Monday, December 31, 2007

Vestigial Religious Bigotry

Vestigial Religious Bigotry

Religious bigotry has perhaps a special place in American culture, going as far back as the founding of Massachusetts Bay Colony. More than other prejudices, it retains considerable respectability in wide swathes of the public. Hence a shocking 53% of Americans say they would not cast a vote for president under any circumstances for an atheist. It's a mark of the resilience of religious prejudice that this standard of bigotry toward atheists, which had dropped in Gallup polls from 74% to 48% between 1959 and 1987, has bounced back up a full 5% since 1999. And this despite the fact that Article VI of the U.S. Constitution prohibits religious tests for office-holding.

Discrimination based upon creed, in general, remains acceptable in America to a shocking extent. It comes as no news to me, who bears this pagan pseudonym, that I cannot aspire to elected public office. And yet some information regarding religious discrimination, forwarded to me recently by Georgia10, came as something of a surprise. It turns out that eight states (AR, MA, MD, NC, PA, SC, TN, and TX) retain clauses in their constitutions that explicitly endorse or require discrimination based upon religious belief.

Check this one out. It's not necessarily a big horrifying thing in itself, but I agree with the author of this post that these legal remnants (and the fact that they've been allowed to remain) are glaring signs of a deeper problem.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The New Atheism

The New Atheism.

I am as atheistic as it gets. But I will not be signing up to this shrill hectoring of the religious. The new atheists have given atheism a bad name. History's greatest atheists, or the "old atheists" as we are now forced to call them, were humanistic and progressive, critical of religion because it expressed man's sense of higher moral purpose in a deeply flawed fashion. The new atheists are screechy and intolerant; they see religion merely as an expression of mass ignorance and delusion.

This is an article for all those people who (like me) have noticed that atheism has stopped being a-theism and more what I've heard called "antitheism." It's not enough merely to disbelieve something. Now to be an atheist often means disbelieving and railing about it with fanatic zeal.

Christ, Salvation, and the Non-Christian

Christ, Salvation and the Non-Christian

This is the first really well reasoned-out argument I've seen for the notion that non-Christians can end up in God's good graces. The usual arguments are generally along the lines of, "I can't believe God's only judge of human worth is where they pray." Frankly, that's been my argument and I've dismissed the assertion by another religion that only they have the answer simply because I thought it was egocentric and obnoxious.

However, now I'm seeing that the interpretation that so irked me may not be the only one out there with good evidence behind it. This is a relief, and something I'm not sure everyone has seen. I wanted to share it.

Sell it with sex

The Virtues of Evangelical Sex

Let’s start with the claim itself, that evangelicals have better sex lives. What is this supposed to mean? That people with good sex lives are more apt to be evangelical? It’s more likely he meant that being an evangelical Christian improves one’s sex life. When Jesus says we shall have life and have it more abundantly, was he talking about sex every day, twice a day?

I just thought this was.... interesting. A wee bit odd, but interesting.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The "Ron Paul Revolution"

I was initially very interested in Ron Paul, because at least he was a Conservative willing to be a Conservative. If nothing else I had some respect for that. You don't have to dig too terribly deep to figure out what he's about.

Unfortunately this kinda stopped working in his favor. Checking out things like this kind of... turned me off.

I mean, being pro-medical-freedom or whatever is troubling when he's opening the door for his pseudoscience backers, particularly when you contrast "medical freedom" with "pro-life." I mean, either one of these alone is a different story but together? I dunno. I feel like he's looking for the freedom of pseudoscientific quacks to scam people, but not for women's reproductive freedom.

Then there are racist statements that kinda worried me. I don't put much stock in the supposed endorsements by white supremacist groups in the US, since those seem just a little too conveniently damning to be true. However, he did sponsor a bill to make all Iranian Students in the United States ineligible for any form of federal aid.

His views on citizenship are kind of interesting. Here is the first of three attempts to amend the Constitution to "deny United States citizenship to individuals born in the United States to parents who are neither United States citizens nor persons who owe permanent allegiance to the United States." Nor persons who owe permanent allegiance to the United States? The heck does that mean? I have these visions of people being deported because their parents lacked sufficient allegiance. Yikes.

He also wanted to repeal OSHA Actually he tried twice. Another yikes. I don't know about anyone else, but I'm kinda into the whole workplace-safety thing. Also, he doesn't like the idea of a minimum wage, which will be pretty hard to swallow for people who're trying to survive at the minimum wage level. He's not a big fan of anti-trust laws, either. Big surprise.

He sponsored another bill (well, twice actually) "to prohibit the Federal Government from planning, developing, implementing, or administering any national teacher test or method of certification and from withholding funds from States or local educational agencies that fail to adopt a specific method of teacher certification." Our education system here is a global laughingstock as it is, thanks. Please don't take away what accountability we do have.

He also wants all 50 states to have their own currency, along with separate federal money. What? Why?

He's so proud of claiming that he's never voted to raise taxes (see his commercials), but he wants people's taxes to hit them harder so that he can "restore to taxpayers awareness of the true cost of government." WTF. Either you want people to burdened by their taxes or you don't!

All in all? Not liking this voting record. Seems.... kind of bad.


In response to this question: Do you practise Christmas, or something else? And how was your Christmas/Wintereenmas/Hanukkah/Tuesday?

I answered: Unfortunately my parents are Americans, which means that they're culturally Christian even if we do not go to church or even really care about any of that. This means that I visited for Christmas and missed a Yule gathering in my hometown.

Oh, well. It could certainly be much worse than being forced to participate in what amounts to "American Kids Get Presents Day."

Why does this matter? Someone apparently was complaining to the person who asked the original question about my anti-American, anti-Christian attitude. I heard about this because neither he nor I believe in handling things behind the scenes and keeping secrets like that from one another. This is how at least half of the drama starts that makes internet look like a haven for passive-aggressive cowards more concerned with hiding conflict than resolution of conflict.

The question was geared at my experience of the holiday season, and maybe I should share it in more detail. Forgive me for re-using some useful citations I've brought up elsewhere.

