Another currently relevant comic by The Atheist Pig…
(click the image to see it full-size at TheAtheistPig.com)
In the now defunct blog Smoke & Mirrors, Moonflake answers Hemant Mehta’s (The Friendly Atheist) list of questions that are commonly asked of atheists. I particularly like the answer to the question, "Would the world be better off without religion?"
Depends how you got to that point. I donâ€™t think the world would be better off if you banned religion outright. But it would certainly be better if we all became sufficiently advanced in our moral and critical thinking to realise that we did not need religion, and just got on with the business of being better humans.
I think that’s a spot-on answer. Religion shouldn’t have to be banned. In a perfect world, humanity would realize that it’s… well… smoke and mirrors, and could be free to focus on the real world and real people, without using 2,000 year old dogma as an excuse to act badly.
It’s a great vision for the future.
Lately, I’ve been hearing more and more stories in the news and on blogs about religious people speaking out on quite a few topics… from a religious standpoint. Whether the topic is competing religions, education, church-state separation, politics, science, or human rights, it seems that religious folks, be they Protestant, Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, Mormon, or some offshoot, seem to feel that they have sole access to universal truths and anyone who disagrees with them is immoral, unpatriotic, or just plain evil.
Some Christians in the United States are frequently lamenting how they are persecuted… how their religious rights are being curtailed… how their freedom to worship is being stripped away… how their religion is prohibited in any public setting. Many Muslims seem to spew outrage over words and pictures they feel disrespect their beliefs… over opposition to their teachings… over perceived persecution or unfair treatment.
Yet, at the same time, these religious people will attempt to push their beliefs into public policy, into education, into government… all the while seemingly completely unaware of their own hypocrisy; not seeing how their adamant proclamations of superiority are exactly the same as the adamant proclamations of competing religious claims.
Why is that? How is it that some religious people seem completely closed off to the very notion that there are competing ideologies? How is it that some religious people will dismiss conflicting ideological claims without even the passing wonder if their own claims could just as easily be dismissed? How is it that one argument can be discarded as absurd when referring to one religion but that same argument can be held in high regard when referring to another? Why does religion seem to generate so much unrest… so much controversy… so much intolerance?
I’ve created a partial list of ideas with my interpretation of each one. It is by no means complete, nor is it absolute. Based on what I’ve seen, heard, read, and experienced, this is simply my understanding about some of the consequences of religious teachings and religious beliefs. Feel free to correct, debate, or add to any and all of my points.
This is one of the most pervasive problems with religions, in my opinion, and it’s always been a problem. If there is a phenomenon that isn’t understood… for which science has no current answer… the religious answer is “God did it.” Case closed. From the origin of the universe to the intricacies of biological development, “God did it” is a common refrain heard from religious proponents.
It’s not a real answer. It’s the religious way of saying, “I don’t know and I don’t care.” By attributing the cause to an invisible, all-powerful, undetectable entity, religion absolves its adherents from any investigative work… from any intellectual responsibility… from any curiosity.
Probably every deistic religion teaches its adherents to not question authority, whether that authority be a minister, the bible, the Pope, or God. The bible is true. The Qur’an is true. The Book of Mormon is true. L. Ron Hubbard’s missives about Xenu are true (for the right price, anyway). All these religions make absolute claims on the truth. If these claims are questioned, the questioner is branded a heretic… a non-believer… an enemy of God. Obviously, some religions are more strict about this than others, but the truth claims are still the same.
Question God’s motives when hundreds die in an earthquake and the likely answer is something about how He works in mysterious ways… that He has a plan… that all suffering is for a reason. In other words, it’s God’s will. Don’t question it. The Catholic concept of Papal Infallibility is a perfect example of discouraging the questioning of authority. Both Christian and Muslim religions claim that their holy books are the Word of God. In the case of the Qur’an, the claim is that the words (in their original Arabic) are the exact transcription of Allah’s words to Muhammad. If ever there was a demand to not question authority, that’s it.
The problem is that questioning authority is, in my opinion, necessary for a healthy, honest society… especially when the authority figure is making claims of a questionable nature. That doesn’t mean that every time an authority figures makes a statement, he should be challenged. Questioning the skydiving instructor when he says to pull the cord to open the chute probably isn’t prudent. Questioning the priest who says that 10% of your income has to go to the church because God needs your money… that’s a different matter.
