The Progressive Review


Earlier stories

JORN BARGER of Robot Wisdom has produced a remarkable collection of maps showing the density by county of religions ranging from Catholic to Quaker. This map shows shows the density of religious adherents as reported by 149 religious bodies. Note the large number of counties (two shades of tan) where less than half the population belongs to a religious group.























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

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





INSIDE HIGHER ED - At Barnard College, Nadia Abu El-Haj, an anthropologist who is coming up for tenure, is under attack by some alumnae and pro-Israel groups for a book, published by the University of Chicago Press, that was critical of Israeli archaeology and its use in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. At Wayne State University, similar groups are pushing the university not to hire Wadie Said for a faculty position in the law school. In that case, critics of Said are attacking him and his late father, the literary theorist Edward Said, saying that both Saids' activism on behalf of the Palestinian cause has amounted to support for violent groups.

These debates follow the cancellation last month of a lecture by Tony Judt, a professor at New York University, at the Polish consulate in New York City, amid charges that the Anti-Defamation League had encouraged Polish officials to call off the talk. And in June, Yale University turned down Juan Cole, a University of Michigan professor who is a leading figure in Middle Eastern studies, for a position - after a lengthy period in which critics of Cole argued that he was not a suitable choice for the position, in part because of his criticism of Israel. And Princeton University has faced criticism over a possible hire as well.

This weekend, the Middle East Studies Association, of which Cole is the president, voted to expand the work of its academic freedom committee - which has focused on helping scholars in the Middle East - to engage in efforts on behalf of colleagues in the United States.

"The subtext of these controversies is whether it is going to be allowed for Palestinians to hold positions in academe in the United States. Is it going to be allowed for people who are not Zionists to hold positions? Is there a Zionist litmus test in the United States?" said Cole in an interview Monday. He characterized the pro-Israel groups' activities as "the privatization of McCarthyism" and said that they represented the most serious threat today to academic freedom in the United States....




Arkansas Constitution: Miscellaneous Provisions

1. Atheists disqualified from holding office or testifying as witness.

No person who denies the being of a God shall hold any office in the civil departments of this State, nor be competent to testify as a witness in any Court.


AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE - Nearly half of Americans are not sure God exists, according to a poll that also found divisions among the public on whether God is male or female or whether God has a human form and has control over events. The survey conducted by Harris Poll found that 42 percent of US adults are not "absolutely certain" there is a God compared to 34 percent who felt that way when asked the same question three years ago.

Among the various religious groups, 76 percent of Protestants, 64 percent of Catholics and 30 percent of Jews said they are "absolutely certain" there is a God while 93 percent of Christians who describe themselves as "Born Again" feel certain God exists. When questioned on whether God is male or female, 36 percent of respondents said they think God is male, 37 percent said neither male nor female and 10 percent said "both male and female." Only one percent think of God as a female, according to the poll.

Asked whether God has a human form, 41 percent said they think of God as "a spirit or power that can take on human form but is not inherently human." As to whether God controls events on Earth, 29 percent believe that to be the case while 44 percent said God "observes but does not control what happens on Earth".




DIANA B. HENRIQUES, NY TIMES - In recent years, many politicians and commentators have cited what they consider a nationwide "war on religion" that exposes religious organizations to hostility and discrimination. But such organizations - from mainline Presbyterian and Methodist churches to mosques to synagogues to Hindu temples - enjoy an abundance of exemptions from regulations and taxes. And the number is multiplying rapidly.

Some of the exceptions have existed for much of the nation's history, originally devised for Christian churches but expanded to other faiths as the nation has become more religiously diverse. But many have been granted in just the last 15 years - sometimes added to legislation, anonymously and with little attention, much as are the widely criticized "earmarks" benefiting other special interests.

An analysis by The New York Times of laws passed since 1989 shows that more than 200 special arrangements, protections or exemptions for religious groups or their adherents were tucked into Congressional legislation, covering topics ranging from pensions to immigration to land use. New breaks have also been provided by a host of pivotal court decisions at the state and federal level, and by numerous rule changes in almost every department and agency of the executive branch.

