6 People the Media Should Have Talked to About Birth Control That Aren’t Catholic Men

From: RawStory, via  AlterNet

By:David Ferguson

It has been widely remarked that last week’s discussions about the Affordable Health Care Act’s mandate that insurers provide women with free birth control was a little heavy on men and religious figures and awfully light on women and health care experts.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) held a hearing on Capitol Hill about the issue, but declined to feature any women on the panel or hear testimony from female witnesses, prompting a walk-out by Reps. Carolyn Mahoney (D-NY) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC).

We at Raw Story have some suggestions for people the news media might reach out to next time questions of women and their access to contraception arise.

1. Dr. Regina Benjamin (Surgeon General of the U.S.)

Who better to discuss an important public health issue than the most powerful public health official in the country? She, unlike most of the people interviewed on the topic, is a doctor and a woman, and has an extensive background in rural health care and understands the difficulties faced by women and families in need.

2. Working moms

One of the revolutionary aspects of the arrival of the birth control pill was that it allowed women to work outside the home. Within the last half-century our society has changed from one where one parent, the mother, was expected to remain at home engaged in child care and homemaking, into a society where stay-at-home parenting is the exception, not the norm. Some doctors and historians would say that the availability of safe and reliable birth control has been an integral part of that transformation.

3. Sarah Palin

Only because her grasp of the English language is so tenuous and fraught with peril that every time she opens her mouth, whatever cause she is advocating gets set back twenty years. Nobody tosses a word salad with quite the mindless aplomb of half-term ex-Governor Sarah Palin. Let’s not forge ther hilarious mangling of the Paul Revere story.

4. A junkie

It is a sad fact of drug addiction that many female addicts are ultimately forced by their addiction to trade sex for drugs. According to one Vanderbilt University study, approximately 350,000 babies are born already addicted to drugs each year. Many drug addicts spend all of their available resources on their habit, putting tertiary concerns like birth control out of reach. Providing these women with free birth control could save our health care system money in the long run, and simplify the already complicated lives of a vulnerable class of people.

5. Loretta Lynn

Simply on the basis of this great song (The Pill).

6. Kathy Griffin

The actress and comedian has spoken eloquently about her Catholic faith, and has famously gone a few rounds with professional scold Bill Donohue and the “Catholic League” in the past. Pretty much everything that comes out of her mouth is hilarious, regardless, and she’s much less stomach-turning to listen to on topics of sex, marriage, and reproduction than, say, Newt Gingrich.

How about you? Is there anyone you believe got short shrift in our national tug of war over women’s right to manage their own bodies? Let us know in the comments.

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/story/154209/6_people_the_media_should_have_talked_to_about_birth_control_that_aren%27t_catholic_men?akid=8277.123424.so6bXI&rd=1&t=8

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Morning Mix: GOP Won’t Quit Attacking The Pill

From: Care2

By: 

President Obama’s announced “accommodation” of the birth control mandate in the Affordable Care Act was like chumming the waters for CPAC attendees. Mike Huckabee rallied for solidarity proclaiming “we are all Catholics now!” and Rick Santorum swung hard against science and common sense. Meanwhile Mitt Romney had white supremacists warming up the crowd before his address where he highlighted his “severe” conservatism while Governor of Massachusetts. CPAC is getting so strange I’m feeling wistful for a primary or caucus. Good thing there’s Maine!

Conservatives really believe campaigning against contraception is a winning issue, so much so they’ve already started producing ads targeting pro-choice women on the issue.

Maybe conservatives should check out the latest poll numbers if they’re so sure this is a good move. (N.B.: or Not!  I want this to be our year!)

CPAC may be the last gasp of the Gingrich campaign. The former Speaker of the House painted himself as the “anti-establishment” candidate who is “terrible” at gold.

This is what I’m talking about–CPAC exists in some kind of alternate universe where Gingrich can insist he’s a man of the people and birth control is the issue of the season.  And the sad thing is, I think it’s only going to get crazier the closer we get to the convention”

Read more: 

Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/morning-mix-gop-wont-quit-attacking-the-pill.html#ixzz1m5hvV7H7

Emphasis Mine

see: http://www.care2.com/causes/morning-mix-gop-wont-quit-attacking-the-pill.html

5 Signs the Christian Right Still Wields Too Much Power in America

From:AlterNet

By:Peter Montgomery

N.B.: Separation of Church and State is more important than ever!

“This month, in a New Republic article titled “The End of the Christian Right,” historian Michael Kazin confidently asserts that “the Christian Right is a fading force in American life, one which has little chance of achieving its cherished goals.”

