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A Secular Humanist Jew’s Thoughts on Yom Kippur: On Atheism and Theism, and on Religion and Organized Religion October 15, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Religion, Right Wing.
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Roger’s note: Here is a thoughtful article on Judaism and organized religion in general.  We live in an age of superstition and no-nothingism, and this is most frightening.  Fanatic  fundamentalist anti-intellectual and arrogant theism has reached to the highest levels of power and authority in the U.S. Republican Party, and in India and much of the Islamic world Hindu and Muslim fundamentalism also has become ubiquitous in places of great political, social, cultural and economic power.  Overcoming this institutionalized irrationality with Fascistic overtones is one of the great challenges of our time.

 

By (about the author)

OpEdNews Op Eds 10/14/2013 at 16:13:26

Being some reflections on the Jewish High Holy Day and its meaning that I wrote down after attending the Kol Nidre service at the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in London this past month.  The lead sermon was given by the congregation’s retired Chief Rabbi, David Goldberg.  Two years ago I heard him give a sermon at Kol Nidre service which he began with his modification of a famous quote taken from the English historian A.J. Toynbee: “I don’t believe in God; but I miss him.”

For Secular Humanist Jews like myself Yom Kippur is not a day of atonement, as it is for theist Jews.  We may well have done wrong things in the past year, but we do not regard them as “sins.” “Sin” is a religious concept requiring the existence of an unknown, unknowable, and unprovable, yet somehow all-powerful super-natural being which at some level has control over our lives or parts of them.   For us, Yom Kippur, the most important day in the Jewish calendar, is a day of renewal and rededication. We reflect, we restore, we renew — we look ahead, not behind.

From http://www.flickr.com/photos/11278061@N05/7925325910/: Humanists Celebrate Reality, without prejudice (except when told what religious views to hold, by law)
Humanists Celebrate Reality, without prejudice (except when told what religious views to hold, by law) by Napolean_70

Before getting on to what I resolved to renew my efforts in dealing with, let me say that as a humanist, an atheist, for my whole life, I am used to be looked down upon (or worse) by theists.   Imagine my surprise, then, when I read of what the new Pope, Francis, had to say about atheists, of which I am surely one, in a lengthy response to a journalist’s questions (click here): ” “You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don’t believe and who don’t seek the faith. I start by saying — and this is the fundamental thing — that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience.   Sin, even for those who have no faith, exists when people disobey their conscience [emphasis added].”

Even in a column like this one, I have to say “Wow, that is quite a statement,” especially coming from the Pope.   (One can hardly imagine it coming from any of the lay or clerical leaders of the Republican Religious Right in the United States.)   It did make me return to consider a line of reasoning about religious persons, as contrasted with organized religion, that I have held for quite some time.   The Pope made it clear that he does not have a problem with atheists, per se.    And so, I would like to make it clear that I do not have a problem with theists, per se.   Yes, I do understand and agree with all of the arguments against the existence of an unknown, unknowable and unprovable “God” or “Gods” (think Hinduism, of which there are about 1 billion adherents).   But I do think that it is a waste of time to argue against the concept, and worse to make fun of it, that majority of the world’s population who are theists of one sort or another hold to.

The problem, for atheists/humanists and, at many times in history theists of one sort confronting theists of another sort as well, is Organized Religion, like the Catholic Church, like the Republican Religious Right (political by definition), like political Islam, like indeed political Orthodox Judaism in modern Israel.   Our argument is not, or should not be, with belief and the believers.  The struggle of humanists and believers alike who are devoted to the fundamental interests of humanity must be focused not on each other but on our common enemy: those who use religion to advance their own political and economic interests to arrogate to themselves and their patrons resources and the product of economic activity that neither benefit humanity as a whole nor have anything to do with religion, those otherwise known variously as “corporatism,” the “global economy [privately held],” and capitalism.

Further, it must be understood by all that over the centuries of human civilization, more of our brethren have been killed in religious wars, or wars waged for “religious” reasons, or in wars in which organized religions have been an ally of one or more of the warring states, than for all of the other causes put together.   In the Second World War, hardly a religious war in the sense that the crusades or Catholic/Protestant wars of 16th and 17th century Europe were, nevertheless, on the belt buckle of every German Wehrmacht soldier was the slogan (originated by the Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck in the 1880s) “Gott mit Uns.” The traditional Japanese religion of ancestor worship, Shinto, was mobilized by the fascist leadership to help them mobilize the whole population behind the war effort.   The Catholic Church was closely allied with both Benito Mussolini’s (Italian) and Francisco Franco’s (Spanish) fascist states.   In the United States, it was not like that, but there were the frequent imprecations to God for support in battle and even a popular song that I remember well from my youth during that conflict: “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition.”

Presently, The US Republican Party runs in major part on the issues that are central to the Fundamentalist Christians and Jews who are central to the Republican base: homophobia, religious determinism in policy governing the outcome of pregnancy, the introduction of organized religious activity into the public schools, and in general the steady erosion of the Constitutional boundaries separating church and state.   In political Islam, “Islamism” is very clear that its goal is to take full political power so that it may rule under the provisions of “Sharia Law.”   (Funnily enough, many of the provisions of Sharia Law, against which the Islamophobes of the Republican Religious Right just love to rail, are strikingly similar to the law that the latter would like to impose across the United States.   The central feature of both is that “religious law” [as they interpret it of course] should stand above any civil constitution.   Don’t believe me?   Just ask Rick Santorum, the Dominionist Mike Huckabee, Antonin Scalia, and etc.)   For many Israelis on the Right, the whole policy that has been followed by their Right-wing governments over the years, the gradual erosion and (the hoped for) eventual expulsion (voluntary or involuntary) of the Arab population in the Occupied Territories is based on the Biblical concept of the “Land of Israel.”

Through my writing I have been fighting the forces of the Republican Religious Right for some years.   The original of my current book The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right took Control of the U.S., 1981-2022: A Futuristic Novel ( http://www.puntopress.com/jonas-the-15-solution-hits-main-distribution/ ) was published in 1996.   And so, what is my renewal for this, the Jewish New Year?   To rededicate myself to that struggle, but to feature the line of reasoning that I have outlined above.   Our struggle is not with religion, per se, nor with its adherents, as individuals.   Our struggle is most correctly with Organized Religion and how it is used to further the interests of Reaction by every government around the world that does use it in one way or another, which in modern times means capitalism and all of its present and future negative outcomes for all of mankind, whether theist or humanist.   That is our challenge, and for the preservation of our species and indeed many others, that is the challenge we have to meet.

 

 

http://thepoliticaljunkies.org/

 

Steven Jonas, MD, MPH, MS, is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at the School of Medicine, Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 30 books on health policy, health and wellness, and sports and regular exercise. In (more…)

Christian Zionism: The Heresy that Undermines Middle East Peace August 4, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Religion, Right Wing.
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Christian Zionism is the largest, most controversial and most destructive lobby within Christianity. It bears primary responsibility for perpetuating tensions in the Middle East, justifying Israel’s apartheid colonialist agenda and for undermining the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.

