Because the Bible Tells Me So: Why Bachmann and Tea Party Christians Oppose Raising the Debt Ceiling

Serparation of  Church more important than ever.

From Alternet, by Adele M. Stan

” It’s a deal not even its parents could love, but if Congress manages to pass the plan to lift the debt ceiling arrived at last night by President Barack Obama and congressional leaders, the United States of America will manage to have avoided default on its debt — for the price of deep cuts to public programs.

In a scheme designed to cut $2.4 trillion in spending, the plan devised by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, with buy-in from House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, relies on a special bipartisan, bicameral committee of Congress to meet certain spending-cut targets, with the threat of automatic across-the-board cuts to everything from social programs (including Social Security and Medicare) to defense spending if Congress does not act. (You can see the PowerPoint presentation Boehner sent out to his caucus here[PDF]; note that the Washington Post‘s Ezra Klein says the speaker’s wrongwhen he asserts the plan does not allow for the raising of revenue.) If Congress passes the plan, it should push the next action needed on the debt ceiling to after the 2012 presidential election.

Dubbed a “compromise” by the White House, the deal looks like more of a grand capitulation than a grand bargain, effectively handing the Republicans a reward for dangling the economy off a cliff with their refusal to raise the limit on the amount of debt the nation could assume. It’s not “the deal that I would have preferred,” the president said while making a brief statement in the White House press room. The brinksmanship was driven by the most far-right members of the GOP majority in the House of Representatives, who embarrassed Boehner earlier in the week with their refusal to support a deal that would have given them nearly everything they demanded. That required Boehner to come back with a bill that seemed designed to waste time and bring the U.S. that much closer to default: it contained a requirement for passage of a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which led to its predictable rejection by the Senate.

‘A Sugar-Coated Satan Sandwich’

As last night’s agreement was shaping up, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus described it “shady” — a “sugar-coated Satan sandwich.” He did not rule out, however, the possibility of the CBC supporting it — apparently because the price for keeping the economy from crashing on all Americans just may be the devil’s ransom.

It remains to be seen, however, whether the far-right members of the Republican caucus will go for a deal that could, theoretically, cut defense spending. And then there are those even further to the right, such as Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, the Republican presidential contender and chair of the House Tea Party Caucus, for whom the devil isn’t simply in the details — it’s in the point of focus of the bill itself, its organizing principal, the thing that was used to create the hostage-taking crisis in the first place: the lifting of the debt ceiling.

Even some of the more right-wing members of the notoriously right-wing GOP House caucus began to get nervous last week, as the tick-tock of the doomsday default clock grew ever louder. The stock market had fallen every day, posting its worst week in more than a year, with the Dow dropping 4.2 percent for the week. Christine Lagarde, the newly appointed chief of the International Monetary Fund, warned, “A crisis in the US faith and credit has global implications.” By Thursday, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., House Budget Committee chairman and author of the draconian budget named for him, fell in line behind Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, ready to back his plan to lift the debt. So did House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Va., who had give the speaker a serious case of agita during the latter’s negotiations with the White House, and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, Calif.

But not Bachmann. Never, she said, would she vote for raising the debt ceiling. America should borrow no more.

If Bachmann’s oppostion — and that of some of her fellow Tea Partiers — to raising the debt ceiling seems fraught with a fervor best described as religious, perhaps that’s because it is. For Bachmann and some of her right-wing evangelical compatriots, financial, fiscal and economic issues are not matters to be considered with the knowledge imparted by economists and policy experts, but rather through the economic policy of ancient Israel as described in the Holy Bible.

The Hooey Offensive

For inside-the-Beltway political consumption, Bachmann keeps her ruminations on the debt ceiling strictly secular. All that talk of default on the national debt, and how that could destroy the economy, here and abroad? A whole lot of hooey, Bachmann asserts.

“The president has been scaring senior citizens and military veterans into thinking that we might be defaulting,” Bachmann said to supporters gathered in Iowa via telephone from Washington, D.C., according to the Des Moines Register.

Even if the debt ceiling isn’t lifted, she told a group of supporters on Saturday, the United States does not have to default on its debt. The nation can simply slash its way out of the mess, she contends. Last month, in fact, she co-authored a proposal with Iowa Congressman Steve King that would set priorities for just what the government would and wouldn’t pay if the debt ceiling, currently set at $14.3 trillion, was not lifted. The Register described it this way:

The U.S. could pay creditors as well as the military and fund Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid without increasing the debt limit, King and Bachmann said. Their list, however, did not contain such items as homeland and border security, federal prisons, veterans’ benefits or unemployment insurance.

“Shame on President Obama for casting the American people aside as collateral damage, as he continues his political gamesmanship with the national debt crisis,” Bachmann wrote in a statement issued last Tuesday, after the president’s speech about the current crisis in the nation’s borrowing authority.

For Bachmann, this position is likely borne from something other than secular economic conservatism: it seems more an article of faith, a product of what has come to be known as biblical economics. Its acceptance by Tea Partiers may indicate that the apparently upstart movement isn’t nearly as secular as its proponents would have you believe. A Pew poll released earlier this year found that while only a sizable minority of Tea Partiers said they agreed with the religious right (42 percent), a mere 11 percent expressed opposition to the religious right. And many of those regarded as Tea Party movement leaders — from Tim Phillips of Americans for Prosperity, to Rep. Mke Pence, R-Ind. to Bachmann herself, were part of the religious right before the Tea Party was a twinkle in David Koch’s eye.

The question is whether Bachmann and those who join her in opposing a raising of the debt ceiling actually believe the U.S. can avoid default through spending cuts alone, or rather, as Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner asserted last week on “Fox News Sunday,” they are actually “praying for default” — a scenario that would bear out a religious philosophy known as Christian Reconstructionism.

The Invisible Hand of Christian Reconstructionism

As I wrote earlier this month, Bachmann’s notions regarding gay rights appear to be shaped by the Christian Reconstructionist views that gave birth, as Sarah Posner of Religion Dispatches reported, to the law school at Oral Roberts University where she earned her degree. (The ORU law school has since been absorbed by the Rev. Pat Robertson’s Regent University.) Likewise, Bachmann’s position on the national debt, and her opposition to raising the debt ceiling or ending the Bush-era tax breaks for top income-earners, also finds commonalities with the interpretations of the Christian Reconstructionism founder, the late Rousas John Rushdoony, as well as several evangelical Christian writers who prescribe a “godly” approach to economic and even monetary policy.

