Posts Tagged “religionism”

I blogged previously about an effort by the Kentucky legislature to use that commonwealth’s Homeland Security office to proselytize. Well, the Louisville Courier-Journal reports they’ve been dealt a blow by the courts:

A Franklin circuit judge Wednesday declared unconstitutional a reference to God in a 2006 law creating the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security.

In an 18-page order, Judge Thomas Wingate said the General Assembly created an official government position when it passed a law requiring the office to acknowledge “the dependence on Almighty God as being vital to the security of the Commonwealth.”

The law requires the executive director of the office to include a statement asserting the state’s reliance on God in training materials and on a plaque at the state’s Emergency Operations Center.

Of course, this law’s proponents haven’t given up:

Rep. Tom Riner, D-Louisville, who inserted the language into the 2006 legislation, said Wednesday that he hopes [KY Attorney General Jack] Conway will ask Wingate to reconsider his decision. Conway has 10 days to do that and 30 days to appeal.

Riner, who is pastor of Christ is King Baptist Church in Louisville, said the decision is a “very disconcerting thing.”

He cites a precedent elsewhere which, he says, supports his view:

Riner said the provision was akin to the use of the phrase “In God We Trust” on American currency.

“In God We Trust is an affirmation that we trust in God,” he said. “That doesn’t make that a church doctrine.”

Riner is incorrect here: Telling people that they must “trust God,” is in fact a “doctrine” and does set the government up as a church. That fact, as well as the way in which religionists like Riner use coinage as a precedent allowing them to proselytize in any other way they can imagine, is why “In God We Trust” must be removed from US currency … the sooner, the better.

Just once I’d like to see a religionist like Riner just come right out and admit, honestly, what his motive is in coming up with stuff like this … i.e. it’s to proselytize. That’s all it’s good for. They know it, and I know it, and we all know it. They damage their own credibility and integrity by insisting that this is not their goal.

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The campaign to inject religion — specifically, protestant evangelical Christianity — into the nation’s public schools ran into a bit of a snag a few years ago, when “intelligent design” was found by a federal court to have been a fraudulent cover for “creationism,” which itself had been ruled a religion. Of course, they haven’t given up — religionazis don’t know how to give up! — but they’ve changed tactics.

Instead of trying to get their religion into public-school science classrooms via the “intelligent design” scam, they’re now working instead on getting it into history classrooms. The (UK) Guardian reports on one such effort that’s well under way in Texas:

The Christian right is making a fresh push to force religion onto the school curriculum in Texas with the state’s education board about to consider recommendations that children be taught that there would be no United States if it had not been for God.

Members of a panel of experts appointed by the board to revise the state’s history curriculum, who include a Christian fundamentalist preacher who says he is fighting a war for America’s moral soul, want lessons to emphasise the part played by Christianity in the founding of the US and that religion is a civic virtue.

Opponents have decried the move as an attempt to insert religious teachings in to the classroom by stealth, similar to the Christian right’s partially successful attempt to limit the teaching of evolution in biology lessons in Texas.

Having a degree in history I find this effort repugnant. Religionists typically believe themselves to possess credentials in the field of history, merely by virtue of their beliefs. The truth is, they have no understanding of the subject. And their lack of understanding is betrayed by the claims they make about this effort.

There is nothing about Christianity that made the development of democracy in the US inevitable. Christian doctrine does not acknowledge any role for “the people” or “the masses” to control anything — ever.

The only forms of government dealt with in the Bible, are monarchies (e.g. when the Hebrews were in Egypt, and later their own monarchy which became two), tribal confederations (i.e. the Judges period), and then in the New Testament, the Roman state. In the Bible and other writings, Christians are exhorted to obey the authorities whom God has ordained (cf e.g. Romans 13:1-3). These orders to Christians further the cause of autocracy and dictatorship, rather than democracy, and do not even allow for a vox populi to guide the state.

Later in the Middle Ages, in western Europe, Christianity enveloped itself around the notion of monarchies. The coronation of monarchs and princes, for instance, became a religious rite (even though it was never called a “sacrament”). The same was true even for lower levels of nobility … being named a knight, for instance, often included the saying of a Mass. For centuries, far from agitating for democracy, Christianity wrapped its tentacles around western Europe’s feudal system and clamped down on it, controlling it whenever and wherever possible.

In the eastern Roman Empire, the state was even more closely tied to Christianity. Byzantine emperors meddled in religious affairs regularly, and for the most part, either appointed patriarchs and bishops, or were consulted on their appointment. Many ministers of the Byzantine government were themselves clergy or oblates in service to the Church.

These history-revising religionazis also have a twisted notion of historical causation. While the majority of the colonial population was Christian, this does not mean their Christian beliefs brought about democracy there. It merely means that most of those who decided to build a democracy, were Christians. It doesn’t mean any more than that.

If anyone thinks children are well-served by Texas’s current Bible-thumper-run public education system, the Guardian article makes a sound point:

There’s no doubt that history education needs a boost in Texas.

