Wow, someone send these Board members a bouquet of flowers or something, because too frequently the non-Christian citizens are treated as second class by politicians.
Naperville Sun reports:
The DuPage County Board may evaluate its tradition of starting meetings with a religious invocation after several Democrats questioned the need and reason for the prayer.
DeSart, who has been an active member Alleluia Lutheran Church in Naperville for the last two decades, said she respects other religions, and she asked for guidance from other board members on how to go about stopping invocations. “This is the right thing to do on behalf of our Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, agnostic, etc., constituents,” she said.
Her opinion was shared by District 6 board member Sheila Rutledge, of Warrenville, and District 4’s Mary FitzGerald Ozog, of Glen Ellyn, both Democrats.
Rutledge raised concerns about the separation of church and state.
“By doing the invocations, there is no one to speak for the agnostic, atheist, some of the maybe more fringe religions,” Rutledge said.
In her request to get rid of prayers, Ozog spoke of her mother who came to the United States from Ireland, an island that experienced 500 years of religious warfare because of the lack of separation of church and state, she said. “I think this is an idea worth considering,” she said.
Seriously, this is all too rare, and it shouldn’t be. Our constitution is clear on the subject, but the Christians have bullied the rest of us for so long it has been taken for granted that Christians are the only group worth listening to.
And for the record, you are quite welcome to perform your religious rites in your own way in your own houses of the holy, just not in government buildings.
I was no fan of Christopher Hitchens’ politics, post-1998, especially as he became a cheerleader for George Bush’s illegal and immoral wars, but Hitchens was a clear-headed writer about religion, so count me among those skeptical of Hitchens suddenly converting to evangelical Christianity on his deathbed.
Our Lady of Perpetual Decay
Matthew d’Ancona agrees:
In this respect the trail was blazed by the world’s great religions, which routinely claim recruits among the dying. Indeed, the faithful have form when it comes to falsifying deathbed conversions – notoriously so in the case of Darwin. In 1915 the evangelist Elizabeth Cotton, better known as Lady Hope of Carriden, declared that the great scientist, readying himself for the end in April 1882, had repudiated his life’s work (“How I wish I had not expressed my theory of evolution as I have done”) and asked her to gather an audience so he could “speak to them of Christ Jesus and His salvation”.
This was preposterous, and quickly dismissed as such. Darwin’s daughter, Henrietta Litchfield, was with her father at his deathbed and insisted that Lady Hope had not even visited him during his last illness. None of his family believed a word of her testimony.
Almost as flimsy is the Catholic church’s claim that Antonio Gramsci returned to the faith and died taking the sacraments. Though a former Vatican official maintained that the Marxist philosopher embraced Catholicism afresh shortly before his death in Rome in 1937, none of the official or personal documents relating to his last days support this extraordinary account.
It is in this context that one should consider the meretricious new book by Larry Alex Taunton, The Faith of Christopher Hitchens: The Restless Soul of the World’s Most Notorious Atheist.
The religious knew that it was worth claiming the spiritual scalps of the founding father of evolution theory and of Italy’s pre-eminent Marxist. In our own era, a resourceful Alabamian evangelist is exploiting his friendship with Hitchens, who died in 2011, to allege that the author of God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything was, in fact, on a secret spiritual journey and halfway to embracing Jesus.
I forgot to write this up yesterday, but Bill Maher and Michael Moore discussed their new film idea on Overtime With Bill Maher (you’ll have to skip ahead about a minute to hear the beginning of Michael Moore’s response which leads to discussion of the film, or jump ahead to about the 3:30 mark to hear the exact discussion begin)
The idea for The Kings of Atheism is simple: Michael Moore will follow around several atheist comedians as they tell religious-themed jokes in the Bible Belt area of the South. Bill Maher, Sarah Silverman, Ricky Gervais, Seth MacFarlane, and possibly others. Michael Moore says he is not an atheist, and playfully joked about a vengeful god sending down thunderbolts directed towards them, and not wanting to be there for that.
I’d love to watch this film: make it happen guys!
Ricky Gervais has one of my favorite god jokes, paraphrased thus: “I don’t believe in any gods, if you are Christian or Muslim etc., you are nearly the same, you don’t believe in most of the gods humankind has created either.”
Ricky Gervais tells it better of course
The dictionary definition of God is “a supernatural creator and overseer of the universe.” Included in this definition are all deities, goddesses and supernatural beings. Since the beginning of recorded history, which is defined by the invention of writing by the Sumerians around 6,000 years ago, historians have cataloged over 3700 supernatural beings, of which 2870 can be considered deities.
