A history lesson on the evangelical movement

Samantha Bee walks us through the process by which evangelical Christians in the US in the 1950s shed their deep disdain for engaging in politics to becoming a powerful political force by the 1980s especially within the Republican party, to then subsequently declining in influence. The Republican choice of Donald Trump this year over the many more religious alternatives such as Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Ben Carson who all explicitly highlighted their religiosity shows the extent of the decline, though they are by no means reduced to insignificance.
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Religious terrorists

During the interfaith panel that I was on recently, in my response to the question of whether there is a heaven, I said that the concept of heaven was not merely a harmless fantasy but harmful because it led people to do awful things in the belief that it would help them get into heaven. I mentioned Islamic terrorists who had committed recent atrocities and the Christian terrorist who gunned down the abortion providers in the belief that he would receive the grateful thanks of fetuses in heaven. I could have, if I had the time, listed Jewish, Buddhist, and Hindu terrorist acts as well.
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Dang! We were this close to proof of heaven

People often ask atheists what it would take for them to believe in the existence of god. I for one can think of an infinite number of things that would persuade me that god exists. When asked I say that if god commandeered all the TV stations in the world to announce that at a particular time the next day s/he would appear in the sky simultaneously all over the world to be seen and heard by everyone and that it indeed happened as promised, that would be pretty conclusive.
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How the Biblical myths came about

Many of us nonreligious people know that pretty much all of the stuff in the Bible are myths that have very little historical foundation, except on the few occasions when it makes contact with events that have independent corroboration and these occur much later in the narrative, beginning with the Assyrian conquest. Independent scholarship in the fields of archeology and other areas have found scant evidence to support the early and foundational stories of Abraham, Moses, the exodus, and the like.
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The sincerity of religious beliefs and doctrines

Over the weekend I attended a very interesting talk on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) by Nicholas Little who is the Legal Director for the Center for Inquiry. He reminded us that RFRA was originally meant to provide legal protection for minority religious practices but is now being used by majority religions to gain privileges and discriminate against others and has become the main vehicle for people to argue against the Affordable Care Act. He said that while courts are required to give deference to the religious beliefs of people because of RFRA, the closely related Religious Land Use And Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), and the Free Exercise of religion clause of the First Amendment, this poses a problem with people who try to use that to get special privileges.
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Why isn’t Sanders’s run for the presidency being hailed as historic?

On February 9, Bernie Sanders broke through a significant barrier in US political history.

“Bernie Sanders made history on Tuesday night as he became the first Jewish-American to win a presidential primary.

The milestone falls just eight days after Ted Cruz became the first Hispanic-American to win a presidential nominating contest with his win in the Iowa Caucuses.

Sanders is not the first Jewish-American to run for president. Both former Pennsylvania senator Arlen Specter and former Connecticut senator Joe Lieberman mounted unsuccessful campaigns for the White House in 1996 and 2004, respectively. Further, the Republican nominee for president in 1964, Barry Goldwater, was of Jewish descent but was a practicing Episcopalian.

But Sanders is the first Jewish-American candidate, not to mention the first non-Christian candidate of any denomination, to win a state in a presidential primary.”

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