Posted by rogerhollander in Uncategorized.
Tags: atheism, atheist, church-state, faith, faith based, faith-based initiatives, faith-healing, humanism, margaret talev, nonbelievers, religion, roger hollander, secular
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has burnished his Christian credentials, courted Jewish support and preached outreach toward Muslims. On Friday, his administration will host a group that fits none of the above: America’s nonbelievers.
The president isn’t expected to make an appearance at the meeting with the Secular Coalition for America or to unveil any new policy as a result of it.
Instead, several administration officials will sit down quietly for a morning meeting at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House campus with about 60 workhorses from the coalition’s 10 member groups, including the American Atheists and the Council for Secular Humanism. Tina Tchen, the director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, and representatives from the Justice and Health and Human Services departments will participate.
Coalition leaders are billing their visit as an important meeting between a presidential administration and the “nontheist” community. On the agenda are three policy areas: child medical neglect, military proselytizing and faith-based initiatives.
“We’re raising important issues that affect real people’s lives,” said Sean Faircloth, 49, a former Maine state legislator who’s the coalition’s executive director.
White House spokesman Shin Inouye downplayed the meeting, saying only that Tchen’s office “regularly meets with a wide range of organizations and individuals on a diverse set of issues.”
The coalition’s board includes such controversy magnets as authors Salman Rushdie (“The Satanic Verses”) and Christopher Hitchens (“God Is Not Great”), as well as Michael Newdow, the Sacramento, Calif., doctor who argued against allowing the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance before the Supreme Court, but didn’t prevail. South Carolina activist Herb Silverman founded the coalition in 2002. It’s had a Washington office and a lobbyist since 2005.
“Despite what we hear from Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin, we’re in a stage in history where millions upon millions of Americans share a secular perspective on American public policy,” Faircloth said. “We think the real ‘silent majority,’ if you will, is the Americans who say, ‘Enough of this religious and even theocratic nature to American policy.’ “
The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found in a 2008 survey before Obama’s election that a majority of Americans, 52 percent to 45 percent, think that churches should stay out of politics. That sentiment had changed from three election cycles back, 1996, when 54 percent favored churches expressing political views.
Still, nearly three-fourths of Americans told Pew in December 2009 that they attend religious services each year. Americans also told Pew that month that the Republican Party seems friendlier toward religion than Democrats do, but that Obama seems friendlier toward religion than most Democrats are.
The coalition doesn’t embrace all the Obama administration’s stances, but members think that they have more of a kindred spirit in the president than in his predecessor, George W. Bush.
Obama once taught constitutional law. His late mother was spiritual but agnostic. His inaugural address is credited as the first by a U.S. president to include explicit recognition of “nonbelievers” as part of the fabric of the nation.
Coalition members plan to use Friday’s meeting to advocate closing federal loopholes in the law that governs medical neglect. They say that officials in any state should be able to remove sick children who need medical treatment from homes in which parents believe in faith healing as easily as they could intervene on behalf of other children.
Liz Heywood, of Ithaca, N.Y., said she was 13 when she contracted a bone infection that her Christian Scientist parents wouldn’t seek medical attention to treat. She experienced permanent damage, and three years ago, at 45, had the leg amputated above the knee.
Heywood planned to fly to Washington to participate in the coalition meeting until fresh snow left her stuck in New York. She’ll participate by speaker phone.
“I fell through the cracks at every turn,” Heywood said of her experience as a sick teen in a faith-healing home. “I am hoping I can make a difference with my story.”
Other coalition activists have concerns about proselytizing in the military and a rise in the military’s evangelical culture. They want the Department of Defense to give protected-class status to nonbelievers, as it does to members of minority religions.
On faith-based initiatives, the coalition differs from the president in opposing taxpayer funding of all faith-based groups. Obama has emphasized that faith-based groups that receive government money for charitable work shouldn’t proselytize or discriminate on the basis of religion. Faircloth said the president should formalize that position through an executive order.
