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Liam Neeson Considers Becoming Muslim

Reposted from www.skepticmoney.com

After filming in Istanbul and being inspired by the Muslim call to prayer five times a day Liam Neeson is considering becoming a Muslim claiming “Islam got into his spirit.”

“The call to prayer happens five times a day, and for the first week, it drives you crazy, and then it just gets into your spirit, and it’s the most beautiful, beautiful thing.

“There are 4,000 mosques in the city. Some are just stunning, and it really makes me think about becoming a Muslim.


Liam, short for William in Irish and Scottish, born to a caretaker at Ballymena Boys All Saints Primary School  was named after a local priest. His interest in acting resulted from being an alter boy and his sneaking into church to listen to minister Ian Paisly:

“He had a magnificent presence and it was incredible to watch this six foot-plus man just Bible-thumping away… It was acting but it was also great acting and stirring too.”

At nine he began taking boxing lessons at the All Saints Youth Club, became quite good at it, and won the Ulster boxing champion at 11.

Catholicism in Ireland, especially Northern Ireland, is all embracing. Islam is also a faith which continually calls to its sheep, constantly requiring an influx of spirit and personal attention. Whatever Liam chooses it would have to be intense. If he became secular he would probably be militant.

The universalizing aspect of Liam’s faith is best evidenced by his contradicting C.S. Lewis who wrote  ”Chronicles Of Narnia” is a Christian story. In 2010 Liam claimed Aslan was not Christ but represented all spiritual leaders including Mohammed. Lewis wrote earthly experience does not satisfy the human craving for “joy” and that only God can do it.

Furthermore Lewis’s fallacious logic, as described in Wikipedia, continues:

“Lewis goes over rival conceptions of God to Christianity. Pantheism, he argues, is incoherent, and atheism too simple. Eventually he arrives at Jesus Christ, and invokes a well-known argument now known as the “Lewis trilemma“. Lewis, arguing that Jesus was claiming to be God, uses logic to advance three possibilities: either he really was God, was deliberately lying, or was not God but thought himself to be (which would make him delusional and likely insane). The book goes on to say that the latter two possibilities are not consistent with Jesus’ character and it was most likely that he was being truthful.

I think he was just delusional and insane! If he even existed.

My own spouse insisted Narnia and Aslan were a hero’s story and she insisted Aslan was not even religious. Which has been the entire point of psycholigizing the bible by Catholics: to make the stories seem so humanly universal and psychologically, moralizingly true the jump to faith becomes rather small.

Odd that dismay at human crime, there is evil, theodicey, is proof of god, when for others it is proof of lack of god.

“Unless one grasps the dismay which comes from humanity’s failure to keep the moral law, one cannot understand the coming of Christ and his work. The eternal God who is the law’s source takes primacy over the created Satan whose rebellion undergirds all evil. The death and resurrection of Christ is introduced as the only way in which our inadequate human attempts to redeem humanity’s sins could be made adequate in God’s eyes.

Liam has noted his intense religious interest continues:

‘I was reared a Catholic, but I think every day we ask ourselves, not consciously, what are we doing on this planet? What’s it all about?’ … I’m constantly reading books on God or the absence of God and atheism.”

Durkheim in his social foundations notes the human need for enthusiasm and effervescence. We have a basic requirement for joyousness!

Liam’s wife died of a skiing accident which challenged his faith but I wonder if the various hero roles he plays hasn’t helped him expand his idea of faith. Clearly he loves the intensity of faith, that it is all embracing. Islam has a way of saying god is in all things including the movement of one’s hand. It’s not that there are signs everywhere it’s that everything is god. A weird combination of personalizing and pantheism which many people seek whether they call their car Josephine, their genitals Junk, or their breasts Billie and Bobbie.

I was recently In Istanbul myself for one evening and had the  most amazing four-hr tour by a hell-bent, ex-pro racing taxi driver who tried to show me all 4,000 mosques in one night. During a short respite from driving when we walked to the Blue Mosque I saw the famous whirling dervishes, “something special” he said, and indeed they are mesmerizing and hypnotic.


This sufi joy of purity and unity is described as:

In the symbolism of the Sema ritual, the semazen’s camel’s hair hat (sikke) represents the tombstone of the ego; his wide, white skirt represents the ego’s shroud. By removing his black cloak, he is spiritually reborn to the truth. At the beginning of the Sema, by holding his arms crosswise, the semazen appears to represent the number one, thus testifying to God’s unity. While whirling, his arms are open: his right arm is directed to the sky, ready to receive God’s beneficence; his left hand, upon which his eyes are fastened, is turned toward the earth. The semazen conveys God’s spiritual gift to those who are witnessing the Sema. Revolving from right to left around the heart, the semazen embraces all humanity with love. The human being has been created with love in order to love. Mevlâna Jalâluddîn Rumi says, “All loves are a bridge to Divine love. Yet, those who have not had a taste of it do not know!”

It is too bad that heroism, love of life, and pure experiential joy are hijacked for a particular religious message.

Jim Newman, bright and well

Council of Nicaea, Holy Trinity or Polytheism?

Reposted from www.skepticmoney.com

The Nicene Screed, I mean Creed, Is the god affirming rant, that god is one and three, coeternal, and damn it, uhhh, you, if you don’t know the difference. It is also other canon law that mostly supports the whole jealous god thing that your only chance for salvation is through him and his minions. It firmly places deism as heretical and worthy of anathema. Now you know when a deist is claimed to be Christian it is total BS, damnation.

I most recently experienced the screed at the funeral of an in-law though the screed, creed, is also done on Sundays which I choose not to attend except under duress. Which is as it should be as I find nothing pleasant about it and worry that my children will catch a bad meme.

I really don’t understand why any family would expect a person of different faith to attend an event that requires a swearing of opposing fidelity. I understand that weddings, funerals, and occasional church are appropriate places for belief but in a community of varying faiths it would be gracious and right to not insist of someone to commit perjury merely to make the ceremony inclusive.

Shortly after this funeral, where I was banned from accompanying my partner in future church attendance because I commented, there was a family wedding where I foolishly thought I could mediate the disgust and participate because there was so much good will present already. It is important to attend these things even if one is retching their way through in some sort of Sartrean nausea. It’s not the bastards on the walls in the patriarchal paintings that objectivize you here but your fellow worshippers, happy sheep, and closet seculars feigning comfort, and demanding desired demeanor.

At the end, in an outside ceremony, the members weave their way through each other, hug, or shake, and say “peace be with you.” Oy my goodness, no one told me this was going to be part of it. Such sweet nonsense and yet I knew not what to do. I clumsily made my way and attempted to be sincere during at least this somewhat generous part of their spiritual retinue.

It really was very sincere, I loved the couple, and I marveled at the contradiction of exclaiming peace, yea, only to those of the group, after swearing fidelity to a three-part godhead, and achieving ascendance to heaven by vowing fidelity to Jesus, god, logos, whomever.

I had an awkward moment with the bride and groom who know I am secular and though I thought we’d hug, any excuse to hug, transcend the event, wink at the lie, finger to the nose, we sort of shuffled by in awkwardness. Boy, this religion thing sure is a comfort!

