Jesus Tebow

Johnny Manziel: he’s the new Tim Tebow

Johnny Football is probably a bigger douchebag than St. Timmy, but they’re more alike than they are different.

I’m going to miss Tim Tebow.

He was a blogger’s dream.

First, his situation represented an unambiguous wrong, the perfect high horse upon which to climb. He was given an opportunity he did not deserve because of racial and religious bias. Period. No ifs, ands or buts. If he’d been the same white quarterback, only not as overtly religious, he’d have been drafted in the umpteenth round like A.J. McCarron, who has similar stats to Tebow. If he’d been the same religious quarterback with mediocre skills, only not white, he would never have been drafted in the first place. There was no need for nuance when writing about the Tebow situation because there was no nuance involved. WYSIWYG. Some poor schmuck had his opportunity to play in the NFL taken away because of religious zealotry run amok.  Continue reading

Mark Jackson needs self-awareness counseling

Fired Golden State head coach preaches the virtues of paying your dues, even though he never paid any himself.

Mark Jackson, until recently coach of the Golden State Warriors, was fired for clashing with, well, just about everyone in Golden State who wasn’t as evangelically zealous as himself.

That included one of his bosses, board member Jerry West, a highly rated former assistant who’s now a head coach, Michael Malone, and two of his assistants this past season, Brian “White Mamba” Scalabrine and Darren Erman. Jackson tried to fire Scalabrine in front of the team and did fire Erman, who promptly was hired by the Celtics. In a recent radio interview, Jackson makes it clear why Scalabrine and Erman simply had to go: They weren’t willing to pay their dues. Continue reading

CATEGORY: PoliticsReligion

The devil is in the details: WHICH Christianity are we making the official state religion, exactly?

CATEGORY: PoliticsReligionLegislators in North Carolina recently introduced a bill to make Christianity the official state religion. That bill has now been turfed, but we can probably expect similar moves in the future.

An Omnibus Poll, sponsored by YouGov.com and the Huffington Post, reveals just how far from the nation’s roots we have traveled on the subject of separating church and state and retaining the nation’s neutrality when it comes to how Americans chose to practice their respective religions.

According to the survey, 34 percent of Americans would favor making Christianity their official state religion while less than half (47 percent) oppose the concept. Thirty-two percent of those polled indicated that they would also favor a constitutional amendment that would make Christianity the official religion of the United States with just over half (52 percent) opposing the notion.

Leaving aside for a second the abject failure of millions of Americans to grasp the most basic precepts of their Constitution, this poll actually provides more questions than answers. Lots more. And in truth, these are questions with roots that are hundreds of years old.

If you’ve visited America anytime during the past couple of centuries, you realize that the nation has something of a church and state problem. You can argue the details all you like, but the bottom line is that the Framers of the Constitution set the stage for controversy by being too damned vague. I mean, “separation of Church and State” – what the hell does that really mean, anyway? We have these problems before us today because Jefferson, Madison and Co. didn’t have the basic good sense to insist on specificity, which is odd, given that all the Founding Fathers were pretty clearly fundamentalists. As, one assumes, were the Founding Mothers. They just toss terms like “God” and “Church” and “separation” around like we all know what they mean, when clearly we don’t.

So here’s what we have to do. Let’s forget separation of Church and State and accept that we are One Nation Under God, In God We damned sure Do Trust, and that we are a Christian Nation® (this part is crucial). Let’s get past all that soulless secular humanism and By God establish a state religion. Better yet, let’s charge Congress with the job, since so many of the members of that august body have thought long and hard on the subject already.

Here’s how it works. The U.S. will adopt as our national religion that which Congress can agree on sufficiently to pass by a two-thirds majority, and by this I mean they must pass each plank of the resolution by that margin. Understand, “God” is way too vague, and you can’t very well build a moral society around vagaries. We have to insist that Congress agree on what God is and how He (She) should be worshiped.

For instance, we’ll need Congress to decide whether the Bible is intended as a metaphorical guide or as literal, journalistic fact. Was Mary literally a virgin? Did Abraham literally live 900 years? Did Moses literally tie his ass to a tree and walk 40 miles? These are not small issues, and if they are not settled by legislative fiat we risk another millennium of sectarian strife.