When questioned about the existence of God, a common religious response is something like, “God is all around you” or “God is self-evident.” If pressed further on the issue, the responses become more like, “Just look how beautiful the trees are. That can only be God’s work.”
Another response about claims of Jesus’ divinity is the “Lord, Liar or Lunatic” argument (“Lewis’s Trilemma” originally popularized by C. S. Lewis). Logically, it’s flawed, yet I’ve heard it used multiple times in religious discussions that I’ve had in the past year… with complete sincerity.
These are just two examples of how religion twists the ideas of logic and evidence. “Trees are beautiful” is not evidence. Lewis’s Trilemma is not logical. Most of the apologetic arguments for the existence of God have huge gaps in logic (ontological, cosmological, etc). The fact remains that no actual evidence exists to support the existence of God, yet defenders of religious faith will present heaps of what they claim is evidence… because they don’t seem to understand what evidence really is.
The fallback argument is, of course, that it’s just a matter of having faith… which is no evidence at all.
Narcissism and a self-righteous feeling of superiority are byproducts of any religion that claims to be the only true religion. Teaching adherents that they are special because they alone hold the truth and they alone will be saved by an all-powerful god and that they alone are holy in the eyes of that god is a surefire way to create a feeling of supremacy. Teaching that humans are a special creation of an omnipotent creator who watches over them with love and mercy is a surefire way to generate strong feelings of narcissism… especially if the creator is the “right” creator.
These feelings frequently manifest themselves in politics, where religious politicians cry about being persecuted, all the while attempting to gain special privilege for their own religion of choice despite the unconstitutionality of their end goal. Another good example is Christians claiming that the United States is a “Christian nation” because they feel that their beliefs are somehow special… true as opposed to those other religions… solely worthy of influencing government policies (again, despite the Constitution)… even necessary for the United States to succeed. It’s completely false, but they cling to it because “they’re special.”
The narcissism and feeling of superiority create, maintain, and worsen divisions among people of differing beliefs. “I’m better than you” doesn’t make for strong relationships.
Hand in hand with the previous point is the point that religion advocates intolerance… partly because of the previous point, but also because some religious tenants explicitly promote intolerance. Islam makes the news on a regular basis for this, but Christianity is no slouch, either. From homosexuality to sexism to disbelief, religions have forbidden people for breaking the (ever changing) rules and have condemned, damned, and killed people for doing so. And even though we don’t live in medieval times, most religions still do at least some of those things.
The nature of the major holy books is that they can be read, interpreted, and cherry-picked to back up almost any position imaginable… not just love and kindness, but also slavery, racism, pedophilia, bigotry, discrimination, murder, genocide, and a host of other positions that, without the holy books, would be not only morally reprehensible, but virtually unthinkable (they’re still morally reprehensible, but sadly, all too thinkable). If a religion’s tenants say that unbelievers should be killed or that people who don’t follow the rules will be tortured for all eternity or that women are inferior or that homosexuals are abominations, it doesn’t leave much room for tolerance and kindness.
Those religious people who are tolerant and loving cannot espouse all the teachings of their religion. They must, in order to maintain their faith, cherry pick certain parts of the bible and follow certain parts of the church’s teachings while rationalizing away other parts or ignoring them altogether. Taking religious teachings as a whole would put them in an untenable position.
I’ve written about this before but it bears repeating… often. Religion, particularly versions of Christianity, certainly do not promote moral behavior. Sure, Christianity offers the whole “carrot and burning-in-hell-for-eternity stick” scenario for encouraging good behavior (which is morally questionable on its own), but based on Christian principles, you can ignore the carrot for as long as you like and simply ask for forgiveness later… with no consequences. That’s about as far as you can get from encouraging moral behavior… to the point of implicitly condoning immoral behavior.
“Go ahead and do your worst,” Christianity says. “Just ask for forgiveness and place you faith in Jesus later and all will be well.”
Of course, if you don’t ask for forgiveness and place your faith in Jesus, then you get the fiery pit… forever. Interestingly enough, Islam doesn’t teach eternal punishment. There’s a “Hell” if you will, but it’s not eternal. It seems that, in this particular case, Islam is a much more merciful religion than Christianity. In Islam, simply asking for forgiveness doesn’t get you out of the punishment, either, so it lacks Christianity’s flaw in that regard. Of course, that doesn’t free it from its own promotion of immorality, including debasing women and pedophilia.
