Prosperity Gospel – religion and capitalism – Page 1

see also  Prosperity Gospel – Religion and Capitalism – Page 2

How Hyper-Religious Political Stunts by Republicans Keep Voters Captive to Corporate Ideology by CJ WERLEMAN, AlterNet, Mar-3, 2014  If you want to know why nine out of the 10 poorest states are located in the hyper-religious South, look no further than this calculated right-wing political play, which is designed for one purpose: to ensure Southern and Sunbelt voters continue to vote against their own self-economic interests.

A Christian Nation? Since When? By KEVIN M. KRUSE, New York Times, MARCH 14, 2015 How Business Made Us Christian 

How Corporate America Invented Christian America By KEVIN M. KRUSE, Politico.com, April 16, 2015  Inside one reverend’s big business-backed 1940s crusade to make the country conservative again.

How Big Business Invented the Theology of ‘Christian Libertarianism’ and the Gospel of Free Market By Kevin Kruse / AlterNet, June 1, 2015 The inside history of how Evangelical preachers were used to infuse society with the economic dogma that plagues us today.

Why Christian Fundamentalism Is Still a Big Deal in U.S. Politics and How It Got That Way By Eric C. Miller / Religion Dispatches June 10, 2015 

 

David Brooks’ Rant on Emptiness of Secularism is Poppycock

By Daniel C. Maguire, ReligionDispatches.org,  February 4, 2015

Excerpt

New York Times columnist David Brooks is way behind the curve when it comes to post-theistic ethics and religion. In…“Building Better Secularists,” what he actually builds is a caricature of “secularists”…Brooks sees these poor secular creatures (who are inching toward majority status in our culture) as feebly—and thus far futilely–trying to build an inspiring ethic without the “God” prop…Brooks’ reflects a common syllabus of errors regarding ethics and religion without “God…” For starters, he says that the godly can draw from “moral creeds that have evolved over centuries,” but that those poor adrift secularists “have to build their own moral philosophies” starting from scratch. Nonsense!

Even Pope Francis invites atheists to join him on his Judeo-Christian moral mission. That …grand biblical moral vision is just as available to those who deny the “God” and afterlife hypotheses as it is to those who take those myths literally.

In any religion the moral core is one thing; the imaginative dogmatic superstructure is another…the moral core of Judaism and Christianity…is just as available to secularists as it is to the dogmatically orthodox.

Indeed many professing Christians might be dogmatically orthodox moral heretics. They take the dogmatic legends literally and fervidly but are less enthused about the moral demands of the tradition. Thus they would smite you for not taking literally such metaphors as Exodus, Virgin Birth, and Resurrection but will not join Isaiah in saying that the only route to peace is through the absolute elimination of poverty. (Isaiah 32;17)… Religion is a response to the sacred—whether the sacred is understood theistically or not. Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism are godless, and yet they have been, and are, culture-shaping powerhouses of moral idealism… Increasingly, Christians, Jews, and others are at one with that sense of reality—as is modern science. There is good sense and abundant spiritual inspiration in that ancient poetry. Noisy debates about gods and goddesses should not distract us from moral wisdom that is so contemporaneously relevant that it might well have been written yesterday.

Full text

New York Times columnist David Brooks is way behind the curve when it comes to post-theistic ethics and religion. In yesterday’s column, “Building Better Secularists,” what he actually builds is a caricature of “secularists” which he then proceeds to scold. Brooks sees these poor secular creatures (who are inching toward majority status in our culture) as feebly—and thus far futilely–trying to build an inspiring ethic without the “God” prop.

Relax, Mr. Brooks, we are doing just fine. I write, incidentally, as a Christian atheist, something I describe more fully in Christianity Without God: Moving Beyond the Dogmas and Retrieving the Epic Moral Narrative (SUNY Press 2014).

Brooks’ reflects a common syllabus of errors regarding ethics and religion without “God…”

For starters, he says that the godly can draw from “moral creeds that have evolved over centuries,” but that those poor adrift secularists “have to build their own moral philosophies” starting from scratch.

Nonsense!

Even Pope Francis invites atheists to join him on his Judeo-Christian moral mission. That epic moral vision that was birthed in ancient Israel and echoed into Christianity doesn’t require deity or afterlife beliefs, something the pope seems to get. And that grand biblical moral vision is just as available to those who deny the “God” and afterlife hypotheses as it is to those who take those myths literally.

In any religion the moral core is one thing; the imaginative dogmatic superstructure is another. Christianity’s dogmatic superstructure is especially replete with phantasmagoria…things like virgin births, dead people walking, and those resurrected people ascending straight up into the heavens (without ever going into orbit). Fortunately the moral vision of Judaeo-Christianity religion does not depend on such poetic fictions. The “God” and afterlife hypotheses add nothing to the moral core of Judaism and Christianity, and that moral core is just as available to secularists as it is to the dogmatically orthodox.

Indeed many professing Christians might be dogmatically orthodox moral heretics. They take the dogmatic legends literally and fervidly but are less enthused about the moral demands of the tradition. Thus they would smite you for not taking literally such metaphors as Exodus, Virgin Birth, and Resurrection but will not join Isaiah in saying that the only route to peace is through the absolute elimination of poverty. (Isaiah 32;17).

Nor are they, as was Jesus, “good news for the poor” or “peacemakers.” (Luke 4:18: Matt. 5:9)

In a splendid irony, secularists who walk the walk on these ideals might be more “Christian” than the “dogmatically” pure.

For Brooks, to be religious you have to believe in “God,” which is way off the mark. Religion is a response to the sacred—whether the sacred is understood theistically or not. Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism are godless, and yet they have been, and are, culture-shaping powerhouses of moral idealism. As Professor Chun-Fang Yu says “Unlike most other religions, Chinese religion does not have a creator god…There is no god transcendent and separate from the world and there is no heaven outside of the universe to which human beings would want to go for refuge.” Increasingly, Christians, Jews, and others are at one with that sense of reality—as is modern science.

Literalism is suffocating. It smothers the moral dynamism of “religions,” which at their fiery core are classics in the art of cherishing, and a spiritual resource—for those who imagine a “God,” and for those who do not. The Exodus may not have happened and Moses may never have existed. He might, like Yahweh, be a composite of many personalities woven together with literary freedom.

“There was no mass Exodus from Egypt,” write historians Israel Finkelstein and Neil Silberman. Forget the fictional frogs and the sea engulfing the bad guys. What happened from 1250 to 1050 B.C.E. was not history but a psycho-political, epochal breakthrough of social imagination.* Outstripping Homer and Virgil in wit and wisdom, these Hebrew poets imagined a move from the one-percent rule of Egypt to the sharing society of Sinai where “there will be no poor among you” (Deut. 15:4) and where the first experiment in a classless society achieved a success that sowed the seeds of modern democratic theory.

There is good sense and abundant spiritual inspiration in that ancient poetry. Noisy debates about gods and goddesses should not distract us from moral wisdom that is so contemporaneously relevant that it might well have been written yesterday.

Daniel C. Maguire

Daniel C. Maguire is a professor of ethics at Marquette University, a Jesuit institution, and past president of The Society of Christian Ethics. He is the author or editor of 13 books and some 200 articles and president of The Religious Consultation On Population, Reproductive Health and Ethics, an international collegium of 80 scholars from all the world religions. His most recent book is Whose Church? A Concise Guide to Progressive Catholicism (New Press, 2008)

http://religiondispatches.org/david-brooks-rant-on-emptiness-of-secularism-is-poppycock/

Building Better Secularists

by David Brooks, New York Times,  FEB. 3, 2015

Over the past few years, there has been a sharp rise in the number of people who are atheist, agnostic or without religious affiliation. A fifth of all adults and a third of the youngest adults fit into this category.

As secularism becomes more prominent and self-confident, its spokesmen have more insistently argued that secularism should not be seen as an absence — as a lack of faith — but rather as a positive moral creed….

Zuckerman argues that secular morality is built around individual reason, individual choice and individual responsibility. Instead of relying on some eye in the sky to tell them what to do, secular people reason their way to proper conduct.

Secular people, he argues, value autonomy over groupthink. They deepen their attachment to this world instead of focusing on a next one. They may not be articulate about why they behave as they do, he argues, but they try their best to follow the Golden Rule, to be considerate and empathetic toward others. “

As he describes them, secularists seem like genial, low-key people who have discarded metaphysical prejudices and are now leading peaceful and rewarding lives. But I can’t avoid the conclusion that the secular writers are so eager to make the case for their creed, they are minimizing the struggle required to live by it. Consider the tasks a person would have to perform to live secularism well:

• Secular individuals have to build their own moral philosophies. Religious people inherit creeds that have evolved over centuries. Autonomous secular people are called upon to settle on their own individual sacred convictions.

•Secular individuals have to build their own communities. Religions come equipped with covenantal rituals that bind people together, sacred practices that are beyond individual choice. Secular people have to choose their own communities and come up with their own practices to make them meaningful.

•Secular individuals have to build their own Sabbaths. Religious people are commanded to drop worldly concerns. Secular people have to create their own set times for when to pull back and reflect on spiritual matters.

 

•Secular people have to fashion their own moral motivation. It’s not enough to want to be a decent person. You have to be powerfully motivated to behave well. Religious people are motivated by their love for God and their fervent desire to please Him. Secularists have to come up with their own powerful drive that will compel sacrifice and service.

