5 Things the Religious Right Needs to Learn About the 10 Commandments

Source: AlterNet

Author: Robert Boston

Emphasis Mine

(N.B.: The first four commandments are contrary to the religious freedom and free expression clauses in the First Amendment.)

Anyone who spends time around members of the Religious Right quickly realizes that they have a serious crush on the Ten Commandments.

The Ten Commandments are found in the Old Testament and are closely identified with the history of Judaism. But in recent years, they’ve been adopted by right-wing fundamentalist Christians eager to prove that the United States has religious underpinnings and wasn’t founded to be a secular nation.

This far-right obsession with the Commandments has legal and political ramifications because fundamentalists often try to display the Commandments at seats of government.

Federal courts ruled recently on the legality of Ten Commandments displays on public property in North Dakota and New Mexico—reaching opposite conclusions. And in Alabama, Jackson County Commissioner Tim Guffey wants to display the Ten Commandments at the county courthouse. Guffey told local media that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution “all stemmed from the word of God, from the Ten Commandments.”

Guffey’s argument is a common one: It’s OK to display the Ten Commandments at a courthouse, city hall or the state capitol because U.S. law is based on them. Thus, a government-sponsored Ten Commandments display isn’t really religious. It just makes a statement about the origins of our law.

But there’s one gaping flaw with this argument: American law is not based on the Ten Commandments. Here are five reasons why.

1. The Ten Commandments don’t provide a coherent system of governance. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to base a government solely on the Ten Commandments for the simple reason that they are not a governance document. Nor could the Ten Commandments have influenced the Constitution, the foundation of American law, because the two documents serve very different purposes.

The Ten Commandments make up a moral code designed to punish certain behaviors deemed offensive to the God of the Old Testament. They say nothing about a government or how one is to be structured.

The Constitution, by contrast, is a governance document that spells out, in detail, how a representative democracy is supposed to work. A wholly secular document, the Constitution does not attempt to establish a system of religious laws. On the contrary, its First Amendment guarantees religious freedom for all (Christians and non-Christians) and bars all laws “respecting an establishment of religion.”

2. Nothing in the Constitution makes it illegal to break religious laws. The Ten Commandments are very clear on certain religious matters: There is one God. You owe him your allegiance and you’re not to put other gods before him. You are not to take his name in vain or desecrate the Sabbath. Take care to honor your parents.

If the Constitution were based on the Ten Commandments, we would see some reflection of these religious precepts in that document. We don’t. In fact, the Constitution cuts the other way. Its freedom-of-religion provision grants everyone the right to worship, as Thomas Jefferson put it, 20 gods or no god. Nothing in the Constitution accords God or the Sabbath special treatment. In fact, they aren’t even mentioned. Furthermore, Article VI mandates that there be “no religious test” for federal office. That is, people can’t be required to hold certain religious beliefs as a condition of holding public office. Language like this opens the door for everyone to participate fully in political life, no matter what he or she may believe about religion. It’s curious language for a document based on the Ten Commandments.

3. The Religious Right’s main argument is based on a phony quote by James Madison. Virginian James Madison is known as the “Father of the Constitution.” Madison was the primary author of the Constitution and worked tirelessly to see it adopted. A decade later, he helped draft the Bill of Rights.

Madison was an advocate for religious freedom and the total separation of the church from the state. It’s inconceivable that Madison would have advocated for a theocratic society based on the Ten Commandments.

Yet some Religious Right advocates argue that Madison favored this. Furthermore, they claim that he once said, “We have staked the whole of all our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”

There are variations of this quote. All are false. Madison never said this. Back in 1993, the curators of the Madison Papers at the University of Virginia were asked if they could verify this quote. They could not.

“We did not find anything in our files remotely like the sentiment expressed in the extract you sent us,” curators John Stagg and David Mattern wrote. “In addition, the idea is inconsistent with everything we know about Madison’s views on religion and government, views which he expressed time and time again in public and in private.”

Although this quote was debunked years ago, it still makes the rounds on Religious Right website. As recently as last year, the Family Research Council used it to promote a conference.

4. Historians have listed the real sources that inspired the Constitution.If the Ten Commandments had inspired the founders, we would see evidence of that in the founders’ writings and speeches. It isn’t there.