First off, I do not belong to a persecuted minority group. I do, however, belong to a religious minority. Few feel more keenly than I do how deeply-embedded in American culture Christmas is. My family is a relatively secular one. I can't remember my mother ever attending church, nor do we discuss religion. Just the same, we celebrate Christmas. Why? Because America is culturally Christian even if very few Americans want it to be legally Christian.

To put it another way, America has been deeply and undeniably affected by Christianity. Don't believe me? Read this, (though keep in mind you have to read the entries from the bottom up) and see for yourself. However, this does not mean that most Americans want Congress to establish one religion as the American religion.

Sorry for that diversion, but it's something that apparently not everyone comes to intuitively, so it bore explanation. It explains the religious context of the culture in which I live. So what happens when you're not only not a Christian in America, but you belong to a non-Abrahamic tradition? Not a Jew, not a Christian, not a Muslim. Not even a Hindu, though this massive world religion receives its own measure of distrust from people who don't "get it."

No, I'm a Wiccan. I like my religion, and before anyone invokes the "rebellious phase" explanation, this is something that's been part of my life for ten years. Hell of a long phase, don't you think? Just keep in mind how long I've been doing this, because it means that no matter what I mention as a downside... it hasn't stopped me. Nothing anyone has said or done has ever stopped me.

But there have been problems. I moved to a small town when I was twelve, and parents didn't want their children talking to me. Parents told their children I was an agent of Satan, that I was after their souls. Children told teachers that I could lay curses on them. "Ashley's a witch. Better be careful." On top of all the normal misery of a junior-high kid in a small town, I went to school every day knowing that my peers didn't just dislike me. They believed I was evil.

If now and again I lament that I grew to religious understanding in this environment, I beg your forgiveness for imposing. If now and again it strikes a chord with me to read of the oppression and bigotry visited on human beings by the lunatic fringe... forgive me. If now and again I resent being prevented from celebrating a holiday in line with my religious beliefs because another religion has a stronger hold on my culture... forgive me.

But never imply that I don't understand what I'm talking about. Never imply that I haven't done my homework, that I can't draw the line between the activities of the fringe and the activities of the mainstream. I know that most Christians don't drag homosexuals to the pavement and beat them. I know that most Christians don't seek to legislate their religion. I know that most Christians don't perpetrate or even excuse these things. But however uncommon they are, these things do happen. I know that, too.

And y'know what? It does make me feel less safe here in America. I've seen what people get away with, and for all I know the lunatic minority could be after me and "my kind" next.

I'm not anti-Christian in the sense that I hate the religion or its adherents. I guess I'm anti-Christian if being Christian requires a petrifying fear of thought and freedom. I'm anti-Christian if being Christian means that one's own religion can do no wrong.

But I don't think I am. I'm anti-crazy-people. Christianity's not the only group that has them (not even close), but Christianity has the ones that've come after me.

I think that adequately explains my feelings about Christianity in America. But what about America? Do I hate America?

No. You only get that impression if you equate Christianity and America. It's common enough among people who believe that America is simultaneously God's Chosen Nation and depraved Babylon, the battlefield on which the fate of the righteous will be decided. If you conflate Protestant Christianity with this nation, than dissatisfaction with Christianity is tantamount to treason.

But such treason is a lot more common than you think.

I'm not necessarily hoping to pull anyone over to my view. I can't argue faith with logic, fanaticism with reason. Perhaps I can give you something to think about though. Perhaps I can give some context to my statements, and some clue as to my perspective. Perhaps it'll be harder now to boil me down to yet another godless liberal Christian-hating traitor.

Perhaps. But some people will probably do it anyway.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The overt racist in the GOP field

Good gracious.

Why the Anti-Christ is an Idiot

A Thanksgiving Musing on the Anti-Christ: Why the Anti-Christ is an Idiot

Nicolae Carpathia is the anti-Christ and through the rest of Left Behind we follow his rise to power. Now here is my first quibble. If you were the anti-Christ and you wanted to keep it undercover why would you choose the name Nicolae Carpathia? Because if I was the anti-Christ I'd want to go with something more nondescript like "Bob Smith." Think about it. If you met Bob Smith and Nicolae Carpathia who would you suspect would be the anti-Christ? See my point? Bob Smith just can't be the anti-Christ. It's the perfect name.

But the name isn't what bothers me. What bothers me is that Nicolae Carpathia, the anti-Christ, starts following the End Times script to the letter. The Bible prophesies that the anti-Christ will do X. And Nicolae Carpathia does X. The Bible prophesies that the anti-Christ will do Y. And Nicolae Carpathia, monotonously and predictably, does Y.

And I'm thinking, is the anti-Christ a complete idiot?

This is a fun article. I found it while sifting through the internet for fun entries. Somehow I ended up here, and thought it deserved another plug from me by reason of general awesomeness.


Antonia Levi: Anime, Manga, and Cultural Aspects of the Werewolf Tradition

What a neat article. I'm liking this blog more and more the further back I dig. Not only do I recognize this author, but I was really impressed by her conclusions.

To put it as simply as possible, the Japanese werewolf is generally a positive (if a bit dangerous) character while in Western stories, they are generally evil. Japanese werewolves are also likely to be wolves who change into humans rather than the reverse.
The American and more generally, the Western werewolf is a human being who degenerates into a violent, non-sentient wolf-like creature. I think this is partly due to the fact that Western religious and philosophical traditions make a huge differentiation between humans and animals; humans have souls and are capable of rational thought while animals do not. That's almost diametrically opposite from the Shinto view that all nature is sentient to some degree, and also far from the Buddhist idea of reincarnation in which all human souls have been animals at some time and may be again.

I know this one's a little long, but definitely give it a read. Well worth it.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Not a Christmas Entry! Ha ha!

So while I was looking around for blogs to read, I found Peg Aloi: Cinema and the Occult Revival on Theofantastique (which is now in my neat little bloglist over there).

In winter we'd chop firewood and cut down our own Christmas tree and smoke a goose my dad had killed for dinner. At the time, this sort of thing was not considered unusual but it's really a dying way of life in this country now…I mean, many families do not even cook dinner or eat together. If I were a sociologist, I'd love to research the connection of these sorts of foodways that are going out of fashion and chart their decline against the proliferation of Paganism and other nature-based spiritualities.

