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Neo-theocracy as a False Drive to a Simpler Society

(understanding  new neo-theocratic movements in a context of theological voluntarism)

News Overcomplexity of Society and Collapse of Civilizations Recommended books Recommended Links Christian Theocratic Movements Theological voluntarism Double High Authoritarians
Ayn Rand and Objectivism Cult Corporatism American Exceptionalism as a secular religion New American Militarism  Quotes Humor Etc


"I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote, where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference. . . . I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant, nor Jewish, where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches, or any other ecclesiastical source, where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials."

 JFK's Sept 12, 1960 address
to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association



"Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them."

- George Orwell'



'I am an American and a Catholic; I love my country and treasure my faith. But I do not assume that my conception of patriotism or policy is invariably correct, or that
my convictions about religion should command any greater respect than any other faith in this pluralistic society. I believe there surely is such a thing as truth, but who among us can claim a monopoly on it? . . . (Women and men of religious faith) may be tempted to misuse government in order to impose a value which they cannot persuade others to accept. But once we succumb to that temptation we step onto the slippery slope where everyone's freedom is at risk . . . Let us never forget: Today's Moral Majority could become tomorrow's persecuted minority."

- Senator Edward Kennedy
Drawing contrasts, setting standards



"The new conservatives see our democratic government as the enemy. And if they plan to destroy democracy, they must have something in mind to replace it with...What conservatives are really arguing for is a return to the three historic forms of tyranny that the Founders and Framers identified, declared war against, and fought and died to keep out of our land. Those tyrants were kings, theocrats, and noble feudal lords....These new conservatives would have us trade in our democracy for a corporatocracy, a form of feudal government most recently reinvented by Benito Mussolini when he recommended a 'merger of business and state interests' as a way of creating a government that would be invincibly strong. Mussolini called it fascism."

- John Laughland

From the theological perspective theocracy is a sin that inevitably lead to the false allure of simple solutions and lack of appreciation of limits of power.  In a way you can view is as a reaction against an overcomplexity of modern society. It is a false solution to the problem, though, but it is a variant of the reaction to the same set of problems as resurgence of far right parties in Europe and elsewhere and emergence of Tea Party in the USA.

As Kevin Phillips noted "Economic conservatives often warm up to the sects in which preoccupation with the personal salvation turns lower income persons from distracting visions of economic and social reform."  This observation was never more true the during the administration of George W Bush.  And such an "excessive zeal" in courting "Dominionists and friends" alarmed even some theologians.

"Every Christian hopes to find a vocation and calling that is faithful to Christ. But a president who believes that the nation is fulfilling a God-given righteous mission and that he serves with a divine appointment can become quite theologically unsettling."

Theologian Martin Marty voices the concern of many when he says, "The problem isn't with Bush's sincerity, but with his evident conviction that he's doing God's will." 

In reality there was a big problem with Bush sincerity and not only with sincerity.  The key problem is that religion is used as a cement for creation and recruiting people for a  "for-profit" corporation (aka sect)  with some not so clean goals. By appointing John Ashcroft to the position of attorney general Bush essentially make a move toward neo-theocracy as a political platform and elevated Christianity of obscure Christian fundamentalists sects (such as Pentecostal) to the level of national ideology.

The simplest definition of theocracy is a government which claims to be immediately directed by God in a form of particular religious doctrine, and divinely blessed. The religious doctrine can represent mainstream religion or not. 

But in any case, Bush regime behavior was anticonsitutional as it has open and distinct theocratic leanings. As Christianity Today put it, "... Bush is confusing genuine faith with national ideology."  But Bush regime really moved the country to the situation, in which the state powers tends to be intolerant either passively or overtly to faiths other than that recognized by the state.  The country identifies itself and its laws within religion and religious doctrine.  That eliminates the legal separation between church and state, and citizens of other faiths are often excluded or hampered from participation or expelled.  Because a theocracy is exclusionary, it can never be a democracy which requires inclusion without exception of all equally.  It cannot be a republic because a republic requires the separation of church and state and equal rights to all. 

The page tries to analyze a dangerous new phenomenon that yet has to be named, the (all time shifting) alliance between Christian Right and neoconservatives (who are by-and-large atheists or even militant atheists like Randists), the alliance that might threaten or destroy the separation of the church and the state.  And already greatly influenced the nation (with the election of George Bush as a president).  For absence of better terms we will call it neo-theocracy. 

The demands for religiosity and Bible classes in White house in Bush administration were not funny and cannot simply be attributed to just Bush's desire to exploit religious fundamentalists as foot solders of the Republican Party (although this desire was evidently present).  Kevin Phillips in his book American Theocracy noted that conservative republican ideology is an eclectic mix of fundamentalist religious  fervor, fiscal insanity, and  personal greed. This is a perfect mix for any fundamentalist sect.

Conservative republican ideology is an eclectic mix of fundamentalist religious  fervor, fiscal insanity, and  personal greed

Here is a quote from one of the Amazon reviews that articulates his position well:

Phillips sees three interlocking tendencies as now reaching a critical point in defining and even threatening the future of the polity.

First is the rise of the corruptive influence of oil on both domestic and foreign policy; second is the rise of an intolerant form of radical Christian doctrine into key areas of public life; and third, the incredibly irresponsible increase in the level of both public and private debt.

Each of these trends threatens to undermine both the short-term and long term stability of the nation, and each in its own way is a key factor in the way that describes how it is that both the Executive branch and the Congress are becoming increasingly beholden to special interests and are increasingly undemocratic. In particular, the fashion in which President Bush and the Congress have used permanent tax cuts for the wealthy as a device to transfer responsibility for future debt away from the wealthy and toward those with less means and less political voice, while at the same time insanely increasing that public debt, defies both morality and logic. Moreover, Phillips finds that the ways in which these trends are unfolding makes us as individual citizens and as members of the larger collectivity substantially less likely and immensely less able to determine our own future in anything resembling a rational and progressive fashion.

This introduction and the collection of materials below was created by a non-specialist and should be treated as such. Still I think that it is an obligation of every citizen to defend the separation of church and state. As Madison and Jefferson noted, separation protects religion from trivialization as much as it guards nonbelievers from subtle or blatant coercion.

And dangers  are real. According to Phillips (p 119):

In other words, the role of conservative and fundamentalist Christian sects in the USA political life should not be underestimated.

The key observation that is promoted here is that while nobody doubts that Christian Right is a powerful and popular theocratic movement, few people see neo-conservatism this way, and thus do not see that those two movements are natural allies. But such an alliance represents new and powerful political force, essentially it was the alliance which put George W Bush so high and made the second George W Bush term possible.  This might help to understand the common voting block of Christian fundamentalists and neoconservatives on the basis of "moral values" despite differences in their attitude to individual issues behind this broad term. It was evident during first Bush administration and is a well documented phenomena. 

Like is/was the case with Lysenkoism "people are better then institutions" and individual neocons can be a well educated people that has nothing to do with people who deny Darwin theory of evolution  (for example Paul Wolfowitz got a bachelor's degree from Cornell University (1965) in mathematics, and a doctorate in political science from the University of Chicago (1972)). That does not change the similarities between the two.  

Both neo-conservatism and Lysenkoism share the same basic mechanism: an attempt to convert an ideology or a particular pseudo-scientific doctrine into a religious cult and to enforce the "cult-style regime"  by openly using large dozes of disinformation and complete mass media control (with or without the repressive power of state.). The key slogan in both cases is "who are not with us are against us". 

In this case for non-conformists not only answers, but question itself  became a danger (and that's exactly what should be expected if separation of church and state is weakened enough.) Please note that the academic community was, by and large, complicit in this mixture of direct political pressure and absurdity that accompanied Lysenkoism. And academic community is somewhat more advanced that a larger society. Also history tends to repeat itself. 

That means that humanity might not have an adequate immune response to this danger. Erich Fromm, one of the first researchers of conformism in modern society (he created 'F-scale' ) in his famous book 'Escape from Freedom' (compare with We by Eugene Zamiatin(1921), Brave New World and the most famous of dystopian novels, 1984) wrote that the "organization man is not aware that he obeys; he believes that he only conforms with what is rational and practical"

Organization man is not aware that he obeys; he believes that he only conforms with what is rational and practical.

So if effect he is religious in its own peculiar way. That's why we can call the USSR neo-theoretical state.  And we can call randism (aka positivism) an obscure religious cult. Cult of Greed.

The main idea of the Zamiatin's book is that most humans seek comfort from the burdens from responsibility. Unfortunately "to be rational and practical" is a rationalization of the desire to conform to a system that rewards obedience to power even you know that this power is openly and blatantly misinform/disorient people in order to reach its dubious goals. 

Most humans seek comfort from the burdens from responsibility

Any current political discussion can not be structured only in the terms of platforms, for example in terms of  the advantages and limits of  "free market"  versus "people's government" like in old "republicans vs. democrats" platforms.  The important overlooked dimension is the "doze" of disinformation and pressure that a particular political force is ready and willing to use to achieve its goals.  I recognize that any politician needs to stretch the truth to accomplish political goals. It may be the necessary evil of creating and maintaining public opinion.  The same is applicable for press. But the key question is the doze and here at some point "quantity turns into quality":  what in small doze might be a cure for problems in a large doze can became poison. Fifty-two years ago, Orwell warned us about this danger in his essay "Politics and the English Language."  And the USSR is a vivid example of consequences of this qualitative shift.

In other words neo-fascism in the USA can prosper only in as a Christian fundamentalism fueled by theocratic movements.  See American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America. In "American Fascists," Hedges never makes the simplistic claim that the Christian Right is the Nazi party, or that Bush is Mussolini, or that America will inevitably become a fascist state. His investigation is much more nuanced, identifying the incipient stirrings, invisible to many Americans, of a complex, mass political movement that is mobilizing and gaining strength and support beneath the surface of our democracy. The Christian Right, led by the dominionists, is directly aligned with imperial (aka corporatist)  presidency of George W Bush.

Merge of Christian fundamentalism and corporatism  has important political advantage -- the ability to turn the illegal, inhuman orders into  "God's will", with the exciting twist that we are heading for the apocalypse when only the saved will attain heaven. Because these so-called Christians are heavily funded and control a disproportionate number of radio and TV outlets, their influence far exceeds their numbers. He points out that they have a lot in common with such important historical movements that committed mass autocracies as Bolsheviks and nationalist of various kinds:

"The radical Christian Right calls for exclusion, cruelty and intolerance in the name of God. Its members do not commit evil for evil's sake. They commit evil to make a better world. To attain this better world, they believe, some must suffer and be silenced, and at the end of time all those who oppose them must be destroyed. The worst suffering in human history has been carried out by those who preach such grand, utopian visions, those who seek to implant by force their narrow, particular version of goodness. This is true for all doctrines of personal salvation, from Christianity to ethnic nationalism to communism to fascism. Dreams of a universal good create hells of persecution, suffering and slaughter. No human being could ever be virtuous enough to attain such dreams, and the Earth has swallowed millions of hapless victims in the vain pursuit of a new heaven and a new Earth. Ironically, it is idealism that leads radical fundamentalists to strip human beings of their dignity and their sanctity and turn them into abstractions. Yet it is only by holding on to the sanctity of each individual, each human life, only by placing our faith in tiny, unheroic acts of compassion and kindness, that we survive as a community and as individual human beings."

Here is one interesting review from Amazon:

By Alan Broomhead

As a student of politics twenty or so years ago, I was warned by my professors to beware when the word 'fascist' was used against an individual or group. The word was too easily bandied about, too frequently employed to damn enemies without a good understanding of the meaning of the word. Then we were taught the meaning of fascism through a study of some of the movements that had made it real: Nazi Germany, Mussolini's Italy, Franco's Spain.

One reason this book drew me in was the use of the word "Fascists" on its front cover. I thought this was a strong claim to make about the object of its study, the Christian right in the US. Chris Hedges doesn't simply sling the word at the Christian right. He includes a six-page description, by Umberto Eco, of the "Ur-Fascist" or "essential fascist" - meaning the boiled-down traits of all fascist movements - at the beginning of the book. But I don't think he goes far enough to tie his thesis into a coherent whole. He doesn't refer to Eco's analysis (or tell us what expertise Eco has), and readers are left to make the connections for themselves.

Certainly some of the chapters in the book implicitly attempt to make the connection between the Christian right and other fascist movements.

Both these chapters could have been related to Eco's discussion, or to historical examples of fascism, to clarify the similarities. But I feel that Hedges makes the reader do too much of the work to fill in the gaps. That is, if it's his intention to convince readers that the Christian right are fascists.

But then if that were the case, you might expect him, in an introduction to the book, to lay out his thesis and anticipate how he was going to demonstrate it. In the chapters which followed, you might expect him to develop his argument, and to tie things up in a concluding chapter. This book is not like that, and this is my biggest complaint about it, and about books of its kind.

Perhaps because Chris Hedges is a journalist, I wonder if he has trouble thinking and writing in book-length units. His chapters are really extended journalistic articles, each one separate from all the rest, and relying heavily on his encounters with individuals he meets at conferences plus his commentary, which tends to be his opinion not supported by evidence. It wouldn't matter which order you read this book in, or even whether you read the whole thing or not. The chapters don't really advance an argument, they simply look at the Christian right from various angles. What it adds up to might be described as reports from the frontlines of the liberal/conservative-religious culture war, but not a strong case that the leaders of the right-wing Christian movement - ugly and evil as they most probably are - are to be regarded as fascists.

On the other hand, I enjoyed reading this book, and found it engaging. Hedges, apparently a liberal Christian, is clearly angry about how the dominionists depict Christianity and damn to the flames anyone who doesn't share their view. The book leaves me with a question, though. It's one that stems from Karl Popper's quotation right at the beginning of the first chapter: "We should claim the right to suppress them, if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument." If Hedges is right that the Christian right wants to suppress the rest of us, if necessary by force, and if Popper is right that we may have to suppress them, if necessary by force, where is this going to lead us?

It is important to understand important analogy between Lysenkoism, neo-conservatism and neo-theocratic movements. All three operate a deliberate distortion of reality. In other words they rely on lies. And this way , like Bush said,  they create their own reality.

In all three cases the distortion of reality created by deliberate lies is not shared by the ministers of the cult and is just for the mass consumption, for the achievement of a political goals. Which makes all three close and Christian fundamentalists especially dangerous. 

If this is a right hypothesis, then there is something very sad and even tragic that the seeds of the phenomena originated in Stalinist state mutated into a powerful political force in the USA, the winner of the Cold War...  

But there are important differences with Stalinism too. And they are related to the preferred methods of suppressing dissent. Unlike Stalinism (and by extension Lysenkoism),  neither neo-theocratic movements nor neo-conservatism need the repressive power of totalitarian state to suppress dissent, as Academician Lysenko successfully used in the Soviet Union to suppress all research in genetics for almost three decades(1935-1965). It looks like just media control is enough and media empires like Fox (News Corp), NBC (GE), ABC (Disney), CBS (Viacom), CNN (AOL-Time Warner),  could serve as a suitable replacement of a totalitarian state for this particular purpose. They project this false reality 24x7 and as such is as efficient mechanism for suppressing dissent as KGB was in the USSR.  

A fact that supports this hypothesis is that that Straussian philosophy that is the philosophic foundation of  neo-conservativism  explicitly approves unlimited disinformation. Moreover Strauss considered disinformation a necessary tool to regulate lesser mortals.  It's naive to assume that disinformation can be totally eliminated. Like background noise is always present in any political process. But an important question arises: at what level disinformation produce side effects that irrevocably corrupt the society and in a subtle way transforms the political system. One of the most frightening things about  Straussian philosophy is that it permits withholding any and all facts from the public.

I am not a sociologist and you need to do your own research to answer this question. I just want to stress the importance of this question in view of existence of neo-theocratic movements as an important political force. I might be wrong and mischaracterized the phenomenon. You need to do your own research.  If you are not well versed in neo-conservatism as a philosophic-political trend please you can get just start by reading a short essay from Asia Times,  then compare it with left-wing views on the same subject. It's also make sense to take the CSM quiz  (look into the questions, ignore the results ;-). For additional material see Recommended Links.

The key idea here is that citizens outside the elite should be forced to be religious to remain controllable. Lysenkoism was the first attempt to move methods of religious cult into academic environment. .  It probably can be viewed as the first cult-style attempt to use distorted, based of open deception view of a particular phenomenon, the view that was distrusted and ridiculed inside "knowledgeable elite" itself, but still enforced on "unwashed masses" (institualized hypocrisy).  Institualized hypocrisy is actually an important feature of all neo-theocratic movements and it is present in neo-conservatism in several forms. One of them is the concept of "esoteric texts". Here is a relevant quote from a pro-neocons paper by Robert Locke in the  FrontPage magazine:

The key Straussian concept is the Straussian text, which is a piece of philosophical writing that is deliberately written so that the average reader will understand it as saying one ("exoteric") thing but the special few for whom it is intended will grasp its real ("esoteric") meaning. The reason for this is that philosophy is dangerous.

Philosophy calls into question the conventional morality upon which civil order in society depends; it also reveals ugly truths that weaken men’s attachment to their societies. Ideally, it then offers an alternative based on reason, but understanding the reasoning is difficult and many people who read it will only understand the "calling into question" part and not the latter part that reconstructs ethics. Worse, it is unclear whether philosophy really can construct a rational basis for ethics.

Therefore philosophy has a tendency to promote nihilism in mediocre minds, and they must be prevented from being exposed to it. The civil authorities are frequently aware of this, and therefore they persecute and seek to silence philosophers. Strauss shockingly admits, contrary to generations of liberal professors who have taught him as a martyr to the First Amendment, that the prosecution of Socrates was not entirely without point. This honesty about the dangers of philosophy gives Straussian thought a seriousness lacking in much contemporary philosophy; it is also a sign of the conviction that philosophy, contrary to the mythology of our "practical" (though sodden with ideology and quick to take offense at ideas) age, matters.

Strauss not only believed that the great thinkers of the past wrote Straussian texts, he approved of this. It is a kind of class system of the intellect, which mirrors the class systems of rulers and ruled, owners and workers, creators and audiences, which exist in politics, economics, and culture. He views the founding corruption of modern political philosophy, which hundreds of years later bears poisonous fruit in the form of liberal nihilism, to be the attempt to abolish this distinction. It is a kind of Bolshevism of the mind.

Some dispute whether Straussian texts exist. The great medieval Jewish Aristotelian Moses Maimonides admitted writing this way. I can only say that I have found the concept fruitful in my own readings in philosophy. On a more prosaic level, even a courageous editor like my own can’t print certain things, so I certainly write my column in code from time to time, and other writers have told me the same thing.

According to Strauss, Machiavelli is the key turning point that leads to modern political philosophy, and Machiavelli’s sin was to speak esoteric truths openly. He told all within hearing that there is no certain God who punishes wrongdoing; the essence of Machiavellianism is that one can get away with things. Because of this, he turned his back on the Christian virtue that the belief in a retributive God had upheld. Pre-Machiavellian philosophy, be in Greco-Roman or Christian, had taught that the good political order must be based upon human virtues. Machiavelli believed that sufficient virtue was not attainable and therefore taught that the good political order must be based on men as they are, i.e. upon their mediocrity and vices. This is not just realism, or mere cynicism. It amounts to a deliberate choice as to how society should be organized and a decided de-emphasis on personal virtue. It leads to the new discipline of political science, which is concerned with coldly describing men as they actually are, warts and all. It leads ultimately to Immanuel Kant’s statement that,

"We could devise a constitution for a race of devils, if only they were intelligent."

... ... ...

The interesting question is why Strauss chose to "spill the beans" about Straussian texts if they are supposed to remain a secret. The answer is that he felt he had to, given the severity of our crisis. Admittedly, the concept of the Straussian text is one susceptible to intellectual mischief in the form of wild claims about the esoteric meaning of texts, not to mention rather off-putting for anyone who doesn’t like know-it-all elites. But before getting too huffy about this elitist view of the good society, it is best to remind oneself that it is strikingly similar to the view cultivated for centuries by the Catholic and Orthodox churches and by Orthodox Judaism, not to mention other religions: there is a small number of men who know the detailed truth; the masses are told what they need to know and no more. Free inquiry outside the bounds of revelation is dangerous.

... ... ...

Strauss believed that the great competitor of philosophy is revealed religion. He believed that reason and revelation cannot refute each other. He believed that religion was the great necessity for ordinary men. For him, religion is in essence revealed law, and he took his native Judaism to be its paradigm.

Please note the key idea "Free inquiry outside the bounds of revelation is dangerous.".  An expert on Straussians  philosophy Dr. Shadia B. Drury put this much less diplomatically in her Saving America paper, although she incorrectly in my opinion accused them to be "compulsive liars". They are more like "rational liars", in her own words they believe that "society needs an elite of philosophers or intellectuals to manufacture "noble lies" for the consumption of the masses":

The trouble with the Straussians is that they are compulsive liars. But it is not altogether their fault. Strauss was very pre-occupied with secrecy because he was convinced that the truth is too harsh for any society to bear; and that the truth-bearers are likely to be persecuted by society - specially a liberal society - because liberal democracy is about as far as one can get from the truth as Strauss understood it.

Strauss's disciples have inherited a superiority complex as well as a persecution complex. They are convinced that they are the superior few who know the truth and are entitled to rule. But they are afraid to speak the truth openly, lest they are persecuted by the vulgar many who do not wish to be ruled by them. This explains why they are eager to misrepresent the nature of Strauss's thought. They are afraid to reveal that Strauss was a critic of liberalism and democracy, lest he be regarded as an enemy of America. So, they wrap him in the American flag and pretend that he is a champion of liberal democracy for political reasons - their own quest for power. The result is that they run roughshod over truth as well as democracy.

It should however be pointed out that being a critic of liberalism or democracy or both does not make one automatically an enemy of America. On the contrary, freedom and democracy can only be strengthened by intellectually confronting their critics. Strauss has no special antipathy for America. He is the enemy of liberty in general. It was for love of America that he wished to save her from her disastrous love affair with liberty, as I will explain.

... ... ...

Strauss is not as obscure or as esoteric as his admirers pretend. There are certain incontestable themes in his work. The most fundamental theme is the distinction between the ancients and the moderns - a distinction that informs all his work. According to Strauss, ancient philosophers (such as Plato) were wise and wily, but modern philosophers (such as Locke and other liberals) were foolish and vulgar. The wise ancients thought that the unwashed masses were not fit for either truth or liberty; and giving them these sublime treasures was like throwing pearls before swine. Accordingly, they believed that society needs an elite of philosophers or intellectuals to manufacture "noble lies" for the consumption of the masses. Not surprisingly, the ancients had no use for democracy. Plato balked at the democratic idea that any Donald, Dick, or George was equally fit to rule.

In contrast to the ancients, the moderns were the foolish lovers of truth and liberty; they believed in the natural rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They believed that human beings were born free and could be legitimately ruled only by their own consent.

The ancients denied that there is any natural right to liberty. Human beings are born neither free nor equal. The natural human condition is not one of freedom, but of subordination. And in Strauss's estimation, they were right in thinking that there is only one natural right - the right of the superior to rule over the inferior - the master over the slave, the husband over the wife, and the wise few over the vulgar many. As to the pursuit of happiness - what could the vulgar do with happiness except drink, gamble, and fornicate?

... ... ...

So, what is to be done? How can America be saved from her dangerous fascination with liberty? Irving Kristol came up with the solution that has become the cornerstone of neoconservative policies: use democracy to defeat liberty. Turn the people against their own liberty. Convince them that liberty is licentiousness - that liberty undermines piety, leads to crime, drugs, rampant homosexuality, children out of wedlock, and family breakdown. And worse of all, liberalism is soft on communism or terrorism - whatever happens to be the enemy of the moment. And if you can convince the people that liberty undermines their security, then, you will not have to take away their liberty; they will gladly renounce it.

Similar to Marx, neocons consider the religion to be an opiate for masses, but unlike Marx they claim it to be a useful and necessary opiate. That's why despite their personal atheism they support and promote Christian Right efforts in reforming the United Sates so that it becomes a "Christian nation" (which is a politically correct term for theocracy)  and try to present both domestic opposition as well as external enemies and foreign states in religious terms ("evil").  This overuse and abuse of the word "evil" and attempts to present essentially secular issues in religious terms instead or ethical framework (right and wrong) might serve as a litmus test for a skeptical reader or listener.  Their implicit alliance with the Christian right is also a matter of great concern: there are alarming links between Christian fundamentalists and Wahhabis:

Unfortunately there is a similar group of bigoted religious fundamentalists in America who are undermining the secular character of America, subverting the peaceful message of Christianity and polluting the socio-cultural environment of America.  These American Wahhabis like their Muslim counterparts are intolerant of homosexuality, feminism, civil rights (ACLU), do not believe in the separation of Church and State and hate people of other faiths. Rev. Jerry Falwell, Rev. Pat Robertson and Rev. Franklin Graham are three of the most prominent, powerful and vocal representatives of American Wahhabis.

Readers may recall that in the immediate aftermath of September 11, Reverend Jerry Falwell blamed abortionists, homosexuals, and the ACLU for angering God and indirectly causing the attacks of September 11. He later apologized for his statements when there was uproar from all sides of the political spectrum, including the President who called Farwell’s comments as “inappropriate”. His statement was a shameless and insensitive example of political opportunism that sought not only to politicize the tragedy of September 11 but also to incite hatred towards the groups that Rev. Falwell and his associates habitually target. If he was not strongly rebuked by nearly everyone who mattered, his crusade against ACLU, gays and feminists would have fed on the emotions related to September 11 and gained significant momentum.

In the past few weeks American Wahhabis have unleashed a verbal assault on Islam and its religious symbols unmindful of the hate it is inciting against Muslim in America and the anti-American sentiments it is generating in the Muslim World. Rev. Falwell and Rev. Pat Robertson have called The Prophet of Islam a terrorist and argued that Islam and its teachings itself are the sources of violence. Rev. Franklin Graham has announced that Islam and its teaching are evil and wicked. Between them they have maintained a continuous discourse of hate against Islam and Muslims for the past few months. The refusal of American leadership, especially the President to rebuke them, has emboldened them to ratchet up the decibel levels of their theology of hate.

Their comments have caused anger among Muslims worldwide, including religious riots in India that have led to five deaths. Many Pakistanis have reacted angrily and expressed their dismay by voting strongly in favor of a pro-Taliban and anti-American alliance in the recent elections in Pakistan.

The problem with the American Wahhabis is not just their ideas and their hate mongering but the fact that they have a reasonably large following – sufficient to influence the electoral outcomes in American elections. By virtue of their votes and their fund raising capacity they exercise more power directly on American Congress and the President than the Mullahs of Saudi Arabia can over the decisions of their King.  Furthermore the close relationship between the President himself and Rev. Franklin Graham and other members of his administration, such as Attorney General Ashcroft, is extremely disturbing. It is not a coincidence that the first group to financially benefit from George Bush’s impulse to finance faith based programs was that of Rev. Pat Robertson. Is it possible that the very purpose of the Federal initiative to support faith based programs is to allow the American Wahhabis to intertwine its operations with those of the Federal government?

Osama Bin Laden attacked America hoping to incite a massive retaliation against Muslim nations to actualize the false prophesy of a clash of civilizations. He was hoping that by inciting a brutal response from the US, he would succeed not only in uniting the 1.4 billion global Muslim community, but also winning them over to Wahhabism and its anti-western, anti-Christian posture.

It seems that the American axis of hate – Revs. Falwell, Robertson and Graham – by repeatedly making hateful and abusive comments about Islam and Prophet Muhammad are determined to precipitate an Armageddon between America and the Muslim World.

As Mathew Simond  observed religious fundamentalism is the banner of Evangelicalism in America

The modern interpretation of religion is that it is always in decline because of modernization. As most people agree, modernity leads to secularization and secularization leads to religious apathy in certain circles. This belief is caused by the experience that history has taught us. Christianity was once the intellectual, spiritual, and ethical guidebook for all of life. The church used to play an essential role in almost all public affairs. The secularization of faith has forced Christianity to compete with other powerful religious and nonreligious worldviews. An analysis of the revival of American fundamentalism is the key to understanding why this common belief is false and that, through the years, religion has survived quite well in a pluralistic setting. Instead, it should be seen as a religion that can adapt to the changing ideals of modernity. Protestantism uses evangelicalism and fundamentalism in America as their way of relating to modernity. For example, modern society has placed an emphasis on choice making and individuality, while at the same time, evangelicalism preaches a personal religious experience and fundamentalism stresses freedom, usually from government. As we emphasize voluntarism, evangelicals respond by recruiting more followers and creating institutions to ensure the development of the church's place in everyday life.

Evangelical movements, in the past, have consistently adapted to the world in which they were operating. In fact, they have even benefited from the forces of social change. The Puritan and Pietist awakenings that took place in the seventeenth century stressed a personal experience of God during a time of growing literacy, literature, and experimental science. After the American Revolution, populist revival preachers began to challenge older denominations in their interpretation of the Bible and encouraged people to read the Bible and form church's for themselves. Finally, in the late nineteenth century, Dwight L. Moody, along with many other evangelists looking for innovative ways to perform, developed the fundamentalist perspective around a religious life that welcomed all people during a time when urban Protestantism was not welcome to the common people.

Out of all the factors that have influenced the evangelical movement in the past, fundamentalism has had the most powerful impact. Not only did fundamentalism dominate evangelicalism in the twentieth century, but it also permeated other traditional religious sects. The dispensationalist movement was created within the Southern Baptist Convention and many Wesleyans accepted the fundamentalist interpretation of biblical inerrancy. Fundamentalism, after surviving the controversies of the 1920's and rising as a charismatic movement in the 1960's, has undoubtedly had the strongest influence on American evangelicalism. In the second half of the twentieth century, Billy Graham, who has become the most prominent evangelical leader in modern times, led the neo-fundamentalist movement. The pattern in this rise and fall tends to be pieces that overlap and pieces that change and fundamentalism is no different. This was a movement that survived through hardships and adapted to welcome every human being, but it appears that it will remain mainly a twentieth century phenomenon as new forms of the pattern take its' place.


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[Feb 19, 2014] Old Testament Armed Forces By Philip Giraldi

February 12, 2014 | The American Conservative

Religious zealotry runs rampant in the U.S. military, and among those wishing to deploy it.

The connection between America’s wars in the Middle East—and its wars more generally—with the more fundamentalist forms of Christianity in the United States is striking. Opinion polls suggest that the more religiously conservative one is, the more one will support overseas wars or even what many might describe as war crimes. Fully 60 percent of self-described evangelicals supported torturing suspected terrorists in 2009, for example. That is somewhat puzzling, as Christianity is, if anything, a religion of peace that only reluctantly embraced a “just war” concept that was deliberately and cautiously evolved to permit Christians—under very limited circumstances of imminent threat—to fight to defend themselves.

To be sure, some Christian conservatives who might be described as Armageddonists regard America’s Asian wars as part and parcel of the precursor events that will lead to the Second Coming of Christ, which they eagerly look forward to. Also, a non-interventionist friend of mine who comes from a religiously conservative background explained to me how the contradiction partly derives from the fact that many evangelical Christians hardly relate to the New Testament at all. While they can recite scripture and verse coming from the Old Testament, they are frequently only marginally conversant with the numerous episodes in the New Testament that attest to Jesus’s extolling the virtues of peacemaking and loving one’s neighbor. If true, that means that many evangelicals are much more imbued with the values of an eye-for-an-eye or smiting Philistines than they are with the Sermon on the Mount.

There has undeniably been pushback coming from some evangelical leaders as well as from many younger religious conservatives against America’s constant diet of God-anointed warfare, but given that those who describe themselves as evangelical Christians tend to disproportionately support America’s wars, it is perhaps no surprise to learn that fundamentalist viewpoints prevail in certain quarters in the military. There has indeed been considerable media reporting on the impact of evangelical Christians on the armed services, to include a bizarre account of US military sniper sights being inscribed with citations from the Bible, leading one critic to suggest that the soldiers were being issued “Jesus rifles.”

A prominent General, William Boykin, was until recently the best known Christian fundamentalist in the U.S. military. Boykin held prayer breakfasts when he commanded Delta Force and, when Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence under George W. Bush, was widely criticized for appearing in churches and other public gatherings in his uniform. He would describe his personal war against Islam, claiming that “My God is bigger than yours,” possibly suggesting that size really does matter, at least in theological circles. He also called the Islamic God an “idol.” At some church gatherings Boykin would produce a photo taken in Mogadishu which, he claimed, included a mysterious dark shadow that he described as a “demonic presence,” adding that “spiritual enemies will only be defeated if we come against them in the name of Jesus.” Boykin, who advocates “No Mosques in America,” is currently Executive Vice President of the Family Research Council, which lobbies the Pentagon to complain that there is a “war on Christianity” within the military.

[Feb 13, 2013]  Nothing Sacred The Truth About Judaism by Douglas Rushkoff

Amazon.com

Raymond Jepson

Fresh look at old ideas 

 In the world which I inhabit, that of progressive secular college educated types, the bible is about as popular to read as the latest Rush Limbaugh book. I understand how this happened. The religious traditions and interests of the Christian churches and Jewish synagogues are antiquated. These religions no longer speak to the fears and concerns of modern people. That's what makes Nothing Sacred so refreshing. Douglas Rushkoff takes the basic ingredients of Judaism and reinterprets it to speak to the contemporary.

Rushkoff's basics for Judaism is abstract mono-theism, iconoclasm and social justice. He makes a compelling case for this foundation. The author then gives a brief history of how each ingredient has been interpreted and re-interpreted throughout history. The last section, he lays out his ideas on how to make Judaism (and in my opinion, Christianity) valid today.

A few notes, Rushkoff is best known for his books on marketing, culture, market research. This book reflects that, in how he is arguing for Judaism to abandon a Microsoft business plan, for one more like Wikipedia.

Also, the author notes how many Jews are turning to Buddhism and other eastern religions. I believe this is because it doesn't come with the historical baggage of Abrahamic religions (church scandals, sex scandals, fascism, holocaust, inquisition, etc. all in the name of god). Also, when these religions are introduced to westerners, the introductions don't include all of their baggage. Therefore, westerners are welcome to read what they want into zen tales or the Tao Te Ching. Rushkoff is really pushing for the same kind of fresh look at the Torah, minus our baggage.

To sum up, I didn't think someone could inspire me to want to read the old testament...but Rushkoff has.

Keith G. Cascio - See all my reviews

Douglass Rushkoff's understanding of software development often strikes me as profound, none more so than on page 222 "Many lines of code apply to situations that may no longer exist, but the essential purpose of the program must remain intact." Any experienced software developer recognizes the universal insight expressed there.

In fewer places, he reveals his unfamiliarity with the fundamentals of computer technology, for example on page 141 when he writes about "top-level machine language", where it would have suited his metaphor better to mention circuitry and processor design, or at least call it "low-level machine language".

But he hits the bull's eye when he identifies the revision control system as one of software development's most powerful concepts. Import Torah's revision history into github -- that's what he basically recommends. A fine recommendation indeed!

On page 133 he writes "A key premise of the open source software development model is that programmers relinquish ownership of their code." This statement seems to me not entirely accurate. Thanks to the revision control system, we never relinquish *credit*. And credit is the motivation that drives the majority of contribution to open source software. Let's not forget about `/usr/bin/git blame`.

After all, Git never forgets about us, which is the whole point.

John R. Sedivy (Cape Cod, MA)

An Intellectual Reflection on Judaism, November 28, 2009

Nothing Sacred is a fascinating look at the Jewish faith through the eyes of Douglas Rushkoff. Rushkoff's writing is characterized by a combination of deep intellectual reflection, systems and chaos theory, and media commentary - and Nothing Sacred is no exception. This book is worth a read if you're a Rushkoff fan, but is targeted towards those interested Judaism or of Jewish descent.

Personally, I fall into neither category, but read this book as a result of my being a fan of Rushkoff's Life Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take It Back and Media Virus!. That being said I found the book to be interesting and felt that I learned quite a bit about the Jewish faith in terms of both benefits and shortcomings. Not being the target audience much had likely gone over my head and it was admittedly, a challenging read at times. I respect Rushkoff's willingness to share his spiritual journey and his reflection on that journey and commend him for his courage to write such a book, especially since the content may have ostracized him from members of his community.

If you are fan of Douglas Rushkoff, interested in religious discussion, or of Jewish descent this book is worth a read. Otherwise you may want to pass.

jenna randolph (USA)

On Youtube, the author brags about Jews being a "corrosive force" in the cultures they reside in while in "exile". The author says he feels Jews "break down the gods of all other nations." It is sad, in watching this, to be forced to acknowledge that Jews see their role as hate in other cultures. I feel extremely sorry for this young man, and also feel people should read his book---to see how some Jews view their role in other cultures.

He does not understand that people could just as easily pick apart his culture. Many refrain from doing so, of course, and don't even hate in this way at all. Yet, this young man voices the right, the imperative, and so forth, to destroy human beings whose cultures he does not understand, nor respect.

He really seems to believe that the brilliance of "pushing the envelope" in ripping down cultures, makes him superior at times. Nor does he seem to consider that such attitudes aren't entirely acceptable everywhere, by everyone.

Please watch him on Youtube and read the book, for how he believes Jews view other cultures. Just search on Youtube, using his name and book title. His voice speaks for itself. The book's value lies in the voice of the author and should be a warning to those interested in human rights (and the right to have them).

Jeff (Raleigh, NC USA)

This book is a great learning tool -- for teaching HS students how to spot logical fallacies, January 1, 2008

 There is little I can say that hasn't already been said in previous negative reviews of this book. So I will just provide a single example, using an excerpt straight from the book, to demonstrate how Mr. Rushkoff jumps from conclusion to conclusion with no basis in fundamental logic:

"The intellectual tradition of European Judaism was frowned upon by Zionists and other ardent Jewish protectors. New York radical Meir Kahane, founder of the Jewish Defense League, berated 'yeshiva boys' for their passivity and encouraged a more macho, warlike posture for his people. He organized night patrols in Brooklyn to protect Yiddishe bubbes from black youth, and he launched campaigns to send money and weapons to Israel. The Jewish biblical word for inner spiritual strength -- uzi -- became the brand name for an Israeli-made machine gun"

I kid you not, the above text is a direct, uninterrupted quote from the 2nd chapter. Rushkoff does this throughout the book. He states a claim as a fact (that we are expected to accept merely on the basis of the claim itself or on the attribution to a famed psychiatrist) and then supports it with non-sequiters. We are told to accept the fact that Zionists (presumably all of them) frown upon the intellectual tradition of Eastern European Jews. Is this a generalization or a universal truth? He cites no source. But he then provides three subsequent sentences to support it. The actions of a single radical Brooklyn-man named Meir Kahane. And the fact that the Jewish biblical word "uzi" is a brand name for an Israeli-made machine gun.

To say this book is an insult to a critical thinker is an understatement. But it may serve as a great learning tool for teaching 9th graders the art of developing critical and analytical thinking skills while critiquing a "non-fiction" book of generalizations. In a single statement on the top of page 78, Mr. Rushkoff identifies his underlying subconscious motivation for his failed attempt to sum up 3000+ years of tradition as an "idea" when he states:

"But what was in it for us?"

Can Mitt Romney Serve Two Masters by Tricia Erickson

What is really interesting about the reviews below is that far right (RWA) such as "K Mac" and MrCellophane (a single review under this nickname ) are so critical of Rombey...  Othe other hand a pro-life catholic Eric M. Brown (15 reviews) stated that the book "Proves that Mitt Romney is a Mormon version of Obama."
Amazon.com
About the Author
Tricia, as a former Mormon Bishop's daughter and Mormon wife, went through the cultic, violent and bizarre Mormon secret temple ceremonies of which Mitt and Ann Romney continue to attend to this day. As a former Mormon, it took Tricia many years to deprogram herself from the lies, strange ceremonies and strategic misinformation that continues to be fed to all Mormons.

Tricia is President of Crisis Management, Incorporated and a media, political and image consultant. She has appeared on numerous national television and radio shows on the subjects of Mormonism, Image Projection, Islam, All Things Political and more. This nation cannot afford to make another mistake in 2012. By the next Presidential Election, our country will not even resemble what our forefathers fought for in order that we as a nation could prosper and enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The recent change of power in congress, the hopeful change in the senate and the upcoming presidential election is the only hope we have of turning our country back to the Constitution and to the great nation it once was. If you read this book, you will know why Mitt Romney is not "the one" to lead us out of the recession, much less, to put our country back together. With what is at stake, it is essential to gain knowledge of Romney's record as a public servant and the shocking beliefs of this man who could become our next president. If the American people posses the information in this book, it very well may avert a similar fate suffered under the Obama Administration and clear the way for an authentic and trustworthy candidate to take the very office that is crucial to lead us back to the nation that once was, and still could be.

Sage

The true 'skinny' from an Insider October 29, 2012

This lady, having been the daughter of a Bishop, does not come across as just another disgruntled ex-Mormon. She started being skeptical when she was just about nine. Her mother sensed she did not buy into all the Mormon claptrap, and asked her about it, one day, when they were getting ready for church. "You don't really believe in our religion, do you, Pat" To which she answered "No, Mommy, I don't."

In Chapter 5, she challenges her father on his bias against black people, which, although the spokes holes for the Mormon Church claim no longer exists, does in the actual rules, according to the author. So, if they have not actually changed the wording, the attitude has not really changed, just for PR purposes. In critiquing Mitt Romney, she states he is a carefully groomed 'package' by the Mormon Church, designed to appeal to the Masses, as a clean living guy, with the perfect family, and a successful 'businessman'. PR is big in the Mormon Church, it seems.

She does not omit criticism of Obama either. She said he is the biggest BS-er she has ever seen; even better than Mittens Romney. I would recommend this book to those who would be discerning and might want to know about the candidates put up there for mass consumption.