I have lost count of how many times the Religious Right has been declared dead as a political force by someone in the mainstream media. Maybe Kazin’s piece seemed absurd to me because I read it the day after watching every Republican presidential candidate take time from their South Carolina debate preparation to stop by Ralph Reed’s “Faith and Freedom Coalition” event and pledge devotion to the Religious Right’s agenda.

Kazin acknowledges this dynamic, but says, “whatever their influence on the Republican primary, the Christian Right is fighting a losing battle with the rest of the country – above all, when it comes to abortion and same-sex marriage, the issues they care most about.”

Really? The Washington Post reports that with GOP now in control of both houses of the Virginia legislature, the state’s “most conservative Republicans aren’t holding back” and are pushing legislation that, among other things, will “roll back gay rights” and “beef up gun rights, property rights, parental rights and fetal rights.”

Here are five reasons why we shouldn’t declare the end of the Christian Right.

1. Redefining Religious Liberty 

Kazin does not address church-state separation or efforts by the Religious Right and its allies, particularly the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, to redefine religious liberty. In the name of “religious liberty,” they demand religious exemptions from generally applicable laws, but only for their religious beliefs; take government funding for religiously based programs but cry discrimination when a government grant program has anti-discrimination policies incompatible with their religious beliefs; portray those who oppose government funding of religion as anti-religious bigots and and claim oppression when government officials are made to comply with the separation of church and state.

Under President George W. Bush, Religious Right leaders’ political support was rewarded with weakened legal protections against tax dollars being used to fund religious discrimination and proselytizing, troubling changes that have yet to be fully reversed by the Obama administration. A phalanx of conservative Christian legal organizations fights daily to weaken the legal separation of church and state, and to reverse restrictions on overt electoral activity by tax-exempt churches.

2. Lack of Big Names ≠ Lack of Big Influence  

Kazin cites “the absence of effective, well-known leaders” as a reason for the Religious Right’s decline. It’s true that there’s a shortage of household names among the Religious Right’s leadership, and that the endorsement of Rick Santorum by a group of evangelical leaders didn’t give him the boost they had hoped. But that fact reflects at least in part the decentralization and mainstreaming of the movement. Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and James Dobson were like Dan Rather, Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw back when the networks were the only game in town. Now the Religious Right influences culture and politics through a massive and diffuse infrastructure of religious ministries, educational institutions, think tanks, political organizations, radio and television empires, and online media — not to mention the elected officials they have put into power in Congress and all across the country.

Newt Gingrich has spent years cultivating support among Religious Right activists by attacking “secular elites” and insisting in books like Rediscovering God in America that our country’s greatness is tied to the notion of a divinely inspired American exceptionalism. His fans weren’t going to abandon him on the say-so of a group of self-appointed leaders.

3. The Leadership Pipeline 

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, Rep. Michele Bachmann, and other conservative leaders are products of the Religious Right’s educational and leadership pipeline, which is training thousands of college and law school students how to bring their “biblical worldview” to bear on government, the courts and society in general. Journalist Sarah Posner has reported on law school students being taught to advise clients to follow God’s law rather than man’s law at Liberty University, the Falwell-founded school where Romney’s new debate coach built a powerhouse debating team.

Virginia Gov. McDonnell got an MA and JD from Pat Robertson’s Regent University; Rep. Michele Bachmann got her law degree from the law school at Oral Roberts University, which was later taken over by Regent. Right-wing foundations pour millions each year into conservative college newspapers, leadership training programs, and fellowships at “think tanks” that allow people like Dinesh D’Souza to claim the title of “scholar” while turning out dreck like his book portraying Kenyan anti-colonialism as the roots of Obama’s “rage.”

The Religious Right and its conservative allies have put a lot of like-minded federal judges on the courts in the past two decades, and they’ve done quite well with the John Roberts-led conservative majority on the Supreme Court. Religious Right leaders are pulling out all the stops to make sure a Republican president and Senate are in place; the American Center for Law & Justice’s Jay Sekulow told a Faith and Freedom gathering in South Carolina just before the primary there that if “President Romney” were to name two more justices, Sekulow wouldn’t have to worry any more about counting to five when he had a case before the court.

Newt Gingrich, who swamped Romney in South Carolina, staked out a more radical approach to the judiciary were he to be elected president. Gingrich says he would ignore rulings he disagrees with and abolish courts that rule in ways that displease him; he frequently cites church-state issues when complaining about the courts.