Furthermore, the sources that did inspire them are no secret. About 10 years ago, church-state separation activists were fighting Roy Moore, Alabama’s infamous “Ten Commandments judge,” over his decision to display the Commandments at a state judicial building in Montgomery. Moore’s legal strategy hinged in  large part on his assertion that the Ten Commandments were the font of all U.S. law.

That tactic imploded when 41 law professors and legal historians filed a brief that left Moore’s claim in tatters. The historians examined the debates and written records of the founding period and uncovered no significant references to the Ten Commandments.

The brief noted that “various documents and texts” figured in the development of American law, among them English common and statutory law, Roman law, the civil law of continental Europe and private international law. They also found numerous references to the writings of William Blackstone, John Locke, Adam Smith and others as well as the Magna Carta, the Federalist Papers and other sources.

Observed the scholars, “While the Ten Commandments have influenced some of our notions of right and wrong, a wide variety of other documents have played a more dominant and central role in the development of American law. No respected scholar of legal or constitutional history would assert that the Ten Commandments have played a dominant or major role, or even a significant role, in the development of American law as a whole. To insist on a closer relationship or to claim the Ten Command­ments has a special place in the development of American law lacks historical support.”

Not surprisingly, Moore lost in court.

5. Many of the precepts found in the Ten Commandments are common-sense rules that have existed for centuries.Some Religious Right leaders fall back on the argument that, while the Constitution may not explicitly recognize the Ten Commandments, American common and statutory law surely does. After all, our laws say it’s wrong to kill, lie and steal – just like the Ten Commandments!

The argument fails a simple historical analysis. Activities like murder, theft and lying are detrimental to all societies. If these actions aren’t punished, they make it nearly impossible for people to live together in peace. Thus, they are always banned. Other ancient lists of laws, such as the Code of Hammurabi (which is older than the Ten Commandments), proscribe these actions as well.

Even the U.S. Supreme Court gives a nod to this fact. In the court’s main chamber, a frieze along the wall depicts historic lawgivers from many different eras. Moses is depicted carrying two tablets, but he’s not alone. Many other lawgivers from the ancient world, including Hammurabi, Solomon, Solon, Confucius and others, are there too.

Veneration of the Ten Commandments as the font of all wisdom and the source of all laws is a modern-day affectation of the Religious Right. It doesn’t go back to the founding period.

So when did it start? The origins may surprise you. If you root around public parks in many American cities, you just might come across a weathered granite monument listing the Ten Commandments. It may be covered with vegetation and forgotten, but there it is. Why is it there? Where did it come from?

There’s a good chance it was donated to the town by the Fraternal Order of Eagles in the 1950s as part of a publicity stunt to promote Cecile B. DeMille’s 1956 epic “The Ten Commandments.”

In the early 1940s, a juvenile court judge in Minnesota named E.J. Ruegemer got it into his head that exposing youngsters to the Ten Commandments would fend off delinquency. Ruegemer was a member of the Fraternal Order of Eagles and lobbied the group to push for posting paper copies of the Ten Commandments in juvenile courts.

A few years later, DeMille learned of the project and adopted it to promote his film – with a twist. He worked with Ruegemer to produce larger monuments made of granite, and the Eagles were soon donating Ten Commandments markers to communities all over America. About 2,000 were placed before the campaign ended. In some cases, stars from the movie dedicated the monuments.

Thus, the attempt to link the Ten Commandments to the U.S. government does have founders. But they aren’t men like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Rather, the craze can be traced to more recent times and laid at the feet of Cecile B. DeMille, Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner.

Rob Boston is director of communications at Americans United for Separation of Church and State. His latest book is “Taking Liberties: Why Religious Freedom Doesn’t Give You the Right to Tell Other People What to Do.”

See: http://www.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/5-things-religious-right-needs-learn-about-10-commandments?akid=12232.123424.co8qyq&rd=1&src=newsletter1018845&t=6

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Unchristian christian right

Source: AlterNet

Author: Amanda Marcotte

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emphasis Mine

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

 

From “Faith No More” Why I am an Atheist

Earlier this year, Andrew Zak Williams asked public figures why they believe in God. Now it’s the turn of the atheists – from A C Grayling to P Z Myers – to explain why they don’t.