So next time someone tells me they believe in God, I’ll say “Oh which one? Zeus? Hades? Jupiter? Mars? Odin? Thor? Krishna? Vishnu? Ra?…” If they say “Just God. I only believe in the one God,” I’ll point out that they are nearly as atheistic as me. I don’t believe in 2,870 gods, and they don’t believe in 2,869.
Americans who are not religious have long been marginalized and ignored by politicians. And yet our numbers keep growing. When will the nonreligious get a representative who respects us? The opposite of Christian Taliban like Ted Cruz, in other words…
Susan Jacoby writes:
THE population of nonreligious Americans — including atheists, agnostics and those who call themselves “nothing in particular” — stands at an all-time high this election year. Americans who say religion is not important in their lives and who do not belong to a religious group, according to the Pew Research Center, have risen in numbers from an estimated 21 million in 2008 to more than 36 million now.
Despite the extraordinary swiftness and magnitude of this shift, our political campaigns are still conducted as if all potential voters were among the faithful. The presumption is that candidates have everything to gain and nothing to lose by continuing their obsequious attitude toward orthodox religion and ignoring the growing population of those who make up a more secular America.
The question is not why nonreligious Americans vote for these candidates — there is no one on the ballot who full-throatedly endorses nonreligious humanism — but why candidates themselves ignore the growing group of secular voters.
Never Seems To Smile
Freedom of conscience for all — which exists only in secular democracies — should be at the top of the list of shared concerns. Candidates who rightly denounce the persecution of Christians by radical Islamists should be ashamed of themselves for not expressing equal indignation at the persecution of freethinkers and atheists, as well as dissenting Muslims and small religious sects, not only by terrorists but also by theocracies like Saudi Arabia. With liberal religious allies, it would be easier for secularists to hold candidates to account when they talk as if freedom of conscience is a human right only for the religious.
Even more critical is the necessity of reclaiming the language of religious freedom from the far right. As defined by many pandering politicians, “religious freedom” is in danger of becoming code for accepting public money while imposing faith-based values on others.
Secularists must hold candidates to account when they insult secular values, whether that means challenging them in town hall meetings or withholding donations. Why, for example, would any secular Republican (yes, there are some) think of supporting the many Republican politicians who have denied the scientific validity of evolution? Politicians will continue to ignore secular Americans until they are convinced that there is a price to be paid for doing so.
“God bless America” has become the standard ending of every major political speech. Just once in my life, I would like the chance to vote for a presidential candidate who ends his or her appeals with Thomas Paine’s observation that “the most formidable weapon against errors of every kind is Reason.”
If you had any doubts, Ted “Calgary” Cruz is not fit to be President of the US. At the very least, he should be required to read the U.S. Constitution at least once.
Presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said Friday that he believes anyone who wants to be president must fear God and pray daily.
Speaking at the National Religious Liberties Conference in Iowa, Cruz joined other GOP presidential candidates for a discussion about the persecution of Christians in the U.S. and around the world. After some very extreme, very weird comments about homosexuality, right-wing pastor Kevin Swanson introduced Cruz to the stage to ask him how important it was for candidates to submit to Jesus Christ as “the king of the President of the United States.”
“Any president who doesn’t begin every day on his knees isn’t fit to be commander-in-chief of this country,” responded Cruz.
Atheists are one of the most politically underrepresented groups in the U.S. According to the most recent Pew survey on religious affiliation, about 3 percent of Americans identify as atheist and 4 percent identify as “agnostic,” all part of the nearly 23 percent who say they’re “unaffiliated” with any particular religion. Despite those numbers, there are no openly atheist members of Congress, and only a handful of U.S. politicians who identify as unaffiliated, or who have chosen not to identify a specific religion.
Since Ted “Calgary” Cruz is supposed to be so smart, perhaps he just forgot what Article 6 actually says:
All debts contracted and engagements entered into, before the adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.
This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the US., shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.
Standing before the court, the residents’ lawyer, Douglas Laycock, suggested that a nonsectarian prayer would be satisfactory. Justice Alito wasn’t so sure.
“How could you do it?” Justice Alito asked. “Give me an example of a prayer that would be acceptable to Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus … Wiccans, Baha’i.”
“And atheists,” Justice Antonin Scalia added. “Throw in atheists, too.”
Mr. Laycock reminded the justices that atheists were already out of luck based on the court’s prior decisions. Then, riffling through his documents, he suggested, “The prayers to the Almighty, prayers to the Creator.”
“To ‘the Almighty,’” Justice Alito said skeptically. “So if — if a particular religion believes in more than one god, that’s acceptable to them?”
Justice Scalia, often impatient in religion cases, couldn’t resist. “What about devil worshipers?”
