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Why take them seriously?

Here’s why it’s really hard to take the religious right seriously.

“I don’t believe in global warming,” said conservative activist Kim Simac, a horse trainer and mother of nine from Wisconsin who also believes that the teaching of creationism and prayer need to be brought back to public schools.

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…and…

One delegate, Sue Phelps, drew comparisons between Barack Obama, Fidel Castro and Adolf Hitler – “they were good orators too” – and said the president’s nationality and religion were “unanswered questions”.

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…and…

“Today in America, far too many young people enter adulthood unprepared for college, career, and life,” said Allan Golston, president of The Gates Foundation’s U.S. Program. [Drew] Dickens agrees and believes that “part of the problem is that we have removed prayer and the Ten Commandments from our schools and curriculum.”

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I could go on. When people are that vocal, yet that oblivious to facts, that ignorant of the Constitution, and that eager to force their religious beliefs on others, they’ve really got no room to complain when they are ignored or mocked.

Howse wants to reclaim the church

Brannon Hose Last week, Brannon Howse wrote an article explaining why a biblical worldview is so critical in light of trends showing more and more people leaving the church. It seems to be mostly a marketing ploy for his program materials, but he rants on for quite a bit. He cites a book by Ken Ham titled Already Gone: Why your kids will quit church and what you can do to stop it. In the book, Ham had surveys taken from conservative congregations and found that today’s kids are leaving the church at a record rate… and not just in college.

In addition, he concludes that Sunday school doesn’t help kids develop a Christian worldview and that they are “statistical failures.” Sunday school, it seems, is allowing parents to “shrug off their responsibility as the primary teachers, mentors, and pastors to their family.”

I’ll agree that there seems to be (at least anecdotally) an increasing number of parents who do “shrug off” their responsibilities in raising their children, but if Sunday school keeps them from indoctrinating their kids with a religious worldview, then I can’t help but think Sunday school can be a good thing.

From the article…

Only 11 percent of those who have left the Church did so during the college years. Almost 90 percent of them were lost in middle school and high school. By the time they got to college they were already gone! About 40 percent are leaving the Church during elementary and middle school years!

Of course, Howse’s answer to this “crisis” of mass church exodus is “Biblical worldview and apologetics training” (conveniently available for purchase from his website). Howse laments that, even though the church has had billions of dollars, only 1% of adults have what he defines as a “Biblical worldview” and teens are leaving the church in ever-increasing numbers because they don’t have that worldview. In this article, he doesn’t spell out exactly what that worldview entails (though I’m sure he does elsewhere on his site), but he does mention that churches that used to be evangelical now “reject the exclusivity of Jesus Christ, the inerrancy of Scripture and most of the essential Christian doctrines.”

He expounds a bit on what should be happening in the churches.

Even among our truly evangelical, Bible-believing churches, how many churches teach the Biblical worldview for law, science, economics, history, family, social issues, and education? At church do adults or students learn about the lie of global warming, radical environmentalism, socialism, evolution, postmodernism, situational ethics, political correctness, population control, the myth of the separation of church and state, the Biblical worldview for marriage, the Biblical role of men and women and the lie of feminism?

There’s just so much wrong in that one paragraph that it threatens to make my head hurt. When people talk about injecting religion (especially fundamentalist, evangelical religion) into every aspect of our lives, my skin starts to crawl at the thought. It’s not because, as some theists claim, that I want to live my life however I want and be able to do whatever I want without eternal consequences. I’ve addressed that before. It’s because the implication is that dogmatic, inflexible, 2,000-year-old mythology, when vehemently applied to modern life, will improve our standard of living. It’s a horribly Orwellian idea, but folks like Howse would love to have it applied world-wide.

He continues by criticizing the church’s actions.

Because the church is not answering the real-world questions of our students and the public school system is, Christian youth increasingly believe that at church we deal with “spiritual” issue but at school we talk about “real life” issues. The truth is, all issues are spiritual; every issue can be examined in light of Biblical principles but not if the church is only teaching Bible stories instead of Biblical principles contained in those Bible stories.

