Posts Tagged “politics”

Boris Vallejo - Four Horsemen of the ApocalypseThe answer to the question “Is Obama ushering in the apocalypse?, according to Tim Lahaye — the evangelical minister and co-author of the vastly lucrative Left Behind publishing empire — is an unequivocal “yes.” He actually said that to Mike Huckabee on his Fox News show. Huff has the story, along with supporting video (WebCite cached article):

Evangelical Christian minister Tim LaHaye says that the policy initiatives put forth by the Obama administration are bringing the country “closer to the apocalypse.” …

“Our present president doesn’t seem to get it,” LaHaye explained. “He doesn’t understand that some of the things he’s introducing that many of us call ‘raw socialism’ — it’s a different name, but it’s essentially government control and government domination of everything.”

The evangelical voice said of the political platform maintained by the Obama administration, “It’s going to work against our country and bringing us closer to the apocalypse.”

The video of this brilliant exchange of asinine, ignorant evangelical Christian thinking is available on Youtube:

Note that LaHaye’s claim is similar to — although not quite identical with — Georgia Congressional candidate Ed Martin’s claim that Obama’s politics prevents people from getting salvation through Christ. So, as insane and outrageous as this claim may be, it doesn’t really surprise me that someone like LaHaye said it. What’s surprising is that things like this aren’t being said more often than they are.

Also, does anyone seriously think that Tim “Left Behind” LaHaye and ex-Governor Shucksabee are somehow not going to agree we’re in the throes of “the End Times” right now?

Hat tip: Mark at Skeptics & Heretics Forum on Delphi Forums.

Photo credit: Boris Vallejo, via Flickr.

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ClassroomAt one time I had thought that education — especially pointing out erroneous and fallacious thinking — would help people understand the world better and dispense with ignorance. Over time, though, I haven’t seen that things have improved much. Most people are still as mired in irrationality and fallacy as they ever were, and no amount of fact-teaching seems to make any difference. For instance, the Birther delusion lives on, in spite of it being based on lies and mistaken suppositions. Barack Obama was born in Hawai’i to an American mother, but the Birthers refuse to accept that, even though it’s been factually demonstrated many times over; see this (cached) and this (cached), just for starters. I’d wondered if, perhaps, there are just a lot of mentally-ill people out there, all experiencing the same delusion. But depressingly, the truth about human beings is much worse even than that; it turns out we are hard-wired to reject even irrefutable, demonstrable facts that we find emotionally unsatisfying. The New York Times Idea of the Day blog reports on this sobering revelation (WebCite cached article):

“Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government,” Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1789. But you might want to rethink that axiom, recent University of Michigan research suggests. It “found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds,” writes Joe Keohane in the Boston Globe [cached].

He explains the cognitive studies reviving longstanding concerns about voter ignorance:

In reality, we often base our opinions on our beliefs, which can have an uneasy relationship with facts. And rather than facts driving beliefs, our beliefs can dictate the facts we choose to accept. They can cause us to twist facts so they fit better with our preconceived notions. Worst of all, they can lead us to uncritically accept bad information just because it reinforces our beliefs. This reinforcement makes us more confident we’re right, and even less likely to listen to any new information. And then we vote.

Humanity, I fear, is lost. Those of us willing to think critically — and to try to encourage others to think critically — are apparently fighting a rearguard action against an enemy (i.e. emotional thinking) which neuroscience suggests we cannot defeat.

No wonder hyperreligiosity rages on, even in this era of science and technology. No wonder people are embracing New Age gibberish and nonsense like never before. No wonder political partisans steadfastly refuse to acknowledge even the slightest flaw in their own ideology or the slightest virtue in their foes’. No wonder critical thinkers are hated, vilified, and viewed as a threat by many folks.

The classroom of humanity is empty, and it will never be filled. No one cares about “truth” or “veracity” any more; they only care about how they “feel.” And that’s just the way they are.

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Ed Martin & family (candidate for Missouri's 3rd Congressional district)Missouri Congressional candidate Ed Martin has declared that President Obama and other Democrats are preventing people from acquiring their salvation from Jesus Christ. Yes, folks, he really said it. Fired Up Missouri has the story, as well as the audio (WebCite cached article):

Speaking on the Gina Loudon radio program this afternoon, Congressional candidate Ed Martin told listeners that “we have to be very, very aware” of policies pursued by Barack Obama and Russ Carnahan that will “take away” the freedom to be a Christian. …

MARTIN: … And part of that freedom — when you take a government and you impose, and take away all your choices. One of the choices you take away is to find the Lord. And find your savior.

