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The Progressive Review
RELIGION
& ITS ALTERNATIVES

 

TOPICS
Books
Catholic right
Christian right
Christian middle
Essays
Facts
Links
Muslim
Pocket paradigms
Secularism
Statistics
Words

ESSAYS

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SEVENTH DAY AGNOSTICS ARISE

WHO OWNS FAITH & VALUES?

THE END OF COOL PREACHERS  

A CONVERSATION WITH GOD

SEPARATING FAITH & REALITY

FALSE FAITH VS LOUSY WORKS

PSALM OF THE FAST LANE  

THE FIGHT THAT DOESN'T MATTER

WHAT I LEARNED AS A PART JEW

GENERAL FOLLOWS ONGOING STRATEGIC VISION OF JESUS

LINKS

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FACTS
WORLD RELIGION STATISTICS
US religion statistics

CATHOLIC
CATHOLIC WORKER HOUSE
Tom Lehrer's Vatican Rag

SECULAR
ATHEISTS AND AGNOSTICS BY COUNTRY

AGNOSTICISM
AGNOSTIC RESOURCE SITE
AMERICAN ATHEISTS
AMERICAN HUMANIST ASSN

AMERICANS FOR SEPARATION OF CHURCH & STATE
FREEDOM FROM RELIGION FOUNDATION

GODLESS AMERICANS
POSITIVE ATHEISM

SECULAR COALITION
SECULAR WEB
THEOCRACY WATCH
TOP COUNTRIES FOR ATHEISTS & AGNOSTICS

Civil rights leader Julius Hobson on what was going to happen when he died

EVANGELICALISM
FIFTEEN ANSWERS TO CREATIONIST NONSENSE

FRIENDS
AMERICAN FRIENDS SERVICE COMM
FRIENDS COMMITTE ON NATIONAL LEGISLATION

JUDAISM
JEWS ON FIRST

JEWS FOR PEACE IN PALESTINE  & ISRAEL
JEWISH UNITY FOR A JUST PEACE
JEWISH VOICE FOR PEACE

JEWISH VOICES AGAINST THE OCCUPATION
TIME LINE OF JUDAISM

MUSLIM
DISCRIMINATION AGAINST MUSLIMS

PEACE
CHRISTIAN PEACEMAKER TEAMS
COUNCIL ON AMERICAN - ISLAMIC RELATIONS
MUSLIM PEACE FELLOWSHIP
WITNESS FOR PEACE

SCIENTOLOGY
INSIDE SCIENTOLOGY

THEOCRACY
THEOCRACY WATCH

WEB SITES
BELIEFORAMA
BELIEF NET

OTHER
PROGRESSIVE RELIGIOUS PARTNERSHIP
SOJOURNERS

WHO RECEIVES FAITH-BASED GRANTS

POCKET PARADIGMS
SAM SMITH

BACK TO TOP

Religion is absolutely fair territory for critics when it leaves in its wake war, a crusade against another religion, ethnic cleansing, the destruction of constitutional government, or the endangerment of domestic tranquility.

If Pope Benedict XVI talked about Jews the way he talks about gays or treated blacks the way he treat women, what would we call him?

The relationship between the American media and the Catholic Church can fairly be described as necrophiliatic: the only thing that really matters about the church is the Pope and the only really good Pope is a dead one. Once dead, whatever God does with the Pope's body becomes somewhat redundant. The press has already sent him to heaven, giving him credit for things he never did and avoiding some of the things he did that are not sufficiently encomium enabled.

We have always had Christian fundamentalists in this country. We just used to call them New Deal Democrats.

Whether you call it God or Nature, argued Thor Heyerdahl, "the disagreement is about the spelling of a word." Unfortunately, a great many people have died in the name of correct orthography.

If you violated the conformity of the ancient church you might have found yourself branded a heretic or an apostate. Today, if you violate the rules of the secular culture you may find yourself branded a neurotic or dysfunctional. Not all churches are run by people in robes.

It helps to separate our moral decisions from those of religious form, not because they are necessarily exclusive, but because it allows us to see morality out of costume.

The ultimate irony of the conservatives is that they pretend to be a bastion of Christian politics when, in fact, they are comprised in no small part of despoilers, usurers, war-mongers, hypocrites, idolaters and groupies of false prophets - all of whom are frowned upon by the book they pretend to follow. And its opponents, who are more faithful to the words the conservatives only quote, are often such good Christians that they never say a mumblin' word about it all.

On the one hand, we have those enveloped in a retro version of Christianity devised by some highly successful hustlers and charlatans and, on the other, we have liberals who seem to believe that politics begins and ends with abortion and gay rights - and in a cargo cult that delivers salvation through SUVs, Botox injections, the right wine and Vanity Fair. It is rare anymore to hear liberals speak of things like pensions, health care, or labor issues. Thus they have little to talk about to the fundamentalists save the issues that divide them so sharply.

The magnificence of America lies in the opportunity not to have to agree with other Americans. The Christian right has clearly forgotten this, but so have liberals who send all sorts of unconscious signals that they will be no less vigorous in imposing their values should they get the chance. Both these messages, because of their implicit aggression, become extremely threatening to the other side.

Oh, I know you're out there, Reverend Dude. That's not my point. My point is that the system and its media only cares these days about religionists who are out to kill, control, or defeat someone. The worker priests, the cool preachers, the progressive rabbis are still there but struggling in a wilderness of silence and indifference. It's not my beat to tell you how to change this. I've got enough problems of my own to worry about. But I just wanted to let you know that I miss you badly.

I have always tried to separate cause and character and have enjoyed a happy if inconsistent relationship with those of the cloth. Besides, we are all members of what Weber called the pariah intelligentsia, including teachers, ministers, writers, intellectuals and activists. In other words, moral outsiders of supposed integrity, passion, and faith providing guidance to a market, politics, and culture that would often just as soon do without it.

BOOKS

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The Gospel of the Working Class: Labor's Southern Prophets in New Deal America

WORDS

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Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wants to make a million dollars he should start his own religion. - L Ron Hubbard, Founder of Scientology

The Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian Religion - Treaty of Tripoli, signed by President John Adams

Truth, in matters of religion, is simply the opinion that has survived - Oscar Wilde

A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler whom they consider god-fearing and pious. On the other hand, they do less easily move against him, believing that he has the gods on his side. - Aristotle

We must respect the other fellow's religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart - HL Mencken

But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. -- Matthew 23:13-15

Some people are happy inside the church, some are happier outside. Those who prefer to stay outside should write Nature with a capital N. They should bless and venerate the Nature that composed mankind. That would leave a thin wall between them and those who are inside and write God with a capital G. If you knock, it can be heard on both sides. The disagreement is about the spelling of a word - Thor Heyerdahl

God don't make no mistakes. That's how he got to be God -- Archie Bunker

I sometimes think that God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability - Oscar Wilde

The truly simple way of presenting Christianity is to do it. -- Soren Kierkegaard

CHRISTIAN: One who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor. - Ambrose Bierce

I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ. - Gandhi

History teaches us that men composing all denominations of religious faith, when clothed with ecclesiastical and temporal power, have been tyrants. - Sam Houston

