world worse or why the Christian heaven would actually be hell or the common root of religious child abuse and the pro-life movement?

Evangelicals of the sort I used to be might say Because of Satan. Obviously. Or they might say that I hate the God that I no longer believe in.

They might, but they would be wrong.

I don’t hate God. You know what I do hate? People acting like douches.

When the Christian Coalition decided in the 1990s to take over America’s political system and impose their moral and spiritual values top down, some outsiders felt offended because, believe it or not, we actually have deeply held values of our own. When Evangelicals realized in the 2000s that they could get taxpayers to subsidize evangelism via public contracts and “faith based initiatives,” things got worse. And then when a whole Pandora’s box of hobby lobbyists discovered that by claiming “religious freedom” they could get excused from rules and responsibilities that otherwise apply to all. . . well here’s where we’re at.

From Incredulity to Activism

Losing my religion didn’t make me an anti-theist.

I left Christianity more than twenty years ago, when I got tired of making excuses for the God I had worshipped since childhood and then realized there was little left of my God but those shabby, worn out excuses. At the time, I was working on a children’s cancer ward. Enough said.

But when I stopped believing, I didn’t go public, let alone go activist; I simply moved on.

Some people’s journey out of their religion leaves them wounded or traumatized, but at the end my own departure was pretty painless. I had a great community of secular friends, and my Evangelical relatives were and are loving to this day, even those who think I’m slated for eternal torture.

I did and still do find spiritual kin among people whose call themselves Christian. I was honored to sit on the board of the Washington Association of Churches as a bridge builder, a non-theist who nonetheless believed in the mission statement they had drawn from the words of the prophet Micah: to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly. Years later, I worked together with a broad coalition to create an “Interspiritual Day” during a week of events called Seeds of Compassion that brought the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu to Seattle for conversations with business leaders, educators, religious leaders and ordinary citizens.

To be clear, I have never, since that time on the cancer ward, ascribed to any sort of supernaturalism, no matter how soft and kind. I have never thought that What- the-Bleep-type mysticism was anything other than woo. But at some point I realized that my own version of secular spirituality wasn’t about beliefs. It was about who and how I served, and there were people who shared that center point across the spectrum of religious belief and disbelief.

After the last vapors of my Evangelical faith evaporated into the cancer ward at Children’s Hospital, religion simply faded from my life. In my naïve narcissism, I assumed that since the Bible God had stopped making sense to me, everyone else was probably drifting in the same direction and I could just get on with the business of working and loving and making sweet babies.

I maintained that assumption until George W. Bush started using Bible belief to justify war. Not OK.

More personally painful was the realization that my otherwise kind, decent Evangelical relatives found G.W.’s willful ignorance of foreign policy a matter of indifference. The fact that his gesture to the Big Man in the Sky before invading Iraq actually satisfied them became a pivotal sore point. If religious belief could make good people like them intellectually sloppy and casually cruel, something needed doing. And I’ve been working ever since at doing it.

Look. Nobody wants to have to take on the Vatican or the Southern Baptist Convention or ISIS in order to have there be a little more kindness in the world and a little less pain. Most outside critics of Christianity fully grasp that their quest is Quixotic. Picture me, a stubby, middle-aged Seattle mom wearing an REI fleece with campfire-burn-holes, pounding small rocks against a walled city that has endured for two thousand years. It’s so inane as to be embarrassing.

I really would rather dig holes in the garden.

But if I care about what I say I care about and love who I say I love; if I truly believe that each of us gets one precious life, and that together we get one precious planet, and that biblical Christianity utterly fails at stewarding either, I feel like I have no choice but to keep pounding.

And so I do.

Inspiration

Do you know anyone who cherishes the Christian tradition and would like to see it reformed and revitalized rather than beaten back? If so, please tell them this: Ideologues who care more about law than love, who get more charged up about injury to biblical authority than injury to a fellow creature, who think that harms done in the name of Christ are somehow lesser evils—believers like this are a far greater threat to Christianity than anti-theist critics ever could be. They also provide the inspiration that keeps folks like me at it:

  • If Conservative American Christians weren’t exporting fundamentalism, I wouldn’t have taken the time to considerHow Iron Age Literacy Spawned Modern Violent Extremism.”
  • If Bible believers didn’t have a “bring it on” attitude toward Armageddon, I wouldn’t have felt a need to enumerate Who, When, Why –10 Times the Bible Says Torture is OK.”
  • If privileged patriarchs weren’t fighting to keep White males at the top of the economic food chain, I wouldn’t have researched “Christianity’s Painfully Mixed Track Record on Slavery” or “15 Bible Texts That Reveal Why ‘God’s Own Party’ is at War with Women.”
  • If self-fearing Puritans weren’t intent on keeping my gay brother from marrying his love, I wouldn’t have written, “Captive Virgins, Polygamy, Sex Slaves: What Marriage Would Look Like if We Actually Followed the Bible.”
  • If freaked-out creationists weren’t trying to discredit the whole scientific enterprise simply to protect the “just so” stories in Genesis, I wouldn’t have had reason to muse about, “When Science Teachers Don’t Believe in Evolution.”

    So What?

