Nel's New Day

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.

December 3, 2017

How Far Can Republicans Sink?

Filed under: Religion — trp2011 @ 10:35 PM
Tags: , , , ,

The reports of sexual assault have filled the news, and Democrats are going into the problem head on while the GOP (Grand Old Perverts) are running away. It’s the shiny object keeping people from paying attention to the disastrous tax bill passed by the Senate and headed back to the House while Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) continues his lies and alienates reasonable leaders in other countries with his bigotry—the past week a focus against Muslims. And Roy Moore is most likely headed toward Washington as the new senator from Alabama. The world will know after the special election on December 12, nine days away.

Last year’s presidential election changed the perspective in the United States toward leadership. Eighty percent of Christian evangelicals voted for an alleged pedophile, and the trend continues with Moore. A survey at end of November shows that 39 percent of registered evangelical Christian voters are more likely to support him after they hear that he may have sexually abused a 14-year-old girl, dated teenage girls when he was in his 30s, and groped women in his office. Only 28 percent says that his behavior makes them less like to vote for him. Sixty-four percent of evangelicals say that they support him over a Democrat. In Alabama, 35 percent of the state are white evangelical Protestants and 58 percent of the state GOP.

Moore is running a campaign rife with fraud. His wife Kayla published a letter supposedly from 50 pastors endorsing her husband. At least four of them said they wanted their names removed from the letter, and others didn’t live in Alabama. Dozens of other evangelical pastors have signed a letter that declares him “not fit for office.”

The stories go far beyond his sexual assault, dating teenage girls, and groping. People who lived in his town knew that he was banned from a mall and the YMCA because he harassed the girls there. An Alabama police officer was assigned to watch him at local high school football games. Her task was to keep him from harassing the cheerleaders.

The recent unabashed GOP support for candidates like Moore and DDT demonstrates the shift in evangelical approach. The party has long proudly supported “family values,” but they have lost their Christian approach toward goodness to vote for policies. Even in 2004, “values voters” who said they prioritized character embodying Christian values such as kindness, honesty, and forgiveness voted for George W. Bush’s policy positions. In a survey following the election, 23 percent referenced personal characteristics of candidates whereas 44 percent talked about their opposition to abortion and LGBTQ rights. That percentage increased to 58 percent among evangelicals by 2015 who held high priorities for social and cultural goals no matter the quality of the candidate. Those who want “religious freedom” also want to remove secularism and diversity from the nation. Seventy-two percent thought in 2015 that too many laws about moral standards have been removed and want to keep the United States a “Christian nation.” Last year almost half of white evangelical Protestants described Democrats as a serious threat to the nation.

Moore fits the evangelical view of what the United States should be. He blames the 9/11 attacks on the legalization of abortion and LGBTQ rights, stating that the Supreme Court recognition of marriage equality is worse than the 1857 Dred Scott decision declaring that blacks were property and not citizens. In addition to rejecting LGBTQ rights and abortion, he denied the existence of evolution and opposes women voting and running for office. He wrote that it is a moral obligation to never vote for a woman to hold public office. It also criticizes a woman’s right to vote.

The evangelical philosophy of marrying young women is taught in homeschooling with the phrase “14-year-old girls courting adult men.” Part of Vaughn Ohlman’s career was speaking at home-school conventions about his retreat for families to arrange child marriages. Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson said that men should marry 15- and 16-year-old girls because 20-year-olds are too old to be molded. Another term for evangelical approach to a male selecting and grooming young girls is predation. Roy Moore represents a Christian fundamentalist problem.

Fundamentalist Christians leadership has a record of protecting GOP sexual predators. Family Research Council president, Tony Perkins, covered for Ohio state Rep. Wes Goodman (R) after his sexual encounters with other men, at least one of them allegedly not consensual. Documents indicate that he sexually assaulted a young man at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, D.C. in 2015 while employed by the Council for National Policy (CNP), a somewhat-secretive umbrella organization for prominent conservative leaders from across the country. Goodman has since resigned after an “inappropriate interaction” in his legislative office that GOP Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger deemed consensual. The legislator’s position included virulent opposition to LGBTQ rights; Perkins promised the teenage boy’s stepfather that “this will not be ignored nor swept aside. It will be dealt with swiftly, but with prudence.” Two months later Goodman was running for office. Perkins did suspend his membership with CNP but isn’t answering questions.

Approximately 30 sources, mostly college-aged men, reported inappropriate advances such as unwanted sexting, photos of his body, and hot tub invitations. One news source reported that Goodman targeted “young men he met through conservative circles who were too intimidated to publicly complain.” They feared for their own careers if they reported his undesired sexual advances.

