Republican Insider Explains How Religion Destroyed the GOP

Source:Alternet

Author: Mike Lofgren / Viking Press

Link:https://www.alternet.org/republican-insider-explains-how-religion-destroyed-gop?src=newsletter109undamentalism and how the GOP devolved into anti-intellectual nuts. 

Emphasis Mine.

Having observed politics up close and personal for most of my adult lifetime, I have come to the conclusion that the rise of politicized religious fundamentalism may have been the key ingredient in the transformation of the Republican Party. Politicized religion provides a substrate of beliefs that rationalizes—at least in the minds of its followers—all three of the GOP’s main tenets: wealth worship, war worship, and the permanent culture war.

The following exceprt is reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of the Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from “The Party Is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless and the Middle Class Got Shafted,” by Mike Lofgren. Copyright © 2012 by Mike Lofgren.

Religious cranks ceased to be a minor public nuisance in this country beginning in the 1970s and grew into a major element of the Republican rank and file. Pat Robertson’s strong showing in the 1988 Iowa presidential caucus signaled the gradual merger of politics and religion in the party. Unfortunately, at the time I mostly underestimated the implications of what I was seeing. It did strike me as oddly humorous that a fundamentalist staff member in my congressional office was going to take time off to convert the heathen in Greece, a country that had been overwhelmingly Christian for almost two thousand years. I recall another point, in the early 1990s, when a different fundamentalist GOP staffer said that dinosaur fossils were a hoax. As a mere legislative mechanic toiling away in what I held to be a civil rather than ecclesiastical calling, I did not yet see that ideological impulses far different from mine were poised to capture the party of Lincoln.

The results of this takeover are all around us: If the American people poll more like Iranians or Nigerians than Europeans or Canadians on questions of evolution, scriptural inerrancy, the presence of angels and demons, and so forth, it is due to the rise of the religious right, its insertion into the public sphere by the Republican Party, and the consequent normalizing of formerly reactionary beliefs. All around us now is a prevailing anti-intellectualism and hostility to science. Politicized religion is the sheet anchor of the dreary forty-year-old culture wars.

The Constitution notwithstanding, there is now a de facto religious test for the presidency: Major candidates are encouraged (or coerced) to share their feelings about their faith in a revelatory speech, or a televangelist like Rick Warren will dragoon the candidates (as he did with Obama and McCain in 2008) to debate the finer points of Christology, offering himself as the final arbiter. Half a century after John F. Kennedy put to rest the question of whether a candidate of a minority denomination could be president, the Republican Party has reignited the kinds of seventeenth-century religious controversies that advanced democracies are supposed to have outgrown. And some in the media seem to have internalized the GOP’s premise that the religion of a candidate is a matter for public debate.

Throughout the 2012 Republican presidential campaign, Mitt Romney was dogged with questions about his religion. The spark was a hitherto obscure fundamentalist preacher from Texas, Robert Jeffress, who attacked Romney’s Mormonism by doubting whether he could really be considered a Christian. The media promptly set aside the issues that should have been paramount— Romney’s views on economic and foreign policy—in order to spend a week giving respectful consideration to an attention-grabbing rabble-rouser. They then proceeded to pester the other candidates with the loaded question of whether they thought Romney was a Christian. CNN’s Candy Crowley was particularly egregious in this respect, pressing Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann for a response and becoming indignant when they refused to answer. The question did not deserve an answer, because Crowley had set it up to legitimate a false premise: that Romney’s religious belief was a legitimate issue of public debate. This is a perfect example of how the media reinforce an informal but increasingly binding religious test for public office that the Constitution formally bans. Like the British constitution, the test is no less powerful for being unwritten.

The religious right’s professed insistence upon “family values” might appear at first blush to be at odds with the anything but saintly personal behavior of many of its leading proponents. Some of this may be due to the general inability of human beings to reflect on conflicting information: I have never ceased to be amazed at how facts manage to bounce off people’s consciousness like pebbles off armor plate. But there is another, uniquely religious aspect that also comes into play: the predilection of fundamentalist denominations to believe in practice, even if not entirely in theory, in the doctrine of “cheap grace,” a derisive term coined by the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer .. By that he meant the inclination of some religious adherents to believe that once they had been “saved,” not only would all past sins be wiped away, but future ones, too—so one could pretty much behave as before.  Cheap grace is a divine get- out-of-jail-free card. Hence the tendency of the religious base of the Republican Party to cut some slack for the peccadilloes of candidates who claim to have been washed in the blood of the Lamb and reborn to a new and more Christian life. The religious right is willing to overlook a politician’s individual foibles, no matter how poor an example he or she may make, if they publicly identify with fundamentalist values. In 2011 the Family Research Council, the fundamentalist lobbying organization, gave Representative Joe Walsh of Illinois an award for “unwavering support of the family.” Representative Walsh’s ex-wife might beg to differ, as she claims he owes her over one hundred thousand dollars in unpaid child support, a charge he denies.

Of course, the proper rituals must be observed before an erring politician can obtain absolution. In November 2011, at a forum sponsored by religious conservatives in Iowa, all of the GOP presidential candidates struck the expected notes of contrition and humility as they laid bare their souls before the assembled congregation (the event was held in a church). Most of them, including Cain, who was then still riding high, choked up when discussing some bleak midnight of their lives (he chose not to address the fresh sexual harassment charges against him, which surely would have qualified as a trying personal experience preying on his mind). Even the old reprobate Gingrich misted up over some contrived misdeed intended to distract attention from his well-known adventures in serial matrimony.

All of these gloomy obsequies of repentance having been observed, Gingrich gave a stirring example of why he is hands-down the best extemporaneous demagogue in contemporary America. Having purged his soul of all guilty transgressions, he turned his attention to the far graver sins bedeviling the American nation.
If we look at history from the mid-1960s, we’ve gone from a request for toleration to an imposition of intolerance. We’ve gone from a request to understand others to a determination to close down those who hold traditional values. I think that we need to be very aggressive and very direct. The degree to which the left is prepared to impose intolerance and to drive out of existence traditional religion is a mortal threat to our civilization and deserves to be taken head-on and described as what it is, which is the use of government to repress the American people against their own values.

That is as good an example as any of cheap grace as practiced by seasoned statesmen like Gingrich—a bid for redemption turned on its head to provide a forum for one of the Republican Party’s favorite pastimes: taking opportunistic swipes at the dreaded liberal bogeyman. How quickly one forgets one’s own moral lapses when one can consider the manifold harms inflicted on our nation by godless leftists!

– – – – – – – – – –

Some liberal writers have opined that the socioeconomic gulf separating the business wing of the GOP and the religious right make it an unstable coalition that could crack. I am not so sure. There is no basic disagreement on which direction the two factions want to take the country, merely how far it should go. The plutocrats would drag us back to the Gilded Age; the theocrats to the Salem witch trials. If anything, the two groups are increasingly beginning to resemble each other. Many televangelists have espoused what has come to be known as the prosperity gospel—the health-and- wealth/name-it-and-claim-it gospel of economic entitlement. If you are wealthy, it is a sign of God’s favor. If not, too bad! This rationale may explain why some poor voters will defend the prerogatives of billionaires. In any case, at the beginning of the 2012 presidential cycle, those consummate plutocrats the Koch brothers pumped money into Bachmann’s campaign, so one should probably not make too much of a potential plutocrat-theocrat split.

Most of the religious enthusiasts I observed during my tenure on the Hill seemed to have little reluctance to mix God and Mammon. Rick Santorum did not blink at legislative schemes to pay off his campaign contributors: In 2005 he introduced a bill to forbid the National Weather Service from providing weather forecasts for free that commercial forecasters—like AccuWeather, a Pennsylvania- based company which had contributed to his campaign—wanted to charge for. Tom DeLay’s purported concern about the dignity and sanctity of human life, touchingly on display during the controversy over whether Terri Schiavo’s husband had the right to tell doctors to remove her feeding tube after seeing her comatose for fifteen years, could always be qualified by strategic infusions of campaign cash. DeLay’s quashing of bills to prohibit serious labor abuses demonstrates that even religious virtue can be flexible when there are campaign donations involved.

One might imagine that the religious right’s agenda would be incompatible with the concerns for privacy and individual autonomy by those who consider themselves to belong to the libertarian wing of the Republican Party—the “don’t tread on me,” “live free or die” crowd that Grover Norquist once called the “leave me alone” conservatives. Given their profound distaste for an oppressive and intrusive federal government, one would think they might have trepidations about a religious movement determined to impose statutory controls on private behavior that libertarians nominally hold to be nobody’s business, and particularly not the government’s business.