I wondered why they drink and smoke so much. Oh, we still do though health or lack of it caught up to me. That’s why they call themselves Whiskeypaliens. And indeed, afterwards, some retreated to Bloody Mary’s and some retreated to the back for something more vivid.

I  muse at screed. The Nicene Creed is like a screed used to level fresh poured concrete, or as a leveling guide when plastering. How many church members have openly praised their screed as the moral leveling of fresh young minds?

The Nicene Creed as most commonly recited by Episcopalians, as set forth in the 1975Book of Common Prayer, goes like this:

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.

Through him all things were made.

For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of Life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come.

Amen

It’s not too long but long enough to be interminably long for those enduring it terminally. My apologist bro-in-law thinks believers are righteous for their dislike of secularists because we wish to stop foolish faith but acquiesces to my eternal exclusion from absolute bliss by not saying a word or even a wink during these dreadful, enforced, solipsistic silences.

Which brings up an interesting point. This polemical and didactic screed in the Eastern Orthodox churches is made personal by the replacement of “we” with “I”.

It is difficult to talk about this time without using a lot of of names for the ideas. The isolation and then travel between communities allowed a plethora of religious minutia, cast as essential differences, to emerge and then merge in manifold and syncretic beliefs. The plundering priests had a lot of time on their hands to put a really fine point on it and then exclude the next church. I thought Mennonites rebuking others for using a lectern and not standing alone to recite were a little touchy when they splintered off.

Let’s go back to 325 AD (At Darkness) when the vicious fascist Christian Roman Emperor Constantine tired of the conflict between those who considered Jesus to be the son of God and those who considered Jesus to be God called some 1800 bishops to council in now Iznik Turkey; to come together in some sort of ecumenical agreement or consensus for the first time. 300, mostly Eastern bishops, showed up; Constantine paid travel and lodging expenses for their entourages of half a dozen people each.

It was a grand old time as the 313 Edict of Milan enforced by Constantine and Licinius had not only stated benevolence for Christians but insisted on payment back for land purchased for assembly and granted them free assembly. It was Easter time, and Passover, and celebrations abounded.

Resplendent in purple and gold, Constantine made a ceremonial entrance at the opening of the council, probably in early June, but respectfully seated the bishops ahead of himself.”

However, Constantine a practical (power hungry) political (murdering) man who had literally dreamed of war victory under the sign of Christianity and then painted it on every shield and beat the crap of all opposers tired of the debate among bishops arguing over the literal versus figurative nature of Christ. Hitler wasn’t the first to demand soldiers swear fidelity and wear “Gogt mit uns” on their belt.

The Church of Alexandria founded by Mark the Evangelist in 43 AD determined that Jesus was the literal son of god or “homoiousian” meaning same essence. God and Christ are of the same being or essence.

This is also called consubstantial and anyone paying attention to Catholic news knows that in 2011 the mass liturgy was changed from “of the same” to “consubstantial” creating some distaste in those disliking big words or adherence to traditional terms.

Christ is the physical manifestation of logos, divine word, and has all of the perfections attributed to god. Christ, god, and the holy spirit are all different but the same.

Robert Price the famous biblical geek secularist notes defining a “person” grows strong with the question of trinity.  Persona originally meant the mask greek actors wore on stage–yup, they all stood on stage with masks that amplified and resonated their voice a bit. By the way, a 1961 movie Antigone replicates these masks and is a classic.

So this idea of person used today in abortion discussions has its root in the idea of personhood in the trinity. What is a person and when is something a person, whether a fetus, a god, or some animal? A dilemma discussed long before Christians by Egyptians and before and elsewhere. The trinity issue was 3,000 years old by the time of the Council of Nicaea.

The popular presbyter (less than bishop) Arius of Alexandria, of Libyan origins, emphasized the divinity of God over Jesus. Although, thanks to the benevolent opposition of charitable, turn-the-other-cheek Christians, virtually all of his writings have been destroyed, negative writings describe Arius as espousing there was a time before the son of god where only the god father existed. Further, that Christ had free will and thus

“were He in the truest sense a son, He must have come after the Father, therefore the time obviously was when He was not, and hence He was a finite being.”

Holy polytheism!

Constantine liked Arius and really just wanted everyone to get along as he was busy warring and marrying his enemies’ family.

Constantine is very sympathetic to Arius, as are many others, in spite of a huge following against him at the Council of Nicaea. Constantine desired unification and didn’t give a damn which side won but he did still like Arius but no one else did. The other guy, Athanasius, was a prick who will be exiled in 335 after refusing to readmit Arius to the church, having returned from exile, and for some other minor things like stealing taxes from the Egyptians, plotting the overthrow of the throne, and murdering a bishop and using his hand for magic rituals.

There were other issues to be considered in the council such as prohibitions against self castration, clergy usury, virgins as clerics, kneeling on Sunday, time of baptism, not accepting baptisms determined to be made heretics, when to hold Easter, etc. None of them are really as exciting as the trinity.

The only reason this is such an issue is that Christianity had to usurp paganism and Judaism. In common terms Christ has to be as great as god or there is no good reason to not be a Jewish sect. Christ must reign supreme, be divine, and the only way to do that is to make him part of, the same as, proceeding from god. All the rest is hand waving and mental masturbation.

The irony is that while no one understood what the hell the trinity meant they were sure it should be upheld. It didn’t help that Arius came and basically rewrote biblical interpretation which really pissed them off.

After one month, on July  25, 325, the Council celebrated Constantine’s birthday,  and some 300 voted against Arius with only 2 nays, and Arius was banished. Constantine spoke how averse he was to dogma and how he wished for unification. Anything to get these idiots to stop arguing with each other!

A few months later, in 326, within a few days, his wife Faustus, and Licinius II, his son Crispus were all killed. Crispus was the child of Constantine’s first wife. Fausta’s father Maximian had rebelled against Constantine in 310. Nearby was Licinius II who was the son of Licinius who had married Flavia Jutia Constantia who was the half sister of Constantine. At any rate Crispus and Fuasta and Licinius II all die without record and no one knows why.

The histories were rewritten to exclude them, damnatio memoriae; all references everywhere erased. Some think Crispus was too close to the throne. Some think Fausta was with child from Crispus as Fausta was killed in a hot bath, an atypical kind of murder, and historians conjecture she was killed in an attempted abortion. You can’t make this shit up.

Today Jehovah’s witness and the Mormons are considered somewhat Arianistic though they attribute the three differently.

Muslims are quite clearly against the trinity and they promote themselves as true monotheists.

“Those people who say that God is the third of three are defying [the truth]: there is only One God. If they persist in what they are saying, a painful punishment will afflict those of them who persist.

When you endure a Nicene Creed witnessing take the time to consider what the trinity means. Consider it a mental exercise. It’s better than counting the tiles on the ceiling or the pipes on the organ.

Jim Newman, bright and well

Tithing Romney

Reposted from www.skepticmoney.com

Mitt Romney tithes to his church, the LDS or mormons for slang, as detailed by Rachel Zollin the AP News. Keep religion out of politics unless you wish it examined on its merit… I continue.

