Atheists who do as Christians do 11

Atheists of the Left – “Humanists” some call themselves – often reveal with unconscious irony how close Leftism is to Christianity: the same moral myopia, hubris, and sentimentality.

In order to enjoy the cheap emotional satisfaction of feeling they are “good people”, they go in for this sort of thing.

We quote from the Friendly Atheist at Patheos:

After the Daily Caller News Foundation posted a map of supposed “radical mosques” in the U.S., it wasn’t long before threats were made against them.

But in a wonderful gesture on Monday, the Humanists of the Palouse reached out to the Muslims, sending them a letter of concern and offering whatever help they could:

To our Muslim friends in the Moscow/Pullman area,

Recently, we have been made aware of threats to our community, centered on the Pullman Islamic Center and it and many other Mosques being mis-reported as “radical”. In today’s climate, these threats should not be taken lightly, and we certainly do not. We fully support your right to practice religion free from harm and harassment.

We recognize your members as valued residents of the Palouse. The Humanists of the Palouse want you to know that we will always defend religious freedom and cultural diversity, and threats against these are threats against our very way of life. We stand with you, and offer our support.

If you feel threatened, please do not hesitate to contact us. We would be happy to accompany anyone who feels that their safety is at risk (e.g. grocery shopping, on a walk around town, or just for someone to talk to). If we can advocate for you in any way, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us, and know that you have friends and allies amongst The Humanists of the Palouse.

The Center’s Board of Trustees soon issued this heartfelt response:

The entire Board of Trustees of the Pullman Islamic Association joins me in thanking you and the Humanists of the Palouse generally for this powerful statement affirming civil rights in this country. We are especially moved that a humanist group so completely supports the local Muslim group, since Islam is the most disrespected group in this country. We have noticed that the correct way to define and appreciate humanist groups in general and yours in particular is as lovers and defenders of civil rights, individual and group democratic dignities and freedom of thought, not as haters of religion. Your group’s neighborly defense of freedom of religion in the Palouse demonstrates your focus on freedom and social justice. We are impressed by and thankful for your firm support and offer of assistance and solidarity.

One of our Board of Trustees members is meeting with an FBI agent today, which demonstrates that the federal police are taking this threat seriously. Given this sobering reality of threatened arson and violence your support will always be appreciated by the leaders and membership of the Pullman Islamic Association. We hope we will not need to ask for your offered assistance, but if we do need or want such support, we will indeed reach out to Humanists of the Palouse.

That’s how you do it, friends.

You can disagree on theological issues, but I’d hope local atheist groups around the country would be willing to reach out to Muslims who are actually being persecuted by overzealous conservatives eager to shut them down.

If they lose their religious freedoms, we all do.

Can they possibly not know that sharia law – inseparable from the ideology of Islam – condemns apostasy, which is what atheism is deemed to be? And prescribes death as the punishment for atheists? (Atheist men; women not always.) In some Islamic lands they are imprisoned rather than executed. But all risk their lives, and such freedom as anyone has in a Muslim majority country.

These are reports of atheists, apostates, free thinkers who have been sentenced to prison, and/or flogging, and/or death in Islamic countries recently – the crime of atheism often being euphemized into something else in court. And some who have been killed by their Muslim compatriots.

1. From the Economist, on Alexander Aan in Indonesia:

A MOB attacked Alexander Aan even before an Indonesian court in June jailed him for two and a half years for “inciting religious hatred”.

His crime was to write “God does not exist” on a Facebook group he had founded for atheists in Minang, a province of the world’s most populous Muslim nation. Like most non-believers in Islamic regions, he was brought up as a Muslim. And like many who profess godlessness openly, he has been punished. …

Sharia law, which covers only Muslims unless incorporated into national law, assumes people are born into their parents’ religion. Thus ex-Muslim atheists are guilty of apostasy—a hudud crime against God, like adultery and drinking alcohol. Potential sanctions can be severe: eight states, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Mauritania and Sudan have the death penalty on their statute books for such offences. …

Most atheists are prosecuted for blasphemy or for inciting hatred. (Atheists born to non-Muslim families are not considered apostates, but they can still be prosecuted for other crimes against religion.) Even in places where laws are lenient, religious authorities and social attitudes can be harsh, with vigilantes inflicting beatings or beheadings.

Many, like Kacem el-Ghazzali, a Moroccan, reckon the only solution is to escape abroad. The 23-year-old was granted asylum in Switzerland after people found out he was the author of an anonymous blog, …

Nahla Mahmoud, a 25-year-old Sudanese atheist … fled to Britain in 2010. …

Ibn Warraq, the pseudonymous Indian-born author of “Leaving Islam”, a collection of essays by ex-believers, … lives in exile and has received death threats for campaigning on the behalf of apostates. … Arguments for the death penalty [he says] are usually based on a Hadith, one of the sayings which, along with the Koran, form the basis of Islamic law: “The Prophet said: whoever discards his religion, kill him.” …

Ibn Warraq says that the nub of the problem is that sharia makes atheism the number one sin, ahead of murder.  …

2. From the Guardian, on Ashraf Fayadh in Saudi Arabia:

A Palestinian poet and leading member of Saudi Arabia’s nascent contemporary art scene has been sentenced to death for renouncing Islam.

A Saudi court on Tuesday ordered the execution of Ashraf Fayadh, who has curated art shows in Jeddah and at the Venice Biennale. The poet, who said he did not have legal representation, was given 30 days to appeal against the ruling.

Fayadh, 35, a key member of the British-Saudi art organisation Edge of Arabia, was originally sentenced to four years in prison and 800 lashes by the general court in Abha, a city in the south-west of the ultraconservative kingdom, in May 2014. But after his appeal was dismissed he was retried earlier this month and a new panel of judges ruled that his repentance did not prevent his execution.

3. From Patheos, the Friendly Atheist itself, on Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia:

December 26, 2013 by Paul Fidalgo [who is admirably scathing in his disgust – ed).

Saudi blogger and religious dissident Raif Badawi has been cruelly punished and toyed with by the Saudi legal system for about a year now, and things have taken a darker turn. According to Badawi’s wife, now living in Lebanon, the high court will try Badawi on the charge of apostasy. If convicted, Badawi could be executed.

This comes after a court opted not to charge him with apostasy in January, but did put him up on charges of “insulting Islam and showing disobedience”. How did they come to this decision? Badawi is the co-founder of a website called the Liberal Saudi Network, which is bad enough, but imagine the horror that washed over Saudi society with this kind of action:

The evidence against him included the fact that he pressed the “Like” button on a Facebook page for Arab Christians.

As a result of this heinous behavior, in July, Badawi was sentenced to 600 lashes and seven years in prison.

Which was horrifying enough. But now it looks like Badawi is being brought up on apostasy charges in earnest. Badawi’s case is one of many being watched by the Office of Public Policy at the Center for Inquiry, where I work, and our Campaign for Free Expression. Browse the cases we have listed there, and you’ll see that, sadly, Badawi’s case is hardly unique.

Cases like this need more international attention, and those who position themselves as “allies” of Saudi Arabia, such as the United States, need to discover their consciences. How can the civilized world refer to itself as such when an ally practices such barbarism, it looks the other way?

The judge in Badawi’s subsequent appeal stiffened the original 2013 sentence – seven years in prison and 600 lashes – to 1000 lashes, ten years in prison and a fine of $266,000. See our post, The punishment of reason, January 12, 2015, where there is an eyewitness description of the first of the series of lashings Badawi is being subjected to.

Badawi had written, “My commitment is… to reject any repression in the name of religion… a goal that we will reach in a peaceful, law-abiding way.”

This was interpreted by the judge as “insulting Islam”.

Badawi’s health is now frail. He is unlikely to survive the lashings.

4. From Poetry Foundation, on Hashem Shaabani in Iran:

We were saddened and horrified today to learn of the death of Hashem Shaabani, who was executed on January 27th by the order of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

From Radio Free Europe:

An Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal reportedly had sentenced the poet to death, along with 14 others, last July on charges that included “waging war on God”. 

