Faith and/or reason

Religion, spirituality, values

Understanding America’s religious landscape is the most important challenge facing us today…the change since the 1960’s has been dramatic and Muslims now outnumber Episcopalians, Jews or Presbyterians.…In the United States, the climate of tolerance and the engagement of pluralism emerge not from an authoritarian central regime, but from a democratic experiment as an immigrant nation, a nation in which, at our best, we are motivated by ideals and principles. The consequences for community life and public policy are enormous. A New Religious America — How a “Christian Country” Has Become the World’s Most Religiously Diverse Nation by Diana L. Eck

Pope Francis has been very clear about how he feels about ideological purity in religion. He’s been particularly critical of right-wing Christian fundamentalism. Pope Francis has shifted the focus of the Catholic Church to issues facing the poor and the sick. He has railed against economic inequality and has criticized the anti-gay and anti-abortion strains that have come to dominate the Christian Right here in America. Such ideological extremism is dangerous, not only to Christianity, but to the world. And Pope Francis said as much last Thursday. Pope Francis called right-wing Christian fundamentalism a sickness. Stephen D. Foster Jr. October 21, 2013

Holy Book Learning — Americans are shockingly illiterate when it comes to religions

reason, critical thinking

We are witnessing an epochal shift in our socio-political world.  We are de-evolving…The Social Contract is the intellectual basis of all modern democratic republics, including oursA system which – for all its flaws – often managed to protect the rights of the many, against the predatory power of the few… Republicans and Tea Partiers may be leading this retreat from reason, but they are unopposed by Democrats or the Press. And in the end, there is a special place in Hell for those who allow evil to prosper by doing nothing. Dark Ages Redux: American Politics and the End of the Enlightenment by John Atcheson, Common Dreams, June 18, 2012

Why We Need New Ways of Thinking

Wisdom: The Forgotten Dimension? 

Critical thinking or ignorance

...about 37 percent of Americans are just are not very bright…reading anything even remotely complex or analytical is something only 42 percent of the population enjoy doing on a regular basis, which is why most TV shows, all reality shows, many major media blogs and all of Fox News is scripted for a 5th-grade education/attention span…The smarter you are, the less rigid/more liberal you become…37 Percent of People Don’t Have a Clue About What’s Going on By Mark Morford

…the habit of asking critical questions can be taught. However, if you do not have a knowledge base from which to consider a situation, it is hard to think critically about it.  So ignorance often precludes effective critical thinking even if the technique is acquired… loyalty comes from myth-making and emotional bonds. In both cases, really effective critical thinking might well be incompatible with the desired end…The truth is that people who are consistently active as critical thinkers are not going to be popular, either with the government or their neighbors. The Decline of Critical Thinking, The Problem of Ignorance by Lawrence Davidson

Anti-intellectualism

…There are some very clever people in government, advising politicians, running think tanks and writing for newspapers, who have acquired power and influence by promoting rightwing ideologiesthey now appeal to the basest, stupidest impulses…former Republican ideologues, David Frum warns that “conservatives have built a whole alternative knowledge system, with its own facts, its own history, its own laws of economics”. The result is a “shift to ever more extreme, ever more fantasy-based ideology” which has “ominous real-world consequences for American society”… wrong and why, or to make an uncluttered case for social justice, redistribution and regulation. The conceptual stupidities of conservatism are matched by the strategic stupidities of liberalism. Yes, conservatism thrives on low intelligence and poor information. But the liberals in politics on both sides of the Atlantic continue to back off, yielding to the supremacy of the stupidThe Right’s Stupidity Spreads, Enabled by a Too-Polite Left by George Monbiot, The Guardian/UK, February 7, 2012

The Willful Ignorance That Has Dragged the US to the Brink 

Truth and lies

A basic intent to be truthful, along with an assumption that people can be generally taken at their word, is required for all sustained civilized dealings…No civilization can tolerate a fixed expectation of dishonest communications without falling apart from a breakdown in mutual trust.… Our serious problem today is not simply that many people routinely tell lies…The problem now is that we seem to be reaching a dysfunctional tipping point in which an essential commitment to truthfulness no longer seems to be assumed in our society. If this is indeed the case, the danger is that the bonds of trust important in any society, and essential for a free and democratic one, will dissolve so that the kinds of discourse required to self-govern will become impossible. …As the Founders of our republic warned, the failure to cultivate virtue in citizens can be a lethal threat to any democracy. The Death of Honesty by William Damon

What Would Machiavelli Do? The Big Lie Lives On by Thom Hartmann CommonDreams.org, August 26, 2004

Shameless GOP Lies: Is There Any Limit to What Republicans Will Say — And What People Will Believe? 

US Running on Myths, Lies, Deceptions and Distractions by John Atcheson

Will Republican Voters Believe Anything? The Right’s Hyperbolic, Dysfunctional World 

Overview – faith, values, religion and spirituality

Religion, spirituality, values

Understanding America’s religious landscape is the most important challenge facing us today…the change since the 1960’s has been dramatic and Muslims now outnumber Episcopalians, Jews or Presbyterians.…The Pluralism Project Eck directs at Harvard University is investigating religion in America, what the changes mean and “the challenge of creating a cohesive society out of all this diversity.”  “In the United States, the climate of tolerance and the engagement of pluralism emerge not from an authoritarian central regime, but from a democratic experiment as an immigrant nation, a nation in which, at our best, we are motivated by ideals and principles” says Eck. The conse­quences for community life and public policy are enormous. A New Religious America — How a “Christian Country” Has Become the World’s Most Religiously Diverse Nation by Diana L. Eck

Pope Francis has been very clear about how he feels about ideological purity in religion. He’s been particularly critical of right-wing Christian fundamentalism. Pope Francis has shifted the focus of the Catholic Church to issues facing the poor and the sick. He has railed against economic inequality and has criticized the anti-gay and anti-abortion strains that have come to dominate the Christian Right here in America. Such ideological extremism is dangerous, not only to Christianity, but to the world. And Pope Francis said as much last Thursday. Pope Francis called right-wing Christian fundamentalism a sickness. Stephen D. Foster Jr. October 21, 2013

Holy Book Learning — Americans are shockingly illiterate when it comes to religions

What Do We Mean By ‘Judeo-Christian’?  By Shalom Goldman, Religion Dispatches, January 21, 2011

 

 

 

Václav Havel: Democracy as Spiritual Discipline

by Peter Montgomery, Religion Dispatches, December 18, 2011

…Václav Havel’s death…brings a more reflective sadness, a sense of what he could yet have taught Americans about the moral responsibilities of citizens and politicians in a democratic society. Havel, of course, was an accidental politician, a playwright and former political prisoner-turned-president after his leadership of the “Velvet Revolution” against Soviet-sponsored tyranny in Czechoslovakia…emotionally transparent way he addressed the staggering challenge of steering Czechoslovakia away from totalitarianism and toward social democracy while resisting pressures to embrace free-market fundamentalism…

While still sitting president..Havel bared his mind, heart, and soul in a remarkable collection of essays written in the summer of 1991 and published in English by Knopf the following year as Summer Meditations these essays are imbued with a quiet conviction that politics should be a high moral calling… A moral and intellectual state cannot be established through a constitution, or through law, or through directives, but only through complex, long-term, and never-ending work involving education and self-education…it might be called spirit. Or feeling. Or conscience. 