Some more libertarian-leaning Republicans have in fact pushed back against the religious right. Former House majority leader Dick Armey expressed his profound distaste for the tactics of the religious right in 2006—from the safety of the sidelines—by blasting its leadership in unequivocal terms:

[James] Dobson and his gang of thugs are real nasty bullies. I pray devoutly every day, but being a Christian is no excuse for being stupid. There’s a high demagoguery coefficient to issues like prayer in schools. Demagoguery doesn’t work unless it’s dumb, shallow as water on a plate. These issues are easy for the intellectually lazy and can appeal to a large demographic. These issues become bigger than life, largely because they’re easy. There ain’t no thinking.

Armey had previously been an economics professor at several cow colleges in Texas, and when he came to Congress in 1985, libertarian economics was his forte. I do not recall religious issues motivating his political ideology; instead, economics was what gripped him, particularly the flat tax, which he tirelessly promoted. I believe his departure from Congress was impelled not only by the fact that he was not on the inside track to become Speaker, but also because of his disillusionment with the culture wars, as his passionate denunciation of Dobson suggests. But later, Barack Obama’s election and the rise of the Tea Party induced a miraculous change of heart in Armey, as no doubt did the need to raise money for his lobbying organization, known as FreedomWorks. By 2009, Armey had become a significant voice of the Tea Party. As such, he attempted to declare a truce between fiscal and social conservatives, who would thenceforth bury their squabbles and concentrate on dethroning the Kenyan usurper in the Oval Office. That meant soft-pedaling social issues that might alarm fiscally conservative but socially moderate voters, particularly women, who lived in the wealthier suburbs.

In September 2010 Armey took one step further in his reconciliation with the people he had called thugs and bullies when he announced that a GOP majority in Congress would again take up the abortion fight, which was only right and proper for those who held such a sincere moral conviction. When the Republicans duly won the House two months later, they did precisely that. State legislatures across the country followed suit: Ohio, Texas, and Virginia enacted the most severe abortion restrictions in any legislative session in memory. Suddenly Armey didn’t seem to have any problem with social issues preempting his economic agenda.

The Tea Party, which initially described itself as wholly concerned with debt, deficit, and federal overreach, gradually unmasked itself as being almost as theocratic as the activists from the religious right that Armey had denounced only a few years before. If anything, they were even slightly more disposed than the rest of the Republican Party to inject religious issues into the political realm. According to an academic study of the Tea Party, “[T]hey seek ‘deeply religious’ elected officials, approve of religious leaders’ engaging in politics and want religion brought into political debates.” The Tea Party faithful are not so much libertarian as authoritarian, the furthest thing from a “live free or die” constitutionalist.

Within the GOP libertarianism is a throwaway doctrine that is rhetorically useful in certain situations but often interferes with their core, more authoritarian, beliefs. When the two precepts collide, the authoritarian reflex prevails. In 2009 it was politically useful for the GOP to present the Tea Party as independent-leaning libertarians, when in reality the group was overwhelmingly Republican, with a high quotient of GOP activists and adherents of views common among the religious right. According to a 2010 Gallup poll, eight in ten Tea Party members identify themselves as Republicans. Another study found that over half identified as members of the religious right and 55 percent of Tea Partiers agree that “America has always been and is currently a Christian nation”—6 points more than even the percentage of self-described Christian conservatives who would agree to that. This religious orientation should have been evident from the brouhaha that erupted in mid- 2009 over the charge that the Obama administration’s new healthcare reform plan would set up “death panels.” While there was plenty to criticize about the health-care bill, the completely bogus charge garnered disproportionate attention. Republican political consultants immediately recognized that they had found a classic emotional issue that would resonate with the same people on the religious right who had been stirred up over the Terri Schiavo case. The Tea Party, a supposedly independent group of fiscal conservatives outraged by Obama’s profligate spending plans, fell prey to the hysteria Republican Party operatives whipped up over end-of- life counseling. This self-unmasking of the Tea Party may help explain why, after three years in existence, public support for the organization has been dropping precipitously.

Ayn Rand, an occasional darling of the Tea Party, has become a cult figure within the GOP in recent years. It is easy enough to see how her tough-guy, every-man-for-himself posturing would be a natural fit with the Wall Street bankers and the right-wing politicians they fund—notwithstanding the bankers’ fondness for government bailouts. But Rand’s philosophy found most of its adherents in the libertarian wing of the party, a group that overlaps with, but is certainly not identical to, the “business conservatives” who fund the bulk of the GOP’s activities. There has always been a strong strain of rugged individualism in America, and the GOP has cleverly managed to co-opt that spirit to its advantage. The problem is that Rand proclaimed at every opportunity that she was a militant atheist who felt nothing but contempt for Christianity as a religion of weaklings possessing a slave mentality. So how do Republican candidates manage to bamboozle what is perhaps the largest single bloc in their voting base, the religious fundamentalists, about this? Certainly the ignorance of many fundamentalist values voters about the wider world and the life of the mind goes some distance toward explaining the paradox: GOP candidates who enthuse over Rand at the same time as they thump their Bibles never have to explain this stark contradiction because most of their audience is blissfully unaware of who Ayn Rand was and what she advocated. But voters can to some extent be forgiven their ignorance, because politicians have grown so skillful at misdirecting them about their intentions.

This camouflaging of intentions is as much a strategy of the religious right and its leaders—James Dobson, Tony Perkins, Pat Robertson, and the rest—as it is of the GOP’s more secular political leaders in Washington. After the debacle of the Schiavo case and the electoral loss in 2008, the religious right pulled back and regrouped. They knew that the full-bore, “theoconservative” agenda would not sell with a majority of voters. This strategy accounts for Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition (who famously said that God sent a hurricane to New Orleans to punish the sodomites), stating the following in October 2011: “Those people in the Republican primary have got to lay off of this stuff. They’re forcing their leaders, the front-runners, into positions that will mean they lose the general election.” I doubt he thought the candidates held positions that were too extreme, merely that they should keep quiet about those positions until they had won the election. Max Blumenthal, author of Republican Gomorrah, argues that this is a “lying for Jesus” strategy that fundamentalists often adopt when dealing with the snares of a wicked and Godless world. Since Satan is the father of lies, one can be forgiven for fighting lies with lies.

Hence the policies pursued for at least two decades by the religious right on the federal, state, and local levels. It usually starts at the school board, after some contrived uproar over sex education or liberal indoctrination. The stealthily fundamentalist school board candidates pledge to clean up the mess and “get back to basics.” After a few years they capture a majority on the board, and suddenly “Catcher in the Rye” is heaved out of the curriculum and science teachers are under pressure to teach the (imaginary) controversy about evolutionary biology. This was the path to greater glory of Michele Bachmann: Her first run for public office, barely a dozen years ago, was for a seat on the school board in Stillwater, Minnesota. Up until then she had drawn a taxpayer-funded salary for five years working as an attorney for the Internal Revenue Service, not, of course, because she was one of those lazy, good-for-nothing government bureaucrats that Republican candidates routinely denounce. She was secretly studying the ways of the government beast so as to defeat it later on.

Bachmann, Rick Perry, and numerous other serving representatives and senators have all had ties to Christian Dominionism, a doctrine proclaiming that Christians are destined to dominate American politics and establish a new imperium resembling theocratic government. According to one profile of Perry, adherents of Dominionism “believe Christians—certain Christians—are destined to not just take ‘dominion’ over government, but stealthily climb to the commanding heights of what they term the ‘Seven Mountains’ of society, including the media and the arts and entertainment world.” Note the qualifier: “stealthily.”

At the same religious forum where the GOP candidates confessed their sins, Bachmann went so far as to suggest that organized religion should keep its traditional legal privilege of tax exemption while being permitted to endorse political candidates from the pulpit. The fact that government prohibits express political advocacy is in her imagination muzzling preachers rather than just being a quid pro quo for tax-exempt status equivalent to that imposed on any 501(c)3 or 501(c)4 nonprofit organization. But for Bachmann and others of like mind, this is persecution of a kind that fuels their sense of victimhood and righteous indignation.

Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of the Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from “The Party is Over” by Mike Lofgren. Copyright © 2012 by Mike Lofgren

 

 

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The strange, short career of Judeo-Christianity

Source: Aeon.com

Author: Gene Zubovich

Emphasis Mine

President Barack Obama insists that the United States defines itself by civic principles rather than by religious affiliation. In an otherwise unremarkable press conference in Turkey in 2009, he said: ‘[A]lthough… we have a very large Christian population, we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation; we consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values.’ A torrent of conservative criticism followed, alleging that Obama had abandoned the country’s founding Judeo-Christian values. In recent months, most of the Republican candidates for their party’s nomination have called on the US to return to ‘the Judeo-Christian values that built this great nation’, as Senator Ted Cruz put it. Defenders of Judeo-Christianity believe that they are invoking timeless principles. In fact, Judeo-Christianity is a very recent invention.

The term ‘Judeo-Christian’ supposedly recognises the deep and ancient common heritage of Protestants, Catholics and Jews. The idea would have sent shivers down the spine of Puritans, who saw a diabolical Catholic ‘Papism’ lurking around every corner. Such a shared heritage would have been news to the authors of Pennsylvania’s 1776 Constitution, which required office-holders to ‘acknowledge the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine inspiration’, and which effectively banned Jews from public office.

The phrase ‘Judeo-Christian’ first became popular in the late 1930s, when President Franklin Roosevelt began trying to mobilise Americans against Nazism. So Judeo-Christianity was actually popularised to oppose the anti-Semitism of another predominantly Christian nation. FDR’s repeated recourse to religion in public addresses set him apart from his predecessors, who preferred civic principles. So too did Roosevelt’s willingness to move beyond his own Protestantism and embrace Jews and Catholics. ‘We who have faith cannot afford to fall out among ourselves,’ he told radio listeners in 1936: ‘Religion in wide areas of the earth is being confronted with irreligion…. [Y]ou and I must reach across the lines between our creeds, clasp hands, and make common cause.’

In the 1930s, Roosevelt worked in concert with the National Council of Christians and Jews, for example, an organisation that fought popular anti-Catholicism and anti-Semitism. Roosevelt and other liberal Protestants took the lead in promoting Judeo-Christianity. In the works of liberal Protestant theologians, the term Judeo-Christianity began to appear here and there without a thorough defence or justification. During the Second World War, a spirit of national unity finally made the notion of Judeo-Christianity common, as Jews and Catholics were publically welcomed as junior partners in the country’s national life.

Only following the Second World War did someone stop to try to elaborate what ‘Judeo-Christian’ might actually mean. In his book Protestant – Catholic – Jew (1955), the sociologist Will Herberg extolled the virtues of Judeo-Christianity. He argued that Judeo-Christianity stemmed from ‘the collapse of all secular securities in the historical crisis of our time [and] the quest for a recovery of authenticity’. Judeo-Christianity ‘is a religiously oriented civiccooperation of Protestants, Catholics and Jews to bring about better mutual understanding and to promote enterprises and causes of common concern, despite all differences of “faith”. [Judeo-Christianity] is thus the highest expression of religious coexistence and cooperation within the American understanding of religion.’ As Herberg saw it, Judeo-Christianity arose because secularism had failed and three vibrant faiths stepped in to fill that vacuum.

Evangelicals, meanwhile, resisted the encroaching pluralism. In 1947, and again in 1954, working with political allies, the National Association of Evangelicals introduced the Christian amendment into Congress: ‘This nation devoutly recognises the authority and law of Jesus Christ, Savior and Ruler of all nations, through whom are bestowed the blessings of Almighty God.’ Out of step with the burgeoning postwar pluralism, the Christian amendment was not passed.

By the 1960s, when the inclusion of Catholics and Jews seemed to be on safe footing, the liberal Protestant pioneers of the term moved on to consider how a broader range of religious groups could be included in the US nation. The Harvard scholar Wilfred Cantwell Smith urged ‘all Christians to love and respect the faith of Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, and the others if necessary without waiting for the theologians’. Some theologians in the 1960s began going beyond religious pluralism and encouraged Protestants to embrace secularism. In the process, they left Judeo-Christianity behind.

But others, who emphasised Judeo-Christianity’s anti-secularism, rededicated themselves to the term. Herberg’s insistence in Protestant – Catholic – Jew that secular thought was bankrupt led him to align himself with the burgeoning conservative movement. He joined the conservative journal National Review in 1961 as its religion editor.

At the moment when liberal Protestants and others left Judeo-Christianity behind, fearing the tri-faith model was too narrow to capture the world’s diversity, evangelical Protestants seized on the idea of Judeo-Christianity. As they came to slowly accept the legitimacy of Jewish and Catholic faith, Judeo-Christianity became a way to withhold legitimacy from others. Abandoning their earlier commitment to a ‘Christian Nation’, evangelicals now accepted Catholics and Jews as important allies in the fight against abortion, feminism and gay rights.

In its very brief history, the concept of Judeo-Christianity has taken on several meanings. Originally it denoted a cultural and theological pluralism, meant to unite Americans against Nazism. For this reason, it was widely celebrated by liberal advocates, many of whom ignored Judeo-Christianity’s anti-secular implications, and gave little thought to their relation with Islam and other world religions. Once the implications became clear, many liberals abandoned the term.

Today, the religiously unaffiliated make up about a quarter of the US population and Muslim Americans are becoming an increasingly visible and vocal community. The notion that the US is a nation bound together by civic principles enjoys a more distinguished history than the recently coined idea of the Judeo-Christian nation. It is also obvious that the US is more than a nation of many faiths. No wonder, then, that today Judeo-Christianity has few defenders apart from members of the Christian right, who use it to undermine the legitimacy of Muslims and the rapidly growing body of religiously unaffiliated Americans. The short career of Judeo-Christianity has already lasted too long.

See: https://aeon.co/opinions/the-strange-short-career-of-judeo-christianity?utm_source=Aeon+Newsletter&utm_campaign=fec6fd14ae-Daily_Newsletter_22_March_20163_21_2016&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_411a82e59d-fec6fd14ae-68915721

The Making of an Anti-Theist Mom

Source:valerietarico.com

Author: Valerie Tarico

Emphasis Mine

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

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

Two scoops. Stumptown coffee and melted chocolate, please.

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

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

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

Satan’s not the problem.

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

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

They might, but they would be wrong.

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

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

From Incredulity to Activism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I really would rather dig holes in the garden.

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

And so I do.

Inspiration

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

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

    So What?

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

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

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

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

    The Price of Political Success

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ______________________

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

 

 

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

 

Dominion Theology, Christian Reconstructionism, and the New Apostolic Reformation

From Religion Dispatches, Post by JULIE INGERSOLL

(N.B.: Separation of Church/State, anyone?  Contact Au NorthEast Ohio Chapter on Facebook or at auneohio@gmail.com)

“In the current discussion about dominionism, and whether it is an invention of paranoid “leftists” or an actual theological system with political implications, worth understanding in its own right, there is a conflation of two groups that (while similar in some respects) are also quitedifferent from each other: Christian Reconstructionism and the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). RD readers will be familiar with both groups, because both Sarah and I have written extensively about Reconstructionists and Sarah has written about the New Apostolic Reformation here and here. Moreover Sarah and Anthea Butler have just posted a terrific overview of the NAR, Pentecostalism, and dominionism in which they critique both the denialists who say that dominionism doesn’t exist, and alarmists who fail to properly contextualize dominionists‘ activities.

Christian Reconstructionism is the older of the two movements (though the NAR has its roots in Pentecostalism that pre-dates both). There are two of the core aspects of Christian Reconstructionism that are relevant here. First is the view that the Kingdom of God was established at the resurrection, that its establishment is progressive through history and Jesus will return at its culmination when Christianity has transformed the whole world (a view known as post-millennialism). Second, all knowledge is based in one of two sets of assumptions: the God of the Bible is the sovereign source of all authority or human reason is autonomous from God. Reconstructionists drew this dichotomous view, known as pre-suppositionalism, from reformed theology, and pushed it beyond being a merely philosophical critique to develop a thorough strategy in response. That strategy, broadly speaking, was to cast secular humanism and pluralism as being in conflict with Christianity,conferring a duty on Christians to transform earthly institutions in order to combat non-Christian influence. In other words, establishing the kingdom on earth to prepare for Christ’s return required Christians to transform the world, or take dominion, a view that became an article of faith for the religious right, which popularized versions of post-millennialism as dominion or “kingdom now” theology. The pre-suppositionalist view became the basis for attacks on secular humanism and pluralism, which positioned the “biblical worldview” as being on a collision course with the others. Despite recent comments by journalists, the term “dominionism” has a history within these movements and is indeed, areal thing—not the imaginings of some “leftists.”