The special breaks amount to "a sort of religious affirmative action program," said John Witte Jr., director of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at the Emory University law school. Professor Witte added: "Separation of church and state was certainly part of American law when many of today's public opinion makers were in school. But separation of church and state is no longer the law of the land.". . .

As a result of these special breaks, religious organizations of all faiths stand in a position that American businesses - and the thousands of nonprofit groups without that "religious" label - can only envy. And the new breaks come at a time when many religious organizations are expanding into activities - from day care centers to funeral homes, from ice cream parlors to fitness clubs, from bookstores to broadcasters - that compete with these same businesses and nonprofit organizations.


AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE - A British documentary claimed that Pope Benedict XVI was implicated in the systematic cover-up of child sex abuse allegations against Catholic priests. Before becoming head of the church, the then cardinal Joseph Ratzinger enforced church doctrinal orthodoxy, including a "secret Vatican decree which seemed to shelter the perpetrators and silence the victims of abuse", the Panorama program said. This was the 1962 document Crimen Sollicitationis, which told top churchmen how to deal with priests who "solicit or provoke the penitent toward impure and obscene matters", according to a translation from Latin on the BBC website. It imposed an oath of secrecy on victims, witnesses and those probing abuse claims and said that anyone breaking this would be excommunicated, the BBC said.

Father Tom Doyle, a canon solicitor reportedly sacked by the Vatican after criticizing its handling of child abuse claims, told the BBC that Crimen was "an explicit written policy to cover up cases of child sexual abuse by the clergy, to punish those who would call attention to these crimes by the churchmen." . . .

Ratzinger clarified church law on the issue in 2001 and Panorama reported that he had ordered that the Vatican must have "exclusive competence" for child abuse cases. "It's all controlled by the Vatican and at the top of the Vatican is the pope so Joseph Ratzinger was in the middle of this for most of the years that Crimen was enforced," Doyle added.


[We posted the following earlier this year]

MARY ALICE ROBBINS, TEXAS LAWYER - On Dec. 22, U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal of Houston dismissed claims against Pope Benedict XVI in a suit in which three plaintiffs allege that the pope conspired to cover up a seminarian's sexual abuse of them in the mid-1990s. Rosenthal based her decision in John Doe 1, et al. v. The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, et al. on Pope Benedict's head-of-state-immunity, although the suit was filed in 2004 before he was elected pope. Pope Benedict, formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, alleged in amended motions filed in May that he should be dismissed from the suit on several grounds, including immunity. . .

"I think it's a shame that our State Department would get involved in an issue that basically involved covering up the sexual abuse of children in this country," says Tahira Kahn Merritt, attorney for two of the plaintiffs. "We're going to go forward with the case against the archdiocese," says Merritt, of Kahn Merritt & Allen in Dallas. . .
The plaintiffs alleged in their complaint that Ratzinger "designed and explicitly directed" a conspiracy to fraudulently conceal tortious conduct in connection with Colombian-born Juan Carlos Patino-Arango's alleged abuse of them while he was a seminarian working at St. Francis de Sales Church in Houston. They further allege in the complaint that after the parents of one plaintiff reported the alleged abuse to the archdiocese, Patino-Arango was moved to a "retreat house for abusive priests" and later "secretly spirited" out of this country and sent back to Colombia.

A Harris County grand jury indicted Patino-Arango on a charge of indecency with a child in 2004 and he is a fugitive from justice, according to an Associated Press report.





DAN HARRIS, ABC - Speaking in tongues, weeping for salvation, praying for an end to abortion and worshipping a picture of President Bush -- these are some of the activities at Pastor Becky Fischer's Bible camp in North Dakota, "Kids on Fire," subject of the provocative new documentary, "Jesus Camp.". . . "I want to see them as radically laying down their lives for the gospel as they are in Palestine, Pakistan and all those different places," Fisher said. "Because, excuse me, we have the truth.". . . "A lot of people die for God," one camper said, "and they're not afraid.". . . "We're kinda being trained to be warriors," said another, "only in a funner way."


