Nel's New Day

July 14, 2019

Hatred: Conservative Religion in U.S.

Today, highly religious VP Mike Pence undoubtedly prayed to his god in a fundamentalist church after ignoring the plight of immigrants. Frustrated by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-NY) assertions that the detention centers are “concentration camps,” Pence visited them himself. A video shows he wrinkled his nose at the stench, made no eye contact with the men, and turned his back on them to leave after a minute. He didn’t take his wife with him and have dinner in the center, as he had promised. After his visit, Pence praised “the care that our Customs and Border Protection personnel are providing.” He tried to whitewash the situation by saying “I was not surprised” and that something should be done about overcrowding.

Reporters stayed for 90 seconds and reported that the foul-smelling McAllen (TX) border facility had almost 400 immigrant men in sweltering cages without mats or pillows on the concrete floor. The heat index in McAllen on Friday was 110 degrees, and some of the men said they had been there for over 40 days. Agents claimed they could brush their teeth once a day and have water when they wanted, but the inhabitants refuted these claims. They said they couldn’t have water without permission to go outside the cage and were not provided showers. Men said that they were hungry.

The DHS Inspector General report reported adults and children with no access to showers, adults fed only bologna sandwiches, and immigrants held in standing room-only cells, some standing on toilets for breathing space. One for-profit company is billing the U.S. $775 for each child for one day of detention in Dictator Donald Trump’s (DDT) “tent cities.” These are the facilities where understaffing requires children to care for toddlers and some infants don’t even have diapers. That $775 doesn’t provide mattresses, clean clothes, bed linens, sufficient food, soap, etc. DOJ lawyer Sarah Fabian tried to argue that migrant children don’t need amenities such as soap and toothbrushes. 

Pence chuckled in an interview with Jake Tapper about detained migrant children lacking toothbrushes and soap and about the “stench.” “It’s all part of the appropriations process,” Pence said. 

Fox’s Shep Smith called Clint’s facility “horrendous” and said that conditions would violate the Geneva Convention of the incarcerated were prisoners of war. A doctor permitted into a McAllen (TX) facility after five infants were taken from there to neonatal intensive care from flu compared conditions to torture. One toddler was “completely unresponsive,” and her eyes rolled to the back of her head. The doctor said that minors were subjected to “extreme cold temperatures, lights on 24 hours a day, no adequate access to medical care, basic sanitation, water, or adequate food.” The diseases easily spreads from denial of access to washing hands and cleaning baby bottles.

Dismayed by the lack of hygiene products for children, six people paid $340 for diapers, wipes, soaps, and toys that they took to a detention facility in Clint (TX). They were ignored at the facility, and others have been told that no donations of such necessities as toothbrushes, soap, towels, etc. are accepted.

Pence gave sufficient warning that he would be visiting detention centers, but other government officials are prevented from inspection. Five Democratic candidates for president including two U.S. Senators were denied entry into the Homestead (FL) facility that holds 3,000 children. Two other candidates, also senators, were earlier refused entry.

When migrant children in an Arizona facility reported bad food and water, the CBP agents removed mats from their cells and forced them to sleep on concrete. Agents also offensively treated the children and sometimes sexual assaulted them. These are not problems from overcrowding; they were denied phone calls, showers, warm blankets while sleeping outside, and enough food. Dinner wasn’t served until after 9:00 in the evening. Lack of funding is no reason for the abusive behavior of agents toward the detainees and the retribution they suffer if they tell the truth about their treatment.

A report from the House Oversight Committee shows that at least 18 migrant infants and toddlers under the age of two were separated from their parents at the border “including nine infants under the age of one” for between 20 days and six months. Some children were detained in Border Patrol facilities longer than the allowed 72 hours, sometimes moved to multiple facilities to give the appearance of staying within the law. Media reports caused 300 children to be removed from a Texas facility where children were left filthy and neglected. Yet agents returned 100 of them within a few days, saying that the Clint facility was a “consolidated” holding facility. In early June, DDT canceled English classes, recreational programs, and legal aid for unaccompanied minors in detention centers. Licensing laws may not allow him to carry out that plan, but Florida has not licensed the Homestead facility.

Tropical Storm Barry officially begins this year’s hurricane season, and children in Homestead are in tents, metal trailers, and a former U.S. Job Corps building—all in the second-most vulnerable hurricane zone in Florida. HHS claims that its plans are secret, but history shows a serious lack of planning from that agency about undocumented immigrants.

DDT plans to eliminate interpreters for undocumented migrants, using only videos to videos in multiple languages to explain rights and the proceedings. After that, no one will be available to answer questions in their language. Immigrants speak diverse indigenous languages and frequently don’t speak Spanish. Many of them don’t have attorneys and lack representation.

CPB agents and private companies with detention centers are creating a serious and permanent public health crisis replete with pulmonary diseases, fungal infections, skin infections, and a large number of illnesses such as mumps, measles, and chicken pox. Conservatives claims that the people came with these diseases; even if that were true, DDT’s policies are greatly excerbating the problem because of no attention and care.  If people in prolonged detention escape these diseases, they still suffer from mental health conditions from panic attacks to psychosis. Young people can have irreversible neurological impact both physical and emotional, and the problems can be genetic for future generations. Those not arrested and deported live in constant terror and fear that parents or spouses will be taken from them, affecting the health of blood pressure, metabolism, psychological well-being, etc. The number of abusers using deportation threats against their victims has increased by 100 percent in the past two years while rape reports by Latinas has decreased by 50 percent.

As of early June, 24 people died in ICE custody during DDT’s term. At least four others died soon after release, and more migrants, including five children, died in the custody of other federal agencies. Since that report, at least one migrant, a Honduran man, died after being in ICE custody for almost a month.

Officials have known for over three years about the sexist secret Facebook page by 9,500 current and former border agents with abusive content and done nothing about it. Since information about the social media went public, the members dropped to 4,000. They also tried to scrub the content, but a website has captured and archived much of the content. The head of the Border Patrol for almost a year, Carla Provost, condemned the racist, vulgar, and sexist posts as inappropriate, but she is one of several Border Patrol supervisors who participates in the Facebook. At least one more Facebook page for CBP employees posting vulgar and sexually explicit posts has been uncovered, this one also demeaning Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and blacks and Asian-Americans.

ICE has increased detention to 54,000—far above the 40,520 limit and ignoring congressional instructions at the end of the government shutdown in February. With no permission for more detention money, ICE has also opened three new for-profit immigration centers in Louisiana and Mississippi correction facilities within the past few weeks. ICE plans to put 15,000 asylum seekers in Louisiana by the end of summer although the state lacks judges to hear the cases. Congress has given ICE no additional detention money so no one knows how the bills will be paid, especially because existing facilities cannot afford soap and toothbrushes. ICE is also not telling lawyers where their clients are and not listing them on the detainee locator software. When the facilities were prisons operated by the same companies as the detention centers, they were understaffed, and inmates received poor treatment.

Bank of America reported that it will no longer have connections to companies that provide prisoner and detention services, including Homestead. Meanwhile, DDT is using his citizenship question and today’s raids in ten cities to distract people from his sexual assaults, fraudulent financial dealings, and close relationships and appointments with corrupt people.

Not satisfied with the number of people in detention centers, DDT plans to increase the overcrowding in detention facilities by breaking up families of those with Temporary Protected Status and deporting youth with DACA status. Haitian families arriving at the border are already not permitted to work in the U.S.; instead men and teenage boys are arrested and put into detention, leaving the women and children without any family support. HUD is threatening to evict 100,000 members of mixed-status families if any of them are undocumented. DDT plans to destroy millions of people in his goal to “make America white.”

On Sunday, July 14, 2019, that’s religion in “America.”

June 9, 2019

Give Me Deism!

From the Church and State publication, dedicated to religious freedom for all, comes a post by author Travis Haan, originally published on The Wise Sloth.  

“There are at least 4,200 religions in the world today, and countless more have been lost to history. It’s obvious there’s a 0% chance all of them are the true word of God. Some thinkers have speculated that each religion is at least a little divinely inspired and holds a piece of the puzzle left to us by God to put together. But the only way to come to that conclusion is to ignore huge tracts of doctrine in each religion. Ultimately, none of them are compatible. If any religion is true, there’s only one.