© 2010 McClatchy Newspapers
Posted by rogerhollander in About God, About Religion, Religion.
Tags: atheism, Bible, Christianity, creation, creationism, darwin, evolution, faith, fundamentalism, god, intelligent design, islam, judaism, religion, richard dawkins, roger hollander, science
www.rogerhollander.com, February 24, 2010
The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins, Transworld Publishers (Random House), London, Black Swan edition, 2007.
If it didn’t go against the very spirit of the author’s work, it would be tempting to call Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” the Atheist’s Bible. Dawkins is no fan of Bibles, Korans, or scriptures of any sort. He is a fan of science; he is a renowned evolutionary biologist; but he does not make a religion of it. That is an important point because many of his critics have accused him of just that.
For Dawkins the dichotomy is not the religion of God versus the religion of Atheism, rather it is belief based upon evidence (science) versus belief that is founded upon faith (religion). He argues passionately and, in my opinion effectively, against those who say the two spheres are mutually exclusive; that faith has nothing to say about science and, more to the point, that science has nothing to say about faith. If there is a God, for example, as millions of believers believe, who can simultaneously enter into the mind of every human being on earth and listen to prayers and communicate back, then scientists who study the human mind surely would be interested to explore, understand and evaluate the phenomenon. Dawkins shows how “faith heads” are quick to discount science when it contradicts belief but jump on any shred of scientific evidence that might verify a Biblical notion. The case study of religious “scientists” who with diligence attempted (using double blind studies, control groups, etc.) to prove that God answers prayers (the result: He doesn’t) is both humorous and grotesque. I am reminded of an experiment I once read about where religious “scientists” took the weight of dying individuals just before the moment of death and just after, in order to determine the weight of the human soul (which they presumed left the physical body at the moment of death).
If you appreciate the scientific mind, you will love Dawkins. Along with a comprehensive and penetrating knowledge, not only of his own field of Darwinian studies, but in many other areas of science, Dawkins has the gift of explanation, he is lucid and logical to a fault, and he writes with equal doses of humour and passion. He is highly opinionated, and that offended many of his wishy-washy post-modernist critics, but his opinions are painstakingly based upon careful and reproducible experimentation, analysis and sound reasoning.
I will not attempt here to review the entire work for it is of epic proportions, but rather to underscore what I consider to be some of its most salient points. I urge you to read it for yourself.
The God whose existence Dawkins undertakes to disprove is the God of Abraham, the founder of three of the world’s greatest religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam; the alleged Creator of the Universe. By giving the reader what amounts to a mini-course in Darwinian evolutionary biology, he shows the high degree of improbability that such a deity could have done what He is alleged to have done. Along the way he dissects, excoriates, and destroys the arguments and theories of those latter day Creationists, who have come up with a false science called “Intelligent Design” in their weasely attempt to introduce Biblical “science” into the science curriculum of public schools through the back door.
Dawkins makes the distinction between agnosticism and atheism, and his major reason for opting for atheism is that agnosticism as he understands it posits an equal possibility of the existence or non-existence of God, whereas he believes the probability is almost nil. From my perspective it is not that important a distinction; but after having read his entire argument, I tend to agree, especially in this era of the resurgence of totalitarian religious fundamentalism at a global level, that it is important to counteract vigorously and mercilessly conclusions about the reality of our universe that are based upon faith or revelation rather than scientific observation.
It should be noted that this work is not so much an assault on the belief in God as much as it is an attack on religion itself. When criticized for concentrating on the more extreme fundamentalists, he counters by demonstrating how to a large extent fundamentalist based totalitarian theocracy has moved into the mainstream. But more fundamentally, he demonstrates that the kind of moderate religion that sees the Bible as metaphoric, for example, rather than literal, nonetheless is telling us to base belief on faith as opposed to evidence, a notion that makes us vulnerable to deception and manipulation.