    Why should anyone care about my evolution from Christian to critic? Not because it is important but because it is illustrative. The marriage of biblical Christianity with Right wing politics has cost the Church more than a few Seattle moms.

    In October 2014, sociologists Michael Hout and Claude Fischer published an analysis of declining religious affiliation between 1987 and 2012. Their most counterintuitive finding was that political conflict over social issues like non-marital sex and gay marriage caused almost half of the change. Women are hit hardest by conservative policies that block reproductive rights and prioritize the free market over flourishing families, and nonbelief isgrowing faster among women than men. According to a new report by Christian pollster, Barna: “In 1993 only 16 percent of atheists and agnostics were women. By 2013 that figure had nearly tripled to 43 percent.”

    In 2013, Barna asked believers a series of questions about their own attitudes and behavior and then rated whether they were more like Jesus or more like the legalistic, judgmental Pharisees of the New Testament stories. Across the board, Christians looked more like Pharisees than like Jesus. But those with conservative political attitudes were among the least likely to rate high on Christ-like attitudes and behaviors (8 percent).

    In the words of David Kinneman, president of Barna and author of the book, UnChristian, “This study points out a sobering possibility: that the perception so many young people have of Christians contains more than a kernel of truth.” In separate research he found that only 15 percent of young non-Christians thought that the believers they knew were different in a positive way.

    The Price of Political Success

    On one level, the culture wars have been a smashing success for conservative Evangelicals and Bible believers. Republican Presidential contenders are tripping over themselves in their haste to position as devout Christians and defenders of religious freedom. An Indiana woman recently received a twenty-year sentence for self-aborting her secret pregnancy. The Texas Board of Education endorsed Moses as one of America’s founding fathers. Religious organizations have unprecedented rights to government contracts and the use of public facilities for expressly religious purposes. The Supreme Court has given the thumbs up to religious exemptions from laws and duties that otherwise apply to all Americans.

    But one can’t help but wonder if, in the long run, Christians will look back and regret the seduction of political power. Nineteen percent of adults are former Christians, and resources for ex-Christians or believers “in recovery” are mushrooming. And among the youngest adults, thirty-four percent don’t affiliate with any specific church or religion, up from twenty-five percent in 2007.

    As Christianity loses moderate believers, those who remain appear increasingly narrow minded and dogmatic. No less a figure than the Pope has called rigid ideology an “illness” within the Church, one that drives people away:

    “The faith passes, so to speak, through a distiller and becomes ideology. And ideology does not beckon [people]. In ideologies there is not Jesus: his tenderness, his love, his meekness. . . . Ideology frightens, ideology chases away.”

    Rigid and judgmental ideology chases away young people in particular. But it also turns former Christians like me into writers and speakers who are intent on exposing ugly realities that religious institutions might prefer to downplay. The illness within the Church, as Pope Francis called it, demands that I keep writing and talking because—for the life of me—I can’t figure out how we can move toward a better future, one grounded more deeply in compassion, inclusion and discovery when the world’s supermajority religions are anchored to the Iron Age by rigid book worship, sick with ideology and aspirations of political dominion.

    Can reformers within Christianity reclaim their spiritual tradition from the Pharisees and political operatives and bring it forward? Can they articulate a Christian worldview that puts love over law and is compatible with what we know about ourselves and the world around us? Certainly some are trying. Rob Bell, for example, and Rachel Held Evans. Fred Plumer. Anglican Bishop John Shelby Spong. Maybe, possibly, even Pope Francis himself.

    I have no idea if they will succeed. In the meantime, I intend to be here at my desk criticizing fundamentalism, extoling doubt and awaiting my next excuse for Molly Moon’s melted chocolate.

    ______________________

    Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author ofTrusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org.  Her articles about religion, reproductive health, and the role of women in society have been featured at sites including AlterNet, Salon, the Huffington Post, Grist, and Jezebel.  Subscribe at ValerieTarico.com.

 

 

see:http://valerietarico.com/2015/05/17/the-making-of-an-anti-theist-mom/

 

America Is Losing Religion: Why More and More Women Are Embracing Non-Belief

Source: AlterNet

Author: Amanda Marcotte

Emphasis Mine

Atheists were abuzz this week over Pew Research releasing new numbers showing that the number of “nones” (people who have no religion at all) in the U.S. is soaring to record levels, making up a whopping 56 million Americans. In just the past seven years, the percentage of Americans who say they have no specific religious affiliation went from 16 percent to 23 percent. While nones are a diverse group—some are atheist, some agnostic, some believe in God but don’t follow a religion—this explosive rejection of organized religion certainly means America is becoming a country where it is safer and more acceptable to be a non-believer.

But while the Pew research is causing this massive wave of media attention, both good and bad, just as interesting was a quieter report from the Christian polling company Barna Group on the state of American atheism. Barna is clearly motivated by trying to bring people into the Christian fold, but its polling methods are sound, and like Pew, its research shows that the nones are a diverse group. However, this March report focused on what Barna calls “skeptics,” who are self-identified as atheists or agnostics. Barna’s research found that this group’s demographics have changed considerably; skeptics are younger, more racially and ethnically diverse, more educated, and more spread out than they were 20 years ago.

But the biggest demographic shift recorded by Barna was related to gender. “In 1993 only 16 percent of atheists and agnostics were women,” the report explains. “By 2013 that figure had nearly tripled to 43 percent.”

