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Jesus lives: April Fool! April 1, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in About Religion, Democracy, Religion, Socialism.
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Roger Hollander, April 1, 2012, www.rogerhollander.wordpress.com

If capital G God exists (capital I if),  He/She/It has given us a little ironic treat in having Palm Sunday fall on April Fools day this year.

When I think of Palm Sunday and the monstrosity known at the Roman Catholic Church and the other world religions, with the possible few exceptions of the Asian  religions, I think of the phrase “cross my palm with silver.”

The air-tight relationship between accumulated wealth (in our era, capital) and organized religion is a historic reality.  There is in fact good reason to believe that the first division of labor creating a privileged class in previously classless tribal society, was that of the first shamans or priests converting their credibility into political and economic power, which they used to control and manipulate.

The young 26-year-old Karl Marx, in his 1844 Manuscripts wrote about religion in a handful of paragraphs that include his famous and taken out of context “opiate of the masses.”

Religious suffering is at the same time an expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the sentiment of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of men, is a demand for their real happiness. The call to abandon their illusions about their condition is a call to abandon a condition which requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, the embryonic criticism of this vale of tears of which religion is the halo.

Criticism has plucked the imaginary flowers from the chain, not in order that man shall bear the chain without caprice or consolation but so that he shall cast off the chain and pluck the living flower. The criticism of religion disillusions man so that he will think, act and fashion his reality as a man who has lost his illusions and regained his reason; so that he will revolve about himself as his own true sun. Religion is only the illusory sun about which man revolves so long as he does not revolve about himself.

… thus the criticism of heaven is transformed into the criticism of earth, the criticism of religion into the criticism of law, and the criticism of theology into the criticism of politics.

From: “Contributions to the  Critique  of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right,”  in   “Karl Marx: Early Writings,” translated and edited by T. B. Bottomore, McGraw Hill, 1964, pages 43, 44.

This I consider to be a manifesto for secular humanism, of which I am a proud advocate.  Who can deny that the very existence of our biosphere is in danger from escalating warfare and environmental catastrophe.  Those who advocate looking outside of humankind to some sort of God to take us out of this mess are the very same religious institutions that promote and indoctrinate obeisance to the vast accumulations of wealth that capitalist economic relations generate.

Shakespeare via Cassius:“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves …”

Today it is more evident than ever that political democracy is little more than a farce in a capitalist world.  Vast accumulated wealth (which is what capital is)  plus the military and political power it purchases with that very wealth is what rules in every nation on earth, not the “demos” (people) of democracy.  In a word, political democracy without economic democracy is not genuine democracy.

The destruction of capitalist economic relations and replacement with economic democracy (genuine socialism, not state capitalism calling itself socialist as in China, Cuba, Venezuela, etc.) where those of us who create wealth share in it equally, is a Monmouth and daunting task (given especially enormous state power and means of repression).  But it is the only long-term solution to the world crisis in which we live.  In the light of this reality, a vote for Obama or a prayer to whatever god, can do no more than any other opiate, that is, create illusory and useless hope.

To show that I am not a blind hater of Christianity, let me cite one of my favorite biblical quotes, that of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13, where he states that: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”  My belief is that in the individual human dimension, love is the highest notion; and at the communal/social level, love is no more or less than social, political and economic justice, that is, socialism.

 

 

 

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Obama Aides to Meet with Secular Coalition, Atheists on White House Grounds February 27, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Uncategorized.
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Published on Friday, February 26, 2010 by McClatchy Newspapersby Margaret Talev

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has burnished his Christian credentials, courted Jewish support and preached outreach toward Muslims. On Friday, his administration will host a group that fits none of the above: America’s nonbelievers.

The president isn’t expected to make an appearance at the meeting with the Secular Coalition for America or to unveil any new policy as a result of it.

Instead, several administration officials will sit down quietly for a morning meeting at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House campus with about 60 workhorses from the coalition’s 10 member groups, including the American Atheists and the Council for Secular Humanism. Tina Tchen, the director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, and representatives from the Justice and Health and Human Services departments will participate.

Coalition leaders are billing their visit as an important meeting between a presidential administration and the “nontheist” community. On the agenda are three policy areas: child medical neglect, military proselytizing and faith-based initiatives.

“We’re raising important issues that affect real people’s lives,” said Sean Faircloth, 49, a former Maine state legislator who’s the coalition’s executive director.

White House spokesman Shin Inouye downplayed the meeting, saying only that Tchen’s office “regularly meets with a wide range of organizations and individuals on a diverse set of issues.”

The coalition’s board includes such controversy magnets as authors Salman Rushdie (“The Satanic Verses”) and Christopher Hitchens (“God Is Not Great”), as well as Michael Newdow, the Sacramento, Calif., doctor who argued against allowing the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance before the Supreme Court, but didn’t prevail. South Carolina activist Herb Silverman founded the coalition in 2002. It’s had a Washington office and a lobbyist since 2005.

“Despite what we hear from Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin, we’re in a stage in history where millions upon millions of Americans share a secular perspective on American public policy,” Faircloth said. “We think the real ‘silent majority,’ if you will, is the Americans who say, ‘Enough of this religious and even theocratic nature to American policy.’ ”

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found in a 2008 survey before Obama’s election that a majority of Americans, 52 percent to 45 percent, think that churches should stay out of politics. That sentiment had changed from three election cycles back, 1996, when 54 percent favored churches expressing political views.

Still, nearly three-fourths of Americans told Pew in December 2009 that they attend religious services each year. Americans also told Pew that month that the Republican Party seems friendlier toward religion than Democrats do, but that Obama seems friendlier toward religion than most Democrats are.

The coalition doesn’t embrace all the Obama administration’s stances, but members think that they have more of a kindred spirit in the president than in his predecessor, George W. Bush.

Obama once taught constitutional law. His late mother was spiritual but agnostic. His inaugural address is credited as the first by a U.S. president to include explicit recognition of “nonbelievers” as part of the fabric of the nation.

Coalition members plan to use Friday’s meeting to advocate closing federal loopholes in the law that governs medical neglect. They say that officials in any state should be able to remove sick children who need medical treatment from homes in which parents believe in faith healing as easily as they could intervene on behalf of other children.

Liz Heywood, of Ithaca, N.Y., said she was 13 when she contracted a bone infection that her Christian Scientist parents wouldn’t seek medical attention to treat. She experienced permanent damage, and three years ago, at 45, had the leg amputated above the knee.

Heywood planned to fly to Washington to participate in the coalition meeting until fresh snow left her stuck in New York. She’ll participate by speaker phone.

“I fell through the cracks at every turn,” Heywood said of her experience as a sick teen in a faith-healing home. “I am hoping I can make a difference with my story.”

Other coalition activists have concerns about proselytizing in the military and a rise in the military’s evangelical culture. They want the Department of Defense to give protected-class status to nonbelievers, as it does to members of minority religions.

On faith-based initiatives, the coalition differs from the president in opposing taxpayer funding of all faith-based groups. Obama has emphasized that faith-based groups that receive government money for charitable work shouldn’t proselytize or discriminate on the basis of religion. Faircloth said the president should formalize that position through an executive order.

© 2010 McClatchy Newspapers