This is a really really interesting question, and it makes me want to take a class on cultural foodways Butler is offering right now. If Butler would remove the holds on my account for their primitive bureaucratic processes I could do it right now, but this wasn't intended to be a rant. I do think I'll be able to offer a much more informed comment on this after that class, but for now I have a couple of personal experiences that connect to it.

When I was a child, I was living in New England. I used to play out in the woods to get out of the house, and when I acquired a stepbrother he and I would go together. My stepfather was always supportive of this, and my mother was a big fan of hiking and camping before I came around. However, I didn't really get a chance to camp or canoe or hunt much. I thought that was just how things worked out, but I later learned that there were certain things (like shooting) that my mother just... didn't want her little girl doing.

Because it was apparently not gender-appropriate, a lot of my interests are topics I'm ignorant about now. I'm fascinated by the number of edible plants just growing in my area. I'm fascinated by the relationship between cloud formations and coming weather. I'm fascinated by the behavior of animals and, hell, their culinary uses. Despite the fact that these are long-standing traditions in a country that used to be an unexplored frontier, they still hold more mystery for me than transubstantiation or an exorcism.

Perhaps that has something to do with my eventual religious choices. I've seen more mystery in nature than in traditions built by humans. Don't get me wrong, those traditions are interesting for different reasons. Mystery though? That spiritually-compelling quality of nature hinting at something beyond the order humans have imposed on their universe? Nature has that. No matter what we piece together, "the universe is always one step beyond logic," as Frank Herbert wrote (and yes, me being a Dune fan must be shocking). That makes the universe pretty amazing for me, and logic has some serious catching up to do before that mystery diminishes at all for me.

Those areas of social tension I mentioned earlier were and in many ways still are seen as "liberal" causes and interests. Which made the adoption of Pagan mindsets, such as earth-based spirituality and nature worship which are part of modern Wicca and other paths, seem like a natural outgrowth of the social zeitgeist. But interestingly, in the U.K., the factors which led to a Pagan revival were seen as "conservative" or right-wing sorts of issues.

Now that is something I'd like to know more about. I guess even I'm so embedded in the "Pagans are liberal feminist dirtworshipping commies" image that it never occurred to me that Pagans might not always be bullshitting when they talk about returns to 'traditional' religious paths.

Man. I'm having so many personal reactions to this journal entry that once I start responding to the points she's making on the topic at hand I'm going to need a whole separate entry. Maybe I'll do that.

So yeah. If you want something relevant, you'll have to wait.

Monday, December 24, 2007

"The Future Has Arrived"

So I saw this Svedka ad... it was a sexy sexy robot with SVEDKA written across her thigh.

In case you can't see the website's animation (either because you don't feel like proving you're 21 or you just don't care), here's the ad in an animated .gif that I screencapped from the website.

My first thought was, "Either I've been imbibing too much feminism lately, or this is crazy in so many ways I don't even know where to start."

Well, I decided the answer is probably both, so keep this in mind. There's been a lot of feminism in my brain lately, but I'm not crazy. This is worth talking about.

Now, as this article points out, these sexy roboladies have been something of a fad lately. I don't want TV anymore, so of course I wouldn't notice this trend until it bled down into whatever trash tabloid I was reading.

The article I just mentioned points out that Heineken just did something similar.

Hard to tell where to start really. The question of "why a woman?" isn't nearly as easy to answer as "why a robot?" After all, once you figure out why they'd want a woman, you'd know why that woman would have to be a robot, right?

I'm going to try not to become Donna Haraway here, though the gods know that I do love me some H-Dizzle.

Anyway, let's tangle with the woman thing first even though the question kind of sucks. Why have a woman advertising booze? Well, why the hell not? The whole point of drinking is to have fun! Fun=revelry=(at least much of the time) sex. I don't think the point of this ad is to convince you that Svedka can get men laid by horny robot broads, but I felt like explaining it beyond a simple "sex sells, let's move on."

But let's move on anyway.

What sort of woman is this? Well, she's a plastic skeleton, which means that she doesn't need organs or anything (or clothes). SHe's basically just eyes, lips, tits, and an ass. Oh, and those lovely thighs that scream SVEDKA. The only thing you'd expect such a perfectly streamlined sexual image to have that Svedka girl doesn't is hair. I guess her skull is pretty nice, though. Maybe that'll have to do.

So she's a woman boiled down to the physical essentials. But what's she like? Well she wants to party. Presumably with you, if you've got the cash to buy her favorite bottled liquor. Y'see, we women are like this. You buy us the appropriate fluids and we're yours for a night.

Well, some of us are. But that's beside the point.

Now we add in the robot thing. Robots are customizable and programmable creatures, at least in common representations (and don't get me started on negative robot stereotypes in the media; I'll go on a rant defending a demographic that doesn't even exist yet). But basically it's a control thing. You can have her as you want her, how you want her, when you want her, and never have to worry about what she wants. Heck, if it's important that she want you... you can always just program her to "feel" that way.

Don't get me wrong. I love robots. I'd be one if we had the technology. However, we don't. All we have are predictions and the startling successes that engineers have had in living up to those speculations.

There's also the fact that many of these presentations are (not surprisingly) tied to sex. In fact, there's a whole genre of erotic tastes called technosexuality that deals with this. As the linked site states, this does seem to go all the way back to Greek myth. So humans aren't recently freaky or anything. There's always been a little kink lurking at the fringes of discoveries like these.

So why's this special, then? Why point this out if it's so damned common?

I think it was the fact that a woman's thighs are such a highly-sexualized body part in my culture, and the fact that hers so boldly announce her status as property.... it kind of struck something. Add to that the usual tie with sin and debauchery (a partygirl robot selling booze... what could be better?) and Svedka Girl caught my eye. I doubt I'll forget her anytime soon.

Still trying to decide if I want to buy the vodka, though.

Column A or Column B?

Teacher's global warming warning is YouTube hit

I won't beat the dead horse that is an obvious comparison to Pascal's Wager.

Watching the video, he seems relatively fair. I mean, for one thing he's not dealing with proofs anymore. At least not on the surface. For another, it does assume that climate changes are capable of causing all the things we think they're capable of causing. There's less uncertainty as to the remifications of wasting huge amounts of money.

