One Christian Group’s Never-Ending, Futile Quest to Save America’s Children from Sex

Source: AlterNet

Author: Amanda Marcotte

Emphasis Mine

(N.B.: the most difficult aspect of blogging an information rich post such as this is to avoid highlighting everything!)

As anyone familiar with the Christian right can attest, there are a great many sayings Christians spout that are less charitable than it would seem. “I’ll pray for you” is a passive-aggressive way to tell someone to shove off. “It’s in the Lord’s hands” means that the speaker cannot be bothered to actually do something about a problem. And “we’re doing this for the children” means that adults and teenagers are doing something the Christian conservative thinks is ungodly, and children will be invoked to excuse attempts to control the choices of older people.

Take, for instance, the annual rite of the media watchdog organization Parents Television Council complaining about the MTV Video Music Awards. No one in the real world mistakes the VMAs for Sesame Street. The show starts at 8pm and doesn’t really get going until later. To make absolutely sure, the show is rated TV-14. Despite the many signposts alerting parents to the fact that this isn’t programming for the little ones, PTC always finds a way to use hand-wringing about the children to demand more censorship of the VMAs.

PTC seems like a very retro organization these days, still hammering on about what’s on TV when everyone has immediate access to whatever entertainment they want through the Internet. But the organization matters, not just because it is symptomatic of the larger tendency on the right to use “the children” as cover for attacks on the choices of older people, but because they are still the biggest organization out there setting the agenda for what kind of media conservatives are going to hold out as evil. You know, because of the children.

And while PTC might not be very successful at getting stuff off TV, it and its proxies in the media are extremely good at spreading the myth that our culture is oversexed, especially to conservative audiences. That, in turn, leads to attacks on sex education,  Planned Parenhood, and activists like Sandra Fluke who want insurance to cover birth control—anyone who is perceived as aiding this supposed over-sexualization.

Because conservative “watchdog” groups, with PTC leading the pack, set this agenda for the right, it’s no surprise that Fox News has picked up on PTC’s obsession with the evils of dancing and the VMAs in particular, such as Bill O’Reilly railing on for multiple nights on Fox News about the supposed threat to girls that the VMAs present and Fox News using the awards show to forward attacks on “modern feminism.” Sexy dancing is available to anyone’s eyeballs whenever they want to see it, but because PTC obsesses over the VMAs, so must Fox News.

Screaming about the supposed effect of the VMAs on children is such a big deal for the PTC that it released pre- and post-VMAs statement. The pre-statement was a threat, which really calls into question what kind of lessons PTC thinks are appropriate to teach small children. “The 2013 VMAs were a public relations kerfuffle for your network that I feel certain you will not wish to repeat,” it warned ominously, even though there is no evidence that the Miley Cyrus performance it referenced did much beyond garner more attention for Cyrus’ burgeoning career.

PTC demanded a TV-MA rating for the show, even though it has no nudity and never anything more ribald than dancing. The TV-14 rating, according to the PTC, “was simply unacceptable to the families who depend on the television ratings system to be applied accurately and to the millions of families whose children are marketed to by MTV.”

The PTC was founded in the ’90s by Christian right activist Brent Bozell, and for most of its life, it didn’t bother to hide that it was an organization rooted in Christian right ideals. It’s been undergoing a makeover to appear more as a secular organization in recent years, hiring Tim Winter, a registered Democrat, to take over from Bozell in 2007. Under Winter’s direction, PTC has made a few moves to actually try to be a bit more convincing when it comes to the claim that they’re in this for the children, including creating a division of its website that takes a stab at pushing for better role models for girls in media.

But looking over the PTC blog, it becomes clear that it’s just the same old reactionary organization that exists mainly to complain about sex and profanity on-air, even in situations where broadcasters have reasonable expectations that small children won’t be watching the shows.

For instance, Winter, whose legal party affiliation as a Democrat hasn’t stopped him from writing for Christian right organizations like One News Now, wrote a piece in early August denouncing McDonald’s advertising.  He wasn’t concerned about the rising rates of childhood obesity or the way that McDonald’s targets children directly for manipulative advertising of incredibly unhealthy food. That’s for people who actually give a crap about children.

No, Winter is mad that McDonald’s advertised on a silly VH1 show called Dating Naked. “The juxtaposition of this historically family brand with such sexually graphic content is shocking,” he argues, even though the nudity on the show is obscured through pixilation and the contestants aren’t engaged in any more sexual behavior than on any other dating show. So McDonald’s can continue to use clowns and toys to encourage kids to eat all the grease and sugar they can stomach, but god forbid a dating show that admits people are naked under their clothes.

Even though bumping and grinding has been part of pop music since roughly forever, PTC has a special obsession with being angry at Miley Cyrus for engaging in the usual pop musician antics. “America Wants More “Sound of Music” – Less “Bangerz” reads one headline where the PTC bloggers unintentionally parody their own religious right obsession with eradicating any acknowledgement of sex from the entertainment industry.

Cyrus gets singled out because she had the temerity to change from a squeaky clean child star to a more mainstream, risqué pop performer. In other words, she grew up. “Miley Cyrus built her career on the backs of teens, ‘tweens’ and their parents. But the content of her Bangerz Tour is wildly inappropriate for children and families, and NBC knows it,” Winter complained on the blog.

Even though Cyrus is now a grown woman, she is obligated to continue acting like she is a child. No big surprise there, as PTC’s entire existence is predicated on using children as a cover story for what they really want, which is an entertainment industry that treats grown adults like we are children.

Amanda Marcotte co-writes the blog Pandagon. She is the author of “It’s a Jungle Out There: The Feminist Survival Guide to Politically Inhospitable Environments.”

 

See: alternet.org/media/one-christian-groups-never-ending-futile-quest-save-americas-children-sex?akid=12175.123424.DJwUEB&rd=1&src=newsletter1017100&t=6

5 Crazy Myths About Sex From the Religious Right

Source: AlterNet

Author: Amanda Marcotte

Emphasis Mine

Despite the fact that people have been having sex since literally before there were people, the religious right never stops acting like sex is some great conspiracy to bring about the end of human civilization. You have to give them credit for coming up with endlessly creative ways to go into full-blown panic at the idea that people are still having sex. Here’s five of the latest and silliest myths and legends about sex being floated by the religious right.

1) Sex education is an attempt to get kids “hooked” on sex, which is apparently an addictive drug now. Right Wing Watch found this video from the Christian right group Alliance Defending Freedom that is attempting to scare people about a proposed sex education curriculum in Tempe, Arizona. Even though Planned Parenthood has nothing to do with the curriculum in question—outside of being mentioned in its materials, accurately, as a place where one can go to receive sexual health care— ADF is valiantly trying to imply that they’re the secret masters behind this sex education curriculum.

“The question now is, is Planned Parenthood simply seeking to develop future customers and make a profit akin to tobacco companies providing cigarettes to kids?,” the video narrator asks. You start to get the impression that religious conservatives think that Planned Parenthood invented sex itself, just to trick kids into getting pregnant and getting abortions. It is worth pointing out that Planned Parenthood cannot “profit”, because it is a non-profit and all of its money goes right back into the organization so that it can better serve the health needs of the various communities it serves. Also, sex—and abortion—existed long before Planned Parenthood and will continue on even if the anti-choice movement was successful in wiping Planned Parenthood out.

2) Gay rights activism is a conspiracy to steal women away and turn them feminist. Fanatical misogynist blogger Robert Stacy McCain put up a post that was bizarre even by his remarkably low standards recently, arguing that feminism is run by “academic radicals who relentlessly strive to teach girls that lesbianism is the feminist ideal” and that the “one purpose of education now is to prepare young people for their lives as gay adults”. It’s a garbled, pretentious mess, but a wonderful encapsulation of a bunch of right wing myths and fears: Anger about women getting education, accusations that gay people are trying to recruit, fear that feminist arguments really are compelling.