While the number of skeptics, both male and female, has been growing rapidly, it’s been growing even faster for women, which is why this shift has happened. Anyone who attends atheist or skeptic events has seen plenty of anecdotal evidence of this shift. When I first got involved in skepticism and atheism many years ago, when nones were only 16 percent of the population, it was often awkward and alienating, and I felt like one of the few young women in a sea of older men. Now I’m not quite so young, and things have changed dramatically. No more hesitating about going into the bar after a conference, for fear it’s going to be a sausage fest. No more scouting the entire room for a woman, any woman, to talk to. While some conferences need to do more work to make women feel welcome, by and large the skeptic world is one where being female doesn’t make you feel weird anymore.

But people who go to meet-ups and conferences are really just a tiny percentage of people who identify as atheist or agnostic. Because of this, it’s important not to overrate the impact of conferences, which only pull a few thousand people a year, on the sudden explosion that puts the numbers of non-believers well into the millions. This is likely the result of a larger cultural shift making it easier or more attractive for women to identify as non-believers.

The growing public awareness of atheism no doubt plays a big role in this change. Being seen as an iconoclast or a rebel has long been a lot easier for men to pull off than women, particularly when it comes to rejecting family traditions and beliefs. Independence is a quality that’s long been valued in men, but traditionally, being independent has been seen as a bad thing in women. But atheism has been gradually normalized over the past couple of decades, through both atheist celebrities like Richard Dawkins and a healthy discourse about atheism online available for any curious person who wants to google it. As atheism seems less rebellious it becomes easier for women, who are trained from birth not to stick their necks out as far as men are allowed, to go ahead and take the leap into admitting they don’t believe.

On the flip side, the pressure for women to be quiet and conformist has been receding in recent years, with the rise of girl power, online feminism and an explosion of female celebrities in the Rihanna vein. Even men who reject independence in their own wives often value it in their daughters, showing how the tide is turning. As women become increasingly comfortable with being seen as independent thinkers, atheism, which is still coded as rebellious in our culture, becomes easier to embrace. It’s really a combination then, of atheism being seen as slightly less rebellious than it used to be and women being able to be slightly more rebellious than they were. In that middle ground, a whole new crop of female atheists is emerging.

Barna also noted that the conflation of “Christian” with reactionary politics is fueling this dramatic turn from the church. “Most skeptics think of Christian churches as ”places that have ugly views, such as “wars, preventing gay marriage and a woman’s freedom to control her body, sexual and physical violence perpetrated on people by religious authority figures, mixing religious beliefs with political policy and action,” Barna explains. Women are more liberal than men and take issues like abortion much more seriously than men. Because of this, it makes perfect sense that as more conservative politicians and pundits act like “true” Christianity must be right-wing, women are going to be turned off of religion altogether at a faster rate than men.

Regardless of why women are turning to atheism at such a rapid rate, this is all very good news. Atheism is hurt by its image as a hobby of self-important white men who can’t be bothered to actually listen to other people talk. Having more women and people of color and diverse personalities into the mix will help open up more people to the idea that it really is okay not to believe. Maybe when Pew does another report seven years from now, that percentage of nones will be closer to 1 in 2 than 1 in 4 Americans.

See: http://www.alternet.org/belief/america-losing-religion-why-more-and-more-women-are-embracing-non-belief?akid=13110.123424.X7sAqX&rd=1&src=newsletter1036465&t=3

Can Evangelical Christianity Be Saved from Itself? An Interview with Rachel Held Evans

Source: Valerie Talerico

Emphasis Mine

Rachel Held Evans has been called “the most polarizing woman in Evangelicalism.” She is a New York Times bestselling author of three books and a popular blog in which she wrestles honestly with the cruelties and contradictions in her Christian tradition from the standpoint of a loving insider on a quest to understand God and goodness more deeply. Her most recent book, Searching for Sunday, brings readers along as Held Evans, still a self-identified Evangelical explores and embraces the liturgical ritual of the Episcopal tradition. It is a loosely connected collection of musings structured around the seven traditional sacraments of the Christian tradition: baptism, confession, communion, holy orders, confirmation, anointing of the sick, and marriage.

Tarico: My readers know me to be post-Christian, a self-described spiritual non-theist and ardent critic of the Evangelical fundamentalism in my own roots, and I write largely for an audience of secularists and former fundamentalists. So I may take some grief for this interview. But I am fascinated by your journey and your labor to create space for growth within the Evangelical tradition. What has kept you in the fold?

Held Evans: I still see value in church and Christian community. Christian community can be hurtful and wounding and cruel, but it also can do a lot of good and be healing and show a lot of grace. It can be helpful and healing. Not all churches are bad. A person can simultaneously acknowledge that the church does incredible wounding but the church can also do incredible healing. Christian people can hold both of those things to be true. People can romanticize the church and demonize the church and treat it with cynicism. As someone who tends toward cynicism, I’m trying to be truthful.

Tarico: Some fellow believers see your questioning and critique as a betrayal of Evangelicalism. But in one of your recent blog posts, “Strong enough to be self-critical: In America and the church,” you came down hard on the side of criticism as a sign of love and loyalty. You said, “Mature people and mature communities are strong enough to be self-critical and wise enough to speak the truth in love.” Are there limits on that? 