On moving from a state-controlled economy toward a market economy based on individual responsibility, plurality of ownership and decision-making, while resisting pressures from free-market fundamentalists to abandon any regulation or social principlesthe marketplace can work only if it has its own morality — a morality generally enshrined in laws, regulations, traditions, experiences, customs — in the rules of the game, to put it simply. No game can be played without rules…The law is undoubtedly an instrument of justice, but it would be an utterly meaningless instrument if no one used it responsibly…Havel also wrote that politicians have a moral obligation to call their followers to be true to their best selves rather than pander to or inflame their followers’ worst instincts…Havel utterly rejected the kind of dishonest and destructive “ends justify the means” politics that seems to dominate so much of our political discourse…Havel was not naïve about the need for eternal vigilance…Havel understood that the mechanisms and institutions of democracy also depend on a commitment to what we could call the spirit of democracy, in opposition to rigid ideological thinking:

“I am convinced that we will never build a democratic state based on rule of law if we do not at the same time build a state that is – regardless of how unscientific this may sound to the ears of a political scientist – humane, moral, intellectual and spiritual, and cultural.“…

Building an intellectual and spiritual state — a state based on ideas — does not mean building an ideological state. Indeed, an ideological state cannot be intellectual or spiritual. A state based on ideas is precisely the opposite: it is meant to extricate human beings from the straitjacket of ideological interpretations, and to rehabilitate them as subjects of individual conscience, of individual thinking backed up by experience, of individual responsibility, and with a love for their neighbors that is anything but abstract..

Full text

News of Václav Havel’s death arrived just days after the New York Times literally stopped the presses to report on the death of the brilliant, caustic, maddening intellectual iconoclast Christopher Hitchens.  Hitchens and Havel shared a fierce and fearless opposition to tyrannies, whether from the right or left. For me, Havel’s passing brings a more reflective sadness, a sense of what he could yet have taught Americans about the moral responsibilities of citizens and politicians in a democratic society.

Havel, of course, was an accidental politician, a playwright and former political prisoner-turned-president after his leadership of the “Velvet Revolution” against Soviet-sponsored tyranny in Czechoslovakia. I am not a Havel scholar, but I have been moved deeply by the emotionally transparent way he addressed the staggering challenge of steering Czechoslovakia away from totalitarianism and toward social democracy while resisting pressures to embrace free-market fundamentalism.

While still sitting president, and before Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Havel bared his mind, heart, and soul in a remarkable collection of essays written in the summer of 1991 and published in English by Knopf the following year as Summer Meditations. In contrast to Hitchens’ pyrotechnic polemics, these essays are imbued with a quiet conviction that politics should be a high moral calling.

Twenty years later, Havel’s meditations from a nation struggling into democracy have much to say to those of us in a nation struggling with our own democracy:

There is no simple set of instructions on how to proceed. A moral and intellectual state cannot be established through a constitution, or through law, or through directives, but only through complex, long-term, and never-ending work involving education and self-education. [...] It is not, in short, something we can simply declare or introduce. It is a way of going about things, and it demands the courage to breathe moral and spiritual motivation into everything, to seek the human dimension in all things. Science, technology, expertise, and so-called professionalism are not enough. Something more is necessary. For the sake of simplicity, it might be called spirit. Or feeling. Or conscience. 

On moving from a state-controlled economy toward a market economy based on individual responsibility, plurality of ownership and decision-making, while resisting pressures from free-market fundamentalists to abandon any regulation or social principles:

Right-wing dogmatism, with its sour-faced intolerance and fanatical faith in general precepts, bothers me as much as left-wing prejudices, illusions, and utopias. Today, unfortunately, we often find that a straightforward analysis of specific problems and a calm, unbiased consideration of them are being pushed out of public debate by something that might be called ‘market madness.’ [...] It is a great mistake to think that the marketplace and morality are mutually exclusive. Precisely the opposite is true: the marketplace can work only if it has its own morality — a morality generally enshrined in laws, regulations, traditions, experiences, customs — in the rules of the game, to put it simply. No game can be played without rules.

Havel told citizens that they held immense responsibility for holding institutions and individuals accountable:

The law is undoubtedly an instrument of justice, but it would be an utterly meaningless instrument if no one used it responsibly. From our own recent experience we all know too well what can happen to even a decent law in the hands of an unscrupulous judge, and how easily unscrupulous people can use democratic institutions to introduce dictatorship and terror. [...] That these institutions can help us become more human is obvious; that is why they were created, and why we are building them now. But if they are to guarantee anything to us, it is we, first of all, who must guarantee them.

Havel also wrote that politicians have a moral obligation to call their followers to be true to their best selves rather than pander to or inflame their followers’ worst instincts:

Time and time again I have been persuaded that a huge potential of goodwill is slumbering within our society. It’s just that it’s incoherent, suppressed, confused, crippled and perplexed — as though it does not know what to rely on, where to begin, where or how to find meaningful outlets.

In such a state of affairs, politicians have a duty to awaken this slumbering potential, to offer it direction and ease its passage, to encourage it and give it room, or simply hope. They say a nation gets the politicians it deserves. [...] At the same time – paradoxically – the opposite is also true; society is a mirror of its politicians. It is largely up to the politicians which social forces they choose to liberate and which they choose to suppress, whether they rely on the good in each citizen or the bad. 

Unfortunately, many politicians do not live up to this ideal. Havel saw partisanship and the sowing of general anti-government hostility as particularly dangerous:

It is enough to look around our political scene (whose lack of civility is merely a reflection of the more general crisis of civility)….Mutual accusations, denunciations, and slander among political opponents knows no bounds. One politician will undermine another’s work only because they belong to different political parties. Partisan considerations still visibly take precedence over pragmatic attempts to arrive at reasonable and useful solutions to problems. Analysis is pushed out of the press by scandalmongering. Supporting the government in a good cause is practically shameful; kicking it in the shins, on the other hand, is praiseworthy. Sniping at politicians who declare their support for another political group is a matter of course. Anyone can accuse anyone else of intrigue or incompetence, or of having a shady past and shady intentions…

[...] Citizens are become more and more disgusted with all this, and their disgust is understandably directed against the democratic government they themselves elected.

And yet, if a handful of friends and I were able to bang our heads against the wall for years by speaking the truth about Communist totalitarianism while surrounded by an ocean of apathy, there is no reason why I shouldn’t go on banging my head against the wall by speaking ad nauseam, despite the condescending smiles, about responsibility and morality in the face of our present social marasmus. There is no reason to think that this struggle is a lost cause. The only lost cause is one we give up on before we enter the struggle.

Havel utterly rejected the kind of dishonest and destructive “ends justify the means” politics that seems to dominate so much of our political discourse:

…Of course, I don’t know whether directness, truth, and the democratic spirit will succeed. But I do know how not to succeed, which is by choosing means that contradict the ends. As we know from history, that is the best way to eliminate the very ends we set out to achieve.

In other words, if there is to be any chance at all of success, there is only one way to strive for decency, reason, responsibility, sincerity, civility, and tolerance, and that is decently, reasonably, responsibly, sincerely, civilly, and tolerantly. I’m aware that, in everyday politics, that is not seen as the most practical way of going about it….