But above all else, you get the strong impression that McCain and his male readership are deeply afraid that if women are allowed to have choices, they won’t choose men like McCain and his readers. Not an unreasonable fear—the only evidence-based one they probably have—but certainly not a legitimate reason to rail against higher education for women or gay rights.

3) Planned Parenthood is trying to push your kids into having kinky sex! Lila Rose, with her organization Live Action, is single-mindedly obsessed with trying to take down the Planned Parenthood. Her ostensible reason is that the health care organization offers abortion, but it becomes clear, when engaging with her work, that the real objection is that Planned Parenthood offers support to people who want to have happy, healthy sex lives, and Rose really does not want people to have those happy, healthy sex lives.

This became exquisitely clear in her latest “sting” operation on Planned Parenthood, where she had volunteers go into Planned Parenthood offices, present themselves as people asking for information and advice on sex, and then filming the workers—and this is supposed to be shocking—answering the questions asked of them. The volunteers pretended to be young, sexually active people who had been reading Fifty Shades of Gray and wanted to know what bondage and S&M were. By and large, the sex educators responded to a direct question asking about a sexual practice with accurate, warm-hearted responses, with an emphasis on practicing bondage safely. Apparently Rose thinks they should have pretended to be shocked and thrown their patients out. Offering help to people who ask for it? Next thing you know, they’ll start letting people read about stuff they are curious about and then where will we be?

4) Lesbians can’t be pretty! The Christian singer Vicky Beeching has come out as lesbian, a process that was extremely stressful for her, considering her conservative background and her current conservative Christian fan base. Ed Vitigliano of the American Family Association reacted by being confused about how it could be that someone who is pretty to him might not be into men. “I think most men would think that Vicky was a very pretty lady, and those sorts of appraisals are usually made without thinking,” he writes. “This makes the subject of sexual orientation rather difficult to understand at times.”

He then goes on to explain, at length, how women really do it for him, as if this were information that anyone cares about at all. “I don’t know what it’s like to feel that way toward a man,” he adds. Okay, well, it seems that’s true of Beeching as well, making his attempts to make this seem stranger and more alien than it is even sillier.

Vitigliano reluctantly accepts that gay and lesbian people must feel the way they say they do—an admission he treats like it’s a huge favor he’s doing them—but concludes that they must therefore be “broken”, because “the human race is clearly designed as male and female”. In other words, pretty ladies are put here for men, and if you pretty ladies want something else for yourself, well, your mistake for thinking you belong to yourself.

5) Contraception is a conspiracy to ruin the family. Anti-choicers used to try to bother to keep up the pretense of being “pro-life” by sticking to picketing clinics that offer abortion, but those days are over. As Robin Marty chronicled for Cosmopolitan, anti-choice activists in Minneapolis are desperately trying to shut down a new Planned Parenthood there, even though it doesn’t offer abortion. Their reason? Contraception itself is an evil that must be stomped out. Anti-choicers have blanketed the area neighborhoods with flyers “urging residents to avoid the new Planned Parenthood, which they say offers ‘dangerous contraception,’ ‘promotes and encourages sex without limits,’ and is ‘destroying families.’” They argue that sex should only happen with no “medication or barrier devices” and only for couples “open to new life”.

In reality, contraception is actually quite good for families and marriages. Cristina Page accumulated the historical evidence showing that greater contraception use correlated strongly with lower incidence of child poverty and happier marriages. In contrast, religious conservatives and people who live in communities controlled by religious conservatives have higher rates of divorce, no doubt in part because their ambivalent or hostile attitudes towards birth control and abortion cause a lot of hasty commitments that shouldn’t have existed in the first place.

See: http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/5-crazy-myths-about-sex-religious-right?utm_source=Amanda%20Marcotte%27s%20Subscribers&utm_campaign=13e26a5219-RSS_AUTHOR_EMAIL&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_f2b9a8ae81-13e26a5219-79824733&paging=off&current_page=1#bookmark

I Worked at Hobby Lobby and Saw the Troubling World of Corporate Christianity

Source: AlterNet

Author: Charity R. Carney

It was the most difficult job I’ve ever had. I’ve been a history professor for years, toiled as a graduate assistant before that, and even did a stint as an IT technician. But the three months I worked at Hobby Lobby stocking googly eyes and framing baseball cards takes the cake. I wanted a break from academia but it ended up not being a break at all. I found myself deconstructing and analyzing all aspects of my job — from the Bible in the break room to the prayers before employee meetings and the strange refusal of the company to use bar codes in its stores. (The rumor amongst employees was that bar codes were the Mark of the Beast, but that rumor remains unsubstantiated.)

Three months was enough to convince me that there is something larger at work and the SCOTUS decision only confirms my belief that corporate Christianity (and Christianity that is corporate) has made it difficult for Americans to discern religion from consumption.

As a scholar of religious history, I observe the way that faith intersects with culture. I study and publish on megachurches and my interpretation of this week’s events is informed not only by my experiences as an employee at Hobby Lobby but also my knowledge of recent religious trends. My biggest question after hearing the decision was not about the particular opinions or practical repercussions (which are significant and have far-reaching and dangerous consequences). Instead, my first thought was: “What is it about our cultural fabric that enables us to attribute religious rights to a corporate entity?” In the United States we have increasingly associated Christianity with capitalism and the consequences affect both corporations and churches. It’s a comfortable relationship and seemingly natural since so much of our history is built on those two forces. But it’s also scary.

Hobby Lobby is a for-profit craft chain, not a church. I’m stating the obvious just in case there was any confusion because — let’s face it — it’s confusing. It’s as confusing as those googly eyes (do you really need three different sizes, Hobby Lobby, really?). Today, we see giant churches that operate like corporations and now corporations have some of the same rights as churches. Many megachurches adopt “seeker-sensitive” approaches to attract members, relying on entertainment and conspicuous consumption to promote their services. After a while, the spiritual and secular lines start to blur and the Christian and corporate blend. Ed Young, Jr.’s Fellowship Church, for instance, started a “90-Day Challenge” for members. The church asks congregants to pledge 10 percent of their income and promises “that if you tithe for 90 days and God doesn’t hold true to his promise of blessings, we will refund 100 percent of your tithe.”

Megachurches advertise on television, billboards, the Internet. They have coffee shops and gift stores. Some feature go-cart tracks, game centers, even oil changes. Many are run by pastors that also serve as CEOs. So when Hobby Lobby seeks similar religious rights as these very corporate churches, we have to reconsider our definition of religious organizations and maybe even say “why not?” We have normalized corporate Christianity to the point that the Supreme Court deems it natural for businesses to hold “sincere” religious beliefs. The religious landscape in the United States, including our familiarity with megachurches and celebrity pastors, certainly contributes to the acceptance of the church/company conundrum.

The “why not” can be answered, however, with the real costs of the decision. Women’s reproductive rights are compromised. The religious freedom of employees for these corporations is compromised. The sanctity of our religious institutions is also compromised. To protect religious pluralism and freedom of the individual we need clear demarcations between what is spiritual and what is economical. Otherwise, we sacrifice the soul of American religion and all that makes it good and why I study it on the altar of industry. I can’t get those three months at Hobby Lobby back (or the praise muzak out of my head) but I can see more clearly the dangers of allowing corporate Christianity to become the norm. Without clear boundaries, we risk distorting the very idea of religious freedom and the rich, diverse religious culture that makes us who we are. And that’s tragic — maybe not as tragic as praise muzak, but tragic nonetheless.