In this interview, Held Evans discusses both the book and her broader faith journey.

Held Evans: A lot of cultures set limits on how much you are allowed to ask. They encourage curiosity and questioning up to a point but your answers need to fall within a certain framework of what the answers are supposed to be, and I think I pushed up against that one too many times for some critics.

Criticism can be hard to do well, and I am often clumsy at it, but those who advocate for reform in the Church often do so out of a deep love for it. I want the Church to be a more hospitable place for LGBT people, precisely because I want the Church to grow and thrive and welcome all of God’s children through its doors. I want the Church to embrace science precisely because I want the Church to remain relevant in the world and tenable for those who shouldn’t feel like they have to choose between their intellectual integrity and their faith. In my work, I feel it’s important hold both the good and the bad of my faith tradition truthfully, candidly. If I weren’t deeply invested, I wouldn’t care. I wouldn’t speak up.

Tarico: So if not criticism, what do you perceive as the greater threat today to Evangelical Christianity?

Held Evans: I’ve long felt that if evangelical Christianity continues to align itself to a single political party, the danger will be that it will rise or fall along with that political party, that it will assume the identity of the Republican Party rather than the identity of Jesus Christ. I think we’re seeing some of the fallout from that, as Evangelicals are growing more defensive and defeatist as they lose political ground, particularly in the so-called “culture wars.” But I also see this as an opportunity for Evangelicals to have some tough but important conversations about what it means to be evangelical, to be Christian, in the U.S.

If it’s not about winning elections and maintaining power, what’s it about? Maybe it’s about loving and serving the culture rather than trying to control it.

Tarico: Anthropologist Jennifer James has called fundamentalism the “death rattle of the Abrahamic religions.” How do you see it?

Held Evans: I grew up in the buckle of the Bible belt in a conservative Evangelical church with conservative Evangelical parents, and I have almost entirely fond memories of that experience. I would be very cautious of painting all fundamentalists as hateful, closed minded ignorant people. It’s just not true. I’ve seen conservative Evangelical Christians love one another in really beautiful ways. You see the whole church rally around a mom who needs chemo—making meals, taking care of the kids. I was loved very well within that tradition. My parents modeled what it means to be gracious.

I recognize that might have been different if I was gay. I’m aware that being me came with some privilege. But I am wary of painting people broadly with this brush of closed-minded judgment. That said, people do get really stuck—in patriarchal hierarchical marriages for example. Christianity has produced some destructive narratives. I criticize and talk about that because I love the Evangelical community and have incredibly strong warm feelings toward it. That’s why I care that things are not always what they should be. I wouldn’t care if I didn’t also see value in it.

Tarico: Let’s talk a little about marriage, because it seems that two of the issues you  have really wrestled with are the role of women in Christianity, and the question of dignity and equality for LGBT people, including marriage equality.

Held Evans: I don’t agree with Christians who think that what makes a marriage sacred is a man and a woman with a man in charge. What makes a marriage sacred is not conformity to social norms, not how well you fit the Ward and June Cleaver model, not patriarchal hierarchy, but the degree to which there is love and self-sacrifice like we see in Christ, in that relationship. My aim is to say that what makes a marriage sacred and special and life-giving is that mutual love and concern and giving.

Tarico: For some who criticize Evangelical Christianity from the outside, who see it as harmful, what they find most untenable is orthodox Christianity’s exclusive truth claims, the claims that are laid out, for example, in the early 20th century pamphlets “The Fundamentals” that became the basis for our term fundamentalism. Worst, maybe, is the idea that anyone who isn’t an insider is an evildoer who lacks a moral core and is condemned to eternal torture. I say worst, because this is an idea that through history has opened up all manner of mistreatment toward outsiders. After all, burning someone at the stake is peanuts compared to burning them forever. 

Held Evans: I understand why people wouldn’t want anything to do with the Church, I really do. But not everyone reduces faith to where you go when you die. Historically that has been a problem, but not every Christian has reduced Christianity to that. Not every Christian believes that everyone who doesn’t believe as they do is going to hell Christians often act like they don’t understand why people doubt. That can make us seem really detached and checked out of reality.

Something I like about the Episcopal tradition is that it focuses on the mystery of faith:Christ has died; Christ has risen; Christ will come again. There are days I struggle to believe that literally, and there are days when it’s easy. But there is something unique and special about the teachings of Jesus and committing ourselves to following those teachings.

As to exclusivity, I believe people can embrace Christian belief and do Christian things without assuming that God isn’t present in other traditions or that we have nothing to learn from outsiders. I can hold my own tradition with conviction and respect and still think it possible to learn things from my Buddhist neighbors. I enjoy reading atheist and agnostic blogs and learn a ton from their honesty, for example.  We don’t have to choose between conviction coupled with strong faith identity and openness to learning from others or acknowledging their spiritual insights and shared humanity.

Tarico: Your focus on the sacraments is interesting because it strikes me as a move away from belief—from belief-ism toward a focus on practice or praxis, more akin to Dharmic traditions, like Buddhism, and more mystical traditions within Christianity itself.