“This means at least over 6 billion people alive today believe in a religion that was written 100% by human beings and 0% dictated by the creator of the universe. A belief system written by human beings that has no bearing on the factual nature of reality is mythology. The cold, hard truth of reality is that the vast majority of the people alive today believe in mythology and dogmatically refuse to even consider the possibility that’s true. So if you believe in religion, there’s automatically a 99% chance you believe in mythology. If you refuse to question your beliefs, there’s no way for you to know if they’re true, which increases the chance that you believe in mythology to 99.9%. This number is increased to 99.99% if your religion contains any of the following:

1: Human sacrifices

2: Moral values that reflect the needs and wants of a specific primitive culture

3: Instructions to hurt, kill or look down on other people

4: Reasons to look down on yourself

5: A pyramid-shaped authority structure

6: Scientifically inaccurate statements

7: Magical beings, powers or events that no longer exist

“Some people have speculated that it doesn’t matter what religion you believe in as long as you believe in something that gives you meaning, instructions and peace. But believing in something that isn’t real is the definition of insanity. It’s not okay to be insane just because you like it because it holds you and society back.

“Believing in mythology is counterproductive if for no other reason than it’s a waste of time. It keeps you busy going through meaningless motions while ignoring real world issues that have real consequences to you and the rest of mankind. Your life and everyone else’s would be improved by you focusing on real problems.

“To this, you might reply, ‘But how can we know how to live without religion?’ Remember that most of the world doesn’t believe in religion; they believe in mythology. So the real question is, ‘How can we know how to live without mythology?’ If mythology is just a belief system made up by humans, and you’ve spent your whole life living according to those rules, you already know the answer. We can make up our own ethics, and in fact, that’s what we’ve been doing all along. We just haven’t been honest with ourselves about it. If taking personal responsibility for your own ethics sounds scary or haphazard, consider that mythologies can contain horrible rules that can lead you to hurt yourself or others, which makes it all the more imperative you question your beliefs.

“This is especially true if you absolutely insist on believing one of our religions is the divine truth. Everyone wants to believe that their religion is the right one, but at least 6 billion people are dead wrong in their faith. Statistically, you’re probably one of them. The only way you or anyone else can find the right religion is to scrutinize yours objectively. This may sound like heresy, but it’s probably not a coincidence that you were created with the capacity for reason, skepticism, doubt, and logic. For the billions of people who believe in mythology, it’s a necessity. If your religion can stand the test of truth, there’s no danger in putting yours to it. If your religion can’t stand the test of truth, objectivity is the only way you’ll ever free yourself.

“Your quest for truth isn’t just about you. Most religions encourage you to convert nonbelievers, and even without actively proselytizing on the street corner, you passively send out the message that people should join your faith just by living according to it. If you believe in one of the religions that are mythology, you’re leading unwitting victims into a trap. If enough people in one area buy into mythology, one way or another, their beliefs are going to determine social norms and even laws. This has a harsh real-world impact on people who don’t believe in that particular brand of mythology. Another danger of spreading mythology is that some people will inevitably latch onto the most violent, oppressive, absurd rules within that belief system and use them to justify hurting other people. So before you go spreading the good word, it’s imperative that you make sure it passes the most rigorous test of truth, not just for your sake but for all of ours.”

Most of the Founding Fathers likely supported Haan’s position because they were Deists—people who believe that the supreme being is like a watchmaker who created the world as a machine but doesn’t intervene in people’s lives. Rejecting religion’s supernatural beliefs, Deism stresses the value of ethical conduct.

As a Deist, Thomas Jefferson studied the New Testament in Greek, Latin, French, and King James English and revised it, leaving the philosophy of Jesus and omitting all the miracles. He published his work in 1820 when he was 77 and called it The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. Gone were the stories such as feeding the multitudes with two fish and five loaves of barley bread; he finished with Jesus’s entombment but skipped the resurrection. His book is now at the Smithsonian.   

The strong belief of Deism during the 18th century negates the common Christian myth that the United States was “founded” on Christianity. Many of the U.S. founders determined that experience and rational thought determine people’s beliefs instead of religious mythology. They typically referred to “God” as the “creator.” With the influence of Deism, people saw little reason to pray, attend church, read the bible or follow such rites as baptism and communion.  For example, George Washing refused to take communion.

Thomas Paine called Christianity “a fable” in The Age of Reason”; as protégé of Benjamin Franklin denied “that the Almighty ever did communicate anything to man, by…speech,…language, or…vision.” He wrote:

“I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life. I believe in the equality of man; and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and in endeavoring to make our fellow-creatures happy.”

Evangelical Christianity—like other fundamentalist religions such as Islam—is based on superiority, control, subjugation of women, and the acquisition of worldly goods. Its personal morality sees nothing wrong with killing people as long as the “right people” die. It sees no value in helping others if they aren’t the “right people.” As a tribal society, evangelicals select those who they will support and throw everyone else on the garbage heap. The belief has no relationship to the teachings of Christ.

An examination throughout the world shows that the most fundamentalist and religious countries cause the greatest difficulty. Christianity can be as negative and violent as Islam; both religions are nationalism and parochial. The misbegotten belief of one “chosen” people or religion leads to perpetual war from fear that one will lose that “exceptionalism.” Am example is Israel, a new apartheid state oppressing all others based on race and tribe in the same way that South Africa did in the past. For anyone to claim this disaster, however, brings accusations of anti-Semitism, just as calling for religious freedom in the United States produces hand-wringing of discrimination against Christians.

The mythology of extremist religious beliefs:

“We’re chosen, special and enlightened, and only we have The Truth.”

“The Truth” carried to extremes means nuclear war and a dystopian future, caused by religion. People in the U.S. who call for their personal “freedom” focus on taking freedom from others in their belief that only they deserve what they want. They use mythology to revert to the Puritan beliefs that brought people from Europe to the northern parts of America in the early 1600s. Once in control, the fundamentalists eradicate democracy and human rights—except for themselves—in a determinaton that they should control the entire world while destroying the planet.

Deism remained popular until the 19th century when Christian fundamentalism left Europe and began to take over the United States. Until then, the new nation retained its “wall of separation between church and state.” Now the legal barrier between a small group of Christians and the freedom of everyone else is being knocked down, brick by brick.   

It’s time to return to the Age of Enlightenment and Deism before the world is destroyed.

May 26, 2019

Christian ‘Sanctity of Life’ Ends at Birth

Filed under: Religion — trp2011 @ 8:49 PM
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Since 2011, state Republican legislatures passed hundreds of abortion restrictions; 42 states have filed more than 250 bills to restrict abortion this year. At least one-third of them successfully passed 20-week abortion bans, using the unscientific notion that a fetus feels pain by that time. At least six states have passed the unscientific “fetal heartbeat ban,” blocking abortions by five weeks—even before women might realize they are pregnant. In some states such as Ohio, these laws give no exceptions for rape or incest. Texas is considering a bill that defines all abortions as murder, punishable by death.

Most of the laws until this year made abortions extremely difficult by greatly reducing the number of clinics, adding burdensome obligations such as waiting periods and unnecessary medical procedures such as ultrasounds, and forced counseling. The federal government transferred funds to “crisis pregnancy centers” which opposed a woman’s right to have an abortion. This year, however, 25 white men–senators–in Alabama banned abortion in almost all cases with no exceptions for rape or incest with a 99-year prison sentence for doctors to perform the procedures. Incest has a minimum sentence of 366 days, and rape has a maximum sentence of 20 years. This recent torrent of abortion restrictions is the worst since Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that established a constitutional right to abortion until the fetus reaches viability, usually around 24 weeks of pregnancy. An overview of past and planned bills.

 

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), largely responsible for anti-abortion Brett Kavanaugh having a lifetime term on the Supreme Court, is confused about all the draconian anti-abortion laws since Kavanaugh was confirmed. “I’m not sure exactly why we’re seeing this happen,” she said in a television interview. Collins voted to put four anti-Roe v. Wade white men on the Supreme Court, bringing the total of conservative justices to a majority of five. She said that a Supreme Court nominee “who would overturn Roe v. Wade would not be acceptable to me”—and then voted for those nominees. Collins and her GOP colleagues put men on the Supreme Court whose goal matches the religious right to remove women’s rights and criminalize abortion even if a woman is carrying a dead fetus, even if a 10-year-old has been raped, even if forced pregnancies make slaves out of women.

Anti-choice “Christians” have decided abortions are always wrong, but Christians have 70 percent of the abortions. One-third of them are evangelical, and over one-third weekly attend church. Over half who do, kept their abortions secret from the church community.

