Tag: kim davis

Lawrence Krauss: ‘All Scientists Should Be Atheists’

kraussscience1Source: Patheos

Author: Michael Stone

Emphasis Mine

“Scientists have an obligation not to lie about the natural world.” – Lawrence Krauss.

In an essay for The New Yorker titled All Scientists Should Be Militant Atheists Lawrence Krauss makes a powerful argument for science and against the urge to protect religious superstition from scrutiny.

The essay, published last September, begins with a discussion concerning conservative culture warrior Kim Davis using her Christian religious beliefs to deny wedding licenses to gays and lesbians in Kentucky. Commenting on the controversy, Krauss notes:

The Kim Davis controversy exists because, as a culture, we have elevated respect for religious sensibilities to an inappropriate level that makes society less free, not more. Religious liberty should mean that no set of religious ideals are treated differently from other ideals.

Krauss dismisses the demand that many make for respecting religious superstitions by noting the obvious:

The problem, obviously, is that what is sacred to one person can be meaningless (or repugnant) to another.

Krauss is correct. What is a sacred commandment or belief for one is another’s moral abomination. One need only be reminded of the sexism and misogyny woven into the fabric of all three of the Abrahamic religions to understand why many would find the supposedly sacred to be morally repugnant. The refusal by Kim Davis to issue marriage licenses to gays and lesbians is another example, and there are of course many more.

Krauss goes on to move from a discussion of Davis to a discussion of science, opining:

In science, of course, the very word “sacred” is profane. No ideas, religious or otherwise, get a free pass. The notion that some idea or concept is beyond question or attack is anathema to the entire scientific undertaking. This commitment to open questioning is deeply tied to the fact that science is an atheistic enterprise.

Krauss observes that science is inherently dangerous to religion because scientific understanding often draws people away from religion:

Because science holds that no idea is sacred, it’s inevitable that it draws people away from religion.

Yet the uncomfortable fact that science often has the effect of exposing religious superstitions as irrational and ultimately untenable beliefs about the world means that the culture of science often panders to the faithful by sugar coating the truth about the natural world:

Even so, to avoid offense, they sometimes misleadingly imply that today’s discoveries exist in easy harmony with preexisting religious doctrines, or remain silent rather than pointing out contradictions between science and religious doctrine.

Krauss rejects the misleading fabrication that science and religious dogma are compatible, at one point declaring:

Scientists have an obligation not to lie about the natural world.

In concluding, Krauss sees a direct link “between the ethics that guide science and those that guide civic life.” Arguing that honesty should take priority over religious dogma, Krauss says “we owe it to ourselves and to our children not to give a free pass” to those “that endorse, encourage, enforce, or otherwise legitimize the suppression of open questioning in order to protect ideas that are considered ‘sacred.’”

Bottom line: Krauss is right, all scientists, and all thinking people, should be atheists.

Lawrence Krauss is a physicist and director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University. He is also the author of The Physics of Star Trek and A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing.

See:http://www.patheos.com/blogs/progressivesecularhumanist/2016/07/lawrence-krauss-all-scientists-should-be-atheists/?utm_source=SilverpopMailing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=progressivesecularhumanist_071416UTC010701_daily&utm_content=&spMailingID=51829285&spUserID=MTIxNzQwMzMwMDkyS0&spJobID=961932578&spReportId=OTYxOTMyNTc4S0

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Religious Liberty Does NOT mean taking away others rights

Source:National Memo

Author: Cynthia Tucker

Emphasis Mine

Just after Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis was released from jail, she appeared at a raucous rally to thank a throng of cheering supporters.

Her stance on same-sex marriage has attracted the high-profile attention of other ultraconservative political figures, including GOP presidential candidates Ted Cruz, who attended the rally, and Mike Huckabee, who organized it.

They seem to believe that Davis has a constitutional right to discriminate against other citizens and to violate the laws of the land. Defending her on CNN, Huckabee said, “We have the first example of the criminalization of a Christian for believing the traditional definition of marriage. It is very, very shocking, to say the least.”