Carney is a historian of religion, gender, and the South.

Emphasis Mine

See: http://www.alternet.org/economy/i-worked-hobby-lobby-and-saw-troubling-world-corporate-christianity?akid=11985.123424.MazbC2&rd=1&src=newsletter1009384&t=5

8 Things America Gets Terribly Wrong About Sex

"I sing the body electric..."

“I sing the body electric…”

Source: AlterNet

Author: Anna Pully

We get many things right here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. We were the first to put a man on the moon (Neil Armstrong), the first to achieve flight (the Wright brothers), and we came up with the greatest television phenomenon ever: Shark Week. But when it comes to sex, we are all mixed up. For all of America’s cultural pornification—we can’t even sell a router or a chicken sandwich without a bikini-clad model dry-humping it—we still haven’t let go of a lot of the puritanical values our country was founded on. Here are a few of the things our otherwise great nation gets wrong about sex and sexuality.

1. Sexual healthcare is not a priority.

Unless we get pregnant, a raging case of crabs, or need erection pills, it’s pretty rare for Americans to schedule an appointment with a doctor for sexual health reasons, even though the World Health Organization tells us that sexual health is “a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity.” Since Americans barely get any kind of health care at all, and the tiniest amount of sex education in school, it’s not surprising that people only visit doctors for sexual reasons under the most dire of circumstances, and not equally important concerns such as sexual ethics, consent, gender identity, trauma care, and desire. It’s also not surprising that we have the highest STD rates in the industrialized world. A recent report called our rates an “epidemic.” We’re number one!

2. Billions of dollars wasted on abstinence education.

Abstinence-only education—that is, teaching children, primarily girls, that the only way they can preserve their self-worth is to wait until they are married to have sex—has been a popular pastime in the U.S. for roughly the last 20 years, despite the fact that it’s been repeatedly proven not to do a damn thing to prevent teenagers from having sex. In fact, it does the exact opposite by negatively impacting condom use and sexual health.

Some lawmakers are still trying to pass legislation to end federal funding for abstinence-only programs, which mushroomed under George W. Bush, and which Obama later eliminated, only to have Republicans restore them as a concession to social conservatives under Obamacare. Thus far, however, lawmakers have been unsuccessful at ending the insanity. If only conservatives practiced abstinence as much as they preached it….

3. Discrimination against LGBT people is rampant.

In 2014, you can still get fired for being gay, lesbian, or bisexual in 29 states. The number increases to 33 states if you include transgender people. The stigmatization of sexual minorities also leads them not to seek sexual healthcare (and general healthcare) as often as their straight counterparts, leading to poorer health overall, mental health issues and long-term problems. Many don’t even feel comfortable coming out to their doctors, potentially putting them at higher risk for more serious illnesses.

And don’t even get us started on how many Americans believe bisexuality doesn’t exist.

4. We have seriously warped body images.

The only naked bodies we see (unless you are one of the rare breeds who come from a nudist household) are found in porn, and hence, we think of the porn body as the “ideal,” even though very few people’s bodies and genitals look like that without severe modification. A few brave souls are attempting to normalize the diversity of genitalia, Betty Dodson, for instance, but by and large Americans have a lot of shame surrounding their bodies and private parts, leading to such horrors as anal bleaching, labiaplasty, vaginal rejuvenation, and vajazzling, also known as turning one’s vagina into a glittery disco.

5. We’re obsessed with penis size.

We recently watched Unhung Hero on Netflix (it’s not bad!) about our cultural obsession with penis size, and one man’s hilarious and at times depressing attempts to increase his schlong’s length and girth. What with the countless pills, penis pumps, surgical enhancement opportunities, and porn-penis obsessions, it’s obvious that America is hung up (sorry) on the idea that having a monster penis is the only way to be a fully actualized human man. This obsession is generating a lot of money for penis-enhancement companies, but in terms of effectiveness, the “gains” such enhancements produce are often in the realms of insecurity, doubt, loss of sensation, and discomfort.

6. Our popular magazines offer the most bizarre sex advice.

What country besides ours would suggest women fellate a pastry in order to be more sexually satisfied? Thanks to the likes of popular magazines like Cosmopolitan and Men’s Health, Americans are taught the most absurd things about sex, such as the notion that snorting pepper to increase orgasm intensity is a fine idea, presenting your lady with a dick dipped in Nutella will get you an “enthusiastic blow job,” and the smell of toast is an incredible aphrodisiac.

7. Rape culture and the sexual double standard.

Ugh, the fact that we even have a term for it is depressing, but if anything can be gleaned from the recent atrocities of the Santa Barbara massacre and the #yesallwomen campaign, it’s that the way our country views women, sexual violence and female sexuality is seriously skewed. Women are routinely blamed, stigmatized and called names for the sexual harassment and assault they experience.

In addition to the fact that rape culture attempts to normalize sexual violence, the virgin-whore dichotomy also contributes to our warped views on female sexuality. As Ally Sheedy’s character in The Breakfast Club noted about America’s views on female sexuality almost 30 years ago, “If you haven’t, you’re a prude. If you have, you’re a slut. It’s a trap.” Sadly, America’s views haven’t changed much.

8. Ridiculous anti-sex laws still on the books.

It’s illegal to sell sex toys, a.k.a. “obscene devices” in states such as Alabama, Georgia, Virginia, and Louisiana. If you’re busted for promoting a dildo in Louisiana, you face a fine of up to $5,000. In Alabama, it comes with a fine of $10,000 and a year of “hard labor”!

Lest you think this is just the wacky South, Cleveland has a law against showing underboob, defining “nudity” as a “female breast with less than a full, opaque covering of any portion thereof below the top of the nipple.” Having premarital sex is still considered a “crime” in Massachusetts (comes with a $30 fine and up to a three-month imprisonment), Idaho ($300 fine and up to six months jail time), and Utah (class B misdemeanor). And of course the South doesn’t smile upon unmarried sex either: Mississippi promises a fine up to $500 and six months jail time, North Carolina law says you can’t “cohabit together,” and South Carolina sex packs a whopping fine of up to $500 and up to a year in jail.

Uh-merica!

Emphasis Mine

See: http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/8-things-america-gets-terribly-wrong-about-sex?akid=11892.123424.LdR6fb&rd=1&src=newsletter1000331&t=9

Hitchens, Dawkins and Harris Are Old News: A Totally Different Atheism Is on the Rise

10255797_10152206156388197_5651832525060857729_nSource: Alternet

Author: Chris Hall

It’s surprising just how much media analysis, both mainstream and progressive, continues to take as given the notion that atheism can be defined and discussed solely by looking at the so-called “New Atheists” who emerged roughly between 2004 and 2007. It’s easy to understand the appeal: Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens became prominent representatives of atheism because they were all erudite, entertaining and unafraid to say what they thought. A lot of people, myself included, were drawn to their works because they were forthright and articulated things we had kept locked away, or simply hadn’t found the words for.

But in 2014, Hitchens is dead, and using Dawkins or Harris to make a case for or against atheism is about as relevant as writing about how Nirvana and Public Enemy are going to change pop music forever.

More and more, the strongest atheist voices are talking about nonbelief less as an end in itself, but as part of a larger conversation about social justice. It could hardly be any other way: atheism is growing not only in numbers, but in diversity. When Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens were at their most prominent, a frequent (and credible) criticism was that the faces of atheism were all white, male and affluent. To make the same claim now is to deliberately ignore some of the most vital atheist and skeptic voices that have emerged in the last 10 years.

