Proof is Lacking for Republican Claims That God is on Our (U.S.A.) Side: Beware of Republicans Promoting Theocracy

by Don on November 26th, 2011
in Politics

There have always been assaults on the American tradition that holds separate church and state, but there may well be more today than ever before. We should all do what little we can to express our opposition to this trend. Separation serves church and state - it safeguards all religious freedoms while protecting the rights of those who choose no religion. America has managed to safeguard this separation, more or less, for over two centuries. Most Americans, except Right Wing Christians, support the establishment clause. Christians and others who prefer a secular Republic should recognize the dangers of creeping theocracy.

Five candidates for the Republican Party nomination for president are theocrats. All believe we are "under" their god and that this nation is "exceptional" because their god is a big fan and protector of America. These candidates are Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Congressman Ron Paul, Texas Governor Rick Perry and former Senator Rick Santorum. Consider the following from statements made at the ?Thanksgiving Family Forum" in Iowa last week.

Michele Bachmann:

American exceptionalism is grounded on the Judeo-Christian ethic, which is really based upon the 10 Commandments. The 10 Commandments were the foundation for our law. That?s what Blackstone said?the English jurist?and our founders looked to Blackstone for the foundation of our law. That?s our law . . . I have a biblical worldview. And I think, going back to the Declaration of Independence, the fact that it?s God who created us?if He created us, He created government. And the government is on His shoulders, as the book of Isaiah says.

Herman Cain:

What we are seeing is a wider gap between people of faith and people of nonfaith. ? Those of us that are people of faith and strong faith have allowed the nonfaith element to intimidate us into not fighting back. I believe we?ve been too passive. We have maybe pushed back, but as people of faith, we have not fought back.

Rick Perry:

Somebody?s values are going to decide what the Congress votes on or what the president of the United States is going to deal with. And the question is: Whose values? And let me tell you, it needs to be our values?values and virtues that this country was based upon in Judeo-Christian founding fathers . . . in every person?s heart, in every person?s soul, there is a hole that can only be filled by the Lord Jesus Christ.


Rick Santorum:

Unlike Islam, where the higher law and the civil law are the same, in our case, we have civil laws. But our civil laws have to comport with the higher law. ? As long as abortion is legal?at least according to the Supreme Court?legal in this country, we will never have rest, because that law does not comport with God?s law. . . The idea that the only things that the states are prevented from doing are only things specifically established in the Constitution is wrong. Our country is based on a moral enterprise. Gay marriage is wrong. As Abraham Lincoln said, the states do not have the right to do wrong. ? As a president, I will get involved, because the states do not have the right to undermine the basic, fundamental values that hold this country together.

Newt Gingrich:

And part of what I would like to explore is whether or not you could get the Congress to pass a law which simply says: Personhood begins at conception. And therefore?and you could, in the same law, block the court and just say, ?This will not be subject to review,? which we have precedent for. You would therefore not have to have a constitutional amendment, because the Congress would have exercised its authority under the 14th Amendment to define life, and to therefore undo all of Roe vs. Wade, for the entire country, in one legislative action.

All five of these Republicans want a government that applies their religious values to our laws.  All seek laws that apply their Christian version of Sharia law. These Republicans are committed to their notions of god-given truths and standards of morality. The source of these laws that they would seek to impose on all Americans? Not the Constitution but the Holy Bible.

The code word for much of this talk is "exceptionalism." It has been used by several recent presidents. It is another approach to the eventual elimination of the wall of separation much like the infamous "faith-based" funding of religious institutions initiated by Bush and expanded by Obama. 

It's a pity that all citizens who are not enamored of this direction do not laugh out loud when pols proclaim that we are divinely ordained. Do Republicans really think that a god gave a certain country a mission to manage, guide and lead the rest of the world? It sounds preposterous, yet, presidents and others have been getting away with it. Ronald Reagan once referred to "some divine plan" that placed America here. Reagan quoted Pope Pius XII on this theme, "Into the hands of America God has placed the destinies of an afflicted mankind."