And that’s one of the things that’s most destructive about the growth of government. It’s this taking away that freedom. The freedom — the ultimate freedom, to find your salvation, to get your salvation. And to find Christ, for me and you.

If you wish, you can listen to the recording, directly from YouTube:

Now, I’m not sure how this works, exactly. If salvation comes from God through Jesus Christ, I don’t quite understand how any human being — not even a president of the United States — could possibly get in the way of it. I know I’m just a cynical godless agnostic heathen, but I just don’t see how anything in the universe can thwart the will of a truly omnipotent being.

Do you?

… Didn’t think so.

Update: The Riverfront Times in St Louis reports that, although it appears Martin lost by nearly 4,500 votes, he’s alleging “voting irregularities,” refuses to concede defeat, and promises to fight on to get his Congressional seat (cached article). This is in spite of the fact that his margin of loss is above the amount that might allow him to call for a recount. Can you say “sore loser”?

Hat tip: Pulling to the Left.

Photo credit: Ed Martin campaign Web site.

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Picard Facepalm: Because expressing how dumb that was in words just doesnt workBack in August I blogged about the explosive Youtube video claiming to have proven that Barack Obama is the Antichrist. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer‘s Strange Bedfellows blog has details of a Harris poll showing that this belief is held by a significant number of Americans (WebCite cached article):

… Full results are expected tomorrow, but preliminary findings were released in The Daily Beast by John Avlon, whose book “Wingnuts” details the hyper-partisanship that has swept America since 2008. …

And 24 percent of Republicans, and 14 percent overall, agree that Obama “may be the antiChrist.”

The other ridiculous, juvenile and untruthful beliefs that many Americans have about their president are:

  • 45% of Republicans and 25% of Americans think Obama was born abroad

  • 57% of Republicans and 32% of Americans think he is a Muslim

  • 38% of Republicans and 20% of Americans say Obama is “doing many things Hitler did.”

Look, idiots, see if you can get this: Obama is not a Muslim, but a Christian (see FactCheck and Politifact, cached articles here and here respectively). Obama was born in Hawai’i, not some other country, and has proven it (see FactCheck and Politfact, cached here and here). Also, both Barack Obama and Adolf Hitler were heads of state, so I’m sure you will be able to find similarities in their behavior … but confusing the two is irrational and illogical.

It’s time for the Right in the US — especially the Religious Right — to grow the hell up and stop lying about people they don’t like just because they don’t like them. No one says you have to be happy that Barack Obama is the president … but not wanting him to be president doesn’t grant anyone license to lie about him. Are we clear on that?

Photo credit: Science After Sunclipse.

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Glenn BeckThe nation’s current most famous paranoid schizophrenic, Glenn Beck, has (no surprise!) shoved his foot into his mouth. The Intertubes have been alive with discussion of this, and I’d planned to avoid the matter, but since it’s become so well known, I thought I should weigh in on it anyway.

On his radio show this March 2, Beck railed ignorantly — and stupidly — against churches that promote “social justice.” Christianity Today transcribed his comments as follows (screen shot of page):

I beg you, look for the words “social justice” or “economic justice” on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes! If I’m going to Jeremiah’s Wright’s church? Yes! Leave your church. Social justice and economic justice. They are code words. If you have a priest that is pushing social justice, go find another parish. Go alert your bishop and tell them, “Excuse me are you down with this whole social justice thing?” I don’t care what the church is. If it’s my church, I’m alerting the church authorities: “Excuse me, what’s this social justice thing?” And if they say, “Yeah, we’re all in that social justice thing,” I’m in the wrong place.

Beck, of course, has no idea what he’s talking about … but his raging paranoia prevents him from understanding that. What he’s doing is to connect several things which are not, in the end, connected at all. Let’s tease them apart so that this matter can be truly understood.

First, it is incontrovertible that Christianity and “social justice” are interconnected, and this is the case from almost the beginning of the movement. Jesus himself preached against the common social mores and presumptions of his time; he promoted charity — true charity, not mere “charity for appearance’s sake,” which he condemned utterly; he associated with outcasts and undesirables, actually preferring their company; he taught compassion for others as one of the cardinal rules of spiritual life; he condemned wealth and promoted giving everything to the poor; and much more. Also, scripture itself suggests early Christian communities lived according to a very egalitarian, “one for all and all for one” ideal, thus exhibiting a strong sense of “social justice” among themselves.