Religious rules can frequently be irrelevant or immoral in their own ways as well, and if you add multiple interpretations and cherry-picking to the mix, things get even more muddied. Certainly, you can dig out some gems of wisdom and kindness from religious doctrine, but you have to work through mountains of rubbish to find them.
Religion promotes inaction by encouraging prayer. It’s as simple as that. Other than possibly creating a calming effect on the person praying, prayer does nothing. “Prayer,” as the saying goes, “is the best way to do nothing and still think you’re helping”… or “The hard work of one does more than the prayers of millions”… or “Nothing fails like prayer.”
Sometimes bumper sticker wisdom says it all.
Say what you will about the debate on whether religion and science are compatible, the main opponents to scientific research are bible-thumping members of fundamentalist religions. They will deny scientific data, no matter how overwhelming, if it conflicts with their ancient dogma or challenges their ideological loyalties. From the time of Galileo to present day arguments about evolution and global warming an stem cell research, the people on the front lines of denialism are almost exclusively hyper religious.
Evolution versus creationism is probably one of the most publicized debates in this regard. The creationists want their mythology taught in science classes even though it isn’t science by any stretch of the imagination. They’ve tried to couch it in scientific language, calling it “Intelligent Design,” but it’s no more scientific with it’s fancy name. They reject factual data about the age of the universe, the age of the Earth, the age of fossils, the process of evolution, the effects of natural selection, and the unequivocal lineage of humans from ape-like ancestors.
Some of that can be credited toward a belief in a 6,000 year old Earth, but much can be credited to the narcissism addressed earlier. How can a religious believer admit that humans are just the most recent product of the evolutionary process and not a special creation of a loving, caring, all-knowing god? If the holy books are supposed to be true, contradictory facts must be eliminated… either by ignoring them or attempting to discredit them.
Religion is a self-perpetuating hindrance to honest, ethical, and yes, moral living. Despite a religious influence, many people still maintain just such a life… by compartmentalizing their beliefs, cherry-picking which doctrines to follow (“cafeteria Christians”), or simply ignoring doctrines altogether in favor of simply calling themselves “spiritual.” Those who lead a good and moral life do so not because of religious teachings, but because of an innate sense of morality combined with societal norms defining appropriate behavior.
Religion clouds the issue of morality… and many other issues. The disadvantages far outweigh the benefits. The promotion of perpetual ignorance is reason enough for religion to be abandoned. Sadly, that probably won’t happen in my lifetime. Religion doesn’t need the truth. It needs followers.
As Nietzsche said, “Faith [is] not wanting to know what is true.”
Sometimes bumper sticker wisdom says it all.
From evolution to vaccinations to global warming, something I encounter on a regular basis while researching articles for this blog is denialism, rejecting the scientific evidence in favor of an alternative… an alternative which could be anything from pure woo to scientific-sounding arguments: “Just have faith” to “irreducible complexity.” Denialism is something that invariably causes a collective sigh an eye roll from the skeptic community because logical and fact-based responses seem to have no effect on denialists.
An article from the European Journal of Public Health defines denialism as “the employment of rhetorical arguments to give the appearance of legitimate debate where there is none, an approach that has the ultimate goal of rejecting a proposition on which a scientific consensus exists.” The article goes on to identify five common characteristics of denialism. I’ve seen all of these “in the wild,” but items one through three are the ones I see most often.
These five characteristics were summarized by Debora MacKenzie in a New Scientist opinion piece titled Living in denial: Why sensible people reject the truth and are as follows:
MacKenzie also adds a sixth characteristic.
Manufacture doubt. Falsely portray scientists as so divided that basing policy on their advice would be premature. Insist “both sides” must be heard and cry censorship when “dissenting” arguments or experts are rejected.
In the New Scientist piece, MacKenzie looks at the “why” of denialism.
This depressing tale [about swine flu] is the latest incarnation of denialism, the systematic rejection of a body of science in favour of make-believe. There’s a lot of it about, attacking evolution, global warming, tobacco research, HIV, vaccines – and now, it seems, flu. But why does it happen? What motivates people to retreat from the real world into denial?
Her approach uses a softer glove than many skeptics use, avoiding outright condemnation of deniers but instead making an attempt to understand how denialism spreads: identifying common characteristics, tactics (above), causes, motives, and possible solutions.