Other issues we’ll need Congress to rule on:

  • Should baptism be by sprinkling as an infant or by immersion once one is born again? And, how quickly can we set in place an emergency re-baptism program for all those people that had it done wrong the first time?
  • Is God a man, a woman, both, or neither?
  • What race is God? This will be important when we do physical and artistic representations of Him/Her/It.
  • What about those places where the Bible appears to contradict itself, as in Genesis 1 & 2? Are we to take these as tests by God, or error by monks, or what? Confusion in one’s prime legal texts can lead to all sorts of mischief, as I think is more than evident from the fact that we’re even having this little chat to start with.
  • We’ll need a plan to transfer power from the President to Jesus when He makes his triumphant return to Earth after the Rapture.
  • We’ll also need a policy of engagement for Armageddon. When do we launch the nukes, and at whom? Once we know who’s on God’s side and who’s on the side of Satan, shouldn’t we just go ahead and launch a pre-emptive strike?
  • How old is that darned Earth, anyway? I mean, it’s important to know what to tell kids about dinosaurs if the world is only 6000 years old.
  • What the hell do we do about those damned Jews, who have made clear that they aren’t on board with Jesus as the Son of God? Do we wait and let Jesus deal with them himself or should we set about making them either believe what we believe or leave?
  • And don’t even get me started on Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Mormons, and other varieties of Satanist. If we’re truly a Christian land, is it right that their blasphemy should be tolerated, and worse, that they should be able to benefit from social programs paid for by Right-thinking Christians?
  • Should the Office of Homeland Godliness be a Cabinet-level appointment reporting to the President? Should the President be the de jure head of the Church? Should it be a separate branch of government insulated from the meddling influence of future secular legislators, and especially from Satanic minions on the Supreme Court? Or, for that matter, should we rework the government and Constitution so that we replace the democracy with a Christian theocracy?
  • What should our foreign policy toward non-Christian nations be like? Some of them are Godless, but strategically important (Britain, Canada, anybody with oil, etc.) Should a nation’s relationship with God be a consideration in conferring most-favored-nation status?
  • There’s also the woman problem. Are they to be submissive to their husbands, as dictated by some, or are they to be accepted as full partners in God’s Church of America? Can they be ministers, for example? And while we’re on the subject of troublesome sorts, is the Church going to take the “accepting” stance toward gays or are they all going to hell? If the latter, should we get them on their way or let God deal with them in His own good time?
  • Finally, what about the athletics programs? Back in the ’80s in Wilmington, NC, there was a huge hullaballoo over – of all things – softball. The local Mormon church signed up for the city-run league, causing the other churches to pitch a galloping hissy fit. Said one spokesman, “we do not feel we can extend the hand of Christian fellowship to people who do not worship the same god we do.” The Mormons stood their ground, those who worshiped a different god from the Mormons stood theirs, and the city was forced to cancel the whole damned league. But that was over 20 years ago – we’re past all that now, right? Nuh-uh. The same kind of conflict broke out again last year in Pennsylvania.

Give me another hour or two and I’ll come up with more questions, but you get the idea. The success of a faith-based government hinges on getting these issues settled and chiseled into stone sooner rather than later. If Congress leaves wiggle room and unanswered questions we’ll be at each other’s throats until the Second Coming, and I’m pretty sure that’s not what the Framers intended.

_____

An earlier iteration of this post originally appeared on January 20, 2010.

CATEGORY: PoliticsLawGovernment

Gay marriage is a matter of church and state

It’s unlikely that the Supreme Court will side with common human decency and allow homosexuals to marry. My colleague is correct that we have more important issues to deal with and that support for the right to marry is growing, or perhaps more precisely opposition to it is also dying. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court is likely to trail popular opinion, and this Supreme Court seems less likely to rule based on the constitution and law than on personal opinion and religious dogma. Ms. Palombo is also correct that it shouldn’t even be an issue, but that’s not because of its relative importance on our to-do list.

My understanding is that We the People have freedom of religion in order to protect us from the establishment of a state religion likely to persecute citizens who don’t hold the same faith. Establishing marriage as between a man and a woman is effectively making laws based on religious belief, and the “defenders” of marriage invariably end up at a Christian basis for their argument that stems from a Christian understanding of marriage. (To be fair, Jews and Muslims generally agree with this but since they’re siblings that’s no surprise.) It doesn’t matter if every religion agrees with the concept of marriage. This is a clear issue of the separation of church and state. We’d be lucky if the Justices are strict enough constitutionalists to recognize it as such and rule appropriately. If they don’t, then it’s clear that there’s less regard than lip service for our founding document.

