Nel's New Day

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.

February 10, 2019

Constitutional Religious Freedom Restricted to Fundamentalist Christians

The U.S. Supreme Court just proved that “religious freedom” is only for Christians. In a 5-4 ruling (you can guess the names), Domineque Ray must die without his spiritual adviser available to give him comfort because he is a Muslim. Until this ruling, a cornerstone for the high court’s religion jurisprudence prevents the government from discriminating among faiths. Larson v. Valente (1981) determined that a Minnesota statute treating religious organizations differently violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment. The conservative members of the Supreme Court justified their vote by stating that Ray waited until ten days before his execution to ask for the presence of his iman. The prison warden did not deny Ray’s request to have his imam present until five days before the suit, a time when Ray went through the prison’s administrative channels for his request.

Even some conservatives disagree with this religious bigotry and agreed with Justice Elena Kagan who wrote:

“That treatment goes against the Establishment Clause’s core principle of denominational neutrality.”

From Seth Mandel, executive editor of the Washington Examiner magazine:

“As a conservative who opposes both the death penalty and religious discrimination I find this story appalling.”

Southern Baptist minister Alan Cross tweeted:

“Every time we want the state to favor Christianity over other religions, the result is a loss of religious freedom for all.”

In another Christian-focused government action, at least six states are using the current administrative protectorate in an attempt to legislate Bible (aka Christian) classes in public schools. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) cheered on their efforts after seeing a segment on Fox & Friends. This practice was common in the 19th century but waned when the federal government took a greater part in public education in the 20th century. In McCollum v. Board of Education (1948), the Supreme Court sided with the First Amendment to declare that states cannot use public education to promote “religious faiths or sects.” Later, the ruling of Engel v. Vitale (1962) decreed that compulsory prayer in public schools violated the constitution. Now DDT is using the Bible, about which he is largely ignorant, to club non-conservatives over the head.

Franklin Graham, evangelist Billy Graham’s son, may have gone deaf: he said that he has never heard a lie out of DDT. DDT told at least 8,158 false or misleading claims in the two years after his inauguration. Perhaps Graham has a different sense of “objective truth,” that is “Jesus is the savior of the world and died for our sins.”

DDT does have a “spiritual adviser.” Paula White came to his reality TV show The Apprentice to pray over him, and they maintained a friendship as she became a popular televangelist. At the beginning of 2019, she asked people to send her money or face divine consequences. Her rationale for donating to her ministry was that of “first fruit,” that all firsts belong to God including the first month of a person’s salary. She said that if people didn’t donate, “I don’t know what you’re going to face.” In 2007, she was one of the subjects of Sen. Charles Grassley’s (R-IA) investigation into finances of ministries that solicit millions of dollars in donations.

In its move toward allowing laws that mandate Christian beliefs, the Supreme Court slashed reproductive rights for women in Hobby Lobby. Current Courts are now using “Justice” Clarence Thomas’ opinion in NIFLA v. Becerra, removing disclosure requirements for “crisis pregnancy centers” that block abortion, to attack laws preventing the torture and abuse of minors through “conversation therapy” that people falsely claim will make them cisgender instead of Q (sexual minority). With Thomas statement that “[free speech] is not unprotected merely because it is uttered by professionals,” he has enshrined the position that the First Amendment protects all lies by “professionals.” In that way, the Supremes leads lower courts in their effort to strike down anti-conversion therapy laws in 15 states, 50 cities and counties, and Washington, D.C., laws supported by every mainstream medical association in the United States.

Conversion therapy is more horrific than most people can imagine. “Christian” therapists force naked children to touch their genitals while others watch, have “group cuddling sessions,” use a tennis racquet to beat effigies of their parents, and grab two oranges from the other side of a human chain while others hurl gay slurs at them. Some of the therapists are closeted gay men who force their male clients to kiss them. Conversion therapy can lead to suicide. At the very best, conversion therapy causes depression, guilt, helplessness, hopelessness, shame, social withdrawal,  substance abuse, stress, disappointment, self-blame, decreased self-esteem, increased self-hatred, hostility and blame toward parents, feelings of anger and betrayal, loss of friends and potential romantic partners, problems in sexual and emotional intimacy, sexual dysfunction, high-risk sexual behaviors, a feeling of being dehumanized, a loss of faith, and a sense of having wasted time and resources. Therapy cannot change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Almost five years ago,Thomas openly supported the ability of states to avoid the First Amendment freedom of religion and create a “state-mandated religion” in the 2014 Greece v. Galloway ruling permitting prayers at a city public meetings.

DDT’s Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is now echoing evangelical leaders who say that God picked DDT to sit in the Oval office. Satirist Andy Borowitz picked up on Sanders’ statements in “Did God Want Trump?” [Ivy Close Images/Alamy]

“Partially confirming Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s theory of divine intervention in the 2016 election, Eris, the Greek goddess of chaos, discord, and strife, revealed on Friday that she had wanted Donald J. Trump to be President.

“Speaking from her temple on Mt. Olympus, the usually reclusive deity said that Trump was ‘far and away’ her first choice to be President in 2016.

“’I’d been following his career for years,’ the goddess of disorder and ruin said. ‘The bankruptcies, the business failures. There was a lot for me to love.’

“She complained that the media had given Vladimir Putin ‘way too much credit’ for Trump’s ascent, asserting, ‘Who do you think made Putin President of Russia?’

“Looking ahead to the 2020 election, Eris said that she was officially undecided about which candidate to back for President, but that she was leaning toward Howard Schultz. ‘What a shit show that would be,’shesaid.