Though he mentioned such luminary historical figures as Jefferson and Lincoln, Huckabee has completely misunderstood the First Amendment and its protections. Davis’ beliefs have not been criminalized; her actions have been. She has every constitutional right to oppose same-sex marriage, to attend a church that denies those marriages, to organize opposition to marriage equality.

But she has no constitutional right to hold the office of Rowan County Clerk and deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Succeeding her mother, who held the office for 37 years, Davis was elected just last year. Still, she has a very easy solution at hand: If her religious views are so rigid, she can resign her office. (A handful of clerks have done that rather than give licenses to same-sex couples.) As a private citizen, she may freely practice her brand of Biblical fundamentalism.

It’s important to get that distinction right.

After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that the government cannot deny marriage to homosexual couples, county clerks around the country were ordered to issue licenses to all couples who wanted the legal bonds of matrimony. A few refused initially, but most came to their senses.

Davis, however, chose to defy the specific order of U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning, and she was jailed for six days for contempt. She was released only after deputies in her office started to issue marriage licenses to “all legally eligible couples,” as the judge put it. He further ordered Davis not to interfere

f she wants to continue as clerk, she should recognize the generous compromise that she’s been offered. She can continue her bluster and Biblical traditionalism on the speaking circuit if she chooses. But, as Rowan County Clerk, she represents the government. And the government may not discriminate. The First Amendment was adopted by the Founders to ensure that the government did not legitimize any particular set of religious beliefs over another.

Think of it this way: While marriage is often a religious ceremony, it is also a civil rite. Couples get married in city halls and before justices of the peace every day. Those ceremonies may not be offered to one group of citizens — heterosexuals — and withheld from another — homosexuals.

Churches, meanwhile, are free to follow their own theological traditions, which in this country are many and varied. There are churches that endorse, bless and perform same-sex marriages, while others are abhorred by the idea. That’s one example of the nation’s vibrant religious pluralism.

After the high court’s marriage ruling, conservative preachers around the country panicked, insisting that their beliefs were under attack, that they were being persecuted, that they would be ordered to perform marriage rites for homosexuals. Not gonna happen. For centuries, clerics have chosen to perform those ceremonies — baptisms, weddings, funerals — they believed appropriate. No law has ever challenged their decisions.

But the United States is a secular democracy, not a theocracy. We are committed to protecting religious liberty, but the nation cannot allow any group’s religious ideology to strip away another group’s human rights. Sometimes, those conflicting ideals require a delicate balance, as when Catholic hospitals are allowed to refuse to perform abortions — even when doing so jeopardizes a woman’s health.

But Davis’ intransigence requires no Solomonic decision making. She has no right to be Rowan County Clerk. If she won’t do the job, she needs to step aside.

(Cynthia Tucker won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2007. She can be reached at cynthia@cynthiatucker.com.)

See:http://www.nationalmemo.com/religious-liberty-does-not-mean-taking-away-others-rights/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Morning%20Memo%20-%202015-09-12&utm_term=MM_frequency_six

All Scientists Should Be Militant Atheists

Source: New Yorker

Author:Lawrence M. Krauss

Emphasis Mine 

A a physicist, I do a lot of writing and public speaking about the remarkable nature of our cosmos, primarily because I think science is a key part of our cultural heritage and needs to be shared more broadly. Sometimes, I refer to the fact that religion and science are often in conflict; from time to time, I ridicule religious dogma. When I do, I sometimes get accused in public of being a “militant atheist.” Even a surprising number of my colleagues politely ask if it wouldn’t be better to avoid alienating religious people. Shouldn’t we respect religious sensibilities, masking potential conflicts and building common ground with religious groups so as to create a better, more equitable world?

I found myself thinking about those questions this week as I followed the story of Kim Davis, the country clerk in Kentucky who directly disobeyed a federal judge’s order to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, and, as a result, was jailed for contempt of court. (She was released earlier today.) Davis’s supporters, including the Kentucky senator and Presidential candidate Rand Paul, are protesting what they believe to be an affront to her religious freedom. It is “absurd to put someone in jail for exercising their religious liberties,” Paul said, on CNN.