The most notable common characteristic that MacKenzie defines is this.
All [denialists] set themselves up as courageous underdogs fighting a corrupt elite engaged in a conspiracy to suppress the truth or foist a malicious lie on ordinary people.
I can anecdotally confirm that statement, both in my personal life and in my readings.
Where MacKenzie goes after that is to a hypothesis that what really triggers denialism is a sense of loss of control… a hypothesis that seems a good fit to the major denialist issues.
It is this sense of loss of control that really matters. In such situations, many people prefer to reject expert evidence in favour of alternative explanations that promise to hand control back to them, even if those explanations are not supported by evidence
All denialisms appear to be attempts like this to regain a sense of agency over uncaring nature: blaming autism on vaccines rather than an unknown natural cause, insisting that humans were made by divine plan, rejecting the idea that actions we thought were okay, such as smoking and burning coal, have turned out to be dangerous.
She goes on to explain that this position is not necessarily malicious or anti-science. They simply require a human reaction.
It only requires people to think the way most people do: in terms of anecdote, emotion and cognitive short cuts. Denialist explanations may be couched in sciency language, but they rest on anecdotal evidence and the emotional appeal of regaining control.
The origins of denialist claims are another matter, and MacKenzie talks about how many of the more prominent claims (tobacco, global warming) got their start with corporate backing, how deniers tend to attract other deniers, and how claims become politically and religiously charged.
The European Journal of Public Health article isn’t as philosophical in its analysis of denialist motivations, but hits home nonetheless.
Denialists are driven by a range of motivations. For some it is greed, lured by the corporate largesse of the oil and tobacco industries. For others it is ideology or faith, causing them to reject anything incompatible with their fundamental beliefs. Finally there is eccentricity and idiosyncrasy, sometimes encouraged by the celebrity status conferred on the maverick by the media.
Whatever the motivations (personal, political, financial, etc), the one thing that remains true among denialist claims is their distortion (or complete rejection) of the truth. For many issues, such as vaccinations and global warming, denialism has caused and will cause lives to be lost. For others, such as the rejection of evolution, their positions simply contribute to the “dumbing down” of America.
The frustration of dealing with most deniers is the almost impenetrable armor of ignorance they wear which deflects attempts at presenting actual evidence, be it factual or logical. They counter by trotting out any of the tactics listed at the beginning of this article, selecting the one that best fits the topic at hand. Cherry pick this evidence. Trot out this fake expert. Rage about this conspiracy theory.
When all else fails, bring up Hitler.
This morning, I read an article written by Reverend Michael Bresciani titled “National Day of Prayer out says federal judge — America’s identity eroding.” It’s generally more of the ignorance commonly displayed by the religious right when claiming the United States is a “Christian Nation,” though Bresciani does claim that label is inaccurate. He does, however, display much ignorance over the issue in general.
Let me show what he got right, first, though. Regarding the ruling declaring the national day of prayer unconstitutional, Rev. Bresciani says…
With mid-term elections looming only months from now any decision to drop the day would surely add to the growing dissatisfaction with the Obama administration. The move to restrain himself is seen as politically motivated by most and, it is not consistent with his previous stand on Christianity. [sic]
I couldn’t agree more… except for the last bit because I’m not sure what Bresciani is referring to when he talks about Obama’s “previous stand on Christianity.” However, any decision that continues the day of prayer will most definitely be political. The outrage from Christians over their false sense of “persecution” would probably be overwhelming. Obama knows that, and even though the federal judge who ruled the day of prayer unconstitutional did so lucidly, logically, and correctly, the sense of entitlement that many Christians feel because of their religion will most likely compel him to still issue the “Day of Prayer” proclamation. The point that Bresciani makes about it being political is true. It certainly isn’t Constitutional.
Here’s another point of agreement I have with Bresciani… taken slightly out of context because the surrounding text contains points of disagreement.
[…] President Obama’s administration started off in the same vein with his now famous proclamation that America is “not a Christian nation” Of course we are not a “Christian” nation because there is no such thing.
Christianity is something each individual must decide upon for themselves. […]
In fact whenever any religion becomes the “national religion” it ceases to be spiritual and can only become tyrannical. If by not ascribing to the national religion you become a law breaker what would most people do?