Still. Even so. The cost-benefit analysis is pretty damned solid. The only proof that'd shoot this down is some proof that global warming (were it to occur) could not cause all the terrible consequences he claims.

That's the only evidence that'll get me disproving this gentleman. It's hard to find reputable proof in that direction since the only people I've ever seen trying to disprove global warming tend to affiliate themselves with groups who are also trying to influence foreign policy in order to hasten the coming of Armageddon.

Can anyone find me that evidence? I'm interested in seeing it but I'm really tired of digging through all the rubbish arguments from corner-cutting megacorps and premillenialist crazies.

Global Warming Hoax?

So.... there's this idea circulating around that liberals are trying to push this global warming hoax on the world. To do... something.

Being a firm believer that nobody does anything if they don't believe there's some benefit in it for them or at least a group to which they belong... I have to ask a question.

What the hell do liberals gain by tricking the world into not wasting dirty, nonrenewable fuel sources? I mean... we could always fall back on the "they want to destroy America" argument, but that doesn't work for me since I don't believe there are people around who hunger to destroy without wanting to build something they feel is better.

So what do liberals gain by pushing to protect the environment? If all they're really doing is wasting money... so what? I feel like that's not a grand enough goal for an alleged hoax at this scale.

I just don't get it.

"Nice Guys"

Link courtesy of Skyshark

The Internet Nice Guy Rears His Ugly Head Once More

Seriously, read it. As a person who likes funny things I ask you to read it. As a woman who hates these guys, I'm BEGGING you. Granted, the really open skirtchasers are obnoxious. The real abusive guys suck pretty hard. But the "nice guys" are a type that lives by insinuating themselves into a woman's life in the hopes that someday they'll be the center of it, and everyone knows women make crazy hot barbarian love to anything that's the center of their lives, right?


Sunday, December 23, 2007

im in ur country, persecutin ur majoritty religin

I hear on a regular basis from fundamentalist evangelicals that America is a Christian nation. Always has been and always will. Keep this in mind, because I also heard someone imply recently that Christians in America are more persecuted than homosexuals.

I'm thinking of a word. Perhaps you're familiar with it.


...this word has two mutually contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it means the habit of impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts. Applied to a Party member, it means a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. But it means also the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know that white is black, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary. This demands a continuous alteration of the past, made possible by the system of thought which really embraces all the rest, and which is known in Newspeak as doublethink.

Oldthinkers unbellyfeel newthinkful duckspeak prolefeed.

Y'know where Christians are persecuted? North Korea. China. Kashmir. Indonesia. Pakistan. Y'know the only people in America who've persecuted Christians? Christians. Still believe that this country was founded to be a place where Christians could govern together in peace? Did you know that a woman was hanged because for a long time Boston didn't want Quakers in their city limits? Quakers. The least offensive Christian denomination I can possibly imagine.

Ultimately it was hoped to make articulate speech issue from the larynx without involving the higher brain centres at all. This aim was frankly admitted in the Newspeak word duckspeak[…]. Like various words in the B vocabulary, duckspeak was ambivalent in meaning. Provided that the opinions which were quacked out were orthodox ones, it implied nothing but praise, and when the Times referred to one of the orators of the Party as a doubleplusgood duckspeaker it was paying a warm and valued compliment.

According to the FBI, in 2004 there were 1,482 victims of violence whose suffering could clearly be traced back to the bias of their attacker against homosexuals. Anti-Christian violence? 116. Asian/Pacific Islanders experience more targeted violence than that. If most of the people griping about the Crisis of Christianity Today actually cared they'd be talking about the legitimate and undeniable suffering of Christian minorities overseas... where they're actually in danger in many areas.

Christian power in America.

Fundamentalist evangelical Christians in America apparently feel that they're oppressed, or at least they'd like everyone else to believe it's the case. They want you to feel that it's so damned hard to be a Christian in a godless secular Christ-hating nation of socialists like America.

Perhaps you're thinking that this doesn't make a great deal of sense. Perhaps you're thinking of some examples of prominent Christians who make no bones about their affiliation and motivations. Forget Dubya and his buddies Falwell and Pat Robertson and LaHaye and whoever else. At least for now.

The Vanderbilts were Episcopalian, and Vanderbilt University is Methodist. They weren't big on philanthropy except when it came to providing for their religious establishment. Heck, Mrs. Vanderbilt's summer church in Bar Harbor had Tiffany stained glass windows. Rockefeller was a Baptist. He believed from day one that he'd been blessed by God. They were regular church attendants, and he even taught Sunday school. JP Morgan was so wealthy that he personally bailed out the US government at least twice. He was a devoted Episcopalian. Eli Lilly? The Lillys are an Episcopalian family. They take very good care of Butler University (particularly our pharmacy school). Bill and Linda Gates? Last I heard they were Episcopalian, too.

Still think that the godless humanists control the nation?

According to Dr. Peter Horsfield,

Though there are strict regulations governing the raising of money by stations that hold a noncommercial license (e.g. educational stations), the FCC has avoided enforcement of these regulations when it has been a religious group or organization holding such a license, thus making it easier and more profitable for religious organizations to hold noncommercial licenses by lowering the normal restrictions on the raising of money through on-air solicitations, the sale of religious items, and so on. The FCC, for example, has specifically stated that rules governing the amount of commercial time permitted for each hour of programming do not apply to paid-time religious programs. Though they spend a part of each program soliciting funds for their organizations, the FCC has ruled that paid-time religious programs are not commercial-length programs. This means that television stations may sell unlimited time to religious broadcasters without worrying about usual restrictions on commercial time. This uneven enforcement of FCC policy has made it more than normally profitable for stations to sell time to religious broadcasters who are prepared to buy it.

Does that really sound like The Man is out to stifle the voice of religious America?

It seems that a surprising percentage of famous film directors identify with a large religious denomination." Well, surprising if you think that Hollywood hates God. Granted, many of these are lapsed or non-practicing, but how many nominal Christians do you know who attend Church every Sunday?

Also, to say that religion has a distressing lack of influence on the increasingly-godless government also rings false with me. According to the same site I just linked (as of January 2006), less than 1% of USSC Justices did not identify with any church. That's 1 guy out of 108.