The New Apostolic Reformation is one of many strands of neo-Pentecostalism that draws on dominion theology and the critique of humanism/pluralism. There was a good bit of cross-fertilization between representatives of Reconstructionism and Pentecostalism in the 1980s. Though Pat Robertson has said he doesn’t know what “dominionism” is, Rushdoony was, more than once, his guest on The 700 Club. People like Jack Hayford (of the Pentecostal Church on the Way-Foursquare) were reading Reconstructionists (for example, David Chilton’s Postmillennial Paradise Restored). Gary North was in conversation with several charismatic leaders, perhaps thinking that the energy and vitality of those movements made them a more promising vehicle for spreading Christian Reconstrutionism than the “frozen-chosen” Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC). North even dedicated his book Unholy Spirits(Dominion Press, 1986) to Bob Mumford of the Shepherding Movementand 75 Bible Questions (Dominion Press, 1984 and 1986) to Bob and Rose Weiner, founders of Maranatha Campus Ministries.

The Pentecostals never really embraced post-millennialism but blended dominion theology with their pre-millennialism. Less explored, though, is the way that the critique of pluralism functions.  As I wrote last week, Reconstructionists “hold a view of knowledge that says that there are really only two possible worldviews (a biblical one and a humanist one that comes in several varieties) and that both worldviews are in a conflict for dominion,” a point that engendered some discussion among RD readers. This framing is derived from pre-suppositionalism. In Reconstruction, the original sin in the garden of Eden occurred when Adam and Eve chose to eat of the tree of knowledge, substituting their own reason for obedience to what God had commanded. From then on all systems of thought (philosophies, religions, worldview, ideologies, etc.) not based in God’s word as revealed in the Bible were really just variations on the decision to claim autonomy for human reason
(“humanism” is defined as making “man” the measure of all things). For Reconstructionists, those two worldviews are inherently mutually exclusive, thus real pluralism is impossible (see for example, Gary North’s “Political Polytheism: The Myth of Pluralism“). And in fact, in their view, the two sides are engaged in a battle for dominion. Throw in the militant spiritual warfare, Christians-versus-Satanic-forces rhetoric, and you see how the battle for “dominion” is, for those who believe they are engaged in such a battle, a cosmic showdown between good and evil.

For some in these movements that have cross-pollinated with one another, their opponents (i.e. the rest of us) literarlly are the spawn of Satan.”

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.religiondispatches.org/dispatches/julieingersoll/5037/dominion_theology%2C_christian_reconstructionism%2C_and_the_new_apostolic_reformation__/

Political Reporters Start Reading Religious Right Books

N.B.: This is why the First Clause of The First Amendment is more important than ever!

 

From RD, by Sarah Posner

“There’s a somewhat refreshing development taking place in political reporting. Not only reporters are noticing that Republican candidates coalesce with religious right leaders, but they are also discovering a crucial truth about the movement: that its followers aren’t just motivated by opposition to abortion and LGBT rights. They are motivated by something more fundamental, a reimagined “truth” about what America is (and isn’t) and how a “biblical worldview” should guide politics and policymaking.

This is a good thing, of course, because as Joanna argued this morning, candidates should be asked tough questions about how their beliefs would impact their governing. Michele Bachmann thinks that God is trying to send a message through earthquakes and hurricanes, and that message is not (in her mind) that Republicans should stop obsessing about energy efficient lightbulbs being “tyranny,” or talking about closing down the Environmental Protection Agency.

Twitter lit up this morning after Jonathan Martin’s piece in Politico (“Is Rick Perry Dumb?”) noted that he was reading Charles Stanley’s book, Turning the Tide. Stanley is pastor of megachurch First Baptist Church of Atlanta and one-time Southern Baptist Convention president whose broadcasts through his In Touch ministry are seen and heard on radio and television across the country. Stanley, although widely known, is not without controversy: after years of marital trouble, his wife divorced him in 2000. Despite longstanding SBC denunciation of divorce, Stanley remained as pastor of his church despite an unwritten SBC prohibition on divorced men serving as pastors (the SBC prohibits ordination of women, but this resolution is not binding on local churches, who can decide otherwise). At the time, a church spokesperson said, “God has positioned Dr. Stanley in a place where his personal pain has validated his ability to minister to all of us.”

The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza, whose piece on Michele Bachmann brought dominionism to the forefront of the political conversation (even though reporters who cover the religious right have reported on it for years), started tweeting quotes from Stanley’s book, such as “Pray to help leaders ‘reaffirm our Christian heritage and reestablish Your biblical precepts as the basis of American society and law.'” He also observed, “Can’t remember another campaign bragging that candidate was reading a book that asked people to pray for conversion of all Jews and Muslims.”Perhaps Lizza can’t remember, and perhaps a campaign didn’t explicitly brag about reading a particular book, but considering that conversion of non-believers is a standard evangelical imperative, it shouldn’t be too terribly surprising that an evangelical candidate would brag about reading a book that contained such an exhortation. And as I’ve argued before, creating candidates like Perry (or Bachmann) has been years in the making. Doug Wead, in his 1985 memo to George H.W. Bush, named Stanley as one of the leading religious leaders in America whose support the candidate should cultivate. Stanley, then the president of the SBC, “is said to be ‘intrigued’ by the [Pat] Robertson candidacy but ‘leaning to George Bush.'” Oh, yeah, that guy, Pat Robertson! Remember when he ran for president?Wead continued: Dr. Stanley is the key to building relationships with the seven or eight pastors of the largest SBC churches. Like Stanley, these pastors will probably endorse someone for president. They will influence others through the use of their mailing lists, radio and television programs, and printed materials which get across their message without violating their government awarded 501 c3 status. They will even have voter registration booths in their church lobbies which will be open after a rather pointed sermon, “I don’t want to influence how you vote but . . . .” Let’s not forget how a mere four years ago Mike Huckabee (himself an SBC pastor considered a moderate by some in his denomination!) gave a Christmas sermon at John Hagee‘s church,said that the Constitution should be amended to conform with “God’s standards,” said that allowing “seculars” to govern America would lead to Nazism, rallied a church in New Hampshire to enlist in “God’s army” to be “soldiers for Christ,” appeared to be the anointed one of some religious right godfathers, and drew the wrath of the late Robert Novak, no less, because of his ties to Christian Reconstructionism. Or that John McCain wrapped his arms around Rod Parsley and Hagee, or that even Rudy Giuliani sought and gained Robertson’s blessing. And that was just ’08; it’s all been going on much longer than that.  While GOP candidates’ cultivation of conservative evangelicals is not a surprise, it is a good thing that it’s being discussed more. Perhaps, if nothing else, it will put the lid on the inevitable “is the religious right dead?” piece.

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.religiondispatches.org/dispatches/sarahposner/5028/

Attention Governor Perry: Evolution is a fact

Richard Dawkins

Q. Texas governor and GOP candidate Rick Perry, at a campaign event this week, told a boy that evolution is ”just a theory” with “gaps” and that in Texas they teach “both creationism and evolution.” Perry later added “God is how we got here.” According to a 2009 Gallup study , only 38 percent of Americans say they believe in evolution. If a majority of Americans are skeptical or unsure about evolution, should schools teach it as a mere “theory”? Why is evolution so threatening to religion?

A. There is nothing unusual about Governor Rick Perry. Uneducated fools can be found in every country and every period of history, and they are not unknown in high office. What is unusual about today’s Republican party (I disavow the ridiculous ‘GOP’ nickname, because the party of Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt has lately forfeited all claim to be considered ‘grand’) is this: In any other party and in any other country, an individual may occasionally rise to the top in spite of being an uneducated ignoramus. In today’s Republican Party ‘in spite of’ is not the phrase we need. Ignorance and lack of education are positive qualifications, bordering on obligatory. Intellect, knowledge and linguistic mastery are mistrusted by Republican voters, who, when choosing a president, would apparently prefer someone like themselves over someone actually qualified for the job.

Any other organization — a big corporation, say, or a university, or a learned society – -when seeking a new leader, will go to immense trouble over the choice. The CVs of candidates and their portfolios of relevant experience are meticulously scrutinized, their publications are read by a learned committee, references are taken up and scrupulously discussed, the candidates are subjected to rigorous interviews and vetting procedures. Mistakes are still made, but not through lack of serious effort.