Has anyone else noticed the difficulty of identifying between satire and fact in the current climate?

The evangelicals may have an opponent in their support of conservatism and DDT. Like progressive Christians in the 19th century who fought to end slavery, some 21st-century Christian leaders are supporting immigration rights, universal health care, racial justice, and LGBTQ rights. The coalition Faith in Public life, with almost 50,000 members, is a part of these civil rights movements.

Tara Agnew Harris, member of Myers Park Baptist Church (Charlotte, NC), believes that “Jesus talked about reaching out to the poor, reaching out to the marginalized, reaching out to the oppressed.” She said that “traditional Christian beliefs have been hijacked,” that people connect it to “a certain fundamentalist mindset.” She acts on her faith by visiting a detention center for undocumented immigrants in Lumpkin (GA).

Jennifer Butler, Faith in Public Life leader and an ordained Presbyterian minister, said:

“There are over a hundred verses of Scripture that say we are to welcome immigrants and welcome strangers. Faith in Public Life] is driven by our moral values and not by politics.”

Despite a smaller base among liberal Christians, Butler cites an advantage in building bridges. Religion can also bring passion to a movement as in the case of William Barber, the black North Carolina preacher who started the “Moral Majority” movement. He calls himself “an evangelical Biblicist” for a nation in need of “moral defibrillators” to work on its weak heart:

“We must shock this nation with the power of love. We must shock this nation with power of mercy. We must shock this nation and fight for justice for all!”

Since Russians have joined the evangelicals to take over the United States, democracy needs a way to fight against the fundamentalist conservatives. At the end of 2018, hackers discovered emails and documents from Russian officials, oligarchs’ confidants, and leaders in interference effort that revealed their connections with the Bradley Foundation, a primary financier of right-wing groups including anti-immigrant organizations. Its mission is “to restore, strengthen, and protect the principles and institutions of American exceptionalism.” In other words, to make America great again by taking away the rights of most people. Another Russian connection is with the Home School Legal Defense Association, the most influential right-wing homeschooling group in the United States. Another Russian goal with these groups is to support pro-Russian “separatists” in Ukraine so that Vladimir Putin can take over the country and move on to more of Europe. Part of their belief is also anti-Semitism and pro-fascism. Basically, the U.S. evangelicals are supporting the same philosophy that caused the rise of Adolf Hitler and led to World War II.

January 6, 2019

Christians Lead the Way to Making DDT King

Day 16 of the government shutdown: On the day that the debacle caused by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) ties for the third-longest shutdown in history, U.S. lawmakers on the Mexico border are rejecting DDT’s wall in favor of technology and staffing at legal ports of entry for improved security and crossing times. DDT offered $400 million for these purposes but still demands $5 billion for his wall.

Part of Mike Pence’s job as vice president is to swear in newly-elected senators, and the far-right Christian evangelist is the first VP to swear in an openly pagan and bisexual person for the chamber. Even more horrifying for Christian conservatives was Kyrsten Sinema’s use of the Constitution for her swearing in. When she saw the photo marking for “spouse,” Sinema asked, “Can we get a spouse?”

People who think that the Constitution begins with the Second Amendment—skipping freedom of press, religion, assembly, etc—were resentful when they thought Rashida Tlaib, the new representative from Michigan, who they claimed was sworn into office on a Koran once owned by Thomas Jefferson. One person wrote a concern that Muslims will “both receive a security clearance given to congress members.” Another one sputtered in a tweet:

“This is a disgrace of epic proportions. It is also unlawful. I am disgusted for every soldier who ever gave their life to protect our Constitution!!! I feel sick.”

Not much has changed since the fury of then Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) carrying the same Koran during his swearing when he became the first Muslim in Congress.

Representatives, unlike senators, simply raise their hands while swearing to support the Constitution of the United States. The House member with the longest continuous service, in the 116th Congress Don Young (R-AK) with 46 years of service, swears in the duly-elected Speaker who then swears in the other members en masse. A book of choice, whether it be a bible or koran, is used for photographs with the Speaker after the general swearing in.

Although many conservatives claims America only for Christians, Islam came to the continent in the 17th century with the West African slaves. Thomas Jefferson bought a Koran when he was 22 years old, 11 years before drafting the Declaration of Independence. He criticized Islam as well as Catholicism for “stifling free enquiry” because both religions tied religion to government, yet he supported the rights of believers. His private notes paraphrase the English philosopher John Locke’s 1689 “Letter on Toleration”:

“(He) says neither Pagan nor Mahometan (Muslim) nor Jew ought to be excluded from the civil rights of the commonwealth because of his religion.”

Jefferson copied Locke’s ideas in writing the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom:

“(O)ur civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions.”

Drafted in 1777, the Statute became law in 1786 and thus the basis for the U.S. Constitution’s “no religious test” clause and the First Amendment.

In Jefferson’s 1821 autobiography, he affirmed that the failure to add the words “Jesus Christ” to his legislation’s preamble proved the application of his Statute to be “universal.” Therefore religious liberty and political equality cannot be exclusively Christian but protect “the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan [Muslim], the Hindoo, and Infidel of every denomination.” “Universal” includes every one of every faith or non-faith.

Jefferson also welcomed the first Muslim ambassador, one from Tunis, to the White House in 1805. Because it was a time of Ramadan, Jefferson changed the time for the state dinner from 3:30 pm to be “precisely at sunset” to recognize the ambassador’s religious beliefs.

