Unchristian christian right

Source: AlterNet

Author: Amanda Marcotte

“Christianity is a faith that professes to defend the meek and the humble, but many Christians—at least of the more fundamentalist stripe—tend to be more interested in propping up unjust systems and using religion as a cudgel to bully the weak. Obviously, there are plenty of Christians who aren’t massive hypocrites, but when it comes to using religion as a weapon to push hard-right ideology, deeply un-Christian behavior runs rampant. Here’s a few examples of some of the more egregious recent sins of those who claim to be holier than thou.

1) Attempted murder. Tim Lambesis, the lead singer of the Christian metal band As I Lay Dying, was recently arrested in California for trying to hire a hit man—who turned out to be an undercover police officer—to murder his estranged wife. Lambesis and his wife were deeply invested in evangelical Christian culture, even embracing the enthusiasm for overseas adoption that has spread in recent years in the community by adopting three children from Ethiopia.

Lambesis’ alleged crime was the weak choice of just one man, of course, but the rush of online support he got after his arrest killed any hope that followers of Christian rock are made better people for their fandom. Lambesis fans flooded Twitter with such heartwarming sentiments about Lambesis’ wife such as, “Bitch must be crazy/annoying” and “His wife was probably a cunt anyway.” One even suggested, “Praying never trumps taking action.”

2) Enthusiastic support for bullying. The Christian right group Focus on the Family is so supportive of public school students’ “right” to gay-bash that they’ve started a campaign to combat anti-bullying programs called True Tolerance.People for the American Way put together a report on what amounts to a Christian pro-bullying campaign. Christian right activists attack anti-bullying initiatives in schools by claiming they amount to “indoctrination” of students into the “homosexual lifestyle,” even though the programs in question are simply telling kids not to beat up or tease other kids for perceived sexual non-conformity. Focus on the Family pretends it isn’t openly fighting for the protection of gay-bashers by denying that anti-gay bullying is a real problem, but that excuse fools no one who has ever been or even known a teenager.

3) Starving the poor. The biblical Jesus Christ went around helping the poor and the sick and famously fed people with loaves and fishes. His modern-day conservative followers prefer to snatch food from the mouths of the hungry. Tennessee Republican congressman Stephen Fincher showed what lengths conservative Christians will go to ignore their savior’s obvious teachings regarding charity and poverty, when he deliberately quoted, out of context, a Bible verse that says, “Anyone unwilling to work should not eat,” to defend cuts to SNAP, the federal food assistance program.

Not only was the quote out of context—it’s clear that Jesus was all for feeding the poor and alleviating their suffering—it was also a deeply dishonest characterization of people who use food stamps. For one thing, when you have 8% unemployment, it’s just asinine to suggest the problem is that people don’t want to work. But beyond that, research shows that over 90% of welfare benefits go to people who currently have a job or are elderly and disabled and can’t work. In other words, even by the measure of the verse Fincher quoted, the people he would deny food to are entitled to it, having met the basic standard of being willing to work.

4) Demanding the breakup of loving families for ideological reasons. The Christian right loves to go on and on about the importance of family, but what they don’t often admit is they are only talking about their families. The Christian right is forever trying to take away the right to parent from gay people by interfering with gay adoptionsbanning gay couples from using reproductive technologies, and in the case of religious right talk show host Bryan Fisher,encouraging his audience to kidnap children of gay parents and give them to straight people.

This obsession with declaring loving parents unfit because they disagree about religion and politics has even grown beyond this. Writing for the Christian publication Charisma, Republican strategist Raynard Jackson demanded that MSNBC commentator Krystal Ball lose custody of her daughter. Ball isn’t gay, but she has taught her daughter that being gay is okay, which Jackson felt was enough to break up Ball’s family.

5) Denying people basic bodily functions as punishment for non-conformity. The Delaware legislature is quickly advancing a bill that would protect the rights of transgender people to live as the gender they identify with instead of the one they were assigned at birth. Focus on the Family is going nuts, and one main reason is its hostility to transgender people using public restrooms. It’s even gone so far as to suggest that transgender women are sexual predators who just want access to women’s rooms in order to rape cisgender women.

In reality, transgender people want to use public restrooms for the same reason the rest of us do: biological necessity. As Zack Ford of Think Progress notes, this isn’t just a medical, but also a safety issue as well. Making people who present as male use the women’s bathroom, for instance, could be perceived as a threat that could result in fearful or even violent confrontations that are wholly unnecessary. Once again, Focus on the Family’s willingness to let the threat of violence back up its opposition to gender non-conformity runs in strong opposition to the non-violence Christians are supposed to espouse.