The point is not that secular people should become religious. You either believe in God or you don’t. Neither is the point that religious people are better than secular people. That defies social science evidence and common observation. The point is that an age of mass secularization is an age in which millions of people have put unprecedented moral burdens upon themselves. People who don’t know how to take up these burdens don’t turn bad, but they drift. They suffer from a loss of meaning and an unconscious boredom with their own lives.

One other burden: Past secular creeds were built on the 18th-century enlightenment view of man as an autonomous, rational creature who could reason his way to virtue. The past half-century of cognitive science has shown that that creature doesn’t exist. We are not really rational animals; emotions play a central role in decision-making, the vast majority of thought is unconscious, and our minds are riddled with biases. We are not really autonomous; our actions are powerfully shaped by others in ways we are not even aware of.

It seems to me that if secularism is going to be a positive creed, it can’t just speak to the rational aspects of our nature. Secularism has to do for nonbelievers what religion does for believers — arouse the higher emotions, exalt the passions in pursuit of moral action…Religions don’t just ask believers to respect others; rather each soul is worthy of the highest dignity because it radiates divine light.

The only secularism that can really arouse moral motivation and impel action is an enchanted secularism, one that puts emotional relations first and autonomy second. I suspect that over the next years secularism will change its face and become hotter and more consuming, less content with mere benevolence, and more responsive to the spiritual urge in each of us, the drive for purity, self-transcendence and sanctification.

Full text

Over the past few years, there has been a sharp rise in the number of people who are atheist, agnostic or without religious affiliation. A fifth of all adults and a third of the youngest adults fit into this category.

As secularism becomes more prominent and self-confident, its spokesmen have more insistently argued that secularism should not be seen as an absence — as a lack of faith — but rather as a positive moral creed. Phil Zuckerman, a Pitzer College sociologist, makes this case as fluidly and pleasurably as anybody in his book, “Living the Secular Life.”

Zuckerman argues that secular morality is built around individual reason, individual choice and individual responsibility. Instead of relying on some eye in the sky to tell them what to do, secular people reason their way to proper conduct.

Secular people, he argues, value autonomy over groupthink. They deepen their attachment to this world instead of focusing on a next one. They may not be articulate about why they behave as they do, he argues, but they try their best to follow the Golden Rule, to be considerate and empathetic toward others. “Secular morality hinges upon little else than not harming others and helping those in need,” Zuckerman writes.

As he describes them, secularists seem like genial, low-key people who have discarded metaphysical prejudices and are now leading peaceful and rewarding lives. But I can’t avoid the conclusion that the secular writers are so eager to make the case for their creed, they are minimizing the struggle required to live by it. Consider the tasks a person would have to perform to live secularism well:

• Secular individuals have to build their own moral philosophies. Religious people inherit creeds that have evolved over centuries. Autonomous secular people are called upon to settle on their own individual sacred convictions.

• Secular individuals have to build their own communities. Religions come equipped with covenantal rituals that bind people together, sacred practices that are beyond individual choice. Secular people have to choose their own communities and come up with their own practices to make them meaningful.

• Secular individuals have to build their own Sabbaths. Religious people are commanded to drop worldly concerns. Secular people have to create their own set times for when to pull back and reflect on spiritual matters.

The tone of the comments couldn’t be clearer. There is a loud, pervasive disdain among the secular for the religious. If it doesn’t rise…

• Secular people have to fashion their own moral motivation. It’s not enough to want to be a decent person. You have to be powerfully motivated to behave well. Religious people are motivated by their love for God and their fervent desire to please Him. Secularists have to come up with their own powerful drive that will compel sacrifice and service.

The point is not that secular people should become religious. You either believe in God or you don’t. Neither is the point that religious people are better than secular people. That defies social science evidence and common observation. The point is that an age of mass secularization is an age in which millions of people have put unprecedented moral burdens upon themselves. People who don’t know how to take up these burdens don’t turn bad, but they drift. They suffer from a loss of meaning and an unconscious boredom with their own lives.

One other burden: Past secular creeds were built on the 18th-century enlightenment view of man as an autonomous, rational creature who could reason his way to virtue. The past half-century of cognitive science has shown that that creature doesn’t exist. We are not really rational animals; emotions play a central role in decision-making, the vast majority of thought is unconscious, and our minds are riddled with biases. We are not really autonomous; our actions are powerfully shaped by others in ways we are not even aware of.

It seems to me that if secularism is going to be a positive creed, it can’t just speak to the rational aspects of our nature. Secularism has to do for nonbelievers what religion does for believers — arouse the higher emotions, exalt the passions in pursuit of moral action. Christianity doesn’t rely just on a mild feeling like empathy; it puts agape at the center of life, a fervent and selfless sacrificial love. Judaism doesn’t just value community; it values a covenantal community infused with sacred bonds and chosenness that make the heart strings vibrate. Religions don’t just ask believers to respect others; rather each soul is worthy of the highest dignity because it radiates divine light.

The only secularism that can really arouse moral motivation and impel action is an enchanted secularism, one that puts emotional relations first and autonomy second. I suspect that over the next years secularism will change its face and become hotter and more consuming, less content with mere benevolence, and more responsive to the spiritual urge in each of us, the drive for purity, self-transcendence and sanctification.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/03/opinion/david-brooks-building-better-secularists.html?_r=0

Human evolution

Evolutionary Leaders: In Service to Conscious Evolution -  Don Beck, Michael Bernard Beckwith, Joan Borysenko, Gregg Braden, Patrick Brauckmann, Rinaldo Brutoco, Jack Canfield, Scott Carlin, Deepak Chopra, Andrew Cohen, Oran Cohen, Dale Colton, Wendy Craig-Purcell, Stephen Dinan, Michael Dowd, Gordon Dveirin, Duane Elgin, Barbara Fields, Ashok Gangadean, Kathleen Gardarian, Tom Gegax, David Gershon, Mark Gerzon, Charles Gibbs, Joshua Gorman, Craig Hamilton, Kathy Hearn, Jean Houston, Barbara Marx Hubbard, Ervin Laszlo, Bruce Lipton, Lynnaea Lumbard, Elza Maalouf, Howard Martin, Fred Matser, Rod McGrew, Steve McIntosh, Lynne McTaggart, Nipun Mehta, Nina Meyerhof, Deborah Moldow, James O’Dea, Terry Patten, Carter Phipps, Carolyn Rangel, Ocean Robbins, Peter Russell, Elisabet Sahtouris, Yuka Saionji, Gerard Senehi, Christian Sorensen, Emily Squires, Daniel Stone, Lynne Twist, Diane Williams, Katherine Woodward Thomas, Claire Zammit, Tom Zender www.evolutionaryleaders.net  On 11.1.11 (November 1, 2011) Evolutionary Leaders gathered in meditation to hold this intention: Our intention is to transcend superficial differences that divide us – race, religion, politics, beliefs, culture – to acknowledge, experience and honor the essential bond that unites us all as one interdependent organism. We also intend to evolve in both consciousness and action so that each of us learns to perceive the whole, relate to others in wholeness, widen our definition of ‘we’ to be all inclusive and become evolutionary leaders for a peaceful, holistic, sustainable world.

Envisioning Where We Want to Go: An Interview With Evolutionary Reconstructionist Gar Alperovitz By Leslie Thatcher, Truthout, August 22, 2014         a new website — Pluralist Commonwealth — about principles of democratic ownership and on building a sustainable and

Mil­lions of peo­ple around the world find them­selves search­ing for a more mean­ing­ful, rel­e­vant, and pro­found way to engage with life. Not only do they want to become more con­scious as indi­vid­u­als, they want to per­son­ally par­tic­i­pate in the cre­ation of a bet­ter world….The fourteen-billion-year project that is our evolv­ing uni­verse has reached a crit­i­cal junc­ture where it needs con­scious, cre­ative human beings to help build the next step, together.  Con­scious evo­lu­tion for think­ing peo­ple by Andrew Cohen, Enlighten­Next magazine

…we must under­stand the fun­da­men­tal and often widely dif­fer­ing ways in which both indi­vid­ual human beings and entire cul­tures think about things and pri­or­i­tize their val­ues. Only then can we address the root causes of social frag­men­ta­tion and con­flict and cre­ate a form of global gov­er­nance that will guide the emer­gence of a new soci­ety in the twenty-first century.…There are now six bil­lion of us, and while we are more cul­tur­ally frag­mented than ever before, we are also more inter­con­nected. Every­thing is both global and local—everywhere.…our prob­lems of exis­tence have become more com­plex than the solu­tions we have avail­able to deal with them. While on the sur­face it often appears that con­flicts are tribal or involve com­pet­ing empires, or ide­olo­gies, or even national inter­ests, the real issues are in the under­ly­ing worldviews—the deeper human dynam­ics that can dra­mat­i­cally dif­fer from one cul­ture to another. It is these under­ly­ing cul­tural dynam­ics that shape the actions and choices we make, that deter­mine how we live our lives, how cul­tures sub­se­quently form, and why they often collide. …what we’re try­ing to do is cre­ate bet­ter ways for six bil­lion earth­lings to sur­vive. That is the ulti­mate bot­tom line—the health of the whole, based upon an under­stand­ing of human com­plex­ity and emergence…I real­ize this endeavor has a grand scope, but such is the nature of major par­a­digm shifts in our culture. A New Con­scious­ness For a World In Cri­sis by Jes­sica Roemis­cher from Enlighten­Next magazine