4. The Assault on Choice and Family Planning  

The 2010 wave of right-wing electoral victories at the state level has brought an accelerated attack on women’s healthcare. According to NARAL Pro-Choice America, 69 anti-choice measures became law in 25 states last year; some of these laws ban pre-viability abortions without meaningful exceptions for women’s health and are clearly designed to challenge Roe v. Wade. Some are designed to force clinics to close and simply make abortion inaccessible for even more women. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 87 percent of U.S. counties already have no abortion providers. A consistent Religious Right rallying cry in recent years has been to “defund Planned Parenthood,” with no apparent regard for the impact on women who count on the organization for basic medical care. Last year, seven states restricted or barred family planning funds from going to Planned Parenthood or any health center that provides abortion care.

Kazin believes it is “exceedingly unlikely” that a President Romney would sign a draconian anti-abortion bill. Why is that? Romney has said repeatedly that he believes life begins “at conception” and would back efforts to enshrine that in law or even in the Constitution. It’s true, as Kazin notes, that Mississippi voters recently rejected a “personhood” amendment. But just this week every GOP candidate except Romney took part in an event organized by PersonhoodUSA  — at which it wasn’t sufficient for candidates to repeat the “at conception” dogma. They had to agree that legal rights begin at the sperm-meets-egg moment. That this extreme and hugely problematic principle is embraced by presidential contenders is a clear sign of the Religious Right’s continuing influence.

Romney, who named Robert Bork to head his legal advisory team, would almost certainly nominate Supreme Court justices who would continue to chip away at a woman’s right to a legal abortion if not overturn Roe v. Wade altogether — another of Romney’s stated goals. That would throw the question of legal access to abortion to the states, where a number of laws criminalizing abortion have already been passed contingent on Roe falling. Does Kazin really believe that if the 2012 elections bring us a Republican president and Republican congressional majorities, the Republican base will not demand — and get — further restrictions on women’s access to abortion and family planning?

5. Massive Resistance to LGBT Equality  

Kazin is correct that the Religious Right is losing the public opinion battle when it comes to support for equality for LGBT Americans, where progress has been extraordinary. The hard-fought end to the ban on military service is a sign that laws are beginning to catch up with public opinion.

But just because the Religious Right is a minority does not make it a powerless one. They and their allies in Congress have managed to prevent passage of federal anti-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity in spite of overwhelming public support for such measures. And they have managed to pass dozens of state-level constitutional amendments denying same-sex couples the right to marry – many of those provisions also preventing even the most basic legal recognition and protection for gay couples and their families. In 2010, Maine voters overturned an equality law after opponents forced it onto the ballot. New Yorkers won marriage equality last year (barely), but residents in Maryland and New Jersey did not. There will be several tests in legislatures and the ballot box, both pro and con, in 2012; we may see additional victories, but they are far from assured.

It is good news that support for equality is high among younger Americans, so time seems to be on our side when it comes to LGBT equality, but to cite an economic aphorism, “in the long run we’re all dead.”  Many individuals and families have been harmed and will continue to be harmed by anti-equality campaigns waged by the Religious Right and its allies in the Catholic and Mormon hierarchies.

Progress is not linear or irreversible. Reconstruction gave way to Jim Crow. Kazin looks at statistics about young people’s attitudes, and at the growing group of Americans who claim no religious affiliation, and declares “the end of the Christian Right.” But the increasing number of secular-minded Americans does not prevent the well-organized forces of the Religious Right from continuing to impact public policy, especially in areas of the country where they are strongest. This political and cultural movement will not be sinking beneath the horizon anytime soon.

Peter Montgomery is a senior fellow at People For the American Way Foundation.

Emphasis Mine:

See:http://www.alternet.org/story/153949/5_signs_the_christian_right_still_wields_too_much_power_in_america?page=entire

Gingrich, in S.C. Debate, Shows Religious Right is About Patriarchy, Not Family Values

From: AlterNet

By: Adele Stan

N.B.: If hypocrisy were money, the Republican field could retire the National Debt.

” At the final GOP presidential debate before Saturday’s primary in South Carolina, the crowd response to Newt Gingrich‘s fury when questioned about his ex-wife’sexplosive allegation yanked the veil from the driving force of the religious right: patriarchy, not family values.

Earlier in the day, ABC broke the story that Marianne Gingrich, the former House speaker‘s ex-wife, alleged that, while the two were still bound by the marriage contract, Newt asked her for an “open marriage” — which would allow him to continue his affair with Callista Bistek, the former congressional aide who is his current wife, and, perhaps, other women.