6) False testimony. The Christian right loves championing the Ten Commandments and demanding they be hung in every public space imaginable. It’s a weird fetish, since they tend to honor one in particular—“Thou shalt not bear false witness”—more in the breach than in the observance. Christian right activists lie about evolution, women’s bodies, and gay people. One recent and notable example is Mark Regnerus, a right-wing Christian sociologist who has become famous for his tendency to publish intellectually dishonest attacks on gay people.

Regnerus started his spate of false testimony with a fundamentally dishonest study purporting to show that gay parents were worse for children than straight parents. The study was quickly denounced as “bullshit” by a member of the editorial board of the very journal that published it, in no small part because Regnerus only included straight parents from intact marriages while his gay sample drew largely from divorced people and people who had multiple relationships while raising their children. (Some of them didn’t even identify as gay!)

Despite being publicly exposed for giving false testimony, Regnerus is doubling down, making nit-picky and fundamentally dishonest criticisms of studies that show happy gay couples do as well as happy straight couples in the child-rearing game. Apparently, he missed the part of his training as a sociologist where they teach you to compare apples to apples, and resents anyone who suggests that’s an important part of a properly controlled study.

7) Exploiting sick people. The Christian Post reports that Christine Daniel, a former doctor and ordained Pentecostal minister, was sentenced to 14 years in prison and told to pay over $1.2 million in damages to people she conned into believing that her herbal supplements would cure them of cancer. Daniel hawked her fake cancer cure on Trinity Broadcasting Network’s “Praise the Lord” program, and was found to have done things like telling a patient who still had full-blown breast cancer that she was cured. Authorities claim that at least one patient of Daniel’s would have lived if she had gotten proper medical treatment instead of relying on Daniel’s snake oil.

8) Using your position as a religious authority to rape minors. Sexually exploiting minors is such commonplace behavior in churches that Dan Savage of theStranger had to limit his blogging about it to just youth pastors, lest he get overwhelmed trying to note every sex crime committed by a minister, priest, deacon, or any person with authority in a Christian church. Nowadays, having a person in authority arrested for a sex crime is as fundamental a part of being a right-wing Christian church as having anti-abortion pamphlets in the entrance hall to the sanctuary.

Emphasis Mine

see: http://www.alternet.org/belief/christian-right?akid=10567.123424.9Qch-L&rd=1&src=newsletter854356&t=9

 

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Religious Experiences Shrink Part of the Brain

From Scientific American, By Andrew Newberg  | May 31, 2011 |

A study links life-changing religious experiences, like being born again, with atrophy in the hippocampus…

The article, “Religious factors and hippocampal atrophy in late life,” by Amy Owen and colleagues at Duke University represents an important advance in our growing understanding of the relationship between the brain and religion. The study, published March 30 in PLoS One, showed greater atrophy in the hippocampus in individuals who identify with specific religious groups as well as those with no religious affiliation. It is a surprising result, given that many prior studies have shown religion to have potentially beneficial effects on brain function, anxiety, and depression.

A number of studies have evaluated the acute effects of religious practices, such as meditation and prayer, on the human brain. A smaller number of studies have evaluated the longer term effects of religion on the brain. Such studies, like the present one, have focused on differences in brain volume or brain function in those people heavily engaged in meditation or spiritual practices compared to those who are not. And an even fewer number of studies have explored the longitudinal effects of doing meditation or spiritual practices by evaluating subjects at two different time points.

In this study, Owen et al. used MRI to measure the volume of the hippocampus, a central structure of the limbic system that is involved in emotion as well as in memory formation. They evaluated the MRIs of 268 men and women aged 58 and over, who were originally recruited for the NeuroCognitive Outcomes of Depression in the Elderly study, but who also answered several questions regarding their religious beliefs and affiliation. The study by Owen et al. is unique in that it focuses specifically on religious individuals compared to non-religious individuals. This study also broke down these individuals into those who are born again or who have had life-changing religious experiences.

The results showed significantly greater hippocampal atrophy in individuals reporting a life-changing religious experience. In addition, they found significantly greater hippocampal atrophy among born-again Protestants, Catholics, and those with no religious affiliation, compared with Protestants not identifying as born-again.

The authors offer the hypothesis that the greater hippocampal atrophy in selected religious groups might be related to stress. They argue that some individuals in the religious minority, or those who struggle with their beliefs, experience higher levels of stress. This causes a release of stress hormones that are known to depress the volume of the hippocampus over time. This might also explain the fact that both non-religious as well as some religious individuals have smaller hippocampal volumes.