Some women oppose abortions. Kim LaSata, Michigan GOP senator, wants abortion to be “hard” and “painful” to punish a woman. Former GOP chair of Texas’ House Committee on Public Health Jodi Laubenberg said, “In the emergency room they have what’s called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out.” But men—who have no possibility of getting pregnant—are leading the charge:

  • Lawrence Lockman, a Maine Republicans, equated rape and abortion when he asked, “If a woman has (the right to an abortion), why shouldn’t a man be free to use his superior strength to force himself on a woman?”
  • Darryl Glenn, a Colorado conservative, called pregnancy from rape “a gift from God.” People with this position evidently believe that God endorses rape as a “gift.”
  • Richard Mourdock, Indiana Republican, says that God intended pregnancy to occur when a woman is raped.
  • Rick Santorum, former GOP presidential candidate, is anti-choice so that the woman won’t “ruin her life.”
  • Todd Akin, former GOP House member from Missouri, claimed that pregnancy from rape “is really rare” because “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
  • José Oliva, House Speaker in Florida’s legislature, referred to pregnant women as “host bodies” five times during a television interview. According to the legislator, the “host body” has no rights.
  • Mike Hill, GOP Florida state representative, claims he gets his orders directly from God to remove any or all exceptions for “rape, incest, domestic violence, human trafficking or if the woman’s life is in danger” from his anti-choice bill. He added that he had the right to controls women’s bodies because “a hundred percent of all pregnancies are caused by a man” and there’s a 50-percent chance that that child is “going to be a man.” [He failed to point out that all women’s pregnancies from rape are caused by men.]
  • John Becker, GOP Ohio state representative, wants to force a women with a ectopic pregnancy “to  reimplant the fertilized ovum into the pregnant woman’s uterus.”
  • Clyde Chambliss, one of Alabama’s chief GOP senate sponsors of the newest anti-abortion law, justified his bill by saying that women can still get legal abortions before they know they are pregnant. No, he wasn’t joking.

Televangelist Pat Robertson said Alabama went too far with the new law but only because it would lose in the Supreme Court. His words gave Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) the courage to take the same position.

Brian Kemp, who became Georgia’s governor after he controlled the election, may be getting heartburn from the state’s new “heartbeat” bill. Television production companies have started to pull out of the state. Kemp’s bill prosecutes women who get abortions—or perhaps even miscarry. Maybe he’ll be lucky like Mississippi and Kentucky: judges have already overturned their heartbeat bills.

Polls oppose what these states are legislating. Almost a year ago, 64 percent stated they wanted to keep Roe v. Wade, according to the conservative Gallup survey, and two-thirds of people either wanted the Supreme Court to make getting an abortion easier (21 percent) or leave it the same (45 percent) in an ABC News/Washington Post poll.

Legislators salivating for a Supreme Court abortion case may be disappointed: it’s such a hot-button issue that even conservatives fear a serious public backlash if they overturned a constitutional right to get an abortion. Yet Chief Justice Roberts voted to uphold Texas’ draconian abortion restrictions in 2016.

Nevada is headed in the opposite direction from the red states: lawmakers removed some restrictions on abortions such as requiring doctors to tell pregnant patients about the “emotional implications” of an abortion and removing criminal penalties for inducing abortion without a doctor. The state has the first women-majority legislature. New York legalized abortions after 24 weeks if the fetus is not viable or there is a risk to the pregnant patient’s health.

Forced birthers who want pregnant women to be slaves care nothing about the high maternal mortality in the United States, especially with the lack of good prenatal care. Georgia’s maternal mortality rate is the second highest in the nation, Missouri is sixth, and Mississippi is 19th. Other states with draconian anti-abortion laws also rate high in maternal mortality. Infant mortality is equally high in these same states: Mississippi rates the highest in the nation. Fifty-five countries have a lower infant mortality rate than the United States.

As infants die at a higher rate than in other industrialized countries, the birthrate in the U.S. is shrinking because the nation doesn’t support pregnant women. They lack adequate health insurance, suffer exorbitant medical bills, and have no access to paid parental leave, child care, and job protection. Because of artificially low wages, tens of millions of young people endure financial problems with little hope for the future. To increase the birthrate, U.S. laws force pregnancy, often in poverty, often guaranteeing illness and death. In Sweden, that has one of the highest birth rates in Europe, parents receive 480 days of paid leave after the birth or adoption of a child with the government-funded subsidy of 80 percent of the parent’s pay for the first 390 days and a reduced sum for the last 90 days. Employers pay a tax on salaries to pay for the leave.

Anti-choice “Christians” cry about the sanctity of life, but they care nothing about the death of five migrant children in custody—the first deaths in a decade—under DDT’s administration. The EPA’s new false guidelines for pollution will kill people as will the GOP disregard for water, food, and employment safety. The anti-choice people care nothing about hungry children who live in poverty, the death penalty, police shooting down unarmed people, the U.S. killing civilians in the Middle East—the lack of “sanctity for life” after birth goes on and on. Alabama has the highest level of poverty in the developed world, including a 2017 outbreak of hookworm—a disease usually found in nations with substandard sanitary conditions in South Asia and Subsaharan Africa. Yet, the only human creatures deserving of protection to anti-choice people are in the womb; once out, people are on their own.

Republicans are afraid of how the new anti-choice laws will affect their re-election possibilities. Asked about the Alabama ban, recently appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) claimed, “That’s a state issue. I’m focused on my work here.” Part of her work is federal law and voting on federal judges who rule on abortion law. Conservatives wonder if Democrats will turn out to vote in the 2020 election as a reaction to anti-abortion laws.

Anti-choice Christians might want to take note that their bible tells them that a person is not a living being until after taking the first breath.

May 12, 2019

Evangelical Christians, Radical Zionists Demonstrate Sociopathic Behavior

For almost a century, evangelical Christians believed that their religion should not be involved in politics. But their growing connection with the corporations fighting Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal came to a head when they found Ronald Reagan as a puppet for their takeover of the United States. The mission of fundamentalist Christians is the same as ISIS—to take rights from anyone who disagrees with them, if necessary by violence. The evangelical coalition with white supremacists means attacks on immigrants, sometimes any people of color. Evangelical speaker, author, and university professor, Tony Campolo, talked about how conservative Christianity was redefined in the mid-70s with “pro-life,” only for fetuses, and opposition to LGBTQ marriage. When “theology fell to the background,” evangelical Christianity moved to hatred and abuse, emblematic of sociopathy.

According to Tim Rymel, Psychology Today listed 16 characteristics of sociopathic behaviors: “untruthfulness and insincerity, superficial charm and good intelligence, lack of remorse or shame, poor judgment and failure to learn by experience, pathologic egocentricity and incapacity for love, unresponsiveness in general interpersonal relations, specific loss of insight, and general poverty in major affective reactions (in other words, appropriate emotional responses).”

Church leaders and followers display these sociopathic characteristics. Franklin Graham, evangelist Billy Graham’s son, stated that immigration was “not a Bible issue” in a callous attitude toward immigrants. Lev. 19:33-34 and Mark 12:30-31 show that caring for asylum seekers is indeed a “Bible issue.” Graham treats tragic casualties in war-torn countries where immigrants try to flee with the same heartless approach.

After the terrorist attack on a Florida gay nightclub killed over 50 people, Pastor Roger Jimenez of Sacramento’s Verity Baptist Church said:

“The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die. The tragedy is—I’m kind of upset that he didn’t finish the job!”

Kim Higginbotham, a minister’s wife and teacher with a master’s degree in special education, wrote a blog titled “Giving Your Child to the Devil”:

“Being a disciple of Jesus demands our relationship to him be greater than our relationship to our own family, even our own children.”

She quoted Matthew 10:37:

“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”

Her blog was a justification for rejecting her gay son; she posted these comment on his wedding day.

On this spring’s National Day of Prayer, the personal pastor of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), Paula White-Cain, called him a biblical prophet and declared she cast off White House demons on the same day that DDT released regulations allowing healthcare workers to deny anyone care because of personal opinions.

DDT is choosing high-level officials to put the United States under evangelical Christian control. Former AG Jeff Sessions seemed like a major danger to the nation’s First Amendment, but his proposals were minor compared to those of the new AG, Bill Barr, who believes that his duty is to enforce god’s laws. According to Barr, there is no place in the nation for the abomination of secularism. He wrote that the government must impose “a transcendent moral order with objective standards of right and wrong that flows from God’s eternal law,” an eternal law best dictated by the Vatican and taught in public schools at taxpayer’s expense. Those moral edicts do, however, permit DDT’s criminality and corruption.