Greta Christina, the author of Coming Out Atheist describes the changes in organized atheism: “[T]he movement has become much more diverse — not just in the obvious ways of gender, race, and so on, but simply in terms of how many viewpoints are coming to the table. The sheer number of people who are seen in some way as leaders… has gone up significantly…. And the increasing diversity in gender, race, class, and so on are important. We have a long way to go in this regard, but we’re doing much, much better than we were. And that’s showing up in our leadership. It’s absurd to see Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris as representing all organized atheism — it always was a little absurd, but it’s seriously absurd now.”

Just as in any other group, there are scores of people in atheist and skeptic communities who don’t want to have discussions about racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and other bigotries, or say they’re irrelevant to the agenda at hand. The increase in diversity isn’t happening quietly or easily, and it’s often brought out the ugliest sides of people who base their entire identities on being rational and humane. Direct challenges to racism and sexism haven’t traditionally been the domain of the large organizations like American Atheists or the Secular Coalition for America. It’s been far more typical to fight incursions against separation of church and state or educate against pseudoscience like homeopathy.

It’s not that these aren’t important issues: separation of church and state is one of the linchpins of American democracy. As the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Town of Greece vs. Galloway shows, it’s also extremely fragile, and there is a very loud and insistent portion of America who would like to see it disappear entirely.

But such a narrow focus also means that atheist and skeptic groups have a history of looking at these issues in isolation, without considering how race, gender, or class play into them. That isolation has been one of the great limiting factors in the growth of movement atheism. Too many activists and groups trapped themselves in rhetorical Möbius strips, where their conferences and literature were dominated either by debunking the same pseudoscience over and over again, or fighting cases of church-state intrusion that were more relevant as abstract principles.

But the more people step forward and identify themselves as nonbelievers, the more it’s become obvious that this narrow focus is unsustainable. Although the top positions in many organizations are still dominated by white men, an increasing number of the most passionate voices bringing new people into the movement are people of color, women, transgendered, or queer.

Jamila Bey, the communications director of the Secular Student Alliance, summed up the concerns of many in a recent interview: “There are people who say, ‘Why are we talking about racism? We would rather argue that Chupacabra are fake.’ And fine, that is their right. On the other hand, I don’t get to divorce my critical thinking from my blackness, from my femaleness, from my position as a mother. So when I see the only affordable child care in my community being offered at churches, that’s an issue for me that makes me say ‘Wait a minute, there’s a problem here. Why am I not being afforded the opportunity for my child not to be indoctrinated just so my kid has somewhere to play and meet other children?’ I can’t divorce my whole life from my skepticism and for anybody who says, well , talking about female issues or talking about issues that impact black people, oh, that’s taking away from skepticism, I go, well that’s really easy for you to say. This is my life. I can’t divorce the issues. You can choose to not care about them or whatever, but don’t tell me I’m diminishing skepticism because I’m talking about the reality of what my life is.”

Those last few words speak directly to the very reason behind organized atheism: almost everyone who deconverts from religion and declares themselves a nonbeliever does so because of a compelling need to talk about reality. Whether it’s because we couldn’t reconcile the fossils in the earth with the story of creation we were told by our parents and clergy, or because of a need to lay claim to our sexuality without first checking for the approval or condemnation of a deity, the desire to discard what we perceive as falsehoods and speak honestly about the realities of our lives is one of the most commonly shared passions of atheists as a whole.

So, even for many of us who play life on the lowest difficulty setting, who get all the goodies that come along with white skin, cis-gender maleness and middle-class backgrounds, when old-school atheists attempt to dismiss social justice issues as “mission drift,” it seems like a betrayal of the very principle that was most attractive about standing up and identifying as an atheist in the first place. For those who don’t get those goodies, the betrayal is much more intimate.

#

If Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris brought a single essential insight to modern atheism, it was the idea that atheists could and should be unapologetic about their disbelief. For Heina Dadhaboy, who blogs on Skepchick, that was critical as she moved away from the traditional Islamic beliefs of her family.

“I think the fact that [Dawkins] was so unapologetic is why a lot of us became quite taken with his writings. It wasn’t so much what he was saying or how he was saying it, it was just the fact that he never apologized or capitulated for being an atheist.” That shamelessness helped Dadhaboy to assert her own voice as an atheist. Like most of mainstream culture, her family expected that if she was going to be an atheist, she would at least have the good sense to pay lip service to religion’s superior worldview.

“They expected me to capitulate,” she says. “They expected me to follow their rules and even if I didn’t believe in their religion, to agree with them that it’s more moral and makes more sense. Reading Dawkins was like, ‘Hey, I don’t need to do that.'”

Heina Dadhaboy, Greta Christina, Jamila Bey, and scores of others found their own voices, rather than becoming mere echoes of the New Atheists who were anointed by the media all those years ago. James Croft, the research and education fellow at the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard, says there are already generational differences in how they’re viewed. “Frankly, people like Richard Dawkins and even Sam Harris to some extent, are not viewed positively by young atheists now,” he says. “They actually don’t think that they’re that great. You still find people at the conventions who love them of course, but it does seem like they’re already a bit passé….They kind of pushed a door open, and that represents an opportunity, but the real task is to step through that door with some positive proposal of what life after religion has to look like.”

The first steps through that door have already been taken by atheist women, queers and people of color. Progress has not come easily, by any means. In some ways, it’s been outright nightmarish. The standard use of harassment and rape threats against women who make even relatively mild critiques of gender has put some of the ugliest, sickest parts of atheist communities on public display. It has even cost the movement voices; in 2012, blogger Jen McCreight proposed a new wave of secular activism called “Atheism Plus,” which would explicitly embrace social justice as part of its mission.

“It’s time for a wave that cares about how religion affects everyone and that applies skepticism to everything, including social issues like sexism, racism, politics, poverty, and crime,” she wrote. “We can criticize religion and irrational thinking just as unabashedly and just as publicly, but we need to stop exempting ourselves from that criticism.” The campaign of harassment and abuse that followed, combined with stresses in her personal life, eventually drove her to stop blogging and speaking at atheist events. McCreight recently began writing again at a new blog, The Jenome, which does not focus on atheism.

But despite the organized hatefulness, racism, misogyny, transphobia, or just the malign neglect of old-school atheists, those who are demanding that atheism become more intersectional and diverse are not becoming silent or fading away into the background. It’s becoming more and more obvious that these critiques are essential if organized atheism is to transcend its stereotype as a refuge for privileged eccentrics.

#

I can’t say when exactly I became an atheist. There was no flash of light, no road to Damascus moment where I suddenly dropped the Episcopalianism I was raised in. I stopped being a Christian sometime in early high school, but for years afterward, I tinkered with a wide range of mysticism and spiritualities, until I finally realized there was no “there” there.

What made me ultimately accept my atheism as an identity is that about the same time I began to fall away from Christianity, I began to be concerned about social justice. Atheism appealed not only as a logical conclusion, but as a more humane and just way of living. To make ethical decisions without the revelations from a deity means that the responsibility for those decisions ends with you, and no one else. Even more importantly, when you accept that there is no world beyond this one, you have to turn your eyes away from the sky and look at the people around you.

When Elliot Rodger went on his shooting spree in Isla Vista, the harm was not to the immortal souls of the people he shot and killed. His bullets tore into their bodies and devastated the lives of people in the real world. It was not a crime against god, or the spirit world, or Allah, or karma, but against fellow human beings who were alive and breathing and may have lived for decades more if he hadn’t pulled the trigger.