Held Evans: Much of my evangelical Christianity was an assent to propositional truths. Christianity was something you believed. I’ve come to understand Christianity even more as something you do. It’s sharing communion not just around the altar but around the table. It’s anointing the sick—that’s not an effort to cure someone like a magic charm. It’s acknowledging someone else’s suffering and saying I am present and I am here and we can find god even in this. That is what it means to be Christian and a part of the church. Being in community and experiencing god in that community. The sacraments make that possible.

Tarico: When I think about what it means to be Christian, I’m struck by the bifurcation between liturgical and other traditions. It seems like the churches that have kept the traditional order of worship and liturgy have been more free to explore theologically, while for “Bible-believing” denominations, the thing that is immutable is the theology, which frees them up to be entrepreneurial about music, buildings, outreach, and the order of the worship service. So it’s like people can creatively explore the order of service or they can explore theologically – but not both. 

Held Evans: I’m still exploring why the sacraments are so powerful for me personally, but that’s part of why I was drawn to the liturgy. The culmination of the typical Evangelical worship service is the sermon—the preacher’s interpretation of the text. In a more liturgical service, the climax is the table, gathering for communion. There is something mystical and ever-giving about that. It is centered around the community. It is also something very open to interpretation and people take different things away from it.

In an Evangelical church, people will say “I didn’t feel like I got fed today” as a reference to the pastor. In a liturgical tradition you never say that, because you are fed the communion—the body of Christ. Liturgical traditions give us more space to explore belief, because what unifies us is not shared belief but shared experiences.

Tarico: Let’s talk about the Bible, the center and source of those Evangelical sermons. When I look at the Evangelical tradition I grew up in, I think that the Bible has become a golden calf. The Bible has human handprints all over it and yet people treat it as if it had the attributes of divinity: timelessness, perfection, completion. In an age of the written word, what better golden calf than a golden book? I think of it now as a form of idolatry. How do you see it?

Held Evans: What troubles me is the notion that we can somehow read a sacred text without interpreting it. People say they are just reading the text. That’s not possible. The idea that we can approach a text without bringing our imperfect often greedy often selfish selves to it. It’s crazy to think that anyone is claiming simply to take God at his word.

Tarico: So how do you think about approaching the Bible?

Held Evans: The tendency is to accuse one another of picking and choosing. Of course we do! But how do we pick and choose in a way that is healthy and life giving? What method or metric should we use for doing that? As a Christian, as a follower of Jesus, I think it’s appropriate to think of Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of scripture, that in his life and death he put into practice what scripture was meant to teach us. It seems to me that I can take my cues from how Jesus interacted with scripture, which was always life giving. You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. This offers an illumination of how to approach scripture.

When Jesus was asked by experts on scripture what is the most important commandment, he said, Love the lord your God with all your heart soul and mind and love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and all the prophets land on this. The whole point of it all is love. If we take that posture when we approach the text—To what degree does this help us love God and each other better?, that is a helpful life-giving guide. If Jesus interpreted scripture that way, that’s how I hope to interpret it.

If you are going to scripture to look for a weapon you’ll find it. If you go to scripture looking for healing balm you’ll find that too. So much has to do with what we’re looking for. If we want to use the Bible to hurt other people, we can. If we want to use it to promote healing, hope, love and grace it’s there.

Tarico: Many Christians would argue that the Bible is the final arbiter of any doctrinal dispute; you are saying that the model of Jesus is the final arbiter, the lens through which people need to read scripture.

Held Evans: I believe the Bible is authoritative in Christian life, but that we interpret Scripture through Jesus, who is the ultimate expression of God’s will for us. The notion that we experience Christ only through the pages of the Bible isn’t even biblical! We encounter Christ in communion, in the needs of people who are suffering or hungry, where two or three are gathered in Christ’s name, and so on. When we care for those who are suffering we experience Christ.

God speaks to us through all of sorts of ordinary, everyday things. In a similar way God speaks to us through scripture–through imperfect words. The idea that God is too good to speak through imperfection is mistaken. God uses all sorts of everyday things to reach out to us.

Tarico: I’ve heard the natural order described as “God’s other book.” I guess that would include our experience of each other, of love, community, suffering and healing. It also includes the natural world, including the laws of physics and biology and genetics that increasingly are being unveiled by scientific inquiry. Any thoughts on that?

Held Evans: All truth is God’s truth. If something is true, then it’s true. If the universe is billions of years old and humans share ancestors with apes, then that’s the truth. God can reveal himself through science. More and more even in the Evangelical world I sense there is openness to what the natural world has to teach us. Evangelicals don’t have a great record. There has been science denialism, but I think there is common ground.

Denialism is based in fear, but we don’t need to be afraid, and in fact, this fear is such a denial of the core of Christianity. 1st John 4 says, Perfect love casts out fear. Fear is not a healthy way to view the world, and it’s not a healthy way to view and approach our faith. You cannot love God and be afraid—afraid of the world, afraid of a Bible that isn’t how we think of as perfect or afraid of new discoveries and information. Christians are called to be or do something more.

Tarico: Back when I was a college student at Wheaton, I remember reading an assigned book with the title, Your God is Too Small. I now find that even the god-concept proposed by the author seems too small, too modeled on humanity. But the title—the concept—stuck with me, as I discuss in my own book, Trusting Doubt. It seems like you are working to articulate an understanding of Christianity that is big enough to be compatible with both compassion and tradition, and what we know about ourselves and the world around us.