The population of the United States is more than 300 million and it includes some of the best and brightest that the human species has to offer, probably more so than any other country in the world. There is surely something wrong with a system for choosing a leader when, given a pool of such talent and a process that occupies more than a year and consumes billions of dollars, what rises to the top of the heap is George W Bush. Or when the likes of Rick Perry or Michele Bachmann or Sarah Palin can be mentioned as even remote possibilities.

A politician’s attitude to evolution is perhaps not directly important in itself. It can have unfortunate consequences on education and science policy but, compared to Perry’s and the Tea Party’s pronouncements on other topics such as economics, taxation, history and sexual politics, their ignorance of evolutionary science might be overlooked. Except that a politician’s attitude to evolution, however peripheral it might seem, is a surprisingly apposite litmus test of more general inadequacy. This is because unlike, say, string theory where scientific opinion is genuinely divided, there is about the fact of evolution no doubt at all. Evolution is a fact, as securely established as any in science, and he who denies it betrays woeful ignorance and lack of education, which likely extends to other fields as well. Evolution is not some recondite backwater of science, ignorance of which would be pardonable. It is the stunningly simple but elegant explanation of our very existence and the existence of every living creature on the planet. Thanks to Darwin, we now understand why we are here and why we are the way we are. You cannot be ignorant of evolution and be a cultivated and adequate citizen of today.

Darwin’s idea is arguably the most powerful ever to occur to a human mind. The power of a scientific theory may be measured as a ratio: the number of facts that it explains divided by the number of assumptions it needs to postulate in order to do the explaining. A theory that assumes most of what it is trying to explain is a bad theory. That is why the creationist or ‘intelligent design’ theory is such a rotten theory.

What any theory of life needs to explain is functional complexity. Complexity can be measured as statistical improbability, and living things are statistically improbable in a very particular direction: the direction of functional efficiency. The body of a bird is not just a prodigiously complicated machine, with its trillions of cells – each one in itself a marvel of miniaturized complexity – all conspiring together to make muscle or bone, kidney or brain. Its interlocking parts also conspire to make it good for something – in the case of most birds, good for flying. An aero-engineer is struck dumb with admiration for the bird as flying machine: its feathered flight-surfaces and ailerons sensitively adjusted in real time by the on-board computer which is the brain; the breast muscles, which are the engines, the ligaments, tendons and lightweight bony struts all exactly suited to the task. And the whole machine is immensely improbable in the sense that, if you randomly shook up the parts over and over again, never in a million years would they fall into the right shape to fly like a swallow, soar like a vulture, or ride the oceanic up-draughts like a wandering albatross. Any theory of life has to explain how the laws of physics can give rise to a complex flying machine like a bird or a bat or a pterosaur, a complex swimming machine like a tarpon or a dolphin, a complex burrowing machine like a mole, a complex climbing machine like a monkey, or a complex thinking machine like a person.

Darwin explained all of this with one brilliantly simple idea – natural selection, driving gradual evolution over immensities of geological time. His is a good theory because of the huge ratio of what it explains (all the complexity of life) divided by what it needs to assume (simply the nonrandom survival of hereditary information through many generations). The rival theory to explain the functional complexity of life – creationism – is about as bad a theory as has ever been proposed. What it postulates (an intelligent designer) is even more complex, even more statistically improbable than what it explains. In fact it is such a bad theory it doesn’t deserve to be called a theory at all, and it certainly doesn’t deserve to be taught alongside evolution in science classes.

The simplicity of Darwin’s idea, then, is a virtue for three reasons. First, and most important, it is the signature of its immense power as a theory, when compared with the mass of disparate facts that it explains – everything about life including our own existence. Second, it makes it easy for children to understand (in addition to the obvious virtue of being true!), which means that it could be taught in the early years of school. And finally, it makes it extremely beautiful, one of the most beautiful ideas anyone ever had as well as arguably the most powerful. To die in ignorance of its elegance, and power to explain our own existence, is a tragic loss, comparable to dying without ever having experienced great music, great literature, or a beautiful sunset.

There are many reasons to vote against Rick Perry. His fatuous stance on the teaching of evolution in schools is perhaps not the first reason that springs to mind. But maybe it is the most telling litmus test of the other reasons, and it seems to apply not just to him but, lamentably, to all the likely contenders for the Republican nomination. The ‘evolution question’ deserves a prominent place in the list of questions put to candidates in interviews and public debates during the course of the coming election.

Richard Dawkins wrote this response to Governor Perry forOn Faith, the Washington Post’s forum for news and opinion on religion and politics.

More On Faith and evolution:

Panel debate: On evolution, can religion evolve?

Under God: Perry says evolution a ‘theory’ with ‘gaps’

RICHARD DAWKINS  | AUG 23, 2011 7:25 AM”

Emphasis Mine

see: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-faith/post/attention-governor-perry-evolution-is-a-fact/2011/08/23/gIQAuIFUYJ_blog.html

Fox Viewers Overwhelmingly Think We Should Prepare for Alien Invasion Before Fighting Climate Change

By Alex Seitz-Wald | Sourced from ThinkProgress

“A new (supposedly) NASA-funded study postulating that aliens may attack humans over climate change had all the ingredients for a perfect Fox faux controversy — it bolstered their anti-science narrative, painted their opponents as clownish radicals, and highlighted wasteful government spending on a supposedly liberal casue. Fox reported the “news from NASA” several times several times today, presenting it as official “taxpayer funded research.” A chyron on Fox and Friends read: “NASA: Global warming may provoke an [alien] attack.”

But as Business Insider pointed out, they’re “wrong” — “That report was not funded by NASA. It was written by an independent group of scientists and bloggers. One of those happens to work at NASA.” NASA distanced itself from the report as well, calling reports linking the agency to it “not true.” Host Megyn Kelly finally corrected the record this afternoon, saying, “I was making that up.”

But before she did, she was so bemused by the study that she directed her viewers to complete a poll on her website which asked how we should respond to the study: “Immediately increase efforts to curb greenhouse gases,” “Develop weapons to kill the Aliens FIRST,” or “Gently suggest scientists research how to create job.”

Not surprisingly, most suggested they research something else. But more than six times as many respondents (19 percent to 3 percent) said we should focus on building weapons to kill aliens before curbing greenhouse gases. Watch a compilation:”

(N.B.: click link below to see video)

“The poll is of course not scientific, but you can hardly blame the viewers who did respond, considering Fox’s constant misinformation about climate change. For instance, as she presented the poll, Kelly said of curbing climate change, “just in case, right?” — as in, “just in case” the science is right. She did not make a similar qualifier for alien invasion. Numerous studies consistently show that Fox viewers are among the most misinformed of news viewers, while at least one study has shown that — perversely — watching Fox actually makes people lessinformed than they were to begin with.

“Trust me folks, this story is hard to understand,” Fox and Friends host Gretchen Carlson said of the “NASA study.” Indeed.

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/newsandviews/article/653185/fox_viewers_overwhelmingly_think_we_should_prepare_for_alien_invasion_before_fighting_climate_change/

Atheists, Muslims More Popular Than Tea Party (Also, Tea Party’s Just a New Name for Racist Christian Right)

From Alternet, by  Sarah Seltzer

“The results of a comprehensive New York Times polling project (document link here) offer some good news to that end. The results show that public opinion is trending away from Tea. They also dispel some big myths about the Tea Party being economic in nature rather than what it actually is: a re-branded, repurposed version of the same old Christian Right. This may seem familiar to AlterNet readers–but still, it’s good to have the numbers and the mainstream attention to highlight such a crucial truth.

Here’s the juiciest nugget from professors David E. Campbell and Robert D. Putnam in the Times, one which encapsulates the Tea Party’s growing unpopularity with a vivid comparison or two (emphases mine):

Of course, politicians of all stripes are not faring well among the public these days. But in data we have recently collected, the Tea Party ranks lower than any of the 23 other groups we asked about — lower than both Republicans and Democrats. It is even less popular than much maligned groups like “atheists” and “Muslims.” Interestingly, one group that approaches it in unpopularity is the Christian Right.

Alex Seitz-Wald at Think Progress, highlighting the above results, also notes that these unpopularity numbers for the Tea Party have skyrocketed over the past year or so.

The professors, who have conducted a wide-ranging survey of interviews over time, go on to shatter the big canard of the Tea Party’s “creation myth” and image in the mainstream media, pointing to data collected before and after the birth of the “Tea Party” to back up their claims. The results, below:

So what do Tea Partiers have in common? They are overwhelmingly white, but even compared to other white Republicans, they had a low regard for immigrants and blacks long before Barack Obama was president, and they still do.More important, they were disproportionately social conservatives in 2006 — opposing abortion, for example — and still are today. Next to being a Republican, the strongest predictor of being a Tea Party supporter today was a desire, back in 2006, to see religion play a prominent role in politics.