As the epitome of religious fanaticism, Barr blames all problems—divorce, crime, sexually-transmitted diseases, etc.—on “the federal government’s non-stop attacks on traditional religious values.” Barr demands taxpayer-funded religious instruction in Catholicism throughout public schools and calls for legislation to promote Vatican edicts to “restrain sexual immorality,” meaning bans on homosexuality, extramarital sex, and “artificial” birth control. Equality for LGBTQ people is determental to Barr:

“[Equality] dissolves any form of moral consensus in society. There can be no consensus based on moral views in the country, only enforced neutrality.”

“Enforced neutrality” is defined by Barr as the guarantee of equal rights for all people in the United States by the U.S. Constitution. And he runs the Department of “Justice” so that he can control everyone.

In his new mandate, Pope Francis similarly ignores the needs of his people. His recent church law requires clergy sexual abuse and cover-ups to be reported to church authorities, some of whom are the abusers, but not to the police. It’s a system that’s failed for centuries. Only a few bishops and religious superiors, accountable only to the pope, have been sanctioned or removed for sex abuse or cover-up. Theodore McCarrick, an example of how the pope’s new law can be corrupted, rose to the top of Catholic hierarchy while the Vatican received credible allegations of sexual misconduct with adults against him. He was defrocked only after the discovery that he also sexually abused minors.

The young man who shot and killed one person and wounded two others in the Poway (CA) synagogue was an evangelical who wanted to glorify God. He was a member of Escondido Orthodox Presbyterian Church created to counter the mainstream Presbyterian denomination, and his father was an elder in the church. The young man’s manifesto delivered “a frighteningly clear articulation of Christian theology,” according to a pastor in another evangelical denomination sharing beliefs with the Escondido church who said that the shooter was following much of what he was told in his church.

Sociopathic behavior among religious people isn’t limited to evangelical Christians. Like many Christians, Zionism, the radical political arm of the Jewish religion, has gone overboard in victimization if they don’t get everything they want. All Palestinian support is anti-Semitic, according to Zionists who have pushed people into sending death threats to Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) after DDT gave Palestinian and Syrian land to Israel and U.S. Jews swore their first allegiance to Israel instead of the U.S. Even Democrats damned Omar for talking about the “Benjamins” that support Israeli interests in U.S. lawmaking, but hardliner Israeli supporter do exactly that when they declare taking over other countries’ lands is their biblical right. Republicans’ attempt at a resolution against hate speech was restricted only to anti-Semitism.

A high level of sociopathic behavior exhibited  in the 2016 election only increased since then. Once upon a time, James Dobson said that “character does matter” when he referred to Bill Clinton. Regarding his strong support for DDT, Dobson said, “I’m not under any illusions that he is an outstanding moral example. It’s a cliché but true: We are electing a commander-in-chief, not a theologian-in-chief.”

One megachurch evangelical pastor, Dave Gass, decided to leave his church and dump his Christian faith because “the supernatural interactions between the deity of the Bible and mankind sounded like ancient mythology.” He added that his Christian belief didn’t help or save his marriage, “a sham and a constant source of pain for me.” In another tweet, he wrote that “church people are just sh*tty to each other.” He concluded:

“This massive cognitive dissonance—my beliefs not matching with reality—created a separation between my head and my heart. I was gas lighting myself to stay in the faith. Eventually I could not maintain the facade anymore, I started to have mental and emotional breaks. My internal stress started to show in physical symptoms. Being a pastor—a professional Christian—was killing me.”

Gass observed that people who strive to be in the evangelical leadership are the problem because they treat their church and religion as their “small kingdom for personal control and ego.” According to Gass, people who have nothing to do with Christianity have a better understanding on being good Christians.

April 28, 2019

The Religions of the Right

The religious right loves guns, wants to own women’s bodies, and listens to rantings of hatred and violence from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). These leading stories are since their holy time of the Easter weekend on April 19-21:

Yesterday, a young white man killed a woman and injured another three people at a synagogue in Poway, near San Diego, because he hates Jews. The tragedy occurred on the last day of Passover and six months to the day since another gunman killed 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. At his rally in Green Bay (WI), DDT made a short statement against anti-Semitism and hate “which must be defeated.” Then he launched into his familiar diatribes. The FBI people who investigated him are “scum,” according to DDT. He welcomed “lock her up!” chants about Hillary Clinton—who hasn’t committed any crimes—and then lied about Democrats wanting to execute babies. He denounced the media who covered the event as “sick people.” The day before he again defended protesters at United the Right, the Charlottesville (VA) protest organized and advertised as a racist and which supremacist event. [Photo: the self-described “young, vibrant man” at his rally.]

Two days before the Poway shooting, hundreds of people admired the guns filling a football-field-size venue at the NRA convention, and DDT bragged about pulling out of the international agreement, the Arms Trade Treaty, that regulates arms sales to keep weapons from human rights abusers. Technically, the U.S. has never been in the agreement because the conservative Senate has refused to ratify it since 2013. At least 101 countries have formally agreed to the treaty, and the U.S. joins Iran, North Korea, and Syria in the 29 countries refusing to sign thus far.

Other messages sent to the NRA cult members include “the first to uphold ‘Judeo-Christian values’”; VP Mike Pence’s opposition to the Green New Deal; Sen. Ted Cruz’s (D-TX) ridicule of the Democratic primary; and DDT’s mocking presidential candidate Joe Biden. The biggest cheers came from DDT’s “building the wall” and his lies that 400 miles supposedly built “by the end of next year.”

It was on his way to speak for the fifth consecutive year at the NRA convention that DDT spoke about his being “a young, vibrant man.” The convention was as woebegone as DDT looks in this photo. A schism in the NRA led to Oliver North leaving as president after only one year and Wayne LaPierre staying on as CEO. North didn’t show up at the convention in Indianapolis, leaving LaPierre the floor to accuse North of “extortion” for threatening to release “damaging” information about him.

The NRA had spent $30.3 million for DDT’s presidential campaign, but the money may have been funneled from Russia. Now the NRA has serious financial problems plus the New York AG, Letitia James, is investigating the NRA’s tax-exempt status. Some of the organization’s related businesses have also received subpoenas. James said that the NRA claims to be “a charitable organization” when he’s really “a terrorist organization.” The NRA is chartered in New York. NRA sued its ad firm, Ackerman McQueen, claiming that it won’t turn over financial records. Ackerman was paid $40 million in just 2017. LaPierre accused North of siding with Ackerman to the alarm of some board members. Ackerman is behind NRATV, the online streaming network that annoyed some board members from straying from Second Amendment issues. The network had addressed race wars and depicted trains in the children’s show Thomas & Friends in KKK hoods.

One difficulty came from the NRA Foundation, a charity, transferring over $100 million to the NRA and lending the NRA $5 million in 2017. Unlike donations to NRA, the ones to the Foundation are tax-deductible, which makes the transfer legally questionable. The NRA also paid $18 million since 2010 to the company that produces Under Wild Skies, a hunting show on NRATV. The NRA’s advancement director had a stake in the production company for most of that time, another possible nonprofit violation. These problems could lead to the NRA’s nonprofit status being revoked. In addition, the Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo questioned the NRA for insurance it offers to gun owners.

NRA members also think that leaders of the embattled gun rights group have lost their way and sense of mission. Members also complained about the NRA’s close ties to DDT. One member said to “stick to guns” and “keep your mouth shut about the wall.” Another one cancelled her membership because of the financial scandals. People might want to send IRA their “thoughts and prayers.”

Last Tuesday, the Saudis beheaded 37 citizens, most of them minority Shiites, in a sectarian-driven mass execution. One of them was well-known Shia religious leader, Sheikh Mohammed al-Attiyah. Thus far this year, the Saudis have killed 100 people.  At least six of the 37 killed were minors despite international law that prohibits death sentences for minors. Saudi Arabia has a pattern of executing minors.

Radical Rabbi Shloo Aviner told Jews that burning churches is acceptable if it’s in retribution for Christian actions. He claims that the Notre-Dame Cathedral fire is justified because of “the mass-burning of Talmud volumes by French Catholic priests” in 1242. “Christians must be punished,” Aviner said. The burning of the Talmud almost 800 years was triggered by Nicholas Donin, a Jewish man who converted to Christianity. Aviner doesn’t recommend burning of churches generally—“for the time being”—but in Israel “the issue is more complicated.” The targeting of homes, vehicles, and Palestinian individuals in Israel is a daily occurrence, and the website Mondoweiss notes:

“Several churches have been burnt in Israel in the last few years, and the police have been spectacularly useless in capturing the arsonists. In several cases, the arson was accompanied by slogans familiar from ‘price tag’ attacks in the West Bank (mostly along the lines of Jewish vengeance).”