By Rev Dr Stephen Sizer

At least one in four American Christians surveyed recently by Christianity Today magazine said that they believe it is their biblical responsibility to support the nation of Israel. This view is known as Christian Zionism. The Pew Research Center put the figure at 63 per cent among white evangelicals. Christian Zionism is pervasive within mainline American evangelical, charismatic and independent denominations including the Assemblies of God, Pentecostals and Southern Baptists, as well as many of the independent mega-churches. It is less prevalent within the historic denominations, which show a greater respect for the work of the United Nations, support for human rights, the rule of international law and empathy with the Palestinians.The origins of the movement can be traced to the early 19th century when a group of eccentric British Christian leaders began to lobby for Jewish restoration to Palestine as a necessary precondition for the return of Christ. The movement gained traction from the middle of the 19th century when Palestine became strategic to British, French and German colonial interests in the Middle East. Proto-Christian Zionism therefore preceded Jewish Zionism by more than 50 years. Some of Theodore Herzl’s strongest advocates were Christian clergy.

Christian Zionism as a modern theological and political movement embraces the most extreme ideological positions of Zionism. It has become deeply detrimental to a just peace between Palestine and Israel. It propagates a worldview in which the Christian message is reduced to an ideology of empire, colonialism and militarism. In its extreme form, it places an emphasis on apocalyptic events leading to the end of history rather than living Christ’s love and justice today.

Followers of Christian Zionism are convinced that the founding of the State of Israel in 1948 and the capture of Jerusalem in 1967 were the miraculous fulfillment of God’s promises made to Abraham that he would establish Israel as a Jewish nation forever in Palestine.

Tim LaHaye’s infamous Left Behind novels, together with other End Times speculations written by authors such as Hal Lindsey, John Hagee and Pat Robertson, have sold well over 100 million copies. These are supplemented by children’s books, videos and event violent computer games.

Burgeoning Christian Zionist organizations such as the International Christian Embassy (ICEJ), Christian Friends of Israel (CFI) and Christians United for Israel (CUFI) wield considerable influence on Capitol Hill, claiming a support base in excess of 50 million true believers. This means there are now at least ten times as many Christian Zionists as Jewish Zionists. And their European cousins are no less active in the Zionist Hasbarafia, lobbying for Israel, attacking its critics and thwarting the peace process. The United States and Israel are often portrayed as Siamese twins, joined at the heart, sharing common historic, religious and political values.

Pastor John Hagee is one of the leaders of the Christian Zionist movement. He is the Founder and Senior Pastor of Cornerstone Church, a 19,000-member evangelical church in San Antonio, Texas. His weekly programmes are broadcast on 160 TV stations, 50 radio stations and eight networks into an estimated 99 million homes in 200 countries. In 2006 he founded Christians United for Israel admitting,

“For 25 almost 26 years now, I have been pounding the evangelical community over television. The Bible is a very pro-Israel book. If a Christian admits ‘I believe the Bible,’ I can make him a pro-Israel supporter or they will have to denounce their faith. So I have the Christians over a barrel, you might say.”

In March 2007, Hagee spoke at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference. He began by saying:

“The sleeping giant of Christian Zionism has awakened. There are 50 million Christians standing up and applauding the State of Israel…”

As the Jerusalem Post pointed out, his speech did not lack clarity. He went on to warn:

“It is 1938. Iran is Germany, and Ahmadinejad is the new Hitler. We must stop Iran’s nuclear threat and stand boldly with Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East… Think of our potential future together: 50 million evangelicals joining in common cause with 5 million Jewish people in America on behalf of Israel is a match made in heaven.”

Christian Zionists have shown varying degrees of enthusiasm for implementing six basic political convictions that arise from their ultra-literal and fundamentalist theology:

  1. The belief that the Jews remain God’s chosen people leads Christian Zionists to seek to bless Israel in material ways. However, this also invariably results in the uncritical endorsement of and justification for Israel’s racist and apartheid policies, in the media, among politicians and through solidarity tours to Israel.

  2. As God’s chosen people, the final restoration of the Jews to Israel is therefore actively encouraged, funded and facilitated through partnerships with the Jewish Agency.

  3. Eretz Israel, as delineated in scripture, from the Nile to the Euphrates, belongs exclusively to the Jewish people, therefore the land must be annexed, Palestinians driven from their homes and the illegal Jewish settlements expanded and consolidated.

  4. Jerusalem is regarded as the eternal and exclusive capital of the Jews, and cannot be shared with the Palestinians. Therefore, strategically, Christian Zionists have lobbied the US Administration to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem and thereby ensure that Jerusalem is recognised as the capital of Israel.

  5. Christian Zionists offer varying degrees of support for organisations such as the Jewish Temple Mount Faithful who are committed to destroying the Dome of the Rock and rebuilding the Jewish Temple on the Haram Al-Sharif (Noble sanctuary of Al-Aqsa).

  6. Christian Zionists invariably have a pessimistic view of the future, convinced that there will be an apocalyptic war of Armageddon in the imminent future. They are deeply sceptical of the possibility of a lasting peace between Jews and Arabs and therefore oppose the peace process. Indeed, to advocate an Israeli compromise of “land for peace” with the Palestinians is seen as a rejection of God’s promises to Israel and therefore to support her enemies.

Within the Christian Zionist worldview, Palestinians are regarded as alien residents in Israel. Many Christian Zionists are reluctant even to acknowledge Palestinians exist as a distinct people, claiming that they emigrated to Israel from surrounding Arab nations for economic reasons after Israel had become prosperous. A fear and deep-seated hatred of Islam also pervades their dualistic Manichean theology. Christian Zionists have little or no interest in the existence of indigenous Arab Christians despite their continuity with the early church.

In 2006, I drafted what became known as the Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism signed by four of the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem: His Beatitude Patriarch Michel Sabbah, Latin Patriarch, Jerusalem; Archbishop Swerios Malki Mourad, Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate, Jerusalem; Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal, Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East; and Bishop Munib Younan, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. In it they insisted:

“We categorically reject Christian Zionist doctrines as a false teaching that corrupts the biblical message of love, justice and reconciliation.

We further reject the contemporary alliance of Christian Zionist leaders and organisations with elements in the governments of Israel and the United States that are presently imposing their unilateral pre-emptive borders and domination over Palestine. This inevitably leads to unending cycles of violence that undermine the security of all peoples of the Middle East and the rest of world.

We reject the teachings of Christian Zionism that facilitate and support these policies as they advance racial exclusivity and perpetual war rather than the gospel of universal love, redemption and reconciliation taught by Jesus Christ. Rather than condemn the world to the doom of Armageddon we call upon everyone to liberate themselves from ideologies of militarism and occupation. Instead, let them pursue the healing of the nations!

We call upon Christians in Churches on every continent to pray for the Palestinian and Israeli people, both of whom are suffering as victims of occupation and militarism. These discriminative actions are turning Palestine into impoverished ghettos surrounded by exclusive Israeli settlements. The establishment of the illegal settlements and the construction of the Separation Wall on confiscated Palestinian land undermines the viability of a Palestinian state and peace and security in the entire region.”

The patriarchs concluded:

“God demands that justice be done. No enduring peace, security or reconciliation is possible without the foundation of justice. The demands of justice will not disappear. The struggle for justice must be pursued diligently and persistently but non-violently.” The prophet Micah asks, “What does the Lord require of you, to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8).

It is my contention after more than 10 years of postgraduate research that Christian Zionism is the largest, most controversial and most destructive lobby within Christianity. It bears primary responsibility for perpetuating tensions in the Middle East, justifying Israel’s apartheid colonialist agenda and for undermining the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.

