Former President Ronald Reagan’s son and namesake Ron Reagan is literally the poster-person against religion. While the younger Reagan has been doing ads on news channels for the Freedom from Religion Foundation, it will be his father’s words that will hover over the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio in July.
“We establish no religion in this country… Church and state are, and must remain, separate,” the billboard will read.
“The RNC needs to be reminded that our nation is predicated on a godless and entirely secular Constitution,” she said. “The fate of our Establishment Clause hangs in the balance of the election. We’re not voting for the next president — we’re voting for the next Supreme Court justice.”
The local chapter director, Marni Huebner-Tiborsky, agreed that the message is an important one for Republican leaders to remember. “This billboard couldn’t be any more timely, and is definitely needed to remind our political leaders and the public that political campaigns should stick to a secular platform, where real change can happen,” she says.
Full Story Here. While I do think this might turn some heads, I doubt it will make a serious impact at this late date in the game. I also think the current crop of repubs is simply too far gone to consider this seriously, although it will hurt to see St. Ronnie going against their constant screed.
Alternately, Thoughts and Prayers # 896,367.
The aftermath of our all too regular mass homicides follows a familiar pattern. “Thoughts and prayers” are with survivors, victims’ families and the affected city. There are defiant assertions from the horrorstruck that, “We will not tolerate this any longer.”
Some politicians call for an end to hate and better coordination between law enforcement agencies. And others, when there’s a whiff of Islamic heritage involved, play the “enemy is here” card, recklessly injecting accelerant into the roiling emotions of the moment.
For the media, standard reaction reporting involves transcribing pretty much all of the above. In the case of the Boston Marathon bombing, the Ft. Hood shooting, Paris, San Bernardino and now Orlando, it’s also standard practice to log the response from leaders of various religious faiths, most of whom encourage restraint and emphasize that Muslims themselves are collateral victims of these atrocities. The good, dutiful notion being to develop a body of sympathy that reflects solidarity among the broader local religious community.
While the Strib and the PiPress haven’t gone the latter route yet, at least when I called Monday, National Public Radio was hitting all the customary notes.
And all that is fine insofar as the objective is to register the solidarity of the community at large. But if the intention is ever to discuss the “perversion of religion,” a common enough refrain today and in past incidents involving radicalized Muslims, there’s at least one group, silent but no longer all that small or irrelevant, that the media rarely draws into these discussions, such as they are: atheists.
“I think we were called once, some time after 9/11,” says August Berkshire. “And no, no one else has called today.”
Berkshire is the founder and past president of MinnesotaAtheists . He’s been active in the cause of challenging the belief systems of organized religions since the mid-1980s and jokes that current membership in the state is “probably around 250,000, although most haven’t paid their dues yet.”
Humor aside, Berkshire, a local delivery truck driver by day, is serious about the value of inserting an atheist perspective into conversations about religiously inspired violence. “Look, prayer didn’t do anything to stop this latest attack and prayer won’t do anything to stop this kind of violence from happening again. All it may do is make some people feel good for a while.”
But if the point is to engender an honest debate, you’d expect the atheist view to at least have a seat at the media table in moments like this. “Look,” says Berkshire, “at their origin, all three of the Abrahamic religions — Christianity, Judaism and Islam — preach and warn against homosexuality. They’re antigay. A lot of their followers today may be cafeteria Christians, Jews and Muslims, picking and choosing what they want. But I’m talking at their scriptural origins. We reject that. Atheists reject the teachings of religions for a lot of reasons, but among them is the lack of respect for science. Atheists, if I have to point it out, are very accepting of gay equality and other minority issues. We understand that.”
With 23 percent of Americans in 2014 describing themselves as “nones,” which is to say having no religious affiliation, a nearly 50 percent increase since 2007, the atheist, or agnostic or “nothing in particular” perspective would seem to warrant at least as much regular reporting as what we get on priests, ministers and rabbis, certainly more than the “almost never” Berkshire describes.
Perhaps the problem with pulling atheists into a conversation about the “perversion of religion” is that spokespeople like Berkshire lack the curriculum vitae of traditional religious leaders. I mean, a guy who drives a truck cheek by jowl in a discussion with a priest, a minister and a rabbi?
But maybe the real issue is that the taint of taboo that still hangs to word “atheist.” Conventional journalism is partial to conventional wisdom and despite the steadily slumping numbers in church/synagogue/mosque attendance — and the rapid increase in those tuning out traditional religious messages — conventional journalistic wisdom has not yet reached a comfort point with overt atheism. Until that point is reached, speculation here is that mainstream news organizations will continue to treat it like a semi-reputable curiosity.