Franklin Graham, son of famous evangelist Billy Graham, has said that God should kill gay people, and he’s applying that ethic to presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg. Asked about the heckling that Buttigieg has received for being gay, Franklin responded with Leviticus 20:13:

“The Bible makes it very clear that homosexuality is a sin. ‘If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination.’ (Leviticus 20:13). That’s what God says and that settles it for me. I stand with the Word of God. I care enough about people to tell them the truth and to warn them about the judgment to come for all sin.”

The verse finishes, “They shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.’”

The D.C. Circuit Court agreed with the House rules that prayers for the chamber must be “religious.” A self-described atheist is forbidden to offer a secular prayer in the House of Representatives. The judge made the decision, not against the person delivering the prayer, but against its content. The House had defended its position that the rules require “a religious invocation” from the time of former House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI).

On the flip side, the IRS has determined that the Satanic Temple is a church. The group will have the same benefits as other religion organizations such as tax exemption and protection from discrimination. Its founder, Lucien Greaves, said, “I am following a code of ethics, having fellowship with brethren. Why can’t I be a religion?” Once called a cult, Christianity has entered mainstream religion. Benjamin Zeller, religion professor, described a letter that Pliny the Younger wrote in the second century to Emperor Trajan about Christianity at that time:

“This Roman governor is complaining about the Christians and using all this anti-cult language. He says that they have these secret gatherings, they’re stealing children from families, they’re engaged in weird sexual practices, and they’re disrupting the social order. Just replace ‘early Christians’ with whatever your current cult fear is.”

In the 19th century, Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormons, was regarded as a con man. The church became a political movement after their establishment in Utah, and the 20th century saw them as a business. Now they’re mainstream. Protestants think that religions must have beliefs and a deity, both of which need to be taken seriously.

Maybe DDT followers and the NRA can declare themselves religions.

Careful! Jesus Christ has risen. And he’s watching.

April 22, 2019

Judaism v. Zionism

One of the most sensitive topics in politics these days—other than Dictator Donald Trump (DDT)—is Zionism. Despite his anti-Semitic ideology during his campaign, DDT now loves Israel, probably because the newly elected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is perhaps farther right that DDT is. Republicans grab at any issue that they can use to criticize Democrats. Evangelicals want Israelis to control large swaths of land so that Jesus will have a big place to land during the rapture to save fundamentalist Christians. Some Democrats support Israel’s taking over Palestinian land in violation of international law.

Carolyn Karcher, author of Reclaiming Judaism from Zionism: Stories of Personal Transformation, tries to unravel the difference between a religion and a political interest group. She points out that “ethical precepts lie at the heart of Judaism: pursue justice, love the stranger, love your neighbor and repair the world.” Zionist policy violates all these teachings. The new Basic Law, passed by Israel, calls for the nation-state of only Jewish people in the country and gives the indigenous Palestinians no rights.

Zionism’s main founder Theodor Herzl, an Austrian Jew, created a version of a settler colonial movement in the 19th century not as a religious group, but a separatist political society that excluded all non-Jews. Zionism has developed into a nationalist organization with the same approach as white nationalism, comparable to persecuted Puritans seeking a place where they could rule. Having left England for America in the 17th century, they dispossessed and killed the indigenous peoples with no ethical concerns. In both cases, one group of people elevated themselves over another and then tried to eradicate considered a sub-group.

Younger Jews are protesting this Israeli position of domination. Members of one group, “If Not Now,” were thrown out of Israel because of their difficult questions about birthrights in the Israeli-Palestinian region. Others in Jewish Voice for Peace started the “Return the Birthright” campaign with the claim that Palestinians as indigenous people have a birthright to the land.

Karcher states that questioning birthright and Israel can lead to “revitalizing Judaism and redefining Jewish identity that does not depend on identifying with a Jewish state, and that does not depend on claiming a right to a land that you were not born in and have no real connection to.” Like the philosophy of democracy, she espouses all people having the same rights and the same access to economic and political rights.

From another writer and Jewish voice, Michelle Goldberg, comes this column, “Zionists Deserve Free Speech”:

The Palestinian activist Omar Barghouti, one of the founders of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, was supposed to be on a speaking tour of the United States this week, with stops at N.Y.U.’s Washington campus and at Harvard. He was going to attend his daughter’s wedding in Texas. I had plans to interview him for “The Argument,” the debate podcast that I co-host, about B.D.S., the controversial campaign to make Israel pay an economic and cultural price for its treatment of the Palestinians.

Yet when Barghouti, a permanent resident of Israel, showed up for his flight from Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport last week, he was informed that the United States was denying him entry. When I spoke to him on Sunday, he still didn’t know exactly why the country where he went to college and lived for many years wasn’t letting him in, but he assumed it was because of his political views. If that’s the case, Barghouti said, it was the first time someone has been barred from America for B.D.S. advocacy. He has proceeded with his public events, but he’s been appearing at them via Skype.

In recent years, the American right has presented itself as a champion of free expression. Conservatives are constantly bemoaning a censorious campus climate that stigmatizes their ideas; last month, Donald Trump signed an executive order on campus free speech, decrying those who would keep Americans from “challenging rigid far-left ideology.” The president said, “People who are confident in their beliefs do not censor others.”

If that last line is true — and, uncharacteristically for Trump, I think it is — it says something about the insecurity of Israel’s defenders. There have indeed been illiberal attempts to silence conservative voices on college campuses, but they pale beside the assault on pro-Palestinian speech, particularly speech calling for an economic boycott of Israel. Around two dozen states have laws and regulations denouncing, and in many cases penalizing, B.D.S. activities, and the Senate recently passed a bill supporting such measures. According to the American Association of University Professors, some public universities in states with such laws require speakers and other contractors to “sign a statement pledging that they do not now, nor will they in the future, endorse B.D.S.” It’s hard to think of comparable speech restrictions on any other subject.

What are pro-Israel forces afraid of? The B.D.S. movement doesn’t engage in or promote violence. Its leaders make an effort to separate anti-Zionism from anti-Semitism; the Palestinian B.D.S. National Committee recently demanded that a Moroccan group stop using the term “B.D.S.” in its name because it featured anti-Semitic cartoons on its Facebook page.

Barghouti couches his opposition to Zionism in the language of humanist universalism. The official position of the B.D.S. movement, he says, is that “any supremacist, exclusionary state in historic Palestine — be it a ‘Jewish state,’ an ‘Islamic state,’ or a ‘Christian state’ — would by definition conflict with international law and basic human rights principles.”

The movement is agnostic on a final dispensation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But it calls for the right of Palestinian refugees — both those displaced by the creation of Israel and their descendants — to return to their familial homes, which would likely end Israel’s Jewish majority. Barghouti told me he personally believes in the creation of a single state in which Israeli Jews, as individuals, would have civil rights, but Jews as a people would not have national rights.

I’d planned to argue with him about this view, which is largely dismissive of Jewish claims on Israel, and would likely lead to oppression or worse for Israeli Jews. My guess is that many if not most Jews find such a position offensive, even frightening.

But for years now, the right has been lecturing us all about the need to listen to and debate ideas we might consider dangerous. Barghouti wants this sort of dialogue. “We’ve been dying to debate anyone on the other side,” he told me. “We would debate anyone except Israeli government officials and professional lobbyists.” A government that tries to prevent Americans from engaging with his views cannot claim a commitment to free speech.

You could argue, I suppose, that Israel’s legitimacy as a Jewish state should not be up for discussion. If you do, realize it’s the exact same sort of argument that certain campus leftists make when they refuse to debate people they see as racist, sexist or otherwise bigoted. Sometimes this refusal is justified, because certain ideas shouldn’t be dignified with discussion. But sometimes it just makes the people unwilling to test their ideas in public look scared.

Ultimately, Barghouti threatens Israel’s American defenders not because he’s hateful, but because he isn’t. Israel has aligned itself with the global far right. Recently re-elected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to unilaterally annex the West Bank, which would create a single state where Jews rule over Arabs. That prospect makes it ever more difficult for Israel’s American defenders to make coherent arguments against the sort of one-state solution that Barghouti espouses. “Israel is winning the far right around the world,” Barghouti said at an N.Y.U. event last week, where the journalist Peter Beinart interviewed him remotely. But, he added, “it is losing its moral stature around the world.” American authorities may be able to quash this message on some college campuses, but it won’t stop being true.

The United States has freely sanctioned countries that violate human rights to pressure them for change. Boycott has long been an individual practice from people on both the right and left to express displeasure about positions. Yet Ilhan Omar, a U.S. representative, black woman, Muslim, and Somali refugee, has been pilloried, not only by Republicans but by her own party of Democrats, because she was brave enough to speak out against the Israeli control over the U.S. federal government.