In South Carolina, Gingrich, when taking a break from race-baiting in a state that still flies the Confederate flag on the grounds of its state capitol, is campaigning on a platform of family values, helping to propel him to frontrunner status in the race in the closing days of the Palmetto State campaign.

Evangelical Christians comprise about 60 percent of South Carolina’s pool of likely GOP primary voters. These are not just your generic religious Protestants; these are the people who make up the religious right. You know, the people who are so concerned with the “sanctity of marriage” as a rationale for opposing equal rights for LGBT people. The people who say abstinence is the only acceptable way to avoid pregnancy.

But when CNN Chief National Correspondent John King opened the debate by asking Gingrich to respond to his ex-wife’s allegations, the fury of Gingrich’s response — directed at media in general and King in particular — was met with a standing ovation by the crowd in the auditorium.

Here is Gingrich’s response to King:

I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country harder to attract decent people to run for office. I’m appalled you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that.

Every person in here knows personal pain. Every person in here has had someone close to them go through painful things. To take an ex-wife and make it two days before the primary, a significant question in a presidential campaign, is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine.

Gingrich went on to say that his two daughters by his first marriage (Marianne was his second wife; Callista is his third) wrote to “the head of ABC” to demand that the story be pulled. He categorically denied the allegation, and said that ABC refused to talk to long-time friends of the couple who would have backed him up.

Then he made an allegation of his own: that the news media was engaged in a giant conspiracy to support Obama and destroy Republicans.  “I am tired of the elite media protecting Barack Obama by attacking Republicans,” Gingrich said.

The crowd roared its approval.

Now, let’s break this down a bit, starting with, “To take an ex-wife…”

If anyone took Newt’s ex-wife, it would appear to be Newt, who, according to the ex-wife, asked for an open marriage and/or a divorce just after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. (He dumped his first wife while she was undergoing treatment for cancer.) It was Marianne Gingrich who stepped up to the media today to make the allegation that her ex-husband was not morally fit to be president, so it’s hard to see where anybody “took” her.

Next, let’s examine, “…and make it two days before the primary…”

When, one wonders, would have been a more appropriate time?

Then, “…a significant question in a presidential campaign…”

Apparently when campaigning on a platform of traditional morality, questions of one’s own sexual morality are not permitted. At least, if your name is Newt Gingrich. But if your name is Bill Clinton, your sexual morality is fair game for the morally-exempt Newt Gingrich.

And, finally, “…is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine…”

We all know there are no limits to the vast imagination of the self-described big-ideas candidate that is Newt Gingrich. (Gingrich himself, in Thursday night’s debate, embraced former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum‘s description of the former speaker as “grandiose”.) He’s not only imagined some pretty despicable things, but put them into practice. If Gingrich’s jihad against Bill Clinton for the president’s adultery — while the married speaker himself was bedding a congressional aide who was not his wife — doesn’t qualify as despicable, there may be more where that comes from.

Marianne Gingrich alleges that her former husband committed adultery with that congressional aide in the marriage bed of the couple’s Washington apartment while Marianne traveled, calling her from the bed with Callista lying silently under the covers. If that’s true, it doesn’t take much imagination to come up with the word “despicable.”

But to many good Christians in the debate hall, Gingrich’s behavior toward his wife is beyond question. It’s all rather biblical. The big men of the Bible had their harems, after all.”

Emphasis Mine

Adele M. Stan is AlterNet’s Washington correspondent. She also writes for the AFL-CIO Now blog. Follow her on Twitter: www.twitter.com/addiestan

see:http://www.alternet.org/newsandviews/article/764697/gingrich%2C_in_s.c._debate%2C_shows_religious_right_is_about_patriarchy%2C_not_family_values/#paragraph3

American Atheists must define themselves, not be defined by the religious

From:Washington Post Social Reader

N.B.: This is why Separation of Church and State is more important than ever!

By: Susan Jacoby

“I am sorry to tell you that this will be my last regular “Spirited Atheist” column, and I want to thank all of you who have followed my essays, including many who have taken the trouble to write me lengthy personal letters on my author Web site. Although I will continue to write occasionally on issues of unusual importance, a weekly column diverts too much time from the research for my next book, to be titled, “Conversions: A Secular History.”

In the new book, I will be examining the full range of historical and personal factors influencing ostensibly religious conversions, from that old favorite, the threat of execution, to marrying a third wife who happens to be a Catholic rather than a Protestant. For the former, see under: Judaism, Christianity and Islam; for the latter, under: Gingrich, Newt.