“Romney reports he will give a total of $4.13 million to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints over two years as part of his overall charitable donations. The former Massachusetts governor reported income of about $43 million for the two years. Separately, over the past decade, Romney and his wife, Ann, have given more than $4.7 million to the denomination through the Tyler Charitable Foundation, a multimillion-dollar trust the couple leads.

The LDS are a full family function for its members; they want your soul and your life. Their churches, wards, stake houses, and temples provide welfare, emergency services, and near all show necessary support. They also recommend members keep a two-year food supply for when the rapture, uhh, second coming, comes though they tell gentiles it’s for emergencies. Monday is family home night and on at least two other days a week there are Ward or Stake functions to attend. Additionally, members must “seal,” baptize, fifty or so dead people so they can be saved and there is a tremendous amount of genealogy performed, unfortunately some of it bad (many pro’s say terrible), to find family to save. This means Lincoln, Washington, probably Hitchens now, all baptized mormon.

I wonder how those dead people feel about being baptized, sealed, and saved without their knowledge–thank goodness they are dead. That’s the great thing about sheep and dead people, you can do anything to them. Piss on em even but that’s another story only religious people care about.

It is not a church so much as a culture and harkens back to preReformation Catholicism, modern Hasidic Jew, and modern Muslim (I’d say orthodox or fundamental Islam but Koran suffers no living apostates). Mormons thought I was a “golden prospect” as I didn’t smoke or drink at the time and being of Jewish descent was from another all inclusive tribal culture, Israelite tribe, that is a fellow descendent of their tribe.

I can’t help taking up space for this but… Laminates, Indians, Polynesians, Blacks, whoever dark, are colored because of past sin, uhh, curse (they fought and lost a good and evil battle with the light-skinned Nephites) and once forgiven by god they will lighten up–or when the Supreme court makes them equal. My doctor friend insisted that they lightened during their stays in mormon hospitals–as if blacks and Indians don’t tan. It would be a giant article to discuss the absurdities and oddities of this wanna-be Christian church founded by a traveling patent-medicine man receiving bastard, uhh reformed, Egyptian hieroglyphics on golden tablets somehow lost. Why do modern people descended from obviously false faith insist it’s true? Reputation rules!

The hardest cultural exclusion is to be excommunicated or become a jack mormon, there is no such thing as a secular mormon, and still live there. Nevertheless these often unhappy (from familial isolation or castigation) apostates abound, they call them excommunicated, either for abominations to material laws like drinking, blasphemy, nonattendance, witnessing to bad character, homosexuality, or lack of tithing 10% of your income not counting all of the other things you have to buy into.

My first wife a social worker was furious that mormon bishops served as counselors, untrained, unprofessional, and prosthetically unreliable. My high school teacher said “teen age pregnancy isn’t a problem here, they just get married.” Right out of the old testament where a rapist must marry his victim–as if that made it Ok–and let’s hope no one hers her scream or she gets stoned and worse.

Romney may claim he is a good church guy because he tithes but it’s the mormon law and, more intrusive than the IRS, church auditors and accountants come to your door and help with your budget and accounting to be sure they get their share. It happened to my family in West Granger every year and when they found we weren’t mormons they’d mumble away. 80% of members tithe according to the above article. The rest are probably in the process of being excommunicated.

Rick Warren the megachurch demigod who prayed for Hitch at death, calling him friend, when Hitch blasted him, claims he reverse tithes by donating 90% of his income. But Rick has more money than god and need never work again for his palace and it is his current pillaging and financial raping of his members from which he pays 90%. Maybe he should have a tax, I mean indulgence, uhhh, tithing refund, or just stop pillaging people’s savings and give his own money to all of the people without prejudice. Oh wait, he wouldn’t have any of his own money if he hadn’t robbed it, uhh, had it donated.

Romney and other LDS claim the bible says to tithe but there is nothing in the new testament on tithing. It is all from Leviticus the old testament which mormons tend to dislike for it’s confusing and often terrifying myths, as well as those multiple food and social sanctions that maker theirs look like playground stuff. Jesus hated taxing and tithing from what I can tell in spite of rending Caesar’s to Caesar. He’s hanging out with poor people, telling them they are poor and it’s good to be poor. Near everything I see says to shed wealth to be poor and nary a word to says give it to temple.

As an aside, I can’t help it, the weirdest mormon food sanction is not to drink cold water and my doctor neighbor used to try to convince me that current research showed it was bad to drink cold water–so bad that it is an abomination?  Mormons laugh that since they can’t drink alcohol they eat ice cream, vat fulls from what I can tell.

Mormons love to say how it is all about self reliance and good will (god will) to their members but nonmembers don’t get it and I can’t tell you how many mormons I knew were terrified of the rapture, umm, return of the messiah, when the gentiles will gather to Salt Lake City, the streets will flow with blood, and their houses will be raided by heathens.

What they don’t get is their superior attitude and exclusiveness, surpassed only by the Amish (who are at least passive), Hasidim (not socially passive) and FundoIslamists (not passive), caused them to be hated by their neighbors just because they were such arrogant bastards and like the chosen ones (Jews) bragged about how they were going to heaven and you weren’t and then proving it here on earth by becoming far more successful than the average citizen, such  that few would suffer them, even though they may have started out as oppressed or a minority.

The Romans get a lot of shit for oppression but the Christians were insisting on disobeying the law and attributing it to god, swearing that polytheism would take every Roman to hell, and looting and tearing down pagan images, temples, and public gatherings everywhere. Some of the poor were Christians and they used their religion to gain power rather then seek justice. It’s not until the Catholics revoke from the book no graven images that western European society suffered religious icons again.

It is 787 AD (After Despot) at the Seventh Ecumenical Council where they approve graven images in spite of the many biblical admonitions against it. Islam is more true to the bible in this respect! Technically, truly, any Christian creating a graven image is damned! It was all about crapping on the Roman iconography of polytheism present everywhere. Just like burning a library because you don’t agree.

If you want advice on how to avoid welfare, prepare for retirement, and avoid emergency indebtedness save 10%. My grandfather, FL Watkins, President of Dakota Business College, praised the value of duration in compound interest. No matter what when you start earning put 10% away and keep doing it. It’s the last few years that count the most and why accounts don’t pass through death to survivors except through usurous inheritance taxes or capital trusts without fixed interests–bankers aren’t dumb.

If I had done that even though I was a rather low earner I could retire at 54. But I didn’t so I won’t judge you on the equality bias. The other thing he said is always keep working; persevere to success and be open to opportunity; you make your luck. It doesn’t matter if it is for money but always work towards money through education, volunteering, or other preparation. Giving 10% to a cosmic salesman is like buying a car with sawdust in the transmission.

The only thing worse than a rich asshole is one who says he’s so rich because he’s more moral, more pure, more true, more naturally better. Even Aristotle warns of hubris, pride, the original confirmation bias, the down fall of most people. Only Mary Poppins gets away with that bullshit.

Jim Newman, bright and well

Idiotic Video On Jesus Nopt Church

Reposted from www.skepticmoney.com

The idiotic Youtube video “Why I hate Religion, but Love Jesus” emphasizes the horrors of church and the wonders of Jesus. He aint’t judging but he’s saying that logic isn’t worthy and the core is Jesus; now that he knows Jesus he knows grace will save him. It has 16 million hits.