R. Smith

Book Review "Can Mitt Romney Serve Two Masters?" October 12, 2012

In my opinion a very accurate and informative analysis of Romney and the Mormon church. I hope we can do better for choices of presidential candidates in the future. Update 10/12/12. If anyone is interested I would highly recommend listening to Mrs Tricia Erickson on a radio talk show called "The Power Hour" on the internets Genesis Communications Network. Google GCN then go to "Listen", next scroll down to Power Hour-Host Joyce Riley (The different programs and hosts are in alphabetical order), next go to "archives", click on September 2012,then down to Sept.26 Hrs 1,2,and 3.

Mrs Erickson comes on in the second and third hours. This is very informative since you can actually listen to the author.

Also, on October 10 you can listen to a follow-up program on the Mormon topic from another author named "Paul Drockton" and a "Sheriff Richard Mack" a Mormon giving his views on Mormonism. All Good Info. You can also google "Power Hour" to find past shows and guests. Between the "Power Hour" and the GCN network there is a wealth of information on many different topics for those interested in "truth" instead of the "mainstream medias" talking heads.

K Mac "K Mac

"Eye opening must read!, July 27, 2012

I knew a lot about Romney's religion, so I wasn't really all that surprised to read about the blood oaths he made in the temple to first and foremost serve the church. Of course, that concerns me - I honestly would be more impressed with someone who would be forthcoming and acknowledge (like Mike Huckabee) that OF COURSE his personal beliefs will have an influence on how he governs. There wasn't much new information there, but for anyone who is not familiar with the Masonic rituals, oaths and doctrines of the LDS church, the first part of the book is certainly informative and accurate.

Knowing that the LDS church teaches that "god" was once a man and than man can become a god is troubling, of course, but that isn't really teaching they emphasize until people have committed to the church.

The SECOND part of this book, however, was what was MOST informative and THOROUGHLY documented. Romney's record shows him to be FAR from the conservative he is trying to be today.

It seems everything he has done up to this point has been to try to gain support from the left and now he expects the right to believe him when he claims to be conservative.

If you want to make an informed vote in Nov. this is a MUST read to see who Romney REALLY is. Scary.

MrCellophane

Besides this current book I have read books by two other ex-Mormons, and I wondered how Mr. Romney could possibly keep religion out of his bid for the oval office, because knowing what "faithful Mormons" have had to take oaths to would seem to AUTOMATICALLY DISQUALIFY any such Mormon from holding most any PUBLIC OFFICE because that would require such a person to swear to put his allegiance to the church below that required by the office he is presuming to occupy.

Yes, this is not just another JFK kind of concern - by any stretch of the imagination.

The documents declare ABSOLUTE OBEDIENCE TO THOSE 15 "RULERS" of the LDS Organization, and that, as you can see, represents a total "oxymoron" and make the title of this book the first thing that comes to one's mind under the circumstances.

Like what other title could be more appropriate and accurate? I can't imagine how any non-Mormon who knows the truth about what church members pledge themselves to follow could even consider putting a Mormon in any governmental position of great responsibility to the citizens under his area of responsibility ( let alone OF CONTROL!).

It only makes some sense, just a little at that, in a place like the Great Salt Lake area. The Christian world has no choice but to label the "denomination" as a cult which is why they always have. It's called, simply, telling the TRUTH. For God sakes read this book or some of the others that have been published by those who have had identical experiences and say precisely the very same things about what they know to be true about this, in my opinion (one that's shared by others who read as well) MOST DANGEROUS ORGANIZATION to American's founding fathers intent for this nation.

It should NEVER be allowed in a place of such authority and power. NEVER!!! As a lifestyle a lot of what is practiced in Mormonism is to be praised. Would that everybody cherished their family like they do. It's clear to those of us who have researched the true history of this "sect", we can't possibly believe most Mormons know "REST OF THEIR STORY". The Mountain Meadow massacre of an entire wagon train in the Utah area in the 1800's is a prime example of what can happen when "Faithful, OBEDIENT, followers" of the Presidency of the church do ONLY WHAT THEY HAVE SWORN TO DO, in spite of any sense or NORMAL, HUMAN DECENCY". EVIL!!! The book and the video some years ago called "The God Makers" is one place to start if you are serious about learning, and the recognized authority about Mormonism are ex-Mormons, the Tanners, WHO HAVE REPRODUCED ALL THE DOCUMENTS NECESSARY TO PROVE WHAT HAS BEEN ALEDGED BY OTHERS.

Eric M. Brown

Proves that Mitt Romney is a Mormon version of Obama., February 23, 2012 

This book exposes the Real Mitt Romney. It is completely documented and proven from external sources. Tricia Erickson has no manifest ax to grind but only seeks to expose the truth of the Real Mitt Romney. However, the national media ignores this book because he is their Republican candidate of choice.

If perchance Obama loses, then the Mormon version of Obama will take his place. Net Effect: Change from D to R in the WhiteHouse but no other change will occur as admitted by George Soros.

Ann Coulter was right: Romney tricked liberals into voting for him in Massachussetts. Now he is lying to conservatives to trick them into voting him into the presidency. Contrary to the Romniacs, it is not those who refuse to vote for him in a primary or general election that are airheads. They are the lemmings who are following their lead lemming over the cliff and into the abyss! If Obamney is the nominee of the Democratic-Republican party, then the election will be boycotted by many people knowing that these candidates were selected and handpicked by the ruling class.

[Nov 03, 2012] Lying for the Lord - Bob Millet - BANNED CLIP RE-UPLOADED! 

zappadogg

Though he doesn't say that you should lie, he is saying that dodging direct questions is acceptable. That's pretty damn close to lying or misleading. The church has a history of simply writing off the more contentious articles of their faith and ignoring historical and geographical facts. For someone who considers themselves an educator, this is disgraceful. I swear this guy must have been Mitt Romney's debate coach

Kay Bell

This bafoon is teaching innocent young Mormon Missionaries how to LIE! I read the book, "Can Mitt Romney Serve Two Masters?" and it explains how MORMONS "LIE FOR THE LORD". I hightly reccommend this book to everyone. You need to protect yourselves, your children and everyone from this horrific Mormon cult that literally steals souls.
 

[Nov 03, 2012] Mitt, Set Our People Free! A 7th Generation Mormon's Plea for Truth - Michael D. Moody

Google Books

In an open letter to Mitt Romney, Michael D. Moody, a former BYU classmate of the 2008 presidential contender, discusses the hypocrisies of Mormonism and delivers an insider?s look at politics and the Church.Moody reveals the challenge in determining where Mormon hyperbole ends and hypocrisy begins. How outlandish is it, for example, that after early Mormons defended polygamy, contemporary Mormons crusade against nonstandard marriage in America? Although it?s not out of character, Moody contends that in the grand tradition of lying for the Lord, Mormons have been untruthful about polygamy for decades. These hypocrisies relate directly to the conniving mind of Joseph Smith and the evil he incorporated into his cult. Millions of Mormon descendants are psychologically trapped in a multigenerational compound dating back to the very founding of Mormonism. Families are bitterly divided when some members escape over the emotional barbed wire but reach back to grasp the hands of those they love. As a contemporary war rages between those who know the "New Mormon History" and those who live in a programmed state of denial, only the dynamic leadership of a highly qualified, educated, and savvy man like Mitt Romney can free members from the Great American Cult.

[Nov 03, 2012] Mormon Lying for the Lord

This is part of the larger package of things that lead many to describe Mormonism as a cult. "Lying for the lord" is part of Mormonism's larger deceptive mainstreaming tactics, and conversion numbers would drastically lower if important Mormon beliefs were fully disclosed to investigators.
Christian Truths

One Mormon blogger writes, "When I was a missionary, the church's official Missionary Guide instructed missionaries to avoid providing direct answers or solutions to investigators' questions or concerns." On his mission, he "fell back on rhetorical tricks or even outright denials."

"What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one. I am the same man, and as innocent as I was fourteen years ago; and I can prove them all perjurers. I labored with these apostates myself until I was out of all manner of patience." - Joseph Smith [1]
"A half-truth presented as the whole truth is a complete untruth." - J.I. Packer[2]
"Even sharing the truth can have the effect of lying when we tell only half-truths that do not give the full picture. We can also be guilty of bearing false witness and lying if we say nothing, particularly if we allow another to reach a wrong conclusion while we hold back information that would have led to a more accurate perception. In this case it is as though an actual lie were uttered." - Robert J. Matthews[3]
"In matters of honesty, there are no shortcuts; no little white lies, or big black lies, only the simple, honest truth spoken in total candor... Being true is different than being honest." - Gordon B. Hinckley[4]

Lying for the Lord refers to the practice of lying to protect the image of and belief in the Mormon religion, a practice which Mormonism itself fosters in various ways. From Joseph Smith's denial of having more than one wife, to polygamous Mormon missionaries telling European investigators that reports about polygamy in Utah were lies put out by "anti-Mormons" and disgruntled ex-members, to Gordon B. Hinckley's dishonest equivocation on national television over Mormon doctrine, Mormonism's history seems replete with examples of lying. Common members see such examples as situations where lying is justified.

For the Mormon, loyalty and the welfare of the church are more important than the principle of honesty, and plausible denials and deception by omission are warranted by an opportunity to have the Mormon organization seen in the best possible light. This is part of the larger package of things that lead many to describe Mormonism as a cult. "Lying for the lord" is part of Mormonism's larger deceptive mainstreaming tactics, and conversion numbers would drastically lower if important Mormon beliefs were fully disclosed to investigators.

[Nov 03, 2012] Mitt Romney and the Politics of Passing

Stuart Parker is a postdoctoral fellow with the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada. He holds a PhD in History from the University of Toronto where he wrote a dissertation entitled, “History As Seen Through Seerstones: Mormon Understandings of the Past, 1890-2000″ to be published by Greg Kofford Books. Active in Canadian politics (and a former Green Party leader, the youngest in its history) Stuart is also a former Bushman Fellow at BYU for the Joseph Smith Summer Seminar of 2007.

A recent Gawker.com article, only slightly hyperbolically, characterized Mitt Romney as follows:

 “Mitt Romney, though, is an insult even to the process of being insulted—a giant, grainy Xerox of a forgery of a human being. The problem voters have with him isn’t that he’s fake; it’s that he’s inauthentically fake…The fakeness is Romney’s all the way down, layers of opaque lacquered bullshit poured onto plexiglass or Lucite or another unnatural transparency.”

I want to suggest, perhaps uncomfortably for some, that Romney’s palpable fakeness arises from his Mormon identity. This is not to generalize his deceptiveness to all Mormons or even to make the case that there is something about Mormonism that magnifies personal inauthenticity. Instead, I want to suggest, that the times and places Romney has found himself in the course of his career have interacted with his Mormonism to produce this uniquely stiff, robotic disingenuousness. As Matthew Bowman has pointed out elsewhere, none of Romney’s stiff, unnatural deportment was evident in fellow LDS GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman.

Bowman is very much on the right track in identifying the difference between the two men’s style and deportment as being generational. But whereas Bowman’s piece concentrated on generational differences within the LDS, I would suggest that we might gain more understanding by casting our eyes to generational differences within the larger US culture within which Mormonism is situated.

Although a generation younger, Romney shares something important with my great aunt Connie that may help us to make sense of his startling inauthenticity. The daughter of a black father and a white mother, Connie was abandoned by her mother in the early 1930s after the death of her father and was sent away to reform school. Reform school didn’t just separate Connie from her family; it taught her a number of skills that enabled her to become a professional woman and work as a telephone operator in Chicago, where she lived in a white neighbourhood. In other words, reform school taught my aunt Connie to act white, to take advantage of the improbably white skin that she and I shared, to “pass.”

Many of us today think that the phenomenon of racial passing, which remained a significant black social strategy into the 1980s (and persists today in pockets), was held in place by Jim Crow state laws and corporate policies. But the reality is that passing, concealing one’s membership in a subaltern or underprivileged group, was woven into the cultural fabric of America for more than a century following the Civil War. And that, as America’s most successful gerontocracy, this culture has persisted longer in the LDS Church than elsewhere.

Thomas Monson and his quorum of apostles are not much younger than my great aunt. They too came from a time when passing was an important part of American life. Passing for white was just the riskiest and most rewarding form of passing; until not long ago, passing for straight was common, as was passing for Christian. Jews barred admission to universities passed for white Christians; gay Americans settled down and married people of the opposite sex. Mormons, who academics have variously described as a colonized people, an incipient ethnicity, and a non-Christian religion had as many reasons to pass as anyone and, from the days of resisting federal anti-polygamy policies, they had a cultural tradition of “lying for the Lord” that gave them excellent equipment for passing successfully.

The wave of racial persecution that swept the South following the collapse of Congressional Reconstruction was contemporaneous with the crescendo of anti-polygamy persecution in the Intermountain West. And I would argue that LDS culture responded more self-consciously and thoroughly in adopting passing as a social strategy in the Gilded Age than did black or Jewish Americans. While black and Jewish passing was common, Mormon passing was more systematic.

Passing was not about barefacedly lying about one’s racial, sexual or confessional identity. If things reached the point where one was being questioned about such things, you had already failed to pass. To pass was to so perfectly fit the mold of an upstanding white/straight/Christian American that it would not occur to anyone to even suspect that you were passing. Passing was not about lying in response to questions; it was about conducting oneself in such a way that difficult questions of identity would never be asked, that one’s Christianity or whiteness was a self-evident truth. Populated, as it is by people much like Romney, educated men with prestigious degrees from eastern universities, selected for their business (as opposed to theological) acumen, today’s Mormon decision-making elite is filled of men who have spent significant portions of their lives passing in order to achieve their financial and educational success.

It is for this reason that we see ongoing efforts by Mormons to prove themselves just like their evangelical neighbours and sometime allies. Beginning with Joseph Fielding Smith’s realignment of the LDS with the creationist movement in the 1920s, Mormons elites have sought to pass among conservative evangelicals by immediately joining the next bandwagon to round the corner, hoping that by being more shrill and vehement in their performance of conservative religiosity than Christian fundamentalists, they could blend in with the angry mobs denouncing evolution, communism, miscegenation or gay marriage.

But until his recent alignment with religious conservatism over the past five years, Romney was engaged in a subtler and far less shrill form of passing, the kind that involves strategically segregating one’s social spheres so that Family Home Evening never overlaps with the Board of Trade breakfast meeting, so that one is just the guy who happens not to drink for health reasons when the hiring committee takes an applicant out for drinks. It is this kind of passing that has taken place in the nation’s board rooms, universities and professional conferences that shaped Romney and the Mormon success stories of his generation, the kind that involves extra care to conceal one’s temple garments when changing at the health club.

Bowman speaks of Huntsman moving with ease as a Mormon through a non-Mormon world, an ease that Romney repeatedly tries to convey and fails to. No matter how relaxed one’s exterior, someone who has passed for decades is never really at ease; there is a vigilance to many successful passers that can never be fully disguised. That stated, passing is never a wholly conscious process – because those who pass are more successful than those who do not, many inevitably internalize the host culture’s discriminatory beliefs. Thus, many black people who passed came to believe that the whiteness of one’s skin was a proxy for virtue and competence; their own lives were testimony to this self-evident truth. The vigilance we associate with passing is as much about remembering that one is not straight, white or Christian even as one internalizes the superiority of these identities as it is about remembering to act straight, white or Christian.

Conservative evangelicals are neither crazy nor bigoted for their gut reaction to what Democrats are branding Romney’s lack of a “core.” Tone, body language, cadence – it is these things from which conservative evangelicals are deriving much of their discomfort; what is happening is that they are literally watching Romney pass and not enjoying the experience, because the mask is slipping. And unlike conventional pandering and other more common and accepted forms of political dishonesty, the way that he is now representing himself, after many grueling months of campaigning, has a pervasive defensiveness that Newt Gingrich is masterfully contrasting with his consistently shameless public persona.

Of course that is not to say that much evangelical opposition to Romney’s candidacy is not simply religious discrimination. Among opinion leaders within the South Carolina GOP anonymously polled by CNN two days before the state primary, 13% listed the candidate’s Mormon faith as their main reason for not supporting him. And likely, this number was higher, not lower, amongst rank and file conservative evangelicals, closer to the rates approaching 20-30% rates Gallup and other pollsters have measured.

Unfortunately for him, the Romney campaign does not have the capacity to forcefully hit back against apparent religious bigotry on the part of key opinion leaders in the GOP primaries as in the case of the notorious Robert Jeffress’ denunciation of Mormonism at the Values Voters Summit in the way that the Obama campaign was able to respond to instances of racial prejudice in 2008. This incapacity, I would suggest, arises from the ways in which the culture of passing has infused the LDS Church, especially at the top of its leadership structure.

The greatest act of Mormon political passing in the past generation has not been either of the Romney presidential bids; it was, I would suggest, the notorious 2008 Proposition Eight referendum on gay marriage in California. Strongly backed and well-funded by the LDS Church, the campaign’s supporters were overwhelmingly evangelical Christians and not the tiny Mormon minority in the state. Here was a great opportunity for Mormons to pass politically, as part of the conservative evangelical movement, because if there is one reliably-employed strategy amongst people who are passing, it is to direct the attention of the community in which they are passing towards persecuting or excluding other, more hated, outsiders. By being the most enthusiastic in attacking gay marriage, Mormons not only sought to direct attention away from their own difference but to demonstrate group loyalty by leading the charge against the latest scapegoats, homosexuals, for the persistent imperfection of the American family.

Others have written about the delicious irony of the LDS Church declaring that marriage has always been between one man and one woman and that this eternal order was mandated by God. That his view should be forwarded through the Republican Party, founded to extirpate the “twin relics of barbarism,” slavery and polygamy, through the power of the federal government, is not an accidental irony. Rather, it dates back to the early twentieth century, when the prophet Joseph F. Smith encouraged Mormons to move from the Democrats to the GOP as part of an explicit, programmatic strategy of passing. That Romney, a descendant of polygamous refugees who fled to Mexico to escape the federal government’s persecution, would today support an amendment to the Constitution to define marriage as “between one man and one woman,” is not bizarre or hard to explain but the epitome of rational behavior by someone habituated to passing.

One of the things that makes passing such a dangerous yet tantalizing strategy for achievers like Romney is the fact that it undercuts appeals to community solidarity or collective morality; it is a self-centered and individualistic approach to bigotry and inequality. A passer feels that they get by on their merits and their merits alone.

As such, it stands in sharp contrast to the response of the black church to bigotry and persecution.

Cornell West reminds us that the power of the black voices in contemporary America comes from a civil rights heritage in which black people described their efforts at equality as something greater than protecting their community from discrimination. It took on the hue of a transnational, multiracial crusade for a shared freedom that would elevate everyone, including former oppressors. Whereas passing directs shame inwards as passers instinctively absorb the dominant group’s sense of what is shameful about their identity, discourses in the black church do the opposite and direct shame outwards, instilling pride while shaming dominant groups for their bigotry.

In the aftermath of 9/11, discrimination against religious minorities and discrimination on religious grounds has become increasingly acceptable in America. No doubt fearing, at least subconsciously, that resurgent evangelical bigotry could place Mormons in the national crosshairs again, the LDS culture of passing has not permitted Mormons to respond with the necessary moral authority or outrage when they are on the receiving end of religious discrimination. Emblematic of this was senate majority leader Harry Reid’s advice to Muslims associated with the so-called Ground Zero Mosque controversy to halt construction in order to avoid the wrath of their neighbors, despite their constitutional right to proceed. Like Romney, Reid comes from a generation of Mormons for whom passing was synonymous with success.

No matter how bad things get for Romney on the religious front this year, he and his supporters lack the moral authority necessary to denounce whatever bigotry they might suffer. And this lack of authority does not merely stem from his own strategy of passing; it is because his faith community has made passing rather than shaming their response to the rising tide of religious bigotry in America. Indeed, as vigorous campaigners against the Equal Rights Amendment, as a group that sponsored Proposition Eight and whose congregants overwhelmingly support a national constitutional amendment banning both gay marriage and polygamy, and as the last major church in America to admit black people to its hierarchy (fifteen years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act), Mormons would be well-advised to look to the oft-quoted words of Martin Niemöller to understand how few allies Romney will have when Mormonism comes under more serious attack in the next eight months. Passers, at their best, are silent when it is risky to denounce another’s persecution and, just as often, see that persecution as an opportunity to fit in with the bullies. As such, they elicit little sympathy when their time inevitably comes.

[Oct 17, 2012] The Spiritual-Industrial Complex America's Religious Battle against Communism in the Early Cold War by  Jonathan P. Herzog

Amazon.com

"Jonathan Herzog skillfully illuminates how religion shaped the rhetoric, symbols, and policies of the early Cold War. In the United States, battling Communism became a purposefully orchestrated campaign for the soul of humankind." - Melvyn P. Leffler, University of Virginia

"Thoroughly researched and engagingly written, The Spiritual-Industrial Complex makes a valuable contribution to our growing understanding of the important role of religion in U.S. politics and foreign relations in the twentieth century. With an eye for vivid detail, Jonathan Herzog shows how politicians, priests, ministers, businessmen, editors, and other civic leaders defined the United States in contrast to the atheistic Soviet Union, sincerely exhorted Americans to revive their religious faith, and employed religion as a weapon in the conflict between democracy and communism." -- David S. Foglesong, author of The American Mission and the "Evil Empire"

"This detailed account of the uses American politicians made of religion during the early Cold War casts much needed light on the dynamics of secularization and anti-secularization. Herzog also shows how the religion-in-general enthusiasms of the Eisenhower era were supplanted by the more sectarian impulses of the Religious Right of the Reagan Era."-David A. Hollinger, University of California, Berkeley

"Jonathan Herzog's The Spiritual-Industrial Complex is an eye-opening account of the role organized religion played in fomenting anti-communism in early Cold War America. Every chapter is anchored by brilliant new research. This book is destined to be a Cold War history classic." -Douglas Brinkley, Rice University

"Herzog's insights into the early years of the cold war are impressive, and the meticulously researched work represents a solid contribution to both the history of that era and the history of religion in America." -Publishers Weekly

Jonathan P. Herzog is a member of the U.S. Foreign Service. Prior to joining the State Department, he held positions at Stanford University, the Hoover Institution, and the University of Oregon. He holds a Ph.D. in American history from Stanford.

[Oct 17, 2012] Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism in America

... The modern interpretation of religion is that it is always in decline because of modernization. As most people agree, modernity leads to secularization and secularization leads to religious apathy in certain circles. This belief is caused by the experience that history has taught us. Christianity was once the intellectual, spiritual, and ethical guidebook for all of life. The church used to play an essential role in almost all public affairs. The secularization of faith has forced Christianity to compete with other powerful religious and nonreligious worldviews. An analysis of the revival of American fundamentalism is the key to understanding why this common belief is false and that, through the years, religion has survived quite well in a pluralistic setting. Instead, it should be seen as a religion that can adapt to the changing ideals of modernity. Protestantism uses evangelicalism and fundamentalism in America as their way of relating to modernity. For example, modern society has placed an emphasis on choice making and individuality, while at the same time, evangelicalism preaches a personal religious experience and fundamentalism stresses freedom, usually from government. As we emphasize voluntarism, evangelicals respond by recruiting more followers and creating institutions to ensure the development of the church's place in everyday life.

Evangelical movements, in the past, have consistently adapted to the world in which they were operating. In fact, they have even benefited from the forces of social change. The Puritan and Pietist awakenings that took place in the seventeenth century stressed a personal experience of God during a time of growing literacy, literature, and experimental science. After the American Revolution, populist revival preachers began to challenge older denominations in their interpretation of the Bible and encouraged people to read the Bible and form church's for themselves. Finally, in the late nineteenth century, Dwight L. Moody, along with many other evangelists looking for innovative ways to perform, developed the fundamentalist perspective around a religious life that welcomed all people during a time when urban Protestantism was not welcome to the common people.

Out of all the factors that have influenced the evangelical movement in the past, fundamentalism has had the most powerful impact. Not only did fundamentalism dominate evangelicalism in the twentieth century, but it also permeated other traditional religious sects.

... In the second half of the twentieth century, Billy Graham, who has become the most prominent evangelical leader in modern times, led the neo-fundamentalist movement. The pattern in this rise and fall tends to be pieces that overlap and pieces that change and fundamentalism is no different. This was a movement that survived through hardships and adapted to welcome every human being, but it appears that it will remain mainly a twentieth century phenomenon as new forms of the pattern take its' place.

Mathew Simond is a journalist and copywriter. He is also a webmaster of many websites including http://www.psychologycolleges.net and http://www.religiousstudiesonline.org. He aims to provide healthy information and advice on academic degrees.

[Aug 28, 2012] Profile of Pat Robertson Scam-artist and Sinner

August 5, 2011 | Joelx

Pat Robertson is a legendary scam artist on a scale most people can’t even imagine. If you visit his website, you will find one of his most recent scams. Pat Robertson is trying to sell his “age-defying protein shake”, which he claims gives him the energy to continue in his criminal religious enterprises. On his page he claims to have leg pressed 2,000 pounds.

To put this claim in perspective, Ronnie Coleman who has won 8 Mr. Olympia competitions (best bodybuilder currently on earth) has an all-time max leg press of 2,300 pounds.

This is just a goofy, ridiculous claim that doesn’t really harm anyone, except for Pat Robertson’s reputation. Unfortunately, that is not the case with the rest of Pat Robertsons scam enterprises:

-Pat Robertson is extraordinarily wealthy with some estimating his net worth at a quarter of a BILLION dollars. Isn’t he supposed to be a Godly man who works for non-profit Christian organizations? How do you amass the kind of wealth that allows you to live on top of a mountain in Virginia in a magnificent mansion with your own private airstrip? Ooooh yeah, I forgot, he’s not just a cheesy televangelist ripping off senior citizens; he is a man who supports and does business with evil dictators.

-In 1960, Mr. Robertson founded CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network) , later renamed the Family Channel and eventually sold to the News Corporation for $1.9 billion. He became massively wealthy by running non-stop fundraising “praise-a-thons” on this channel.

-Pat Robertson ran for President in 1998 and lost the Republican nomination to George H.W. Bush. After his campaign he wrote a book about his experience and here is a quote from it ”

“When I said during my presidential bid that I would only bring Christians and Jews into the government, I hit a firestorm. `What do you mean?’ the media challenged me. `You’re not going to bring atheists into the government? How dare you maintain that those who believe in the Judeo-Christian values are better qualified to govern America than Hindus and Muslims?’ My simple answer is, `Yes, they are.’”

-from Pat Robertson’s “The New World Order,” page 218.

Pat Robertson is as bad as the Islamic theocracies in the Middle East; if he could have his way this country would be run under a Christian dictatorship.

-Pat Robertson used his powerful influence in Washington D.C. to help support the vicious reign of Zaire Mobutu Sese Seko. Mobutu was one of the most horrible dictators in modern times who kept his people starving and dying from rampant disease while he became wealthy beyond imagation. Mobutu outlawed public demonstrations, ordered the killings of opposition and journalists and banned most religious groups. So why would Pat Robertson support such an evil man? One word: Money. Pat Robertson had a partnership with Mobutu running a diamond mining operation, using his television company’s non-profit aircraft to fly in mining equipment. When Pat Robertson sees an opportunity to profit, no amount of human suffering and misery will stop him. Below are some quotes directly from the mouth of the devil himself:

-“You say you’re supposed to be nice to the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians and the Methodists and this, that, and the other thing. Nonsense. I don’t have to be nice to the spirit of the Antichrist. I can love the people who hold false opinions but I don’t have to be nice to them.”–Pat Robertson, The 700 Club, January 14, 1991

Pat Robertson is a Pentecostal Christian and only believes those who are evangelical Pentecostal Christians are going to heaven. This means that all Catholics and most Protestant denominations are out-in fact, not only are they not Christian, they’re downright evil.

-talking about apartheid South Africa) “I think ‘one man, one vote,’ just unrestricted democracy, would not be wise. There needs to be some kind of protection for the minority which the white people represent now, a minority, and they need and have a right to demand a protection of their rights.”–Pat Robertson, “The 700 Club,” 3/18/92

Pat Robertson has a carefully concealed racist side.

-“The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians.” — Pat Robertson, fundraising letter, 1992

HAHHAHAHAHHAHHAHHAHAHHAA… What an animal.

-“We want…as soon as possible to see a majority of the Republican Party in the hands of pro-family Christians by 1996.” –Pat Robertson, Denver Post, 10/26/92

Terrifying… Pat Robertson succeeded in this goal. What other goals will he accomplish?

-”I think we ought to close Halloween down. Do you want your children to dress up as witches? The Druids used to dress up like this when they were doing human sacrifice… [Your children] are acting out Satanic rituals and participating in it, and don’t even realize it.”–Pat Robertson, “The 700 Club,” 10/29/82

Pat Robertson believes Halloween is evil… are you f’in kidding?

Pat Robertson is one of the craziest, most wicked men alive today. Pat should check out the Bible sometime and see what it says about men like him:

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness”

The Rise of Christian Fascism and Its Threat to American Democracy

Alternet

Adams understood that totalitarian movements are built out of deep personal and economic despair. He warned that the flight of manufacturing jobs, the impoverishment of the American working class, the physical obliteration of communities in the vast, soulless exurbs and decaying Rust Belt, were swiftly deforming our society. The current assault on the middle class, which now lives in a world in which anything that can be put on software can be outsourced, would have terrified him. The stories that many in this movement told me over the past two years as I worked on "American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America" were stories of this failure -- personal, communal and often economic. This despair, Adams said, would empower dangerous dreamers -- those who today bombard the airwaves with an idealistic and religious utopianism that promises, through violent apocalyptic purification, to eradicate the old, sinful world that has failed many Americans.

These Christian utopians promise to replace this internal and external emptiness with a mythical world where time stops and all problems are solved. The mounting despair rippling across the United States, one I witnessed repeatedly as I traveled the country, remains unaddressed by the Democratic Party, which has abandoned the working class, like its Republican counterpart, for massive corporate funding.

The Christian right has lured tens of millions of Americans, who rightly feel abandoned and betrayed by the political system, from the reality-based world to one of magic -- to fantastic visions of angels and miracles, to a childlike belief that God has a plan for them and Jesus will guide and protect them. This

"American Fascists- The Christian Right and the War On America ...

[Aug 28, 2012] Pat Robertson: Preacher? Prophet? Politician? Con-man? Fascist? Yes And So Are The Rest Of Those Phoney So-Called “Christians.”

Of course the Catholic Church has Molestation down to a Science.

They have created a hugly powerful; wealthy organization that is granted special priviledges due to their status as a Religion and has used that priviledge or I should say misused that priviledge to shelter and protect the many twisted Fucks who have been forever drawn to the Church for it’s protection from prosecution in such cases.

Only in the past few years has any real effort been made to force the Church to turn over suspected Child Rapists to the Secular Authorities for prosecution. And then only when they are caught or reported to Police by the already traumatized victims.

The Catholic Church is very aware that there are hundreds if not thousands of these sick Bastards still woking as Priests and they are aware of who they are in many cases.

But they are not required to report such crimes on their own because they claim it as a Confidence of the Confessional and therefore get away; once again; with protecting these viscious vermin from detection.

Often the response of the Church to complaints has been to transfer the offending priest to a new parrish where he can begin anew; with a clean slate; and the same filthy; totally ungodly behavior and criminal practices until another complaint is heard; then; it’s off to another fresh group of young victims to torture and sodomize.

And let’s face it. of all the “Christian” Denominations out there today; the Catholic Church is the most un-christian organization with the most Pagan Religious pratices and rituals of any of them; not even considering their lengthy and blood stained record of criminal activity of one type or another.

... ... ...

Wow; that doesn’t leave many Religions with credibility does it?

Well; that’s alright too because if you believe God; the Political Governments will tire of this intrusion into their realm as well and will turn on Religion and destroy all of these Phoney Churches that teach Politics in place of religion and Faith

If you don’t believe in God; that’s Ok because if you are right; Religions have even less right to intrude in Politics than if you do believe.

If you are wrong and God exists; then what he said will occur and that’ll work out right from your point of view as well; and mine because I do believe in God but I don’t believe in any religion that practices Politics to any degree and I believe; as I am sure you do; that they should be ousted from the Political proccess completly.

Of course the most repulsive of these festering, mailgnant puss-pockets that call themselves men of God are those like Pat Robertson who not only preach trash and lies but run for political office; supposedly to bring God into Government. Do you think if God does exist that he would need a Pat Robertson to get into Government if that was his desire?

Of course Pat does know who the next President will be.

God told him just a couple of weeks ago.

Of course Pat can’t say who.

God told him to keep it secret.

Strange how Pat can go on TV and slobber all over the stage telling us about the other things God told him.

You know. Things that can’t be verified.

But the one time God decides to tell Pat something juicey that might actually go towards proving his Devine Chit-Chats are authentic and that he is talking to God; God says, “Shhhh; don’t tell anyone Pat. It;s our little secret.

You know that act has worked well for most of mans time on Earth.

 

 

 

American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America by Chris Hedges

5.0 out of 5 stars When Unquestioned Obedience Is The Only Test Of Faith

January 25, 2007

By W. Szewai

Most great artists and thinkers are outsiders in some sense or another. This ability to observe from the outside often uncovers patterns that are invisible because they are too close. Chris Hedges spent most of his adult life outside of the United States, covering wars and despotic regimes. On his return to America, he was able to see our society with an eye unblunted by habit or assumptions, which, combined with his theological education and visceral experience and understanding of totalitarian systems, gives him a uniquely penetrating perspective into the growing movement known as the Christian Right.

In "American Fascists," Hedges never makes the simplistic claim that the Christian Right is the Nazi party, or that Bush is Mussolini, or that America will inevitably become a fascist state. His investigation is much more nuanced, identifying the incipient stirrings, invisible to many Americans, of a complex, mass political movement that is mobilizing and gaining strength and support beneath the surface of our democracy.

In characteristically muscular and clear prose that fuses the minister and veteran reporter, Hedges not only details multiple facets of the movement, but also examines the ideological undercurrents that drive them and how they translate into political consequences.

At The Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, which "prove[s] that God's word is true," Hedges writes "The danger of creationism is...that it allows all facts to be accepted or discarded according to the dictates of a preordained ideology."

At a Love Won Out conference, an organization founded to "cure" those who suffer from "same sex attraction," and which denounces and warns against unrepentant homosexuals who seek to corrupt children and destroy the family, Hedges observes that "This cultivated sense of persecution - cultivated by those doing the persecuting - allows the Christian Right to promote bigotry and attack any outcry as part of the war against the Christian faith. A group trying to curtail the civil rights of gays and lesbians portrays itself, in this rhetorical twist, as victims of an effort to curtail the civil rights of Christians."

Of the gospel of consumerism relentlessly peddled by televangelists on massive Christian broadcasting networks, which promises its 141 million viewers that all they need to fix their lives is belief in Jesus and a regular "love offering" in American dollars to the network, Hedges writes, "...when faith alone cures illness, overcomes emotional distress and ensures financial and physical security, there is no need for...social-service and regulatory agencies to exist. There is no need for fiscal or social responsibility... To put trust in secular institutions is to lack faith, to give up on God's magic and miracles. The message...dovetails with the message of neoconservatives who want to gut and destroy federal programs, free themselves from government regulations and taxes and break the back of all organizations, such as labor unions, that seek to impede maximum profit."

Among other events and interviews, we also see an Evangelism Explosion workshop run by D. James Kennedy at his Coral Ridge mega-church which trains participants to convert non-believers, an anti-abortion weekend organized by the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation, an Ohio Restoration Project rally where the Christian cross is superimposed upon a huge American flag.

The collective portrait is that of a non-reality-based movement, based on magic and miracles, which no rational argument can penetrate. The leaders of the Christian Right claim they speak for God, and as such, can brook no dissent. Unquestioned obedience to these ambassadors of God becomes the only test of faith. In totalitarian movements, the responsibility of making decisions about right and wrong is lifted from the people, along with the anxiety that attends that responsibility. But the surrender of conscience only comes with the abdication of democratic power and civil rights.

Yet it would be a mistake to view "American Fascists" as nothing but a frontal assault on the Christian Right. It is also an unexpectedly compassionate hearing of the stories of despair and pain that are the hidden, private side of this movement. Hedges clearly makes a distinction between the leaders and the followers, and his anger at how the movement exploits the shame and guilt of its followers for political and economic purposes is one of the driving forces of the book. The Christian Right is built on economic and personal despair, Hedges argues. Again and again, he encounters followers whose lives were shattered by sexual abuse, drug addiction, child abuse, domestic violence, alcoholism, extreme poverty, multiple abortions, broken families, and profound alienation and loneliness. It was this despair that drove them to embrace the Christian Right, which promises them miraculous solutions and apocalyptic revenge against those who had destroyed their lives. These stories of despair turned to rage are vital to understanding this mass movement and its power.

The Christian Right seeks to destroy that which it claims to defend. Hedges accords them no religious legitimacy, as they trample the core values of Jesus' teachings, love and compassion, and seek to use the veneer of religion as a route to political power. There is a vast difference between the "religion" of the Christian Right and the true meaning of faith. Near the close of the book, Hedges writes:

"The radical Christian Right calls for exclusion, cruelty and intolerance in the name of God. Its members do not commit evil for evil's sake. They commit evil to make a better world. To attain this better world, they believe, some must suffer and be silenced, and at the end of time all those who oppose them must be destroyed. The worst suffering in human history has been carried out by those who preach such grand, utopian visions, those who seek to implant by force their narrow, particular version of goodness. This is true for all doctrines of personal salvation, from Christianity to ethnic nationalism to communism to fascism. Dreams of a universal good create hells of persecution, suffering and slaughter. No human being could ever be virtuous enough to attain such dreams, and the Earth has swallowed millions of hapless victims in the vain pursuit of a new heaven and a new Earth. Ironically, it is idealism that leads radical fundamentalists to strip human beings of their dignity and their sanctity and turn them into abstractions. Yet it is only by holding on to the sanctity of each individual, each human life, only by placing our faith in tiny, unheroic acts of compassion and kindness, that we survive as a community and as individual human beings."

[Sep 17, 2010]  Republican Gomorrah Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party Max Blumenthal Books

Amazon.com

Frank Schaeffer

For me reading Max Blumenthal's Republican Gomorrah is a look into a mirror. That might be because Blumenthal extensively interviewed me and drew rather heavily on my book "Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back" as a reference for his in-depth exposé of what has gone so very wrong with the Republican Party. He's on my turf so I happen to know he's telling the truth as its not been told before. But there's more.

Republican Gomorrah is the first book that actually "gets" what's happened to the Republican Party and in turn what the Republicans have done to our country. The usual Democratic Party and/or progressive "take" on the Republican Party is that it's been taken over by a far right lunatic fringe of hate and hypocrisy, combining as it does, sexual and other scandals with moralistic finger wagging. But Blumenthal explains a far deeper pathology: it isn't so much religion as the psychosis and sadomasochism of the losers now called "Republicans" that drives the party. And the "Christianity" that shapes so much "conservative" thinking now is anything but Christian. It's a series of deranged personality cults.

The Religious Right/Republicans have perfected the method of capturing people in personal crisis and turning them into far right evangelical/far right foot soldiers. This explains a great deal that otherwise, to outsiders, seems almost inexplicable--the why and wherefore of "Deathers" "Birthers" et al. Blumanthal brilliantly sums up this pathology as:

"...a culture of personal crisis lurking behind the histrionics and expressions of social resentment. This culture is the mortar that bonds leaders and followers together."

Tracing the thinking of the fathers of the Republican Party, including my dad, the late Francis Schaeffer, who I teamed up with when I was a young man to help launch the Protestant wing of the "pro-life" movement, along with other such as Rousas John Rushdoony and the philanthropist Howard Ahmanson -- who used to donate generously to my far right work -- Blumenthal explains where the current Republican Party came from. He also details who it's foundational thinkers were, and just why it's still so dangerous. (A threat proved again this summer as the gun-toting fringe derailed the health care reform debate.)

He has their number. For one thing this book -- at last! -- will forever put James Dobson where he belongs: onto the top of the list of the American national rogue's gallery of mean-spirited, even sadistic, cranks.

Blumenthal first came to my attention when he was doing his in-depth reporting on Sarah Palin. He was a guest on a TV program I was on too. There was something accomplished and in depth about the quality of his reporting on religion that I hadn't seen from other progressive sources. I've been following his work since. Blumenthal understands the philosophy, psychology and religion of Religious Right figures like Palin, Dobson, Robertson et al in a way that no other reporter (with the exception of the always amazingly perceptive Jeff Sharlet author of <em>The Family</em>) does.

Now, having read Blumenthal's book I know why he seems to really understand the nuances of far right religion. No one else has ever investigated this subject with as much insight into the psychological sickness that is the basis of the Religious right's power to delude other people who are also needy and unstable.

In another time and place the despicable (and sometimes tragic figures) Blumenthal describes would be the leaders of, or the participants in, local lynch mobs, or the followers of the Ku Klux Klan. But today figures such as James Dobson, Pat Robertson, (the late) Jerry Falwell, Newt Gingrich, and Sarah Palin have led a resentment-driven second American revolution, not just against Democrats and progressives but against the United States of America itself. And this group of outsiders (in every sense of that word ) now control one of our major political parties.

As I explained to Blumanthal when he interviewed me, one of the reasons I left the far right movement in the 1980s was because I perceived20it becoming the bedrock of anti-Americanism. The worst things got the better we right wing activists liked it. We loved crisis. We<em> manufactured </em>crisis! Crisis (public or personal) would force the country to embrace our radical solution: a radical turn to Old Testament law that would put homosexuals to death, see adulterers stoned at the city gates and so forth.

There were exceptions to the hard edge, my late father Francis Schaeffer was one. And Blumenthal (in his chapter on Dad and I) describes how my father was a compassionate man who opened his ministry to all before something "snapped" after the Roe v. Wade decision when he became a leader in the pro-life movement.