Maryam Namazie

Human rights activist
I don’t remember exactly when I stopped believing in God. Having been raised in a fairly open-minded family in Iran, I had no encounter with Islam that mattered until the Islamic movement took power on the back of a defeated revolution in Iran. I was 12 at the time.

I suppose people can go through an entire lifetime without questioning God and a religion that they were born into (out of no choice of their own), especially if it doesn’t have much of a say in their lives. If you live in France or Britain, there may never be a need to renounce God actively or come out as an atheist.

But when the state sends a “Hezbollah” (the generic term for Islamist) to your school to ensure that you don’t mix with your friends who are boys, stops you from swimming, forces you to be veiled, deems males and females separate and unequal, prescribes different books for you and your girlfriends from those read by boys, denies certain fields of study to you because you are female, and starts killing in­discriminately, then you have no choice but to question, discredit and confront it – all of it. And that is what I did.

Philip Pullman
Author

The main reason I don’t believe in God is the missing evidence. There could logically be no evidence that he doesn’t exist, so I can only go by the fact that, so far, I’ve discovered no evidence that he does: I have had no personal experience of being spoken to by God and I see nothing in the world around me, wherever I look in history or science or art or anywhere else, to persuade me that it was the work of God rather than
of nature.

To that extent, I’m an atheist. I would have to agree, though, that God might exist but be in hiding (and I can understand why – with his record, so would I be). If I knew more, I’d be able to make an informed guess about that. But the amount of things I do know is the merest tiny flicker of a solitary spark in the vast encircling darkness that represents all the things I don’t know, so he might well be out there in the dark. As I can’t say for certain that he isn’t, I’d have to say I am an agnostic.

Kenan Malik
Neurobiologist, writer and broadcaster

I am an atheist because I see no need for God. Without God, it is said, we cannot explain the creation of the cosmos, anchor our moral values or infuse our lives with meaning and purpose. I disagree.

Invoking God at best highlights what we cannot yet explain about the physical universe, and at worst exploits that ignorance to mystify. Moral values do not come prepackaged from God, but have to be worked out by human beings through a combination of empathy, reasoning and dialogue.
This is true of believers, too: they, after all, have to decide for themselves which values in their holy books they accept and which ones they reject.
And it is not God that gives meaning to our lives, but our relationships with fellow human beings and the goals and obligations that derive from them. God is at best redundant, at worst an obstruction. Why do I need him?

Susan Blackmore
Psychologist and author
What reason for belief could I possibly have? To explain suffering? He doesn’t. Unless, that is, you buy in to his giving us free will, which conflicts with all we know about human decision-making.

To give me hope of an afterlife? My 30 years of parapsychological research threw that hope out. To explain the mystical, spiritual and out-of-body experiences I have had? No: our rapidly improving knowledge of the brain is providing much better explanations than religious reasoning. To explain the existence and complexity of the wonderful world I see around me? No – and this is really the main one.

God is supposed (at least in some versions of the story) to have created us all. Yet the Creator (any creator) is simply redundant. Every living thing on this planet evolved by processes that require no designer, no plans, no guidance and no foresight. We need no God to do this work. Where would he fit in? What would he do? And why? If he did have any role in our creation, he would have to be immensely devious, finickity, deceitful and mind-bogglingly cruel, which would be a very odd kind of God to believe in. So I don’t.

Richard Dawkins
Evolutionary biologist
I don’t believe in leprechauns, pixies, werewolves, jujus, Thor, Poseidon, Yahweh, Allah or the Trinity. For the same reason in every case: there is not the tiniest shred of evidence for any of them, and the burden of proof rests with those who wish to believe.

Even given no evidence for specific gods, could we make a case for some unspecified “intelligent designer” or “prime mover” or begetter of “something rather than nothing”? By far the most appealing version of this argument is the biological one – living things do present a powerful illusion of design. But that is the very version that Darwin destroyed. Any theist who appeals to “design” of living creatures simply betrays his ignorance of biology. Go away and read a book. And any theist who appeals to biblical evidence betrays his ignorance of modern scholarship. Go away and read another book.