I will not post a picture of this horrid piece that tries to separate personal faith from the cosmic salesmen that promote faith but here is the link. This is as stupid as a car salesman that says it is not about the sales pitch it’s about the car. Of course it is the sales pitch or there wouldn’t be a car in the first place to sell and his is just another cosmic sales pitch for the same damned car.

He has just figured out a clever single church of himself. He is a lone witness to his faith rather than a community of people establishing a church to their faith. His solipsistic witnessing is no different than a dog howling to the wind because his owner won’t let him in, and he didn’t want in anyway.

Back to his point that Jesus and religion are on opposite ends; one is the cure and the other is infection. This symptomatic belief that churches are evil belies the fact that without churches there would not have been a Jesus. They are the same and in communion. Jesus and his apostles founded the Christian church he hates.

I don’t like church or religion but I am not going to diss all of the honest and sincere people who go to church because they believe in Christ as if it would be better if they abandoned their community and howled to the wind alone, outside. Shut up, join your community, and clean up your neighborhood.

The only reason he can get away with this is we are in a period where people are changing churches like grocery stores and picking churches based on personality rather than community. His church of one is a fool’s paradise.

Jim Newman, bright and well

Gingrich, Resentment and Forgiveness

Reposted from www.skepticmoney.com

Let’s see Paul is out, Perry is out, Santorum is out, Romney with revelation of his Swiss bank account (duh) is probably out and it looks like yes, it looks like Newt is in the lead. How on earth do the evangelicals and tea party types (they do not merit capitals until the occupy movement merits them)  vote Gingrich? He is a philanderer, a patent liar, a DC insider, and does not really hold Jesus in his heart or wear him on his sleeve?

Newt Gingrich is evidence to two contrary and holy moods these days, resentment and forgivance. Howard Schreiber:

“… he shares their resentments. He resents the media (“elites”), the rich (the leadership of his own party), the Democrats (educated people), people who live in big cities (liberals), and of course, Obama, just as they do”

“Gingrich and his supporters do not oppose Obama, they resent the fact of his existence. He will speak for his constituents by articulating their resentments in more strident, more combative, more articulate terms than they can themselves, which is why they find him brilliant.”

Ron Paul reduced complex economics to simple sound bites but Gingrich goes further:

“… he tells them that their nastiest, darkest, angriest, most irrational self-indulgent justifications are 100%, absolutely right. It’s a negative version of a politics of self-esteem: not that you are right to feel good about yourself, but that you are right to be resentful of everyone else.”

Gingrich feeds their Manichean, paranoid view. The world is going to end and Obama is riding that basket to hell. No, Obama is driving that basket to hell, yelling yippee kiyo along the way. The devil incarnate could do no better:

“Obama’s economic policies are not mistaken, he is deliberately trying to make Americans poorer. Obama’s foreign policy is not misguided, he is deliberately trying to surrender America to foreign powers. And Obama is not merely not one of the people, he wants to destroy American culture.

Resentment, a holy emotion, long based in slave religions of oppressed people. It’s not about change, it’s about replacing those in power. They don’t want a new country they want to be on top of the pile. Pummeled by economics they don’t understand, terrorized by wars they don’t get but patriotize, and seeking solace in salvation through poorly understood biblical morality they just want to be mad and go shoot something. Gingrich is the hired gun. Whoopee! Get em boy.

Wait, there’s another side to this. Jaweed Kaleem thinks Gingrich is outpacing Romney because Evangelicals embrace forgiveness, the sour grapes side of resentment but first asks as do we all:

“How is a twice-divorced serial cheater whose ex-wife has accused him of wanting an “open marriage” also able to tout his credentials as a devout Christian and remain in good standing with his family-oriented Catholic Church? And in the Palmetto State, where 60 percent of voters are expected to be evangelical Protestants, does it matter?”

Does it matter? Can you really forgive some bastard philanderer or is trust torn so deeply asunder as to prevent full recovery?

“But a big part of evangelical theology is that we are a fallen humanity and we are never going to live up to perfect ideal. … It’s more of a question of saying ‘I have made a mistake, I acknowledge that mistake and I need to turn to God,’”

Gingrich is Catholic and while the confessional is a way of embracing forgiveness it is also a time of repentance and personal soul searching and personal resolution. This personal aspect Protestants can relate to. We are a long way from early Christianity where Catholics forced to conversion by Romans could later repent but still not reenter the church for communion. Hey, you can always change your mind, now. Can’t you?

“People who put moral conservatism at the top of their personal agenda will be very troubled by his infidelities,” Clemson’s Olsen said. “But there is no actual true bona fide evangelical in the race anymore. Evangelicals who are in the majority here will have to say, ‘I have to support somebody who isn’t the same as me.’”

Evangelicals have to compromise? After taking death-zone machine guns to town hall meetings, ranting the rest of us to hell, and swearing Obama is the anti-Christ they can compromise? Where the only thing they have in common is resentment of an outsider and forgivance of a kinda-maybe insider? They must feel so dirty and yet so righteously indignant.

Jim Newman, bright and well

Ron Paul Gets Patted

Reposted from www.skepticmoney.com

CBS, Stephanie Condon, reported that Ron Paul Jr was “detained” after setting off an alarm in Nashville, TN airport. Ron Jr has requested elitist scanning, after last year blasting pat downs:

In a June 2011 hearing, Paul told TSA administrator John Pistole,

“I think you ought to get rid of the random pat-downs. The American public is unhappy with them, they’re unhappy with the invasiveness of them.”

After reports surfaced of young children getting intense, random pat-downs, Paul said in the hearing,

“It just really just shows that no one is thinking… We need to be doing better police work and doing less of the universal giving up of our freedom to live our life the way we would like to live our life.”

Anyone having been out of the states or even read the news knows that women and children can carry bombs and terrorist items as well as adults.

Ron’s elitist notion that congress men and others should be excluded from pat downs shows how egalitarian his libertarianism is. Perhaps he would also enjoy the Arab states where princes can party and enjoy prostitutes while the average woman can’t even drive a car.

I suppose his every-person-for-themselves attitude would qualify for entrance in the privileged club of those who don’t get patted because they faked patriotism for long enough.

His “trusted traveler” program would serve as yet another class differentiation in a society that spends too much time separating itself from others. What is to prevent a spy, a mole, an underground deviant from flying a few years before springing their terrorism.

If we are to prevent this loss of freedom in travel, one new to the states as opposed to Europe where they have had to long protect their borders, he should reconsider whether “our children, our seniors, and our loved ones and neighbors with disabilities” are really incapable of being terrorists.

He would  no doubt prefer profiling where only the children, seniors, and people with disabilities of other countries looking different than us would be patted down.

Maybe when enough elitists are patted down who can’t evade the system, the system will change such that it gives more freedom to everyone and not merely the privileged few who have the power to talk their way to the front of the line.

Jim Newman, bright and well

Golshifteh Farahani Poses Nude

Reposted from www.skepticmoney.com

Golshifteh Farahani the first Iranian to star in a major Hollywood film, Body of Lies, can now no longer return to Iran because she bared, cupped, her breasts in the French fashion Magazine Madame La Figaro.

