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Everyone Else is Expendable

July 9, 2019

The Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research puts out poll numbers showing that 49 percent of Americans never consult clergy or religious leaders for advice on major decisions, 26 percent “rarely” do, and only 24 percent do so “often” or “sometimes.” Obviously, the unaffiliated do so the least (84 percent “never,” 16 percent “rarely”) and evangelicals do the most (47 percent “often/sometimes”).

Hey look what’s available for pre-order: Richard Dawkins’ latest book Outgrowing God: A Beginner’s Guide, aimed at a younger audience. Hemant adds:

There’s no shortage of Christian apologists who have written books tailored to a younger audience, and the Bible itself has all kinds of children’s editions. But when Dawkins’ book comes out, you can expect Christian writers to accuse Dawkins of trying to indoctrinate children into godlessness. Even though he’s doing exactly what they do, except from a different perspective. The difference is he actually has evidence on his side.

Daniel Bush at PBS Newshour profiles religious Democrats in Iowa, where a growing number of Democratic voters are bucking national trends by identifying as Christian:

On the right, that separation [of church and state] is typically framed as a question of religious liberty, and based on an argument that the government does not have the right to force people to obey laws that violate their religious beliefs. On the left, the argument for a church-state divide is based on a libertarian insistence that religious freedom is absolute, and the state should never pass policies based on religious grounds. Tellingly, when Vice President Mike Pence, a deeply religious evangelical Christian, came up in conversations, Iowa’s liberal faith leaders tended to raise the separation of church and state issue first, before mentioning his conservative stance on abortion and other issues. (“My impression of Pence is that he’s a theocrat,” said Patti McKee, the director of the Catholic Peace Ministry in Des Moines. The remark was not meant as a compliment.)

Speaking of Pence, he joined far-right Pentecostal pastor Rev. John Hagee for an event at which Christian theocrats congratulate themselves on how much they loooooove Israel. But let’s remember what these folks are really all about. Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb and Rev. Graylan Hagler write at RNS:

…right-wing Christian supporters of Israel like [Christians United for Israel] pose a grave danger to the safety and well-being of both Jews and Palestinians, as well as to hopes for a true and lasting peace in the Holy Land. Anyone who actually listens to CUFI’s leader, the Rev. John Hagee, will be horrified at the meeting’s toxic blend of anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia, Islamophobia and sexism.

Hagee and his more than 5 million followers believe that the establishment of Israel in 1948 and its subsequent military occupation and colonization of Palestinian and other Arab lands are the fulfillment of biblical prophecy and the necessary precursors to the return of Jesus Christ and the coming of the apocalypse.

Once this final theological drama begins, they believe, gentiles and Jews will be judged, and those who accept Jesus as the Christ will be saved, and all others will be condemned to the eternal fires of damnation. Everyone else is expendable, including the Jews they claim to love so much.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announces the formation of the Commission on Unalienable Rights, which aims to provide “fresh thinking about human rights discourse where such discourse has departed from our nation’s founding principles of natural law and natural rights.” That sounds fine if you don’t think about it too much, but Carol Morello at the Post reminds us:

The mention of natural law, a philosophy that all human beings are endowed with certain rights, set off alarm among advocates of legal abortion and same-sex marriage. The phrase is used by those who argue that basic human rights — such as free speech and the expectation that governments should not torture people — are made vulnerable when social goods such as education, health care and clean water are elevated to the characterization of human rights. …

… “The idea is these claims of human rights are not based upon natural law or the truth of the human person,” [Daniel Philpott of the University of Notre Dame] said. “In a sense, these are false claims to human rights. It brings down the cause of human rights in general. Why should we pursue other human rights if human rights can be anything one faction or party advocates them to be?”

So, it’s bad, you see.

The Guardian editorializes on religious liberty, particularly the crucial difference between freedom of speech and a license to discriminate:

The distinction between speech and action is fundamental to a liberal society. Freedom of speech means nothing if it is not also the freedom to be egregiously wrong. This distinction becomes especially important in an age of social media when everything that anyone has said online can be dredged up and examined, not just by the state, but by almost any private enemy before being used as grounds for denunciation. The law can compel behaviour, but it shouldn’t compel thought and should not often compel the expression of thought.

Cindy Pom at PRI looks at how France is dealing with religious radicalization through laïcité, and where it might be going wrong:

“The problem with the French approach is not so much omitting religion. What is more problematic is the enforced secularism,” says Raffaello Pantucci, director of International Security Studies at the Royal United Services Institute, a think tank on defense and security issues based in London.

“Most people radicalize for a variety of personal reasons, with religion or extremist ideas providing a useful frame for them to articulate their unhappiness through. For some, religion is a solace which helps. To instead push a line which aggressively pushes religion to one side can have a counterproductive effect,” Pantucci adds.

The San Gabriel Valley Tribune in California reports on efforts by secular activists to rally the nonreligious vote in 2020.

Daniel Dennett writes about the ongoing development of the play based on the Clergy Project and his book with Linda LaScola, Caught in the Pulpit. The play, supported by the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, has a new title, Adam Mann (Not His Real Name), and Dennett says:

Telling the stories of the courageous participants of the original study through the medium of theater has been fascinating and challenging, and has only deepened how moved I am by their brave and often desperately lonely journeys.

CFI West director and Point of Inquiry co-host Jim Underdown is now part of another new podcast, joining Jerry Minor and Tony Ortega for The Cult Awareness Podcast, with their first episode coming from the Scientology-focused HowdyCon conference in Los Angeles.

At Skeptical Inquirer, Alejandro Borgo of CFI Argentina provides a Spanish-language primer on mistakes in thinking, “the way in which people manage their beliefs and belief systems and how they influence their daily lives.”

The sign at Hitzman-Optimist Park in Pensacola, Florida stating that the park has been “adopted” by the Satanic Temple has been vandalized by people who seem to like Jesus, approximately 5 nanoseconds after it went up. The vandalization extended to the park itself, so way to go, Jesus people.

Anti-vaxxers go deeper into the religious-fundamentalist playbook and start homeschooling their kids.

James Haught advises us on how not to get all red-faced angry when talking to religious believers:

I really can’t tell a churchman “I respect your right to worship supernatural beings” – because I don’t respect it. I think it’s stupid. Here’s the only workable approach I know: Be polite. Stay calm. Be reasonable. Don’t assert your doubt too forcefully. Instead, ask questions designed to make the believer see flaws in his or her faith.

Bibles, apparently, are largely manufactured in godless, commie China, and Trump’s tariffs may cause a “Bible shortage.” I refuse to believe that such a thing is possible. Like, seriously? There aren’t enough Bibles???

Sadly Predictable Headline of the Day, from the Washington Post: “Trump shares fake Reagan quote from phony Twitter user”

Quote of the Day

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rules that the Brevard County Commission in Florida may not bar atheists from offering invocations at commission meetings. Judge Stanley Marcus wrote:

The discriminatory procedure for selecting invocation speakers followed in Brevard County is unconstitutional, and it must be rejected. We need go no further today than to say this: In selecting invocation speakers, the commissioners may not categorically exclude from consideration speakers from a religion simply because they do not like the nature of its beliefs. … [T]he commissioners have favored some religions over others, and barred those they did not approve of from being considered. This plainly violates the principle of denominational neutrality found at the heart of the Establishment Clause. …

… from their testimony, it is abundantly clear that most, if not all, of the commissioners exercise their discretion in a way that discriminates among religions based on their beliefs, favoring some, but not all, monotheistic and familiar religious sects over those faiths that fall outside the ‘mainstream.’

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