Bachmann herself cites, as one inspiration, the religious-right philosopher, Francis Schaeffer, father of writer Frank Schaeffer, who authored the recently released book, God, Mom and Sex. (See Frank discuss Bachmann’s ideology with Thom Hartmann, here.) While the elder Schaeffer was not a Reconstructionist per se, the urgency with which he held Christians must act in the secular sphere to oppose laws they deem to be unjust overlaps in some ways with Reconstructionism, which author Frederick Clarkson says influenced the elder Schaeffer.

In the Christian Reconstructionist’s idea of a perfect state, the law of ancient Israel, with its death penalty for “homosexual” men and adulterers, would constitute the law of the land. Christian Reconstructionists assert there is no law but “God’s law,” by which they mean the law as laid out in the Bible. Any secular law that contradicts God’s law is viewed as invalid by a hard-core Reconstructionist. That may account for why there are so few hard-core Reconstructionists; to live literally by its precepts would likely mean doing serious jail time for all that defiance of ungodly laws.

But Reconstructionist thought has had a profound influence on Christian evangelicals from a wide range of sects — from austere Baptists to tongues-speaking charismatics. Bachmann, who says she was called to public office by God, would seem to be no exception. Indeed, many small-government Christians credit their poltiical views to the Old Testament story of Samuel, who advised the ancient Hebrews against installing a king, because, as Chad Hovind, author of the Godonomics blog on BeliefNet explains it, a king requires a government which, by its very nature, is essentially designed to steal from you.

Purveyors of biblical economics contend that most of the practices of modern government — especially government assistance to the poor — run contrary to biblical principles, and should therefore be halted. Alex McFarland, an evangelical author who appears regularly on “Fox & Friends,” sent out a press release this week stating that the answer to “stop[ing] the bleeding” of government spending is to “Stop the addiction and return to biblical principles when handling the country’s finances.” The government, the release says, is addicted to spending.

Hovind, on the other hand, doesn’t bother with newfangled theories of addiction, and instead goes straight to the Old Testment story of King Solomon’s son, Rehobaom:

There is no place in the Bible more “ripped from today’s headlines” than King Rehoboam’s cabinet meeting in 1 Kings chapter 12. His father, Solomon was a extremely successful leader who led the nation into incredible historic success.  His dad expanded government, over-committed the kingdom’s spending, and taxed the “little people” for many years.  His father was known for his building projects, national attention, and global influence; however dad had slowly eroded the liberty and love of the people through high taxation and high control. The people were ready for a new administration. There was buzz in the community about the high hopes for changes and renewal under the new king. All of Israel came out to cheer on their new leader.

Hovind goes on to explain how Rehoboam blew his chance to win the adoration of the people by liberating them, and instead vowed to visit scourges upon them where his father had oppressed them only with a heavy yoke. In the worldview of the Reconstructionist-influenced evangelical, Rehoboam makes a handy stand-in for Barack Obama, the man Michele Bachmann claims has “cast the American people aside as collateral damage.” (The collateral damage reference comes from Obama’s own assertion that in the wrangling over the debt, the American people were poised to become collateral damage of partisan political warfare.)

Hovind’s invocation of the Rehoboam story in order to make a case for spending cuts — as opposed to a raise in the debt ceiling — comes straight from the pages of the Institutes of Biblical law, the Christian Reconstructionist text penned by Rushdoony. Reconstructionist theologian Gary North, Rushdoony’s son-in-law, describes the story here.

Thou Shalt Not Tax

One can easily find, within the pages of Rushdoony’s tome, the roots of opposition to ending the Bush-era tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans. In a section called “Robbing God” in a chapter on the Eighth Commandment (“Thall Shalt Not Steal”), Rushdoony writes in The Institutes of Biblical Law that the rich should not be required to pay more than those who are not rich. (Never mind that a tax plan such as Bachmann’s would essentially remove 23,000 millionaires from the tax rolls altogether, according to ThinkProgress.) Rushdoony writes of the ancient Israelites: “The same tax was assessed on all men: ‘The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less.’ (Ex. 30:15)”

“A tyrannical state,” Rushdoony writes in another section of the same chapter, “always limits a man’s use of his property, taxes it, or confiscates that property as an effective means of enslaving a man without necessarily touching his person.” Remember that quote the next time you hear those ostensibly secular Tea Partiers go on about tyranny, enslavement and taxes.

Rusdoony also decries paper money not backed by precious resources, as well as inflation, as forms of theft, and declares reserve banking illegitimate. (Still think Ron and Rand Paul are secularists?)

Julie Ingersoll, a professor of religious studies at University of North Florida, agrees that Bachmann’s position against raising the debt ceiling is rooted in a “theocratic reading of the Bible, arising out of the nexus between (Ron) Paul … Howard Phillips and his Constitution Party, and Gary North and the Christian Reconstructionists.” But she also puts forth a more sobering theory — that Reconstructionists, and perhaps neo-Reconstructionists such as Bachmann, actually want the U.S. to default on its debt. They want this, Ingersoll wrote last year at Religion Dispatches, not in spite of the destruction in would wreak on both the U.S. and global economies, but because of it:

North’s overarching schema is that there is an impending social collapse which will provide the opportunity for biblically based Christians to exercise dominion by replacing existing humanistic institutions with biblical ones. In Honest Money, he wrote:

First, the bankers and the politicians will continue to try to make the present system work. This will make the present system worse. Second, there will be a collapse in stages: inflation, then mass inflation, then price controls, then tyranny, and finally a worldwide deflationary depression. At that point, there will be new demand from the voters for answers. Third—and this is my hope and my prayer—people will at last decide that they have had enough moral and legal compromise. They will at last decide to adopt a simple system of honest money, along with competitive free market principles throughout the economy.

The current system, North maintains, violates the Ten Commandments, in particular the prohibition against theft.

Many believe Michele Bachmann to be a fool, finding themselves confounded by her success so far in her presidential bid, as she leads the GOP in the all-important state of Iowa. When she first ran for Congress, Michele Bachmann described herself to a church audience as “a fool for Christ,” whose will she believes she was doing by running for office. She may be a fool, but she’s not just anybody’s fool.”