Press reports said Shaabani was hanged after his sentence was approved by President Hassan Rohani.

In a statement on February 5, Freedom House said Shaabani was subjected to severe torture and interrogation during his three years in prison.

Human Rights Voices also reports on the execution, writing:

To those who knew him, was a man of peace and understanding struggling to extend spaces of individual freedom within the despotic Khomeinist system … In one of his letters from prison, made available to use through his family, Shaabani says  … I have tried to defend the legitimate right that every people in this world should have which is the right to live freely with full civil rights. With all these miseries and tragedies, I have never used a weapon to fight these atrocious crimes except the pen.” 

5. From the Guardian on Avijit Roy and Rafida Bonya Ahmed in Pakistan:

No one could have predicted that the Bangladeshi writer Rafida Bonya Ahmed would make it to London last week. …  In February, Islamist fanatics hacked her husband, Avijit Roy, to death with meat cleavers as the couple left a book fair in Dhaka. They nearly killed Ahmed too: slicing off her thumb and covering her body with wounds. …

Together, Ahmed and Roy ran a secular blog that promoted the writings of young liberal Bangladeshis They wrote on evolution and humanism; they condemned extremism fearlessly, as the title of Roy’s 2014 book The Virus of Faith makes clear. Seeing and fearing a courageous opponent, the enemies of free thought killed him for his ideas. …

6. From a Reuters report on Ananta Bijoy Das and others in Bangladesh:

Third Atheist blogger killed in Bangladesh.

A blogger was hacked to death by machete-wielding attackers in Bangladesh on Tuesday (May 12), the third killing of a critic of religious extremism in the Muslim-majority nation in less than three months.

Ananta Bijoy Das, a blogger who advocated secularism, was attacked by four masked assailants in the northeastern district of Sylhet on Tuesday morning, senior police official Mohammad Rahamatullah told Reuters.

Rahamatullah said Das was a 33-year-old banker.

He was also editor of science magazine “Jukti,” which means “logic,” and on the advisory board of “Mukto Mona” (Free Mind), a website propagating rationalism and opposing fundamentalism …

According to the monitoring service SITE Intelligence Group, Islamist militant group Ansar al-Islam Bangladesh said al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) had claimed responsibility for the attack. …

Imran Sarker, the head of a network of activists and bloggers in Bangladesh, said Das was “a progressive free thinker and a good human being”. …

Militants have targeted secularist writers in Bangladesh in recent years …

On March 30, Washiqur Rahman, another secular blogger who aired his outrage over [Avijit] Roy’s death on social media, was killed in similar fashion on a busy street in the capital, Dhaka.

Their deaths followed the killing in 2013 of Ahmed Rajib Haider, who backed calls to impose the death penalty on Islamist leaders accused of atrocities in Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence.

Why do our fellow atheists – of the leftist “Humanist” persuasion – not burn with anger against the ideology that persecutes atheism, secularism, rationalism, and shun the company of its devotees?

If they think they are earning the goodwill and tolerance of the Muslims towards whom they’re making this gesture, they’re pathetically deluded. Their nice little letter is not going to change sharia law, or the minds of those who want to impose it on us all.

They seem simply not to believe that the Muslims they contacted might be members of “radicalizing” mosques – which is to say, mosques with imams who urge them to support terrorist groups or join ISIS. There’s no hint that they explored the possibility. In their minds, the accusation must be wholly unjustified.

And one more thing. When those poor persecuted Muslims “in the Moscow/Pullman area” whimpered that “Islam is the most disrespected group in this country”, they are lying. The president of the United States is the son of a Muslim and an Islam lover who has brought Muslim Brotherhood advisers into his administration – and has clearly formed policies on their advice..

At the time of this writing there have been 27,322 deadly attacks carried out by Muslims since 9/11. (See the tally in our margin, taken from The Religion of Peace.) Muslim terrorists do all they can to terrify non-Muslims, and then cynically accuse them of an irrational fear of Islam, calling it “Islamophobia”.

Muslims are the target of few “hate crimes” in the US. But they perpetrate more than any others do.

We quote from an article by David J. Rusin at Islamist Watch. His staistics come from a December 2014 report of 2013 figures. (We await the 2014 report this coming December):

New FBI Hate Crime Stats: Another Blow to Islamist Fictions

There were 1,031 incidents inspired by religion last year, 625 (60.6 percent) of which were anti-Jewish. Anti-Islamic ones constituted just 13.1 percent.

On April 15, 2013, Muslim terrorists murdered three and injured hundreds at the Boston Marathon, prompting familiar warnings about an imminent anti-Muslim backlash. The FBI’s findings are proof that such collective punishment did not materialize — as it almost never does.

How have Islamist groups greeted the FBI data? With silence. It is the sound of disappointment on the part of radicals who need Muslim victims, preferably real ones, to serve as human shields for the Islamist agenda. Bad news for Islamists is once again good news for the rest of us.

Jesus’s very bad sermon 1

This is an interesting take on the advice “Jesus Christ” is reputed to have given in “the sermon on the mount”.

Matt Dillahunty is the (atheist) speaker. He posted this video on October 31, 2015.

(Note: the technical quality of the video is not good.)

Posted under Atheism, Christianity, Commentary, Religion general, Videos by Jillian Becker on Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Tagged with ,

This post has 1 comment.


Atheism, science, and the law 9

Any idea that needs a law to protect it from criticism is ipso facto a bad idea.

That is our own maxim. We repeat it often. It cannot be repeated often enough.

There used to be laws, in Western secular states, protecting religious ideas; usually the ideas of a particular religion favored by the state. The crime was called “blasphemy”.

Such a crime, carrying severe punishment, including the death sentence, still exists in Islamic countries.

And the crime still exists in Communist countries. As Communists do not acknowledge their ideology to be a religion, they do not call it blasphemy. It is called an offense against the state, or “dissidence”. It was often treated as a mental illness in the Soviet Union. It was also often punished by execution, not only in Russia but wherever the iron fist of the Soviet regime was the law.

In America the First Amendment to the Constituion, as everybody knows, enshrined freedom of belief and freedom of speech. Yet there lingers in the mores of the American people, generation after generation, the notion that religious beliefs should not be publicly criticized. Such criticism is felt to be a discourtesy at best, and at worst an actual defiance of the First Amendment itself!

Even some scientists respect this social taboo.

We quote a good article on the subject from the New Yorker, by Lawrence M. Krauss:

As a physicist, I do a lot of writing and public speaking about the remarkable nature of our cosmos, primarily because I think science is a key part of our cultural heritage and needs to be shared more broadly. Sometimes, I refer to the fact that religion and science are often in conflict; from time to time, I ridicule religious dogma. When I do, I sometimes get accused in public of being a “militant atheist”. Even a surprising number of my colleagues politely ask if it wouldn’t be better to avoid alienating religious people. Shouldn’t we respect religious sensibilities, masking potential conflicts and building common ground with religious groups so as to create a better, more equitable world?

I found myself thinking about those questions this week as I followed the story of Kim Davis, the county clerk in Kentucky who directly disobeyed a federal judge’s order to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, and, as a result, was jailed for contempt of court. Davis’s supporters, including the Kentucky senator and Presidential candidate Rand Paul, are protesting what they believe to be an affront to her religious freedom. It is “absurd to put someone in jail for exercising their religious liberties”, Paul said, on CNN.

The Kim Davis story raises a basic question: To what extent should we allow people to break the law if their religious views are in conflict with it? It’s possible to take that question to an extreme that even Senator Paul might find absurd: imagine, for example, a jihadist whose interpretation of the Koran suggested that he should be allowed to behead infidels and apostates. Should he be allowed to break the law? Or — to consider a less extreme case — imagine an Islamic-fundamentalist county clerk who would not let unmarried men and women enter the courthouse together, or grant marriage licenses to unveiled women. For Rand Paul, what separates these cases from Kim Davis’s? The biggest difference, I suspect, is that Senator Paul agrees with Kim Davis’s religious views but disagrees with those of the hypothetical Islamic fundamentalist.