The month of Ramadan celebrates when Prophet Muhammad is believed to have first received revelations from God by fasting from sunrise to sunset. Each year, the event begins ten or eleven days earlier than the previous year, beginning on May 6 in 2019. Beginning in 1966, the White House commemorated Ramadan for two decades with an iftar dinner that broke the fast at night; DDT chose to ignore Ramadan in the first year after his inauguration.

While DDT’s supporters completely reject the Islam religion, they compare his election to the anointing of King Cyrus by God, a nonbeliever used by the faithful, as told by Mark Taylor, a former firefighter in The Trump Prophecy. Evangelical author Lance Wallnau, also in the film, said, “I believe the 45th president is meant to be an Isaiah 45 Cyrus,” who will “restore the crumbling walls that separate us from cultural collapse.”

DDT’s anti-Christian and anti-democratic attitudes make him popular with Christian nationalists who claim to follow the constitution and Founding Fathers while preferring autocrats and kings. Ralph Drollinger, the White House evangelist leading Bible study groups, has made “king” into a verb, i.e., “Get ready to king in our future lives.” DDT follows King Cyrus by making himself above the law, for example his most recent claim that he will build the wall with no authority from Congress. DDT’s evangelical followers also want only a king—no queens. Drollinger maintains that the Bible allows only “male leadership.” Even people who question his sexual language and behavior think that he’s a miracle sent from Heaven to lead the United States to God. To them, resisting DDT is resisting God. The current leading Christian movement in the U.S. today is unbending, authoritarian, patriarchal, and paranoid; it is an attack on democracy.

A sample of the far-right Christian sects and movements supporting DDT:

POTUS Shield: Televangelist Frank Amedia, leader of these self-described “warriors, worshippers, and watchmen,” insists that God visited him before DDT’s inauguration to ask him for a protective shield of prayer around DDT because he was sent to create a Christian fundamentalist takeover of the government. Members are Jerry Boykin, executive vice president of the Family Research Council, and Lou Engle, promoter of the Ugandan “kill the gays” bill—among other hate policies. One of their goals is doing away with Islam.

People of Praise: Predominantly Catholic, the group incorporates Pentecostal practices such as speaking in tongues, and requires members to swear an oath of loyalty to the group. Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who sits on the 7th Circuit Court and on DDT’s short list for a Supreme Court justice appointment, belongs to this group believing that women must submit to male authority. The terms “handmaid” and “handmaiden” to describe women are reminiscent of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale, popularized in the 1990 film and 2017/2018 television series.

Quiverfull: This movement within fundamentalist Protestant Christianity claims that preventing a pregnancy is a sin and that all contraceptives are tools of the Devil. Christian wives, who must be submissive to their husbands, should have as many children as possible. Author Nancy Campbell called the womb a “weapon against Satan.” Kathryn Joyce wrote:

“If just eight million American Christians began supplying more ‘arrows for the war’ by having six children or more, they propose that the Christian Right ranks could rise to 550 million within a century.”

Wives are not allowed to have bank accounts or email addresses with their husbands’ permission, and they are to be always sexually available to their husbands.

Project Blitz: This coalition of Christian fundamentalist activists floods state legislatures with bills promoting a theocracy with the hope that a few may succeed in passing. Model bills come from the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation (CPCF) playbook under the guise of “religious freedom.” Five states have passed “In God We Trust” bills mandating that the phrase be on public buildings, schools, and public vehicles include police cars. Other bills could provide proclamations that move religious teachings into schools through something like a Christian heritage week, followed by anti-LGBTQ bills to promote “biblical values concerning marriage and sexuality.” Christians are to rule the United States with their far-right vision, according to Project Blitz; all other people are second-class citizens.

WallBuilders: Founder David Barton, also active in Project Blitz, is a former chairman of the Texas Republican Party and director of Keep the Promise PAC that supported Sen. Ted Cruz’ 2016 presidential campaign. A history revisionist, he teaches that separation of church and state is unconstitutional and that the government should be based on strict biblical law.  Barton has advised Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, Sam Brownback, and Mike Huckabee and regularly appeared on Glenn Beck’s Founders Fridays radio broadcasts. God established national borders, according to Barton, who opposes any immigration. In 2010, he tried to keep Martin Luther King, Jr. from Texas textbooks because “only majorities can expand political rights.”

Through the National Prayer Breakfast, far-right Christians connected with Russia to maintain the GOP leadership of the United States. Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, explained the background for the National Prayer Breakfast and its connection to Russia:

“It’s run by a private, sectarian, fundamentalist organization called The Fellowship and The Family that believes in precisely this kind of action. In fact, the long-time leader of the organization has called it quiet diplomacy, back channel, back door interactions between international leaders, that they use the prayer breakfast to bring them together. As recently as a year ago, the current leader, Doug Burleigh, was predicting alliance between [President Donald] Trump and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin. He predicted that at a Russian prayer breakfast.”

Russian Maria Butina, recently admitted to being a Russian spy, allegedly sought to influence U.S. officials not only through organizations such as the National Rifle Association, but also by exploiting the National Prayer Breakfast. Butina was denied entry into the United States until the NRA pushed through a visa for her. The affidavit stated that she intended to use the prayer breakfast to “establish a back channel of communications” between influential Russians in the U.S. with power U.S. citizens. This year, the Breakfast had the biggest group of any country. One of the Russians formally invited was sanctioned two months after the prayer breakfast.

Christian evangelicals are leaders of the movement to involve Russia in making DDT king of the United States with his support from Pence and the GOP base.

