Multiplying and Numbers

In the last couple of days, I get the distinct impression that I’m talking to myself.  But that’s Ok because what I’m actually trying to do is figure out what makes the religious right tick.  You’d think I’d already know this, having some personal familiarity with the religious right.  But although the fundamentalist believer has a strong need for certainty, absolutes and authority, I think the visibility and ferocity of the fundamentalist religions in America is a like a bubble or the tulip trade.  Back in the 60s and 70s, the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ penchant for ultra conservative religious views and eschatological narratives was considered really weird.  Now, a fundamentalist Christian could walk into any Kingdom Hall and feel perfectly comfortable there.  What caused the change?

It’s clear that politics had something to do with it.  But the left has previously looked at the unholy alliance of church and state as if the Republicans were hoodwinking the religious and that the religious voter is a useful idiot.  And it’s not like we don’t know what the Dominionists have been doing lately.  There really are a lot of them having oodles of kids and homeschooling them.  But there’s something even more weirdly eugenic about the Republican-Dominionist alliance.  Take a look a these two videos from Colin and Nancy Campbell.  Well, watch as much as you can stomach.  The important part of the first video comes at about the 2:15 minute mark.  The Campbells are dominionist evangelicals and run an evangelical ministry business called Above Rubies.

And this one is an interview with Nancy Campbell relating how they’re going to carry out this mission:

Nancy’s logical inconsistencies are obvious, which makes the Above Rubies vision all that more fascinating.  Nancy says that the prime directive from God is to “be fruitful and multiply”.  That’s what man and woman were put on the earth to do.  They’re supposed to fill the earth and subdue it.  But then she talks about Muslim women having more children than American women and she makes it sound like a bad thing.  Wait!  How can that be a bad thing?  Aren’t Muslims just practicing another Abrahamic religion?  Don’t they believe the same creation story as told in Genesis?  And if that’s the case, aren’t Muslims also following the prime directive and are being fruitful and multiplying?  They’re just doing what Nancy says is The. Most. Important. Commandment. In. The. Bible.  As Nancy points out, that commandment was never rescinded.  So, Muslims should be commended for doing such a good job.  Obviously, Nancy is no friend of Muslims.  But that’s not the whole of the problem.

But let’s get back to the big deal Nancy makes about Americans not keeping up with the Muslims.  She makes it sound like we’re being overrun with Muslims in America.  But that’s simply not true.  There aren’t that many Muslims in America.  This very recent report says that Muslims in America increased by 30% over the past decade.  That sounds like a lot but it’s not really that much when you only started off with 0.6% or less than 2 million believers.  That’s tiny in a country with 311,519,917 people.  Oh, sure, a few radicals can cause a lot of damage but when it comes to radical nutcases in this country, it’s far more likely that the next deadly nutcases are going to come from the Christian side.  The numbers are just on their side, even without fundamentalist infant agriculturalists.  In any case, even if Muslims kept increasing at 30% every 10 years, it’s still going to be a very, very long time before they catch up with Christians and in the meantime, the Christians can get all evangelical and convert them, or just let nature take its course and they’ll become non-believers.  What is Nancy so worked up about??  She makes it sound like it’s going to happen tomorrow.

And that’s where we go back to the first video.  Colin expresses the concern that pretty soon there won’t be enough godly Christians with “character” and that they won’t be able to elect the people they need. (Note the frequent use of the words “character”and “self-control”.  They mean something very specific here and they are used repeatedly in the Duggar episodes and by the Campbells and another Quiverfull couple, the Pearls.) That’s what they are so concerned about.  And it can’t be the Muslims that are going to cause this to happen because as we saw above, there just aren’t that many of them to make a dent in the electoral college.  No, Colin is worried about their own declining numbers.  It’s not that these Dominionists are breeding to create a more perfect, godly America.  They’re doing it to create a voting bloc.  And maybe this is acknowledged by the people who are actually in the movement.  But I’m thinking that that’s not made explicit to the families that get sucked into this.  From what I’ve read of the women who got out of the Quiverfull movement, the change to becoming full time infant agriculturalists happens so gradually they’re not really aware of it.  The messaging they are getting is all about God, how sinful they are, how obedient they must be, what slackers they are if they’re not filling the earth.

So, in many respects, the Quiverfull/Dominionist and basic ultra conservative religious fundamentalism that admirers are hanging onto is just another form of a business/high control group like the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  A whole population is harnessed to achieve the secular goals of the small group at the top  but these secular goals of the small group are never explicitly spelled out to the rank and file.  The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society is really just a book publishing company that has a religion slapped onto it.  The religion is used to guilt believers into selling books.  And high control group tactics are used to virtually enslave the believers into this task.  Families are held hostage so that no one tries to leave without a great deal of personal pain.  Similarly, the Quiverfull/Dominionists are using high control group tactics to make sure these families are producing voters.  I’m going to sideswipe Godwin’s Law here and suggest that this sounds an awful lot like Kinder, Kuche, and Kirche of early 20th century Germany that was later adopted by the Third Reich.  Christian patriarchy preaches the same thing.  But in this case, it appears that the conservatives, and by this I mean the politicians, are exploiting what has always been a feature of Christian fundamentalism and now, they’re turning it up to 11.  Or 19.  Or whatever the uterus will bear.

Are the Duggars in on this?  Yeah, probably.  I noticed that Jim-Bob Duggar never fails to mention Jim Sammons’ financial freedom seminars in every episode.  They frequently mention ATI, which is some hyper Dominionist institute started by Bill Gothard.  I don’t know much about this guy but what I’ve read reminds me a lot of the Watchtower Society.  Lots of programs to buy, lots of seminars to attend, lots of money to spend on ATI approved materials and homeschool curriculum.  The Duggars are the walking, talking, breeding advertisements.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they had a financial arrangement with ATI.