Wow. How did the Pope know that? Did he offer evidence? Did everyone (or anyone) in other countries agree?

Who can forget the time George Bush got into the theocratic mood? In 2004, he said: "We have a calling from beyond the stars to stand for freedom."

No kidding? Where, exactly, beyond the stars did that call come from and who heard it, besides George? I didn't hear it. Did you?

I believe it was Voltaire (Philosophical Dictionary, 1764) who observed that "the truths of religion are never so well understood as by those who have lost the power of reasoning."

Take a stand against this trend. Write letters, tell your friends and let the candidates know they are full of bullbleep. Join campaigns to discourage theocratic meddling. Want a recent example?

Did you know that U.S. Catholic bishops have launched a campaign to defeat new rules adopted by Health and Human Services requiring employers to offer health care to cover contraception? This is simple prevention. While religious institutions were exempted, the Catholic bishops want more restrictions. They want a "conscience clause" to exempt larger population groups.

You can join the Freedom from Religion Foundation's campaign to "ensure American women's right to preventive contraceptive care" by petitioning the HSS to retain the rules first set out for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Ask that the government not exempt religion-related universities and hospitals from new guidelines requiring contraceptive insurance at no added cost to insured women. Keep the matter of whether or not to utilize family planning options is a private decision for individuals ? not employers, pastors or priests.

You can E-mail the president at this address:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/submit-questions-and-comments

You can make a phone call the White House - 202-456-1111

Or, you can write a letter to The White House at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20500.

Consider sending a CC to Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum.

It won't turn them around but at least they'll realize that you are not likely to vote for a theocrat.

Pope Urges Africans to Reject Voodoo, Adopt Instead the Rational, Scientific Beliefs of the Roman Catholic Faith

by Don on November 19th, 2011
in Politics

Ouidah, Benin (Reuters). Pope Benedict, the head of the 1.1 billion - member Roman Catholic Church and an unwavering believer in the divinity of Christ, spoke out against the ridiculous superstitions of voodoo last week in West Africa. His talk was attended by thousands of voodoo adherents and dozens of voodoo priests. The Pope spoke across the street from the "Temple of the Pythons," a large voodoo worship center featuring a statue of a bare-breasted woman and a pit full of sacred pythons. In his address, the Pope spoke of reason, evidence and the empirical approach to revelation - from his pulpit inside the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

It must have been quite a contrast. One the one side - the primitive witch doctors bedecked in tribal garb, festooned with deadly, writhing snakes. On the other, the modern Pope, smartly attired in velvet cape with embroidered vestments bejeweled with crosses and a pointy hat. The latter, spokesperson extraordinaire for scientific truths, explained in scientific terms a variety of 21st century insights. These included but were not limited to how the One True Church discovered all the following truths:

  • how to drive out demons with exorcisms,
  • enlist guardian angels for good deeds,
  • ward off the Devil with holy prayers,
  • do wondrous things with wafers via transubstantiation,
  • discover miracles performed by long-dead nuns and
  • plum the mysteries of heaven for the faithful, hell for sinners and withdrawal for birth control.

While there were no immediate confirmed reports of conversions following the Pope's speech, it would not surprise anyone if the voodoo types in West Africa did not soon enough see the light and inerrancy of the Pope's dazzling logic.

Even secular observers grant that the Pope, the infallible ecclesiastical authority on just about everything, deserves credit for advancing reason in a part of the world not known for critical thinking.

We can only hope that the Holy Father returns soon to American shores. His message of trust in science and escape from superstition is one many Americans desperately need. Consider the Republican Party, firmly in the grip of voodoo and other forms of primitivism. A little papal reason might ward off a catastrophiclly poor choice of  candidates in the elections of 2012.

