Is Texas doomed to another theocratic governor?

“Texas has been red since dinosaurs roamed the state 6,000 years ago. At least that is what the Texas history books say.” The Daily Show with Jon Stewart has been filming from Austin, TX. this week.  After, a clip of the stupid ass things that our elected officials do and say, Stewart made the humorous observation that Texas would vote for a drunk guy in a bar hitting on a lesbian.

Texas is saying goodbye to Rick Perry, whose “austerity” measures included cutting 5 billion dollars from the state’s education budget. The cuts resulted in 25,000 teachers and also tax payers losing their jobs. Meanwhile, Perry and the GOP including Governor hopeful Greg Abbott and Lt. Governor hopeful Dan Patrick, funneled 200 million dollars taxpayer money into the Texas Enterprise Fund.

The fund is being audited, and is widely being called a slush fund. Four companies were given 42 million dollars without even submitting an application. Abbott is our current attorney general, and he issued rulings that suppressed this information from the public. He also received 1.4 million dollars in quid pro quo campaign contributions from these companies.

Stewart was joking about what a lot of Texans will elect here, but it is funny because it isn’t that far off the mark.  Abbott is leading so far in the early voting polls in double digits.  Wendy Davis is the best thing for Texas right now. She filibustered twice to try to stop draconian educations cuts and abortion over-regulation. But even people like some of the very teachers, who lost their jobs, won’t take a minute to think about it. There are teachers right now in this state, who will still vote red regardless, sitting in overcrowded classrooms trying to teach a tenth of the America’s often poorest students.

It’s not an exaggeration, or Abbott wouldn’t be leading after messing this state over for his own gain. A Davis campaigner came to our door, and told us that people are telling them, “I vote life.” When the GOP is not lining their pockets with tax payer money here, they are spending millions of dollars for extra sessions to pass draconian abortion restrictions that have reduced the state’s abortion clinics from 43 to 8. They have already demonstrated how little they care about educating the children that are already born.

In reality why should they? An uniformed populace keeps electing them, because they think stopping poor women from choosing when or if they will be a parent is what their God wants. Realistically, many Christian women with the means will continue to get abortions.

The beauty of it for the GOP here is that it is self serving because rich Christian values voters are their greatest campaign contributors. They don’t have to fix the real problems this state has, like repeat teen pregnancy, unprepared college students, the shrinking middle class, the loss of living wage revenue generating jobs, storage of hazardous materials, the burgeoning prison population, etc. The solution has always been to refer people to God rather than actually do something about the problems here.

Top all that off with immigration issues exacerbated by a humanitarian crisis caused by the drug war that has been raging in Mexico that has already claimed thousands of lives. Civilians are being beheaded, tortured, raped, and terrorized by drug cartels and members of their own government. Will there be a war on terror there? No. The victims there are frankly not white enough. The United States is the largest consumer of drugs from Mexico. Here on the Texas border our response has been to be Mexico’s largest gun suppliers.

 According to the US Government Accountability Office, 87% of firearms seized by Mexico over the previous five years were traced to the US. Texas was the single largest source. The US attorney general, Eric Holder, told Congress last month that of 94,000 weapons captured from drug traffickers by the Mexican authorities, over 64,000 originated in the US.

So not only do we help make a humanitarian crises, by being the largest consumer of illegal drugs, we also supply the guns to Mexico and we still think Iraq is our greatest foreign policy problem. On the borders of Texas, California, and Arizona; people have fought to keep immigrant children from getting asylum from the problem we are complicit in creating in Mexico and Central America.

Another recipient of our education  system here, or another Republican constituent.

Another recipient of our education system here, or another Republican constituent.

The problems here in Texas, and the problems we are causing our neighbors are not getting better touting Republican values and pandering to Christians on the taxpayer’s dime in lieu of actual solutions like a sane decriminalized drug policy. Yet we stand here in Texas ready to elect a successor to Perry, who has already shown that he will make things worse. Both GOP candidates are avid creationists.

There is a small hope for the Texas and the rest of the nation. Texas is rapidly browning. It is an irreversible trend that started in 2005 when Texas became one of five majority minority states. Unfortunately, minority voters are disadvantaged in this state by gerrymandering, and SCOTUS overturning the Voting Rights Act which gave the justice department oversight in how districts are drawn. So we do have Texas carved up like a Christmas turkey with as much advantages as can be given to creating Republican districts.