Marriage is simply a state issued contract. It essentially combines two people into one under the law to include such holy issues as finances, taxes, inheritance, and privileging spousal conversation in criminal trials. We get confused about what marriage really is because somewhere along the line we were stupid enough to invest churches with state legal power. Your pastor, priest, rabbi, or whatever doesn’t marry you for legal purposes so much as act as an official witness and file the paperwork. Pretty much anyone can do that. I can and have. I’ve never even been baptized much less become a judge or captain of a ship.

The solution to this issue is simple. Properly separate church and state. Remove state contract powers from the clutches of churches. Homosexuals and those of us who don’t give a rat’s ass about God’s approval will get married by the state and gain the rights and privileges that come from the contract. The religious among us can choose to be married in front of God and also through the state or forgo the state part depending on how they feel about rendering unto Caesar.

The benefit to Christians in this solution is that they can skip the state part and then cry about being persecuted. Nothing makes a Christian happier than being persecuted except maybe persecuting others.

CATEGORY: St.-Patrick's-Day

St. Patrick’s Day: wearing o’ the black

CATEGORY: St.-Patrick's-DayOriginally posted 3.17.08 and re-posted each St. Patrick’s Day.

I won’t be wearing green today.

Don’t get me wrong – like many Americans, I’ve got plenty of Irish blood in my veins, and I’m quite happy to celebrate that heritage.

But this St. Patrick thing… Sadly, very few people have stopped to think about exactly what they’re celebrating, or whom. Patrick is credited with leading the Christianization of Ireland and it’s said he “drove the snakes out” of the place. That, of course, is metaphorical. The serpent was an ancient druidic symbol of wisdom, and the thing that was literally driven out of (or murdered and buried in the ground of) Ireland was the vibrant, centuries-old culture of the Celts. There aren’t any snakes native to Ireland, but that’s about evolution, not Patricius.

When a Christian missionary went into a new place it was with one goal – extinguish what he found and replace it with Christianity. We see an illuminating example of how the process might begin in Acts 17:23-34, where Paul stumbles upon an opportunity and seizes it like the last bottle of whiskey in Galway.

23For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.

24God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;

25Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;

26And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;

27That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:

28For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.

29Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.

30And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:

31Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.

32And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter.

33So Paul departed from among them.

34Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

Obviously there’s no reason at all to think that the Athenians were accidentally paying tribute to the Christian god, but understanding and accepting the essence and traditions of a culture was hardly the point.

But at least Patrick and other Christian missionaries of the time went the warm and fuzzy, let’s-all-sing-“Kumbaya” route, right? Ummm, is that what history has taught us about early Christians?

Patrick began to destroy the influence of the Druids by destroying the sacred sites of the people and building churches and monasteries where the Druids used to live and teach. Gradually, the might of the Druidic class was broken by a bitter campaign of attrition. Instead of hearing the teachings and advice of the Druids, the people began to hear the teachings of Rome. Because the Druids were the only ones who were taught to remember the history, with the Druids dead and their influence broken, the history was forgotten.

Patrick won. By killing off the teachers and the wise ones, his own religion could be taught. For this mass conversion of a culture to Christianity, and for the killing of thousands of innocent people, Patrick was made a Saint by his church. (Source)

In a very real way, the celebration of St. Patrick is a celebration of cultural genocide, and the fact that the millions of revelers parading in the streets this morning and packing every bar in America tonight don’t realize it – that they’re doing so perhaps as naïvely as the Druids might initially have welcomed Patrick – is of little comfort. Why? You tell me – would a fuller understanding of what happened put even the slightest dent in our nation’s annual green beer sales figures?

I’m not telling you to stay home or to forego a drink in remembrance of old Ireland. By all means, lift a pint tonight. But don’t do so in celebration of an inquisitor. Instead, do so in memory of the light that he helped extinguish.

