Project Blitz: another assault on our freedoms


This isn’t new — Christians have been demanding the right to invade public schools for years — but now there’s a new coordinated effort to push the Bible into classrooms called Project Blitz.

Activists on the religious right, through their legislative effort Project Blitz, drafted a law that encourages Bible classes in public schools and persuaded at least 10 state legislatures to introduce versions of it this year. Georgia and Arkansas recently passed bills that are awaiting their governors’ signatures.

Among the powerful fans of these public-school Bible classes: President Trump.

“Numerous states introducing Bible Literacy classes, giving students the option of studying the Bible,” Trump tweeted in January. “Starting to make a turn back? Great!”

You want to teach the Bible as a historical document? Fine. I have no problem with that. But that’s not what they want, because teaching it as one would, say, the Iliad, means contrasting it with the archaeological evidence, discussing its role, good and bad, in society, and examining its values critically. Achilles was a petulant, selfish killer…and so were those Hebrew warriors who committed genocide to secure their conquered territory. It would have to be taught as a piece of human literature, not some divine and infallible word of a god, and the theocrats who are pushing these laws are not intending that at all.

There is no critical thinking anywhere in their agenda. Take, for example, this teacher who eagerly leapt for a Bible class, because it was “easy”.

Maggie Dowdy said she picked this course because she thought it would be easy. After all, she already knew the Bible from church.

When the class started with the very first Bible story — the story of creation — she was glad she had chosen it. Here at last was the story of human origins that she believed in — not the facts of evolution that she had been taught in her high school science class.

“When I started learning about [evolution], I thought: ‘That’s not true. Here’s what I believe,’ ” Dowdy said. “I just kind of push it aside now. I know what I believe in. It’s just something the teachers have to teach us, but, no, I believe in creation.”

Other students echoed her. “We’ve always in science learned that perspective, evolution and the big bang,” Morgan Guess said. “This is the class that allows us the other perspective.”

That’s familiar: that’s Ken Ham’s relativism. If you’re ignorant of the evidence and don’t care about weighing the facts, you can just say that every interpretation is mere opinion, and that believing the earth is 6000 years old is just as valid as recognizing the evidence that it is 4.5 billion years old. But that’s not any kind of education or science! It’s saying that “I have a prior belief, I choose to only look at the assertions that reassure me it’s true.” It’s not “another perspective”, it’s willful ignorance, and it’s the antithesis of teaching and learning.

Americans United has a campaign to monitor and stop Project Blitz. There’s also a coalition of secular groups called Blitzwatch working to oppose it.

One danger is that even critical articles, like that one from the Washington Post, always portray the people implementing these religious practices as nice, normal, well-meaning people, the pastor next door type, who just wants their students to know how lovely the Beatitudes are. That’s the mask. It’s how they build popular support. But at some point the mask will slip — gosh, isn’t it a shame that gay people don’t obey the loving word of God? Then it falls off — the gay kids at this school are wicked and need to be expelled. Next thing you know a pious electorate is passing referendums to punish anyone who doesn’t heed their interpretation of dogma.

Stop them now, before it’s too late.

Comments

  1. Dunc says

    “Blitz”, short for “blitzkrieg”, meaning “lightning warfare”, and most commonly associated with Hitler’s terror-bombing campaign against British civilian targets during WWII. How very appropriate.

    (Insert Mitchell & Webb “Are we the baddies?” sketch here.)

  2. microraptor says

    Reminds me of a discussion I had with my mom last week.

    She was talking about her next-door neighbor, who’s a born-again Evangelical. His dad, who was not religious, has been sick for a long time took a turn for the worse, so her neighbor went back to take care of him (read “preach at him”).

    Well, the father died while the neighbor was there, but according to the neighbor he accepted Jesus just before he died. Mom thinks it’s a wonderful story. She didn’t get that, you know, maybe the neighbor’s father would have liked to have had a chance to have a meaningful discussion with his son while he was on his deathbed instead of being told he was going to Hell.

  3. microraptor says

    Anyway, the point I was going for was how people are so conditioned to instantly accept anything religious as being good and nice.

  4. benedic says

    “and so were those Hebrew warriors who committed genocide to secure their conquered territory. ”
    No more real than The Amazons. All fantasy literature .

