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Toxically Inhospitable

February 5, 2020

The president said this last night:

My Administration is also defending religious liberty, and that includes the Constitutional right to pray in public schools. In America, we do not punish prayer. We do not tear down crosses. We do not ban symbols of faith. We do not muzzle preachers and pastors. In America, we celebrate faith. We cherish religion. We lift our voices in prayer, and we raise our sights to the Glory of God!

So I guess the atheists, agnostics, nones, polytheists, and even believers who are just a little less exultant about religion can just GTFO.

Also, as the Aspen Insititute’s Asma Uddin explains to NPR, Muslims also don’t count:

I actually saw [Republicans’] denial of Islam even being a religion that had access to religious freedom. Another suggestion that President Trump brought up during the campaign was to close down mosques. When you create such a stark disparity between the types of things that you’re willing to protect for, quote-unquote, “religion” and then say that the most basic of religious freedom rights are not afforded to a particular group of people, you know, how exactly are you explaining that? What’s the logic there? And it didn’t take much to figure out what that is because unfortunately, an increasingly common talking point among many people in the White House and in that sort of larger network is that Islam is not a religion. It is a dangerous political ideology. And therefore, Muslims don’t have religious freedom rights.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch weighs in against Tennessee’s Gov. Bill Lee for signing into law the bill allowing publicly-funded religious adoption service providers to discriminate:

Religious discrimination in Tennessee is now technically permissible for agencies that receive state licenses and funding. Those agencies may not be denied licensing or funding because of such discrimination. So, much as Gov. Lee’s spokesman contends this is about religious freedom, it is in fact about religious oppression, potentially on the taxpayers’ dime.

Marco Rubio, meanwhile, bravely stands up for taxpayer-funded anti-LGBTQ discrimination. Via the Tampa Bay Times, just look how tough and edgy he is:

Rubio said two banks, Fifth Third and Wells Fargo, announced they are halting future donations to the school voucher program for low-income students to take part in a “publicity stunt aimed at earning ‘wokeness’ points with the radical left.”

Ooooh, he’s so un-PC, should have his own dark web.

Speaking of faux-religious liberty, anti-vaxxers are determined to overturn Maine’s vaccination law with a March 3 ballot initiative. All Things Considered reports:

Republican state Rep. Heidi Sampson, who sits on the committee that heard public testimony on the vaccination bill, says the referendum is a fight against tyranny.

“The law is nothing more than a massively grotesque governmental overreach masquerading as public health,” she says.

Gag.

In Arizona, a judge reversed the convictions of aid workers helping migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border because they were exercising their religious liberty:

The Court finds that Defendants demonstrated that their prosecution for this conduct substantially burdens their exercise of sincerely held religious beliefs, and that the Government failed to demonstrate that prosecuting Defendants is the least restrictive means of furthering any compelling governmental interest.

Daniel Schultz at Religion Dispatches has a good bit about the grievances of anti-choice Democrats, and what he calls the “long-standing grift run by Democrats for Life of America and other groups like the Susan B. Anthony List”:

It runs like so: demand that Democrats accommodate your disagreement on a core principle, and when they unsurprisingly demur, claim victimization, pout that this is why Dems can never win—all evidence to the contrary be damned—and use the ginned-up controversy to raise funds.

Somehow, this supposed horde of pro-life Democrats, like their supposedly persuadable Republican counterparts, never does show up. Yet Ms. Day and others like her assume the privilege of deference to their dissenting views. And privilege it is to be so focused on a single issue that for its sake alone you’d be happy to tear down the party you nominally belong to—and the one thing that stands between Donald Trump and a second term.