But with a few exceptions (like my late father) most of the people described in Blumenthal's book have no "other side" to them. They are the sick bedrock of what, at any moment, may become a full-blown American fascism. (Sharlet has done great work on showing how these Religious Right folks have also invaded the US Military, especially the chaplaincy ranks.)

My one -- very slight -- criticism of Republican Gomorrah is that Blumenthal neglected to do something that would have bolstered his arguments and given them deeper credibility: introduce a bi t of paradox and nuance into his book. He could have made a better case for the left by frankly looking at some of the extremism on the left that has played into the hands of the cynics who control the Religio us Right: for instance the the way Roe v. Wade was (in the view of many liberal pro-choice advocates) a tactical mistake preempting what was already happening in states including California and New York, in terms of legalizing abortion, and thereby galvanizing the culture war as we know it. And in the same vein perhaps when it comes to the current ethics of abortion and porn Blumenthal's case would be stronger if he had pointed out that there are many progressives, who have serious moral qualms on these issues as well.

That said Blumentha's case against the Religious Right is breathtakingly damning. What these folks want -- to destroy our pluralistic democracy and replace it with theocracy -- appears so far-fetched to most Americans that unfortunately their agenda is not taken seriously. The great service Blumenthal performs is to not only enlighten those who didn't grow up in the movement (as I did, sad to say) but to offer a genuine warning as to the seriousness of what these people will unleash if not stopped, then stopped again and again--because they are here to stay. And they just happen to control the republican Party!

Why should Blumenthal's book to be taken seriously? Take it from this former "insider" he knows what he's talking about. Hi s thesis is less about politics than about the deviant psychology that people like Dobson have cashed in on by feeding delusion, victimhood and failure as a means through which to build a political movement. What Blumenthal reveals20is the heart of the most dysfunctional and truly dangerous -- not to mention armed -- darkest reaches of our country.

What should we "do"? Read the book! Then fight like hell to keep Republicans out of power come what may. And maybe (note to progressives!) be a little less critical of President Obama and a little more grateful that he's in the White House!

Once in a while a book comes along about which one can say: If you love our country read this! Republican Gomorrah is one such book. One other thing: if you know any sane Republicans that would like to save what's left of their party <em>beg them to read this book</em>. If you have to beg them in the name of Jesus!  

L. Mickelsen "Blue Loon"

September 8, 2009| A riveting, romping and truly original analysis of the Republican Christian Right

I just want to second the Amazon review of this book by Frank Schaeffer. Amen, Frank and bravo to Max, who really has written an amazing book.

I also grew up in the evangelical culture. With the exception of my immediate family, most of my relatives are part of Christian right. I graduated from a conservative, evangelical college where, as one of the few politically liberal students, I probably met more gay and lesbians than I later did at my Ivy League graduate school. As Max Blumenthal shows in his book.....this is not a strange coincidence.

I was born into an evangelical home, as were my parents. In fact, most of the hundreds of evangelicals I met at church or college were the second, third or fourth generation of conservative Christians. I left the evangelical world at age 22 and have spent years wondering what makes it so angry and reactive. Main-line Protestants and Catholics have their own faults and odd tics. Ditto for the reform and conservative branches of Judiasm. But with the exception of certain fundamentalist Muslims, none of these groups seem to have the same weird, sado-masochistic vibe of the Christian right.

In fact, evangelical Republicans act so much like untreated trauma survivors or dry drunks that I've really come to view them more as a psychological phenomenon as opposed to a religious movement. They're obsessed with gays, pornography and sexuality because, as Blumenthal shows, so many are closeted gays, porn addicts and/or men who can't relate to women in a healthy, equal way.

It's a very strange sub-culture. Conservative Christians tend to cut themselves off from a huge spectrum of human emotions (with the usual dismal, whack-a-mole results.) They insist on ignorance, attempting to shackle any natural intellectual curiosity. In order to remain in a conservative Christian world, you have to censor your thoughts and emotions to the point where the result is a serious case of arrested development.

Which is why so many right-wing Christians can't seem to think or process feelings like normal adults. Instead they operate in a very child-like world of good or evil, heaven or hell, salvation or damnation, all or nothing, with us or against us. Which is why they're absolutely fixated on creating scapegoats (Commies, gays, liberals, Islamic terrorists, dark-skinned people, feminists, hippies, or whatever else is handy.) as a way to project their fears and darkness onto some other group.

This is not a new sub-culture---these people have been part of the American landscape for hundreds of years. What's new is their seizure of a major political party and being able to rule one of the largest, most powerful countries in the world, certainly from 2000-2008 and probably going back to the Reagan presidency as well.

I'm a former tribe member and I'm still asking....why are they like this? What's the point of this mass phenomenon of violent psychological self-mutilation? What the hell are they so afraid of?

Max Blumenthal is the first reporter who goes deep enough into the movement to ask these kind of questions. It's a phenomenal, riveting, hilarious and yet deeply serious analysis. You won't be able to put it down.

American Fascists The Christian Right and the War on America (9780743284462) Chris Hedges Books

Amazon.com

W. Szewai

January 25, 200 |  When Unquestioned Obedience Is The Only Test Of Faith

This review is from: American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America (Hardcover) Most great artists and thinkers are outsiders in some sense or another. This ability to observe from the outside often uncovers patterns that are invisible because they are too close. Chris Hedges spent most of his adult life outside of the United States, covering wars and despotic regimes. On his return to America, he was able to see our society with an eye unblunted by habit or assumptions, which, combined with his theological education and visceral experience and understanding of totalitarian systems, gives him a uniquely penetrating perspective into the growing movement known as the Christian Right.

In "American Fascists," Hedges never makes the simplistic claim that the Christian Right is the Nazi party, or that Bush is Mussolini, or that America will inevitably become a fascist state. His investigation is much more nuanced, identifying the incipient stirrings, invisible to many Americans, of a complex, mass political movement that is mobilizing and gaining strength and support beneath the surface of our democracy.

In characteristically muscular and clear prose that fuses the minister and veteran reporter, Hedges not only details multiple facets of the movement, but also examines the ideological undercurrents that drive them and how they translate into political consequences.

At The Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, which "prove[s] that God's word is true," Hedges writes "The danger of creationism is...that it allows all facts to be accepted or discarded according to the dictates of a preordained ideology."

At a Love Won Out conference, an organization founded to "cure" those who suffer from "same sex attraction," and which denounces and warns against unrepentant homosexuals who seek to corrupt children and destroy the family, Hedges observes that "This cultivated sense of persecution - cultivated by those doing the persecuting - allows the Christian Right to promote bigotry and attack any outcry as part of the war against the Christian faith. A group trying to curtail the civil rights of gays and lesbians portrays itself, in this rhetorical twist, as victims of an effort to curtail the civil rights of Christians."

Of the gospel of consumerism relentlessly peddled by televangelists on massive Christian broadcasting networks, which promises its 141 million viewers that all they need to fix their lives is belief in Jesus and a regular "love offering" in American dollars to the network, Hedges writes,

 "...when faith alone cures illness, overcomes emotional distress and ensures financial and physical security, there is no need for...social-service and regulatory agencies to exist. There is no need for fiscal or social responsibility... To put trust in secular institutions is to lack faith, to give up on God's magic and miracles. The message...dovetails with the message of neoconservatives who want to gut and destroy federal programs, free themselves from government regulations and taxes and break the back of all organizations, such as labor unions, that seek to impede maximum profit."

Among other events and interviews, we also see an Evangelism Explosion workshop run by D. James Kennedy at his Coral Ridge mega-church which trains participants to convert non-believers, an anti-abortion weekend organized by the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation, an Ohio Restoration Project rally where the Christian cross is superimposed upon a huge American flag.

The collective portrait is that of a non-reality-based movement, based on magic and miracles, which no rational argument can penetrate. The leaders of the Christian Right claim they speak for God, and as such, can brook no dissent. Unquestioned obedience to these ambassadors of God becomes the only test of faith. In totalitarian movements, the responsibility of making decisions about right and wrong is lifted from the people, along with the anxiety that attends that responsibility. But the surrender of conscience only comes with the abdication of democratic power and civil rights.

Yet it would be a mistake to view "American Fascists" as nothing but a frontal assault on the Christian Right. It is also an unexpectedly compassionate hearing of the stories of despair and pain that are the hidden, private side of this movement. Hedges clearly makes a distinction between the leaders and the followers, and his anger at how the movement exploits the shame and guilt of its followers for political and economic purposes is one of the driving forces of the book. The Christian Right is built on economic and personal despair, Hedges argues. Again and again, he encounters followers whose lives were shattered by sexual abuse, drug addiction, child abuse, domestic violence, alcoholism, extreme poverty, multiple abortions, broken families, and profound alienation and loneliness. It was this despair that drove them to embrace the Christian Right, which promises them miraculous solutions and apocalyptic revenge against those who had destroyed their lives. These stories of despair turned to rage are vital to understanding this mass movement and its power.

The Christian Right seeks to destroy that which it claims to defend. Hedges accords them no religious legitimacy, as they trample the core values of Jesus' teachings, love and compassion, and seek to use the veneer of religion as a route to political power. There is a vast difference between the "religion" of the Christian Right and the true meaning of faith. Near the close of the book, Hedges writes:

"The radical Christian Right calls for exclusion, cruelty and intolerance in the name of God. Its members do not commit evil for evil's sake. They commit evil to make a better world. To attain this better world, they believe, some must suffer and be silenced, and at the end of time all those who oppose them must be destroyed. The worst suffering in human history has been carried out by those who preach such grand, utopian visions, those who seek to implant by force their narrow, particular version of goodness. This is true for all doctrines of personal salvation, from Christianity to ethnic nationalism to communism to fascism. Dreams of a universal good create hells of persecution, suffering and slaughter. No human being could ever be virtuous enough to attain such dreams, and the Earth has swallowed millions of hapless victims in the vain pursuit of a new heaven and a new Earth. Ironically, it is idealism that leads radical fundamentalists to strip human beings of their dignity and their sanctity and turn them into abstractions. Yet it is only by holding on to the sanctity of each individual, each human life, only by placing our faith in tiny, unheroic acts of compassion and kindness, that we survive as a community and as individual human beings."

R. Daniels (California) :

 January 25, 2007 | I could not recommend this book more highly

As a Christian with experience in both conservative and liberal evangelical congregations, I found useful insights into the political and religious shifts I've witnessed since the 1970s and that we've all seen accelerate after 9/11. How is it that well intentioned churches and their members have come to believe that homosexuality is THE problem facing the U.S. today? How can self-professed Christians become unabased cheerleaders for war? How do Christians get so caught up in television personality cults masquarading as Christian ministries?

These and many many other questions are asked and answered by Hedges. The historic background and his logic in reaching those answers are accessibly presented. Where those answers eventually lead is a cause for concern to all U.S. citizens and, as a Christian, the author makes it clear that the responsibility for standing up to the unholy rise of Christian Fascism falls squarely on the shoulders of Christians.

The more "religous" you are, the more important I think it is that you consider the points made by the author. You're not going to like most of them. But I think you will come to agree with too many of them to ignore his overarching concerns.

David R. Cook:

February 8, 2007 | Progressive Christian confronts the Christian Right fringe

This review is from: American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America (Hardcover) Chris Hedges has all the personal and experiential credentials to take on the Christian "dominionists" that pose a danger to our democracy and, by extension, the world. First, he is a fine writer. Second, he has covered from the ground most of the wars of the second half of the 20th Century. And third, he thinks deeply and personally about religion, theology, ethics and morality. His admired father was a Presbyterian minister who cared deeply about tolerance and community. Having said all that, Hedges does not pull any punches in equating the small group of dominionists (about 7% of Christians) with the behavior and belief systems that were part and parcel of fascism. He has read deeply in analyses of fascism, such as Hannah Arendt, and, being the good reporter that he is, has attended some of the different gatherings of dominionists and talked to those who have been affected by their involvement in the cult like movements that pass for Christianity.

America today faces many internal threats to our democracy. Not least of these threats comes from the imperialistic presidency with which we have been inflicted by Bush and Cheney. Would they were the only purveyors of American imperialism, but they have only taken this bent to a new level. The Christian Right, led by the dominionists, is directly tuned in to this imperialism, turning it into "God's will", with the exciting twist that we are heading for the apocalypse when only the saved will attain heaven. Because these so-called Christians are heavily funded and control a disproportionate number of radio and TV outlets, their influence far exceeds their numbers. Elsewhere, it has been observed that history shows that nations cannot maintain an empire abroad and democracy at home. Preserving democracy at home will eventually require giving up the empire. Hedges argues that it will take many acts of faith in the political realm to counter these fascists, two examples of which are passing hate crimes legislation and universal healthcare legislation. Ending the Iraq war will help also.

This is a book intended for consciousness raising about a threat within our democracy that we ignore or placate to our peril. I urge my "mainstream" Christian and secular friends to read this book.

[Sep 16, 2010]   American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century

K. Johnson

Kevin Phillips is one of the most widely read and acclaimed in this field. Of his many works, "The Emerging Republican  Majority" written 40 years ago in 1969, gives him the credibility, as well as his 13 other books since. "American Theocracy" discusses the 5 decades of growth many recent developments occurring in the US political, economic, religious and cultural realm in the GOP. He supports his points with lots of research and referencing.

Phillips states the GOP and US government are "a fusion of petroleum-defined national security; a crusading, simplistic Christianity; and a reckless credit-feeding financial complex."

At one time, the GOP was the party of stability, order, low taxes, low spending, and small government (in theory at least).

The author notes the transition of the GOP to what many others think and believe today: In 2006, it's over. The Republican party can never argue again that it's the party of low taxes and spending, and small government. The 'big-government GOP' began long before The G.W . Bush administration, but Bush 43 has greatly exacerbated to shift to big spending, big  government, conglomerate control, and the erosion of personal  liberties and freedom of speech. Today there is a Cult of Personality and a lack of critical thought and even disdain -- to the slightest questioning or criticism of American domestic and foreign policy: Bushbots. Federal bureaucratic interference in education with the "No Child Left Behind," Act, and the promulgation of the pseudo-scientific "Intelligent Design." The federal government's interference in the Schiavo case is another clear example of many, noted in "American Theocracy."

Borrowed Prosperity:

"a preference for conspicuous consumption over energy efficiency and conservation,"

"Never before have political leaders urged . . . large-scale indebtedness on American consumers to rally the economy,"

It was Phillips who coined the well-know term "The Sunbelt". Well, here's another: "National-Debt Culture." Federal deficits, Social Security, Corporate debt, state & Local  bonds, and massive trade imbalances. "The Financialization of America."

American Per Capita Debt Ratios at Historical All-Time Highs:

On a per capita level, the real estate boom was in part caused by the 1997 "no roll-over" capital gains tax, subsequent tech crash in 2000, and the lowed interest rates in decades.

So what did people do as a result of the boom? Buy more stuff. How? By using their home equity as an ATM machine as they falsely believed they were "wealthier." Will there be consequences?
Perhaps. Perhaps, not.

Petro-Politics and the Military-Industrial Complex:

The U.S. government learned during WWII that high military and defense spending helps the US economy, provides jobs which in turn, spur consumer spending, while redistributing wealth to corporations (defense contracting companies).

Petro-Warriors:

When troops first went into Iraq, what was the first thing they secured? the Iraqi Oil Ministry, and several oil refineries. One of the primary and public arguments for the invasion of Iraq by the US government was 1. it would help the U.S. economy and 2. it would cause oil prices to decline.

Potential Impact:

As for Phillip's latest, even more convincing is his perspective. He isn't a fan of the Royal Bush family, NOR does he see Hillary as a viable and effective alternative. If Americans can stop pretending that parties are really that different on the political spectrum they can realize, that American culture, habits and behaviour, will be the deciding factor. However I don't see it happening.

This is a breakthrough book that will receive attention. It's not the first book published recently, that offers these opinions. But it's the credentials of the author, Kevin Phillips that will spur discussion. Things won't change; but things will be discussed. His objective historical notes about previously fallen Empires involved several historical facts that have occurred to other great powers in the past: global usurpation, religious intransigence, debt, and dependency on resources that are *outside* of the nation.

What Phillips is describing is not Earth shattering, bold, nor brave. Because it's a truthful observation based on statistical facts, not necessarily just opinion. And, it's a concept that happens to ALL empires over the course of world history. The Roman Empire declined over a period of 300 to 400 years. The United States does not seem to have that long. I suspect when it starts, which may be now, it will take 50 to 100 years. However, when it will begin exactly , is what we don't know. Like all of history, time moves on, and so does Earth's civilization.

Worth noting again, readers must disassociate themselves from their own natural biases. Like all books regarding the current political, cultural, and religious landscape: don't focus on opposing sides and viewpoints. Focus on the book's various perspectives and then apply to your perceptions. Then, deconstruct this book by yourself.

Robert D. Steele
March 29, 2006  | Brilliant integration of oil, debt, religion, Bush, and crime

This is a five-star book that offers up two very serious values:

1) There is no other author who has written in such depth, over the course of four books, on the Republican party, the Bush dynasty, and the inter-relationship between the religious right and corporate wealth. This Republican is as serious an analyst as any that can be found. he joins Clyde Prestowitz, Paul O'Neil, and Peter Peterson as "go to guys" for when Senator John Edwards forms the American Independence Party and breaks away from the idiot Democrats and the Clinton mafia.

2) The author has done his homework and very ably integrated, with all appropriate footnotes and index entries, three broad literatures, two of which I have read multiple books on (oil and debt), one on which I have not (radical US religion--fully the equal of Bin Laden and suicidal terrorists, these folks just send others to do the dying for them).

So I have to say, given that this is a serious book by a serious author, why so many obviously loosely-read individuals writing short dismissive reviews? I have to conclude he has touched a nerve. When I used to appear on NPR, before I was kicked off for condemning Israeli lobbyists and suggesting that the common Arabs (the real people, not the sadistic opulent corrupt House of Saud or the other dictators) never got a fair shake from the US, I would get hate calls and mail from what I now realize were know-nothing radical right-wing religious nuts. We'd get into the issues, and I would ask, "what books have you read on this?" only to be told, "There is only one book that matters, the Bible."

Well, this author has helped me understand where the Bush constituency comes from: these are the folks that graduated from rote reading of the Bible to the "Left Behind" fiction series. They are the intellectual equals of the Islamic kids learning to be suicide bombers by reciting old Arabic they don't understand.

If you do not have the time or money to buy all the other books I have reviewed, spanning emerging threats, the lack of strategy and the inappropriate force structure, the anti-Americanism that we spawn, the corruption of Wall Street and the shallowness of white collar law enforcement, the end of cheap oil, the end of free water, the rise of pandemic disease, the coming date with destiny when the 44 dictators we support are overthrown and the US pays the price for its long-term nurturing of all but three of them....this book brings a lot together. It avoids only two really important topics: the environmental implications such as covered by TIME Magazine in the 3 April 2006 cover story on Global Warming; and the minutia of how America is no longer a real democracy--not only do most voters not vote, but once elected, most Congressman are corrupted immediately by lobbyists.

The author, who is uniquely qualified to sum this all up in this book because of his three prior books centered on the Bush Family, oil, and wealth, does a tremendous job of outlining how oil money ultimately bought the White House and Congress.

If you have time for two other books, I recommend Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil in which a former LAPD investigator makes a case for indicting Dick Cheney for fabricating the march to war on Iraq under the delusion that we would get another ten years of "cheap oil" and Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy in which it is clearly documented that both Congress and the White House knew in 1974-1975 that Peak Oil was over, and they concealed this for another 25 years in order to keep the bribery coming--this was nothing less than a treasonous betrayal of the public interest worthy of retrospective impeachments for all concerned.

The books by moderate Republicans Prestowitz (Rogue Nation: American Unilateralism and the Failure of Good Intentions) and Petersen (Running on Empty: How the Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It) should be read as well as Brand Hijack : Marketing Without Marketing which is about why Paul O'Neil quit the Bush Administration--he realized that ideological fantasy and Dick Cheney had displaced a reasoned policy process, the Cabinet, and Congressional concurrence.....

This is a very bad time. This book is as good as any at setting the stage for intelligent people to campaign and vote in 2006 and 2008.

EDIT 7 Dec 07: Since I wrote this review, several gems are newly available:

Gary Schroeder:

April 22, 2006 | Be worried. Be very worried

I usually avoid political books of this type, viewing them as mostly disposable and irrelevant once thier two-month topical shelf-life has expired. However, I was tempted into buying it for two reasons: the author is well-known for charting a course for the Republican party back in the 1960s which led to its current reliance on a southern, religious base (so he knows more than just a little about his topic). Second, I heard author Kevin Philips inerviewed on several different programs and I was intrigued by the authority and pragmatism with which he presented his thesis. Namely, that Americans have three things to fear: religious rule, dependence on a foreign product without which our current lifestyle and economy is impossible (oil) and, finally, crushing debt.

The book can get a little dry at times, but the background and the recitation of facts is necessary to truly put the present situation in perspective. This is no sensational name-calling book, it's simply an attempt to explain how American politics got to where it is today and what the practical implications are for the future. Philips provides such a well-costructed argument, that it's hard to ignore his concerns. If you're not concerned for our national future by the time you're through, you probably weren't reading carefully.

If you're looking for repetitious Bush-bashing, skip this book. While there are certainly indictments of Bush policy, Philips traces a much longer arc than simply the most recent administration. There's plenty of blame to go around...and it's been decades in the making. Beyond the already troubling issues of possible theocracy, future oil shortages and a ballooning debt economy, Philips draws many parallels to other historical superpowers which folded. America is charting a very close course with countries such as Spain and Great Britain, both of which ceased to produce actual goods that poeple could buy and which, towards the end of their reign, also shyed away from rational thinking in favor of a religious fervor which held that each was special in the eyes of god and, therefore protected from failure...a view that is, with benefit of hindsight, delusional.

Larry Shallenberger:

September 14, 2007 Sharp, Not Balanced, But An Important Read

Former Republican strategist, Kevin Phillips, believes he knows what is wrong with our nation. Chances are, by very virtue of your reading a book review on a Christian e-zine, you contribute to the erosion of our national health. American Theocracy: The Politics and Peril of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century is at times scathing and at times coolly analytical in its survey of dangers Phillips sees threatening our superpower status.

Part I examines the effects of America's dependency on oil. Our industry, automobiles, and military have an insatiable appetite for oil. Phillips argues that this energy dependency gives Big Oil too much sway over our domestic and foreign policies. At home we lax our environmental laws to accommodate oil drilling. And abroad we resort to international thuggery to secure control of Iraq's mostly untapped oil fields. "The war on terror?", "Importing democracy to the Middle East?" Phillips sees these as slogans to sell an imperialistic war.

In Part II: "Too Many Preachers", Phillips takes aim at Christian Fundamentalism, a movement the he sees embodied by the Southern Baptist Convention, Pentecostals, and the charismatic movements. Phillips chronicles these denominations rise to prominence and how they shape national politics. The culture wars are provoked by radical Christians attempting to establish a theocracy--a Christian America governed by God's rules. "Disenlightenment" is Phillip's descriptor for the effect that these empowered believers have on our country: They value faith over science and a literal Armageddon over peace.

Phillips closes his diatribe with Part III on our national and individual debt. Again, Phillips provides a valuable historic context at how debt played a role in the decline of England, Spain, and the Netherlands as superpowers. Phillips offers an undeniable outline of the depths of our national debt as well as personal credit lodes. He argues that our increasing debt and decreasing hard industry has created a thin ice that will eventual give in under our largesse.

American Theocracy finds its value when Phillips is able to sustain his analytical voice, and he's able to do so for extended periods of time. His historical perspective on our oil dependency, the changing face of American religion, and our national debt demand your attention. I'll confess, as an evangelical with political tendencies a few notches right of centrist, this was uncomfortable stuff to read. Even so, Phillips places important issues on the table.

However when Phillips slips into his polemic voice the book becomes tedious. Phillips has open contempt for people superstitious enough to buy into the Biblical creation account, Noah Arc, or a literal interpretation of Revelation, such as the one popularized by the Left Behind franchise. Phillips also makes too many gaps in his evidence with clauses like, "Although the evidence is weak." He's on a mission to connect the dots and is willing to supply any missing points along the way.

Make no mistake; Kevin Phillips wields too much anger and bias to be objective. But are there any takeaways for the evangelical and fundamentalist Christian communities?

I think so. American Theocracy provokes us to ask several poignant questions:

I won't pretend to offer the final word on these questions. Instead, I just note that in spite of all the book's weaknesses, American Theocracy provides the agenda for an important conversation that's long overdue.

[Sep 10, 2010]   The taming and domestication of religious faith is one of the unceasing chores of civilization By Christopher Hitchens

Sept. 6, 2010 | Slate Magazine

A recent blizzard of liberal columns has framed the debate over American Islam as if it were no more than the most recent stage in the glorious history of our religious tolerance. This phrasing of the question has the (presumably intentional) effect of marginalizing doubts and of lumping any doubters with the anti-Catholic Know-Nothings, the anti-Semites, and other bigots and shellbacks. So I pause to take part in a thought experiment, and to ask myself: Am I in favor of the untrammeled "free exercise of religion"?

No, I am not. Take an example close at hand, the absurdly named Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. More usually known as the Mormon church, it can boast Glenn Beck as one of its recruits. He has recently won much cheap publicity for scheduling a rally on the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s March on Washington. But on the day on which the original rally occurred in 1963, the Mormon church had not yet gotten around to recognizing black people as fully human or as eligible for full membership. (Its leadership subsequently underwent a "revelation" allowing a change on this point, but not until after the passage of the Civil Rights Act.) This opportunism closely shadowed an earlier adjustment of Mormon dogma, abandoning its historic and violent attachment to polygamy. Without that doctrinal change, the state of Utah was firmly told that it could not be part of the Union. More recently, Gov. Mitt Romney had to assure voters that he did not regard the prophet, or head of the Mormon church, as having ultimate moral and spiritual authority on all matters. Nothing, he swore, could override the U.S. Constitution. Thus, to the extent that we view latter-day saints as acceptable, and agree to overlook their other quaint and weird beliefs, it is to the extent that we have decidedly limited them in the free exercise of their religion.

One could cite some other examples, such as those Christian sects that disapprove of the practice of medicine. Their adult members are generally allowed to die while uttering religious incantations and waving away the physician, but, in many states, if they apply this faith to their children—a crucial element in the "free exercise" of religion—they can be taken straight to court. Not only that, they can find themselves subject to general disapproval and condemnation.

It was probably the latter consideration that helped impel the majority of American Orthodox Jews to give up the practice of metzitzah b'peh, a radical form of male circumcision that is topped off, if you will forgive the expression, by the sucking of the infant's penis by the rabbi or mohel so as to remove any remaining blood or debris. A few tiny sects still cling to this disgusting ritual, which in New York a few years ago led to a small but deadly outbreak of herpes among recently circumcised babies. On that occasion, despite calls for a ban on the practice from many Jewish doctors, the vastly overrated Mayor Michael Bloomberg chose an election year to say that such "free exercise" should not be interfered with.

We talk now as if it was ridiculous ever to suspect Roman Catholics of anything but the highest motives, yet by the time John F. Kennedy was breaking the unspoken taboo on the election of a Catholic as president, the Vatican had just begun to consider making public atonement for centuries of Jew-hatred and a more recent sympathy for fascism. Even today, many lay Catholics are appalled at the Vatican's protection of men who are sought for questioning in one of the gravest of all crimes: the organized rape of children. It is generally agreed that the church's behavior and autonomy need to be modified to take account both of American law and American moral outrage. So much for the naive invocation of "free exercise."

One could easily go on. The Church of Scientology, the Unification Church of Sun Myung Moon, and the Ku Klux Klan are all faith-based organizations and are all entitled to the protections of the First Amendment. But they are also all subject to a complex of statutes governing tax-exemption, fraud, racism, and violence, to the point where "free exercise" in the third case has—by means of federal law enforcement and stern public disapproval—been reduced to a vestige of its former self.

Now to Islam. It is, first, a religion that makes very large claims for itself, purporting to be the last and final word of God and expressing an ambition to become the world's only religion. Some of its adherents follow or advocate the practice of plural marriage, forced marriage, female circumcision, compulsory veiling of women, and censorship of non-Muslim magazines and media. Islam's teachings generally exhibit suspicion of the very idea of church-state separation. Other teachings, depending on context, can be held to exhibit a very strong dislike of other religions, as well as of heretical forms of Islam. Muslims in America, including members of the armed forces, have already been found willing to respond to orders issued by foreign terrorist organizations. Most disturbingly, no authority within the faith appears to have the power to rule decisively that such practices, or such teachings, or such actions, are definitely and utterly in conflict with the precepts of the religion itself.

Reactions from even "moderate" Muslims to criticism are not uniformly reassuring. "Some of what people are saying in this mosque controversy is very similar to what German media was saying about Jews in the 1920s and 1930s," Imam Abdullah Antepli, Muslim chaplain at Duke University, told the New York Times. Yes, we all recall the Jewish suicide bombers of that period, as we recall the Jewish yells for holy war, the Jewish demands for the veiling of women and the stoning of homosexuals, and the Jewish burning of newspapers that published cartoons they did not like. What is needed from the supporters of this very confident faith is more self-criticism and less self-pity and self-righteousness.

Those who wish that there would be no mosques in America have already lost the argument: Globalization, no less than the promise of American liberty, mandates that the United States will have a Muslim population of some size. The only question, then, is what kind, or rather kinds, of Islam it will follow. There's an excellent chance of a healthy pluralist outcome, but it's very unlikely that this can happen unless, as with their predecessors on these shores, Muslims are compelled to abandon certain presumptions that are exclusive to themselves. The taming and domestication of religion is one of the unceasing chores of civilization. Those who pretend that we can skip this stage in the present case are deluding themselves and asking for trouble not just in the future but in the immediate present.

[Mar 28, 2010] Their beliefs are bonkers, but they are at the heart of power by George Monbiot

April 20, 2004 | The Guardian

US Christian fundamentalists are driving Bush's Middle East policy

To understand what is happening in the Middle East, you must first understand what is happening in Texas. To understand what is happening there, you should read the resolutions passed at the state's Republican party conventions last month. Take a look, for example, at the decisions made in Harris County, which covers much of Houston.

The delegates began by nodding through a few uncontroversial matters: homosexuality is contrary to the truths ordained by God; "any mechanism to process, license, record, register or monitor the ownership of guns" should be repealed; income tax, inheritance tax, capital gains tax and corporation tax should be abolished; and immigrants should be deterred by electric fences. Thus fortified, they turned to the real issue: the affairs of a small state 7,000 miles away. It was then, according to a participant, that the "screaming and near fist fights" began.

I don't know what the original motion said, but apparently it was "watered down significantly" as a result of the shouting match. The motion they adopted stated that Israel has an undivided claim to Jerusalem and the West Bank, that Arab states should be "pressured" to absorb refugees from Palestine, and that Israel should do whatever it wishes in seeking to eliminate terrorism. Good to see that the extremists didn't prevail then.

But why should all this be of such pressing interest to the people of a state which is seldom celebrated for its fascination with foreign affairs? The explanation is slowly becoming familiar to us, but we still have some difficulty in taking it seriously.

In the United States, several million people have succumbed to an extraordinary delusion. In the 19th century, two immigrant preachers cobbled together a series of unrelated passages from the Bible to create what appears to be a consistent narrative:

Jesus will return to Earth when certain preconditions have been met.

The legions of the antichrist will then be deployed against Israel, and their war will lead to a final showdown in the valley of Armageddon. The Jews will either burn or convert to Christianity, and the Messiah will return to Earth.

What makes the story so appealing to Christian fundamentalists is that before the big battle begins, all "true believers" (ie those who believe what they believe) will be lifted out of their clothes and wafted up to heaven during an event called the Rapture.

Not only do the worthy get to sit at the right hand of God, but they will be able to watch, from the best seats, their political and religious opponents being devoured by boils, sores, locusts and frogs, during the seven years of Tribulation which follow.

The true believers are now seeking to bring all this about. This means staging confrontations at the old temple site (in 2000, three US Christians were deported for trying to blow up the mosques there), sponsoring Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, demanding ever more US support for Israel, and seeking to provoke a final battle with the Muslim world/Axis of Evil/United Nations/ European Union/France or whoever the legions of the antichrist turn out to be.

The believers are convinced that they will soon be rewarded for their efforts. The antichrist is apparently walking among us, in the guise of Kofi Annan, Javier Solana, Yasser Arafat or, more plausibly, Silvio Berlusconi. The Wal-Mart corporation is also a candidate (in my view a very good one), because it wants to radio-tag its stock, thereby exposing humankind to the Mark of the Beast.

By clicking on www.raptureready.com, you can discover how close you might be to flying out of your pyjamas. The infidels among us should take note that the Rapture Index currently stands at 144, just one point below the critical threshold, beyond which the sky will be filled with floating nudists. Beast Government, Wild Weather and Israel are all trading at the maximum five points (the EU is debating its constitution, there was a freak hurricane in the south Atlantic, Hamas has sworn to avenge the killing of its leaders), but the second coming is currently being delayed by an unfortunate decline in drug abuse among teenagers and a weak showing by the antichrist (both of which score only two).

We can laugh at these people, but we should not dismiss them. That their beliefs are bonkers does not mean they are marginal. American pollsters believe that 15-18% of US voters belong to churches or movements which subscribe to these teachings. A survey in 1999 suggested that this figure included 33% of Republicans. The best-selling contemporary books in the US are the 12 volumes of the Left Behind series, which provide what is usually described as a "fictionalised" account of the Rapture (this, apparently, distinguishes it from the other one), with plenty of dripping details about what will happen to the rest of us. The people who believe all this don't believe it just a little; for them it is a matter of life eternal and death.

And among them are some of the most powerful men in America. John Ashcroft, the attorney general, is a true believer, so are several prominent senators and the House majority leader, Tom DeLay. Mr DeLay (who is also the co-author of the marvellously named DeLay-Doolittle Amendment, postponing campaign finance reforms) travelled to Israel last year to tell the Knesset that "there is no middle ground, no moderate position worth taking".

So here we have a major political constituency - representing much of the current president's core vote - in the most powerful nation on Earth, which is actively seeking to provoke a new world war. Its members see the invasion of Iraq as a warm-up act, as Revelation (9:14-15) maintains that four angels "which are bound in the great river Euphrates" will be released "to slay the third part of men". They batter down the doors of the White House as soon as its support for Israel wavers: when Bush asked Ariel Sharon to pull his tanks out of Jenin in 2002, he received 100,000 angry emails from Christian fundamentalists, and never mentioned the matter again.

The electoral calculation, crazy as it appears, works like this. Governments stand or fall on domestic issues. For 85% of the US electorate, the Middle East is a foreign issue, and therefore of secondary interest when they enter the polling booth. For 15% of the electorate, the Middle East is not just a domestic matter, it's a personal one: if the president fails to start a conflagration there, his core voters don't get to sit at the right hand of God. Bush, in other words, stands to lose fewer votes by encouraging Israeli aggression than he stands to lose by restraining it. He would be mad to listen to these people. He would also be mad not to.

· George Monbiot's book The Age of Consent: a Manifesto for a New World Order is now published in paperback

What's the Matter with Kansas How Conservatives Won the Heart of America Thomas Frank Books

Amazon.com

In an oft cited quote Frank sums up the situation well "

4.0 out of 5 stars Every Christian Conservative needs to read this book..., July 29, 2004
By E. Martin "scalawagg" (US) - See all my reviews
This review is from: What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America (Hardcover)

Thomas Frank is a "progressive," most probably a democratic socialist. He doesn't "get" the "family values." He doesn't "get" christianity. He doesn't "get" why a member of the working class would give themselves over to fighting against abortion or gay marriage or evolution, instead of labor organizing. Nonetheless, he throws light the way only an outsider can on why the "religious right" does yoeman service year in and year out for the Republican party and has so little to show for it.

In an oft cited quote Frank sums up the situation well "

What Frank forgets is it doesn't always go according to plan. The Pat Robertson/Pat Buchanan insurgencies shook the Republican party and Buchanan deserves credit for a Republican congress voting for a raise in the minimum wage. Gary Bauer almost single handedly torpedoed Social Security privatization proposals in 1998. These achievements usually draw backhanded praise from the left, who are if anything more concerned with ideological purity than the "religious right."

Frank decries the "culture wars" and fundamentalist zealots being sucked up into them, but he neglects the extent the left has been sucked up as well. While he discusses the DLC strategy of of hanging to abortion and gay rights as defining issues. He doesn't discuss how the NAACP's crusade against the confederate flag distracts from more substantial political and economic issues or how the "anti-racist/diversity-valuing/multiculturalist" politics of identity that so dominates academic discourse alienates the left from the very people who they purport to be in solidarity with. Nor does he mention the extent to which the Democratic party has systematically purged "pro-life" members from any public forum.

Nonetheless Frank deserves credit he show how "social conservatives" cannot be dismissed a mere racists. And he shows how they engaged in grassroots politics of the sort that unions and other "progressive" entities have forgotten or gotten too lazy to do.

The great unasked question is what would happen if we tried to reverse the formula Frank describes, what if by trying fighting media concentration we can stem the debasement of popular entertainment; by seeking to keep manufacturing at home, we can promote strong families; what if we had instant voter runoff or proportional represenation, christian conservatives wouldn't be stuck with the rotten "lesser of two evils" option that those on the left complain about; what if by forcing a debate on the virtues of the Market, we lead to a reconsideration of neo-Darwinism (and the Malthusian economics it rests upon).

In other words instead of just dismissing "family values" as a purely "private concern" we could frame them within the larger, menacing developments of the new, global economy. But such thinking is far beyond the average lefty who's busy arguing the merits of vegan versus lacto-ovo. This is a job the much maligned "religious right" may have to do. And as many of the best union songs used to be spirituals, so to there might be a rebirth a an real populism of the sort that set Kansas abaze a little over 100 years ago.

4.0 out of 5 stars Great analysis. It's the suggested cure that bothers me., March 25, 2005
By Jack Lechelt "Jackyred" (Virginia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America (Hardcover)

Frank offers a great explanation for why so many regular folks back a party that will not help them economically. By substituting social issues that will not address the regular Joes' needs in place of economic issues, the right is able to see their economic concerns addressed. Those concerns are, and have always been, tax cuts, deregulation, and laissez-faire capitalism. Amazingly, the regular folk never really see much policy progress on the social-issues front.

My major concern is that Frank believes the modern Democratic Party is too moderate and business-friendly. There are many on the left who agree with him. As I see it, if the Democrats are to embrace Frank's remedies and move the party further to the left, the Democrats will only see more election losses. Whether or not a moderate Democratic Party is good or bad is a secondary matter. Stopping a conservative-led government from enacting its policy preferences should be far more important to the Democratic Party than having proud liberal-Democratic losses. The only Democrat to win - and that was with pluralities, not majorities - was Clinton. Perhaps he was not liberal enough for most Democrats, but having him as president sure beat losing!

As the country continues to face mounting deficits, federal court nominations of conservative justices, and further retreats from modest social safety net protections, hopefully future party squabbles will be minimized so that we can keep our eyes on the prize.

A final note: many liberals believe that moderates do not have firm beliefs and are too willing to compromise important values. I can't speak for all moderates, but I know that my beliefs are firmly held. And one of those important beliefs IS compromise. The idea that one must "give to get" is of core importance to me. That does not mean that I care less or that I am willing give away anything for next-to-nothing. In politics we must pick and choose wisely. Unfortunately, for the past few elections, we have not done too much with any wisdom. Maybe better times lie ahead. Hell, they can't get any worse (gulp).

4.0 out of 5 stars The Cynical Exploitation of Working Class Obsession; 4.5 *s, June 30, 2004

By One Man's View (Lawrenceville, GA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America (Hardcover)

The central concern of this book is the seemingly irrational flocking of sizeable segments of the working and middle classes to the Republican camp in the last two decades. Economically, that political shift makes no sense. By focusing on the particulars of this political development in his native state, Kansas, Frank provides keen insight into what appears to be the self-immolation of the working class.

The author begins by pointing out that Kansas was in the forefront of the populist movement of the 1890s. The largely farming population was aggrieved by low crop prices and exorbitant costs imposed by furnishing agents and railroads. They found business interests to be their primary oppressors and called for governmental intervention in the economy. It was a decidedly leftist movement of "producers versus parasites."

The 1990s also were not kind to "producers." Heartland America was subjected to deindustrialization, off shoring, and stagnating wages, while elites prospered. But strangely, these disruptions no longer generated withering economic critiques; market forces were seen as perhaps causing dislocations but were held to be blameless. Instead working people began to feel strongly that such cultural issues as abortion, gay liberation, vulgarity in entertainment, and even public education were to blame for disturbances in their lives and in society at large. But these same people are unwilling to squarely pinpoint the origins of culture in the U.S.

Huge corporations largely dictate culture in the US. Unsurprisingly, cultural directions set by media and entertainment concerns are determined by what sells. Universities and government mostly reinforce business interests. But these structural connections are generally not the concern of those feeling socially besieged. These new populists are most concerned with the imagined lifestyles of the so-called liberal elites of these despised institutions. The influence of latte drinking, wine and cheese tasting, European vacationing, and liberal sexual practicing snobbish liberal elites, who of course are staunch Democrats, must be vigorously resisted by supporting conservative political forces. The fact that business elites share the same cultural background of the loathed liberal elites goes unnoticed. Those business elites further obscure their role in culture by making the claim that they too are helpless against the liberal cultural assault.

The alliance of moderate business elites, from whom the leaders of the Republican party are frequently drawn, with a conservative base of working people is one of convenience if not outright cynicism. Business leaders and their spokespersons tolerate, and sometimes join in, conservative railings against liberal culture thereby gaining the voting support to carry out a pro-business political program. It can hardly be doubted that the deregulation, privatization, and union-busting agenda of corporate America has been greatly harmful to their base of supporters. As the author notes, the fanning of the flames of cultural discontent have make good business sense. But it is also interesting that the political process seldom delivers on conservative promises to roll back morality practice.