The closing chapter of the New Testament takes us back to the imagery of the Garden of Eden and the removal of the curse arising from the Fall: “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb… On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” (Revelation 22:1-2) Surely this is what Jesus had in mind when he instructed his followers to act as Ambassadors of peace and reconciliation, to work and pray that God’s kingdom would come on earth as it is in heaven.

The Revd Dr Stephen Sizer is the Vicar of Christ Church in Virginia Water and the author of Christian Zionism: Road-map to Armageddon? (InterVarsity Press, 2004); Zion’s Christian Soldiers? (2007) and In the Footsteps of Jesus and the Apostles (Eagle, 2004). For more information see www.stephensizer.com

Source: Middle East Monitor

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Creation Science vs. Evolution February 18, 2013

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Is the Bible a Threat to National Security? June 30, 2012

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 Roger’s note: click on the link to watch this scary video: “MRFF just posted a video montage, which could easily be called the military evangelicals’ greatest hits, here.

Antiwar.com / ByKelley B. Vlahos
 

A military Bible paints war as religious devotion. What could go wrong?

June 26, 2012 |
 
 
 
Can a Bible be a “threat to national security”?

For years, the government has employed the risk of “national security” excuse to infringe on a wide range of freedoms — like the right to pass through an airport security checkpoint unmolested, or read library books without Big Brother peeking over your shoulder.

Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein is trying to prove that there is more than one way to put the country at risk, and he’s found it in a heretofore unlikely place: the Bible.

Well, the Holman Bible. To be more exact, a version of the Bible that, for reasons still undetermined, was authorized with the trademarked official insignia of the U.S. Armed Forces emblazoned on the front cover. There is The Soldier’s Bible with the Army’s seal, The Marine’s Bible with the Marine Corps seal, The Sailor’s Bible and The Airman’s Bible, both with their respective insignia. The books have been sold for nearly six years throughout Christian bookstores, commissaries and PXs on U.S. military installations — and are still available on Christianbook.com, Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

 It’s not the King James Version that the Gideons leave behind in hotel rooms drawers. The Holman Bible was commissioned and published by LifeWay Christian Resources, a subsidiary of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Baptist denomination in the world, in 2003.

 

In a 1999 press release announcing the edition’s progress, Broadman & Holman Publishers called the new version “a fresh, precise translation of the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek of the Old and New Testaments.” LifeWay President James T. Draper Jr. weighed in, saying there was a “serious need for a 21st-century Bible translation in American English that combines accuracy and readability,” adding, “the Holman Christian Standard Bible is an accurate, literal rendering with a smoothness and readability that invites memorization, reading aloud and dedicated study.”

The Holman Bible, or HCSB, has been popular with evangelicals for its references and study tools. Someone convinced each branch of the service they’d be perfect for the military, too. So the HCSB became the “official” Bible of the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines in 2004, complete with reader-friendly text and custom “designed to meet the specific needs of those who serve in the most difficult of situations,” according to the publishers.

In other words, aside from the text, the books are filled with “devotionals” and “inspirational essays” tailored to each branch of service. I was unable to get my hands on a copy by press time, but Amazon’s “peek” inside the book and several positive reader reviews confirm some of the contents, revealing what could only be described as a guileless conflation of both Christian and American military iconography. War and service as religious devotion.

In addition to the Pledge of Allegiance and the first and fourth verses of the Star Spangled Banner, there are excerpts from one of George W. Bush inaugural addresses and the Republican president’s remarks at a National Prayer Breakfast. Gen. George S. Patton’s famous Christmas prayer card from the field of battle 1944 is also included, as is “George Washington’s Prayer,” which has been widely circulated (and debunked) as proof of America’s Christian paternity.

These Bibles also feature “testimonials and encouragement from the Officers’ Christian Fellowship,” which has approximately 15,000 members across the military and whose primary purpose is “to glorify God by uniting Christian officers for biblical fellowship and outreach, equipping and encouraging them to minister effectively in the military society.” In other words they proselytize within the officer corps as part of an evangelical “parachurch” within the military.

A largely unfettered one, apparently, as one watches Pentagon officers commenting freely on camera — and in uniform — for this Bush-era promotional video for Christian Embassy, another federal government-wide “fellowship” with similar missionary goals.

One officer, Air Force Maj. Gen. Jack Catton, who said he worked on the Joint Staff at the Pentagon, described himself as “an old fashioned American and my first priority is my faith in God.” Pointing to his meeting with other officers under the auspices of Christian Embassy, he said, “I think it’s a huge impact because you have many men and women who are seeking God’s counsel and wisdom as we advise the Secretary of Defense.”

Then U.S. Brigadier Gen. Bob Caslan (currently promoted to lieutenant general as the commanding general at the U.S. Army’s prestigious Combined Arms Center at Ft. Leavenworth, Kan.) went so far as to say he sees the “flag officer fellowship groups … hold me accountable.”

“We are the aroma of Jesus Christ,” he added.

Something smells, all right, said Weinstein, who heads the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF). The roles of the officers in the video were later deemed improperafter MRFF demanded an investigation in 2007. As for the Bibles, Weinstein said he received some 2,000 complaints about them from service members over the last year. Weinstein, a former Air Force Judge Advocate (JAG) whose 2005 charges against the Air Force Academy in Colorado led to an investigation that officially found religious “insensitivity” against non- fundamentalists there, has gone on to expose a much wider climate of “top-down, invasive evangelicalism” at the institution and throughout the military as a whole.

“We’re fighting a Fundamentalist-Christian-Parachurch-Military-Corporate-Proselytizing-Complex,” Weinstein said told Antiwar.com last week, “and we have been fighting this for some time.” MRFF just posted a video montage, which could easily be called the military evangelicals’ greatest hits, here.

He said aside from “prostituting” the military insignia, the military’s endorsement of the Bibles violated federal separation of church and state, and continue to sanction an insidious culture of radical evangelicalism and discrimination throughout the services (as a Jew, Weinstein said he felt the sting of prejudice when he attended the Air Force academy in the late 1970s; his sons had it even worse, he claims, prompting his first formal complaint seven years ago).

Since then, “(MRFF) has had 28,000 clients and a hundred more each month,” said Weinstein, rejecting claims by his critics that they are all atheist. He insists that 96 percent of his clients are Christians (Catholic and Mainline Protestant) and that his is not a religious crusade. On the other hand, some 33 percent of chaplains are now evangelical Christians (Weinstein’s MRFF places that number at 84 percent), while only 3 percent of service members describe themselves as such.

“They are spiritually raping the U.S. Constitution, the American people and the men and women who are fighting for us,” said Weinstein, who never, ever minces words.

MRFF’s lawyers sent a formal letter to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s office in January. In it, MRFF charged that authorizing LifeWay to print its Bibles with the service insignia “is in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution … and several regulations,” and that the authority should be withdrawn immediately or face legal action from MRFF.

Interestingly, according to the documents now available online, the Army, Navy and Air Force responded to the letter in February, insisting that the summer before Weinstein’s lawyers at Jones Day contacted the Pentagon, they had already pulled their trademark authorizations to LifeWay, for “unrelated reasons.” So, in effect, according to the military, the Southern Baptist Convention subsidiary no longer had use of the trademarks and the question was moot.