Held Evans: People fear this God who punishes everyone who is wrong. Really?! We’re all wrong about lots of things, even small ordinary things. When we’re talking about the nature of ultimate reality, we’re going to get some of this wrong. If I thought that God vindictively punished everyone who was wrong, I’d be afraid all the time too. (In fact, I used to live that way and I remember that fear; and it’s really nice to live differently.) Why is it hard to believe in a god who is big enough and kind enough to forgive us for being wrong?

Tarico: They say a book is out of date the moment it is in print. What are your biggest a-ha’s since you finished writing Searching for Sunday?

Held Evans: I feel that way about the other books, but not about this one yet. I’m still in theHey, World! stage. I started writing in my 20s and I’ve wondered if I would regret that. But I say to myself: Rachel, if your last book is completely different than your first book then I think that will be a completely successful life. I’m looking for readers who are waiting to evolve and come along with me. If I waited till I had it all figured out I never would write. I hope I am a different person in twenty years –that would mean I stayed open to change and humble and self-critical, which for me is part of how I aspire to grow in grace and in the love to which we are called by the model of Jesus.

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author ofTrusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org.  Her articles about religion, reproductive health, and the role of women in society have been featured at sites including AlterNet, Salon, the Huffington Post, Grist, and Jezebel.  Subscribe at ValerieTarico.com.

 

 

 

See: http://valerietarico.com/2015/05/08/can-evangelical-christianity-be-saved-from-itself-an-interview-with-rachel-held-evans/

George Zimmerman claims killing Trayvon Martin was God’s plan Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/progressivesecularhumanist/2015/03/george-zimmerman-claims-killing-trayvon-martin-was-gods-plan/#ixzz3VLFZABUG

Source: Patheos

Author: Michael Stone

Emphasis Mine

George Zimmerman claims killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was God’s plan, and that wishing Martin had lived would be “blasphemous,” according to a recently released interview.

Zimmerman spoke to his attorney about the case in an interview recorded earlier this month.

When asked “George how about the actual event itself. Do you wish you had turned different?” Zimmerman responded, in part:

…as a Christian I believe that God does everything for a purpose, and he had his plans and for me to second guess them would be hypocritical and almost blasphemous.

George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin on the evening of February 26, 2012. Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old African American student, was confronted, shot, and killed near his home by Zimmerman, a self-appointed neighborhood watch captain in the Orlando, Florida suburb of Sanford.

Zimmerman claims he was out on a “Neighborhood Watch patrol,” when he saw a “suspicious” young black man, ultimately shooting the youth in what Zimmerman claimed was self-defense.

Yet for many, Zimmerman’s story does not ring true, and the facts seem to contradict his claim of self defense. Indeed, for many, the known facts indicate that Zimmerman targeted, stalked and killed the unarmed teen simply because the youth was “walking while black.”

However, despite the evidence, a Florida jury acquitted Zimmerman of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in June of 2013.

In February of 2015, the Justice Department announced that there was not enough evidence to mount a successful federal hate crime prosecution against Zimmerman.

Despite these facts, many reasonable people believe Zimmerman got away with murder. Since killing Martin, Zimmerman has been arrested multiple times for domestic abuse.

In the interview with his attorney, Zimmerman not only claims that shooting Martin was God’s will, he also blames Obama for many of his troubles.

Readers can find a full transcript and video of the interview here.

Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/progressivesecularhumanist/2015/03/george-zimmerman-claims-killing-trayvon-martin-was-gods-plan/#ixzz3VLGD9fFI

 

 

5 Right-Wing Freak-Outs Over the President’s Completely Accurate Comments on Christianity

Source: AlterNet

Author: Amanda Marcotte

Emphasis Mine

Every few weeks or less, conservative pundits freak out over some silly, irrelevant nonsense involving President Obama, who can’t scratch his nose without sending the right into a tizzy of offense. The latest faux scandal is even sillier than some previous ones, such as trying to blame Obama for ebola or whatever the hell “Benghazi” is supposed to be about. Now the right is in a full-blown tantrum because President Obama said some things that happen to be completely true at the National Prayer Breakfast.

After noting that faith can be “used both as an instrument of great good, but also twisted and misused in the name of evil,” Obama went on to list sectarian war and Islamic terrorism. He then went on to emphasize that Western Christians are not immune to using religion to justify violence and oppression: “And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”  These statements are 100% true. But the right has reacted as if Obama burned the American flag in the Oval Office. Perhaps it’s because the National Prayer Breakfast was designed to strong-arm national politicians into paying fealty to the religious right on pain of being accused of being anti-Christian. Or perhaps it was just because they’re bored. Here are five more ridiculously over-the-top conservative reactions to the President saying something that is objectively, demonstrably true about Western history.

1. Raping conservatives with his words.

On Fox News, frequent guest Star Parker seems to have decided that if she was going to melt down over nonsense, she should just go all the way: “Because I was in that room. And it was, frankly, verbal rape. Oh yeah. We were not expecting it. Nobody wanted it. It was horrible to sit through. And after it was over we all felt like crap.”