Perhaps this turn to cultural issues is not too surprising. The producerist ethic was well on its way out by the late 1920s. An economic analysis of society based on class was replaced by classless consumerism where everyone had equal rights to consume. Markets are now regarded as neutral, if not benign. Discontent must be due to reasons other than economic structure. The author also notes that both the media and entertainment industry perpetuate this sanitized, mechanistic version of economic workings, where people cannot be blamed for disruptions. The theme of working stiff as a victim of cultural perversity and excess has become a very powerful rallying cry. The strength of that explanation is maintained by the continual feeding of examples of cultural decadence by conservative spokesmen, especially talk-show hosts.

The author, in the end, finds that the deterioration of the economic landscape for a working class obsessed with cultural issues will continue in any foreseeable future. As he says, "Kansas is ready to lead us singing into the apocalypse. It invites us all to join in, to lay down our lives so that others might cash out at the top; to renounce forever our middle-American prosperity in pursuit of a crimson fantasy of middle-American righteousness." This book is a strong indictment of the strength our democracy. If people cannot get beyond delusions, no way can a society operate in a coherent, rational manner.

What's the Matter with Kansas How Conservatives Won the Heart of America

Amazon.com

The author writes a somewhat satirical look at middle America 's political affliations. He has two major thesis.

So the effect of this is to have a reverse French Revolution in which the common man votes Republican and against his/her economic interests. So farming communities shrivel up, unions die, people go without health care.

Frank a native Kansan explores with humor and interviews peeople of the backlash movement.He bemoans the fact that populism -a left wing philosophy born in the mid west is dead. William Jennings Bryan a fundamentalist Christian was a liberal Democratic Senator from Nebraska. He explores this transformation and his diagnosis would make Clinton supporters and free market libertarians both angry. Since he offend both ends of the spectra his observations should be taken seriously.

Certainly their are flaws in his thesis. if the Republican party is only paying lip service to social issues ,why are Democrats so afraid of their Supreme Court picks. If Clinton was in the pay of moneyed interests why was the right so mobilized against Hillary's health care plan ?

This is a provocative book that explains Red and White state differences and the psychology of political self delusion (Blue collar people voting for big money interests)

The Wrecking Crew How Conservatives Rule by  Thomas Frank

Amazon.com
Steve Koss (New York, NY United States)

A Depressingly Compelling Review of Conservatives' Philosophy of Government in Practice , August 15, 2008 B

Following up on his masterly examination of the paradox under which Red Staters consistently vote Republican against their own economic self-interest (WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH KANSAS?), Thomas Frank sets out to trace the present-day conservative Republican approach to government in THE WRECKING CREW. What he demonstrates is deeply disturbing even though it has remained on display virtually every day of the entire Bush II administration.

According to Frank, the conservative worldview is totally committed to "the ideal of laissez faire, meaning minimal government interference in the marketplace, along with hostility to taxation, regulation, organized labor, state ownership, and all the business community's other enemies. "The conservative movement promotes the interests of business exclusively over all else in accordance with the motto, "More business in government, less government in business." So-called "big government," also tagged as the liberal state, is the enemy; in fact, virtually all government is the enemy, other than the national defense.

Mr. Frank follows the conservative movement from the turn of the Twentieth Century through the Depression and New Deal, focusing most heavily on the movement's rebirth under Ronald Reagan and on into the new millennium. Along the way, he discusses the growth of lobbying as a major force in converting the nation's capital into a massive feeding ground for corporate special interests. Frank also highlights the manner in which conservatives have repeatedly run the country into huge spending deficits in order to "defund the left" while simultaneously politicizing government management positions by favoring ideology over competence. The end result under Republican conservative stewardship is government that demonstrates itself as ineffectual and incompetent, offering but further proof that big government is inherently incapable of working and needs to be outsourced to private, professional concerns who can do the job correctly (and then inevitably failing to do so).

THE WRECKING CREW is filled with fascinating side observations, such as its note that the movement has always lionized bullies, from Joe McCarthy to Bill O'Reilly, from Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay to George Allen and Michelle Malkin (whom Frank describes hilariously as "a pundit with the appearance of a Bratz doll but the soul of Chucky"). The book's most effective and outrage-generating section has to be its chapter on the Marianas Island of Saipan. Frank casts Saipan, with all its corruption, nepotism, income inequity, slave labor sweatshops, and local political control exercised in the name of big business as the perfect and ultimate model of the conservative movement ideal, a truly horrific prospect. He also notes, properly, that the morass that is today's Iraq is equally a product of the attempt to force fit these same free market ideals to a foreign country, implemented (so the Bush Administration hoped) by inexperienced, wet-behind-the-ears young idealogues, home-schooled ultra-Christians with college degrees from the likes of Patrick Henry College, Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, and Pat Robertson's Regent University. Saipan and Iraq constituted "laboratories of liberty," modern-day "capitalists' dreams" whose realizations are (or at least should be) shameful American nightmares.

There is little good news in THE WRECKING CREW.

Author Frank shows that our national government has been hollowed out under Republican conservative control, savaged into an ineffectual husk. Furthermore, he illustrates clearly that this was no mistake, that it is part of a deliberate process not just to privatize government and eradicate government regulation but to make these changes permanent by destroying the liberal left (and with it, of course, the Democratic Party). Frank demonstrates well that present day politics has truly become, to invert von Clausiwitz's famous maxim, "a continuation of war by other means." Regrettably, one side of the battle continues to play the game as politics, as elections won or lost and citizens swayed or not, while the other side approaches it as an act of war, a no-holds-barred contest in which the only goal is the complete and utter destruction of the other side.

THE WRECKING CREW is compelling and informative even as it paints a bleak picture of an America being driven rightward and increasingly toward the excesses and inequities of the pre-New Deal era. We all know how that era ended in October, 1929.

[Mar 18, 2009] Religion in USA

Belgium May Prosecute the Church of Scientology

Slashdot

by AnalogDiehard (199128) on Tuesday September 04, @05:16PM (#20469989) in the US it is officially recognized as a religion.

That is not true.

Co$ and IRS fought a battle for years over religious tax exemption. The IRS revoked the exemption with the justification that it was a profit earning business. Every court supported the view of the IRS.

The IRS submitted only after it was blanketed with thousands of petty Co$ lawsuits and it did not have the resources to defend all those lawsuits. The Co$ also infiltrated IRS staff at their offices. This is just one of thousands of examples how Co$ abuses the legal system through deception and half truths. Hubbard encouraged his members to abuse the legal system and to lie.

The agreement between IRS and Co$ remained confidential until it was brought to light via a FOI filing from the WSJ. When it was published there was a lot of outrage over the perks that the IRS granted to Co$ which are not available to other religions.

The Holy Bible is free to anyone who asks for one. Co$ is the only cult who charges their members for access to their "scriptures" which are split into multiple tiers and the charges increase exponentially as you advance through each tier. They pressure their brainwashed members to sell their homes, cash in their retirement accounts, deplete their children's inheritances, and go into crushing debt through credit cards to pay for their "scriptures".

One of the terms of the IRS agreement is that all Co$ course and scripture expenses could be deducted from income taxes. No other organization enjoys this perk and the IRS is forbidden to extend it to anyone else. That's just one of the terms that has raised a lot of outrage over the Co$.

The Co$ extorted the religious tax exemption from the IRS, plain and simple. Once that was in their hands, they waved that tax exemption at other countries hostile to their interests, but they were not easily fooled.

Hubbard filed for the exemption way back in the 50s to shield his quackery from government agencies like the FDA. Hubbard has been well established as a charlatan, a professional liar, and a barrater who has exploited the system at any opportunity...

[July 31, 2007] Scientology may be a bizarre faith invented by a sci-fi hack. But it's not a cult By Mark Oppenheimer

Some interesting observations about high demand cults created for enrichments of higher priests ;-)
Slate Magazine

Scientology, the controversial religion whose adherents include John Travolta, Tom Cruise, and Jenna Elfman, can't seem to stay out of the news. Sometimes the church would rather not have the publicity, as when Germany, which considers Scientology a cult, recently refused to let Tom Cruise shoot scenes for his new movie in government buildings. Other times, Scientologists court the attention—as when the same Mr. Cruise brought his Scientology-influenced anti-psychiatry crusade to the Today show in 2005.

Some Americans may consider Scientology perhaps a cult, maybe a violent sect, and certainly very weird. And, like many, I find the Church of Scientology odd, to say the least. But Scientology is no more bizarre than other religions. And it's the similarities between Scientology and, say, Christianity and Judaism that make us so uncomfortable. We need to hate Scientology, lest we hate ourselves.

But reaching such a conclusion, as I have discovered, isn't bound to win a religion writer any friends. I recently wrote an article (subscription required) for the New York Times Magazine about Milton Katselas, the acting teacher of Giovanni Ribisi, Anne Archer, Tom Selleck, George Clooney, and many other stars. Katselas is a Scientologist, and there are those in the acting community who steer clear of his school because of its perceived connection to Scientology. (Although, to be fair, Elfman broke with Katselas because he wasn't Scientologist enough.) I also posted a podcast interview with John Carmichael, president of the Church of Scientology in New York. We talked about church founder L. Ron Hubbard, the church's hostility to the psychiatric profession, and Carmichael's own conversion, among other topics. I did not have time to ask him about many of the controversies surrounding the religion, including allegations of financial improprieties and cultlike behavior. (These charges have been aired most extensively in a Rolling Stone article that I found very persuasive, as well as in series in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.) Having decided that I'd failed to air these charges sufficiently in my article or my Carmichael interview, the anti-Scientologists pounced.

The podcast, in particular, brought me heaps of scorn, eliciting posts like: "This interview was a complete abomination. … [Y]ou are ... gullible and naive. … [T]he rest of us will pay for these weaknesses," and "This is really an infomercial. You are a two-bit wanna-be entertainer & butt kisser and John Carmichael knows one when he sees one."

My podcast and article were not meant to attack Scientology. Not every article about a Catholic mentions the church's pederasty scandals or its suborning of fascism under Hitler and Franco. An article about Yom Kippur observance in Hackensack need not ask Jews for their views of illegal West Bank settlements. All religious groups have something to answer for, but religion writing would be quite tedious, not to mention unilluminating, if every article were reduced to the negative charges against some co-religionists.

But when it comes to Scientology, there's a hunger for the negative. I suspect that's because Scientology evinces an acute case of what Freud called the narcissism of small differences: We're made most uncomfortable by that which is most like us. And everything of which Scientology is accused is an exaggerated form of what more "normal" religions do. Does Scientology charge money for services? Yes—but the average Mormon, tithing 10 percent annually, pays more money to his church than all but the most committed Scientologists pay to theirs. Jews buying "tickets" to high-holiday services can easily part with thousands of dollars a year per family. Is Scientology authoritarian and cultlike? Yes—but mainly at the higher levels, which is true of many religions. There may be pressure for members of Scientology's elite "Sea Organization" not to drop out, but pressure is also placed on Catholics who may want to leave some cloistered orders. Does Scientology embrace pseudoscience? Absolutely—but its "engrams" and "E-meter" are no worse than what's propagated by your average Intelligent Design enthusiast. In fact, its very silliness makes it less pernicious.

And what about the "Xenu" creation myth anti-Scientologists are so fond of? Scientologists have promised me that it is simply not part of their theology—some say they learned about Xenu from South Park. Several ex-Scientologists have sworn the opposite. Given his frequent conflation of science fiction, theology, and incoherent musings, I think that Hubbard may have taught that eons ago, the galactic warlord Xenu dumped 13.5 trillion beings in volcanoes on Earth, blowing them up and scattering their souls. But I'm not sure that it is an important part of Scientology's teachings. And if Xenu is part of the church's theology, it's no stranger than what's in Genesis. It's just newer and so seems weirder.

Religions appear strange in inverse proportion to their age. Judaism and Catholicism seem normal—or at least not deviant. Mormonism, less than 200 years old, can seem a bit incredible. And Scientology, founded 50 years ago, sounds truly bizarre. To hear from a burning bush 3,000 years ago is not as strange as meeting the Angel Moroni two centuries ago, which is far less strange than having a hack sci-fi writer as your prophet.

That's not to say that all religions are "equal" or equally deserving of respect. I'm no more a Scientologist than I am a Swedenborgian or a member of the Nation of Islam, and I do have two criticisms of Scientology that one rarely hears from Xenu-obsessed detractors.

First, while the introductory Scientology costs are not outlandish (for example, a member may pay about $200 for a dozen sessions of "auditing," to start out), the fees increase as adherents gain new knowledge through advanced course work (going "up the bridge to total freedom," in Scientology-speak)—and it does make the religion resemble a pyramid or matrix scheme. More than one Scientologist explained to me that they don't have the financial resources of the Catholic Church that come from thousands of years of donations. They have to charge. Well, that's not the whole truth. The secrecy surrounding Scientology's higher levels of knowledge has no apparent analog in the Abrahamic faiths, and the steep financial outlay to get higher knowledge seems also unique. Catholicism doesn't charge people to become learned, nor does Judaism. In fact, the greatest scholars in those faiths are often revered paupers: penniless rabbis and voluntarily poor priests, monks, and nuns.

Poverty is not Scientology's style, to say the least. That leads me to my second criticism: bad aesthetics! I have never been less religiously moved by ostensibly religious spaces than in Scientology buildings. Whether the Celebrity Centre in Los Angeles, the New York church off Times Square, or the local branch down the street from my house, Scientology buildings are filled with garish colors, flat-screen TVs showing silly, dull videos, and glossy pamphlets recycling the legend of the overrated L. Ron Hubbard, whom Scientologists revere as a scientist, writer, and seer of the first rank. In my opinion, Hubbard's books are bad, the movies they inspire are bad, and the derivative futuro-techno look that Scientology loves is an affront to good taste on every level. It's a religion that screams nouveau–Star Trek–riche. For those of us who seek mystery, wonder, and beauty in our religions, Scientology is a nonstarter.

But good taste, as art critic Dave Hickey says, is just the residue of someone else's privilege. Catholicism has its Gothic cathedrals, Judaism its timeless Torah scrolls. Scientology is brand-new, but it has played an impressive game of catch-up. In its drive to be a major world religion, it will inevitably go through a period when its absurdities and missteps are glaringly apparent. But someday it will be old and prosaic, and there may still be Scientologists. And when some of those Scientologists embezzle, lie, and steal—as they surely will—they'll seem no worse than Christians, Jews, or Muslims who have done the same.

Steve Kowit -- Review Of Radicals, Rabbis, And Peacemakers Conversations With Jewish Critics Of Israel  -- Logos 5.2 Spring-Summer 2006

In the Jewish-American community one can exhibit complete indifference to Jewish culture and be an outspoken atheist and yet remain a perfectly acceptable member of the tribe. On the other hand, any Jew who openly disapproves of the State of Israel is at risk of being branded a traitor, a dupe of the ubiquitous anti-Semitic enemy, and a self-loathing Jew. Most of the writers and activists represented in Seth Farber’s Radicals, Rabbis and Peacemakers are unapologetic anti-Zionists, and thus “traitors” in precisely that most honorable sense.

Farber’s book, lively and provocative, reflects not only the author’s commitment to social justice, but, according to a brief biographical note, “his faith in prophetic Judaism as a medium of spiritual/social transformation.” So these conversations serve a dual purpose: on the one hand they explore the Palestinian/Israeli struggle from a progressive Jewish point of view and, on the other, they engage the question of contemporary Judaism itself, a post-Holocaust faith that has largely replaced the love of Yahweh with the worship of Israel.

Noam Chomsky, in his conversation with the author, asserts that the very concept of a state that is not the state of its citizens but of the Jewish people is an illegitimate principle upon which to have founded the nation of Israeli. He clarifies his advocacy of the two-state solution by explaining that he conceives such a political configuration to be no more than a stepping stone toward a binational state, but just how the creation of a tiny Palestinian state can lead to Israel and Palestine becoming a single binational nation Chomsky does not make clear, and it is not impossible that his current position reflects his own ambivalence about that issue. He also hedges his bet on the right of return: the Palestinians must not be forced to give up that right, he declares, “but the expectation that it will be implemented is completely unrealistic. And to advocate that is just to cause pain and disaster to the refugees.” Although this is a common enough position among progressive Zionists, it is much the sort of logic Alice encountered after tumbling down the rabbit hole. In similar fashion, Chomsky admits that the Jews had no more right to establish a state on land that was not theirs than did the American colonists, but then dismisses this most sticky and fundamental of issues with the casual comment that he doesn’t “see a lot of point in these discussions.”

Joel Kovel, author and former psychoanalyst, is less equivocal: “Zionism is a horrible mistake.” Israel is illegitimate in much the way Apartheid South Africa was illegitimate. Because of its privileging of one racial group above others, it is not capable of “joining the community of nation states that are grounded in universal human rights.” Nor does Kovel have a particularly high opinion of ancient Judaism, observing that despite the “transcendent ethical potential” of its beliefs, ancient Judaism had “not just a sense of superiority but a rejection of everybody else.”

Adam Shapiro, one of the founders of the International Solidarity Movement, who became momentarily newsworthy in the United States when his parents were threatened by outraged Brooklyn Zionists, observes that “any anti-Semitism that you find in Muslim countries today is the direct result of the policies of Israel vis-à-vis Palestinians.” When Farber suggests how ironic it is that the Jews turned into oppressors, Shapiro replies that he does not find it at all surprising. “Over and over and over in human history those who have been oppressed have turned into the oppressors.” And when Farber suggests that something in Jewish ethical tradition might have kept them moral for all those centuries, Shapiro reminds him that those supposed Jewish values are nowhere in evidence in those colorful biblical stories in which various peoples are exterminated by the pious Hebrews under God’s mandate.

[Jul 29, 2006] Reasonable Doubt

The internal instability of religion-infested politics and states was understood by Spinoza 350 yrs ago
New York Times

THURSDAY marked the 350th anniversary of the excommunication of the philosopher Baruch Spinoza from the Portuguese Jewish community of Amsterdam in which he had been raised.

Given the events of the last week, particularly those emanating from the Middle East, the Spinoza anniversary didn’t get a lot of attention. But it’s one worth remembering — in large measure because Spinoza’s life and thought have the power to illuminate the kind of events that at the moment seem so intractable and overwhelming.

The exact reasons for the excommunication of the 23-year-old Spinoza remain murky, but the reasons he came to be vilified throughout all of Europe are not. Spinoza argued that no group or religion could rightly claim infallible knowledge of the Creator’s partiality to its beliefs and ways. After the excommunication, he spent the rest of his life — he died in 1677 at the age of 44 — studying the varieties of religious intolerance. The conclusions he drew are still of dismaying relevance.

The Jews who banished Spinoza had themselves been victims of intolerance, refugees from the Spanish-Portuguese Inquisition. The Jews on the Iberian Peninsula had been forced to convert to Christianity at the end of the 15th century. In the intervening century, they had been kept under the vigilant gaze of the Inquisitors, who suspected the “New Christians,” as they were called even after generations of Christian practice, of carrying the rejection of Christ in their very blood. It can be argued that the Iberian Inquisition was Europe’s first experiment in racialist ideology.

Spinoza’s reaction to the religious intolerance he saw around him was to try to think his way out of all sectarian thinking. He understood the powerful tendency in each of us toward developing a view of the truth that favors the circumstances into which we happened to have been born. Self-aggrandizement can be the invisible scaffolding of religion, politics or ideology.

Against this tendency we have no defense but the relentless application of reason. Reason must stand guard against the self-serving false entailments that creep into our thinking, inducing us to believe that we are more cosmically important than we truly are, that we have had bestowed upon us — whether Jew or Christian or Muslim — a privileged position in the narrative of the world’s unfolding.

Spinoza’s system is a long deductive argument for a conclusion as radical in our day as it was in his, namely that to the extent that we are rational, we each partake in exactly the same identity.

Spinoza’s faith in reason as our only hope and redemption is the core of his system, and its consequences reach out in many directions, including the political. Each of us has been endowed with reason, and it is our right, as well as our responsibility, to exercise it. Ceding this faculty to others, to the authorities of either the church or the state, is neither a rational nor an ethical option.

Which is why, for Spinoza, democracy was the most superior form of government — only democracy can preserve and augment the rights of individuals. The state, in helping each person to preserve his life and well-being, can legitimately demand sacrifices from us, but it can never relieve us of our responsibility to strive to justify our beliefs in the light of evidence.

It is for this reason that he argued that a government that impedes the development of the sciences subverts the very grounds for state legitimacy, which is to provide us physical safety so that we can realize our full potential. And this, too, is why he argued so adamantly against the influence of clerics in government. Statecraft infused with religion not only dissolves the justification for the state but is intrinsically unstable, since it must insist on its version of the truth against all others.

Spinoza’s attempt to deduce everything from first principles — that is, without reliance on empirical observation — can strike us today as quixotically impractical, and yet his project of radical rationality had concrete consequences. His writings, banned and condemned by greater Christian Europe, but continuously read and discussed, played a role in the audacious experiment in rational government that gave birth to this country.

The Declaration of Independence, that extraordinary document first drafted by Thomas Jefferson, softly echoes Spinoza. John Locke, Spinoza’s contemporary — both were born in 1632 — is a more obvious influence on Jefferson than Spinoza was. But Locke had himself been influenced by Spinoza’s ideas on tolerance, freedom and democracy. In fact, Locke spent five formative years in Amsterdam, in exile because of the political troubles of his patron, the Earl of Shaftesbury.

Though Spinoza was already dead, Locke met in Amsterdam men who almost certainly spoke of Spinoza. Locke’s library not only included all of Spinoza’s important works, but also works in which Spinoza had been discussed and condemned.

It’s worth noting that Locke emerged from his years in Amsterdam a far more egalitarian thinker, having decisively moved in the direction of Spinoza. He now accepted, as he had not before, the fundamental egalitarian claim that the legitimacy of the state’s power derives from the consent of the governed, a phrase that would prominently find its way into the Declaration.

Locke’s claims on behalf of reason did not go as far as Spinoza’s. He was firm in defending Christianity’s revelation as the one true religion against Spinoza’s universalism. In some of the fundamental ways in which Spinoza and Locke differed, Jefferson’s view was more allied with Spinoza. (Spinoza’s collected works were also in Jefferson’s library, so Spinoza’s impact may not just have been by way of Locke.)

If we can hear Locke’s influence in the phrase “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” (a variation on Adam Smith’s Locke-inspired “life, liberty and pursuit of property”), we can also catch the sound of Spinoza addressing us in Jefferson’s appeal to the “laws of nature and of nature’s God.” This is the language of Spinoza’s universalist religion, which makes no reference to revelation, but rather to ethical truths that can be discovered through human reason.

Spinoza had argued that our capacity for reason is what makes each of us a thing of inestimable worth, demonstrably deserving of dignity and compassion. That each individual is worthy of ethical consideration is itself a discoverable law of nature, obviating the appeal to divine revelation. An idea that had caused outrage when Spinoza first proposed it in the 17th century, adding fire to the denunciation of him as a godless immoralist, had found its way into the minds of men who set out to create a government the likes of which had never before been seen on this earth.

Spinoza’s dream of making us susceptible to the voice of reason might seem hopelessly quixotic at this moment, with religion-infested politics on the march. But imagine how much more impossible a dream it would have seemed on that day 350 years ago. And imagine, too, how much even sorrier our sorry world would have been without it.

Rebecca Newberger Goldstein is the author, most recently, of “Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity.”

Is there a stronger word than "hypocrisy"? , By WILLIAM BLUM

There are times when I think that this tired old world has gone on a few years too long. What's happening in the Middle East is so depressing. Most discussions of the eternal Israel-Palestine conflict are variations on the child's eternal defense for misbehavior -- "He started it!" Within a few minutes of discussing/arguing the latest manifestation of the conflict the participants are back to 1967, then 1948, then biblical times. I don't wish to get entangled in who started the current mess. I would like instead to first express what I see as two essential underlying facts of life which remain from one conflict to the next:

1. Israel's existence is not at stake and hasn't been so for decades, if it ever was. If Israel would learn to deal with its neighbors in a non-expansionist, non-military, humane, and respectful manner, engage in full prisoner exchanges, and sincerely strive for a viable two-state solution, even those who are opposed to the idea of a state based on a particular religion could accept the state of Israel, and the question of its right to exist would scarcely arise in people's minds. But as it is, Israel still uses the issue as a justification for its behavior, as Jews all over the world use the Holocaust and conflating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism.

2. In a conflict between a thousand-pound gorilla and a mouse, it's the gorilla which has to make concessions in order for the two sides to progress to the next level. What can the Palestinians offer in the way of concession? Israel would reply to that question: "No violent attacks of any kind." But that would still leave the status quo ante bellum -- a life of unmitigated misery for the Palestinian people forced upon them by Israel. Peace without justice.

Israel's declarations about the absolute unacceptability of one of their soldiers being held captive by the Palestinians, or two soldiers being held by Hezbollah in Lebanon, cannot be taken too seriously when Israel is holding literally thousands of captured Palestinians, many for years, typically without any due process, many tortured; as well as holding a number of prominent Hezbollah members. A few years ago, if not still now, Israel wrote numbers on some of the Palestinian prisoners' arms and foreheads, using blue markers, a practice that is of course reminiscent of the Nazis' treatment of Jews in World War II.

Israel's real aim, and that of Washington, is the overthrow of the Hamas government in Palestine, the government that came to power in January through a clearly democratic process, the democracy that the Western "democracies" never tire of celebrating, except when the result doesn't please them. Is there a stronger word than "hypocrisy"? There is now "no Hamas government," declared a senior US official a week ago, "eight cabinet ministers or 30 percent of the government is in jail [kidnapped by Israel], another 30 percent is in hiding, and the other 30 percent is doing very little.”  To make the government-disappearance act even more Orwellian, we have Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, speaking in late June about Iraq: "This is the only legitimately elected government in the Middle East with a possible exception of Lebanon.” What's next, gathering in front of the Big Telescreeen for the Two Minutes Hate?

In addition to doing away with the Hamas government, the current military blitzkrieg by Israel, with full US support, may well be designed to create "incidents" to justify attacks on Iran and Syria, the next steps of Washington's work in process, a controlling stranglehold on the Middle East and its oil.

It is a wanton act of collective punishment that is depriving the Palestinians of food, electricity, water, money, access to the outside world ... and sleep. Israel has been sending jets flying over Gaza at night triggering sonic booms, traumatizing children. "I want nobody to sleep at night in Gaza," declared Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert; words suitable for Israel's tombstone.

These crimes against humanity -- and I haven't mentioned the terrible special weapons reportedly used by Israel -- are what the people of Palestine get for voting for the “wrong” party. It is ironic, given the Israeli attacks against civilians in both Gaza and Lebanon, that Hamas and Hezbollah are routinely dismissed in the West as terrorist organizations. The generally accepted definition of terrorism, used by the FBI and the United Nations amongst others, is: The use of violence against a civilian population in order to intimidate or coerce a government in furtherance of a political objective.

Since 9/11 it has been a calculated US-Israeli tactic to label the fight against Israel's foes as an integral part of the war on terror. On July 19, a rally was held in Washington, featuring the governor of Maryland, several members of Israeli-occupied Congress, the Israeli ambassador, and evangelical leading light John Hagee. The Washington Post reported that "Speaker after prominent speaker characteriz[ed] current Israeli fighting as a small branch of the larger U.S.-led global war against Islamic terrorism" and "Israel's attacks against the Shiite Muslim group Hezbollah were blows against those who have killed civilians from Bali to Bombay to Moscow." Said the Israeli ambassador: "This is not just about [Israel]. It's about where our world is going to be and the fate and security of our world. Israel is on the forefront. We will amputate these little arms of Iran," referring to Hezbollah.

And if the war on terror isn't enough to put Israel on the side of the angels, John Hagee has argued that "the United States must join Israel in a pre-emptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God's plan for both Israel and the West". He speaks of "a biblically prophesied end-time confrontation with Iran, which will lead to the Rapture, Tribulation, and Second Coming of Christ."

The beatification of Israel approaches being a movement. Here is David Horowitz, the eminent semi-hysterical ex-Marxist: "Israel is part of a global war, the war of radical Islam against civilization. Right now Israel is doing the work of the rest of the civilized world by taking on the terrorists. It is not only for Israel's sake that we must get the facts out -- it is for ourselves, America, for every free country in the world, and for civilization itself."

As for the two Israeli soldiers captured and held in Lebanon for prisoner exchange, we must keep a little history in mind. In the late 1990s, before Israel was evicted from southern Lebanon by Hezbollah, it was a common practice for Israel to abduct entirely innocent Lebanese. As a 1998 Amnesty International paper declared: "By Israel's own admission, Lebanese detainees are being held as 'bargaining chips'; they are not detained for their own actions but in exchange for Israeli soldiers missing in action or killed in Lebanon. Most have now spent 10 years in secret and isolated detention."

Israel has created its worst enemies -- they helped create Hamas as a counterweight to Fatah in Palestine, and their occupation of Lebanon created Hezbollah. The current terrible bombings can be expected to keep the process going. Since its very beginning, Israel has been almost continually occupied in fighting wars and taking other people's lands. Did not any better way ever occur to the idealistic Zionist pioneers?

But while you and I get depressed by the horror and suffering, the neo-conservatives revel in it. They devour the flesh and drink the blood of the people of Afghanistan, of Iraq, of Palestine, of Lebanon, yet remain ravenous, and now call for Iran and Syria to be placed upon the feasting table. More than one of them has used the expression oderint dum metuant, a favorite phrase of Roman emperor Caligula, also used by Cicero -- "let them hate so long as they fear". Here is William Kristol, editor of the bible of neo-cons, "Weekly Standard", on Fox News Sunday, July 16:

"Look, our coddling of Iran ... over the last six to nine months has emboldened them. I mean, is Iran behaving like a timid regime that's very worried about the U.S.? Or is Iran behaving recklessly and in a foolhardy way? ... Israel is fighting four of our five enemies in the Middle East, in a sense. Iran, Syria, sponsors of terror; Hezbollah and Hamas. ... This is an opportunity to begin to reverse the unfortunate direction of the last six to nine months and get the terrorists and the jihadists back on the defensive."

Host Juan Williams replied: "Well, it just seems to me that you want ... you just want war, war, war, and you want us in more war. You wanted us in Iraq. Now you want us in Iran. Now you want us to get into the Middle East ... you're saying, why doesn't the United States take this hard, unforgiving line? Well, the hard and unforgiving line has been [tried], we don't talk to anybody. We don't talk to Hamas. We don't talk to Hezbollah. We're not going to talk to Iran. Where has it gotten us, Bill?"

Kristol, looking somewhat taken aback, simply threw up his hands.

The Fox News audience does (very) occasionally get a hint of another way of looking at the world.

Iraq will follow Bush the rest of his life

Here comes now our Glorious Leader, speaking at a news conference at the recent G8 summit in St. Petersburg, referring to Russian president Vladimir Putin. "I talked about my desire to promote institutional change in parts of the world like Iraq where there's a free press and free religion, and I told him that a lot of people in our country would hope that Russia would do the same thing."

It's so very rare that Georgie W. makes one of his less-than-brilliant statements and has the nonsense immediately pointed out to him to his face -- "Putin, in a barbed reply, said: 'We certainly would not want to have the same kind of democracy as they have in Iraq, I will tell you quite honestly.' Bush's face reddened as he tried to laugh off the remark. 'Just wait'," he said.

It's too bad that Putin didn't also point out that religion was a lot more free under Saddam Hussein than under the American occupation. Amongst many charming recent incidents, in May the coach of the national tennis team and two of his players were shot dead in Baghdad by men who reportedly were religious extremists angry that the coach and his players were wearing shorts.

As to a "free press", dare I mention Iraqi newspapers closed down by the American occupation, reporters shot by American troops, and phony stories planted in the Iraqi press by Pentagon employees?

The preceding is in the same vein as last month's edition of my report in which I listed the many ways in which the people of Iraq have a much worse life now than they did under Saddam Hussein. I concluded with recounting the discussions I've had with Americans who, in the face of this, say to me: "Just tell me one thing, are you glad that Saddam Hussein is out of power?"

Now we have a British poll that reports that "More than two thirds who offered an opinion said America is essentially an imperial power seeking world domination. And 81 per cent of those who took a view said President George W. Bush hypocritically championed democracy as a cover for the pursuit of American self-interests." The American embassy in London was quick to reply. Said a spokesperson: "We question the judgment of anyone who asserts the world would be a better place with Saddam still terrorizing his own nation and threatening people well beyond Iraq's borders.”

They simply can't stop lying, can they? There was no evidence at all that Saddam was threatening any people outside of Iraq, whatever that's supposed to mean. It may mean arms sales. Following the Gulf War, the US sold around $100 billion of military hardware to Iraq's "threatened" neighbors: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the Gulf States, and Turkey.

As to the world being a better or worse place ... only Iraq itself was and is the issue here, not the world; although if the world is a better place, why am I depressed?

The peculiar idea of tying people's health to private corporate profits

Steven Pearlstein is a financial writer with the Washington Post, with whom I've exchanged several emails in recent years. He does not ignore or gloss over the serious defects of the American economic system, but nonetheless remains a true believer in the market economy. In a recent review of a book by journalist Maggie Mahar, "Money-Driven Medicine", Pearlstein writes that the author tries to explain "why health care costs so much in the United States, with such poor results." She has focused on the right issues, he says, "the misguided financial incentives at every level, the unnecessary care that is not only wasteful but harmful, the bloated administrative costs." However, "in making the case that the health-care system suffers from too much free-market competition and too little cooperation, Mahar means to drum up support for a publicly funded national system. But in the end, she mostly makes a convincing case that no health-care system will work unless we figure out what really works and is cost effective and then get doctors, hospitals and patients to embrace it.”

"Unless we figure out what really works and is cost effective" ... hmmm ... like there haven't been repeated studies showing that national health plans in Western Europe, Australia, Canada, and elsewhere cover virtually everyone and every ailment and cost society and individuals much less than in the United States. Isn't that "working"? I spent five years in the UK with my wife and small child and all three of us can swear by the National Health Service; at those times when neither my wife nor I was employed we didn't have to pay anything into the system; doctors even made house calls; and this was under Margaret Thatcher, who was doing her best to cripple the system, a goal she and her fellow Tories, later joined by "New Labor", have continued to pursue.

And then there's Cuba -- poor, little, third-world Cuba. Countless non-rich ill Americans would think they were in heaven to have the Cuban health system reproduced here, with higher salaries for doctors et al., which we could easily afford.

It should be noted that an extensive review of previous studies recently concluded that the care provided at for-profit nursing homes and hospitals, on average, is inferior to that at nonprofits. The analysis indicates that a facility's ownership status makes a difference in cost, quality, and accessibility of care.

Sale! Western Civilization! New, Improved! $99.99, marked down from $129.99. Sale!

There's currently a call in the United States to get rid of the one-cent coin because it costs 1.2 cents to make the coin and put it into circulation and because many people find the coins a nuisance. I have another reason to get rid of the coin -- hopefully, doing so would put an end to the ridiculous and ubiquitous practice of pricing almost everything at amounts like $9.99, $99.99, or $999.99. Or $3.29 or $17.98. What is the reason for this tedious and insulting absurdity? It began as, and continues to be, a con game -- trying to induce the purchaser to think that he's getting some kind of bargain price: Less than $10! Less than $100! In my local thrift shop, catering almost exclusively to poor blacks and Hispanics, virtually all prices end in .97 or .98 or .99. Every once in a while, when the nonsense has piled up to my nose level, I ask a shop manager or corporate representative why they use such a pricing system. They scarcely have any idea what I'm talking about. Sometimes in a shop when I'm discussing with a clerk the various price options of something I'm thinking of buying, and I say, "Okay, let's see, this model is $60 and ..." S/he'll interrupt me with: "No, it's $59.99."

And let's not forget gasoline. Priced at $2.60.9 per gallon. Or $3.24.9 per gallon. That's 9/10. It's been suggested that it was the oil companies that began this whole silliness.

Is this any way for people to relate to each other? Comes the revolution, and we write a new constitution, Paragraph 99 will ban this practice.

You can't make this stuff up

"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread." Anatole France, 1844-1924

On April 14 a federal appeals court ruled that the Los Angeles Police Department cannot arrest people for sitting, lying or sleeping on public sidewalks on Skid Row, saying such enforcement amounts to cruel and unusual punishment because there are not enough shelter beds for the city's huge homeless population. Judge Pamela A. Rymer issued a strong dissent against the majority opinion. The Los Angeles code "does not punish people simply because they are homeless," wrote Rymer. "It targets conduct -- sitting, lying or sleeping on city sidewalks -- that can be committed by those with homes as well as those without."

William  Blum is the author  of Killing  Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War IIRogue  State: a guide to the World's Only Super Power. and West-Bloc Dissident: a Cold War Political Memoir.

Bush Watch Home

Faith-Based Cupidity: Eight Degrees of Evangelical Hypocrisy (excerpts) Frank Rich

[Bush to Reed:] ...While Mr. Bush’s Iraq project threatens to deliver the entire region to Iran’s ayatollahs, this month may also be remembered as a turning point in America’s own religious wars. The president’s politically self-destructive stem-cell veto and the simultaneous undoing of the religious right’s former golden boy, Ralph Reed, in a Republican primary for lieutenant governor in Georgia are landmark defeats for the faith-based politics enshrined by Mr. Bush’s presidency. If we can’t beat the ayatollahs over there, maybe we’re at least starting to rout them here.

[...to Robertson to Abramoff:]...Hypocrisy among self-aggrandizing evangelists is as old as Elmer Gantry — older, actually. But Mr. Reed wasn’t some campfire charlatan. He was the religious right’s most effective poster boy in mainstream America. He had been recruited for precisely that mission by Pat Robertson, who made him the frontman for the Christian Coalition in 1989, knowing full well that Mr. Reed’s smarts and youth could do P.R. wonders that Mr. Robertson and the rest of the baggage-laden Falwell generation of Moral Majority demagogues could not. And it worked. In 1995, Mr. Reed was rewarded with the cover of Time, for representing “the most thorough penetration of the secular world of American politics by an essentially religious organization in this century.” Actually, the Christian Coalition was soon to be accused of inflating its membership, Enron-accounting style, and was careening into debt. Only three years after his Time cover, Mr. Reed, having ditched the coalition to set up shop as a political consultant, sent his self-incriminating e-mail to Mr. Abramoff: “I need to start humping in corporate accounts!” He also humped in noncorporate accounts, like the Bush campaigns of 2000 and 2004.

[...to Rove to Lieberman:]...By 2005 Mr. Reed had become so toxic that Mr. Bush wouldn’t be caught on camera with him in Georgia. But the Bush-Rove machine was nonetheless yoked to Mr. Reed in their crusades: the demonization of gay couples as boogeymen (and women) in election years, the many assaults on health (not just in stem-cell laboratories but in federal agencies dealing with birth control and sex education), the undermining of the science of evolution. The beauty of Mr. Reed’s unmasking is the ideological impact: the radical agenda to which he lent an ersatz respectability has lost a big fig leaf, and all the president’s men, tied down like Gulliver in Iraq, cannot put it together again to bamboozle suburban voters. It’s possible that even Joe Lieberman, a fellow traveler in the religious right’s Schiavo and indecency jeremiads, could be swept out with Rick Santorum in the 2006 wave. Mr. Lieberman is hardly the only Democrat in the Senate who signed on to the war in Iraq, but he’s surely the most sanctimonious. He is also the only Democrat whose incessant Bible thumping (while running for vice president in 2000) was deemed “inappropriate and even unsettling in a religiously diverse society such as ours” by the Anti-Defamation League. As Ralph Reed used to say: amen.

Lexington American theocracy Economist.com

YOU cannot get more brazen than holding a political rally in a church. Last week, more than 1,000 religious activists gathered in a splendid old one in Washington, DC, to talk politics. They discussed their spiritual agenda for America, swapped stories about power struggles within their party and travelled to Capitol Hill to lobby congressmen.

But this was not another example of the religious right on the march. A striking number of the men looked as if they were taking part in a beard-growing competition. Many of the women were in shocking pink. The speakers included a wilderness guide-cum-meditation teacher and a shaman who specialises in helping activists to “access spiritual wisdom”. One speaker worked the crowd into a frenzy with rhetorical questions (Does God believe in invading Iraq? Does God believe in cutting taxes for the rich?) before urging them to “hug your neighbour” and “show some love”. The Southern Baptist Convention this was not.

The religious left is more energised than it has been for years. The number of new-wave “values voters”—who loathe, rather than love, the values embraced by George Bush—is growing rapidly. They range from blacks and Latinos (who are among the most churchgoing people in the country) to left-wing evangelicals to a hotch-potch of Buddhists and gurus, and they are coming together to make their voices heard. The religious left has acquired spokesmen in the form of Jim Wallis, the author of “God's Politics”, and Michael Lerner, a rabbi and the organiser of last week's conference. Several topical themes are giving it momentum, from immigration reform, where the Catholic church has been particularly outspoken, to Iraq.

Hence the reappearance of one of those questions that has been bugging Democratic strategists for decades. Can the religious left become a force in American politics comparable to the right-wing version? Religious leftists point out that a growing number of people are disillusioned with the choice between a pious right, which thinks that Jesus cared more about gay marriage than poverty, and a secular left that believes religion has no role in the public square. They also argue that the religious left has a proud history in America, from the Social Gospel wing of the Progressive movement to civil-rights campaigning. The political marriage between religion and the right, they argue, is the exception rather than the rule.

The Democratic high command has at last worked out that it does not have much chance of thriving in one of the most religious countries in the world if it cannot close the “God-gap”. Yet, if anything, the God-gap is growing. In 2004 Mr Bush won 64% of the votes of people who go to church more than once a week and 58% of people who go once a week. The proportion of people who regard the Democratic Party as less “friendly” towards religion than the Republican increased from 12% in 2003 to 20% in 2005. Fully 67% of people think that liberals have gone too far in keeping religion out of schools.