But more importantly, the Campbells are in on it.  They think it is vitally important to breed new Christian voters.  It’s imperative.  The future depends on it.  If it were simply a matter of letting God be the master and putting faith only in his kingdom and government, they wouldn’t care about voting.  A true Christian fundamentalist would just put it in God’s hands and fill the earth until it reached some kind of Christian utopia all on its own.  Then, there would be no need for government.  But the Campbells are not putting their faith in God to take care of things.  They’ve decided to create an army of voters who will do what, exactly?

I can see why Nancy Campbell would have a certain appeal to the senior social conservative.  She’s intense.  She reminds me of Kathryn Kuhlman, remember her? She could experience religious ecstasy over a ham sandwich. Nancy has the flaming red hair and has mastered Kuhlman’s style to the point where it’s unnatural.  I’m sure it’s no coincidence.  And she taps into the psyche of women who have a certain ambivalence about motherhood. She is emotionally manipulating them to turn that ambivalence into certainty about the fulfillment of motherhood.  That’s unfair to the target of this manipulation who shouldn’t feel guilty about feeling trapped by or being cut out for the responsibilities of parenthood.  In Campbell’s world, your personal feelings are unimportant.  In fact, you should feel guilty for having them.  But children will know whether you’re sincere or just trying to choke it down to get God’s approval.

The Campbell’s vision is one of blissful family dinners, fulfilled mothers and protective fathers.  It’s the Quiverfull’s version of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New World where lions and children play together and sex is something that ungendered stay at home daughters do not even think about.  It would be pointless to tell these people that it’s unrealistic.  It’s what they want more than anything else in the world.  It’s what they want more than the world itself.  And the Campbells are going to use that unquenchable thirst for purity and hand it over to politicians.

None of this is necessarily new information but it is fascinating to see where it’s all coming from.  It’s also fascinating to me that there are so many people who keep falling for the same shtick in different disguises.  They’re going to be disappointed again.

Reason Resources

Freethinking is rising.  I’m sure that the right wing is already aware of this but maybe the left isn’t yet.  In the past couple of weeks I have been astonished at the sheer number of websites, podcasts, authors and youtubers who have come out of the closet as atheists, agnostics, panentheists, freethinkers, pastafarians, etc.

Now, I’m not here to convert anyone.  In fact, you believers of mainstream churches like the Presbyterians, liberal Catholics, liberal Christians, Methodists, Quakers, reformed and conservative Judaism etc can relax.  I think you guys have your heads on straight and there’s no reason to change, that I can see.

But woe to you more conservative and fundamentalist sects.  You guys are in big trouble.  Because the most vociferous, adamant and irreverent new atheists seem to come from your side of the Judeo Christian tradition.  You might have taken away a lot of the mainstream believers in recent decades but it’s my sense that those the mainstream churches retain are theirs for a lifetime.  *Your* people reach a breaking point, usually right about the time when they’re deeply involved in the strict lifestyle they’ve been forced to lead.  They go beyond what is considered humanly possible to be the perfect Christian.  And then, it’s usually one conversation or one thing that they read that pricks their curiosity that leads to a complete unravelling.  In that unravelling, they shoot right on past mainstream Christianity and wind up rejecting the whole damn thing, church, bible and god.

Some of the podcasts I have been listening to feature quite a number of pastors of fundamentalist Christian sects.  After awhile, the pastors didn’t find joy in damning people each week for all too human faults.  They questioned and they researched and they rejected.

The reason I think it is important to follow this trend is because it may explain why the right has been so rabidly hysterical about “religious liberty” this year.  There are still a lot of believers in the US, indeed, they are going to outnumber freethinkers for a while.  But the rapid growth of the freethinking movement, especially when lead in some cases by the very people who used to be deep into Christian fundamentalism, must have them very, very nervous.  The apostate has their number.  He or she knows just what makes these churches tick and after their research can refute their arguments with devastating precision.  And the numbers of deconverters may start to impact the politics of the right wing tribe as well.  If you are in organized religion and you hitched your wagon to the right wing movement conservatism, you know that your days are limited.  Likewise, the right wing political arm knows that there will be a tipping point where they won’t be able to marshall the fundamentalist christians to do their bidding because there won’t be enough of them.

It’s not just the impending mortality of their senior base that has the right wing worried.  It’s the rapid rise of the freethinkers, and those people who cut the cord with television and their churches, and who are finding each other on the web.  Last night, I tuned into The Thinking Atheist podcast and found that Seth had thousands of active listeners, waiting to be patched in to talk to him.  Over and over again, they thank him for letting them know that they’re not alone and that there are many others like them having the courage to deconvert and unbaptise themselves.  Almost all of them have a thorough knowledge of the bible and are appalled by what they find in it.  Forget Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris, the evangelicals and fundamentalists  should be scared to death of regular average people who used to be in their churches.

I could be wrong but it feels like a backlash against fundamentalist christianity.  These people don’t hate God.  They don’t believe in him so there’s nothing to hate.  But they sure don’t like the way they were raised or the lives they were forced to live.  And they are no longer afraid to speak up.  Before the internet, these people would have been outcasts and loners, disinherited by their friends and families and used as an example by the religious as what will happen to people who don’t toe the line.  But with this recent explosion on the web, these people are finding out that there’s nothing wrong with them, they’re normal and there are many people who are going through the same thing and want to get together and talk about it.

