point-counterpoint-2

Crusader Baiter: Robertson declares war on Islam

The Triumph of Death by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, wikipedia.org

In a move of unprecedented celerity and international cooperation, the Summit Against Violent Extremism launched a worldwide counterattack on the recruiting methods and radicalization techniques used by the Islamic State and other extremists. Recognizing that the threat must be neutralized on all fronts, the summit presents a comprehensive approach, from building awareness through education, to destroying extremist narratives online with facts and larger counternarratives, to empowering community efforts to disrupt radicalization before the damage is done. Specific attention was given to the role of religious leaders. From the press release: Continue reading

BlackForstFire

When it comes to judging America for its sins, God is an absolute doofus

Lately I’ve been trying to figure out what the hell is wrong with God. And having no luck at all.

If you’ve been paying attention, by now you’ve figured out that natural calamities are God’s judgment on America. Preachers preach it and Christians believe it. When a hurricane hits, for example, it’s usually because we’re being unholy in some way or another. Drinking, fornicating, gambling, etc. But mainly the queers.

Katrina was God’s judgment. And it’s just beginning. Because of the Pride Parade. (A Google search on “Katrina God’s judgment” returns 129,000 hits, by the way.) Sandy? God’s judgment.

Tornadoes are God’s judgment. Earthquakes are God’s judgment. Forest fires, famine, volcanos – God’s judgment. You get the point.

Fine. God isn’t happy and he’s sending us a message. A warning shot across the bow, as it were. But…you can’t help wondering. Is God stupid? Does he have a bad aim? And what does his recent spate of angry warnings say about history? There have always been natural disasters, even back in the ’50s when there weren’t any homosexuals. There were volcanos during the late Cretaceous. Who the hell was he mad at then?

Let’s take a closer look.

Oddly, most hurricanes target our godliest states. Yes, Louisiana has the modern-day Gomorrah that is New Orleans, but if you recall Katrina mostly missed the Big Easy. The front side – the big overhanded haymaker – hit the Mississipi Gulf Coast and the damage there was massive. Had God aimed further west busted NO in the lips the way he did Biloxi, Bourbon Street and everything else within 20 miles would be gone. So – what the heck did Mississippi do? They’re one of the best-behaved Christian states in the country.

Another state that gets stomped by hurricanes a lot is Florida. Now, the Sunshine State is a mixed bag. You have some wickedness down around South Beach, but you also have a bunch of old people who haven’t done anything wrong. Not in the last 50 years, anyway. And yet, God judges them like they were one big Frankie Goes to Hollywood video. Makes no sense at all. He even threatened last year’s Republican National Convention, and the GOP is HIS OWN POLITICAL PARTY.

W. T. F?

Among recent hurricanes, Sandy is the only one that sort of makes sense. NYC is a godless wasteland, for sure, home to every kind of decadence known to man, as well as a few others that are still in the development phase. But God, in judging NYC, blasted the shit out of New Jersey, which has a Republican governor, and some of the hardest hit areas of NYC are in Congressional District 11, home of Rep. Michael Grimm, a Republican.

Apparently God can’t afford a laser and has to use a shotgun instead.

What about tornadoes? Ever heard of “Tornado Alley“?

The core of Tornado Alley consists of northern Texas (including the Panhandle), Oklahoma and Kansas. However, Tornado Alley can also be defined as an area reaching from central Texas to the Canadian prairies and from eastern Colorado to western Pennsylvania. It can also be disputed that there are numerous Tornado Alleys. In addition to the Texas/Oklahoma/Kansas core, such areas also include the Upper Midwest, the Ohio Valley, the Tennessee Valley and the lower Mississippi valley.

Overlay a map of Tornado Alley with an election results schematic. They might as well be the same thing. Bright red, Republican, God-fearing and prone to swirling black judgment from one end to the other.

If it weren’t for tornado activity you’d have never heard of Moore, Oklahoma. Only 11 F5s (the highest and worst rating) have struck the US since 1999, and two of them hit Moore. Two more pounded nearby El Reno, which means that God has aimed one-third of the most devastating twisters in the last 15 years or so at the Oklahoma City suburbs. That’s Oklahoma, which is about as close to Sodom as Peoria is to Proxima Centauri.

Clearly, something is amiss with the God’s Judgment Hypothesis. Even the sort of … umm … intellect prone to believing that God judges us this way … even that guy has to be a little confused. I know, I know – the whole Lord worketh in mysterious ways thing. Mysterious, sure. But barking batshit crazy?