Imagine this for a brief shining moment. All of Texas’s electoral votes going to a blue presidential candidate. The GOP would have to actually stop their pandering and fear mongering and actually do something to maintain their standing, or never have a Republican president ever again. A side note for the secular community, diversity is critical to ensuring a secular government. We don’t want to trade one theocracy for another by not making inroads into minority communities.

But how about the hope for Wendy Davis for governor on November 4th? It is probably no coincidence that hope was included by the Greeks in Pandora’s box.  It can be the cruelest emotion.  For reasons l already outlined and Stewart joked about, many Texans vote with their gut rather than their brains. The GOP cultivates that here with their insistence on Christian values that are often immoral like forced pregnancy.

However, most religious minorities still vote blue, and they are catching up. The problem with this is they have a more difficult time voting both because of restrictive Republican backed voting laws, and financial reasons like not having a car or not being to get off work to vote. There has been increased minority early voting. This shows that despite obstacles that if there is something to vote for they will turn out.

Davis can still win, but it will require turnout from dissatisfied GOP and Independent women and teachers. The greatest factor will be how apathetic the progressive voters are here.  Aron and I often encounter resistance to voting even by secularists here. The response sometimes range from…

  • I don’t vote. The lesser of 2 evils is often invoked.

This shows they haven’t put much thought into who is running this cycle even after many years of Rick Perry. The best thing to remind people here, who don’t go beyond disgust at politics,  is that if you vote the most reasonable candidate that the votes for unreasonable candidates like Abbott will dry up. This has happened in the past when staunch segregationists jumped party lines when they saw the writing on the wall. Better yet, it would make more progressive parties like the Green Party viable, because voters would migrate to the Democratic Party. This would open up more room for a more Progressive party than the Democrats.

  • Texas should secede! That is the smug liberal or inhumane libertarian hipsters in the larger communities response. It is also the response of people who haven’t done the glaringly obvious math.

Even if they could set aside the millions of human beings that are under the thumb of regressive policies here. They would be okay with having a jingoistic country on their border that would then have almost half of America’s oil reserves. A better dystopian idea would be to set aside a state like maybe Kansas (just joking Kansas) with fewer natural resources, and ship every morally undeveloped, empathy impaired, and therefore stunted human being there. We would ship all the progressives out. Then the citizens of that country could do as they please. They could run freely with scissors till their hearts content, not give a damn about anyone, poke each other’s eyes out, pray to god to make them richer and destroy their enemies… Imagine the possibilities, but we don’t have to unfortunately because we have Texas politics. More or less.

People need to vote. There are other states where the tea party has done a better job of organizing than progressives. That is the one thing they have going for them they don’t sit on their asses hoping for a more god soaked government. They are slowly and maniacally making that a reality all over the country. Progressives take note and provided you don’t have a condition that disenfranchises you like a disability, vote Nov 4th. Even if I wake up to another Tea Party Governor, (Ye non-existent gods noooo!!!!!!) at least I can say I am not part of the problem.

Courtney Caldwell and Sarah Moglia joining me to discuss secular anti-choice arguments withMSS

So I won’t be the “token woman” on this round of discussion on the Magic Sandwich Show.  Sarah Moglia has already weighed in on her opinion of secular arguments against abortion. Also Courtney Caldwell will be joining the discussion . I first became aware of her when she liveblogged the Wendy Davis filibuster.

Should be an interesting discussion on this topic with well informed women on the topic of reproductive rights. Hopefully we can persuade more people to get off the fence and support reproductive rights and reject irrational anti-choice arguments. This is not an easy discussion for most of us to have, and I hope it will be valuable.

[notice]Magic Sandwich Show at 2:00 PM CST[/notice]

 

 

Reaching the choir

Much discussion has focused on bringing women and minority groups into the secular fold.  Considering the gender gap in secular communities (these numbers are from America) this is a laudable goal.  Conversely, in religious communities there is an inverse relationship in the ratios of women and ethnic minorities. From Protestant communities where there are 8 percent more women than men to Jehovah’s Witnesses and Historically Black Churches where there are 20 percent more women than men. There is a real disparity in the secular community between gender and ethnic minorities and white males. In fact atheists equal the Mormon Church, a racially segregated community until the 1970s, in disproportionate ratios of whites to ethnic minorities with 86 percent white adherents to 14 percent ethnic minority adherents.

Why is there a gap between women and ethnic minority participation in the secular community? That’s the million dollar question.