Second, this message has not been completely lost on Christians themselves. The themes of compassion and — yes, Glenn! — “social justice” have been continually picked up and expounded upon by Christians, throughout the religion’s history. Classical-era Christians, for example, maintained funds to support orphans and widows. During the Middle Ages, some religious orders funded and ran infirmaries for the care of the sick, even when plagues were raging, thus exposing themselves to disease. Early strong proponents of the Abolition movement — such as William Wilberforce — were devout Christians whose motivation to free slaves was primarily a religious impulse they believed to be part of Jesus’ own message. Later — especially as it arrived in the United States in the 19th century — Abolition became more of a humanist movement, no longer innately connected to religion … however, Abolition’s origins clearly had at least some religious inspiration. Beck’s reasoning, had it been followed in the early 19th century, would have ground Abolition to a halt, and the U.S. would still have slavery.

Third, Beck is correct that, at one time, phrases like “social justice” were, in fact, code-words used by Communists and Marxists. However, that was mostly true only during the Communist revolutions of the early and middle 20th century, and later during the Cold War. The fact is that this type of “coded” rhetoric has faded away since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Thus, any truthful basis Beck may have had for his comments are — at best — anachronistic. They make no sense today, since many different people, of many different ideologies, appeal to their own individual senses of “social justice.” One can no longer safely assume that any proponent of “social justice” is a Marxist.

Fourth, Beck’s objection appears to be rooted in the Jeremiah Wright controversy. By referring to Wright in his comments, Beck betrays his own childish hang-up on Barack Obama’s former pastor. Beckie, let me help you out here: Jeremiah Wright is now a dead issue. Obama has jettisoned him, and Wright is also done with Obama. This particular battle is over, Glenn, and has been for more than a year … at the very least, Obama’s election in November 2008 obviated it.

This idiocy reveals several things about Glenn Beck. Most importantly, he envisions Christianity as being linked to politics — his own personal, extreme-Right-wing, give-everything-there-is-to-the-wealthy-and-take-every-penny-from-the-poor politics. He cannot, or will not, conceive of Christianity as not being related to politics. Any church which — in his mind — does not march in lockstep with his own ideology, is not a “true” Christian church. He does not realize that Jesus himself was apolitical and did not, at any point during his ministry, ever concern himself with politics or statecraft. If anything, he rather clearly stated the opposite … that not only was he unconcerned with statecraft, that his followers also should not be. Beck also reveals that he is still stuck in the past, still thinking in terms of the Cold War and still consumed with scandals which are now obsolete.

Of note is the fact that a lot of Christians, and especially some of the Religious Right variety, have spoken out against Beck’s comments. For some examples, see this story by ABC News (WebCite cached article). Even the ferocious, fire-&-brimstone Religious Right theologian Albert Mohler has said Beck is wrong (cached article).

This criticism — from within Christianity and even from within the Religious Right — has not been lost on Beckie boy. He has responded: By fighting back, and insisting — in spite of the facts — that he is still correct. He has declared “social justice” to be “a perversion of the gospel,” and justifies his (strange) view of Jesus’ message as being about the individual, not the group. This twisted rationale has, itself, been condemned by the same people who first criticized him (cached article). I will leave the debate about that up to those critics, who as Christian “insiders” have more to say on it than I do.

Beck’s claim that “true” Christianity — as he sees it — has nothing to do with “social justice,” places him squarely in my “lying liars for Jesus” club.

The bottom line is that Beck’s initial condemnation of “social justice” in Christian churches — and his insistence, in spite of criticism by various Christian authorities — that he is still correct, as well as his refusal to let go of the Jeremiah Wright controversy show Beckie-boy to be a raging paranoid child. I suggest it’s long past time for the Beckster to grow up, and address his paranoia … there are good treatments for it, and given the millions he makes, he can more than afford the very best psychiatric care available.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore.

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The mantra that newly-elected President Obama is a “socialist,” that he’s trying to impose “socialized medicine” on the country, etc. is old Rightist material. But to date it’s mostly been couched in political terms. Finally, it’s being expressed as a religious struggle, as reported by the Religion Dispatches blog — prefaced by a pithy lead-in:

Shouldn’t a professed “health and wealth” preacher be concerned with health care? Apparently, politics get in the way

… Over 5.000 persons from across the country packed into the Fort Worth Convention Center to hear Copeland and their Word of Faith line-up proclaim their message of divine health and wealth. Yet when it came to President Obama’s plan for health care reform — a plan that would greatly assist the vast majority of working class and underemployed conference attendees — Kenneth Copeland was excessive in his disdain for government-run healthcare.

“Socialism” seemed to be Copeland’s favorite term throughout the week as he warned the crowd to reject any government assistance. “Sickness and disease,” according to Copeland, “is not a medical problem, it’s a spiritual problem.” Thus, he argued that any healthcare program would be nothing more than a “Babylonian system — man trying to meet his own needs without God.”