Wait, doesn’t everyone pose nude in a French magazine? Have it published in Facebook, do a sex tape, become a star, retract the sex tape, and then go on to do more soft porn, uhh, I mean act? I am sorry. Her rights are too important to belittle the sad state of affairs in US female reality show acting these days.

Farahani won fame in her 2006 movie M for Mother and represented Iran when it won Best Foreign Film in 2008.

The Paris based model also starred in the 2007 film Santoori which has yet to be shown in Iran. The ministry of culture and Islamic guide have banned her from returning to Iran forever; declaring to her Iran doesn’t need actors or artists though she won the Best Actress award in Iran’s Fajr Film Festival. She had already been banned from leaving but now she can’t go back.

Lest you think this unAmerican, there are many fundamentalists in the US that detest pornography or even nudity and many more that believe a dour life of work, devoid of frivolous pleasure is the way to heaven, or prove they have been elected to heaven already. I think of the Amish, Mennonites, Quakers, Hasidic Jews, fundamental Muslims and of course fundamental protestants embracing Calvinism (get a job, go to work, die).

Max Weber famously coined the term Protestant Work Ethic to define the Calvinist emphasis on the necessity for hard work as a means to salvation. The Catholic notion of good works transformed into work obligation as a sign of grace.

Luther famously decided duty benefits the individual and society. Because ofpredestination, you are only saved by grace alone unknown to you. The best ways to avoid lip-service or gain a possible grace of perseverance are frugality and hard work. There is not a lot of joy when you don’t know if you will be saved but maybe if you work your ass off and stay serious you have a chance and that you could was a sign that you were maybe one of the elect.

The US has grown out of this somewhat but not entirely. Let us also see Golshifteh Farahani as a hero not merely because she has a right to her body but also because she has a right to joy in her life.

Jim Newman, bright and well

Democrats and Republicans Talk Past each Other

Reposted from www.skepticmoney.com

The Santorum family is taking a lot of heat in the press for their “do as I say, not as I do” family culture. Karen considered abortion while hubby worked to deny it. Rick wants the government to restrict access to contraceptives, force schools to educate extramarital sex is a sin, and criminalize abortion providers. Now it’s revealed that Karen lived with a boyfriend out of wedlock for nearly a decade in her twenties. And her boyfriend was an abortion provider.

The press is gleefully ignoring the general historical state of pubcon hypocrisy and hysterically reacting to their transgressions as signs that pubcons cannot differentiate personal belief from public policy. Liberals think if pubcons are to have such a standard they must themselves follow it.

Pubcons have reacted defensively at this attack and in some sort of Jedi mind trick are saying the past is history, people make mistakes, they are repentant, let’s move on, there’s nothing happening here.

But there is and it is an entire misunderstanding of how pubcons and liberals think differently about the world and morality. Their communication to each other, as brilliantly demonstrated by the current DC politics, in posturing and talking past individuals to the ideological bleachers behind. Both sides plead for consistency, purity, and insist they are true to their belief, faith, ideals, reasons, whatever. Obama is stuck like a duck in the middle and it would be no surprise if he were caught late at night wandering the White House halls in hebephrenic hysteria!

The new Tea Party representatives are particularly green as many of them came from nonpolitical backgrounds and haven’t a clue what political maneuvering and compromise means. As if politics were the expression of purity when politics is the dirty and brutish intermingling of disagreeable people feigning politeness to get their constituent’s desires realized.

I saw no greater paradox and irony than Orrin Hatch and the late Ted Kennedy sitting together and sharing a joke, a conversation, and what Hatch called "a tremendous brotherly affection." Politically, it was the most intelligent action both of them could take. If it were sincere all the better. Imagine the required compartmentalization.

All they needed in their coffee klatch was the late Paul Wellstone and Strom Thurmond, the former the most liberal representative in recent history and Strom the arch nemesis of civil rights who led the longest solo filibuster in history.

No, as I am formulating over at www.frontiersofreason.com both sides are reasonable and true to their premises. You cannot approach them using the same logic. But as a tease, David DiSalvo's book "What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite" is liberal balm and does deal with new resolutions against computational malfunctions. I just don't yet see how you get pubcons or liberal intuitionists to care.

Liberals believe in individual rights, fairness, and equality. Pubcons believe in group cohesion, obedience, and certainty. As Jonathon Haidtnotes in The Edge

“People vote Republican because Republicans offer "moral clarity"—a simple vision of good and evil that activates deep seated fears in much of the electorate. Democrats, in contrast, appeal to reason with their long-winded explorations of policy options for a complex world.”

Yet, liberals love art reflecting good and evil, from Star Wars to Vampire Diaries; how on earth does an atheist stand the constant, banal appeal to "the force?" Daniel Everett responds to Haidt by relating an interview with John Wayne:

"They tell me that things aren't always black and white. I say, 'Why the hell not?'"

Cognitive science sheds some light on this:

“conservatism is a partially heritable personality trait that predisposes some people to be cognitively inflexible, fond of hierarchy, and inordinately afraid of uncertainty, change, and death.”

This explains why Ron Reagan's son is a gay atheist and why Madeleine Murray O’Hare’s son was a born again Christian. While children are most likely to not fall too far from the tree their genetics have their own mind, so to speak. Perhaps epigenesis as well, the rolling thunder of genetically embodied decisions based on external, environmental factors.

This genopolitcs, for example, has demonstrated that genetic predispositions of conformity versus creativity and their resulting serotonin and dopamine release affect political party and religious affiliation. Republicans because of their genetics are more likely to go to church, join a political party, and vote. Democrats tend to be more creative, more novelty seekers, and hence a little bit more antisocial. Let me put it this way: it really does no good to call pubcons sheep, or liberals extremists. It's not pejorative, they are compliments.

Conservatives feel like they should vote and liberals think they should vote. Conservatives don’t get why they should use reason to overcome their strong visceral sentiments and liberals don’t get why conservatives don’t use reason to overcome their gut feelings. Conservatives use an appeal to authority as moral light and liberals want to think out their choices.

Perhaps this is because conservatives would have to fight an addictive rush to change their gut feeling while liberals are yielding to an addictive rush by thinking out issues.

Interesting how “follow your gut” or “think from your heart” tend to cross the boundary.

The value of group think in corporations is obvious. In situations such as the regimented battlefield instant obedience has merit. In situations requiring creativity, teamwork, cooperation, and conformity kill necessary innovation; as would also happen in guerrilla warfare on fresh terrain.

You can’t be a team player if the goal is to find something different and further from what the team is currently experiencing. Brain storming is social masturbation, and the real creativity comes before or after the meeting with individual and person-to-person communication. Good meetings, if creativity and productivity are the desired goals, are basically rubber stamps of ideas engendered and politicized elsewhere.

Heber C Kimball past president of the Mormon church and considered to be a modern prophet, as they are wont to do, was known to swear freely from the pulpit. This common manner made him one of the most beloved of church leaders though it marked him. His reply: “Hell, they can’t excommunicate me. I repent too damned fast.”