It’s hard to tell what’s more offensive, comparing hearing a basic fact to rape or implying that rape is little more than an irritating experience to sit through instead of a violent crime.

2. How dare you say Christians were anything but angels when it came to slavery? 

Tucker Carlson’s full-blown whine required him taking credit for the hard work of people he probably would have opposed if he lived in their time: “Who’s ‘us’ anyway? And by the way, who ended slavery and Jim Crow? Christians. The Rev. Martin Luther King. Christians.”

Yes, it’s true that many abolitionists and civil rights activists were Christians. But so were the slaveholders and segregationists. Slave-owning Christians were quick to point to Bible passages telling slaves to obey their masters. Jerry Falwell made his name by preaching that Christianity required segregating the races. Many Christian churches in the South were established to keep white kids from attending classes with black students. And, as Jamelle Bouie writes, lynching was understood by its defenders “as a Christian duty, consecrated as God’s will against racial transgression.”

Obama’s point was that religion can be used to justify good and to justify evil. The fact that religious arguments were made on both sides of the racism debate throughout history is proof of this.

3. Obama was defending ISIS!

That’s the conclusion drawn by Rep. John Fleming of Louisiana. His tortured logic appears to be that comparing Islamic terrorism to past Christian terrorism somehow casts Islamic terrorism in a good light: “Yeah, I mean he’s really creating a propaganda bonanza for terrorists, because what he’s really saying is ‘Well look, these are freedom fighters, just like the patriots of the Revolutionary War. And they’re no different, their service is just as honorable.”

In reality, the President’s point was that it’s bad for people to do bad things in the name of religion, regardless of what that specific religion is.

4. Wah, no Christian has ever done violence because I say so!

Eric Bolling of Fox News took the childish temper tantrum to another level, accusing Islam of being the only religion capable of justifying violence: “Reports say radical Muslim jihadists killed thousands of people in the past few months alone. And yet when you take Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, whatever, their combined killings in the name of religion—well, that would be zero.”

As David Ferguson wrote for AlterNet, the claim that no killing has ever been done in the name of Christianity is neatly disproved by the KKK, the Holocaust and the Crusades. Even in recent years, it’s arguable that Americans have more to fear from Christian terrorism than Muslim terrorism.

The fact is that right-wing terrorists in the United States, most of whom align themselves with some form of Christianity, have killed more people in the United States than Muslim terrorists have. Indeed, for those who work at abortion clinics, the threat of Christian terrorism is a daily terror, as threats and intimidation from Christian anti-choice militants are on the rise. In the past two decades, there have been eight murders and 17 attempted murders of abortion clinic workers. That’s a much bigger number than “zero.”

5. Show me the birth certificate!

Mike Huckabee used Obama’s comments as an excuse to wallow in some birther rhetoric. While not outright accusing the President of being born in another country, Huckabee invoked a favorite birther accusation, that the President is secretly a Muslim. “Everything he does is against what Christians stand for, and he’s against the Jews in Israel,” he screeched on “Fox and Friends.” “The one group of people that can know they have his undying, unfailing support would be the Muslim community. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the radical Muslim community or the more moderate Muslim community.”

Needless to say, a quick perusal of the transcript shows that Obama criticized Muslim violence alongside Christian violence. For example: “We see ISIL, a brutal, vicious death cult that, in the name of religion, carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism—terrorizing religious minorities like the Yezidis, subjecting women to rape as a weapon of war, and claiming the mantle of religious authority for such actions.” And: “From a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris, we have seen violence and terror perpetrated by those who profess to stand up for faith, their faith, professed to stand up for Islam, but in fact, are betraying it.”

The irony is that the conservative reaction to Obama’s speech proves his point, that Christians are capable of “terrible deeds in the name of Christ.” We are seeing this happening before our eyes as one Christian after another commits the terrible deeds of lying and slander, all in supposed defense of their religion. One after another, they openly and aggressively say untrue things and level false accusations, even though their faith supposedly forbids bearing false witness. And they do it, as Obama says wrong-headed people often do, by invoking religion as justification. If they really want to show that Christians are good and honorable people, they should start by choosing to act like it, instead rushing to tell lies to smear a man who was simply telling the truth.

 

See: http://www.alternet.org/5-right-wing-freak-outs-over-presidents-completely-accurate-comments-christianity?

Newsweek strongly questions the Bible, but still coddles faith

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Source: why evolution is true

Author: whyevolution is true

Emphasis Mine

Newsweek is hardly known for going after religion, but you couldn’t tell that from the large article by Kurt Eichenwald that was published in December, “The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin.” Apparently heavily informed by conversations with Bart Ehrman, who’s quoted several times, the piece is designed to let readers know that the Bible is not a unified work of scholarship (hence carrying the implication that it’s not the direct word of God, or inspired by him), that it was pieced together over centuries from scattered writings, and that it’s full of errors.