Over the laughter of the courtroom, Mr. Laycock said meekly, “Well, if devil worshipers believe the devil is the almighty, they might be okay. But they’re probably out.”
And so it went, the justices trying in vain to determine what sort of prayer, if any, would be sufficiently nonsectarian, and who should be responsible for making that determination. None of them seemed to relish the idea of playing at prayer editor.
As the argument progressed it was increasingly difficult to discern any grounds on which to justify legislative prayer other than the fact that it’s something we’ve always done — which was the basis for the court’s ruling upholding such a prayer in the Nebraska legislature in 1983, when it last considered the question.
and the only real solution that comports with our secular Constitution: don’t allow government sanctioned prayers at all! Why is this a difficult concept?
But there is an alternative to “eliminating” prayer — a moment of silence, which is what the town of Greece did for years without complaint. It allows everyone to pray exactly as they wish; it even makes room for the atheists and devil worshipers.
For some — including several members of the current court — a “silence only” policy is surely a step too far. But it would be a reasonable compromise in a pluralistic society, and for justices who don’t want to become de facto prayer editors, it’s a bright line on an otherwise blurry canvas of conflicting tests and standards that have rarely satisfied anyone.
Don’t these fools read their own sacred texts? You know, the Constitution and its amendments? Like the first one!
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances
If the government sanctions a particular kind of prayer as being the “right kind” of prayer, who could argue with a straight face that this is not the government establishing a preferred religion? Only the Christian Taliban would be so bold. When is the last time you read about a city council mandating a Pastafarian chant before a city council meeting? Right, never. Only the Christians do this repugnant shit.
Somebody Please Tell This Machine I’m Not A Machine
Carl Esbeck is much more knowledgeable about the subject, and writes:
Can government knowingly take sides in a matter of religious belief or practice? More to the point, can government actively support a practice that is explicitly religious, such as prayer? This is the issue in Town of Greece v. Galloway as it ought to be framed.
Quoting with approval from Marsh v. Chambers, the Town’s main brief states that the purpose of legislative prayer is “[t]o invoke Divine guidance on a public body entrusted with making the laws.” The practice not only calls upon a God or gods, but to a Divinity interested and active in human affairs. Why else invoke guidance? This act of prayer is thus consistent with some religions but not others. Deists, for example, believe in an impersonal God. A policy of legislative prayer is doubtlessly taking a side, and no phony pluralism dressed up as “nonsectarian” prayer – a vague theism not actually practiced by anyone – can cover up that fact.
A related corruption is civil religion, the conflating of piety with patriotism. Civil religion is the confusion of religious faith with one’s love of country, an elevation of certain ceremonies, traditions, and habits of a nation to the level of the sacred. In Weisman, Justice Kennedy for the Court noted its false allure. After acknowledging the attempt by school officials to advance a “common ground” prayer, he said the Court’s precedents “caution us to measure the idea of a civic religion against the central meaning of the Religion Clauses . . . which is that all creeds must be tolerated and none favored. The suggestion that government may establish an official or civic religion as a means of avoiding the establishment of a religion with more specific creeds strikes us as a contradiction that cannot be accepted.”
Ultimately religion does not exist to sustain the political order. It’s not a program for municipal improvement or to bless those who take up civic duties. When government uses religion as a tool to achieve its political goals, the danger to religion is that it becomes a courtier in the halls of State.
Sheriff Grady Judd sounds like a real jerkstore. He should move to Yemen or Afghanistan if he’s so intent upon living in an intolerant country. Or Arizona…
MIAMI — An atheist in Central Florida filed suit in Federal District Court in Tampa on Friday, accusing the Polk County sheriff, an evangelical Christian, of harassing and unnecessarily arresting her as retaliation for not believing in God and for her efforts to keep prayer out of public meetings.
EllenBeth Wachs, the legal coordinator for the group Atheists of Florida, asked the court to prevent the sheriff, Grady Judd, from conducting any new investigations, arrests or complaints resulting from her “nonreligious, atheist viewpoint in the predominantly Christian-oriented Polk County, Fla.” The sheriff’s actions, including two arrests and searches of her house, violated her First Amendment rights and her right to due process, the suit states.
A nonpracticing lawyer, she signed the requests with the designation Esquire after her name. Sheriff Judd sent a team of officers to arrest her and charged her in March with illegally posing as a lawyer, a felony.
“This does not violate any bar rules,” said her lawyer, Lawrence G. Walters. “She is allowed to use esquire.”
Richard Dawkins writing about those silly May 21sters, the end of times, and science, begins:
Q. Family Radio evangelist Harold Camping believes that he has calculated the exact date of the rapture: May 21, 2011. While many are laughing at the suggestion, Camping’s followers are taking him seriously, bringing his message of impending doom to billboards and public spaces around the country. What does your tradition teach about the end of the world? How does end time theology impact real world behavior?