But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. -- Matthew 23:13-15

Some people are happy inside the church, some are happier outside. Those who prefer to stay outside should write Nature with a capital N. They should bless and venerate the Nature that composed mankind. That would leave a thin wall between them and those who are inside and write God with a capital G. If you knock, it can be heard on both sides. The disagreement is about the spelling of a word - Thor Heyerdahl

The study of theology, as it stands in Christian churches, is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on nothing; it proceeds by no authorities; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing and admits of no conclusion. - Thomas Paine

It is the test of a good religion whether you can make a joke about it - G.K. Chesterton

Perceive the difference between religion and the cant of religion; piety and the pretence of piety; a humble reverence for the great truths of Scripture and an audacious and offensive obtrusion of its letter and not its spirit in the commonest dissensions and meanest affairs of life. . . It is never out of season to protest against that coarse familiarity with sacred things which is busy on the lip and idle in the heart, or the confounding of Christianity with any class of persons who. . . have just enough religion to make them hate, and not enough to make them love, one another. - Charles Dickeens, Preface to The First Cheap Edition, The Pickwick Papers, 1847

 

 

 

 

 


 

White chuches join support of black victims of police

Religious News Service - “African-American brothers and sisters, especially brothers, in this country are more likely to be arrested, more likely to be executed, more likely to be killed.”

It’s the kind of statement that’s often cited by black clergy and civil rights activists. But hours after a grand jury chose not to indict the New York City police officer who put Eric Garner into a fatal hold on Staten Island, those words came from none other than white Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore.

With back-to-back grand jury decisions that white police officers will not face charges in the deaths of unarmed black men, white Christians have grown more vocal in urging predominantly white churches to no longer turn a blind eye to injustice and to bridge the country’s racial divides.

“It’s time for us in Christian churches to not just talk about the gospel but live out the gospel by tearing down these dividing walls not only by learning and listening to one another but also by standing up and speaking out for one another,” said Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

Serene Jones, president of New York’s Union Theological Seminary, also spoke out.

“The degradation and demeaning of black life must stop,” she said. “What the hell kind of country do we live in?”

Other leaders issued similar pleas on social media.

“I weep & pray for his family,” tweeted Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, the day before he led a prayer for justice at his school in Wake Forest, N.C. “I beg our God to bring good out of this tragedy.”

Scott Slayton, a white Southern Baptist pastor in Chelsea, Alabama, wrote “‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ means you picture yourself being choked and surrounded by five men while you say, ‘I can’t breathe.’”

Alan Cross, a white pastor in Montgomery, Alabama, said the publicized video of the apparent chokehold on Garner has moved some white Christians to speak when they might not have after Officer Darren Wilson was cleared in the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Cross is encouraging them to not just speak but listen to black people’s perspectives instead of only considering their own.

“What often happens when white evangelicals try to speak into this is that we continue to think first in terms of our own position,” said Cross, a Southern Baptist and author of When Heaven and Earth Collide: Racism, Southern Evangelicals, and the Better Way of Jesus. “We should consider what people in the black community are saying, what are they going through, what is their experience.”

Barbara Williams-Skinner, co-chair of the National African-American Clergy Network, sees a growing interest among white Christians and others to speak up about the “pile on” of events capped with the Garner decision.

“It just so offends the human spirit of people of every race that it compels them to act,” she said. “We don’t have to ask young white students and young white adults anymore to act. They understand . . . if the system will so violate the rights of people of color today, they will violate everybody’s rights tomorrow.”

50 years of sex abuse by Chicago priests unveiled

Daily Beast - In a disturbing document dump outlining lurid clerical abuse and a trail of coverups, retiring Cardinal Francis George tries to clear his conscience.

Some of the accusations against perverted priests are handwritten letters penned by worried mothers. Others are emails sent decades after the abuses occurred. There are letters so old the mimeographed typewriting is smudged and difficult to read. There are emails so recent, they call into question just how much of the clerical abuse is still going on. In all, more than 15,000 pages from the secret archives of the Chicago Archdiocese’s Office for Child Abuse Investigations and Review have been released on the Chicago Archdiocese website relating to hundreds of lurid sexual-abuse crimes by 36 perverted priests dating back to the 1950s. The most recent documents are only a year old.

The disturbing document dump was released as the retiring Cardinal Francis George prepares to leave the post he has held since 1997. They follow a similar gesture last January when the archdiocese released 6,000 pages of documents pertaining to 30 pedophilic priests as part of a legal settlement brokered by Chicago attorney Jeff Anderson. The Chicago Archdiocese has paid more than $130 million in abuse-victim settlements. “We cannot change the past but we hope we can rebuild trust through honest and open dialogue,” George said in a statement on the eve of the document release. “Child abuse is a crime and a sin.”

The allegations include accusations of priests plying young victims with alcohol and cigarettes, of fondling, masturbating, and performing oral sex on minors, and a strong current of denial and well-documented coverup by the church that can be traced all the way to Rome.

Federal judge gives religious rights to humanists

Think Progress - An federal district court in Oregon has declared Secular Humanism a religion, paving the way for the non-theistic community to obtain the same legal rights as groups such as Christianity.

Senior District Judge Ancer Haggerty issued a ruling on American Humanist Association v. United States, a case that was brought by the American Humanist Association and Jason Holden, a federal prisoner. Holden pushed for the lawsuit because he wanted Humanism — which the AHA defines as “an ethical and life-affirming philosophy free of belief in any gods and other supernatural forces” — recognized as a religion so that his prison would allow for the creation of a Humanist study group. Haggerty sided with the plaintiffs in his decision, citing existing legal precedent and arguing that denying Humanists the same rights as groups such as Christianity would be a violation of the Establishment Clause in the U.S. Constitution, which declares that Congress “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

“The court finds that Secular Humanism is a religion for Establishment Clause purposes,” the ruling read.

The decision highlights the unusual position of the Humanist community, which has tried for years to obtain the same legal rights as more traditional religious groups while simultaneously rebuking the existence of a god or gods. But while some Humanists may chafe at being called a “religion,” others feel that the larger pursuit of equal rights trumps legal classifications.

Catholic bishops keep dissin' gays

USA Today - Catholic bishops rejected a landmark change in the rigid stance on gays and divorcees, revealing enormous gaps within the church at the end of a two-week meeting.

The synod's final statement failed to include remarkably conciliatory language revealed a week ago that would have welcomed the "gifts and qualities" of gay Catholics and called on pastors to "avoid any language or behavior" that could discriminate against divorced Catholics.

The failure to reach a consensus on broader-reaching language is a failure for the more tolerant tone Pope Francis has struck since taking the role of pontiff more than a year ago. Last year, the pope made waves when, in response to a question about whether gays could be good Christians, he asked, "Who am I to judge?"

The Vatican downplayed Saturday's developments, with Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi stressing at a briefing that the document — which sets guidelines for pastors to follow in their ministries — was a work in progress that could be tweaked and discussed over the next year.