Gee, that “pray instead of medicate” plan sure worked for people like Madeline Kara Neumann, didn’t it?

What was that? It didn’t? Woops. Must have been God’s will!

Face it, folks, the religionazis are frightened, and not necessarily without reason. They view things like “socialized medicine” as impediments to constructing the theocracy they want the United States to become. People looking to government for healthcare, makes it harder for religious leaders like Copeland to control them. A strong governmental presence would tend to make it more difficult to make them appear to be the country’s caretakers.

Unfortunately for them, their worries are based on factual errors. No one in Washington is working on any “socialized medicine” proposal. There is a lot being said about what’s being proposed … and most of it is not true. Among the things which are not true is one that Copeland himself mentioned, the so-called “death panels” that would euthanize people for turning old. It’s not true, and those who are saying so, know it. For that, Copeland earns admission to my “Lying Liars for Jesus” club.

Why do these people feel it necessary to lie for Jesus? Who do they think they are? Paul (Saul) of Tarsus?

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On the heels of Obama’s remarks in Turkey that got the Religious Right’s knickers in a knot, as I blogged already, the latest Newsweek cover story by Jon Meacham has sparked additional fury and bluster on the part of the fire-&brimstone brigade. Here is some of what’s got them worked up (more than usual):

The End of Christian America

The percentage of self-identified Christians has fallen 10 points in the past two decades. How that statistic explains who we are now—and what, as a nation, we are about to become.

While we remain a nation decisively shaped by religious faith, our politics and our culture are, in the main, less influenced by movements and arguments of an explicitly Christian character than they were even five years ago. I think this is a good thing—good for our political culture, which, as the American Founders saw, is complex and charged enough without attempting to compel or coerce religious belief or observance. It is good for Christianity, too, in that many Christians are rediscovering the virtues of a separation of church and state that protects what Roger Williams, who founded Rhode Island as a haven for religious dissenters, called “the garden of the church” from “the wilderness of the world.” As crucial as religion has been and is to the life of the nation, America’s unifying force has never been a specific faith, but a commitment to freedom—not least freedom of conscience. …

Meacham is not saying that Christianity is dead (because of course, it’s not):

Let’s be clear: while the percentage of Christians may be shrinking, rumors of the death of Christianity are greatly exaggerated. Being less Christian does not necessarily mean that America is post-Christian. A third of Americans say they are born again; this figure, along with the decline of politically moderate-to liberal mainline Protestants, led the ARIS authors to note that “these trends … suggest a movement towards more conservative beliefs and particularly to a more ‘evangelical’ outlook among Christians.” With rising numbers of Hispanic immigrants bolstering the Roman Catholic Church in America, and given the popularity of Pentecostalism, a rapidly growing Christian milieu in the United States and globally, there is no doubt that the nation remains vibrantly religious—far more so, for instance, than Europe.

Still, in the new NEWSWEEK Poll, fewer people now think of the United States as a “Christian nation” than did so when George W. Bush was president (62 percent in 2009 versus 69 percent in 2008). Two thirds of the public (68 percent) now say religion is “losing influence” in American society, while just 19 percent say religion’s influence is on the rise. The proportion of Americans who think religion “can answer all or most of today’s problems” is now at a historic low of 48 percent. During the Bush 43 and Clinton years, that figure never dropped below 58 percent.

What Meacham is saying, then, is not that Christianity is going away; it’s that fundamentalist-Christian politics is flagging:

Many conservative Christians believe they have lost the battles over issues such as abortion, school prayer and even same-sex marriage, and that the country has now entered a post-Christian phase. …

What, then, does it mean to talk of “Christian America”? Evangelical Christians have long believed that the United States should be a nation whose political life is based upon and governed by their interpretation of biblical and theological principles. If the church believes drinking to be a sin, for instance, then the laws of the state should ban the consumption of alcohol. If the church believes the theory of evolution conflicts with a literal reading of the Book of Genesis, then the public schools should tailor their lessons accordingly. If the church believes abortion should be outlawed, then the legislatures and courts of the land should follow suit. The intensity of feeling about how Christian the nation should be has ebbed and flowed since Jamestown; there is, as the Bible says, no thing new under the sun. For more than 40 years, the debate that began with the Supreme Court’s decision to end mandatory school prayer in 1962 (and accelerated with the Roe v. Wade ruling 11 years later) may not have been novel, but it has been ferocious. Fearing the coming of a Europe-like secular state, the right longed to engineer a return to what it believed was a Christian America of yore.