Pressure from Israeli is causing even Democrats to punish corporations that use their constitutional right to use a boycott as a form of free speech. A bipartisan House bill opposes the boycott, divestment and sanctions, or “BDS,” movement and gives states the legal right to punish companies choosing not to do business with Israel or Israeli-owned enterprises. In the 26 states already passing anti-BDS laws, courts in two of them, Kansas and Arizona, have declared the legislation unconstitutional. To take free speech from companies, Congress would have to remove their classification as “persons” or take away the right of real people to free speech. Meanwhile Republicans have another wedge device by equating Palestinian support and human rights with anti-Semitism.

March 25, 2019

World Condemns DDT’s Golan Heights Proclamation

Filed under: Religion — trp2011 @ 10:22 PM
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Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) turned the Middle East upside down in his efforts to get Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu re-elected by his order that the U.S. recognizes Israeli sovereignty over the Syrian Golan Heights. Netanyahu faces a difficult re-election early April especially because he could be indicted on criminal charges, in his case for corruption, and DDT decided to shore him up.

Israel seized the Golan Heights in southwestern Syria during the 1967 when a six-day war also took over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. After deliberating for six months, the UN determined that Israel would return the territories in exchange for permanent peace. Israel declared that the West Bank and Gaza would be described as “disputed” instead of “occupied,” claiming that Palestine was not a sovereign nation. Israel decided to keep a legal presence through leaving military authority in the Palestinian territory and continually encroached on the Palestinian land.

Because Egypt and Syria were not questioned as sovereigns, only Israel disputed the disposition of the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights. Egypt and Syria attacked Israel to regain its territories in 1973. Although Israel won the war, the UN passed a ceasefire and a U.S.-led Middle East Peace Process to return Arab territories in exchange for peace. Palestine was not recognized as a legitimate representative to regain the West Bank and Gaza until 1991, and Syria continue to object legitimizing Israel’s claims. The Camp David Accords in 1979, with the agreement of Israel and Egypt, returned the Sinai to Egypt and established permanent peace in which Syria would not go to war alone. Two years later Israel unilaterally annexed the Golan Heights despite Ronald Reagan’s rejection because of its violation of international principle blocking taking territory by force. Israel refuses to return to the 1967 lines since then because it would lose access to the Sea of Galilee which provides one-third of Israel’s fresh water.

DDT ignored this history, international law, and U.S. policy. He claimed that the Golan Heights is a security buffer against Syria, but Israel has settled 20,000 civilians and 167 businesses, including a ski resort, on this land. Jordan established permanent peace with Israel in 1994, and Syria has not waged war since 1973. Libya and Iraq no longer threaten Israel, and Hezbollah has not initiated war from Lebanon. Israel has no credible military threat from Syria’s southern border.

DDT spent his first two years trying to destroy the Palestinians. He “took Jerusalem off the table,” closed the Palestinians’ mission in Washington and America’s mission to the Palestinians in Jerusalem, and cut off aid to Palestinian civil society and humanitarian needs. His unilateral actions, however, oppose the support for both the U.S. people and the Israeli desire for peace with Palestine. For the first time since 2012, at least half of people in the U.S. favor the establishment of an independent Palestinian state “on the West Bank and the Gaza strip,” up almost 20 percent in the past four years.  In Israel, 71 percent of the Jewish public believe that Israel’s control over the Palestinians is a moral problem, and 78 percent of Israeli Jews think that control of Palestinians in Judea and Samaria is bad for Israel. The poll also showed that 78 percent of the Jewish public and 93 percent of the Arab public in Israel agree that peace with people of other faiths is an important value in their religion, and 51 percent of the Jews and 72 percent of the Arabs agree that religious leaders representing different religions in the region should take part in making decisions related to peace.

Before State Department Secretary Mike Pompeo left for a recent trip to the Middle East, he had a teleconference press briefing to discuss “international religious freedom”—with only “faith-based media.” He refused to submit either a transcript of what was said or a list of who was included. According to one invited news outlet, all those asking questions of Pompeo were Christian or Jewish. An invitation to a secular outlet was rescinded with the explanation that they were not “faith-based.” The House Foreign Affairs Committee, chaired by Eliot Engel (D-NY), has demanded “more information” about Pompeo’s decision to exclude all non-Judeo-Christian media and what was said.

To Pompeo, U.S. military battles in the Middle East are part of a greater war of good against evil, including the elimination of both Israel and Islam. Regarding DDT’s meeting with evangelicals about his Middle East plan, Pompeo reported that this administration will achieve peace in the Middle East and that “persons of faith [i.e., only Christians] will have something to say about the plan.” DDT’s strong support of Israel comes from his evangelical base which needs the country to start Armageddon for the return of Jesus. A greater advantage for DDT in Israel’s takeover of Palestinian land, is that Jared Kushner’s family makes money from building developments on the West Bank.

On the Christian Broadcasting Network, Pompeo compared DDT to Queen Esther, celebrated on Purim last Thursday, saying that DDT was chosen by God to save Israel from Iran. Historian Jon Meacham called Pompeo’s position “idolatry,” a hypocritical approach toward the man who “never felt the need to ask God for forgiveness …, to ask Jesus to forgive him of his sins,” according to Joe Scarborough. Pompeo was caught off guard with DDT’s tweet about Israel’s authority over the Golan Heights after Pompeo’s statement that the U.S. policy had not changed.

The position to help Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be re-elected likely destroys any hope for peace in the Middle East as shown by the anger reverberating throughout its countries:

Syria stated that DDT’s “blatant attack” on its sovereignty and territorial integrity will isolate the U.S.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas released this statement: “There is no legitimacy that can override UN Security Council resolutions, the UN General Assembly or the Arab Peace Initiative.”

Lebanon said the US recognition of Israeli sovereignty “violates all the rules of international law” and “undermines any effort to reach a just peace.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is “clear that the status of Golan has not changed,” according to his spokesman. The UN spokesman is holding to the unanimous resolution by the 15-member Security Council resolution in 1981 that Israel’s “decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights is null and void and without international legal effect.”

Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs rejected the U.S. move and said that the Golan Heights are occupied Arab land.

Saudi Arabia denounced DDT’s actions with the statement that “attempts to impose fait accompli do not change the facts” and that the Golan Heights was an “occupied Syrian Arab land in accordance with the relevant international resolutions. It will have significant negative effects on the peace process in the Middle East and the security and stability of the region.”

Turkey called the U.N. recognition unacceptable and said it would take action against it.

The Arab League condemned the move, saying that “Trump’s recognition does not change the area’s status.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif called DDT’s “persistently violating international law … displays panic of an empire in decline.”

Other criticism directed at DDT’s land grab for Israel came from the EU, UK, Germany, France, Egypt, Russia, and Venezuela.

Pleased with himself, DDT and Netanyahu smugly grin at each other, but DDT’s decision to break international law leaves the U.S. even more isolated with only Israel as support. In the UN, 130 member countries have already voted against DDT’s decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem. DDT’s actions will exacerbate war in the Middle East. Israel no longer has leverage for peace agreements with Syria, and Syria’s President Bashar al Assad can argue that the U.S. no longer has a right in his country’s future governance. Iran and Hezbollah have justification for terrorism and military operations against Israel. Arab nations will be reluctant to oppose Islam countries to protect Israel. Russia may no longer tolerate Israeli strikes to prevent Iran’s adversarial movements, perhaps blocking Israeli’s freedom in Syria’s skies. DDT’s approval of Israeli’s takeover of Golan Heights supports not only Russia’s annexation of Crimea but also its destruction of “independence” of Abkhazia and South Ossetia from the Republic of Georgia. With the disregard for international law, Saudi Arabia may take over Qatar.

Will DDT declare war on the world to continue his protection of Israel?