Aside from leaving out the key “at least not just” phrase of the “no longer a Christian nation” quote, Bresciani seems to agree that we are not a Christian nation… because Christianity is something personal. I’m not sure he’ll get all that much agreement from many on the religious right, but I’m with him when he says that we’re not a Christian nation… and that Christianity (and religion in general) is an individual decision. His point about a national religion ceasing to be spiritual is another point of agreement, though I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. That it can only become tyrannical is arguable. I don’t think I would consider the Church of England to be tyrannical.
Sadly, that’s about the extent of our agreement. The rest of his article is packed solidly full of straw men, hyperbole, bible quotes, and outright falsehoods. I’m going to hit a few key points, but read his entire article to get the full gist of how “off the mark” Bresciani’s thinking is.
Our national identity and our Christian roots are being ignored, denied or challenged on every level.
Really? Our national identity? Our Christian roots? I have a sneaking suspicion that, to Bresciani, those two are one and the same. If he is absurdly assigning Christianity to our nation’s identity, which seems to be the case, wouldn’t it be right to challenge that nation, given the purely secular nation of our Constitution… that Constitution that prohibits any laws respecting an establishment of religion? As for Christian roots, that’s just more misguided propaganda by the religious right.
More accurately we are a nation that was founded on Christian principles and up to now has had more praying Christians than any other nation in history.
No. No we are not a nation founded on Christian principles. We are a nation founded on secular principles as specifically spelled out in the Constitution. I can’t refute that we have more “praying Christians” than any other nation but praying or not, it doesn’t mean that Christians should be afforded any special rights or privileges. That would most certainly go against the founding principles of our country!
Bresciani goes off the deep end the more he writes.
We know that it’s universally acceptable to refer to some places as Muslim nations but somehow we are ashamed to be called a Christian nation. We also know that if Muslims were denied their right to pray five times per day facing Mecca in Saudi Arabia they would riot, war and die fighting against that ruling.
Interestingly enough. those “Muslim nations” have governments that are very, very specifically Islam-based. They don’t have anything resembling our secular government or our secular founding documents, so it’s quite appropriate to call them a “Muslim nation.” However, given our government and our founding documents, it’s wholly inappropriate and inaccurate to call the United States a “Christian nation.”
The second point speculating about Muslims being denied their right to pray is, I’m assuming, a reference to the “National Day of Prayer” ruling, but it’s an entirely inaccurate comparison. Nobody is this country is denied their right to pray… any time, any place. The NDOP ruling doesn’t take away that right. It doesn’t affect it in the slightest. What it does, is prevent the US government from promoting a call to religious action… something the judge very clearly spelled out in the ruling. Bresciani obviously misses the point.
Going further off the deep end…
If viewed in its converse form, we could say that when secular forces of atheism, agnosticism and anti-Christian bigotry go to the law against prayer in our national life, it is they who have decided to get the fed to make laws regarding the establishment or more accurately, the dis-establishment of religion. This may be the very argument used to challenge the ruling.
Again… completely wrong on multiple counts. The challenges to nationally-sponsored prayer or religious practice are not an attempt to make laws, they are attempts to enforce already existing laws. They are attempts to enforce the basic tenants of our Constitution. None of the laws try to “dis-establish” religion. They keep religion from intruding in government matters… just as the Constitution dictates. Despite what Bresciani seems to think, preventing someone from breaking a law is not the same thing as creating a law.
While the ACLU and others spend big bucks to fight crosses at memorials, nativity scenes, prayer in the congress or any public place, prayer in the military and classroom mentions of God why haven’t we equated that with a huge move to violate our right to religion and a willingness to engage the powers that be to make laws that adversely affect the establishment of religion?
Wow. That entire paragraph is a monstrosity of logical and factual failure. Bresciani not only misses the point, but he misses it to such a large degree that he seems to be arguing against a straw man of monumental proportions.
The ACLU does not fight nativity scenes. They fight governmental displays of nativity scenes (which amounts to illegally promoting a specific religion… again with that pesky Constitution!). Nativity scenes are not banned in non-government public places, as is evidenced by their widespread use by churches, private organizations, and homeowners all throughout the holiday season. The ACLU rightly fights against government-sponsored prayer, but not in “any public place.” They would vehemently fight for your right to pray wherever you want to pray… as long your prayer is not being sponsored or promoted by the government.