The Kim Davis story raises a basic question: To what extent should we allow people to break the law if their religious views are in conflict with it? It’s possible to take that question to an extreme that even Senator Paul might find absurd: imagine, for example, a jihadist whose interpretation of the Koran suggested that he should be allowed to behead infidels and apostates. Should he be allowed to break the law? Or—to consider a less extreme case—imagine an Islamic-fundamentalist county clerk who would not let unmarried men and women enter the courthouse together, or grant marriage licenses to unveiled women. For Rand Paul, what separates these cases from Kim Davis’s? The biggest difference, I suspect, is that Senator Paul agrees with Kim Davis’s religious views but disagrees with those of the hypothetical Islamic fundamentalist.

The problem, obviously, is that what is sacred to one person can be meaningless (or repugnant) to another. That’s one of the reasons why a modern secular society generally legislates against actions, not ideas. No idea or belief should be illegal; conversely, no idea should be so sacred that it legally justifies actions that would otherwise be illegal. Davis is free to believe whatever she wants, just as the jihadist is free to believe whatever he wants; in both cases, the law constrains not what they believe but what they do.

In recent years, this territory has grown murkier. Under the banner of religious freedom, individuals, states, and even—in the case of Hobby Lobby—corporations have been arguing that they should be exempt from the law on religious grounds. (The laws from which they wish to claim exemption do not focus on religion; instead, they have to do with social issues, such as abortion and gay marriage.) The government has a compelling interest in insuring that all citizens are treated equally. But “religious freedom” advocates argue that religious ideals should be elevated above all others as a rationale for action. In a secular society, this is inappropriate.  

The Kim Davis controversy exists because, as a culture, we have elevated respect for religious sensibilities to an inappropriate level that makes society less free, not more. Religious liberty should mean that no set of religious ideals are treated differently from other ideals. Laws should not be enacted whose sole purpose is to denigrate them, but, by the same token, the law shouldn’t elevate them, either.

In science, of course, the very word “sacred” is profane. No ideas, religious or otherwise, get a free pass. The notion that some idea or concept is beyond question or attack is anathema to the entire scientific undertaking. This commitment to open questioning is deeply tied to the fact that science is an atheistic enterprise. “My practice as a scientist is atheistic,” the biologist J.B.S. Haldane wrote, in 1934. “That is to say, when I set up an experiment I assume that no god, angel, or devil is going to interfere with its course and this assumption has been justified by such success as I have achieved in my professional career.” It’s ironic, really, that so many people are fixated on the relationship between science and religion: basically, there isn’t one. In my more than thirty years as a practicing physicist, I have never heard the word “God” mentioned in a scientific meeting. Belief or nonbelief in God is irrelevant to our understanding of the workings of nature—just as it’s irrelevant to the question of whether or not citizens are obligated to follow the law.

Because science holds that no idea is sacred, it’s inevitable that it draws people away from religion. The more we learn about the workings of the universe, the more purposeless it seems. Scientists have an obligation not to lie about the natural world. Even so, to avoid offense, they sometimes misleadingly imply that today’s discoveries exist in easy harmony with preëxisting religious doctrines, or remain silent rather than pointing out contradictions between science and religious doctrine. It’s a strange inconsistency, since scientists often happily disagree with other kinds of beliefs. Astronomers have no problem ridiculing the claims of astrologists, even though a significant fraction of the public believes these claims. Doctors have no problem condemning the actions of anti-vaccine activists who endanger children. And yet, for reasons of decorum, many scientists worry that ridiculing certain religious claims alienates the public from science. When they do so, they are being condescending at best and hypocritical at worst.