The trajectory of the freethinker movement may be different here in the US than it is in Europe.  In Europe, it may be no big deal because freethinkers are a significant population.  But European culture is structured differently as well.  There is more interdependence, more public squares and meeting places.  You don’t have to make too much of an effort to find people to talk to and form a sense of comaraderie.  Here, with the American emphasis on rugged individualism and community through faith, coupled with suburbanization where everyone around you is a cookie cutter of everyone else, it has been a lot harder to be the first one on your block to be an atheist and still have a social life.  I’m going to predict that freethought will take on a more organized flavor in the US.  It will have to be if the numbers keep increasing and freethinkers get increasingly disgusted with being second class citizens to the religious.

While I’m still collecting data, I’ll keep my other thoughts to myself.  There are definitely some emerging trends that should keep the political operatives up at night.  I have no idea how they’re going to spin or try to disrupt The Reason Rally coming up on March 24, 2012 but I have no doubt that they’ve got plans to either media black it out, mute it or are currently data mining and formulating talking points to minimize its impact.  But this genie is out of the bottle.  The non-believers are finding their voice.

Here are some places where you can hear them:

The Thinking Atheist : Seth, the son of two evangelical theologians, takes your deconversion stories and provides a sympathetic ear

Living After Faith : Former Pentacostal pastor Rich Lyons and his wife Deanna discuss deconversion to atheism with other former evangelicals and fundamentalists

No Longer Quivering : Ever want to know what’s like to try to live like Michelle Duggar?  Vyckie Garrison and her former baby farmer friends tell the truth about Quiverful.

Evid3nc3: This youtuber documents his deconversion from devout Christian to atheism in well produced, thoroughly researched and compelling videos.

CStheApostate: What happens when you try to leave the Jehovah’s Witnesses and find out you can’t take your family with you?  Phineas explains it all.  (His first Thanksgiving video will make you cry)

The Out Campaign: Encouraging atheists to come out of the closet.  It must be working.  BTW, one of our blogroll favorites, Blue Lyon, is out as an atheist.  She has the scarlet letter symbol on her sidebar.  Something to look for if you’re into looking for such things.  I’m not quite there but would consider myself in the freethinker camp and their symbol is a pansy:

Olympia Snowe retiring- Ruh-Roh

This was just announced.  Snowe is retiring, which means this is a good opportunity for a Democrat, or other party politician, to pick up a seat in the Senate.  But why now?

Snowe says:

In announcing her plans, Snowe, 65, emphasized that she is in good health and was prepared for the campaign ahead. But she said she was swayed by the increasing polarization in Washington.

“Unfortunately, I do not realistically expect the partisanship of recent years in the Senate to change over the short term,” Snowe said in a statement. “So at this stage of my tenure in public service, I have concluded that I am not prepared to commit myself to an additional six years in the Senate, which is what a fourth term would entail.”

Something about this sounds ominous.  I thought Snowe was the Republicans’ secret weapon, always looking so damned reasonable until she started getting all Columbo on some detail in the bill she wasn’t happy with.  We could always count on Snowe to renege on any agreement.

So, which partisanship is she most afraid of?  I’ve heard some rumbling today that Steney Hoyer is going to try to push through a grand bargain during the lame duck session.  Does that have anything to do with it?  Screw the Democrats one last time before she gets out of Dodge?  Or does she see something even worse coming up and wants to get out of the way while she can?

I’ll take a stab at this: She is perturbed by the recent turn her own party has taken and doesn’t like what they are asking her to sign on to.  They’re being very uncompromising and inflexible and maybe even Olympia Snowe has a line she isn’t willing to cross.  So she’s bailing and throwing the seat to the Democrats.  That’s what it looks like.  It sounds like what’s coming is so significant that even Snowe won’t play Lucy with the football this time.  She’d rather hand over her seat to the opposition.  It’s happened before with those damned New England Republicans.  Remember Jeffords and Chafee?

I’m guessing that they’re going for either Social Security or abortion.

Any hints? Allegations?  Suspicions?

And is Chellie Pingree going to go for this seat?  Losing another woman from the Senate, even if she is a Republican is one we can ill afford to lose.

Tuesday: One more and I’ll stop (for awhile)

Blame Luther for breaking up the band

So, the “religious liberty” meme is going to be the one to beat this year.  We’re all a bunch of heathens and we need religion.  That’s what the argument’s going to be.  If only we lead more virtuous lives with the guidance of some religion, we’d all be more prosperous, more fulfilled human beings and we wouldn’t need so much government assistance.  The problem with this country is that we’ve gone too far away from God and now is the time to put him back in our lives, put him front and center, so that we can weather the economic austerity that is coming our way.  If we play by the rules and love God with all our hearts, we will be blessed.  If we don’t, we get what’s coming to us.

And the reason religious liberty has to be so gosh darned important is that without it, it’s harder to keep everyone in line, feeling guilt and shame about their personal circumstances.  If there’s no guilt or shame, people won’t blame themselves for all of the rotten things that have happened to them.  No, they might start figuring out that they’ve been had, suckered in by really ruthless financial industry psychopaths who believe that what’s theirs is theirs and what’s yours is theirs.  So, to make sure we are not watching what they do, the religious liberty thing is going to get a lot of attention.

The problem is that that’s only going to work for some people.  The rest of us know that the bible is not an accurate historical document and it’s unlikely to be divinely inspired if there are multiple divinities that inspired it.  And for those of us in the life sciences, evolution is non-negotiable.  I couldn’t do my work without knowing all about natural selection.  The fact that I can do an evolutionary trace on the proteins I work with is pretty strong evidence that evolution is true.  We’ve seen the results of prayer.  Um, it doesn’t really work all that well.  And on and on and on.