This is an interesting hypothesis. Many studies have shown positive effects of religion and spirituality on mental health, but there are also plenty of examples of negative impacts. There is evidence that members of religious groups who are persecuted or in the minority might have markedly greater stress and anxiety as they try to navigate their own society. Other times, a person might perceive God to be punishing them and therefore have significant stress in the face of their religious struggle. Others experience religious struggle because of conflicting ideas with their religious tradition or their family. Even very positive, life-changing experiences might be difficult to incorporate into the individual’s prevailing religious belief system and this can also lead to stress and anxiety. Perceived religious transgressions can cause emotional and psychological anguish. This “religious” and “spiritual pain” can be difficult to distinguish from pure physical pain. And all of these phenomena can have potentially negative effects on the brain.

Thus, Owen and her colleagues certainly pose a plausible hypothesis. They also cite some of the limitations of their findings, such as the small sample size. More importantly, the causal relationship between brain findings and religion is difficult to clearly establish. Is it possible, for example, that those people with smaller hippocampal volumes are more likely to have specific religious attributes, drawing the causal arrow in the other direction? Further, it might be that the factors leading up to the life-changing events are important and not just the experience itself. Since brain atrophy reflects everything that happens to a person up to that point, one cannot definitively conclude that the most intense experience was in fact the thing that resulted in brain atrophy. So there are many potential factors that could lead to the reported results. (It is also somewhat problematic that stress itself did not correlate with hippocampal volumes since this was one of the potential hypotheses proposed by the authors and thus, appears to undercut the conclusions.) One might ask whether it is possible that people who are more religious suffer greater inherent stress, but that their religion actually helps to protect them somewhat. Religion is frequently cited as an important coping mechanism for dealing with stress.

This new study is intriguing and important. It makes us think more about the complexity of the relationship between religion and the brain. This field of scholarship, referred to as neurotheology, can greatly advance our understanding of religion, spirituality, and the brain. Continued studies of both the acute and chronic effects of religion on the brain will be highly valuable. For now, we can be certain that religion affects the brain–we just are not certain how.

Are you a scientist? And have you recently read a peer-reviewed paper that you would like to write about? Please send suggestions to Mind Matters editor Gareth Cook, a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist at the Boston Globe. He can be reached at garethideas AT gmail.com or Twitter  @garethideas.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)

Andrew Newberg, M.D. is the Director of Research of the Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. He is a Professor of Emergency Medicine and Radiology. He has also published, Principles of Neurotheology (Ashgate) and How God Changes Your Brain (Ballantine).

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=religious-experiences-shrink-part-of-brain&WT.mc_id=SA_CAT_MB_20110601

I Was a Right-Wing Evangelical Pastor — Until I Saw the Light

The End of Our World may be near, and this time there will be rapture only for those few who have not been raped by those wealthy enough to have power.

While the ‘tea party’ movement may have begun as a haven for the information challenged, it has – joining ranks with the Religious Right – become a vehicle for those who plan to use their wealth to take our country back to the days of oppressed labor, disenfranchised voters, and government of the wealthy, by the wealthy, and for the wealthy.
The struggle to keep and grow our freedoms and conditions of life has been breached on two fronts: by a new generation of right wing politicians, and by a refreshed clan of culture warriors from the religious right.  By involving the dupes and pawns of the latter with the dupes and pawns of the Tea party, the puppet masters have gathered a substantial army of activists.  We must be vigilant and pro-active!

From Alternet

Church & State Magazine / By Jason Childs
The fundamentalist political movement is the beginning of a cultural revolution that will take our nation to a very dark place.
“I was a Liberty University-trained evangelical pastor. I was sure that I was right and that every other person not of my faith was going to burn in hell forever. I was taught that we as Christians should take this nation back, only to find out later that we never had it to beginwith.After five years of teaching this homophobic, divisive message that has hurt so many millions of people in our world, I went through a divorce. The Southern Baptist Convention will not let you remain in the ministry after a divorce, so I had to think of something else to do with my life. After several years of selling cars, I decided to become a truck driver –; you know, see America and all that jazz.Well, I did see America, and the country I saw was very different from the one I was taught about by Jerry Falwell and my mentors at Florida Bible College. What I found was that this nation is filled with people from all walks of life, and from every different culture. I met thousands of people, from the beautiful forests of Washington state to the bayous of Louisiana. I found that these folks are not the wicked sinnersI was taught about. They are just good-hearted Americans from all faiths and cultural backgrounds, trying to pay their bills, care for their families and have a few good times with their friends and lovers.I began to notice a change in me as well. I started reading a lot of books that were not on the seminary reading list and listening to NPR as I was driving 10 hours a day. It was a great second education. I decided to return to Alabama and work to help all of the people of my great state, and to protect them from the oppression I was once a part of propagating.I want you to know that the fundamentalist political movement is the beginning of a cultural revolution that will take our nation to a very dark place. You have to understand that this has been methodically planned and is being carried out with the utmost vigilance. In accordance with their worldview, my old friends do not in the least care about what you think. They are against democracy, and they are seeking to end the rule of the majorityin our great country.They truly believe that if you have not been“saved,” you are living under a curse and are incapable of knowing what is best and that because of this you should be ruled over. You should also know they do not believe that even centuries-old Christian communities (Catholics, Anglicans, Greek Orthodox, etc.) are “saved,” only those who think like they do.You might be thinking that a minority fundamentalist group of zealots can’t really take over the direction of a society. Just look at Iran, or the countless other places where people have allowed this to happen. Are you all really going to sit back and watch this happen? They will begin to attack all sources of accurate information. Public radio was first, next will be museums and then science books. Just listen to them argue against the scientific facts about the peril our planet is facing, because it does not fit in with their ideas. They represent a clear and present danger to our union.

