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.

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.

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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