A. Why is a serious newspaper like the Washington Post giving space to a raving loon? I suppose the answer must be that, unlike the average loon, this one has managed to raise enough money to launch a radio station and pay for billboards. I don’t know where he gets the money, but it would be no surprise to discover that it is contributed by gullible followers – gullible enough, we may guess, to go along with him when he will inevitably explain, on May 22nd, that there must have been some error in the calculation, the rapture is postponed to . . . and please send more money to pay for updated billboards. So, the question becomes, why are there so many well-heeled, gullible idiots out there? Why is it that an idea can be as nuts as you like and still con enough backers to finance its advertising to acquire yet more backers . . . until eventually a national newspaper notices and makes it into a silly season filler?
I won’t waste any more time on that, but I do want to mention a less trivial point arising from the question posed by the Washington Post: ‘What does your tradition teach about the end of the world?’ It’s that word ‘tradition’ that should raise our critical hackles. It refers to a collection of beliefs handed down through generations – as opposed to beliefs founded on evidence. Evidence-free beliefs are, by definition, groundless. What my ‘tradition’ (or your ‘tradition’ or the Dalai Lama’s ‘tradition’ or Osama bin Laden’s ‘tradition’ or the bad-trip ‘tradition’ of whoever wrote Revelation) says about anything in the real world (including its end) is no more likely to be true than any urban legend, idle rumor, superstition, or science fiction novel. Yet, the moment you slap the word ‘tradition’ onto a made-up story you confer on it a spurious dignity, which we are solemnly asked to ‘respect’.
Science is not a tradition, it is the organized use of evidence from the real world to make inferences about the real world – meaning the real universe, which is, in Carl Sagan’s words, all that is, or ever was, or ever will be. Science knows approximately how, and when, our Earth will end. In about five billion years the sun will run out of hydrogen, which will upset its self-regulating equilibrium; in its death-throes it will swell, and this planet will vaporise. Before that, we can expect, at unpredictable intervals measured in tens of millions of years, bombardment by dangerously large meteors or comets. Any one of these impacts could be catastrophic enough to destroy all life, as the one that killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago nearly did. In the nearer future, it is pretty likely that human life will become extinct – the fate of almost all species that have ever lived.
Some additional reading July 13th from 11:10 to 19:39:
Unscientific America and those awful atheists : Pharyngula – Mooney and Kirshenbaum are busily carping at these ghastly “New Atheists” for imagined transgressions against reason and the appropriate application of science, but what do they have to say about Christians who believe that crackers turn into Jesus in their mouths, or that a magical ensoulment occurs at fertilization to turn a zygote into a fully human being, or that children should be kept in ignorance about sex, or that woman’s role is as subservient breeder, or that using condoms to prevent disease is a violation of a divine dictate that the only purpose of sex is to have babies, or that people who love other people of the same sex deserve stoning…? Compared to the “New Atheist” insistence that remarkable claims about magic sky fairies ought to be regarded as patent nonsense, those can be rather destructive to society…and also negatively affect the acceptance of science. Rick Warren surely deserves as much condemnation as Richard Dawkins.
Unscientific America, the gift that keeps on giving : Pharyngula – “Ultimately, this whole exchange illustrates the failure of Mooney/Kirshenbaum’s arguments. The demotion of Pluto, the rise of the “New Atheism”, PZ Myers, and blogging are all recent phenomena — they do not deal with the causes of the disconnect between society and science, and treating them is a distraction from dealing with the real problems. This book is more like a collection of poor rationalizations for complaining about stuff they don’t like than a serious and scholarly attempt to address a significant social problem. To useless, I must also add the adjective lightweight.”
Greetings in a Taxi – “A raised hand generates an irresistible magnetic pull on a taxi driver. After some years the mind is trained to seek it out to the point of forming light-poles, reflections in parked cars, weaving tree branches, and on a slow night, just about any shape into that desired sign, the symbol of time not spent in vain. Depending on the time of day or night, what follows that hopeful hand will vary from absolute silence to aggressive and usually unwanted camaraderie, but in every case it always begins with some sort of greeting..”
“Lawmakers who had supported her signature effort to develop a natural gas pipeline turned into uncooperative critics.
Ethics complaints mounted, and legal bills followed. At home Ms. Palin was dealing with a teenage daughter who had given birth to a son and broken up with the infant’s father, a baby of her own with special needs and a national news media that was eager to cover it all.
Friends worried that she appeared anxious and underweight. Her hair had thinned to the point where she needed emergency help from her hairdresser ”