December 25, 2018

DDT’s Version of ‘Merry Christmas’

Day Four of Government Shutdown: Retroactive pay doesn’t mean anything for small businesses when people stop spending for the holidays out of fear that paychecks will not be coming for a long time. No more perks like manicures or more presents. After Christmas, forget sales for clothes and other things that people load up on at the sales. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) says he won’t stop the shutdown until he gets his money. Sounds like blackmail on Christmas Day.

DDT wants people to say “Merry Christmas,” but he debunked Santa Claus to a seven-year-old girl when she called to check on Santa’s progress on NORAD. When DDT answered the phone, he asked While answering telephone calls from children tracking Santa’s progress on NORAD, DDT asked Collman Lloyd of Lexington (SC) if she is “still a believer in Santa Claus.” After she said yes, DDT said, “Because at 7 that’s marginal, right?” Fortunately, Collman doesn’t know the meaning of “marginal,” and she still believes in Santa because the milk and cookies left for him overnight disappeared. DDT, who threw rocks at other toddlers in play pens before he was three years old, just shot down Santa Claus for a lot of people.

The day before DDT tried to burst Collman’s bubble, he moaned on his Twitter account:

 “I am all alone (poor me) in the White House waiting for the Democrats to come back and make a deal on desperately needed Border Security.” [DDT’s version of “all alone.]

Earlier this year, DDT turned down $25 billion in border security, but he claims that “the wall is different” and that it “will be built with shutdown money plus funds already in hand.” He’s missed the fact that the shutdown costs money; it doesn’t increase funding. And that’s just part of the anger-filled, hateful tweets that he sent from the White House in the days before Christmas when he wanted to be cheered on with Mar-a-Lago members.

In several tweets, DDT scapegoated Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell for his own mistakes that led to the massive drop in stock markets during December. After a disastrous week, the Dow Jones plunged another 653 points in a half-day session yesterday. Economists have been muttering about an upcoming recession for months, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, formerly king of foreclosures who didn’t let an elderly widow escape when she owed $.27, tried to block the fall. On Sunday, Mnuchin tweeted that the public has plenty of money to borrow because he talked with CEOs of six large banks. The CEOs were confused by his tweet, and the stock market had its worst Christmas Eve in history. The other major stock exchanges dropped in equally disastrous percentages, and crude oil fell over six percent to below $43 a barrel.

DDT added to the roiling market by threatening to fire Powell, his own appointment, and asking if he has the right to carry through with his threats. Mnuchin told DDT Saturday night that Mnuchin didn’t have the right to fire Powell although the law permits the president to fire a Fed board member “for cause.” Mick Mulvaney, Budget Director/acting chief of staff, said Saturday that DDT wasn’t going to fire Powell, whose term as chair ends in 2022 and board member in 2028. Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, said that DDT’s war on the Fed has caused some of the problems:

“Investors are increasingly spooked by the president’s wrong-headed attacks on the Fed and the Treasury Secretary’s ham-handed efforts to convince everyone Trump doesn’t mean it and that everything is fine.”

Although DDT claimed today that he was happy with Mnuchin, insiders are saying that he is upset with him. Mnuchin may follow former Defense Secretary James Mattis out of the Cabinet.

Christmas 2018 is the date that DDT cut off aid for abused women. Funding for the Violence against Women Act (VAWA) stopped when DDT’s shutdown began. Women lose their resources to be safe just before the holidays, a particularly dangerous time for them.

DDT has cut off paychecks for about 800,000 federal workers as well as planning to cut food stamps from another 800,000 people. Upset because the farm bill did not have provisions to starve people, DDT has announced his own orders last week to circumvent a law passed by Congress. DDT follows the conservative argument that people who get benefits aren’t working because they are lazy. DDT’s proposed rule removes the 20-year-old states’ rights to issues waivers if unemployment is 20 percent over the national average or there are significantly fewer jobs available than people who need work. DDT’s order to remove waivers in areas of unemployment under 7 percent will be made worse with bureaucracy such as Arkansas’s Medicaid overhaul where no waivers can be issued even in places with proof of insufficient jobs. Less than ten percent of food stamp recipients qualify as “able-bodied adults without dependents,” and over half of them work or volunteer enough time for the 20-hour work rules.

The Fox network final salvo in its “war against Christmas” blended with its war on gender identity and came from Tucker Carlson’s diatribe against gingerbread people with his guest Tammy Bruce. She claimed that gingerbread men are “obviously… they’re men.” She did indicate that she couldn’t tell the gender, “because they’re also not wearing clothes. So, it’s hard to say what they are and what they’re doing and not doing.” She probably refers to the fact that gingerbread cookies lack external genitalia and secondary sexual characteristics. Carlson called on people to not participate in the “spiritual neutering” of cookies. Part of the outrage came from false news reporting that the Scottish Parliament had banned the use of the term “men” when referring to gingerbread cookies. With 30 percent of women in the Scottish Parliament building stating they had been sexually harassed, the bakery renamed their cookies in solidarity.

A true war on Christmas this year is the war by DDT and the GOP against immigrants both documented and undocumented, especially those seeking asylum. A Guatemalan child died in DHS custody early this morning, the second one in less than three weeks. The cause hasn’t been announced, but children are put in extremely cold rooms when first in custody, supposedly to kill germs, and experience limited medical screening only for scabies, lice, and chickenpox. Children sleep side-by-side on mats on the floor with only a Mylar blanket. All their belongings are removed. The facilities were built in the 1980s and 1990s to temporarily house migrant adults. The 8-year-old boy’s death went unnoted in DDT’s furious tweets. Felipe González Morales, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, has called for an investigation of 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin after her death in custody on December 7, 2018 although the death was kept secret from Congress for almost a week.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) told DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen during her testimony to a House hearing that DDT’s immigration policies are unchristian and that they would have blocked Jesus Christ and his family from their flight to Egypt:

“During Christmas, a time in which we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ—a Jesus Christ who had to flee for his life with Mary and Joseph—thank God there wasn’t a wall that stopped him from seeking refuge in Egypt.”