Although the future looks dark at this time of year, a column by conservative Ross Douthat gives a light at the end of the tunnel. According to sociologist Christian Smith, younger evangelicals will “invent evangelicalism anew” because they were “betrayed by older pastors who insisted on the importance of moral character and then abandoned these preachments for the sake of partisanship — revealing their own commitments as essentially idolatrous.” Baylor professor Alan Jacobs goes farther when he predicts that young people will stop identifying with evangelicalism and move on to less radical philosophies. An “evangelical crackup” may come from pitting anti-Trump Southern Baptist Russell Moore “against the nationalist evangelicalism of a Jerry Falwell Jr. or Robert Jeffress.”

A common question about Republicans is how low can they sink. The possibility seems bottomless. After saying that he believed the allegations against Moore, that he was unfit to serve in public office, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is now tacitly supporting him.

“The people of Alabama are going to decide a week from Tuesday who they want to send to the Senate. It’s really up to them. It’s been a pretty robust campaign with a lot of people weighing in. The president and I, of course, supported somebody different earlier in the process. But in the end, the voters of Alabama will make their choice.”

Despite McConnell’s call on Moore to drop out of the race, Moore continues to say that Democrats and the media are making all the women are lying about what he did to them. He claims that LGBTQ people are orchestrating a campaign against him, and conservative outlets are smearing the women. The polls have been up and down for Moore, but polls have proved to be sometimes unreliable since the advent of DDT. One poll gives Moore a six-point lead over his opponent, Doug Jones, whereas another one puts Jones three points ahead.

The Alabaman argument for supporting Moore is to stop abortion. Conservative Jonathan Last wrote that his election will “set back the pro-life cause of years.” It will be an “albatross” for the GOP, and Democrats can use him to take over both chambers in 2018. According to Last, “the chances of Moore hurting the broader GOP caucus in a catastrophic way next year outweigh the chances of that one vote being make-or-break for abortion during the next four years.” (The winner of the December 12 election will be up again in 2020 because he is finishing Jeff Sessions’ term.)

Voting for DDT already increased the rot in the GOP; voting for Moore would increase the decay. Last asks if there is any limit to what a GOP candidate would do to stop votes—and stop the putrefaction. He concludes:

“If you care about the actual impact of supporting Moore—rather than preening in public about how you want people to view you—you start by looking in the mirror and thinking about the next compromise you’ll be asked to make.”

Nine more days until Moore’s election date. We’ll see then whether people in Alabama continue the destruction of the GOP.

December 7, 2014

Fundamentalist Christians Move toward Theocracy, Terrorism

A definition of “Christian” differs among followers of Jesus and Christ. More progressive people who follow the beliefs of the Christian bible rankle at the thought that those who want differ in thought are also Christians, but fundamentalists Christians do self-identify themselves as Christians. Moderate and progressive Christians do not seem to be successful in defeating the move toward a theocracy in the United States. Only by casting transparencies on the beliefs and actions of fundamentalist Christians, can people understand the dangers of Christians who want to force everyone in this country to follow their specific religion.

Last week, a reader to Nels New Day wrote, “Christian is such a widely used and mis-used tag that gets thrown around, it has lost all meaning.” I agree that the meaning has disappeared, but those who refer to themselves as Christians have gained a great deal of power in the country. As long as people self-identify as Christians, I’ll continue to refer to them in this way.

Conservatives Christians will control the Congress in less than a month, and the president could be a conservative Christian in two years. These are some issues we can expect.

According to research published by the Public Religion Research Institute, almost half the people in the United States (49 percent) and fully 77 percent of white evangelical Christians think that any natural disasters come from the biblical “end times” and not climate change. One-fourth of people in the United States believe that the Earth’s temperature has not been rising at all, despite scientific proof. Only 22 percent of Republicans think that humans have any connection with possible climate change, despite over 900 peer-reviewed scientific articles supply evidence. It appears that climate denial is a religious belief.

Rick Santorum, who may be a presidential candidate—again!—once said that the idea of separation of church and state makes him want to throw up. Now he’s telling his audience that the “words ‘separation of church and state’ is [sic] not in the U.S. Constitution, but it is in the constitution of the former Soviet Union. That’s where it very, very comfortably sat, not in ours.”

To be accurate, the U.S. Constitution does not use those exact words, but James Madison and Thomas Jefferson supported Roger Williams’ support of the concept from 1644. Madison, sometimes called “father of the constitution,” wrote, “Strongly guarded … is the separation between religion & Gov’t in the Constitution of the United States.” The USSR did copy—and ignore—some United States’ First Amendment principles such as freedom of speech and press, which might make Santorum think these are also Communist beliefs.

Bill O’Reilly is again using the mythical “War on Christmas” to improve Fox network’s ratings. According to fundamentalist Christians—and Fox supporters—anyone who tries to “diminish the celebration of Jesus’ birthday” is a “bully who tries to push other people down in order to make themselves feel better.” That’s the testimony of a therapist, Dr. Karen Ruskin, LMFT (Licensed Marriage & Family Counselor) who appeared on O’Reilly’s show in response to a billboard posted by a group of atheists. Ruskin and O’Reilly also claim that atheists who voice their opinion are gang-like and sadistic as well as being emotionally confused and in denial.