Naturally, Christians showed up at the Reason Rally to do some preaching. It takes time to get to the clash between the U.S. Park officers and the preachers (around the 9:00 minute mark), so I listened to a fair amount of the standard nonsense, mostly about hell, but there was one interesting bit. The preacher (who is, I assume, Buddy Fisher) is carrying on about us decadent atheists, how we love our sin, our drunkenness, our sex outside marriage, our…muff diving. The preacher seemed to realize that he may have skittered off the rails a bit with that one, and quickly moved to a different tack. Back to more of the same old, if we’re just a bag of chemicals, there’s no love, yada, yada, yada, some odd stuff about Hemingway being an authentic atheist because he killed himself, and before long, the park cops show up. They are quiet, and polite, and explain that the preachers have a choice of two different locations to where they can move. Oh no. No, no, no. Preacher whips out this paper, and explains this court case, and that they have The Heckler’s Veto! You can’t make us move! Magic Court Papers! (I think the court case was Bible Believers v. Wayne County.) They keep arguing, the video ends.
Oh look, here comes the continuation! A description on the second video reads: ”Part 2 of unlawfully being removed from the Reason Rally 2016 in Washington DC. Officers Burnett and White unlawfully remove Christians from an event that is free and open to the public being held by a group of atheists with a non-exclusive permit. Their permit allows them to set up the stage, amplifiers, etc, but does not give them the authority to remove us from public property. Atheists are cowards and the police ignore the law.”
Via The Blaze.
Christian morality is being ushered out of American social structures and off the cultural main stage, leaving a vacuum in its place—and the broader culture is attempting to fill the void. New research from Barna reveals growing concern about the moral condition of the nation, even as many American adults admit they are uncertain about how to determine right from wrong. So what do Americans believe? Is truth relative or absolute? And do Christians see truth and morality in radically different ways from the broader public, or are they equally influenced by the growing tide of secularism and religious skepticism?
Again with this “oh no, Christianity is on the very brink of extinction!” The hell it is. If that were the case, then why are constant attempts to legislate Christian bigotry happening every 5 bloody seconds? Why is there a never ending fight against Christian based hatred of this group, that group, every group but the Christian one? All this wailing and weeping over nothing.
While most American adults agree that culture plays some role in establishing moral norms, a majority also agrees “the Bible provides us with absolute moral truths which are the same for all people in all situations, without exception” (59%). There is broad agreement across age groups, which is surprising when one considers the notable generational differences on other questions related to morality. When it comes to faith groups, practicing Christians (83%), as one might expect, are much more likely to agree with the statement than others, especially those with no faith (28%). In fact, more than half of practicing Christians strongly agree (56%).
I am sick to death of Christian ‘morality’. There’s no such thing. What there is, is Christian hate. What passes for Christian morality is patriarchal privilege, sitting in judgment and ruling over every tiny aspect of others’ lives. If that patriarchal privilege is eroded even by the smallest amount, the wailing, weeping, gnashing of teeth, and panic sets in.
Americans are both concerned about the nation’s moral condition and confused about morality itself. As nominally Christian moral norms are discarded what, if anything, is taking their place? Barna’s research reveals the degree to which Americans pledge allegiance to the “morality of self-fulfillment,” a new moral code that, as David Kinnaman, President of Barna argues, has all but replaced Christianity as the culture’s moral norm.
Emphasis is mine. Once again, the fuck it has. Mr. Kinnaman, is the president of Barna, supposedly a non-partisan organization, who has written a book about faith and being a good Christian. So, we continue with the stream of melodramatic glurge from those who insist that Christianity is dying, slain by secularism.
The morality of self-fulfillment can be summed up in six guiding principles, as seen in the table below.
“The highest good, according to our society, is ‘finding yourself’ and then living by ‘what’s right for you,'” says David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group in Good Faith: Being a Christian When Society Thinks You’re Irrelevant and Extreme. “There is a tremendous amount of individualism in today’s society, and that’s reflected in the church too. Millions of Christians have grafted New Age dogma onto their spiritual person. When we peel back the layers, we find that many Christians are using the way of Jesus to pursue the way of self. . . . While we wring our hands about secularism spreading through culture, a majority of churchgoing Christians have embraced corrupt, me-centered theology.
Remember Ray’s plan to invade the Reason Rally, and sway black, atheist hearts with cheap Subway gift cards? Well, Washington police have nixed his grand plan:
Ray Comfort is reluctantly canceling plans to give books and gift cards for Subway sandwiches to atheists at a coming rally in Washington. Police forced him to cancel, he explained to WND, because of the size of his contingency. More than 1,000 Christians had volunteered to help hand out the gifts to atheists who will be attending this year’s Reason Rally. […] The huge number of people who volunteered to join him apparently caused concern among Washington police. “To the D.C. police,” he said, “that constituted a protest and therefore we needed a permit to gather. We would have to stay at the other end of the National Mall, and they said that if we persisted to approach atheists to speak with them we would be arrested.”