Think about it this way. Say that you’re a) God, b) pissed off about the gays, c) determined to send a message, and d) wanting to make sure it’s understood. Duh. A lot of your followers aren’t exactly rocket surgeons, so you need to avoid as much ambiguity here as possible, right?

Do you spin hurricanes at states that vote exclusively according to their understanding of the Bible or do you, you know, smite the guilty? If I’m God, I’m going to dial up a 9.4 on the Richter Scale and epicenter that sumbitch under the manhole cover at Castro Street and Market. I’m going to point three or four category fives directly at South Beach. And the greater OKC metropolitan area is safe, because the new Tornado Alley is going to start in Seattle, wind its way down the coast, make several passes back and forth through Hollywood, skip across to Vegas, then skip again to the Upper Midwest where we’ll thump Minneapolis and then draw a bead on Taxachusetts. Just to show off, I’d drop a hurricane on Ann Arbor. And don’t even try to tell me that isn’t possible. With God, all things are possible.

Hammer down, bitches. But that’s just me, and I ain’t God.

Meanwhile, I can’t help noting that my own state is ramping up another epic summer of wildfires. The Black Forest Fire, the worst in Colorado history, has so far killed two, destroyed 379 homes and forced 38,000 people to evacuate. And it’s nowhere near contained. The God’s Judgment Hypothesis predicts that such a fire ought to be looming over Boulder or perhaps creeping down Highway 36 toward Denver.

But it isn’t. It’s in Colorado Springs, ground zero for America’s aggressive new evangelical Christian movement. Specifically, the fire is roughly six miles, as the crow flies, from the headquarters of Focus on the Family. Where it’s currently 90° with humidity in the low 20% range.

I wonder if God is judging someone.

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: BestVids90s

TunesWeek: ’90s video goes political

Part 2 in a series.

The Reagan/Thatcher years were marked by an utterly bizarre shiny/happy pastel sheen spread liberally across a decidedly apocalyptic doom. Listen to songs like “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” and “Forever Young” and “It’s a Mistake” (and watch the videos). The aesthetic seemed to be “we’re all going to die in a nuclear holocaust, of course, but at least we can be alternately romantically beautiful or positively chipper about it.” But at the end of the decade Reagan’s charisma gave way to the cynical years of Bush the Elder. The happy buzz gave way to a mean drunk, and then the hangover set in.

By the early ’90s, the tone of the political landscape had darkened considerably, and a growing anger was mirrored in our music and the videos that accompanied it. Here are some of our favorite examples.

We’ll start with Ministry and their love song to the Bush years, “NWO.”

Meanwhile, Bad Religion turned its attention to the xenophobic, hateful Christianity fueling America’s lurch to the right. (Directed by Gore Verbinski.)

They were dealing the the rise of the right across the pond, too, and Pop Will Eat Itself attacked this new fascism head on in “Ich Bin Ein Auslander.” Few political rants manage to capture the essence of the problem quite as keenly as this track did. I’ve included the lyrics below so you can follow along.

Listen to the victim, abused by the system
The basis is racist, you know that we must face this.
“It can’t happen here”. Oh yeah?
“Take a look around at the cities and the towns.”

See them hunting, creeping, sneaking
Breeding fear and loathing with the lies they’re speaking
The knife, the gun, broken bottle, petrol bomb
There is no future when the past soon come.

And when they come to ethnically cleanse me
Will you speak out? Will you defend me?
Or laugh through a glass eye as they rape our lives
Trampled underfoot by the right on the rise

[CHORUS}
[s]”You owe us…”….Ich Bin Ein Auslander (x4)
(“You owe us everything”)… Ich Bin Ein Auslander
Welcome to a state where the politics of hate
Shout loud in the crowd “Watch them beat us all down”
There’s a rising tide in the rivers of blood
But if the answer isn’t violence, neither is your silence

If they come to ethnically cleanse me
Will you speak out? Will you defend me?
Freedom of expression doesn’t make it alright
Trampled underfoot by the rise of the right

[CHORUS]

Ich Bin Ein Auslander. (x12)

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: Sports

An open letter to former Colorado football coach Bill McCartney: STFU

On Sunday, the University of Colorado fired head football coach Jon Embree after two seasons. Reaction has been mixed and at times heated. Some point to the results, noting not only the 4-21 record but also suggesting that the program was actually regressing. Others argued that Embree inherited a dumpster fire from previous coach Dan Hawkins and that it was unrealistic and patently unfair not to give him more than two seasons to turn things around. I personally felt that Embree’s hiring was a mistake in the first place and that he was never likely to succeed, given two years, three years or ten years. That said, I have a long, well-established track record of being wrong about CU and its football coaches, so I’m the furthest thing from an expert opinion here. Suffice it to say that I see both sides of the argument and believe each has merit.