Weinstein responded with one word: “lies.” He told Antiwar.com that they were just informed of the letters in June, not in February. Furthermore, according to MRFF senior research director Chris Rodda, MRFF has obtained documents through Freedom of Information (FOIA) requests that indicated the “AAFES (the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, which runs the BXs, PXs, and other stores on military bases) was clearly concerned about the complaints about the Holman Bibles, with emails as early as June 6, 2011 from AAFES to LifeWay saying that these Bibles had ‘become a hot issue,’ and referencing and linking to a June 2, 2011 article on MRFF’s website as the reason they were becoming a hot issue.”

Nevertheless, according to a Fox News Radio story, LifeWay insists it’s “sold” all existing copies of the military Bible in question, and instead is printing the same Bibles with “generic insignias, which continue to sell well and provide spiritual guidance and comfort to those who serve.”

The AAFES told Fox News Radio it has 961 copies of the Bible left on shelves at 83 facilities. Weinstein doesn’t know how many are out there but contends that until each and every one is gone, “they’re still aiding and abetting the cause of al- Qaeda.”

Why? Because it is a national security issue if America is perceived as waging a religious war against the Muslim world. One can’t help but get that impression reading the added material in these Holman Bibles, suggesting that that God has blessed the American warrior for his existential struggle of good versus evil.

A crusade — and one playing right into the religious extremism on the other side, putting Americans overseas, and at home, at risk, said Weinstein.

His approach — which is as fiery and combative as the preachers he rebukes (he’s taken to calling the Pentagon, “Pentacostal-gon,”) — has drawn fire from a number of conservative Christian organizations and websites, which have labeled MRFF a bunch of zealous atheist agitators.

“Why should these Bibles be removed because of the demands of a small activist group?” Ron Crews, head of The Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, asked last week, adding in an interview with Fox News Radio that the Department of Defense was acting “cowardly” by backing down to MRFF.

“MRFF must cease and desist their reckless assault on religious liberty. The Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty calls on Congress to investigate this frivolous threat and apparent discrimination against religious views by the DoD.”

But this “reckless assault” has offered the public a window into how much evangelicalism threads through the military ethos today — from the Pentagon buying guns with sights outfitted with biblical references, to born-again chaplains directing soldiers to hand out Bibles and proselytize among the Muslim locals in Afghanistan.

MRFF has accused Army chaplains of using religion in lieu of mental health counseling to aid battlefield stress, and drew attention to provocative displays of religious murals and crosses sprawled on walls at U.S. bases and on vehicles driven through the urban battlefront. MRFF has protested the taxpayer-funded “Spiritual Fitness Concert Series” performed on bases here in the states, and followed up on complaints by service members at Fort Eustis in Virginia who said they were punished by a superior officer for not attending. MRFF also helped put the brakes on an Air Force training program in 2011 that used the New Testament and the insights of an ex-Nazi to teach missile officers about the morals and ethics of launching nuclear weapons.

More recently, MRFF criticized a fighter squadron’s decision to switch back to its old “Crusader” moniker, complete with a Knights Templar red cross emblazoned on its planes. Under pressure, the Marines have since reversed that decision, returning to its old World War II-era “werewolves” nickname, earlier this month.

Weinstein said “predatory” evangelicals in the military “believe the Separation of Church and State is a myth, like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster,” and he doesn’t mind putting his own reputation and safety on the line to smash that myth to pieces.

“If we’re catching them on things like this Bible, what the hell else is going on? Well, we know,” he said. “The Bible situation is not innocent, it is not innocuous, it is another raging example of this cancer.”

Why the Anti-Science Creationist Movement Is So Dangerous September 13, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Religion, Right Wing, Science and Technology, Uncategorized.
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They want to wipe out all the findings of hundreds of years of scientific investigation and have taken to schools, the courts and political leaders to get things done.
 

 

September 8, 2011 |  

AlterNet / By Adam Lee

 
 
 

A few weeks ago, Jon Huntsman torpedoed his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination by making the following announcement: “To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.”

It’s a pathetic commentary on the anti-intellectualism rampant in American politics that this is newsworthy. A major-party candidate announces that he doesn’t deny a foundational theory of modern science! In fact, given the political atmosphere in the Republican party, it’s not just newsworthy but a daring act: polls have shown that almost 70 percent of Republicans deny evolution.

Huntsman is clearly trying to position himself as the moderate candidate. But while that strategy might play well in the general election, it won’t do him any good unless he can get the Republican nomination. And to win that nomination, he has to get past a huge obstacle: a solid bloc of Republican primary voters who are emphatically anti-science. This isn’t an exaggeration for polemical effect; it’s the plain truth. The modern Republican party has made a fervent rejection of scientific consensus its defining attribute — both on evolution and climate change, as well as in other fields — and Huntsman’s refusal to submit to party orthodoxy is likely a fatal blow to his chances.

But opposition to climate change is something new in the Republican platform. As recently as a few years ago, both Mitt Romney and John McCain supported cap-and-trade laws, and Newt Gingrich appeared in pro-environment ads with Nancy Pelosi. The party’s rejection of climate science is fairly new, and probably comes from its increasing dependence on campaign cash from dirty-energy barons like the Koch brothers.

By contrast, the Republican party’s denial of evolution is much older and more grassroots in nature, dating at least to when the national parties traded places during the civil-rights era. The conservative South, in addition to its other charming qualities, has a long history of passing laws hostile to science, from Tennessee’s Butler Act, the 1925 law prohibiting the teaching of evolution that led to the Scopes trial, to Louisiana’s 1981 Balanced Treatment Act, which decreed that “creation science” had to be given an equal share of classroom time.

But while fundamentalists have always been hostile to evolution, the modern creationist movement got its start in the 1960s, primarily due to the influence of an evangelical author named Henry Morris. Morris’ 1964 book The Genesis Flood argued, among other things, that Noah’s flood happened just as the Bible describes it — in other words, it was reasonable to believe that eight people could care for a floating zoo containing at least two members of every species on Earth.

Imagine trying to run the entire Bronx Zoo with just eight employees. Now consider that Noah’s leaky tub, by even the most forgiving estimates, would have to have had far more kinds of animals (including dinosaurs, which creationists believe existed simultaneously with humans, a la the Flintstones). Imagine how much feeding, watering, and manure-carrying that would be. Imagine all this frenetic activity taking place in the cramped, dark, foul-smelling confines of a wooden boat, with predators and prey side-by-side in narrow pens, during the most violent and catastrophic storm in the history of the planet, with an absolute requirement that not a single animal get sick or die. Now try not to laugh too hard at the people who seriously believe all this really happened.

As already mentioned, the creationist movement’s original strategy revolved around getting friendly state legislatures to decree that their ideas had to be taught in public schools, regardless of scientific merit or lack thereof. This strategy hasn’t fared well in court: aside from a Pyrrhic victory in the Scopes trial, judges have repeatedly recognized this for the obvious violation of separation of church and state that it is. And each time they lost, the creationist movement responded the same way: like a snake shedding its skin, they rebranded themselves with a new name, then tried again with the same ideas. “Creation science” became “scientific creationism,” which became “abrupt-appearance theory,” and so on. The currently preferred nomenclature is “intelligent design” (which is totally constitutional and not at all religious, because we’re not saying who we think the intelligent designer is — nudge nudge, wink wink!). But even this watered-down creationism met with defeat in Dover, Pennsylvania in 2005, when a judge appointed by George W. Bush handed down a resounding ruling that teaching intelligent design in public school is unconstitutional.