Andrew Sullivan writes about how pivotal this numerical information is: “Now we have some large data sets to review the reality. And the reality is that the Tea Party is the Christianist right-wing of the GOP.” First-person evidence leads to the same place.  Abe Sauer at The Awl draws the exact the same conclusion as Sullivan and the Times data after two years hanging out in a more social sense with the Tea Party, to which he initially felt sympathetic:  “Two years of Tea Party functions later, and I finally know what the Tea Party wants: A Christian nation.”

Again,  “The Tea Party is about small government” is a myth that progressives have emphatically been pointing to as untrue, and the long line of conservative social legislation that’s been passed by states controlled by Tea Party blocs suggests the same.

Adele Stan here at AlterNet and our colleagues like Sarah Posner and others have been hammering home this fact for a long time, but really it’s good to see that the MSM is catching up, and that apparently, so is the majority of the country. This is a message that needs to be repeated until it sinks in. The Tea Party is nothing new. Same problem, new name.

Now, if only this information meant that politicians could ignore this bloc, that the Tea Party didn’t retain its ability to hold our government hostage. Still, it’s a step in the right direction.”

Emphasis Mine

see: http://www.alternet.org/rss/1/651861/atheists%2C_muslims_more_popular_than_tea_party_%28also%2C_tea_party%27s_just_a_new_name_for_racist_christian_right%29?akid=7419.123424.qJ7Z66&rd=1&t=18

Meet the Christian Dominionist ‘Prayer Warriors’ Who Have Chosen Rick Perry as Their Vehicle to Power

from AlterNet, by Rachel Tabachnick

“Since he announced his candidacy on Saturday, Texas Governor Rick Perry has been hailed as the great GOP hope of 2012. Perry’s entry into the chaotic Republican primary race has excited the establishment in part because he does not have Michele Bachmann’s reputation for religious zealotry, yet can likely count on the support of the Religious Right.

Another advantage for Perry is support from an extensive 50-state “prayer warrior” network, organized by the New Apostolic Reformation. A religious-political movement whose leaders call themselves apostles and prophets, NAR shares its agenda for control of society and government with other “dominionists,” but has a distinctly different theology than other groups in the Religious Right. They have their roots in Pentecostalism (though their theology has been denounced as a heresy by Pentecostal denominations in the past). The movement is controversial, even inside conservative evangelical circles. Nevertheless, Perry took the gamble that NAR could help him win the primaries, a testament to the power of the apostles’ 50-state prayer warrior network.
While it may not have been obvious to those outside the movement, Perry was publicly anointed as the apostles’ candidate for president in his massive prayer rally a few weeks ago, an event filled with symbolism and coded messages. This was live-streamed to churches across the nation and on God TV, a Jerusalem-based evangelical network.
There’s little doubt that Perry is NAR’s candidate — its chosen vehicle to advance the stated agenda of taking “dominion” over earthly institutions.
The Prayer Warriors and Politics
Perry’s event is not the first time NAR apostles have partnered with politicians. (See previous AlterNet articles by Paul Rosenberg and Bill Berkowitz.) Alaskan Apostle Mary Glazier claimed Sarah Palin was in her prayer network since she was 24 years old and Glazier continued to have contact with Palin through the 2008 election. Prior to running for governor, Palin was “anointed” at Wasilla Assembly of God by Kenyan Apostle Thomas Muthee, a star in promotional media for the movement. The Wasilla congregation is part of a Pentecostal denomination, but it’s leadership had embraced NAR’s controversial ideology years before and has hosted many internationally known apostles.
A partial list of those who have made nationally or internationally broadcast appearances with apostles includes Sam Brownback, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Michele Bachmann, and Jim DeMint. Numerous others, including Rick Santorum, have participated in less publicized apostle-led events.
The list of state and local candidates partnering with the apostles’ network includes Hawaii gubernatorial candidates James “Duke” Aiona, a Republican, and Mufi Hannemann, a Democrat. The conference call that got U.S. Senate candidate Katherine Harris in hot water with Jewish voters back in 2006, was led by Apostle Ken Malone, head of the Florida prayer warrior network.  Apostle Kimberly Daniels recently won a seat on the Jacksonville, Florida city council — as a Democrat.
Why would Rick Perry take the risk of partnering with such a controversial movement? The apostles’ statewide “prayer warrior” networks link people and ministries online and also includes conferences, events, and training. Many of the ministries involved have extensive media capabilities.  The “prophets” of the NAR claim to be continuously receiving direct revelation from God and these messages and visions are broadcast to the prayer warriors through various media outlets. For instance, in the 2008 election, prophesies concerning Sarah Palin, including one from Mary Glazier, were sent out to the prayer warrior networks. Palin repeatedly thanked her prayer warriors during and after the election.

The prayer warrior networks could work as an additional arm for Perry’s campaign in early primary states. South Carolina’s network is led by Frank Seignious, a former episcopal priest who joined the movement and was ordained into “apostolic ministry” by Apostle Chuck Pierce of Texas. Seignious has incorporated the spiritual warfare and prayer network under the name Taking the Land. His network is under the “apostolic authority” of  the Reformation Prayer Alliance of Apostle Cindy Jacobs and the Heartland Apostolic Prayer Network, led by Apostle John Benefiel. Both Jacobs and Benefiel endorsed Rick Perry’s prayer event.