He bemoans the fact that we tend to treat faith-based notions with kid gloves, that we bend over backwards not to offend religious belief in a way that we would not allow, for example, for political ideas. Evolutionary cosmology, for example, tells us that our earth is millions of years old, whereas the Bible tells us it is some six thousand years old. He cites respected scientists who accept the Biblical version “on faith” when forced to choose between science and faith. Kurt Wise, an American geologist, for example, “… if all the evidence in the universe turns against creationism, I would be the first to admit it, but I would still be a creationist because that is what the Word of God seems to indicate.”
Dawkins would ask us not to credit, in the name of religious tolerance, such deliberate blindness (to give an idea of proportion, believing the Biblical data on the age of the earth would be like believing that New York is about seven yards from San Francisco).
Dawkins is perhaps most passionate when it comes to children. He asserts, for example, that there is not such thing as a Catholic child, rather a child of Catholic parents. He sees the indoctrination of children, who are incapable of weighing the evidence and making judgments for themselves, as tantamount to child abuse, an assault on the development of their critical faculties. He cites Victor Hugo: “In every village there is a torch – the teacher: and an extinguisher – the clergyman.”
In an interesting section of the book, one where is scientific evidence and reasoning is more speculative and open to different interpretation, he gives theories on why religion is so universal and all pervasive from a Darwinian evolutionary standpoint. To survive the evolution process of natural selection, one must have positive, advantageous characteristics; so if religion is so destructive, how come it has survived and prospered? One theory is that at one point in human evolution the need to trust (especially parental) authority without question was necessary for survival; organized religion based upon unquestioned belief then is an aberration, a left-over from an earlier evolutionary stage.
From Thomas Jefferson to Bertrand Russell, Dawkins cites respected sceptics who have chosen reason over faith. Let us here give the final word to Thomas Jefferson:
“The priests of the different religious sects … dread the advance of science as witches do the approach of daylight, and scowl on the fatal harbinger announcing the subdivision of the duperies on which they live.”
Posted by rogerhollander in About Religion, Religion.
Tags: anti-choice, church misogyny, church patriarchy, faith, first communion, guilt, marx religion, religion, religious belief, repression, roger hollander, roman catholic, Roman Catholic Church, sin
by Roger Hollander, December 7, 2009
Get in line in that processional,
Step into that small confessional,
There, the guy who’s got religion’ll
Tell you if your sin’s original.
If it is, try playin’ it safer,
Drink the wine and chew the wafer,
Two, four, six, eight,
Time to transubstantiate!
Tom Lehrer, “The Vatican Rag”
You hungry, ain’t you, babies.
Lord Buckley, “The Naz”
Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.
Marx, Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. Introduction (1843)
I live in what is referred to as a “Catholic country” in South America. The Church and its rituals and its paraphernalia are ubiquitous.
I have a profound disrespect for institutionalized religion, and that most certainly includes the Roman Catholic Church.
I make it a point, however, not to disparage individual believers or to show disrespect, although, if the circumstances permit, I will quite willingly enter into debate on questions of faith and belief.
This weekend I had occasion to attend the first communion ceremony of a ten year old niece. I sat patiently through the mass and participated in the après mass family photo taking and then the party at the parents’ home.
Here is a short list of what offended me about the ceremony:
- The indoctrination of young children
- The emphasis on confession, guilt and a repressive notion of sin whereby war can be OK, but masturbation or pre-marital intercourse can send you to you know where
- The false, arrogant and unctuous attitude of the priest and his attempt to appear “cool”
- The display of ostentatious wealth in a dirt-poor country (this was an upper-middle class all white congregation); the money spent on designer dresses, thousand dollar suits, beauty parlour hair-dos,and expensive digital cameras could feed the population of the near-by slum ghetto for a year
Here is a short list of what offends me about the Roman Catholic Church:
- A pope who is a former Nazi youth and who, as a Cardinal and chief defender of the faith, did all he could to destroy local autonomy and suffocate the promotion of Liberation Theology
- The Church patriarchy, its misogyny, the policy of celibacy, its protection of child abuser priests, and its aggressive stand on therapeutic abortion, which has caused untold death and suffering for women around the globe
- The Church’s past and present active support for dictatorships and authoritarian regimes
I endured a mass through which I sat with bitterness in my heart, and this little essay is my attempt to get it off my chest. Having done that I would like to end on a positive note by saying that some good things happened as well. Children were made to feel special (this was “first communion weekend” in Ecuador, with thousands participating; at the mass I attended there were about 35 children taking their first communion). It brought families together in joyful celebration. Most children will end up living their Catholicism as a cultural artefact and will resist the authoritarianism of the Church.
