Creation Science vs. Evolution February 18, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Education, Science and Technology.
Tags: biological reproduction, creation science, evolution, fundamentalism, religion, roger hollander, stork theory
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Is the Bible a Threat to National Security? June 30, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Religion, Right Wing.
Tags: Bible, church and state, evangelical, first amendment, fundamentalism, holman bible, kelley b. vlahos, michael weinstein, mrff, religion, religious freedom, roger hollander, soldier's bible
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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.“
A military Bible paints war as religious devotion. What could go wrong?
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, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Religion, Right Wing, Science and Technology, Uncategorized.
Tags: adam and eve, adam lee, anti-intellectual, anti-science, creationism, evolution, fundamentalism, garden of eden, gobal warming, intelligent design, noah, noah's ark, religion, republicans, richard dawkins, roger hollander, science
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?
Tags: anders breivik, anti-government, Christian Fundamentalism, christian jihad, christian jihadists, franklin graham, fundamentalism, norway bombing, norway massacre, oklahoma bombing, oslo bombing, oslo massacre, pierre tristam, right wing, right-wing terrorism, roger hollander, second amendment, terrorism, terry jones, timothy mcveigh, utoya island, war on terror
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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.
Tags: american taliban, anti-gay, bible school, christian law school, christian reconstructionism, establishment clause, first amendment, fundamentalism, god's law, herb titus, legal education, michele bachman, oral roberts, oral roberts law school, relgious bigots, religiion, religious bigotry, religious dogma, religious education, religious extremism, religious freedom, religious right, right wing, roger hollander, same-sex marriage, sarah posner, ten commandments
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called in Christian Reconstructionist Herb Titus. Michele Bachmann is the law
school’s most famous graduate.
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,”
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
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
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
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
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.”
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
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
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
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.”
Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade
Tags: education reform, fundamentalism, indiana education, joseph l. conn, koch brothers, mitch daniels, private education, privatization, privatize education, public education, public schools, religion, religious education, religious right, right wing, roger hollander, tim lahaye, vouchers
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The push for vouchers is not about “education reform,” but
part of a national drive to radically privatize education.
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
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
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.
Tags: Africa, Bible, bigotry, evangelical, fundamentalism, gay rights, homophobia, human rights, lgbt, religion, religious bigotry, roger hollander, uganda, valerie tarico
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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, 2010Posted 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.”
Gay Teen Worried He Might Be Christian January 15, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Humor, LGBT, Religion.
Tags: conservative christian, fundamentalism, gay rights, gblt, Humor, humour, religion, right wing christian, roger hollander, satire, the onion
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January 12, 2010 | Issue 46•02, The Onion
LOUISVILLE, KY—At first glance, high school senior Lucas Faber, 18, seems like any ordinary gay teen. He’s a member of his school’s swing choir, enjoys shopping at the mall, and has sex with other males his age. But lately, a growing worry has begun to plague this young gay man. A gnawing feeling that, deep down, he may be a fundamentalist, right-wing Christian.
“I don’t know what’s happening to me,” Faber admitted to reporters Monday. “It’s like I get these weird urges sometimes, and suddenly I’m tempted to go behind my friends’ backs and attend a megachurch service, or censor books in the school library in some way. Even just the thought of organizing a CD-burning turns me on.”
Added Faber, “I feel so confused.”
The openly gay teen, who came out to his parents at age 14 and has had a steady boyfriend for the past seven months, said he first began to suspect he might be different last year, when he started feeling an odd stirring within himself every time he passed a church. The more conservative the church, Faber claimed, the stronger his desire was to enter it.
“It’s like I don’t even know who I am anymore,” the frightened teenager said. “Keeping this secret obsession with radical right-wing dogma hidden away from my parents, teachers, and schoolmates is tearing me apart.”
According to Faber, his first experience with evangelical Christianity was not all that different from other gays his age.
“Sure, I looked at the Book of Leviticus once or twice—everybody has,” Faber said. “We all experiment a little bit with that stuff when we’re growing up. But I was just a kid. I didn’t think it meant anything.”
Faber’s instinct was to deny these early emotions. But recently, the Louisville teen admitted, the feelings have grown stronger, making him wonder more and more what life as a born-again right-wing fundamentalist would be like.
“The other week, I was this close to picketing in front of an abortion clinic,” the mortified teenager said, his eyes welling up with tears. “I know it’s wrong, but I wanted so badly to do it anyway. I even made one of those signs with photos of dead fetuses and hid it in my closet. I felt so ashamed, yet, at the same time, it was all strangely titillating.”
Faber’s parents, although concerned, said they’re convinced their otherwise typical gay son is merely going through a conservative Christian phase.
“I caught him watching The 700 Club once when he thought he was alone in the house, and last week, I found some paperbacks from the Left Behind series hidden in his sock drawer,” his mother, Eileen Faber, said. “I’m sure he’ll grow out of it, but even if he doesn’t, I will love and accept my son no matter what.”
Faber’s father was far less tolerant in his comments.
“No son of mine is going to try to get intelligent design into school textbooks,” Geoffrey Faber said. “And I absolutely refuse to pay his tuition if he decides to go to one of those colleges like Oral Roberts University where they’re just going to fill his head with a lot of crazy conservative ideas.”