Nothing the ACLU does violates a right to religion. The converse is true. They protect people from having religion forced on them by the government and, once again, they are backed up by our Constitution. Bresciani is portraying Christians as being stripped of their privileges and entitlements… as poor, sad, abused victims of persecution… because they are not being allowed to force the government to give them special privileges or special treatment.
This is not a matter of atheists (or any other non-Christian demographic) forcing their beliefs down the throats of Christians. The notion is absurd. The ACLU and other supporting groups are watchdog groups who prevent Christians from doing what they falsely accuse others of doing.
While some atheists will loudly proclaim their beliefs and vociferously decry any sort of religious belief as harmful and ignorant, it is well within their rights to do so. It is also well within someone’s rights to decry atheism… to mercilessly criticize those who do not belief in a personal God who answers prayers. Freedom of speech is a precious right in this country and I (and the ACLU) fully support it. Promote your religious beliefs as loudly as you dare.
They line gets drawn, however, when the government is used to promote your religious beliefs. That’s such a huge key point and is so often missed (or blatantly ignored) by the Christian right when they’re spouting off about attacks on their faith or unfair treatment or persecution. They complain when they can’t use government property to display their religious icons. They complain when they can’t have government-funded public schools promote prayer. They complain when they can’t have the government create a special day calling for religious action. They complain when they can’t make government-funded schools teach a biblical creation stories. They complain when they aren’t allowed to display their bible verses in government courtrooms.
But do they complain that they can’t put nativity scenes in the church’s front yard? Do they complain that personal prayer is banned in a national park? Do they complain that they can’t teach their own children their religious beliefs? Do they complain that they aren’t allowed to meet with like-minded people to worship?
No. No they don’t. And the reason they don’t is that they are allowed to do all these things. They have an unprecedented level of freedom to practice their religion as they choose, when they choose, and where they choose.
The only two caveats are that they can’t infringe on the rights of others and they can’t be funded or promoted or organized by the government. Shouldn’t that be enough? Shouldn’t that freedom be enough?
Evidently, many Christians don’t seem to think so. They want the government to support them… and only them… and to relegate the rest of the citizenry to a lesser standing in society. When they demand the government sponsor a national day of prayer, when they expect the government to display their religious icons, when they expect the government to encourage everyone to participate in their religion… what they are doing is calling for a theocracy.
If the Christian right got their way, our government would be as outwardly religious as the governments in some Middle Eastern countries. Freedom of religion, in their minds, seems to mean freedom to practice the Christian religion… and if you happen to have other beliefs, you should just shut up and keep them to yourself.
Perhaps they don’t want Christianity to become the governmentally-declared religion of our country (because as Bresciani says, it would make it political instead of spiritual), but I have no doubt that many of them would have Christianity as our “official” religion… complete with special privileges and entitlements (much like they have now, in some cases) so that it would be the official state religion in every way except for a legal proclamation. They won’t be happy until we are a Christian nation… and people like Bresciani are pushing for it more every day.
If they could only get rid of that pesky Constitution.
One of the biggest reasons that I dislike religion is because it is considered infallible and therefore can not be questioned. There are so many reasons to dislike religion from the hypocrisy of those in leadership, silly superstitious beliefs, etc. Of all the things to dislike, I think it is the unquestioning nature of religion I hate the most. Don’t question the priest, don’t question the Imam, don’t question the bible. Everywhere you turn are "answers" but no questions. This leads me to the title of this article.
I received this comment recently on an article I wrote:
youâ€™re ignorant. go to church you sick pig. find god in your life, maybe then youâ€™ll have different views."
Oh…I’m sure I’d have different views alright. I wanted to start this article with the obvious comments:
…but I didn’t want to take the easy road, so I’m not going to make any of those comments, *ahem*.
You, CCB, are the reason this website exists. Well, maybe not "you" specifically but people like you. When you suggest I go to church, which one should it be? Muslim, Christian, Jewish, or is any God ok, as long as there is one in my life? I have a sneaking suspicion that two out of those three Gods would not be on your approved God list. Your unquestioning and insulting nature is what fuels this site and those like it. You may not like my style of sarcastic humor but you can’t argue with the facts of the article you commented about.
The Pope was involved with a cover-up of child rape. The Pope did ignore rape allegations. The Vatican will not accept responsibility for it’s lack of oversight of priests. These are facts. You may not like them but they are true.
So, CCB (if that is your real name… and if it is, it’s a weird name) thanks for reading and keep the insightful comments coming.