Looking back on my five years as a contributor to “On Faith,” I see a great paradox in the progress of American secularism: The numbers and visibility of atheists and secularists in the United States have increased but their political and social influence has not.

The large audience for the writings of atheists, most notably Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, has led many American pundits, preachers and politicians to exaggerate the influence of secular thought in the culture as a whole. I only wish they were right. For the warriors of the Christian right, in particular, this exaggeration serves the purpose of presenting themselves as victims in a nation where they in fact wield a power that they do not enjoy anywhere else in the developed world.

For a true measure of the limited influence exerted by atheism on popular culture, one need only turn to the closing bestseller lists for 2011. Leading the “nonfiction” New York Times paperback bestseller list (having been on the list for 56 weeks) is “Heaven Is for Real,” written by the minister-father of a 4-year-old boy who supposedly went to heaven during an emergency appendectomy and saw Jesus (“he had the brightest blue eyes”) and his baby sister, who was actually never born into this world because his mother suffered a miscarriage. This book is also No. 4 on the bestseller list of picture books for small children.

Guess what does not appear on any year-end Times bestseller list? Dawkins’s “The Magic of Reality,” an enchanting work which explains the origins of life to children in a non-didactic way that places religious myth in the context of the long human struggle to understand how we came to be, is nowhere to be found.

The point is that there is a much larger American audience for childish (in this instance, literally so) supernatural fantasies, which should no more be classified as nonfiction than Grimm’s fairy tales, than there is for any book that attempts to present the world as it is to the next generation. That 15 to 20 percent of Americans are no longer affiliated with any church does not replace the default position occupied in American political and cultural life by religion in general and Christianity in particular.

Even more important, the most potent religious influence on American politics is exercised by those on the far religious right, who — while they represent only a minority of all believers — are backed by huge amounts of money and organizational muscle. I have written many times in this column about the organizational and financial shortcomings that make it difficult for the secular movement, and indeed for liberal religious organizations committed to upholding secular government, to translate their values into real social and political influence.

I have also observed that secularists, unlike the religious right, do not always have the same political values. There is a deep split, as demonstrated every week in the comments about my columns, between American secularists descended from the humanism of Thomas Paine and those descended from the social Darwinists of the 19th century and the Ayn Randian “you’re on your own” anti-government ideologues of the 20th century. The problem for the secular right is that politicians who share its anti-government views are also committed to far-right religion. But the split between the humanists and the neo-social Darwinists is a serious problem for the secular movement as a whole, because the two groups find it difficult, if not impossible, to support the same candidates.

But there is another, much more important difficulty in the secular struggle to alter default assumptions about religion. Since the 1980s, the far right, especially the religious right, has been masterful at taking control of public language in a way that always places secularism and secular liberalism on the defensive.

First, the anti-abortion crusaders seized the brilliant label “pro-life” to characterize anyone who supported legal abortion as “anti-life.” The women’s movement adopted “pro-choice” as an alternative but was never entirely successful at marketing the label, as evinced by the current efforts of those fighting abortion restrictions to characterize themselves as “the real pro-lifers.” Once you start trying to appropriate the meaning of your opponents’ already twisted labels, you’re already halfway to losing whatever battle you’re fighting.

Second, the right has made a pejorative out of both intellectualism and liberalism, often equating both with godless secularism.

Now the same people are trying to take control of the term “religious liberty” and redefine it to mean the freedom of religious groups to accept government money but spend it only on providing services that have their particular faith imprimatur..

At an October hearing, titled “Religious Liberty in the United States,” largely ignored by the mainstream media, Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), chair of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, asserted that religious freedom is under attack in America as it has never been in the past.

What Franks actually means by “religious freedom” is the liberty of religion to spend government money as it pleases. He is right, however, that this was never an issue on a national level in the past, because for most of the nation’s existence, the federal government never made the grievous error of giving money for secular purposes to faith-based organizations.

A parade of right-wing evangelical Protestants and representatives of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops testified at the hearings against all attempts by the Obama administration to attach government regulations to taxpayer money. In this view, the administration is waging “war on Christianity” by, for example, mandating that providers with U.S. government contracts offer a “full range of reproductive services” to sex-trafficking victims in the United States and around the world. The church wants to help pregnant girls forced into prostitution by forcing them to have their abusers’ babies.

Bishop William C. Lori, head of the newly formed Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty formed by the bishops’ conference, attacked provisions of the new domestic health care law that impose any government mandates on religious health providers.