Adele M. Stan is AlterNet’s Washington bureau chief. Follow her on Twitter:

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/story/151795/because_the_bible_tells_me_so%3A_why_bachmann_and_tea_party_christians_oppose_raising_the_debt_ceiling?akid=7345.123424.tkEmda&rd=1&t=2

The Big 10:Things I’d Say to the Anti-Choice Fanatics Trying to End Access to Abortion

Ohio State Senator Nina Turner, quoting the words of Margaret Sanger: “No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body. No woman can call herself free until she can choose whether she will or will not be a mother.

From Alternet, by Amanda Marcotte

“The anti-choice movement would be nowhere without a heavy denial of reality based on the promotion of myths about sex, about birth control, about women’s bodies, but especially about abortion. While the majority of Americans are pro-choice, the constant drumbeat of stories makes the public wonder if there isn’t some truth to the stereotypes, causing even pro-choice people to support regulations such as waiting periods, parental notification laws, and ultrasound laws that only serve to make it harder for women in need to get abortions.

With that in mind, here’s ten realities pro-choicers should throw in the face of anti-abortion fanatics they have the misfortune to get into arguments with:”

1) Most abortions take place early in pregnancy

2) If not for anti-choicers, even more women would get abortions much earlier in their pregnancies.

3) Doctors perform late term abortions because of medical indications, often on women who desperately wanted the baby.

4) Women who get abortions aren’t afraid of being mothers.

5) Abortion is physically safe.

6) Abortion is mentally safe.

7) Women who get abortions take responsibility for their decision.

8) Abortion providers are responsible medical professionals who work to make sure their patients are healthy and avoid future unintended pregnancies.

9) Women get abortions because they’re being responsible.

10) Conservative policies cause the abortion rate to be higher than it needs to be.

No one wants an abortion. Women aren’t getting pregnant on purpose so they can enjoy an expensive suctioning of their uterine lining. So why are there 1.2 million abortions a year in America? Part of it is just bad luck; sometimes contraception fails and unwanted pregnancies happen. That will always be with us.

However, 46% of women who get abortions weren’t using a contraceptive method the month they got pregnant, indicating that conservative policies that discourage regular contraception use—everything from abstinence-only education to objecting to any measures that make contraception cheaper and easier to obtain–-have been effective in keeping women from using contraception as regularly as they should. In addition, abortion rates are much higher for women living in poverty, and three quarters of women getting abortions say they can’t afford a child. If anti-choicers start moaning about the high rate of abortions, ask them what they intend to do about it. Do they want to make birth control free for all women? What about expansive social welfare that makes it easier for pregnant women living in poverty to say yes to having this baby? Most anti-choicers are generally conservative, and most will get really angry really quick if you start to mention concrete solutions to lower the abortion rate. ”

(N.B.: we can also  add that because the anti-abortion dialog is driven by religious arguments, it is yet one more reason why we must support Separation of Church and State: no Christian Nation (or any other Theocracy) here!)

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/story/151800/10_things_i%27d_say_to_the_anti-choice_fanatics_trying_to_end_access_to_abortion?page=entire

Inside the Law School That Brought Us Michele Bachmann

Via Alternet, from Religious Dispatches, by Sarah Posner

“… IOTC founder Michael Peroutka presented the evening’s guest speaker, attorney Herb Titus, with a “Patrick Henry Award” for “his tireless and fearless telling of God’s truth to power.” Titus (best known for his representation of former Judge Roy Moore in his failed quest to install a 2.6-ton Ten Commandments monument in the Alabama Supreme Court building) is one of the few lawyers in America who, Peroutka noted, truly “believes God is sovereign and therefore God’s law is the only law.” For Peroutka, the Constitution Party’s 2004 nominee for president, this was his usual spiel on God and the law.

In the late 1970s, Titus played an instrumental role in launching the law school at Oral Roberts University (ORU), from which GOP presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann graduated in 1986. Titus, who rejected his Harvard Law School education after reading the work of R.J. Rushdoony, the late founder of Christian Reconstructionism, was moved to exercise what he believes is a “dominion mandate” to “restore the Bible to legal education.” To teach, in other words, that Christianity is the basis of our law, that lawyers and judges should follow God’s law, and that the failure to do so is evidence of a “tyrannical,” leftist agenda. Titus’ lecture, as well as the teachings of Reconstructionists, the Constitution Party, and the IOTC, provide a window into Bachmann’s legal education, and thus how her political career and rhetoric—so incomprehensible and absurdto many observers—was unmistakably shaped by it…The stated goal of the Constitution Party “is to restore American jurisprudence to its biblical foundations and to limit the federal government to its Constitutional boundaries.” Thatincludes, for example, “affirm[ing] the rights of states and localities to proscribe offensive sexual behavior” (i.e., homosexuality) and “oppos[ing] all efforts to impose a new sexual legal order through the federal court system” (i.e., civil unions, marriage equality, or adoption by LGBT people). It is more extreme than the Republican Party platform, to be sure, but the GOP is hardly devoid of allies of the Constitution Party—including Sharron Angle, who ran for Senate in Nevada last year, and presidential candidate Ron Paul.

The lecture series at the Institute on the Constitution, which also offers in-depth classes that are popular with tea party groups, has recently included presentations on constitutional law by Moore and one of his protégés, current Alabama Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker. In a dissenting opinion in a 2005 child custody case in which the majority affirmed an award of custody to the child’s grandparents, Parker cited not legal cases or statutes, but rather Romans 13:1-2, for the proposition that “there is no authority except from God.” That, he concluded, dictated that the state should stay out of such family law matters except in the most extraordinary circumstances… Titus insists that Christians are discriminated against by these conventional interpretations of the Establishment Clause, which are at odds with his own, and which he contends have contributed to the treatment of Christians as “second-class citizens.”

“I would say to you that someone who holds a Christianview such as Michele Bachmann does would be much more accommodating of different views than any liberals,” he told me, because her views would permit the public posting of the Ten Commandments, for example, but a liberal’s would not…

That’s because, of course, under a “liberal” (i.e., accepted by the Supreme Court, at least for now) view of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, the government cannot act in a way that does, or appears to, endorse a particular religion.