This topic of the United States as a “Christian Nation” is abused so often by the religious right that it’s gotten beyond tedious, but Sarah Palin managed to stir it up again with her ignorant ramblings at the Women of Joy conference in Louisville, Kentucky.
According to an ABC News story, Palin thinks it’s “mind boggling” to suggest that the United States is not a Christian nation.
From the article:
“God truly has shed his grace on thee — on this country,” Palin told the Women of Joy conference. “He’s blessed us, and we better not blow it.”
“And then, hearing any leader declare that America isn’t a Christian nation and poking an ally like Israel in the eye, it’s mind-boggling to see some of our nation’s actions recently, but politics truly is a topic for another day.”
“Lest anyone try to convince you that God should be separated from the state, our founding fathers, they were believers,” said Palin. “And George Washington, he saw faith in God as basic to life.”
Needless to say, her comments ruffled a few feathers and sparked a lot of commentary… mostly because she’s factually incorrect on multiple points, something that isn’t surprising based on her track record.
First, Obama didn’t say we are not a Christian nation, as is often mis-quoted. What he said was…
Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation â€“ at least, not just. We are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, and a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.
Note the prepared remarks stated “we are no longer just a Christian nation” but he stumbled over it a bit during his speech. The key word, which tends to be omitted by the religious right when going off on a rant about how persecuted they are, is “just.” Factually speaking, we are not just a nation of Christians. There are many other religions practiced in our country and, as Obama stated, people who practice no religion (even if they’re not explicitly atheists).
So if the definition of “Christian Nation” is a nation populated by those of the Christian faith, then yes, we are a Christian nation. However, that same definition means that we are a Jewish nation… a Buddhist nation… a Hindu nation… a Scientologist nation… an Islamic nation… a Wiccan nation… and the list could go on and on and on.
However, I doubt the religious right goes with that definition. Their definition is probably more likely that we are a nation founded and based on Judeo-Christian principles, blessed and ordained by the Judeo-Christian god, and protected by Divine Providence. Of course, that’s nonsense and has no factual basis whatsoever.
Those who promote the idea that we’re a Christian nation frequently note the reference to “Nature’s God” and “their Creator” in the Declaration of Independence as bits of evidence in their favor. They also harp on the religious beliefs of our founding fathers. It’s true that many of the founding fathers were religious men. That argument is largely irrelevant, but if taken seriously, gives them no real support. Not all the founding fathers were religious men. Some had no affiliation and some were deists. Thomas Jefferson, the primary author of the Declaration of Independence was a deist… so presumably, when he refers to “Nature’s God” or “their Creator,” he is referring to a god who created the universe and then walked away, never to be heard from again. He certainly was not referring to the Christian notion of a God who listens to and answers prayers or is otherwise involved in the daily workings of the world.
That aside, the Declaration of Independence is not a governing document. The Constitution is our governing document… and the only mention of anything godly in our Constitution is “In the Year of our Lord” when referring to the date… hardly an indication of Christian divine providence. There is nothing… nothing… in the Constitution that mentions God, Jesus, or anything else in the Christian faith. It is a decidedly secular document, regardless of the personal beliefs of the founding fathers.
Actually, the fact that many of the founders were religious men, yet chose to omit any kind of religious references in the Constitution, is a huge indication that they specifically did not want the country to be a “Christian nation.” So quoting a founder’s view on religious faith is mostly irrelevant because the document is what governs our country… not the personal views of select founders.
It’s disingenuous for Palin (and the religious right) to claim that this is a nation based on the Christian faith… disingenuous and dishonest. Based on the actual facts, it’s blatantly untrue. There isn’t really a valid debate to be had.
The religious right, however, is a group that considers faith without evidence to be a virtue, so I’m sure the issue, much to the dismay of those who know better, will continue to come up.
No doubt Sarah Palin will make sure of that.
On April 15th, a district court in Wisconsin ruled that the National Day of Prayer was unconstitutional. It’s a decision that was a long time coming.
From the article:
Crabb wrote that her ruling was not a judgment on the value of prayer. She noted government involvement in prayer may be constitutional if the conduct serves a “significant secular purpose” and doesn’t amount to a call for religious action. But the National Day of Prayer crosses that line, she wrote.
“It goes beyond mere ‘acknowledgment’ of religion because its sole purpose is to encourage all citizens to engage in prayer, an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function in this context,” she wrote. “In this instance, the government has taken sides on a matter that must be left to individual conscience.”