To the Rose upon the Rood of Time
by William Butler Yeats

Red Rose, proud Rose, sad Rose of all my days!
Come near me, while I sing the ancient ways:
Cuchulain battling with the bitter tide;
The Druid, grey, wood-nurtured, quiet-eyed,
Who cast round Fergus dreams, and ruin untold;
And thine own sadness, whereof stars, grown old
In dancing silver-sandalled on the sea,
Sing in their high and lonely melody.
Come near, that no more blinded by man’s fate,
I find under the boughs of love and hate,
In all poor foolish things that live a day,
Eternal beauty wandering on her way.

Come near, come near, come near—Ah, leave me still
A little space for the rose-breath to fill!
Lest I no more hear common things that crave;
The weak worm hiding down in its small cave,
The field-mouse running by me in the grass,
And heavy mortal hopes that toil and pass;
But seek alone to hear the strange things said
By God to the bright hearts of those long dead,
And learn to chaunt a tongue men do not know.
Come near; I would, before my time to go,
Sing of old Eire and the ancient ways:
Red Rose, proud Rose, sad Rose of all my days.

Jesus Tebow

Tim Tebow decides to do the right thing for professional reasons (but reserves the right to do the wrong thing later when nobody is paying attention)

I was reading the Internets today and guess what? – our boy Timmy is back in the news.

New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow has decided to cancel his appearance at a Dallas church that is led by a pastor, Robert Jeffress, who has been criticized for his remarks about gays and other faiths.

Tebow sent out a series of tweets Thursday announcing his decision:

“While I was looking forward to sharing a message of hope and Christ’s unconditional love with the faithful members of the historic First Baptist Church of Dallas in April, due to new information that has been brought to my attention, I have decided to cancel my upcoming appearance. I will continue to use the platform God has blessed me with to bring Faith, Hope and Love to all those needing a brighter day. Thank you for all of your love and support. God Bless!”

Good for you, Tim. It’s great to hear that you’re genuinely committed to spreading Jesus’s message of love and acceptance, no matter what the circumstances are. Do the right thing, though the world may end. I’m proud of you. I think that….ummm, wait, hold on a second….he what? You’re kidding.

Jeffress told the Associated Press that Tebow told him he would like to speak at First Baptist at some point, but “he needed to avoid controversy right now for personal and professional reasons.”

So….you’ll go speak to the hatemongers as soon as everybody looks the other way for a second? The hell? Can somebody show me where it says in the Bible that you’re supposed to do good works for the Lord as long as it’s professionally expedient? (Hey, maybe this is what was going on with that whole “denied the Lord thrice” thing. I got your back, Jesus, but I got to look out for my family, hear what I’m saying?)

Let’s see if there’s anything else interesting in this article.

Jeffress said Thursday that First Baptist was being mischaracterized as a “hate church,” and that the church’s teachings were consistent with historic Christian beliefs.

Did I miss the part where hate and “historic Christian beliefs” (as interpreted by the likes of the Rev. Jeffress) are mutually exclusive?

“We had planned for him to speak very positively about the difference Jesus Christ had made in his life,” Jeffress said.

This would have been a great speech. If it weren’t for his very, very public displays of piety Tebow would never have played a down in the NFL. To paraphrase Chico Esquela, “Jebus been bery bery good to me.”

What else?

“There are a disproportionate amount of assaults against children by homosexuals than by heterosexuals, you can’t deny that,” Jeffress said in July.

Wait, what? Yes I can.

“And the reason is very clear: Homosexuality is perverse, it represents a degradation of a person’s mind and if a person will sink that low and there are no restraints from God’s law, then there is no telling to whatever sins he will commit as well.”

Which is why our history is so rife with gay serial killers, rapists, Lehman Brothers executives and superchurch pastors.

In a 2011 interview, Jeffress said that Islam and Mormonism were religions that are “heresy from the pit of hell,” and criticized the Roman Catholic Church as “the genius of Satan” and “corrupted” by cults.

And since this sounds like an intramural matter between the good reverend and his fellow Abrahamic religious conservatives, I’m just going to step back and leave it alone.

[Ahem]

We’ve been telling you what Tim Tebow was for a long time here at S&R: an opportunistic, hypocritical self-promoter who can’t play a lick. Between this and the fact that at present the NY Jets don’t want him anymore and can’t seem to find anyone else who does, either, the evidence continues to mount that we’ve been right all along.