Learning to die for Christ,
praying to a picture of George Bush


MARKET WIRE - Recently, the world's most visited Christian website, Christianet.com, [asked] site visitors eleven questions about their personal sexual conduct. "The poll results indicate that 50% of all Christian men and 20% of all Christian women are addicted to pornography," said Clay Jones, founder and President of Second Glance Ministries whose ministry objectives include providing people with information which will enable them to fully understand the impact of today's societal issues. 60% of the women who answered the survey admitted to having significant struggles with lust; 40% admitted to being involved in sexual sin in the past year; and 20% of the church-going female participants struggle with looking at pornography on an ongoing basis. . . "There have been dynamic paradigm shifts in the behavior of Christians over the last four years," explained Jones. "Technology [the Internet] has allowed pornography to flood the market place beyond a controllable level."






CATHLEEN FALSANI, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES - "America is becoming known as a nation of gluttony and obesity, and churches are a feeding ground for this problem," says Ken Ferraro, a Purdue sociology professor who studied more than 2,500 adults over a span of eight years looking at the correlation between their religious behavior and their body mass index. . . . Ferraro's latest study found that about 27 percent of Baptists, including Southern Baptists, North American Baptists, and Fundamentalist Baptist, were obese.
Surely there are several contributing factors to such a phenomenon, but when Ferraro accounted for geography (southern cooking is generally more high-caloric), race and even whether overweight folks were attracted to churches for moral support, the statistics still seem to indicate that some churches dispense love handles as well as the love of the Lord. . .

While some megachurches have fitness facilities and long have offered exercise classes as well as Bible studies, in most congregations you're still more likely to find a bake sale than a spinning class on any given Sunday.

Ferraro's study also found that about 20 percent of "Fundamentalist Protestants," (Church of Christ, Pentecostal, Assemblies of God and Church of God); about 18 percent of "Pietistic Protestants," (Methodist, Christian Church and African Methodist Episcopal), and about 17 percent of Catholics were obese.

By contrast, about 1 percent of the Jewish population and less than 1 percent of other non-Christians, including Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and others), were tipping the scales with commensurate gusto.

"In my mind, one of the distinctive things about Christianity, particularly American Protestant Christianity, is we don't have any [dietary] behavior codes," said Daniel Sack of Chicago, a historian and author of the 2000 book, Whitebread Protestants: Food and Religion in American Culture. "Islam does, Judaism does, Catholicism does, but basically there's nothing scriptural and in most [Protestant] traditions as long as you don't drink, you're fine. Particularly in that Baptist cohort, that's the only real rule."



UPI - The bishop of the Roman Catholic Church's Rockford, Ill., diocese has issued a withering indictment of Democratic Party leaders. Bishop Thomas George Doran, writing on the diocesan Web site, described as seven "sacraments" the party's devotion to "abortion, buggery, contraception, divorce, euthanasia, feminism of the radical type and genetic experimentation and mutilation."

Doran further wrote that these seven secular sacraments are espoused, professed and promoted by Democratic Party leaders - whom he referred to "as adherents of one political party." The continuance of these politicians "in public office is a clear and present danger to our survival as a nation," Doran wrote Aug. 10.



AMERICAN FAMILY ASSOCIATION JOURNAL - What students and parents don't realize is that today's campuses are functioning as an indoctrination into the realm of liberalism. As early as the 1790s, Yale college students were openly disavowing Christ. Despite periods of revival, the denial of Christian beliefs and the acceptance of secularism have persisted and gained strength through the years. . .

It is obvious that the Left has a prominent place on public, private, secular and Christian campuses and is so convincing that some Christians are denying their faith while other students are forming a personal set of beliefs for the first time.

In his book University of Destruction, David Wheaton cites research by Dr. Gary Railsback and the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA. Wheaton wrote, "Depending on the type of college attended, as many as 51% of students who claimed to be 'born-again Christians' as freshmen said they were no longer born-again Christians four years later."

"The trial everyone has heard about - but most people underrate - is the sheer spiritual disorientation of the modern campus," wrote J. Budziszewski in a Focus on the Family magazine article.





NEWSWEEK - There are no atheists in foxholes," the old saw goes. The line, attributed to a WWII chaplain, has since been uttered countless times by grunts, chaplains and news anchors. But an increasingly vocal group of activists and soldiers - atheist soldiers - disagrees. "It's a denial of our contributions," says Master Sgt. Kathleen Johnson, who founded the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers and who will be deployed to Iraq this fall. "A lot of people manage to serve without having to call on a higher power.". . . Just last month Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said, "Agnostics, atheists and bigots suddenly lose all that when their life is on the line." Atheist groups reacted swiftly, releasing a statement that "Nonbelievers are serving, and have served, in our nation's military with distinction." . . .