Then yesterday, former coach Bill McCartney, regarded by some in Colorado as the Word of God on football matters, weighed in with an open letter on Embree’s firing. As the man who recruited and coached Embree, an outstanding tight end in his playing days, Coach Mac’s position on the subject surprised no one.

I encouraged [Embree] to pursue coaching. He preceded to build a solid résumé.

Finally, CU hired one of its own. Not only that, but with a pedigree that was exemplary. This guy is good.

To short-circuit a five-year contract before two full years is an indictment of true integrity. Webster’s Dictionary defines integrity as utter sincerity, honesty, candor, not artificial, not shallow, no empty promises.

“One of its own.” That was part of the problem, actually – pro-McCartney-era voices “encouraging” the AD into a questionable hire. One local media analyst – the guy I regard as the best and smartest in town, in fact – has really good contacts and insight into the workings of the athletic department at CU; he went so far as to use the word “bully” in describing the process.

The “finally” part is troublesome, too. While Embree might be the first former player hired to the job, the school previously hired a couple of McCartney assistants – fellows named “Neuheisel” and “Barnett” – and those didn’t work out so well, either.

Still, I knew what was coming when I read the word “integrity.” I wasn’t disappointed.

Men and women of Colorado, don’t let this happen. Please weigh in. This is wrong. It undermines the values of the university.

“Values of the university.” Let’s examine this, because the man throwing around all this noble language has a credibility problem.

McCartney’s early years as coach at CU were undistinguished – he only seven games in his first three years, and that third year produced a 1-10 mark. Fine. It’s a university, not an NFL franchise.

His fortunes improved dramatically once he decided to…well, put it this way. He and his staff devoted very little effort to making sure their new recruits were choirboys. Commencing with the 1987 season, his teams won 73 games in eight years, including a mythical (and highly controversial split “national title” in 1990. Meanwhile his players were keeping Boulder law enforcement busy. From 1986-89, for instance, two dozen CU student-athletes were arrested on a variety of charges, including sexual assault.

Mr. Character. And a Man of God® – McCartney is the founder of the Promise Keepers, remember. More on that in a second, but now back to that national championship. It wouldn’t have happened save for one of the worst officiating flubs in major sports history. The ref crew, with CU trying to punch in the winning TD at the end of the game, lost track and allowed Colorado to score on a 5th down play. McCartney – the one quoted above making a big deal out of “integrity,” “sincerity” and “honesty,” of course did the noble thing, right?

Ummm, no.

Colorado football coach Bill McCartney, a former Missouri Tigers player, did little to soothe the controversy. Asked whether he would consider forfeiting the game, McCartney declared that he had considered it but decided against it because “the field was lousy.”

Do as I say, not as I do, I suppose.

What else? Oh, right. Promise Keepers. An organization built on principles of female subservience and homophobia.

From a CU podium in 1992, McCartney referred to homosexuality as “an abomination against almighty God” in support of Amendment 2, which prohibited laws protecting gays from discrimination.

Not only did Coach Mac say these hateful things, he did so backed by the CU logo, lending the appearance that the university community agreed with him. Trust me, it didn’t, and he was officially reprimanded for doing so. McCartney was so bad that the school had to adopt official policy prohibiting the kinds of activity he repeatedly engaged in.

All of which leads me back to McCartney’s words in his open letter: “It undermines the values of the university.” And a question: Coach McCartney, what do you know about the “values of the university”? For that matter, what do you know about the values of any university?

In point of fact, everything he stood for, from the recruitment of players who were archetypally unsuited for a university community to his repeated insistence on advocating Old Testament morality in an environment dedicated to progress, intellect and enlightenment, was directly counter to “university principles.”

Dear Coach McCartney: Shut. The fuck. Up. Every time you open your mouth you devalue my degree a little more. You were an embarrassment to the CU community as a coach and when you seize the microphone now all you do is remind us of your hypocrisy and the fundamental corruption of your ideology.

Worse, you taint our opinions of men like Jon Embree. I don’t know much about him as a person, although he struck me as dedicated, hardworking and decent. The more you wrap your forked tongue around his firing, the more I tend to evaluate him in terms of you. In that light, losing his job is only the second-worst thing that’s happened to him this week.