But those gunshots didn’t kill just because of chemistry and physics; the bullets were driven just as much by Rodger’s poisonous misogyny as by a sudden expansion of gases in the barrel of the gun. We are social creatures, and racism, misogyny, classism, and other prejudices affect our lives in ways that are just as solid as the earth orbiting the sun or our immune systems’ response to a vaccine. The activists who insist that atheism address matters of social justice are not distracting the movement from its purpose or being divisive; they are insisting it deliver on the promises that attracted so many of us to it in the first place.

 

Emphasis Mine

 

 

see: http://www.alternet.org/belief/hitchens-dawkins-and-harris-are-old-news-totally-different-atheism-rise?akid=11879.123424.fof9t9&rd=1&src=newsletter999606&t=6&paging=off&current_page=1#bookmark

Celebrating Easter? Which Contradicting Biblical Account of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection Are You Going to Pick?

Source:Alternet

Author: C J Wereleman

Although pre-Christian religions are replete with the stories of dying and rising gods, the Easter tradition is founded in the Bible’s New Testament. Unfortunately for devotees of the Christian faith, the New Testament is replete with irreconcilable discrepancies.

The question is, which contradicting biblical account of Jesus’ death and resurrection are you celebrating this Easter?

Of the nearly 600 irreconcilable discrepancies and contradictions found in the Bible, a majority are found in the New Testament. This is understandable given the books of the New Testament were written no less than 50-100 years after the purported death of Easter’s central character, Jesus. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Paul hadn’t even met Jesus, and they hadn’t met the people who had allegedly met Jesus. In other words, the New Testament contains not a single eyewitness testimony, much less even a secondhand account, nor is any account corroborated outside of the Bible.

Without going too far down the theological pathway, Mark, whoever he was, was the first to write a biography of Jesus, some 50 years after the crucifixion. Both Matthew and Luke, whoever they were, copied from Mark’s written account some 20 to 30 years later, each adding their own theological motives with the help of respective external sources, while John wrote his gospel nearly a full half-century after Mark.

“The New Testament is a work of crude carpentry, hammered together long after its purported events and full of attempts to make things come out right,” writes the late Christopher Hitchens.

Without a doubt, the Easter narrative of the New Testament highlights these contradictions better than any other plot line found in the Bible. A cartoon found at russellsteapot.com demonstrates the theological conundrum:

Priest: “Thanks everyone for participating in this year’s Easter Pageant. All right, kids, we need to rehearse the part where it’s Easter morning and the first visitors arrive at Jesus’ tomb. Now who’s in this scene?”

Child 1: “I am! Matthew 28:2-5 says an angel came down from heaven to greet them.”

Child 2: “No, it wasn’t an angel! It was a ‘Young man,’ Just look at Mark 16:5!”

Child 3: “Hello! Luke 24:4 says very clearly it was ‘Two men.’”

Child 4: “Well, according to John 20:1-2, nobody was there.”

Priest: “Children, the contradictions don’t matter! What matters is that we unquestioningly accept the magic of the resurrection even within the face of such glaring contradictions within the story.”

Child 4: “Father, that was the most wonderfully concise summary of Christianity I have ever heard.”

Priest:“Thank you, child. It is blind submission to authority that got me where I am today

The gospels are so at odds with each other they don’t even agree on one of the critical tenets of the Christian faith i.e. the meaning of Jesus’ death.

On the day of Jesus’ crucifixion, Mark presents Jesus as an utterly dejected figure, who having suffered so much, believes God has forsaken him in his darkest hour. In the events leading to his crucifixion, he is betrayed by his friend Judas; denied three times by one of his nearest and dearest, Peter; berated by the Jewish priests; and then condemned by Pilate. He is kicked, whipped and mocked by the Roman soldiers; taunted by criminals on the cross; and during this whole ordeal he utters not a single word. As the shadow of death descends upon him he cries, “Father why have you forsaken me?”

Bart Ehrman, a New Testament scholar and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, makes the following observation of Mark’s gospel, “Jesus dies in agony unsure of the reason he must die.”

In Luke’s portrayal, however, the gulf of ideology between himself and Mark couldn’t be greater. Luke has Jesus being led away for crucifixion, but in his account Jesus is not mocked or beaten by the Roman guards. Instead, Jesus walks confidently toward the killing field, reassured by the purpose of his death, as demonstrated by the manner he speaks to the women he sees weeping for him:

“Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.” (Luke 23:28 NIV)

As he is nailed to the cross, instead of denouncing his god, like he had in Mark, Jesus says,

“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34 NIV)

As his inevitable death approaches, Jesus does not feel forsaken but welcomes the next step of the journey; “Into your arms I commit my spirit.” In Luke, Jesus even has a friendly dialogue with his fellow condemned, and reassures them that:

“Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43 NIV)

“In Luke, Jesus is completely calm and in control of the situation; he know what is about to occur, and he knows it will happen afterward: he will wake up in God’s paradise, and this criminal will be there with him,” writes Ehrman.

It gets worse. The respective gospels even contradict their own writings. Mark gives the following account of the Last Supper:

“Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31)

The big question here is why would Jesus think God had forsaken him if he knew he had to suffer in such a manner in order to fulfill the purpose he was sent to fulfill? Of all the events that account for the Easter narrative, the four Gospels agree on only two points:

  1. That on the third day after Jesus’ crucifixion and burial, Jesus’ tomb is found empty.

  2. Mary Magdalene is one of those who discover the empty tomb.

On just about every other component of the Easter narrative, the Gospels disagree as to what transpired, and often irreconcilably so. On Jesus’ ascension, not only do the gospels disagree who Jesus’ spirit spoke to first, but also the location.

Mark: Jesus ascends while he and his disciples are seated at a dinner table in Jerusalem. (14-19)

Matthew: Doesn’t mention the ascension at all.

Luke: Jesus ascends after dinner in Bethany, on the same day as the resurrection. (24:50-51)

John: Doesn’t mention the ascension.

These contradictions must trouble those with even the deepest sense of faith. Notwithstanding the fact that Matthew alone writes that zombies roamed the streets of Jerusalem at the moment of Jesus’ death (Matthew 27:51). Suddenly, the Easter Bunny seems a little more plausible. Happy Easter.

CJ Werleman is the author of “Crucifying America,” and “God Hates You. Hate Him Back.”

Emphasis Mine

See: http://www.alternet.org/belief/bible-one-big-mess-contradictions-about-easter?akid=11733.123424.BSMX1D&rd=1&src=newsletter983505&t=5

The Internet Is Not Killing Religion, Religion is Killing Religion

Source: Religion Dispatches

Author: Elizabeth Drescher

“In the first decade of the seventeenth century in England, with the break with the Roman Catholic Church fully encoded into law and a bevy of scholars working to complete a new translation of the Bible under the sponsorship of the Protestant King James the VI of Scotland, a Lancaster minister, William Harrison, complained that “for one person which we have in the church to hear divine service, sermons and catechism, every piper (there be many in the parish) should at the same instant have many hundred on the greens.”

The comparative success of the piper over the preacher in gathering locals was possible even though church attendance at the time was a matter of law, punishable by fines, public shaming, and even imprisonment.

“Pipers are Killing Religion,” the town crier might well have declared, offering data on the correlation between the number of pipers in a village and the number of butts in local church pews.

Across the pond in the American colonies, religion was not faring much better. In his masterful reconstruction of American religious history, Awash in a Sea of Faith (from which the previous anecdote is drawn), Jon Butler reports that Christianity was “in crisis” in the New World:

Pennsylvania aside, the Restoration colonies of New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and North and South Carolina exhibited extraordinary spiritual discord and sectarianism as well as a remarkable but all too familiar indifference to things spiritual. In America’s first European century, then, traditionally thought of as exclusively Puritan, Christian practice not only proved insecure but showed dangerous signs of declining rather than rising.