According to test results, one-third of students think the Magna Carta was signed by the Pilgrims on the Mayflower and 40% believe Lincoln’s 1863 emancipation proclamation was made nearly 90 years earlier at the constitutional convention.

Way to go, Texas fundies. Y’all’re teachin’ dem dere chilluns ’bout Gawd ‘n’ all … but y’all’re fogittin’ da udder stuff dey needs ta know.

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Over the last few years it’s become common for theists to make outrageous and inaccurate claims about atheism. These are almost always made out of ignorance. The latest example — reported by Germany’s Der Spiegel — is no exception:

In an Eastern sermon that has drawn widespread criticism, the Catholic bishop of Augsburg has linked the crimes committed under Nazi and Communist regimes to atheism. Atheist groups have reacted with fury and accuse the cleric of rewriting history.

A Catholic German bishop has come under fire for his remarks condemning atheists. In a sermon given on Easter Sunday, the bishop of Augsburg, Walter Mixa, warned of rising atheism in Germany. “Wherever God is denied or fought against, there people and their dignity will soon be denied and held in disregard,” he said in the sermon. He also said that “a society without God is hell on earth” and quoted the Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky: “If God does not exist, everything is permitted.”

Most controversially, he linked the Nazi and Communist crimes to atheism. “In the last century, the godless regimes of Nazism and Communism, with their penal camps, their secret police and their mass murder, proved in a terrible way the inhumanity of atheism in practice.” Christians and the Church were always the subject of “special persecution” under these systems, he said.

This keeps coming up so let’s set the record straight: The atrocities of the Third Reich and communist regimes happened because they were vicious, totalitarian governments which viewed certain people as inconvenient and therefore expendable.

As for blaming atheism for the Holocaust, Bishop Mixa is not one to talk. The Holocaust was the product of many centuries of anti-Semitism in central Europe, and the source of that anti-Semitism was — you guessed it! — Christianity!

That’s right, Christianity, not atheism, caused the Holocaust. Christians have been railing against Jews almost since Christianity began in the middle of the 1st century CE. There is no way this long tradition of hatred for Jews played no role in the Holocaust. None.

That the Third Reich was an atheist regime, is denied by the Concordat of 1933, the equivalent of a treaty between the Third Reich and the Vatican, which defined a role for Catholicism within Germany. The Vatican would not have been able to sign such an agreement with an “atheist” state. The effect of this Concordat was that the then-young Third Reich was legitimized around the world. In other words, the Catholic Church itself helped “enable” Hitler and and his cronies. For a Catholic bishop to blame the Nazis’ actions on atheism, is hypocritical, since it minimizes the Church’s involvement in the formation of the Third Reich.

As for the communist regimes being atheist, they were … but this is not because they were atheist-evangelists. The reason, rather, was that they suppressed religion in order to control the people more effectively. Thus, the reason that Josef Stalin and Pol Pot ordered mass slaughters was not to advance the cause of atheism, but to enhance their own power; that both were atheists played no role on those decisions.

On the other hand, let’s have ourselves a little look at Christianity and the violence it sparked, through history. Perhaps most significantly we have events such as the Inquisitions and the Crusades. Neither of these would have taken place as they did, if not for the existence of Christianity, and for those who championed it. The Inquisitions were all about promoting “orthodox” or “proper” Christianity, in the face of heresy. Had there been no interest in forcing heretics to become orthodox, there would have been no Inquisitions.

Much the same is true of the Crusades; had there been no Christianity, there would have been no concept of a “Holy Land” which had to be rescued from the Saracens by armed Christians. It is true that, without Christianity as a motivator, the Byzantine Empire might still have called upon western European forces for assistance … but this assistance would have been a true military alliance, would have resulted in a much more conventional military operation, it would have taken place much closer to Byzantine borders than far away in Jerusalem, and there would not have been thousands of completely-unarmed civilians who blundered into a war zone out of religious fervor and were slaughtered. In other words, the entire enterprise would have been vastly different, more limited in scope, and without the mindless zeal of some Crusaders.

It’s time for religionists like Bishop Mixa to finally confess the sins of their religion, be honest with people about them, and stop blaming atheists for things they did not do, while their own religion has a closet stuffed full of skeletons just clamoring to get out. It’s the height of hypocrisy to blame other factions for what one’s own faction has done. But Christians aren’t strangers to hypocrisy, even though Jesus himself explicitly, clearly, and unambiguously forbid all of his followers ever to be hypocritical. (Why do so many Christians refuse to obey Jesus? I don’t understand.)

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After several years of stories about Americans going to church more frequently — beginning immediately after the September 11, 2001 attacks — including stories about voters deciding on candidates based on their religion; and having listened to claims from various denominations about how their numbers are up … well, the numbers are finally in, and they’re not good news for religiosity in America, as CNN reports:

America is a less Christian nation than it was 20 years ago, and Christianity is not losing out to other religions, but primarily to a rejection of religion altogether, a survey published Monday found.