Vatican shifts on gays and lesbians

Delia Gallagher, CNN- Using strikingly open language, a new Vatican report says the church should welcome and appreciate gays, and offers a solution for divorced and remarried Catholics who want to receive Communion.

At a press conference to present the report, Cardinal Tagle of the Philippines said the most discussed topics thus far at two-week long meeting of Catholic bishops and priests were the impact of poverty, war and immigration on families.

But one veteran Vatican journalist called the newly proposed language on gays and civil marriages a “pastoral earthquake.”

“Regarding homosexuals, it went so far as to pose the question whether the church could accept and value their sexual orientation without compromising Catholic doctrine,” said John Thavis, a former Rome bureau chief for Catholic News Service.

The Rev. James Martin, an author and Jesuit priest, called the report's language on gays and lesbians "revolutionary."

“This is a stunning change in the way that the Catholic Church speaks about gay people.”

The Catholic Catechism calls homosexual acts “intrinsically disordered” and calls on gays and lesbians to live in chastity. But Pope Francis, while hewing toward Catholic teaching, has signaled a gentler tone, famously saying in 2013 "Who am I to judge?" gays and lesbians.

Meanwhile, the synod report is a summary of a week of closed-door discussions of nearly 200 bishops, cardinals and priests, together with Pope Francis, on the topic of the family. The discussions continue this week in small language groups and a final report will be issued at the end of the week.

The goal of this meeting, officially called the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family, is to present working proposals for a larger meeting to be held next October 2015. Here’s a summary of where the church may be heading on [some other] hot-button issues:

Communion

On the hotly debated question of Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, the synod’s report offers a solution of the “penitential path” or a period of reflection and penance which would allow the partners in a second marriage to receive communion.

This solution, it says, must not be a “general possibility” but one which could be applied in certain cases. It would be up to the local bishop to make the decision.

The document states that this was only one possible solution and that the problem requires further study.

Contraception

The synod discussions re-iterated the church’s “appropriate teaching regarding natural methods” of birth control.

Citing economic factors which sometimes contribute to the decision not to have children, the synod nonetheless states that “being open to life is an intrinsic requirement of married love.”

Cohabitation and civil marriage

The synod discussions emphasized the “positive reality” of civil weddings and cohabitation which, while not the ideal of Christian marriage, nonetheless contain “constructive elements.”

Many couples who choose to live together, according to the synod, do so for economic reasons.

“Simple cohabitation is often a choice inspired by a general attitude, which is opposed to institutions and definitive undertakings, but also while waiting for a secure existence (a steady job and income).”

“In other countries common-law marriages are very numerous…because getting married is a luxury, so that material poverty encourages people to live in common-law marriages.”

In these cases, the synod says, “The church is called on to be the house of the Fathers, with doors always wide open…where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems.”

How Americans use prayer

Judge Scalia declares Constituton irrelevant

Faith in efficacy of religion declines

Documentary takes on black megachurches

A reminder of how strong religous mythology is in this country

Pope says priest celibacy open to change

Freedom of religion includes not observing it

Pope calls abortion "abominable crime" but wants foregiveness for church's child molesters

Cities making Christian behavior illegal

2013

Atheist assembly growing

Bible passages the right ignores

California atheists plan 55 billboards

Pope takes on the greedster elite

Former Cantebury archbishop says Church of England one generation from extinction

Francis effect pulling Catholics back into church

How to get rid of missionaries at your door with just two words

Pope takes on ideologues

Now NSA is definitely going to hell

U.S. Catholics agree with Pope on social issues

How American Jews define themselves

Inside an atheist church

Polls: A majority of Americans believe in the devil, especially blacks and women

Number 2 in Vatican says priestly celebacy not church dogma, should be debated

Pope even being nice to atheists

NY police label whole mosques as terrorist groups

Even church construction is hurting

 


Home to 40,000 Buddhist monks

Official word: The body of Christ is not and cannot be gluten-free

Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints leaders announced that missionaries will do less door-to-door proselytizing, and instead, use the Internet to recruit new church members.

American rabbi urges Jews to look oppression in the eye

Pope attacks "dictatorship of the economy"


Woody Guthrie explains Jesus

One in four Americans suspect Obama is the Anti-Christ

Smart phones even trump the pope

Tree Hugger - The NBC News Facebook page recently showed two photos from the Vatican's St. Peter's Square, one from 2005 and another from March 13, 2013, when the new Pope was elected.

Books: Religion Without God

Three things lost in the papal punditry

Americans calling themselves strong Catholics at four decade low

First reads on new pope

Britain's atheist church attracting attention

Catholics now big supporters of same sex marriage

Top British Catholic accused of misconduct

Most religious states use the most anti-depressants

Poll: Nearly three in ten Americans believe God decides sporting events

2012

Evangelicals in decline

What the collapse of religion means

South Carolina Episcopalians ditch Christianity

Real Christians want to help the poor


Oh, that explains it

What the Bible would be like if Jesus had been a Republican

The truth about religion and birth control

What would Jesus do with bankers?

Judge overturns anti-Muslim ruling by Immigration Service

Southern Baptists poised to elect first black president

Effort to have Presbyterians divest from corporations aiding Israeli apartheid fails by 2 votes

God found to be just a subatomic particle

How school vouchers are used to push rightwing evangelism

Arizona says Christianity the only religion allowed to be taught

.According to a House summary on the bill, here's what the classes will include:

  • The contents, characters, poetry and narratives that are prerequisites to understanding society and culture, including literature, art, music, mores, oratory and public policy.
  • The contents of, history recorded by and literary style and structure of the Old and New Testament.
  • The influence of the Old and New Testament on laws, history, government, literature, art, music, customs, morals, values and culture.

Was Jesus gay?

What heretical Christian preachers teach their followers

Asked whether Obama is Christian or Muslim, some 45 percent of Alabama Republican respondents picked Muslim; 14 percent correctly identified him as Christian. Another 41 percent said they were unsure. In Mississippi, a majority of Republicans, 52 percent, identified Obama as Muslim; 12 percent said he was Christian and 36 percent were undecided.- Talking Points Memo

The Anti-Tebow: Football player sues Baptists for hurting his skills

Harpers Index - Number of America's nine "Founding Fathers" who denied the divinity of Jesus: 7

Stats
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2014

Study: The more education, the less religion

Where religious believers live

Christian Century - About 13 percent of Americans who pray say they pray for sports teams, compared with about one in five (21 percent) who say they have prayed to win the lottery, the new survey from LifeWay Research suggests.

A survey earlier this year from Public Religion Research Institute suggested that more Americans (26 percent) pray for their sports team, while more than seven in 10 (73 percent) say they have never done this.

Some of LifeWay’s new survey’s main findings include:

48 percent of Americans pray every day
82 percent who pray typically pray about family or friends
20 percent pray for people of other faiths or no faith
Equal numbers of Americans (7 percent) pray behind the wheel, either for a good parking space or not to get a speeding ticket
Smaller numbers of people, around 5 percent, pray for someone’s relationship to end, someone to get fired, or for someone else to fail.

20% of Americans say they have no religous preference as opposed to 5% in 1972.