The problem, obviously, is that what is sacred to one person can be meaningless (or repugnant) to another. That’s one of the reasons why a modern secular society generally legislates against actions, not ideas. No idea or belief should be illegal; conversely, no idea should be so sacred that it legally justifies actions that would otherwise be illegal. Davis is free to believe whatever she wants, just as the jihadist is free to believe whatever he wants; in both cases, the law constrains not what they believe but what they do.

In recent years, this territory has grown murkier. Under the banner of religious freedom, individuals, states, and even — in the case of Hobby Lobby — corporations have been arguing that they should be exempt from the law on religious grounds. (The laws from which they wish to claim exemption do not focus on religion; instead, they have to do with social issues, such as abortion and gay marriage.) The government has a compelling interest in insuring that all citizens are treated equally. But “religious freedom” advocates argue that religious ideals should be elevated above all others as a rationale for action. In a secular society, this is inappropriate.

The Kim Davis controversy exists because, as a culture, we have elevated respect for religious sensibilities to an inappropriate level that makes society less free, not more. Religious liberty should mean that no set of religious ideals are treated differently from other ideals. Laws should not be enacted whose sole purpose is to denigrate them, but, by the same token, the law shouldn’t elevate them, either.

In science, of course, the very word “sacred” is profane. No ideas, religious or otherwise, get a free pass. The notion that some idea or concept is beyond question or attack is anathema to the entire scientific undertaking. This commitment to open questioning is deeply tied to the fact that science is an atheistic enterprise. “My practice as a scientist is atheistic,” the biologist J.B.S. Haldane wrote, in 1934. “That is to say, when I set up an experiment I assume that no god, angel, or devil is going to interfere with its course and this assumption has been justified by such success as I have achieved in my professional career.” It’s ironic, really, that so many people are fixated on the relationship between science and religion: basically, there isn’t one. In my more than thirty years as a practicing physicist, I have never heard the word “God” mentioned in a scientific meeting. Belief or nonbelief in God is irrelevant to our understanding of the workings of nature—just as it’s irrelevant to the question of whether or not citizens are obligated to follow the law.

Because science holds that no idea is sacred, it’s inevitable that it draws people away from religion. The more we learn about the workings of the universe, the more purposeless it seems. Scientists have an obligation not to lie about the natural world. Even so, to avoid offense, they sometimes misleadingly imply that today’s discoveries exist in easy harmony with preëxisting religious doctrines, or remain silent rather than pointing out contradictions between science and religious doctrine. It’s a strange inconsistency, since scientists often happily disagree with other kinds of beliefs. Astronomers have no problem ridiculing the claims of astrologists, even though a significant fraction of the public believes these claims. Doctors have no problem condemning the actions of anti-vaccine activists who endanger children. And yet, for reasons of decorum, many scientists worry that ridiculing certain religious claims alienates the public from science. When they do so, they are being condescending at best and hypocritical at worst.

Ultimately, when we hesitate to openly question beliefs because we don’t want to risk offense, questioning itself becomes taboo. It is here that the imperative for scientists to speak out seems to me to be most urgent. As a result of speaking out on issues of science and religion, I have heard from many young people about the shame and ostracism they experience after merely questioning their family’s faith. Sometimes, they find themselves denied rights and privileges because their actions confront the faith of others. Scientists need to be prepared to demonstrate by example that questioning perceived truth, especially “sacred truth”, is an essential part of living in a free country.

I see a direct link, in short, between the ethics that guide science and those that guide civic life. Cosmology, my specialty, may appear to be far removed from Kim Davis’s refusal to grant marriage licenses to gay couples, but in fact the same values apply in both realms. Whenever scientific claims are presented as unquestionable, they undermine science. Similarly, when religious actions or claims about sanctity can be made with impunity in our society, we undermine the very basis of modern secular democracy. We owe it to ourselves and to our children not to give a free pass to governments — totalitarian, theocratic, or democratic — that endorse, encourage, enforce, or otherwise legitimize the suppression of open questioning in order to protect ideas that are considered “sacred”. Five hundred years of science have liberated humanity from the shackles of enforced ignorance. We should celebrate this openly and enthusiastically, regardless of whom it may offend.

If that is what causes someone to be called a militant atheist, then no scientist should be ashamed of the label.

We have said it is a good article. And what we have quoted, we heartily agree with.

But we left out one paragraph (where the dots are).

Here it is:

This reticence can have significant consequences. Consider the example of Planned Parenthood. Lawmakers are calling for a government shutdown unless federal funds for Planned Parenthood are stripped from spending bills for the fiscal year starting October 1st. Why? Because Planned Parenthood provides fetal tissue samples from abortions to scientific researchers hoping to cure diseases, from Alzheimer’s to cancer. (Storing and safeguarding that tissue requires resources, and Planned Parenthood charges researchers for the costs.) It’s clear that many of the people protesting Planned Parenthood are opposed to abortion on religious grounds and are, to varying degrees, anti-science. Should this cause scientists to clam up at the risk of further offending or alienating them? Or should we speak out loudly to point out that, independent of one’s beliefs about what is sacred, this tissue would otherwise be thrown away, even though it could help improve and save lives?

Either the author did not watch the videos that recorded Planned Parnethood personnel talking about their trade in the body parts of aborted fetuses, or he did not hear, or chose to forget, some statements they made. The videos make it perfecty clear that the organization was not just selling the parts in order to cover costs, but carryng on the trade for profit.

Now we have nothing against trade for profit. On the contrary, we think the making of profit is the morally best and most socially useful reason for selling anything and providing any service.

But it happens that the selling of the body parts of aborted fetuses for profit is against the law.  So exactly the same objection that Lawrence Krauss makes to Kim Davis’s action – that she broke the law – applies to Planned Parenthood’s action.

What seems to cloud his judgment in the case of Planned Parenthood – if he did watch the videos and take in what was said –  is the fact that the body parts went to scientists for the great cause (and we do think it is a great cause) of scientific research.

But however good the cause that the illegal trade was serving, it was still illegal.

In fact, what emerges from those videos is criminal action more morally outrageous than just selling the parts of aborted fetuses. (Note, please, that we are calling them fetuses, not “babies”, in order not to use controversial language.) It is revealed, in an interview with an employee of a firm that bought the body parts, that Planned Parenthood was urging pregnant women to have an abortion – even when they were uncertain that they wanted one, and even in one case when the woman was inclined NOT to have one – so that Planned Parenthood could sell the fetus’s body parts and so make a profit. 

That is iniquity.

Now scientists like Lawrence Krauss might argue persuasively that there should not be a law forbidding the selling of fetuses, whole or in parts, for profit. Just as Kim Davis might argue that there should not be a law that compels her to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. But there are such laws. And if it is wrong for Kim Davis to break the law on the grounds that it does a disservice to her idea of a higher good, so it is wrong for Planned Parenthood to break the law even if by doing so it is serving the genuinely higher good of science.

We have said that Lawrence Krauss’s judgment may be clouded by his belief in the supreme goodness of scientific research. We will not go so far as to say that he holds that end to be “sacred”, because we agree with him that the word has no place in the vocabulary of atheism. So we toss the accusation aside.

It could be said that our moral judgment of Planned Parenthood – accurate though our allegation is that the organization broke the law – may be clouded by our extreme distaste for their abortion services. (Note that we call them “services”, firmly resisting the temptation to call them “abuses”.) It  is true that we have an arguably irrational prejudice in favor of human life. We very much dislike abortion – while acknowledging that there are reasonable grounds for it in certain cases, and on no account arguing for it to be made wholly illegal. But obviously our objection to it is not on religious grounds. We do not believe that it frustrates “God’s purposes”. We are against it because we are against the deliberate destruction of human life - unless the human in question has forfeited his or her life by taking someone else’s.