CATEGORY: PoliticsLawGovernment

Mystery Unraveled: How a white, moderate, married, churchgoing, middle-class, middle-aged woman could vote for Obama

‘We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are.” – Anais Nin

If there’s one word that seemed to characterize Romney supporters’ immediate reaction to Obama’s victory, it’s “shock.”

A conservative Facebook friend posted this status: “For the first time in my life I am at a loss for words…absolutely baffled by the electorate and the election results, especially considering the current state the country is in.”

A radio reporter interviewed a woman at the Romney campaign party in Denver shortly after the election was called. Her response simmered with anger as she pondered the reality of how more than half the nation had voted: “What don’t they see?? It’s mind-boggling!”

What they don’t see are people like me.

I’m a 50-year-old white woman who lives in the swing state of Colorado. I’m married, I’m a mom, I have a PhD, and I’m a Christian. In Boulder. I can’t imagine trying to explain the world without faith and science. I’m upper middle class, but I come from blue-collar stock. I believe in capitalism, but I also believe its inevitable excesses must be tempered with regulations – you know, Genesis, original sin, the human propensity for greed and all. I’m pro-life in the fullest sense of the term. I’m happy for my gay friends who want to marry – I’m all for commitment when it comes to sustaining the social fabric. My evangelical grandmother, whom I treasured, was a member of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. I’m a Democrat who likes hymns and red wine. Try squaring all that when it comes to putting me in a political box.

Like a great many voters who helped tip the election to Obama, I see social complexity that the poles refuse to acknowledge. I’m a reasonable centrist. And I think Republicans write us off at their own expense.

If one had spent the campaign watching only Fox News, following only conservative pundits and pollsters, it’s no wonder the election results seemed so inscrutable. Daniel Larion, doing some Wednesday morning quarterbacking in The American Conservative, observed that the entire Romney campaign was organized on “flawed assumptions.”

“Romney and his allies not only didn’t understand their opponent, but they went out of their way to make sure they misunderstood him, and in any kind of contest that is usually a recipe for failure.”

Likewise, Romney supporters misunderstand many of us who sent Obama back for four more years. Why on earth, given this economy, would tens of millions of Americans choose to do that?

The right-wing radio blowhards think they have it figured out: we’re dupes of the mainstream media, a giant liberal-elite faction engaged in a conspiratorial embrace with the Left; Hurricane Sandy and turncoat Chris Christie joined forces in an eleventh-hour PR move for the president; or – and this is emerging as the dominant narrative – we simply want more stuff that we don’t have to work for. We’re takers, not makers. Romney was right when he talked about the 47 percent, only it was 51 percent – apparently there were more slackers in the country than he counted on.

All of those explanations are as wrong as they are offensive.

I would like for my bewildered Republican friends to know how I could possibly have voted for Obama without being a far-left ideologue who is simultaneously blind, immoral and lacking in patriotism.

Here are five reasons. And I’m pretty sure I speak for the bulk of the moderates who broke for the president on Tuesday night.

1) I don’t believe Obama is a closet Muslim with a radical socialist agenda to undermine America. I don’t believe he has a false birth certificate and a fake Social Security card. I think he is a deeply sincere, smart, principled man who is far from perfect but deserves a chance to continue what he has tried to begin.

2) I’m more comfortable taking a risk on Obama’s economic agenda than Romney’s. The numbers are starting to look up. I’d rather hedge my bets with Keynes than Adam Smith. Mitt wants to cut spending and slash taxes, and give most of those tax breaks to the richest Americans. That doesn’t square with my sense of what’s rational or what’s just. We’ve tried that before, and that Kool-Aid does not trickle down for me.

3) I’m willing to take a chance on Obamacare. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than a system that excludes millions and is dedicated to lining the pockets of insurance companies whose primary mission is not to cover care but to deny it. The Affordable Care Act is not “socialized medicine” in which the government dictates my health care. It’s a hybrid system that worked in Massachusetts; I’m ready to see how it goes in the rest of the U.S.

4) I care deeply about protecting this planet, our home. How could we elect a president who is so cavalier about God’s creation that he wants to dismantle the EPA? Really? The clean air and clean water acts established under Richard Nixon aren’t important to keep for our kids? I can’t imagine a world leader not grappling with the problem of global climate change. Solyndra was a debacle, but to suggest that we ought not to pursue green energy isn’t just short-sighted, it’s grave foolishness.