Schools are supposed to teach answers to “real life” issues… especially our public schools. Howse’s brand of woo (or any brand, for that matter) has no place in our public school system, for at least three reasons. First, it’s unconstitutional to promote a religious view in our schools. Second, Howse’s version of Christianity is intellectually dishonest. Third, Christianity (and other theistic religions) is morally ambiguous at best and frequently morally reprehensible.

The window of freedom is closing on America and soon I, and our other speakers, could be prosecuted for the Biblical truth we are teaching. Hate-crime laws would do just this.

That’s Howse at his alarmist, fear-mongering best. Hate-crime laws would never prevent anyone from speaking about their religion, regardless of how absurd or spiteful their religious views are. His alarmism continues with vague statements about what I assume to be the “Fairness Doctrine” and a prayer at a booster club luncheon, implying that jail time is inevitable for people who speak from a “Biblical worldview.”

Then comes another sales pitch that hinges on the OMG!!! from the previous paragraph.

Worldview Weekend is training, equipping, and encouraging individuals of all ages that will be just like these men. Our nation needs Christians that will stand up and speak out with the truth of a Biblical worldview even in the face of persecution and prosecution.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Brannon Howse if there wasn’t some conspiracy theory hullaballoo thrown in for good measure (emphasis mine).

[…] the worldview war in America is connected to four major forces; occultism/pagan spirituality, the apostate church, corrupt government/corporate officials and the educational establishment. All four of these groups are aggressively working at the national and international level to accomplish their ultimate goal of global governance as predicted by many New Age writers like Alice Bailey. The Bible predicts this will occur and at this year’s rallies we will look at how God would have us to respond to what is happening at break-neck speed.

If I didn’t think he was serious, I’d find his writing hysterically funny. As it is, it’s both disturbing and sad. People like Howse, who seem to be barely hanging onto the fringe of the fundamentalist, right-wing precipice, want to teach their views as truth to our nation’s children. It’s bad enough that otherwise seemingly rational adults subscribe to this intellectually harmful nonsense, but to promote the foisting of this drivel onto our children is reprehensible.

Fortunately, as the beginning of his article notes, kids are leaving the church in droves. No doubt some of that is from apathy, but it’s nice to imagine that some of them are just coming to the realization that religion is simply an unnecessary obstruction to a healthy, happy life. It’s also hard to buy into the “young earth creationist” idea that The Flintstones is an accurate portrayal of history.

Howse ends his article with a plea for help in getting those wayward kids back in church. He wants help distributing magazines to advertise his seminars, he wants prayers, and of course, he wants money.

Because, you know, woo is expensive.

Obnoxious and Rude? Definitely.

This month, the Freedom From Religion Foundation erected two new billboards in honor of Charles Darwin, one of them in Dover, Pennsylvania which is about 15 minutes away from where I live and where I grew up. Today, in our local paper, there was an opinion editorial by Larry Hicks, a regular contributor to the paper. In it, he accuses the FFRF of being a “gloating winner” and that by putting the billboard in Dover, they are being obnoxious and rude.

I responded via a letter to the editor and decided to post my letter here as well.

In the February 4th edition of The York Dispatch, Larry Hicks wrote a Viewpoint editorial concerning the newly erected “Praise Darwin” billboard in Dover. While I agree with Mr. Hicks that  both sides of the Evolution/Creationism(or Intelligent Design… same thing) debate tend to get a bit touchy about opposing views and freedom of speech, there are a number of common misconceptions perpetuated in his editorial that I would like to clarify.

First, the issue of “Evolution versus Creationism” is not a debate between Christians and atheists. It’s a debate between Creationists and Evolutionists. Framing it as a debate between Christians and atheists not only trivializes the issue by stereotyping each side, but it is inaccurate and dishonest. Not all those who accept the Theory of Evolution are atheists. Far from it (Biology professor Kenneth R. Miller, a key witness for the plaintiffs in the Dover trial, is a Roman Catholic). Nor are all those who do not accept it Christians. The sides consist of those who accept the scientific evidence with its resulting theory and those who do not.