But that project has failed, at least for now. In Texas, authorities have decided to side with science, not theology, in a dispute over the teaching of evolution. The terrible economic times have not led to an increase in church attendance. In Iowa last Friday, the state Supreme Court ruled against a ban on same-sex marriage, a defeat for religious conservatives. Such evidence is what has believers fretting about the possibility of an age dominated by a newly muscular secularism.

But American remains America, as Meacham goes on to say:

Religious doubt and diversity have, however, always been quintessentially American. Alexis de Tocqueville said that “the religious atmosphere of the country was the first thing that struck me on arrival in the United States,” but he also discovered a “great depth of doubt and indifference” to faith. Jefferson had earlier captured the essence of the American spirit about religion when he observed that his statute for religious freedom in Virginia was “meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and the Mahometan, the Hindoo and infidel of every denomination”—and those of no faith whatever. The American culture of religious liberty helped create a busy free market of faith: by disestablishing churches, the nation made religion more popular, not less.

America, then, is not a post-religious society—and cannot be as long as there are people in it, for faith is an intrinsic human impulse. The belief in an order or a reality beyond time and space is ancient and enduring. “All men,” said Homer, “need the gods.”

Meacham points out that even some of the evangelicals who had been instrumental in establishing the Religious Right as a political force, have conceded the intrinsic flaws in their program:

The columnist Cal Thomas was an early figure in the Moral Majority who came to see the Christian American movement as fatally flawed in theological terms. “No country can be truly ‘Christian’,” Thomas says. “Only people can. God is above all nations, and, in fact, Isaiah says that ‘All nations are to him a drop in the bucket and less than nothing’.” Thinking back across the decades, Thomas recalls the hope—and the failure. “We were going through organizing like-minded people to ‘return’ America to a time of greater morality. Of course, this was to be done through politicians who had a difficult time imposing morality on themselves!”

Needless to say, the Religious Right has completely misread this story and interpreted as Newsweek having trumpeted “the End of Christianity in the US.” To deal with this the magazine’s editors published an additional clarification, also by Meacham:

Note that we did not say we were discussing the decline and fall of Christianity, or even the decline and fall of Christianity in America. But “Christian America” is something else again.

Unfortunately the Religious Right confuses Christianity, the religion — which comes in myriad forms — with Christianity-as-political-entity, which is, in fact, losing control over the country. They cannot separate the two in their minds. This is why there have been so many irrational or outright non sequitur responses to the Meacham’s piece, such as the following (these were found using a Google blog search):
Here’s to all the anti-God folk at Newsweek. Christianity is still alive and well in the good old U.S.A.
Oh, that’s right – it’s Holy Week. Time to pile on the mockery
In Newsweak’s eyes, a decline of 10% over the last 20 years is the nail in the coffin

To his credit, fundamentalist-evangelical theologian Albert Mohler, who figures prominently in Meacham’s piece, did not misrepresent the Newsweek cover story, although he did offer a clever twist:

The cover story is a serious consideration of the issue Newsweek set as its priority for the week of Easter, and the seriousness of the magazine’s approach is evident in the fact that its editor, Mr. Meacham, wrote the cover story himself. The essay, elegant in form and serious in tone, demands attention. …

One key aspect of Mr. Meacham’s argument is his suggestion that what binds America together is not “a specific faith” but instead “a commitment to freedom” and, in particular, freedom of conscience. There is something to this argument, of course. The founding generation did not establish the young republic on any religious creed or theological doctrine. Still, there is something missing from this argument, and that is the recognition that freedom, and freedom of conscience in particular, requires some prior understanding of human dignity and the origins of conscience itself. Though the founders included those who rejected the Christian Gospel and Christianity itself, Christianity had provided the necessary underpinnings for the founders’ claims.

Did you catch that? Mohler is saying that, while the United States was not actually founded as “a Christian nation” with “a Christian government,” and furthermore conceded not all the Founders were religious — a concession I find surprising coming from him — he’s saying that Christianity nonetheless underpins the country, even in spite of the fact that the Founders had specifically avoided making it “a Christian nation”; and that their effort to do so was itself an expression of Christianity. In essence, Mohler is saying that the US is, in fact, a Christian nation even though it’s not!

I should congratulate Mohler, this is one damned nifty trick of logic. Of course, it’s self-contradictory in itself, which by definition robs it of any veracity, but it’s nonetheless quite inventive.

Eventually the Religious Right will see that “Christianity as a religion that individuals in the US believe in” is NOT the same thing as “the Christianity we worship which we believe to be a political entity whose authority entitles us to run the country as we demand.” Unfortunately they have a lot of growing up to do before they achieve this insight.

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