Titus contends, however, that religion, as used in the Establishment Clause (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”) does not mean, well, a religion. Rather, Titus insists that this clause means that Congress cannot make you do anything that you are otherwise commanded by God to do: in other words, Congress cannot flout God…In Titus’ view, the First Amendment prohibition against Congress establishing a religion was actually intended to prevent Congress from establishing institutions that he maintains are tantamount to a religion, like public education,or National Public Radio. “I don’t believe what they teach in public schools,” Titus told his IOTC audience. “They don’t even believe in the first thing—that God is the source of knowledge.”…

Indeed, Bachmann possesses an alarming misunderstanding of the history of slavery that at once celebrates it as a heyday of African-American family life, and engages in revisionism about the founders’ view of it. She recently signed a “marriage pledge” in Iowa that included the statement (since removed): “sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American president.” She has also stated,incorrectly, that the founders “worked tirelessly” to end slavery.

Peroutka and the IOTC, for their part, express affection for the Confederacy. In bestowing the “Courage of Daniel Award” on Moore on June 3, Peroutka, who frequently ribs people for being from the “wrong sideof the Mason-Dixon line,” cheerfully noted that it also happened to be the birthday of Confederate President Jefferson Davis…

Bachmann is one of several Republicans endorsed by the Gun Owners of America, another Titus client, which contends that gun ownership is not just a right, but an “obligation to God, to protect life.” Last year, Titus cited the “totalitarian threat” posed by “Obamacare” and told me that people need to be armed, “because ultimately it may come to the point where it’s a life and death situation.”…In 2003, motivated by Moore’s Ten Commandments crusade, then-state senator Bachmann participated in a “Ten Commandments Rally” on the state capitol steps, at which speakers called for the impeachment of federal judges who rule public postings of the Ten Commandments unconstitutional, and for a return to “biblical principles.” Bachmann, according to coverage in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, “told the crowd that the founders of the United States—including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson—‘recognized the Ten Commandments as the foundation of our laws.’”(N.B.:!???!)…

“When judges don’t rule in fear of the Lord,” he(Parker) concluded, “all the foundations of the earth are shaken.”…The law school at ORU was a first effort at creating a “Christian” law school that would teach the “biblical” foundations of the law—essentially substituting Rushdoony’s totalizing worldview for mainstream legal theory. His views are evident not only in the ORU education Bachmann received, but in the perspectives of other Christian law schools forged on the ORU example, such as Liberty University Law School, where students are taught to follow “God’s law” rather than “man’s law,” and where Rushdoony’s texts are required reading. The rise of Christian schools—not just law schools, but elementary and secondary education, and homeschooling as well—has been, in Titus’ view, a “silent revolution” that has “basically escaped the scrutiny of most journalists.”…I asked Titus whether it would be a big moment for him to see Bachmann, a product of the law school he helped found, ascend to the GOP presidential nomination. He replied, “It’s the kind of thing that we believe was one of our major purposes, which was to train people in such a way so as to make an impact in the leadership of the country.”

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/story/151695/inside_the_right-wing_christian_law_school_that_brought_us_michele_bachmann?akid=7283.123424.qLf-Z5&rd=1&t=5

For God’s Sake: The Idiocy of “Divine Inspiration” In Politics

From Alternet:”Lately, there would seem to be a whole lot more people who have a direct channel to the Big Guy Upstairs than one could have humanly thought possible.

It is oft-said that “God works in mysterious ways”. But when Michele Bachmann hears voices telling her to run for president, am I the only who thinks the most likely explanation is a batch of bad clams or one-too-many nights role playing The Book of Eli with her equally demented husband Marcus?

Perhaps, these are the very same voices that have shared with her the important roleFounding Father John Quincy Adams” played in ending slavery as he battled the oncoming scourge of puberty? I don’t know, just a stab in the dark.

Regardless, whether it is gay marriage or spotting the Virgin Mary in your gordita, our re-embrace of culture-by-theology in the United States (not unlike much of the rest of the world) has led supposedly “serious people” to say things that not so long ago would have landed them a starring role in Girl, Interrupted.

In our current age, in fact, possessing a direct cerebral channel to Deus (or at least claiming you do) would seem to be a requirement for receiving an invitation to a GOP presidential debate.

It equally pervades the rest of right-wing political culture in the US, as twisted scripture both provides ready justification for those who hate everything about the this country post-1930, and renders more difficult the job of the media to effectively criticise any crackpot theory-lest they lose their “objectivity” for a moment and offend some True Believers.

For example, in light of the recent law passed by the New York state legislature providing full marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples, dingy-old-Hammerhead-Bat Pat Robertson offered his expert testimony that “there’s never been a civilisation ever in history that has embraced homosexuality and turned away from traditional fidelity, traditional marriage, traditional child-rearing, and has survived.”

He went on to compare the United States to Sodom and pleasantly predict we’d suffer the same fate – complete annihilation.

In case you’re keeping score, Jesus is apparently cool with Rev Robertson’s having befriended the al-Qaeda-harboring, genocidal thug Charles Taylor, in order to fatten his wallet from a steady diet of Liberian blood diamonds. When it comes to loving couples of the same sex tying the knot, however, not so much.

Thankfully, for the rest of us, Robertson’s many past predictions of our collective demise were so inane they might as well have been announced on an aircraft carrier with a “Mission Accomplished” banner in the background.

So to pick up the slack, Missouri GOP Congressman and apparent Mary-Shelley-creation Todd Akin also jumped into the God interpretation game last week – likely as a strategy to forward his US Senate campaign. Akin, in an obvious moment of clarity, puked out that “at the heart of liberalism really is a hatred for God.” Because, as we all know, nothing is closer to the teachings of the Bible than Akin’s record of lying about his address for voting purposes and cutting taxes for 8-figure earning CEOs while gutting health care for impoverished children.

Sadly, however, our God Culture isn’t limited to just the political game, but also allows some of those clever cats, professional athletes, to get in on the action.

I must admit to finding it rather amusing – as in completely ridiculous – whenever an overpaid ballplayer hits a three-point shot or bashes a fastball over the center field wall, only to respond by pointing up to the Heavens as if it were Divinely ordained. Because we all know any Higher Power has nothing better to do – like ending conflict in the Sudan or curing cancer – than taking in some sport and using his/her powers to ensure Arsenal wins the FA Cup.

