Posts Tagged “united states”

Imagine No ReligionIn news that’s sure to ignite the rage and fury of religionists throughout the country, a Harris poll shows that religious belief is declining in the U.S. (WebCite cached article):

A new Harris Poll finds that while a strong majority (74%) of U.S. adults do believe in God, this belief is in decline when compared to previous years as just over four in five (82%) expressed a belief in God in 2005, 2007 and 2009. Also, while majorities also believe in miracles (72%, down from 79% in 2005), heaven (68%, down from 75%), that Jesus is God or the Son of God (68%, down from 72%), the resurrection of Jesus Christ (65%, down from 70%), the survival of the soul after death (64%, down from 69%), the devil, hell (both at 58%, down from 62%) and the Virgin birth (57%, down from 60%), these are all down from previous Harris Polls.

Belief in Darwin’s theory of evolution, however, while well below levels recorded for belief in God, miracles and heaven, is up in comparison to 2005 findings (47%, up from 42%).

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,250 adults surveyed online between November 13 and 18, 2013 by Harris Interactive.

I can hear Christianists’ bellicose, sanctimonious whining now: People are worshipping Darwin instead of our Gawd! they’ll shriek. I know I’ll be chuckling when I see/hear it!

The news isn’t entirely good, however. An awful lot of Americans cling to a wide range of other nutty metaphysical and/or irrational notions:

The survey also finds that 42% of Americans believe in ghosts, 36% each believe in creationism and UFOs, 29% believe in astrology, 26% believe in witches and 24% believe in reincarnation — that they were once another person.

42% believing in ghosts? That’s almost half the country believing in something that doesn’t exist!

I note that the Harris Poll story refers to “belief in UFOs” … but what they really mean is “belief in extraterrestrial visitors to earth,” because no one questions that “UFOs” (i.e. “unidentified flying objects”) exist. People do occasionally see flying things they can’t readily identify. What they don’t see, are extraterrestrial craft breezing through the atmosphere.

I note that Harris admits these results were drawn solely from online respondents. As such, they may well reflect the beliefs of Internet-connected Americans; but it can’t be safely assumed they reflect the beliefs of the entire population. So everyone — myself included! — must take this report with more than a grain of salt.

Photo credit: JasonTomm, via Flickr.

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Gallup (graph) / In U.S., 46% Hold Creationist View of Human OriginsI don’t normally consider poll or survey results to be newsworthy, but a recent survey paints a sobering picture of how Americans think. It seems we still have a long way to go before we can emerge from the Dark Ages. Gallup reports that about as many Americans believe in Creationism today, as believed in it some three decades ago (WebCite cached article):

Forty-six percent of Americans believe in the creationist view that God created humans in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years. The prevalence of this creationist view of the origin of humans is essentially unchanged from 30 years ago, when Gallup first asked the question. About a third of Americans believe that humans evolved, but with God’s guidance; 15% say humans evolved, but that God had no part in the process.

Stupefyingly, the Gallup report makes statements that would be obvious even without having to conduct a survey; such as, “the most religious Americans are most likely to be Creationists.” I mean, seriously … did they think they’d get any other results? Gimme a break! Also, Gallup makes this observation about the disparity between acceptance of Creationism by Republicans and others:

The major distinction is between Republicans and everyone else. While 58% of Republicans believe that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years, 39% of independents and 41% of Democrats agree.

While Gallup considers this is a huge difference, I don’t. That 41% of Democrats and 39% of independents are Creationists, is still not comforting. 39% of any sizable block of the population believing in nonsensical ancient fairy-tales is by no means an achievement to be trumpeted aloud. Quite the contrary, it’s a fucking disgrace!

The scientific consensus … which back in 1982 had already long settled on the idea that the Earth is billions of years old, that evolution happens, and that it produced humanity … has only solidified since then. Yet the general population remains unconvinced. This sure looks to me like an example of the backfire effect at work, something I’ve blogged about before. People with false beliefs tend to resist correction, even when the correction is irrefutable. In fact, the more compelling the refutation, the more strongly they resist it. This is why, for example, there are a lot of people who still insist that Barack Obama is not a US citizen, even though it’s been demonstrated — with compelling and unassailable evidence — that he most assuredly is a citizen. Birthers just dig their heels in on the matter, and like tiny little children, simply refuse to listen to anything that runs contrary to their screwy thinking.