The thing is, I don’t have any problem with the idea that YOU can believe all of the things about religion that you choose to believe.  If you want to think that a bunch of celibate old guys in red beanies in Rome, who kept the organization they were in when they changed religions in the fourth century, have all of the answers to guide your life, knock yourself out.  If you want to believe that Jesus is coming to rescue you from all of the rottenness of the world and the pedophiles and kidnappings and rapes of pretty blonde women and the murder of innocent, sweet little babies and that those of us who don’t believe absolutely everything you say are going to suffer from a really horrific and painful death while you hover above it all and watch us die in torment, go ahead.  Everybody in the world has their own particular and personal belief system that may be a slightly different variation of their neighbor’s, or it may be radically different.  And that’s OK.  Believe whatever you want.

But if you’re going to bring that belief system into the public square and insist that we all live by the rules created in 1300 BCE in spite of all of the progress that we have made in the past 3000 years, you’d better have a really good reason for it and should be able to  demonstrate definitively why imitating baby farmer Michelle Duggar and her ultra conservative family is better than any other alternative.  In fact, I have watched enough of the Duggars to know that their philosophy has a lot more of the liberal tradition than they would care to admit.  They have friends and neighbors that have waaaaay too many children stuffed into tiny little houses.  The Duggars don’t lecture these people and tell them to keep an aspirin between their knees.  No, they help them build a new house.  They donate their time and money and materials.  They feed poor people at soup kitchens.  They never ask anything in return.

But Jim Bob Duggar is a Republican and the Duggars have chosen to endorse Rick Santorum.  The Duggars send mixed messages.  Anti tax Republicans reject EVERYTHING the Duggars say they are about.  They want to withhold money, assistance and help from anyone they think is undeserving.  I’m sorry but I’m not sure that the families that the Duggars help are all that much different from any other family they don’t know personally that has a lot children and insufficient space and resources.

The difference seems to be religion.  The Duggars’ friends and the poor they serve are Christians.  And I just have to wonder, is it really moral to be so choosey?  Should it matter what religion a person is if they need help, food, housing or protection from greedy conmen in business and the banks?  Isn’t that what the parable of the Good Samaritan is all about?  (BTW, the parables and beatitudes of Jesus and the details of Occupy Jerusalem Temple are about the only things in the New Testament worth rescuing)

Are we to believe that the Duggars, a good, kind hearted family, would not be a good kind hearted family without their religion?  And if their religion demands good kind heartedness, aren’t they obligated to extend that to others outside of their religion?  And if they ask nothing in return from their neighbors who are Christians, should they expect something in return for all of their help from non-Christians?  Isn’t it possible that good, kind heartedness benefits everyone and makes the world a better place regardless if God is intervening?  Wouldn’t God want you to be nice to everyone, even if he isn’t watching? And wouldn’t you reach more people if you could pool your resources and figure out a more systematic way of helping everyone?  And wouldn’t that come back to you in the form of less crime, more healthy, happy people and more prosperity?  The Duggars are almost there.  They just need to include the whole world in their benevolence and learn to judge the rest of the world with as much generosity and compassion as they do their Christian friends.

Anyway, I got off topic again. Where was I?

Oh, yeah, before you start imposing your religious liberty on others, at least admit that you are also obligated to have other people’s religious liberty imposed on you in return.  But if that is not acceptable, let’s narrow our choices.  Before we make new rules to live by, let’s all agree on which God we’re going to pay attention to.  I don’t mean some Mesopotamian gods that got edited to a single entity and a creation story based on some ancient Babylonian mythology.  Let’s get real.  Let’s look at all of the religions and investigate all claims equally.  There has to be a one true religion among all of the religions in the world.  That’s the one we should follow.  So, I propose that we get appoint a committee of believers and non-believers.  After all, Santorum says that even non-believers have a part to play in shaping government in the public square just like the faithful.  So, all interested parties, believers and non-believers, should get together and decide which religion has the greatest credibility, the most verifiable miracles, the best predictive values and the most moral code.  The scientists should be particularly helpful here.  When we can all come to an agreement on which religion that is, that’s the religion we should pick to influence our government.  After all, it wouldn’t be fair to deprive the other religious adherents of the one true God.  But if the Catholics lose, they’re going to have to sit on their cassocks and shut up.  Same goes with the Evangelical Christians.  For all we know, we might all end up as Sufis or Scientologists.  But if it turns out that they have the one true religion, it would be wrong to not follow them.

Liberty doesn’t mean the freedom to just worship any god willy-nilly.  That’s an affront to the very concept of an supernatural authority figure.  He doesn’t want religious liberty, with everyone picking their own way to worship him.  He wants there to be rules about what you can and can not do religiously.  He wants you to pay attention to what he says and obey without question.  So, please, let’s not have anymore Catholic politicians acting like adolescents without any parental supervision, making their own decisions about what is “free”.  Adolescents have no sense of their own mortality and mortality is a very serious business, requiring sober reflection, not liberty.  Rick Santorum and the other religious Ricks owe it to themselves and their mortal souls, as well as ours, to stand for one religion and one religion only.  Let’s not shrink from the task before us and let us resolve to find out what that religion is.

Can I get an Amen?

In the meantime, Dr. Laurence Krauss gives an authoritative lecture on Science and Religion and suggest that you don’t necessarily have to sacrifice one for the other.  Like, who died and made him god?

More Historical Fiction

This one is from Evid3n3ce’s discovery of the origin of the Judeo-Christian God.

The more you see, the harder it is to unsee.  That’s why, as Evid3nc3 himself found out, as the pillars of the Judeo-Christian religious tradition are eliminated one by one, there is a point at which the whole construct falls apart.  A person who gets to this stage experiences the world with an entirely different perspective.  There is no going back.  And all attempts by Christian relatives and well meaning friends to bring you back into the fold are going to meet with failure on their part and frustration on yours.  As far as the non-believer is concerned, there’s nothing left to talk about unless the believer also wants to have his or her eyes opened.  To the non-believer, the believer is living a cramped existence, covered with an almost impenetrable shell.  It prevents the truth from getting in and for the believer to get out.  But once you’re out, the shell is not big enough to contain you anymore.