Popularity of the Persecution Complex

The great heroes of Christianity tend not to be the military leaders of the Crusades, but the martyrs who suffered for their beliefs. It is noble to suffer, it is noble to be persecuted. It's not noble to look like you have authority, like you've become The Establishment. As a result, there is some historical backing to the notion that a "good" Christian is a persecuted Christian. This provides one explanation for the great love among American fundamentalist evangelicals of denying their own influence for the sake of playing the martyr.

"According to Tim LaHaye, secular humanism was not so much a cultural trend as an organized conspiracy. Hard-core humanists numbered only about 250,000 but they controlled much of American media, entertainment, and education. The estimated sixty million born-again Christians, if properly organized, should be able to defeat the secular humanists, who were supported by naive moralists and religious liberals"(246). Fundamentalism and American Culture: George M. Marsden

You can also see some of this "us vs. them" ideology in the Left Behind series. Certainly seems to be a big component in the success of the books.

"The enormous popularity of these books, which sell to audiences far larger than the dedicated fundamentalist or evangelical constituencies, suggest the popular appeal in America of an aura of Biblical authority combined with adventure set in an ultimate dualistic clash between a minority with Christ on their side versus a world empire of evil"(249).

Of course, the other side of the popularity of the persecution complex is this: many Christians hear about the backlash against Christian fundamentalism without actually ever finding out what the fundamentalists are doing to provoke it. As a result, all they see are attacks on Christianity by bigoted agents of the antichrist and at that rate why wouldn't you feel for the Christians?

So here's a taste of the kinds of things that make people wary of Christianity. I'm not listing these because I hate organized religion or Christianity in particular, but these are notable examples of the reason many people are wary of evangelicals.

Church rejects interfaith service on its property. Apparently they didn't realize "interfaith" meant "HERE THERE BE MUSLIMS."

Lawmakers look for ways to keep moms at home to strengthen families. Thanks, Idaho.

Grassley Seeks Information From Six Media-Based Ministries. (I mean, unless people really did legitimately donate money hoping to finance Paula White's cosmetic surgery or Benny Hinn's jets.)

America's Armageddonites Push for More War I've actually read several pretty reliable sources on this, and it's probably the angle that scares me the most.

US anti-gay church to resume protests at funerals of soldiers. This one makes me puke inside my mouth a little. This is what other countries think of now when they think of America. I know because my foreign friends have expressed their pity to me personally.

’55 ‘Origin of Life’ Paper Is Retracted This is how real scientists react when they find Creationists citing them.

Who Watches the Watchmen. How do you deal with "liberal Nazis" in America? Oh! I know! Beat the shit out of gay people! From what I can tell these people trace their origins back to Assemblies of God, the same people who bring you Campus Crusade for Christ.

Also everything Ann Coulter has ever said. Ever.

Birth Control Foe To Head Family Planning: Bush Pick For Contraceptive Program Called Birth Control Part Of "Culture Of Death" What does this have to do with religion? Look again. She used to be the Senior Director of the Family Research Council.

A New Generation Expresses its Skepticism and Frustration with Christianity A particularly useful article about people's feelings about Christianity today.


Anyway! This should provide some background for those people I know who've only ever heard the fundamentalists' side of the story. Yeah, people are getting disillusioned about Christianity. Yeah, there's a backlash building. But it isn't unjustified and to call it persecution is a contemptible misrepresentation.

American Religious History (part six of six)

In response to a more separatist bent from the hardliner Christian fundamentalists, the liberals stopped trying to hunt after them in turn, and stopped seeing them as a serious threat. As a result, whenever fundamentalist Christians take the fore in any political or social movement there are always a large percentage of journalists and political commentators who are completely taken by surprise.

In the 2004 election, ‘values voters’ entered the political lexicon. These are folks who, as political scientists and journalists figured out, are the ones who carried the day for the republicans. Largely evangelical Protestants who may put aside foreign policy or economic concerns in favor of moral values, whatever that meant. Journalists were shocked at this, especially at the democrats and former Gore-voters who voted for George W. Bush for the sake of ‘values.’

People were trying to figure out what was going on with "the religious vote" and why it was suddenly so important. The term ‘values voter’ has come under attack in the last few years. People who realize that this wasn't a big spike after all question whether these people really deserve a name like they were involved in something new and surprising.

Well, it is not. The ‘Religious Right’ formed as a political movement in the 1970’s. The main issue that sparked this organization of self-identifying conservative voters was abortion. The pro-life movement is in that sense the start of this. The late Jerry Falwell was the one who organized what he called the ‘moral majority,’ a network of churches linked together much like the Anti-Saloon League was, intended to influence politics. This group is often credited for Reagan’s election.

However, the power of corruption and special interest groups is formidable indeed. They needed bigger guns, so in the 1990’s Pat Robertson starts the Christian Coalition. Unlike Falwell, who has to be content with some airtime when he can get it, Robertson already has his own television channel. The Christian Coalition was dedicated to—surprise—taking control of Congress. They claimed some credit in the Republican Party retaking control of the House and Senate in 1994. However, they also found that there's too much give and take in politics to get anything done without compromising. Eventually they also disbanded.

In 2000, the big question for Republicans was that for 20 years they'd been able to count on the religious vote, since whom else will they vote for? Democrats? But which of the Republican nominees will religious voters prefer? Which is a more viable choice?

McCain was a Catholic. The Catholic Church and the religious right have an unsettled alliance. In some states McCain even finds that there are anti-Catholic attacks against him. [Edited! This is actually not true. McCain--an Episcopalian--was evidently trying very hard to get himself associated with Catholics in the hopes of getting their support, and I fell for it. My thanks to Stephen C. Carlson for being observant enough to catch that.] Then there was Bush, whose family is Episcopalian, but who has had a born-again Christian experience. What's this going to mean? When asked which philosopher influenced him most, Bush answered, "Jesus Christ." Some people thought he was just pandering to the religious right, but perhaps he really did believe it.

Despite the fears of some liberals, the religious right cannot be said to have turned us into a theocracy yet. This is also a problem for the right, since it seems to them like they haven't made any progress in this culture war.