Colonialism, against its own Christianizing designs was, it seems, killing religion.

It didn’t get much better well after the Revolution, either, as the United States grew in population, global prestige, and wealth. Writing in 1910 about The Spiritual Unrest that characterized the country, muckraking journalist Ray Stannard Baker lamented:

Not only have the working classes become alienated from the churches, especially from the Protestant churches, but a very large proportion of well-to-do men and women who belong to the so-called cultured class have lost touch with church work. Some retain a membership, but the church plays no vital or important part in their lives. Thousands of men and women who contribute to the support of the churches, yet allow no church duty to interfere with the work or pleasures of their daily lives. They are neither inspired nor commanded. And what is more, this indifferentism is by no means confined to the “wicked city” but prevails throughout the country in small towns and villages as well as in large cities—except possibly in a few localities where “revivals” have recently stirred the people.

This “indifferentism,” Baker argued, was killing religion in America.

Pipers, colonialist debauchery, industrial age indifferentism—thank goodness, religionists might be forgiven for thinking, they didn’t have the internet! We’d have no religion at all by now!

This is clearly the gist of a now relatively steady stream of research and commentary that has formed itself into something of an exurban legend. One more time with feeling: The Internet is Killing Religion. I’ve talked about the absurdity of this claim so many times that I hardly had the energy to bang my head on my desk more than a few times when I saw the Google alerts replaying it in my inbox this week.

A new report from Allen Downey, a computer scientist at the Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts, published in the Journal of Things Allen Downey Felt Like Publishing (by way of an open-access article database hosted by Cornell University), has once again fanned the flames of this mythology by showing a “statistical association” between religious affiliation, level of college education, and internet use. This latter phenomenon Downey claims accounts for about25% of the decline in religious affiliation.

It should be noted that Downey kind of, sort of makes clear that the statistical association between internet use and affiliation “does not prove causation,” because he knows that people like me—“Someone who has taken an introductory statistics class” (But, ha!, some of us had to take it twice! So there!)—“might insist that correlation does not imply causation.”

My statistically muddled insistence be damned, however, because Downey doubles down by arguing that “correlation does provide evidence in favor of causation, especially when we can eliminate alternative explanations.” Like pipers, for instance.

What is missed, however, in the churning of this internet-killed-religion yarn is, first of all, that changes in complex phenomena—like being human or practicing religion in institutionalized membership-based groups—cannot be reduced to one factor or even a set of factors, no matter how diverse. Because I was a humanities major (I just had that one statistics class. Twice.), I turn to the novelist Margaret Drabble to explain what I’m getting at here:

You can’t learn everything from the laboratory, that’s what he used to say. The whole is more than the sum of its parts, he told us. The whole behaves differently from the parts, and has different properties. That’s what he taught us, and he was right. It’s out of fashion to say these days, when we spend our time scrutinizing the interactions of eukaryotic microbes, but it’s true, nevertheless. It’s still true. (The Sea Lady)

More significantly, the trouble with efforts that seek some root cause for what we have come to think of as an increasing decline in religious affiliation but which, when considered across a wider historical time span, turns out to be something of a normalization in affiliation patterns, is that it gets the question backwards.

That is, instead of asking why people aren’t religiously affiliated anymore, we might ask why they ever were. This question, which brings with it questions about what constitutes “religion” and “religious affiliation,” opens enquiry into the social and political construction of religious groups and the pressures borne upon ordinary people, often violently, to attend worship rather than, say, sitting in the park with family and friends enjoying the warmth of the sun, the smell of the grass, and perhaps the otherwise unlanguagable sigh of the human heart in certain moments of connection, contentedness, and wonder as a sweet piper’s tune sings into the air. It allows us, following Talal Asad’s critique of William Cantwell Smith’s conception of “faith,” to consider what elements of human experience are deliberately and incidentally left out of whatever it is we might understand as “religion” in its institutionalized forms, and why. Who is served by the various exclusions and inclusions of institutional religion? To what ends? And who is harmed?

What we might consider, then, with much more nuance and complexity than mere data manipulation can possibly tell us, is whether the idea of religion along with the institutional and ideological structures this idea has sponsored, has begun to run its course in Western culture. At the least, we might look at they ways in which other social platforms—coffee shops, cycling groups, drop-in yoga classes, and, yes, online social networking sites—have begun to reconfigure and redistribute benefits traditionally correlated with (but not necessarily caused by) religion and to mitigate its associated harms (even if also accruing harms of its own).

No—alas, I must say it again—the internet is not killing religion. But it does seem to more and more people that, cries of its own victimization notwithstanding, religion has killed off more than its share of pipers over time. How about we look into that?

Emphasis Mine

See:http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/culture/7777/

Christian Right Has Major Role in Hastening Decline of Religion in America

Source: Alternet

Author: CJ Werleman

Of those aged 18 to 35, three in 10 say they are not affiliated with any religion, while only half are “absolutely certain” a god exists. These are at or near the highest levels of religious disaffiliation recorded for any generation in the 25 years the Pew Research Center has been polling on these topics.

As encouraging as this data is for secular humanists, the actual numbers may be significantly higher, as columnist Tina Dupuy observes. “When it comes to self-reporting religious devotion Americans cannot be trusted. We under-estimate our calories, over-state our height, under-report our weight and when it comes to piety—we lie like a prayer rug.”

Every piece of social data suggests that those who favor faith and superstition over fact-based evidence will become the minority in this country by or before the end of this century. In fact, the number of Americans who do not believe in a deity doubled in the last decade of the previous century according to both the census of 2004 and the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) of 2008, with religious non-belief in the U.S. rising from 8.2 percent in 1990 to 14.2 percent in 2001. In 2013, that number is now above 16 percent.

If current trends continue, the crossing point, whereby atheists, agnostics, and “nones” equals the number of Christians in this country, will be in the year 2062. If that gives you reason to celebrate, consider this: by the year 2130, the percentage of Americans who identify themselves as Christian will equal a little more than 1 percent. To put that into perspective, today roughly 1 percent of the population is Muslim.

The fastest growing religious faith in the United States is the group collectively labeled “Nones,” who spurn organized religion in favor of non-defined skepticism about faith. About two-thirds of Nones say they are former believers. This is hugely significant. The trend is very much that Americans raised in Christian households are shunning the religion of their parents for any number of reasons: the advancement of human understanding; greater access to information; the scandals of the Catholic Church; and the over-zealousness of the Christian Right.

Political scientists Robert Putman and David Campbell, the authors of American Grace, argue that the Christian Right’s politicization of faith in the 1990s turned younger, socially liberal Christians away from churches, even as conservatives became more zealous. “While the Republican base has become ever more committed to mixing religion and politics, the rest of the country has been moving in the opposite direction.”

Ironically, the rise of the Christian Right over the course of the past three decades may well end up being the catalyst for Christianity’s rapid decline. From the moment Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority helped elect Ronald Reagan in 1980, evangelical Christians, who account for roughly 30 percent of the U.S. population, identified their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism. Michael Spencer, a writer who describes himself as a post-evangelical reform Christian, says, “Evangelicals fell for the trap of believing in a cause more than a faith. Evangelicals will be seen increasingly as a threat to cultural progress. Public leaders will consider us bad for America, bad for education, bad for children, and bad for society.”

In light of the recent backlash against Republicans who supported the right-to-discriminate bills across 11 states, Spencer’s words seem prophetic. Republican lawmakers had expected evangelicals to mobilize in the aftermath of Arizona governor Jan Brewer’s veto of SB1062. Instead, legislatures in states like Mississippi, Kansas, and Oklahoma have largely backed down from attempts to protect “religious freedom” after a national outcry branded the proposed bills discriminatory. 