It remains to be seen how they’ll rebrand themselves next, though we can be confident their basic strategy won’t change. One of the most hilarious parts of the Dover case was evidence showing that, after a court ruling which made it illegal to teach creationism in public schools, the authors of a creationist textbook did a find-and-replace to change “creationism” to “intelligent design” and “creationists” to “design proponents.” At one point, someone mistyped and left a transitional fossil in an early draft: a paragraph that referred to “cdesign proponentsists.”

But while creationists keep bumbling on the legal front, they’ve had more success in the cultural arena, by infiltrating the public schools with creationist teachers who flout the law and preach their religious beliefs in class. There are some notable and egregious examples, such as David Paskiewicz, the New Jersey high school teacher who advocated creationism in class, in addition to telling a Muslim student she belonged in hell. There’s also John Freshwater, a creationist science teacher who was fired for breaking school rules about proselytizing in the classroom. Among other things, he allegedly used a Tesla coil to burn a cross onto a student’s arm!

And it’s not just the teachers, either. Creationist churches are training students at all educational levels to refuse to learn about any science their religion rejects, as in this story: 

The last question on the test Mr. Campbell passed out a week later asked students to explain two forms of evidence supporting evolutionary change and natural selection.”I refuse to answer,” Bryce wrote. “I don’t believe in this.” 

Although there are different kinds of creationists, the most fervent and most influential are the so-called young-earth creationists, who believe the world and every species on it is about 6,000 years old. The young-earth creationists, or YECs for short, believe the universe was created in seven 24-hour days, that there was a literal Garden of Eden, a literal Adam and Eve, and a literal talking snake just as the Book of Genesis describes.

To anyone who has even the most passing acquaintance with real science, these myths are on the same level as believing in a literal wolf who blew down the houses of literal pigs. Anyone who knows anything about genetics can see the impossibility of a healthy species arising from a single breeding pair. A population starting from such a tiny gene pool just wouldn’t have enough genetic diversity to adapt to environmental changes — not to mention the obvious problem of inbreeding depression, where sex between close relatives results in a far greater likelihood of the offspring inheriting the same rare and harmful mutations from both parents. (For fun, ask a creationist to explain about how they believe the prohibition on incest didn’t apply in the beginning. After all, once Adam and Eve had sons and daughters, where was the next generation of human beings going to come from?)

Likewise, the geologic record shows that the Earth has an enormously long and intricate history. Preserved in the rock record, we see evidence of continents drifting and colliding, thrusting up mountain ranges that are then slowly worn down by erosion; glaciers advancing and retreating, carving and scouring the landscape; sedimentary rock layers slowly built up by eons of deposition, then cut into deep canyons by rivers or metamorphosed by heat and pressure; the same land becoming shallow sea, swamp, forest, plain, desert and back to sea again, as sea levels rise and fall over the ages. This grand tapestry stands in stark contrast to the creationists’ cartoonish view of geology, in which Noah’s flood was the only geological event of significance to happen in the planet’s brief history. Geologists knew well before Charles Darwin that there was no evidence for a global flood, and modern scientists can add the evidence of radiometric dating, which shows the precise ages of ancient rocks and artifacts and proves that they’re far older than the creationist worldview permits.

And then there’s the direct evidence for evolution, in all its sprawling grandeur. We know evolution is true from genetic studies which show that all species share deep similarities at the genetic level. In fact, by charting which species’ genomes share the same one-off mutations, we can build evolutionary trees which show the patterns of relationship between species and allow us to estimate when they branched from each other. This nested hierarchy, the pattern produced by descent with modification, binds all living and extinct species together in an unbreakable web of heredity and kinship, every bit as real as the one that connects you to your ancestors and your living relatives.

We know evolution is true from transitional fossils which preserve snapshots of evolutionary change, such as the bird-like feathered dinosaurs; the therapsids that are intermediate between reptiles and mammals; the primitive whales with legs that are ancestors of today’s cetaceans; and in our own family lineage, the humanlike hominids that show how modern Homo sapiens arose from more ape-like ancestors. (Hilariously, the creationists all agree that there are no transitional fossils and that all fossil hominid species are either fully human or fully ape — but they can’t agree on which is which, exactly as we’d expect from true intermediates.)

We know evolution is true from the kludges, hacks, and jury-rigs we find in the anatomy of living things, including us — evidence not of a wise and forward-looking designer, but of a slow, mindless, tinkering process of change, a “blind watchmaker” as Richard Dawkins famously termed it. From the useless goosebumps we get when cold or frightened, to the backward-wired human retina, to the babies occasionally born with vestigial tails, human bodies bear the indelible stamp of our species’ history.

The creationists are forced to deny all this and much more besides. That’s not a figure of speech: major creationist organizations and religious colleges require their faculty to sign statements promising to reject any evidence that contradicts their worldview. The official statement of faith of the group Answers in Genesis, for example, requires members to affirm that “No apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the Scriptural record.” And when people affiliated with these groups do express doubt or flirt with unorthodoxy, retribution is invariably swift and harsh.

But as laughable as the creationists’ beliefs are, the creationist movement is no joke. They want to wipe out all the findings of hundreds of years of scientific investigation, erase everything we’ve learned about the vast and majestic history of the universe, and replace it with a cartoon version that grotesquely magnifies our own importance, treating human beings as the crowning glory of creation and diminishing the immensity of the universe to a tiny stage crafted only so that the Bible’s small stories could play out on it.

Why does this matter so much to them? It’s not just an arcane scientific debate: in their minds, only Christianity can produce virtue, and Christianity can be true only if evolution is false. It follows that they believe – and they’ve said that they believe — that evolution underlies every moral problem they see in the world, from drug use to pornography to people voting Democratic. Tom DeLay infamously blamed the Columbine school shootings on the teaching of evolution, stating that “our school systems teach the children that they are nothing but glorified apes who are evolutionized out of some primordial soup.”

The larger lesson to be drawn from this is that the religious right isn’t just targeting the theory of evolution. By their own words, they can’t be. They believe that a person’s morality is completely determined by their factual beliefs — that being a good person depends on believing the right things about the origin of the universe. And since they believe that all truths worth knowing have already been revealed in the Bible, it follows that science is at best unnecessary and at worst a fatal deception that leads people away from salvation. Why, then, do we need science at all?

To those who hold the creationist worldview, everything has been going downhill since the Enlightenment. The willingness of people to think for themselves, to question authority, to investigate the world for truth – they see all this as a disastrous trend, one that only takes us farther from their ideal vision of a medieval, theocratic state. They seek nothing less than to turn back the clock of progress by several centuries, abolish the rational, reality-based view of the world, and return to the superstitious mindset in which blind faith is the answer to every problem. And, again, these are the people who’ve completely captured one of America’s two major parties. What kind of havoc will result if they gain political power again?

 

The Greater Threat: Christian Extremism From Timothy McVeigh to Anders Breivik July 25, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Right Wing, War on Terror.
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1 comment so far
Published on Monday, July 25, 2011 by Flagler Live

Timothy McVeigh, meet Anders Behring Breivik.

 

Christian jihadists: Timothy McVeigh and Anders Behring Breivik.