This reticence can have significant consequences. Consider the example of Planned Parenthood. Lawmakers are calling for a government shutdown unless federal funds for Planned Parenthood are stripped from spending bills for the fiscal year starting October 1st. Why? Because Planned Parenthood provides fetal tissue samples from abortions to scientific researchers hoping to cure diseases, from Alzheimer’s to cancer. (Storing and safeguarding that tissue requires resources, and Planned Parenthood charges researchers for the costs.) It’s clear that many of the people protesting Planned Parenthood are opposed to abortion on religious grounds and are, to varying degrees, anti-science. Should this cause scientists to clam up at the risk of further offending or alienating them? Or should we speak out loudly to point out that, independent of one’s beliefs about what is sacred, this tissue would otherwise be thrown away , even though it could help improve and save lives?   Ultimately, when we hesitate to openly question beliefs because we don’t want to risk offense, questioning itself becomes taboo. It is here that the imperative for scientists to speak out seems to me to be most urgent. As a result of speaking out on issues of science and religion, I have heard from many young people about the shame and ostracism they experience after merely questioning their family’s faith. Sometimes, they find themselves denied rights and privileges because their actions confront the faith of others. Scientists need to be prepared to demonstrate by example that questioning perceived truth, especially “sacred truth,” is an essential part of living in a free country.

I see a direct link, in short, between the ethics that guide science and those that guide civic life. Cosmology, my specialty, may appear to be far removed from Kim Davis’s refusal to grant marriage licenses to gay couples, but in fact the same values apply in both realms. Whenever scientific claims are presented as unquestionable, they undermine science. Similarly, when religious actions or claims about sanctity can be made with impunity in our society, we undermine the very basis of modern secular democracy. We owe it to ourselves and to our children not to give a free pass to governments—totalitarian, theocratic, or democratic—that endorse, encourage, enforce, or otherwise legitimize the suppression of open questioning in order to protect ideas that are considered “sacred.” Five hundred years of science have liberated humanity from the shackles of enforced ignorance. We should celebrate this openly and enthusiastically, regardless of whom it may offend.

If that is what causes someone to be called a militant atheist, then no scientist should be ashamed of the label.

See: http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/all-scientists-should-be-militant-atheists?intcid=mod-latest

From One Clerk To Another: Kim Davis Got It Wrong

Source: Religion dispatches

Author: Carlos Wilson

Emphasis Mine

Kim Davis, Clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, has been jailed for her defiance of a court order to process marriage licenses for same-sex couples. Her view is that, by refusing to process any marriage license for anyone, she is engaging in an act of civil disobedience based on a position of Christian conscience.
It is an odd position for a clerk to take. I know that, because I am one. My day job is as a Presbyterian pastor, but I also serve as part-time Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of Monmouth — our denomination’s county-government equivalent here in central New Jersey, a legislative assembly comprising elected “commissioners” from 45 congregations.
Part of my job as clerk is to serve as parliamentarian for our presbytery meetings: advising the moderator on Robert’s Rules of Order and our denominational Constitution. When called upon to dispense advice, we clerks are meant to keep our personal opinions to ourselves, speaking neutrally to matters of procedure and church governance.
Clerks are not decision-makers in our system; the presbytery is. Our task is to help that elected body do the hard work of governance, in ways that are both fair and faithful. Should we wish to participate in debate at a Presbytery meeting, we’re supposed to leave the clerk’s table and walk to a microphone in the audience — making it crystal-clear that we are speaking for ourselves, not for the church.
Our denomination has recently amended its Constitution to permit ministers to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies — a decision that happens to coincide with my own considered beliefs, based on my study of the scriptures. Until that denominational sea-change, I was frequently asked whether or not such marriages were permissible under church law.
 