VOX

Most and least Protestant states

Nationwide, the Catholic Church lost about 5 percent of its members from 2000-10. The Episcopal Church's membership dropped by 15.7 percent in the same period, and decreases in most mainline Protestant groups were similar

90% of those 65 and older have a religious affiliation while only 67% of those under 30 do.

48% of American Christians think Jesus will be back within forty years

ECONOMIST

Americans calling themselves strong Catholics at four decade low

2012

Religions by state

Very religious white Americans continue to be one of the most Republican segments of the U.S. population: 62% identify with or lean toward the Republican Party, more than twice the number who identify as Democrats or lean Democratic. This Republican skew is reversed among nonreligious whites, who are more likely to affiliate with the Democratic Party by a 17-percentage-point margin.

Andrew Santella, Slate - One in seven adults changes churches each year, and another one in six attends a handful of churches on a rotating basis, according to the Barna Group, a marketing research firm that serves churches. Church shopping isn't a matter of merely changing congregations: A survey by the Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life last year indicated that 44 percent of American adults have left their first religious affiliation for another.

WHAT AMERICAN JEWS REALLY THINK

STATS SHOW RELIGIOUS BELIEF HARMS COUNTRIES

Polls

44% told the 2011 Baylor University Religion Survey they spend no time seeking "eternal wisdom," and 19% said "it's useless to search for meaning."

46% told a 2011 survey by Nashville-based evangelical research agency, LifeWay Research, they never wonder whether they will go to heaven.

28% told LifeWay "it's not a major priority in my life to find my deeper purpose." And 18% scoffed that God has a purpose or plan for everyone.

6.3% of Americans turned up on Pew Forum's 2007 Religious Landscape Survey as totally secular — unconnected to God or a higher power or any religious identity and willing to say religion is not important in their lives. - USA Today

Moderate to progressive Christianity

Local heroes


We have noted the silence on many political issues
by liberal and progressive clerics.
Here is a happy exception.

Episcies approve pro-gay provisions

Why progressive religions are vital

Where did all the cool preachers go?

Where the hell did all the good Christians go?

Religious left becomes a bit more active

Secularism

2014

What should a non-religious assembly be like?

Atheist assembly growing

2013

Young Americans deserting religion

U.S. military thinks being an atheist is a warning sign for suicide

Godless commit less crime, have longer marriages and are more highly educated than almost any other group in America

Immigration officials reverse telling pacifist atheist she has to join a religion to claim citizenship

Boy Scouts consider atheists more dangerous than gays

Vatican corrects infallible pope: aetheists will still rot in hell


Jews & secularists are best tippers

An atheist church sprouts in England

The non religious young

London secular chuch doing well

2012

Where will decency come from as religion fades?

What it's like being an atheist in a South Carolina public school

Secularism on the rise in U.S.

54 percent of those asked said they would vote a "well- qualified" atheist into the Oval Office— the highest percentage since Gallup began asking the question in 1958, when only 18 percent said they would back a nonbeliever.

Atheism up around the world

Belief in God plummets among young

Secular rally on Mall draws thousands


WE ARE ATHEISM

Americans becoming far less religious

Atheists more honest than Christians

61% of Americans wouldn't vote for an atheist

More would vote for gay presidential candidate than for an atheist

Becoming an atheist improves your sex life

Religion may become extinct in nine nations

6.3% of Americans turned up on Pew Forum's 2007 Religious Landscape Survey as totally secular — unconnected to God or a higher power or any religious identity and willing to say religion is not important in their lives. - USA Today

American Cancer Society rejects gift from humanists

2010

American youth leaving religion

MORE SECULAR COUNTRIES PROSPER BETTER

Muslim

Iran sends out 70,000 'moral police' to enforce ban on men's necklaces, dog ownership etc

Survey finds American Muslims less violent, more tolerant than other religions

GETTING THE MUSLIM NUMBERS RIGHT

THE ANTI-KORAN CROWD WOULD HAVE HATED THIS COUNTRY'S FOUNDERS

2011

The problems of making a fetus a person

Kidnapped for Christ: Evangelicals sending children off to prison camp

Obama comes up with more practical birth control insurance plan

The right to be jerks

Paris branch of Scientology convicted of fraud


THOUGHTS ON THE WEB

16 year old gets prayer removed from school wall

Supreme Court rejects rejects predominantly Christian prayer at government meetings

2010

Flowchart for choosing your religion

Religions by state

Insider's e-mail alleges Scientology misdoings

The empty churches of Detroit

The censorship of religion's real role in politics

Bay area churches take on big banks

Standard & Poor chair is big Romney supporter

Some good Christian reasons not to read the Bible literally. . . Nowhere does the Bible claim to be inerrant. . . Reading the Bible literally distorts its witness. . . Reading the Bible literally undermines a chief confession of the Bible about God

Romney gets a million bucks from a corporation that only existed for four months

Teacher wants kids to learn how to add, while evaluator obsesses over definitions

Only 28% of high school biology teachers dare to stick with evolution

THEN AND NOW: THE TWO POPE BENEDICTS

THE CARE OF MEZUZAS

CALVINISM IS BACK

AMERICAN MEDIA IGNORED BRITISH PRESS REVELATION OF POPE COVERING UP SEX ABUSE CASES

HOW TO GET GOD OUT OF THE PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE

GAY TEEN WORRIES HE MIGHT BE TURNING CHRISTIAN

THE RELATION BETWEEN RELIGION & POLITICS

POLITICS IN THE TIME OF MYTH

 

DECEMBER 2009

INTERNET SIGHTINGS

CATHOLIC CHURCH GRABS RIGHTS FROM GAYS & WOMEN IN SAME WEEK

R CRUMB TAKES ON THE BIBLE

AMERICANS LIE ABOUT GOING TO CHURCH; HERE ARE THE STATS

THE RELATION BETWEEN RELIGION & POLITICS

EIGHT PERCENT OF NEW JERSEY VOTES THINK OBAMA IS THE ANTI-CHRIST

ARIZONA HIGHWAY OFFERS DRIVE THRU PRAYERS

OCTOBER 2009

JESUS WAS BORN IN DALLAS

WHAT JOHN ENSIGN, HILLARY CLINTON & THE HONDURAN RIGHT WING HAVE IN COMMON

AUGUST 2009

WHAT'S HAPPENING TO RELIGION IN YOUR STATE

JUNE 2009

STATS SHOW RELIGIOUS BELIEF HARMS COUNTRIES

APRIL 2009

POLL: RELIGION LOSING INFLUENCE

MANY CANADIAN TEENS DUMPING RELIGION

NOVEMBER 2008

STUDY: STATS SHOW RELIGIOUS BELIEF HARMS COUNTRIES

OCTOBER 2008

SECULARISTS SUE OVER NATIONAL PRAYER DAY

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national state - church watchdog, filed a federal lawsuit broadly challenging the federal law designating a National Day of Prayer and requiring a National Day of Prayer Proclamation by the President.