Every denomination in the U.S. is losing both affiliation and church attendance. In some ways the country is a half-generation behind the declining rate of Christianity in other western countries like the U.K., Australia, Germany, Sweden, Norway, France, and the Netherlands. In those countries, what were once churches are now art galleries, cafes and pubs. In Germany more than 50 percent say they do not believe in any god, and this number is declining rapidly. In the U.K., church attendances have halved since the 1970s.

A recent study into the beliefs of people living in 137 countries concludes that religious people will be a minority in many developed countries by 2041. Nigel Barber, an Irish bio-psychologist, based his book, Why Atheism Will Replace Religion, on the findings. His book also debunks the popular belief that religious groups will dominate atheistic ones because they collectively have more children. “Noisy as they can be, such groups are tiny minorities of the global population and they will become even more marginalized as global prosperity increases and standards of living improve,” writes Barber.

Anthropologists have often stated that religion evolved to help early man cope with anxiety and insecurity. Barber contends that supernatural belief is in decline everywhere for the fact that ordinary people enjoy a decent standard of living and are secure in their health and finances. “The market for formal religion is also being squeezed by modern substitutes such as sports and entertainment. Even Facebook is killing religion because it provides answers for peculiarly modern narcissistic anxieties for which religion has no answer,” observes Barber.

While some polls show roughly 9 in 10 Americans still maintain belief in a god or gods, the trend of religious young Americans is toward a mish-mash of varied religious beliefs. A 2010 USA Today survey revealed that 72 percent of the nation’s young people identify as “more spiritual than religious.”

With an increasingly majority of younger Americans accepting evolution as fact, Christianity for many under 35 is becoming a watered-down hybrid of eastern philosophy and biblical teachings. “The turn towards being ‘spiritual but not religious’ points at the decreasing observation of doctrine and strict rules and a broader relationship to sentiment and ‘Jesus and me’ on the one hand alongside the rise of yoga, Buddhism, Hinduism and a blend or smorgasbord of eastern practices with the idea of being loosely/broadly spiritual—yet not in any specific context or foundation of the Trinity, Seven Deadly Sins, Karma, Nirvana or any of the pillars or branches of belief,” writes Alan Miller, moderator of a “spiritual but not religious” event.

Young people are turning away from the church and from basic Christian beliefs. While a number of non-denominational mega-churches continue to thrive, their teachings are less dogma and more self-help. Eventually, Christianity-Lite will be replaced with Spirituality-Full Strength.

Certainly, pro-secular groups have been largely successful in removing Jesus from the public square, workplace and classroom.

All of which leaves only one self-evident conclusion: that despite the Christian Right’s well-funded and well-organized effort to transform America’s secular state into a tyrannical theocracy, Christianity will inevitably mirror the days of its origins i.e. something that is only whispered about in secretly guarded places. And that may happen sooner than you think.

Emphasis Mine

See:

Neil deGrasse Tyson Chastises Media For Giving ‘Flat Earthers’ Equal Time in the Climate Change Debate

photons

photons

Source: AlterNet

Author: Cliff Weathers

“Neil deGrasse Tyson, the star of Fox Networks’ Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, says its time to stop giving equal time to science deniers and chastised the media for creating a false equivalence in its coverage of scientific issues.

Tyson, who is also the director of the Natural History Museum’s Hayden Planetarium, appeared on CNN’s Reliable Sources program on Sunday, where he talked about the hypocrisy of people dismissing scientific theory while simultaneously embracing the fruits of scientific discovery “that we so take for granted today.”

Reliable Sources Anchor Brian Stelter inquired if Tyson thought the media had a responsibility in portraying science correctly, particularly when discussing controversial issues such as climate change. Tyson replied that the media was giving “equal time to the flat-earthers.”

“The media has to sort of come out of this ethos that I think was in principle a good one, but it doesn’t really apply in science,” Tyson said. “The ethos was, whatever story you give, you have to give the opposing view. And then you can be viewed as balanced.”

“Science is not there for you to cherry pick,” said Tyson. “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it. Alright? I guess you can decide whether or not to believe in it, but that doesn’t change the reality of an emergent scientific truth.”

From 2006 to 2011, Tyson hosted the educational science television show NOVA ScienceNow on PBS and has been a frequent guest on The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Real Time with Bill Maher, and Jeopardy! Tyson said he hopes his new television show, which premiered yesterday to high ratings and rave reviews, can help Americans learn how to discern science from politics, and help make people better stewards of the Earth.

Cosmos is a follow-up to the 1980 television series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, presented by the late astronomer Carl Sagan. The executive producers are Family Guy Creator Seth MacFarlane and Ann Druyan, Sagan’s widow. It premiered simultaneously in the across ten Fox Networks channels. According to Fox Networks, this is the first time that a television show premiered in a global simulcast across their network of channels.

Emphasis Mine

See: http://www.alternet.org/environment/neil-degrasse-tyson-chastises-media-giving-flat-earthers-equal-time?akid=11586.123424.gMkh2F&rd=1&src=newsletter968911&t=18

An Abbreviated Guide to 5 Arguments Against Contraceptive Coverage in Obamacare

Source: Religious Dispatch

Author: Post by SARAH POSNER

Over 50 friend-of-the court briefs have been filed in favor of the position of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, as the Supreme Court considers whether the religious exercise of these companies and their owners is infringed by the contraceptive coverage requirement in the Affordable Care Act. Twenty-two briefs have been filed supporting the government’s position, although numbers certainly should not be taken as an indicator of the strength of either argument or a predictor of the ultimate outcome.

  • A law or regulation violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), if it imposes a “substantial burden” on a person’s religious exercise, unless it furthers a compelling government interest, or if there is a less restrictive way of furthering that interest. In bothHobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, the plaintiffs do not object to providing coverage for all contraception, but rather just four types, including the emergency contraceptives ella and Plan B, as well as IUDs, which they insist can act as abortifacients, despite medical evidence to the contrary.Many of the briefs say much more about the politics of abortion, reproductive rights, and religion than they do the finer points of the law — although many do address questions such as whether a corporation can have a religious conscience protected by the law, and whether the contraception coverage requirement burdens that religious exercise. But many of them address political, scientific (or, more accurately, pseudo-scientific), and theological questions that highlight how the politics of these cases have played out in the court of public opinion, and reflect how many advocacy groups and pundits will react to the ruling, however the Court decides the case.In other words, however the Court decides Hobby Lobby, these same arguments will continue to play out in the context of free exercise and establishment law cases, in public health policy, as well as in the drafting of legislation aimed at, for example, expanding the ability of business owners to discriminate against LGBT people, using religious freedom as an excuse, or restricting access to reproductive health care. They represent the heart of the religious conservative worldview on religion in public life.1. The Upside-Down Health Argument.

    The Breast Cancer Prevention Institute and other related groups have filed a brief charging that contraceptives are actually detrimental to womens’ health, and that the Institutes of Medicine, the group on whose recommendations the rule is based, gets the science all wrong:

    the Government selectively ignored and wholly disregarded a large body of relevant, widely available, scientifically sound, scholarly research. The research surveyed for this Court shows that some of the contraceptive drugs have been classified as carcinogens, and that each of the contraceptive drugs and devices have been shown to significantly increase risks of other serious health conditions, including HIV, stroke and heart attack.

    Just as with claims that abortion causes breast cancer, that simply isn’t true. As the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance notes in its brief supporting the government’s position, “the contraceptive-coverage provision takes an important step forward toward increasing access to treatments that reduce the risk of ovarian and other deadly gynecologic cancers, but the position of the companies and shareholders challenging that provision jeopardizes that access for thousands of women nationwide.”