No doubt the decision will be appealed because it seems the religious right can’t stand to lose an opportunity to have the government endorse their religion. They’ll claim, over and over, that religion belief and practice is a personal thing and that it’s an issue of freedom, but they don’t really seem to grasp the concept that the freedom should apply to everyone. They seem to feel that it only applies to those who share their faith.
Shirley Dobson, wife of Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, seems to take her ignorance a step further. She is quoted as saying (emphasis mine)…
â€œSince the days of our Founding Fathers, the government has protected and encouraged public prayer and other expressions of dependence on the Almighty,â€ Dobson said. â€œThis is a concerted effort by a small but determined number of people who have tried to prohibit all references to the Creator in the public square, whether it be the Ten Commandments, the Pledge of Allegiance, or the simple act of corporate prayer â€“ this is unconscionable for a free society.â€
The highlighted statement is blatantly and unequivocally false. The people who oppose government-sponsored religious displays are not trying to prohibit religious references in the public square. In truth, most of them (if not all) would fully support the rights of anyone to display their religious beliefs in the public square. That is evidenced by the sheer numbers of churches found all across the country. It’s not uncommon to see three or four churches in a two-block radius of some towns. Religious billboards abound. “Jesus fishes” adorn cars. Crosses hang around necks and decorate roadsides. …and nobody is trying to stop it. It’s freedom.
What they are trying to stop is the promotion of religion by government institutions, including nativity scenes on government property, prayer during government meetings and publicly funded schools, government funding for religious organizations that discriminate based on religion, and any other government support, promotion, or favoritism of any type of religious practices.
So Shirley Dobson has it all wrong, but the sad thing is, the religious right will believe her and they will shake their fists in fury over their perceived persecution… because little by little, their ability to use government to push their superstitious beliefs on the rest of the country is being whittled away. They can’t understand that they are not the ones who are being persecuted. They are the persecutors.
Why do they need to display their nativity scenes on government steps when their are literally thousands of churches where the display would be far more relevant. Why do they need to force all children to pray in schools when children can pray at home, in school, on the playground, and anywhere and any time they want already? Why do they need to demand preferential treatment by the government in support of their religion when their god is supposedly all-powerful?
Their outrage and anger is absurd. It’s ignorant. It’s overbearing. It’s self-righteous and arrogant. It’s hypocritical. It’s intellectually crippling.
…all because of their grandiose superstitions.
With all the Catholic sex scandal news as of late, I have been doing a lot of reading. I started thinking about all the hypocrisy and irony in Catholicism. I know these are not all original thoughts but I wanted to start compiling some. If you have more add them to the comments!
1 ) Why do Catholics have to get pre-marriage counseling from aÂ celibate priest?
2 ) The Pope refers to the blessed mother Mary with reverence and awe but won’t allow women to take any leadership roles within the church.
3 ) The Pope promotes abstinence as a form of birth control but worships Jesus Christ who was born of a virgin?
4 ) A church full of closet bound homosexual priests won’t recognize the basic rights of homosexuals?
5 ) Jesus lived a simple life and preached to the meek against opulence.Â The Pope lives in an opulent palace located in a freakin’ church owned sovereign city, adorned with goldÂ jewelry and robes so flamboyant they would make make Liberace jealous.
6 ) God has given mankind free will to determine it’s own fate. The Catholic church historically used the point of a sword to “help” native cultures determine their own fate.
7 ) If everything happens according to God’s plan, why did God allow thousands of kids to be raped by his “employees”? Was that his plan? If soâ€¦it sucked.
8 ) Catholicism is a religion that is famous for it’s guilt, so why doesn’t the Pope seem to have any?
9 ) Catholicism preaches against belief in the occult but worships a Trinity that is 1/3 ghost, 1/3 zombie & 1/3 zombie’s omnipotent dad.
10 ) Where does the Pope get off dispensing medical advice to an AIDS ravaged Africa about the incorrect science of how STD’s can pass through the pores in condoms when it wasn’t even until 1992 that the VaticanÂ admitted that Galileo was right about the Earth orbiting the Sun. Epic fail, fellas.
11 ) The Church that brought you the Inquisition, thinks the current media attention investigating Pope Ratzinger’s ignoring the rape of minimally a couple hundred children is unfair and hurtful.