It works the same for Creationists. They simply define the science that proves them wrong, as “a tool of Satan” designed to lead people astray from what they view as “the Truth.” The more science — and scientists — keep insisting they haven’t a fucking clue what they’re talking about (which, quite obviously, they don’t), the more convinced Creationists become that science and scientists are tools of the Devil, to be derided and condemned as such, and to be viewed as a dire enemy. There’s no amount of refutation they’ll accept, because they’ve chosen in advance to dismiss any possibility of refutation.

Which is why I find it odd that so many of them whine and bellyache about how “closed-minded” skeptics and scientists are. In truth, they are the ones who are “closed-minded.”

Hat tip: CNN Belief Blog.

Photo credit: Gallup.

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Satan, as drawn by Gustave Doré, in John Milton's Paradise Lost.Rick Santorum is an agnostic blogger’s dream. Almost daily the guy trots out some insipid, moronic Christofascist comment or other. Among other things, he claims to be an expert on theology, and you may remember he once said the Crusades were not “aggression.” Well, he’s made news this week due to remarks he made — but four years ago, back in 2008. I’m not sure why they surfaced only just now (courtesy of the extreme Leftists at Right Wing Watch), but the mass media are now all abuzz about them, and that would include the folks at CBS News (WebCite cached version):

Santorum said in August 2008 that “Satan has his sights set” on the United States of America, adding that “the Father of Lies” is using vice to go after the nation’s great institutions.

“Satan [has been] attacking the great institutions of America, using those great vices of pride, vanity, and sensuality as the root to attack all of the strong plants that has so deeply rooted in the American tradition,” Santorum said at Ave Maria University in Florida in 2008. …

According to Santorum, academia was Satan’s first beachhead:

Santorum goes on to say that Satan has been “most successful and first successful” in attacking academia, saying Satan exploited the “pride of smart people.”

This, of course, is standard Religious Right anti-intellectual fare. Not too surprising — except for irony of him making this comment in the middle of a university. I expect a guy like Santorum to attack those evil communistic university-types, but he went on to attack a different target:

Then, he said, Satan went after the church, and now “we look at the shape of mainline Protestantism in this country and it is in shambles, it is gone from the world of Christianity as I see it.”

What makes this unfortunate for Santorum is that the Religious Right which makes or breaks GOP presidential candidates is made up primarily of Protestant evangelicals. I’m not sure how amenable they’ll be to the assertion that “mainline Protestantism … is in shambles.” Of course, if they like Santorum enough, they might very well just ignore it, or perhaps rationalize it away as his effort to pander to a Catholic school audience.

As I said, this has caused quite a stir in the news over the last few days, as though it’s somehow incredible or remarkable; but most of the tropes in this 2008 speech — especially the assertion that Satan has conquered universities — are just standard Religious Rightist fare. I wonder if the fact that I graduated from a public university would make Santorum think I’m a tool of Satan … ?

I’ll close this post with the portion of the speech that Right Wing Watch has made available via Youtube:

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Crusades - The Crusaders Massacre the Inhabitants of CaesareaThe Great Neocrusade proceeds relentlessly across the United States. Sanctimonious Religious Rightists are proposing laws in several states which outlaw what they call “shari’a law.” As one would expect, these bills are invariably based on erroneous assumptions about Islam and the nature of shari’a law, and based upon a prevailing fear that shari’a law is being imposed on the country by force.

First we have Tennessee state senators Bill Ketron and Judd Matheny, who want to abolish shari’a law there, as reported in the Washington Post On Faith blog (WebCite cached article):

Tennessee State Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) and state Rep. Judd Matheny (R-Tullahoma) introduced a bill last week outlawing the practice of Sharia, a complex set of religious laws that guide behavior for Muslims.

The bill, embedded below, attempts to define Sharia law and to make following it a felony punishable by 15 years in jail.

The bill in question is SB1028, available here. Of note is that Murfreesboro is where some raging Neocrusaders set fire to a mosque under construction back in October. Ketron and Matheny’s problem is that they misdefine shari’a; they further claim that Islam itself is a combined legal-military-political ideology, and imply that it’s not a religion. This mirrors what TN lieutenant governor Ron Ramsey said last summer, that Islam is a political-legal system, not a religion, and therefore not entitled to First Amendment protection. Ketron and Matheny also don’t bother to explain where, in the US, any government at any level has ever been able to force anyone to knuckle under to shari’a — even though his bill is predicated on the idea that it’s happening.