The growing God-gap has set off a flurry of activity in Democratic circles. Two of the most left-wing members of the leadership—Nancy Pelosi and Howard Dean—have courted “values voters”, Ms Pelosi by visiting Lakewood mega-church in Houston and Mr Dean by appearing on Pat Robertson's “700 Club”. The Democrats have fielded a pro-life candidate, Bob Casey, to take on Rick Santorum in the Pennsylvania Senate race. Both Hillary Clinton and Edward Kennedy have gone out of their way to argue that abortion is a tragedy as well as a right. Messrs Wallis and Lerner have become familiar figures on Capitol Hill.

But is this truly a sea-change in American religious politics? Or is it a brief “hallelujah moment”—born of Bush fatigue and political opportunism—that will bring no lasting change? The betting is on the latter. The religious left suffers from two long-term problems. The first is that it is building its house on sand. The groups that make up the heart of the religious left—mainline Protestants, liberal Catholics and reform Jews—are all experiencing long-term decline. Most of the growth in American religion is occurring among conservative churches. And the constituent parts of the religious left are also at odds over important issues. Middle-of-the-road Catholics are happy to march hand-in-hand with mainline Protestants over immigration and inequality. But they often disagree over abortion and gay rights.

The secular left usually wins

Serious doubts also persist about how much the Democratic Party is willing to change to embrace religion. Some influential Democrats want real change. Others think that all they need to do is drop a few platitudes to religious voters and the God-gap will disappear. Mr Dean's performance on Pat Robertson's television programme was as telling as it was laughable. He not only chose to talk to a man who plays a much bigger role in the liberal imagination than among evangelicals; he also let slip that Democrats “have an enormous amount in common with the Christian community.”

The biggest problem for the religious left is that it is badly outgunned by the secular left. The Democratic Party's elites—from interest-groups to funders to activists—are determinedly secular. So are many of its most loyal voters. John Kerry won 62% of the vote of people who never go to church; and that group is the fastest-growing single “religious” group in the country. These secular voters don't just feel indifferent to religion. They are positively hostile to it, regarding it as a embodiment of irrationality and a threat to liberal values such as the right to choose. These crusading secularists are in a particularly militant mood at the moment, as the sales of Kevin Phillips's Bush-bashing book, “American Theocracy”, testify. The last thing they want is a religious left to counterbalance the religious right

[Apr 10, 2006] Christian Coalition shrinks By Alan Cooperman and Thomas B. Edsall Organization owes more than $2 million

MSNBC.com

In an era when conservative Christians enjoy access and influence throughout the federal government, the organization that fueled their rise has fallen on hard times.

The once-mighty Christian Coalition, founded 17 years ago by the Rev. Pat Robertson as the political fundraising and lobbying engine of the Christian right, is more than $2 million in debt, beset by creditors' lawsuits and struggling to hold on to some of its state chapters.

In March, one of its most effective chapters, the Christian Coalition of Iowa, cut ties with the national organization and reincorporated itself as the Iowa Christian Alliance, saying it "found it impossible to continue to carry a name that in any way associated us with this national organization."

"The credibility is just not there like it once was," said Stephen L. Scheffler, president of the Iowa affiliate since 2000. "The budget has shrunk from $26 million to $1 million. There's a trail of debt. . . . We believe, our board believes, any Christian organization has an obligation to pay its debts in a timely fashion."

At its peak a decade ago, the Christian Coalition deployed a dozen lobbyists on Capitol Hill. Today, it has a single Washington employee who works out of his home. Its phone number with a 202 area code is automatically forwarded to a small office in Charleston, S.C.

The Christian Coalition is still routinely included in meetings with White House officials and conservative leaders, and is still a household name. But financial problems and a long battle over its tax status have sapped its strength, allowing it to be eclipsed by other Christian groups, such as the Family Research Council and the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Although some of those groups have begun moving into the coalition's specialty -- grass-roots voter education and get-out-the-vote drives -- none is poised to distribute 70 million voter guides through churches, as the Christian Coalition did in 2000.

Built around two men

The coalition's decline is a story that can perhaps best be told along biblical lines: It is the narrative of a group that wandered after the departure of its early leaders, lost faith in some of its guiding principles and struggled to keep its identity after entering the promised land -- in this case, the land of political influence.

From its inception, the coalition was built around two individuals, Robertson and Ralph Reed. Both were big personalities with big followings.

"After the founders left, the Christian Coalition never fully recovered," said James L. Guth, an expert on politics and religion at Furman University in South Carolina. "The dependence on Robertson and Reed was really disastrous."

Reed left in 1997 to become a Republican political consultant and is now seeking the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor of Georgia. Once a golden boy of GOP politics, he has recently tarnished his reputation with ties to lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Robertson resigned as the Christian Coalition's president in 2001 after defending China's one-child policy in a CNN interview that fellow conservatives viewed with horror. It was among the most damaging in a series of remarks that have hurt Robertson's standing among evangelical Christians -- and may have hurt the Christian Coalition as well.

"He kind of constantly makes people wonder whether the organizations he was involved with really are fringe organizations when he does things like explain Ariel Sharon's stroke as an act of God," Guth said, referring to a comment Robertson made about the Israeli prime minister earlier this year.

Roberta Combs, the South Carolina coordinator for Robertson's 1988 bid for the Republican presidential nomination, replaced him as head of the Christian Coalition five years ago. She says the organization was in worse financial shape then, with debts approaching $4 million. She cleaned house and, she says, made enemies.

"I had to let a lot of staff go, and they all got upset with me because they were close to Ralph [Reed]. Of course they said bad things about me. But we got a lot of that [debt] paid down over time," Combs said.

IRS records show that the Christian Coalition's red ink has remounted. Its debts exceeded its assets by $983,000 in 2001, $1.3 million in 2002, $2 million in 2003 and $2.28 million at the end of 2004, the most recent year for which it has filed a nonprofit tax return.

Lawsuits for unpaid bills have multiplied. The Christian Coalition's longtime law firm -- Huff, Poole & Mahoney PC of Virginia Beach -- says it is owed $69,729. Global Direct, a fundraising firm in Oklahoma, is suing for $87,000 in expenses. Reese & Sons Inc., a moving company in District Heights, is trying to recover $1,890 for packing up furniture when the Christian Coalition closed its Washington office in 2002. The list goes on.

Michele Combs, the Christian Coalition's spokeswoman and Roberta Combs's daughter, described the organization as "a victim of our own success."

Money flowed to the coalition in the mid-1990s, when Bill Clinton was president. But, Michele Combs said, with a conservative president and a conservative Congress, things are different. "It's harder to raise money when the agenda you've been working for all these years is moving forward and you have a place at the table," she said.

Core principles

According to some former employees, however, the Christian Coalition stumbled because it lost touch with core conservative principles.

Despite Robertson's denials, fellow conservative Christians viewed his 2001 CNN interview as a defense of forced abortions. "The Christian Coalition was already on life support. Robertson's remarks probably mean its demise," former Christian Coalition lobbyist Marshall Wittmann predicted at the time.

In 2003, Roberta Combs defied conservative orthodoxy when she campaigned in Alabama in support of a state tax increase. Leaders of the Christian Coalition's Alabama chapter said the national organization had "dramatically departed from a 13-year traditional core values platform."

Combs also drew charges of nepotism by hiring her daughter and former son-in-law, Tracy E. Ammons, a schoolteacher who became a $6,000-a-month Senate lobbyist. When the couple divorced two years ago, he claimed the Christian Coalition owed him $130,000 in unpaid salary.

"On the financial end, I was privy to everything from counting money to going and talking to the landlord when we couldn't pay the rent," Ammons said in a recent interview. "Lots of times we wouldn't pay until someone sued. I did it to others. Then [the Christian Coalition] did it to me."

Change in voter guides
The group's identity is now tied to its voter guides, which are about to undergo a substantial change.

After years of battling the IRS, the Christian Coalition reached a settlement a year ago that secures its status as a tax-exempt 501(c)(4) lobbying and educational institution.

But the settlement requires the Christian Coalition to allow candidates to write up to 25 words of explanation on each issue. In the past, the guides listed topics such as "unrestricted abortion on demand" or "adoption of children by homosexuals" and described the candidates' positions simply as "supports" or "opposes."

In a letter to its state chapters in February, Roberta Combs warned that they, too, must follow the 25-word rule when they publish voter guides for state elections, or else stop using the Christian Coalition's name and logo. The settlement has irritated some conservative activists, who think it will make the guides less effective.

Combs said that although some chapters are upset, it was vital to resolve the dispute with the IRS and that "it won't be hard to find new people" to form chapters in Iowa or any other state that balks. She also said the Christian Coalition needs a new face on television and is looking for an executive director who can play that role.

"People have been writing our obituary for years," she said. "But you go out in the hinterlands and talk to the grass roots, and it's a whole different story. People call us every day and want to be involved

[Feb 08, 2006] The Australian News/Running up the white flag in the face of clerical fascism  An interesting term "clerical fascism".

British columnist Melanie Phillips, at Realclearpolitics. com, on the folly of Anglo-American appeasement

THE still escalating confrontation over the Danish cartoons dramatically illustrates the now pathological reluctance of the leaders of Britain and America to face up to the blindingly obvious and the extent to which they have already run up the white flag in the face of clerical fascism.

With holy war declared openly upon the West, with death threats being issued against cartoonists and editors, with Danes, Scandinavians and other Europeans being hunted for kidnap and in fear of their lives, with blood-curdling intimidation, with mob demonstrations, calls to behead westerners and rallying cries for holy war by Islam against Europe, the governments of Britain and America are busy prostrating themselves before this terror, apologizing for causing offence and blaming the victims of this assault.

Meanwhile, their intelligentsia earnestly debates whether it is wrong to insult someone else's religion, as if this were a university ethics seminar rather than a world war being waged by clerical fascism against free societies and with people in hiding and in fear of their lives for having exercised the right to protest at religious violence and intimidation ...

The cartoon jihad has made one thing crystal clear. No more alibis. The roots of global terror do not lie in Iraq, nor in Israel/Palestine, nor in Chechnya, Kashmir or any of the other iconic conflicts that are said to be its cause.

They lie instead in the Islamists' rage that their religious culture is not in power across the world, their determination to subordinate that world to its tenets and their truly pathological belief that it is they who are under attack if their victims dare defend themselves. Twelve scribbled drawings have lifted the veil - on both the nature of the threat and the disarray that greets it.

Rush Limbaugh Debunked

Bill Rentz, discusses Rush Limbaugh’s 1992 opus, The Way Things Ought to Be. It's kind of interesting to compare Rush with some well-known Wahhabi preachers... 

RUSH:   “I believe ... that there is one God and that this country was established with that foundational belief....”

BILL:   It is a historical fact that this country was established by Christians who believed in the Christian God.  It is also a historical fact that those men were the bearers of – and in founding our nation and its governing institutions, they were strongly influenced by – values of secularism and morality in government that were passed on to them by the European Enlightenment.  Those Enlightenment values held by the Founders led directly to many of the values now held by us liberals and secular humanists.   

            I grew up with Christian values and ideas.  I studied religion while in college.  I still cherish those values and ideas, but I have also come to believe that what is most  important in the world of government and politics is that there is one human family whose members are of many colors and many cultures, and all of us somehow or other find our way to a spiritual connection with the universe, however inarticulate we may be about it.  

            Some people want something more concrete upon which to base their spiritual life, and I do not fault them for that.  However, I have a problem with them when they tell me – as when, like Rush,  they proudly trumpet their belief in one God, saying that is the way things ought to be  –  that their way is better than mine, and when they tell me – as Rush is about to do – that because I do not believe in their one God, I have no moral values.  

RUSH:   “I believe that our morality emanates from our Divine Creator, whose laws are not subject to amendment, modification, or rescission by man....”

BILL:   I believe our morality appears to us through our humanity – through the intelligent consciousness with which we human beings are endowed and through the experiences we have with our fellow human beings. Human beings are born with the drive to make life better, with the capacity for empathy, with the need to live in harmony with other human beings, and with the capacity for self-criticism.  These and other qualities of our intellect and our human condition lead us inevitably to discover and attempt to live by moral values.  Through our humanity, through our contact with people of other cultures, and through the writings passed down through the ages, we discover that there are enduring values that guided people in ancient times as well as today.  The values taught by Jesus, Socrates, the Buddha, and other wise ones of the ancient world are as good today as they were in those times, and they are as much disregarded today as they were then. 

            I also believe that many of our values change over time – even in the space of my own lifetime, values that society has espoused have changed, and my own values have changed.  In all of this process of change, I trust that we hold on to what is most important. 

RUSH: “I believe ... that certain fundamental differences between men and women exist in nature; that men and women are not at war and that their relationship should not be redefined by those who believe that we are....”  

BILL:   I agree with that.  However I do not think that the relationship between men and women is being defined by those who believe that there is a war between men and women, and I do not believe that there is any risk of that happening.  The relationship between men and women is being redefined by forces much larger than that.  It is being redefined by the reality of the universal education of women and by the encouragement that such education gives to women to do most of the things previously reserved to men.  It is being redefined in large part by economic forces that make it necessary for women to work outside the home in order to make ends meet for the family.  It is being redefined by the on-going sexual revolution that came along with the birth control pill, as modified by the advent of AIDS.  It is being redefined by the growing demands for equal treatment of the sexes.  At the same time, the popularity of a book such as “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” recognizes and validates the differences between men and women that have been recognized for a long time.     

RUSH:   “I believe ... that the meaning of the establishment clause of the First Amendment should not be stretched beyond its intended dimensions by precluding voluntary prayer in our public schools....”  

BILL:   Rush, here is what the establishment clause says:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof....”

That’s all there is to it, in its entirety.  As you may notice, this clause says nothing specific about school prayer, so its supposed “intended dimensions” with respect to school prayer are in no way obvious.  Rush’s statement about not stretching the clause beyond its intended dimensions is just what Rush says it is – a belief.  There are some good constitutional scholars who believe that the establishment clause does prohibit voluntary school prayer.  For me, it is enough to know that voluntary school prayer has the potential of deeply offending some, in a way that has no bearing on what the school should be doing.  The potential for that offense – even it be only one child who is offended – is not worth the trouble.  There are more than enough subjects for public schools to teach, there are more than enough ways for schools to inculcate fundamental values, without teaching religion by teaching how to pray.  If parents want their children to get a religious education, they should make sure they get it in church.

            Actually, I think Rush believes this, too – that people should get their religious training at home or in church rather than in the public schools.  In his chapter on Multiculturalism, he endorses this idea pretty explicitly.    

RUSH:   “I believe ... that the United States was founded on the beliefs that I have just enunciated....”  

BILL:   Whether or not the United States was founded on the beliefs that Rush has just enunciated misses the point.  Of greater concern should be whether the beliefs that drive one’s political views are relevant in today’s world and are consistent with fundamental moral values.  For example, our obligation to protect the environment today is far different from what it was in 1776, because our ability to damage the environment permanently today far exceeds the potential for damage in 1776.  For another example, the relationship between the races today is worlds away from what it was in 1776.  For another example, the relationship between the sexes is worlds away from what it was in 1776.  I do not think that Rush’s beliefs pass the test of current relevance and fundamental morality, but you, the reader, are free to decide that for yourself.

RUSH:   “I believe ... that it [the United States] is the greatest nation in the history of the world; and that the USA is the greatest nation, not because Americans are inherently superior but because its government was founded on principles which seek to allow maximum individual achievement.” 

BILL:   I think the United States is a damn good country.  I love being a citizen of this country.  I am proud of the things that are country has done that are consistent with our highest values.  This land is my home. 

            At the same time, I deplore the actions we take that are inconsistent with those values, and I reject the blind patriotism of the kind articulated by Rush.  I do not feel the need to endorse the idea that the United States is the greatest nation in the history of the world. 

            I also disagree with the idea that we are great because our government was founded on principles which seek to allow maximum individual achievement.  The truth is that the United States is a great nation because we excel in the development of private, commercial, public, non-profit  and governmental organizations, at the same time as we allow a great deal of freedom for the individual.  We are a pragmatic lot, and we excel in finding many different ways to make our lives better, through individual as well as through cooperative and intricately organized efforts.  We are great because we are always seeking to find that balance between freedom and regulation that will enable us to make better lives for ourselves and for future generations.  We are great because, when we are at our best, we value education that is acquired through formal schooling as well as through practical experience, and because we seek to honor and apply what we learn. We are great because we seek new and better ways of doing things, and because we willingly accept changes that are brought to us by others.  We are great because, when we are at our best, we value what is best in the human spirit, wherever and in whomever it might be found.    

RUSH:   “I also believe that the dominant media culture is composed of liberals who seek to push their view on society without admitting they are doing it.”

 BILL:   I believe that the dominant media culture tries to stay in the middle of the road by avoiding any offense to those in the middle of the road.  Inevitably, at times, those in the middle of the road espouse liberal views, and at other times, espouse conservative views.  If the mainstream media deviates at all away from conservative or moderate views, conservatives like Rush, will accuse the media of being liberals.  If the mainstream media deviates away from moderate or liberal views, the liberals will accuse the media of going conservative.  My own belief is that all too often, on too many issues, the mainstream media does a very poor job of reporting stories simply because they do not want to offend, because they do not want to be seen as supporting one side or the other, or because they do not want to take the time or spend the money to become informed about the issues before they do the story.  The progressive takeover of major broadcast TV by large corporate conglomerates has only increased this tendency.

With the advent of the three cable news channels – Fox, MSNBC, and CNN – Rush’s complaint has lost any validity that it might have had in 1992.  Fair and Balanced Fox is unabashedly right wing and claims to be quite the news powerhouse.  MSNBC and CNN try to portray themselves as objective and CNN sometimes succeeds in presenting a balanced view of events, but conservative views are strongly and regularly represented on all three of these channels, while liberal views are weakly presented or missing altogether.  The cable news channels are pushing the middle of the road to the right, and so in order to remain in the middle of the road, the mainstream media drifts to the right, also.

RUSH:   “I believe conservatives are indeed the silent majority in this country and that they prove that every four years at the polls.”

BILL:    Democrat Bill Clinton won the popular vote in 1992 and 1996.  Democrat Al Gore won the popular vote in 2000, despite being weighed down by Clinton’s second term sexual stupidity – although Bush won the electoral college vote that year.  In 2004, Bush – benefitting heavily from the fact that he happened to be our leader when we were hit by the 9-11 attacks and from the fact that he, as any marginally decent leader would have done,  talked tough in that time of crisis – won the popular vote by a slim margin.  Bush’s victories in 2000 and 2004 were accompanied by more complaints against the winning side for unlawful interference with the vote than in any election since Kennedy’s election in 1960.  Those facts speak for themselves.

RUSH:   “Finally, I believe that certain liberals have become painfully aware that they do  represent the minority position in society.  That they are losing, so to speak.  They have read the writing on the wall and have made subtle adjustments in order to reposition themselves for another run at reestablishing control.  These subtle adjustments have taken the disguised form of popular, sentimental political causes which are difficult for people to oppose, such as environmentalism, animal rights activism, and feminism.  Although each of these groups superficially advocates the specific programs within their particular causes, a common broad sweeping theme underlies all of these ‘movements.’  Unmistakably, that theme is anticapitalism, secular humanism, and socialism.”

BILL:   Sometimes, Rush cannot contain himself, and he has to let loose with invectives, or what he thinks are invectives – “liberals are losers,” liberals operate under “disguises,” liberals adopt “sentimental” causes, liberals endorse “anticapitalism, secular humanism and socialism.”  Name-calling may have its place in politics, but in this essay I wanted to – and I thought in Rush’s book, he was going to – talk seriously about values, ideas, beliefs, and reality.

Taking a serious discussion of values, ideas beliefs and reality as the point of this essay, I look at Rush’s beliefs and I find them seriously wanting in a number of respects.

Rush looks at the issue of freedom vs. regulation.  He rejects the idea that it is best to achieve a balance between these two ideas.  He says that he supports freedom and rejects regulation.  In actual practice, however, he (like many conservatives before and after him) comes down hard in favor of using governmental power to restrict individual behavior when he does not like what individuals are doing, and he favors as much freedom for business interests as possible, even when they are doing demonstrable harm.

Similarly, on the issue of individuality vs. organization – Rush praises individuality to the skies and ignores the value and importance of social organization. 

Rush looks at the question of family values.  He says that strong family values are at the core of a strong society.  At the same time, he resists extending the application of family values beyond the confines of the nuclear family.  Should businesses apply family values?  In Rush’s view, probably not.  Should politicians adhere to family values in their behavior as politicians?  In Rush’s view, probably not.  Should we extend any of our family values into the relations between races, or into the arena of international relations?  In Rush’s view, probably not.  In other words, family values are good to keep people happy in the family, but at some point outside the nuclear family we find that it is a dog-eat-dog world and we need to structure our entire society around the need to compete in that world outside the family.

My broader criticism of Rush’s beliefs is that in every case, he focuses on only a small part of reality and bases his core belief on that small part of reality.  He fails to see the big picture.  He fails to see the elements in the big picture which have an important bearing on the issues he is trying to resolve.

Take the environment.  He focuses on the power we humans have to dominate nature – to build, to move, to rearrange, to restructure nature.  From this he derives his moral belief – God gave us dominion over nature, and we should exercise that dominion.  He ignores the other powers we have with respect to nature and he ignores the intelligence we have with which to guide our actions in nature – our power to experience awe and wonder, our power to destroy nature, our power to refrain from destroying nature, our power to plan our actions thoughtfully and with foresight to avoid harming nature. He also ignores the over-riding fact about nature – that nature is the only place where we get the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat, and that nature is the only place where our grandchildren and our grandchildren’s grandchildren will get their air and their water and their food.  

Take race relations.  He focuses on the competitive aspects of life, and he ignores the value of self-sacrifice to enable others to get ahead and on the value of giving others an advantage when that appears to be needed to bring about a fairer distribution of social benefits. 

 Take his view of history – he focuses on the Founding Fathers’ religious beliefs, and he ignores the secular philosophies that they also brought to bear on the formation of our government. 

Take his view of individual freedom.  He focuses on the value of individuals being free from any restraint, and he fails to acknowledge the ways in which structure, organization, cooperation and restraint can invigorate individual actions and make individual actions more effective.

Take his view of patriotism.  He wants to look at all of the good things that our country has done or produced, and none of the bad things. 

As I see it, we need to focus on the big picture – the whole picture and all of its parts – if we are to continue to thrive as a nation.  Granted, looking at the big picture calls for a little bit more mental effort and gives us a few more moral dilemmas.  But that is where we as a civilization are, and that is where the complexity of our civilization has put all of us as individuals.  We can honor the Founding Fathers for the governmental institutions they gave us, we can honor Jesus for the religion and the values he gave us, but we cannot go back to the relative simplicity of the worlds in which they lived.

BILL RENTZ

TAP Vol 8, Iss. 35. Unholy Alliance. Wendy Kaminer.   Current demands for religiosity in government cannot simply be attributed to the religious right.

But current demands for religiosity in government cannot simply be attributed to the religious right. Left-of-center communitarians share much of the credit (or blame) for prevailing critiques of secularism and celebrations of majority rule. Communitarians have lauded religious institutions as paradigms of community and sources of civic virtue; they have associated assertions of individual rights with selfishness and anomie; they have given majoritarianism new respectability by calling it a renewal of community. Of course, liberalism has also long stood for restraining the market behavior of individuals to promote a greater social good, but it has fought government attempts to control private behavior. Communitarianism extended the liberal critique of individualism in the economic sphere to the sphere of personal relations and civil liberties. It romanticized religious belief and the spiritual power of communities, injecting the left with hostility to existential demands for individual autonomy.

In this climate, appeals to Jeffersonian ideals of separating church and state and reminders of the threat to minority rights posed by state-established religions will do little to counter anecdotes about recovering addicts who find God or born-again welfare recipients who find the will to work, as well as jobs. But if the principles restraining majoritarianism fail us, sectarian rivalries may restrain the formation of majorities, as the Founders anticipated. ("Security for religious rights," Madison wrote in Federalist No. 52, depends on "the multiplicity of sects.")

Will right-wing Christians fight to give Muslims the power to conduct prayers in public schools or administer government funds? Will Muslims and Orthodox Jews join Southern Baptists in a fight to post the Ten Commandments in the nation's courts? Historically, religious minorities in America have supported the separation of church and state, recognizing in it a grant of religious freedom. But if they begin to feel more threatened by secularism than by a theocracy in which a majority rules (with the promise of benevolence), then First Amendment strictures against establishing religion may fall.

If sectarianism doesn't emerge early to prevent church-state alliances, it will emerge with a vengeance, too late.

Christian Alliance for Progress Blog Whatever Happened to Fundamentalist Progressives

One of the strangest features of the contemporary political landscape is the marriage of convenience between religious conservatives and traditional elements of the Republican Party. If you had lived a hundred years ago, for instance, you would have experienced a similar theology from the fundamentalists but the politics would have been very different. The great populist of the latter part of the 19th and first quarter of the 20th century, William Jennings Bryan, who most people remember as the fundamentalist prosecutor in the famous Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925, had a long and successful political career during which he railed against the moneyed interests of his day and on behalf of the common working person.

According to the William Jennings Bryan Recognition Project,

Bryan is credited with early championing of the following: (1) graduated income tax (16th Amendment), (2) direct election of U.S. senators (17th Amendment), (3) women's suffrage (19th Amendment), (4) workmen's compensation, (5) minimum wage, (6) eight-hour workday, (7) Federal Trade Commission, (8) Federal Farm Loan Act, (9) government regulation of telephone/telegraph and food safety, (10) Department of Health, (11) Department of Labor, and (12) Department of Education.

Now from that list of liberal political accomplishments, one would imagine that Bryan was probably a godless atheist, right? In fact, he was anything but, which was why he was the prosecutor in charge of convicting Tennessee biology teacher John Scopes for teaching evolution against state law in the mid-1920’s. Bryan’s theology was hardly distinguishable from Jerry Falwell’s or Pat Robertson’s today. But his politics were very different.

The understanding of Jesus that Bryan brought to the public square was a Jesus who was concerned about fair wages, fair taxes, fair working conditions, and the good that the government could do for its citizens. Bryan was also a world-renowned champion of peace, using his position as Secretary of State in the Wilson administration as a platform for peacemaking , rather than saber rattling. But somewhere along the way, this message of concern for common people and for peace went by the boards amongst fundamentalists and was instead replaced by a Jesus who favored the powerful and who walked with potentates, and who thought that force was a legitimate means to achieve American public policy ends.

This is the Jesus of the contemporary Religious Right, who favors small government, low taxes, and who would be more likely to give you a lecture on self-reliance and pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps, than he would be to heal you or feed you with the little boy’s five loaves and two fishes. In short, this Jesus sounds like he just finished a summer internship at the Cato Institute.

[Dec 19, 2005] Guardian Unlimited Books By genre Reflections in the Evening Land by Harold Bloom.

Huey Long, known as "the Kingfish," dominated the state of Louisiana from 1928 until his assassination in 1935, at the age of 42. Simultaneously governor and a United States senator, the canny Kingfish uttered a prophecy that haunts me in this late summer of 2005, 70 years after his violent end: "Of course we will have fascism in America but we will call it democracy!"

... ... ...

Our politics began to be contaminated by theocratic zealots with the Reagan revelation, when southern Baptists, Mormons, Pentecostals, and Adventists surged into the Republican party. The alliance between Wall Street and the Christian right is an old one, but has become explicit only in the past quarter century. What was called the counter-culture of the late 1960s and 70s provoked the reaction of the 80s, which is ongoing. This is all obvious enough, but becomes subtler in the context of the religiosity of the country, which truly divides us into two nations. Sometimes I find myself wondering if the south belatedly has won the civil war, more than a century after its supposed defeat. The leaders of the Republican party are southern; even the Bushes, despite their Yale and Connecticut tradition, were careful to become Texans and Floridians. Politics, in the United States, perhaps never again can be separated from religion. When so many vote against their own palpable economic interests, and choose "values" instead, then an American malaise has replaced the American dream.

... ... ...

In September, the US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice was quoted as saying at Zion Church in Whistler, Alabama: "The Lord Jesus Christ is going to come on time if we just wait."

[Oct 29, 2005] The Blog Cenk Uygur If You're a Christian, Muslim or Jew - You are Wrong

The Huffington Post

We live in a twisted world, where right is wrong and wrong reigns supreme. It is a chilling fact that most of the world's leaders believe in nonsensical fairytales about the nature of reality. They believe in Gods that do not exist, and religions that could not possibly be true. We are driven to war after war, violence on top of violence to appease madmen who believe in gory mythologies. These men are called Christians, Muslims and Jews.

Osama bin Laden is insane. He believes God whispered in the ear of Mohammed 1,400 years ago about how he should conquer Arabia. Mohammed was a pure charlatan -- and a good one at that. He makes present religious frauds like Pat Robertson look like amateurs.

He said God told him to have sex with as many of the women he met as possible. I'm sorry, I meant to say "take them as wives." God told him to kill all other tribes that stood in his way or that would not placate him with assurances of loyalty or bribes. God told him, conveniently, that everyone should follow him and never question a word he said.

He sold this bag of goods to the blithering idiots who lived in the Arabian Peninsula at the time. If that weren't shockingly stupid enough, over a billion people continue to believe the convenient lies that Mohammed told all that time ago -- to this very day.

We live in a world full of insane people. Sanity is an island battered in an ocean of frothing delusion. The people who believe in science are the minority. The people who believe in bloody fairytales are the overwhelming majority.

George W. Bush is the most powerful man alive. He is a class A imbecile. He is far less intelligent than the average Christian. But like most of the others, he believes Jesus died for his sins. That idea is so perverse and devoid of logic it should shock the conscience. Instead, it gets him elected, and earns him the reverence of a great percentage of America. America! The most advanced country in the world -- run by a bunch of villagers who still believe Santa Claus is going to save them.

There is no damn Easter Bunny. There is no Jesus waiting to return. Moses never even existed. These were all convenient lies from the men of those times to gain power. Their actions were rational -- they wanted to deceive their brethren so that they could amass power. I get their motivations. But I cannot, for the life of me, understand our motivations, thousands of years later, still following the conmen of yesteryear into our gory, bloody, violent end.

Jesus is said to have said on the cross, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" Because Jesus was insane and the God he thought would rescue him did not exist. And he died on that cross like a fool. He fancied himself the son of God and he could barely convince twelve men to follow him at a time when the world was full of superstition.

Excellent marketing by some of his followers would later rescue his botched effort. How many people saw his miracles? One? Twelve? Eighty? Why didn't he show the whole world? Not because this is some giant pop quiz by God to test us -- but because he did not perform any miracles!

Even his apostles can't agree on what miracles he supposedly carried out or when he carried them out. Or whether he returned after death or he didn't. Whether they saw him in person or just as a vision. Rational human beings shouldn't believe this kind of nonsense. Yet most of the world does.

If a man today killed his only son to show how much he loved other people, he would be considered a madman, locked in jail and earn society's contempt. Yet we think this is some sort of noble act by our Father in Heaven.

In Heaven? What, with the harps and the winged angels and the 72 virgins? My God, how stupid do you have to be to believe that?

I know most of you don't actually read your religious texts, and when you do, you assiduously try to avoid the parts that make no sense whatsoever or hide underneath the comforting grasp of your religious leaders who have concocted a bunch of circular logic (a crime to even use that word in regards to Christianity, Islam or Judaism) to shield you from the obvious folly of the written text.

So, I'm not calling you stupid if you haven't really read the material. And I know how powerful brainwashing is. We all received it when we were young and it is exceedingly difficult to break its grasp. But people dance around the issue out of politeness because they don't want to call you what you are -- ignorant.

There are a lot of people I love dearly and respect wholeheartedly who believe in religion. I hate to do this to them. But we have killed far too many people, wasted far too much time on this nonsense for us to keep going in this direction for fear of offense.

Jesus was a lunatic. God is not coming to your rescue. He hasn't come to anyone's rescue in thousands of years, including Jesus. Mohammed was a power hungry, scam artist and ruthless conqueror. Moses and Abraham were figments of the imagination of some long dead rabbi. He would probably laugh his ass off at all of you who still believe the fairytales he made up thousands of years ago. He probably wouldn't even believe it if you told him.

Did I mention Judaism? The chosen people? Come on, get off it. People walk around in clothes from 18th century Russia, thinking they have been chosen by God when they look like a bunch of jackasses. I'm tired of all the deaths because we did not want to give offense. Orthodox Jews are wrong and ridiculous.

As are the orthodox and fundamentalists of all of the religions. It says in the Bible that it is an abomination to wear clothes made of two different cloths or to eat shellfish. If you think God will hate you because you mixed wool and linen or because you ate some shrimp, you are insane.

How long are we going to dance around the 800-pound gorilla in the room? The world is run by madmen. It's not just Bush and bin Laden. It is the leader of all of the countries in the Middle East, almost all of the Americas and most of the rest of the world.

Have I offended you? That's too bad. Stop killing each other in the name of false and ridiculous Gods and I will stop ridiculing you. Trust me, your offense is much worse than mine.

Right now as you read this, there are ignorant, hateful Muslims teaching other ignorant Muslims how to put on a suicide belt. There are orthodox Jews telling other Jews how they must never leave their "holy land" no matter what the consequences are to other human beings. They assure their followers -- remember, they are not the chosen ones, we are. If we crush and oppress them, don't worry, God will excuse it, and even desires it, because He is on our side.

There are maniacal Christians who are praying for the end of time. Who are hoping that most of the world's population is wiped off the face of the Earth by their vengeful and murderous God. Whom they believe is, ironically, a loving God. Unless, of course, you make the fatal mistake of not kissing his ass and appeasing him, in which case he will slaughter you and condemn you to eternal torture. What kind of sick people believe this?

The kind who live next to you. The kind who voted for George Bush. The kind who send their religious leaders to the White House to argue against even-handedness in the Middle East because it would prevent their sick prophecy. The kind who have undue influence over how we use the greatest and most lethal army ever built by man.

If you don't want to be called ignorant or misinformed, then get informed. Learn the real nature of our universe and put aside old wives tales about resurrected Gods, omniscient prophets and a guy who could split the Red Sea but couldn't find where he's going in the desert for forty years.

It's the year 2005. Let's start acting like it.

Comments

 hamishC:  

You should also address the fact that GWB & Co think it is ok for religious fanatics in the USA, India, Israel and Pakistan to have "the bomb" but god forbid that those "wackos" in Iran should get it. If you have ever watched grown men beat their head against a stone wall for hours on end and then thought...."they have their finger on the trigger and could initiate the destruction of the world"...well let's just say the experience won't leave you inspired about the future of the human race. Thank you for your cogent insight into the insanity of our world.

aggie:

Lovely rant. Just dropping the religion doesn't cure the insanity, though. It has many other manifestations. But it would be a nice start.

Rhett

:Guess what Cenk -- I'm a progressive Democrat and a believing Muslim! My faith informs my attitudes toward social justice, equality and compassion for the weak. Attacking people of faith is a losing proposition, since human beings will be revering Moses, Jesus and Muhammad long after you've been forgotten by history. It is the ignorant and bigoted attitudes like these by some atheists on the Left that drives people of faith into the arms of the Republicans.

Instead of smearing Judaism, Christianity and Islam, perhaps you should be reaching out to progressive believers who find that faith is compatible with social justice and modern thinking.

And, on a personal note, since you seem to have as much hatred for Islam as Pat Robertson, I would suggest that you get your history right. Go read Karen Armstrong's brilliant biography of Muhammad to learn why the Prophet was one of the greatest men in human history -- and a remarkably progressive man for his world and time. The Prophet established women's rights to property and inheritance 1,300 before Europeans did. And the Prophet's emphasis on the state's responsibility for caring for the poor and the weak was -- and is -- a revolutionary message for the disenfranchised.

You owe an apology to all the progressive believers on this site.

Posted by: Kreegor on October 23, 2005 at 08:15am

Dude, at first I was going to ask if you wrote this drunk. But I thought better.

One of the faults lies with the fact that people like me - who go to church but are not "extremist" - have allowed those extremist to define the whole group. I imagine the other religions and secular groups have the same problems (sound familiar, Dems and Republicans?).

I do think you take the easy way out when scapegoating "people of faith". I mean, are you telling me that every attrocity is done because of religion? Enron? Rwanda? I'm sure many people have been killed, hurt, or suffered in the named of "religion". But I am also sure that many people have been killed, have been hurt, have suffered without religion having anything to do with it.

And even though I beleive in God and Christ... or a "lie", as you call it... I find that I have an obligation to try to ease suffering. And unfortunately, sometmes that suffering is caused by other believers. This makes me sad and angry.

I wonder if you really think all this suffering would end if no one believed in God or a god(s). Honestly, I think it would just take another shape. Because, at the end of the day, it's not faith in God that causes suffering, it's desire for power. And unfortunately, people will use anything at their disposal to aquire it - even using religion as a means.

Posted by: Ohio on October 23, 2005 at 09:00am

While it's true that religions are steeped in massive amounts of superstition, they still provide the glue that holds societies together. For instance, Christianity is the cement between the bricks of Western culture. Remove Christianity from Western culture without a suitable replacement and those bricks will tumble to the ground.

Since Jesus was a "nutjob", who's ideas and worldview do you propose might be more suitable in 2005? Bill O'Reilly? Al Franken? Timothy Leary? Howard Stern? Adolph Hitler? Vladamir Lenin? Bill Gates? Hillary Clinton? Bill? G.W.? Karl Rove? Cindy Sheehan? Ariana Huffington? Arnold Schwartzernegger? Nelly? Johnny Cash? Elvis? Katie & Matt? Oprah? Fidel? Cent Uyger?

It's easy to say that religion is dumb and we've outgrown it, but when doing so you're simply ignoring reality. What you propose is anarchy, savagery and enough spilled blood to fill all the university science labs in the world. If any remain, that is.

[Oct 25, 2005] Christian Alliance in the News Christian Alliance for Progress

In a move to save the integrity of the Christian faith and combat the extremist agenda of the religious right, a group of Jacksonville Floridians have formed the Christian Alliance for Progress (CAP). The group proclaims unequivocal support for economic justice, gay and lesbian rights, environmental stewardship, reproductive rights and universal health care.

Before an official launch in Washington on June 22 2005, CAP had attracted thousands of members with virtually no publicity. The organization’s arrival on the national stage was received with such enthusiasm that by the end of July, CAP announced that it had about 6,000 new members, swelling the group’s ranks to 10,000.

Shortly after the launch, the religious fanatical icon Jerry Falwell denounced CAP as, "hardly ‘Christian’." He added that the group’s "so-called broad-minded efforts toward tolerance have blinded them to how the Bible instructs us to live."

Falwell went on to remind us that Jesus "was not a hippie do-gooder, but rather the Son of the Living God who came to earth to pave the one way to heaven for mankind."

Reverend Timothy Simpson, CAP’s director of religious affairs, said that while he wasn’t sure what to expect, he really isn’t surprised that CAP has been received with such fanfare: "There is a void out there. There are some top down organizations that are populated by fine people, folks that we admire tremendously, but there isn’t really anything out here in the hinterland being put together by folks out in the hinterland; none of us are famous, we’re just regular people who are fed up.

[Oct 19, 2004] Faith Without Fealty (washingtonpost.com) By E. J. Dionne Jr.

It's Time to Free Religion From Party Politics

"God is NOT a Republican . . . or a Democrat."

That's the bracing message of a bumper sticker for sale by Sojourners, a progressive Christian magazine. It is turning out to be one of the central themes of the 2004 presidential campaign.

Voters are not being presented with a choice between faith-based politics and no faith at all. Instead, President Bush and Sen. John Kerry are offering two very different interpretations of what it means for a politician to be religious and, in their cases, Christians.

Yes, cynics would fairly note that both candidates know they have political problems to solve when it comes to religion. Too much God talk is seen as Bush's problem. Too little is seen as Kerry's.

Bush knows some moderate and secular voters are suspicious that his religious faith is the primary driver of his policies. That's why Ron Suskind's New York Times Magazine article Sunday, "Without Doubt: Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush," aroused such heartburn among Republicans.

To reassure those who don't share his religious orientation, Bush is going out of his way to cast himself as Mr. Toleration. "I'm mindful in a free society that people can worship if they want to, or not," Bush declared in the third debate. "You're equally an American if you choose to worship an Almighty and if you choose not to."

Kerry, on the other hand, has long seemed uneasy whenever he spoke of his Catholic faith. Given that some leaders of Kerry's own church would deny him Communion because of his stand on abortion, the uneasiness is understandable. There are, however, religious swing voters who are more comfortable when politicians give some hint of their religious commitment. That's what Kerry is doing.

But a healthy skepticism about both Bush and Kerry should not obscure the substantive and, I'm guessing, sincere differences in the way these two men talk about their faith.

In the third debate, Bush's emphasis was on faith as something "very personal." He noted that "prayer and religion sustain me," and added: "I receive calmness in the storms of the presidency. I love the fact that people pray for me and my family all around the country. Somebody asked me one time, 'Well, how do you know?' I said, 'I just feel it.' "

Kerry spoke more about the implications of his faith for the pursuit of social justice. He cited the classic scriptural passage from the Letter of James, "Faith without works is dead," and went on: "And I think that everything you do in public life has to be guided by your faith, affected by your faith, but without transferring it in any official way to other people. That's why I fight against poverty. That's why I fight to clean up the environment and protect this Earth. That's why I fight for equality and justice."

Now, it would be wrong to say that Bush's faith is free of political implications or that Kerry's is not personal. Bush, after all, spoke of his belief "that God wants everybody to be free," while Kerry said, "My faith affects everything that I do and choose."

But in their differences, Bush and Kerry reflect a tradition of debate among religious people as old as our republic. For some believers, especially conservative Christians, all other issues are secondary to what they see as the "life" issues -- abortion and stem cell research -- and to matters related to law and personal morality, notably gay marriage. For other believers, particularly though not exclusively African American Christians, the fundamental obligation of religious people is to promote government policies aimed at lifting up the poor and protecting the outcasts. Many religious people identify with aspects of both views.