In the past several years, atheists have organized letter-writing campaigns against Katie Couric, Tom Brokaw, Bob Schieffer (who issued a public apology) and other news anchors for repeating the "no atheists in foxholes" line on TV. And on Veterans Day 2005, several dozen atheist veterans paraded down the National Mall bearing American flags and signs reading ATHEIST VETERAN-WE SHARED YOUR FOXHOLES! Johnson says atheists in the military face prejudice. "Before I got to be the rank I am I had to keep my head down and my mouth shut. I had commanding officers who made it clear that they wouldn't tolerate atheism in their ranks."



JUNE 2006


FOR ALL THE TALK OF ANTI-SEMITISM, a new CBS poll finds that about the same number of Americans have unfavorable opinions of the Protestant religions as they do of Judaism, with both having unfavorability ratings one half that of Catholics and one third that of Muslims. And over half of Americans have an unfavorable view of Scientology.

12% Protestant religion
16% Jewish religion
31% Christian fundamentalism
37% Catholicism
39% Mormanism
45% Islam
52% Scientology



BOB NIGHTENGALE, USA TODAY- No copies of Playboy or Penthouse are in the clubhouse of baseball's Colorado Rockies. There's not even a Maxim. The only reading materials are daily newspapers, sports and car magazines and the Bible. Music filled with obscenities, wildly popular with youth today and in many other clubhouses, is not played. A player will curse occasionally but usually in hushed tones. Quotes from Scripture are posted in the weight room. Chapel service is packed on Sundays. Prayer and fellowship groups each Tuesday are well-attended. It's not unusual for the front office executives to pray together.

On the field, the Rockies are trying to make the playoffs for the first time in 11 seasons and only the second time in their 14-year history. Behind the scenes, they quietly have become an organization guided by Christianity - open to other religious beliefs but embracing a Christian-based code of conduct they believe will bring them focus and success.

From ownership on down, it's an approach the Rockies are proud of - and something they are wary about publicizing. . .

The Rockies' approach is unusual in that religious doctrine is a guide for running a franchise. The club's executives emphasize they are not intolerant of other views. . .

Is it possible that some Rockies are playing the role of good Christians just to stay in the team's good graces? Yes, former Rockies say. "They have a great group of guys over there, but I've never been in a clubhouse where Christianity is the main purpose," says San Francisco Giants first baseman-outfielder Mark Sweeney, a veteran of seven organizations who spent 2003 and 2004 with the Rockies. "You wonder if some people are going along with it just to keep their jobs. . .

The Washington Nationals suspended a volunteer chaplain and issued an apology last year after outfielder Ryan Church, a devout Christian, made public conversations he had with the chaplain about an ex-girlfriend who was Jewish. Church told The Washington Post he had asked Jon Moeller whether Jews were "doomed" because they "don't believe in Jesus." Church said Moeller "nodded, like, that's what it meant." After Jewish community leaders complained, Church issued a statement saying, "I am not the type of person who would call into question the religious beliefs of others."



JULIA BARD, CHANNEL FOUR, UK - Patrick Henry College [was] set up five years ago in Virginia, near Washington DC. Its mission is to train young fundamentalist Christians to become the next generation of America's cultural and political leaders. Though the separation of church and state is enshrined in the US Constitution, with financial backing from the evangelical community the college aims to 'rechristianise' America; to 'preserve the world from the sinfulness of man'.

PHC students are an isolated group who come from close-knit communities where everyone prays together and shares moral certainties. . . Once at the college, the students ceremonially sign a covenant which commits them to a strict behaviour code: no alcohol, drugs or obscene literature; sex will be reserved for marriage; personal conflicts will be resolved biblically; the students will be above reproach, will uphold the tenets of evangelical Christianity and lead the nation for Christ. . .

Everyone at PHC, including the academics, also signs a statement of faith which includes these assertions:

- The Bible in its entirety . . . is the inspired word of God, inerrant in its original manuscripts, and the only infallible and sufficient authority for faith and Christian living.