Next, we have Arizona — which appears to have become the epicenter of militant Rightism in the US — where a proposed bill (HB 2582) would outlaw all forms of religious law, including shari’a (cached):

“Religious sectarian law” means any statute, tenet or body of law evolving within and binding a specific religious sect or tribe. Religious sectarian law includes sharia law, canon law, halacha and karma but does not include any law of the united states or the individual states based on Anglo?American legal tradition and principles on which the united states was founded.

The authors of this bill have essentially gone berserk on the entire notion of “religious law,” and don’t understand what they’re talking about. First, “religious law” systems like Halakha (within Judaism) and canon law (within several Christian denominations, including the Roman Catholic, Anglican and the several Orthodox churches) are — at least partly — the manner in which those religions conduct their own internal affairs, serving as a kind of administrative code. To abolish them completely would obviously run afoul of their religious freedoms. Second, karma is not a system of administration, but rather, a metaphysical principle within Hinduism and other Dharmic religions. It can’t be used in court, as far as I can see, despite the fact that it’s often referred to as a “law.” It’s no more a code of administration or justice than the so-called “Law” of Attraction.

Let me be clear: I do not favor the imposition of shari’a on anyone in the US. It’s a dangerous, metaphysically-charged, often-barbaric code which should be phased out worldwide — the sooner, the better. And I’m not in favor of the Roman Catholic Church holding its own canon law above the secular laws of the lands in which the Church operates; where criminal law and canon law collide, criminal law should prevail. However, passing laws to abolish shari’a law, or any other religious law-code, within the US is irrational, asinine, and childish. There is no way that any religious law-code can ever be imposed on Americans, due to the First Amendment, among other Constitutional protections. Bills such as these accomplish nothing useful, except to demonstrate the immaturity and ignorance of those who draft, sponsor, and support them. And the idea that karma is even a law-code that could ever be used in any kind of court to issue rulings … well, let’s just say this so obviously laughable that the authors and sponsors of AZ HB 2582 should hang their heads in shame. They’ve just shown themselves to be idiotic dolts who thoroughly deserve every bit of derision that’s going to be heaped on them over their ignorant bill.

Hat tip: Mark at Skeptics & Heretics Forum, and Unreasonable Faith.

Photo credit: Michael Heilemann.

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Franklin Graham Speaking at Park Street ChurchA little less than two months after it said something astoundingly asinine, the ferocious religionist wingnuts known as the American Family Association have managed to top that. According to them, the United States military is run by Muslims and gays (WebCite cached article):

Bottom line: you want to know who’s now running the U.S. Army, the U.S. Navy and the Marines and calling the shots where it counts? Fundamentalist Muslims and homosexual activists.

The AFA reached this conclusion because the Pentagon disinvited Franklin Graham, evangelical preacher son of evangelical preacher Billy Graham — and noted critic of Islam — from their National Day of Prayer event. You see, according to the AFA, Billy Graham is right about Islam and therefore should be worshipped rather than dissed. Of course, if anyone dares be a critic of Christianity, the AFA is usually first in line to go to war over it. (Another example of the hypocrisy that saturates fundamentalist Christianity in spite of Jesus’ own clear orders to his followers never to be hypocritical.)

Photo credit: Rachel J.

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Sarah PalinThe nation’s apparent religionist-in-chief has declared the United States “a Christian nation.” The Washington Post Under God blog reports on her claim (WebCite cached article):

In a speech last week, Sarah Palin promoted belief in God as a form of patriotism, dismissed notions that “America isn’t a Christian nation,” and denounced a federal judge’s ruling that it’s unconstitutional for government to declare a National Day of Prayer.

“God truly has shed his grace on thee — on this country. He’s blessed us, and we better not blow it. And that’s why I talk about politics,” Palin told the 16,000-member choir at a Women of Joy conference in Louisville, Ky., last Friday.

“Lest anyone try to convince you that God should be separated from the state, our founding fathers, they were believers,” she continued. “Hearing any leader declare that America isn’t a Christian nation . . . It’s mind-boggling to see some of our nation’s actions recently, but politics truly is a topic for another day.”