Public Law 100-307 sets the first Thursday in May as "National Day of Prayer." The Foundation is seeking a declaration that the law violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

"Mandated Prayer Proclamations by the President exhorting each citizen to pray constitutes an unabashed endorsement of religion," contends the Foundation complaint, filed on behalf of the Foundation by attorney Richard L. Bolton of Boardman Law Firm, Madison, Wis.

The suit alleges that a task force associated with Focus on the Family is "working hand-in-glove" with the government in organizing the National Day of Prayer.

The Foundation charges that the government "aligns and partners" with the NDP Task Force as the official organizer of the National Day of Prayer. The NDP Task Force identifies itself online as "The National Day of Prayer 'Official Website.' " The task force has close ties to Focus on the Family. Its chair person, Shirley Dobson, is married to Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, and the task force is located in the Focus on the Family headquarters.

The task force proposes the wording of proclamations and chooses a yearly theme and a bible quote. In 2008, Psalm 28:7, "The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him and I am helped" was selected by the NDP as its official biblical reference, and was recited in Bush's proclamation and in at least 15 gubernatorial NDP proclamations. Other governors picked up variations of the task force resolution template and the annual theme.

The Foundation complaint contends that the establishment clause "prohibits government officials and persons acting in joint and concerted action with government officials from taking actions that endorse religion, including specific religions in preference to others, as well as preferring religion over non-religion."

"Exhortations to pray in official presidential proclamations do not constitute ceremonial deism solemnizing some other occasion," the Foundation asserts, but "constitute an end in itself intended to promote and endorse religion."

The suit alleges that the NDP Task Force pressures governors from all 50 states to issue official proclamations, acting "in concert" in a way that aligns them with "the Judeo-Christian principles on which the Task Force is based."

SEPTEMBER 2008

ATHEISTS IN THE FOXHOLE SUE OVER ABUSE
BY MILITARY RELIGIONISTS

JULY 2008

WHAT AMERICAN JEWS REALLY THINK

Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam J Street has commissioned its first opinion survey seeking to determine the level of support among American Jews for territorial compromise and a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict . . . One of the more interesting survey results was a mixed finding: when asked whether Israel played a "big role" in their election vote, 58% answered "yes." But when listed among a group of other issues, Israel came out in the bottom tier of issues and only 8% noted Israel was one of their two top issues in determining their vote for president or Congress. This interesting outcome indicates that theoretically Jews believe Israel is an important political issue. But when push comes to shove there are other bread and butter issues like the economy and Iraq war which are far more important. To me, this indicates that support for the Israel lobby is quite shallow among the Jewish community outside that 8% who are driven by the issue.

Obama beats McCain in the poll by 62% to 32%. This is a respectable showing by McCain compared to past Republican presidential races, but still quite low. Respondents disapproved of Bush's Middle East policy and believe he should be much more engaged in lobbying for peace. 61% believe Israel is "less secure" than it was before his presidency. Only 26% believe it is more secure.

When asked whether the solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict involved negotiating peace agreements or relying on military force alone to achieve security, the survey endorsed the former over the latter by 50% to 34%.

Fully 75% of those polled believe that the U.S. should play an aggressive role in promoting a negotiated peace even if it meant disagreeing publicly with the positions of the parties to the conflict. 70% were even willing for the U.S. to exert "pressure" on those parties it saw as impeding progress toward a settlement. . .

Joe Lieberman isn't going to like the following results. Only 7% of poll respondents view evangelical Zionist leader John Hagee favorably. Only 19% have a favorable impression of Christians United for Israel. Only 1 in 4 said Jewish groups should form alliances with CUFI. Finally, Holy Joe himself only earns a 37% favorable rating (48% unfavorable).

Regarding Iran: 69% said they were more likely to support a candidate who called for negotiations with Iran and resorting to sanctions if they failed.

Several results I found alarming: 48% were more likely to vote for a candidate who called for supporting Israel if it launched a pre-emptive attack on Iran. That indicates not enough American Jews understand that our national interests may diverge from Israel's.

65% were more likely to support a candidate who said (falsely by the way) that Arabs have repeatedly rejected Israeli peace offers. Only 44% support the idea of declaring East Jerusalem the capital of a Palestinian state.

58% support Israeli withdrawal from the Golan in return for peace with Syria. 59% support withdrawal from "most" of the West Bank. 52% believe the U.S. should tell Israel to "end settlement expansion." 76% believe Israel should negotiate with Hamas on behalf of peace. 54% believe that IDF killings of Palestinian civilians lead to more terror. 61% are opposed to collective punishment (Israel's current policy toward Gaza). 81% will support "any peace deal" agreed to by Israel with its Arab neighbors. One should keep this fact in mind when listening to the geshrei from the Orthodox community, which calls any territorial compromise on Jerusalem a betrayal of the Jewish people. Only a very small minority of American Jews agree.

Quite frankly, I was shocked that AIPAC itself earned only a 38% favorable rating (21% unfavorable). 60% say it does not bother them when American Jews disagree with Israeli government policy. When asked whether traditional Jewish groups in general do a good job of representing the community's views on Israel 49% agreed. When asked specifically whether AIPAC did a good job that number fell to 34%. All this again showing the weakness of the AIPAC when it is viewed in the context of the overall Jewish community.

LET'S SAY YOU'VE GONE TO HEAVEN WITH THE RAPTURE; HOW DO YOU EMAIL YOUR FRIENDS YOU LEFT BEHIND?

JUNE 2008

WHY AMERICANS HAVE A HARD TIME FACING FACTS

WASHINGTON POST A poll, by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, has found that nearly three-fourths of Americans believe in heaven as a place where people who have led good lives will be eternally rewarded. And almost 60 percent believe in hell, where people who have led bad lives and die without repenting are eternally punished, the poll found. Majorities also believe that angels and demons are at work in the world and that miracles occur today as they did in ancient times.

LET'S SAY YOU'VE GONE TO HEAVEN WITH THE RAPTURE; HOW DO YOU EMAIL YOUR FRIENDS YOU LEFT BEHIND?

YOU'VE BEEN LEFT BEHIND Store up to 250mb of documents . . . Send to up to 62 individual email addresses . . . 150Mb encrypted document storage . . . 100mb unencrypted document storage . . . You can edit documents any time . . . Write your own documents or choose from some of ours. . .

We have set up a system to send documents by the email, to the addresses you provide, 6 days after the "Rapture" of the Church. This occurs when 3 of our 5 team members scattered around the U.S fail to log in over a 3 day period. Another 3 days are given to fail safe any false triggering of the system.

We give you 150mb of encrypted storage that can be sent to 12 possible email addresses, in Box #1. You up load any documents and choose which documents go to who. You can edit these documents at any time and change the addresses they will be sent to as needed. Box #1 is for your personal private letters to your closest lost friends and relatives.

We give you another 100mb. of unencrypted storage that can be sent to up to 50 email addresses, in Box #2. You can edit the documents and the addresses any time. Box #2 is for more generic documents to lost family & friends.

The cost is $40 for the first year. Re-subscription will be reduced as the number of subscribers increases. Tell your friends about You've Been left behind.