DDT skipped a presidential tradition on Christmas by avoiding any direct contact with military members on Christmas Day, instead addressing some service members on safe bases. He told them that drugs are flowing across the southern border, the Federal Reserve is endangering the U.S. economy, and Democrats are planning to harass him with oversight hearings. He said, “It’s a disgrace …, but other than that, I wish everybody a very merry Christmas.” Merry Christmas to you too, DDT!

On this Christmas Day, 705 days since DDT’s inauguration, I am grateful for a safe home with food and warmth. I don’t live in a war-torn area, I’m not a refugee from violence, I no longer teach where someone could come in to kill me and my students, I have health insurance—I could keep going on and on with the privileges that many of us have, even more privileges after DDT has declared war on every minority. The best gift for my Christmas Day—for my year—is that the nation may have a chance to save a small piece of its democracy. After Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg had two malignant nodules removed from her lung last week, she’s back at work in her room at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Doctors say that that there is “no evidence of remaining disease.”

December 24, 2018

A Gift to Me from a Good Friend

Filed under: Religion — trp2011 @ 4:46 PM
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It’s almost December at the White House, and Donald Trump orders his aides to put up a nativity scene on the lawn. They all grovel before him and begin their task.

After working for a few hours to set one up, the aides step back to look at their work.

“It looks pretty good,” says the first one.

“Yeah, but I’m not sure the boss will like it,” says the second.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, look at these three wise men. Three wise men? That sounds like Ivy League elitists to me. Plus, frankincense and myrrh? I bet these guys are Arabs. The president wouldn’t like this at all.”

The other aide agrees he has a point, so they take out the wise men and chuck them over the fence.

“Do you think it’s ready now?” says the first aide.

“Not really,” says the second one, “Look at Mary and Joseph – they’re refugees! I bet they’re bringing drugs and crime to Nazareth.”

So they take out Mary and Joseph too.

“Ok, I think we’re ready,” says the first one.

“Not yet,” says the second, “look at the baby. His parents came from Egypt just so he could be born in Nazareth? Sounds like an anchor baby to me.”

So they chuck out Jesus as well.

Proud of their work, they head back to the Oval Office to let the president know they’ve finished.

“Well?” He asks, “have you finished the most bigly tremendous decorations? We’re going to make Christmas great again.”

“Yes, Mr President. We’re sure you’ll be very happy with it. We took out the wise men, Mary and Joseph, and Jesus.”

“Well,” Trump asks, “what’s left?”

“It’s just the way we thought you’d like it sir. One jackass and a whole bunch of sheep.”

Merry Christmas!

 

December 16, 2018

‘War on Christmas’ Continues

Filed under: Religion — trp2011 @ 7:34 PM
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The “War on Christmas” rolls on with Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) a major perpetrator. He may be telling people “Merry Christmas,” but he cancelled the annual Christmas White House media event, inviting only “nice” commentators “nice”—especially Fox—to other White House holiday parties. Those are the ones who continue to shout “War on Christmas.”

Last year DDT and Melania had a gathering but made a brief appearance and didn’t pose for photographs. The guest list also avoided the inclusion of many black and LGBTQ reporters. Even Bill Clinton was willing to have his picture taken with journalists days after he was impeached. DDT’s relationship with the media has become increasingly frayed during the past year, especially after he pulled Jim Acosta’s press credentials and told the world that his business with Saudi Arabia was more important the torture and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S. journalist for the Washington Post.

In their passion about the “war on Christmas,” conservatives forgot to notify the importance of rejecting “Happy Holidays” to its own religious right group Heritage Foundation. Although that political organization has typically used the winter holidays as a wedge against inclusiveness, this year’s gifts fail to represent their battle.

Conservatives—who don’t care about climate change killing polar bears—are up in arms against Starbucks for their sugar cookies decorated as polar bears. The major problem with their complaint is that the cookies disappeared eight years ago.

In Elkhorn (NE), Manchester Elementary principal Jennifer Sinclair banned a long list of Christmas traditions, including candy canes. She wrote, “Historically, the shape [of the candy cane] is a ‘J’ for Jesus. The red is for the blood of Christ, and the white is a symbol of his resurrection. This would also include different colored candy canes.” Her order has been reversed, and the principal is on administrative leave. Because of a high level of “concerns,” a police officer has been posted at the school.

Other signs of the GOP/DDT war on Christmas:

  • Gassing asylum seekers trying to legally come into the United States from Mexico.
  • Separating children from parents, especially with no intent to return them, and imprisoning them.
  • Killing civilians, including those in schools and hospitals, throughout the Middle East.
  • Refusing health care for low-income people after denying them a living wage.
  • Destroying the planet through ignoring renewable energy sources.
  • Depleting the world’s resources to make the wealthiest people wealthier.
  • Building white supremacy over minorities.
  • Insisting on war to build corporate profits.
  • Making dangerous decisions about the economy.
  • Putting unqualified conservative bigots on federal courts.
  • Removing women’s and voting rights.
  • Rigging elections and winning them by fraud to achieve the above.