Those who are for abortion on demand accuse those of us who are against it of being inconsistent when we call ourselves “pro-life”, because many of us are for the death penalty. By the same token, we can accuse them of inconsistency when they are for the destruction of life in the womb, but against putting convicted murderers to death. We are for saving the innocent and punishing the guilty, while they are for destroying the innocent and saving the guilty.


(Hat-tip for the article to our reader, Stephen)

Separation of Church and State 3

The great idea of individual freedom is what the Founders of the USA intended the new nation to embody – not Christianity.

We have selected passages on this theme from an article by Rob Boston in Church and State, denying “10 myths” about the First Amendment and its implications:

Myth One: Separation of church and state isn’t found in the U.S. Constitution.

Separation of church and state came about in America because during the colonial period there often was no separation, and this violated fundamental liberties. The system the Religious Right favors – church-state union – was tried in many colonies and found wanting.

Throughout the article, the author ascribes the myths exclusively to the “Religious Right”. In our experience, Christians of both Right and Left repeat these same fallacies.

Virginia led the way. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison worked together to disestablish the Anglican Church and pass legislation that extended true religious freedom to all. Some years later, it was Jefferson who penned the metaphor of the First Amendment erecting a “wall of separation between church and state”. Jefferson’s metaphor resonated with the public and the courts. Thus, the phrase “separation of church and state” came into being as a short-hand way of describing the First Amendment’s religion clauses. As the eminent church-state scholar Leo Pfeffer once wrote, “[I]t was inevitable that some convenient term should come into existence to verbalize a principle so widely held by the American people.”

Key Founders backed the concept. Madison, known as the “Father of the Constitution” and a primary drafter of the Bill of Rights, used similar language. In Virginia, Madison noted that he and Jefferson had created the “total separation of the church from the state”. As president, Madison was a strict advocate of this principle. He vetoed legislation that would have given a church in Washington, D.C., a symbolic charter to care for the poor, and he vetoed legislation giving a federal land grant to a church. In both cases, Madison issued veto messages citing the First Amendment.

Myth Two: The United States was founded to be a Christian nation.

This claim is easily debunked by referring to the text of the U.S. Constitution. If an officially Christian nation had been the Founders’ intent, the Constitution would say that explicitly. It doesn’t. In fact, it says the opposite.

Religion is referred to twice in the Constitution. The First Amendment bars laws “respecting an establishment of religion” and prohibiting “the free exercise thereof.” The first portion of this statement, which scholars call the Establishment Clause, cuts strongly against the notion of an officially Christian nation.

The second reference is often overlooked but is very important. Article VI contains language stating that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” What the Founders did here was ban religious qualifications for federal office – that is, they made it illegal to require that a person hold certain religious beliefs as a qualification for public office. Article VI ensures that all people – Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists, etc. – can hold office at the federal level. It is impossible to square this language with the “Christian nation” concept.

Many conservative pastors of the post-Revolution era were well aware of the secular nature of the Constitution. They knew that the document did not establish an officially Christian nation. This angered them and led to a round of pulpit attacks on the “godless” Constitution.

Myth Three: Separation of church and state was originally intended to merely bar the creation of a national church.

The text of the First Amendment goes way beyond simply banning a national church. The amendment prohibits all laws “respecting an establishment of religion”. James Madison, one of the chief drafters of the amendment, interpreted it broadly. Madison believed that tax funding of churches was unconstitutional and even concluded, later in his life, that official White House proclamations calling for days of prayer were a violation.

It is true that some colonies had official churches. But it’s worth noting that the religion enshrined in law varied from colony to colony. … This “multiplicity of sects,” as Thomas Jefferson called it, ensured an effective check on an officially established national church.

Myth Four: Most of the Founders were evangelical Christians and supported government promulgation of that mode of faith.

Evangelicalism did take hold in the colonies in the post-Revolutionary era, but it was never embraced by key Founders. Rather, they tended to align with a rival school that sought to merge certain ethical principles of Christianity with the tenets of the Enlightenment, which stressed the primacy of science and reason.

Many Founders are identified as Deists, a theological school of thought that is less popular today. Deists believed in God but didn’t interpret the Bible in a literal fashion. They were skeptical of miraculous claims and sought to find a way to bring religion into alignment with the emerging scientific view of the world.

Yes, many Founders were Deists, but here a correction is needed. As theological terms, Deism means belief that a divine being made the universe but had nothing more to do with it; Theism. in contrast, means belief in a creator who continues to concern himself with human affairs.

Some of the signers of the Constitution did undoubtedly hold traditional Christian beliefs. But this does not mean they supported merging church and state.

Myth Five: Mottos like “In God We Trust” on currency and “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance are evidence that separation of church and state was never intended.

Both of these phrases are of much more recent origin than many people believe.

“In God We Trust” is familiar to most Americans because it appears on U.S. currency. But early American money did not carry this phrase. The Fugio cent, a penny authorized by Congress in 1787 and reportedly designed by Benjamin Franklin, contained the mottos “Mind Your Business” and “We Are One” – a reference to the 13 colonies.

In God We Trust” didn’t appear on coins until the Civil War, when it was authorized for use on some coins minted in the North. The use of the phrase was sporadic on currency and was not codified until the 1950s. Around the same time, the phrase was adopted as the national motto. (“E Pluribus Unum” had been serving as an unofficial motto until then.) Many scholars believe that the adoption of these religious phrases was a reaction to the fight against “godless communism” during the Cold War.

The Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy, a minister and a socialist. Bellamy wrote the Pledge to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the voyage of Christopher Columbus. Bellamy’s Pledge, which did not include the phrase “under God,” appeared in a magazine called Youth’s Companion. After a lobbying campaign by the magazine … it was adopted for use in public schools as part of a daily flag-salute ritual. Congress added the words “under God” to the Pledge in 1954, again as a reaction to the fight against communism.

In short, the Founders had nothing to do with these religious mottos or their adoption.

Myth Six: Thanks to separation of church and state, kids can’t pray in public schools.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 1962 and 1963 banned programs of government-sponsored, compulsory prayer and Bible reading in public schools. The high court did not invalidate truly voluntary prayer and hasn’t done so since then. …  Young people in public schools today may pray and read religious books in a non-disruptive way – but the choice is now theirs. No students can be compelled to take part in religious worship in a public school or singled out for refusing to do so. …

In addition, the Supreme Court has made it clear that public schools can teach about religion in an objective manner. Religion can be discussed in classes like history, art, literature and others. The Bible and other religious texts can even be read as part of a comparative religion course. As long as the approach has legitimate educational goals, public school officials will not get into trouble for teaching about religion. …

Myth Seven: Separation of church and state fosters secularism, which drains religion of its vitality.

Official government secularism is not the enemy of faith; it is the defender of it. A secular state is one that is neutral on matters of theology. An official policy of government neutrality toward religion is a positive thing for faith communities.

The United States is a perfect example of how an official doctrine of secularism helps religion. In this country, the government long ago adopted a hands-off attitude toward religion. As a result, hundreds (if not thousands) of specific faith groups have sprung up on our shores. Religious groups remain vital, and most Americans claim a religious affiliation.

Other Western nations have either established churches or some form of government aid to religion. Ironically, it is in these nations where religion is withering away. It would seem that the official tie between church and state and the rejection of secularism as a legal principle sap faith of its vitality. In the end, religion becomes a mere creature of the state and a tool for promoting whatever policies government leaders decide are appropriate. This is not what people want, and they turn away from religion.

A thought, perhaps even a fact, that does not seem a happy one to us. If separation of church and state has actually encouraged religiosness and multiplied religions, it is not an unmitigated virtue of the Constituion after all. But it may be that freedom alone is responsible for the hundreds or thousands of churches in the US. And there is no consequence of freedom that can make it regrettable.

Myth Eight: Separation of church and state means that government must be hostile to religion.

In some countries, houses of worship are shuttered by government mandate, and religious people are persecuted. Nothing like that has occurred in the United States, which operates under the separation of church and state.