Somewhere Jacob is trying to best that blood-sucker Edward and win the affections of Bella, and God is going to worry about the Stanley Cup? How arrogant.

It is this hubris that must explain why one of the heroes of the 2007 Super-Bowl-winning New York Giants, David Tyree, thought it his place to tell us what His God would think of gay marriage in New York – much like Brother Robertson. As you can imagine, according to Tyree, it just up and freaked God out.

I guess he missed the part where he’s the guy we trust to catch the ball on the field, not make public policy according to his translation of the will of his Deity off of it.

For, in the end, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Believer or not. Most of us to the north of birdbrain can agree that no matter what Bachmann, Akin, Robertson or Tyree have to say on the matter, it is in fact societies ruled by faux-pious numbskulls that, to quote the elegant and articulate Robertson, have “never, ever survived.”

Perhaps he and his Republican buddies can ponder–and share on Google+ with their circles of friends, family, and even acquaintances, for the rest of our sakes–the words of the founder of their party, Abraham Lincoln, who once counseled that it is “better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

Cliff Schecter is the president of Libertas, LLC, a progressive public relations firm.

Emphasis mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/story/151658/for_god%27s_sake%3A_the_idiocy_of_%22divine_inspiration%22_in_politics/?page=entire

Why Rupert Murdoch Love$ God: World’s Biggest Sleaze Mogul Also Getting Rich from Christian Moralizers

From Alternet By Frank Schaeffer

Here’s what you might not know about Rupert Murdoch: he’s one of the leading religion publishers in the world.

Maybe one day soon Murdoch will go to jail as might his son, as will several of their UK editors if many alleged and disgusting and illegal acts of pirate “journalism” are proved true, ranging from bribing the police to hacking the phones of bereaved family members of killed service men and women and child murder victims. Make no mistake: when it comes to the Murdoch media “empire” we’re talking about the lowest form of “journalism” as detailed by the Guardian newspaper.

So are religious moralizers and others writing about religious and/or “moral” themes prepared to enrich the Murdoch “ media juggernaut” forever while Rupert Murdoch further corrupts UK, American and Australian politics while his companies trade in human misery for profit by hacking murder victim’s phones, paying off the police, elevating smut to a national sport and even hacking the phones of killed soldiers’ families?

You bet!

Rupert Murdoch is one of America’s number one publishers of evangelical and other religious books, including the 33-million sellerPurpose Driven Life by mega pastor and anti-gay activist Rick Warren. Murdoch is also publisher of “progressive” Rob Bell’s Love Wins.

Rick Warren, Rob Bell and company helped Murdoch fund his tabloid-topless-women-on-page-3 empire, phone hacking of murdered teens and Fox News’ spreading “birther” and “death panel” lies about the president. They helped Murdoch by enriching him.  And these weren’t unknown authors just lucky to get published anywhere, they could have picked anybody to sell their books.

Do the religious authors making their fortunes off Murdoch wear gloves when they cash their royalty checks? Do they ever dare look in the mirror?

The authors publishing with Murdoch serve a religious market so fine-tuned to grandstanding hypocrisy and moralizing, that, for instance, my novels about growing up religious (Portofino, Zermatt and Saving Grandma) will never be sold in the thousands of CBA member (Christian Bookseller’s Association) bookstores because – horrors! – my books have profanity and sex in them!

But those same CBA stores gladly sell tens of millions of books — annually — published by Murdoch, a man with the moral rectitude of the herpes virus, a man who runs the companies that gave Glenn Beck a megaphone, that hacked a dead girl’s phone, that lied about Iraq’s involvement in 9/11, and thus contributed to the war-of-choice needless killing of almost 5000 American soldiers by George W Bush.

You see, Murdoch has bought into and now owns a huge chunk of American religion and is suckling from the profitable God-teat along with the likes of Rick Warren and Rob Bell et al.

Murdoch bought the venerable evangelical Zondervan publishing house. I knew the founding Zondervan family, a clan of strict Bible-believing Calvinists who’d have bathed for a week in the Jordan River to purify themselves if they’d ever even brushed up against Murdoch and his minions! Later generations sold out.

Murdoch also bought the all purpose all-religion-is-great-if-it-sells-something “religion” site “Beliefnet” and “Inspirio” – religious “gift production,” specialists making tawdry religion-junk of the one-more-pair-of-praying-hands made of pressed muck kind.

And Murdoch publishes Rob Bell and other so-called progressives evangelical “stars” as well as run of the mill evangelical right winger’s books though Harper One, the “religious” division of Harper Collins, another Murdoch company.

Murdoch knows something I found out way back in the 1970s and 80s, when I was still my founder-of-the-religious-right Dad’s sidekick and a right wing evangelical leader/shill myself: There’s gold in them-thar God hills! James Dobson alone once gave away 150,000 copies of one of my evangelical screeds that sold more than a million copies. (I describe why I got out of the evangelical netherworld – fled — in my book Sex, mom and God.)

So here’s my question to Rob Bell of the God-loves-everybody school of touchy-feely theology and/or to the right wing “family values” crowd who worry about gay marriage between responsible loving adults  while they perform financial fellatio on the mightiest and most depraved/pagan media baron to ever walk the earth:

What serious, let alone decent religiously conscious person – left or right, conservative or liberal — would knowingly work to enrich this dreadful man who will go down in history as the epitome of everything that all religion says its against: lies, greed, criminality, and sheer disgusting exploitation of the defenseless that would shame a sewer rat?

Secular “un-saved” and “godless” and “liberal” authors like Jeff Jarvis have pulled books from Harper Collins because it’s owned by Murdoch as he writes: “[my]  next book, Public Parts, was to be published, like my last one, by News Corp.’s HarperCollins. But I pulled the book because in it, I am very critical of the parent company for being so closed. It’s now being published by Simon and Schuster.”

Where are the big time religion writers like the “I-give-all-my-royalties-to-the-poor” Rick Warren to be found refusing to publish with Zondervan, Harper One or write another word for Beliefnet? What’s mildly lefty Rob Bell’s defense for enriching Murdoch and helping to finance Fox “News” via publishing with Harper One when he could publish with anyone?