The Vatican is also having a problem this Christmas season. Pope Francis has removed two cardinals from the Council, his international advice body, for alleged sexual abuse. Cardinal Pell, still the Vatican treasurer, will be on trial on sexual abuse charges in Australia, and Chile’s Francisco Javier Errazuriz has been accused of covering up child abuse while Archbishop of Santiago. Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, 79, also resigned from the Council leaving only six in the group. There are no plans to immediately the empty seats.

DDT’s firm Christian evangelical beliefs did not extend to reciting the Apostles’ Creed at the funeral of George H.W. Bush. He and Melania stood in stone silence while three former presidents—Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter—participated in the service with their wives.

Over a month after the midterm elections, the Democrats still have no intention to “slaughter” tens of thousands of Christians, as Christian broadcaster and conspiracy theorist Rick Wiles warned if the Dems win. He pronounced that “they hate God. These people are against God. Every nation that has been taken over by Marxist-communists, they immediately kill the pastors. They immediately kill Christians. They immediately burn the churches.” He’s also maintained that MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow, an out lesbian, will lead a coup against DDT.

“Be prepared for a mob—a leftist mob—to tear down the gates, the fence at the White House and to go into the White House and to drag him out with his family and decapitate them on the lawn of the White House.”

Matt Shea, a Republican state representative in Washington, wants to kill all people he identifies as non-believers. In his “Biblical Basis for War,” he follows “Dominionism,” also advocated by Ted Cruz’s father, that describes God as a “warrior” and demands that his holy war “kill all males” who do not submit to the document’s rules. Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, who gave the material to the FBI, described Shea’s document as “a ‘how to’ manual consistent with the ideology and operating philosophy of the Christian Identity/Aryan Nations movement and the Redoubt movement of the 1990s.” Shea won his sixth term in 2018 with 58 percent of the vote.

Conservative pastor E.W. Jackson maintains that he isn’t Islamaphobic, he is horrified that two Muslim women may be able to wear their hijabs on the floor of the U.S. House starting in January 2019. “The floor of Congress is now going to look like an Islamic republic,” Jackson said. “We are a Judeo-Christian country. We are a nation rooted and grounded in Christianity and that’s that.”

Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar (D-MN) tweeted:

“Well sir, the floor of Congress is going to look like America… And you’re gonna have to just deal 😂”

The ban stating “every member shall remain uncovered during the sessions of the House” began in 1837 to break tradition with members of the British House of Commons who were required to wear hats in order to speak. The House of Commons continued its tradition until 1998; the Senate has no rule regarding head coverings.

Jackson, who lost a GOP Virginia primary for Senate in May said:

“Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe in the freedom of religion, I believe in the First Amendment, but I’ll tell you what, I’m not voting for a Muslim to serve in any office. Me, personally, I’m not doing it. I’m not doing it. Period. I’m not doing it.”

DDT plans to leave for a two-week vacation at the end of the week. Isolated at Mar-a-Lago in Florida, he will have lots of time for more vicious tweets about the media and his opponents with little monitoring to help him be more rational.

Merry Christmas!

December 9, 2018

‘War on Christmas’ Returns

Thanksgiving is over, and the stores have filled with winter holiday decorations. Time for the “War on Christmas.” Fox network Sean Hannity opened his salvos in the war in all caps warning that “CHRISTMAS IS UNDER SIEGE.” He went far beyond protesting a greeting of “Happy Holidays” or a lack of Christmas items in retail stores to lambast a Massachusetts church that used a figure of baby Jesus in the Nativity scene behind a fence, pointing out what would have happened 2,000 years ago if the family faced the same problems as current refugees. Church leaders hoped that the display “will provoke conversations about how immigrants are being treated at the U.S.-Mexico border, including the controversial separation of children from their parents.”

Hannity warned his audience that they might not want their children to see an image of a doll in a cage although he lacked similar reservations about showing photographs of real children in cages. Laura Ingraham continued the barrage on her show after Hannity, and her guest, Dan Bongino finished Ingraham’s segment by exclaiming, “Friends don’t let friends mess with baby Jesus!” Earlier this year, Ingraham called the separation of migrant children from their parents as a summer camp.

On Christmas Day, white right-wing Christians join others in celebrating the birth of Jesus, a Palestinian, while they celebrate the mass slaughter of Palestinians by Israelites. He came from the town of Nazareth in Galilee in the northern territory of Palestine and spoke Aramic. Israelites began the ethnic cleansing of indigenous Palestinians in 1000 BCE, a process that is continued in current times. One story of Jesus’s birth describes the family’s flight as refugees from the genocidal infanticide of King Herod.

More than 100 migrant children continue to be separated from their parents seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border after last summer’s purge and remain in custody, sometimes in abusive situations. Despite DDT’s claim that he has stopped separating families, any vague or unsubstantiated allegations of wrongdoing of minor violations against parents are currently used to resume the separation process as a deterrent to asylum seekers. DOJ asserts that a court order does not require them to report these new separations to the ACLU.

Bill O’Reilly, gone from the Fox network because of expensive consequences for his sexual misconduct, brought the “war on Christmas” to media’s forefront in 2005. Chauncey DeVega, politics staff writer for Salon, theorizes about reasons for conservatives’ obsession with the subject. A half-century ago, history Richard Hofstadter pointed out that the conservative movement employ emotional appeals for manipulation and control of political power of its anti-intellectual audience who are prone to belief in conspiracy theory that lack any factual basis. The GOP and conservative control of the Fox network content provide effective state propaganda that conditions viewers to believe falsehoods.