March 3, 2019

Religion, GOP’s Desperate Hypocrisy for Control

Yesterday, I wrote about the values of Republicans who attacked Michael Cohen, former fixer for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) during testimony before the House Oversight Committee hearing. Walter Einenkel, social media editor and writer on Daily Kos, has produced a compilation of their specific values. The following are all GOP committee members who attacked Cohen’s character. Their behavior reflects their personal values:

  • Jim Jordan (R-OH): He denies the allegation of complicity in multiple sexual assaults against athletes while he was assistant coach, but the accusations are credible. The other congressional Republicans protected him.
  • Clay Higgins (R-LA): He resigned his job as an Opelousas (LA) police officer to avoid disciplinary action for using “unnecessary force on a subject during the execution of a warrant and later lied during an internal investigation.”
  • Virginia Foxx (R-NC): She claimed that she didn’t know that “tar baby” is a racial slur and that the murder of Matthew Shepard was not a hate crime, but instead “a hoax that continues to be used as an excuse for passing [hate crimes] bills.”
  • Jody Hice (R-GA): He wants to remove Muslims from any First Amendment protections with the claim that Islam is not a religion.
  • Mark Green (R-TN): He said that people should get their health care from God, not Medicaid, and his disparaging comments about Muslims and LGBTQ people are so extreme that he had to withdraw his nomination for DDT’s Secretary of the Army.
  • Paul Gosar (R-AZ): His seven siblings opposed his election and supported his opponent, perhaps because he subscribes to conspiracy theories such as Jewish Holocaust survivor George Soros funded and organized the neo-Nazi movement in the U.S., including the violent rallies in Charlottesville (VA) and most recently said that climate change doesn’t exist because of “photosynthesis.” He’s the one who said, in his adult fashion, “liar, liar, pants on fire” to Cohen during the hearing.
  • Thomas Massie (R-KY): He met with Maria Butina, arrested for being a Russian spy.
  • Mark Meadows (R-NC): He lied about having a college degree and claimed that he wasn’t a racist during the hearing although he campaigned as a “birther” while President Obama was running for a second term.
  • Ralph Norman (R-SC): He pulled out a gun at a townhall meeting and left it lying on the table in front of him in violation of state law, but high-level friendly officials exonerated his actions.
  • Bob Gibbs (R-OH): He compared serving in Congress to serving in the military to wipe out his veteran opponent and sent fliers to influence the Democratic primary.
  • Glenn Grothman (R-WI): He has a long history of saying crazy things such as marriage equality should be illegal because it does a disservice to men who fought in the Civil War and college Pell Grants “discourage marriage.”
  • James Comer (R-KY): He was sued for threatening a senior state legislative staffer who reported allegations of sexual harassment to his superiors while they were both in state legislature.
  • Kelly Armstrong (R-ND): He has a history of driving infractions—a DUI conviction in 2001 that he tried to get out of and more recent citations for using a wireless communication device while driving and speeding in North Dakota.

That’s over two-thirds of the GOP members of the Oversight Committee who failed to defend DDT’s actions in exchange for smearing Cohen throughout his testimony. The other five members are new—first or second term—and standard far-right, Christianity only, gun-loving, climate deniers.

Christian Republicans elsewhere are standing up for their religion.

Some of them celebrated West Virginia GOP Day with a poster connecting Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) to the terrorism of 9/11 because she is a Muslim. The arguments about the image in the capitol rotunda became so heated that the state House’s sergeant at arms, Anne Lieberman, resigned after her anti-Muslim remark and another person was injured. Last month, a West Virginia legislator was called on to resign after he called LGBTQ groups “the closest thing to political terrorism in America” and “a modern day version of the Ku Klux Klan.” It’s the state that believes in freedom of religion—if the religion is Christianity.

In December 2018, a girl was bullied after her mother sued the Mercer County School District for teaching the Bible as fact.

Fundamentalist Christians have become so rigid that they think even Catholics don’t deserve religious freedom. DDT’s waiver permitting a South Carolina foster care agency to discriminate kept same-gender parents from becoming caregivers for children; now the agency is discriminating against a Catholic because of her faith. The Catholic woman was not only rejected as a foster parent but also told that she could not volunteer with the agency because it wanted only the “right type of Protestant church.” The biggest foster care agency in the state, Miracle Hill Ministries refused to work with a Jewish family in 2017. The governor rescued them with an executive order allowing the government-supported agency to discriminate, and Miracle got its federal waiver from the federal Department of Health and Human Services in January. This sentence in Miracle’s foster care manual may need revision:

 “In accordance with Federal and State laws and South Carolina Department of Social Services (SCDSS) policy, this agency and contracted providers for foster care and adoption services are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, political beliefs or disability.”

During the past ten years, the number of South Carolina home placements has been flat while the number of children in foster care has spiked. In addition, South Carolina law requires that foster children receive religious education “in accordance with the expressed wishes of the child’s natural parents.” The exemptions for Miracle permits it to “effectively terminate biological parents’ rights to direct their children’s religious upbringing while those children are in the care of the child-placement agency or a foster family,” according to a lawsuit. Another lawsuit is challenging Michigan’s “license to discriminate” law for adoption agencies.

The evangelical legal service Alliance Defending Freedom is suing on the behalf of homeless shelter Hope Center in Anchorage (AK) for the “right” to deny assistance to transgender people. The shelter wants an exemption from the city to discriminate in violation of its law and say that charities should be able to deny access if they want. Assistant municipal attorney Ryan Stuart said that the suit has not proceeded because Hope Center refused to cooperate with the investigation. Rather than being threats, transgender people are the most likely targets of physical and sexual abuse.

In his speech at last week’s conservative CPAC conference, VP Mike Pence said that “freedom of religion” is under attack, and the above examples prove that he’s right. What he wants, however, is freedom of evangelical religion to oppress all others. Pence’s religion is attacking LGBTQ rights, denying health care to people, limiting medical providers to communicating only his own non-medical beliefs, keeping children from finding good homes, rejecting scientific education for young people, in short, complete control of all people in the United States with his far-right Christian sexist, racist, homophobic beliefs.

Many times, I’m proud to live in Oregon, and this week is one of those times. The City Council for the state’s largest city, Portland, unanimously approved a measure giving civil rights protections for atheist, agnostic, and other nonreligious residents in employment, housing, and public accommodation. Madison (WI) may be the only other city in the United states with similar protections.

What a strange country where people have rights–or no rights–based on where they live.

 

February 24, 2019

More Need for Wall on Religion

At the beginning of a four-day conference regarding clerical sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, Pope Francis called for “concrete and effective measures” to solve the behavior of the Church’s leadership. After four days of speeches about the need for action and the “outrage of the people,” Francis closed the summit by calling for an “all-out battle” but few concrete remedies. Sometimes avoiding the purpose of the meeting, Francis larded his speech with data regarding abuse in schools, at athletic facilities, and within families, talking about the dangers of the digital world.

Nicholas Kristof, columnist for the New York Times, writes about the problems of Christians who claims to be superior to all others:

When a journalist for the Illinois Baptist newspaper reported in 2002 on a Baptist pastor who had sexually assaulted two teenage girls in his church, one apparently just 13 years old, he received a furious reprimand.

Glenn L. Akins, then running the Illinois Baptist State Association, offered a bizarre objection: that writing about one pastor who committed sex crimes was unfair because that “ignores many others who have done the same thing.” Akins cited “several other prominent churches where the same sort of sexual misconduct has occurred recently in our state.”

In the end, the Baptists ousted the journalist, Michael W. Leathers, while the pastor who had committed the crimes, Leslie Mason, received a seven-year prison sentence and then, as a registered sex offender, returned to the pulpit at a series of Baptist churches nearby. So Leathers is no longer a journalist, and Mason remained a pastor.

That saga was cited in a searing investigation by The Houston Chronicle and The San Antonio Express-News that found that the Southern Baptist Convention repeatedly tolerated sexual assaults by clergymen and church volunteers. The Chronicle found 380 credible cases of church leaders and volunteers engaging in sexual misconduct, with the victims sometimes shunned by churches, urged to forgive abusers or advised to get abortions.

“Some victims as young as 3 were molested or raped inside pastors’ studies and Sunday school classrooms,” The Chronicle reported.

Leathers told me he is glad he wrote the 2002 article, even if it cost him his career. He expressed frustration at Southern Baptist priorities: The church leadership would expel a church that appointed a woman as senior pastor, even as it accepted sexual predators.

The indifference to criminal behavior is an echo of what has been unearthed in the Roman Catholic Church over the decades. The latest sickening revelations are of priests getting away with raping nuns and with assaulting deaf students.

These new scandals provoke fresh nausea at the hypocrisy of religious blowhards like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson who thundered at the immorality of gay people even as their own Southern Baptist network tolerated child rape.

I suspect it’s no accident that these crimes emerged in denominations that do not ordain women and that relegate them to second-class status.

“If God is male,” Mary Daly, the feminist theologian, wrote, “then the male is God.”

The result may be threefold: an entitled male clergy, women and girls taught to be submissive in church, and a lack of accountability and oversight. It’s complicated, of course, for many of the Catholic victims were boys, but there does seem to have been an element of elevating male clergy members on a pedestal in a way that made them omnipotent and unaccountable.