This is key to understanding pubcon inconsistency. When your morals relate to an absolute authority involving obedience, and group adhesion there must be a way to be inconsistent, avoid cognitive dissonance, and yet remain pure and included. The confessional, repentance, and absolution of sins allows anyone to recover from any transgression and remain within the absolutely necessary fold.

It is terrifying for liberals to think someone can do the most heinous crimes all of their life, as an extreme example, and still, at their death bed, ascend to goodness and moral inclusion by asking for forgivance. Liberals think responsibility and truth are important but to pubcons, inclusion and abeyance are important.

If you wonder which side you are on consider Pascal’s wager. Would you repent at death or would you remain true? Now as Bertrand Russell noted it is really quite rare that this case occurs in reality. It occurs much more early in life when an atheist stays in the closet for the sake of family and society as might a gay, a pedophile, or a so called Uncle Tom.

When you read Hitchens' Letter to a Young Contrarian do you have an epiphany or do your say yuck?

Sam Harris in his essay “Lying” chastises sweetly and demurly those who lie for conformity or politeness; that people typically diminish their own well being for this process. He is clear: it is near always better to be honest even if it requires masterful mental gymnastics. For many, this simply does not ring true as Mark Twain says well:

“The lie, as a virtue, a principle, is eternal; the lie, as a recreation, a solace, a refuge in time of need, the fourth Grace, the tenth Muse, man's best and surest friend is immortal."

Mark had his finger on the pulse of the people. Rather than risk familial friction, rather than leave their home, rather than disrespect their society, roughly half of us, if politics are correct, will lie out out their ass, eloquently, consistently, and happily with the rush of inclusion and social love.

The other half listen to a different drummer and follow Thoreau:

“Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.

No, for pubcons and closeted liberals, Machiavellianism is the proper way to expand principle while preserving peace, and no good action occurs from within a cell.

These basic differences define personality types expressed politically as liberal and conservative. Without some sort of geopolitical apartheid it is going to be difficult to mediate consensus towards a future requiring just that. I do not have a good answer yet but I also know in better defining the problem we get closer to the solution.

Jim Newman, bright and well


Rick Perry Out, Thank Goodness

Reposted from www.skepticmoney.com

Rick Perry has left the field. Thank goodness. After having Santorum win Iowa with a 34 vote margin in a state that doesn’t allow recounts and probably can’t count them right in the first place. But then it’s all about state rights, Perry is history. Remember Virginia where they wouldn’t put candidates on the ballet having lack of sufficient, validated petition signatures?

It seemed like the GOP would soften and go for Romney but in fact they didn’t, or I should say haven’t yet. Louise, my spouse, had been warning me about Santorum and I refused to believe that such a kook would ever be able to effectively run.

It only shows how incredibly desperate the GOP is. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised since more people believe the rapture is near than go out and vote. Hell, more people read the Left Behind series than go out and vote–at least that’s what it would seem here in the backwaters of West Virginia where even the squirrels attend church. I suppose it takes a hellfire, brimstone, family candidate to stir up enough interest to go prove them elitist, snobbish, expensive-coffee drinkers wrong. Everyone knows we’re the righteous travelers to heaven and the rest of you be damned.

So I thought to myself, who’s crazier, Perry or Santorum. Almost by definition Santorum had to be now because Perry dropped out but I typed in ”Rick Perry Crazy” and hit search.  I wanted to prove that Perry had been too crazy to even be considered, kind of like Harold Camping, the Michigan Pastor who after being wrong several times still insists he knows the exact date when the streets will flow with blood and the righteous shall ascend.

Why not? The GOP has not been in such a disarray and confused about who to nominate since, since, I don’t know when…hmm…since Kennedy was assassinated; Johnson was promoting his great society and Barry Goldwater from Arizona was shaking conservative trees while espousing religious tolerance and endearing himself to corporate types. No good pubcon wants a tolerant believer in office.

Johnson won in 1964 with 61% of the vote. The widest margin since 1820 and the sixth most lopsided election ever, the fifth most popular margin. No election since has been so lopsided. My grandfather could hardly pass a day without cursing Johnson, without slang, as he saved that for niggers, wops, kikes,and jeuws; though he respected jews they worked harder than anyone else and he was mindful of my sour looks as my dad was a jew though I never met him. I wrote three letters to President Johnson and Ladybird which earned his ultimate respect–but they weren’t castigations.

Johnson portrayed Goldwater as a dangerous extremist and Goldwater couldn’t get support from the real extremists. He was too soft. He actually got support form deep south Democrats. The same ones that would, when they came to their senses, become Republicans. And those gentile southern ladies who charmed with hospitality decided the Democratic party was anathema for helping the poor by using public money. After all as the bible says “there will always be the poor”. Who needs social welfare programs if humans are such sinners that there will always be the poor. Get a job, go to church, and mind your manners!

This kicked the seat of the modern conservative movement ushered in by William F Buckley Jr, an intelligent, eloquent but crazy bastard, who in 1955 started the National Review with:

“It is the job of centralized government (in peacetime) to protect its citizens’ lives, liberty and property. All other activities of government tend to diminish freedom and hamper progress. The growth of government (the dominant social feature of this century) must be fought relentlessly. In this great social conflict of the era, we are, without reservations, on the libertarian side. The profound crisis of our era is, in essence, the conflict between the Social Engineers, who seek to adjust mankind to conform with scientific utopias, and the disciples of Truth, who defend the organic moral order. We believe that truth is neither arrived at nor illuminated by monitoring election results, binding though these are for other purposes, but by other means, including a study of human experience. On this point we are, without reservations, on the conservative side.”

Buckley described his faith by saying, “I grew up, as reported, in a large family of Catholics without even a decent ration of tentativeness among the lot of us about our religious faith.” Once again proving you are the faith you are raised in and and it has nothing to do with any content of the faith itself.

In any case, still suffering from the war of yankee aggression who on south earth would want big government to come down and tell them those black boys could date their gals. Hell they couldn’t even socialize with them even if they did attend their church, which they shouldn’t, couldn’t. Everybody, and I mean everybody went to church. Lack of attendance was the worst sin of all. By this rule secularists were pure evil and really quite suddenly school prayer, abortion, and homosexuality became the rallying call of the modern conservative movement.

In 1973 Michael Harrington, coined the term neoconservative against the policy ideas ofDaniel BellDaniel Patrick Moynihan, and Irving Kristol. But it would be Kristol who would become the godfather and would abandon his New York Secular Jewish friends like Irving Howe and other New York intellectuals discussing socialism in the sixties, after their intellectual fathers had bashed Stalinism in the 30’s and 40’s as leftists, for being too argumentative against tradition. A departure well described in the documentary “Arguing the World”. Neocons were leftists who abandoned their friends for reality. Kristol is famous for saying a neoconservative as “a liberal who has been mugged by reality.” Clearly the mugger clipped Kristol’s head before taking the money and running.

Kristol a classicist, anti-utopian, and believer of “persuasion” and not ideology objected to welfare programs, international “revolution” through nation-building/militarily imposed “democracy” and application of Fabian Socialism/Keynesianism models.

And so here we are today looking up “perry crazy” and wondering how the even more crazy Santorum is looking good to pubcons. What? I see link after link of Perry bringing home a dead baby for a day and an interview where the host gawffs and then has to retract his lack of manners concerning their privacy.