As for the cosmological argument, whose God goes under names such as Prime Mover or First Cause, the physicists are closing in, with spellbinding results. Even if there remain unanswered questions – where do the fundamental laws and constants of physics come from? – obviously it cannot help to postulate a designer whose existence poses bigger questions than he purports to solve. If science fails, our best hope is to build a better science. The answer will lie neither in theology nor – its exact equivalent – reading tea leaves.

In any case, it is a fatuously illogical jump from deistic Unmoved Mover to Christian Trinity, with the Son being tortured and murdered because the Father, for all his omniscience and omnipotence, couldn’t think of a better way to forgive “sin”.

Equally unconvincing are those who believe because it comforts them (why should truth be consoling?) or because it “feels right”. Cherie Blair [“I’m a believer”, New Statesman, 18 April] may stand for the “feels right” brigade. She bases her belief on “an understanding of something that my head cannot explain but my heart knows to be true”. She aspires to be a judge. M’lud, I cannot provide the evidence you require. My head cannot explain why, but my heart knows it to be true.

Why is religion immune from the critical standards that we apply not just in courts of law, but in every other sphere of life?

Paula Kirby
Writer

I stopped being a believer when it became clear to me that the various versions of Christianity were mutually contradictory and that none had empirical evidence to support it. From the recognition that “knowing in my heart” was an unreliable guide to reality, I began to explore other types of explanation for life, the universe and everything, and discovered in science – biology, chemistry, physics, cosmology, geology, psychology – answers that genuinely explain, as opposed to those of religion, whose aim is to shroud their lack of substance in a cloak of mystery and metaphor.

All-importantly, these scientific answers, even when tentative, are supported by evidence. That they are also far more thrilling, far more awe-inspiring, than anything religion can offer, and that I find life fuller, richer and more satisfying when it’s looked firmly in the eye and wholeheartedly embraced for the transient and finite wonder that it is, is a happy bonus.

Sam Harris
Neuroscientist

The most common impediment to clear thinking that a non-believer must confront is the idea that the burden of proof can be fairly placed on his shoulders: “How do you know there is no God? Can you prove it? You atheists are just as dogmatic as the fundamentalists you criticise.” This is nonsense: even the devout tacitly reject thousands of gods, along with the cherished doctrines of every religion but their own. Every Christian can confidently judge the God of Zoroaster to be a creature of fiction, without first scouring the universe for evidence of his absence. Absence of evidence is all one ever needs to banish false knowledge. And bad evidence, proffered in a swoon of wishful thinking, is just as damning.

But honest reasoning can lead us further into the fields of unbelief, for we can prove that books such as the Bible and the Quran bear no trace of divine authorship. We know far too much about the history of these texts to accept what they say about their own origins. And just imagine how good a book would be if it had been written by an omniscient Being.

The moment one views the contents of scripture in this light, one can reject the doctrines of Judaism, Christianity and Islam definitively. The true authors of God’s eternal Word knew nothing about the origins of life, the relationship between mind and brain, the causes of illness, or how best to create a viable, global civilisation in the 21st century. That alone should resolve every conflict between religion and science in the latter’s favour, until the end of the world.

In fact, the notion that any ancient book could be an infallible guide to living in the present gets my vote for being the most dangerously stupid idea on earth.

What remains for us to discover, now and always, are those truths about our world that will allow us to survive and fully flourish. For this, we need only well-intentioned and honest inquiry – love and reason. Faith, if it is ever right about anything, is right by accident.

Daniel Dennett
Philosopher

The concept of God has gradually retreated from the concept of an anthropomorphic creator figure, judge and overseer to a mystery-shrouded Wonderful Something-or-Other utterly beyond human ken. It is impossible for me to believe in any of the anthropomorphic gods, because they are simply ridiculous, and so obviously the fantasy-projections of scientifically ignorant minds trying to understand the world. It is impossible for me to believe in the laundered versions, because they are systematically incomprehensible. It would be like trying to believe in the existence of wodgifoop – what’s that? Don’t ask; it’s beyond saying.

But why try anyway? There is no obligation to try to believe in God; that’s a particularly pernicious myth left over from the days when organised religions created the belief in belief. One can be good without God, obviously.