…find­ing a path­way to a viable human future is the Great Work of our time…Our envi­ron­men­tal, social, and eco­nomic sys­tems are col­laps­ing around us….This is a defin­ing moment for the human species. We have a brief win­dow of oppor­tu­nity to nav­i­gate the pas­sage from a self-destructive Era of Empire, char­ac­ter­ized by 5,000 years of vio­lent dom­i­na­tion, to an Era of Earth Com­mu­nity char­ac­ter­ized by peace­ful part­ner­ship.…This is arguably the most excit­ing time to be alive in the whole of the human expe­ri­ence. Cre­ation is call­ing us to rein­vent our cul­tures, our insti­tu­tions and our­selves. It is in our hands. We have the power. We are the one’s we’ve been waiting for. The Great Turn­ing: The End of Empire and the Rise of Earth Com­mu­nity by David Kor­ten, Jan­u­ary 27, 2008

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… Toward a “Common Spirituality”: Scaffolding for Evolving Consciousness by Richard Harmer, PhD, Noetic, December 2010

Spiral Dynamics is a powerful model and predictive theory of human development and cultural evolution…a powerful tool for understanding the complexity of human behavior. SD has been successfully employed around the globe for conceiving and implementing real-world integral solutions to social conflicts and for catalyzing individual evolutionary transformation.…this evolutionary theory and model for human development can help you understand the complex world we live in and to navigate the challenges of life in the twenty-first century.…how we think is so much more important than what we think!  Spiral Dynamics was introduced in the 1996 book Spiral Dynamics by Don Beck and Chris Cowan.… Spiral Dynamics suggests ways to move more quickly in the direction of deep dialogue and comprehensive, integral solutions…. As our world is now moving into the next stage of cultural pluralism and diversity programs, Spiral Dynamics offers a point of view that looks at the evolutionary dynamic of the deep underlying values systems….Spiral Dynamics connects everything to everything else…discover and reveal the mechanisms and stages that have characterized our long, evolutionary ascent from an animal-like existence.  EnlightenNext.org

Exploring The Religious Naturalist Option

By Ursula Goodenough, NPR, November 23, 2014  

Adam [Frank] recently wrote a nice piece on the “spiritual but not religious” distinction being made these days. He noted that “religious” is commonly used to connote being affiliated with a traditional religion and “spiritual” to connote some larger sense of awe and wonder.

I’m offering another take on these matters — one that incorporates the science-based understandings of nature that lie at the heart of 13.7 — by answering some questions here:

What is the standard understanding of being religious?

Most traditional religions have a core narrative (a mythos, a large story), usually recorded in texts or oral accounts. Interpretations of each account are embedded in the mythos and elaborated by clergy, spiritual responses to the account are elicited via art and ceremonies, and moral/ethical edicts are built into the fabric of the narrative.

A person adopting a traditional religion elects to believe in the mythos and its embedded interpretive, spiritual and moral/ethical parameters — and usually participates in a community of fellow believers.

Who is a naturalist?

Scientific inquiry has provisioned us with a mind-boggling new core narrative — the epic of evolution, the epic of creation, the universe story, big history, everybody’s story — where humans and human cultures are understood to be emergent from and, hence, a part of nature.

Naturalists adopt this account as their core narrative, with full recognition that these understandings will certainly deepen and may shift with further scientific inquiry. They adopt the story currently on offer and do not simply select features of the story that support preferred theories of nature.

Who is a religious naturalist?

A religious naturalist is a naturalist who has adopted the epic as a core narrative and goes on to explore its religious potential, developing interpretive, spiritual and moral/ethical responses to the story.

Importantly, these responses are not front-loaded into the story as they are in the traditions. Therefore, the religious naturalist engages in a process, both individually and in the company of fellow explorers, to discover and experience them. These explorations are informed and guided by the mindful understandings inherent in our human traditions, including art, literature, philosophy and the religions of the world.

What is meant by interpretive, spiritual and moral?

The interpretive axis entails asking the big questions along philosophical/existential axes. How do our science-based understandings inform our experience of self? What do they tell us about free will? Death? Love? The search for the meaning of life? Why there is anything at all rather than nothing?

The spiritual axis entails exploring inward religious responses to the epic, including awe and wonder, gratitude, assent, commitment, humility, reverence, joy and the astonishment of being alive at all.

The moral axis entails outward communal responses to the epic, where our deepening understandings of the animal/primate antecedents of our social sensibilities offer important resources for furthering social justice and human cooperation.

It also entails an orientation that can be called “ecomorality,” seeking right relations between the earth and its creatures, absorbing our interrelatedness, interdependence and responsibilities.

What is religious naturalism?

Religious naturalists seek to develop coherent and satisfying meta-versions of their interpretive, spiritual and moral responses to the natural world. Some may go on to produce books, articles, blog postings, films, art, music and poetry that offer these syntheses for others to consider and learn from. A given synthesis can be called that person’s version of religious naturalism, and many such offerings are available. (An analogy: There are many versions of environmentalism on offer, each written by an environmentalist.)

Importantly, all of these projects are proposals. At this stage in the journey, our core text is nature.

What about God?

The concept of a God who actively alters the course of natural events is not a naturalist view; persons for whom this concept is important will presumably prefer another religious home. At the other pole, naturalists who find the concept of being religious to be an anathema will presumably eschew the term.

Most religious naturalists do not elect to use God language, but some use the word as a personification of reality, or to connote the unknown and perhaps unknowable substrate of order (e.g., “God as the ground of being”), or to connote a large and important concept within the natural world (e.g., “God is love” or “God is creativity”).

Adam notes in his blog that a recent Pew Foundation survey on religion found that almost 20 percent of Americans placed themselves in the “unaffiliated” category.

Persons who consider themselves religious naturalists now have an affiliation option — to join (free) an organization called the Religious Naturalist Association, or RNA (pun intended). You can check it out here. The drop-down menu called “Varieties of Religious Naturalism” links to books and other websites that consider this perspective and the link to the RNA Advisors introduces some of the folks who are onboard — including our own Stu Kauffman!


Ursula Goodenough is a professor of biology at Washington University, where she teaches cell biology and molecular evolution. Ursula ended her run as a regular contributor to the blog in July 2011. She remains, however, a valuable member of the 13.7 community.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2014/11/23/366104014/exploring-the-religious-naturalist-option?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=2048

The Christian Left

Ed Schultz asked on his radio show recently, “Is there a ‘religious left’?” Yes, Ed. There is. We are The Christian Left. We’re all around you. We’re among the people. Take a look. We’re part of the Body of Christ. We’re Christians. We’re Liberal. We make no apologies. In fact Jesus’ ways are “Liberal.” That’s why He was killed. The Pharisees and the Sadducees were the conservatives of their time. This is clear. Oh and Ed, we love you. Keep up the good fight!

We’re not ‘New Age.’ We’re not waiting for some earthly leader to come and make everything alright – that man already came. When He comes back, there will be no doubt who HE is. Everyone, without exception, will know. Until then, we are part of the Body of Christ.We’re not ‘Communists’ or ‘Marxists’ either. We reject all such labels. We will not be profiled or pigeonholed and we will not ‘Be Quiet.’ We’re Christians. We’re Liberals. Please get used to it. Thank you.

Ann Coulter, thinks we’re Godless? Really? Wow …

See, it wasn’t just Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection that matter. It was his life too! The life he lived is a huge part of the deal, and he asked us to do a few things if you look at his words. Not only is what Jesus said the Word of God, but what Jesus DID is also the Word of God. Looking at the life of Jesus we see that Jesus made room forthose cut off from the rest of society. Jesus put a name and a face on all who had been forgotten or pushed aside, even the dead. Jesus called us to carry our cross daily and follow him. That’s what Social Justice means.

“The Christian Left” — left hate behind; left prejudice; left callous attitudes; and followed Jesus as HE left the 99 in the fold, to go find the ones who were lost, ignored, excluded, overlooked, abandoned, uncared-for – all “the least of these.” We left hard-heartedness in order to be like the Samaritan who stopped to care for those in need.

James 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 2:15-16 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?

What We’re All About:

We’re not about Dogma here. We’re just Christians who think the political and Christian right-wing have their priorities wrong.

Wikipedia says it pretty well in the following paragraphs:

The Christian left is a term originating in the United States, used to describe a spectrum of left-wing Christian political and social movements which largely embraces social justice.

The most common religious viewpoint which might be described as ‘left wing’ is social justice, or care for the poor and the oppressed. Supporters of this might encourage universal health care, welfare provision, subsidized education, foreign aid, and Affirmative Action for improving the conditions of the disadvantaged. Stemming from egalitarian values (and what Jesus Himself said), adherents of the Christian left consider it part of their religious duty to take actions on behalf of the oppressed.

The Christian Left holds that social justice, renunciation of power, humility, forgiveness, and private observation of prayer (as opposed to publicly mandated prayer), are mandated by the Gospel (Matthew 6:5-6). The Bible contains accounts of Jesus repeatedly advocating for the poor and outcast over the wealthy, powerful, and religious. The Christian Left maintains that such a stance is relevant and important. Adhering to the standard of “turning the other cheek,” which they believe supersedes the Old Testament law of “an eye for an eye,”the Christian Left often hearkens towards pacifism in opposition to policies advancing militarism. Many passages in the Bible illustrate the example set by Jesus regarding violence:

Luke 22: 49-51 When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.

Luke 9:53-56 And the town did not receive him, because he was headed to Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elisha did? But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.” For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.

While non-religious socialists sometimes find support for socialism in the Gospels (for example Mikhail Gorbachev citing Jesus as “the first socialist”), The Christian Left does not find that socialism alone is an adequate end or means. Christian faith is the core of their belief which in turn demands social justice.

