Nel's New Day

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.

June 3, 2018

Need for a Return to ‘Old-Time Religion’?

America was founded as a religious nation. Wrong. The U.S. Constitution was written by God. Wrong. The Founding Fathers wanted Christianity to be supreme in the U.S. Wrong. Yet these are firmly-held beliefs by fundamentalist Christians in the 21st century as they wage war to control all other people in the U.S. Their religion is flagrantly displayed in huge churches as the leaders buy mansions and jets from money donated by poor people. Televangelist Jesse Duplantis wants $54 million from his followers to buy his fourth jet. The others can’t get him far enough without having to refuel.

Religious faith to people in the 18th century—including the Founding Fathers—was private, just as the Bible dictates. Now evangelicals vote for people like Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) because they think he will give them religious control over the nation. They wouldn’t vote for these people:

George Washington: He was called an Anglican but followed the belief of Deism, a belief in God who isn’t active in human activities. The Deist God set the world in motion and then didn’t interfere. Washington’s god was a “supreme architect” of the universe, and Washington’s religion was important for good moral behavior. (Note that evangelicals don’t look for any good moral behavior in DDT as long as they get what they want out of him). Washington didn’t accept all Christian dogma and left services before communion. He was highly tolerant of other beliefs. In his letter to Touro Synagogue (1790), he promised complete religious liberty for Jews instead of mere tolerance in a “Christian” nation. His view was one of a multi-faith society where all are free.

“The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for giving to Mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens.”

John Adams: The second president of the United States man was a Unitarian and raised a Congregationalist. He never officially left that church but rejected belief in the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus. His writings show that he found some Christian dogma to be unintelligible. In an argument about religion, his opponent told him that humans cannot understand some parts of theology. Adams wrote in his diary, “Thus mystery is made a convenient cover for absurdity.” He signed the Treaty of Tripoli, which stated, “[T]he government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion….”

Thomas Jefferson: The third president of the United States once said, “I am a sect by myself, as far as I know.” He alluded to his skepticism of Christianity: he did not believe in the Trinity, the virgin birth, the divinity of Jesus, the resurrection, original sin and other core Christian doctrines. In his opinion, many conservative Christian clerics had perverted the teachings of that faith. Jefferson once told Adams:

“And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.”

Jefferson found Jesus a moral teacher and edited the New Testament, eliminating the stories of miracles and divinity. He firmly believed that a rational form of religion would take over the United States and predicted that most people would become Unitarian. Jefferson would not issue proclamations for days of prayer and fasting because he believed that these religious duties were not a part of the chief executive’s job. To Jefferson, the First Amendment built a “wall of separation between church and state.”

James Madison: The fourth president of the United States was, like Washington, nominally Anglican but really a Deist. Reluctant to talk publicly about his religious beliefs, Madison may have been the strictest church-state separationist among the founders. He opposed government-paid chaplains in Congress and in the military and rejected a census that would count the clergy. One of the authors of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, Madison opposed government-issued prayer proclamations. The few he issued during the War of 1812 at the insistence of Congress, he later declared unconstitutional. He cited the First Amendment when he vetoed legislation granting federal land to a church and a plan to have a church in Washington care for the poor through a largely symbolic charter.

Thomas Paine: As a pamphleteer, Paine wrote to rally Americans to independence. His famous works were “The American Crisis” and “Common Sense,” and the radial Deist’s The Age of Reason rejected institutionalized religion and its major tenets of prophecies and miracles. He claimed that the Bible cannot be infallible, calling the god of the Old Testament “wicked” and the entire Bible “the pretended word of God.”

[Thanks to Rob Boston, director of communications at Americans United for Separation of Church and State, for this information. His latest book is Taking Liberties: Why Religious Freedom Doesn’t Give You the Right to Tell Other People What to Do.]

In the 21st century, Paige Patterson was fired as president of the 15-million-member Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for behavior going back over a decade. He lied about his treatment of an alleged rape victim in 2003 after he told her not to report a rape to the police and ordered her to forgive her assailant. In 2015, Patterson tried to meet alone with another woman who had reported a sexual assault so that he could “break her down.” He also said that it was “a good thing” that a student was raped by another student and that her future husband wouldn’t care if she was a virgin or not.” The woman’s lawyer said, “He threatened to sic lawyers on her [mother] for questioning his leadership at the school when she asked why the assailant was allowed on campus.” Between 2000 and 2014, Patterson remarked on a teenage girl’s figure and said female seminarians need to work harder to look attractive.  He also said abused women should stay with their husbands. Originally, Patterson was just demoted to “president emeritus” with compensation and living quarters on the campus.

In other religious news, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) proudly posed with Pastor Robert Hagee, a speaker at the opening ceremony of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. The far right-wing Christian extremist believes that Hitler fulfilled God’s will by forcing Jews back to Israel.