“Underneath it all is this patriarchy that goes back millennia,” Serene Jones, the president of Union Theological Seminary, told me, noting the commonality of the Catholic and Southern Baptist Churches: “They both have very masculine understandings of God, and have a structure where men are considered the closest representatives of God.”

The paradox is that Jesus and the early Christian church seem to have been very open to women. The only person in the New Testament who wins an argument with Jesus is an unnamed woman who begs him to heal her daughter (Mark 7:24-30 and Matthew 15:21-28).

The Gospel of Mary, a Gnostic text from the early second century, suggests that Jesus entrusted Mary Magdalene to provide religious instruction to his disciples.

But then conventional hierarchies asserted themselves, and women were mostly barred from religious leadership.

After The Chronicle’s investigation, the Southern Baptists have promised greater training and more background checks, but what’s needed above all is accountability and equality.

“Prohibiting women from the highest ranks of formal leadership fosters a fundamentally toxic masculinity,” Jonathan L. Walton, the Plummer professor of Christian morals at Harvard, told me.

Baptist women have been ready to be heard for a century. I know because my great-grandfather John Howard Shakespeare was the leader of Baptists in Britain from 1898 to 1924 and practiced his sermons on his wife. When she once insisted that she had something else to do, he locked her in an upstairs room.

My great-grandmother Amy, wearing a long dress, then climbed out an upper window and onto a tree branch, and finally clambered down the tree to the ground.

Perhaps inspired by such a strong woman, Shakespeare favored the ordination of women. “That women are not yet permitted to take their proper share in the life and work of our churches is, to our thinking, a relic of barbarism,” he wrote in 1901.

So much has changed for women since then, yet even today a majority of religious women still belong to denominations that do not ordain women. And as long as inequality is baked into faith, as long as “men of God” are unaccountable, then sexual assaults will continue.

The problem is not just wayward pastors and priests. Rather it is structural, an inequality and masculine conception of God that empowers rapists.

And, perhaps, embarrasses God.

February 17, 2019

A Wall to Protect People from Religion?

If we used the same standards for religious figures that Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) tries to use for undocumented immigrants, the United States would build a wall between the country and all churches. Another former archbishop and cardinal has been defrocked for sexual abuse with no chance for appeal, Theodore McCarrick has been found guilty of “sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and with adults, with the aggravating factor of the abuse of power” and “solicitation” during confession. A study completed in 2002 found almost 11,000 cases of sexual abuse by almost 5,000 priests. Far more have emerged in the past 17 years, including the uncovering of over 300 priests in just one state who abused over 1,000 children.

Catholics aren’t alone in sexual abuse by their leaders: at least 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers have faced charges of sexual misconduct against over 700 victims in the past 20 years—more in Texas than any other state. The church urged many of the victims to forgive the offenders and for becoming pregnant. Sometimes churches shunned the victims. Some sexual abusers returned to their churches to preach. Southern Baptist Convention officials shielded the predators and refused any reforms.

The above are just two examples of denominations in which people are sexual abused by their religious leaders. The stories go into the tens of millions, unlike DDT’s concerns about undocumented immigrants.

The Roman Catholic diocese has exonerated the male white students from Covington (KY) who appeared to invade the Indigenous Peoples March in Washington, D.C. after they attended an anti-choice March for Life. The bishop claimed that their students were being threatened can called their behavior “laudatory.” The opinion was based on online video and interviews with 43 students and 13 adult chaperones. No one from the Indigenous Peoples group was interviewed. All of them are quite pleased with themselves.

Wyoming has failed to repeal the death penalty, and state Sen. Lynn Hutchings (R-Cheyenne) is grateful because Jesus also got the death penalty. Without his execution, he could not have absolved the sins of mankind. Therefore, retaining the death penalty is vital. I’m a bit confused about her logic. Does she compare all executed people to Jesus? Self-identified on her FB as “your only true Conservative, Christian, Pro-Life Candidate,” she also made this argument for her homophobia while speaking to students from Cheyenne Central High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance:

“If my sexual orientation was to have sex with all of the men in there and I had sex with all of the women in there and then they brought their children and I had sex with all of them and then brought their dogs in and I had sex with them, should I be protected for my sexual orientation?”

Frustrated by two Muslim women in the newly-elected House, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) has accused her of being anti-Semitic because she pointed out that Israel gets its power with the U.S. government because of its donations to legislators. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) is right in her claim, but she left out the money that anti-Semitic evangelicals donate to conservative legislators while lobbying them to support Israelis and destroy Palestinians. It all comes from the Christian belief that Christ must convert the Jews after he returns to Israel before the great millennium, the golden age, can begin. Thus their obsession with strengthening Israel for Jesus’s return. Eighty percent of evangelicals viewed Israel’s new state in 1948 as a vital piece of the Second Coming, and 52 percent say they support Israel because of its role in the End Times. VP Mike Pence is one of these people.

The Center for Religion and Civil Culture at the University of Southern California divides evangelical Christians into five different sects since DDT developed power:

Trump-vangelicals:  Primarily white with a few Latinx or black pastors; DDT’s base who want access to political power with the belief that God picked DDT to “make America great again.”

Neo-fundamentalists: DDT supporters who try to keep some Christian values and separate themselves from DDT’s “moral failings.”

iVangelicals: Conservative but pretend to be non-partisan; ministering in big churches to mostly white, financially well-off suburbanites.

Kingdom Christians: Separate from evangelicals but with similar beliefs; keep to smaller, urban churches, sometimes rented spaces.

Peace and justice evangelicals: The left-wing with origins in the 1973 “Chicago Declaration of Social Concern,” urging evangelicals away from prosperity gospel and toward the gospel of Jesus Christ.

A study published in the journal Neuropsychologia shows that religious fundamentalism comes from a functional impairment in the brain’s prefrontal cortex. Damage results in diminished cognitive flexibility and openness—a loss of curiosity, creativity, and open-mindedness. Religious beliefs, socially transmitted mental representations of supernatural events and entities assumed to be real, differ from empirical beliefs based on the appearance of the world and updated with new evidence and new theories. People with lesions in the prefrontal cortex rate radical political statements as more moderate than people without the damage possibly caused by brain trauma, psychological disorder, drug or alcohol addiction, or genetic profile. Although brain damage can lead to religious fundamentalism, the reverse can be true: extreme religious indoctrination can harm the development or functioning of the prefrontal brain areas.

Conservatism is connected with religious beliefs because they are not updated with new evidence or scientific explanations. Fixed, rigid beliefs promote predictability and rules of evidence in the person’s tribe. Religious fundamentalism discourages progressive thinking about religion and social issues—anything that challenges their beliefs. People can become aggressive toward others who are perceived because they don’t share their anti-science and supernatural beliefs.

Although brain damage can lead to religious fundamentalism, the reverse can be true: extreme religious indoctrination can harm the development or functioning of the prefrontal brain areas. Dr. Marlene Winell, daughter of Pentecostal missionaries and a human development consultant, addresses the problem of Religious Trauma Syndrome (RTS) in her counseling and in her book Leaving the Fold: A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving their Religion. She explains that emotional and mental treatment by authoritarian religious groups causes RTS from teachings such as eternal damnation, religious punishment and guilt, and neglect when people are denied information and opportunities. Indoctrination leads to fear and anxiety, and some people suffer from nightmares and panic attacks throughout their lives. The syndrome can also cause depression, cognitive problems, and difficulty in social functioning because the core message of fundamentalist Christianity is that people are wrong and deserve to die.

To control people, fundamentalists tell them that they are weak and dependent, keeping them from making decisions because they must follow the Christian leaders. Leaving can be almost impossible because of religious shunning if people don’t conform.  Departure from a church requires a complete change of one’s self of reality and belief systems. Traumas other than RTS are built into society because of an understanding about the horrors of domestic abuse and war-related PTSD. A person needed counseling because of issues related to RTS are sent back to religion.

One of the goals for fundamentalist Christians is to block marriage equality, and seven Kansas GOP legislators are using the concept of religion to accomplish their mission. Their proposed bill would eliminate all rights for sexual minorities because being LGBTQ is “a religion that does not fulfill any compelling state interest.” They maintain that secular humanism was recognized as a religion in the 1961 unanimous Supreme Court decision when the decision merely determined that the U.S. Constitution prohibits government prohibits a religious test for public office. The legislators’ proof is that the LGBTQ community is organized and has “a daily code by which members may guide their daily lives” along with its religious symbols, i.e., a rainbow-colored flag, and the creed of “love is love”—a shibboleth to oppress those outside their denomination.

Perhaps we need a wall to protect people.

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