He still plans to be there with a crew of 17 people.
“In what is so often a cruel world, we tried to show a little kindness and it didn’t work. So it now looks like we will be eating Subway sandwiches for the next 40 years,” he said.
A little kindness? Oh, ever the liar, Ray. You were grandstanding again, looking to feed your ego, rather than doing something truly kind, like feeding people who are desperately hungry. It seems even when your planned arrogance is quashed, you still can’t manage that simple act of kindness.
Full Story Here (be warned, it’s mostly a praise and link dump all about Ray, Ray, Ray.)
On Tuesday night, the Waynesboro [Pa] Area School Board voted on a motion to accept a gift of several plaques that say “In God We Trust,” and put them up in the lobbies of six district public schools. Local businessman Tom McCloud officially offered the plaques as donations to the county’s public schools back in March.
Several supporters of the national motto spoke up at Tuesday’s school board meeting, in favor of installing the plaques. “It’s such a positive story, it’s such a uniting force,” said Pennsylvania State Representative Rick Saccone (R-Allegheny and Washington). “Our kids need that…sorely need that today.”
Not everyone agrees, however – atheist groups in Pennsylvania have already come out against it. While most who spoke at the school board meeting support the plaques, one Navy veteran, who called himself a “proud Christian,” took the podium to oppose the plaques.
“Many members of the community – Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist – all pay taxes and support,” said John Bryan, a resident of the Waynesboro area. “They might not wish their child to see that in the school, and I believe the proper place for it is in church or in the home.”
On the other hand, critics said “In God We Trust” only gained popularity during the Cold War era. The words became the national motto in 1956, during the “Red Scare” toward Soviet Russia and communism.
“There is absolutely no mention of God in our founding documents, and there is a reason for that,” Bryan added. “E pluribus unum – out of many people, out of many cultures, out of many religions – we come together as one people.”
Way to go, Mr. Bryan, and thank you. Full Story Here.
Some of the professor’s most heated recent spats have unfolded on social media. He has qualified some of his Twitter remarks and lamented that medium’s lack of nuance, but embraces it nonetheless.
Or at least, he used to.
“I’ve given up Twitter,” Prof Dawkins says quietly but curtly. The tweets that appear in his name, apparently, are the work of the staff at his Foundation for Reason and Science.
“I occasionally ask them to post something, which they do, but I’ve given up doing it myself.”
It’s about time. Source.
With an increasing number of Americans leaving religion behind, the University of Miami received a donation in late April from a wealthy atheist to endow what it says is the nation’s first academic chair “for the study of atheism, humanism and secular ethics.”
The chair has been established after years of discussion with a $2.2 million donation from Louis J. Appignani, a retired businessman and former president and chairman of the modeling school Barbizon International, who has given grants to many humanist and secular causes — though this is his largest so far. The university, which has not yet publicly announced the new chair, will appoint a committee of faculty members to conduct a search for a scholar to fill the position.
“I’m trying to eliminate discrimination against atheists,” said Mr. Appignani, who is 83 and lives in Florida. “So this is a step in that direction, to make atheism legitimate.”
Religion departments and professors of religious studies are a standard feature at most colleges and universities, many originally founded by ministers and churches. The study of atheism and secularism is only now starting to emerge as an accepted academic field, scholars say, with its own journal, conferences, course offerings and, now, an endowed chair.
The number of people who say they have no religion is rapidly escalating and significantly outweighs the Christian population in England and Wales, according to new analysis.
The proportion of the population who identify as having no religion – referred to as “nones” – reached 48.5% in 2014, almost double the figure of 25% in the 2011 census. Those who define themselves as Christian – Anglicans, Catholics and other denominations – made up 43.8% of the population.
“The striking thing is the clear sense of the growth of ‘no religion’ as a proportion of the population,” said Stephen Bullivant, senior lecturer in theology and ethics at St Mary’s Catholic University in Twickenham, who analysed data collected through British Social Attitudes surveys over three decades.
“The main driver is people who were brought up with some religion now saying they have no religion. What we’re seeing is an acceleration in the numbers of people not only not practising their faith on a regular basis, but not even ticking the box. The reason for that is the big question in the sociology of religion.”
The new analysis will fuel concern among Christian leaders about growing indifference to organised religion. This year the Church of England said it expected attendance to continue to fall for another 30 years as its congregations age and the millennial generation spurns the institutions of faith.