I see the only way forward in that old, familiar injunction; “live in truth.”

But Havel was not naïve about the need for eternal vigilance.

If I talk here about my political — or more precisely, my civil — program, about my notion of the kind of politics and values and ideals I wish to struggle for, this is not to say that I am entertaining the naïve hope that this struggle may one day be over. [...]

Neither I nor anyone else will ever win this war once and for all. At the very most, we can win a battle or two — and not even that is certain. Yet I still think it makes sense to wage this war persistently. It has been waged for centuries, and it will continue to be waged – we hope – for centuries to come. This must be done on principle, because it is the right thing to do. Or, if you like, because God wants it that way. It is an eternal, never-ending struggle waged not just by good people (among whom I count myself, more or less) against evil people, by honorable people against dishonorable people, by people who think about the world and eternity against people who think only of themselves and the moment. It takes place inside everyone. It is what makes a person a person and life, life.

Havel understood that the mechanisms and institutions of democracy also depend on a commitment to what we could call the spirit of democracy, in opposition to rigid ideological thinking:

I am convinced that we will never build a democratic state based on rule of law if we do not at the same time build a state that is – regardless of how unscientific this may sound to the ears of a political scientist – humane, moral, intellectual and spiritual, and cultural. [...]

Building an intellectual and spiritual state — a state based on ideas — does not mean building an ideological state. Indeed, an ideological state cannot be intellectual or spiritual. A state based on ideas is precisely the opposite: it is meant to extricate human beings from the straitjacket of ideological interpretations, and to rehabilitate them as subjects of individual conscience, of individual thinking backed up by experience, of individual responsibility, and with a love for their neighbors that is anything but abstract.

A state based on ideas should be no more and no less than a guarantee of freedom and security for people who know that the state and its institutions can stand behind them only if they themselves take responsibility for the state — that is, if they see it as their own project and their own home, as something they need not fear, as something they can — without shame — love, because they have built it for themselves.

http://www.religiondispatches.org/dispatches/guest_bloggers/5509/v%C3%A1clav_havel%3A_democracy_as_spiritual_discipline__/

Grand Old Planet

By PAUL KRUGMAN, New York Times, November 22, 2012

Mini-excerpt

…the mod­ern G.O.P.’s atti­tude, not just toward biol­ogy, but toward every­thing: If evi­dence seems to con­tra­dict faith, sup­press the evi­dence. The most obvi­ous exam­ple other than evo­lu­tion is man-made cli­mate change…[they] are strongly inclined to reject any evi­dence con­tra­dict­ing their prior beliefs. Today’s Repub­li­cans cocoon them­selves in an alter­nate real­ity defined by Fox News, Rush Lim­baugh and The Wall Street Journal’s edi­to­r­ial page…[their] inabil­ity to deal with geo­log­i­cal evi­dence was symp­to­matic of a much broader prob­lem — one that may, in the end, set Amer­ica on a path of inex­orable decline…

Excerpt

…his [Senator Marco Rubio] inability to acknowledge scientific evidence speaks of the anti-rational mind-set that has taken over his political party….What was Mr. Rubio’s complaint about science teaching? That it might undermine children’s faith in what their parents told them to believe. And right there you have the modern G.O.P.’s attitude, not just toward biology, but toward everything: If evidence seems to contradict faith, suppress the evidence. The most obvious example other than evolution is man-made climate change. As the evidence for a warming planet becomes ever stronger — and ever scarier — the G.O.P. has buried deeper into denial, into assertions that the whole thing is a hoax concocted by a vast conspiracy of scientists. And this denial has been accompanied by frantic efforts to silence and punish anyone reporting the inconvenient facts…

What accounts for this pattern of denial? Earlier this year, the science writer Chris Mooney published “The Republican Brain,” … a survey of the now-extensive research linking political views to personality types. As Mr. Mooney showed, modern American conservatism is highly correlated with authoritarian inclinations — and authoritarians are strongly inclined to reject any evidence contradicting their prior beliefs. Today’s Republicans cocoon themselves in an alternate reality defined by Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, and only on rare occasions — like on election night — encounter any hint that what they believe might not be true.

And, no, it’s not symmetric. Liberals, being human, often give in to wishful thinking — but not in the same systematic, all-encompassing way….We are, after all, living in an era when science plays a crucial economic role…How are we going to stay competitive in biotechnology if biology classes avoid any material that might offend creationists?

And then there’s the matter of using evidence to shape economic policy. You may have read about the recent study from the Congressional Research Service finding no empirical support for the dogma that cutting taxes on the wealthy leads to higher economic growth. How did Republicans respond? By suppressing the report. On economics, as in hard science, modern conservatives don’t want to hear anything challenging their preconceptions — and they don’t want anyone else to hear about it, either.

…Rubio’…inability to deal with geological evidence was symptomatic of a much broader problem — one that may, in the end, set America on a path of inexorable decline.

Full text

Earlier this week, GQ magazine published an interview with Senator Marco Rubio, whom many consider a contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, in which Mr. Rubio was asked how old the earth is. After declaring “I’m not a scientist, man,” the senator went into desperate evasive action, ending with the declaration that “it’s one of the great mysteries.”

It’s funny stuff, and conservatives would like us to forget about it as soon as possible. Hey, they say, he was just pandering to likely voters in the 2016 Republican primaries — a claim that for some reason is supposed to comfort us.

But we shouldn’t let go that easily. Reading Mr. Rubio’s interview is like driving through a deeply eroded canyon; all at once, you can clearly see what lies below the superficial landscape. Like striated rock beds that speak of deep time, his inability to acknowledge scientific evidence speaks of the anti-rational mind-set that has taken over his political party.

By the way, that question didn’t come out of the blue. As speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, Mr. Rubio provided powerful aid to creationists trying to water down science education. In one interview, he compared the teaching of evolution to Communist indoctrination tactics — although he graciously added that “I’m not equating the evolution people with Fidel Castro.” Gee, thanks.

What was Mr. Rubio’s complaint about science teaching? That it might undermine children’s faith in what their parents told them to believe. And right there you have the modern G.O.P.’s attitude, not just toward biology, but toward everything: If evidence seems to contradict faith, suppress the evidence.

The most obvious example other than evolution is man-made climate change. As the evidence for a warming planet becomes ever stronger — and ever scarier — the G.O.P. has buried deeper into denial, into assertions that the whole thing is a hoax concocted by a vast conspiracy of scientists. And this denial has been accompanied by frantic efforts to silence and punish anyone reporting the inconvenient facts.

But the same phenomenon is visible in many other fields. The most recent demonstration came in the matter of election polls. Coming into the recent election, state-level polling clearly pointed to an Obama victory — yet more or less the whole Republican Party refused to acknowledge this reality. Instead, pundits and politicians alike fiercely denied the numbers and personally attacked anyone pointing out the obvious; the demonizing of The Times’s Nate Silver, in particular, was remarkable to behold.