The separation principle contains two key parts: The government is to refrain from promoting, sponsoring or advocating for any faith. Yet at the same time, the government is required not to meddle in the internal affairs of religious groups or impose undue regulations and oversight on them. Church-state separation protects religion by placing it beyond the reach of government. …

Not quite “beyond the reach of government”. Government’s interfering hand has held out offerings:

Religious groups in America receive many benefits. They are wholly tax exempt and are often free from the regulatory oversight that is imposed on similarly situated secular groups. They are free to lobby and speak out on political issues. They often receive special exemptions and preferential treatment in secular law. Far from experiencing hostility, the place of religion in this nation where we separate church and state is in many ways exalted.

Myth Nine: Most religious leaders don’t support separation of church and state.

Some of the earliest proponents of separation of church and state were religious leaders. Roger Williams, a Puritan clergyman and the founder of Rhode Island, strongly advocated for separation during the colonial era. Years later, clerics like John Leland and Isaac Backus demanded separation as the best vehicle to protect the right of conscience for all.

In colonial Virginia and elsewhere, clergy from Baptist, Presbyterian and other traditions worked alongside Enlightenment thinkers like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison to secure church-state separation. These religious leaders knew that only separation could protect their faith and enable it to prosper.

In the modern era, many members of the clergy … [and] religious denominations are on record as officially sup­porting the concept.

Myth Ten: Separation of church and state stifles the public voice and presence of religion.

Anyone who believes this hasn’t been paying attention. The United States operates under separation of church and state, yet religious groups have a loud and robust public voice. They speak out – from the left, right and center – on any number of political issues. As tax-exempt entities, houses of worship are not permitted under federal law to endorse or oppose candidates for public office, but there is nothing to stop them from addressing issues. … Nor does separation of church and state result in what one foe of the principle called a “naked public square”. It’s true that government may not post or erect religious symbols, but private religious groups are often able to use public space to display them with their own money and on their own time. All that is required is that the government must treat all religious and secular groups equally; if access to public space is extended to one group, it must be extended to all.

To sum up: the Constitution does require the separation of church and state, even though the phrase itself does not appear in it.


(Hat-tip Frank)

The cloud of knowing (revisited) 1

President Obama openly promotes Islam both within the United States and abroad.

It seems that at first the plan to do this (or call it a conspiracy, since we are likely to have someone tell us that we are propounding a conspiracy theory), was being cunningly disguised as a plan to promote religion generally –  or at least those religions and religious organizations that “promote peace and human rights”.  As the World Council of Churches did, perhaps – when it had been penetrated, taken over, and manipulated by the USSR?

Did the Chicago Council on Global Affairs assist the plan?

In 2010, after a two year study, that institution found that “Western secularism feeds religious extremism“.

Is it still doing that? Did ISIS, for instance, arise as result of Western secularism?

Or has Western secularism become less “narrow, ill-informed and uncompromising”?

This article of ours was first posted February 24, 2010.


Traces of some very abstruse reasoning emerge tantalizingly from the Cloud of Knowing – the thinkers who influence current US foreign policy. Secretive ends are being pursued. Can we discern what they are, or guess what they might be, from the clues dropped by the press?

The Washington Post reports:

American foreign policy is handicapped by a narrow, ill-informed and “uncompromising Western secularism” that feeds religious extremism, threatens traditional cultures and fails to encourage religious groups that promote peace and human rights, according to a two-year study by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

So, according to a body that calls itself the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, secularism “feeds” religious extremism. Presumably that means it nourishes it, energizes it, makes it stronger than it would otherwise be.

Now how could it do that? Does it drive the religious mad by simply being non-religious? And if so, is it to blame for that, or are the religious perhaps over-reacting?

Wait. It’s not any old secularism that is guilty of annoying the religious; it is specifically Western secularism. Other sorts – if there are sorts of secularism – are not bad, or not as bad.

Why? Apparently because Western secularism, in contrast to, say, Eastern secularism if it exists, is “uncompromising”. But how should not-being-religious compromise? Should it be a little bit religious? If so, how much? And would it then still be secularism?

One may begin to suspect that here is another formulation of the now familiar accusation from the left that the West has only itself to blame for being attacked by religious extremists – aka Muslim terrorists – because it is not Muslim. Or is that leaping too quickly to an as yet unwarranted conclusion?

Let’s proceed cautiously. As well as “feeding” religious extremism, this Western secularism also “threatens traditional cultures”. How? Does it proselytize non-belief? Not that anyone’s heard. Does it try to force non-belief on believers? Again, no, not noticeably. Then does its mere existence raise questions that endanger the belief of “traditional cultures” – in which case what would the Chicago Council on Global Affairs have it do to lift the threat from those intimidated folk?

Wait again – the list of accusations against this dangerous force called secularism is not yet exhausted. It also “fails to encourage religious groups that promote peace and human rights”.

Which groups would those be – could we have some names, please? And why can they only carry out their noble mission if they are encouraged?

Answers to these questions cannot be found in the Washington Post story.

What it does tell us is that it took this body two years to reach its conclusion. So we  should not brush it off as nonsense: in two years it is possible to go very deeply into grievances.

What’s more, the conclusion requires, and will elicit, action by the government of the United States.

The council’s 32-member task force, which included former government officials and scholars representing all major faiths, delivered its report to the White House on Tuesday. The report warns of a serious “capabilities gap” and recommends that President Obama make religion “an integral part of our foreign policy”. 

A serious capabilities gap? Not a mere pothole in the diplomatic road to perfect global accord? And it could be filled in by – what exactly? A state religion? No – that could not be the recommendation of 32 officials and scholars representing all major faiths.

Just a generalized religiosity then?

But how is religion, whether specific or a mere aura of sanctity assumed by the State Department, going to improve American foreign policy, soothe the extremists of foreign creeds, reassure traditional cultures,  and stiffen the backbone of groups (presumably different from the religious extremists) intent on virtuously promoting peace  and human rights?

We are not told, and can only hope that the Chicago Council’s report to the White House provides answers to these difficult questions.

Thomas Wright, the council’s executive director of studies, said task force members met Tuesday with Joshua DuBois, head of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and State Department officials. “They were very receptive, and they said that there is a lot of overlap between the task force’s report and the work they have been doing on this same issue,” Wright said.

Something is already being done by the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships [and the State Department] to make religion in some way an integral part of US foreign policy? It would be most interesting to know what exactly.

DuBois declined to comment on the report but wrote on his White House blog Tuesday: “The Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnership and the National Security Staff are working with agencies across government to analyze the ways the U.S. government engages key non-governmental actors, including religious institutions, around the globe.”

Ah! He’s not being exact, but there’s a clue in here somewhere.

The Chicago Council isn’t as influential as the Council on Foreign Relations or some other Washington-based think tanks, but it does have a long-standing relationship with the president. Obama spoke to the council once as a state senator and twice as a U.S. senator, including his first major foreign policy speech as a presidential candidate in April 2007.

It could depend on his sympathy then, with whatever it is they want done.

Michelle Obama is on the council’s board.

Again, ah!

Now we learn that the problem, however obcure it may seem to the public, has been troubling smart people for quite some time.

American foreign policy’s “God gap”has been noted in recent years by others, including former secretary of state Madeleine K. Albright.

Well, she has been associated with a few faiths in her time – Judaism, Catholicism, Protestantism. So perhaps she would be especially aware of a shortage of religious belief in the State Department. Could have struck her forcibly when she assumed office.

“It’s a hot topic,” said Chris Seiple [read something very politically correct that he’s written here], president of the Institute for Global Engagement in Arlington County and a Council on Foreign Relations member. “It’s the elephant in the room. You’re taught not to talk about religion and politics, but the bummer is that it’s at the nexus of national security. The truth is the academy has been run by secular fundamentalists for a long time, people who believe religion is not a legitimate component of realpolitik.

Come now, politics can hardly be avoided by a Council of Foreign Relations. But you say that religion is “the elephant in the room”? And it is “at the nexus of national security” ?

The Chicago Council’s task force was led by R. Scott Appleby of the University of Notre Dame and Richard Cizik of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good.