Jacobs announced in March that the movement hopes to mobilize 500,000 prayer warriors or intercessors to “prayer for the nation for the 2012 elections to shift this  nation into righteousness and justice.” She made this statement while speaking at Alaska’s Wasilla Assembly of God, the church where Sarah Palin was anointed by Thomas Muthee in 2005.
Ideology of the New Apostolic Reformation
The leaders of the movement claim this is the most significant change in Protestantism since Martin Luther and the Reformation. NAR’s stated goal is to eradicate denominations and to form a single unified church that will fight and be victorious against “evil” in the end times. Like many American fundamentalists, the apostles teach that the end times are imminent, but unlike most fundamentalists, the apostles see this as a time of great triumph for the church.
Instead of escaping to heaven in the Rapture prior to the battles of the end times, the apostles teach that believers will remain on earth. And instead of watching from the grandstands of heaven as Jesus and his warriors destroy evil, the apostles believe they and their followers will fight and purge the earth of evil themselves.
This includes taking “dominion” over all sectors of society and government, which, in turn, will lead to a “Kingdom” on earth, a Christian utopia ruled from Jerusalem.  The end times narrative of the apostles is similar to that of the Latter Rain movement of the late 1940s and 1950s, which was considered heretical by traditional Pentecostal denominations.
Prerequisites to bringing about the Kingdom on earth are: the restructuring of all Charismatic evangelical believers under the authority of their network of apostles and prophets; the eradication or unification of Christian denominations; and the total elimination of competing religions and philosophies. Their mandate to take control over institutions of society and government is similar to the dominionism of Christian Reconstructionism, founded by the late Rousas Rushdoony, but NAR’s version has been wrapped in a much more appealing package and marketed as activism to “transform” communities.
The apostles have a number of sophisticated promotional tools used to market their agenda for taking control over society, including the Transformations movies, Transformation organizations in communities around the country, and the Seven Mountains campaign. The latter is about taking control over the mountains or “power centers” of arts and entertainment, business, education, family, government, media and religion. The apostles who lead in areas outside of church are called Workplace or Marketplace Apostles.
The apostles teach that the obstacles to their envisioned Kingdom on earth are demonic beings who hold control over geographic territory and specific “people groups.” They claim these demons are the reason why people of other religions refuse to become evangelized. These demons, which the apostles address by name, are also claimed to be the source of crime, corruption, illness, poverty, and homosexuality. The eradication of social ills, as claimed in the Transformations media, can only take place through mass evangelization; not through other human efforts to cure societal ills. This message was repeated throughout Perry’s prayer event, although it may not have been apparent to those unfamiliar with the movement’s lingo and narratives.
The apostles teach that their followers are currently receiving an outpouring of supernatural powers to help them fight these demons through what they call Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare (SLSW). They have held ceremonies to “divorce Baal” and claim to burn and otherwise destroy icons and artifacts of other religious belief systems.  These unique SLSW concepts and methodologies, previously unknown in the evangelical world, include spiritual mapping to identify and purge both demons and their human helpers. The humans are often identified in training materials as witches and their activities as witchcraft.
Many of the evangelical “Reconciliation” programs popularized over the last decade are an outgrowth of the apostles’ SLSW efforts to remove demons, including “generational curses,” which they claim obstruct the evangelization of specific racial and ethnic groups. These activities have political significance not apparent to outsiders. Kansas Governor and former Senator Sam Brownback worked extensively with leading apostles in pursuing an official apology from the U.S. Senate to Native Americans. However, NAR has promoted this apology as part of Identificational Repentance and Reconciliation, an SLSW method to remove demonic control over Native Americans and evangelize tribes. Curiously, this apology is also viewed as a required step in their spiritual warfare agenda to criminalize abortion.
Apostle Alice Patterson and Pastor C. L. Jackson stood with Rick Perry as he addressed the audience at his Houston prayer rally. This went unnoticed by members of the press, but sent a strong message to those familiar with Patterson and Jackson’s activities in convincing African American pastors in Texas to leave the Democratic Party and become Republicans. This is done by outreach to African Americans through “reconciliation” ceremonies. They also utilize David Barton’s revisionist American history,  which ties Democrats to racism and civil rights to conservatives and Republicans. Patterson has written that there is a “demonic structure behind the Democratic Party.”
History of the New Apostolic Reformation
A wave of religious fervor swept through the U.S. in the early 1900s resulting in Pentecostalism and the establishment of  denominations emphasizing supernatural “gifts of the Holy Spirit,” including speaking in tongues. A second wave swept through other Protestant denominations and Roman Catholicism beginning in the 1960s, producing pockets of Charismatic believers. (“Charismatic” is usually used to describe those who embrace the belief of supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit but are not in Pentecostal denominations.)
Some remained in their respective churches while the remainder left to join other nondenominational Charismatics in what would become the largest single (and largely overlooked) block of Protestantism in the world — Independent Charismatics, also called neo-Pentecostals or the “Third Wave.” By the late 1980s, Independent Charismatics began to be networked under the leadership of self-appointed apostles and prophets who view the reorganization of the church as crucial to preparation for the end times. C. Peter Wagner, a prolific author and professor for 30 years at Fuller Theological Seminary, became the primary force behind organizing one of the largest and most influential of apostolic and prophetic networks. He dubbed it the “New Apostolic Reformation” (NAR).
Wagner and other NAR pioneers refined their unique Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare training and demon-hunting methods through the latter 1980s and 1990s. Due to Wagner’s international reputation as an expert in “Church Growth” (his most famous pupil is Rick Warren) and Wagner’s leadership role in the frantic rush by international missions to evangelize the world prior to the year 2000, these unusual techniques gained surprisingly widespread acceptance in some evangelical circles.
Wagner had a major role through the 1990s in the Billy Graham-endorsed AD 2000 and Beyond, working closely with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) and Independent Charismatic groups in what they would dub as the “world prayer movement.” Ted Haggard, who would later become president of the National Association of Evangelicals, claimed that the effort involved 40 million people worldwide. As 2000 AD and Beyond was winding down in the late 1990s, Wagner left Fuller Seminary and resettled in Colorado Springs.  Wagner partnered with Haggard and continued his international networking from the World Prayer Center adjacent to Haggard’s mega-church.
Wagner claimed that the New Apostolic Reformation, a new era in church history, began in 2001 and organized several hundred apostles with their own networks into the International Coalition of Apostles (ICA). In addition, Wagner oversaw: an inner circle of prophets (ACPE or Apostolic Council of Prophetic Elders); demon deliverance experts (ISDM or International Society of Deliverance Ministries); faith-healers (IAHR or International Association of Healing Room Ministries); an international training network (Wagner Leadership Institute); and their own educational accreditation system (ACEA or Apostolic Council for Educational Accountability, now called the Association of Christian Educators and Administrators).
Transformation is the movement’s buzzword for taking control over communities. The Transformation entities usually begin as prayer networks of pastors and individuals that are advertised as nonsectarian.  Charitable activities are emphasized as a way to gain a foothold in financially strapped municipalities and they provide faith-based services from emergency response to juvenile rehabiliation. Today NAR has “prayer warrior” networks under the authority of their apostles in all 50 states, some now organizing by precincts.
The movement has had a widespread impact, spreading ideology to other Charismatics inside Mainline Protestant denominations and Roman Catholicism, although non-Charismatic Roman Catholicism is viewed as controlled by a powerful demon named “The Queen of Heaven.” Over the last few years, the apostles have taken visible leadership roles in the Religious Right in the United States and numerous nations in Africa, Asia, and South America and claim Uganda as their greatest “Transformations” success story and prototype.
After years of political activity and increasing power inside the American Religious Right, NAR has suddenly been propelled into national press coverage by presidential candidate Rick Perry and his supposedly nonpartisan and nonpolitical prayer rally. Now that he has been chosen and anointed by the movement’s apostles, the prayer warriors across the nation can be mobilized on his behalf.

Emphasis Mine

see: http://www.alternet.org/story/152034/meet_the_christian_dominionist_%22prayer_warriors%22_who_have_chosen_rick_perry_as_their_vehicle_to_power?page=entire

Goodbye Religion? How Godlessness Is Increasing With Each New Generation

From Alternet, by Adam Lee

“This demographic transformation has been in progress ever since World War II, but in recent years it’s begun to seriously pick up steam.

Something strange is happening to American teenagers. If you believe popular wisdom, young people are apathetic, cynical and jaded; or, they’re supposed to be conformists whose overriding desire is to fit in and be popular. But if you’ve been paying close attention over the past decade, you might have seen any of a growing number of cases that conspicuously defy these stereotypes: stories of teenagers who have strong principles they’re unashamed to display and which they’re committed to defending, even at great personal cost, against the bullying of a hostile establishment.

For example, in 2002, an Eagle Scout named Darrell Lambert was threatened with expulsion from the Boy Scouts, despite his having earned dozens of merit badges and having held literally every leadership position in his troop. His crime? He’s an outspoken atheist. When the news of his beliefs reached scouting officials, they demanded that he change his mind. He was given a week to think it over. All he had to do was lie, but if he did that, he said, “I wouldn’t be a good Scout then, would I?” For his honesty, he was kicked out of the organization he’d devoted his life to.

In New Jersey in 2006, a public high school teacher named David Paskiewicz was openly preaching Christianity in the classroom, advocating creationism and telling a Muslim student she would burn in hell if she didn’t convert. A junior named Matt LaClair reported this illegal government preaching to the school administration. In a meeting with the principal, Paskiewicz denied everything — whereupon LaClair produced audio recordings of him saying the things he specifically denied having said.

In Indiana in 2009, the senior class at a public school was asked to vote on whether to have a prayer as part of their graduation ceremony. A senior named Eric Workman, knowing full well that school-sponsored prayer is illegal even if a majority votes for it, filed a lawsuit and won an injunction against the prayer. The school administration responded by announcing it wouldn’t review graduation speeches in advance, clearly hoping that some student would use the opportunity to say the same prayer — except that the class valedictorian was Eric Workman, and he used his graduation speech to explain why the school’s actions were unconstitutional and to explain the importance of the First Amendment.

Stories like these are multiplying all over the nation. In South Carolina just this year, a graduating senior named Harrison Hopkins put a stop to school prayer with help from the Freedom from Religion Foundation. In Louisiana, a senior named Damon Fowler fought against similar school-sponsored prayers at his graduation. In Rhode Island, an amazing sophomore named Jessica Ahlquist is leading the fight to get an illegal “School Prayer” banner removed from her school’s auditorium.

Granted, stories like these aren’t entirely a new phenomenon. There have always been brave young free thinkers who dared to stand up for their rights, and there has always been a hostile, prejudiced religious majority that’s tried to silence them with bullying, persecution and harassment.

For instance, when church-state hero Ellery Schempp prevailed in a landmark First Amendment case against school-sponsored Bible reading, his principal wrote to the colleges he had applied to and asked them not to admit him. (It didn’t work: Ellery was accepted to Tufts University, graduated with honors and became a successful scientist.) Likewise, when Jim McCollum and his mother Vashti challenged their school over a released-time program, raving bigots assaulted him, got her fired from her job, pelted their home with rotten fruit and killed their cat. (The McCollums didn’t relent, and won a precedent-setting Supreme Court decision striking down religious instruction on public school time.)