For that matter where are the evangelical/Roman Catholic/Muslim—or just minimally decent — people, religious or irreligious guests and commentators now refusing to be interviewed by Fox News even if it will help sell their books?

Knowing what we know about the union-busting, slime-spreading Murdoch empire and it’s disgusting and criminal actions can a moral person work for or use the products of this all-encompassing web of profit, far right politics and corruption?

I don’t think so.

But of course the religion writers have plenty of company.

What about journalists working for Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal?

What about Deepak Chopra?

He publishes with Harper One. Thus Chopra is helping finance Fox News. And so is Desmond Tutu. He’s also a Harper One author.

And what about all the “progressive” stars, producers and writers doing deals with the Fox movie empire? Such Hollywood moralists used to boycott working in the old apartheid South Africa, but will work for/with Murdoch today as he empowers the far religious racist right through Fox News! Desmond Tutu used to call for boycotts of far right religious nuts in South Africa oppressing blacks in the name of God, and now he’s a Murdoch contributor!

Go figure!

Why should the people – religious leaders, writers, actors, agents, producers et al — who help Murdoch wreck America and the UK — remain respectable in our countries?

Okay, they deserve a second chance.

Mea Culpa!

I published two books with Harper Collins some years ago after Murdoch had taken over. I had a deal with the Smithsonian that was tied into Harper Collins for distribution, then the Smithsonian backed out but my books stayed at Harpers. After they were published I thought about – and regretted — helping Murdoch. I’ve never published with them again.

I only have one excuse, I didn’t know much about Murdoch then. But who would willingly publish anything with any Murdoch paper, magazine or book publisher now, knowing what we all know?

Post UK meltdown, will Tutu, Bell, Chopra et al – big time authors with a choice of publishers — still publish yet more books with Harper One, and/or with Zondervan?

Will liberals in Hollywood still underwrite Murdoch with their lives and continue to work for Fox TV and Fox Films?

It’s time to hold all Murdoch’s collaborator’s feet to the fire, especially the big and famous sell outs who can go anywhere with their books or scripts. And why would any decent paper or blog review any book, film or TV show that enriches Murdoch? He should be blacked out before he takes us all down with him.

No more excuses. We all know about Murdoch now.

From here on out it’s time to out those who choose to stay in bed with the sleazy man from down under who elbowed his way into America and the UK, damaged our political systems, perhaps fatally, all the while insulting our intelligence and aiding and abetting our war machine.

We can’t boycott every dubious corporation on earth. But with Murdoch’s sleaze-infested ambition to control the politics of so much of the world a reality a line’s been crossed. It is time to pull an “Arab Spring” on the whole Murdoch empire and overthrow it. And we of the outraged “street” can do it at last because so many political and media leaders, who have sucked up to Murdoch for decades, are running for cover.

I know it’s not considered polite to be judgmental but I’ll say it: to work for any part of News Corp, Murdoch, Fox and/or any or all of his companies, let alone to publish books with him makes you an accomplice to a very bad person.

Frank Schaeffer is a writer his new book is Sex, Mom, and God: How the Bible’s Strange Take on Sex Led to Crazy Politics–and How I Learned to Love Women (and Jesus) Anyway

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/story/151585/why_rupert_murdoch_love%24_god%3A_world%27s_biggest_sleaze_mogul_also_getting_rich_from_christian_moralizers?page=entire

Science vs. Religion, next round

From Alternet, by Victor Stenger

In my previous blog I claimed that science and religion are fundamentally incompatible. To reiterate, the reason I gave was their differing epistemologies. Science relies only on what we observe with our senses, while religion claims an additional inner sense that reveals another world beyond.

Now let me take a look at some specific examples where these contrasting notions on the sources of knowledge lead to incompatibilities in their comprehension of the nature of reality.

1. The Transcendent

All religions, even Buddhism, teach that a reality exists that goes beyond — transcends — the world that presents itself to our senses and scientific instruments. While science is willing to consider any evidence that comes along, so far we have no empirical anomaly that requires us to introduce supernatural causes into our models.

In this regard, it is often claimed that science has nothing to say about the supernatural. But this is wrong. If the supernatural exists and has effects on the sensory world, then those effects would be observable and subject to scientific study. A God that plays such an important role in the universe and in human lives as the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God should have been detected by now. The fact that he hasn’t forces us to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that a God with those attributes does not exist.

Let me take a moment to show why I can make such a claim. Even the most pious believer has to admit that there is no scientific evidence for God. If there were, it would be in the textbooks along with the evidence for neutrinos and DNA. But then, the believer will say, “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

While this may be true in general, it is not true when the evidence that is absent is evidence that should be there. The absence of evidence for elephants in Central Park (droppings, crushed bushes) can be taken as a good sign that there are none.

    • If the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God exists we should see evidence that he answers prayers. We do not.
    • If he reveals truths by extrasensory means, we should be able to verify those truths. We do not.
  • If God or the supernatural is glimpsed in religious experiences, we should be able to confirm it. We do not.

In short, the world looks just like it should look if there is no God with these attributes.  True that this does not rule out other gods, such a deist god that does not act in the universe. But we can rule out the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God to a high degree of probability (see God: The Failed Hypothesis).

2. The Origin of the Universe

Fundamental to most religions is the notion of divine creation. At one time it seemed impossible that the universe could have come into existence naturally. Christians saw the success of the big bang model as a further confirmation of the biblical creation story. At least it seemed to prove that the universe had a beginning and it followed, by their reasoning, that the cause of that beginning could only be a personal Creator God.

Modern cosmology has considerably dampened this hope. It has shown that the big bang need not have been the beginning of space and time and that the universe could be eternal. At least, theological claims that an eternal universe is mathematically impossible can be proven false. It now seems possible or even likely that our universe is just one of an unlimited number of other universes.

Several plausible scenarios for the natural origin of our universe have been published by reputable scholars. While we cannot say exactly how our universe came about, these scenarios, which are completely worked out mathematically and consistent with all existing knowledge, at least prove that a divine creation is not required.

3. Fine-Tuning

Many theologians and others have claimed that the parameters of physics are so delicately balanced that any slight changes in their values and life would not have been possible. Therefore they conclude that a creator must have fine-tuned these parameters so that we, and our form of life, would evolve.

This claim can be refuted on several fronts. The most popular explanation among most physicists and cosmologists is that many universes exist and we just happen to live in the one suited for us.

