Religious fanatics in India and Pakistan

So in Pakistan, mobs of Muslim religious fanatics attack non-Muslims for blasphemy and while in India mobs of Hindu religious fanatics attack non-Hindus for killing cows.

Why can’t the fanatics of each of these religions in each of the two nations see that what they do is exactly what results in their co-religionists on the other country getting attacked? Why not declare a truce so that their co-religionists in the other country do not suffer because of religious fanaticism. That would truly be a win-win.

Oh, I forgot. That would imply that these mobs are open to logic and reason, and religious fanatics are anything but.

The strange appeal of Eastern-styled cults

In an interesting and informative profile of Tulsi Gabbard, Kerry Howley looks at her very unusual childhood and family that are followers of a one-time white surfer-dude named Chris Butler who became a self-styled guru called Siddhaswarupananda Paramahamsa and founded a group called Science of Identity that has pretty weird beliefs and actions.

I had thought that Gabbard’s father was an Indian-American but it turns out that he is a socially conservative Samoan who grew up as a Catholic before becoming a devotee of the guru. Gabbard calls herself a Hindu though the guru’s sect does not identify itself as Hindu. The article says that “Butler taught vegetarianism, sexual conservatism, mind-body dualism, and disinterest in the material world. He taught a virulent homophobia, skepticism of science, and the dangers of public schools… Whenever Butler traveled, he’d have the homes he stayed in lined with tinfoil, to protect against electromagnetic radiation.” He also thinks the moon landing was a hoax.
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The fixer, the preacher’s son, his wife, & two young studs

Jerry Falwell was an evangelical preacher and the founder of Liberty University, a college that expects its students to abide by strict Christianity-based rules prohibiting drinking, dancing, homosexuality, and of course anything involving sex among its students. Falwell was the founder of something called the Moral Majority that represented the first major concerted effort to join at the hip evangelical Christianity with right wing politics and make them into a potent political force for reactionary policies, leading one wag to say that “The Moral Majority is neither”.
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Here we go again, trying to argue that science proves the existence of god

Apparently yet another new book is out that tries to make the scientific case for god’s existence. According to the publisher’s blurb, these are the five main arguments “for the existence of God and of intelligent design of both the universe and life.”

1.) Evidence showing that the material universe had a beginning; 2.) Evidence showing that, from its beginning, the universe was been finely tuned to allow for the possibility of life; 3.) Evidence from biology showing that after the universe came into being, large amounts of genetic information similar to computer code came about in DNA that made, and continue to make, life possible; 4.) Evidence from research conducted at the University of Virginia School of Medicine showing that the brain does not create consciousness, but rather, that the brain can be compared to a cell phone or a radio that receives consciousness that originates somewhere else, and then integrates it with the body; 5.) Evidence from quantum mechanics and a number of other sources that consciousness or mind—the medium of thought—is nonlocal and appears to be present everywhere.

This book will likely appeal to those believers who seek to find some scientific sounding justification for their beliefs that goes beyond saying that they believe because they want to or need to believe or because they grew up believing. The link above tells you how to get a free Kindle download before September 13.

My own forthcoming book THE GREAT PARADOX OF SCIENCE: Why its conclusions can be relied upon even though they cannot be proven seeks to challenge some of the misapprehensions about the nature of science that underlies such arguments.

The puzzling fervor of some anti-gay gays

It has become fairly common to hear that some of the men (and it is usually men) who furiously denounce homosexuality are actually closeted gays. But some, like McKrae Game, go to extreme lengths to deny their sexuality. He created and led Hope for Wholeness, one of the many so-called conversion therapy programs that promise to transform gays into heterosexuals.

He was gay when he received counseling from a therapist who assured him he could overcome his same-sex attractions.

He was gay when he married a woman and founded what would become one of the nation’s most expansive conversion therapy ministries.

He was gay when thousands of people just like him sought his organization’s counsel, all with the goal of erasing the part of themselves Game and his associates preached would send them to hell.

For two decades, he led Hope for Wholeness, a faith-based conversion therapy program in South Carolina’s Upstate. Conversion therapy is a discredited practice intended to suppress or eradicate a person’s LGBTQ identity through counseling or ministry.

But the group’s board of directors abruptly fired Game in November 2017.

In June, Game publicly announced he was gay and severed his ties with the organization.

Now, the man once billed as a leading voice in the conversion therapy movement is trying to come to terms with the harm he inflicted while also learning to embrace a world and community he assailed for most of his adult life.