- Man is by nature sinful and is inherently in need of salvation, which is exclusively found by faith alone in Jesus Christ and His shed blood.

- Satan exists as a personal, malevolent being who acts as tempter and accuser, for whom Hell, the place of eternal punishment, was prepared, where all who die outside of Christ shall be confined in conscious torment for eternity.

There are political as well as biblical imperatives. The students are highly trained in political debating techniques for which they win national trophies. The college is extremely well-connected in Washington, and students are propelled towards internships working for top politicians.

God's Next Army shows students taking their first step towards power, canvassing for a key Republican candidate. They visit a conservative lobbying company which is opposing the payment of compensation to people affected by asbestos, and is trying to repeal estate tax because 'the earth is the Lord's'.

Helped by the institution's friends-in-high-places, PHC has already provided the current White House administration with more interns than any other college in the USA, and more are in the pipeline - on the way to becoming 'key players in a Christian republic'.



DAVID MARR, SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, AUSTRALIA - With an iron hand, West Ryde businessman Bruce D. Hales rules his world church. To his 40,000 followers in the Exclusive Brethren, this prosperous supplier of office equipment in the Sydney suburbs is known as the Elect Vessel, the Lord's Representative on Earth, the Great Man, the Paul of Our Day, Minister of the Lord in Recovery and Mr Bruce.

For 175 years the sect has counted among its strange proscriptions - no public entertainment, no novels, no eating with outsiders, no university, no membership of other organizations of any kind, no shorts ("God has no pleasure in the legs of a man"), no party walls shared with non-Brethren, no films, no radio, no television and no mobile phones - an absolute ban on worldly politics. . .

A fortnight after [John] Howard's re-election [as prime minister], a group called the "Thanksgiving 2004 Committee" registered with the US Internal Revenue Service and placed ads in Florida newspapers supporting the Senate campaign of Cuban-American Mel Martinez, a passionate campaigner against gay marriage. Newspapers reported the committee had registered too late for voters to be able to determine the source of the money. Press inquiries got nowhere.

A Knoxville map-store owner told the St Petersburg Times his committee was "working with a larger group" but refused to identify it. "We like to fly beneath the radar," he said. On election day, the committee placed a hugely expensive full-page ad supporting Bush in The New York Times under the banner headline: "America Is In Safe Hands.". . .

When the financial returns of the Thanksgiving 2004 Committee were published by the Federal Elections Commission in January last year, they revealed that $US377,262 of more than $US600,000 raised by the committee came from a Londoner called Bruce Hazell. Press calls to Hazell established little except that he was Exclusive Brethren.

That the Brethren were last-minute, large-scale backers of Bush interested the Federal Elections Commission. A spokesman told the St Petersburg Times that "any money contributed by a foreign national and used to purchase advertising so close to an election violates a 1966 law designed to limit foreign intervention in US elections". The commission now tells the Herald it cannot comment on whether it is investigating the sect's role.

APRIL 2006


Constitutional Amendment Would Make Their Version Law

NY TIMES - About 50 prominent religious leaders, including seven Roman Catholic cardinals and about a half-dozen archbishops, have signed a petition in support of a constitutional amendment blocking same-sex marriage. Archbishop John J. Myers said of the campaign, "We think the American people are on our side on this, and we want the Senate to know it."

Both the organizers and gay rights groups said what was striking about the petition was the direct involvement by high-ranking Roman Catholic officials, including 16 bishops. Although the church has long opposed same-sex unions, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops had previously endorsed the idea of a constitutional amendment banning such unions, it was evangelical Protestants who generally led the charge when the amendment was debated in 2004. . .

Organizers said the petition had brought together cardinals from both the left and right sides of the United States bishops' conference, including the liberal Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles and the conservative Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, as well as Cardinals Edward M. Egan of New York, Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington, William H. Keeler of Baltimore and Sean Patrick O'Malley of Boston.

Other signers included James C. Dobson of Focus on the Family; the evangelist D. James Kennedy; Bishop Charles E. Blake of the historically black Church of God in Christ; the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez Jr., president of the National Hispanic Association of Evangelicals; Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb of the Orthodox Union; and officials of the Orthodox Church in America.