Puhllleeeze, you mean the Perry who brings faith into politics and has no qualms telling the rest of us we’re going to hell because our private belief is wrong and lying, telling us we’re going to hell in the public square is the moral thing to do.

Even worse that he and his ilk hide behind the bible saying they are not judging but knowing damned well that no one can read the bible and not get that you’re going to hell unless you believe the word of God. Isn’t that what evangelism is all about? You are going to hell unless you believe the bible is the word of God and you go through Christ!

I find this far more offensive than bringing a dead baby home. Hell, he could have cannibalized it and I’d be less offended. Grossed out but not offended. Aside from legal considerations, bury it in the yard, mummify it and keep it in the  bedroom, stuff it for the sofa, bronze it and put it on the shelf but keep your damned faith out of politics and out of my house!

If you are motivated by your perverse faith, fine. Tell me you think abortion is wrong because a couple cells are a person but don’t tell me God told you a soul became the instant that sperm broke the cell wall and that’s why you vote like a fool. It’s just not politically moral that I hear it. It’s private. Go take your religious pornography elsewhere.

Too much, this is too much. I can’t even go on to the next search on “santorum  crazy”. I have to have some coffee and take a walk-jog.

Jim Newman, bright and well


Obama, Faith and Politics

Reposted from www.skepticmoney.com

Bits and pieces excerpted from President Obama’s 2006 speech, on faith and religion, are floating around recently. It is worth reading in its entirety. It is a full discussion of his gripes about liberals, conservatives, and their inability to come together based on faith; how and when does a person interject their religion or not into politics. Here is the entire most-quoted section in his “Call for Renewal”:

“Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God’s will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.

This paragraph is slammed as renouncing bringing faith into politics. Religious folks do not want to consider whether their politics are good for everyone. It is as if they want Kant’s categorical imperative to be the realm of personal choice: “I believe the bible and so should everyone else and if I can’t make everyone believe the bible everything I believe in because of the bible should also be believed by all.” By this standard any personal choice could be universalized as insistence: I believe everyone should read Darwin and let’s make it law. Darwin is certainly more relevant than the bible. If I were stranded on a desert island I would bring Russell’s History of Western  Philosophy and only because I don’t know of a more comprehensive single volume history; perhaps for you it would be Shakespeare or the Engineer’s Handbook, maybe a guide to rural technology?

“Now this is going to be difficult for some who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, as many evangelicals do. But in a pluralistic democracy, we have no choice. Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. It involves the compromise, the art of what’s possible. At some fundamental level, religion does not allow for compromise. It’s the art of the impossible. If God has spoken, then followers are expected to live up to God’s edicts, regardless of the consequences. To base one’s life on such uncompromising commitments may be sublime, but to base our policy making on such commitments would be a dangerous thing.

Unfortunately these pretty words are an assertion and not a description. By hesitating to use the word pluralism in the previous paragraph he missteps and by the time he gets to the second it’s too late. Obama misses a huge political framing. Pluralism is not liberal. Pluralism is constitutionally conservative.

Democracy in its purest or most ideal form would be a society in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives.”

We weren’t a democracy until indentured servants, slaves, and finally women in 1920 were given the vote. Democracies are by definition pluralisticPluralism does not even require democracy. Obama is supporting the secularist James Madison, and it would have been nice had he noted this. Madison feared factionalism and wrote such in Federalist paper #10.  A faction is:

“a number of citizens, whether amounting to a minority or majority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.”

Madison defines the most serious source of faction to be the diversity of opinion in political life which leads to dispute over fundamental issues such as what regime or religion should be preferred.

Furthermore from Madison:

“the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society.” … ”A pure democracy can admit no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will be felt by a majority, and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party.”

Dang, Madison sounds like a materialist, Marxist even. From Wikipedia:

Madison particularly emphasizes that economic stratification prevents everyone from sharing the same opinion. Madison concludes that the damage caused by faction can be limited only by controlling its effects.

He then argues that the only problem comes from majority factions because the principle of popular sovereignty should prevent minority factions from gaining power. Madison offers two ways to check majority factions: prevent the “existence of the same passion or interest in a majority at the same time” or render a majority faction unable to act.

Republic and minority rights. Obama’s point on pluralism would more fairly be aimed at representatives who’s job it is to mediate the self interest of the voter. In the following statement he should be saying he would rather have representatives, grounded in morality and ethics.

“In fact, because I do not believe that religious people have a monopoly on morality, I would rather have someone who is grounded in morality and ethics, and who is also secular, affirm their morality and ethics and values without pretending that they’re something they’re not. They don’t need to do that. None of us need to do that.”

“But what I am suggesting is this – secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Williams Jennings Bryant, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King – indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history – were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. So to say that men and women should not inject their “personal morality” into public policy debates is a practical absurdity. Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition.”

Whew, did your head spin? Mine did. He tries to mollify this contrasting approach, of a religious citizen and a secular representative,  by appealing to what John Rawls in the major point of his rewrite of A Theory of Justice  Political Liberalism calls overlapping consensus.

“Thus, to repeat, the problem of political liberalism is to work out a political conception of political justice for a (liberal) constitutional democratic regime that a plurality of reasonable doctrines, both religious and nonreligious, liberal and non liberal, may endorse for the right reasons…

“Yet the outcome of the vote is to be seen as reasonable provided all citizens of a reasonable just constitutional regime sincerely vote in accordance with the idea of public reason…

“Some may, of course, reject a decision, as Catholics may reject a decision to grant a right to abortion. They may present an argument in public reason for denying it and fail to win a majority. But they need not exercise the right of abortion in their own case. They can recognize the right as belonging to legitimate law and there fore do not resist it with force. To do that would be unreasonable:… That the Church’s nonpublic reason requires its members to follow its doctrines is perfectly consistent with their honoring public reason.”

Obama seems to be trying to forward this without calling it liberal, or more accurately constitutionally conservative, but ends up not recognizing that most pubcons wish to change the country period to promote their own cause and are unwilling to stop until there is a theocracy founded not in reason but biblical authority. It’s almost like he has to chastise secularists to make it look like he is beating everyone equally. Pubcons must shed some of their absolutism at the door and secularists can’t expect them to do so.

“Moreover, if we progressives shed some of these biases, we might recognize some overlapping values that both religious and secular people share when it comes to the moral and material direction of our country. We might recognize that the call to sacrifice on behalf of the next generation, the need to think in terms of “thou” and not just “I,” resonates in religious congregations all across the country. And we might realize that we have the ability to reach out to the evangelical community and engage millions of religious Americans in the larger project of American renewal.”

In a way I think this is cowardly and in another way I see him desperate to get mutually hating people to come together. Really, the Koran does list Jesus as a prophet. Really, the Mormons do believe Christ was a prophet. Really, the old, Jewish testament did predestine Christ’s sermon on the mount. Really, the Thetans of Scientology are the sins of humanity. It is appealing to try to cut through the Gordian knot of life-defining differences with the sameness sword but at some point you just can’t. The most egregious act is not secularist but theocratic. Secularism is the house and theology is the guest.