My answer, at that time, was always “No.” My pastor’s heart — well-acquainted with the travails of faithful, committed LGBT couples in my community — wanted to say “Yes.” But my clerk’s mind told me I could not. That would have been unfaithful: not to my understanding of the gospel, but to the responsibilities I had pledged to fulfill as servant of the governing body.
Ms. Davis’ decision to close her office door to LGBT citizens (and, soon after, to all couples seeking licenses) reflects her personal theological position, but it fails to honor the position of the government she serves. She forgets that she herself does not issue licenses. The licenses do bear her signature — indicating that the paperwork was properly processed — but at the top of the license is not her name, but the words “Commonwealth of Kentucky.” States issue marriage licenses; county clerks do not.
Ms. Davis’ stubborn refusal to follow a federal judge’s order is indicative of two mistaken views that have become entrenched in much of conservative Christian culture: radical moral individualism and the establishment of Christianity as the de facto established religion of the land.
Ms. Davis has declared that she is acting on “God’s authority” and that her decision to issue marriage licenses is a choice between “heaven or hell.” Creedal statements, to her way of thinking, are an individual matter, between the believer and God. Those who profess correct beliefs earn God’s favor, but those who differ risk damnation. There is little sense, in her public remarks, that creedal formulations are products of a Christian community. In this uniquely American view, individual believers are charged with maintaining their own personal creeds, participating only in congregations whose collective creed jibes with their own personal standard of orthodoxy. Ms. Davis is transferring this outlook to her work as an elected public official. One has to wonder what — as a divorced-and-remarried person herself — she would make of a devoutly Roman Catholic county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to divorced citizens.
 
This intellectual sleight of hand arises from Ms. Davis’ second mistaken viewpoint. She clearly regards Christianity as the de facto national religion, despite the First Amendment to the Constitution and numerous judicial cases founded upon it. This wild assumption has become a popular meme in conservative media. Right-wing Christians have become a regular feature on newscasts, loudly decrying their persecution by a godless government, one that prevents them from imposing their personal moral convictions on society at large. Ms. Davis is making good use of  her fifteen minutes of fame to raise similar complaints.
I have not heard of any earthquakes striking Rowan County, Kentucky and throwing open the doors of the County Clerk’s jail cell —  as happened to the apostles Paul and Silas in Acts 16. Undoubtedly the only news to rock Ms. Davis’ world, since her self-righteous perp walk, has been the news that her Assistant Clerks, in the absence of their boss, have quietly started issuing marriage licenses again, some of them to same-sex couples.

See:http://religiondispatches.org/from-one-clerk-to-another-kim-davis-got-it-wrong/?utm_source=Religion+Dispatches+Newsletter&utm_campaign=04eb739e74-RD_Daily_Newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_742d86f519-04eb739e74-42427517

Davis Defenders No Better at Interpreting Bible than Interpreting Constitution

source: johncorvino.com

Author:John Corvino

Emphasis Mine

Yesterday at the Detroit Free Press I argued that supporting Kim Davis’s religious liberty doesn’t mean tolerating her refusal to do her job as county clerk. “Religious liberty does not entitle the bearer to line-item vetoes for essential job functions,” I wrote.

In passing I mentioned that she has been divorced multiple times, which shows how inconsistent she is in enforcing Biblical law. Others have made the point more sharply, noting that she became pregnant with twins from husband number three while married to husband number one, in Maury-Povich-worthy twists. Husband number two, who adopted the twins, is also her current, fourth husband.

In response to revelations about her marital history, her Liberty Counsel attorneys have rushed to her defense. According to U.S. News and World Report:

[Attorney Mat] Staver says “it’s not really relevant, it’s something that happened in her past” and that her conversion to Christianity about four years ago wiped her slate clean. “It’s something that’s not relevant to the issue at hand,” he says. “She was 180 degrees changed.”

Her colleague Casey Davis makes a similar point:

Casey County Clerk Casey Davis, who is not related to Kim Davis, tells U.S. News he believes there’s a difference between getting a divorce and then repenting and living in a same-sex relationship.

“I don’t have any problem with that whatever, how she was before. If the Lord can forgive her, surely I can,” he says. “That’s something that’s forgivable just like any other sin, but if you continue in it and live in it, there’s a grave danger in that.”

Apparently these people are no better at interpreting the Bible than they are at interpreting the Constitution. For Jesus himself says quite clearly:

“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery” (Mark 10: 11-12).

Notice that, in Jesus’ words, divorced and remarried people are not people who did sin (past tense) and then had their slate wiped clean. They are people who are sinning, as persistent and unrepenent adulterers. Why isn’t there “grave danger in that”?

I recognize of course that divorce is sometimes the best option for those in a bad marriage. On the other hand, unlike these folks, I don’t go around trying to substitute “God’s law”–or my own self-serving interpretation of it–for the laws of the state.