Please. Shut up and go away.

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

America gets divorced: crafting a separation agreement

Part two of a series.

In part one, I offered an overview of why I think the time has come to partition America – shake hands, go our separate ways, and let two (at least) groups of people follow their own paths according to their very different values. Today I want to briefly tackle the hard part and present some initial thoughts on key details – where the lines are drawn, how the divorce might be effected, etc. By no means do I regard this post as being definitive. The issues are complex and, like many divorces, the process of separating is likely to incite as much in the way of negative passion as the end stages of the marriage itself did. At best, perhaps I can provide a framework for discussion and begin a productive conversation that leads us all to a better understanding of what we’re facing.

First: The partition should comprise a five-year, free-passage transition. Continue reading

It's time for America to get a divorce

Part one of a series.

This past week AlterNet published an interview with Chuck Thompson, author of Better Off Without ‘Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern SecessionIn brief, Thompson argues that the United States has become two very different countries (or perhaps that it was always two very different countries) and that perhaps the time has come to shake hands and go our separate ways.

Thompson makes a compelling argument. Secession is a subject we here at S&R have engaged in the past, primarily within the context of the inequitable distribution of tax revenues (donor states vs. taker states), and it’s perhaps telling that so many of the smartest people I know – rational, clear-headed, educated, progressive-minded, deliberate thinkers all – are more than willing to entertain the idea. Sure, there are plenty of logistical concerns to be considered, but make no mistake – the “South’s gonna do it agin” crowd isn’t the only segment of the population that would be okay parting ways. 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

Imagine there's no boycotts: that sounds like Communism to me

Following up on yesterday’s post about how unfair it is when progressives fight fire with fire

One of the architects of the modern conservative boycott movement back in the day was the now-deceased Rev. Jerry Falwell, founder of the “Moral Majority.” His strategy was simple. Identify those television and radio stations whose programming “promoted” a “liberal agenda” or “secular humanist” values, then leverage the purchasing power of the congregation to bully offenders into changing their programming. Sadly, this brand of thuggery (remember, this is generally the same crowd screeching right now about how “liberals” are “censoring” the “free speech rights” of the richest, most successful, most widely heard man in political talk radio) proved effective enough that it has now become a go-to weapon in the arsenals of interest groups across the partisan spectrum. 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

Bryan Fischer and the American Family Association: diabolical voices of un-Christian, un-American hate

Fischer: ‘Allah is a demon god of darkness, violence, death, and destruction’
Right Wing Watch
December 23, 2011

Considering Bryan Fischer makes so much hateful noise, is it any wonder that it’s relatively difficult to get in touch with him? More’s the pity. I had hoped to correct him for his error and apprise him of a little bit of his own scripture. Maybe this post or one like it will come to his attention, not that I think it will actually do any good. Meanwhile, this post is reaching you. That is what matters.

Disclosure: I, myself, am not an adherent of any faith. I am an agnostic. Continue reading

Tebow Love

OK.

I, and most people who think they know something about football, have been pretty vocal about the fact that Tebow sucks as a quarterback. The people who disagree with us insist his intangibles make up for his lack of tangibles, an argument so absurd that we have trouble getting our heads around it. If tangibles don’t matter, maybe I should not have been so quick to dismiss a career as a porn star.

Of course, what drives most of us crazy is that the people who are making the argument for Tebow happen to be not only white, but bat-shit crazy evangelicals, raising the suspicion in our minds that maybe this isn’t about football and logic at all, but about racism or religion. After all, for years after blacks were finally allowed to play professional football they weren’t allowed to play quarterback because they lacked intangibles like intelligence, unlike white quarterbacks like Terry Bradshaw and Kerry Collins, the latter of whom was so smart that he thought his offensive line (the guys charged with protecting him) would enjoy hearing racist jokes. But Kerry failed to notice his O-line was black, and the next game they looked less like football players and more like matadors letting bulls rush by. In other words, the intelligence thing was yet another bit of back door discrimination. Continue reading

Tim Tebow: a morality play in faith and football (and maybe even national pride)

Some time back I called Tim Tebow a “faith-based” quarterback. In that article I took on a prominent sports commentator who had lost all perspective and tried to address the ways in which the questions of religion and quarterbacking ability were getting all twisted up around the second-year Denver Broncos QB.

Since that post, some things have changed and others haven’t. The main thing that has changed is that, after an underwhelming first few games, the Doncs have made Tebow the starter. Which is good. First off, Kyle Orton may be a much better quarterback, but he was playing like hell. Continue reading