The Christian Left sometimes differs from other Christian political groups on issues including homosexuality. This is often not a matter of different religious ideas, but one of focus — viewing the prohibitions against killing, or the criticism of concentrations of wealth, as far more important than social issues emphasized by the religious right, such as opposition to active homosexuality. In this case, similar to philosophies expressed by writers such as C.S. Lewis, these members of the Christian Left believe homosexual sex to be overemphasized when compared with issues relating to social justice, or even matters of sexual morality involving heterosexual sex. Bottom Line: We welcome ALL to their place at God’s table, just as they are. All means ALL. No exceptions. We reject all attempts to define our Faith by the two wedge issues of Gay Marriage and Abortion. – End of Wikipedia content.

The Christian Left doesn’t get uptight about the same things as their right-wing brothers and sisters. Lefties tend to accept that we’re all trapped in the human condition, that we all struggle, and that we’re all sinners. They tend to focus on behaviors that Jesus focused on while he was here in body — things like hypocrisy, organized oppression, exorbitant greed, self-righteousness, judgmentalism, selfishness, abuse of power, violence, etc.

Paul defined the human condition well: Romans 7: 14-25 “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Too many Christians espouse a deeply ingrained code of written and unwritten expectations and rules that shame them and drain them of spiritual strength. The Christian Left focuses on a message to help people unmask the lies that keep them on a works/righteousness treadmill; a message to help people discover the liberation of the gospel, the grace in Jesus Christ, and the rest that comes from what Christ has done on the cross. Salvation is a free gift. It cannot be earned. But Grace isn’t cheap. After what Jesus has done for us, we offer our best to live up to what he asks from us (to follow his commandments).

Here’s what Jesus had to say regarding his commandments:

Matthew 22:34-40 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Many people accuse us of “Cherry-Picking” the Bible. We reject this silly sentiment. We think Jesus made things about as clear as they can get.

Another Christian Lefty, Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Professor of English at Westmont College, Santa Barbara, California, put it this way in her article “A Voice from the Christian Left.”

“Many on the Christian Right are fond of posing the question WWJD?– What would Jesus do? I’d like to remind them whatJesus DID do: He cared for the poor. He did not condemn the woman caught in adultery. He prayed alone. He commanded us to love our enemies. He preached peace. He ate, drank, and lived with ‘tax collectors and sinners’ — the lowlifes and outcasts of his day, while reserving his condemnation for the religious leaders who, from a place of privilege, imposed their legalism and literalism on the people they were responsible for leading. He told his disciples not to oppose the healing work of those outside the ranks of his followers. And again and again he reminded us to care for the poor. (That moral issue gets more air time than any other in the gospels: 1 verse in 9.) If Christians concerned about how to respond to the grave global issues facing us all were to reread the Gospels for guidance, I think we’d find some pretty clear indications there about what Jesus would do … and what he wouldn’t. (One of the few bumper stickers I’ve been tempted to affix to my still undecorated car in recent months reads ‘Who would Jesus bomb?’)

Whatever Jesus would do, given what he did do, and has promised he will do, I don’t think it looks much like what the insulated, self-congratulatory Fox News fans on the ‘Christian Right’ are doing.” [End of Marilyn Chandler McEntyre Quote]

Based on the Word, The Christian Left believes it’s obvious that the primary message of Jesus was love – Love for God, and love for our fellow men and women.

Matthew 22:37-40 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. And a second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.

John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.

Matthew 7:12 Whatever you want others to do for you, do so for them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

Luke 6:35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward in heaven will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.

Mark 10:43-45 Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many.

John 13:14-15 If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.

Love God and love people.Forgive people over and over again, as you have been forgiven by God over and over again. Show mercy, as you have been shown mercy by God. Help the weak, the sick, the depressed, the poor, the jailed, the oppressed, the marginalized, the outcast – for one day you could be weak, sick, depressed, poor, jailed, oppressed, marginalized, outcast. It is also the only reasonable response to God’s overwhelming grace – sharing the same grace with the world.

The Christian Left rejects exclusivity. We believe that John the Baptist wasn’t kidding when he proclaimed the coming of Jesus saying, “and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” We firmly believe that all means ALL. The exclusionary gospel of the Christian Right is foreign to us. We do not recognize it. Jesus came to set the captives free and announce the arrival of the peaceable kingdom of God where ALL are welcomed. Like a member of The Christian Left (Shannon Maynard) has said, one of our favorite words in the Bible is “whosoever.”

The exclusionary tactics and demonization that is so frequently practiced by the Christian Right is not of the Jesus we follow. John the Baptist said, “every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” The tree that is the Christian Right all too frequently bears fruit of anger, hate and judgment. It produces some strange fruit. “The same strange fruit that white supremacists hung from the trees in the South. The same strange fruit that the Nazis baked in the ovens of Auschwitz. The same strange fruit that was diced and sliced with machetes in Rwanda. The same strange fruit that is left to rot to death in Africa because the cost of a cure may undercut someone’s bottom line. The same strange fruit that is pounded to death daily with rocks and bombs in the Middle East. The same strange fruit that are depressed to death because of homophobic bullying. Trees that bear these fruits, systems that bear these fruits are to be cut down and thrown into the fires – they are the chaff that God wills to burn in an “unquenchable fire,” where they will bear the fruit of domination no longer.” (from Rev. Mark Sandlin’s sermon, “All Means All.”)

Unfortunately in this country today, we have a sort of spiritual revival of the Pharisees –people who don’t want to practice love, grace, or compassion, but would rather try to bury people under legalistic demands that they themselves aren’t capable of keeping. Culturally crusading right-wing Christians have substituted the Gospel of Jesus Christ for a Gospel of Morality. They’ve made it more about following rules than loving God (having a relationship with Christ) and loving their fellow brothers and sisters.  This is unacceptable. It’s exactly what Jesus spoke out against. People are stuck in the Gospel of Morality. They are drained by the shame it produces. Far too many are repulsed by this false religious system they can’t live up to.  This insanity must stop. When we walk with Jesus, he refines us as he sees fit, by his Spirit. Proponents of the Gospel of Morality don’t get that on some level. Jesus didn’t say “Get refined then follow me.” He said “Follow Me … and get refined, the way only I can refine.” Isaiah 64:8; Jeremiah 18:2; Jeremiah 18:6; Romans 8:28; Matthew 4:19

Many folks stop by and tell us to keep up the great work in the name of Christian Charity. Charity is only part of the message. The danger here is allowing it to become about charity only, rather than social justice as well. Charity tries to fix up people so that the system will work better. Justice tries to fix up the system so that people will work better. We agree that a charitable attitude is important … but it does not address the root of the problem, a system that sets up obstacles and barriers that make it nearly impossible for people to break the cycle of poverty, or the cycle of victimization, or marginalization, or the cycle of …; Again, Jesus came to set the captives free. Colloquially charity clearly means to help someone with their immediate needs. Justice suggests that something deeper happens. Charity allows the cycle to repeat, justice readdresses that system that causes the cycle. Charity is as much about the giver as the one receiving. Justice is solely about the one receiving. Give a man a fish he eats for a day, teach a man to fish he eats for a lifetime. The System will never be perfect here on Earth, so Charity will always be required, but that’s no excuse to not advocate for The System to be just for all. When it is, the need for Charity decreases. The two are inextricably enmeshed.

So why are we here and why are we making these statements? Because there should be tension, risk and discomfort while doing ministry work, especially when we challenge deep-seated, right-wing, fundamentalist theology. It’s ugly, messy and dangerous. Oh, but worth every minute!If you are not attracting the same people that Jesus attracted, your message needs to be fixed. If the way you live the Good News (advocating Justice as restoration, universal inclusion, preaching a God of love and grace, feeding, quenching, clothing, healing, welcoming, visiting) does not place your life under a constant threat, you might want to question how fully you are living the Good News. It is time for The Christian Left to decry publicly the lies the right are telling about the Bible, and the fact that their interpretation of Scripture is slanted toward their fears and alleged concerns.

“A ship in harbor is safe — but that is not what ships are built for.” John A. Shedd, Salt from My Attic, 1928

“No rabbi [or other minister] can be called a real rabbi, if his congregation doesn’t want to run him out of town at least once in a while!” (attributed to Rabbi Hillel, 1st century BCE)

Our Mission Statement would be meaningless and incomplete if we didn’t point out Christ’s finished work on the cross. His birth, life, death and resurrection mean everything to us. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that WHOEVERbelieves in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Finally, The Christian Left doesn’t tend to march in lockstep. All of the above statements may not speak for all members of this group. The Christian Left is a spectrum, just as The Christian Right is one.

“It’s easier to bow down and shout constant hallelujahs than to get our own hands dirty by following him [Jesus] out into the world of brokenness and mess.” — Mark Townsend

“Sometimes I would like to ask God why He allows poverty, suffering, and injustice when He could do something about it. But I’m afraid He would ask me the same question.” – Anonymous

http://www.thechristianleftblog.org/our-mission.html

For the Bible Tells Me So?

Ultimately, this is where biblical authority rests for Progressive Christians: in relationship.

By Mark Sandlin, June 18, 2014

Editors’ Note: This article is part of the Public Square 2014 Summer Series: Conversations on Religious Trends. Read other perspectives from the Progressive Christian community here.

“It says so right there!”

If you’ve ever had a conversation about a difficult topic (like sexuality, atonement, or social justice) with a Christian who might not self-identify as “progressive,” the odds are you’ve had to respond to this kind of “logic.”