    Dr. Nancy Stanwood, board chair of Physicians for Reproductive Health, said that hormonal contraceptives such as the pill, the patch, and the ring, “actually decrease the risk of cancers,” including ovarian, uterine, and colon cancers, and “they do not increase the risk of breast cancer.” The scientific community “is very clear on that, and the medical community is very united in that understanding,” she said. She added that IUDs, one of the devices challenged by Hobby Lobby, decrease the risk of uterine cancer.

    Although there has been some suggestion that Depo-Provera might increase the risk of contracting HIV, she said, the World Health Organization did not recommend against Depo-Provera’s use, but rather emphasized the need to combine it with a condom, the only contraceptive method also used for HIV prevention.

    As for heart attack and stroke, Stanwood added, that risk is slightly increased using hormonal methods that contain estrogen, but that the “actual risk is very small,” and smaller than the risk when pregnant. It is “important to put them in context of how high is the risk, and the risk compared to what?” said Stanwood. “It just sounds unfortunate that someone decided to write an amicus brief that contains things that were not in context and were somewhat inflammatory and not based on modern science.”

    2. What “gender inequality?” The mandate is sexist!

    The brief written by the Life Legal Defense Foundation, and joined by the Beverly LaHaye Institute of Concerned Women for America takes issue with the government’s claim that its compelling interest in establishing the contraception coverage requirement is to promote women’s health and gender equity. The biggest headscratcher in their brief is the claim that there is no dichotomy between an intended and unintended pregnancy, and that the government’s goal of preventing unintended pregnancies is therefore somehow misguided. “Some women welcome ‘unintended’ pregnancies, and some ‘intended’ pregnancies end in abortion due to complications or a change in a woman’s social situation,” they write. That’s true, of course, but doesn’t therefore prove that there’s no such thing as an unintended versus intended pregnancy. Ask any woman.

    The brief questions whether getting contraceptives for free will actually result in women . . . using contraceptives: “The Government hypothesizes that women are deterred from obtaining contraceptives because of their cost, and that therefore the Mandate will increase utilization of contraceptives.”

    As the Guttmacher Institute notes in its brief, though, “access to the range of contraceptive methods without cost sharing can dramatically reduce the rate of unintended pregnancy, with profound consequences for women and society.” Also, lest this get lost in the fog of distorted data, “reducing the rate of unintended pregnancy is by far the most widely accepted and effective means of reducing the need for and incidence of abortion.

    LLDF adds the mandate doesn’t act to decrease gender inequality (a term placed in scare quotes in the brief) but actually increases inequality by putting women at risk for the alleged health risks of contraceptives (see item 1, above).

    Religion, LLDF argues, is not the only issue in the case. The mandate, said Dana Cody, LLDF’s president, said in a statement, is “unbelievably irresponsible and sexist.”

    3. Strange bedfellows: Democrats for Life

    While the religious (and mostly Republican) opposition to the contraception mandate has been marshalled as evidence of a Republican war on women in Democratic talking points, the organization Democrats for Life — once thought to be the key to Democratic gains, now representing a nearly extinct breed in Congress — positions itself on Hobby Lobby’s side. In its brief, on which it is joined by former Rep. Bart Stupak, who drew the ire of pro-choice groups during the debate over the ACA, Democrats for Life specifically takes on Hobby Lobby’s opposition to emergency contraception:

    Although the government has made statements that terminating a fertilized embryo before it implants in the uterus is not an abortion, the relevant matter for the claim of conscience under RFRA and the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause is plaintiffs’ belief that a distinct human life begins at fertilization. It is no salve to plaintiffs’ conscience to be told that the government defines abortion differently. Furthermore, plaintiffs have a colorable cause for concern that the drugs and devices to which they object may act to terminate embryos. And even applying the government’s definition, there is evidence that the “emergency contraceptive” Ella may terminate embryos after implantation.

    Once it has maintained that ella is an abortifacient (which it isn’t), DFL then makes the leap that because the conscience objections of anti-abortion doctors, hospitals, and others are protected under laws granting them the right to refuse service, that Hobby Lobby should also have its objection to “abortifacients” recognized. “This case implicates the tradition of protecting conscientious objections to abortion, in that plaintiffs object to devices and drugs that may act to terminate a newly fertilized embryo,” Democrats for Life argues, and since “these objectors believe that a distinct life begins at conception, it is no salve to their conscience to be told that the government defines abortion differently.”

    Although many observers have pointed to courts’ unwillingness to question the authenticity of a RFRA plaintiff’s “sincerely held religious belief,” Mary Briscoe, Chief Judge the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, took a different view in her dissenting opinion in Hobby Lobby.The connection, she wrote, “is not one of religious belief, but rather of purported scientific fact, i.e., how the challenged contraceptives operate to prevent pregnancy. Consequently, rather than being off limits to examination, plaintiffs’ allegations regarding the abortion-causing potential of the challenged drugs are subject not only to examination but evidentiary proof. In short, they must be proven by plaintiffs on the basis of sufficient evidence.”

    4. Be careful what services you ask your plumber to do

    A brief signed by the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, the Coalition of African American Pastors, the Manhattan Declaration, Instep International, and 38 pastors and theologians, including Rick Warren, argues:

    The Christian doctrine of vocation teaches that all work—whether overtly sacred or ostensibly secular—is spiritual activity, that Christians are called by God to specific occupations and businesses, and that Christians must conduct themselves in their vocations in accordance with their Christian beliefs. A Christian may not simply check his faith at the workplace door. Accordingly, Christian business owners, as a matter of scriptural requirement, are obligated to conduct their business as an expression of their faith and in accordance with the dictates of faith and conscience.

    “This case throws into sharp relief the problems that can arise when the Christian doctrine of work is not properly understood,” Hugh Whelchel, the executive director of the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics, who signed the brief, said in a statement. “We as Christians cannot compartmentalize our faith from the work we do every day, whether we’re a pastor, a plumber, or business leader. The Bible teaches that all of life is integrated and matters to God. This fundamental doctrine needs to be preached more often in our churches as well as understood in our courts.”

    Daniel Akin, Southeastern’s president, tellsReligion News Services’ Jonathan Merritt:

    “I am convinced this is a critical issue that if Hobby Lobby loses, a door is open for further infringements on religious liberty and freedom of conscience,” Akin said. “That this is even on the table signals a new day, and not a better one, in matters of religious liberty and matters of faith.

    Ravi Zacharias, told Merritt, “Sadly, over the years, the Christian faith has been targeted by a rabid secularization and evicted from any or all public expression. The encroachment upon our civil liberties is frightening and we ought to take a stand.”

    This argument obviously has wide-ranging implications for church-state separation law.

    5. The “sex and marriage marketplace” as a war on women

    As Merritt notes, all 38 signers of the theologians’ brief were men. Not to worry! The group Women Speak for Themselves, which formed in opposition to the contraception coverage provision, has filed a brief. Written by lawyer Helen Alvaré, who has said that the availability of contraception has led to the “immiseration of women,” the brief explains the group’s opposition to the regulation as “because the Mandate threatens religious freedom and proposes a reductionist and harmful understanding of women’s freedom.”

    Alvaré reprises the “immiseration” theme in the brief, arguing that “even if contraceptives have the indirect beneficial effects HHS identifies, HHS does not indicate the size of these benefits, or whether they outweigh the adverse health outcomes caused by some contraceptives, or the adverse effects of the immiseration of women in a sex and marriage marketplace shaped by contraception.”

Emphasis Mine

see: http://www.religiondispatches.org/dispatches/sarahposner/7542/