Mrs Palin, of course, is alluding here to Barack Obama, who — as the Post explains — didn’t actually say what she suggests he said:

Palin’s reference to “any leader” was a clear reference to President Obama, who in a 2006 speech said, “Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation — at least not just — we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of non-believers.”

Those comments — especially the truncated sound bite “We are no longer a Christian nation” — were deployed across the Web to depict presidential candidate Obama as a non-Christian or an anti-Christian.

Once again Mrs Palin displays an astounding penchant for not letting facts get in the way of a sanctimonious diatribe.

The Religious Right’s continual mantra that “the U.S. is a Christian nation” has, of course, one ramification, if taken to its logical conclusion: That every American must be a Christian. To this, I say — to Mrs Palin and to any other ardent Christian who believes as she does — as the godless agnostic heathen that I am: Go ahead. Make me a Christian. Please. By all means, give it your best shot, and don’t hold anything back.

How Mrs Palin — or anyone else — goes about this, will tell me everything I need to know about Christianity. And if they refuse to attempt it, this means they’re just going to have to accept that I’m a godless agnostic heathen … and stop demanding that I become a Christian.

It really is that simple.

So, is this truly “a Christian nation”? Are Christians who think so, actually willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen? Time will tell.

P.S. It’s not as though Sarah Palin actually understands what it means to be “Christian” … her command of the teachings of Jesus himself is tenuous, if not non-existent, as I blogged just a little while ago.

Photo credit: Thomas Roche.

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Pope Benedict XVI, Vatican City, 2010-03-29 (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)A lawsuit filed in Kentucky in 2004 has forced the Roman Catholic Church to offer up legal theories that, it claims, show that it’s immune to a lawsuit over clerical abuse. The AP reports via Google News (locally cached version):

Dragged deeper than ever into the clerical sex abuse scandal, the Vatican is launching a legal defense that the church hopes will shield the pope from a lawsuit in Kentucky seeking to have him deposed.

Court documents obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press show that Vatican lawyers plan to argue that the pope has immunity as head of state, that American bishops who oversaw abusive priests weren’t employees of the Vatican, and that a 1962 document is not the “smoking gun” that provides proof of a cover-up. …

The Vatican is seeking to dismiss the suit before Benedict XVI can be questioned or secret documents subpoenaed.

This isn’t apparently the first U.S. court case to take up this matter:

The United States considers the Vatican a sovereign state — the two have had diplomatic relations since 1984. In 2007, U.S. District Court Judge John Heyburn rejected an initial request by the plaintiffs to depose Benedict.

“They will not be able to depose the pope,” said Joseph Dellapenna, a professor at Villanova University Law School an [sic] author of “Suing Foreign Governments and their Corporations.”

“But lower level officials could very well be deposed and there could be subpoenas for documents as part of discovery,” he said.

Note: The verb “depose” in this story refers — I assume — not to an attempt to remove the Pope from office (i.e. definition #1 from Merriam-Webster’s), but to force him to give a deposition (i.e. definition #3 from the same).

At any rate, the plaintiffs think they have documentary evidence to back up the claim of a cover-up:

Crucial to the Kentucky lawsuit is the 1962 document “Crimen Sollicitationis” — Latin for “crimes of solicitation.” It describes how church authorities should deal procedurally with cases of abuse of children by priests, cases where sex is solicited in the confessional — a particularly heinous crime under canon law — and cases of homosexuality and bestiality.

[Plaintiffs' attorney William] McMurry argues that the document imposed the highest level of secrecy on such matters and reflected a Vatican policy barring bishops from reporting abuse to police. …

The existence of Crimen did not become publicly known until 2003, when a lawyer noticed a reference to the document while reading a 2001 letter written by Benedict, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. McMurry is seeking to subpoena Ratzinger’s letter, which instructed all bishops to send cases of clerical sex abuse to him and to keep the proceedings secret.

Strictly speaking, Crimen sollicitationis deals only with priests’ misconduct in the confessional or during the sacrament of reconciliation (also known as confession and/or penance). Many of the abuse cases that have been reported through the years do not involve the confessional or this sacrament; nevertheless, many Church officials have interpreted this 1962 letter as covering all accusations of abuse by a priest.

This case has already been bumped up to the federal appellate level, but the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowed it to proceed in Kentucky courts again. I expect numerous appeals in this case, up and down through both the commonwealth and federal courts, for years to come. This isn’t over yet … not if the Vatican has anything to say about it.

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