Many people feel very strongly that one should try to believe in God, so as not to upset Granny, or so as to encourage others to do likewise, or because it makes you nicer or nobler. So they go through the motions. Usually it doesn’t work.

I am in awe of the universe itself, and very grateful to be a part of it. That is enough.

A C Grayling
Philosopher

I do not believe that there are any such things as gods and goddesses, for exactly the same reasons as I do not believe there are fairies, goblins or sprites, and these reasons should be obvious to anyone over the age of ten.

Steven Weinberg
Nobel laureate in physics
I do not believe in God – an intelligent, all-powerful being who cares about human beings – because the idea seems to me to be silly. The positive arguments that have been given for belief in God all appear to me as silly as the proposition they are intended to prove. Fortunately, in some parts of the world, religious belief has weakened enough so that people no longer kill each other over differences in this silliness.

It is past time that the human race should grow up, enjoying what is good in life, including the pleasure of learning how the world works, and freeing ourselves altogether from supernatural silliness in facing the real problems and tragedies of our lives.

Peter Atkins
Chemist

In part because there is no evidence for a God (sentimental longing, desperation, ignorance and angst are not evidence) and in part because science is showing that it is capable of answering all the questions that the religious have argued, without any evidence, require the activities of a God, I dismiss holy scripture as evidence. I also discount the argument that a majority of people in the world claim to be believers, because truth is not decided by majority vote.

I acknowledge the power of cultural conditioning, especially when it is larded on to the young and impressionable, and can even accept that there might be an evolutionary advantage in believing; but neither is an argument for the truth of the existence of a God. Moreover, the horrors of the world, both personal and societal, do not convince me that the creation is an act of infinite benevolence.

Jim al-Khalili
Theoretical physicist
It is often said that religious faith is about mankind’s search for a deeper meaning to existence. But just because we search for it does not mean it is there. My faith is in humanity itself, without attaching any metaphysical baggage.

Sir Roger Penrose
Physicist

I don’t believe in the dogmas of any religion (or any that I have ever heard of), because the associated myths sound far too fanciful and arbitrary for them to have any credibility, in my opinion. If you ask me about a belief in some more abstract notion of “God”, I would, of course, have to know what you mean by such a term.

I suppose the closest I could get to anything that bears any relation to the kind of notion that the term “God” might be used for would be something along the lines of Platonist ideals. These could include some sort of objective moral standpoint that is independent of ourselves, and not simply definable in terms of what might be of benefit to human society. This would imply, for instance, that conscious beings such as elephants would have rights, in addition to those of humans.

I am also prepared to accept that there might be objective (“Platonic”) elements involved in artistic achievement, and certainly I assign a Platonic objectivity to truth (especially unambiguous mathematical truth). But I am not at all sure that it is helpful to attach the term “God” to any of this. Moreover, thinking of God as a benevolent creator is particularly misleading, as is made clear, in my opinion, by the problem of the existence of evil – or natural, indiscriminate calamity.

If “God” is to be a sentient being of some sort, I also find that incredible. A conscious being would have to be one that I could just about imagine myself being. I certainly cannot imagine myself being “God”!

Ben Goldacre
Science writer

I think probably the main answer to your question is: I just don’t have any interest either way, but I wouldn’t want to understate how uninterested I am. There still hasn’t been a word invented for people like me, whose main ex­perience when presented with this issue is an overwhelming, mind-blowing, intergalactic sense of having more interesting things to think about. I’m not sure that’s accurately covered by words such as “atheist”, and definitely not by “agnostic”. I just don’t care.

Polly Toynbee
Journalist and president, British Humanist Association
The only time I am ever tempted, momentarily, to believe in a God is when I shake an angry fist at him for some monstrous suffering inflicted on the world for no reason whatever. The Greeks and Romans and other pagans probably produced the most convincing gods – petulant, childish, selfish – demanding sacrifices to their vanity and inflicting random furies. At least that’s a logical explanation. But an all-powerful God of goodness and love is evidently impossible. He would be a monster. Voltaire said so after the Lisbon earthquake.

Victor Stenger
Particle physicist

I not only do not believe in God, I am almost 100 per cent certain the God of Abraham worshipped by Jews, Christians and Muslims does not exist. This God supposedly plays such an important role in the universe that there should be evidence he exists. There is nothing in the realm of human knowledge that requires anything supernatural, anything beyond matter, to describe our observations.
Furthermore, religion is immoral. It is bad for individuals and bad for society.