Conservatives use their form of Christianity to weaponize religion by falsely purporting that liberals, gays, Muslims, atheists, “secularists,” and any other “enemy” oppresses white Christians, the most powerful and dominant group in the United States. The “war on Christmas” comes from white identity politics designed to make white right-wing Christians control all other groups.

University of Oregon sociologist Randall Blazak, a leading expert on the neo-Nazi and white supremacist movement who gained his information from infiltrating neo-Nazi skinheads and other white supremacist hate groups, discussed this movement. According to Blazak, the white working-class men have lost their picture of the American Dream through the demographic changes during the last half century which has made others more equal to them. They perceive this growing equality as a loss of status from the 1950s when white males reigned supreme.

The Tea Party, which took over Congress in 2010, holds similar false narratives to white supremacists—President Obama as the Muslim outsider, the media as “enemy of the people,” desire for Christian control of the nation—ideas that evolve into violence. White supremacists told the murderer of nine people in a black Charleston church that he couldn’t get a date because black men were taking white women, and the killer’s actions progressed from that fear. The simplistic world view for white supremacists is that if other people gain, then they are losing. It’s their job to take back the country through violence.

The simplistic view of these people is the importance of saying “Merry Christmas” to suppress the multiculturalism taking over the United States. Supporters of the “war on Christmas” concept lack the skills or refuse to develop ones to cope with social change.

Fundamentalist Christians continue to boycott stores in their “war on Christmas”: Target for allowing transgender people to use bathrooms (although the Liberty Council also complains that Target doesn’t make Christmas its main advertising focus); Barnes & Noble for losing “focus on the Reason for the season”; Burlington Coat Factory for “severe lack of Christmas advertising with biblical meaning”; and Lord & Taylor (“reindeers and Santas hide the love of the Nativity”). Nothing yet about Starbucks not putting the word “Christmas” on its cups and J. Crew for not using nativity scene clipart to sell sweaters.

In accordance with the freedom of religion laws, the Chicago chapter of the Temple of Satan put up its celebration of the holidays in the Illinois state capitol. The four-foot sculpture of a snake coiled around an outstretched arm holding an apple sits between a Christmas tree and a menorah. The plague reads “Knowledge Is the Greatest Gift.” In previous years, the building has hosted a “Festivus” pole, a fictional holiday from the TV sitcom Seinfeld. The mission of the Temple of Satan is to “encourage benevolence and empathy among all people.”

Last year, 90 percent of people in the U.S. said they celebrate Christmas, but only 46 percent do so in a religious way—a drop of almost ten percent from 51 percent just four years earlier.

This year, Starbucks seems to have avoided the political accusation that its cups show a “war on Christmas.” Or maybe people are just tired of complaining that the cups aren’t Christmasy enough. Four lovely cups feature red stripes, red and white flames, mistletoe-like coffee cherries, and stars—all pagan designs. Lest we forget, Christmas evolved from a rowdy pagan winter celebration and was banned by the Puritans who settled America. Now it’s a patriotic holiday in which God is wrapped in the U.S. flag. And the White House celebrates it in blood red.

October 21, 2018

Why Atheism

Filed under: Religion — trp2011 @ 7:45 PM
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Author Greta Christina has an excellent blog about questions that people ask of atheists.  Many people ask routine questions of minorities that reveal offensive assumptions or simple ignorance. They may not intend to be rude, but the inquiries may reflect a bigoted marginalization—or just bad manners. They may ask blacks if they can touch their hair or Latinx if they are in the U.S. legally. “Where do you come from” can be questions of other people of color. LGB people are asked, “How do you have sex?” and transgender people suffer even more abusive questions about biology.

Christina lists nine of these offensive questions to atheists—and provides answers.

1: “How can you be moral without believing in God?”

Answer: Atheists have the same compassion and sense of justice as Christians—or at least as Christians are characterized as having. As social animals, humans evolved with core moral values hardwired in the brain—fairness, loyalty, concern for others who are harmed. Christina asks the question of religious believers whether they would lose all sense of morality without a sense in a god. She points out that these same believers often reject some parts of their holy book while accepting other parts. How many Christians support the stoning of adulterers—for example, the man sitting in the Oval Office—or not planting different crops in the same field? God is not responsible for whether people are good. Take Pat Robertson, for example, who doesn’t mind that a U.S. reporter was killed in a Saudi embassy in Turkey and wants to sell arms to Saudi Arabia so that they can kill more people. Being moral is a fundamental part of being human; saying that it comes from fear of punishment and desire for reward insults religious believers.

2: “How do you have any meaning in your life?” Or, “Don’t you feel sad or hopeless?” Or even, “If you don’t believe in God or heaven, why don’t you just kill yourself?”

Answer: All people find joy and meaning in the same things—family, friendship, work, nature, art, learning, love, kittens, cookies. Religious believers just tack on “making my god or gods happy and getting a good deal in the afterlife.” A belief that life is finite gives it more meaning, not less, because every moment must matter.

3: “Doesn’t it take just as much/even more faith to be an atheist as it does to be a believer?”

Answer: No. Atheism is not “100% certainty that God does not exist, with no willingness to question and no room for doubt.” It means “being reasonably certain that there are no gods,” or, “having reached the provisional conclusion, based on the evidence we’ve seen and the arguments we’ve considered, that there are no gods.” The question makes the assumptions that atheists don’t bother to think about their beliefs and that people are unable to come to conclusions by evidence, reason, and thinking instead of the “faith” in believing what someone else says.