What far too many of us get wrong in that moment is that we keep going. That is a mistake.

It is a mistake because in that moment you should realize that two worlds are colliding. Continuing the conversation is going to lead nowhere while, most likely, further entrenching both sides. It’s a mistake because, to quote Cool Hand Luke, “what we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.”

At the root of this miscommunication is a difference in understanding about the interpretation and authority of the Bible.

Realistically, though, it’s just the tip of the iceberg of a much larger problem. It’s indicative of a divide that is growing in the United States and to understand the divide within the Church we must first understand the one outside of it.

It is tempting to frame the issue as a disagreement on what we value in general or even as a struggle between belief and logic. In the end though, it is about power—either empowering people by including them in asking questions and establishing authority or establishing power over them by telling them what “the answers” are and excluding them from the process.

The whole thing is rooted in control. It’s a question of consolidating control or diversifying it. It becomes a question of homogeneity verses diversity. Should power and control be limited to the few or entrusted to the masses? Do we have a government that is operated by a limited number of powerful people and companies, or is it a government of, for, and by the people?

When this national struggle of where authority should rest and how many people get to take part in it is played out in the Church—particularly in relationship to what biblical authority looks like—the secular concept of “too big to fail,” which protects the powerful and ignores the masses, is parlayed into “too important to be questioned.”

Like “too big to fail,” “too big to be questioned” also protects the powerful but, more importantly, it protects the power itself, power derived from religion. There is little in this world that can control a soul like blind faith. “Too big to be questioned” leverages that reality and insures that the answers that best serve those in control are the only “correct” answers.

Women in the pulpit? “No. Women in their proper place.” It’s the only “correct” answer.

Same-sex marriage? “No. Traditional marriage: one man, one woman.” It’s the only “correct” answer.

Government helping the least of these? “No. They need to help themselves.” It’s the only “correct” answer.

“It says so right there!”

The brilliance of this approach is that it doesn’t need to actually say that “right there.” You just need people to believe that’s what it says. Believe it because you say so. Believe it because it allows them to feel more righteous, more pious, more accepted, and more loved by God. It’s the carrot that keeps people heading in the direction that the powerful ordain. And, it separates the wheat from the chaff, at least in the minds of those who “believe.”

It is time for that kind of biblical “interpretation” to die.

Progressive Christianity is leading the way. As we open the biblical texts and explore them more fully, as technology gives more people access to scholarship, and as we learn to listen more closely to all voices (particularly the marginalized, those the world might see as “the least of these”), we are finding one consistently expressed, overarching, biblical theology: the persistence of love.

Considering the life and teaching of Jesus, it really shouldn’t be surprising. It is the commandment he taught us to hold above all others: Love. It is the commandment he taught us sums up all the others: Love God and your neighbor. It is the commandment he taught us to extend even to our enemies: Love.

Love offers hope. Blind faith offers obedience.

Love offers communion. Blind faith offers division.

When you hear, “it says so right there,” recognize that “what we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.” It’s not a difference in interpretation. It is not even just a difference in opinion. It is a fundamental difference in approach that is rooted in the controlling ways of the larger society in which we reside. There is no true common ground upon which to grow this conversation. So don’t even try.

Instead, nurture the soil; create common ground. Instead of arguing, extend love. You don’t have to be “right” on this; as a matter of fact, the way they see it, you can’t be. You do, however, have to love one another.

Ultimately, that is where biblical authority rests for Progressive Christians: in relationship. It’s a relationship between each individual and the text, which is augmented by our relationship with God, which is ultimately defined by our relationship with others—even those with whom we disagree.

How do I know? Well, because the Bible tells me so.

Mark is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA). He is a co-founder of The Christian Left. His blog, The God Article, was recently named as one of the “Top Ten Christian Blogs.” He also writes for The Huffington Post and Sojourners. Last year he received the “Award of Excellence” from the Associate Church Press. He’s married to an amazing Baptist minister and has two fabulous teenagers. More than anything (other than peace and justice), Mark wants to have a beverage in one hand and a book in the other as he and his wife look across the shores of Ocracoke, North Carolina. He is a certified geek.

http://www.patheos.com/Topics/2014-Religious-Trends/Progressive-Christian/For-the-Bible-Tells-Me-So-Mark-Sandlin-06182014?print=1

Quotations about religion and politics

work in progress 3/18/14

Citizens  electorate – Rights, Responsibilities, Creativity, Inspiration, Courage,

  • “We must move forward with audacious faith. The moral arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. J. Krishnamurti
  •  It takes real spiritual courage to step forward and take responsibility for where we are all going. Andrew Cohen
  •  Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced. James Baldwin
  •  ”Unleash radical thought” Harry Belafonte
  • We must love one another or die.” W. H. Auden in September 1, 1939

Nature’s God – natural law – enlightenment – morals/values – spirituality – human condition – Conscience, Philosophy, truth, Soul/Creed, Tolerance

  •  Politics in America is the binding secular religion. Theodore H. White
  •  If you go deep enough into any faith tradition, you find the common ground with all faith traditions. Martin Marty
  •  For the religious the holy is truth, for the philosophic the truth is holy. Ludwig Andreas von Feuerbach
  •  This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy…our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness. The Dalai Lama
  •  My call for a spiritual revolution is not a call for a religious revolution. Nor is it a reference to a way of life that is somehow otherworldly, still less to something magical or mysterious. Rather it is a call for a radical reorientation away from our habitual preoccupation with self. It is a call to turn toward the wider community of beings with whom we are connected, and for conduct which recognizes others’ interests alongside our own.  The 14th Dalai Lama
  • Moral certainty is always a sign of cultural inferiority. The more uncivilized the man, the surer he is that he knows precisely what is right and what is wrong. All human progress, even in morals, has been the work of men who have doubted the current moral values, not of men who have whooped them up and tried to enforce them. The truly civilized man is always skeptical and tolerant, in this field as in all others. His culture is based on “I am not too sure.” -H.L. Mencken, writer, editor, and critic (1880-1956)
  •  Some people consider the practice of love and compassion is only related to religious practice and if they are not interested in religion they neglect these inner values. But love and compassion are qualities that human beings require just to live together. Dalai Lama
  • The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all of these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved with another. Thomas Merton
  •  Morality is the basis of things and truth is the substance of all morality.  Mohandas K. Gandhi
  •  Nothing is more contagious than genuine love and genuine care. Nothing is more exhilarating than authentic awe and wonder. Nothing is more exciting than to witness people having the courage to fight for their highest vision. Rabbi Michael Lerner
  • Justice is conscience, not a personal conscience but the conscience of the whole of humanity. Alexander Solzhenitsyn
  •  Conscience – freedom of thought
  • When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion. (Abraham Lincoln, 16th U.S. President [1861-1865]. From Henry O. Dormann, compiler, The Speaker’s Book of Quotations, New York: Ballantine Books, 1987, p. 127.)
  • Let it be henceforth proclaimed to the world that man’s conscience was created free; that he is no longer accountable to his fellow man for his religious opinions, being responsible therefore only to his God. (John Tyler, 10th U. S. President [1841-1845], as quoted by Caroline Thomas Harnsberger, Treasury of Presidential Quotations [Follett, 1964], p. 38, according to Albert Menendez and Edd Doerr, compilers, The Great Quotations on Religious Liberty, Long Beach, CA: Centerline Press, 1991, p. 94.)
  • This institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate error so long as reason is free to combat it. (Thomas Jefferson, to prospective teachers, University of Virginia; from George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1983, p. 364.)
  • … Jefferson, who as a careful historian had made a study of the origin of the maxim [that the common law is inextricably linked with Christianity], challenged such an assertion. He noted that “the common law existed while the Anglo-Saxons were yet pagans, at a time when they had never yet heard the name of Christ pronounced or that such a character existed …. What a conspiracy this, between Church and State.” (Leo Pfeffer, Religion, State, and the Burger Court, Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books, 1984, p. 121.)
  • We should begin by setting conscience free. When all men of all religions … shall enjoy equal liberty, property, and an equal chance for honors and power … we may expect that improvements will be made in the human character and the state of society. (John Adams, letter to Dr. Price, as quoted by Albert Menendez and Edd Doerr, compilers, The Great Quotations on Religious Liberty, Long Beach, CA: Centerline Press, 1991, p. 1.)
  • … Jefferson, who as a careful historian had made a study of the origin of the maxim [that the common law is inextricably linked with Christianity], challenged such an assertion. He noted that “the common law existed while the Anglo-Saxons were yet pagans, at a time when they had never yet heard the name of Christ pronounced or that such a character existed …. What a conspiracy this, between Church and State.” (Leo Pfeffer, Religion, State, and the Burger Court, Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books, 1984, p. 121.)
  • The lessons of religious toleration–a toleration which recognizes complete liberty of human thought, liberty of conscience–is one which, by precept and example, must be inculcated in the hearts and minds of all Americans if the institutions of our democracy are to be maintained and perpetuated. We must recognize the fundamental rights of man. There can be no true national life in our democracy unless we give unqualified recognition to freedom of religious worship and freedom of education. (Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd U. S. President [1933-1945], letter to the Calvert Associates, 1937, according to Albert Menendez and Edd Doerr, compilers, The Great Quotations on Religious Liberty, Long Beach, CA: Centerline Press, 1991, p. 82.)
  • The fundamental precept of liberty is toleration. We cannot permit any inquisition either from within or from without the law or apply any religious test to the holding of office. The mind of America must be forever free. (Calvin Coolidge, 30th U. S. President [1923-1929], Inaugural Address on March 4, 1925, according to Albert Menendez and Edd Doerr, compilers, The Great Quotations on Religious Liberty, Long Beach, CA: Centerline Press, 1991, p. 22.)
  • The most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties, and the greatest miseries that have afflicted the human race have had their origin in this thing called revelation, or revealed religion. It has been the most dishonorable belief against the character of the Divinity, the most destructive to morality and the peace and happiness of man, that ever was propagated since man began to exist. (Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, 1794-1795. From Gorton Carruth and Eugene Ehrlich, eds., The Harper Book of American Quotations, New York: Harper & Row, 1988, p. 494.)