Regrettably, this hasn’t changed as much as I’d like. Most of the student activists I named earlier have faced harassment, some from peers, some from the teachers and authority figures who are supposed to be the responsible ones. Damon Fowler was demeaned by a teacher and disowned by his own parents for opposing prayer at his graduation. But what’s different now is that young people who speak out aren’t left to face the mob alone. Now more than ever before, there’s a thriving, growing secular community that’s becoming increasingly confident, assertive, and capable of looking out for its own.

When Fowler was kicked out of his house, a fundraiser on Friendly Atheist netted over $30,000 in donations to pay for his living expenses and college tuition. The Secular Student Alliance, a national organization that supports student atheist and freethought clubs, is growing by leaps and bounds in colleges and high schools. (This is especially important in the light of psychological experiments which find that it’s much easier to resist peer pressure if you have even one other person standing with you.) Student activists like the ones I’ve mentioned are no longer just scattered voices in the crowd; they’re the leading edge of a wave.

All these individual facts add up to a larger picture, which is confirmed by statistical evidence: Americans are becoming less religious, with rates of atheism and secularism increasing in each new generation. This demographic transformation has been in progress ever since World War II, but in recent years it’s begun to seriously pick up steam. In the generation born since 1982, variously referred to as Generation Y, the Millennials, or Generation Next, one in five people identify as nonreligious, atheist, or agnostic. In the youngest cohort, the trend is even more dramatic: as many as 30% of those born since 1990 are nonbelievers. Another study, this one by a Christian polling firm, found that people are leaving Christianity at four times the rate that new members are joining.

What could be causing this generational shift towards godlessness? There are multiple theories, but only one of them that I’m aware of both makes good sense and is corroborated by the facts.

Over the last few decades, society in general, and young people in particular, have become increasingly tolerant of gays and other minorities. For the most part, this is a predictable result of familiarity: people who’ve grown up in an increasingly multicultural society see less problem with interracial relationships (89% of Generation Nexters approve of interracial marriage, compared to 70% of older age groups) and same-sex marriage (47% in favor among Nexters, compared to 30% in older groups). When it comes to issues like whether gays and lesbians should be protected from job discrimination or allowed to adopt, the age gap in support is even more dramatic (71% vs. 59% and 61% vs. 44%, respectively).

But while American society is moving forward on all these fronts, many churches not only refuse to go along, they’re actively moving backward. Most large Christian sects, both Catholic and Protestant, have made fighting against gay rights and women’s rights their all-consuming crusade. And young people have gotten this message loud and clear: polls find that the most common impressions of Christianity are that it’s hostile, judgmental and hypocritical. In particular, an incredible 91% of young non-Christians say that Christianity is “anti-homosexual“, and significant majorities say that Christianity treats being gay as a bigger sin than anything else. (When right-wing politicians thunder that same-sex marriage is worse than terrorism, it’s not hard to see where people have gotten this impression.)

On other social issues as well, the gap between Gen Nexters and the church looms increasingly wide. Younger folks favor full access to the morning-after pill by a larger margin than older generations (59% vs. 46%). They reject the notion that women should return to “traditional roles” — already a minority position, but they disagree with it even more strongly than others. And they’re by far the least likely of all age groups to say that they have “old-fashioned” values about family and marriage (67% say this, as compared to 85% of other age groups).

In a society that’s increasingly tolerant and enlightened, the big churches remain stubbornly entrenched in the past, clinging to medieval dogmas about gay people and women, presuming to lecture their members about how they should vote, whom they should love, how they should live. It’s no surprise that people who’ve grown up in this tolerant age find it absurd when they’re told that their family and friends don’t deserve civil rights, and it’s even less of a surprise that, when they’re told they must believe this to be good Christians, they simply walk away. This trend is reflected in the steadily rising percentages of Americans who say that religion is “old-fashioned and out of date” and can’t speak to today’s social problems.

The Roman Catholic church in particular has been hit hard by this. According to a 2009 Pew study, “Faith in Flux,” one in ten American adults is a former Catholic, and a majority of ex-Catholics cite unhappiness with the church’s archaic stance on abortion, homosexuality, birth control or the treatment of women as a major factor in their departure. But evangelical and other Protestant denominations are feeling the same sting. According to a survey by the sociologists Robert Putnam and David Campbell, moderates and progressives are heading for the exits as the churches increasingly become the domain of conservatives:

From the early 1970s to the late 1980s the fraction of Americans age 18 to 29 who identified with evangelical Protestantism rose to 25% from 20%, but since 1990, that fraction has fallen back to about 17%….Today, 17% of Americans say they have no religion, and these new “nones” are very heavily concentrated among Americans who have come of age since 1990. Between 25% and 30% of twentysomethings today say they have no religious affiliation — roughly four times higher than in any previous generation.

Even the mainstream, relatively liberal Protestant churches are dwindling and dying at an astonishing rate: collateral damage, perhaps, in a political war that’s led young people to view them as guilty by association. As the journal First Things observes in an article titled “The Death of Protestant America,” the mainline churches have fallen from more than 50% of the American population in 1965 to less than 8% today.

What all this means is that the rise of atheism as a political force is an effect, rather than a cause, of the churches’ hard right turn towards fundamentalism. I admit that this conclusion is a little damaging to my ego. I’d love to say that we atheists did it all ourselves; I’d love to be able to say that our dazzling wit and slashing rhetorical attacks are persuading people to abandon organized religion in droves. But the truth is that the churches’ wounds are largely self-inflicted. By obstinately clinging to prejudices that the rest of society is moving beyond, they’re in the process of making themselves irrelevant. In fact, there are indications that it’s a vicious circle: as churches become less tolerant and more conservative, their younger and more progressive members depart, which makes their average membership still more conservative, which accelerates the progressive exodus still further, and so on. (A similar dynamic is at work in the Republican party, which explains their increasing levels of insanity over the past two or three decades.)

That doesn’t mean, however, that that there’s nothing we freethinkers can contribute. On the contrary, there’s a virtuous circle that we can take advantage of: the more we speak out and the more visible we are, the more familiar atheism will become, and the more it will be seen as a viable alternative, which will encourage still more people to join us and speak out. This is exactly the same strategy that’s been used successfully by trailblazers in the gay-rights movement and other social reform efforts.

At the same time, the churches aren’t entirely oblivious to what’s happening. The rising secular tide of Generation Next hasn’t gone unfelt or unnoticed, but is increasingly being reflected in dwindling donations, graying congregations, and empty churches across the land. As John Avant, a vice president for evangelization of the Southern Baptist Conference, lamented:

A study by New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s Leavell Center for Evangelism and Church Health showed that only 11 percent of SBC churches are healthy and growing… And we are doing worse with young people, with 39 percent of Southern Baptist churches in 2005 reporting baptizing no teens. (source)

The Catholic church is experiencing a similar slow fade, with declining Mass attendance and a crippling shortage of priests worldwide. Land once owned by religious orders is being sold off for conservation or public use, turned into schools or nature preserves. The Pope’s response, meanwhile, is to accelerate the decline by ordering bishops not even to discuss the possibility of ordaining women or married men, even as he welcomes Holocaust deniers and ex-Angelican misogynists.

And religious giving has declined as well, leaving shrinking churches grappling with layoffs and angry creditors. The recession has worsened this trend, but didn’t create it; like all the other patterns, it’s generational, with each increasingly secular age group giving less than the last. As one conservative rabbi says, the dip in giving stems from a “growing disinterest in organized religion.”

Of course, Christianity is still by far the largest religious affiliation in America, and likely will be for some time. But the numbers don’t lie, and the trends of the last several decades show more and more evidence of the same secularizing wave that’s overtaking most countries in Europe. The major churches, clinging to the inferior morality of long-gone ages, are increasingly out of step with a world that’s more enlightened, rational and tolerant than it once was. And the more they dig in their heels, the more we can expect this process to accelerate. I, for one, can’t wait to see the young atheist activists who will emerge in the next few decades.”

Adam Lee is the author and creator of Daylight Atheism, one of the largest and most popular weblogs on the Internet whose primary focus is on atheism. His original essays written for the site explore issues in politics, science, history, philosophy, and popular culture. Lee is the author of a forthcoming book, also titled Daylight Atheism, which advances the atheist viewpoint and argues that lack of religious belief is a positive liberation and the gateway to a moral life filled with purpose and joy.
Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/belief/151947/goodbye_religion_how_godlessness_is_increasing_with_each_new_generation/?page=entire