Now the readers here are pretty savvy, and you probably know all this. But I’ll just repeat a few points that Eichenwald makes before I discuss his final and shameful capitulation to believers. Here’s what he says:

  • The Bible is an error-ridden translation of the Greek original (oddly, Eichenwald doesn’t mention until the end that the Old Testament was written in Hebrew, not Greek), and a lot of the translation is bad—including the famous rendering of the Greek “young woman” into “virgin” when referring to Mary. This, of course, has led to erroneous dogma.
  • Likewise for false interpolations in the Bible, like Jesus’s famous “let-he-that-is-without-sin-cast-the-first-stone” story, which was apparently confected by Middle Age scribes.
  • Critical parts of dogma, such as the doctrine of the Trinity, don’t appear in the Bible, but were decided in big conferences like the council of Nicea, where the Nicene Creed originated. Sometimes these issues were divided by vote, putting the lie to the notion that the Bible is the source of such truths. (I discuss this dogma-by-vote issue in The Albatross.) Not everyone agreed with these decisions, precipitating a lot of bloodshed over things like the divinity of Christ.
  • The Bible contradicts itself in different places. We all know of the discrepancies between Genesis 1 and 2, and between the accounts of the Resurrection in the four Gospels.  Presumably the many Americans who are deeply ignorant of what the Bible really says are unaware of this stuff.
  • Accounts of the life and doings of Jesus are unreliable because they were written decades after the fact, often by people who weren’t on the scene. Thus the existence of Jesus, and details of his life (if he existed) are less reliable than those of Socrates. 
    • The Bible sees a lot of things as sinful that right-wing politicians are actually doing now. For instance, we all know that Paul (in I Timothy) tells women to be silent (are you listening, Sarah Palin?); in Romans the faithful are admonished to avoid criticizing the government; and the Bible says repeatedly that prayer should be a private matter, practiced on your own and not exercised loudly in public. Newsweek notes that Republican politicians (Rick Perry comes to mind) regularly violate this dictum.

    Well, most of us know this stuff, but it’s useful that it’s laid out in black and white for the religious American public, and that the lessons are given pointedly to politicians. But after all this demonstration of the fictitious and erroneous nature of much of Scripture, does Eichenwald find any merit in the Bible?

    What do you think? This is America, so he has to. First, after a long disquisition on the contradictions about the Resurrection, he says this:

    None of this is meant to demean the Bible, but all of it is fact. Christians angered by these facts should be angry with the Bible, not the messenger.

    Of course it’s meant to demean the Bible, as he says so clearly in the second sentence. But Eichenwald’s osculation of faith’s rump gets worse at the end:

    This examination is not an attack on the Bible or Christianity. Instead, Christians seeking greater understanding of their religion should view it as an attempt to save the Bible from the ignorance, hatred and bias that has been heaped upon it. If Christians truly want to treat the New Testament as the foundation of the religion, they have to know it. Too many of them seem to read John Grisham novels with greater care than they apply to the book they consider to be the most important document in the world.

    But the history, complexities and actual words of the Bible can’t be ignored just to line it up with what people want to believe, based simply on what friends and family and ministers tell them. Nowhere in the Gospels or Acts of Epistles or Apocalypses does the New Testament say it is the inerrant word of God. It couldn’t—the people who authored each section had no idea they were composing the Christian Bible, and they were long dead before what they wrote was voted by members of political and theological committees to be the New Testament.

    The Bible is a very human book. It was written, assembled, copied and translated by people. That explains the flaws, the contradictions, and the theological disagreements in its pages. Once that is understood, it is possible to find out which parts of the Bible were not in the earliest Greek manuscripts, which are the bad translations, and what one book says in comparison to another, and then try to discern the message for yourself.

    And embrace what modern Bible experts know to be the true sections of the New Testament. Jesus said, Don’t judge. He condemned those who pointed out the faults of others while ignoring their own. And he proclaimed, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.”

    That’s a good place to start.

     Most of this is fine—except for the conclusion. If we excise all the interpolations and contradictions from the Bible, and subtract the extra-scriptural dogma imposed later by religious authorities, what do we have left? What we have left is still a book of fiction, comparable to the Bhagavad Gita or Epic of Gilgamesh. Eichenwald doesn’t mention that the Biblical stuff that isn’t overtly fraudulent, or wasn’t added later, is also dubious, including the entire creation story and that of Noah’s Flood, the movement of the Jews to Egypt and their later exodus and wanderings in the desert, and so on. While Eichenwald wants us to stick to the earliest Greek manuscripts as the authentic Bible, how does that help us? Are we supposed to embrace those “true” sections? Ten to one those “true” sections include all the horrible stuff in Deuteronomy and Leviticus, as well as Jesus’s pronouncements about leaving your family and about the world soon coming to an end very soon.

    Eichenwald gives us no hint about “how to discern the message for yourself.” If that’s the case, could he give us a hint as to what the message is? Or, if it’s simply up to each person’s judgment, how do we resolve conflicting “messages”? And of what use are churches and theologians?

    Finally if the Bible’s message is simply bromides like “love thy neighbor” and “don’t kill,” well, do we really need the Bible for that when we’ve got Confucius and the secular Greek philosophers, all who wrote without the heavy veneer of superstition, deities, and the supernatural? Why read the Bible at all if we have lots of secular philosophers like Kant, Plato, Mill, and Singer, who convey even better messages, and whose writings are actually genuine?

    If we must heap our own preconceptions on the Bible to get anything out of it, what’s the use? The book then becomes just a mirror of our feelings and biases. Better to read philosophers who actually make us think about things we hadn’t pondered before.