Religion – Bible – doctrine

  • There are things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another, render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace, do not devise evil in your hearts against one another. Holy Bible, Zechariah 8:16-17
  • But a short time elapsed after the death of the great reformer [Jesus] of the Jewish religion, before his principles were departed from by those who professed to be his special servants, and perverted into an engine for enslaving mankind, and aggrandizing their oppressors in Church and State. (Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Samuel Kercheval, 1810; from George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1983, p. 370)
  • If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don’t want to do it. Stephen Colbert

Constitution  – Official documents – Facts

First Amendment – Freedom of/from religion – separation of church and state

America is not a Christian nation

The Constitution of the United States (1787-1788; 1st Ten Amendments ["Bill of Rights"] ratified 1791; no reference to any god is to be found in the body or in the amendments to the Constitution)

The senators and representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States. (Article VI, Section 3, The Constitution of the United States.) – Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the freedom of press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. (Amendment 1,The Constitution of the United States.)

Treaty of Peace and Friendship Between the United States and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary, 1796-1797 – As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion–as it has itself no character of enmity against the law, religion or tranquility of Musselmen [Muslims], … (“Article 11, Treaty of Peace and Friendship between The United States and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary,” 1796-1797. Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America. Edited by Hunter Miller. Vol. 2, 1776-1818, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1931, p. 365. From George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1983, p. 45. According to Paul F. Boller [George Washington & Religion, Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1963, pp. 87-88] the treaty was written by Joel Barlow, negotiated during Washington’s administration, concluded on November 4, 1796, ratified by the Senate in June, 1797, and signed [see below] by John Adams [2nd U.S. President] on June 10, 1797. Boller concluded that “Very likely Washington shared Barlow’s view, though there is no record of his opinion about the treaty …” [p.88]. Jefferson was Secretary of State in Washington’s first administration but had resigned when the treaty was written. Jefferson was Vice-President when the treaty was ratified and signed. Barlow, identified in The American Heritage Dictionary as an American “poet and diplomat,” 1754-1812, knew and corresponded extensively with Jefferson. Among many letters Jefferson wrote Barlow was one written on March 14, 1801, just ten days after Jefferson’s first inauguration as President.)

Now be it known, that I, John Adams, President of the United States of America, having seen and considered the said treaty do, by and within the consent of the Senate, accept, ratify and confirm the same, and every clause and article thereof. (“Treaty of Peace and Friendship between The United States and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary,” 1796-1797. Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America. Edited by Hunter Miller. Vol. 2. 1776-1818. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1931, p. 383; from George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1983, p. 45.)

Democracy/Government – Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, Justice, Threats to democracy

  • It is the poorest and most vulnerable who are always hurt the most in a crisis like thisthat is our job in politics — to talk about what happens to themThe biblical purpose of government is to protect from evil and to promote the good.…That vision of “common good” is what we have lost, and there is nothing more important in our public life than to find it again… Why the Government Shutdown Is Unbiblical by Jim Wallis, Sojourners, posted on Huffingtonpost.com, Oct 3, 2013
  • Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific values. Barack Obama

Democracy/politics – Power – Campaigns and Elections

Politics [is] the art of achieving the maximum amount of freedom for individuals that is consistent with the maintenance of social order. Barry Goldwater

Religion and politics

Conservatives/Republicans/Libertarians

Right wing religious extremists

Liberals/Democrats/Progressives

 

 

 

Separation of church and state – First Amendment

  • We believe in separation of church and state, that there should be no unwarranted influence on the church or religion by the state, and vice versa. (Jimmy Carter, 39th President [1977-1981], in a news conference in Warsaw, Poland, reported by New York Times, December 31, 1977 [p. 2], according to Alan F. Pater and Jason R. Pater, compilers and editors, What They Said in 1977: The Yearbook of Spoken Opinion, Beverly Hills, CA: Monitor Book Co., 1978, p. 479.)
  • Religious factions will go on imposing their will on others unless the decent people connected to them recognize that religion has no place in public policy. They must learn to make their views known without trying to make their views the only alternatives. (Barry Goldwater, 1909- , American politician, in a speech,1981. From Gorton Carruth and Eugene Ehrlich, eds., The Harper Book of American Quotations, New York: Harper & Row, 1988, p. 498.)
  • And I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together. (James Madison, letter to Edward Livingston, July 10, 1822; published in The Complete Madison: His Basic Writings, ed. by Saul K. Padover, New York: Harper & Bros., 1953.)
  • The only ultimate protection for religious liberty in a country like ours, Madison pointed out–echoing Jefferson;–is public opinion: a firm and pervading opinion that the First Amendment works. “Every new & successful example therefore of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance.” (Edwin S. Gaustad, Faith of Our Fathers: Religion and the New Nation, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987, p. 56. Madison’s words, according to Gaustad, are from his letter of 10 July 1822 to Edward Livingston.)
  • I believe in America where the separation of church and state is absolute. John F. Kennedy
  • When fascism comes to America, it’ll be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross. Sinclair Lewis
  • “All persons shall have full and free liberty of religious opinion; nor shall any be compelled to frequent or maintain any religious institution”: freedom for religion, but also freedom from religion. Thomas Jefferson (Edwin S. Gaustad, Faith of Our Fathers: Religion and the New Nation, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987, p. 38. Jefferson proposed his language in 1776.)
  • I am for freedom of religion and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another. (Thomas Jefferson, letter to Elbridge Gerry, January 26, 1799. From Gorton Carruth and Eugene Ehrlich, eds., The Harper Book of American Quotations, New York: Harper & Row, 1988, p. 499.)
  • History I believe furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their political as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purpose. (Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Baron von Humboldt, 1813; from George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1983, p. 370)
  • Civil liberty can be established on no foundation of human reason which will not at the same time demonstrate the right to religious freedom. (John Quincy Adams, 6th U.S. President [1825-1829], letter to Richard Anderson, May 27, 1823. From Daniel B. Baker, ed., Political Quotations, Detroit: Gale Research, Inc., 1990, p. 190.)
  • All religions united with government are more or less inimical to liberty. All separated from government, are compatible with liberty. (Henry Clay, 1777-1852, Speech in the House of Representatives, March 24, 1818. From Daniel B. Baker, ed., Political Quotations, Detroit: Gale Research, Inc., 1990, p. 190.)
  •  In every country and every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own. It is easier to acquire wealth and power by this combination than by deserving them, and to effect this, they have perverted the purest religion ever preached to man into mystery and jargon, unintelligible to all mankind, and therefore the safer for their purposes. (Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Horatio Spofford, 1814; from George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1983, p. 371)

Religion wars

  • Religious factions will go on imposing their will on others unless the decent people connected to them recognize that religion has no place in public policy. They must learn to make their views known without trying to make their views the only alternatives. Barry Goldwater, 1981.
  • Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.” Barry M. Goldwater
  • ………….between the religious fundamentalists and the political right. The hard right has no interest in religion except to manipulate it.” The Rev. Billy Graham, Parade, 1981

Religion and politics

  • Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion is. Mohandas Gandhi
  • Those who believe that politics and religion do not mix, understand neither. Albert Einstein