It has occurred to me, well, several things have occurred to me lately. The first is that with the age of the internet, it’s very easy for people to learn things on their own.  The guidance of a spiritual mentor is almost entirely absent on the internet.  That’s why Jehovah’s Witnesses are strongly advised to avoid YouTube.  There are way too many apostates giving their testimony without a filter.  And when you inadvertantly stumble on something like the Documentary Hypothesis, exploring it on your own can give you all kinds of ideas that organized religion would prefer you didn’t have.  And let’s not even get into liberal Christianity with it’s complete abstraction of God to the point of near non-existence.

The internet could be a real threat to the Judeo-Christian organization.  People will get wiser.  They will be harder to control.  They will start skyping people in foreign countries where God is just a fading memory.

Secondly, right now, our country doesn’t resemble the pre-American Revolutionary era with it’s anti-tax with no representation fervor.  No, right now, we resemble pre-Revolutionary France.  We have an extremely powerful religious faction that owns a lot of property and conducts its business tax free.  In the last few decades, this first estate has joined forces with the wealthy and well connected in politics.  The religious are determined to keep their property and tax exemptions and their hold on the lives of their flocks and in turn they hand their votes over to the new American aristocracy.  Now, I see the Catholic bishops in a whole new light.  It’s not reproductive rights they’re concerned with.  It’s protecting their own piece of the American pie at regular citizens’ expense.  After all, when the rich refuse to pay taxes and the social safety net becomes a tattered shred, who knows what citizens might demand of their churches? It’s better that the faithful demand comfort and solace and turn their thoughts away from the tax exemptions and exemptions from secular authority.  If history is any guide on this, that strategy is not going to work for too much longer unless the right wing can really lock up the electorate to the point where political change is impossible.  But then, nothing is impossible.  Just ask the French.

Finally, some really fanatical religious people, especially the apocalyptic variety who are waiting on the Rapture, seem to have a fascinating compulsion to protect themselves from death.  Now, why would that be?  It is very anti-Christian to resist the one thing that proves the faith you profess.  What kind of person who believes in the resurrection wants to skip the pre-requisite step?  The kind of person who immediately comes to mind is a homophobic person.  That is not to say that such Christians are closeted homosexuals who are projecting their hatred of themselves onto others.  No, I’m thinking that Rapturist Christians are closeted atheists and agnostics.  They fear death because they don’t really believe there’s an afterlife.  They’re smart enough to know that the whole religious construct doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.  They frantically try to protect themselves from other points of view that may challenge their faith.  They’re sticking their fingers in their ears singing “la-la-la, I can’t HEAR you” because the last thing they want to think about is the possibility that death means nothingness. The Rapture gives them a way out.  If they believe fervently that there is a Rapture, they never have to worry about finding out there is no heaven or hell.  Or God.  Scary thought.  Somehow, it never occurs to them to calm down and wait to find out what happens when we die.  The thought simply terrifies them.  Something to think about the next time you meet one of them.

Monday: logical conclusions

Digby watched the Sunday shows so I wouldn’t have to and posted Santorum’s rant about Kennedy’s 1960 statement that he wasn’t going to be run by the Pope just because he wanted to be the first Catholic president.

So funny, Santorum’s reaction reminded me of a similar rant from a guy at work we used to have lunch with who proclaimed that he hated New York City so much that if it fell into the ocean, he would not “shed a tear”.  For Rick Santorum, just the thought of Kennedy saying he would put his religious preferences secondary to his Constitutional duties made him “want to throw up”.  Here’s more:

“That makes me throw up and it should make every American who is seen from the president, someone who is now trying to tell people of faith that you will do what the government says, we are going to impose our values on you, not that you can’t come to the public square and argue against it, but now we’re going to turn around and say we’re going to impose our values from the government on people of faith, which of course is the next logical step when people of faith, at least according to John Kennedy, have no role in the public square,” he said. Santorum also said he does not believe in an America where the separation of church and state is “absolute.”

“I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute. The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country,” said Santorum. “This is the First Amendment. The First Amendment says the free exercise of religion. That means bringing everybody, people of faith and no faith, into the public square. Kennedy for the first time articulated the vision saying, no, ‘faith is not allowed in the public square. I will keep it separate.’ Go on and read the speech ‘I will have nothing to do with faith. I won’t consult with people of faith.’ It was an absolutist doctrine that was foreign at the time of 1960,” he said

I don’t have any doubt that there are people who want to impose their values on the rest of us using government resources.  But from the evidence I’ve gathered in the last couple of years, it looks like the Catholics and other religious organizations are doing most of the impositions.   Those of us who want to keep state and church separate have no problem with Catholic values or religious values as long as we’re not forced to live by them.

But of course, this issue is not going to go away if the right has anything to say about it.  It’s amusing that there are so many Democrats in places like Michigan who think that prolonging the Republican primary is going to make it easier for Obama to win by pointing out how radical the Republicans really are. It’s pretty childish when you think about it.  It’s one thing to make a protest vote based on ethics and in support of voters’ rights.  It’s quite another to ignore all of the pain and suffering around you and work on behalf of the guy who has spared only the barest minimum of his enormous powers to alleviate any of it.  Note that making it harder for Obama to win Democrats’ votes would be a better use of their time but there’s no talking to people who are convinced they have the true religion.  What’s going to happen is that eventually, the Republican side of the aisle will get their shit together, a nominee will be selected, it won’t be Santorum but maybe he’ll get the second spot to keep the Mormon on the straight and narrow.  And then all of the money they’ve been saving up for the general election will be rolled out.