Democrats had to figure out how to get in on this game. It is not because democratic candidates haven't been religious, but that they've been out of step with religious Americans and sometimes even with their own church. John Kerry in 2004 had to face the question of whether you can be Catholic and pro-choice. The Pope says no. How can candidates deal with that?

Answer from Cobalt (incoming bias!):

The answer is a new breed of American Christian. Democrats are beginning to find room to speak from a perspective of faith, and the religious left is now characterized by candidates who are willing to discuss their faith on the campaign trail. This is extremely important. In a country so steeped in Christian influence, a country that still depends on Christianity for much of its philosophical direction, the only way to take control of America away from the conservative fundamentalists is to break their perceived monopoly on Christianity.

Once it becomes clear that America can have more than one kind of Christian, perhaps it will also become possible to have more than one kind of American. There’s a certain irony to the fact that in order to make the USA safe for cultural and religious diversity, we must start by all hopping on the religious bandwagon. The other choice--abandoning Christianity entirely--simply is not an option.

American Religious History (part five of six)

Following the ‘active Christianity’ angle was the progressive movement. There was less of a religious emphasis and more of a political one, but it shared many of the same goals. Most of these are even drawn from America’s protestant churches. This movement started to die down in the 1920s. They tended to return to their respective parties. Some have argued that Roosevelt's New Deal was what the progressives were about, but other historians argue that it is nothing like what the mainstream progressives wanted. As a result, their lasting influence is somewhat debatable.

At any rate, when the progressive movement died down, the active Christianity folk start drifting away as well. Also, the measures aren't perfectly successful and many people were giving up on the goals of ‘active Christianity.’

Then came The Fundamentals. Written as a refutation of the Social Gospel, The Fundamentals were a series of books written by hand-picked theologians that two millionaire brothers felt best represented American religious thought. An added motivation for these writings was the impending First World War. After all, the Great War to end all wars that will (ideally) bring an age of peace and understanding sounded a whole heck of a lot like Armageddon followed by God’s Kingdom on Earth. In this great final battle America was simultaneously Babylon and God’s chosen country, and it was therefore especially important that the nation stay on track.

The Fundamentals were especially critical of historicism, that the Bible is not verifiably historically true. Evolution was especially threatening, since scientists were claiming that they could prove Genesis did not happen as described. It is generally thought that most fundamentalists today haven’t read The Fundamentals, nor have the people who attack them. Even people at the time did not read these books, but their impact was widespread.

Prohibition, for example, was a deeply religious movement for many people. The Anti-Saloon League took issue with saloons as places where drinking, gambling, smoking, prostitution and other assorted immoralities ran wild. The League wasn’t a persuasion organization, nor were they particularly interested in people believing that these places were dangerous. They were a political action committee, determined to influence legislation for the sake of American Christian morality.

Many of the concerns present when The Fundamentals were published are still pressing controversies today. Fundamentalists are still fighting the inclusion of evolution in public school curricula. The Scopes Trial in Dayton, Tennessee was the classic test case for this battle, and the environment in which the trial took place bears elaboration.

William Jennings Bryan (three time Democratic candidate for president) had always made a big point of attacking Evolution. He ‘conceded’ that if schools are going to teach Evolution, they need to teach what most taxpayers believe as well. Put them on equal ground. He also pointed out that the Germans were the biggest proponents of evolutionary theory, and we all know they were trying to destroy civilization. It was largely thanks to his trips and lectures everywhere that Tennessee passed a law stating that Evolution was not to be taught in public schools.

The city fathers of Dayton decided that they could get media attention for their little town by being the first city where this law is contested. They went to Scopes and asked if he'd be willing to have someone bring charges against him for teaching evolution if they gave him a lawyer.

Unfortunately for the city fathers their trial did not just garner local media attention; it got national attention from people who, unlike them, actually cared. Bryan attached himself to the prosecution team. People like the ACLU and Clarence Darrow took up Scopes' defense.

The facts were thrown out, because everyone knew that he knowingly violated a law. If the law is found in line with the Constitution, then sure. He's guilty. This is no longer about whether he's guilty or innocent. They weren’t debating that at all. They were debating evolution! The trial went way out of control, and once the lawyers start cross-examining each other over evolution, the judge stops the silliness and finds Scopes guilty.

HL Mencken set the tone for how fundamentalists are viewed even today because he came out of Dayton disgusted by those backwoods, inbred, ignorant rubes. Because the scientific, educated elite wanted to believe this, it was popularly accepted by them whether it was totally fair or not.

After this, the fundamentalists got a little tired of fighting, even though they won the Scopes case. They began to pull back from engaging in high-profile public assault and trying to argue their worldview in public. Being exposed to scrutiny is rough, and they decide to stop worrying about it. Separatism is so much easier.

Meanwhile, even moderate churches faced big problems when the USA’s social climate started to undergo a series of rapid changes. The Civil Rights Movement (led by a Baptist pastor who spoke mainly in religious terms to other religious Americans) was extremely divisive, as was the Vietnam War (which found many pastors out protesting instead of behind pulpits). Not all congregations survived these stressors, and the mainline Protestant churches began to face a decline in membership. The decline is so notable that many scholars don’t even feel comfortable calling these denominations ‘mainline’ anymore.

The Episcopalian church is a good example of this. In the face of rapid social changes, the Episcopalian church has tried to stay on the reforming, moderate, forward-thinking edge, with dubious results. After their support of the Civil Rights Movement, they found themselves condemned as ‘white devils’ by the Black Power Movement, which came as a surprise. Then came disputes over the ordination of women and the status of homosexuals within their congregation. Only days ago an Episcopalian diocese voted to secede from the church over the issue of homosexuals in churches and even (God forbid) in the clergy itself.

American Religious History (part four of six)

When American industrial capitalism really started to take off, a few people became extraordinarily wealthy at the expense of… well, basically anybody they could exploit. Andrew Carnegie took to heart many of the criticisms against him and the Vanderbilts, and decided to try and help his image a little.