According to Bullivant’s report, Contemporary Catholicism in England and Wales – which will be launched at the House of Commons on Tuesday, both the Anglican and Catholic churches are struggling to retain people brought up as Christians.
Four out 10 adults who were raised as Anglicans define themselves as having no religion, and almost as many “cradle Catholics” have abandoned their family faith to become “nones”.
Neither church is bringing in fresh blood through conversions. Anglicans lose 12 followers for every person they recruit, and Catholics 10.
The vast majority of converts come from other Christian denominations, rather than non-Christians or people with no religion. “There’s a kind of denominational musical chairs,” said Bullivant. “No one is making serious inroads into the non-Christian population.”
A spokesperson for the Church of England said: “The increase in those identifying as ‘no faith’ reflects a growing plurality in society rather than any increase in secularism or humanism. We do not have an increasingly secular society as much as a more agnostic one.
“In a global context, adherence to religion is growing rather than decreasing. Christianity remains the world’s largest religion with over 2 billion adherents. In the UK the latest census found the overwhelming majority of people to have a faith.”
Pastor Jeff Hayes of Faith Temple Church responded to 20 atheist-themed billboards in his city that display messages such as “God didn’t create man” and “prayer doesn’t work,” by telling local news station KOTA-TV that atheists who criticize religion might just be “pre-Christian people” who need prayer to experience a personal spiritual awakening.
“I think it’s good for Christians to have a reaction and we can be negative toward the Free Thinkers but I think we should just pray for them and just believe that, wow if there is a God, is He big enough to reveal Himself to them,” Hayes added.
“Pre-Christian”. Is this like “Pre-Owned” and “Pre-Born”?
The Atheists of Russia movement has held its founding convention in Moscow, setting its primary goal as resistance to the growing influence of religion and appointing an activist from a vocal leftist party as its leader.
According to Interfax about 300 people from 50 regions across Russia took part in the founding convention. They declared that their group will fight against the influence of religious institutions on society.
“Believers and atheists must have equal rights, the state has no right to interfere with the activities of any church, but the same applies to religions – they have no right to interfere with the affairs of the state,” the newly appointed leader of the movement, Ilya Ulianov, told reporters on Friday.
I wish them all the best, and if there are ways to help, I will. The Russian Orthodox church won’t give a fraction of an inch willingly. In related news, the rarely publicized, but ongoing actual persecution of atheists continues:
Should it be a crime to deny the existence of God?
In the Russian city of Stavropol, Viktor Krasnov, a 38-year-old man, faces trial, charged with publicly insulting Orthodox Church believers by supporting atheism in social media. For proclaiming in a heated Internet exchange “there is no God,” Krasnov was confined for a month to a local hospital for psychiatric evaluation. If convicted under Russia’s blasphemy law, enacted in 2013 and making it illegal to “insult the religious convictions or feelings of citizens,” he may spend up to a year in prison.
Russia, however, is not the only country where atheists face punishment. As noted in country chapters of its Annual Report, released on Monday, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), on which we serve, has found no shortage of nations that perpetrate or permit their persecution. It is time for our country to shine a powerful spotlight on these abuses.
Kali Holloway has an article at AlterNet about how America compares to the rest of the world.
…The conservative American notion that people with far better healthcare, civil rights laws and gun control “hate our freedom” is a wishful imperialist delusion. Worse, it’s not fooling anybody at this point.
That said, if all the world’s a stage, America is a prime player: a rich, loud, attention-seeking celebrity not fully deserving of its starring role, often putting in a critically reviled performance and tending toward histrionics that threaten to ruin the show for everybody else. (Also, embarrassingly, possibly the last to know that its career as top biller is in rapid decline.) To the outside onlooker, American culture—I’m consolidating an infinitely layered thing to save time and space—is contradictory and bizarre, hypocritical and self-congratulatory. Its national character is a textbook study in narcissistic tendencies coupled with crushing insecurity issues.
How to reconcile a country that fetishizes violence and is squeamish about sex; conflates Christianity and consumerism; says it loves liberty yet made human rights violations a founding principle? In conversations with non-Americans, should the topic of the U.S. come up, there are often expressions of incredulity and bewilderment about things that seem weird when you aren’t from here. Talk and think about those things enough, and they also start to seem objectively weird if you are from here, too.
That perception is held even by countries that share similarities with America. The Pew Research Center rounded up surveys from recent years that point out some of the ways American and European attitudes diverge, not infrequently widely. Obviously, there’s plenty of cultural difference among European countries, and surveys aren’t necessarily nuanced in describing how the citizens of entire countries see the world. But these polls do tell us something about the things large swaths of those countries agree on, as well as how those popular ideas tend to differ from pervasive notions and sensibilities within America.