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Ugh – President Obama Attends The Family’s “National Prayer Breakfast”, Again

6:45 am in banality of evil, Religion by Bill Egnor

Separation of Church and State Streets (photo: archeoeric via Flickr)

It is the first Thursday in February, which means that “The Family” —  or as they like to be known publicly, The Fellowship Foundation —  is holding its National Prayer Breakfast. As has been the case since the 1980s there will be a wide variety of leading political figures at the this event, including President Obama.

For those who have not read Jeff Sharlet’s “The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power,” or watched Rachel Maddow’s excellent coverage of this group let me give just a little primer.

The Family was founded by Abraham Vereide and has been a shadowy presence ever since. It is the owner of the now-notorious C Street House where Sen. John Ensign, and others apparently got sweetheart deals on lodging from The Family. The current leader of this group is Douh Coe who’s been seen in video clips comparing the commitment of the Nazis and the Red Army to the commitment his followers need to have in Jesus. I can’t say whether it was taken out of context or not, but let’s just say I have never heard a Jesuit speak approvingly of Hitler or Stalin in any fashion. To use the comparison of fanatical belief and commitment of followers to a couple of the greatest killers in history seems jarring when one is talking about the “Prince of Peace.”

I don’t have a problem with people coming together to pray. If that is you thing, go for it. I don’t see the point, but I am not going to stop you or even advocate that you stop. The problem is that this has achieved national prominence. Every American president since Eisenhower has participated in this event. This and the fact that it is organized by Republicans and Democrats makes it an overtly political event.

This is a real problem with the separation of church and state. The Family arranges for the president to meet with high ranking members of other governments in an hour long event before the main event. This is a huge amount of power; after all who else do you know that can dragoon a president to talk with persons of their choice every single year?  . . .

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The Radical Right Wants Their Protections While Denying Them To Others

7:00 am in banality of evil, jerks, Politics, Religion, Republican Party by Bill Egnor

For 28 weeks in late 2008 and 2009 I wrote a series on the Constitution. It grew out of a realization that while I knew a couple of the Amendments I had never really read the whole thing. Worse I had never taken the time to think about it in part and as a whole. If you’re interested you can find the last one here, and there are links to all 27 of the others. The point is not the series but what I learned from doing it.

There seems to be a failure by many of our fellow citizens to understand that the Constitution is not a Chinese Buffet where you can go straight for the sweet and sour chicken but leave off the bean sprouts. Our Constitution is more of a tapestry, where if you pull out one string that offends you the whole thing is weakened.

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If one wants the protections of a particular Amendment, then one has to support the whole thing. There is no getting around that. If you are a big fan of the idea that the State should not be able to view or seize your private papers and files, then it follows that you must support the 2nd Amendment and its provisions for the ownership of guns by private citizens.

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Japanese Internment And Banning Mosque Building, Same Impulse

7:00 am in Conservatism, jerks, Politics, Religion, Republican Party by Bill Egnor

Let me be clear from the start, the internment of 110,000 Japanese American citizens and residents is not exactly the same as the recent effort to stop the construction of mosques in Manhattan and elsewhere in the nation, but it is on the same spectrum, just like bigotry, prejudice and ethic hate are on the same spectrum.

It is one of our nation’s greatest shames that we interred our fellow citizens without any due process and merely because of their ethnicity. In the words of President Regan in the official apology was done in a fit of

“race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership”


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The conditions were shockingly similar to the ones that are driving the Radical Right to insist that a community center two blocks from the Trade Center Plaza (where the Twin Towers used to stand) is somehow a victory terrorists. Let’s try a little experiment, see if you can tell who said the following:

"A viper is nonetheless a viper wherever the egg is hatched… So, a Muslim American born of Muslim parents, nurtured upon Muslim traditions, living in a transplanted Islamic atmosphere… notwithstanding his nominal brand of accidental citizenship almost inevitably and with the rarest exceptions grows up to be a Muslim, and not an American… Thus, while it might cause injustice to a few to treat them all as potential enemies, I cannot escape the conclusion… that such treatment… should be accorded to each and all of them while we are at war with their race

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Are We At War With All Of Islam? Right Wingers Think So

7:00 am in banality of evil, Religion, Terrorism by Bill Egnor

Nearly every oath of service in this nation includes the phrase “Defend and protect the Constitution of the United States of America” in some form or the other. Not having a King we needed an object of loyalty, something bigger than the individual to focus our loyalty on. It was well planned by the Framers that when taking office each servant of the people would swear to uphold and protect the very document which created this nation.

It is therefore shocking how few of our fellow citizens actually get know or understand what the Constitution says. We have multiple issues where the public opinion seems to be against the Constitutions very clear demands for all citizens to have the same rights. The big culture war issue has been about the right of gay citizens to marry the person of their choice. Time and again the public has voted to deny this right to their fellow citizens.

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Now with the help of the radical Republican propaganda machine the issue of citizens of the Islamic faith are under the same kind of pressure. The intent of a long time Manhattan Imam to build a large community center two blocks (Two New York City blocks, not the dinky things that you and I have in our neighborhoods) from the former site of the World Trade Center has lead to at least one on the radical Right to call for a ban on all mosque or Islamic community centers across the nation.