Freedom of/from religion – tolerance

  • The lessons of religious toleration–a toleration which recognizes complete liberty of human thought, liberty of conscience–is one which, by precept and example, must be inculcated in the hearts and minds of all Americans if the institutions of our democracy are to be maintained and perpetuated. We must recognize the fundamental rights of man. There can be no true national life in our democracy unless we give unqualified recognition to freedom of religious worship and freedom of education. (Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd U. S. President [1933-1945], letter to the Calvert Associates, 1937, according to Albert Menendez and Edd Doerr, compilers, The Great Quotations on Religious Liberty, Long Beach, CA: Centerline Press, 1991, p. 82.)
  • Religious and racial persecution is moronic at all times, perhaps the most idiotic of human stupidities. (Harry S. Truman, 33rd U.S. President [1945-1953], Where the Buck Stops; The Personal and Private Writings of Harry S. Truman, ed. by Margaret Truman; New York: Warner Books, Inc., 1989, p. 126.)
  • The fundamental precept of liberty is toleration. We cannot permit any inquisition either from within or from without the law or apply any religious test to the holding of office. The mind of America must be forever free. (Calvin Coolidge, 30th U. S. President [1923-1929], Inaugural Address on March 4, 1925, according to Albert Menendez and Edd Doerr, compilers, The Great Quotations on Religious Liberty, Long Beach, CA: Centerline Press, 1991, p. 22.)
  • Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprize [sic], every expanded prospect. (James Madison, in a letter to William Bradford, April 1, 1774, as quoted by Edwin S. Gaustad, Faith of Our Fathers: Religion and the New Nation, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987, p. 37.)
  • It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it was by the indulgence of one class of the people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that those who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it, on all occasions, their effectual support. (George Washington, letter to the congregation of Touro Synagogue Jews, Newport, Rhode Island, August, 1790. From Gorton Carruth and Eugene Ehrlich, eds., The Harper Book of American Quotations, New York: Harper & Row, 1988, p. 500.)
  • Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be deprecated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never again see the religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society. (George Washington, letter to Edward Newenham, October 20, 1792; from George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1983, p. 726.)
  • In the Enlightened Age and in this Land of equal Liberty it is our boast, that a man’s religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the Laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining and holding the highest Offices that are known in the United States. (George Washington, letter to the members of the New Church in Baltimore, January 27, 1793. Quoted in Richard B. Morris, Seven Who Shaped Our Destiny: The Founding Fathers as Revolutionaries, Harper & Row, 1973, p. 269.)
  • Washington’s religious belief was that of the enlightenment: deism. He practically never used the word “God,” preferring the more impersonal word “Providence.” How little he visualized Providence in personal form is shown by the fact that he interchangeably applied to that force all three possible pronouns: he, she, and it. (James Thomas Flexner, George Washington: Anguish and Farewell [1793-1799], Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1972, p. 490.)
  • No citizens … were more sensitive to Washington’s role as an upholder of liberties than the religious minorities. These groups were less anxious to cultivate what they had in common with other Americans than to sustain what kept them apart. Washington recognized this, just as he recognized the tenacity of regional and economic interests, and he took pains to explain precisely what national unity meant to him. He carried to his countrymen a vision of “organic” rather than “mechanical” solidarity, a union based on difference and interdependence rather than uniformity of belief and conduct. Washington’s understanding of the kind of integration appropriate to a modern state was not shared by the most powerful Protestant establishments, the New England Congregationalists and Presbyterians; but other religious groups could not have been more pleased…. Acknowledging in each instance that respect for diversity was a fair price for commitment to the nation and its regime, Washington abolished deep-rooted fears that would have otherwise alienated a large part of the population from the nation-building process. For this large minority, he embodied not the ideal of union, nor even that of liberty, but rather the reconciliation of union and liberty. (Barry Schwartz, George Washington: The Making of an American Symbol, New York: The Free Press, 1987, pp. 85-86.)
  • The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses…. (John Adams, “A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America” [1787-1788]; from Adrienne Koch, ed., The American Enlightenment: The Shaping of the American Experiment and a Free Society, New York: George Braziller, 1965, p. 258.)
  • Let the human mind loose. It must be loose. It will be loose. Superstition and Dogmatism cannot confine it. (John Adams, letter to John Quincy Adams, November 13, 1816. From Edwin S. Gaustad, Faith of Our Fathers: Religion and the New Nation, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987, p. 88.)
  • [Benjamin] Franklin drank deep of the Protestant ethic and then, discomforted by church constraints, became a freethinker. All his life he kept Sundays free for reading, but would visit any church to hear a great speaker, no doubt recognizing a talent he himself did not possess. With typical honesty and humor he wrote out his creed in 1790, the year he died: “I believe in one God, Creator of the universe…. That the most acceptable service we can render Him is doing good to His other children…. As to Jesus … I have … some doubts as to his divinity; though it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the truth with less trouble.” (Alice J. Hall, “Philosopher of Dissent: Benj. Franklin,” National Geographic, Vol. 148, No. 1, July, 1975, p. 94.)
  • The most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties, and the greatest miseries that have afflicted the human race have had their origin in this thing called revelation, or revealed religion. It has been the most dishonorable belief against the character of the Divinity, the most destructive to morality and the peace and happiness of man, that ever was propagated since man began to exist. (Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, 1794-1795. From Gorton Carruth and Eugene Ehrlich, eds., The Harper Book of American Quotations, New York: Harper & Row, 1988, p. 494.)
  • Civil liberty can be established on no foundation of human reason which will not at the same time demonstrate the right to religious freedom. (John Quincy Adams, 6th U.S. President [1825-1829], letter to Richard Anderson, May 27, 1823. From Daniel B. Baker, ed., Political Quotations, Detroit: Gale Research, Inc., 1990, p. 190.)
  • When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion. (Abraham Lincoln, 16th U.S. President [1861-1865]. From Henry O. Dormann, compiler, The Speaker’s Book of Quotations, New York: Ballantine Books, 1987, p. 127.)
  • Let us labor to add all needful guarantees for the more perfect security of free thought, free speech, and free press, pure morals, unfettered religious sentiments, and of equal rights and privileges to all men, irrespective of nationality, color, or religion. (Ulysses S. Grant, 18th U.S. President [1869-1877], speech before the Army of the Tennessee, Des Moines, Iowa, 1875; from George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1983, pp. 287-288)
  • We all agree that neither the Government nor political parties ought to interfere with religious sects. It is equally true that religious sects ought not to interfere with the Government or with political parties. We believe that the cause of good government and the cause of religion suffer by all such interference. (Rutherford B. Hayes, 19th U. S. President [1877-1881], statement as Governor of Ohio, 1875, according to Albert Menendez and Edd Doerr, compilers, The Great Quotations on Religious Liberty, Long Beach, CA: Centerline Press, 1991, p. 44.)
  • Religious and racial persecution is moronic at all times, perhaps the most idiotic of human stupidities. (Harry S. Truman, 33rd U.S. President [1945-1953], Where the Buck Stops; The Personal and Private Writings of Harry S. Truman, ed. by Margaret Truman; New York: Warner Books, Inc., 1989, p. 126.)

Moral politics

  • It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life – the sick, the needy and the handicapped. (1977, at the dedication of the Humphrey Building)        Hubert H. Humphrey
  • A compassionate government keeps faith with the trust of the people and cherishes the future of their children. Lyndon B. Johnson
  • A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.  Albert Einstein
  • The central task of the religious community is to unveil the bonds that bind each to all. There is a connectedness, a relationship discovered amid the particulars of our own lives and the lives of others. Once felt, it inspires us to act for justice. It is the church that assures us that we are not struggling for justice on our own, but as members of a larger community. The religious community is essential, for alone our vision is too narrow to see all that must be seen, and our strength too limited to do all that must be cone. Together, our vision widens and our strength is renewed. Mark Morrison-Reed
  • We want people to rule the nation who care more for and love better the nation’s welfare than gold and silver, fame and popularity.   Brigham Young
  • When we come to the moral principles on which the government is to be administered, we come to what is proper for all conditions of society… Liberty, truth, probity, honor, are declared to be the four cardinal principles of society. I believe that morality, compassion, generosity, are innate elements of the human constitution; that there exists a right independent of force. Thomas Jefferson
  • It is hard to imagine a more stupid or dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of those who pay no price for being wrong. Thomas Sowell
  • We pray that peoples of all faiths, all races, all nations may have their great human needs satisfied, that those now denied opportunity shall come to enjoy it to the full; that all who yearn for freedom may experience its spiritual blessings; that those who have freedom will understand, also, its heavy responsibilities; that all who are insensitive to the needs of others will learn charity; that the scourges of poverty, disease and ignorance will be made to disappear from the earth, and that, in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love.” Dwight D. Eisenhower, Farewell Address
  • The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children. Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  • I think it’s important that people know that for the country to get better it needs more than just politicians. Politicians aren’t enough and it needs resurgence through churches, through revivals through a spiritual cleansing of the people.”  -Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (R) on the future of America and faith in in a Christian Broadcasting Network interview.

Soul/Creed

  • There is such a thing as a crime against the soul of a nation. A person or a political party can deliberately incite actions that diminish the strength, the integrity, and the overall well-being of a nation’s inner core. Caroline Myss, Crimes Against the Soul of America, Huffington Post 
  • As soon as we lose the moral basis, we cease to be religious. There is no such thing as religion over-riding morality. Mohandas K. Gandhi
  • I think it’s important that people know that for the country to get better it needs more than just politicians. Politicians aren’t enough and it needs resurgence through churches, through revivals through a spiritual cleansing of the people.”  -Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (R) on the future of America and faith in in a Christian Broadcasting Network interview.
  • The word “creed” sounds forbidding and ecclesiastical. The American Creed is neither, but it is steadfast in its principles and enduring enough to redeem the nation’s history whenever we stray from their course. Capturing the essence of the American experiment, the American Creed affirms those truths our Founders held self-evident: justice for all, because we are all created equal; and liberty for all, because we are all endowed by the Creator with certain inalienable rights. America’s fidelity to this creed is judged by history. Living up to it remains a constant challenge. But it invests our nation with spiritual purpose and–if we honor its precepts–a moral destiny.” Forrest Church.

George Washington (1732-1799; “Father of His Country”; 1st U.S. President, 1789-1797)

John Adams(1735-1826; major leader at Constitutional Convention in 1787; 2nd U.S. President , 1797-1801)

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790; American statesman, diplomat, scientist, and printer)

Thomas Paine (1737-1809; author of Common Sense; key American patriotic writer)

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826; author, Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom; 3rd U.S. President, 1801-1809)

James Madison (1751-1836; principal author, U. S. Constitution and Bill of Rights; 4th U.S. President, 1809-1817)

Research/quotations from Presidents and founders, acknowledged with gratitude, from Ed Buckner, Atlanta Freethought Society, P.O. Box 1975, Smyrna, GA 30081-1975 – Copyright 1993, Ed and Michael E. Buckner and the Atlanta Freethought Society, P.O. Box 2385, Stone Mountain, GA 30086-2385. Version 7.2 (26 Mar 93). Compiled by Ed and Michael E. Buckner, P.O. Box 1975, Smyrna, GA 30081-1975. Permission to reproduce any or all pages freely is hereby granted, provided that this notice is retained. Acknowledgement of compilers for excerpts, especially lengthy ones, is appreciated but not required. posted by Clark Adams cdadams@whale.st.usm.edu

 

Why Are So Many Christians So Un-Christian?