5) I believe a graduated tax system is the most moral means of structuring an economy. I think that rich folks who benefited so disproportionately from a wildly deregulated Wall Street need to return to shouldering more of our shared burden. Luke 12:48 says, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

Now, plenty of wealthy business owners are going to argue, ‘This wasn’t given to me, I built it.’ Yes, you did, with a public infrastructure supporting you. But until we have genuine equality of opportunity in this country – including equal pay for equal work – some people can build a lot more than others.

There are parents who hire me for $50 an hour here in wealthy Boulder to coach their kids on college application essays. They fly to visit schools so their kids can interview in person. You think that teenager of a single-mom Wal-Mart clerk struggling to pay her rent has the same crack at a premier college education and the connections that come with it? Where is the equal opportunity?

And don’t tell me that working woman is a sponger. Don’t tell me that Diego who painted my house or Beatriz who sometimes cleans it is a freeloader. As a Christian, I am told to care for the least of these. When I vote, their self-interest should be as important as my own. “Sink or swim,” or “Go home even though you’ve lived here since you were two” is no more a path to economic autonomy than a government check is.

The fact is, we are all in this country together, and we have different needs and means, and we have a lot in common when it comes to teaching kids, fighting fires, cleaning up after storms or caring for our national parks. Those who have more need to do more, as we work to give the rest not a handout, but a hand up. As for me, I went to college on Pell grants, work-study, scholarships and summer jobs. That combination of my own hard work and a little help from a society that supported my potential is what got me a college degree. That powerful model – public and private in synergy – remains most compelling to me and is the most fundamental reason I voted for President Obama.

Clearly, the Right and Left perceive the role of government differently. We may ultimately be captives of a postmodernist analysis that says there is no way outside our own subjectivity to view the world through another’s eyes. If that is so, then empathy is a casualty and our divisions rigidify.

I refuse to concede that. I’d rather share the prophetic words of Abraham Lincoln, speaking to a deeply divided America in his 1861 Inaugural Address:

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

May we each appeal to the better angels in one another as we start healing the wounds of this election season.

Are Americans becoming less religious? New Pew study says yes and Dawkins is optimistic

Given the course of Campaign 2012, the idea that Americans are trending toward less religion probably sounds ludicrous. But maybe not.

In response to an audience question last night, Richard Dawkins said he’s “optimistic” about the future of religion. (If you’re a religious type, he doesn’t mean that in the way it probably sounds.) He noted that the US is still exceptionally religious when compared with other nations along criteria such as education levels and scientific accomplishments, and he further allowed that we’re not nearly as far along the path toward a truly secular society as he might have expected several decades ago. Still, he says “I’m optimistic in the long term” – pointedly emphasizing long term.

Dawkins, a prominent scientist and intellectual who has authored a number of influential books, including The Selfish GeneThe Extended Phenotype and The God Delusion, was speaking at the University of Colorado’s Macky Auditorium as part of a US tour promoting his latest book, The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True. This book is intended for younger audiences – in essence, it’s designed to help children understand how science works and to develop the faculties necessary to parse reality from superstition and the various kinds of “magic” that lead them into the sorts of folly afflicting American politics and policy development today. Illustrated by Dave McKeanThe Magic of Reality makes a compelling visual impression, as well, not only highlighting the essential concepts in ways that make them easier to grasp, but at the same time stylistically conjuring a pensive, dramatic sense of the natural world that I imagine will last young readers the rest of their lives.

One hopes Dr. Dawkins is justified in his optimism, and one might also hope that we don’t have to wait too long for the long term to arrive. He made the point judiciously, of course, but while the US ranks far ahead of the rest of the world in many measures of intellectual achievement, we’re also the undisputed leaders of the developed world when it comes to batshit religious crazy. I’ve addressed the “Christian nation” question here a couple of times in the past, and it’s perhaps reminding everyone of some numbers.