Discovering I Was Mistaken About Republicans - Two of the Candidates Are Decent

by Don on November 14th, 2011
in Politics

One of my favorite experiences is discovering that something I assumed to be so isn't, especially if whatever I believed was of a negative nature about an individual, a group or a point of view. The other night, while watching a televised debate among the candidates seeking the presidential nomination of the loathsome Republican Party, I discovered I was mistaken. I had to reassess my opinion of, if not my support for, two of the candidates. My belief that they were all mean-spirited, war-mongering theocrats given to policies much the same as those put in place by George W. Bush was mistaken. Two candidates are not at all like Bush, at least in several very important areas. I refer, of course, to former Utah governor and Ambassador to China during the Obama presidency Jon Huntsman and Representative Ron Paul (R-Texas).

The latest debate was devoted to foreign policy. The questions revealed stark differences between the front runners and the other "America is always right, bomb them all back to the Stone Age" Right-Wing types. Candidates Huntsman and Paul took remarkably different positions from the others concerning the use of torture, atomic weapons, dealing with China and safeguarding personal freedoms.
Both Huntsman and Paul excoriated the Bush policy of using "waterboarding" or other so-called "enhanced interrogation" methods.  Both called waterboarding torture. I could hardly believe it. Two sensible Republicans! Both talked of how using torture was illegal, unreliable and immoral. Huntsman noted that "we diminish our standing in the world and the values that we project" when we do so - and said these values include  "liberty, democracy and human rights." Paul agreed we should not torture and explicityly identified waterboarding as torture. He added that when we do this, "we dilute ourselves down like a whole lot of other countries. And we lose that ability to project values that a lot of people in corners of this world are still relying on the United States to stand up for them. I think it's uncivilized and has no practical advantages and is really un-American to accept on principle that we will torture people that we capture."

Wow. Take that, tea baggers.

On Iran and what to do if it gets the nukes it's trying to build, Paul challenged the hawkish tone of the others, saying that the candidates who spoke of war reminded him of the build-up before we went into Iraq in the early Bush years. He said doing so would not be worthwhile, that "the only way you would do that is you would have to go through Congress. He added, "and, you know, they didn't have weapons of mass destruction and it was orchestrated and it was, to me, a tragedy of what's happened these last 10 years, the death and destruction, $4 trillion in debt. So no, it's not worthwhile going to war."

Holy cow. Check this man's Republican creds.

Even better, both want our troops out of Afghanistan and are willing to work to create nuanced positions with Pakistan and China rather than denounce both, as did all the other candidates.

I can't wait for the next Republican presidential debate. I want to see if these two will come out for raising revenues (taxes) on the rich and on big business as well as cutting programs, safeguarding separation of church and state, protecting the rights of women, gays and other minorities, policies to recognize the reality of climate change and safeguard the environment, reducing the deficit without making economic matters worse for the poor and middle class, promoting new regulations to prevent further Wall Street abuses and pledging support for the U.N.

I am nearly certain neither of the two will go this far but, as I mentioned, I welcome the experience of being disabused of unwarranted negative attitudes. If I continue to hold any unfair or inaccurate views about these Republicans based on erroneous assumptions or beliefs, please, Messrs. Huntsman and Paul, set me straight, once more. It will truly make my day.

Why Religion Persists and Continues to Afflict Humanity

by Don on November 10th, 2011
in Religion

What would you say accounts for the fact that religions, evidence-free superstitions all, continue to attract and hold customers, despite the fact that we live in a scientific age?

In the Dark Ages, religions offered answers to life's persistant questions. Little was known about the natural world. The earth was flat and the sun revolved around us, the center of the universe and the reason for why everything exists and was put here by God 6000 years prior - or so everyone was told and had no evidence to the contrary. Thus, for 99.9 percent of the time of homo sapiens existence (and the homo strains before us), nearly all humans were cowed into submission by the high priests. Any god with the keys to a hellish dungeon was scary, all powerful and savagely vengeful.

However, for more than a century, mankind has had scientific knowledge about the real world. With the advent of the scientific method, the educated class has been encouraged to look for evidence, to demand objective confirmation of claims by independent third parties via controlled studies. Why would educated adults in the 21st century believe unsupported assertions alleging revealed wisdom and other myths  of the elaborate crock on offer from religions? All of it comes free of any evidence whatsoever! Never in the history of gods ancient or modern has a single fact been discovered supportive of a claim for any god's existence. Ditto for claims attributed to said gods. No evidence, either, that prayers, anywhere, anytime were ever answered by any god prayed to nor of any favors granted for sacrifices offered.