Read my full Freep piece here.

See:http://johncorvino.com/2015/09/davis-defenders-no-better-at-interpreting-the-bible-than-interpreting-the-law/

Republicans vs. the Constitution: Would-be Presidents Endorse Kim Davis’ Brazen Illegality

Source: Salon via AlterNet

Author: Simon Maloy

Emphasis Mine

Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis will appear in federal court today to explain why she believes that God and her personal convictions empower her to break the law and deny gay people their constitutionally protected rights. Ever since this summer’s Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, Davis has been refusing to issue marriage licenses – to any couple, gay or straight – citing her religious beliefs. She was ordered by the governor to do her job, but she refused. She was ordered by a federal judge to do her job, but she refused. This week, the Supreme Court rejected her appeal of the federal judge’s decision, which should have been the final word on the matter, but she’s still refusing to the job she was elected by the people of Kentucky to do. And so now she’s being hauled before a judge to determine whether she’s in contempt of court.

There is no debate on that question: Davis is flagrantly in contempt and should be punished for what she’s done. After the Supreme Court rejected her appeal, a gay couple confronted Davis and asked her to explain what authority she had to continue denying them their rights. “God’s authority,” she shot back, which is the absolute wrong answer for a government employee to provide. The Constitution is the governing power in Kim Davis’ office, and she is bound by oath to adhere to the law. She is breaking that oath, defying the Constitution, abusing her authority, and insisting that she suffer no consequences for her behavior.

Davis’ illegal and morally dubious stand against gay marriage does appeal, however, to the slice of the conservative movement that is hell bent on restoring the good old days of godly virtue when you had the state’s blessing to discriminate against gay people. It just so happens that there are a number of Republican presidential candidates who are trying to motivate that highly politically active segment of the population to get behind their campaigns, and that’s led us to a situation in which people running for the nation’s highest elected office are cheering on a rogue government employee’s defiance of the Constitution.

If you were forced to guess which 2016 Republican candidate would line up behind Davis, you would of course choose Mike Huckabee, because Mike Huckabee is a crazy person who says things like “the Supreme Court is not the supreme being, and they cannot overturn the laws of nature or of nature’s god.”

And you would be 100 percent correct. Here’s Huckabee in South Carolina calling Kim Davis a hero for defying the tyrants of the Supreme Court:

“I salute her today, and I stand with her,” Huckabee said, explaining that he called her up to thank her for standing up to “judicial tyranny.” Huckabee added: “I thank God for Kim Davis, and I hope more Americans will stand with her.”

Davis also got an attagirl from her home state senator and increasingly hopeless presidential contender, Rand Paul. Rand wasn’t quite so effusive in his praise of Davis as Huckabee, but he did say: “I think people who do stand up and are making a stand to say that they believe in something is an important part of the American way.” He is correct that American history is full of people who left their mark by controversially standing up for their beliefs in defiance of the law – people like Orval Faubus, and George Wallace. Rand explained that his preferred policy would be to get states out of the marriage business altogether, which would potentially resolve the issue but doesn’t really speak to the immediacy of the problem at hand.

Davis also got a hearty endorsement from Bobby Jindal, who is somehow still running for president despite polling in the mid to low zeroes. “I don’t think anyone should have to choose between following their conscience and religious beliefs and giving up their job and facing financial sanctions,” Jindal said in a statement to the Huffington Post.

Not every Republican candidate is behind Davis – Carly Fiorina, for example, has urged Davis to either give up or resign. But the situation could be complicated further depending on how harshly Davis is punished by the courts. It’s possible that Davis could land in jail for contempt, and as ThinkProgress’ Ian Millhiser notes, as a prisoner she “could inspire others to defy the Constitution if she is perceived as a martyr.” Were that to happen, we could see more would-be Republican presidents championing brazen illegality in the service of anti-gay discrimination.

See:http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/republicans-vs-constitution-would-be-presidents-endorse-kim-davis-brazen?akid=13445.123424.cOAhx8&rd=1&src=newsletter1041906&t=8