What accounts for this pattern of denial? Earlier this year, the science writer Chris Mooney published “The Republican Brain,” which was not, as you might think, a partisan screed. It was, instead, a survey of the now-extensive research linking political views to personality types. As Mr. Mooney showed, modern American conservatism is highly correlated with authoritarian inclinations — and authoritarians are strongly inclined to reject any evidence contradicting their prior beliefs. Today’s Republicans cocoon themselves in an alternate reality defined by Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, and only on rare occasions — like on election night — encounter any hint that what they believe might not be true.

And, no, it’s not symmetric. Liberals, being human, often give in to wishful thinking — but not in the same systematic, all-encompassing way.

Coming back to the age of the earth: Does it matter? No, says Mr. Rubio, pronouncing it “a dispute amongst theologians” — what about the geologists? — that has “has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States.” But he couldn’t be more wrong.

We are, after all, living in an era when science plays a crucial economic role. How are we going to search effectively for natural resources if schools trying to teach modern geology must give equal time to claims that the world is only 6.000 years old? How are we going to stay competitive in biotechnology if biology classes avoid any material that might offend creationists?

And then there’s the matter of using evidence to shape economic policy. You may have read about the recent study from the Congressional Research Service finding no empirical support for the dogma that cutting taxes on the wealthy leads to higher economic growth. How did Republicans respond? By suppressing the report. On economics, as in hard science, modern conservatives don’t want to hear anything challenging their preconceptions — and they don’t want anyone else to hear about it, either.

So don’t shrug off Mr. Rubio’s awkward moment. His inability to deal with geological evidence was symptomatic of a much broader problem — one that may, in the end, set America on a path of inexorable decline.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/23/opinion/krugman-grand-old-planet.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20121123

The New Values Voters: The Economy

AmericanProgress.org, October 1, 2012

While helping the poor and the economically disadvantaged has long been a core value for many Americans and their faith communities, some might question whether their concern would persist in unstable economic times—many families, after all, are just trying to stay afloat. Yet recent surges in activism and advocacy indicate that sensitivity to the plight of the less privileged is actually increasing—especially within many faith communities—and is playing an active role in the 2012 campaign.

In addition to thousands of churches, faith-based nonprofits, and activist groups working tirelessly to serve the poor, clergy and laypeople alike are speaking out to eradicate poverty and encouraging elected officials to create economic policies that are fair and just.

Fighting for economic justice

Faith groups in America have always expressed deep concern about economic inequality and poverty. Throughout our nation’s history, churches and faith-based nonprofits have provided essential services to the poor and needy. In addition to providing direct services, they have spoken with a prophetic voice about the government’s responsibility to care for those in need. From Dorothy Day’s Catholic Worker Movement to Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign, faith communities have a proud history of advocating on behalf of “the least of these.”

Fast facts

  • 93 percent of Christians express concern for global poverty.
  • 67 percent of Catholics consider helping the poor as central to the Catholic identity.
  • Faith-based charities and other religious organizations provide $50 billion worth of social services to the poor each year
  • In both 2004 and 2008, voters from all religious traditions listed the economy as a top issue that affected how they vote.

As it turns out, this value, like faith, seems to have staying power, and the strong tradition of faith-based activism on behalf of the poor continues today. Faith leaders played a prominent role in the recent Occupy Wall Street movement, for example, marching side-by-side with protesters as they decried corporate greed and called attention to America’s growing income disparity. What’s more, scores of churches and dioceses divested their money from large banks like Bank of America in October of last year, placing their funds in local credit unions that reinvest in community development and are responsible lenders.

Faith groups also made waves in recent years by opposing federal legislation that would harm lower-income households. During last year’s federal budget debate, for instance, many faith leaders denounced the House Republican budget-cutting plan, saying it would slash crucial programs essential to millions of Americans living in or near poverty. In fact, Common Cause—a nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to holding U.S. political institutions more open and accountable—organized a protest against the budget in which priests, pastors, rabbis, and faith leaders were arrested for gathering in the U.S. Capitol and praying for lawmakers to remember the poor.

Similarly, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was quick to speak out against a separate House Budget proposal earlier this year because of its draconian cuts to government programs that help the poor and vulnerable. Their critique was amplified by Sister Simone Campbell, a nun and head of the Catholic social-justice group NETWORK, who organized the nine-state “Nuns on the Bus” tour decrying the “immoral” budget while visiting local faith-based service groups that would be drastically harmed by proposed budget cuts.

Advocacy for a fair and just economy extended into this year’s election season, with religious groups working to raise awareness about poverty within both presidential campaigns. Sister Simone Campbell and NETWORK have asked both presidential candidates to spend a day with the poor. And Circle of Protection, an ecumenical Christian activist group dedicated to protecting government services that meet “the essential needs of hungry and poor people at home and abroad,” successfully persuaded both presidential campaigns to release video statements expressing their dedication to eradicating poverty.

Rev. David Beckman, president of Bread for the World—a Christian citizens’ movement in the fight to end hunger—explained that the videos addressed what is truly a spiritual issue:

We are calling on religious leaders and all people of faith to listen carefully to what the candidates have to say and when voting be mindful of the least among us. Voting is a sacred obligation; supporting candidates who have demonstrated their commitment to reducing hunger and poverty is integral to good stewardship.

But concern about economic inequality and poverty isn’t restricted to organization heads or clergy—it’s also important to those in the pews. Polls show that 93 percent of Christians express concern about global poverty. In addition, a 2011 survey found that 67 percent of Catholics consider helping the poor as central to the Catholic identity—by comparison, only 64 percent say the belief in Mary as the mother of God is a core Catholic belief. Another 2011 poll reported that majorities of every major religious group, as well as those who are religiously unaffiliated, think the country would be better off if the distribution of wealth were more equal.

In short, the movement for a fair and just economy isn’t limited to faith leaders and worshippers. In fact, it includes Americans of all faiths—and no faith—united behind the cause of economic justice.

If recent events are any indication, concern for economic inequality isn’t just a political talking point. It’s a deeply held spiritual value shared across faiths and American history that is only getting stronger.

Jack Jenkins is a Writer and Researcher with the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative at the Center for American Progress.

http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/religion/news/2012/10/01/40112/the-new-values-voters-the-economy/

Six Reasons We Can’t Change the Future Without Progressive Religion

By Sara Robinson, AlterNet | News Analysis, 09 July 2012

Mini-excerpt

..the history of the progressive movement has shown us, over and over, that there are things that the spiritual community brings to political movements that are essential for success, and can’t easily be replaced with anything else. Religion has been central to the formation of human communities — and to how we approach the future… all successful religions thrive and endure because they offer their adherents a variety of effective community-building, social activism, and change management tools that, taken together, make religion quite possibly the most powerful social change technology humans have ever developed…in a nation where over 90% of everybody has some kind of God-belief — and the overwhelming majority of them ground their political decisions in that belief — abandoning the entire landscape of faith to the right wing amounts to political malpractice…To our credit, a lot of our best organizers and activists are starting to realize the magnitude of this mistake. We’re paying a lot more attention these days to learning to clearly articulate progressive values, to express ourselves in explicitly moral language, and to put forward more strongly progressive frames, narratives, and future visions to counter the bankrupt conservative worldview that’s brought us to this sorry place in history… If we’re going to overwrite their [right wing] brutal and anti-democratic story of how the world works, the most important step we can take is to tap into the vast reach and deep moral authority of our remaining progressive faith communities, and amplify their voices every way we can….there’s very little agreement about the nature of God — but a very strong consensus that the act of radical community-making is the most intensely holy and essential work that they do… Progressives of faith have always played a central role in our political victories in the past. It’s time to stop imagining that somehow, we’re going to take the country back without them now.