If I told you that the Amish in Pennsylvania were running for public office in record numbers with the intention of outlawing electricity and forcing others to act, dress and think like them, you would not believe it. Well, that is exactly what is happening in America, only it is not the Amish, it is the fundamentalists. It is not outlawing electricity, it’s placing limits on being a human with free will. Enjoying art and music, loving the person of your choice, dancing, –; the things that fundamentalists call “sins” –; are a big part of what it means to be a human.

The good news is that we are witnessing the beginning of a new era in human existence. While we watch the revolutions across the Middle East, we are seeing a great truth: that people have within them the natural desire to be free. It is so sad that as the people of the world are fighting for freedom, we here in the United States are going in the opposite direction. The far right, under the control of fundamentalists, is declaring an all-out war on human progress.

The consequences of not acting are dire. We are not just fighting for ourselves. We are struggling to protect the future generations of Americans who will suffer from these ruthless actions of the far right. We are speaking out against the measures being taken against those in our community who can least afford to be marginalized.

Jason Childs is the founder and director of the Center for Progress in Alabama, a progressive public policy research and advocacy organization.

Emphasis Mine.

see:http://www.alternet.org/story/151034/i_was_a_right-wing_evangelical_pastor_–_until_i_saw_the_light?akid=6999.123424.p76NkD&rd=1&t=18

Change in Christianty’s Direction?

E.J. Dionne reports in Truthdig:”Are we witnessing this Easter season the decline of Christianity in America, or is this rather a moment of reform and renewal, a time when the deterioration that has been under way is arrested?

The death and resurrection of religion, if not of Jesus Christ, has been a favorite subject of newsmagazines ever since Time, on April 8, 1966, momentously asked: “Is God Dead?” This Easter week, Newsweek doesn’t pretend to know God’s state, but its cover offers a stark declarative statement positing “The Decline and Fall of Christian America.”

The article by Jon Meacham, a thoroughly knowledgeable student of these issues, offers some POWERFUL  data, notably a near DOUBLING since 1990 of the number of Americans who claim NO religious affiliation, from 8 percent to 15 percent. Meacham also points to a 10-point DROP in the share of Americans who self-identify as Christian, from 86 percent to 76 percent. here has been a long, steady GROWTH in the proportion of Americans whom pollster Andrew Kohut calls “the seculars,” those DISCONNECTED from religious institutions who may or may not describe themselves as atheists. Yet the United States still runs well BEHIND Western Europe in moving in this secular direction.

Immigration has also made us far MORE diverse religiously, which will inevitably REDUCE the size of the country’s Christian majority. Indeed, immigration long ago reduced the dominance of Protestantism, with Roman Catholics NOW constituting the nation’s largest single religious group…  In fact, the United States has gone through many periods in which religious enthusiasm and affiliation waned, only to be renewed… But, yes, something is CHANGING, and that change will strengthen rather than weaken the Christian church over the long run. For nearly a quarter-century, Christianity in the United States has been DEFINED to a large degree by the voices and the ideas of a VERY conservative strain of evangelical Christianity that, over time, became highly politicized and closely allied with a SINGLE political party.

These conservative Christians had as much right as any other group to bring their core concerns to politics. But in doing so, they NARROWED the Christian message. They sometimes BECAME APOLOGISTS for politicians whose behavior and attitudes could NOT easily be called Christian …Religion is ÄLWAYS corrupted when it gets too CLOSE to political power. It’s possible to WIN a precinct caucus and LOSE your soul, to mistake political victory for salvation itself.     It is THIS approach to Christianity that is decidedly in decline…

(EMPHASIS MINE)

see: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20090412_christianitys_resurrection_from_conservative_decline/