Jerry Coyne
Biologist

There is simply no good data pointing to a supernatural being who either takes an interest in the world or actively affects it. Isn’t it curious that all the big miracles, resurrections and ascensions to heaven occurred in the distant past, documented by single, dubious books? Besides, the “truth claims” of the various faiths about prophets, virgin births, angels, heaven and the like are not only scientifically unbelievable, but conflicting, so that most or all of them must be wrong. To Christians, Jesus is absolutely the scion and substance of God; to Muslims, that’s blasphemy, punishable by execution.

The more science learns about the world, the less room there is for God. Natural selection dispelled the last biology-based argument for divinity – the “design” of plants and animals. Now physics is displacing other claims, showing how the universe could have begun from “nothing” without celestial help.

There’s not only an absence of evidence for God, but good evidence against him. To the open-minded, religions were clearly invented by human beings to support their fervent wishes for what they wanted to be true.

Our very world testifies constantly against God. Take natural selection, a process that is cruel, painful and wasteful. After Darwin’s idea displaced Genesis-based creationism, the theological sausage-grinder – designed to transform scientific necessities into religious virtues – rationalised why it was better for God to have used natural selection to produce human beings. Needless to say, that argument doesn’t fit with an all-loving God. Equally feeble are theological explanations for other suffering in the world. If there is a God, the evidence points to one who is apathetic – or even
a bit malicious.

To believers, testing the “God hypothesis” is not an option because they will accept no observations that disprove it. While I can imagine scientific evidence for God, even evidence that would make me a believer (a reappearing Jesus who instantly restores the limbs of amputees would do), there is no evidence – not even the Holocaust – which can dispel their faith in a good and loving God.

Stephen Hawking
Physicist

I am not claiming there is no God. The scientific account is complete, but it does not predict human behaviour, because there are too many equations to solve.One therefore uses a different model, which can include free will and God.

Michael Shermer
Publisher of Skeptic magazine
I do not believe in God for four reasons. First, there is not enough evidence for the existence of an omniscient, omnipotent being who created the universe and ourselves and hands down moral laws and offers us eternal life. Second, any such being that was supernatural would by definition be outside the purview of our knowledge of the natural world and would necessarily have to be part of the natural world if we did discover such an entity. This brings me to the third reason, Shermer’s Last Law, which is that any sufficiently advanced extraterrestrial intelligence is indistinguishable from God. (Because of Moore’s law [of increasing computer power] and Kurzweil’s law of accelerating returns, we ourselves will be able to engineer life, solar systems and even universes, given enough time.) Fourth, there is overwhelming evidence from history, anthropology, sociology and psychology that human beings created God, not vice versa. In the past 10,000 years there have been roughly 10,000 religions and 1,000 different gods. What are the chances that one group of people discovered the One True God while everyone else believed in 9,999 false gods? A likelier explanation is that all gods and religion are socially and psychologically constructed. We created gods.

John Harris
Bioethicist

There is no good reason to believe that anything that could coherently be called God exists. A rational person does not waste time believing or even being agnostic about things that there are no good reasons to accept. Even if there was a more powerful being (or, more likely, society or planet of beings) than ourselves with a technology that could have created even our solar system and everything in it, that would not give us anything but prudential and scientific reasons to take any notice of them whatsoever – certainly no reason to worship them.

Bertrand Russell pointed out long ago that the moral character of the Judaeo-Christian God as revealed in the writings of his sycophants leaves much to be desired. The same seems to go for other gods as well. So God is not only non-existent, but also wicked and useless.

Jennifer Bardi
Editor of the Humanist
The short and easy answer is lack of evidence. I also see no value in believing in God, because if you’re thinking clearly and honestly you necessarily must face the issue of suffering, and the ensuing existential crisis wastes precious time and energy. Alleviating suffering is what we should pour our minds and hearts into.

Moreover, I simply don’t want to believe, because the notion of an all-knowing, all-seeing God who lets bad stuff happen really gives me the creeps.