He added, “I just want my normal gay son back.”
The Virgin Joseph? November 29, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in About Virginity.
Tags: Bible, christian literature, christian morality, christian morals, christian values, Christianity, evangelical, fundamentalism, joseph, misogny, patriarchy, religion, roger hollander, virgin, virgin mary, virginity
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Roger Hollander, November 29, 2009
“If men could have babies, abortion would be a sacrament.”
I buy 99% of my reading second hand at thrift stores. I get some really good deals, and after a careful browsing of the back cover I almost invariably pick reading that I enjoy. I find the best buys at the Bibles for Cambodia thrift shop in Guelph, which is why it is ironic that it was there that I inadvertently chose a “Christian” novel (“Deeper Water,” Robert Whitlow). Its blurb suggested it was a “legal thriller,” which I love, but I missed the small print that read “Christian novel.” So be it. I decided to read it, I made it to the bittersweet end (the crime is solved, but the morally pristine heroine has not yet been able to chosen between her two born-again suitors), and I have no regrets. The work was well written, the plot and the characters were believable, including the protagonist’s Evangelical family and her Evangelical lawyer associates.
Having once myself fallen into the throes of Evangelical Christianity (back in the early 1960’s, after which I took the message of Jesus seriously, left the hypocritical church and dedicated myself to Marxist humanist revolution), I felt the portrayal to ring true. The author’s point of view was both Evangelical and fundamentalist, but mercifully lacked the narcissistic and jingoistic neo-Fascist political outlook of contemporary American Fundamentalism.
Two things about the novel struck me. One was what I consider to be the ingenuous belief that the Christian god of the literalist interpreted Christian Bible concerns himself with the daily minutiae of each and every believer (imagine the mega giga’s on the dude’s computer). But, beyond that, the obsessive preoccupation with the female protagonist’s virginity. This we take for granted, but I decided to do some critical thinking on the theme.
First of all, I remember from my theological studies (Princeton Theological Seminary, 1963-1964) that some scholars use “maiden” instead of “virgin” for the original Hebrew and Greek word that traditional Bible translators translate as “virgin.” “Maiden” would refer to an unmarried woman who is not necessarily, well, virgin, as we understand the word (that is, intercourse-free).
Contemporary Evangelical Christians, not to mention fundamentalist Muslims, Jews, etc. consider that their god is cognizant of the various marriage rituals, secular and religious, that constitute “marriage” in modern society, and that he insists that women shall not have had sexual intercourse prior to entering into that arrangement. But hey, what about men? Why not the Virgin Joseph?
Granted that if you asked a believer should a man be “virgin” before marriage, she or he would probably say yes, perhaps however with a sly wink on the side. To the credit of the author of my Christian novel, he had his female Christian protagonist equally obsessive about her dress and manners so as not to tempt members of the opposite sex into sinful thoughts and desires. What he doesn’t address, however, with respect to our heroine’s two Christian suitors, is the sexual attraction I would expect to be included in the attraction that induced them to become suitors in the first place (the author does constantly refer to her physical beauty). Are we to believe that the attraction is strictly limited to the woman’s character and beliefs? That certainly wasn’t my experience when I fell in love and married when I was an Evangelical Christian, and I cannot believe that I was an exception. Where is Jimmy Carter when you need him?
Neither did my author give any mention to his heroine’s sexual desires or fantasies. Does he want us to believe that she was entirely an asexual being? That Christians have no sexual drive until marriage, at which time it somehow automatically it pops into gear? I don’t think so. I think Evangelical Christians acknowledge sexual drives and categorize them as sinful (an offence against their god) before marriage but suddenly somehow transformed into a gift from god after marriage (to be used however, only according to the instructions from the manufacturer that come with the product; that is, with the approved partner, with anyone else we’re back to sinning).
Now let’s go back and look at what it means for a woman to be “virgin,” to abstain from sexual intercourse before marriage. If she does not have sex with single or married men, then with whom are these men to have sex? Well, for married men that’s a no-brainer, their wives. But if unmarried virgin women are not to have sex with single men, and single men are not to have sex with either single or married women, then there is no escaping the logic the Christian god wants good Christian men as well to be “virgins” prior to marriage.
Fair enough. But why then all the obsessive preoccupation with the Virgin Mary and absolutely no mention of the Virgin Joseph? You cannot bring in the Old Testament patriarchal values or what Saul of Tarsus (who later became Paul the sexual moralist) wants us to believe about his god’s view of the different roles of men and women, to explain this. Yes, Christian women are to be submissive and obedient to their husbands, but definitely not to either a single or married man who asks for sexual intercourse while she is still single. She must remain virgin, and therefore logic allows for no other option for the Christian male to remain virgin as well.
While the Evangelical Christian (as well as Roman Catholics and other religious fundamentalists) will probably acknowledge this to be true, again what they cannot explain why in all their discourse, female virginity takes on the color of an absolute while male virginity hardly deserves a mention.
For me the answer is obvious, especially in light of the patriarchal (man controlled) structures, theologically and institutionally of virtually all organized religion. It can be summarized in a single word.
In looking for an image to go with the article, this is what I found on Google under “male virgin”