American-Atheist-Billboard-1024x298

Todd Starnes is another persecuted Fox pundit, this time by The Disney Channel. When their website didn’t accept an email from a 10-year-old girl, she and her mother assumed it was because she had used the word “God” in her email. Both Starnes and Elizabeth Hasselbeck, in a segment called “Looks like Disney has frozen out God,” complained about Disney. The company reported that their profanity filter lists the word “God” because many people use it in that context and would have explained if the family had contacted them.

Pope Francis has compared fundamentalist Christians to fundamentalist Muslims, and there are similar believes.  For example, the Fox network objects to women voting or being on juries, and some Christians believe that women cannot be raped by their husbands because the marriage vows give them consent to perform sexual acts anytime and in any way that they wish.

Most of the recent terrorist activity in the United States has come from radical Christians, white supremacists, and far-right militia groups:

  • Wisconsin Sikh Temple massacre, Aug 2012: White supremacist Wade Michael Page used a semiautomatic weapon to murder six people with a semiautomatic weapon.
  • The Dr. George Tiller Murder, May 2009: After Tiller’s clinic was firebombed in 1986 and he was shot five times in 1993 by Christian Right terrorist Shelly Shannon, the doctor was shot and killed by Christian Right terrorist Scott Roeder.
  • Knoxville Unitarian Universalist Church shooting, July 2008: Shooting people at random, Christian Right sympathizer Jim David Adkisson killed two and injured seven others. He gave hatred of liberals, Democrats, and gays as the reason.
  • The Centennial Olympic Park bombing, July 1996: Best known for the Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta during the 1996 Summer Olympics that killed spectator Alice Hawthorne and wounded 111 others, Eric Rudolph used his Christian belief to bomb a woman’s clinic in Birmingham (AL) in 1998 that killed Robert Sanderson, police officer and part-time security guard, and caused nurse Emily Lyons to lose an eye.

Pastor Steven Anderson, leader of Tempe’s (AZ) Faithful Word Baptist Church, has a way to “have an AIDS-free world by Christmas“: execute all gays. He claims to get the solution from Leviticus 18:22. With no college degree, Anderson’s claim to fame is that he has memorized over 140 chapters of the Bible “word-for-word,” according to his church’s website. He also argues that “remarriage is adultery” and in favor of keeping women silent in church. Pastor Vernon Meyer with Sun Lakes United Church of Christ compared Anderson to terrorist leaders: “That’s no different than what ISIS is doing in Iraq and Syria. God tells them to go kill anybody who’s different from them.”

Some religions beliefs require parents to kill their children despite the 1944 Supreme Court ruling that “the right to practice religion freely does not include liberty to expose… [a] child… to ill health or death.” The District of Columbia and 38 states, however, provide religious exemptions on child abuse and neglect, preventing Child Protective Services from investigating and monitoring cases of religion-based medical neglect and discourage reporting. Seventeen states have religious defenses to felony crimes against children, and 15 states have religious defenses to misdemeanors.

One of these religions is Church of the First Born, with over 100 churches in 20 states. Over 30 years ago, Rita Swan founded Children’s Health Is a Legal Duty (CHILD); in 1998 she teamed up with pediatrician Seth M. Asser to investigate child fatalities associated with faith healing. Of 172 children withheld from medical care on religious grounds, 140 had a 90-percent likelihood of survival with routine medical care. At least 82 dead children were connected to the Church of the First Born.

Conservative Christian legislators believe that charities should be done through their religion and not through government. New Beginnings in Tampa (FL) is an example of what would happen with this shift of control. This program, that claims to help homeless people addicted to drugs, alcohol, or both, get clean and get back on their feet to live more productive lives free of substance abuse, uses what CEO Tom Atchison calls “work therapy.” Residents work for local businesses and events but get no income from doing this. The homeless people not only work on labor crews but also telemarketing, construction, landscaping, moving, and even grant writing. If they don’t participate in the labor program that puts money into the CEO’s pocket, they’re charged $600 a month for meals and rent.

There is evidence that the program also takes food stamps, Social Security checks, and other income from the residents, even over the $600. Part of the program’s mission is counseling to its residents, but the charity has no staff to work with residents’ mental illness and addiction problems. One contractor claims that New Beginnings has overbilled Florida for $80,000. Atchison is so pleased with the money that he is making that he’s trying millions of taxpayer money by taking control of Hillsborough County’s newest homeless shelter.

According to fundamentalist Christians, God—who is channeled through legislators—is completely in charge despite the U.S. Constitution, and he wants terrorism throughout the country to control anyone who believes in climate change, human rights, and freedom of thought.

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