Nel's New Day

September 15, 2013

Religious Views Can Remove Rational Thought

Imagine how the conservative Christians in the United States would react if a Muslim decided to burn almost 3,000 Bibles. Yet one Christian almost burned 2,998 Qurans, supposedly one for every victim of the 9/11/01 attacks. Fortunately, Polk County (FL) sheriff’s deputies arrested 61-year-old Terry Jones and his 34-year-old associate pastor, Marvin Sapp, Jr., as they were towing a large barbecue-style grill filled with kerosene-soaked Qurans to a park.

Last year Jones planned to burn one Quran on 9/11, although he changed his mind. His congregation burned a Quran in March 2011, and last year Jones promoted an anti-Muslim film. All three events brought violence in the Middle East. After the Quran burning, hundreds of protesters stormed a U.N. compound in northern Afghanistan and killed seven foreigners, including four Nepalese guards. Military officials told Jones that his actions put U.S. service members in danger.

Another book controversy occurred last week in Texas, a state known for revising the social studies curriculum—and the history of the United States—because of demands from conservatives. Now a group of creationists on the review panel want to adopt biology textbooks with the conservatives’ version of science.

Reviewers claim that evolution is only a theory. One of them, a dietician, wrote, “I feel very firmly that ‘creation science’ based on Biblical principles should be incorporated into every Biology book that is up for adoption.” Jimmy Gollihar, of the University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Systems and Synthetic Biology, noted that the panel features anti-science activists who “not only lack any credentials but seem not to understand basic science.”

The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that creationist pseudo-science is legally impermissible in public school science classes because it violates the separation of church and state. But the reviewers will, no doubt, persevere. The next public hearing is in two days, followed by a decision in November. The Texas Education Agency refuses to tell what changes, if any, the publishers have agreed to make in response to the reviews from the panel. 

Texas’ decision impacts textbooks in the entire nation. Because the state purchases so many textbooks, publishers tend to print what they want and sell the same ones to the rest of the country.

Bible literalists understand that if people learn and grow, that they will abandon their childlike beliefs and learn more complex ideas. One of these people is Ed Suominen, raised in a small Lutheran sect called Laestadianism, one of the most conservative of all 32,000 Christian denominations. After Suominen went to the University of Washington and became an engineer, he discovered the power of natural selection through computer work with electrical and digital systems. He chronicled his journey away from Biblical literalism  in An Examination of the Pearl and followed that with Evolving Out of Eden.  

J.K. Rowling has finished writing her Harry Potter series, but three young women from Arizona, under the tutelage of Rev. Bob Larson, are convinced that the spells are real. They have gone to London, “the center of witchcraft,” to exorcise the demons. They have vowed never to read the novels and want to help UK teenagers defend themselves “by reciting the spells in the Harry Potter books.”

A radically conservative Catholic group called “Fix the Family”  are following fundamentalist evangelical Christians in their attempt to turn the clock back at least six centuries. In a self-identified desire to strengthen the family and thereby create a stronger society, they have determined males and females should follow strict gender roles. For example, Raylan Alleman has written an article called “6 Reasons (+2) to NOT Send Your Daughter to College”:

  • “She will attract the wrong types of men.” Going to college will force women to be the primary breadwinner, supporting the man who won’t work.
  • “She will be in a near occasion of sin.” Sex releases hormones that keep the woman from seeing the man’s faults; couples should have sex only during marriage when women won’t criticize husbands because sex keeps them from seeing the men’s faults.
  •  “She will not learn to be a wife and mother.” Colleges don’t teach homemaking skills.
  • “The cost of a degree is becoming more difficult to recoup.” Only males should be allowed to accrue debts.
  • “You don’t have to prove anything to the world.” Women shouldn’t need to give in to societal pressures, just to the religion’s pressures.
  • “It could be a near occasion of sin for the parents.” Because college is expensive, parents might try to restrict the number of their children through the “sinful” approach of contraception of sterilization.
  • “She will regret it.” But maybe she won’t!
  • “It could interfere with a religious vocation.” Alleman writes that many seminaries and religious orders don’t take people with large, unpaid debts.

Alleman did get upset about the criticism and tried to justify his statements:

  • Education: College has nothing to do with education although college is necessary for the family provider depending on the vocation.
  • Female oppression: “Husbands and wives are of equal dignity, but with different roles…. Since the purpose of a college degree is for a job, it becomes unnecessary for our daughters to have such a credential.  My personal impression is that the day-to-day grind of a job is below the dignity of women.
  • Women’s opportunities: Getting a college degree often makes a young lady feel an “obligation” to use it, to make money.  Often her husband doesn’t want to see it go to “waste.”
  • Help if a husband dies or leaves: A  woman needs to have something to provide income in case her husband dies, becomes disabled or leaves her. The first 2 issues can and should be resolved with insurance, which is very affordable for young couples who may be vulnerable to these VERY remote possibilities, which is why it is so affordable.  …  As for the husband leaving her, the possibility of being left in such a state would make a woman MUCH more careful about the man she decides to marry.

Alleman would be disturbed about studies showing that atheists are more likely to stay married, be honest, and  evangelical Christians are more likely to divorce than those with no religion. The Northeast region has the lowest divorce rate whereas the Bible Belt has the highest. According to Federal Bureau of Prisons numbers, Christians commit more crimes per person than atheists, who commit fewer than the followers of any religion. In the U.S., the “more religious a state’s population, the higher the crime, STD and teen pregnancy rates.” The same results come from a comparison of countries: more religious people means more crime, more sexually transmitted diseases and higher teen pregnancy rates.

Personality-wise, science indicates that atheists are “less authoritarian and suggestible, less dogmatic, less prejudiced, more tolerant of others, law-abiding, compassionate, conscientious, and well-educated.” In a word, based on scientific research, atheists are moral. The truth is that adherence to a belief in right and wrong doesn’t require a belief in God, and the admirable lives of countless non-believers proves it.

I do have trouble understanding the Christian morality in which religious leaders rape children and are then freed. For example, the Iowa pastor and youth counselor Brent Girouex, 31, claimed that he was trying to “cure” teenage boys of their “homosexual urges” by having sex with them. His plea must have worked in court because his sentence was reduced from 17 years in prison to sex offender treatment and probation. After he confessed to having sex with four underage boys, eight more have said Girouex sexually violated them.

Girouex claimed he could rape away the gay by “praying while he had sexual contact” with the boys, all in an effort to keep them “sexually pure” for God. He told police that “when they would ejaculate, they would be getting rid of the evil thoughts in their mind.”

At least his wife didn’t swallow his excuses. Erin Girouex said,”I don’t want [my children] anywhere near him.” She wants to divorce him, but her husband wants to see his four children. At this time, the court has ordered a twice-per-month visitation schedule, supervised by his own mother.

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