  5. alixmo says

    Religion can only survive in our modern times through early indoctrination. Therefore, it is crucial to keep education out of the hands of the ultra-religious. The Nazis were also fully aware of the power of early indoctrination and made use of it, so “Project Blitz” is a fitting name.

    As true ideologues, ultra-Christians work tirelessly on their single issue: “make the West believe again”. One has to admit, having no other thoughts and hobbies (at least, so it seems to me) really pays off. Decades of defeat or of only minuscule success did not change their minds. Opinion polls that show that the population in Western countries is more liberal, more open minded and less religious did never deter them. No: it is not them who is wrong and has to change – it is society that has to return to the true, righteous path.

    Ultra-religious people do not only dislike free, independent thinking and (at least certain) science. It is modern society per se that they want to change by influencing the curriculum.

    Since the agenda of the ultra-religious is always against women, it is women’s rights and LGBTQ rights that they want to attack. Sure enough, soon they want to teach in their classes the “Godgiven” order of society (e.g. women are subordinate to their husbands and stay at home as obedient wives and mothers).

    Religion is the enemy of free and critical thinking – and the enemy of emancipation and equality of men and women.

    The assault against women (via reproductive rights, legal abortion) is coming from the ultra-religious faction of the Republican Party, it is not NOT motivated by the greedy, money-worshipping wing (if one can tell them apart…). Still, the media fails to clearly state that the blame lies with religion, and religion alone. That is a grave mistake!

    Chris Hedges even wrote a stupid article, more or less saying that religion is not to blame, is nothing but rhetoric in the abortion-issue, whilst the real culprit is Capitalism (it is the cause of many societal ills, but this problem is on religion). Any person who cares about women’s rights and equality should get angry about such nonsense.
    Much is at stake – since this assault does not only concern the US, but e.g. through the “global gag rule” and the UN also women in developing countries.

    The issue of reproductive rights is at the heart of any reactionary religious agenda – this has to be screamed out publically until even the last person finally understands this simple truth.

    Religion has to be kept away from politics – and from education.World-wide.

  6. says

    Dunc @#1

    In German the word “Blitz” means either “lightning, thunderbolt” or “flash” (as, for example, the flash used by photographers to illuminate their subject).

    “Krieg” means “war” in German. The idea behind the word “Blitzkrieg” is that it’s a fast and powerful attack.

    Why would any English speaker willingly use the word “Blitz” in 21st century is beyong me, given the word’s association with Hitler.

  7. says

    It makes me think that maybe it’s time for atheists to start giving educational materials to kids. Let the faithful answer some tough questions for a change, like “religion says its about peace, why does it cause so much war?” And “what are souls made of?” Perhaps push for legislation teaching skepticism with a curriculum aimed at skeptical analysis of religious claims. They’ve been getting away with shit too long.

  8. says

    Why would any English speaker willingly use the word “Blitz” in 21st century is beyong me, given the word’s association with Hitler.

    Sounds better than referring to it as “Pickett’s charge” I suppose.

  9. says

    benedic #4
    “and so were ARE those Hebrew warriors who commit ted genocide to secure their conquered territory. ”
    Fixed that for you.

    By the way I’ve always thought Achilles was a bit of a heel…

  10. says

    Looking forward to the groups campaigning to “agree” with the Bible classes by pointing out the First Amendment demands that if you are teaching the Bible, you have to teach the Bhagavad Gita, the Satanic Bible, and (scariest to them) the Qur’an, too.

  11. Saganite, a haunter of demons says

    @11 abbeycadabra
    Exactly. Note also what that student said: “This is the class that allows us the other perspective.”
    The other perspective. Like there’s evolution and there’s Christian young earth creationism.
    Not that other religions are any more correct than Christianity, but it’s striking how the fact that there are other creation myths out there is never even considered.
    This idea that it’s either evolution or YEC is common among apologists, as well. “Defeat” evolution and you “prove” YEC, seems to be the point.
    I just want togo up to one of them and say: “You know, you’ve convinced me. Evolution is wrong. Thank you for showing me the light. Now I can see: Obviously, the Hindu creation myth is true!”

  12. says

    There’s also the fun of talking with devout Catholic family members who are delighted at the prospect of Bible classes in public schools and don’t seem to get it when you ask, “And you want your kids to be taught that the Bible has exactly sixty-six books?” Because, you see, only the KJV is the real Bible and Catholic Bibles have “fake news” in them. But heck, most of them don’t know what they “believe.” Except maybe Fox News.