MAY 2008

SPIRITUALITY AND THE LAW DON'T GO WELL TOGETHER

The shelf of a large Toronto bookstore after students "quietly moved the contents to other places in the bookstore, like Fiction, Humor, Sexuality, Erotica, Cuisine, Parenting, Mental Disorder, Parapsychology and the Occult."

WILL REAR ENDING SOMEONE IN FLORIDA
OR NORTH CAROLINA BECOME BLASPHEMY?

EINSTEIN THOUGHT GOD WAS A CHILDISH SUPERSTITION

BRITISH TEEN FACES PROSECUTION FOR SIGN CALLING SCIENTOLGY A CULT

A QUARTER OF SCHOOL SCIENCE TEACHERS PUSH CREATIONISM ON STUDENTS

EINSTEIN THOUGHT GOD WAS A CHILDISH SUPERSTITION

WHY IS THE MEDIA CONCEALING HILLARY CLINTON'S RIGHT WING RELIGIOUS TIES?

Thanks to alternative media coverage - including that of the Progressive Review - there has been a slight increase in corporate press coverage of John McCain's ties to extremist Christian evangelist John Hagee. But even conventional liberals like Bill Moyers and EJ Dionne, while finally citing the McCain-Hagee connection, still refuse to delve into Hillary Clinton's ties to The Fellowship, a secret rightwing religious group involving a number of Washington big names like herself.

The story has been well documented by such publications as Harper's, the Los Angeles Times and Mother Jones. And it's not a new tale, but it's one the Washington media runs away from, in part because it might wreck the journalists' comfortably servile relationship with some of their sources - with the Clintons near the top of the list.

It's Washington journalism at its worst, the sort of politician-pet relationship that led the media to so badly mislead the public about the Iraq war and, for that matter, many other crucial facts about the Clintons. To this day, for example, the media is tough on Barack Obama's Tony Resko relationship but doesn't mention Hillary Clinton's much deeper relationship with Webster Hubbell.

As we noted about a week ago, the two big exceptions to the media cover up of The Fellowship are
Andrea Mitchell and Jim Popkin of NBC, who reported:

"In his preaching, [Fellowship leader Douglas] Coe repeatedly urges a personal commitment to Jesus Christ. It's a commitment Coe compares to the blind devotion that Adolph Hitler demanded from his followers -- a rhetorical technique that now is drawing sharp criticism.

"'Hitler, Goebbels and Himmler were three men. Think of the immense power these three men had, these nobodies from nowhere," Coe said.

"Later in the sermon, Coe said: "Jesus said, You have to put me before other people. And you have to put me before yourself.' Hitler, that was the demand to be in the Nazi party. You have to put the Nazi party and its objectives ahead of your own life and ahead of other people."

Coe also quoted Jesus and said: "One of the things [Jesus] said is 'If any man comes to me and does not hate his father, mother, brother, sister, his own life, he can't be a disciple.' So I don't care what other qualifications you have, if you don't do that you can't be a disciple of Christ."

The sermons are little surprise to writer Jeff Sharlet. He lived among Coe's followers six years ago, and came out troubled by their secrecy and rhetoric.

"'We were being taught the leadership lessons of Hitler, Lenin and Mao. And I would say, 'Isn't there a problem with that?' And they seemed perplexed by the question. Hitler's genocide wasn't really an issue for them. It was the strength that he emulated," said Sharlet. . . 'They're notoriously secretive,' Sharlet said. 'In fact, they jokingly call themselves the Christian Mafia. Which becomes less of a joke when you realize that they really are dedicated to being what they call an invisible organization.'"

SOURCE WATCH The Fellowship, headquartered in Washington D.C., is a humanitarian religious-right Christian organization about which very little is known. Their signature event is the annual National Prayer Breakfast but that is only a small part of their activities. They are heavily involved in the political culture of Washington, counting at least a dozen Senators and Congressman as known members. The group has also gone by the names Family, Foundation, C Street Center, and International Christian Leadership. An article published in the March 2003 issue of Harper's entitled "Jesus Plus Nothing" by Jeffrey Sharlet provides an excellent exposition; however, Sharlet infiltrated only at the lowest level and so his article is woefully short of details concerning the organization, its mission, or who runs it.

In a June 12, 2003, followup interview by Anthony Lappé for Guerrilla News Network, Jeffrey Sharlet declares that the group's goal and aspiration are "an 'invisible' world organization led by Christ"; and that in his view, their "core issue is capitalism and power."

In 1972, The Fellowship was reorganized to be even more clandestine, shedding the overhead of a typical high-profile nonprofit so that it was essentially little more than a holding company disbursing cash to dozens of ministries beneath it. By 1985, The Fellowship had 150 individual ministries beneath it. This model continues to this day with countless ministries coming into and going out of existence depending upon the current needs of the organization and the initiatives it wishes to fund. As Sharlet writes in his Harper's piece, The Foundation believes that its mobile "cell" structure, which it likens to those organized by Lenin, Bin Laden, and Hitler, makes it far more efficient than a hierarchical organization. And just like Enron's many shell corporations, their cell structure has the additional advantage of being able to move money around very quickly and in a way that makes it difficult to track or audit. . .

Those in the Fellowship who are asked about their role either deny its existence or politely refuse to answer questions about it. All have taken a vow of silence not to speak about The Fellowship.

http://www.toobeautiful.org/lat_020927.html

tp://www.motherjones.com/news/feature/2007/09/hillarys-prayer.html

http://www.harpers.org/archive/2003/03/0079525

APRIL 2008

JESUS MADE ME PUKE & OTHER TALES FROM THE EVANGELICAL FRONT LINES

MORE ON THE POPE AND CHILD ABUSE

WHAT'S AN EXISTENTIALIST?

PHILOS0PHER, UK - [Jean Paul] Sartre was an atheist. As God does not exist, there are no 'essences.' By essence, Sartre is talking about a pre-defined human nature. What Sartre meant by the phrase 'existence precedes essence' is this: If there is no cosmic designer, then there is no design or essence of human nature. Human existence or being differs from the being of objects in that human being is self-conscious. This self-consciousness also gives the human subject the opportunity to define itself. The individual creates his/her self by making self-directed choices.

As human existence is self-conscious without being pre-defined, we, as autonomous beings are "condemned to be free": compelled to make future directed choices. These choices induce anxiety and uncertainty in to our psyches. If we, as individuals, simply follow custom or social expectations in order to escape this angst, we have escaped the responsibility of making our own choices, of creating our own essence. We have acted in bad faith.

To act authentically we must take responsibility for our future. We cannot choose what gender, class, or country we were born into, but we can choose what we make of them. We are free to create our own interpretation of ourselves in relation to the world, to create a project of possibilities, of authentic actions as the expression of freedom.

COUNTER-INTUITIVE NEWS: IT'S NOT THE POOR WHO VOTE THEIR FAITH

VOXEU Barack Obama recently postulated that frustrated poor people vote based on cultural and religious values. But the data say exactly the opposite - value voting is a high-income activity. . .