Who is Richard Cizik, and what is the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good? According to Newsweek he was the Washington lobbyist for the National Association of Evangelicals for nearly 30 years, and then, towards the end of 2008, he announced “the formation of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, a group devoted to developing Christian responses to global and political issues such as environmentalism, nuclear disarmament, human rights, and dialogue with the Muslim world”.


“Religion,” the task force says, “is pivotal to the fate” of such nations as Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Iraq, Iran, Nigeria and Yemen, all vital to U.S. national and global security.

So the particular religion they have in mind is Islam?

Not necessarily … don’t jump to conclusions …  it could also be  .. hmmm-mmm … Hinduism and …  Christianity and … who knows what?:

“Despite a world abuzz with religious fervor,” the task force says, “the U.S. government has been slow to respond effectively to situations where religion plays a global role.” Those include the growing influence of Pentecostalism in Latin America, evangelical Christianity in Africa and religious minorities in the Far East.

All of which feel threatened by Western secularism? Are crying out for it to compromise a little?

But okay, mostly Islam:

U.S. officials have made efforts to address the God gap, especially in dealings with Islamic nations and groups. The CIA established an office of political Islam in the mid-1980s. … During the second Bush administration, the Defense Department rewrote the Army’s counter-insurgency manual to take account of cultural factors, including religion.

Could that have had something to do with the shooting of soldiers by an “extremist” Muslim officer at Fort Hood? Just wondering.

The Obama administration has stepped up the government’s outreach to a wider range of religious groups and individuals overseas

… even, say, the Dalai Lama if he’ll use the back door

…  trying to connect with people beyond governments, said a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Very hush-hush stuff this.

The effort, he said, is more deliberate than in the past: “This issue has senior-level attention.”

He noted that Obama appointed a special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference …

The envoy being a Muslim and a terrorist sympathizer [see our post The trusted envoy, February 20, 2010], and the Organization of the Islamic Conference being a major instrument of the Ummah for the conquest of the non-Muslim world, chiefly by methods of “soft jihad” in Europe …

… and created a new Muslim outreach position in the State Department. In the past year, he said, embassies in Muslim-majority countries have held hundreds of meetings with a broad range of people not involved in government.

Huh? Muslim-majority countries have had hundreds of meetings with individual people not involved with government? What people? Why? To what end? How does the government know about them?

Whatever was going on with that, it was apparently too “episodic and uncoordinated”. Now there must be something more programmatic, more official, more formal, more defined, and definitely involving government:

To end the “episodic and uncoordinated nature of U.S. engagement of religion in the world,” the task force recommended:

— Adding religion to the training and continuing educationofall foreign service officers, diplomats and other key diplomatic, military and economic officials. …

— Empowering government departments and agencies to engage local and regional religious communities where they are central players in the promotion of human rights and peace, as well as the delivery of health care and other forms of assistance.

Leaving aside the code words “human rights” and “peace” which in such a context as this usually mean “leftism” and “Islam” – diplomats, and military and even economic officials should deliver health care?

But here comes the stunner. (Remember that “clarify” in diplomatic talk always means “take it back and say something more to our liking”.)

– Address and clarify the role of religious freedom in U.S. foreign policy.

Cizik said some parts of the world — the Middle East, China, Russia and India, for example — are particularly sensitive to the U.S. government’s emphasis on religious freedom and see it as a form of imperialism.


We give up. Such nuanced thought is beyond our grasp.

The manifest godlessness of nature 23

In this video, published yesterday, physicist Sean Carroll eloquently and amusingly wins a debate with his arguments on whether there is “life” after death.

He also demonstrates that naturalism reflects the world as it is, whereas theism merely describes a world as some would want it to be but it isn’t.

Posted under Atheism, Religion general, Science, Videos by Jillian Becker on Saturday, September 26, 2015

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The atheist Muslim 6

Donald Trump is being taken to task by prissy Republicans and the moral priesthood aka the media for not correcting a questioner who called Obama a Muslim.

It seems fair to deduce from Barack Hussein Obama’s words and deeds that he is ardently pro-Muslim.

And he was surely regarded by Muslims as one of them when he attended a Muslim school – and a mosque – in Indonesia.

His father was a Muslim, and to Muslims that makes him a Muslim. And anyway, it’s the easiest thing to become a Muslim. You can slip into it without noticing what’s happening – just reading aloud a compulsory set-piece in the Common Core curriculum, for instance: the shahada, Islam’s declaration of faith.  That’s all you need do to be counted by Muslims as a Muslim. And young Barry Hussein must have done that many a time.

He has spoken with feeling about the pretty sound of the muezzin’s call to prayer. He gave his first speech in a foreign country to the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo. He bowed low to the King of Saudi Arabia. He brown-noses the musty mullahs of Iran. He brings Muslim Brotherhood advisers into the White House. He instructed NASA to reach out to Muslims and convince them that they are great scientists. He declared the US to be a Muslim country, and decreed that Muslims have contributed greatly to it progress. (Which Muslims did that he has not divulged.) He celebrates the Islamic festival of Eid-al-Fitr with a White House dinner for Muslims, every year he’s in office, with gusto. He shares the Islamic world’s antipathy to Israel and Jews. He’s letting Iran acquire nukes to destroy Israel. He’s having ISIS bombed so gingerly that the Islamic State savages hardly notice a warehouse or two has been flattened. He told the world from a UN platform that “the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam”.

But does he actually believe the teaching of Muhammad? Does he worship Allah? Is he submissive in his heart to the dual authority of “Allah the Merciful” and his ruthless prophet?

Who can know what anyone else really thinks, feels, or believes?

We know that Obama attended Jeremiah Wright’s church of anti-Americanism, anti-Semitism, and anti-Honkyism. Whether he was there – or anywhere – baptized according to the Christian rite, has not been revealed to the public.

This is from Canada Free Press, by a Christian writer, Dr. Don Boys, who makes some good points on the question of Obama’s religious affiliation:

Obama’s campaign released the statement that the senator “has never been a practicingMuslim”. However, the facts indicate otherwise. He was listed as a Muslim while a young student in Indonesia and often attended a mosque.

He was enrolled in the Besuki Primary School, a public school in Jakarta, as a Muslim. Didn’t his mother know what religious affiliation her young son had when she filled out the enrollment forms?

Obama clearly admitted to studying the Koran and identified his school as “a Muslim school” in his autobiography, Dreams From My Father. Many of his childhood friends commented on his Muslim religion, and the media in Indonesia made many references to his Muslim faith.

Obama acknowledges in Dreams that his grandfather was a Muslim (page 104) and that he spent two years in a Muslim school in Indonesia studying the Koran (page 154). In The Audacity of Hope, he says (page 204) that “my father had been raised a Muslim” but that by the time he met his mother, his father was a “confirmed atheist”. However, Muslims teach that children become Muslims because of their father’s religion. Moreover, no one can testify as to when he repudiated Islam. Nor is there a record of his Christian baptism.

Obama really let the kitty out of the sack when he allegedly told the Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit that he was a Muslim. In mid-January of 2010 the Foreign Minister revealed on the “Round Table Show”, a Nile telecast, that “he had had a one on one meeting with Obama who swore to him that he was a Moslem, the son of a Moslem father and step-son of Moslem step-father, that his half-brothers in Kenya were Moslems, and that he was loyal to the Moslem agenda. He asked that the Moslem world show patience. Obama promised that once he overcame some domestic American problems (Healthcare), that he would show the Moslem world what he would do with Israel.” This conversation probably happened when Gheit was in Washington for Middle East peace talks in early January of 2010. …

The following circumstantial evidence is also overwhelming proof of his Muslim faith and his antagonism for the Christian faith. Fox News reported that Obama told the NASA administrator Charles Bolden before his appointment that he was to do three things. The third was “He wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science…and math and engineering.” The White House verified the conversation in June of 2010. NASA is in the “feel good” business!