Yet, billions of humans still to this day line up and bow down in acceptance of and obedience to iatollahs, priests, rabbis, ministers, preachers and others who claim to know the mind and wishes of some invisible Ruler of the Universe, Lord of Lords, Grand Wazoo, Infinite Goodness, etc.

Why?

According to Al Stefanelli, the answer in a word is fear. in a blog post entitled, "Religious Belief Is A Fear-Based Lie" (Freethoughtblogs.com, November 7, 2011), Stefanelli explained:

"Fear.  It?s what drives religion, gives it purpose, keeps a billion or so believers entrenched in willful ignorance, is responsible for the rampant denial of science and is the central emotion responsible for the bigotry, discrimination and hatred that is widespread amongst those who profess their undying love for their deity. It is the ally of the bully, the friend of the charlatan and a constant deterrent against self-esteem."

More than a century earlier, Robert Green Ingersoll said as much. Near the conclusion of what would be his last speech, an address to the American Free Religious Association in Boston on June 2, 1899, Colonel Ingersoll (1833-1899), America's greatest orator then widely known as "The Great Agnostic," said that fear was the foundation of all faiths.

"Religions assert that an infinite God created all things, governs all things and that the creature should be obedient and thankful to the creator; that the creator demands certain things, and that the person who complies with these demands is religious."

Fail to comply and God will send "pestilence, famine, flood and earthquake" - for starters. When you die, the real punishment kicks in, an eternity without surcease for even a moment."

Much has and continues to be made of the harm inflicted on children by predator priests of the Roman Catholic and other Christian religions. I believe that sexual child abuse, grotesque as this crime is that outrages our sensibilities, is less consequential than the mental abuse of religious dogmas, particularly that of hell-fires in waiting. 

In a speech entitled, "The Gods," one of his most popular, Ingersoll remarked:

"What, after all, is religion? It is fear. Fear builds the altar and offers the sacrifice. Fear erects the cathedral and bows the head of man in worship. Fear bends the knees and utters the prayer."

The fear of eternal torture for insufficient obedience to religious doctrines and/or failure to believe or follow a leader's teachings, rules and the like amount to one hell of a negative sales pitch. Give religions credit of sort where due - as a way to keep the sheep in line and control the flock, this hellish idea has been a great success. Again, Ingersoll had words to express his indignation about the infamy of hell fear - -mongering:

"Heaven's golden gates are shut, and you, with an infinite curse ringing in your ears, with the brand of infamy upon your brow, commence your endless wanderings in the lurid gloom of hell -- an immortal vagrant -- an eternal outcast -- a deathless convict...Is it possible for man to conceive of anything more perfectly infamous? Can you believe that such directions were given by any being except an infinite fiend?" (Source: The Gods, 1872.)

Of course none of it was given by a fiend, or a friend of man, but by the control agencies called religions. 

We should all consider offering what modest resistance we can manage this infamous idea of hell and the rest of the anti-science offal that religions invent and promote. Challenge efforts by theocrats to deface and lower the wall separating our state from their church. Remember, as Ingersoll noted, that "religions teach the slave virtues of obedience, humility, self-denial, forgiveness, non-resistance...the abyss of degradation. Religion does not teach self-reliance, independence, manliness, courage, self-defence. Religion makes God a master and man his serf...Religion can never reform mankind because religion is slavery. It is far better to be free, to leave the forts and barricades of fear, to stand erect and face the future with a smile."

All good wishes.

Right Wing Republican Religionists Are Functioning As Termites Undermining the Structure of Secular America

by Don on November 3rd, 2011
in Politics, Religion

Some people in this country, particularly Republican politicians, employ faith displays in public places in order to weaken our historic tradition of church/state separation. Separation has benefitted the interests of both sectors for centuries. Alas, times are a changing.