Richard Wiseman
Psychologist

I do not believe in God because it seems both illogical and unnecessary. According to the believers, their God is an all-powerful and almighty force. However, despite this, their God allows for huge amounts of suffering and disease. Also, if I were to believe in God, logically speaking I would have to believe in a wide range of other entities for which there is no evidence, including pixies, goblins and gnomes, etc. It’s a long list and I don’t have room in my head for all of them. So, I am happy to believe that there is no God. We are just insignificant lumps of carbon flying through a tiny section of the universe. Our destiny is totally in our own hands, and it is up to each of us to make the best of our life. Let’s stop worrying about mythical entities and start living.

P Z Myers
Biologist

I am accustomed to the idea that truth claims ought to be justified with some reasonable evidence: if one is going to claim, for instance, that a Jewish carpenter was the son of a God, or that there is a place called heaven where some ineffable, magical part of you goes when you die, then there ought to be some credible reason to believe that. And that reason ought to be more substantial than that it says so in a big book.

Religious claims all seem to short-circuit the rational process of evidence-gathering and testing and the sad thing is that many people don’t see a problem with that, and even consider it a virtue. It is why I don’t just reject religion, but actively oppose it in all its forms – because it is fundamentally a poison for the mind that undermines our critical faculties.

Religious beliefs are lazy jokes with bad punchlines. Why do you have to chop off the skin at the end of your penis? Because God says so. Why should you abstain from pork, or shrimp, or mixing meat and dairy, or your science classes? Because they might taint your relationship with God. Why do you have to revere a bit of dry biscuit? Because it magically turns into a God when a priest mutters over it. Why do I have to be good? Because if you aren’t, a God will set you on fire for all eternity.

These are ridiculous propositions. The whole business of religion is clownshoes freakin’ moonshine, hallowed by nothing but unthinking tradition, fear and superstitious behaviour, and an establishment of con artists who have dedicated their lives to propping up a sense of self-importance by claiming to talk to an in­visible big kahuna.

It’s not just fact-free, it’s all nonsense.

Andrew Copson
Chief executive, British Humanist Association

I don’t believe in any gods or goddesses, because they are so obviously human inventions. Desert-dwellers have severe, austere and dry gods; suffering and oppressed people have loving and merciful gods; farmers have gods of rain and fruitfulness; and I have never met a liberal who believed in a conservative God or a conservative who believed in a liberal one. Every God I have ever heard of bears the indelible marks of human manufacture, and through history we can explain how and why we invented them.

Andrew Zak Williams has written for the Humanist, the Independent and Skeptic. His email address is: andrewbelief@gmail.com


Emphasis Mine.

see:http://www.newstatesman.com/religion/2011/07/god-evidence-believe-world

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

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

A ‘what’ nation?!

see: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/14/magazine/14texbooks-t.html?pagewanted=3&em

N.B.: I might note that one cannot simultaneously support the First Amendment and the First Commandment.

The Texas Bd. of Education chooses textbook content, and as it has a large market, it has influence on all textbooks.  The board is conservative, and one issue now under debate is “Christian Nation”.

From the above: ” The one thing that underlies the entire program of the nation’s Christian conservative activists is, naturally, religion. But it isn’t merely the case that their Christian orientation shapes their opinions on gay marriage, abortion and government spending. More elementally, they hold that the United States was founded by devout Christians and according to biblical precepts. This belief provides what they consider not only a theological but also, ultimately, a judicial grounding to their positions on social questions. When they proclaim that the United States is a “Christian nation,” they are not referring to the percentage of the population that ticks a certain box in a survey or census but to the country’s roots and the intent of the founders.  The Christian “truth” about America’s founding has long been taught in Christian schools, but not beyond. Recently, however — perhaps out of ire at what they see as an aggressive, secular, liberal agenda in Washington and perhaps also because they sense an opening in the battle, a sudden weakness in the lines of the secularists — some activists decided that the time was right to try to reshape the history that children in public schools study. Succeeding at this would help them toward their ultimate goal of reshaping American society. As Cynthia Dunbar, another Christian activist on the Texas board, put it, “The philosophy of the classroom in one generation will be the philosophy of the government in the next.