Obama asked Georgetown University to remove a religious symbol for the name of Jesus where Obama was to speak about the economy on Apr. 14, 2009. He has not asked for the removal of Muslim symbols when speaking at Islamic events.

Dr. Boys goes on to adduce apparent proofs that Obama is not a Christian. That part of his article doesn’t interest us.

One thing is positive that all honest people can agree on. The record clearly proves Obama is a Muslim sympathizer, spokesman, and sycophant.

I could go on and on with many other indications that Obama uses every opportunity to … pander to Islam. It is not becoming for the President of the United States to be a shill for a brutal, bloody, barbaric and backward religion even if he sincerely believes their principles.

One – what’s more –  that has declared itself to be at war with America. And in whose name hundreds of Americans have been imprisoned, tortured, and killed.

Dr. Boys ends:

Obama is a Muslim.

Now we like to think we know an atheist when we see and hear one, even if only indirectly through the media, the way most people see and hear a public figure.

Going by what we can observe of him, we think Obama is an atheist – the only thing about him we can sympathize with.

But a Muslim atheist, not a Christian atheist.

Posted under Atheism, Christianity, Islam, Muslims by Jillian Becker on Tuesday, September 22, 2015

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The faith is dead long live the faith 13

Here are facts and figures from a Pew survey conducted between June and September of 2014, reported by the Washington Post:

Christianity is on the decline in America, not just among younger generations or in certain regions of the country but across race, gender, education and geographic barriers.

The percentage of adults who describe themselves as Christians dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years to about 71 percent, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center. …

That’s still a lot of Christians. Nearly three-quarters of the nation.

At the same time, the share of those who are not affiliated with a religion has jumped from 16 percent to about 23 percent in the same time period. The trend follows a pattern found earlier in the American Religious Identification Survey, which found that in 1990, 86 percent of American adults identified as Christians, compared with 76 percent in 2008. Here are three key takeaways from Pew’s new survey.

  1. Millennials are growing even less affiliated with religion as they get older 

The older generation of millennials (those who were born from 1981 to 1989) are becoming even less affiliated with religion than they were about a decade ago, the survey suggests. In 2007, when the Pew Research Center did their last Religious Landscape Survey and these adults were just entering adulthood, 25 percent of them did not affiliate with a religion, but this grew to 34 percent in the latest survey.

The trends among the aging millennials is especially significant, said Greg Smith, associate director of research at the Pew Research Center. In 2010, 13 percent of baby boomers were religiously unaffiliated as they were entering retirement, the same percentage in 1972. “Some have asked, ‘Might they become more religiously affiliated as they get older?’ There’s nothing in this data to suggest that’s what’s happening,” he said. Millennials get married later than older generations, but they are not necessarily more likely to become religiously affiliated, he said.

  1. There are more religiously unaffiliated Americans than Catholic Americans or mainline Protestant Americans

The numbers of Catholics and Protestants have each shrunk between three and five percentage points since 2007. The evangelical share of the American population has dropped by one percentage point since 2007.

There are more religiously unaffiliated Americans (23 percent) than Catholics (21 percent) and mainline Protestants (15 percent). …

That’s 36% of Christians accounted for. What sort of Christians are the remaining 35% if neither Catholic nor Protestant? Are they all Mormons?

The groups experience their losses through what’s called “religious switching,” when someone switches from one faith to another. Thirteen percent of Americans were raised Catholic but are no longer Catholic, compared with just 2 percent of Americans who are converts to Catholicism. “That means that there are more than six former Catholics for every convert to Catholicism,” Smith said. “There’s no other group in the survey that has that ratio of loss due to religious switching.” There are 3 million fewer Catholics today than there were in 2007. While the percentage of Catholics in the United States has remained relatively steady, Smith said we might be observing the beginning of the decline of the Catholic share of the population.

Pew estimates there are about 5 million fewer mainline Protestants than there were in 2007. About 10 percent of the U.S. population say they were raised in the mainline Protestant tradition, while 6 percent have converted to mainline Protestantism.

Evangelical Protestants have experienced less decline, due to their net  positive retention rate. For every person who has left evangelical Protestantism after growing up, 1.2 have switched to join an evangelical denomination.

Then comes apparently good news.

  1. Those who are unaffiliated are becoming more secular

The “nones,” or religiously unaffiliated, include atheists, agnostics and those  who say they believe in “nothing in particular”. Of those who are unaffiliated, 31 percent describe themselves as atheists or agnostics, up six points from 2007.

“What we’re seeing now is that the share of people who say religion is important to them is declining,” Smith said. “The religiously unaffiliated are not just growing, but as they grow, they are becoming more secular.”

And people in older generations are increasingly disavowing organized religion. Among baby boomers, 17 percent identify as a religious “none,” up from 14 percent in 2007.

“There’s a continuing religious disaffiliation among older cohorts. That is really striking,” Smith said. “I continue to be struck by the pace at which the unaffiliated are growing.”

White Americans (24 percent) are more likely to say they have no religion, compared with 20 percent of Hispanic Americans and 18 percent of black Americans. The retention rates of the “nones” who say they were raised as religiously affiliated has grown by seven points since 2007 to 53 percent.

The religions are such musty old things. Relics from the pre-science age – or the ages between Greek enlightenment and the West European Enlightenment. Dark and awful. Christianity and Islam in particular are calculated to cause profound anxiety with their terrible doctrines of hell.

Trouble is, many who turn away from those old religions, embrace Leftism. And that’s a religion too.

In his excellent book Thinkers of the New Left, Professor Roger Scruton writes of the devout Marxist, Louis Althusser:

[Althusser says that] you can understand [Marx’s book] Capital only if you already believe it. That is the criterion of religious faith, which is locked inviolably within the single thought of its own validity – the thought that “I understand because I believe”. For the scientific mind, belief is the consequence and not the cause of understanding. But it is precisely the scientific failure of Marxism which necessitates Althusser’s enterprise – that of the sacralisation of Marx’s texts and the transformation of their content into revealed dogma. … When Althusser turns to the text of Capital, it is partly in order to give vent to religious awe, but also to extract a phrase or a paragraph, which he encases in metaphysical nonsense, like a drunken mystic commenting on the gospels.

The minds of most people living in the last two thousand years have been darkened by the mystic fantasies of three individuals:

  • the confector of Christianity, St. Paul;
  • the concocter of Islam, Muhammad;
  • the inflictor of Communism, Karl Marx.

Anti-Zionism is racism 4

Anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. Jew-hatred is not a result of the existence of Israel or of anything Israel does. The cause and result go the other way round. Israel is hated because Jews are hated.

We are not talking about the religion of Judaism. Strange to say, it’s very rare to hear even the most rabid anti-Semite attack the Jewish religion. (We ourselves do, in a rational way, because we attack religion as such, but we are not anti-Semites.) We are talking about hatred of the Jews as a people.

The root of anti-Semitism is, however, in religion.

First, the author of the Christian religion, St. Paul, spread his weird belief that the Jewish god had been born as a man. He picked an actual person, a Jew born in the time of Augustus Caesar; a religious fanatic who tried to lead a little insurgent band against Roman rule and was consequently executed. St. Paul claimed that the man lived on after his death as a co-divine being, and that the failure of the Jews to acknowledge this “truth” excluded them from the redemption from sin that belief in the god-man alone provided. His converts told a whopper in their novels (called the gospels) about the god-man – that the Jews had begged to be held guilty forever for killing him.

Next, some three hundred years later, the Romans, having themselves crucified the man as was their wont with insurrectionists, decided that he was indeed a god, the God that the Jews had first invented – or at least part of the God in some mystical way or other – and insisted on the wildly improbable story that blamed the crucifixion on the actual man’s fellow Jews.

For two thousand years Christianity (though not all Christians) held the Jews to be bad. Not their religion, which Christianity came round to adopting as the pre-history of the god-man, but the nation, the people, who were dispersed from their own land and scattered among other nations when their general mutiny against Roman rule failed. They were cast in the role of handy scapegoats for every ill that afflicted the peoples they lived among.

