A majority of Americans think god especially loves the US

As America celebrates the anniversary of its declaration of independence from England today, we will hear many expressions of patriotism. Mixed in with all of them will be sentiments that suggest that America is god’s favorite country. These sentiments are repeated all the time in public life and are pretty much obligatory for any politician in the US running for elected office. Anyone who as much as hints that perhaps god does not care much for national boundaries would be doomed to defeat.
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Book review: How to Defeat Religion in 10 Easy Steps (2015) by Ryan T. Gragun

The title of this new book provides further evidence, if one needed it, of the self-assurance that the atheist community now exhibits. We have come a long way from the days when atheists were unable to speak of their lack of faith due to feat of persecution. That state of affairs still exists in a few places, mainly in some Muslim-majority countries, but in the rest of the world nonbelievers have progressed steadily: from being in the closet, to coming out to publicly, to making the intellectual case for atheism, to taking more or less for granted that atheism is the better way of understanding the world. The final stage is looking at practical ways to help atheists deal with coming out, discussing morality and death and other important and existential questions from an atheist perspective, and taking the battle to religion with the confidence that they can defeat it.
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Two more (short-term) victories at the Supreme Court

The religious right has been successful at chipping away at the right of women to get abortions and contraceptives, putting in one restriction after another. The US Supreme Court has generally gone along with these moves but at the very end of the past term the court issued two rulings that, at least in the short term, seemed to go the other way.
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Leave god’s rainbow alone!

The anti-gay bigots are feeling under siege. Not only are they are upset that the word ‘gay’ has been appropriated so that it can’t be used to mean happy anymore, they find it an abomination that gay people are now publicly visible and openly present everywhere, adopting children, and otherwise acting like ordinary people. They see the Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriages as an ominous sign and as first step towards the day when the only marriages that can take place are gay marriages.
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Orthodox Latinos?

It is not only evangelical Christians who oppose same-sex marriage. Orthodox Jews also dislike it and were upset by the Supreme Court verdict. One group of Orthodox Jews decided to protest New York’s Gay Pride parade held over the weekend but an acute observer noticed that there was something not quite right about the man clad in traditional black Orthodox garb and hat and with long hair.
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The pope’s encyclical on climate change and inequality

I have not read pope Francis’s 40,000 word encyclical Laudato Si’ dealing with climate change and its relationship with inequality. But Joshua J. McElwee, the Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, has read it and summarizes some of the key points. There is no doubt that this document is going to infuriate conservatives in the US even though the basic message would be considered uncontroversial in most parts of the world.
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Who says that religious fundamentalists are dogmatic?

Shannon Grove, a California Assemblywoman, has put the lie to the idea that religious nutcases never change their minds. She used to think that the terrible drought in her state was caused by environmentalists who prioritized the needs of fish over people but now she says she knows better and that it is actually caused by the state’s abortion policies that she thinks are too liberal.
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North Carolina showing the way for same-sex opponents?

I have mentioned that although opponents of same-sex marriage are threatening to defy any decision by the US Supreme Court that says that bans on same-sex marriage violate the constitution, they have been vague about what specific actions they might take. From North Carolina comes one possible tactic. Their Republican-controlled legislature passed a law that said that magistrates and clerks can choose to not perform same-sex marriages. The governor of the state, also a Republican who opposes same-sex marriage, had vetoed the bill on the grounds that employees of the state who have taken an oath to carry out faithfully the duties of their office should not be allowed to pick and choose whom they serve. But the legislature overrode the veto and this policy is now law.
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