  • Polls show the percentage of Americans identifying themselves as Christian ranging as high as 85% or beyond.
  • The president is a Christian…
  • …as is the VP.
  • The Speaker of the House is Catholic…
  • …and the Senate Majority Leader is Mormon.
  • Well over 90% of our Congressional representatives are Christian, with a majority of the remainder being Jewish.
  • The Supreme Court features seven Christians and two Jews.
  • All of our major presidential candidates in both major parties.
  • Almost all of our past presidents; depending on how you count Unitarians, you have to go all the way back to Lincoln (ironically enough, the founder of the GOP) to even find one to debate over;
  • Hell, even sports franchises are starting to build their operations around the evangelical litmus test.
  • It seems unlikely that a similar review of the legislatures and courthouses in the 50 states would reveal too much variation from this overpowering Judeo-Christian norm.

You have to be willfully stupid – and polls suggest that in many places the voting majority is just that – to think that ours is a Christian system of government. However, numbers are numbers, and I don’t think it controversial to say that we are a Christian culture. For better or worse. Mostly worse.

Of course, my colleague Otherwise believes that we’re one of the least religious places on earth. At some point he and I need to sit down and discuss our criteria. Perhaps he’s looking at the Muslim world, or perhaps he’s looking at cultures dominated by Catholicism. Fair enough. Or maybe he’s thinking more about the gap between what people report when polled and how they live when the pollster drives away. He grew up in the South like I did, so he’s probably well familiar with a certain breed of Christian – let’s call it the devout son of a bitch. Never misses church, publicly quite upstanding and pious, but at his core he’s just a mean redneck. He’ll say he believes in Jesus, but you’d never know it to watch him.

It’s like the famous singer and comedian, Jim Stafford, once said: Baptists are like cats – you know they’re raising hell, you just can’t catch them at it.

A new study from the Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life suggests that perhaps Dawkins (and Otherwise) are right.

The number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling.

In the last five years alone, the unaffiliated have increased from just over 15% to just under 20% of all U.S. adults. Their ranks now include more than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics (nearly 6% of the U.S. public), as well as nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation (14%).

Note: “religiously unaffiliated” doesn’t mean “atheist” by a long shot.

This large and growing group of Americans is less religious than the public at large on many conventional measures, including frequency of attendance at religious services and the degree of importance they attach to religion in their lives.

However, a new survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, conducted jointly with the PBS television program Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, finds that many of the country’s 46 million unaffiliated adults are religious or spiritual in some way. Two-thirds of them say they believe in God (68%). More than half say they often feel a deep connection with nature and the earth (58%), while more than a third classify themselves as “spiritual” but not “religious” (37%), and one-in-five (21%) say they pray every day. In addition, most religiously unaffiliated Americans think that churches and other religious institutions benefit society by strengthening community bonds and aiding the poor.

With few exceptions, though, the unaffiliated say they are not looking for a religion that would be right for them. Overwhelmingly, they think that religious organizations are too concerned with money and power, too focused on rules and too involved in politics.

While I don’t care what people believe per se – I’m very 1st Amendmentish in that respect – I care a great deal what people do, and these days ignorant, dingbat theocracy-leaning religious conservatism exerts way too great an influence on the laws that govern our lives. For that reason, the new Pew study, which indicates, at a minimum, a shift away from organized fundamentalism, brings welcome news. Perhaps the single most encouraging bit is the “a third of adults under 30″ part – I suppose that’s the “long term” hope that Dawkins is hanging his hat on.

Time will tell. Common sense says that at some point either the pendulum has to swing back the other way a bit, away from reactionary religiosity and neo-medieval conservatism, or the culture will simply explode. Perhaps we tip over into the kinds of full-blown theocracy that more and more Republicans are openly advocating, or we erupt into open and potentially violent conflict to prevent it.

The Pew report suggests that with each passing year America’s clear thinkers regain a little more territory. Let’s hope they, and Dawkins, are right.

Image Credit: Touch Reviews

Rick Santorum is a wonderful example…of what makes me see red

Santorum speaks into phallic object, looks sadBuzzfeed just dropped a gold nugget of pure, observational journalism on the Internet just a little bit ago:

Rick Santorum: Conservatives Will “Never Have The Elite, Smart People On Our Side”

Here is a perfect case of Rick Santorum doing an exemplary job of illustrating exactly what it is that drives me berserk about these crafty, manipulative, deceitful bags of shit cloaked in spurious piety.