Excerpt

One of the great historical strengths of the progressive movement has been its resolute commitment to the separation of church and state. As progressives, we don’t want our government influenced by anybody’s religious laws. Instead of superstition and mob id, we prefer to have real science, based in real data and real evidence, guiding public policy. Instead of holy wars, othering, and social repression — the inevitable by-products of theocracy — we think that drawing from the widest possible range of philosophical traditions makes America smarter, stronger, and more durable over time.

That said: while we all want a government free of religion, there are good reasons that we may not want our own progressive movement to be shorn of every last spiritual impulse. In fact, the history of the progressive movement has shown us, over and over, that there are things that the spiritual community brings to political movements that are essential for success, and can’t easily be replaced with anything else.

Religion has been central to the formation of human communities — and to how we approach the future — for as long as homo sapiens has been around. Apart from God-belief (which varies widely between religions), all successful religions thrive and endure because they offer their adherents a variety of effective community-building, social activism, and change management tools that, taken together, make religion quite possibly the most powerful social change technology humans have ever developed.

What does religion offer that progressives need to make our movement work?

First: there’s nothing like it if you want to bond a bunch of very diverse people into a tight community of shared meaning and value. A religious congregation brings together people of all ages, backgrounds, educational levels, professional rank, and life circumstances, and melds them into an enduring tribe that’s centered around a shared commitment to mutual trust and care, and (most importantly) has a clear and vivid shared vision of the future they’re trying to create.

There is simply no other organizational form that encourages people to share their time, energy, and resources so quickly, completely, or enduringly; or aligns so much conviction toward the same goal... Second, religious narratives center people in the long arc of history, telling them where they came from, who they are, what they are capable of, and what kind of future is possible. History does this, too; but religion does it at a deeper, mythic level that gives these stories extra emotional and cognitive resonance… Religion is the native home of the prophetic voice — the voice that calls people to transformative change… the kind of language that calls us to a better place. Third, over the course of American history, liberal religious faiths have been the primary promoter of progressive values throughout the culture — and also the leading institution when it came time to inculcate our progressive sensibilities into the next generation…Fourth, progressive religion has always been America’s most credible and aggressive front-line defender of non-market-based values against the onslaught of capitalism and greed. In recent years, as the “free-market” fetishists took over (and gulled American Evangelicals into shilling for their hellish utilitarianism), our liberal faith communities — mainline Protestants and liberal Catholics, Jews and Quakers, Unitarian Universalists and the rising wave of reformist Muslims — are the strongest remaining cultural forces left with the moral authority to insist that we have a duty to the poor, that democracy cannot survive without a commitment to justice, and that compassion is always a better survival strategy than competition.

The market says: Everything and everybody has a price, and is for sale. Faith says: The most valuable things in our lives — good health, safe food, strong families, a clean environment, a just economy, meaningful work, access to opportunity — are beyond price, and should by right be available to us all. Our faith communities (especially, but not always exclusively, the progressive ones) have always held this light up within our culture, and it’s never been needed more than it’s needed right now.

Fifth, in a nation where over 90% of everybody has some kind of God-belief — and the overwhelming majority of them ground their political decisions in that belief — abandoning the entire landscape of faith to the right wing amounts to political malpractice. For most Americans, our religious worldviews are the epistemological soil in which every other decision we make is rooted — the basic model of reality that we use to navigate the world. When we stopped engaging people’s basic model of moral order, we effectively ceded the entire moral landscape of the nation to our enemies. It was, in retrospect, perhaps the most self-destructive error we’ve made over the past 40 years (and that’s saying something).

To our credit, a lot of our best organizers and activists are starting to realize the magnitude of this mistake. We’re paying a lot more attention these days to learning to clearly articulate progressive values, to express ourselves in explicitly moral language, and to put forward more strongly progressive frames, narratives, and future visions to counter the bankrupt conservative worldview that’s brought us to this sorry place in history.

But while we’re working toward some new understandings here, let’s also remember that the right wing’s success on taking this field was rooted directly in their ability to mobilize conservative churches to carry the moral banner forward into the culture for them. If we’re going to overwrite their brutal and anti-democratic story of how the world works, the most important step we can take is to tap into the vast reach and deep moral authority of our remaining progressive faith communities, and amplify their voices every way we can. Churches and temples have always been the first and most natural places Americans turn when it’s time to have serious cultural conversations about value and meaning and the future they desire. If we’re serious about changing the national story and bending the future in our preferred direction, then that’s where we need to be.

Sixth: Progressive faiths, across the board, promote the essential belief that human communities are, in themselves, inherently and intrinsically sacred. In fact, progressive atheists may be surprised to learn that among their more religious brothers and sisters, there’s very little agreement about the nature of God — but a very strong consensus that the act of radical community-making is the most intensely holy and essential work that they do… Progressives of faith have always played a central role in our political victories in the past. It’s time to stop imagining that somehow, we’re going to take the country back without them now.

Full text

One of the great historical strengths of the progressive movement has been its resolute commitment to the separation of church and state. As progressives, we don’t want our government influenced by anybody’s religious laws. Instead of superstition and mob id, we prefer to have real science, based in real data and real evidence, guiding public policy. Instead of holy wars, othering, and social repression — the inevitable by-products of theocracy — we think that drawing from the widest possible range of philosophical traditions makes America smarter, stronger, and more durable over time.

That said: while we all want a government free of religion, there are good reasons that we may not want our own progressive movement to be shorn of every last spiritual impulse. In fact, the history of the progressive movement has shown us, over and over, that there are things that the spiritual community brings to political movements that are essential for success, and can’t easily be replaced with anything else.

Religion has been central to the formation of human communities — and to how we approach the future — for as long as homo sapiens has been around. Apart from God-belief (which varies widely between religions), all successful religions thrive and endure because they offer their adherents a variety of effective community-building, social activism, and change management tools that, taken together, make religion quite possibly the most powerful social change technology humans have ever developed.

What does religion offer that progressives need to make our movement work?

First: there’s nothing like it if you want to bond a bunch of very diverse people into a tight community of shared meaning and value. A religious congregation brings together people of all ages, backgrounds, educational levels, professional rank, and life circumstances, and melds them into an enduring tribe that’s centered around a shared commitment to mutual trust and care, and (most importantly) has a clear and vivid shared vision of the future they’re trying to create.

There is simply no other organizational form that encourages people to share their time, energy, and resources so quickly, completely, or enduringly; or aligns so much conviction toward the same goal. (This is why the leaders of corporations, the marketers of sports teams, and the military all study religious cultures, and try to appropriate their tribe-building techniques for their own purposes.) The resulting tribes can last for many centuries — and acquire a resounding moral voice that can reverberate throughout their larger communities, and well beyond. If you want to change the world, this is the kind of group — deeply bound by faith, trust, love, history, and a commitment to each other and to the world they envision that transcends life and death — that’s most likely to get it done. Religion is the best way going to get people to consecrate themselves, body and soul, to a larger cause; and to take on the kind of all-or-nothing risks that are often required to really change the world.