Some charts with data collected by the Pew Forum’s Religious Landscape Survey…

table-gender-by-tradition

table-ethnicity-by-tradition

Unfortunately often when these sorts of questions are asked; there are superficial answers that affirm the status quo rather than brainstorm solutions to the problem. To paraphrase some have speculated that women are less likely to be secular because they aren’t “intellectually active” enough. On the underrepresentation of ethnic minorities; I’ve sat in presentations where whites have asked black speakers why blacks are Christian because of slavery in the Bible. There is a bit of lazy thinking that comes with stereotyping and overgeneralizing going on. Especially by secularists who aren’t members of these groups, and lack the personal experiences or they haven’t taken the time and thought required to educate themselves to understand a different point of view.

One often neglected piece of data on the topic of secular diversity is income.

table-income-by-tradition

Christians still hold an eroding majority at 78 percent of the US population. About 30 percent of Protestants and Catholics, the largest sects of Christianity, live under the poverty line. In comparison atheists and agnostics are about 4 percent of the population, and about 20 percent of them live under the poverty line. If you look at the numbers for historically black churches the number jumps to 47 percent. Another church with a high level of minority participation are the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Half of the JWs are black and latino and 42 percent of their members live beneath the poverty line.

It’s true that at about 40 percent college graduates atheists and agnostics are better educated than the average Protestant and far exceed churches with majority minority populations. Education is definitely a factor in religiosity. However the list of most educated adherents also reads like which groups have better access to education in this country by culture or income. Not just for women and minorities, but for everyone affected by poverty including whites. So you still can’t tease income out of the equation.

Religious institutions have traditions in place that support the poor. However, the support can often come with ideological beliefs that trap their adherents in the cycle of poverty. The Catholic Church’s stance forbidding birth control is a good example of this.

My experiences growing up in both the Catholic and the Southern Baptist Church doctrines limited my choices as a woman. I was told early and often that my role in life was to be subservient to a man. These doctrines condition women to accept patriarchal authority without question. Looking back on it now deciding who’s in charge of important decisions by genitals rather than critical thinking was not a good idea. Studies have shown that educated, empowered women make better life choices that fight the cycle of poverty.

Some organizations in the secular community are working to close the income gap by offering childcare and low cost and free admissions. Skepticon every year is supported by donations. It is an example of an organization that saw a need and stepped up to fill it. Low cost regional conferences like FreeOK help to alleviate problems caused by the cost of travel. Internet conferences like  FTBCon and internet resources like podcasts, blogs, and youtube help to close the income gap too.

One of the most interesting findings of the Pew Forum’s study is that the “Religiously Unaffiliated” is the fastest growing population of them all. The Catholic Church is losing the most to attrition, but they are staying even by immigration. Although Protestants still have the most adherents in the US especially in the South, it too is in decline. The young are where churches are losing the most adherents to us. If the trend continues most people will be unchurched. Secular organizations will hopefully rise to the occasion and welcome the newcomers.

One group that interests me that could use more focus is evangelicals. They are most often from the South. I live in the South, and was raised in a Southern Baptist Church. So I have had a front row seat to the havoc they wreak on public policy in education, reproductive rights, poverty and so on. Can they be reached? The answer sometimes is surprisingly yes. Matt Dillahunty and Beth Presswood of the Atheist Experience and Seth Andrews of The Thinking Atheist are examples of evangelicals gone rogue. Their media outreach has helped other evangelicals to see the light of reason.

It is one area where me and Aron Ra are different. He doesn’t understand why believers believe because he never really had strong religious beliefs. There is a disconnect between unchurched and lifelong disbelievers and former believers that gives rise to generalizations just like with any group that is prone to being misunderstood. The secular community can always find new ways to welcome former believers, and that can only be improved with greater understanding.

Towards that goal, I have asked Tasa Proberts, former believer and musician for the GUTS megachurch In Oklahoma to chat with me and Shanon Nebo on The Nones about her deconversion from evangelical Christian to atheist. Part of what helped her deconvert is the outreach of The Atheist Experience. We’ll be joined by the Atheist Experience’s Russell Glasser and Jen Peeples. We will also have Recovering from Religion Tulsa facilitator Rhonda Dorle on. It should be interesting if you want insight into former believers to have a greater understanding of them, or if you are a former believer too and want to help, or if you are an evangelical looking for a way out.

[important]The show will be on Thursday December 19th on our youtube channel. I will also post a link to watch it here on the day of the show. Visit our facebook for updates.  You can also PM us there with story ideas or questions.[/important]

[notice] This is the link to watch the show directly https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IExEG9dKzdg[/notice]