And, as a statement that will be issued by a group of peace-minded Christians later this week will show, religious people also disagree sharply on the issues of war and peace. The statement charges that "a 'theology of war' is emanating from the highest circles of American government" and that "the language of 'righteous empire' is employed with growing frequency." The statement, signed by more than 200 theologians and church leaders, insists that "Christ commits Christians to a strong presumption against war."

Not all Christians will agree with every sentence in the toughly worded document, but that is the point: Religious people are not monolithic in their views.

Thus may some good come out of this often rancid campaign: The myth that religion lives only on the political right is being exploded, and honest debate among believers will again be a normal part of the nation's public life. That's a benefit to democracy and to faith communities, too.

[Oct 22, 2005] Guardian/This age of fanaticism is no time for non-believers to make enemies by Bernard Crick.

Humanists need to be less fussy about working with the religious who share our commitment to social justice.
The old story of Voltaire on his death bed is surely familiar. A priest bursts in on him crying, "Renounce the devil and all his works!" Voltaire affably replies, "This is no time to make enemies." This time of terrorist and terror, real and imagined, is no time for non-believers to make enemies. Fundamentalism and fanaticism are rife, but are being rejected or resisted within their own religions by most Christians and Muslims. 

If we humanists are fully secure in our non-belief, scepticism and secularism, we can work together with those of all beliefs who fight against new or born-again enemies to freedom. We should not confuse the pinpricks of religiosity (religious broadcasting on the BBC) or the specific body blows of even the modern Catholic church with the real threats to democracy, freedom and international law now posed by both Christian and Muslim fundamentalists.

Archbishop Rowan Williams began a recent lecture on "Law, Power and Peace" with the scornful irony: "The Iraq war was fought for the sake of freedom and democracy, so we are incessantly told. And ... whatever else may have resulted from that ill-fated enterprise, the present situation is not exactly freedom and democracy." There was that huge, memorable anti-war demonstration, but also Rowan Williams speaking out in powerful and reasoned terms. I felt that he "spoke for England" then, just as Robin Cook spoke for real Labour.

Part of the motivation of the religious who spoke against the war and the mad lack of foresight and preparation for pacification may indeed have been their religious beliefs; but the substantive arguments were rational, prudential and moral in universal terms.

Let me make a confession. An admirably troublemaking body called the Citizen Organising Foundation is strong in the East End of London. They campaign on issues of poverty, discrimination and empowerment. They are an inter-faith body - Christians of many denominations, Jews, Muslims and Hindus. I met them through a common concern with citizenship education. They stretched their ecumenicity by electing me, a vice-president of the British Humanist Association, as an honorary fellow at a ceremony at St Martin-in-the-Fields; I risked a humanist blasphemy trial gladly, because all their practical actions were motivated by a morality of social justice. That is what they had in common. Oh yes, they speak, as do Rowan Williams and the Chief Rabbi, of morality needing a grounding in faith. But their real religious differences, if insisted on at every turn, would render impossible their common commitment to concrete objectives of justice and human rights.

The great German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, killed by the Gestapo, famously argued in his prison letters for a religionless form of Christianity appropriate for the new secular world. Such thinking was also that of Paul Tillich, and John Robinson's book Honest to God was a pop version that so offended the pious tabloid editors. The phrase "secular Christianity", current for a while among Protestant theologians, led not surprisingly to some confusion. The South African theologian and anti-apartheid activist John de Gruchy has revived the 16th-century usage of More and Erasmus to speak of "Christian humanism". This is not merely a commitment to social justice among all of us, religious and irreligious alike, but recognition that, through shared natural reason, politics is a secular activity.

For politics is inherently concerned with arbitration and compromise between differing values and interests, whereas the fundamentalist believes in a clear and literal truth in an ancient text and in a duty to impose truth on others. There are bizarre similarities of belief between the fundamentalists of Protestantism and Islam. They each believe we are in "the last days" and that Armageddon, the final victory or the "Rapture" is near at hand - so little need for the slow and tolerant processes of legal arbitration and political compromise.

We humanists do not need to mute our intellectual criticism of religion, but for social and political purposes we should work with those who can be the most effective combatants against fanaticism. To work with those of other beliefs implies, of course, tact and courtesy to mute immediate criticism of what for the time and purpose at hand are irrelevancies. It is historically and psychologically foolish for secularists to believe that criticism of all religious belief is an effective way of combating violent fanaticism. We too can spend too much time preaching to the converted. And we do, up to a point, have a lot in common with most believers. Rowan Williams earlier this year talked to the Citizen Organising Foundation on "Who's Bringing Up Our Children?"

"What are the characteristics you would regard as marks of maturity, or having grown up as a human being? ... A human adult is someone who believes that change is possible in their own lives and the lives of those around them. A human adult is someone who ... knows they are not right about everything, and that they won't live for ever. An adult is someone sensitive to the cost of the choices they make for themselves and the people around them. An adult is someone who is not afraid of difference ... who is aware of being answerable to something more than a cultural consensus - someone whose values and priorities are shaped by something other than majority votes; which is why I add (but you would expect me to) that an awareness of the Holy is an important aspect of being an adult."

Well, we would expect him to, wouldn't we? But his basic argument, like that of Bonhoeffer and John de Gruchy, is that political justice is a secular imperative. Our motivations may differ; but surely we can respect differing motivations if they point to common action? For Rowan Williams asked: "What if we live in an environment where apathy and cynicism are the default positions for most people on issues of public concern? ... What if our environment is passive to the culture of the global market, simply receiving that constant stream of messages which flows out from producers and marketeers?"

Those questions used to be answered with moral authority by Labour governments, but now there is only New Labour's moral vacuum. Rowan Williams speaks with an impressive interrogating authority. Philosophically he is a pluralist who can quote both the churchman Neville Figgis and the Jewish atheist Harold Laski.

Humanists must assert the secularity and plurality of politics and citizenship; but in doing this we should not assume all believers differ from us. Christian humanists also believe politics is part of the secular sphere (the natural law, not the divine law). Religious fanaticism thrives domestically where there is either physical poverty or poverty of political and social ideals, and internationally where there is gross injustice. Humanists need to be more active in social policies and less fussy about the company we keep.

· Bernard Crick is the author of George Orwell: A Life and In Defence of Politics.

Republicans have become `a party of theocracy'

Maureen Dowd says Schiavo case is about DeLay, denial and demagoguery
TheStar.com

Oh my God, Americans really are in a theocracy. Are the Republicans so obsessed with maintaining control over all branches of government, and are the Democrats so emasculated about not having any power, that they are willing to turn the nation into a wholly owned subsidiary of the church?

The more dogma-driven activists, self-perpetuating pols and ratings-crazed broadcast media prattle about "faith," the less we honour the credo that a person's relationship with God should remain a private matter.

As the Bush White House desperately manoeuvres in Iraq to prevent the new government from being run according to the dictates of religious fundamentalists, it desperately manoeuvres here to pander to religious fundamentalists who want to dictate how the government should be run.

Maybe President George Bush should spend less time preaching about spreading democracy around the world and more time worrying about our deteriorating democracy.

Even some Republicans seemed appalled at this latest illustration of Friedrich Nietzsche's observation that "morality is the best of all devices for leading mankind by the nose."

As Christopher Shays, one of five House Republicans who voted against the bill to allow the Terri Schiavo case to be snatched from Florida state jurisdiction and moved to federal court, put it: "This Republican party of Lincoln has become a party of theocracy. There are going to be repercussions from this vote."

A CBS News poll Wednesday found that 82 per cent of the public was opposed to Congress and the president intervening in this case; 74 per cent thought it was all about politics.

The president, who couldn't be dragged outdoors to talk about the more than 100,000 people who died in the horrific tsunami, was willing to be dragged out of bed to sign a bill about one woman his base had fixated on. But with the new polls, the White House seemed to shrink back a bit.

The scene on Capitol Hill this past week has been almost as absurdly macabre as the movie Weekend at Bernie's, with Tom DeLay and Bill Frist propping up between them this poor woman in a vegetative state to indulge their own political agendas.

DeLay wanted to show that he is still a favourite of conservatives. Dr. Frist has become a laughingstock by trying to rediagnose Schiavo's condition by video.

Republicans easily abandon their cherished principles of individual privacy and states' rights when their personal ambitions come into play. The first time they snatched a case out of a Florida state court to give to a federal court, it was Bush vs. Gore. This time, it's Bush vs. Constitution.

While Senate Democrats like Hillary Clinton, who are trying to curry favour with red staters, meekly allowed the shameful legislation to be enacted, at least some Floridian lawmakers decided to put up a fight, though they knew they couldn't win.

The president and his ideological partners don't believe in separation of powers. They just believe in their own power.

First they tried to circumvent the Florida courts; now they're trying to pack the federal bench with conservatives and even blow up the filibuster rule. But they may yet learn a lesson on checks and balances, as the federal courts rebuffed them in the Schiavo case.

But even as he exploits this one sad case, DeLay has voted to slash medicaid by $15 billion, denying money to care for poor people in nursing homes, some on feeding tubes.

DeLay made his stake clear at a conference two Fridays ago organized by the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group. He said God had brought Schiavo's struggle to the forefront "to help elevate the visibility of what's going on in America." He defined that as "attacks against the conservative movement, against me and against many others."

So it's not about her crisis at all. It's about his crisis.

[Feb 26, 2004] The Village Voice The Bush Beat

NO WONDER THE religious right has seized control of America's political machinery and launched a crusade to go medieval on the rest of the world.

The media are asleep at their typewriters.

Doug Wead poses for a publicity shot within earshot of the White House—if you yell really loud.

Doug Wead's career, most of which has never been studied by the mainstream media—even now, when he's in the bright glare of publicity—perfectly traces the religious right's successful infiltration of the GOP during the past two decades, culminating in the rise to power of religious capitalism.

It's mostly by geographical accident that I think I know this. I dove deep into this stuff in 1992, when I covered Wead's ill-fated Congressional campaign in Arizona for Phoenix New Times. Then, by another happenstance, I moved to Denver, just a short drive from Colorado Springs, the Vatican City of America's religious right, and a truly strange place, I tell you what. I used to go there to spy on top national Republicans secretly huddling with His Evangelical Eminence James Dobson. Click on this Bush Beat item from yesterday for links to my earlier Wead stories, including two of my '92 pieces.

Incidentally, I've put in a request to Wead to hand the tapes over to me, instead of giving them to George W. Bush. He had replied to my e-mails earlier. Haven't heard back from him about my request.

I've never underestimated the power of religious conservatives to seize control and try to force us all to assume the missionary position. That's the Great Commission in a nutshell.

And I certainly gained a great respect for the political acumen of the religious right when I started studying Wead's career more than a decade ago. As a White House aide to George Bush Sr. in the late '80s, Amway evangelist Wead brokered bonds between the religious right and a decidedly non-religious-right White House. He placated the evangelicals, helping cement the bonds between them and the GOP—bonds that now have left the religious conservatives with a stranglehold on the Republican Party.

When this fusion was taking place, preacher, peddler, and Beltway meddler Wead was extremely useful to the fabulously wealthy religious-right Amway empire as a motivational speaker. Amway, of course, has been extremely useful to the GOP, lavishing money by the millions on its candidates.

Not only that, Wead, by some accounts, helped teach the callow George W. how speak the code words to get the lockstep religious right voters to march to GOP glory.

But all that news isn't fit to print, apparently. Yes, others are doing fine with some aspects of this story. Howard Kurtz's column yesterday in the Washington Post makes for good reading about how the focus is on Wead, not Bush. And the Post's Jefferson Morley has a lively sample of global opinion in his "Bush Gets Stoned by the World Media."

But witness the New York Times' latest story on Wead and his furtively recorded tapes of George W. Bush. Reporting a day after I did that Wead has now decided to give the tapes to Bush instead of preserving them for posterity, reporter David D. Kirkpatrick notes this morning that the firestorm has even engulfed Laura Bush. He quotes Dubya's wife as saying to the Today show's talking heads:

OK, Kirkpatrick did just fine in recording that very, very recent history—Laura Bush's comments. But when he and the Times reach back into the past, forget about it. No wonder Americans are so ignorant about the texture of their political landscape.

What I'm talking about is Kirkpatrick's next paragraph:

"Unlikely"? Hoo-ha! And a note to Howard Kurtz, as well: Back in 1988, Doug Wead was better known—though not to the media—than George W. Bush.

During Daddy Bush's reign, George W. was a nonentity, a nothing, barely a public figure, unlike his up-and-coming brother Jeb and his down-and-falling, scandal-plagued brother Neil. Wead, on the other hand, was a veritable Elmer Gantry of Christian capitalism. He was renowned among hundreds of thousands of Americans who heard him speak at packed Amway rallies in domed stadiums—rallies that were never, ever covered by the mainstream media.

Doug Wead once had great timing. In 1979, he started something called the National Charity Awards Dinner, a beautiful scheme in which he invited celebrities to D.C. to hand out awards to other celebrities (and a few other do-gooders). The next year, Ronald Reagan won the presidency, and suddenly, D.C. became a much more hospitable place for conservatives of all types, but especially the evangelicals. Wead's dinners often honored Reagan, and you know that a sitting president draws celebrities and wannabes like bugs to flypaper. Wead's most recent $1,000-a-plate dinner was held in December 2001, using 9-11 as the promotional hook.

Almost like an Amway pump-up-the-volume-of-sales rally, a Wead charity dinner gets barely any notice in the press and is a feel-good, cheer-everyone, do-nothing event—just the kind of thing that celebrities, industrialists, and their sycophants like: smiling at one another, without being disturbed. (More on this topic in a future Bush Beat item.)

The fact is that until just a few years ago, Wead was better known to power brokers and celebrities than George W. was. Even during George Bush Sr.'s term, many more Americans were transfixed by Doug Wead's oratory than had ever heard George W. Bush say one single word.

But Kirkpatrick does that typical Times thing of assigning importance and celebrity on the basis of class.

There's nothing unlikely about Wead's relationship with George W. Hell, the Times and everyone else admits that George W. Bush is enamored of the concept of personal loyalty, in fact hung up on it to the extent that he's molded his second-term team to promote his most loyal minions, like Condi Rice. Yet the Times doesn't even note that when Neil Bush got into trouble in the savings & loan debacle of the '80s, it was Doug Wead who helped put him on his feet by getting speaking opportunities for him on the Amway circuit and in Europe for Wead's pal John Godzich. Now that is loyalty. And the Bush family never forgot that.

Does the Times somehow think that George W. hangs out only with other Yalies? One of Dubya's other key evangelical advisers came to be Marvin Olasky, a New York Jew and Commie who became an evangelical Christian and Texan. Is Bush's embrace of Olasky "unlikely" as well? Not for Dubya, who's a born-again guy himself.

Incidentally, both Wead and Olasky have claimed to be the originator of the term "compassionate conservative."

In that controversy, call me bored again.

 

Posted by Harkavy at 06:29 PM, February 24, 2005

Online resources look beyond the Darwin debate Portals to science and religion: Does it always have to be science vs. religion? Evolution vs. creation? Over the past couple of days, we've aired opinions on all sides of the question as part of our third annual Christmas "Science and Religion" Symposium.

On Tuesday, one Cosmic Log reader passed along a quote from Pope John Paul II on the subject, in which he said that the Bible "does not wish to teach how heaven was made but how one goes to heaven."

From the other side of the scientific/spiritual fence, Ian Baxter from Calgary, Alberta, cites an oft-heard quote from Albert Einstein: "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."

The quote comes from "Science, Philosophy and Religion: A Symposium," published back in 1941, and it's worth reading the whole essay. In fact, as we near the centenary of Einstein's breakthrough theories — a milestone that has led scientists to dub 2005 the World Year of Physics — it's appropriate to explore this Web site, which draws together many of Einstein's writings on science and religion.

We're fortunate that the central texts for evolutionary biologists as well as spiritual thinkers are freely available online: You can review the Old and New Testaments via the Bible Gateway, which offers browsable, searchable versions of multiple English-language translations. "The Origin of the Species," Charles Darwin's masterwork, is also on the Web. You can even find "How Humans Evolved," a full-length college textbook complete with quizzes.

The National Academies Press also offers a free online version of its 1998 report, "Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science."

If you want to learn more about how the proponents of intelligent design think, you might look into "The Privileged Planet," which lists astronomy professor Guillermo Gonzalez as a co-author. Gonzalez's work, including his influence on the "Rare Earth" hypothesis, generated controversy among astrobiologists even before "Privileged Planet" came out. The Talk.Origins Web site catalogs the book as "Creationist Claim CI302."

Finally, here's an entertaining book recommendation that goes beyond the narrow Darwin-vs.-doubters debate — and the fact that the whole book is freely available over the Web is a bonus:

Patrick Bishop, Caldwell, N.J.: "Whenever I think of the sociological significance of what scientists (especially biologists) do, I'm reminded of H.G. Wells' book 'The Food of the Gods.' In that book, a couple of scientists develop a nutritional supplement that, when given to living things, causes unprecedented growth. Through careless mishandling, it gets loose in the environment at large. The immediate result; daisies like oaks, wasps like eagles and rats like Irish wolfhounds, not to mention 40-foot-tall teenagers. The delayed reaction; systematic rejection of all of these things (including the modified children) by a culture that is either incapable or unwilling to adapt to their inclusion. War actually breaks out.

"Wells published this book 103 years ago. How prescient!

"It has taken a century to catch up, but we are on the threshold of being able to modify our offspring (and all living things for that matter), if not with the same tools, then certainly to a similarly stunning degree. Of course there is going to be a growing social gap between science and religion. Actually, the gap may be more basic; it may between science and the rest of us. ...

"Undoubtedly, just as the industrial revolution, the petrochemical revolution and the information revolution has changed society, the genetic revolution will do the same. But whereas the other revolutions changed society at an ephemeral level, this new one threatens to change it at its core. Don't be surprised if Luddites start springing up like Wells' giant daisies; only these won't be as pretty." Alan Boyle's bio

[Nov 17, 2004] The Dominionist church-state the enemy within By Jerry Mazza Online Journal Contributing Writer

On December 24, Christmas Eve 2001, Pat Robertson stepped down as President Of The Christian Coalition. Lo and behold behind the nativity scenes religious conservatives believed Robertson's step was taken so that President Bush could take his place as head of the American Holy Christian Church. So reported Katherine Yurica in "The Despoiling of America—How George W. Bush became the head of the new American Dominionist Church/State." [1]

In fact, it was the sign that the Bush government under God was led by an anointed American president, the first regent in a dynasty of regents waiting for the return of Jesus to earth. The prez would now be the minister through whom God would execute (don't take that word lightly) His will in these United States. Of course, Dubya accepted scepter and sword with grace and a humble sense of exultation. It was a kind of mandate from God if not the people: Junior, a savior was born, and a Dominionist star shone.

As Supreme Court Jusitce Antonin Scalia pointed out a few months later, the Bible teaches and Christians agree, "government . . . derives its moral authority from God." Funny, I thought it was our "unalienable rights, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" that our "Creator" gave us. At least that's what the opening of the Declaration of Independence said. Nevertheless Scalia tells us, it is the "minister of God" who has powers "to 'revenge,' to 'execute wrath,'" of course "including wrath by the sword." I never remember seeing that in the Declaration or the Constitution. Yet somehow George began to wield his sword like Mel Gibson in Braveheart, though a lot of folks missed the gore, not Al.

Leo Strauss, putative father of the neocon movement, added this bit of bowdlerized text from Machiavelli: "One ought not to say to those whom one wants to kill, 'Give me your votes, because your votes will enable me to kill you and I want to kill you,' but merely, 'Give me your votes,' for once you have power in your hand, you can satisfy your desire.'" Well, isn't that the moral high ground? Now we know what George was smirking about all along.

Thus, given the inciting incident of 9/11, the investigation of which has been rightly reopened by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, the president warned the world that "nations are either with us or they're against us." Laced with biblical passages, his speeches were delivered as if by a man who held the power of God's wrath. He not only challenged "the Axis of Evil," he took a few whacks against some folks at home, mainly the poor and middle class, who according to Dominionist thinking, "earned God's wrath by their licentiousness and undisciplined lives." The outcome is the past four years, which generated the largest spending deficit ever, in large part for tax cuts to reward the rich for their inherent goodness. Right Ken, Dick, Tom, and all you Frontier givers?

And so it went, "the Lord giving and the Lord taking." Like His minister, this same Shrub that's been re-upped, by hook and by crook, by intimidating minority and student voters, by dumping votes, erasing others, by hacking computer tallies, with the help of Associated Press and Diebold (whose board members and leaders are also of the Dominion). Passports anyone? It's gonna be a long flight. You say you want to stay? You want to duke it out? Okay. Read on . . .

Spreading the Dominionist Word

From 1982 through '86, Robertson, plus other radio and TV evangelists, rallied Christian soldiers to this new political faith. It turned them literally into an army of political ops.  Most of us didn't have a clue that this "militant agenda" dressed up as Christianity's lamb was licking its chops with a scheme for a government coup that would turn the U.S. into a wolf (or Wolfowitz), seeking a world empire for the 21st Century. Yet as early as 1994, lone journalist Frederick Clarkson warned that Dominionism "seeks to replace democracy with a theocratic elite that would govern by imposing their interpretation of 'Biblical Law.'" And this to eliminate " . . . labor unions, civil rights laws and public schools."

As to the citizenry, "Women would be generally relegated to hearth and home. Insufficiently Christian men would be denied citizenship, perhaps executed. So severe is this theocracy that it would extend capital punishment [to] blasphemy, heresy, adultery and homosexuality." [2] Sound like yesterday's news? Well, that ain't all. Today as yesterday, Dominionism is into stealth. As stealthily as Robertson himself, distributing at an Iowa Republican County caucus this memo, "How to participate in a Political Party," which read . . .

A Christian lock on political power?  There goes the separation of church and state. Thanks to good old Pat Roberts, everybody's friend. He even said he warned Bush about Iraq. Could he have smiled and lied again? Now as you pull the blade out of your back, you can see why these folks have gotten all kinds of control, since 1986, in the Republican Party and government throughout the U.S. They stay secret, and hold to undermining government social programs for the sick, poor and elderly, all the while beating the drum for laissez-faire economics, asking folks to "look to God and not to government for help." Well, okay, but He/She/It/The Force/The Void may be busy running the universe.

Yet it's estimated 35-million plus American Christians subscribe to Dominionism in the U.S., and don't even realize themselves how heretical, how seditious their goals are, thanks to the great job the televangelists and their churches did in painting a picture of an "outside enemy," a kind of spiritual al Qaeda, which in reality is the secular society we call "the home of the brave and the land of the free."

What's more, they're running on time to overthrow that society, since the complete takeover of American government was set for 2004. Yabadabadoo! So unless we resist the GOP's agenda, we can kiss our culture, Constitution and laws goodbye. If in saying this I scare the hell out of you, remember that's their aim: to scare the bejesus out of you.

Just so you know, Dominionism was born in a movement called Christian Reconstructionism, founded by the late RJ Rushdoony, his son-in-law Gary North, old Pat Robertson, Herb Titus, the former dean of Robertson's Regent University school of Public Policy (used to be CBN University); Charles Colson, born again Nixon crook; Pat's political strategy guy Tim LaHaye, Gary Bauer, the gone Francis Schaeffer, and Paul Crouch, coincidentally founder of TBN, the world's largest TV network, and a battalion of bobble-head TV and radio evangelists and talk show hosts.

The real trick was to start with the Gospels and turn the spiritual "Kingdom of God" into a real-life political empire, to be taken by force; first stop the U.S. of A.

Tossing out Jesus and his original message, "My kingdom is not of this world," the Dominionists came up with their "Gospel", sole purpose to drive Christians into politics and make world domination (as in Dominionism) happen. That's so Jesus could came back to earth, and the world table would be set for his rule by his ever-loving regents, all Judases, pockets jingling with sell-out silver.

Machiavelli, Communism, Secular Humanism and Neoconservatism go to work for a Militant and truly evil Anti-Christian Religion.

In the '50's and '60's, right-wing Christians agonized over commies and communism gobbling up the world. They also found another bugaboo, fingered by Francis Schaeffer in 1982, their top-gun theologian. The bugaboo was Secular Humanism, oh my god, the greatest threat to Christianity the universe had ever seen. Soon American fundamentalists and Pentacostals saw "humanists" everywhere. Schaeffer, appearing on Robertson's 700 Club Show, claimed that "humanism" (one of the world's more benign philosophies) was being thrust on Christians. It (humanism) taught that man was "the center of all things," as tasty a piece of neocon disinformation as you'll ever find.

Go to your search engine, type in "humanism" and it says "A philosophical system of thought that focuses on human value, thought, and actions. Humans are considered basically good and rationale creatures, who can improve themselves and others through natural human abilities of reason and action. Secular Humanism is a late development emphasizing objectivity, human reason, and human standards that govern art, economics, ethics, and belief. As such, no deity is acknowledged." Sounds pretty decent to me.

Ah, but the last phrase was the kicker "no deity is acknowledged." In other words, it was up to man to act properly, using his natural abilities of reason and action. It did not throw the onus for right action on the fear of punishment from God, who once again might be busy running the universe, and not have time to personally kick every Tom, Dick and Ken in the ass and tell them not to act like gangsters.

And then, in a tremendous leap in logic, the Dominionists contended humanism like communism was based on atheism. More disinformation. Humanism laid the primary responsibility for right action at man's feet, and gave God, if He/She/It/The Force/The Void was there, a break for a few minutes in cosmic time. Communism's resistance to theism was largely a reaction to the Church's complicity with Czarist rule, which relentlessly oppressed the masses of Russian people for seven centuries. When they had enough of both oppressors, the Russians had a revolution, and the political tables were turned, not unlike what the Dominionists are attempting, only in the name of God. Humanism, probably by association of the "ism" suffix, was the enemy, too, in the Dominionist view of God and people. And Schaeffer, like a small-time Hitler, spoke with great passion of this, misusing the Declaration of Independence to rationalize his insanity . . .

"Today we live in a humanist society. They control the schools . . . public television . . . the media. . . . The courts are not subject to the will of the people through elections or re-election . . . all the great changes in the last forty years have come through the courts. And what we must get in our mind, the government as a whole, but especially the courts, has become the vehicle to force this view of the total population, even if the total population doesn't hold this view." [4]

Schaeffer noted those "great changes since 1942," as if they were anathema, a trip to perdition. In fact, those years include WW II, when we kicked Hitler's butt, preserved world democracy and rebuilt the world economy. Then "our boys" (all creeds, nationalities and colors) marched on at home to help secure civil rights, while building the most potent economy on earth. Yet all Schaeffer had to say about this great American effort was a seditious libel, which he would if he could shove down everyone's throat . . .

"If you don't revolt against tyranny and this is what I call the bottom line, is that not only do you have the privilege but the duty to revolt. When people force upon you and society that which is absolutely contrary to the Word of God, and which really is tyranny . . . we have a right to stand against it as a matter of principle. And this was the basis upon which the founding fathers built this country." Was our fought-for freedom a tyranny? Was that contrary to the Word of God? How about the preservation of human and civil rights? We helped fulfill the dream of the founding fathers, not destroy it, as he was advocating. What God was he talking about?

Yet his sick sophistry, this ignorant racist diatribe enraptured none other than the great Billy Graham hisself. On Pat's old 700 Club show, his eagle eyes, peering from under bushy brows, the big B said . . .

"Time has come when evangelicals are going to have to think about getting organized corporately. . . . I'm for evangelicals running for public office and winning if possible and getting control of the Congress, getting control of the bureaucracy, getting control of the executive branch . . . I think if we leave it to the 'other side' we're going to be lost. I would like to see every true believer involved in politics in some way shape or form."

Well Billy-babe, it is every true and non believer's right, thanks to the Constitution, to be involved in politics and hold office. Thanks to all the blood all kinds of American shed since the Revolution.  And we weren't lost, except in your and your friends' dark minds. Maybe we disagreed about some things, like segregation, the Klu Klux Klan, a woman's right to choose, etc, etc. But we weren't lost because we disagreed with you and yours.

Nevertheless, according to Dominionist dogma, "God's people" [as opposed to the other side] had a moral duty to change the government of the United States. [5]. Bottom line: by 2000 the new religion was born, 35 million strong, declaring war on the other 245 mill. And hail, Karl Rove, Minister Bush's political brain, told the Family Research Council in 2002, "We need to find ways to win the war." [5]. The thing is, they were in power, so what war did they want to win now? The war against other people breathing? Or perhaps, having turned Christianity upside down, now they wanted to turn American Democracy upside down. You betcha! Call the Office of Homeland Security. I think I've found a cadre of major terrorists.

The Machiavelli Connection

After all this, it's not hard to imagine why Machiavelli became the Spiritual Godfather of Dominionism. And why the author of The Prince found such acceptance in the thought and actions of Karl Rove/George Bush.  Undo the New Deal.  Give corporations all freedom to rape and pillage.  Dress corruption in religion.  Create an American empire to rule the world.  Lead the populus like Reverend Jim Jones led his followers to Kool-Aid oblivion.  Yes, the Dominionists reveled in Machiavelli's teachings, in passages that advised "a leader must only appear to have the qualities of goodness—he need not actually possess those attributes."  Dominionists also sucked up Machiavellian passages like the following . . .

"Alexander VI did nothing else but deceive men, he thought of nothing else, and found the occasion for it; no man was ever more able to give assurances, or affirmed things with stronger oaths, and no man observed them less; however, he always succeeded in this deceptions, as he well knew this aspect of things."

Parenthetically, who does this remind you of? Or this . . .

"Everybody sees what you appear to be, few feel what you are, and those few will not dare to oppose themselves to the many, who have the majesty of the state to defend them; and in the actions of men, and especially of princes, from which there is no appeal, the end justifies the means." (p. 93)

Parenthetically, Machiavelli's means included murder, rape, pedophilia, torture, overthrowing a state, name it. He would have loved Abu Ghraib. For instance . . .

"Let a prince therefore aim at conquering and maintaining the state, and the means will always be judged honorable and praised by every one, for the vulgar is always taken by appearances and the issue of the event; and the few who are not vulgar are isolated when the many have a rallying point in the prince." (p. 94)

And so, ladies and gentlemen, and all the ships at sea, you read it, heard it here, what these God-spewing Dominionists are really about. For more hard-core evidence, simply go to the Yurica Report and check out the 45-page story (10 pages of which are documentation) of the Dominionist Army for yourself. It might be helpful to know in greater detail with whom you'll be dealing in the next four years.

In fact, it seems like a lifetime ago that we were singing, "We All Live in a Yellow Submarine." It's time to surface and take a good look at all those smiling (and not so smiling) faces around us. Power to the people! The good, loving, open-faced people of America.  In fact now, like Now is the time to come to the aid of your country. Step up to the plate, swing for the fences. We need every hit can we can get to win this game. Get me?

Sources:

1. The Despoiling Of America. Also "Religious Right Finds Its Center in Oval Office," Washington Post, December 24, 2001.

2. "Christian Reconstructionism: Theocratic Dominionism Gains Influence," by Frederick Clarkson, The Public Eye Magazine, Vol. VIII, Nos. 1 & @, March/June 1994, Part 1 of a four part series.

[Nov 14, 2004] Columns Backward, Christian soldiers By ROBYN E. BLUMNER, Times Perspective Columnist

Is it possible to be both backward and forward at the same time? Take a look at Cobb County, Ga., where a retrogressive court battle over teaching evolution may be telegraphing the future.

In 2002, in a nod to more than 2,000 parents who complained that the public schools were teaching evolution as fact, the suburban Atlanta district slapped a sticker on science textbooks proclaiming evolution as "a theory, not a fact." Another group of parents sued to get it removed, in hopes of returning their community to the ranks of the scientifically literate. The trial was last week.

Real scientists get exasperated when talking about the evolution teaching skirmishes that occasionally flare up in the redder parts of this country ("redder" as in embarrassments).

"That sticker in itself shows (ignorance)," said Michael Howell, an associate professor of marine geology at the University of South Florida, who is also a biblical scholar. "Because to say that evolution is a theory and not a fact shows that you don't understand what a theory really is. It is an explanation of phenomenon, not a hunch or guess.

"Evolution from scientific standpoint is the only scientifically valid theory. (It is based on) a tremendous preponderance of evidence from all kinds of different disciplines. Whereas something like intelligent design (which says divine intervention directed the origins of life) is nothing more than an unsupported hypothesis."

Now normally Cobb County's errancy wouldn't merit all that much attention. The church-state issues are so extreme that the courts should be trusted to dispense with them, as they generally have in the years since John Scopes was convicted.

But the last election demonstrates that a core of Americans want the very concept of church-state separation back on the table and they are now firmly in charge of two branches of the federal government and a majority of the states.

To see what this side is thinking, I recently spent a day watching Christian broadcasting. What struck me most was the emphasis the preachers and talk show hosts placed on the need to get religion into government. They were positively obsessed with it.

These Christian leaders were far less interested in discussing Jesus' teachings than how to get prayer back in public schools. It wasn't good enough that granite statues of the 10 Commandments could occupy every inch of Christian-owned private property; they wanted hulking renderings in courthouses and other government buildings. These shows were not about building better Christians. They were about building a Christian nation.

We used to worry about the so-called stealth candidates of the Christian Right - candidates who would run for public office and hide their fundamentalist views in order to appear electable. Well, the last election proves that those views can be fully unfurled without risking voter flight. The 2004 Texas GOP platform audaciously stated: "The Republican Party of Texas affirms that the United States is a Christian nation."

What we are experiencing is the rise of Dominion Theology. This ideology says Christians must begin to take over all secular institutions of government, reclaiming them for Jesus Christ. It is seen as a readying for the Second Coming. See www.theocracywatch.org for more information.

"Our aim is to gain dominion over society," Pat Robertson told a gathering in 1984. He later described how this would be accomplished: By gaining a working control of the Republican Party.

And they've succeeded.

In 2004, 41 out of 51 Republican senators were given 100 percent ratings by the Christian Coalition for their votes on behalf of fundamentalist issues. Meanwhile, 31 out of 48 Democrats scored zero. Similar splits can be found in the House, where Minority Leader Tom DeLay expressly uses dominionist language.

During a "Worldview Weekend" conference in 2002, he said: "(God) is using me, all the time, everywhere, to stand up for a biblical worldview in everything that I do."

It is only the judiciary that is not completely overrun. For now, that means the antievolution forces can be held at bay. But changing the judiciary is the issue for dominionists, and President Bush has been happily accommodating. Already he has appointed more than 200 judges, some, such as William Pryor and J. Leon Holmes, elevated primarily due to their fringe fundamentalist views.

No wonder the Christian Right went bleary-eyed crazy when Sen. Arlen Specter, who is on tap to be chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, dared suggest that judges seeking to overturn Roe vs. Wade will have trouble getting confirmed. He is a rare Republican who hasn't bought into the master plan, and for that Christian Right forces want his chairmanship blocked.

Cobb County school officials may soon be directed to scrape off a bunch of antiscience stickers, but unless this country wakes up soon it won't be too long before a different judiciary welcomes them back, and more.

Beliefnet 'Evangelical Christianity Has Been Hijacked' An Interview with Tony Campolo--politics faith Democracts gay rights women Falwell

July 2004--Evangelical leader, sociology professor, and Baptist minister Tony Campolo made headlines in the 1990s when he agreed to be a spiritual counselor to President Bill Clinton. A self-described Bible-believing Christian, he has drawn fire from his fellow evangelicals for his stance on contemporary issues like homosexuality. He talked with Beliefnet recently about his new book, Speaking My Mind.

It's a common perception that evangelical Christians are conservative on issues like gay marriage, Islam, and women’s roles. Is this the case?

Well, there's a difference between evangelical and being a part of the Religious Right. A significant proportion of the evangelical community is part of the Religious Right. My purpose in writing the book was to communicate loud and clear that I felt that evangelical Christianity had been hijacked.

When did it become anti-feminist? When did evangelical Christianity become anti-gay? When did it become supportive of capital punishment? Pro-war? When did it become so negative towards other religious groups?

There are a group of evangelicals who would say, "Wait a minute. We’re evangelicals but we want to respect Islam. We don’t want to call its prophet evil. We don’t want to call the religion evil. We believe that we have got to learn to live in the same world with our Islamic brothers and sisters and we want to be friends. We do not want to be in some kind of a holy war."

We also raise some very serious questions about the support of policies that have been detrimental to the poor. When I read the voter guide of a group like the Christian Coalition, I find that they are allied with the National Rifle Association and are very anxious to protect the rights of people to buy even assault weapons. But they don’t seem to be very supportive of concerns for the poor, concerns for trade relations, for canceling Third World debts.

In short, there’s a whole group of issues that are being ignored by the Religious Right and that warrant the attention of Bible-believing Christians. Another one would be the environment.

I don’t think that John Kerry is the Messiah or the Democratic Party is the answer, but I don’t like the evangelical community blessing the Republican Party as some kind of God-ordained instrument for solving the world’s problems. The Republican Party needs to be called into accountability even as the Democratic Party needs to be called into accountability. So it’s that double-edged sword that I’m trying to wield.

Are the majority of evangelicals in America leaning conservative because they see their leaders on TV that way? Or is there a contingent out there that we don’t hear about in the press that is more progressive on the issues you just talked about?

The latest statistics that I have seen on evangelicals indicate that something like 83 percent of them are going to vote for George Bush and are Republicans. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just that Christians need to be considering other issues beside abortion and homosexuality.

These are important issues, but isn’t poverty an issue? When you pass a bill of tax reform that not only gives the upper five percent most of the benefits, leaving very little behind for the rest of us, you have to ask some very serious questions. When that results in 300,000 slots for children's afterschool tutoring in poor neighborhoods being cut from the budget. When one and a half billion dollars is cut from the "No Child Left Behind" program.

In short, I think that evangelicals are so concerned with the unborn—as we should be—that we have failed to pay enough attention to the born—to those children who do live and who are being left behind by a system that has gone in favor of corporate interests and big money.

So as an evangelical, I find myself very torn, because I am a pro-life person. I understand evangelicals who say there comes a time when one issue is so overpowering that we have to vote for the candidate that espouses a pro-life position, even if we disagree with him on a lot of other issues.

My response to that is OK, the Republican party and George Bush know that they have the evangelical community in its pocket—[but] they can’t win the election without us. Given this position, shouldn’t we be using our incredible position of influence to get the president and his party to address a whole host of other issues which we think are being neglected?

Like what you just said—poverty, or our foreign policy?

Exactly. And we would also point out that the evangelical community has become so pro-Israel that it is forgotten that God loves Palestinians every bit as much. And that a significant proportion of the Palestinian community is Christian. We’re turning our back on our own Christian brothers and sisters in an effort to maintain a pro-Zionist mindset that I don’t think most Jewish people support. For instance, most Jewish people really support a two-state solution to the Palestinian crisis. Interestingly enough, George Bush supports a two-state solution.

He’s the first president to actually say that the Palestinians should have a state of their own with their own government. However, he’s received tremendous opposition from evangelicals on that very point.

Evangelicals need to take a good look at what their issues are. Are they really being faithful to Jesus? Are they being faithful to the Bible? Are they adhering to the kinds of teachings that Christ made clear?

In the book, I take issue, for instance, with the increasing tendency in the evangelical community to bar women from key leadership roles in the church. Over the last few years, the Southern Baptist Convention has taken away the right of women to be ordained to ministry. There were women that were ordained to ministry—their ordinations have been negated and women are told that this is not a place for them. They are not to be pastors.

They point to certain passages in the Book of Timothy to make their case, but tend to ignore that there are other passages in the Bible that would raise very serious questions about that position and which, in fact, would legitimate women being in leadership positions in the church. In Galatians, it says that in Christ there's neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female, all are one in Christ Jesus. In the Book of Acts, the Bible is very clear that when the Holy Spirit comes upon the Church that both men and women begin to prophesy, that preaching now belongs to both men and women. Phillip had four daughters, all of whom prophesied, which we know means preaching in biblical language. I’d like to point out that in the 16th chapter of Romans, the seventh verse, we have reference to Junia. Junia was a woman and she held the high office of apostle in the early Church. What is frightening to me is that in the New International Translation of the Scriptures, the word Junia was deliberately changed to Junius to make it male.

I’m saying, let’s be faithful to the Bible. You can make your point, but there are those of us equally committed to Scripture who make a very strong case that women should be in key leaderships in the Church. We don’t want to communicate the idea that to believe the Bible is to necessarily be opposed to women in key roles of leadership in the life of early Christendom.

What position do you wish American evangelicals would take on homosexuality?

As an evangelical who takes the Bible very seriously, I come to the first chapter of Romans and feel there is sufficient evidence there to say that same-gender eroticism is not a Christian lifestyle. That’s my position.

So you mean homosexual activity?

That’s right. What I think the evangelical community has to face up to, however, is what almost every social scientist knows, and I’m one of them, and that is that people do not choose to be gay. I don’t know what causes homosexuality, I have no idea. Neither does anybody else. There isn’t enough evidence to support those who would say it’s an inborn theory. There isn’t enough evidence to support those who say it’s because of socialization.

I’m upset because the general theme in the evangelical community, propagated from one end of this country to the other--especially on religious radio--is that people become gay because the male does not have a strong father image with which to identify. That puts the burden of people becoming homosexual on parents.

Most parents who have homosexual children are upset because of the suffering their children have to go through living in a homophobic world. What they don’t need is for the Church to come along and to lay a guilt trip on top of them and say “And your children are homosexual because of you. If you would have been the right kind of parent, this would have never happened.” That kind of thinking is common in the evangelical Church and the book attacks on solid sociological, psychological, biological grounds.

But even if evangelicals came to believe that it was not a choice, how should they approach the topic?