 

Those two jihadists—two right-wing reactionaries, two terrorists, two anti-government white supremacists, two Christians—have a lot in common, down to the way the massacres they carried out were first mistaken for the work of Islamists by an American press rich in zealotry of its own. And they have a lot more in common with the fundamentalist politicians and ideologues among us who pretend to have nothing to do with the demons they inspire.

After the Oklahoma City bombing in April 1995, speculation flew on television news stations about Arab terrorists seen in the vicinity of the federal building. The thought that a home-grown, Midwestern Army veteran of the first Gulf war could possibly murder 168 people, including 19 children at a day care center, seemed as foreign as those Islamic lands that were then inspiring so much of bigotry’s latest American mutant. McVeigh turned out to be as all-American as he could possibly be, with extras. His paradoxical worship of the Second Amendment was the faith that fueled his hatred of a government he felt had betrayed American ideals by enabling what he called “Socialist wannabe slaves.” His idealism of a golden-age white America was the Christian translation of al-Qaeda’s idealized caliphate.

It became quickly evident that the bombing in Oslo and the massacre on Utoya Island on Friday had been carried out by Anders Breivik, who surrendered to police 40 minutes after beginning his killing spree on the island. Yet the Wall Street Journal ran an editorial on Saturday putting the blame for the attack on Islamist extremists, because “in jihadist eyes,” the paper said, “it will forever remain guilty of being what it is: a liberal nation committed to freedom of speech and conscience, equality between the sexes, representative democracy and every other freedom that still defines the West.”

The paper subsequently amended its editorial to concede that Breivik “was an ethnic Norwegian with no previously known ties to Islamist groups.” But the rest of the piece still framed the attack in the context of Islamist terrorism. It’s a common tactic at the Journal and Fox News—co-owned by Rupert Murdoch’s scandal-riddled News Corp.—where facts are incidental to ideology. It is enough for the Journal to insinuate a connection for its Foxified audience to catch the drift and run with it. Breivik may be Norwegian. But he wouldn’t be doing what he did if it weren’t for the pollution of white, Christian European blood by Muslims and multiculturalists, by leftists, by Socialist wannabe slaves.

McVeigh and Breivik are bloody reminders that Western culture’s original sin—the presumption of supremacy—is alive and well and clenching many a trigger. It’ll be easy in coming days, as it was in 1995, to categorize the demons as exceptions unrepresentative of their societies. Easy, but false. Norway, like much of Europe, like the United States, is in the grips of a disturbing resurgence of right-wing fanaticism.  “The success of populist parties appealing to a sense of lost national identity,” The Times reports, “has brought criticism of minorities, immigrants and in particular Muslims out of the beer halls and Internet chat rooms and into mainstream politics. While the parties themselves generally do not condone violence, some experts say a climate of hatred in the political discourse has encouraged violent individuals.”

It’s convenient duplicity. The parties don’t explicitly condone violence. But they would have no appeal without explicitly endorsing beliefs of supremacy and projecting the sort of scorn and hatred for those who fall outside the tribe that cannot but lead to violence or the sort of fractured society we’ve become so familiar with. Those “Take Back America” bumper stickers share most of their DNA with the same strain of rejectionist white Europeans who think their culture is being bankrupted by Socialism and immigrants. Those idiotic anti-Sharia laws creeping up in Oklahoma, Arizona and Florida take their cues from the likes of Geert Wilder, the Dutch People’s Party leader who compares the Koran to Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Florida’s own Koran-burning Terry Jones or the Rev. Franklin Graham’s velvety crusade against Islam are Wilder’s American clones.

Timothy McVeigh’s rhetoric may have been more extreme, but it was indistinguishable from the more college-polished and aged rhetoric of anti-government reactionaries now pretending to speak for American ideals under the banner of patriots, tea parties, Fox News’s hacking of the “fair and balanced” parody, or more establishment oriented zealots in Congress. The common denominator is exclusion and heresy: those who supposedly belong to “true” American values, and those who don’t. Al-Qaeda’s loyalty oath is identical: those who belong to “true” Islamic values and those who don’t. Either way, the inclusive, tolerant, broad-minded, and yes, multicultural outlook is under siege by fundamentalism in virtually every part of society as we know it: cultural, political, economic, religious. Timothy McVeigh and Anders Breivik used bombs and rifles. More seasoned zealots use rhetoric and policies. The ongoing march of folly over the national debt is merely one example among many.

“We tend to think of national security narrowly as the risk of a military or terrorist attack,” the columnist Nicholas Kristof writes today. “But national security is about protecting our people and our national strength — and the blunt truth is that the biggest threat to America’s national security this summer doesn’t come from China, Iran or any other foreign power. It comes from budget machinations, and budget maniacs, at home.”

Islamists who may want us harm need only sit back and enjoy the view. They might as well have outsourced the job to their Christian brethren, with plenty of assists from mainstream conservatives. There’s no segregating these demons and maniacs. They’re an integral part of western culture. They’re us.

© 2011 Flagler Live

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Pierre Tristam

Pierre Tristam is the editor at FlaglerLive.com. Reach him at ptristam@att.net or through his personal Web site at www.pierretristam.com .

Inside the Right-Wing Christian Law School That Brought Us Michele July 22, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Religion, Right Wing.
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When Oral Roberts University sought to set up a law school, it
called in Christian Reconstructionist Herb Titus. Michele Bachmann is the law
school’s most famous graduate.

July 19, 2011  |

//

 

The following is reprinted with permission from Religion
Dispatches
. You can sign up for their free daily newsletter here
.

At the May “First Friday” lecture hosted by the Institute on the Constitution
at the Heritage Community Church in Severn, Maryland, 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 absurd to many observers—was unmistakably shaped by it.

Restoring the American Jurisprudence to its “Biblical
Foundations”

After launching ORU’s law school, and later helping with Regent University’s
1986 takeover and launch of a public policy program, Titus ran on Constitution
Party founder Howard Phillips’ presidential ticket in 1996. 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.” That includes, 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.

Christians are “Second-Class Citizens”

The claim that powerful, anti-Christian forces aim to undermine God’s “truth”
lies at the heart of the IOTC’s and Titus’ conception of the constitutional
roles of government and religion. 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 Christian view 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.

Religion, Titus told the IOTC audience, “is the duty which we owe our
Creator.” As Julie Ingersoll has described in detail, Rushdoony argued that God granted certain
jurisdictional authority to the government, the church, and the family—therefore
any government action exceeding its God-granted authority is in violation of
God’s commands. Titus says the government has the power to make you, say, pay
taxes, but other “duties we owe to God exclusively” cannot be enforced by the
government.

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, as Titus himself was aware, the activism that launched Bachmann’s
political career was an extended crusade against public schools in Minnesota
(which, oddly enough, included a failed bid for a spot on her local school
board, even though her own children did not attend public schools).

According to a 2006 Minneapolis City Pages profile, in 1993 Bachmann helped found a charter school in
Stillwater “that ran afoul of many parents and the local school board when it
became apparent that the school—which received public money and therefore was
bound to observe the legal separation of church and state—was injecting
Christian elements into the curriculum.” Later, Bachmann “became a prolific
speaker and writer on the evils of public education.”

Health Care, Guns, and Slavery

In a 2009 interview with Glenn Beck, Bachmann said, “I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this
issue of the energy tax because we need to fight back.” Both that statement and
her characterization of health care reform as federal government
excess that amounts to creating “a nation of slaves” and “tyranny,” draw on her
Reconstructionist understanding of the Constitution.