Regular churchgoers are about 15% more likely than non-attendees to vote Republican. Perhaps surprisingly, this big religion gap did not show up until 1992, when Bill Clinton ran against George H. W. Bush. Back in 1980, Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority and other Religious Right organizations played a prominent role in rallying support for Ronald Reagan and other Republican candidates. But the gap between religious and non-religious in voting was actually less for Ronald Reagan-in both 1980 and 1984-than for Gerald Ford in 1976. . .

Nothing much was happening until 1992, when all of a sudden George H. W. Bush received 20% more of the vote among religious than among the nonreligious. . .

The difference in Republican support, comparing regular religious attendees to non-attendees, is huge for rich voters but low among the poor; This result-that church attendance predicts voting more for the rich than the poor-is consistent with the finding of Ansolabehere, Rodden, and Snyder that "low-income Americans are significantly less inclined to vote based on moral values than are high-income groups." They find the impact of economic issues on voting is larger for regular churchgoers, residents of Republican-leaning states, and rural voters than for non-churchgoers, residents of Democratic states, and urban or suburban voters.

MEDIUMS THREATENED BY NEW EUROPEAN LAW

Your editor ran into this problem while putting out a community paper in the 1960s. On reflection he could discover no difference between a medium telling someone what was going to happen next week and an established minister telling someone what was going to happen to them when they died. So we accepted advertising from both.

MARCH 2008

TAKING DRUGS, NOT PICKING UP DOG POOP ADDED TO DEADLY SINS

SOLDIER CLAIMS PROMOTION DENIED BECAUSE OF HIS ATHEISM

FEBRUARY 2008

3O YEARS AGO: WHEN FAITH BECAME FATAL

THE LAST MINUTES OF JONESTOWN ON TAPE

JANUARY 2008

THE HIDDEN POWER OF THE MORMONS

SUZAN MAZUR, SCOOP, NEW ZEALAND - Mormons are clearly not evangelical Christians. And there are 11 million of them. They run the "biggest and best" gun shows nationwide. They tend to vote Republican. And their church is rich, because it asks its members to tithe 10% of their annual income. . .

Mormons have historically played a significant behind-the-scenes money and power role in America. Sally Denton and Roger Morris have written about Mormon banker Parry Thomas's financing of Las Vegas, for example, in their book, The Money and the Power: The Making of Las Vegas and Its Hold on America. . .

Carlyle "founding fathers" Dan Altobello, Steve Norris, Fred Malek and Dan D'Aniello, who participated in the catering service buyout by Carlyle, all came from the Marriott Mormon culture before joining Carlyle. Malek was number two man at Marriott and a former Director of the Republican Party; it was Malek who brought George W. Bush into the Carlyle fold.

Looking closer at the workings of the Mormon Church and its wealth - it is not particularly choosy about the source of its tithes. It accepts money, for example, from a circle of LDS lawyers, bankers and businessmen who represent the polygamist Mormons living out West. . .

The Mormons have been crucial to George W. Bush's political campaigns. A major supporter has been former Utah governor Mike Leavitt, now Bush II's EPA director. Leavitt is part of a 2,000 member clan. . .

Another LDS star who's been cheerleading for Bush is Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. . .

Then there's Karl Rove -- "Bush's Brain". Although Rove is not Mormon, he was nurtured in the Salt Lake City Mormon culture and educated at the University of Utah. . .

Harvard Business publications is Mormon-run. And the editor of Harvard Business Review as well as the Dean of Harvard Business School are Mormon.

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0410/S00296.htm

MORE

TOM CRUISE'S DISCOURSE ON SCIENTOLOGY

IAN McEWAN ON ATHEISM

ISAAC CHOTINER, NEW REPUBLIC - Do you see religion as ineradicable, or do you think there is a chance to change people's minds on religion?

IAN McEWAN - I think it is ineradicable, and I think it is a terrible idea to suppress it, too. We have tried that and it joins the list of political oppression. It seems to be fairly deeply stitched into human nature. It seems to be part of all cultures, so I don't expect it to vanish. And yet at the same time, if it is built into human nature, why are there so many people who don't believe in it? I think it is important that people with no religious beliefs speak up and speak for what they value. It is a bit of a problem, the title "Atheist"--no one really wants to be defined by what they do not believe in. We haven't yet settled on a name, but you wouldn't expect a Baptist minister to go around calling himself a Darwinist. But it is crucial that people who do not have a sky god and don't have a set of supernatural beliefs assert their belief in moral values and in love and in the transcendence that they might experience in landscape or art or music or sculpture or whatever. Since they do not believe in an afterlife, it makes them give more valence to life itself. The little spark that we do have becomes all the more valuable when you can't be trading off any moments for eternity.

A FREETHINKERS' BILL OF RIGHTS

[From Sacramento Free Thought]

The freedoms of thought and expression count among our most fundamental and cherished rights, and promote both individual welfare and the common good in a democratic state. Historically, however, unbelievers such as secular humanists, atheists, agnostics, rationalists, and freethinkers have faced prejudice, intolerance, and discrimination for their opinions and discoveries.

In the firm conviction that the principle of church-state separation guarantees the equal rights of the religious and non-religious, we the Campus Freethought Alliance, on this 12th Day of July, 1998, hereby present the following Bill of Rights for Unbelievers.

Unbelievers shall have the right to:

Think freely and autonomously, express their views forthrightly, and debate or criticize any and all ideas without fear of censure, recrimination, or public ostracism.

Be free from discrimination and persecution in the workplace, business transactions, and public accommodations.

Exercise freedom of conscience in any situation where the same right would be extended to believers on religious grounds alone.

Hold any public office, in accordance with the constitutional principle that there shall be no religious test for such office.

Abstain from religious oaths and pledges, including pledges of allegiance, oaths of office, and oaths administered in a court of law, until such time as these are secularized or replaced by non-discriminatory affirmations.

Empower members of their community to perform legally-binding ceremonies, such as marriage.

Raise and nurture their children in a secular environment, and not be disadvantaged in adoption or custody proceedings because of their unbelief.

Conduct business and commerce on any day of their choosing, without interference from laws or regulations recognizing religious days of prayer, rest, or celebration.

Enjoy freedom from taxation supporting the government employment of clergy, and access to secular counseling equivalent to that provided by chaplains.

Declare conscientious objection to serving in the armed forces under any circumstance in which the religious may do so.

Live as citizens of a democracy free from religious language and imagery in currency, public schools and buildings, and government documents and business.

DECEMBER 2007

SPAGHETTI MONSTER SCARES OFF CREATIONIST POLS

THE ECONOMIST ON THE ATHEIST POLITICAL PROBLEM

ECONOMIST - According to figures compiled by the American Religious Identification Survey, almost 30m people claimed "no religion" in 2001, a doubling from 1991. This dwarfs America's 2.8m who describe themselves as Jews according to the same survey (although other estimates suggest that the Jewish population is much larger, at about 6m. . .

And yet those with no religious beliefs are shut out from political power. Earlier this year, a secularist group offered $1,000 to the highest-ranking politician in the land who would publicly proclaim no belief in God. This turned out to be Peter Stark, a Democratic congressman from the San Francisco area. He is the only congressman, of 535, who professes no belief in the Almighty.