Here are a few examples of in-your-face religiosity that menace this tradition of keeping the two realms apart:

* Robert Jeffress, a Perry adviser and leader of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, declared that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney isn?t a ?real? Christian. (Mr. Jeffress did not delineate a real from a fake Christian but he made clear his view that Romney is in the latter camp.) Jeffress also noted that the Mormon religion is a ?cult,? but did not define a cult, either. Nor did Mr. Jeffress explain why Christianity should not be considered one.

* Michelle Bachmann defended her reputation as a weather expert. You might recall her unusual Christian explanation for the recent East Coast earthquake and hurricane. According to this Republican presidential candidate, her god, which she considers the only one of the genre, was unhappy because people were not listening to him/her or it. The candidate made no mention of how she gained this information. No explanation, either, as to why nobody else, not even Pat Robertson, made this remarkable connection.

* Mitt Romney reasserted his own conviction that his god created America to lead the world. So much for the credit historians and others had mistakenly given to the Founding Fathers.

* Just a few days ago, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution reaffirming "In God We Trust" as the national motto. This resolution, notwithstanding the Constitution and Supreme Court rulings to the contrary, called for displays of "In God We Trust" in public schools and other public buildings. Only nine Congresspersons voted against this resolution (396 voted in favor).

* A statue of Jesus, resting on public land in the mountains of Montana, was challenged in a district court. The statue was placed by the Catholic group Knights of Columbus.

* A cross sits atop a water tower in Whiteville, TN. The tower is city property, so a secular interest group (the Freedom from Religion Foundation) brought suit to have it removed. The suit states that the cross "unabashedly creates the perception of government endorsement of Christianity."

Countless additional examples could be cited across the land, all clearly divisive and all a menace to the tradition of church/state separation. America is sliding into theocracy; our secular Republic is under attack by a (so far) non-violent Christian Taliban.

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) calls this trend "irresponsible and shameful." Other secular groups have expressed concern that Republican politicians and Christian evangelists are dividing the country along religious lines. It would be a dreadful thing to undertake this kind of a campaign at any time, but it is irresponsible for politicians to do so at a time when the country is in the grip of such a serious financial crisis.

Polls show that 16 percent of Americans have no religious identity; over 40 million do not identify with any monotheistic god. Will these natural allies and those who embrace a religion but respect the separation clause resist the march to theocracy in time to prevent it?

Sir Ludovic Henry Coverly Kennedy wrote the following in a column in "The Guardian" a few years back ("Put Away Childish Things, April 17, 2003): "All gods from time immemorial are fantasies, created by humans for the welfare of humans and to attempt to explain the seemingly inexplicable. But do we, in the third year of the 21st century of the Common Era and on the springboard of colonising the universe, need such palliatives? Wherever one looks there is conflict: Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland; Jews, Christians and Muslims in Palestine; Muslims and Hindus in the Indian subcontinent; Christians and Muslims in Nigeria, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. Is not the case for atheism made?" President Thomas Jefferson was a bit more concise, once referring to "this loathsome combination of Church and State.?

The assault on the establishment clause of our Constitution makes the case for keeping government free of religions and their symbols, rituals and all the rest. Perhaps much of this religious intrusion nonsense is a diversionary tactic by the religious Right. They worry that their dogma is increasingly seen as ridiculous, irrational, superstitious and anti-science - so they try to distract attention from substance to symbolism of their childish past, something familiar, traditional and yes, "sacred" (at least to them, thanks to cultural conditioning). They choose to test, inflame and stoke a culture war, and Republican politicians are only too happy to oblige. This removes the focus from our wretched economy.

In addition to offending non-Christians, the actions cited and others like them waste time and money and divide the citizenry.

Let's speak out, resist and apply the insecticide of reason to these pious termites eating away at the foundations of our freedoms, protected in part by what remains of the wall of separation between our state and their church. As Pat Condell has stated, "Remember, one person on his own can't do much, but a million people each doing a little every day can change things very quickly."

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