With the rise of Islam, the Jews who lived in the lands that Muslims conquered were maltreated for a different badness: they, like the Christians, would not accept the “truth” of Muhammad’s religion, so must suffer the consequences of their obstinacy and pay to stay alive, or die. When, in 1948, the Jews in their recovered homeland mustered an army which actually defeated six invading Arab armies, the Arabs felt deeply humiliated. Something had gone very wrong. Allah simply could not allow such a thing to happen. Islam had conquered that once-Jewish territory centuries earlier, and no one else was allowed to own it.

The Jews were allowed to re-establish a Jewish state in 1948 by the consent of the great powers which had taken custody of the region after they defeated the Islamic Ottoman empire in the war of 1914-1918. First some 80% of the ancient Jewish homeland had been allocated to an Arab emir for a new state called Transjordan (one of 21 Arab despotisms, some of them newly created at that time). Then they divided the remaining 20% between  the Jews and some other Arabs. The Jewish people – what remained of it after six of its fifteen million had been systematically killed in Christian Europe – unhesitatingly took its portion. The Arabs wanted all of the 20% or nothing. So they got nothing. Hundreds of thousands of Jews, survivors of the attempted genocide, went home to Zion. Their patriotism is called Zionism. It is not more or less legitimate than the patriotism of any other people.

But it is the only patriotism that is reviled. The Jewish state is the only state whose legitimacy is continually called into question in forums of the Christian and Islamic worlds.

Dennis Prager, with whom we almost always agree on political issues though never on religion, writes at Townhall:

Whenever I have received a call from a listener to my radio show challenging Israel’s legitimacy, I have asked these people if they ever called a radio show to challenge any other country’s legitimacy. In particular, I ask, have they ever questioned the legitimacy of Pakistan?

The answer, of course, is always “no.” In fact, no caller ever understood why I even mentioned Pakistan.

There are two reasons for this.

First, of all the 200-plus countries in the world, only Israel’s legitimacy is challenged. So mentioning any other country seems strange to a caller. Second, almost no one outside of India and Pakistan knows anything about the founding of Pakistan.

Only months before the U.N. adopted a proposal to partition Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state in 1947, India was partitioned into a Muslim and a Hindu state. The Hindu state was, of course, India. And the Muslim state became known as Pakistan. It comprises 310,000 square miles, about 40,000 square miles larger than Texas.

In both cases, the declaration of an independent state resulted in violence. As soon as the newly established state of Israel was declared in May 1948, it was invaded by six Arab armies. And the partition of India led to a terrible violence between Muslims and Hindus.

According to the final report of the United Nations Conciliation Commission from Dec. 28, 1949, the 1948 war of Israel’s independence created 726,000 Arabs refugees. Many sources put the figure at about 200,000 less. A roughly equal number of Jewish refugees — approximately 700,000 — were created when they were forcibly expelled from the Arab countries where they had lived for countless generations. In addition, approximately 10,000 Arabs were killed in the fighting that ensued after the Arab invasion of Israel.

Now let’s turn to the creation of Pakistan. According to the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees, the creation of Pakistan resulted in 14 million refugees — Hindus fleeing Pakistan and Muslims fleeing India. Assuming a 50-50 split, the creation of Pakistan produced about seven million Hindu refugees — at least 10 times the number of Arab refugees that resulted from the war surrounding Israel’s creation. And the Mideast war, it should be recalled, was started by the Arab nations surrounding Israel. Were it not for the Arab rejection of Israel’s creation (and existence within any borders) and the subsequent Arab invasion, there would have been no Arab refugees.

And regarding deaths, the highest estimate of Arab deaths during the 1948 war following the partition of Palestine is 10,000. The number of deaths that resulted from the creation of Pakistan is around one million.

In addition, according to the Indian government, at least 86,000 women were raped. Most historians believe the number to be far higher. The number of women raped when Israel was established is close to zero. From all evidence I could find, the highest estimate was 12.

Given the spectacularly larger number of refugees and deaths caused by the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan, why does no one ever question the legitimacy of Pakistan’s existence?

This question is particularly valid given another fact: Never before in history was there a Pakistan. It was a completely new nation. Moreover, its creation was made possible solely because of Muslim invasion. It was Muslims who invaded India, and killed about 60 million Hindus during the thousand-year Muslim rule of India. The area now known as Pakistan was Hindu until the Muslims invaded it in A.D. 711.

On the other and, modern Israel is the third Jewish state in the geographic area known as Palestine. The first was destroyed in 586 B.C., the second in A.D. 70. And there was never a non-Jewish sovereign state in Palestine.

So, given all these facts, why is Israel’s legitimacy challenged, while the legitimacy of Pakistan, a state that had never before existed and whose creation resulted in the largest mass migration in recorded history, is never challenged?

The answer is so obvious that only those who graduated from college, and especially from graduate school, need to be told: Israel is the one Jewish state in the world. So, while there are 49 Muslim-majority countries and 22 Arab states, much of the world questions or outright only rejects the right of the one Jewish state, the size of New Jersey, to exist.

If you are a member of the Presbyterian Church, send these facts to the leaders of the Presbyterian Church USA who voted to boycott Israel. If you are a student in Middle Eastern Studies — or for that matter, almost any other humanities department — and your professor is anti-Israel, ask your professor why Pakistan is legitimate and Israel isn’t.

They won’t have a good answer. Their opposition to Israel isn’t based on moral considerations.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali speaks for us 5

This is from an interview by the Daily Beast with the greatest living woman – no, the greatest living person of our time, Ayaan Hirsi Ali:

Q: You’re giving the keynote speech at the American Atheists National Convention [on April 3]. Are you going to talk about Islam primarily?

A: I am. And I think I have the same message as I have for feminists and for other groups who are addressing various issues in the world we live in today. For atheists, it’s: You address the issues of organized religion and atrocities committed in the name of organized religion. And I want them to focus on Islam today, because it’s in the name of Islam that most lives are taken, that most subjection, most intolerance is spread around the world. So for my fellow atheists, it’s a matter of: Listen, it’s one thing to protest about Christmas trees on December 25, but it’s quite another to witness fellow human beings in cages and burned alive, and women taken as slaves, again, in the names of this religion. So it’s very much a matter of organizing our priorities.

There’s a view in the United States that atheists can be overly intolerant toward nonviolent expressions of religion in public life — Christmas crèches and other religious displays on public property. Do you think atheists can be too aggressive on these issues?

This is so unfair. For centuries — centuries — quite honestly, it’s in the name of religion that people’s rights are violated, and atheists are finally getting together and reacting to that. If we just look at facts, I don’t think we need to fear atheist intolerance. The biggest threat to human rights is religious intolerance, not atheist intolerance.

Do you think there is prejudice against atheists in the United States? You see surveys, for instance, in which most people would not vote for a politician who is not religious.

There is that kind of intolerance. But as an atheist, I don’t fear that I’m going to be killed in the U.S. by believers who can’t tolerate my atheism. Whereas in my own family, my own religion, the community I was born into, when I said, “You know, I really don’t think I believe in life after death, and this Mohammed guy, I don’t believe in everything he said,” it was like, “Death unto you.” There is a massive difference. Same thing with the feminists. Listen, if you’re not allowed into a golf club, that doesn’t sit well with me, but if I were to prioritize, I would say: This girl, she’s just been denied her right to school, she’s just been forced into marriage, she’s just been genitally mutilated. That’s the sort of thing that we need to be, as women, signing up against — and as atheists. And by the way, the LGBT community — I think it’s awesome, and it’s taken some great steps. But in the name of Islam, gay men, or men who are accused of being gay, are put on the roofs of buildings and thrown down by a mob shouting “Allahu akbar!” doing this in the name of their faith. And it’s time that the gay community stood up to this. HIV is no longer the biggest killer of the gay community; it’s violence in the name of Islam, and no one’s talking about it.

Posted under Atheism, Islam, jihad, Muslims, Religion general by Jillian Becker on Sunday, April 5, 2015

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