However, even if only our universe exists, adequate explanations within existing knowledge can be found for the values of the most crucial parameters. Others can be shown to have ranges that make some form of life probable (see The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning).

4. The Argument from Design

For centuries theologians have argued that the observed order we see around us is evidence for divine design in the universe. However, the universe does not look at all as if it were designed by a perfect, all-powerful, benevolent God. It is too imperfect, too filled with evil and suffering. And, as time has gone by, science has provided plausible explanations for the observed order.

Proponents of intelligent design creationism argue that complex structures require an architect and builder, and that natural processes cannot generate increasing complexity. They are wrong. The generation of complex systems from simpler systems can be seen in many physical situations, such as the phase transitions in which water goes naturally from gas to liquid to solid in the absence of external energy. In the physical and biological worlds, simplicity begets complexity.

The reason for much of the mistrust of science is the fundamental incompatibility of science and religion and the religious know that. At least evangelicals are honest about it. They recognize science as the enemy. Liberal and moderate believers, on the other hand, are fooling themselves if they think that can be both religious and scientific without being schizophrenic.

emphasis mine

see: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/victor-stenger/why-science-and-religion-_2_b_887256.html

Religion vs Science, Round One

By Victor Stenger, from Huff Post

Many historians and sociologists have denied the there ever was a war between science and religion. Some have even claimed that Christianity was responsible for science! But they have ignored the most important historical facts. Greece and Rome were well on the way to modern science when Christianity interrupted its development for a thousand years. It was no accident that the scientific revolution of the eighteenth century happened only after the revolts against Church authority in the Renaissance and Reformation opened up new avenues of thought.

I don’t deny that many scientists are also religious, but they have compartmentalized their brains into two sections that don’t talk to each other.

Science and religion are fundamentally incompatible because of their unequivocally opposed epistemologies — the assumptions they make concerning what we can know about the world. Every human alive is aware of a world that seems to exist outside his or her body, the world of sensory experience we call the natural. Science is the systematic study of the observations we make about the natural world with our senses and scientific instruments and the application the knowledge obtained to human activity.

All major religions teach that humans possess an additional “internal” sense that enables us to gain access to a realm that lies beyond the world we see around us — a divine, transcendent reality we call the supernatural. Religion is a set of practices intended to communicate with the supernatural and apply the insights gained thereby to human needs.

The working hypothesis of science is that empirical data is our only reliable source of knowledge about the world. No doubt science has its limits. But it doesn’t follow that religion or any other alternative system of thought automatically provides any insight into what lies beyond those limits.

The scientific community in general believes that science has nothing to say about the supernatural. However, if we truly possess this inner sense and it is telling us about an unobservable reality that matters to us and influences our lives, then we should be able to observe the effects of that reality. So far we see no evidence for and have no reason to rely on this inner sense of the supernatural. If such evidence or reason should show up, however, then scientists will have to consider it.

Emphasis Mine

see: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/victor-stenger/why-science-and-religion-_1_b_879022.html

Right-wing Hate Mongering and Evangelical Christianity

Frank Schaeffer is a writer and author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It Back.

He writes in Alternet: “The ugly side of Evangelical Christianity is very much to blame for the anti-Obama hyperventilating.  Former president Jimmy Carter went on the record to point out that he believes that racism is at the heart of the great deal of the extreme animosity being leveled at President Obama…if you’re going to blame one group above all others for the willful ignorance and continuing ugliness of the response to President Obama the best candidate would be the evangelical/fundamentalist community.  The angry part of the South Carter spoke of is racist because it’s dominated by a certain type of “Christian” culture.

Since Carter is also an evangelical Christian (as well as a Southerner) he would have done well to use his evangelical  insider status to point to not just racism but to scream bloody murder about a bigger problem today: the hijacking of Christianity as the source of the hate and anger directed against all things “other” by a vocal (and health care lobby-organized and funded) angry  minority of voters who are poisoning the American body… Are the New Atheists leading us to enlightenment? The problem with the recent New Atheist attacks on Christianity is that they mirror the hostility of the evangelical/fundamentalist subculture toward the secular society that it so disdains.  The real answer to the question; “Can Christianity be saved from the Christians?” is not going to be found coming from people like Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris et al …The people running around calling Obama is “Hitler”, the so-called “birthers” and all the rest can’t be understood outside of the context of the hermetically sealed world-hating gated community known as Evangelical Christianity… The key to understanding the Evangelicals is to understand the popularity of the Left Behind series of books about the “return of Christ” (and the whole host of other End Times “ministries” from the ever weirder Jack-the-Rapture-is-coming!-Van-Impe to the smoother but no less bizarre pages of Christianity Today magazine). This isn’t some new or sudden interest in prophecy, but evidence of the deepening inferiority complex suffered by the evangelical/fundamentalist community. ..The words “left behind” are ironically what the books are about, but not in the way their authors intended. The evangelical/fundamentalists, from their crudest egocentric celebrities to their “intellectuals” touring college campuses trying to make evangelicalism respectable, have indeed been left behind by modernity. They won’t change their literalistic anti-science, anti-education, anti-everything superstitions, so now they nurse a deep grievance against “the world.”…

Millions of evangelicals have been raised in homes where they’ve been isolated from the wider culture, home schooled and/or sent to “Christian schools” where they have been indoctrinated to believe that the Federal Government is the enemy of all true believers, that the “End” is near, that secular society is their enemy as is art, learning and culture.

They now form a Fifth Column of the deliberately intellectually disenfranchised. They know they are out of the loop and hate the rest of us for their own self-imposed isolation. I’m afraid they will soon turn to violence.

Here Are The Alternatives To Change the Theologically-Induced Hate Landscape:

A) all sane Americans must become atheists or agnostics,

or…

B) those of us who are Christians must rescue Christianity from the willfully ignorant evangelicals and fundamentalists.

I favor the second alternative.  First, having been raised in an evangelical/fundamentalist home I’ve long since moved beyond my background when it comes to my politics and my theology. That proves something; people can change their minds! I did.