No, the economy is not getting better and with the guarantee of higher gas prices, it’s bound to get worse.  The middle class is still unemployed.  Yes, it looks like things are getting better in Michigan but Michigan had nowhere to go but up.  Here in New Jersey, the state everyone seems to be consciously avoiding, it still feels like the Great Depression where everyone I know has either been laid off, is in danger of a layoff or has been rehired and laid off several times in some kind of vicious cycle.  Oh and stay tuned for the Republican Congress to put Obama and the Democrats in more compromising situations.  Because that’s just the kind of people they are.

But let’s get back to Santorum’s pissy little rant about Constitution induced nausea.  The theme for this year’s election season is “religious liberty”, as if you’re not already aware.  The Republicans are going to beat this drum relentlessly.  And they’ve got all of the conservative churches onboard this year.  Obama is going to have to fight for the evangelical vote this year.  It’s all about “morals”.  The problem with the world is that no one has any morals anymore and God is angry and if we would only behave, the country could get back on its feet.  But Santorum let something slip about the “public square”.  If you’ve been following the Reason Rally concept, one of the problems that face secularists is that they’ve been almost completely shut out of the public square.  No one consults with the non-believers or strict secularists about what they think is right and moral anymore.  Hard to believe that it was precisely these people, the people of the Enlightenment, who wrote the first documents separating the colonies from the motherland.  The evidence is all over the Declaration of Independence but the religious choose to ignore this and the Enlightemnent’s descendants.   I think that’s about to change but we’ll see. The difference between then and now is that the new enlightenment thinkers benefit from advances in our understanding of the natural world that the 18th century thinkers could only dream about.

But the atheist/agnostic community knows more about history of religion than most of the relgious’ rank and file.  For example, they know that the Old Testament pentateuch was not written by Moses.  It’s a compilation of 4 different writers and an editor.  Those writers wrote over a span of about 500 years and adjusted the texts to fit their particular geographical locations and political situations.  Some of the book of Genesis was lifted straight out of polytheistic Mesopotamian creation stories and flood myths.  One of the writers, E, used the word Elohim excusively when referring to God, because he was from the Canaan area of the Levant, while J, another writer, used the word Yahweh almost exclusively because she was from the Judean area.  In the distant past Elohim and Yahweh were not the same god.  It took a different author to merge the two.  And it’s very easy to tease apart which author wrote which part.  You can read more about the Documentary Hypothesis here along with the parts of the bible written by each author.

Some of you might have heard of this hypothesis before, some might say it’s never been proven.  But go read those chapters yourself and you will find the idea pretty compelling.  Don’t just take my word for it.  For those of you who like to see vidoes on the subject, the youtuber Evid3nc3, will take you through a history of the bible in two parts. He does it in a very thorough way from the perspective of a Christian trying to figure it all out and you will be convinced by the end of his presentation that the bible is not what you think it is.  Here is what he found out about the bible:

I’m recommending Evid3nc3′s videos because they are very well produced, thoroughly researched and presented in an accessible style that is suitable for that religious person you know who insists that everyone in the country should get a religion and follow it religiously or have one selected for you to be shoved down your gullet by the government.  The next time they bring up the Judeo-Christian tradition, you can say, “You mean, the Judeo-Christian tradition as laid out in the bible?  Holy Hemiola, have you ever read that thing?  I mean, read it by author?  Fascinating.  Which author is your favorite?  I’m partial to J.  She’s got such an earthy feel to her prose and P incorporates all of that early Mesopotamian mythology from the Enûma Eliš.  And who knew that there were so many different versions of the 10 Commandments, hey, where’re you going?”

In other words, before Rick Santorum or Rick Warren or any other Rick gets up in a public square and tells the rest of us relgious or non-religious that they should engage the state to impose their superior Judeo-Christian religious beliefs on other people, they should have a thorough knowledge of just what it is they want to impose. Or at the very least, they should be honest and admit that seminarians and theologians have known about the polytheistic roots and inconsistencies of the bible for more than a century and just haven’t shared this with the rest of the class.  For those of you who ignore evidence, because you’re too afraid that your faith will be shaken by it, and rely on faith alone, please be aware that there are a lot of us out here who don’t think faith alone is a very good basis for a system of government and we will not go down quietly.

And as for that argument that without the bible or religion, you can’t be moral, check out this video on morality from evid3nc3:

Oh, SNAP!

Will someone please hand Rick an air sick bag?

Here’s the problem with Rick Santorum’s proposal that believers should get the state on their side to decide what the law should be to guide our daily lives: not all of us believe that there is a God or that his word is in the scriptures or that some 2000 year old all male organization has all of the answers for those of us who are not celibate men.  In fact, I guarantee that Catholics and Evangelical Protestants have differences of their own.  Pitting our beliefs or non-beliefs against each other is a recipe for conflict, argumentation, uncompromising positioning and it’s a huge distraction from the economy, the energy crisis and economic inequality.  Wars have been fought over religion around the world.  They were a tremendous waste of resources and human lives.  They were so destructive that believers of one sect were slaughtered by believers of another and whole relgious communities were forced to relocate.  And the people who put together the constitution argued about whether or not they wanted to go down that road in the Federalist Papers and decided it was a phenomenally bad idea to start imposing some state sanctioned religious dogma into their new rule of law.

And it’s still a distraction.  There’s nothing that the Wall Street psychopaths would like more than for the rest of us to be arguing about angels on pins and whether or not someone else’s wife or girlfriend can get her pill prescription pill.  The believers who fall for candidates like Rick Santorum are giving in to squabbles about faith that no one can solve at the expense of their own economic livelihoods.