Evangelical morality has sunk so low that fundamentalists no longer care how DDT behaves. Franklin Graham, Billy Graham’s grandson, described a consensus of fundamentalist Christians:

“I think this thing with Stormy Daniels and so forth is nobody’s business. And we’ve got other business at hand that we need to deal with.”

Graham also called the Clinton impeachment “a great mistake” after he wrote in an op-ed several years ago:

“[T]he God of the Bible says that what one does in private does matter. If he will lie to or mislead his wife and daughter, those with whom he is most intimate, what will prevent him from doing the same to the American public?”

But that was about a Democratic president. The change of party means a change of mind.

E.J. Dionne has a theory that current religious behavior such as demonstrated by Paige Patterson and Franklin Graham may be driving young people away from religion. Among adults under 30, about 40 percent claim to connection to religious tradition, joining the “nones.” He cited DDT’s admission that he paid a porn star for her silence, the firing of the House chaplain who then was rehired, and the increasing connection between organized religion and conservative politics leaning to the right in culture wars. Many young people regard religion as “judgmental, homophobic, hypocritical and too political.” The situation cannot be saved no matter how often the government hold the National Day of Prayer.

As the “nones” gather popularity—now 23 percent of the U.S. population—four House members have started the Congressional Freethought Caucus for members of Congress. The caucus is intended to “promote policy on reason and science, to protect the secular character of our government, and to champion the value of freedom of thought worldwide.”

Perhaps it’s time to return to ideas from the Founding Fathers.

January 29, 2012

Today’s Conservatives Would Reject Reagan, Founding Fathers

As the conservatives move farther and farther to the right, more and more venerated people of our history would have no chance of getting elected. Pundits like to talk about how Ronald Reagan wouldn’t be good enough for today’s conservative—although his name is tossed around to prove some points that candidates make. Even the early leaders of the United States would be considered far too liberal to make the cut, especially in their religious beliefs.

Unlike all the candidates who claimed to be chosen by the Christian God to represent the people—Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum come to mind—George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Thomas Paine thought of their faith as a private matter and lacked a “pure” enough faith to satisfy current conservatives.

George Washington, an Anglican, followed the philosophy of Deism, believing in a god that set things in motion and then stayed out of the effects. As such, this god was a “supreme architect” of the universe. Widely tolerant of other religions, Washington wrote a letter to Touro Synagogue (1790) promising the Jews that they would enjoy complete religious liberty in America and described a multi-faith society with freedom for all beliefs. “For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens.” Such stories about his praying in theValley Forge snow are myths created after he died.

John Adams, a Unitarian raised as a Congregationalist, refused to believe in the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus. His writings show that he found parts of Christian dogma to be incomprehensible. In his diary he wrote, “Thus mystery [Trinity] is made a convenient cover for absurdity.” When President Adams signed the famous Treaty of Tripoli, it stated, “[T]he government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion….”

Thomas Jefferson once said, “I am a sect by myself, as far as I know.” He did not believe in the Trinity, the virgin birth, the divinity of Jesus, the resurrection, original sin, and other core Christian doctrines, once saying to Adams, “And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.” Admiring Jesus as a moral teacher, he edited the New Testament, eliminating the stories of miracles and divinity and leaving behind a very human Jesus, whose teachings Jefferson found “sublime.” Jefferson refused to issue proclamations calling for days of prayer and fasting, saying that such religious duties were no part of the chief executive’s job.

James Madison, nominally Anglican, was probably a Deist like Washington. The strictest church-state separationist among the founders, he opposed government-paid chaplains in Congress and in the military. He also opposed government-issued prayer proclamations, declaring them unconstitutional.

Thomas Paine, also a radical Deist, infuriated fundamentalists with “The Age of Reason” in which he  opposed institutionalized religion and all of the major tenets of Christianity, rejecting prophecies and miracles while calling on readers to embrace reason. The Bible, Paine asserted, can in no way be infallible. He called the god of the Old Testament “wicked” and the entire Bible “the pretended word of God.”

Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously declared that religious groups should be able to choose their leaders without governmental interference. In doing so, it rejected arguments by the Obama administration that government regulations trump the free exercise of religion when denying people civil rights.

Surprisingly, no justice mentioned the obvious tension between this decision and the 2010 case Christian Legal Society v.Martinez. In the latter, justices held 5-4 that a public university could refuse to recognize a Christian organization because the group wished to practice discrimination in its members.

Which of the Republican religious leaders will win this year in their desire to impose their “Christian” beliefs on the nation? In my crystal ball, I think that Santorum won’t last  more than a month, and the Republican establishment will help Romney rise over Gingrich–despite Herman Cain’s and Sarah Palin’s endorsements of the latter.

Stay tuned this week for the Florida and Nevada primaries (1/31 and 2/4 respectively unless Nevada decides to make another change). I’ll be away from the computer for that time but be back in a week.

 

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