Obama then decides he needs to bash progressives a bit and support minority, democratic political input by saying how religious folks are self-correcting as if atheists and agnostics were not the real movers and shakers of change–bet the founding fathers, white-boy plantation owners, are rolling in their graves having given up fortunes to help develop a country in which they believed with all of their pocket books as travels absentia and war ruined them. In a republic it is the job of our politicians to moderate these interests as secularists in office; that it may be our wish that citizens could be informed enough for a direct democracy but they also may not or even wish not. Of course, when a representative votes or speaks as a citizen they can vote or blather for whatever they want. While pretending to chastise conservatives he actually goes for secularists.

“While I’ve already laid out some of the work that progressive leaders need to do, I want to talk a little bit about what conservative leaders need to do — some truths they need to acknowledge.

“For one, they need to understand the critical role that the separation of church and state has played in preserving not only our democracy, but the robustness of our religious practice. Folks tend to forget that during our founding, it wasn’t the atheists or the civil libertarians who were the most effective champions of the First Amendment. It was the persecuted minorities, it was Baptists like John Leland who didn’t want the established churches to impose their views on folks who were getting happy out in the fields and teaching the scripture to slaves. It was the forbearers of the evangelicals who were the most adamant about not mingling government with religious, because they did not want state-sponsored religion hindering their ability to practice their faith as they understood it”

Once again he disses those late, great plantation owners who gave up their fortunes to support this great Republic. Religious freedom was  more in response against Episcopalianism which was legally mandatory and monarchical. Our founding citizens were most motivated by Calvinistic Presbyterianism which was the second most popular church in America at the time of the revolution and certainly the most activist of them all.

“Only the Presbyterian Church lined up solidly behind the colonists, and without them independence would not have been possible. Oh, and that Declaration of Independence written by Thomas Jefferson? It came along a full year after Scots-Irish Presbyterians in Charlotte, North Carolina, wrote their own declaration of independence. The Mecklenburg Declaration, written on May 20, 1775, “by unanimous resolution declared the people free and independent, and that all laws and commissions from the king were henceforth null and void.”

I really want to believe in Obama. I really want to think we elected him for a reason and not equal opportunity. He does a great speech for the most part and is intelligent and has been thwarted at every angle but he just can’t get religion right in spite of his notion he is ananthropologist studying religion.

“I was not raised in a religious household. For my mother, organized religion too often dressed up closed-mindedness in the garb of piety, cruelty and oppression in the cloak of righteousness. However, in her mind, a working knowledge of the world’s great religions was a necessary part of any well-rounded education. In our household the Bible, the Koran, and the Bhagavad Gita sat on the shelf alongside books of Greek and Norse and African mythology.

“On Easter or Christmas Day my mother might drag me to church, just as she dragged me to the Buddhist temple, the Chinese New Year celebration, the Shinto shrine, and ancient Hawaiian burial sites. In sum, my mother viewed religion through the eyes of the anthropologist; it was a phenomenon to be treated with a suitable respect, but with a suitable detachment as well.

Detachment? Do you see much detachment about religion? This is as hypocritical as saying he is not going to have a war on drugs and then condoning more arrests than ever before. In 2007 before the national meeting of the United Church of Christ Obama asked for evangelicals to abandon their faith-based principles by denying they were really, truly faith based.

“Somehow, somewhere along the way, faith stopped being used to bring us together and faith started being used to drive us apart,”

This is simply silly. Faith was used to bring people together against others, as a source of power. Exclusion is the other side of inclusion. In some cases it was against oppressors. In others it was to maintain status quo. In others to oppress. I find it difficult, if at all, to find examples where it was to bring everyone, and I mean everyone, together, unless they were willing to follow their particular faith universalized.

Even today in so called interfaith meetings, why is it not intrafaith, they do not even try to address secular issues, they are incomprehensible. Islam is about peace, my ass. Christians turn the other cheek, my ass. Jews seek solace in gentiles, my ass. That their exclusion is somehow divorced from their inner humanness has no evidence or ideology. This is as ridiculous as my 17 year old son exemplifying George Orwell’s deservedly paranoid fear by saying war is peace because you have to have war to have peace.

“Faith got hijacked, partly because of the so-called leaders of the Christian Right, all too eager to exploit what divides us.”

They are eager to fight not for division but principle of faith. Evangelicals truly believe you must go through Christ to get to heaven and the world would be a better place if everyone followed their faith to the letter. Without faith, chaos reigns, and the end is coming soon. Faith didn’t get hijacked, absolutism is the logical result of their faith.

“At every opportunity, they’ve told evangelical Christians that Democrats disrespect their values and dislike their church, while suggesting to the rest of the country that religious Americans care only about issues like abortion and gay marriage, school prayer and intelligent design.”

“There was even a time when the Christian Coalition determined that its number one legislative priority was tax cuts for the rich.” “I don’t know what Bible they’re reading, but it doesn’t jibe with my version.

What? I appreciate rhetoric but the bible is so mishmoshed that, for example, abortion folks can use “thou shalt not kill” for fetuses but can also justify killing people being heretics, apostates, and fellow killers. Nevertheless, unless he wishes to discuss hermeneutics between the Greek testament and the Hebrew Pentateuch they are, for the most part, reading some bastard version of the King James. In any case any translation, devoid of hermeneutics, cannot deny the specific statements concerning slavery, gay bashing, and misogyny. I am not being facetious here. As a lawyer knowing the constitution is interpreted through legal precedence Obama shouldn’t demean a crowd by being folksy. Bush got away with it because he was a fool, a shrub. Obama should be too smart to role model folksiness.

The problem is while reading the same damned sacred text people won’t come to a coherent conclusion and it’s because it is a bad book. That is the entire issue. That is why Catholics don’t even read it as a whole and rely on a priest and pope to cherry pick phrases and extrapolate broadly–a dead baby is really saved because it shouldn’t have to remain in purgatory and so doesn’t have to really receive Christ. While I appreciate the postmodern aspect that every reading is a writing, and every interpretation is a misinterpretation, when it comes to bible talk this is the equivalent of saying those disagreeing aren’t good Christians. What arrogance. Of course they are reading the same version. I say get rid of the accursed book, as Jefferson hoped in 1821:

“that the human mind will some day get back to the freedom it enjoyed 2000 years ago. This country which has given the world an example of physical liberty, owes to it that our moral emancipation too.”

Pubcons truly and deeply do believe in the covenant of the 10 commandments and truly and deeply believe that the abortion issue, the gay issue, and intelligent design issue cause the big problems like war, theft, and utter economic collapse. It is really simple to them. That’s why you don’t see pubcon intellectuals right now and why they are aggressively and openly anti intellectual. A cow can clearly follow the sacred text.

In their mind analysis, reason, and deep thought take away from the utterly simple and clear truths available to everyone. The purity and value of individual interpretation was not so much democratic as a deep belief that everyone should arrive at the same conclusion, if they follow the bible, and if you don’t we’ll make our own sect and try to universalize that. The rhetoric is done, the argument over, let the final judgement begin. That is why they are called fundamentalists, nuances and intelligence are as valuable as zits on a kid.

Jim Newman, bright and well



© Jim Newman 2012