Second, religious narratives center people in the long arc of history, telling them where they came from, who they are, what they are capable of, and what kind of future is possible. History does this, too; but religion does it at a deeper, mythic level that gives these stories extra emotional and cognitive resonance. For most of human history, in fact, the task of imagining a different future and giving people the inspiration and courage to reach for it has been the primary role of religious prophets. (So has the job of warning the people that they’re wandering into grave error or betraying their own values, and must change their ways or face disaster.) Religion is the native home of the prophetic voice — the voice that calls people to transformative change. Throughout America’s history, our most evocative political prophets — both Roosevelts, all the Kennedys, Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, Van Jones, Barack Obama — have invariably been people who spent a lot of time in the pews, learning to speak the kind of language that calls us to a better place.

Third, over the course of American history, liberal religious faiths have been the primary promoter of progressive values throughout the culture — and also the leading institution when it came time to inculcate our progressive sensibilities into the next generation. Many, if not most, progressives in America are progressive specifically because they believe that this is what their faith demands of them. They’re raising their kids in churches and temples because they believe, as the Bible says, that “if you train up a child in the way that he should go, when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

Liberal congregations have etched our values onto the young souls of tens of millions of American progressives, over three centuries and dozens of generations. Do we really want to try to do without them now?

Fourth, progressive religion has always been America’s most credible and aggressive front-line defender of non-market-based values against the onslaught of capitalism and greed. In recent years, as the “free-market” fetishists took over (and gulled American Evangelicals into shilling for their hellish utilitarianism), our liberal faith communities — mainline Protestants and liberal Catholics, Jews and Quakers, Unitarian Universalists and the rising wave of reformist Muslims — are the strongest remaining cultural forces left with the moral authority to insist that we have a duty to the poor, that democracy cannot survive without a commitment to justice, and that compassion is always a better survival strategy than competition.

The market says: Everything and everybody has a price, and is for sale. Faith says: The most valuable things in our lives — good health, safe food, strong families, a clean environment, a just economy, meaningful work, access to opportunity — are beyond price, and should by right be available to us all. Our faith communities (especially, but not always exclusively, the progressive ones) have always held this light up within our culture, and it’s never been needed more than it’s needed right now.

Fifth, in a nation where over 90% of everybody has some kind of God-belief — and the overwhelming majority of them ground their political decisions in that belief — abandoning the entire landscape of faith to the right wing amounts to political malpractice. For most Americans, our religious worldviews are the epistemological soil in which every other decision we make is rooted — the basic model of reality that we use to navigate the world. When we stopped engaging people’s basic model of moral order, we effectively ceded the entire moral landscape of the nation to our enemies. It was, in retrospect, perhaps the most self-destructive error we’ve made over the past 40 years (and that’s saying something).

To our credit, a lot of our best organizers and activists are starting to realize the magnitude of this mistake. We’re paying a lot more attention these days to learning to clearly articulate progressive values, to express ourselves in explicitly moral language, and to put forward more strongly progressive frames, narratives, and future visions to counter the bankrupt conservative worldview that’s brought us to this sorry place in history.

But while we’re working toward some new understandings here, let’s also remember that the right wing’s success on taking this field was rooted directly in their ability to mobilize conservative churches to carry the moral banner forward into the culture for them. If we’re going to overwrite their brutal and anti-democratic story of how the world works, the most important step we can take is to tap into the vast reach and deep moral authority of our remaining progressive faith communities, and amplify their voices every way we can. Churches and temples have always been the first and most natural places Americans turn when it’s time to have serious cultural conversations about value and meaning and the future they desire. If we’re serious about changing the national story and bending the future in our preferred direction, then that’s where we need to be.

Sixth: Progressive faiths, across the board, promote the essential belief that human communities are, in themselves, inherently and intrinsically sacred. In fact, progressive atheists may be surprised to learn that among their more religious brothers and sisters, there’s very little agreement about the nature of God — but a very strong consensus that the act of radical community-making is the most intensely holy and essential work that they do.

If there is a God (and progressives of faith debate that question endlessly), then we might most reliably see the face of that divinity in that permanent circle of friends with whom we celebrate life’s passages and joys, and wrestle with its hardest challenges — the people whom we trust to stand with us no matter what comes, and who will work with us tirelessly toward our shared vision of a better world. It’s this deep faith in the dream of the beloved community that also feeds our faith in the potential of good government, and our confidence in the unleashed potential of the American people. (And furthermore: I don’t think I’ve ever met a progressive atheist who would disagree on this point.)

Across all the long centuries of the American progressive movement, we’ve never launched a successful change wave that didn’t draw most of its leadership, its base, and its moral grounding from the country’s deep liberal religious tradition.

Our churches and temples have been the fountain, the rock, the mother source of our movement from the very beginning. Progressives of faith have always played a central role in our political victories in the past. It’s time to stop imagining that somehow, we’re going to take the country back without them now.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.  Sara Robinson
Sara Robinson is a Senior Fellow with the Campaign for America’s Future, and is also doing futures consulting with the Progressive Ideas Network, which is a project of Demos. Her work often appears online at the Huffington Post, Firedoglake, OpenLeft, and Alternet; and has also recently been in print at The Progressive Christian and Survival: The Journal of the International Institute of Strategic Studies. Starting in 2006, she was David Neiwert’s co-blogger in covering authoritarian and extremist movements at Orcinus, where she cultivated her professional interest in the politics and sociology of change resistance.
http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/10231-six-reasons-we-cant-change-the-future-without-progressive-religion

Universal values

The False Equation: Religion Equals Moralityby Gwynne Dyer, CommonDreams.org, December 19, 2011 …In the United States, where it is almost impossible to get elected unless you profess a strong religious faith… Not one of the hundred US senators ticks the “No Religion/Atheist/Agnostic” box, for example, although 16 percent of the American population do…This is a common belief among those who rule, because they confuse morality with religion…politicians, religious leaders and generals in every country, are effectively saying that my children, and those of all the other millions who have no religion, are morally inferior to those who do. It is insulting and untrue.

Another Word on “God and the Twenty-First Century” by Michael Benedikt – It is no longer necessary to invoke the name of God to explain or promote compassionate action. Today we understand we have evolved that capacity… the capacity for empathy, fairness, and altruism is wired into human beings and even other higher mammals from birth, thanks to millions of generations of reproduction-with-variation under the constraints of natural selection. Similarly, the laws of civility — from the Eightfold Way and the Ten Commandments to the Magna Carta, the Geneva Convention, and the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights — are the culturally transmitted legacy of thousands of years of human social evolution overlaid upon older, natural reproductive-selective processes. Whereas laws of civility may once have needed the rhetorical force of God-talk to establish themselves, today they can be embraced rationally in the service of peace and prosperity.