Well, beyond that, they seem to offer an absolute solution to the problem. They are saying, “We can change every gay. We can change every lesbian.” I have heard enough of the brothers and sisters give testimonies of having changed their sexual orientation to doubt them…I believe them. But that’s rare: people who stand up and say, “I was gay but Jesus came into my life and now I’m not homosexual anymore.”

But the overwhelming proportion of the gay community that love Jesus, that go to church, that are deeply committed in spiritual things, try to change and can’t change. And the Church acts as though they are just stubborn and unwilling, when in reality they can’t change. To propose that every gay with proper counseling and proper prayer can change their orientation is to create a mentality where parents are angry with their children, saying, "You are a gay person because you don’t want to change and you’re hurting your mother and your father and your family and you’re embarrassing us all."

These young people cannot change. What they are begging for, and what we as Church people have a responsibility to give them, is loving affirmation as they are. That does not mean that we support same-gender eroticism.

What do you wish evangelicals might accept in terms of salvation for non-Christians?

We ought to get out of the judging business. We should leave it up to God to determine who belongs in one arena or another when it comes to eternity. What we are obligated to do is to tell people about Jesus and that’s what I do. I try to do it every day of my life.

I don’t know of any other way of salvation, excerpt through Jesus Christ. Now, if you were going to ask me, "Are only Christians going to get to heaven?" I can’t answer that question, because I can only speak from the Christian perspective, from my own convictions and from my own experience. I do not claim to be able to read the mind of God and when evangelicals make these statements, I have some very serious concerns.

For instance, they say unless a person accepts Jesus as his personal savior or her personal savior, that person is doomed forever to live apart from God. Well, what about the many, many children every year who die in infancy or the many children who die almost in childbirth and what about people who are suffering from intellectual disabilities? Is there not some grace from God towards such people? Are evangelical brothers and sisters of mine really suggesting that these people will burn in hell forever?

And I would have to say what about all the people in the Old Testament days? They didn’t have a chance to accept Jesus.

I don’t know how far the grace of God does expand and I’m sure that what the 25th chapter of Matthew says is correct--that there will be a lot of surprises on Judgment Day as to who receives eternal life and who doesn’t. But in the book I try to make the case that we have to stop our exclusivistic, judgmental mentality. Let us preach Christ, let us be faithful to proclaiming the Gospel, but let’s leave judgment in the hands of God.

But in the book you also mention the decline of mainline churches. Some people would say that this lack of taking a firm stand is wishy-washy, and that if evangelicalism is infected by relativism, that could be its downfall as well.

I didn’t say anything that was relativistic. I am just saying that when we don’t know what we’re talking about, we shouldn’t make absolute statements. And we don’t know how God will judge in the end. We do not know the mind of God.

As for mainline churches declining, my own particular analysis is that they're declining because they have been so concerned about social justice issues that they forgot to put a major emphasis on bringing people into a close, personal, transforming relationship with God. The Pentecostal churches, the evangelical churches, attract people who are hungry to know God, not just as a theology, not just as a moral teacher, not just as a social justice advocate, but as someone who can invade them, possess them, transform them from within, strengthen them for their everyday struggles, enable them to overcome the guilt they feel for things in the past.

Mainline churches have not sufficiently nurtured that kind of Christianity. They believe in it, they articulate it, it’s not where they put enough emphasis. They are not putting enough emphasis on getting people into a personal, I use the word mystical, transforming relationship with Christ.

I think that Christianity has two emphases. One is a social emphasis to impart the values of the kingdom of God in society—to relieve the sufferings of the poor, to stand up for the oppressed, to be a voice for those who have no voice. The other emphasis is to bring people into a personal, transforming relationship with Christ, where they feel the joy and the love of God in their lives. That they manifest what the fifth chapter of Galatians calls "the fruit of the Spirit." Fundamentalism has emphasized the latter, mainline churches have emphasized the former. We cannot neglect the one for the other.

In your book, you put forward a sort of ideal creed for 21st-century evangelicals. What’s most crucial to understand about the additions you made to this creed?

The Apostle’s Creed I think is the ultimate measure for Christians. Some say it goes back as far as 1800 years. It has been the standard statement of faith that the Church has maintained, and I wanted to say, "An evangelical is someone who believes in the doctrines of the Apostle’s Creed." However, the thing that evangelicals would add to the Apostle’s Creed is their view of holy scripture. They contend, and I contend, that the Bible is an infallible message from God, inspired. The writers were inspired by the Holy Spirit and [the Bible] is a message that provides an infallible guide for faith and practice.

And not only that. It's necessary to know Jesus in an intimate and personal way. That's what it means to be an evangelical. I don't think it means evangelicals are necessarily in favor of capital punishment. I'm one evangelical that is opposed to capital punishment. I do not believe being an evangelical means women should be debarred from pastoral ministry. I believe women do have a right to be in ministry. It doesn't mean evangelicals are supportive of the Republican party in all respects, because here's one evangelical who says "I think the Republican party has been the party of the rich, and has forgotten many ethnic groups and many poor people."

I am an evangelical who holds to those three positions [Creed, Bible, personal relationship with Jesus] and is a strong environmentalist. I am an evangelical who raises very specific questions about war in general, but specifically the war in Iraq. The evangelical community has been far too supportive of militarism.

You were criticized when you counseled Bill Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal. Are you still in touch with Clinton?

Yes, and very much in the way I was before: trying to be a faithful follower of Jesus. I think it's the task of Christians to speak truth to power.

The president of the United States called upon me to help him and nurture him into some kind of relationship with God. He obviously had strayed away from what he knew was right, and he called me one day and said can you help me?

I don't know what you're supposed to say to that: "I'm sorry, but evangelicals only pray with Republicans?"

I was appalled that evangelical leaders wrote me nasty letters and said you should have no time for this man after what he's done to this country, to Monica Lewinsky, to his family. I can't understand that mentality. We're talking about being the follower of a Jesus who would never turn his back on any person seeking help.

If you're an evangelical, you should believe that every person, no matter how low or high, is capable of being converted, of repentance.

If John Kerry or George W. Bush were to call you up and ask for your guidance on issues facing America today, what would you tell each of them in turn?

To Kerry, I think my major issue would be "Do you understand us? Do you understand evangelicals and why we're so upset about the pro-life issue? Do you understand why we believe all life is sacred?" I'd encourage him to do justice and to do righteousness.

To George Bush, I'd say "The God of scripture is a God who calls us to protect the environment. I don't think your administration has done that very well. The God of scripture calls us to be peacemakers. We follow a Jesus who said those who live by the sword will die by the sword, who called us to be agents of reconciliation."

I would point out to George Bush that the Christ that he follows says "blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy"-which doesn't go along with capital punishment.

I would say different things to each candidate, but I would respond instantaneously to the invitation to speak to each of them. All the way to the White House, I would be praying, "God, keep me from chickening out. Help me to not be so overawed by the high office of these people that I fail to recognize I answer to a higher authority."

Guardian Unlimited Guardian daily comment The lowest ignorance takes charge Sidney Blumenthal, a former senior adviser to President Clinton, is Washington bureau chief of salon.com

The 2004 election marks the rise of a quasi-clerical party for the first time in the United States. Ecclesiastical organisation has become the sinew and muscle of the Republican party, essential in George Bush's re-election. His narrow margins in the key states of Florida, Iowa and Ohio, and elsewhere, were dependent on the direct imposition of the churches. None of this occurred suddenly or by happenstance. For years, Bush has schooled himself in the machinations of the religious right.

Bush's clerisy is an unprecedented alliance of historically anti-Catholic nativist evangelical Protestants with the most reactionary elements of the Catholic hierarchy. Preacher, priest and politician have combined on the grounds that John Kennedy disputed in his famous speech before the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in September 1960. Kennedy's every principle is flouted and contradicted by Bush: "I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute; where no Catholic prelate would tell the president - should he be Catholic - how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference. ... where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials..."

From the White House, Karl Rove held a weekly conference call with religious leaders. Evangelical churches handed over membership directories to the Bush campaign for voter registration drives. A group associated with the Rev Pat Robertson advised 45,000 churches how to work for Bush. One popular preacher alone sent letters to 136,000 pastors advising them on "non-negotiable" issues - gay marriage, stem cell research, abortion - to mobilise the faithful. Perhaps the most influential figure of all was the Rev James Dobson, whose programmes broadcast daily on more than 3,000 radio stations and 80 TV stations, and whose organisation has affiliates in 36 states.

The Catholic Kerry received 5% less of the Catholic vote than the Southern Baptist Gore four years earlier. In the crucial state of Ohio, where an anti-gay marriage initiative was on the ballot, Bush won two-thirds of the "faithful" Catholic vote and 55% of the Catholic total. Combined with 79% of white evangelicals, this gave him his critical margin nationally and in the swing states.

The religious right is not a majority, but it was indispensable to Bush's victory. Across the country, it has become the most energetic, reliable and productive part of the Republican organisation. The worth of its values-based politics is power, just as it was worldly power that sustained the medieval church, and the assertion of that power began within days after the election.

When moderate Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, chairman of the judiciary committee, said he would oppose any nominee to the supreme court who would seek to outlaw abortion - and one might come soon, as Chief Justice William Rehnquist is dying - the Rev Dobson said of Specter: "He is a problem and he must be derailed." Almost instantly, Specter clarified his position, announcing that he meant no such thing and that he had approved many judges who were against abortion.

"History," Thomas Jefferson wrote, "furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes." But we're not all Jeffersonians now.

Rise of the Religious Right in the Republican Party

Christianization of the Republican Party, an article from the The Christian Statesman, claims,

Once dismissed as a small regional movement, Christian conservatives have become a staple of politics nearly everywhere. Christian conservatives now hold a majority of seats in 36% of all Republican Party state committees (or 18 of 50 states), plus large minorities in 81% of the rest, double their strength from a decade before.

The twin surges of Christians into GOP ranks in the early 1980s and early 1990s have begun to bear fruit, as naive, idealistic recruits have transformed into savvy operatives and leaders, building organizations, winning leadership positions, fighting onto platform committees, and electing many of their own to public office.

The Christian Statesman is a publication of the National Reform Association. Who is the National Reform Association?

The mission of the National Reform Association is to maintain and promote in our national life the Christian principles of civil government, which include, but are not limited to, the following:

Jesus Christ is Lord in all aspects of life, including civil government.

Jesus Christ is, therefore, the Ruler of Nations, and should be explicitly confessed as such in any constitutional documents. The civil ruler is to be a servant of God, he derives his authority from God and he is duty-bound to govern according to the expressed will of God.

The civil government of our nation, its laws, institutions, and practices must therefore be conformed to the principles of Biblical law as revealed in the Old and New Testaments.

[Oct 8, 2004] A 'moral voter' majority The culture wars are back csmonitor.com

The culture wars have taken on new life, it seems, yet some suggest the talk of values as the key to the election has been overplayed. After all, even though it was the top issue, it was such for only 22 percent of those polled.

Others, however, see it as indicative of a broader concern among Americans. For several years, surveys have shown a large majority are worried about declining morals. Their voices were heard, for example, in the outcry over decency on the airwaves sparked by this year's Super Bowl halftime show.

Many have called for more religion in public life as an antidote, and President Bush's open evocation of faith clearly resonates beyond his Evangelical base. Despite negative views on the economy and the country's direction, he boosted his draw in this election among mainline Protestants, Catholics, Jews, and blacks, as well as Evangelicals.

"The success of Mr. Bush ... is that he has a better sense of where the center of conservative Christianity is in the US than all his critics on the religious right or religious left," says James Guth, political science professor at Furman University in Greenville, S.C

[Oct 8, 2004] The Herald Does America really want to join the axis of arrogance? by Alex Bell

It can seem hard to recall that America was founded by Europeans fleeing religious persecution and who created a constitution that kept church and state separate. In the light of the vote swinging the presidential election and victory by a fundamentalist Christian, the US appears to be a religious state. The search for a New Jerusalem is one which had driven many Christian believers, but perhaps it is time we thought of the US as a new Israel.

.... ... ...

That alone doesn't make America a religious state in the way Israel is to the Jews. However, the prevalence of committed Christians in the political front line, their explicit reference to the faith as a political guide and the re-statement of this faith as a sign of patriotism does nudge it closer to the Israeli model.

DAWN - Opinion; 08 November, 2004

The outcome was not altogether unexpected. In fact, two Economist journalists, John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, in their book published earlier this year, The Right Nation: Why America is different, had pointed out that those hoping that a John Kerry victory in November would halt the onward rush of conservative triumphalism in America were fooling themselves.

They stated that Bush's "accidental" victory in 2000 may come to be seen as the beginning of a prolonged period of Republican dominance and that the Democratic party, bereft of policy ideas, disorganized and permanently on the defensive, was reduced to being the anti-Bush party. The Democrats will, of course, do their post-mortem in the next few months to find out where they had gone wrong.

John Kerry's ideas, to be precise, were too liberal for an American public that had developed a refined propellant conservatism. The Republicans had over the years successfully cultivated Christian fundamentalism to the extent that they were able to create a mass base for reaction and militarism.

TheStar.com - How the South was won

"The current election gives the religious right its biggest success ever," says Rozell. "It's now a powerful political movement with 15 to 20 per cent of the population. That's more than the Hispanic, black or labour-union vote."

Why Christian Fundamentalists are Cults

Copyright 1985 Jan Groenveld Freedom In Christ, PO Box 2444, Mansfield, 4122, Australia

1. Their leader/s may claim a special, exclusive ministry, revelation or position of authority given by God.

2. They believe they are the only true church and take a critical stance regarding the Christian church while at the same time praising and exalting their own group, leader/s and work.

3. They use intimidation or psychological manipulation to keep members loyal to their ranks. This could be in the form of threats of dire calamity sent by God if they leave; certain death at Armageddon; being shunned by their family and friends etc. This is a vital part of the mind control process.

4. Members will be expected to give substantial financial support to the group. This could be compulsory tithing (which is checked); signing over all their property on entering the group; coercive methods of instilling guilt on those who have not contributed; selling magazines, flowers or other goods for the group as part of their "ministry".

At the same time bible-based cults may ridicule churches that take up free-will offerings by passing collection plates and/or sell literature and tapes. They usually brag that they don't do this. This gives outsiders the intimation that they are not interested in money.

5. There will be great emphasis on loyalty to the group and its teachings. The lives of members will be totally absorbed into the group's activities. They will have little or no time to think for themselves because of physical and emotional exhaustion. This is also a vital part of the mind control process.

6. There will be total control over almost all aspects of the private lives of members. This control can be direct through communal living, or constant and repetitious teaching on "how to be a true Christian" or "being obedient to leadership". Members will look to their leaders for guidance in everything they do.

7. Bible-based cults may proclaim they have no clergy/laity distinction and no paid ministry class - that they are all equal.

8. Any dissent or questioning of the group's teachings is discouraged. Criticism in any form is seen as rebellion. There will be an emphasis on authority, unquestioning obedience and submission. This is vigilantly maintained.

9. Members are required to demonstrate their loyalty to the group in some way. This could be in the form of "dobbing" on fellow members (including family) under the guise of looking out for their "spiritual welfare".

They may be required to deliberately lie (heavenly deception) or give up their lives by refusing some form of medical treatment.

10. Attempts to leave or reveal embarrassing facts about the group may be met with threats. Some may have taken oaths of loyalty that involve their lives or have signed a "covenant" and feel threatened by this.

Refugees of the group are usually faced with confrontations by other members with coercion to get them to return to the group.

[Nov 4, 2004] The New York Times Opinion Op-Ed Columnist Two Nations Under God  by THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

My problem with the Christian fundamentalists supporting Mr. Bush is not their spiritual energy or the fact that I am of a different faith. It is the way in which he and they have used that religious energy to promote divisions and intolerance at home and abroad. I respect that moral energy, but wish that Democrats could find a way to tap it for different ends.

[May 24, 2004] Secular Illusions - The right way to rescue America from religious correctness. By Richard Wightman Fox

While religious zealots are much more dangerous, secular humanism can also suffer from incompetent advocacy. And some "democrats" like Joe Lieberman are actually indistinguishable from evangelical radicals under a closer look.

By Richard Wightman Fox
Posted Monday, May 24, 2004, at 11:37 AM PT

In Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism, Susan Jacoby sets out to rescue us from the "apostles of religious correctness." She blames this amorphous group for smudging the line between church and state, weakening the hold of science in public education, and airbrushing great secularists such as Tom Paine, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Robert Ingersoll out of American history. Jacoby concedes that religion has often propelled social reform, but she thinks that secular "Enlightenment values"—the heart of the freethinking tradition—have been slighted in standard accounts of the American past.

Jacoby departs from earlier liberal counterattacks against the religious right by faulting liberals nearly as much as conservatives for riding roughshod over our secular heritage. She is incensed that President Bush strode into Washington's National Cathedral after 9/11 and asked God to "always guide our country." When addressing the whole nation, presidents should avoid sectarian pulpits or religious language that inevitably excludes nonbelievers like her. But the Democrats, far from mounting effective resistance to President Bush's official piety, have in Jacoby's view climbed on the holy bandwagon, too. She winces at Al Gore's comment in 2000 that he frequently asks himself, "What would Jesus do?" She fumes at Joe Lieberman's support for faith-based initiatives, accusing him of forgetting his European Jewish ancestors. Jacoby thinks they would have cared more than Lieberman does "about what erosion of the church-state barrier might do to Jews."

Many readers across the political spectrum will applaud Jacoby's call for defending scientific literacy in the face of the Evangelicals' "intelligent design" theory, which rules out "evolution across species." But does reason as such need shoring up against the power of religion, and does the separation of church and state require keeping religion out of politics?

Many liberals will contend that secularists such as Jacoby are wrong to ask religious Americans to keep their beliefs "private." Religious commitment does not automatically entail reduced devotion to reason or to pluralism. And even liberals who share Jacoby's sense that religiosity and rationality are fundamentally at odds may balk at her claim that freethinking is the right way to promote the primacy of reason. Jacoby has greatly overstated the influence of free thought in the American past, and hence overestimated the prospects for getting it back as a vibrant social force.

As a history, Freethinkers does not look critically enough at the notion of "influence." Jacoby's favorite freethinker Robert Ingersoll, an Illinois lawyer and politician, evolved after the Civil War into a well-known "agnostic" lecturer and writer. But to call him "the preeminent orator of his generation" suggests a cultural centrality that he did not command. Infamous as much as famous, he entertained a mass audience without being widely followed. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was the greatest feminist thinker of the mid-19th century. But her stature stemmed from her general appeal for women's rights, not her dismissal of the churches or her challenge to divorce laws. Most contemporaries regarded her anticlericalism and her free-divorce advocacy as anachronistic survivals from an antebellum era strangely infatuated with "individual sovereignty." Tom Paine's influence took a steep dive as early as 1794, when his Age of Reason assailed Christianity as a laughable "mystery" religion. True, he remained a hero to many 19th-century American anticlerical rationalists. But every social and political viewpoint, secular or religious, gained adherents in a century that saw the population explode from 5 million to 75 million. Paine's relative influence declined dramatically even if the number of his admirers grew.

Another drawback in Jacoby's historical account is her loose definition of "freethinker." She announces initially that the group includes both "the truly antireligious" (like Ingersoll) and those who embraced "some form of God or Providence" while resisting "orthodox religious authority." But then she sometimes implies that the tiny antireligious cohort of Ingersoll and his ilk are the authentic freethinkers. And sometimes she expands the second category to include a famous American like Lincoln, who certainly stood aloof from the churches but hardly stood against them. Meanwhile, she overlooks the most significant 19th-century group that fits perfectly within her second type: liberal Protestants such as O. B. Frothingham, who formed the Free Religion movement after the Civil War and probably did more to spread secularism under religious auspices than agnostics such as Ingersoll could ever dream of doing with outright secularist appeals.

A thoroughgoing history of secularism in America would put this paradox at the center: Secularity took root not so much because heroic dissenters such as Paine, Stanton, and Ingersoll preached it, but because a vast army of religious Americans, mostly churchgoing liberal Protestants, pushed for it. Jacoby recognizes that religious and secular impulses have overlapped in American history, but she does not note how deeply interwoven they have been. She observes, correctly, that an anti-slavery Quaker such an Angelina Grimké drew on the Enlightenment as well as the Bible, and that Martin Luther King Jr. chose secular as well as religious advisers. The additional point is that many secular militants, such as Eugene Debs, turned to religion as personal comfort and organizing tool. And many clerical activists, such as Reinhold Niebuhr, embraced secularity as personal style and ethical ideal. Secularism established itself in America by attaching itself to religion, and religion modernized itself by embracing secularity. The religious and the secular have been joined at the historical hip.

Jacoby is right that we should defend the separation of church and state. As Madison and Jefferson grasped, separation protects religion from trivialization as much as it guards nonbelievers from subtle or blatant coercion. When endorsed by public officials, Jesus loses his edge. Christ the certified tribal icon can serve as a marker of social propriety but not as a divine judge or a demanding prophet. We can all be thankful that President Bush did not declare June 10 to be "Jesus Day," as he did when he was governor of Texas. Religious Americans need to realize that faith gains, rather than loses, when it refuses official stamps of approval and when it is kept out of the teaching of science. Of course for believers, authentic faith informs all of life, but faith is nevertheless put at risk when it is clumsily introduced into an area of knowledge in which it is incompetent.

Liberals stand a better chance of containing the religious right if they revive John Dewey's and William James' religion-friendly pragmatism rather than Robert Ingersoll's religion-averse freethinking. Dewey, James, Jane Addams, and other pragmatists can supply liberals with everything Jacoby's freethinkers can give them: a this-worldly focus on using reason and science to build community, increase tolerance, cherish diversity, and guard the essential line between church and state. A Christian pragmatist such as Reinhold Niebuhr can also give religious liberals—Christian, Jewish, or nondenominational—a theological framework for defending the secular against the undue influence of the religious.

Niebuhr welcomed religion into politics but cautioned that politics had to be protected against the fanaticism that religion always tended to spark. Politics needed religion to keep itself pointed toward social justice. Left to its own devices, politics got stuck in a scuffle of one interest group against another. Granted, Enlightenment reason contributed a crucial tool for citizens and policymakers. But reason alone could never mobilize people to look beyond the defense of their own interests. The dual standpoint of Jewish and Christian belief—human beings were both sinners and creatures made in the image of God—offered a firm foundation for socially progressive politics. Knowing themselves as sinners could lead people to self-criticism and to tolerance of other viewpoints; knowing themselves as God's creatures could incline them to favor the well-being of their neighbors. The goal of justice could also prompt religious believers to build politically effective coalitions across the religious-secular spectrum, rather than using politics to impose their convictions on the nonreligious.

Niebuhr thought that sustained moral energy in politics depended on religion's power to mobilize reason along with self-transcending love. The prophetic tradition, meanwhile, gave Jews and Christians some protection against the temptation to identify their social causes with God's will. Lincoln's second inaugural address expressed the prophetic insight, "The almighty has His own purposes." Jacoby actually comes close to Niebuhr's position when she concludes that freethinkers should find a way make their public advocacy passionate as well as rational. And Niebuhr came close to Jacoby's position when he reflected that secular saints sometimes put religious ones to shame by slogging for justice without any thought of what was in it for them.

Richard Wightman Fox, professor of history at the University of Southern California, is the author of Jesus in America: Personal Savior, Cultural Hero, National Obsession.

Article URL: http://slate.msn.com/id/2101002/

The Threat of American Wahhabis Muqtedar Khan, PH.D.

Article was featured in San Francisco Examiner (Nov 11, 2002), Detroit News (November 26, 2002) and the Muslim Observer.

The tragedy of September 11 has now become an opportunity for political entrepreneurship. More and more people are using it to advance sectarian interests that are often at odds with America’s national interests. One group, more than anyone – American Wahhabis – is using September 11 to push its own fundamentalist politics with a vengeance.

The word Wahhabi essentially identifies a rather narrow and bigoted interpretation of Islam. The Wahhabis are (1) oppose civil rights and justice for women and other minorities (2) are anti-secular and in favor of imposing religious law on others by force (3) and extremely intolerant of “others” who do not share their specific religious beliefs. Wahhabis, because of their intolerant outlook and allergy to liberal values and institutions, constantly indulge in a theology of hate.

Unfortunately there is a similar group of bigoted religious fundamentalists in America who are undermining the secular character of America, subverting the peaceful message of Christianity and polluting the socio-cultural environment of America.  These American Wahhabis like their Muslim counterparts are intolerant of homosexuality, feminism, civil rights (ACLU), do not believe in the separation of Church and State and hate people of other faiths. Rev. Jerry Falwell, Rev. Pat Robertson and Rev. Franklin Graham are three of the most prominent, powerful and vocal representatives of American Wahhabis.

Readers may recall that in the immediate aftermath of September 11, Reverend Jerry Falwell blamed abortionists, homosexuals, and the ACLU for angering God and indirectly causing the attacks of September 11. He later apologized for his statements when there was uproar from all sides of the political spectrum, including the President who called Farwell’s comments as “inappropriate”. His statement was a shameless and insensitive example of political opportunism that sought not only to politicize the tragedy of September 11 but also to incite hatred towards the groups that Rev. Falwell and his associates habitually target. If he was not strongly rebuked by nearly everyone who mattered, his crusade against ACLU, gays and feminists would have fed on the emotions related to September 11 and gained significant momentum.

In the past few weeks American Wahhabis have unleashed a verbal assault on Islam and its religious symbols unmindful of the hate it is inciting against Muslim in America and the anti-American sentiments it is generating in the Muslim World. Rev. Falwell and Rev. Pat Robertson have called The Prophet of Islam a terrorist and argued that Islam and its teachings itself are the sources of violence. Rev. Franklin Graham has announced that Islam and its teaching are evil and wicked. Between them they have maintained a continuous discourse of hate against Islam and Muslims for the past few months. The refusal of American leadership, especially the President to rebuke them, has emboldened them to ratchet up the decibel levels of their theology of hate.

Their comments have caused anger among Muslims worldwide, including religious riots in India that have led to five deaths. Many Pakistanis have reacted angrily and expressed their dismay by voting strongly in favor of a pro-Taliban and anti-American alliance in the recent elections in Pakistan.

The problem with the American Wahhabis is not just their ideas and their hate mongering but the fact that they have a reasonably large following – sufficient to influence the electoral outcomes in American elections. By virtue of their votes and their fund raising capacity they exercise more power directly on American Congress and the President than the Mullahs of Saudi Arabia can over the decisions of their King.  Furthermore the close relationship between the President himself and Rev. Franklin Graham and other members of his administration, such as Attorney General Ashcroft, is extremely disturbing. It is not a coincidence that the first group to financially benefit from George Bush’s impulse to finance faith based programs was that of Rev. Pat Robertson. Is it possible that the very purpose of the Federal initiative to support faith based programs is to allow the American Wahhabis to intertwine its operations with those of the Federal government?

Osama Bin Laden attacked America hoping to incite a massive retaliation against Muslim nations to actualize the false prophesy of a clash of civilizations. He was hoping that by inciting a brutal response from the US, he would succeed not only in uniting the 1.4 billion global Muslim community, but also winning them over to Wahhabism and its anti-western, anti-Christian posture.

It seems that the American axis of hate – Revs. Falwell, Robertson and Graham – by repeatedly making hateful and abusive comments about Islam and Prophet Muhammad are determined to precipitate an Armageddon between America and the Muslim World.

When Yigal Amir shocked the Western World by assassinating Israeli Prime Minister Rabin, American media and American leaders repeatedly emphasized that violence was the natural cause of hateful statements. They were all referring to the environment of intolerance that had been created in Israel by Jewish religious zealots who are opposed to peace. Their hateful comments eventually incited Yigal Amir to assassinate Rabin. We seem to have quickly forgotten that painful lesson and the memory of Rabin.

It is only a matter of time when the repeated anti-Muslim and anti-Islam statements by the preachers of hate in America will result in some form of egregious violence against Muslims. Already there have been two instances where the police (California and Florida) arrested heavily armed would be terrorists planning bombing campaigns against Muslims. It seems that the American leadership, specially the President is waiting for something horrible to happen before he can reprimand Revs. Falwell, Robertson and Graham for their “inappropriate comments”.

We live in very sensitive times. People’s insecurities are extremely heightened and their capacity to suffer pain, bigotry and injustice is being severely tested. We are facing the possibility of a global war between America and the Muslim World. And the primary cause for such a war, God-forbid, would not be oil, geopolitics or regime changes, but the intolerable and vicious hate speech unleashed by religious bigots who confuse self righteousness for righteousness and demonization for devotion.

Since September 11 many Americans, including the author, have condemned the extremism of Muslim Wahhabis. It is time that America, especially President Bush, does the right thing and condemns the hatred preached by American Wahhabis.

[Feb 20, 2004] The Despoiling of America by By Katherine Yurica.

Katherine Yurica was educated at East Los Angeles College, U.S.C. and the USC school of law. She worked as a consultant for Los Angeles County and as a news correspondent for Christianity Today plus as a freelance investigative reporter. She is the author of three books. She is also the publisher of the Yurica Report http://www.yuricareport.com

Katherine Yurica recorded and transcribed 1,300 pages of Pat Robertson’s television show, The 700 Club covering several years in the mid 1980’s. In 1987 she conducted a study in response to informal inquiries from the staff of the Subcommittee on Oversight of the House Ways and Means Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, which was investigating whether television and radio ministries were violating their tax-exempt status by conducting grass roots political appeals, endorsing candidates, and making political expenditures as defined under Section 527 of the IRS code. The Subcommittee on Oversight published Katherine's study in Federal Tax Rules Applicable to Tax-Exempt Organizations Involving Television Ministries on October 6, 1987, Serial 100-43. (Published in 1988.)

A Machiavellian Religion Was Born

American Christianity had already seen extremes. For Dominionists, perhaps the single most important event in the last half of the twentieth century occurred when the Reverend Jim Jones proved that the religious would follow their leader to Guyana and even further, to their deaths. That fact could hardly have escaped the notice of even the dullest of politically minded preachers.

Indeed, Jim Jones’ surreal power over his congregants leaps out from the grave even today. If a man desired to change the laws in America—to undo Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal for instance, and allow corporations the unbridled freedom they enjoyed prior to the Great Depression (which included the freedom to defraud, pillage, and to destroy the land with impunity on the way to gathering great fortunes), what better way to proceed than to cloak the corruption within a religion? If a few men wanted to establish an American empire and control the entire world, what better vehicle to carry them to their goal than to place their agenda within the context of a religion? Jim Jones proved religious people would support even immoral political deeds if their leaders found a way to frame those deeds as “God’s Will.” The idea was brilliant. Its framers knew they could glorify greed, hate, nationalism and even a Christian empire with ease.[21]

The religion the canny thinkers founded follows the reverse of communism and secular humanism, it poured political and economic ideology into a religion and that combustible mixture produced “Dominionism,” a new political faith that had the additional advantage of insulating the cult from attacks on its political agenda by giving its practitioners the covering to simply cry out, “You’re attacking me for my religious beliefs and that’s religious persecution!”[22]

But how could a leader get away with a religious fraud that barely hides its destructive and false intent?

Jim Jones’s history holds the answer. He not only proved the obvious fact that people are blinded by their religious beliefs and will only impute goodness, mercy, and religious motivations to their leader, but Jim Jones proved the efficacy of the basic teaching of Machiavelli: a leader must only appear to have the qualities of goodness—he need not actually possess those attributes.

In fact, Machiavelli taught that it is dangerous for a leader to practice goodness. Instead, he must pretend to be good and then do the opposite. Machiavelli taught that a leader will succeed on appearances alone. A good leader puts his finger to the wind and changes course whenever it is expedient to do so. Machiavelli wrote this revealing passage that could be applied not only to false religious leaders but to a false President:  

“Alexander VI did nothing else but deceive men, he thought of nothing else, and found the occasion for it; no man was ever more able to give assurances, or affirmed things with stronger oaths, and no man observed them less; however, he always succeeded in his deceptions, as he well knew this aspect of things.”

“Everybody sees what you appear to be, few feel what you are, and those few will not dare to oppose themselves to the many, who have the majesty of the state to defend them; and in the actions of men, and especially of princes, from which there is no appeal, the end justifies the means.” (p. 93)

Chillingly Machiavelli advises his readers:

“Let a prince therefore aim at conquering and maintaining the state, and the means will always be judged honourable and praised by every one, for the vulgar is always taken by appearances and the issue of the event; and the world consists only of the vulgar, and the few who are not vulgar are isolated when the many have a rallying point in the prince.” (p. 94)

Machiavelli also wrote how to govern dominions that previous to being occupied lived under their own laws. His words eerily reflect the Bush Administration’s decisions on how to rule Iraq:

“When those states which have been acquired are accustomed to live at liberty under their own laws, there are three ways of holding them. The first is to despoil them;[23] the second is to go and live there in person; the third is to allow them to live under their own laws, taking tribute of them, and creating within the country a government composed of a few who will keep it friendly to you. Because this government, being created by the prince, knows that it cannot exist without his friendship and protection, and will do all it can to keep them. What is more, a city used to liberty can be more easily held by means of its citizens than in any other way, if you wish to preserve it.” (p. 46)

However Machiavelli has second thoughts and follows with this caveat:

“…. [I]n truth there is no sure method of holding them except by despoiling them. And whoever becomes the ruler of a free city and does not destroy it, can expect to be destroyed by it, for it can always find a motive for rebellion in the name of liberty and of its ancient usages…”[24] (p. 46)

(The above quotes are from The Prince in the original Oxford University Press translation by Luigi Ricci, 1903; revised by E. R. P. Vincent, 1935)

Machiavelli’s books, The Prince and The Discourses are not abstract treatises. Christian Gauss, who wrote an important introduction to the Oxford edition, called them by their rightful name: they are in fact a “concise manual—a handbook of those who would acquire or increase their political power.” Gauss tells us that a long line of kings and ministers and tyrants studied Machiavelli, including Mussolini, Hitler, Lenin and Stalin. 

How Can Evil Deeds Be Reconciled With Christian Beliefs?

It’s important to understand that the founders of Dominionism are sitting on the horns of a moral dilemma: How can a leader be both good and evil at the same time? For if biblical moral proscriptions are applicable to him, he will certainly suffer some form of censure. And if proscriptions are applicable, the leader could not lie to the citizenry with impunity or do evil so that “good” could be achieved. The answer to the dilemma of how a Dominionist leader could both do evil and still maintain his place of honor in the Christian community lies in the acceptance and adoption of the Calvinistic doctrine that James Hogg wrote about in The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner.  (W.W. Norton, N.Y. 1970.)

This novel, published in 1824, is concerned with psychological aberration and as such, anticipates the literature of the twentieth century. The protagonist is a young man named Robert, who drenched in the religious bigotry of Calvinism, concluded that he was predestined before the beginning of the world to enter heaven, therefore no sin he committed would be held to his account. This freed Robert to become an assassin in the cause of Christ and His Church.

Fifty years ago a variation on the concept was expressed disapprovingly as, “Once saved—always saved.” In this view, salvation had nothing to do with “good works or a holy life.” A drunk who had a born again experience would be among God’s chosen elect whether he stopped drinking or not. But the logical extension of the reasoning is the idea that Christianity could have within itself not ex-sinners but active sinners: as Christian murderers, Christian pedophiles, Christian rapists, Christian thieves, Christian arsonists, and every other kind of socio-pathological behavior possible. As we have sadly witnessed of late the concept is broadly accepted within the American churches.

But the Dominionists needed the aberrant extension of Calvinism; they believe as did Calvin and John Knox that before the creation of the universe, all men were indeed predestined to be either among God’s elect or were unregenerate outcasts. And it is at this point Dominionists introduced a perversion to Calvinism—the same one James Hogg utilizes in his The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner—its technical name is “supralapsarianism.” It means essentially that the man called from before the foundation of the world to be one of the elect of God’s people, can do no wrong. No wonder then observers noted a definite religious swing in George W. Bush from Wesleyan theology to Calvinism early in his administration.[25]

How comforting the Calvinistic idea of a “justified sinner” is when one is utilizing Machiavellian techniques to gain political control of a state. It’s more than comforting; it is a required doctrine for “Christians” who believe they must use evil to bring about good. It justifies lying, murder, fraud and all other criminal acts without the fuss of having to deal with guilt feelings or to feel remorse for the lives lost through executions, military actions, or assassinations.

If this doctrine seems too wayward to believe as it might have done had I not heard a recent interview with a Pentecostal minister—rest assured the twisted doctrine is horribly alive and thriving in America today.

The interview conducted by Brian Copeland a news talk show host for KGO, San Francisco on September 5, 2003, was with the Reverend Donald Spitz of Pensacola, Florida who is involved with a Pro Life group in Virginia and with the Army of God. The occasion was the execution of Paul Hill, another Pentecostal minister who murdered a doctor and his body guard outside an abortion clinic. Hill was caught and convicted of the crimes. Spitz admitted that he was Paul Hill’s spiritual counselor. He said Hill died with the conviction he had done the Lord’s work. Spitz who approved of the murder said, “Someone else is going to handle the publishing of Paul Hill’s book On How to Assassinate.”

Spitz believed that Hill was completely justified in murdering the physician because, according to him, “twenty-six babies’ lives were saved by the killing.”  When Copeland pointed out that the scheduled abortions for the morning of the murders would have simply been postponed to another day—and that the lives of the fetuses were only extended for a day or so, Spitz refused to accept the argument.

Not surprisingly, Spitz opposed the use of birth control methods. Copeland asked, “If a woman is raped should she be forced to carry the fetus to term?” Spitz said, “Yes.”

“What if the pregnancy will kill the mother?” Spitz replied that under no circumstances could “the baby be killed.” When Spitz was asked, “Why haven’t you gone out and killed an abortionist?” he replied calmly, “God hasn’t told me to do the killing.”

The Neo-Conservative Connection with Dominionists and Machiavelli

I suspect that most Americans have never heard of Machiavelli, nevertheless, it should be no surprise to us that Machiavelli has been accepted, praised, and followed by the Neo-Conservatives in the White House and his precepts are blindly adopted by the so-called “Christian” Dominionists. Kevin Phillips tells us in his masterful book, American Dynasty that Karl Rove, political strategist for President George W. Bush, is a devotee of Machiavelli, just as Rove’s predecessor, Lee Atwater had been for the elder Bush.[26] In fact, there has been an incredible effort to dilute the immoral implications of Machiavelli’s teachings. Today’s best apologist for Machiavelli is one of the most influential voices in Washington with direct connections into the oval office.

Michael A. Ledeen was a Senior Fellow with the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a counselor to the National Security Council and special counselor to former Secretary of State, Alexander Haig in 1985. His relationship with Pat Robertson goes back at least to the early 1980’s.[27]  Like Robertson, Ledeen was an advocate for military intervention in Nicaragua and for assistance to the Contras. (Ledeen was also involved in the Iran-Contra affair.)[28]

Today, in 2004, Michael Ledeen is a fellow at the conservative think tank, the American Enterprise Institute and according to William O. Beeman of the Pacific News Service, “Ledeen has become the driving philosophical force behind the neoconservative movement and the military actions it has spawned.”[29]

Ledeen made a number of appearances on the 700 Club show during the 1980’s. Always presented as a distinguished guest, Robertson interviewed him on April 30, 1985 and asked him on this occasion: “What would you recommend if you were going to advise the President [Ronald Reagan] as to foreign policy?”

Ledeen responded:

“The United States has to make clear to the world and above all to its own citizens, what our vital interests are. And then we must make it clear to everyone that we are prepared to fight and fight fiercely to defend those interests, so that people will not cross the lines that are likely to kick off a trip wire.” (Emphasis added.)

If Ledeen’s advice sounds ruthless and Machiavellian—it may be because it is Machiavellian. (By definition his statement presupposes the existence of something or several things that are life threatening to the nation by the use of the word “vital.” Yet Ledeen asserts that which is life threatening must be made manifest or defined. If an interest must be defined, then it is not apparent; yet the nation will nevertheless ask its sons and daughters to fight and die for something that is not apparent. Therefore, whatever “interests” Ledeen wanted to be defined, cannot have been vital interests, which are apparent—so in reality he advised the President to call discretionary interests vital—which is a lie.)

Be aware that Ledeen is in complete accord with Machiavellian thinking. And so is Pat Robertson.[30] Robertson agreed to virtually every nuance Ledeen presented. In fact, it’s not clear which of the two first proposed invading Syria, Iran and Iraq back in the 1980’s,[31] a refrain that also echoed in the reports of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), one of the major homes for neo-conservatives in 2000. Both Ledeen and Robertson targeted the same nations that PNAC lists as America’s greatest enemies in its paper, “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” (published in September 2000.)[32]

In 1999, Ledeen published his book, Machiavelli on Modern Leadership: Why Machiavelli’s Iron Rules Are as Timely and Important Today as Five Centuries Ago. (Truman Talley Books, St. Martin’s Griffin, N.Y. 1999.) Here is a sample of how Ledeen smoothes rough edges and presents a modern Machiavelli:

“In order to achieve the most noble accomplishments, the leader may have to ‘enter into evil.’ This is the chilling insight that has made Machiavelli so feared, admired, and challenging. It is why we are drawn to him still…” (p. 91)

Again, Ledeen writes:

“Just as the quest for peace at any price invites war and, worse than war, defeat and domination, so good acts sometimes advance the triumph of evil, as there are circumstances when only doing evil ensures the victory of a good cause.” (p. 93)

Ledeen clearly believes “the end justifies the means,” but not all the time. He writes “Lying is evil,” but then contradictorily argues that it produced

 “a magnificent result,” and “is essential to the survival of nations and to the success of great enterprises.” (p. 95)

Ledeen adds this tidbit:

“All’s fair in war . . . and in love. Practicing deceit to fulfill your heart’s desire might be not only legitimate, but delicious!” (p. 95)

William O. Beeman tells us about Michael Ledeen’s influence. Writing for the Pacific News Service he says:

Ledeen’s ideas are repeated daily by such figures as Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz…He basically believes that violence in the service of the spread of democracy is America’s manifest destiny. Consequently, he has become the philosophical legitimator of the American occupation of Iraq.”[33]

In fact, Ledeen’s influence goes even further. The BBC, the Washington Post and Jim Lobe writing for the Asia Times report that Michael Ledeen is the only full-time international affairs analyst consulted by Karl Rove.[34] Ledeen has regular conversations with Rove. The Washington Post said, “More than once, Ledeen has seen his ideas faxed to Rove, become official policy or rhetoric.”[35]

Leo Strauss the Father of Neo-Conservatism

Leo Strauss was born in 1899 and died in 1973. He was a Jewish scholar who fled Germany when Hitler gained power. He eventually found refuge in the United States where he taught political science at the University of Chicago. He is most famous for resuscitating Machiavelli and introducing his principles as the guiding philosophy of the neo-conservative movement. Strauss has been called the godfather of Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America.” More than any other man, Strauss breathed upon conservatism, inspiring it to rise from its atrophied condition and its natural dislike of change and to embrace an unbounded new political ideology that rides on the back of a revolutionary steed, hailing even radical change; hence the name Neo-Conservatives.