  13. unclefrogy says

    I think it might be a positive thing if perspectives other than the fundy interpretation of the bible were at least exposed to children in school. Of course that is not what is being promoted and there would be such a howl of protest if that was actually proposed.
    To include “religious literature” from outside of the middle east to include india and china & japan would be eye opening to students.
    You know though I suspect that the fundies are also correct. In the past they were more strident in their attack on popular culture while now they hope that they can counter “modernity” in schools because it is the only place where they can try to force their beliefs to be seriously considered. They have no hope of countering popular culture they can not compete with Beyoncé, the game of thrones or Oprah the influence while not very science positive has been corrosive to the authoritarianism which lies at the heart of fundamentalist Christianity and all similar motivated religion. Although it has been a tool of rulers to use bread and circuses to rule the masses so it is not without danger, a double edged sword maybe.
    uncle frogy

  14. blf says

    On the tricky question of which books to use, the mildly deranged penguin suggests four: the Eastern-Atlantis Cheese-Hunters Field-Guide (no copies known to exist (she’s very sorry about that but claims she was desperate)), the Voynich manuscript (never deciphered (and she’s lost the decryption passphrase)), a certain Mesoamerican codex (title unknown as it was burnt by the invading Europeans), and Small Gods (frequently in yer local bookshop).

  15. gijoel says

    I’ll agree to it when the fundies are forced to teach evolution in Sunday school.

  16. says

    I wish I could find an old bit by the Canadian comedy group the Frantics. In it a creationist type gets his wish, and creationism is to be taught in the classroom. Unfortunately for him he finds out other groups are going to get to teach their versions too.

  17. jrkrideau says

    @ 11 abbeycadabra
    I wonder exactly how those laws read?

    Louisiana passed a educational voucher bill several years ago with the unstated but obvious intent to fund fundie Christian schools. Great idea, the first school applying for funding was an Islamic madrassa.

    Much confusion and dismay among legislatures.

  18. Mark Jones says

    There is no stopping Project Blitz and likeminded campaigns in the future. The West will experience a period of religious resurgence in the future due to demographic changes (higher fertility rates of the religious and religious immigrants) and the collapse of the secular left. Already, secularization rates are zero in France and Protestant Europe. (See: Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?: Demography and Politics in the Twenty-First Century by Eric Kaufmann, Belfer Center, Harvard University/Birkbeck College, University of London (PDF) at: http://www.sneps.net/RD/uploads/1-Shall%20the%20Religious%20Inherit%20the%20Earth.pdf and Think religion is in decline? Look at who is ‘going forth and multiplying’, Vancouver Sun, 2014 at: https://vancouversun.com/news/staff-blogs/think-religion-is-declining-look-at-who-is-going-forth-and-multiplying and Secularism, Fundamentalism or Catholicism? The Religious Composition of the United States to 2043 published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Eric Kaufmann, Vegard Skirbekk and Anne Goujon at http://www.sneps.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/jssr_15101.pdf and Shall the religious inherit the earth by Eric Kaufmann at https://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/shall_the_religious_inherit_the_earth/ ).

  19. KG says

    The West will experience a period of religious resurgence in the future due to demographic changes (higher fertility rates of the religious and religious immigrants) and the collapse of the secular left.

    Well that rather assumes that the children of the religious will be religious. If that were generally the case, how is it that the degree of secularization we already see has come about? Your first linked articel (the only one I’ve read yet) is far less definite in its conclusions than you imply:

    societies with a relativistic, individualist, acquisitive outlook are demographically vulnerable. Only if it can assimilate the children of those with demographically sustainable outlooks can the liberal capitalist model survive. This is a tall order given the exhaustion of ‘secular religions’ like Utopian socialism or revolutionary nationalism that appeal to religious individuals’ sense of the transcendent. Instead, a new synthesis of modern technology, illiberal democracy and conservative religion may emerge

    It may emerge. On the other hand, it may not. And we already know the “liberal capitalist model” cannot survive very long, because it is producing environmental catastrophe. Unless a new “secular religion” (stupid phrase – they mean a political movement) capable of preventing this emerges, we’re fucked anyway – and the religious fundamentalists certainly have no answer to it.