In addition, though the “battle” was won in the Dover case (though not by the FFRF, which was not involved), it is absolutely not over, and the Creationism proponents have most assuredly not “accepted their loss” or “licked their wounds and moved on.” Since the Dover verdict, there have been multiple challenges throughout the country related to this exact issue, one just recently in Texas. The Creationist movement refuses to give up, instead continuing their attempts to corrupt the teaching of science by claiming that supernatural explanations should be placed on equal footing with exhaustively researched evidence.

So not letting “well enough alone” is an accusation that should be leveled against the Creationist movement. It is because they won’t “let well enough alone” that the scientific community has to continually spend an absurd amount of time defending science against the Creationists’ misinformation.

Though I agree with Mr. Hicks that the display of the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s billboard is a freedom of speech issue, the issue of Evolution versus Creationism in our classrooms is not. Nor is it an issue of separation of church and state. It is about education standards and intellectual honesty. Anyone who has followed this issue even passively has probably heard that the scientific community generally has no problems with Creationism being taught in schools in a philosophy class or a comparative religion class. It simply has no place in science class… because it is not science. That is the real issue.

I have no doubt that the Freedom From Religion Foundation chose Dover as one of the locations for their billboards because of the fame that Dover now has due to the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial. I’m sure it’s not personal. It’s not a matter of wanting to “rub salt in the wounds” of Christians in Dover. It’s a matter of effectiveness. Location. Location. Location.

Mr. Hicks says that placing the billboard in Dover is obnoxious and rude and that it has everything to do with respect. He says, “Isn’t that what the non-believers were accusing Dover Christians of five years ago? A lack of respect for their point of view.”

No. It wasn’t. Again Mr. Hicks perpetuates a common misconception. The “non-believers” were accusing the Dover school board of corrupting the science education of their children.

The Creationists continually peddle the idea that supernatural explanations are scientific.

And that is what’s obnoxious.

Attempted “Logic” Fails

On the website CantonRep.com, Ron L. Dalpiaz wrote a letter to the editor about the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s “Imagine No Religion” billboard in Canton, Ohio. The letter appeared on December 18th, 2008.

Mr. Dalpiaz evidently does not approve of the billboard, nor does he approve or agree with the FFRF’s Annie Laurie Gaylor’s comments about religion. That’s understandable. I don’t always agree with everything she says, either, even though I’m a FFRF member. One of the wonderful things about this country (the USA) is our freedom to disagree and express our disagreement. The First Amendment of our Constitution guarantees that.

In that light, I would like to point out the logical failings of Mr. Dalpiaz’s statements and show that, in numerous cases, his statements are the exact opposite of what is actually true. Sadly, I see this kind of illogical rhetoric all the time and it’s frustrating to say the least.

Here’s the letter (quoted) along with my comments.

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Inhibiting Education

I was speaking with a co-worker this morning and she was telling me about her son’s recent experience at school. Every year, the school takes the seventh-grade students to a local community health center, divides the boys and girls, and gives each group a presentation on bodily changes (of both sexes) that will soon be happening (if they’re not already). Basically, it’s sex-ed biology… puberty, hormones, etc.

This year, evidently there were some parents who complained that they didn’t want their children subjected to that presentation. My co-worker didn’t know how many parents complained, but her son said that one girl is a (vocal) Christian and her mom complained. It’s probably a safe bet that any parents who complained did so because of their religious beliefs. Granted, there could potentially be other reasons, but it’s unlikely.

Because of the parental complaints, all the students were given a presentation on drug use instead of the planned “Your Developing Body” curriculum. While education about drug use is definitely valuable, it seems to be, given the age of the students, a second-rate substitute. Learning about puberty and the biological changes that they’ll be going through is more time-sensitive for that age group than learning about drug use.

I have two issues with this situation.

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