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 side of the Mason-Dixon
line,” cheerfully noted that it also happened to be the birthday of Confederate
President Jefferson Davis.

Other IOTC speakers have included Franklin Sanders, whom the Southern Poverty
Law Center describes as “a peculiar mix of neo-Confederate fantasist and
seasoned tax protester.” Sanders has served on the Board of Directors of the
League of the South, a Southern nationalist organization the SPLC characterizes as “a neo-Confederate group that advocates for a
second Southern secession and a society dominated by ‘European Americans.’” That
society would be, according to the SPLC, a “godly” nation “run by an
‘Anglo-Celtic’ (read: white) elite that would establish a Christian theocratic
state and politically dominate blacks and other minorities.”

In the Reconstructionist view, a gun will protect you from your imagined
enslavement by the federal government. 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.”

When I asked him recently whether he agreed with Bachmann’s opposition to
health care reform, he exclaimed approvingly, “talk about turning yourself over
to tyranny—your health care decisions made by bureaucrats.”

“Real” Americans

Bachmann’s history of questioning Barack Obama’s American-ness, or of espousing “normal people values,” is rooted in the Reconstructionist
conception of “American-ness.” Not just Christian, but their kind of
Christian; one who would obey God, exercise “dominion authority,” and, most
crucially, is one of their “brethren.”

Titus, founder of Bachmann’s law school, happens to be the architect of a
legal theory—as far outside of the legal mainstream as his Establishment Clause
theory—that Obama is not a “natural-born citizen,” a designation that would render him
ineligible to be president due to his “divided loyalties.” Deuteronomy 17, he
insists, demands that that the “king” be selected from one’s own “brethren.” As
an outsider Obama isn’t a “real” American, worthy—according to the Bible or the
Constitution—of being president.

The “Judicial Tyranny” Canard

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.’”

Bachmann isn’t alone among Republican politicians embracing Reconstructionist
views. After Moore was stripped of his judgeship for defying a federal court
order to remove his monument, Titus drafted the Constitution Restoration Act,
which would have deprived federal courts of jurisdiction in cases challenging a
government entity’s or official’s “acknowledgment of God as the sovereign source
of law, liberty, or government.” The bill, which did not pass, nonetheless had
nine Senate co-sponsors and 50 House co-sponsors; including House Majority
Leader Eric Cantor, Bobby Jindal, now the governor of Louisiana, Nathan Deal,
now the governor of Georgia, and Mike Pence, a conservative hero who’s now
running for governor of Indiana.

While campaigning for president, Bachmann took up the “tyrannical judges”
mantle, this time in connection with the Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling that the
state’s gay marriage ban was unconstitutional. She applauded the ouster of
“black-robed masters,” the three Iowa judges who had ruled same-sex marriage
constitutional, and who were targeted by the religious right. In Iowa, judges are
appointed, but subject to what is normally a routine, periodic retention
vote.

The necessity of electing judges, rather than appointing them, was the
subject of Parker’s First Friday lecture in January, because “elected judges are
bulwarks against the agenda of the left.”

“If you take a moment to think,” said Parker, “federal judges appointed for
life have legalized abortion, homosexuality, pornography, same-sex marriages,
and outlawed school prayer and the display of the Ten Commandments.”

“When judges don’t rule in fear of the Lord,” he concluded, “all the
foundations of the earth are shaken.”

Just the sort of thing that Peroutka complains isn’t taught in secular law
schools. But at ORU, it was.

The Birth of the Christian Law School

The launch of the law school at ORU was intended to create public figures
just like Bachmann: lawyers unafraid to inject their particular Christian
beliefs, not only into the public square, but quite deliberately into
legislation, policy, and jurisprudence.

As Titus tells it, God opened a door when the televangelist Oral Roberts
wanted to found a Christian law school at his eponymous university in Tulsa,
Oklahoma. “My first reaction,” said Titus in a recent interview with the
Christian Reconstructionist Chalcedon Foundation, “was, no way, I’m not going to
be identified with Oral Roberts, with this healer, with this Pentecostal
personae and so forth, and yet God made it so clear to us that we were to go and
help begin a Christian law school.”

Bachmann, who until a few years ago attended a staid and deeply conservative
Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod church in Stillwater, Minnesota, might have
been, like her law school classmate Dean Burnetti, “shocked” when a fellow
student spoke in tongues in chapel the first day of law school. But Burnetti,
now a personal injury lawyer in Florida, told me, “My personal worship
experience has changed because of those people, and the way I see God’s active
involvement in my life has changed because of that.”

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.”

According to Titus, there have been “tremendous strides that have been made
in last 20 or 30 years,” in developing other “Christian” law schools, including
Regent University Law School, which, as noted above, took over ORU law school
after Bachmann graduated. Titus credits Roberts, who “didn’t bow down to the
establishment”; in particular the American Bar Association, which initially
refused to give the school accreditation because it required faculty and
students to be professing Christians (both were required to sign a pledge that
they were followers of Jesus).

Burnetti described Bachmann as “brilliant” and a “very gifted, very talented,
very smart girl.” When I asked whether he could see now how her ORU education
influenced her, he said, “there’s no doubt in my mind that has an influence and
will have an influence on everything that passes through the filter of her
conscience and life. It will be filtered through the principles she has used in
the joining of the Bible and her Christian faith and beliefs and the use of the
Constitution.”

Titus was quick to point out that not all of the students of his preferred
pedagogy are “cookie-cutter” types who fall into an identical ideological line.
On foreign policy matters, for example, he said he’d be more aligned with the
non-interventionism of Ron Paul than with Bachmann.

But it’s clear, nonetheless, that he’s confident that her Christian beliefs
pass muster. He doesn’t consider either Mitt Romney or Jon Huntsman, both
Mormons, to be Christians; said he didn’t know whether Tim Pawlenty was a
Christian (even though his pastor is the president of the National Association
of Evangelicals); and defended Texas Governor Rick Perry’s hosting of a prayer
rally.

Though he isn’t even running, Titus took a dig at Mike Huckabee, saying that
host of Fox News’ Huckabee show “doesn’t understand the difference
between the state’s business and the church’s business,” because he believes in
“welfare taking care of the poor, which is contrary to Jesus’ teaching.” Again,
that’s a reflection of the Christian Reconstructionist view of
God-granted authority—i.e., it’s not within the government’s “authority” to take
care of the poor.

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.”

The Religious Right and GOP Escalate Battle to Destroy Public June 6, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Education, Religion, Right Wing.
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Church & State Magazine / By Joseph L. Conn

 The push for vouchers is not about “education reform,” but
part of a national drive to radically privatize education.

June 5, 2011  |

//
America’s public school system and the constitutional separation of church
and state are under relentless assault.

In late April, the Indiana legislature approved House Bill 1003, a measure
that broadly funds religious and other private schools. The multi-million-dollar
program sets up a new school voucher scheme, expands a tax credit program and
offers tax deductions for the costs of private education and homeschooling.

Gov. Mitch Daniels was a chief promoter of the package, and he clearly means
to force taxpayers to fund religious education. He is the founder and driving
force behind The Oaks Academy, a “Christ-centered” private school in
Indianapolis. Daniels sometimes poses as a moderate, but his education plan is
anything but.