  20. Dunc says

    It’s always foolish to assume that current demographic trends will continue indefinitely, because history shows that they never do. Britain today is not dominated by Huguenots, or Irish, or people from the Caribbean, despite the fact that all of these populations have demonstrated extremely high relative growth rates at some point in history, resulting in very similar predictions of demographic doom people inclined to make simplistic analyses. Demography is complicated, and inextricably intertwined with many other complicated social, political, and economic forces, in ways which tend to preclude easy extrapolation. Anybody who tries is almost certainly either an idiot, or trying to sell you something. (Or both.)

  21. specialffrog says

    @Mark Jones: That author seems like he might be a crank. Being cited by the Vancouver Sun and praised by Andrew Sullivan are certainly strikes against him.

    Besides, France has the largest Muslim population in Europe but the most integrated and least radical Muslim population. This suggests raw numbers are not the only relevant factor.

  22. blf says

    From a fairly recent (Oct-2018) review of Eric Kaufmann (see @20 &tc) book “Whiteshift”, White identity is meaningless. Real dignity is found in shared hopes:

    […]
    “It’s dignity, stupid.” Where once economic wellbeing was seen as key to winning electoral support, there is now recognition that more intangible qualities matter too — the ability to be heard, to live in meaningful communities, to possess self-worth.

    The acceptance that values and social connectedness matter is welcome. The danger, though, is that concern with dignity is becoming as rigid as was that with economic security. In this age of identity politics, dignity is all too often reduced to the public affirmation of ethnic or cultural identity.

    Witness a new book by [professor of politics at London’s Birkbeck College,] Eric Kaufmann, Whiteshift […]

    […]

    As with Irish immigration of old, today, too, demography is a blunt tool through which to make sense of social hostility. Key in understanding the shift from class to ethnicity are perceptions of change, not just of ethnicity but also of class.

    Social organisations that once gave working-class lives identity, solidarity and dignity have been sapped of vitality. Economic, social and political developments, from the imposition of austerity and the rise of the gig economy to the erosion of trade union power and the Labour party’s move away from its traditional constituencies, have coalesced to make working-class lives more precarious.

    […]

    Kaufmann wants to normalise attachment to “white identity”. Historically, such identity has been the means through which to promote racism. Today, many on the far right use it as a way of rebranding their bigotry.

    The real problem, however, is not that the notion of white identity is racist but that it is meaningless. There is no singular set of interests shared by all whites. Those responsible for the marginalisation of the working class are also largely white — politicians, bureaucrats, bankers, company bosses.

    Indeed. Whilst they are smart enough to avoid the term, Kaufmann does come across as an (or at least leaning towards) identitarian (who also tend strongly authoritarian). Whilst they might not be the crank Jordan Peterson (e.g.) is, both should be approached with considerable caution. This is quite apparent in a very recent (April-2019) interview with The New Yorker, A Political Scientist Defends White Identity Politics (which I am not excerpting!).

    The Grauniad’s review concludes:

    The idea of “white interests” obscures the real problems facing the working class. It transforms solidarity from a sense of commonality with those sharing my values and aspirations, though not necessarily my skin colour or culture, to an identity with those who do not share my political hopes, and may undermine my interests, but whose skin colour or cultural background is similar. There’s little dignity in that.

  23. says

    I guess I can call myself a lifelong nonbeliever. I stopped believing in God at the same time I stopped believing in Santa Claus. As a small child, I was told that God, Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy etc. beings existed. I stopped believing in all of them at about the same time.

    At school, for me history lessons were chronological. We started with Homo erectus, then the Stone Age, then Bronze and Iron Age, then there was Mesopotamia and their religion and myths, next was Ancient Egypt with their mythology, then there were Ancient Greek myths, next came Ancient Roman mythology. By the time we made it to Christian mythology, I was already familiar with multiple religions. Christian myths seemed for me just as unrealistic as Greek myths. Actually, I really enjoyed Greek mythology, there were some fun stories about all that fucking Greek gods did. In comparison, Christian mythology was really boring and just plain sad. Aphrodite’s sex life was a lot more interesting than those miserable Christian God’s commandments.

  24. andiek712 says

    On the bright side, even if there are bible classes in school, there’s a chance that might completely backfire. Isaac Asimov called the bible “the most potent force for atheism even conceived.” And, according to “Atheism for Dummies” by Dale McGowan:

    “The more a person knows about religion, the less likely he or she is to be religious. This isn’t always true, but as a general observation, it holds up.