Toward a “Common Spirituality”: Scaffolding for Evolving Consciousness by Richard Harmer, PhD, Noetic, December 2010 – Spirituality is a universal phenomenon. It doesn’t matter where in the world you live or what “tribe” you are a part of; you can be assured that spirituality will be a part of the psychological and social fabric of your immediate world. Why? Humans have a strong will toward meaning…spirituality provides us with a sense of morality and ethics and allows us to find a sense of peace in the face of life’s trials and tribulations. In fact, spirituality is central to being and becoming a healthy and well-adjusted human being. Spirituality also plays a role in enabling the evolution of individual and collective consciousness…
A person’s way of thinking and being is influenced by their worldview – the unique combination of attitudes, perceptions, and assumptions that inform how they personally understand and make sense of their place in the world…
3) The belief in fostering wholeness and interconnectedness, which means a universal spiritual belief that all life is interconnected and that it is your bond to all humanity that provides a sense of wholeness…

Science and the Search for Meaning By Peter Morales, President, Unitarian Universalist Assn, www.theNewAtlantis.com, Summer 2013 – excerpt – We affirm and promote a free and responsible search for truth and meaning.” This simple proposition, which could serve as the motto of any scientific society, secular organization, or humanist group, is in fact one of the seven principles that guide the Unitarian Universalist religion…for many religions, truth, or at least what is true about the most important matters, is given by a set of sacred texts or traditions that members accept as a matter of faith. At least in this somewhat stereotypical view of religious thought, the truth about the highest or most important things cannot be sought — it is only given by authority. Scientific truth, on the other hand, is constantly changing. That is to say, what people know to be true changes as new information comes to light and ideas are challenged by new findings.

It is understandable, then, that religion and science have had a conflict or two over the years…many people believe they have to make a choice between a religious and a scientific worldview…for faith to be whole, for it to encompass the whole of our lived experience with the world, we must come to terms with science and what science teaches us. As Unitarian Universalists, we recognize that science and religion share a common wellspring. They both arise from the human need to cope with life, to make life comprehensible, controllable, and meaningful…

Science is based on a radically democratic way of knowing, in the sense that scientific truth is comprised of the things we can all experience — not on private experiences, accessible only to putatively gifted individualsscientific truth needs to be equally true for everyone everywhere… ultimately, science is an attempt to understand those parts of human experience that are unarguably true for all of us…While science and religion both arise from our need to cope with experience, science and religion are responses to fundamentally different questions. Science can help us discover the truth about our world, but religion can help us give that truth meaning…There is a human hunger for meaning that science does not address….Meaning in life does not exist unless we create it; it is our individual and collective response to what we have learned about the world…

I believe that hunger for meaning is the source for the renewed interest we have witnessed in recent decades in ritual, in spiritual practices such as meditation, and in traditional religious imagery. This coincides with recent findings that the number of people in the United States who consider themselves religiously unaffiliated is growing, while a majority of them still “describe themselves either as a religious person (18 percent) or as spiritual but not religious (37 percent).” People are seeking something that science does not give them. This is not a criticism of science. To criticize science for not satisfying our emotional and spiritual need for meaning is like criticizing a circle for not having corners.

Religion, at its best and most profound and most enduring, has been humanity’s way of collecting and transmitting wisdom about the meaning of life from one generation to the next.….Before science, religion filled the vacuum created by ignorance and created stories to explain the truth about the world — myths about creation and humanity’s origin…only we can decide how to react to them, how to apply those wondrous insights to our own lives…That is our religious task — individually and communally to create lives filled with meaning and lives consistent with what we love most deeply… http://progressivevalues.org.s150046.gridserver.com

This election is about core values by Phyllis Stenerson, Commentary in Uptown Neighborhood News, Minneapolis, MN October 2012

Toward a “Common Spirituality”: Scaffolding for Evolving Consciousness by Richard Harmer, PhD, Noetic, December 2010 – Spirituality is a universal phenomenon. It doesn’t matter where in the world you live or what “tribe” you are a part of; you can be assured that spirituality will be a part of the psychological and social fabric of your immediate world. Why? Humans have a strong will toward meaning…spirituality provides us with a sense of morality and ethics and allows us to find a sense of peace in the face of life’s trials and tribulations. In fact, spirituality is central to being and becoming a healthy and well-adjusted human being. Spirituality also plays a role in enabling the evolution of individual and collective consciousness…
A person’s way of thinking and being is influenced by their worldview – the unique combination of attitudes, perceptions, and assumptions that inform how they personally understand and make sense of their place in the world…
3) The belief in fostering wholeness and interconnectedness, which means a universal spiritual belief that all life is interconnected and that it is your bond to all humanity that provides a sense of wholeness…

The Real Values Voters Summit by Rev. Peter Morales, UUA

Mahatma Gandhi’s famous statement on the nature of God from Tikkun.org, January 20, 2010

Many Faiths, One Truth by Tenzin Gyaatso, the Dalai Lama, New York Times, May 24, 2010

Real moral values – Articulating a liberal religious moral vision by Rev. William G. Sinkford, Unitarian Universalist World, March/April 2005

 

Religion Trends

Chris Hedges on Christian Heretics, Truthdig.com, Nov 2, 2013… what I’m willing to do, which the mainstream church is not, is to denounce the Christian right as Christian heretics…what they have done is acculturate the worst aspects of American imperialism, capitalism, chauvinism, and violence and bigotry into the Christian religion… I think the great failure of the liberal tradition that I come out of is they were too frightened and too timid to stand up. I don’t know why they spent all the years in seminary if they didn’t realize that when they walked out the door they were going to have to fight for it. And they didn’t fight for it.

The Distortion And Decline Of Christianity by Robert De Filippis TheBig Slice.org, February 27, 2013 …organized religion is on the wane; particularly with young people.  I want to explore why this is happening…true Christians who remain silent…allowing Christianity to be politicized, commercialized, and generally maligned to conform to another agenda…The silent majority is allowing the vocal minority to distort Christianity.  Silence can be interpreted as agreement… two millennium of politically-based human revisionism has caused a pernicious Christian neurosis that is now coming into full bloom in some segments of society.  Our politicians have been infiltrated by this neurosis – as if they needed any help to be more neurotic.  And now we have a twisted knot of revisionist Christian propaganda inserted into our public discourse. Christianity in America is getting a reputation for being filled with hate mongers… But the overwhelming majority are good people – good, but silent…Take a lesson from history.  The Enlightenment era of the 18th century brought with it a new appreciation for human reasoning and a diminution or our dependence on “the official truth” in our holy texts.  I think it’s time we start reasoning again…  Does [rhetoric] truly reflect Christ’s teachings? Or is it from carefully selected Biblical excerpts, taken out of context, to justify a hate-filled and neurotic attack on another human being? One is true Christianity. The other is a reflection of a deeper character flaw in the perpetrator. Christianity can be good for good people and bad for bad people, independent of, in Thomas Jefferson’s words about Christ’s teachings, “The most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man.”

Why are so many Christians un-Christian?