Member Don McLeroy – a dentist who makes no bones about the fact that his professional qualifications have nothing to do with education – states”

The men who wrote the Constitution were Christians who knew the Bible. Our idea of individual rights comes from the Bible. The Western development of the free-market system owes a lot to biblical principles.”

For McLeroy, separation of church and state is a myth perpetrated by secular liberals. “There are two basic facts about man,” he said. “He was created in the image of God, and he is fallen. You can’t appreciate the founding of our country without realizing that the founders understood that. For our kids to not know our history, that could kill a society. That’s why to me this is a huge thing.”

As one reads this long article, they can note: whatever influence religion had on the founders,:

  • The laws that they created are based on the Enlightenment, not any religion.
  • That religion was meaningful to many of the colonists during the Revolutionary period does not translate into our only source of Law: the Constitution.

The Big Ten

On occasion, one hears that (some version) of the ten ‘commandments’ of the old testament are the basis of our system of government.  Is there any validity to this statement? Although there are several versions of the ten commandments in the Jewish Bible, the most commonly recognized set are (from :http://www.bible-knowledge.com/10-Commandments.html)

  1. You shall have no other gods before me.
  2. You shall not make for yourself any carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
  3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
  4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
  5. Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.
  6. You shall not murder.
  7. You shall not commit adultery.
  8. You shall not steal.
  9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
  10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.

1 – 4 violate both the establishment clause and freedom of expression clauses in the First amendment, as well as modern science, which leaves six.

6 and 8 are not special, and merit no attention, which leaves four.

7 is too narrow: it does not address spousal abuse, for example: only three remaining.

9 could violate the Fifth amendment and of the last two:

5 is the abused child amendment, hardly relevant in our contemporary society, and

10 is the basis of commercial advertising.

The final count of the Ten Commandments which are relevent to our government and life is: Zero

The top ten…

One observation that always raises my blood pressure is that “The Ten Commandments are the basis of our system”.  The first four have to do with religious practices, and since that is removed from ‘our system’ by the first clause of the first amendment, that leaves six.  ‘Honor thy parents’ , which I call the abused child commandment, is not part of our law, and the one on adultery,while  reasonable, omits many other important issues, such as spousal abuse. Four.  Not lying is good enough, but not very original, as with murder and theft.  One.   The last, which I call the Madison avenue commandment,” thou shall not covet they neighbor’s house, nor his ass, nor his wife’s ass, …not anything that is thy neighbor’s”, is curious and not either easily understood, or codified into law.

Chris Hedges, writing in TruthDig:

“The commandments are a list of religious edicts, according to passages in Exodus and Deuteronomy, given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai. The first four are designed to guide the believer toward a proper relationship with God. The remaining six deal with our relations with others. It is these final six commands that are given the negative form of “You Shall Not … .” Only two of the commandments, the prohibitions against stealing and murder, are incorporated into our legal code. Protestants, Catholics and Jews have compiled slightly different lists, but the essence of the commandments remains the same. Muslims, while they do not list the commandments in the Koran, honor the laws of Moses, whom they see as a prophet.

The commandments are not defined, however, by the three monotheistic faiths. They are one of the earliest attempts to lay down moral rules and guidelines to sustain a human community. Nearly every religion has set down an ethical and moral code that is strikingly similar to the Ten Commandments. The Eightfold Path, known within Buddhism as the Wheel of Law, forbids murder, unchastity, theft, falsehood and, especially, covetous desire. The Hindus’ sacred syllable Om, said or sung before and after prayers, ends with a fourth sound beyond the range of human hearing. This sound is called the “sound of silence.” It is also called “the sound of the universe.” Hindus, in the repetition of the Sacred Syllable, try to go beyond thought, to reach the stillness and silence that constitutes God. Five of the Ten Commandments delivered from Mount Sinai are lifted directly from the Egyptian “Book of the Dead.” No human being, no nation, no religion, has been chosen to be the sole interpreter of mystery. All cultures struggle to give words to the experience of the transcendent. It is a reminder that all of us find God not in what we know, but in what we cannot comprehend.”

The last statement implies that those of us who have nothing we cannot comprehend, or perhaps nothing we think is ultimately uncomprehendible,  have no place to find god, and therefore  become atheists?

see: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20090316_the_false_idol_of_unfettered_capitalism/

for a long post.