“We will never have the media on our side, ever, in this country,” Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, told the audience at the Omni Shoreham hotel. “We will never have the elite, smart people on our side.”

Continue reading

It’s election time again, Christian America – now about those Ten Commandments, part IV

Ten CommandmentsPart IV of a series.

Today my ever-so-patient readers get off easy. Why? Because as cynical as I am, I simply am not psychic.

The fourth commandment (as per the previous posts, as reckoned by Catholicism) is:

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you.
Exodus 20:12 (NASB) 

Simply, I fail to find anything that would indicate that the parents of either Governor Romney or President Obama ever commanded them to govern or campaign as they do, or otherwise. Continue reading

It’s election time again, Christian America – now about those Ten Commandments, part III

Ten CommandmentsPart III of a series.

Once again, it is time to challenge the gentle reader who votes on faith to take a good, hard look at the candidate for whom they intend to vote. Even as one who likely does not share your faith, I respect the importance this decision has for you. More than that, I respect the manner in which you need to make this decision, especially this year. For an observer looking at the choice and the nature of the choice from the outside, it seems you are stuck between a rock and a hard place. I might not vote on faith, but I do vote on conscience. Trust me, it sure feels like an equally ugly decision.

As for today’s topic, the third of the Ten Commandments (as reckoned by Catholicism), I must confess…this one is awfully tricky. Continue reading

It's election time again, Christian America – now about those Ten Commandments, part II

Ten CommandmentsPart II of a series.

When last I ventured into the blogsophere, I had some opinions to share on the alleged righteousness of our two dominant candidates for President of the United States, through the lens of the first commandment. Today I’ll attempt a similar analysis by assessing them against the second Commandment, but first, a bit of what only appears to be a digression.

As anyone who has read my previous observations on American religious culture, particular on Christian culture, may guess, I have rather strong feelings on the matter. Continue reading

It's election time again, Christian America – now about those Ten Commandments, part I

Ten CommandmentsPart I of a series.

In just over two months it’s time to exercise your right, nay, your duty as an American citizen. Odds are good you’ve already made up your mind about which candidate gets your vote. But on what basis, exactly? As Dr. Denny points out in his latest missive,

We should be angry. We should be outraged. We should be furious at the unabashed effrontery of candidates for national office who lie directly to our collective face. But the sheer volume of repetitions of deceit, especially through the mass-mediated, billionaire-paid-for negative ads, arrives at our collective ears as so much endless white noise. Continue reading

The God Test

Suppose the following:

  • Later today, an organization dedicated to studying science and religion announces it has devised a “God Test.” This process will conclusively reveal whether or not there is a god (or gods). Further, it will discern the nature of god, if one (or more) exists. Does it desire/require obeisance/worship? Of what specific sort? Or is it a distant superior being that doesn’t really concern itself with humans and human affairs?
  • Global religious, political, social, academic and scientific leaders review this test and universally agree that yes, it will in fact do exactly what its developers claim. Despite their many differences, they all agree that once the God Test is run, we will all know, without ambiguity, what there is to know about god. Continue reading

North Carolina's Amendment One and America's youth: more on winning the battle and losing the war

Rachel Held Evans nails it:

When asked by The Barna Group what words or phrases best describe Christianity, the top response among Americans ages 16-29 was “antihomosexual.” For a staggering 91 percent of non-Christians, this was the first word that came to their mind when asked about the Christian faith. The same was true for 80 percent of young churchgoers. (The next most common negative images? : “judgmental,” “hypocritical,” and “too involved in politics.”)

My generation is tired of the culture wars.  Continue reading

'God particle' refudiates religious right


By Robert Becker

Is “Higgs boson” a creative particle or energy field? Can we thus infer an “anti-God particle,” as anti-matter opposes matter, or dark energy battles gravity?

Any covenant with Godhead, in my book, comes down to Creation. Genesis, the source of time, space, and being; in short, existence. Especially our piddling existence. Without creation as we know it, we’d be deficient in mass, not even rocks; or with multiverse speculations, we could also be someone else, who knows where, gabbing with utter aliens. Because we esteem existence (over all the sorry alternatives), let us greet the New Year by honoring the force that could well have made something real out of, well, something not. The “God Particle.” Hallelujah!

If this particle is a particle. Continue reading