The father of neo-conservatism had many “spiritual” children at the University of Chicago, among them: Paul Wolfowitz and Abram Shulsky, who received their doctorates under Strauss in 1972. Harry V. Jaffa was a student of Strauss and has an important connection to Dominionists like Pat Robertson as we shall see below. However, Strauss’s family of influence extended beyond his students to include faculty members in universities, and the people his students taught. Those prominent neo-conservatives who are most notable are: Justice Clarence Thomas, Robert Bork, Irving Kristol and his son William Kristol, Alan Keyes, William J. Bennett, J. Danforth Quayle, Allan Bloom, John Podhoertz, John T. Agresto, John Ashcroft, Newt Gingrich, Gary Bauer, Michael Ledeen and scores of others, many of whom hold important positions in George W. Bush’s White House and Defense Department.

To understand the Straussian infusion of power that transformed an all but dead conservative realm, think of Nietzsche’s Overman come to life. Or better yet, think of the philosophy most unlike Christianity: Think of pure unmitigated evil. Strauss admits that Machiavelli is an evil man. But according to Strauss, his admission is a prerequisite to studying and reading Machiavelli: the acknowledgement is the safety net that keeps the reader from being corrupted. One is tempted to talk back to Strauss and point out an alternative: the admission could be the subterfuge that keeps a man from being ridiculed and rejected for espousing Machiavellian methods.

In one of the most important books for our times, Shadia Drury’s Leo Strauss and the American Right, undertakes to explain the ideas behind Strauss’s huge influence and following. Strauss’s reputation, according to Drury, rests in large part on his view that “a real philosopher must communicate quietly, subtly, and secretly to the few who are fit to receive his message.” Strauss claims secrecy is necessary to avoid “persecution.”[36]

In reading Strauss, one sometimes encounters coded contradictory ideas. For example, Strauss appears to respect Machiavelli because—as he points out—in contrast to other evil men, Machiavelli openly proclaimed opinions that others only secretly expressed behind closed doors. But we have just noted that Strauss teaches that secrecy is essential to the real philosopher. Strauss concluded, some would say that Machiavelli was after all, a patriot of sorts for he loved Italy more than he loved his own soul. Then Strauss warns, but if you call him a patriot, you “merely obscure something truly evil.”[37] So Strauss dances his way through the Machiavellian field of evil, his steps choreographed with duplicity and it’s opposite. The reader cannot let go.

In Strauss’s view, Machiavelli sees that Christianity “has led the world into weakness,” which can only be offset by returning the world to the ancient practices of the past. (Implied is not a return to the pagan past, but rather a return to the more virulent world of the Old Testament). Strauss laments, “Machiavelli needed …a detailed discussion revealing the harmony between his political teaching and the teaching of the Bible.” [38]These statements of Strauss, by themselves, were sufficient to send neo-conservative Christians to search for correlations between Machiavellianism, radical conservatism and the scriptures.[39]

Strauss’s teaching incorporated much of Machiavelli’s. Significantly, his philosophy is unfriendly to democracy—even antagonistic.  At the same time Strauss upheld the necessity for a national religion not because he favored religious practices, but because religion in his view is necessary in order to control the population. Since neo-conservatives influenced by Strauss are in control of the Bush administration, I have prepared a brief list that shows the radical unchristian basis of neo-conservatism. I am indebted to Shadia Drury’s book (Leo Strauss and the American Right) and published interviews for the following:

First: Strauss believed that a leader had to perpetually deceive the citizens he ruled.

Secondly: Those who lead must understand there is no morality, there is only the right of the superior to rule the inferior.

Thirdly:  According to Drury, Religion “is the glue that holds society together.”[40] It is a handle by which the ruler can manipulate the masses. Any religion will do. Strauss is indifferent to them all.

Fourthly: “Secular society…is the worst possible thing,” because it leads to individualism, liberalism, and relativism, all of which encourage dissent and rebellion. As Drury sums it up: “You want a crowd that you can manipulate like putty.”[41]

Fifthly: “Strauss thinks that a political order can be stable only if it is united by an external threat; and following Machiavelli, he maintains that if no external threat exists, then one has to be manufactured.”[42]

Sixthly: “In Strauss’s view, the trouble with liberal society is that it dispenses with noble lies and pious frauds. It tries to found society on secular rational foundations.”

Strauss’s Student, Harry Jaffa on the 700 Club with Pat Robertson

For four days in 1986, from July first through the fourth of July, Pat Robertson interviewed neo-conservative Dr. Harry Jaffa, a former student of Leo Strauss, on the 700 Club show. The topic was the importance of the Declaration of Independence. Joining with Jaffa was Robertson’s own man, Herb Titus, the Dean of CBN’s School of Public Policy. This series of interviews was one of the most important philosophical moments in the development of the political agenda and political philosophy of the Dominionists.

Robertson found in Harry Jaffa, the champion he needed, whose reasoning would influence how the Constitution should be interpreted by conservatives and would provide a “Christian” view of the establishment of the United States that excluded the secular social contract view. Harry Jaffa would influence both Clarence Thomas (who would be appointed to the Supreme Court by President George Bush senior in 1991) and Antonin Scalia (who would be appointed to the Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan on September 26, 1986).

During the four days of interviews Jaffa and Titus agreed that the Declaration of Independence was the premier document and it superceded the Constitution. Titus said, “The Declaration…is the charter of the nation. It is what you might call the articles of incorporation, whereas the Constitution is the bylaws. The Constitution is the means by which to carry out the great purposes that are articulated in the Declaration.”

Robertson asked: “Let’s assume that eighty percent of the people are just totally immoral, they want to live lives of gross licentiousness and they want to prey on one another, that’s what they want and they want a government to let them do it. How does that square with the Declaration of Independence and its consent of the governed?”

Titus said, “Even the people can’t consent to give away that which God says is unalienable.”

Robertson then asked, “The principles enunciated in the Declaration of Independence, how far have we gone from it and what can we do to redress some of these problems?”

Jaffa responded cryptically:

“I’d say that today, for example in the Attorney General’s [Edwin Meese’s] warfare with the liberals on the Supreme Court, in his appeal to original intent, he appeals to the text of the Constitution. Jefferson and Madison said together in 1825, ‘If you want to find the principles of the Constitution of the United States, you go first to the Declaration of Independence.’”

First, Jaffa means by the term “original intent” that the Constitution must be interpreted according to what it meant when it was originally adopted. It is a revolutionary and brilliant idea that will allow the Dominionists to effectively repeal most of the judicial decisions made in the last century. [43]  

econdly, if we take Jaffa and the Dominionists at their word and go to the Declaration of Independence, we can see just how radical the conservative revolution and Dominionism are. The only portion that is ever quoted publicly are these words:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,”

The quote stops in the middle of the sentence—the part that is never quoted is this:

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

Dominionism then, takes its authority to overthrow the government of the United States from our own Declaration of Independence. By the time all Americans wake up to the Dominionist’s intent, it may be too late.

Though Harry Jaffa speaks with a high minded sense of political righteousness, Shadia Drury exposes his Machiavellian side. Like Strauss, he “clearly believes that devious and illegal methods are justified when those in power are convinced of the rightness of their ends.”[44] Jaffa and Robertson saw eye to eye on more than one topic: for instance, Jaffa like his host Pat Robertson, found Oliver North to be a hero (and by extension Michael Ledeen) when both North and Ledeen went around the law to provide military aid to the contras.[45]

Noble lies and perpetual war Leo Strauss, the neo-cons, and Iraq Danny Postel - openDemocracy

By contrast, Shadia Drury, professor of political theory at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, argues that the use of deception and manipulation in current US policy flow directly from the doctrines of the political philosopher Leo Strauss (1899-1973). His disciples include Paul Wolfowitz and other neo-conservatives who have driven much of the political agenda of the Bush administration.

If Shadia Drury is right, then American policy-makers exercise deception with greater coherence than their British allies in Tony Blair’s 10 Downing Street. In the UK, a public inquiry is currently underway into the death of the biological weapons expert David Kelly. A central theme is also whether the government deceived the public, as a BBC reporter suggested.

The inquiry has documented at least some of the ways the prime minister’s entourage ‘sexed up’ the presentation of intelligence on the Iraqi threat. But few doubt that in terms of their philosophy, if they have one, members of Blair’s staff believe they must be trusted as honest. Any apparent deceptions they may be involved in are for them matters of presentation or ‘spin’: attempts to project an honest gloss when surrounded by a dishonest media.

The deep influence of Leo Strauss’s ideas on the current architects of US foreign policy has been referred to, if sporadically, in the press (hence an insider witticism about the influence of “Leo-cons”). Christopher Hitchens, an ardent advocate of the war, wrote unashamedly in November 2002 (in an article felicitously titled Machiavelli in Mesopotamia) that:

“[p]art of the charm of the regime-change argument (from the point of view of its supporters) is that it depends on premises and objectives that cannot, at least by the administration, be publicly avowed. Since Paul Wolfowitz is from the intellectual school of Leo Strauss – and appears in fictional guise as such in Saul Bellow’s novel Ravelstein – one may even suppose that he enjoys this arcane and occluded aspect of the debate.”

Perhaps no scholar has done as much to illuminate the Strauss phenomenon as Shadia Drury. For fifteen years she has been shining a heat lamp on the Straussians with such books as The Political Ideas of Leo Strauss (1988) and Leo Strauss and the American Right (1997). She is also the author of Alexandre Kojève: the Roots of Postmodern Politics (1994) and Terror and Civilization (forthcoming).

She argues that the central claims of Straussian thought wield a crucial influence on men of power in the contemporary United States. She elaborates her argument in this interview.

A natural order of inequality

Danny Postel: You’ve argued that there is an important connection between the teachings of Leo Strauss and the Bush administration’s selling of the Iraq war. What is that connection?

Shadia Drury: Leo Strauss was a great believer in the efficacy and usefulness of lies in politics. Public support for the Iraq war rested on lies about Iraq posing an imminent threat to the United States – the business about weapons of mass destruction and a fictitious alliance between al-Qaida and the Iraqi regime. Now that the lies have been exposed, Paul Wolfowitz and others in the war party are denying that these were the real reasons for the war.

So what were the real reasons? Reorganising the balance of power in the Middle East in favour of Israel? Expanding American hegemony in the Arab world? Possibly. But these reasons would not have been sufficient in themselves to mobilise American support for the war. And the Straussian cabal in the administration realised that.

Danny Postel: The neo-conservative vision is commonly taken to be about spreading democracy and liberal values globally. And when Strauss is mentioned in the press, he is typically described as a great defender of liberal democracy against totalitarian tyranny. You’ve written, however, that Strauss had a “profound antipathy to both liberalism and democracy.”

Shadia Drury: The idea that Strauss was a great defender of liberal democracy is laughable. I suppose that Strauss’s disciples consider it a noble lie. Yet many in the media have been gullible enough to believe it.

How could an admirer of Plato and Nietzsche be a liberal democrat? The ancient philosophers whom Strauss most cherished believed that the unwashed masses were not fit for either truth or liberty, and that giving them these sublime treasures would be like throwing pearls before swine. In contrast to modern political thinkers, the ancients denied that there is any natural right to liberty. Human beings are born neither free nor equal. The natural human condition, they held, is not one of freedom, but of subordination – and in Strauss’s estimation they were right in thinking so.

Praising the wisdom of the ancients and condemning the folly of the moderns was the whole point of Strauss’s most famous book, Natural Right and History. The cover of the book sports the American Declaration of Independence. But the book is a celebration of nature – not the natural rights of man (as the appearance of the book would lead one to believe) but the natural order of domination and subordination.

The necessity of lies

Danny Postel: What is the relevance of Strauss’s interpretation of Plato’s notion of the noble lie?

Shadia Drury: Strauss rarely spoke in his own name. He wrote as a commentator on the classical texts of political theory. But he was an extremely opinionated and dualistic commentator. The fundamental distinction that pervades and informs all of his work is that between the ancients and the moderns. Strauss divided the history of political thought into two camps: the ancients (like Plato) are wise and wily, whereas the moderns (like Locke and other liberals) are vulgar and foolish. Now, it seems to me eminently fair and reasonable to attribute to Strauss the ideas he attributes to his beloved ancients.

In Plato’s dialogues, everyone assumes that Socrates is Plato’s mouthpiece. But Strauss argues in his book The City and Man (pp. 74-5, 77, 83-4, 97, 100, 111) that Thrasymachus is Plato’s real mouthpiece (on this point, see also M.F. Burnyeat, “Sphinx without a Secret”, New York Review of Books, 30 May 1985 [paid-for only]). So, we must surmise that Strauss shares the insights of the wise Plato (alias Thrasymachus) that justice is merely the interest of the stronger; that those in power make the rules in their own interests and call it justice.

Leo Strauss repeatedly defends the political realism of Thrasymachus and Machiavelli (see, for example, his Natural Right and History, p. 106). This view of the world is clearly manifest in the foreign policy of the current administration in the United States.

A second fundamental belief of Strauss’s ancients has to do with their insistence on the need for secrecy and the necessity of lies. In his book Persecution and the Art of Writing, Strauss outlines why secrecy is necessary. He argues that the wise must conceal their views for two reasons – to spare the people’s feelings and to protect the elite from possible reprisals.

The people will not be happy to learn that there is only one natural right – the right of the superior to rule over the inferior, the master over the slave, the husband over the wife, and the wise few over the vulgar many. In On Tyranny, Strauss refers to this natural right as the “tyrannical teaching” of his beloved ancients. It is tyrannical in the classic sense of rule above rule or in the absence of law (p. 70).

Now, the ancients were determined to keep this tyrannical teaching secret because the people are not likely to tolerate the fact that they are intended for subordination; indeed, they may very well turn their resentment against the superior few. Lies are thus necessary to protect the superior few from the persecution of the vulgar many.

The effect of Strauss’s teaching is to convince his acolytes that they are the natural ruling elite and the persecuted few. And it does not take much intelligence for them to surmise that they are in a situation of great danger, especially in a world devoted to the modern ideas of equal rights and freedoms. Now more than ever, the wise few must proceed cautiously and with circumspection. So, they come to the conclusion that they have a moral justification to lie in order to avoid persecution. Strauss goes so far as to say that dissembling and deception – in effect, a culture of lies – is the peculiar justice of the wise.

Strauss justifies his position by an appeal to Plato’s concept of the noble lie. But in truth, Strauss has a very impoverished conception of Plato’s noble lie. Plato thought that the noble lie is a story whose details are fictitious; but at the heart of it is a profound truth.

In the myth of metals, for example, some people have golden souls – meaning that they are more capable of resisting the temptations of power. And these morally trustworthy types are the ones who are most fit to rule. The details are fictitious, but the moral of the story is that not all human beings are morally equal.

In contrast to this reading of Plato, Strauss thinks that the superiority of the ruling philosophers is an intellectual superiority and not a moral one (Natural Right and History, p. 151). For many commentators who (like Karl Popper) have read Plato as a totalitarian, the logical consequence is to doubt that philosophers can be trusted with political power. Those who read him this way invariably reject him. Strauss is the only interpreter who gives a sinister reading to Plato, and then celebrates him.

The dialectic of fear and tyranny

Danny Postel: In the Straussian scheme of things, there are the wise few and the vulgar many. But there is also a third group – the gentlemen. Would you explain how they figure?

Shadia Drury: There are indeed three types of men: the wise, the gentlemen, and the vulgar. The wise are the lovers of the harsh, unadulterated truth. They are capable of looking into the abyss without fear and trembling. They recognise neither God nor moral imperatives. They are devoted above all else to their own pursuit of the “higher” pleasures, which amount to consorting with their “puppies” or young initiates.

The second type, the gentlemen, are lovers of honour and glory. They are the most ingratiating towards the conventions of their society – that is, the illusions of the cave. They are true believers in God, honour, and moral imperatives. They are ready and willing to embark on acts of great courage and self-sacrifice at a moment’s notice.

The third type, the vulgar many, are lovers of wealth and pleasure. They are selfish, slothful, and indolent. They can be inspired to rise above their brutish existence only by fear of impending death or catastrophe.

Like Plato, Strauss believed that the supreme political ideal is the rule of the wise. But the rule of the wise is unattainable in the real world. Now, according to the conventional wisdom, Plato realised this, and settled for the rule of law. But Strauss did not endorse this solution entirely. Nor did he think that it was Plato’s real solution – Strauss pointed to the “nocturnal council” in Plato’s Laws to illustrate his point.

The real Platonic solution as understood by Strauss is the covert rule of the wise (see Strauss’s – The Argument and the Action of Plato’s Laws). This covert rule is facilitated by the overwhelming stupidity of the gentlemen. The more gullible and unperceptive they are, the easier it is for the wise to control and manipulate them. Supposedly, Xenophon makes that clear to us.

For Strauss, the rule of the wise is not about classic conservative values like order, stability, justice, or respect for authority. The rule of the wise is intended as an antidote to modernity. Modernity is the age in which the vulgar many have triumphed. It is the age in which they have come closest to having exactly what their hearts desire – wealth, pleasure, and endless entertainment. But in getting just what they desire, they have unwittingly been reduced to beasts.

Nowhere is this state of affairs more advanced than in America. And the global reach of American culture threatens to trivialise life and turn it into entertainment. This was as terrifying a spectre for Strauss as it was for Alexandre Kojève and Carl Schmitt.

This is made clear in Strauss’s exchange with Kojève (reprinted in Strauss’s On Tyranny), and in his commentary on Schmitt’s The Concept of the Political (reprinted in Heinrich Meier, Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss: The Hidden Dialogue). Kojève lamented the animalisation of man and Schmitt worried about the trivialisation of life. All three of them were convinced that liberal economics would turn life into entertainment and destroy politics; all three understood politics as a conflict between mutually hostile groups willing to fight each other to the death. In short, they all thought that man’s humanity depended on his willingness to rush naked into battle and headlong to his death. Only perpetual war can overturn the modern project, with its emphasis on self-preservation and “creature comforts.” Life can be politicised once more, and man’s humanity can be restored.

This terrifying vision fits perfectly well with the desire for honour and glory that the neo-conservative gentlemen covet. It also fits very well with the religious sensibilities of gentlemen. The combination of religion and nationalism is the elixir that Strauss advocates as the way to turn natural, relaxed, hedonistic men into devout nationalists willing to fight and die for their God and country.

I never imagined when I wrote my first book on Strauss that the unscrupulous elite that he elevates would ever come so close to political power, nor that the ominous tyranny of the wise would ever come so close to being realised in the political life of a great nation like the United States. But fear is the greatest ally of tyranny.

Danny Postel: You’ve described Strauss as a nihilist.

Shadia Drury: Strauss is a nihilist in the sense that he believes that there is no rational foundation for morality. He is an atheist, and he believes that in the absence of God, morality has no grounding. It’s all about benefiting others and oneself; there is no objective reason for doing so, only rewards and punishments in this life.

But Strauss is not a nihilist if we mean by the term a denial that there is any truth, a belief that everything is interpretation. He does not deny that there is an independent reality. On the contrary, he thinks that independent reality consists in nature and its “order of rank” – the high and the low, the superior and the inferior. Like Nietzsche, he believes that the history of western civilisation has led to the triumph of the inferior, the rabble – something they both lamented profoundly.

Danny Postel: This connection is curious, since Strauss is bedevilled by Nietzsche; and one of Strauss’s most famous students, Allan Bloom, fulminates profusely in his book The Closing of the American Mind against the influence of Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger.

Shadia Drury: Strauss’s criticism of the existentialists, especially Heidegger, is that they tried to elicit an ethic out of the abyss. This was the ethic of resoluteness – choose whatever you like and be loyal to it to the death; its content does not matter. But Strauss’s reaction to moral nihilism was different. Nihilistic philosophers, he believes, should reinvent the Judæo-Christian God, but live like pagan gods themselves – taking pleasure in the games they play with each other as well as the games they play on ordinary mortals.

The question of nihilism is complicated, but there is no doubt that Strauss’s reading of Plato entails that the philosophers should return to the cave and manipulate the images (in the form of media, magazines, newspapers). They know full well that the line they espouse is mendacious, but they are convinced that theirs are noble lies.

The intoxication of perpetual war

Danny Postel: You characterise the outlook of the Bush administration as a kind of realism, in the spirit of Thrasymachus and Machiavelli. But isn’t the real divide within the administration (and on the American right more generally) more complex: between foreign policy realists, who are pragmatists, and neo-conservatives, who see themselves as idealists – even moralists – on a mission to topple tyrants, and therefore in a struggle against realism?

Shadia Drury: I think that the neo-conservatives are for the most part genuine in wanting to spread the American commercial model of liberal democracy around the globe. They are convinced that it is the best thing, not just for America, but for the world. Naturally, there is a tension between these “idealists” and the more hard-headed realists within the administration.

I contend that the tensions and conflicts within the current administration reflect the differences between the surface teaching, which is appropriate for gentlemen, and the ‘nocturnal’ or covert teaching, which the philosophers alone are privy to. It is very unlikely for an ideology inspired by a secret teaching to be entirely coherent.

The issue of nationalism is an example of this. The philosophers, wanting to secure the nation against its external enemies as well as its internal decadence, sloth, pleasure, and consumption, encourage a strong patriotic fervour among the honour-loving gentlemen who wield the reins of power. That strong nationalistic spirit consists in the belief that their nation and its values are the best in the world, and that all other cultures and their values are inferior in comparison.

Irving Kristol, the father of neo-conservatism and a Strauss disciple, denounced nationalism in a 1973 essay; but in another essay written in 1983, he declared that the foreign policy of neo-conservatism must reflect its nationalist proclivities. A decade on, in a 1993 essay, he claimed that “religion, nationalism, and economic growth are the pillars of neoconservatism.” (See “The Coming ‘Conservative Century’”, in Neoconservatism: the autobiography of an idea, p. 365.)

In Reflections of a Neoconservative (p. xiii), Kristol wrote that:

“patriotism springs from love of the nation’s past; nationalism arises out of hope for the nation’s future, distinctive greatness…. Neoconservatives believe… that the goals of American foreign policy must go well beyond a narrow, too literal definition of ‘national security’. It is the national interest of a world power, as this is defined by a sense of national destiny … not a myopic national security”.

The same sentiment was echoed by the doyen of contemporary Straussianism, Harry Jaffa, when he said that America is the “Zion that will light up all the world.”

It is easy to see how this sort of thinking can get out of hand, and why hard-headed realists tend to find it naïve if not dangerous.

But Strauss’s worries about America’s global aspirations are entirely different. Like Heidegger, Schmitt, and Kojève, Strauss would be more concerned that America would succeed in this enterprise than that it would fail. In that case, the “last man” would extinguish all hope for humanity (Nietzsche); the “night of the world” would be at hand (Heidegger); the animalisation of man would be complete (Kojève); and the trivialisation of life would be accomplished (Schmitt). That is what the success of America’s global aspirations meant to them.

Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man is a popularisation of this viewpoint. It sees the coming catastrophe of American global power as inevitable, and seeks to make the best of a bad situation. It is far from a celebration of American dominance.

On this perverse view of the world, if America fails to achieve her “national destiny”, and is mired in perpetual war, then all is well. Man’s humanity, defined in terms of struggle to the death, is rescued from extinction. But men like Heidegger, Schmitt, Kojève, and Strauss expect the worst. They expect that the universal spread of the spirit of commerce would soften manners and emasculate man. To my mind, this fascistic glorification of death and violence springs from a profound inability to celebrate life, joy, and the sheer thrill of existence.

To be clear, Strauss was not as hostile to democracy as he was to liberalism. This is because he recognises that the vulgar masses have numbers on their side, and the sheer power of numbers cannot be completely ignored. Whatever can be done to bring the masses along is legitimate. If you can use democracy to turn the masses against their own liberty, this is a great triumph. It is the sort of tactic that neo-conservatives use consistently, and in some cases very successfully.

BBC/Can religion be blamed for war

So why is religion a factor in war at all when all the main faiths have little time for violence and advocate peace?

Because, it is suggested, leaders use differences over faith as a way of sowing hatred and mobilising support for political wars.

As the American civil war leader Abraham Lincoln put it almost 150 years ago: "The will of God prevails.

"In great contests, each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, but one must be wrong.

"God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time." 

beliefnet John F Kennedy speech - I Believe in an America Where the Separation of Church and State is Absolute

Advocates of using the Commandments for government would have more credibility if they, themselves, obeyed them

Conservative Christians have a new martyr. He is Alabama chief justice Roy Moore, who first came to public attention eight years ago as a state circuit judge in Etowah County (Gadsden) for defying a lawsuit against his posting of the Ten Commandments on his courtroom wall.

Moore rode the resulting notoriety to election in 2000 to the state’s highest judicial position. Now, he is suspended from that position for defying a federal court order to remove a monument to the Ten Commandments he had installed in the rotunda of the state judicial building. Moore is defiant; conservative Christian admirers are being arrested for “defending” Moore’s monument against its ordered removal; and there’s talk that even if permanently removed as the state’s highest judge -- especially if he is removed -- the politically ambitious Moore’s next campaign will be for governor.

Moore sure seems to want the attention, fame, and power. What was that about “Thou shalt not covet”?

Of course, that’s only one of the Ten Commandments, and the problem isn’t just that Judeo-Christianity’s core Old Testament moral code has no place in a secular government, nor in the courtroom, offices, or building lobby of a man sworn -- on a Bible, no less -- to uphold that country’s decidedly secular laws. No, the problem is that most of us these days, including many self-identified conservative Christians, continue to cheat, steal, and make out with their neighbor’s spouse. The whole thing reeks of self-righteous hypocrisy.

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CHRISTIAN RECONSTRUCTIONISM,
DOMINION THEOLOGY, AND THEONOMY

Promoting religious understanding, tolerance and freedom.

Christian Reconstructionism, Dominion Theology and Theonomy are not denominations or faith groups. Rather, they are interrelated beliefs which are followed by members of a wide range of Christian denominations. They have no connection at all to Reconstructionist Judaism, which is a liberal group within Judaism.

Generally speaking:

The term Reconstructionism has been used to refer to various combinations of the preceding three terms. This type of confusion is common in the field of religion. Many words such as Christian, Fundamentalist, Occult, New Age, Reconstructionism, Unitarian etc. have been assigned so many different interpretations by different groups in different eras that they are almost meaningless.

Its most common form, Theonomic Reconstructionism, represents one of the most extreme forms of Fundamentalist Christianity thought. The followers are attempting to peacefully convert the laws of United States so that they match those in the Hebrew Scriptures. They intend to achieve this by using the freedom of religion in the US to train a generation of children in private Christian religious schools. Later, their graduates will be charged with the responsibility of creating a new Bible-based political, religious and social order. One of the first tasks of this order will be to eliminate religious freedom. Their eventual goal is to achieve the "Kingdom of God" in which much of the world is converted to Christianity. They feel that the power of God's word will bring about this conversion. No armed force or insurrection will be needed; in fact, they believe that there will be little opposition to their plan. People will willingly accept it if it is properly presented to them.

All religious organizations, congregations etc. other than Christian would be suppressed. Nonconforming Evangelical, main line and liberal Christian religious institutions would no longer be allowed to hold services, organize, proselytize, etc. Society would revert to the laws and punishments of the Hebrew Scriptures. Any person who advocated or practiced other religious beliefs outside of their home would be tried for idolatry and executed. Blasphemy, adultery and homosexual behavior would be criminalized; those found guilty would also be executed. At that time that this essay was originally written, this was the only religious movement in North America of which we were aware which advocates genocide for followers of minority religions and non-conforming members of their own religion. Since then, we have learned of two conservative Christian pastors in Texas who have advocated the execution of all Wiccans. Ralph Reed, the executive director of the conservative public policy group the Christian Coalition has criticized Reconstructionism as "an authoritarian ideology that threatens the most basic civil liberties of a free and democratic society."

Leading writers in the movement are:

Beliefs:

According to Gary DeMar, a popular Reconstructionist author, the foundation of Reconstructionism is a unique combination of three Biblical doctrines:

  1. Regeneration of the individual, through an intimate relationship with Christ
  2. Individuals guiding their lives closely by following a specified subset of Biblical laws
  3. Promoting of the world-wide Kingdom of God. 2

Specific beliefs include

Of course, there exists diversity of opinion within the Reconstructionist movement. Not all followers will necessarily agree with all the above statements of the movement's leaders

Practices:

If they gained control of the US or Canadian federal government, there would be many changes:

The reinstitution of slavery appears to be a hot button item among Reconstructionists. We have received a few negative E-mails which complained that the movement does not recommend slavery. But we have received many more Emails from Reconstructionists claiming that legalizing slavery would be good for North America.

Joseph Busche and Bill Curry have written a Tennessee Law Book. Their intent was to show that laws to implement various Old Testament laws would sound extremely intrusive today. See: http://www.sullivan-county.com/.

Theological conflicts with other Fundamentalist Christian groups:

Theonomic Reconstructionism differs from more common forms of Fundamentalism in a number of key areas.

Reconstructionists:

We have a list of recent developments in Christian Reconstructionism elsewhere on this site.

References

  1. Rev. Andrew Saldlin, "The Creed of Christian Reconstruction," at: http://www.chalcedon.edu/creed.html
  2. J. Ligon Duncan, III, "Moses' Law for Modern Government: The Intellectual and Sociological Origins of the Christian Reconstructionist Movement", Premise, Vol II, No. 5, 1995-MAY-27. See: http://capo.org/premise/95/may/ssha2.html
  3. Gary North, "The Sinai Strategy: Economics and the Ten Commandments," Institute for Christian Economics (1986)
  4. R.J. Rushdoony, "The Institutes of Biblical Law", Craig Press, Nutley, NJ (1973), P. 257.
  5. David Chilton, "The Days of Vengeance: An Exposition of the Book of Revelation", Dominion Press, Ft. Worth, TX (1984), P. 127.
  6. Rev. Andrew Saldlin, "The Creed of Christian Reconstruction," at: http://www.chalcedon.edu/creed.html
  7. Greg Bahnsen, "By This Standard," Pages 345-347. Available free at http://www.freebooks.com

Additional resources:

Books:

Humor

http://www.baetzler.de/humor/religious_experience.html A Religious Experience

Author unknown

The wife of a Southern Baptist preacher talks to her Sunday school class about a wonderful religious experience that she had last week:

The other day I went up to the local Christian book store where I saw a "Honk if you love Jesus" bumper sticker. I was feeling particularly sassy that day because I had just come from a thrilling choir performance at church, so I bought that bumper sticker and put it on the back bumper of my car.

I am really glad that I did. What an uplifting experience followed! I was stopped at the light of a busy intersection, just lost in thought about the Lord, and I did not notice that the light had changed. It is a good thing someone else loves Jesus or I may have never noticed that the light had changed.

I found that lots of people love Jesus. Why, the guy behind me started to honk like crazy and then he leaned out his window and screamed, "For the love of GOD, Go!....Go! Jesus Christ! Go!" Everyone was honking. I leaned out my window and waved and smiled to all those loving people and I even honked my horn a few times to share in the love.

There must have been a man from Florida back there because I could hear him yelling something about a sunny beach. I saw another guy waving in a funny way with only his middle finger stuck up in the air. When I asked my teenage son in the back seat what this meant, he said that it was nothing, probably a Hawaiian good luck sign or something. Well, I have never met a person from Hawaii, so I leaned out the window and gave him the good luck sign back.

My son burst into laughter, why, even he was enjoying the love of this religious experience.

A couple of the people were so caught up in the joy of the moment that they got out of their cars and were walking towards me. I bet they wanted to pray or ask what church I attended, but that is when I noticed that the light had changed so I waved one more time to my loving brothers and sisters and drove through the intersection.

I was the only car that got across the intersection before the light changed again and I felt kind of sad that I had to leave them and all that love that we had shared so I slowed the car down, leaned out the window and gave them all the Hawaiian good luck sign one more time as I drove away.

Praise the Lord for such wonderful folks!

http://www.baetzler.de/humor/wauism.html Wauism - The Religion For You

Dear Friendly Friend:

How many times have you wanted to fill that yawning spiritual void in your life but just weren't able to find the time or the energy? How often have you wanted to form a more personal relationship with a Higher Authority but just couldn't get turned on by that same old tired selection of Supreme Beings? Haven't you ever wished there was just one religion out there that understood you, Friendly Friend, that indulged you, one that fit in with your creative, dynamic lifestyle? Well, at last, thanks to the Creators of Wauism, there is. Finally, there's a faith that works for you, Friendly Friend, instead of the other way around. After all these years, and following an in-depth market research study, Wauists Worldwide (A full-service non-profit agency not affiliated with CBS International) has come up with a religion that draws upon the best features of some of the world's most popular denominations, but goes them all far better!

Yes, Friend, that's right! Wauism is everything some religions are and much, much more. It's not just a job, it's an adventure; it's a breath mint, and a candy mint; it's everything you always wanted in a God and less. Designed using the latest in CAR (Computer-Aided Religion) technology, here's just a few of the features Wauism offers:

  1. Guaranteed Salvation. Guaranteed. Other religions require you to behave a certain way in the here-and-now in order to make out in the hereafter; with Wauism, you can do whatever you want, because your salvation is guaranteed! Wauism realizes you've got enough to worry about in life without having to be nervous about where you're headed after you die, so relax! As a Wauist, death means never having to have said you're sorry. Whatever Heaven you want is yours; or if you'd rather just be dead, that's fine, too.
  2. Your Choice of Supreme Being. No more arguing about who's more all-powerful, Jesus or Mohammed, Buddha or Joseph Smith. Stop fighting about whether Allah could take The Holy Ghost in a wrestling match. End the endless bickering over whether the Supreme Deity is a He or a She. With Wauism, you can choose. Using the patented Godolyzer, you make God in your image. Combine Jesuss' hairdo with Mother Nature's eyes. Add the musical flair of Krishna to the sexual swagger of Zoroaster. You want a Lord who's vengeful but also knows how to rock? No problem. Using the Godolyzer, with or without the templates provided, you make the call.
  3. Eat Whatever You Want. Remember fish sticks on Friday? Or how about unleavened bread? And who - try as they might - can forget "bitter herbs?" Well, now, thanks to Wauism, you can. As a Wauist, you'll never have to tongue another Eucharist wafer off of your palate or nurse another hangover brought on from sacramental wine again. Glut your maw however you'd like, whenever you'd like. Eat all you want, just want all you take.
  4. More Efficient Commandments. Some religions take as many as Ten Commandments to lay down their laws. Wauism, using the latest in data-compression techniques, has significantly reduced the number of Commandments and has also managed to dramatically decrease their stringency. Think of them simply as a Couple of Suggestions, and if you'd rather not, hey, Friend, that's quite all right, too.
  5. No Sexual Taboos. Has anything turned more people away from the power above the heavens than the power below their waists? Wauism doesn't have the problem, because as a Wauist, you Friendly Friend, can stick or get stuck however you want with whom or whatever you want whenever or wherever you want. As long as no one gets hurt - or just if they want to - Wauism says have fun. And be safe.
  6. More and Better Holidays. Even the most fun-loving religions usually have only half a dozen or so major holidays a year. And often several of these are days of atonement or fasting. Wauism, on the other hand, features a full complement of 365 full-scale religious holidays a year! 366 for leap year. And all include presents and feasting.
  7. No Hazing Rituals. No hitting with sticks. No drenchings in water. No knives aimed at your privates. Need we say more?
  8. No Annual Fee. Because of low overhead (no Gothic cathedrals to keep up, no sacred texts to maintain, no Crusades to mount) Wauism is offered to you entirely free! A letter now and again would be nice, but hey, don't sweat it.
  9. 100% Compatibility. Wauism does not require you to change or upgrade any of your existing religious or sectarian beliefs. It is in no way mutually exclusive. You can be a Wauist and anything else you want, too - even Republican.
  10. Quit at Any Time. No forms to fill out, no messy dyes to spill, no one will call you. You can be a Wauist one day and something else the next. Change hourly if you'd like. By the second if you'd prefer. Or, be a Wauist forever. It's entirely up to you. So, there you have it, Friend, in a nutshell - a pistachio to be exact. With Wauism, you get all the plusses of other religions with none of the minuses. It's like having your cake and eating it, too. Heck, it's like owning the whole bakery! And because you, Friendly Friend, are who you are, and only sometimes somebody else, you have been selected to participate in this charter membership offer. As a Wauist, you'll enjoy the benefits of the world's only computer-designed faith as well as the peace of mind of knowing if the Armageddon does come, it's not your fault!

So, join today and start receiving the benefits immediately. All you have to do is whatever you want. Make no phone calls unless you feel so inclined. Write no letters unless it strikes your fancy. Send no money, unless you want to.

Be a Wauist or don't be. You are still surrounded in a cone of love.

Sincerely,

D.A. LeTang Wauist

A Letter to the Religious Advice Column

Author unknown

Dear Dr. Laura,

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's law. I have learned a great deal from you, and I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind him that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the specific laws and how to best follow them.

When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord (Lev. 1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. How should I deal with this?

I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as it suggests in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness (Lev. 15:19-24). The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

Lev. 25:44 states that I may buy slaves from the nations that are around us. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans but not Canadians. Can you clarify?

I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination (Lev. 10:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this?

Lev. 20:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

 

Random Findings

Why Linux Won't Ever Be Mainstream

Re:Symptomatic of a larger problem (Score:2)

by Watts Martin (3616) <mika@@@solluna...org> on Wednesday July 18, @10:10AM (#76584)
(http://www.ranea.org/watts)

I don't think it's as much a "you owe me" attitude as an "it's my right, dammit" attitude.

I don't know if this is a peculiarly American disease, but I've been seeing it for a while now; it almost seems to be a peculiar backlash against "political correctness." Anytime anyone says anything that could be remotely construed as "PC," pseudo-libertarians crawl out of the woodwork screaming that it's their constitutional, God-given right to say what they want, where they want, to whoever they want, and fuck anyone who says otherwise.

I'm not a fan of PCisms, but I've come to believe that the problem of people being oversensitive--while real--is not as debilitating to our society as the problem of people taking pride in their insensitivity. Yeah, you're right--you do have a right to say whatever you want to whoever you want. But just because you can doesn't mean that you should.

Crazy idea--maybe What America Needs <tm>, from an individual level on up to an international policy level, is a better grasp of common courtesy.

Re:Symptomatic of a larger problem (Score:1)
by Therin (22398) <therin AT bjmoose DOT com> on Wednesday July 18, @10:07AM (#76658)
(http://slashdot.org/)

Actually the founding fathers were almost to a man deeply Christian. I realize many history texts and professors nowadays claim otherwise, but go inside the Jefferson Memorial and read what's there. Or check out these quotations:

You made a funny (Score:2)
by Wah (30840) on Wednesday July 18, @03:48PM (#76670)
(http://quantumphilosophy.net/ | Last Journal: Tuesday December 21, @08:23PM)

Americans as a majority want prayer in their children's lives.

Yes, just like Americans as a majority picked George W. Bush to be our president. Where did you pull this tidbit from? From my limited perspective, most Americans know what a myth is, or at least a tall tale. If they can't put two and two together, well, Christianity is for them.

If anything, allowing our children to pray together would give them opportunity to learn about each other's faiths.

Oh, yeah. Just wait until that little Hindu or Wiccan gets up in front of the class and says a bunch of stuff that scares the class. Or even more likely, look at that Hindu or Wiccan in the corner afraid to say anything since they've just been told by a third of their class (the ones bad at math) that there is only one true religion, and their's isn't it.

Here's a nice happy loving kids sharing religion link.

Without a higher power laying down the rules, it's every man/woman for him/herself, and that's pretty much where we are right now.

Yea, and who is that talks to that higher power? Last I heard some people decided to use that unquestionable authority to kill, maim and conquer, and all with God's loving blessing. What, you questioning the word of God? Die, sinner!!

There are thousands of books written by saints, scholars, and psychologists about morality. Unfortunately you're not going to find any of those in your school library because they pissed off some athiest.

Yes and who can even guess at the number of texts that were burned since they didn't say that the Earth was the center of the Universe or challenged some other "divine inspiration". Let's go visit some parochial school libraries and see what a wide variety of viewpoints they offer.

We need to know that there is something bigger than us,

And we also need to accept that we can't know its will (at least not to the degreee of accuracy that most religions claim). So we're left with what we got, each other and damn nifty place to meet. I think any answers you need (or would be useful) will be found in that bunch.

don't believe the hype. (Score:1)
by willis (84779) on Thursday July 19, @01:29AM (#76748)
(http://www.nytimes.com/gst/pop_top.html)

I think you might want to check this site out -- it has some interesting material about some of the quotes you brought up. (mostly quotes from books)

It seems that oftentimes quotations are thrown around without much knowledge to the context or the author's real-life beliefs. In any case...

Here are a couple of interesting sections...

happy reading!




Etc

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