Make no mistake. This is not about “education reform.” This is part of a
national drive to radically privatize education. Indiana is just one of many
states where mega-bucks foundations and sectarian interest groups are demanding
taxpayer dollars for parochial and other private schools. Their long-term goal
is to shut down the public school system or leave it so damaged that its role in
American life is minimal.

In October 2010, Religious Right godfather Tim LaHaye addressed the Council
for National Policy about his goals for education. (The secretive CNP is the
premier meeting place for Religious Right zealots, TV preachers, right-wing fat
cats and others who want to take America back to the Dark Ages.) He viciously
mischaracterized the public schools and issued a call to arms for the CNP and
its allies to remake them.

“I have a pet concern,” said LaHaye, the fundamentalist preacher and “Left
Behind” author who founded the CNP. “And I think it is the concern of everyone
in this room; and that is we are being destroyed in America by the public school
systems of our country. And it was Abraham Lincoln who said, essentially, let me
educate the children of this generation and they will be the political leaders
of the next generation.

“And, folks, we have let the enemy come in and take over the greatest school
system in the history of the world,” he continued. “At one time, Noah Webster
was the school master of America, a dedicated Christian who founded people on
the Word of God and principles of God. And I’d like to see you join me in prayer
that God would let us wrestle control of the American school system from the
secularists, the anti-Christians and anti-Americans that want to bend the minds
of our children.

“At our expense,” LaHaye blustered, “they want to take the most priceless
thing we have – the brains of our children – and let them educate them. They
educate the teachers, they provide the textbooks, and we give them the most
precious things we have. That doesn’t make any sense to me. I’m hoping that this
conservative movement will be long enough to get a majority who can vote what I
consider a new bill of rights – a bill of parental rights where parents can
decide where to send their children to school.”

Touting “biblically based education,” LaHaye concluded that ideology is the
answer to education reform, not additional funding.

“May I suggest,” he said, that “more money is not what they need, it is a
better ideology, and we have already got it.”

LaHaye’s take on public schools is, of course, a pack of lies. Our school
system is not secularist or anti-Christian or anti-American. It welcomes
children of all faiths (and none). Nobody is turned away from the door,
regardless of religion, race, sex, sexual orientation, family background,
disability or economic situation. And our public schools are generally governed
by elected school boards, whose members represent their diverse communities and
are answerable to them.

But LaHaye’s screed serves an important purpose. It gives us the master plan
that he and other right-wing ideologues are pursuing. That’s why we have raging
battles over vouchers in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and a host of other states.
(And it’s why House Speaker John Boehner strong-armed through Congress a federal
taxpayer-funded voucher scheme in the District of Columbia.)

LaHaye and his cronies hate America’s vitally important public school system.
They want to shut it down and move to a “choice” system where taxpayers
subsidize private schools that are accountable only to the sponsoring clergy and
are free to indoctrinate children in their “biblically based” ideology. They
don’t want to improve public education, as they sometimes claim; they want to
destroy it.

LaHaye is not alone in this battle. Betsy DeVos, the infamous Koch brothers
and other wealthy members and supporters of the CNP are funding the nationwide
attack on public schools and church-state separation today. Don’t be fooled.
They often put forward bogus “parents groups,” to serve as front operations, but
it’s they who are calling the shots.

Wake up, America. This radical movement is advancing. Let your legislators
and members of Congress know how you feel before it’s too late.

Evangelical Homophobia-Planting in Uganda: A Tough Seed With Poisonous Fruit May 10, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Human Rights, LGBT, Uganda.
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Tuesday 10 May 2011

by: Valerie Tarico, Away Point

Christian extremists in Uganda’s parliament are hoping that hunger and high gas prices will provide the cover they need to finally subject gay men to punishment of biblical proportions.  They haveintroduced a bill, up for vote on May 11, that seeks life imprisonment for gay sex and, for repeat offenders, the death penalty.  Last year, similar legislation was averted by international outrage.  President Museveni was afraid of losing valuable aid dollars, and after outcry arose across the West, with Barack Obama calling the law “odious,” Museveni prevented the bill from coming to a vote. 

Stopping the bill was insufficient to save the life of one Ugandan,David Kato, who was beaten to death with a hammer in January.  Kato was Uganda’s most outspoken gay rights advocate and had received many death threats before he was killed.  In the winter months before his death, one newspaper ran a front page photo of Kato with an anti-gay rant and a banner urging “Hang them.”   Last spring I traveled in Mozambique, where a full-page article in a local paper interspersed Bible verses, exhortations to spiritual living, and similar anti-gay vitriol.  Although leading fundamentalists like Albert Mohler appear increasinglyresignedto “tolerance” here at home, across Africa the marriage of Christianity and homophobia appears to be thriving—thanks in part to an American tendency to take our outdated wares and social movements overseas. 

Two years ago, I wrote an article that asked, “If the Bible Were Law, Would You Qualify for the Death Penalty?”  It described some of the thirty six causes for capital punishment listed in the Good Book, including cursing parents, witchcraft, being raped (only within the city limits), adultery, and of course, homosexual sex.   Mercifully, even the most old school American Christians seem to ignore the Bible on these points.  But one of the unfortunate consequences of Americans exporting biblical literalism to developing countries is thatpeople in those countries take the Bible literally– including the parts we all, missionaries included, wish they wouldn’t.  In Nigeria, American Pentecostalism has fused with local animism and resulted in children being beaten and burned as witches, just like the Bible prescribes.

In Uganda, American evangelism may besimilarly responsiblefor Kato’s death and the proposed law.  In March 2009, frustrated by their inability to block the gradual inclusion of gays in the universal human rights umbrella at home, Evangelical leaders traveled to Uganda and led incendiary workshops seeking to increase Ugandan fear that gay men are a threat to straight marriages and children.  It would appear that Uganda’s already fractured and restive society is reaping what the American missionaries have sown:  further contention and violence. 

“I don’t want anyone killed,” said Mr. Schmierer, one of the Evangelical leaders who traveled to Uganda two years ago.  “But I don’t feel I had anything to do with that [Kato's death].”  Many evangelicals, those who see the Bible as literally perfect, find it almost impossible to imagine that the Bible itself could be responsible for inciting violence or that those who preach biblical inerrancy could be complicit in that violence.  And yet other Christians, those who see the Bible as the imperfect record of the imperfect struggle of our spiritual ancestors, find this causal chain quite plausible.  According to theologian Thom Stark (The Human Faces of God),the biblical record attributes divine sanction in places to some of the worst of Iron Age impulses, including human sacrifice.  Unless we understand those writings in their human context we are bound to glorify passages that instead should teach us about the darkness in the human spirit.  And glorifying human darkness puts us at risk of enacting it. 

It is troubling that of the many offerings that might have been carried by American Christians to Africa in the service of theGreat Commandment, what has been carried instead are the seeds of homophobia—fear, hatred, and death.  It will take many voices raised together to reverse the damage done by a few misguided missionaries.  I hope those voices will be raised this week (petition here)and again next year, and for as many years as are needed until Uganda’s gay community can live in love and peace

 Valerie Tarico is a psychologist. She is the author of ‘Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light’. She is also the founder of WisdomCommons.org.

Blasphemy is a Victimless Crime: a Book Review February 25, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in About God, About Religion, Religion.
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Roger Hollander

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.”

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