Three out of four Americans call themselves Christian, according to the American Religious Identification Survey from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. In 1990, the figure was closer to nine out of 10 — 86 percent.

At the same time there has been an increase in the number of people expressing no religious affiliation.

While it’s good that the total population of the religious is declining in the US, there is — unfortunately — a cloud to go with this silver lining:

The survey also found that “born-again” or “evangelical” Christianity is on the rise, while the percentage who belong to “mainline” congregations such as the Episcopal or Lutheran churches has fallen.

One in three Americans consider themselves evangelical, and the number of people associated with mega-churches has skyrocketed from less than 200,000 in 1990 to more than 8 million in the latest survey.

That fully one-third of the country is evangelical Christian, is most certainly not good news at all, even if the total proportion of religious folk are dwindling. What it means is that religious partisanship and extremism are going up, with an increasing divide between fundamentalists and evangelicals on the one hand, and more liberal theists and non-believers on the other. One can reasonably expect the more vicious and fervent Christians in the US to become more rigid and vocal and less willing to accommodate others.

The survey (by Trinity College in my home state of Connecticut) has its own Web site, in case you wish to look.

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There’s nothing like Christmas to bring out the lunacy of the religionazis. A small daily newspaper here in northwestern Connecticut published a letter-to-the-editor today which exemplifies all the fallacies and false beliefs of the religionists. This guy (Thomas Latina) uses Christmas as an excuse to complain about things ranging from the ancient Romans (who are long dead), to separation of church and state, to Black Baptist churches, to Kwanzaa, the atheist sign in Washington state, to Darwin and evolution, and more … along the way he comes up with the idea that atheists should not have Christmas off with pay, they should be forced to work. Here are a few excerpts from this hyperreligious nonsense, along with some notes by me:

believe what our founding fathers had in mind is where King James broke with the Catholic church and started his own religion that was a state sponsored religion that you had to follow. Christians were given the choice of to convert to Anglicism, or be killed.

Mr Latina is mixing up King James with Henry VIII, who launched the Anglican schism; as for people being killed if they did not “convert,” at first this was a non-issue since the entire Church presence in England came under Henry’s control, initially. There was no conversion since everyone was assumed, then, to be an Anglican. Strife came later as people within Britain returned to Catholicism or joined other sects.

And politicians? Why do you always see them in Black Baptist churches, but never preaching from a Catholic church? Double standard?

No Mr Latina, it’s called “facing your audience where they can be found,” and is what politicians do.

Then there’s Darwin’s theory. Does anyone wonder why it’s called Darwin’s theory, and not Darwin’s rule? Because, the same as God, you can’t prove it.

Mr Latina is having trouble understanding the meaning of “theory” as a scientific term, and is purposely confusing it with its colloquial, and technically incorrect, meaning of “estimate” or “guess.”

Now let’s get to the real world. If all those state employees (like teachers for instance) don’t believe in God, or Christmas, they should have to work that day for straight pay, no Christmas bonuses, no Holiday pay. Just another day at school.

Hmm, just another day? With the majority of kids out for Christmas? Really?

In sum, if there’s any crazy religionist idea that somebody obsessed with Christianity could come up with — and whose grasp of basic facts is poor or non-existent — it’s in this letter. Read more of this fact-deprived crap and laugh … or perhaps cry, knowing there are actually people in the world who think this way, and there are publishers willing to give them a platform from which they can ramble incoherently for Jesus.

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Florida is not the only place where the evolution vs. religionism (aka “intelligent design”) battle is being fought. Texas is the next avenue of the religionsts’ attack:

Evolution on Trial in Texas Board of Education Battle

Later this year, the state will review its science curriculum; observers fear that creationist explanations of life’s origins will be presented as scientifically valid alternatives to evolution.

There’s ample reason to think intelligent design — a theory that views so-called irreducible complexities to be proof of divine intervention, and was discredited legally and scientifically two years ago during the Kitzmiller v. Dover case — could mount a comeback in Texas.

State science education official Chris Comer was fired last November after telling friends and colleagues about a lecture critical of intelligent design. The 15-member Board of Education is roughly balanced between supporters and opponents of evolution — but the March 4 board election features two pro-ID candidates, both running against pro-evolution incumbents.

The Associated Press reports that would-be board member Lupe Gonzalez, a retired school administrator, wants intelligent design given “equal weight” with evolution in school textbooks. The second challenger, retired urologist Barney Maddox, considers the state’s current science curriculum an attempt to “brainwash our children into believing evolution.”

The fallacy the religionists are guilty of, here, is misunderstanding the nature of science. Science does not — contrary to what they claim — treat all ideas “equally.” Science is in the business of separating bad ideas from good, the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats (to use a religious metaphor these people should understand). For instance, the Ptolemaic model of the solar system is not on “equal footing” in science with the Copernican/Keplerian/Newtonian model; any science teacher who treats them “equally” should be fired on the spot, quite obviously.

There is no such thing as “equality of ideas” in science; whatever model for a phenomenon is superior, is the accepted one at any given moment. Obsolete models are discarded. That is how science works.

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