Of course, that’s ok if what you really want is to make the country so unliveable that the Rapture comes and you’re delivered from all of the misery.  But if that’s the case, you’d better make damn sure that it was God who wrote that section of the bible you’re relying on and not some ancient editor who was trying to make all of the pieces go together.  Because if it wasn’t God, then you’re stuck here with the rest of us on a miserable earth of your own creation.

Oscars and Afghanistan

Two things:

First, Christopher Tellefsen has been nominated for best film editing for the movie Moneyball. That’s great for two reasons: 1) it was a wonderful movie that answers the timeless question “is it all about winning or losing or how you play the game?”. The movie, adapted from a book from Wall Street writer Michael Lewis, shows that some things are more important than money. Sometimes, it’s about trusting in the people who work for you and letting them fulfill their potential and enjoying the game.
Excellent editing, of course. 2:) Chris Tellefsen is Katiebird’s brother in law, married to her sister Bev. We’re pulling for you, Chris. Good luck and may you and Bev have a night to remember. Take lots of pictures.

If you are a friend of Katiebird (Catharine Hendricks), you can join her Oscar party on Facebook.

Second, my little brother, aka Tut, is regular US Army. For the past decade, he miraculously managed to avoid being posted overseas. Until last year. That’s when the Army sent him to Kuwait. And we were ok with that. Not much to worry about in Kuwait but sand fleas in the desert. Unfortunately, he didn’t stay in Kuwait. Last time we heard, he was in Afghanistan. Northern Afghanistan, to be precise. you know, the place where the natives are all restless over some burned Korans and lobbing grenades into compounds with army soldiers? Yeah, that’s the place.

I would say it would do him good to see what happens when a country takes religious fundamentalism to its logical conclusions, given that he’s a bit of a judgmental Christian fundamentalist himself. But it would lessen my anxiety considerably if he could witness the uproar and learn his lesson from the safety of Kuwait.

It seems that I am experiencing quite a bit of the proverbial Chinese “interesting times” rather more closely than i had originally anticipated. Do me a favor and keep Tut and his girls back in Arizona in your thoughts. Oh, heck, keep the whole US Army in your thoughts.

Sunday: Even a jerk occasionally asks a good question

Mary Wollstonecraft, author of A Vindication of the Rights of Women

So, this guy, James Poulos, writes some esoteric piece of fluff in The Daily Caller called What are Women For and stirs up the tender feelings of the left.  Digby featured a clip from Chris Hayes’ show from a couple of days ago where Poulos attempts to defend himself from Bob Herbert and Michelle Goldberg.

If the abstract rights of man will bear discussion and explanation, those of women, by a parity of reasoning, will not shrink from the same test.
Mary Wollstonecraft

The gist of this argument seems to be that the right has never made any attempt to deceive when it comes to their perception of the role of women in society, politics and culture.  To the right, women are the famous helpmeets.  They do the dirty work and they play second fiddle, unless the menfolk want them to play first fiddle- to help the menfolk.  I guess the right is pretty confident that Sarah Palin was not a radical feminist who would have had an epiphany the minute she got into the Oval Office.  “Wow, *I*, a woman, am now in charge here.  Well, there will be some changes made, I’m telling you now.  No more of this unequal pay shit, and free birth control for all!  Starting with Bristol.”

The divine right of husbands, like the divine right of kings, may, it is hoped, in this enlightened age, be contested without danger.
Mary Wollstonecraft

Even the most committed conservative can have a change of heart.  Look at David Frum, fighting gallantly to keep a tiny slivver of credibility for his side while succumbing to the irresistable pull of dark side logic and sensibility.  But then there’s also Phyllis Schlafly who has built a very successful independent career as an educated lawyer whose sole goal seems to be keeping other women from ever attaining the status of independent, successful career women and educated lawyers. So, you know, they already understand what women are for.  Women are supposed to use whatever talents God gave them to uphold the social hierarchy of men on top.  The right is pretty clear about that and no one should be surprised when they pull out the anti-contraceptives gun.  It’s also a great political strategy for the right, simultaneously pulling in the working class men, who secretly expect that it will be some other guy’s wife who will get pregnant and have to stay home with the kids and free up a good paying job, while wedging the old Democratic base of traditional liberals from the Obama Democratic base of African-Americans, Evangelicals and eggheads.  Eggheads, it seems, are concerned more with theoreticals than actual effects on the population at large.  Theoretically, voting for a schmoozer with so little political experience and ability to serve as a president during a catastrophic economic downturn was a bad idea- but not for them.

I love my man as my fellow; but his scepter, real, or usurped, extends not to me, unless the reason of an individual demands my homage; and even then the submission is to reason, and not to man.
Mary Wollstonecraft

Anyway, we know where Republicans are coming from.  That’s why we choose up sides and decide to either join them or fight them.

The problem is, what happens when you decide to fight them and then find out that the allies you picked are not really on your side?  What if your side gives lip service but behind your back revives newly buried cultural norms to undermine you? Is it still your ally?  Don’t you have the right to call it to reveal itself?  Who is it working for?  Shouldn’t you know what it is you’re signing up for?  Don’t you have the right to demand more than an absent or anemic response to the aggressive sexism of the right before you give it anymore of your time, money or votes?  What if your party is so intent on winning that it pricks primitive ids and is willing to destroy everything you’ve worked so hard for for 40 years.  Because that’s what happened.  For 40 years:

Biology was not destiny

Sex became less frightening

Women became very well educated

Women became leaders

Women became persons

And in less than one year, in the service of one man and the financial and religious institutions he promised to serve, all of the foundation of modern feminine emancipation that was bitterly fought over, carefully tended and vigorously defended, was put in jeopardy and swept away like it never even happened.  If Hillary Clinton hadn’t been defeated, we might never have been made aware of just how tenuous our grip on emancipation actually is.