SARA LAWRENCE, INDEPENDENT, UK Sitting on a red velvet chair in the middle of a majestic, oak-paneled hall in East Grinstead, I have rarely felt more fearful for my sanity. On the wall in front of me, a creepy, larger-than-life-sized portrait of an old man seems to be staring straight at me. In front of the portrait, Laura, a middle-aged woman wearing a high-necked blouse and ostentatious gold cross, stands behind a lectern reading aloud from a huge leather-bound tome.

None of the worshippers take their eyes off Laura as they repeat her words back to her. Phrases such as: "All men have inalienable rights to think freely, to talk freely, to write freely their own opinions and to counter or utter or write upon the opinions of others" are made ridiculous by the followers repeating them in a monotonous drone. . .

Part of my tour takes in converted outbuildings that comprise a sauna, showers and a gym area. Three teenage boys and a girl wearing swimsuits are sitting eating a spartan meal of rice and beans. "These people are undergoing a period of purging," Ron tells me. After taking a variety of vitamins and minerals designed to cure addiction, they spend the day alternately sweating in the sauna and running full tilt on the machines. When I ask what the purpose of the exercise is, Ron is unable to tell me whether these youngsters are addicted to alcohol or drugs - they're just "addicts". None of them look up when I say hello. They do not even look at each other. . .

Quite what Scientology does for the individual has been a matter of debate since Hubbard set it up in 1954. Tellingly, four years earlier, he had announced at an authors' convention: "Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wants to make a million dollars he should start his own religion.". . .

As I'm led inside another room by Ron, I see at least 100 people - most of them elderly - poring over huge leather-bound books. It reminds me of one of the large reading room in the British Library - but these people are not browsing for free. Although Ron will not give me an exact figure, he says that recruits pay "thousands" to study Scientology.

Elsewhere, there are hundreds of machines stacked up in readiness for a possible sales event that afternoon. Called E-meters (short for electropsychometer) they look like two tin cans attached by thin wires to a navy blue control panel. . . Although the Scientologists' own prayer book states they can only be used by Scientology ministers, I - a definite non-minister - am offered the chance to purchase one, a snip at L3,000. . .

The cult has attempted to intimidate news organisations who expose it. Last year, it threatened court action against Google, which had to remove websites that criticised the group. After a day witnessing what goes on on the inside, I realise it's little wonder the "church" needs to resort to such tactics.


MARCH 2006


FREDERICK CLARKSON, POLITICAL CORTEX - Are Christians being silenced? The question sounds like the perennial complaint from members of the Christian Right. But in fact, as specious as the Christian Right's complaints along these lines usually are, this one is different. . .

When the Sunday morning public affairs talk shows think about getting a Christian view on public affairs who do they call? According to Rev. Robert Chase, Director of Communications for the 1.3 million member United Church of Christ, over the past 8 years the Sunday network public affairs shows have interviewed political leaders of the religious right 36 times, and leaders of mainline Christian denominations such as the United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A), American Baptist Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, African Methodist Episcopal Church, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Reformed Church in America, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, among others -- exactly zero times.

"Increasingly," Chase added at a national news conference, "millions of U.S. Christians have grown weary of having their more-inclusive, more-progressive values silenced." . . . The UCC's complaint that the networks are silencing mainstream religious voices does not stop there. They are also having trouble with the advertising departments of the networks. The church is currently engaged in a multiyear outreach campaign that includes television advertising. But unless you have cable you won't get to see their new ad -- because the networks won't run them. . . ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX, reports Religion News Service, deemed them "too controversial.". . .

ABC spokeswoman Susan Sewall told Kevin Eckstrom of Religion News Service: "The network doesn't take advertising from religious groups. It's a long-standing policy. . .

But on Sunday, on the same network's public affairs show, This Week with George Stephanopolis, if you want a religious point of view on news and public affairs you are far more likely to hear from James Dobson of Focus on the Family, who has appeared three times (and who by the way, is a psychologist), than Rev. John Thomas, President of the United Church of Christ who has never appeared.