But I believe more strongly than ever that we human beings are spiritual beings with or without the permission of those who take a purely rationalist approach to human existence.  The better — and I think only realistic option — is to regard religion as an evolving process of human consciousness and work to reform rather than eliminate it

In my soon-to-be published book Patience With God: Faith For People Who Don’t Like Religion (Or Atheism) I have very deliberately started a radical conversation through which I hope many of us can carve out a position that embraces religion while absolutely rejecting the type of insanity that has become synonymous with the word “Christian” in contemporary America.

Two “Threads” In Religion

As I argue in my new book the choice between the absolutist secular fundamentalism of the New Atheism and the authoritarianism of James Dobson’s-type of “Christianity” is no choice at all. The better alternative is to understand that there are two main threads running all through almost all religions including Christianity:

1) an open, inclusive and questioning thread

and…

2) a closed and exclusionary thread.

The more open thread is not some modern phenomenon developed by “liberal thinking.” As I explain in Patience With God this “thread” can be found in the earliest Christianity and Judaism.

If you look around and see  good results from Christianity, say from the invention of modern hospitals, which have their roots in religious groups or the music of JS Bach, you’re looking at the fruits of the best of the open tradition and thread.  When you see a group of scared racist white people like Joe Wilson in Washington DC screaming “liar” or “Obama is a socialist” or “Obama wasn’t born in America” you’re seeing the madness of the other thread: fundamentalism that wants absolute certainty about everything, and forces its followers to live in a narrower and narrower field of existence.

Conclusion

Christianity is worth saving from the Christians for two reasons.  First, because as moral and spiritual beings religion should feed our souls rather then strip out our humanity.  Second, because whether we like it or not, religion is here to stay. Better to shape it rather than to simply denounce it.

I may be an idealist but I believe that if others will step forward and add to what I have tried to begin with my new book together we can give good answers to both the extremes of the New Atheists and to the hate of the Evangelical fundamentalists. Join me to build a better vision. We might actually be able to change the conversation in America about religion.

Is that important? Yes, like it or not religion will not go away. It motivates the worst in the American psyche and some of the best too. It is Joe Wilson’s religion of hate but it also motivated Martin Luther King Jr.

Perhaps a generation from now the image of a typical Christian won’t be a hate-monger like James Dobson but rather a lover of peace such as Bishop Desmond Tutu, or a literary giant like John Updike, and yes, a President Obama.

The only real answer to the hijacking of Christianity by the Religious Right, the longevity of religion-based racism, and the backward and inward looking movement we now call “American Christianity” is not to talk everyone out a having faith but rather to fight for the humane and ancient thread found within the Christian tradition. Blaming everything on race is too easy.

If you get the chance to read Patience With God please let me know what you think of it. I’m asking one big question in the book: Can Christianity be rescued from the Christians? You tell me.

Frank Schaeffer is a writer and author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It Back.

© 2009 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/142755/

see: http://www.alternet.org/story/142755/right-wing_hatemongering_fueled_by_christianity

Needed: A new National Day of Recognition!

The United States of America is a child of the Enlightenment, and an understanding of this fact is essential to understanding what we are, what we are not, and for what we stand.  What we are NOT is a christian nation,  and we were not founded on christian principles  (whatever that may mean).

What is the Enlightenment? “The Enlightenment has been defined in many different ways, but at its broadest was a philosophical, intellectual and cultural movement of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It stressed reason, logic, criticism and freedom of thought over dogma, blind faith and superstition. Logic wasn’t a new invention, having been used by the ancient Greeks, but it was now included in a worldview which argued that empirical observation and the examination of human life could reveal the truth behind human society and self, as well as the universe. All were deemed to be rational and understandable. The Enlightenment held that there could be a science of man, and that the history of mankind was one of progress, which could be continued with the right thinking.

Consequently, the Enlightenment also argued that human life and character could be improved through the use of education and reason. The mechanistic universe – that is to say, the universe when considered to be a functioning machine – could also be altered. The Enlightenment thus brought interested thinkers into direct conflict with the political and religious establishment; these thinkers have even been described as intellectual “terrorists” against the norm. They challenged religion with the scientific method, often instead favouring deism. The Enlightenment thinkers wanted to do more than understand, they wanted to change for, as they believed, the better: they thought reason and science would improve lives…The scientific revolution of the seventeenth century shattered old systems of thinking, and allowed new ones to emerge. The teachings of the church and Bible, as well as the works of classical antiquity so beloved of the Renaissance, were suddenly found lacking when dealing with scientific developments…In general, Enlightenment thinkers argued for freedom of thought, religion and politics. The philosophes were largely critical of Europe’s absolutist rulers…The philosophes were deeply critical, indeed even openly hostile, to the organised religions of Europe, especially the Catholic Church whose priests, pope and practices came in for severe criticism…The Enlightenment affected many areas of human existence, including politics; perhaps the most famous examples of the latter are the US Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen… The Enlightenment era saw a general turn away from the dominance of the church and the supernatural, with a reduction in belief in the occult, literal interpretations of the Bible and the emergence of a largely secular public culture, and a secular “intelligentsia” able to challenge the previously dominant clergy.”

see: http://europeanhistory.about.com/od/thenineteenthcentury/a/enlightenment.htm

The founding fathers were enlightened, and the founding mother was the Enlightenment.  One can find words and ideas from the  Enlightenment  in our declaration, but none from christianity, which is why we need to set aside a day each year where we pay homage to our true heritage.

Religion: Good or Evil?

Is religion:

a: evil

b: good

c: none of the above

d: a & b,  above

This classic question is answered ‘d’ by Robert Wright, in an interview – see: http://www.alternet.org/rights/141225

“Is religion a force for good or ill? This question has been more energetically debated over the last few years, globally, due to the West’s confrontation with radical Islam, and in the U.S., to the political emergence and activism of evangelical Christians. This was brought to a head with the misadventures of George W. Bush, from Teri Shiavo to Bagdhad.”

Mr. Wright – who has the audacity to use history as a basis – observes that religions have historically been either of these, depending on the time and the particular environment….According to Wright, “The moral of the story is simple: When people see their interests threatened by another group, this perception brings out the most belligerent parts of their religion. Such circumstances are good news for violent extremists and bad news for moderates. What Obama is trying to do — make Palestinians feel less threatened, and make Muslims generally feel more respected — may now, as it did in ancient times, bring out the tolerant side of a religion.”

For the whole story, click the above link.

Emphasis mine.