    “The United States is extremely faithful but mostly uninformed. People Do religion, but they don’t know much ABOUT religion. Europeans are the opposite — they know a lot about religion and tend not to believe it. The more a person learns about religion in detail, the less religion seems to hold up.

    “The US Religious Knowledge Survey asked 32 questions to assess the religious knowledge of respondents. Protestants on average correctly answered 16, which was also the average for Americans overall. Catholics brought up the rear with 14.7 — below the US average.

    “Top honors went to atheists and agnostics, with an average of 20.9 correct.”

    Wouldn’t it be funny if Project Blitz defects its own purpose and actually creates more atheists than anything else? Apparently learning about the bible just makes people aware of how nonsensical it actually is.

  25. alixmo says

    @Andreas Avester, #25,

    Your story is quite similar to my own. I am an atheist from childhood on, too.

    As a child I got really interested in Greek (and than other, e.g. Nordic/Germanic) mythology as well. (I still know more about Greek mythology than about any other religion.) Soon after, I even read some scholarly books about Comparative Religious Studies – and that really confirmed my “suspicion” that all religions are human inventions.

    I never believed in any religion, but I found them very interesting, fascinating, and read quite a bit about them. But the more one knows, the more one also sees the problems concerning religion (or at least the tendency of religion to reinforce and “sanctify” bad “ideas” that already exist in a society, like patriarchy, hierarchies).

    Hence I understood the desperate need for modern society to keep religion in check in order to be free, open (minded) and equal (this is especially important for women and LGBTQs since all the big religions and even most of the smaller ones are biased against these groups and favor straight men).

    A true secularism that keeps religion out of politics and education is a must. The goal should be to push religion into the private sphere where it ideally should be lived out only as a form of “spirituality”. This may be the only way out of the dilemma of “religion versus modern society”.

    Also, women’s and LGBTQ rights have to trump the (in my opinion) much abused right of religious freedom. Real people and their plight have to count more than the “freedom” of ideologies.

    Are those goals achievable? Probably not – unless we actually do something about it. At the moment, the majority of atheists, humanists and secularists (comprising believers and non-believers) does not push hard enough for this goals. Maybe we do not care enough, maybe we do not want to offend. Meanwhile, the religious right is constantly pushing their goals, vehemently and internationally. And the media is generally more favorable towards religious zealots than outspoken secularists who are still seen as nothing but a nuisance…

  26. says

    Mark Jones, do you think the idea that secularism will stall is a good thing, or did you post that to trigger the libtards, or something equally silly?

  27. alixmo says

    @KG, @blf, @timgueguen

    I also hope that the world will not become more conservative, more patriarchal, more religious. That thought is absolutely depressing and would be a disaster, for the environment, for women, for freethinkers. But I also heard about this, e.g. in an article I read some time ago. I only vaguely remember it. If somebody wants to read it: https://foreignpolicy.com/2009/10/20/the-return-of-patriarchy/ The article was by demographer Phillip Longman.

    Many ultra-religious conservatives believe that those predictions will come true and rejoice, i.e. the “Conservatopedia” guy who happens to be the son of anti-feminism activist Phyllis Schlafly.

    The only thing we can do against this trend is educating all children, making sure that they learn real knowledge and facts (also about religions and their many negative sides) in school. And, first and foremost, school has to emphasize and teach the ability to think independently and critically.

    Trying to “outbreed” religious people is a silly and quite disgusting idea (not only/ because it denies women the free decisions over their life and their body – which would be exactly what ultra-religious people want to do to women). It would create more problems than it solves.

  28. Mark Jones says

    Blf,

    Professor Eric Kaufmann is a multi-racial, liberal agnostic from Canada who lives in Britain and he is not an identitarian or authoritarian. He is a social scientist who studies the issues of race, religion and immigration and how it affects politics. And there really is no denying that race/religion and immigration affects politics.

    Here is a good interview of him: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XdQaD_RaZ4I

  29. KG says

    Mark Jones@32,

    If you can read the New Yorker interview blf linked to @24, and conclude that Kaufmann is a liberal, I think you have, at the very least, a bizarre idea of what it means to be liberal. He comes across as an apologist for racism, and also as someone who is confused about what terms such as “structural racism” mean.

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