By Amanda Marcotte, AlterNet, September 26, 2013  

In an age where your average Republican politician is thumping the Bible with one hand and trying to strip food from the mouths of the poor with the other, it’s become a sad cliché to point out how little the most outspoken Christians have in common with their charity-preaching, forgiveness-loving messiah. It’s only gotten worse in recent years, with the followers of the man who cured lepers threatening to shut down the government if Obama insists on giving more people access to healthcare.

But while a nudge and a laugh at the silly Christian hypocrites is a good time, it’s worth looking deeper at what’s really going on with the parsimonious haters of the poor who claim to speak for Jesus. The fact of the matter is that right-wing Christians refuse to see their differences with Jesus as hypocrisy. To really understand how religion works in the world of politics, it helps to understand that it’s usually more about  rationalizing what you already want to believe than it is about actually studying your religious texts and drawing intelligent conclusions from it.

So what’s going on when Ken Blackwell [3], the former Ohio Secretary of State and current conservative activist says things like there is “nothing more Christian” than cutting needy people off food stamps? It may seem like the rational thing for Blackwell to have done was simply admit that there’s nothing in the Bible that even comes close to suggesting that it’s good for people to be forced into starvation simply because they had the misfortune of living in a time of high unemployment. After all, Jesus just simply gave people the loaves and the fishes. He didn’t withhold the food, and like Blackwell did, say that being able to eat food would “breed dependency” and that starving the poor was a good way of “empowering others and creating self-sufficiency.”

Blackwell is stretching; it’s obvious he’s stretching. So why go there at all? Well, as stupid as he sounds, it’s the rational choice. Being considered a Christian means you get a lot of unearned esteem from the public, and you’re given a lot more benefit of the doubt than if you claimed to be, say, an atheist. Indeed, for many audiences, it’s better to sound like an idiot while claiming to be Christian than to sound intelligent without mentioning religion at all. It makes sense that a politician or activist would want to be perceived as a Christian even if they have to bend themselves into pretzels to explain away the obnoxious clash between what they believe and what even the most strained but intellectually honest interpretation of their Bible would have you believe.

But it’s more than that. There’s no reason to think Blackwell believes himself to be lying when it comes to his religious beliefs. As much as liberals would often wish it otherwise—and no matter how much conservative Christians may claim their beliefs all come from the Bible—the truth of the matter is there’s no real relationship between what a person believes and what their religion ostensibly teaches them to believe. In practical terms, the word “Christian” is an empty term that can basically mean whatever the believer wants it to mean. Christians decide what they want to believe first and then, after they’ve chosen their beliefs, search for any excuse, no matter how thin, to claim that their belief is consistent with their chosen religion.

It’s a process called rationalization or motivated reasoning, and to be perfectly fair, it’s how most people think about most things most of the time: They choose what to believe and then look for reasons to explain why they believe it. Huge reams of psychological research show this is just how the human brain works. Almost never do we look over a bunch of arguments and choose what to believe based on reasoning our position out. As Chris Mooney at Mother Jones explains [4], “We push threatening information away; we pull friendly information close.” Our faculties are usually put to the task of trying to defend what we already believe, not towards developing a better understanding of the world.

While most people engage in motivated reasoning most of the time, injecting religion into a situation only makes this process worse. That’s because, unlike most other belief systems, religion is impervious to empiricism. Most claims people make are subject to real-world tests. Are you in denial that your spouse is cheating on you? If you’re given photographic evidence that it’s true, that’s probably enough to shake you from your convictions. Want to believe the Earth is flat and not round? Shoot you into space and see how long that belief lasts. Sure, there are always fools who won’t believe the evidence, no matter how overwhelming, but for most of us, most of the time, we have a limit.

With religion, however, there’s no limits about what you can claim to believe. Jesus is a mythological character: he believes whatever the person speaking for him says he believes. For one person, Jesus believes we should feed the hungry and clothe the naked. For another, Jesus didn’t really mean it when he said that stuff; he was just handing out goodies in order to recruit new believers [5]. We weren’t there (and it probably didn’t even happen), so the sky’s the limit when making up reasons why what you believe counts as “Christian.” If you want to believe Jesus was actually a space alien brought here by Martians to teach us how to fly, you have as much right as anyone else to believe what you want. It all has equal amounts of evidence to back it up.

That’s one reason politicians love to talk about religion, because they don’t have to prove anything. But that’s the major reason religion really has no place in politics. It’s hard enough for voters and policy makers to hash through the real-world claims that fly around in politics. Trying to figure out what some silent, mythical god wants us to do is a fool’s errand. That god is always and forever going to want what the person speaking for him wants him to want, and nothing else. If Ken Blackwell was only allowed to speak for Ken Blackwell and not claim authority from on high, the true cruelty of his words would be all the easier to see.

Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/belief/why-are-so-many-christians-so-un-christian

Links:
[1] http://alternet.org
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/amanda-marcotte
[3] http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/frc-nothing-more-christian-massive-food-stamp-cut
[4] http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/03/denial-science-chris-mooney
[5] http://mediamatters.org/blog/2013/09/11/foxs-starnes-fearmongers-about-christian-groups/195830
[6] http://www.alternet.org/tags/christian-0
[7] http://www.alternet.org/tags/food-stamps
[8] http://www.alternet.org/tags/poverty-0
[9] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

Belief Is the Least Part of Faith

By T. M. LUHRMANN, New York Times, May 29, 2013

Some Sundays ago, I was part of a sermon in my university’s church. It was the kind of ecumenical church in which I’d grown up. The minister and I sat on the proscenium above the congregation and below the stained-glass windows, and spoke about the ways that evangelical Christians understood God — a subject on which I had written a book. Afterward, there was a lunch open to the community. The questions people asked as we ate our avocado-and-cheese sandwiches circled around the puzzle of belief. Why do people believe in God? What is our evidence that there is an invisible agent who has a real impact on our lives? How can those people be so confident?

These are the questions that university-educated liberals ask about faith. They are deep questions. But they are also abstract and intellectual. They are philosophical questions. In an evangelical church, the questions would probably have circled around how to feel God’s love and how to be more aware of God’s presence. Those are fundamentally practical questions.

You could imagine that if you were going to spend an hour or two each week fretting over one or the other, you might opt for the practical. This choice is more real for many evangelicals than most secular liberals imagine. Not all members of deeply theologically conservative churches — churches that seem to have such clear-cut rules about how people should behave and what they should believe — have made up their minds about whether God exists or how God exists. In a charismatic evangelical church I studied, people often made comments that suggested they had complicated ideas about God’s realness. One devout woman said in a prayer group one evening: “I don’t believe it, but I’m sticking to it. That’s my definition of faith.”

It was a flippant, off-the-cuff remark, but also a modern-day version of Pascal’s wager: in the face of her uncertainty about God’s existence, she decided that she was better off behaving as if God were real. She chose to foreground the practical issue of how to experience the world as if she was loved by a loving God and to put to one side her intellectual puzzling over whether and in what way the invisible agent was really there.

The role of belief in religion is greatly overstated, as anthropologists have long known. In 1912, Émile Durkheim, one of the founders of modern social science, argued that religion arose as a way for social groups to experience themselves as groups. He thought that when people experienced themselves in social groups they felt bigger than themselves, better, more alive — and that they identified that aliveness as something supernatural. Religious ideas arose to make sense of this experience of being part of something greater. Durkheim thought that belief was more like a flag than a philosophical position: You don’t go to church because you believe in God; rather, you believe in God because you go to church.

In fact, you can argue that religious belief as we now conceptualize it is an entirely modern phenomenon. As the comparative religion scholar Wilfred Cantwell Smith pointed out, when the King James Bible was printed in 1611, “to believe” meant something like “to hold dear.” Smith, who died in 2000, once wrote: “The affirmation ‘I believe in God’ used to mean: ‘Given the reality of God as a fact of the universe, I hereby pledge to Him my heart and soul. I committedly opt to live in loyalty to Him. I offer my life to be judged by Him, trusting His mercy.’ Today the statement may be taken by some as meaning: ‘Given the uncertainty as to whether there be a God or not, as a fact of modern life, I announce that my opinion is yes.’ ”

To be clear, I am not arguing that belief is not important to Christians. It is obviously important. But secular Americans often think that the most important thing to understand about religion is why people believe in God, because we think that belief precedes action and explains choice. That’s part of our folk model of the mind: that belief comes first.

And that was not really what I saw after my years spending time in evangelical churches. I saw that people went to church to experience joy and to learn how to have more of it. These days I find that it is more helpful to think about faith as the questions people choose to focus on, rather than the propositions observers think they must hold.

If you can sidestep the problem of belief — and the related politics, which can be so distracting — it is easier to see that the evangelical view of the world is full of joy. God is good. The world is good. Things will be good, even if they don’t seem good now. That’s what draws people to church. It is understandably hard for secular observers to sidestep the problem of belief. But it is worth appreciating that in belief is the reach for joy, and the reason many people go to church in the first place.

T. M. Luhrmann, a professor of anthropology at Stanford and the author of “When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship With God,” is a guest columnist.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/30/opinion/luhrmann-belief-is-the-least-part-of-faith.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20130530