Karl Marx’s classic statement (cited above) about religion is usually taken out of context and wrongly considered to be anti-religious. I do not believe it is inconsistent to be Marxist and Christian (or any other religion) at the same time. Even within the Catholic Church there have been and are those who struggle and sacrifice for the good of humanity. Marx was not a critic of the spiritual; rather he wished to replace the misguided hope for the relief of suffering via faith in a future heaven with the revolutionary struggle to transform human social structures as a means of alleviating human suffering on earth.
ps. for the record, in case God is listening, I consider myself an agnostic, not an atheist, but I couldn’t resist the oxymoron title.
Posted by rogerhollander in Religion.
Tags: athiesm, butterfly mcqueen, clarence darrow, emily dickinson, faith, freedom from religion, god, katharine hepburn, mark twain, mother goose, paraise darwin, religion, richard dawkins, roger hollander
February 14, 2009, http://skepacabra.wordpress.com/
Posted by rogerhollander in Torture.
Tags: christians, dick bunce, ecumenism, faith, icujp, interfaith, islam, judaism, nrcat, peace and justice, roger hollander, torture
Dick Bunce, November 24, 2008
Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace (ICUJP)
On the evening of November 23rd at St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral, a call was delivered. People of faith and good will were called to face squarely the reality that torture has worked its way like a deadly virus into the bloodstream of American life. We were challenged to see our own complicity and to take decisive action.
Speakers shared insights arising from the core principles of faith, personal experience of torture, and candid reflection on the recent and long history of a U.S. society that has tolerated this assault on human dignity and the national soul.
Within the soaring majesty of the cathedral, as the panel deliberated and as a sublime Evensong service progressed, the mandate to see, to reflect, and to act was compelling. Jon Bruno, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, shared that he had devised a recommendation that a certain church body debate the merits of issuing a strong denunciation of torture. He decided instead to drop the written recommendation in the waste basket and simply state that there is no debating this issue. Torture under any circumstances is wrong. This is not up for debate.
In this spirit of clarity, we move ahead. If you have not yet signed on to the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, please go to NRCAT.org. This website will provide all you need to become part of the national campaign. For local support and cooperative action, email us at ICUJP@pacbell.net
We of ICUJP are grateful to our hardworking co-sponsors for the St. John’s event: Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles Peace and Justice Commission, Commission on Ecumenical and Interreligious Concerns (also of the diocese), Progressive Christians Uniting, and the St.John’s Peace and Justice Committee. We are grateful to our speakers: Rev. Canon Henry Atkins, Dr. Sarah Sentilles, Dr. Glen Stassen, Eisha Mason, as well as Rev. Dr. Gwynne Guibord, panel moderator and Bishop Jon Bruno, Evensong Homilist. We appreciate the ongoing support of our original partners in this campaign: National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) and Islamic Shura Council. We also are indebted to the diligence of Virginia Classick. Active with Progressive Christians Uniting, she also serves on the national board of NRCAT Action Fund.
Please note that this was the second of three major events, each of which is in the venue of a different faith tradition: Islam, Christianity, and Judaism respectively. The next event, sponsored by Rabbis for Human Rights, Islamic Shura Council, and ICUJP, will be at Temple Beth Shir Sholom, Santa Monica, January 11, 2 p.m. Contact ICUJP@pacbell.net
for more information.