Mr Stark suspects that many of his colleagues secretly agree with him. But they dare not do so publicly, even Democrats. And every one of the Democratic presidential contenders has talked about God; they even submitted to an awkward debate on religion, in which they were asked about their biggest sin and their favorite Bible verses. The Republicans were not put through a similar inquisition; their religious bona fides are apparently not in any doubt.

What accounts for the failure of atheists to organize and wield influence? One problem is that they are hardly a cohesive group. Another issue is simply branding. "Atheist" has an ugly ring in American ears and it merely defines what people are not. "Godless" is worse, its derogatory attachment to "communist" may never be broken. "Humanist" sounds too hippyish. A few have taken to calling themselves "Brights" for no good reason and to widespread mirth. And "secular" isn't quite the word either; one can be a Christian secularist.

But another failing of the irreligious movement has been its tendency, frequently, to pick the wrong fights. Keeping the Ten Commandments out of an Alabama courthouse is one thing. But attacking a Christmas nativity scene on public property does more harm than good. Such secular crusades allow Christians - after all, the overwhelming majority of the country - to feel under attack, and even to declare that they are on the defensive in a "War on Christmas". When a liberal federal court in California struck the words "under God" from the pledge of allegiance, religious conservatives rallied. Atheists might be tactically wise to accept the overwhelming majority's comfort with such ceremonial deism.

If atheists, agnostics and secularists could polish their image they might prove powerful and increasingly so. If the number of people declaring no religion can double over the ten years to 2001 who know how many more there are now or might be in years to come. Polls have shown that eight years of Mr Bush's mix of piety, divisiveness and incompetence have pushed young people towards the secular in higher numbers than before.

If these growing ranks concentrate on areas where American religiosity can do harm - over-aggressive proselytizing in the armed forces, undermining science or AIDS programs, alienating minorities at home and Muslims abroad - they could wield the sort of influence that any other minority representing 10% of the country might do. An unbelieving president still seems an unlikely prospect. On the other hand, only 53% of Americans still say they would not vote for an otherwise well-qualified atheist.

http://www.economist.com/displayStory.cfm?story_id=10277230&fsrc=RSS

[BTW, our name for these folk is SHAFAR for secularists, humanists, agnostics, free thinkers, atheists and rationalists]

EXCLUSIVE: THERE IS A RELIGIOUS TEST FOR HIGH OFFICE AND HERE IT IS

Sam Smith

We are once again being treated to that remarkably self-serving and hypocritical myth that there should be no religious test for high office. For one thing, it's a lie: if you aren't religious, you don't get high office. For another thing, if you are religious, you spend a good deal of your campaign convincing some voters just how faithful you are while trying to fool the rest into thinking that it doesn't make any difference. In both cases, the unusual aspect of the test is that no one is meant to think it exists.

As yet another public service, the Review proposes to bring the religious test out of the closet and into the debate in a reasonable fashion, helping the voter judge the relative worth of various candidates' Leave No Apostle Behind programs. We shall revise the exam from time to time and welcome any suggestions

RELIGIOUS TEST FOR HIGH OFFICE

1. Does the candidate belong to one of the kookier sects such as Scientology or Mormonism? What does this suggest about the candidate's ability to deal rationally with real situations and the quality of that candidate's judgment?

2. Is the candidate a saint in the church but a devil under cover? As Mahalia Jackson put it, "I can't go to church and shout all day Sunday, come home and get drunk and raise hell on a Monday."

3. Does the candidate try to appear highly religious to one set of voters and highly broad minded to another?

4. If the candidate is a Catholic, whoms does he or she most admire: the current Pope, the Berrigan Brothers or various liberation theologians?

5. If the candidate is Episcopalian, to which branch does he or she belong: the high and crazy, broad and hazy or low and lazy?

6. Which aspects of the candidate's religion or its history will that candidate openly condemn?

7. Is faith used by the candidate as a space filler for the absence of facts or is it used as a false replacement for facts?

8. Does faith primarily influence the candidate by providing positive values or by supplying wildly unsupportable information posing as truth?

9. Would the candidate support the end of discrimination against secularists? For example, would the candidate support an atheist opening sessions of the Senate and would the candidate host idea breakfasts as well as prayer breakfasts at the White House?

10. Does the candidate think God talks to him? How does one distinguish this from the heard voices that lead others to be committed to mental institutions?

11. Does the candidate believe God is responsible for improvements in poll numbers? Does the candidate agree with Mike Huckabee's assessment: "There's only one explanation for it, and it's not a human one. It's the same power that helped a little boy with two fish and five loaves feed a crowd of 5,000 people?"

12. If, as Mitt Romney claims, "We are a nation under God, and we do place our trust in him," and if as Barack Obama says, "What role does [religion] play? I say it plays every role." then shouldn't there be a religious test of candidates so we can tell who God trusts the most?

13. But since there supposedly isn't a religious test for high office, why does Mike Huckabee run TV ads proclaiming himself a "Christian leader?" Or tell a group of evangelicals, "God is not spelled G-O-P, and if the G-O-P ever leaves G-O-D then the G-O-P will lose m-e?"

14. Why does the media use the term "pro-family" to describe Republican policies when the divorce rate in heavily GOP states in the Mid West is higher than in God-forsaken Massachusetts?

15. If there is no religious test than why are issues like abortion and gay marriage so important, since the about the only people worried about them are religious fundamentalists?

16. Mitt Romney says, "Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom." What section of the Constitution is that in? What if one seeks freedom from religion?

17. If there is no religious test for high office, why does a new president have to take an oath using a Bible?

OCTOBER 2007

YOUNG FAR MORE HOSTILE TO CHRISTIANITY

BARNA GROUP - A new study by the Barna Group conducted among 16 to 29-year-olds shows that a new generation is more skeptical of and resistant to Christianity than were people of the same age just a decade ago. . . For instance, a decade ago the vast majority of Americans outside the Christian faith, including young people, felt favorably toward Christianity's role in society. Currently, however, just 16% of non-Christians in their late teens and twenties said they have a "good impression" of Christianity.

One of the groups hit hardest by the criticism is evangelicals. Such believers have always been viewed with skepticism in the broader culture. However, those negative views are crystallizing and intensifying among young non-Christians. The new study shows that only 3% of 16 - to 29-year-old non-Christians express favorable views of evangelicals.

The research shows that many Christians are innately aware of this shift in people's perceptions of Christianity: 91% of the nation's evangelicals believe that "Americans are becoming more hostile and negative toward Christianity." Among senior pastors, half contend that "ministry is more difficult than ever before because people are increasingly hostile and negative toward Christianity."

Among young non-Christians, nine out of the top 12 perceptions were negative. Common negative perceptions include that present-day Christianity is judgmental (87%), hypocritical (85%), old-fashioned (78%), and too involved in politics (75%) - representing large proportions of young outsiders who attach these negative labels to Christians. The most common favorable perceptions were that Christianity teaches the same basic ideas as other religions (82%), has good values and principles (76%), is friendly (71%), and is a faith they respect (55%).

Even among young Christians, many of the negative images generated significant traction. Half of young churchgoers said they perceive Christianity to be ju