A New Religious America – How a “Christian Country” Has Become the World’s Most Religiously Diverse Nation by Diana L. Eck - Understanding America’s religious landscape is the most important challenge facing us today…the change since the 1960′s has been dramatic and Muslims now outnumber Episcopalians, Jews or Presbyterians….The Pluralism Project Eck directs at Harvard University is investigating religion in America, what the changes mean and “the challenge of creating a cohesive society out of all this diversity.” 
In the United States, the climate of tolerance and the engagement of pluralism emerge not from an authoritarian central regime, but from a democratic experiment as an immigrant nation, a nation in which, at our best, we are motivated by ideals and principles” says Eck.
The consequences for community life and public policy are enormous. (this is the full text)

Another Word on “God and the Twenty-First Century”by Michael Benedikt, Tikkun.org, March 5, 2011 – It is no longer necessary to invoke the name of God to explain or promote compassionate action. Today we understand we have evolved that capacity…what are commandments? Ways of bringing goodness to life through actions, through deeds… These are the words of three champions of monotheism [Judaism, Christianity, Islam]…But what should followers of these theist traditions think of the good practiced by nonbelievers — people who would say it’s quite unnecessary, and even counterproductive, to bring “God” into ordinary morality, who would offer that morality can and should be understood from an entirely scientific, evolutionary, and historical point of view thus: the capacity for empathy, fairness, and altruism is wired into human beings and even other higher mammals from birth, thanks to millions of generations of reproduction-with-variation under the constraints of natural selection. Similarly, the laws of civility — from the Eightfold Way and the Ten Commandments to the Magna Carta, the Geneva Convention, and the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights — are the culturally transmitted legacy of thousands of years of human social evolution overlaid upon older, natural reproductive-selective processes. Whereas laws of civility may once have needed the rhetorical force of God-talk to establish themselves, today they can be embraced rationally in the service of peace and prosperity.

New Satire Campaign Launches War Against Irrational Fear Wednesday, 27 November 2013 10:08 By Candice Bernd, Truthout   Americans are 9,000 times more likely to die from the influenza or pneumonia than a terrorist attack – and that fact alone is a weapon in a new “War Against Irrational Fear,” which is waging war across new fronts such as lighting strikes, dogs, football, bathtubs and the flu – all of which cause more American deaths annually than domestic terrorism. The new satirical campaign was created by Incitement Design, a design firm for progressive causes…uses statistics to show the truth behind the “war on terror,” using social media, videos and graphics backed up with fact-based research to reveal that America’s obsession with domestic terrorism is a costly and harmful distraction… New York Times survey of expert estimates put the total cost of anti-terrorism initiatives at more than $3 trillion since 9/11. [Professor John Mueller authored a report widely cited in the campaign] Mueller’s research shows the United States currently spends more than $400 million annually on domestic terrorism prevention per victim. But the US spends only $9,000 for cancer prevention research per victim. “What we want to do is make it so that people feel comfortable and feel like the price they’re going to pay politically for stating this obvious truth is not incredibly high,” Arnow [Robert Arnow, creative director at Incitement Design] told Truthout. “Our federal government portrays terrorists as wily supervillians, while the research shows they are small in number [and] generally incompetent and that 9/11 was a historical anomaly.” http://truth-out.org/news/item/20272-new-satire-campaign-launches-war-against-irrational-fear

 

 

Pope Francis ‘Evangelii Gaudium’ Calls For Renewal Of Roman Catholic Church, Attacks ‘Idolatry Of Money’ By Naomi O’Leary,  Reuters Posted on HuffingtonPost.com: 11/26/2013-Pope Francis called for renewal of the Roman Catholic Church and attacked unfettered capitalism as “a new tyranny”, urging global leaders to fight poverty and growing inequality in the first major work he has authored alone as pontiff…In it, Francis went further than previous comments criticizing the global economic system, attacking the “idolatry of money” and beseeching politicians to guarantee all citizens “dignified work, education and healthcare”. He also called on rich people to share their wealth. “Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills,” Francis wrote in the document issued on Tuesday…Denying this was simple populism, he called for action “beyond a simple welfare mentality” and added: “I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor.”…Stressing cooperation among religionsHe praised cooperation with Jews and Muslims and urged Islamic countries to guarantee their Christian minorities the same religious freedom as Muslims enjoy in the West.

Pope Francis called right-wing Christian fundamentalism a sickness. Stephen D. Foster Jr. October 21, 2013

 

 

The Corporate Bully Whose Front Groups, Willful Distortions and Hate-Mongering Has Poisoned U.S. Politics: Meet Richard Berman BySteven Rosenfeld, AlterNet, November 24, 2013 

5 Biblical Concepts Fundamentalists Just Don’t Understand

Did the Dalai Lama Just Call for an End to Religion?

The Bible Hates Homosexuality. So What?

Religious Diversity in America

Why Young People Are Fleeing Conservative Evangelicalism By Eleanor J. Bader, RH Reality Check, February 9, 2012

Holy Book Learning — Americans are shockingly illiterate when it comes to religions — including their own by Christoper Shea

Good Without God: Why “Non-Religious” Is the Fastest-Growing Preference in America By Terrence McNally, AlterNet.org, May 10, 2011

Goodbye Religion? How Godlessness Is Increasing With Each New Generation by Adam Lee, AlterNet, August 10, 2011

5 Signs That America Is Moving Away from Religion, alternet.org, September 28, 2011

Obama And the Rise of Secular Spirituality by Deepak Chopra and Dave Stewart, Belief.net, January 18, 2009 - …Barack Obama has …become a symbol of the rise of secular spirituality in this country, a liberated set of values that exists largely outside organized religion…Obama’s worldview is more congruent with alternative theology than it is with churchgoers…millions of Americans who consider themselves spiritual have longed for peace, unity, nonviolence, and freedom that isn’t imposed by the force of arms…Religion was hijacked for political gain by the right wing beginning as far back as the Nixon era, yet there is a much stronger current of secular spirituality running through our history. The Founding Fathers were mostly Deists, rational Christians emerging from the Age of Enlightenment…They were tolerant believers in a benign God who transcended narrow denominations. They considered the rights of man to be the basis of enlightened belief, and when freedom was labeled an inalienable right, they meant that is was God-given, just as all men being created equal was God-given. …secular spirituality…now includes the following principles…– A spiritual duty to be benign stewards of the Earth and to preserve the ecology.– A responsibility to revere Nature and to be humble before it.– A duty to further peace among nations.– A pledge of nonviolence that will lead finally to total nuclear disarmament in our lifetime.– A refusal to useAmerica’s super power for militaristic ends. — A sense of compassion for the poor and wretched beset by pandemic disease, lack of political influence, and denial of basic human rights….Nothing about secular spirituality is radical. Most of its principles are articles of belief for millions of average Americans who have largely been shut out of politics for eight years….But secular spirituality isn’t limited to the left or the progressive movement in general. It is a national phenomenon, one that will swell steadily in the coming years, particularly among the young. Born after the divisive culture wars that gave the right wing its main chance, the younger generations yearn for new values….Nothing less than spiritual renewal is needed across the board, and there is no one of equal stature to lead it.

Why fundamentalism will fail by Harvey Cox,  BostonGlobe.com, November 8, 2009

Obama Says Faith Shouldn’t Be Used to Divide, President Barack Obama at National Prayer Breakfast, February 5, 2009

New Theists: Knowers, Not Believers by Rev. Michael Dowd

Religious tolerance, then and now by Dana Milbank, Washington Post, August 17, 2010

The Pluralism Problem by Brendan Sweetman, PBS, ONE NATION: RELIGION & POLITICS, January 28, 2010

The Distortion And Decline Of Christianity by Robert De Filippis TheBig Slice.org, February 27, 2013
The Corporate Bully Whose Front Groups, Willful Distortions and Hate-Mongering Has Poisoned U.S. Politics: Meet Richard Berman