He set up foundations to support things he was interested in and introduced the Prosperity Gospel with the publication of his book The Gospel of Wealth (which he sent to all the rich people he could think of). The basic idea is that rich people have been blessed by God, and they have a duty to give back, to accomplish things with that money. He wanted them to build things like schools, libraries, and churches (provided that the name of the donor was always notably and unmistakably marked). To his credit he really did give away all his money, and encouraged other wealthy businessmen to do the same rather than leaving that money to be squandered by their children.

Several of the most notable philanthropists in American history have been not only wealthy, but religious. This has been the case even up to the present day. Rockefeller was a Baptist. He believed from day one that he'd been blessed by God. They were regular church attendants, and he even taught Sunday school. JP Morgan was so wealthy that he personally bailed out the US government twice. He was a devoted Episcopalian. Eli Lilly? The Lillys are an Episcopalian family. Bill and Linda Gates? Last reports indicate they’re Episcopalian, too. The Prosperity Gospel has its critics though, in abundance. The idea that good Christians are blessed with material wealth is a nice promise for Christians who are hoping God will grant them a new Mercedes, but it also validates people who are already rich (often through exploitation or illegal means) by giving them room to claim that God simply likes them better.

Another approach to socially-active Christianity is frequently referred to as the Social Gospel. The emphasis was no longer simply on saving souls, but on saving society and making it a healthier and more Christian place. It is worth noting, however, that “Social Gospel” is not a perfectly accurate way to refer to this movement. It implies a much more liberal bent than the movement had. Prohibition, for example, is hardly a liberal idea. It might be more active to simply call it ‘active Christianity.’ The Federal Council of Churches was created in large part to discuss and work out the application of this new ‘active Christianity’ and decide what exactly the job of American churches was going to be in all this.

The mainline denominations (Congregationalists, Disciples of Christ, Methodists, Presbyterians, Northern Baptists, Episcopalians, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America) sent their leaders to meet and sort out the theological arguments for and against this new approach. They were hoping to be the voice of American Christianity, which of course meant that Catholics were not welcome.

For many this new organization was a difficult group to deal with. Suddenly "the church" is telling people that it is unchristian to shop certain places, buy certain things, etc. Orthodoxy is coming from the top down and not from the bottom up. Nobody asked the congregation members if they wanted an official voice of American Protestantism, let alone if these particular men ought to be representing them.

Most of these people were single-issue folk, who got involved in one or two causes and did not feel any particular motivation to fix the whole rest of the package. More broadly-involved members were hoping to establish the Kingdom of God on Earth, and even if they did not know precisely what that was going to mean, it was a great phrase to toss around and certainly kept people motivated.

American Religious History (part three of six)

Another Great Awakening came when the USA started to face a new set of challenges. Westward expansion forced the question of whether the USA would allow slavery to extend to the Pacific.

Many objections were purely economic ones. Slave owners had an unfair economic advantage over family farms or farms that had to pay their laborers. Around this time as well, industrialization started to take hold in the northeast, particularly in urban areas. These cities experienced large scale immigration from Germany and Catholic Ireland in the 1830-1850's. These people may have wanted farms of their own out west, but they did not have enough money just yet to get started. They needed to stop in the industrial centers to make money before heading west.

Because of this, there was a huge incentive from northerners to see that their economic policies dominated out west, because it meant they could compete with the southern slave owning farmers.

However, the push westward was a challenge for pastors as well. For frontier towns, a church was a marker of civilization. It was an indication that people out here were still good practicing Christians just like the city-dwellers, and that meant there was a high demand for pastors to move west.

Baptists had an easy time starting churches out west, because all a Baptist congregation required was that someone there be called to preach. Methodists were a little pickier, but since there were more towns popping up out west than there were Methodist ministers, they had to think of something. These ministers traveled from town to town, riding and preaching in circuit from town to town. When the minister wasn't in town, lay leadership put together a sort of Bible study to hold everyone over until their minister came back.

The point is that people were willing to go really far out of their way to prove that the American west was part of a Christian nation, and that the people there were good Christian folk just like anyone in the colonies. The second phase of the second Great Awakening caught on mainly in the Midwest and northeast, but not in the south. This was the reform movement.
This affected several areas of American life. Women began demanding equality, and they were getting these ideas from the pastors who’d taught them that all men and women are equal in the eyes of God. These women became the spearheads of reform in the northeast, and their reforms were often based in a religious obligation to care for one’s fellow man.

The Temperance movement was one such example. The goal was not necessarily complete prohibition of alcohol and other assorted sinful pastimes, but there was certainly strong disapproval in the air. Another example was a push for prison and asylum reform. The idea was to educate people in prisons to give them something to do after their release besides commit more crimes. In fact, education for everyone became a popular notion. After all educated people, they argued, don’t commit crimes. It is just the ignorant masses. Poor people commit crimes, not rich people. Educated people don’t tend to be poor, so by educating the poor they become wealthy and stop committing crimes!

One thing that came out of the reform phase was opposition to slavery. The idea was that it wasn’t just vaguely wrong, but a sin against God. Northerners and southerners alike were interested in the idea of returning slaves to Africa to create American colonies, though the impact of such a transition on the slaves themselves did not generally merit much consideration.

This idea wasn’t good enough for a new group beginning to emerge. The abolitionists stated that slavery needed to end. Period. The Society of Friends was way ahead on this particular issue. About the time of the American Revolution, the Friends had decided that they were going to start recommending that members not own slaves. Eventually this became more of a hard-line stance and Friends were told that they couldn't own them if they wanted to remain Friends.
On the premise that blacks and whites are equal in the eyes of God, other northern churches began condemning slavery. In turn southern churches condemned the northern churches. Northern branches and southern branches of the churches eventually split over slavery. The Baptists are still split into Baptists and Southern Baptists (though the Southern Baptists these days would probably not argue for slavery anymore).

Now suddenly there were religious reasons for the Yanks to hate the Confederates, and vice versa. Now there weren’t merely economic policies at stake, but the religious integrity of God’s own nation. It was too much. What started as a war to preserve the Union became about ending slavery and making the west safe for God’s law (whatever each side thought that might be).

American Religious History (part two of six)

Families and sometimes entire church congregations headed out to try and start over. The hope was that good, pure Protestants could set an example of what a real godly community looked like. They would be the “City on a Hill,” and even if they couldn’t send the message over to Europe, at least they’d have saved themselves.