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On Right Wing Mosque Building Protests

9:00 am in banality of evil, Foreign Policy, jerks, Politics, Religion, Republican Party by Bill Egnor

I know I have been pounding the “Republicans are “_______” (insert perfidious, greedy, morally bankrupt, etc, etc, etc.) drums a lot but when most of an entire party is trying to be the one at the top of Crazy Mountain, a humble blogger can only respond to the input.

The latest outrage is growing choir of Right Wing Republicans who are against mosque building. The proposed community center and mosque a couple of blocks from the site of the Twin Towers is the one that has received most of the attention but it far from the only one.

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The argument here is so bigoted and spurious it pains me to repeat it but here it is; since the folks who destroyed the Twin Towers were Muslims, then no Muslim should be able to build anything near it. It does not matter that like all religions Islam is hardly monolithic, not all of the 1.3 billion of their coreligionists believe that it was a good thing to attack the United States. They don’t even all agree on the tenants of their religion, just like Baptists, Seventh Day Adventists and Catholics can all be said to be Christians, but are far from agreement in what that really means.

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New Paper Gives Insight Into How Religion Developed

4:20 pm in Religion by Bill Egnor

Now for a little science, since we can’t have all politics all the time!

As an atheist, it is often confounding that religion seems to be pervasive in all cultures and across huge spans of our species history. Given the vast number of religions we as a species have had and do have, the question becomes is there something in us that selected this trait of belief or is the belief in deities and the supernatural the by-product of another set of traits that were advantageous to our survival and have persisted in the form of religion ever since? There is a new paper published by Dr’s Iikka Pyysiainen (talk about a hard to pronounce name!) and Marc Huaser looks at the arguments for each of these points.

You can find the paper here:

The authors look a large body of literature to come to the conclusion that it is more likely that religion is a result of the by-product of existing processes than it is religion was so effective in extending that life of humans it was a target of natural selection. From the abstract of the paper:

Considerable debate has surrounded the question of the origins and evolution of religion. One proposal views religion as an adaptation for cooperation, whereas an alternative proposal views religion as a by-product of evolved, non-religious, cognitive functions. We critically evaluate each approach, explore the link between religion and morality in particular, and argue that recent empirical work in moral psychology provides stronger support for the by-product approach. Specifically, despite differences in religious background, individuals show no difference in the pattern of their moral judgments for unfamiliar moral scenarios. These findings suggest that religion evolved from pre-existing cognitive functions, but that it may then have been subject to selection, creating an adaptively designed system for solving the problem of cooperation.

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Where Does It End? Fight Club For Jesus

9:00 am in Culture, Religion by Bill Egnor

I am not a fan of anger. While it can motivate in the short-term, it can very easily become like a fire, which has to consume more and more fuel to keep burning hotly. This makes it a dangerous tool to use to motivated people. Not that this stops anyone from taking the plunge and lighting fires of discontent, especially in the Tea Party movement and the Religious Right who occupy the same section of a Venn diagram of the conservatives in this country.

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On the one hand, there is the sense of victimization that is required to stoke the anger, on the other there is the need to be tough and bad-assed to take on the supposed oppressors. We have seen the one in the so-called “War on Christmas” and we are seeing the other with the conservative need to change the perception of Jesus.

You may be aware of the Conservative Bible project that Conservapeadia is running. They are re-writing the Bible to fit their ideology, based on these ten principals:

As of 2009, there is no fully conservative translation of the Bible which satisfies the following ten guidelines:[3]

1. Framework against Liberal Bias: providing a strong framework that enables a thought-for-thought translation without corruption by liberal bias

2. Not Emasculated: avoiding unisex, "gender inclusive" language, and other feminist distortions; preserve many references to the unborn child (the NIV deletes these)

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Court Orders Pregnant Woman To Bed Rest

7:00 am in Culture, Religion by Bill Egnor

Sometimes the level of dysfunction in regards to women’s rights and pregnancy is nothing short of gob-smacking. Take the Florida case of Samantha Burton. Ms. Burton is pregnant. She has two children and in her current pregnancy she is at risk of a miscarriage. She was admitted to the hospital in Florida where her doctors advised bed rest as well until a C-section could be performed. They also insisted that she quit smoking as the affects of smoking complicate pregnancy and increase the chance of miscarriage.

Ms. Burton did not want to quit smoking. She said as much to the doctors. She also explained that with her two toddlers and a job she would lose if she was on bed rest for up to 15 weeks, she was going to get a second opinion. At that point the doctors took it to the State who went to court to have Ms. Burton ordered to bed rest and to undergo “any and all treatments" her doctor ordered in the best interest of the fetus.

Yes, you read that right. An adult woman has been ordered to stay in a hospital where her doctor is hostile to her wishes, to protect the interests of the fetus. The rights of an adult citizen to refuse treatment is being denied because her busybody doctor and a state Judge who does not seem to have a basic understanding of the law think the rights of a fetus trump the rights of an adult.

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How Conservatives Get Their Point Of View Taught In Schools.

5:00 pm in Religion, Uncategorized by Bill Egnor

I think most Progressives, Liberals or any other stripe of DFH’s often despair at how seemingly clueless the majority of our nation is. After all, there are things the political Right spouts, which are clearly crazy. Many of us have decried the ideas of the United States being a “Christian country” or any of the kind of revisionist history that the Right continually spouts, yet it seems to find fertile ground with many Americans. Where does this kind of thinking seep into our national consciousness?

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