Note, again, the use of the term “religious liberty” to mean liberty for religious institutions to impose their values with taxpayer money. In practical terms, what Bishop Lori means is that when a rape victim walks into a government-funded Catholic emergency clinic, the clinic can not only refuse to offer the morning-after pill to protect her against pregnancy but can even fail to tell her about the existence of such a pill or to refer her to a nonsectarian institution that does provide such services.

The belief that religious institutions have the right to feed at the government trough while rejecting any government rules is the glue of the lobbying alliance between the Catholic bishops and right-wing evangelical Protestant leaders — an odd coupling that has never before existed in American history.

The only person at the hearing to point out that this redefinition of religious liberty is actually a demand for “special government blessings for those in favored faiths, and conversely, the treatment of members of other faiths as second-class citizens” was Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Nothing could be further from religious liberty as originally conceived by both the secularists and the people of liberal religion (mainly Baptists, liberal Congregationalists on the road to Unitarianism, and Quakers) who wrote the founding documents for this nation. All of these religious believers would have been horrified at the idea of accepting government money to underwrite their beliefs. That is why they joined with freethinkers like James Madison and Thomas Jefferson to pass the the 1786 Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom. The first state law to officially draw a line between government and religious institutions was written when religious conservatives in Virginia attempted to tax citizens for Christian teaching in public schools. This act would become the template for the federal Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

What religious liberty has traditionally meant in the United States is the right of all to believe and proselytize as they wish without government interference or favoritism. It also means the right of minority religions and of those who do not believe in any religion to be free from harassment by a state-favored religious majority.

Language distortion bolsters every aspect of religion as the default position. Twenty years ago, I could be reasonably sure, if I opened a fundraising appeal mentioning religious liberty on the envelope, that the notice came from a group like Americans United for Separation of Church and State or the ACLU. Now such appeals come from the likes of Focus on the Family and the Catholic hierarchy. They have no shame, and they want religious liberty only for themselves.

If secularists are to succeed in making any inroads on the default position of religion, they must reclaim the original definition of religious liberty, as exemplified by those who passed Virginia’s 1786 law.

There is another related, equally important task for the secular movement today. We must reclaim the language of passion and emotion from the religious right, which loves to portray atheists as bloodless, “professorial” (the word always applied to Obama) devotees of abstract scientific principles that have nothing to do with real human lives. This misguided but, again, ideologically useful portrait of atheists appeared frequently in the patronizing eulogies for Christopher Hitchens offered by religious believers who had fallen under the spell of his voice and his prose. Ross Douthaut, writing in the Times, argued that “many Christian readers felt that in Hichens’s case there had somehow been a terrible mix-up, and that a writer who loved the King James Bible…surely belonged with them, rather than with the bloodless prophets of a world lit only by Science.”

This is the sort of mindless obeisance to received opinion propagated by the missionaries for religion as the default position. Confronted by an atheist who does not fit their stereotype, their conclusion is not that the stereotype is awry but that the atheist, deep down, must not really be a true atheist. Because everyone knows that atheists are bloodless elitists (never honest Christian folk) who substitute science with a capital “S” for God with a capital “G.”

One reason why believers couldn’t quite dismiss Hitchens was that he did write and speak with the language of passion and emotion, as Robert Green Ingersoll, “the Great Agnostic” did in the 19th century and Thomas Paine in the 18th. I believe that the most crucial task for secularists today is to lay claim to the heritage that unites passion and reason.

I will close this column on the same note that I ended my book “Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism,” in which I quoted Lear’s soliloquy when, after raging on the heath, he stumbles onto a place of shelter:

Poor naked wretches, wereso’er you are,

That bide the pelting of this pitless storm,

How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,

Your loop’d and window’d raggedness, defend you

From seasons such as these? Take physic, pomp;

Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel,

That thou mayst shake the superflux to them,

And show the heavens more just.

[Make sure to set this so it appears as poetry.]

Yes, let us talk about showing the heavens more just. This is the essence of humanist secularism and humanist atheism and it must be offered not as a defensive response to the religiously correct but as a robust creed worthy of the world’s first secular government. It is also time to revive the evocative and honorable word “freethinker,” with its insistence that Americans think for themselves instead of relying on default opinion. The combination of “free” and “thought” embodies every ideal that secularists hold out to a nation founded not on dreams of justice in heaven but on the best human hopes for a more just earth.”

Emphasis Mine

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

from AlterNet, by Rachel Tabachnick

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

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

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

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

Emphasis Mine

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