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Review: The Family (2019)

This five-episode mini-series on Netflix is based on a book of the same name by reporter Jeff Sharlet. It is about a secretive group of evangelical Christian influencers know as ‘The Fellowship’ or ‘The Family’ that was originated by someone named Abraham Vereide (1886-1969) and whose mission was greatly advanced by Doug Coe (1928-2017).

Sharlet stumbled into this group as a young man just out of college. Coming from a family in which his mother was a Pentecostal and his father was a secular Jew, Sharlet was looking at various forms of religion when he was recruited by a friend who was in the Family. It had a strange cult-like quality where young men lived together and did menial jobs in the service of influential Washington politicians as a form of bonding. At some point Sharlet left the group and in 2008 wrote the book The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power that exposed the working of the group.
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The challenge of finding community in a secular world

Ryan Bell, national organizing manager for the Secular Student Alliance, writes in The Humanist magazine that while young people are becoming more and more secular, they face challenges in finding a community that shares their values and provides the kind of camaraderie that religious institutions used to provide. Various forms of alternatives are being created in colleges across the country to fill that need. One of those are the Secular Student Fellowships sponsored by the SSA. He discusses the case of several students who have experiences like that of a young woman named Sophia.
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The future of the religion clauses in the current Supreme Court

The First Amendment to the US constitution says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

The clause pertaining to religion states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” which means that there are two parts, what have come to be known as the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause. It is the Establishment Clause that has come under stress recently as religious zealots in the US, convinced that this is a Christian country, seek to make that manifest by having prayers at government functions, putting up Ten Commandments monuments in public spaces, putting mottoes like ‘In God We Trust’ on currency and elsewhere, and placing nativity scenes at Christmas time.

The US Supreme Court’s responses to the cases have been muddled, to put it frankly. They seem to struggle to find ways to accommodate at least some religious invasion of the public sphere, even if it leads to convoluted reasoning, possibly out of a sense that outright prohibition might cause too much of a furor.
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New lawsuit alleges massive sexual abuse in Boy Scouts organization

While on my drive to California, many of the hotels I stayed at provided guests with copies of USA Today and the major story one day was a massive lawsuit brought by 800 people against the Boy Scouts of America for sexual abuse, with the accusations spanning nearly eight decades and covering almost every state.

Lawyers began collecting the accounts this spring as they prepared a suit, which they filed on behalf of a client who alleges his former scoutmaster plied him with drugs and alcohol before repeatedly sexually abusing him.

At a news conference Tuesday morning, the lawyers said they have nearly 800 other clients who were abused while Scouts. The suit says at least 350 abusers do not appear in the Boy Scouts’ disciplinary files, citing that as evidence that the organization has not adequately vetted its volunteers and hidden the extent of the sexual abuse scandal.
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That sums it up pretty well

Kevin Drum says that all the major religions have objectively been having a bad few decades in comparison with science’s achievements, but that despite that religious extremism is on the rise worldwide.

The last few decades sure have been bad ones for organized religion. Conservative Christians have decided that the sum total of the Bible is about reestablishing the sex and gender mores of the 19th century. Liberal Protestantism is so unassuming that hardly anyone even remembers it exists. The Catholic Church has been responsible for the deaths of millions in Africa thanks to its mindless belief that God hates condoms. Much of Islam has been taken over by the toxic Saudi strain. Israel has turned into an apartheid state. Hindus in India are apparently now dedicated to creating a religiously pure state. And even Buddhists have been acting badly lately.

Meanwhile, science keeps churning out new wonders. Cell phones. The internet. Cures for cancer. Robotic prosthetics. Solar panels on rooftops. Talking computers. Antidepressants. Google Maps. Cheap genome sequencing. Virtual reality. Machine learning. Meatless meat. Missions to Mars. Electric cars. Fiber optics.

None of the points he makes surprised me. But what did was his statement that Israel is now an apartheid state. Not only that, he did not get any pushback for that in the comments, either.

Drum is very much in the mainstream of Democratic establishment politics, someone who favors people like Hillary Clinton and Kamal Harris and does not care much for Elizabeth Warren and especially Bernie Sanders. So his casual throwing in of Israel as an apartheid state, a sentiment that the party establishment definitely does not endorse, and the lack of any defense of Israel by his blog’s readers, is another sign that Israel’s discriminatory policies can no longer be denied or ignored and that the Democratic political establishment is increasingly disconnected from its base.