4: “Isn’t atheism just a religion?”

Answer: No. Unless a definition of “religious” is “any conclusion people come to about the world,” or, “any community organized around a shared idea.” A belief of religion that includes atheism will also include Amnesty International, the Audubon Society, heliocentrism, the acceptance of the theory of evolution, the Justin Bieber Fan Club, and the Democratic Party. Claiming atheism as a religion changes it to a “faith-based” belief, not one from rational thought.

5: “What’s the point of atheist groups? How can you have a community and a movement for something you don’t believe in?”

Answer: Back to humans being social animals. People enjoy time with others who share interests, values, and goals. Like LGBTQ people, atheists sometimes lose friend and family support, which causes the creation of other communities. Then religious believers sometimes accuse atheism as being just another religion. See #4 above.

6: “Why do you hate God?” Or, “Aren’t you just angry at God?”

Answer: People cannot be angry with something that they believe does not exist—like gods and Santa Claus. This question comes from an assumption that non-belief is insincere, an emotional trauma, and/or rebellion. It’s just non-belief by people who see the world differently from religious believers.

7: “But have you [read the Bible or some other holy book; heard about some supposed miracle; heard about a religious experience]?”

Answer: Most likely. Atheists tend to be better educated about religion and its tenets than most religious believers. Reading the Bible may have led atheists to a decision in non-belief. Religion is so pervasive that it’s impossible to ignore; religious privilege permeates the culture through the arts, economic and political life, the media—everywhere.

8: “What if you’re wrong?” Or, “Doesn’t it make logical sense to believe in God? If you believe and you’re wrong, nothing terrible happens, but if you don’t believe and you’re wrong, you could go to Hell!”

Answer: Or that if believers are wrong about Allah? Or Vishnu? Or Zeus? Or whether God is the wrathful jerk who hates gay people, or the loving god who hates homophobes? What if you’re wrong about whether God wants you to celebrate the Sabbath on Saturday or Sunday? What if you’re wrong about whether God really does care about whether you eat bacon? As Homer Simpson put it, “What if we picked the wrong religion? Every week we’re just making God madder and madder!” Climate disasters bring out religious believers who blame anyone not supporting their personal religion. What if God isn’t personally managing nature to attack atheists, LGBTQ people, and other minorities? Religious believers who bet on their personal god or gods are betting against the thousands of other gods. Is that safe? The assumption behind this question also wants atheists to fake believe in a god against their personal intelligence and values to take on a convenient idea. Is that belief?

9: “Why are you atheists so angry?”

Answer: In Christina’s book Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, she writes that not all atheists are angry about religion—and those of us who are angry aren’t in a constant state of rage. She pointed out that some anger comes from the terrible harm being done by religion to both atheists and religious believers. The question assumes that atheists are “bitter, selfish, whiny, unhappy, because we lack joy and meaning in our lives, because we have a God-shaped hole in our hearts. The people asking it seem to have never even considered the possibility that atheists are angry because we have legitimate things to be angry about.” Christina continues:

“This reflexive dismissal of our anger’s legitimacy does two things. It treats atheists as flawed, broken, incomplete. And it defangs the power of our anger. (Or it tries to, anyway.) Anger is a hugely powerful motivating force—it has been a major motivating force for every social change movement in history—and when people try to dismiss or trivialize atheists’ anger, they are, essentially, trying to take that power away.

“And finally: The people asking this question never seem to notice just how much atheist anger is directed, not at harm done to atheists, but at harm done to believers. A huge amount of our anger about religion is aimed at the oppression and brutality and misery created by religion, not in the lives of atheists, but in the lives of believers. Our anger about religion comes from compassion, from a sense of justice, from a vivid awareness of terrible damage being done in the world and a driving motivation to do something about it. Atheists aren’t angry because there’s something wrong with us. Atheists are angry because there’s something right with us. And it is messed-up beyond recognition to treat one of our greatest strengths, one of our most powerful motivating forces and one of the clearest signs of our decency, as a sign that we’re flawed or broken.”

In a recent example of religious harms, the “prayer of the day” email that Tony Perkins, leader of the Family Research Council, sent to his millions of followers begs God to elect people who will harm LGBTQ children by trying to make them straight. He wants to reinstate “conversion therapy” that causes suicidal thoughts and psychologically damaging guilt from prayer and other quack rituals.

Christina adds other questions that people shouldn’t ask atheists:

  •  “How can you believe in nothing?”
  • “Doesn’t atheism take the mystery out of life?”
  • “Even though you don’t believe, shouldn’t you bring up your children with religion?”
  • “Can you prove there isn’t a god?”
  • “Did something terrible happen to you to turn you away from religion?”
  • “Are you just doing this to rebel?”
  • “Are you just doing this so you don’t have to obey God’s rules?”
  • “If you’re atheist, why do you celebrate Christmas/ say ‘Bless you’ when people sneeze/ spend money with ‘In God We Trust’ on it/ etc.?”
  • “Have you sincerely tried to believe?”
  • “Can’t you see God everywhere around you?”
  • “Do you worship Satan?”
  • “Isn’t atheism awfully arrogant?”
  • “Can you really not conceive of anything bigger than yourself?”
  • “Why do you care what other people believe?”

She—and I—urge people to research questions that reflect dehumanization and religious privilege. And people should do the same to avoid bigotry and a sense of superiority when asking questions of other minorities.

Factoid: Ten percent of people in the United States don’t believe in God—that’s ten times as many as in 1944.

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