If women be educated for dependence; that is, to act according to the will of another fallible being, and submit, right or wrong, to power, where are we to stop?
Mary Wollstonecraft

So, Poulos’ question, as loathsome as it is, deserves some attention and there is no time like the present for the party on the left to declare itself.  It either defends women’s rights now, before the election, or it never, ever will.  If you can’t depend on it to put its power to work for you when it needs your votes, you will not get it to put its power to work for you when it doesn’t.  You will have no leverage.

I’m not sure the panel that Chris Hayes assembled was the best one to discuss it, though he seems well intentioned.  His female guests are too young.  They know that something is wrong but they seem confused and bereft of clear argumentation.  They remind me of internet age children during a power failure trying to navigate the world the way it used to be. They grew up with no real sense of what came before so all of this “What are women for?” bullshit caught them by surprise.  Even I am too young, although women my age were closer to the “before time” and still had to put up with the subtle and not so subtle assumption that we were not quite as accomplished in certain subjects as men and were unlikely to get any encouragement or mentoring. It’s been a long hard slog and just when we thought we saw the top, some bunch of financial psychopaths used a chair lift to get their guy to the pinnacle while using a bulldozer to push us back down the mountain.

But even though women my age didn’t fight the hardest battles, we sure as hell know what we have lost.  Mostly, we have lost the unity with other women to know who is on our side and who has our best interests at heart.  And it is not the men who run *either* party.  When it comes to those guys, the parties are indistinguishable.  Women serve one purpose- they are helpmeets for the men who will run things with their assistance.  All of a woman’s talents are to be directed towards whatever goal the men set for everyone.

Women are systematically degraded by receiving the trivial attentions which men think it manly to pay to the sex, when, in fact, men are insultingly supporting their own superiority.
Mary Wollstonecraft

I don’t know why modernity seems to have skipped the United States of America but suspect that religion has the bigger part of the blame. Other developed countries and even some of the world’s most repressive when it comes to gender, have had female heads of state.  But in *THIS* country, we are still asking ourselves “What Are Women For?” as if the fact that they may have personalities, skills, talents, drives and ambitions to change the world, invent new technology, cure cancer, fix economies and solve social problems is still a matter of debate.

Slavery to monarchs and ministers, which the world will be long freeing itself from, and whose deadly grasp stops the progress of the human mind, is not yet abolished.
Mary Wollstonecraft

At this moment in time in our nation’s history, neither party is committed to seeing women as equal persons under the law.  One party believes this is due to nature; the other is just taking advantage of tradition to score political points.  And the problem is more crucial on the left because until someone holds the perpetrators accountable for the sexism that continues to persist, and more alarmingly, seems to be growing, women will continue to lose ground.  There’s nothing that can be done to influence the right.  It is going to continue to treat women like second class citizens until their older population dies out and their younger working men get a fricking clue and turn on the money men who keep their wages from rising.  I have some hope for the former but the latter will take a longer time.

It’s the left, that still has a veneer of fighting for equality and has the more powerful females that should be doing a better job of policing its own.  And the worst thing that those females could have done was let the misogyny of 2008 go unchecked.  They instantly undermined their own position.  Now, we are stuck trudging back up that mountain when it was so unavoidable.  It’s like we almost got to the top of Mount Everest in 2008 and at the last minute decided the last 20 feet were too much trouble.  Or did they decide that getting to the top wasn’t that important after all? Or did they mistakenly assume that reproductive rights in the absence of true constitutional equality was enough?  This is the reason why I think Hayes’ panel was too young.  They have lost sight and perspective of the landscape they are on.  They were their own worst enemies.  In any case, the result has been deadly for all women.

Women are degraded by the propensity to enjoy the present moment, and, at last, despise the freedom which they have not sufficient virtue to struggle to attain.
Mary Wollstonecraft

Neither party is advocating for the rights of more than half of the population.  We are not a minority and we aren’t a special interest group.  The question we need to ask our own side of the political spectrum is do we still subscribe to the principles of the Enlightenment?  Do we still believe in equality and certain unalienable rights and agree that these are also bestowed on women?  Does reason govern our lives or are we still slaves to religious superstition, tradition and political expedience?

The numbers are not in our favor.  Right now, women are a pathetic 16% of the legislative body.  We *lost* representation in the 2010 election and here in New Jersey, the state hasn’t elected a single woman to our Congressional delegation in decades.  This  state is the densest by population in the entire country and we don’t have even one woman representing us in Congress or the Senate.  Until we pump our numbers up in all states, we will continue to devolve and be forced to deal with stupid questions about what we are for.

Women ought to have representatives, instead of being arbitrarily governed without any direct share allowed them in the deliberations of government.
Mary Wollstonecraft

There is only one correct answer to that question: We are for MORE WOMEN.

The beginning is always today.
Mary Wollstonecraft

**********************

Don’t forget that Enlightenment 2.0 kicks off on March 24, 2012 at The Reason Rally.  Mary would approve.

This video isn’t for the Reason Rally but I liked its message so much that I thought I would post it here.  It’s from Evid3nc3, who documented his deconversion from devout Christian to Positive Atheist on youtube.  You can witness his deconversion testimony here.  Highly recommended.  He’s brilliant, sincere and deeply philosophical.  The guy really needs to write a book.  More on him in another post.  He deserves to be famous.

This video starts out with a persecution rant from a Christian.  Very topical.

Saturday:

InterrogationThe kid was nominated by her foreign language department for a summer study program in Germany. She passed the exam and the essay section of the application process. Today, she’s going for the oral interview. The interview starts at 2:00pm. We are ready, er, we think.

Wish her luck.

A little late night ditty for Ron Paul

Before Jane Birkin had a bag named after her…

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