This is the beginning of many views of America as God’s chosen country. Early on involvement in the church was considered a stepping stone for political involvement, and not even because the church and government were the same body. It was simply assumed that all good citizens were also good Christians, a view which persists today and still shows in the tendency of even the most secular presidents to attend church services regularly.

However, despite their best intentions at the start to remain aloof of Europe’s depraved and increasingly corrupt lifestyle, things like the Enlightenment still had an impact. In England people were becoming interested in natural laws like gravity and even laws of human social behavior. Deism started to become a more popular worldview, that argued even the presence of God did not explain everything because there were many things God must have left to occur on their own.

This was a very disturbing trend for many Christians. The First Great Awakening was potentially the only event in our early history that hit all thirteen colonies at once thanks to the rise of traveling ‘fire and brimstone’ preachers carrying the message of religious revival. This period of religious revolt against the secularism and corruption of England was when most of the United States’ founding fathers grew up. This was America to them.

When economic and political stresses started to drive a wedge between England and the colonies, non-Anglican pastors were very supportive because it was a real chance to shake off the corruption of England. As a result of all these vocally activist clergy, George III at one point called the American Revolution a “Presbyterian revolt.”

The founding fathers themselves were often of dubious personal faith, but seemed to agree that religion was an important part of American culture as they saw it and hoped to see it in its future. Even the most disinterested and apathetically-Christian founding fathers attended church services and expressed support of a role for Christianity in the lives of American citizens.

For all of Jefferson’s legendary criticisms of organized Christianity, it wasn’t until Aaron Burr that the USA really saw a political leader who was really and totally on board with the French Enlightenment and the secular ideas it bred. Most everyone else believed there was a place for religion (assuming that religion refers to varieties of Christianity) in America.

American Religious History (part one of six)

There has been a lot of debate in recent years as to whether or not the United States is a Christian nation, and what it would mean if that was true. Much of this debate stems from the fact that public education seldom focuses on the influence of Christianity on American history. In part this is because Christianity is only one of many religions now present in America, and to emphasize the Christian roots of American culture and history could exclude non-Christians with the impression that this is not ‘their history.’

Another problem is that in American colleges, teachers are not taught America’s religious history. Because they are not trained to discuss it, it is often considered safer to avoid the issue altogether, which merely perpetuates the cycle. It is not until one begins to dig into the more obscure academic realms (at least compared to public school) that the connections between American history and Christianity really begin to stand out.

From the very start, one of the key motivations to colonize North America was religion. Columbus was interested in a route to India for more reasons than simple economics. To travel to what was reputed to be the edge of the world (when people were still suspicious that one could fall off the edge into space) took more than a hope for easy money. He was fascinated with Asia, but because Europe did not have the will to launch another Crusade, the Muslims were solidly between Europe and Asia. They were likely to stay there, too, so unless someone found a way around them the Muslims would be skimming of the top of any trade across the continents.

Columbus brought an economic case to Ferdinand and Isabella, but it was still largely religiously-motivated. He promised them that he could make them more money than all of their rivals, and wanted them to use that money to bankroll a new Crusade. Then they’d control two routes to Asia, and would have struck a hard historic blow for Christendom in general.

When Catholic Spain took control of South America and Catholic France found a foothold in Canada, England was a bit behind the ball. It took England a while to even figure out where it stood on the whole Protestant Reformation mess that mainland Europe was dealing with. Eventually Elizabeth decided that even though she was Protestant she did not really care what English people as a group believed. She just wanted them worshipping God together. The Anglican Church was created as a compromise.

This did not work for the really staunch Protestants who felt that the Anglican Church was still suspiciously Catholic. They first left for Holland, since they were tolerant enough to permit a marginalized group like the Puritans within their borders. However, the Puritans found that they weren’t the only ones who’d been extended this courtesy. Holland had Jews! Deciding that Holland was too secular for them, they lost faith in Europe to a great extent. They believed that Europe was so corrupt that the only way to keep themselves holy was to retreat and let the rest of the world fall apart.

Creationist College Advances in Texas

Yeah, this is pretty special.

On Friday, an advisory committee to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board recommended that the state allow the Institute for Creation Research to start offering online master’s degrees in science education. The institute, which has been based in California, where it operates a museum and many programs for people who don’t believe in evolution, is relocating to Dallas, where it hopes to expand its online education offerings.

In Texas, the institute needs either regional accreditation (for which is applying, but which will take some time) or state approval to offer degrees. Some science groups are aghast by the idea that Texas would authorize master’s degrees in science education that are based on complete opposition to evolution and literal acceptance of the Bible. And these groups are particularly concerned because the students in these programs would be people who are or want to be school teachers.


Paredes, the commissioner of higher education, said it was “way too early to get worked up” about the prospect of creationism degrees being awarded. He said he would be making a recommendation to the coordinating board based ultimately on “what is in the best interests of college students in Texas” and that since this program would train teachers, he would take an even broader perspective of what is best for all students.

Asked for his views on evolution, Paredes said “I accept the conventions of science’ and “I believe evolution has a legitimate place in the teaching of science.” But he declined to say that evolution should be taught as the science.

“A lot of people believe creationism is a legitimate point of view. I respect them,” Paredes said. “I’m an advocate of the principle that when there is a controversy and there are legitimate arguments on both sides of the conflict, my pedagogical principle is ‘teach the conflict.’ Maybe that’s a possibility here.”

More from News: Inside Higher Ed

I've heard comments that the consequences of this won't just be bad PR for a state famed for its fanatical idiocy and mistrust of anything not advertised on The 700 Club. Some people have worried that students from Texas will not have attended accredited schools by the standards of the rest of the nation. Can we just let them secede already?

But... for fuck's sake. There is no conflict in the scientific community over this. There isn't a controversy among people who actually understand evolution. This whole "teach them as equal theories" thing doesn't hold water because it makes it seem like there's any question to educated people as to which theory makes the most scientific sense.

The only hope I have here is that the program wouldn't be called "science education," because at that point it isn't. If you're not teaching what scientists believe based on evidence at their disposal and education not everyone has, you're not teaching science.

Blagh. I don't even know what to say. This is disgusting.