At The Revealer, Tulasi Srinivas looks at the importance of water and topography in Hinduism, and what happens when this holy environment is overloaded with trash and pollution:

For Hindus, the pollution of India’s sacred waters would therefore, one assumes, raise some fundamental questions: Where can and do water gods go when the water is toxically inhospitable? What happens to a religious and moral imagination rooted in the natural world when the ecological landscape is rubbished? What do we do when a river is systematically killed? …

… I am hopeful that Hinduism can offer us a new imaginative geo-political theology for this growing eco-apocalypse. Hinduism can propose a language to think of this eco-catastrophe in religious terms, without being fatalistic or exclusionary.

American Atheists’ Nick Fish talks to the Columbia Journalism Review about atheism in the media, and I dug this quote:

It’s not atheists versus Christians. It is Christian nationalism against everybody else.

Word.

Jane Reiss at Religion News Service looks at how cracks are showing in Mormons’ support for Trump, particularly among women and the young. As one Mormon woman recently said in a survey, “When [men] think about Trump they don’t think about the boy in sixth grade who snapped your bra, and I do.” While Mormons make up a tiny percentage of the U.S. population, we all know they have outsized influence, particularly in some specific regions:

… Trump’s stumbles among Mormon voters could hinder him on a state-by-state basis in the race for the electoral college. In states like Nevada and Arizona, where Mormons are approximately 5% of the population, it’s possible that Trump could have a problem connecting with Mormons at the ballot box. Those states are also home to two former U.S. Senators—Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.—who have been outspoken in their sharp criticisms of the president.

Paging Evan McMullin.

Margaret Sullivan (who I interviewed for Point of Inquiry a couple years back and was super-awesome) bemoans the conspiracy theories and misinformation that plagues social media over the Iowa caucuses debacle, and what is bodes for the rest of the year:

The circulating falsehoods “could so erode faith in the election that a losing candidate’s supporters may refuse to accept the results, either for the nomination or the White House,” warned David Becker, founder and executive director of the Center for Election Innovation & Research.

“The thing that keeps me up at night,” Becker told the Associated Press, is that even if the 2020 election is fair and well-managed, “the losing party’s supporters won’t accept that democracy worked.”

In Indonesia, a court drops blasphemy charges against a woman with schizophrenia who last year entered a mosque, wearing her shoes and bringing her dog with her. Oh, I should be clearer. That was the crime: wearing shoes and bringing a dog into a mosque.

Stephen Johnson at Big Think looks at what’s up with “no-touch” martial arts, where alleged masters incapacitate opponents with the Force or something.

Okay, I’m sick of reading and writing about Goop just as much as you are, but this is a good point from Daniel Albert Joslyn at Religion Dispatches on what the impulses behind Goop could have been, but won’t be:

If Goop theology teaches that we’re all fundamentally interconnected and that we have the ability to alter our realities, then a theology of collective liberation could be a natural progression. [The Goop Lab] could encourage a way out of our alienation, not through the right purchases, but through a combination of collective action and individual healing. TGL could lead us to a politics of “integrated” revolution, if you will, that would combat both the spiritual and material alienation of neoliberalism. But, ultimately, TGL and Goop don’t appear to be anywhere close to this path.

Zipping back to anti-vaxxers, Steven Salzberg explains how their movement shares traits with cults, such as:

* Members of the cult have special insights that outsiders cannot comprehend. With anti-vaxxers, this means they are completely convinced that they know that vaccines cause harm, despite mountains of evidence to the contrary.

* The group and its leaders are the exclusive means of knowing “truth” or receiving validation, and no other process of discovery is credible. The anti-vax movement has had several prominent leaders, whose followers flock to their speeches and events. These include Andrew Wakefield, the disgraced former doctor who lost his medical license after it was revealed that he had committed fraud. His followers, though, either don’t know or ignore his fraudulent past, and regard him as a hero. He makes a living from his books, a movie, and speaking fees, all based on spreading fear about vaccines. An even more prominent anti-vax leader is Robert Kennedy, Jr., who also sells books and gives speeches proclaiming the harms of vaccines. Thanks to his famous name, and despite the fact that he has no medical or scientific training, some people believe him.

Tip: Don’t joke about the coronavirus while on a plane.


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