JEANNINE AQUINO, MINNESOTA DAILY, - Atheists are America's least trusted group, according to a national survey conducted by university sociology researchers. Based on a telephone survey of more than 2,000 households and in-depth interviews with more than 140 people, researchers found that Americans rate atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants, homosexuals and other groups as "sharing their vision of American society." Americans are also least willing to let their children marry atheists. . .



AMIRAM BARKAT, HAARETZ - The situation of world Jewry is much better than Israel and the major Jewish organizations would like us to think, says historian Dr. Antony Lerman, the new director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research in London. In his opinion, all of the talk in recent years about a new form of anti-Semitism that is camouflaged as criticism of Israel is nothing but pure drivel. True, he says, there are more instances in Europe of attacks on Jews by Muslim immigrants, but the problem can be easily resolved: as soon as Israel agrees to a "just solution to the Palestinian problem." . . .

Lerman feels that paranoia has developed around the issue of anti-Semitism, and the tendency to define anything negative that happens to a Jew as an anti-Semitic incident.

Representatives of the Jewish community in Britain, he contends, only complicate matters by insisting on public debates with public figures they consider to be anti-Semites, instead of arranging matters in the traditional and respectable manner, behind closed doors.

Lerman, 60, who until January served as director of European programs for the Rothschild family's Yad Hanadiv Foundation, previously served as director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research in the 1990s. The institute is a prestigious private think-tank: four lords of Jewish descent - Rothschild, Weidenfeld, Kalms and Haskel - are on the honorary board of directors of JPR; and the British media and governing authorities place great weight on the position adopted by the institute. . .

Lerman says, "I never claimed that anti-Semitism is not a serious problem. At the same time, I feel now, no less than in the past, that it is impossible to say that anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are the same thing." . . .



MELISSA FLETCHER STOELTJE, SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS - A study done by the Graduate Center of the City University of New York found that the percentage of the population that describes itself as "nonreligious" more than doubled from 1990 to 2001, from 14.3 million to 29.4 million people. The only other group to show growth was Muslims. "Right now, the fastest-growing religious identity in America is the nonreligious," says Dan Barker, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Madison, Wis.-based group that champions church-state separation and works to educate the public on non-theism. A study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that 16 percent of Americans (about 35 million) consider themselves "unaffiliated" -- a category that includes "unaffiliated believers," "secularists" and atheists/agnostics.


The Bible contains six admonishments to homosexuals and 362 admonishments to heterosexuals. That does not mean God doesn't love heterosexuals. It's just that they need more supervision - Lynn Lavner


ANNALS OF IMPROBABLE RESEARCH - After anxious months of waiting, Gregg F. Martin's superiors have again validated his strategic leadership principles. Martin wrote the classic military guide "Jesus the Strategic Leader." On February 17, G.W. Bush's nomination of Gregg F. Martin was confirmed by the Senate. After writing his famous study, then-Lieutenant Colonel Martin was promoted to command the 130th Engineer Brigade of the Army's 5th Corps. The 51-page-long "Jesus the Strategic Leader" [in the Army War College Journal] includes a drawing of Martin's "pyramid model" of Jesus the strategic leader. According to this model, Jesus is a pyramid, resting atop and partially intersecting God. God is a pyramid, too, but with a broader base. A third, inverted pyramid is supported atop Jesus' pyramid. This third pyramid begins with what Martin calls the "Top Three" disciples (Peter, James and John) and broadens to include the other apostles, then the disciples and, topping everything, the masses. Admirers are eager to see how high up the military pyramid the new general will rise.



GREG PIERCE, WASHINGTON TIMES - Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, while not at all religious, says she takes pride in her Jewish heritage. . . [she] told Abigail Pogrebin, who writes about the jurist in her book "Stars of David." [In an] excerpt in the February issue of the Jewish magazine Moment . . . Justice Ginsburg said that being Jewish matters greatly to her. "I'll show you one symbol of that which is here," she told the writer, guiding her to the main office door, where a gold mezuzah was nailed prominently to its frame. "At Christmas around here, every door has a wreath. I received this mezuzah from the Shulamith School for Girls in Brooklyn, and it's a way of saying, 'This is my space, and please don't put a wreath on this door.' "

Justice Ginsburg said she boycotts the annual Red Mass, because of the Catholic Church's teaching on abortion. "Before every session [of the court], there's a Red Mass. And the justices get invitations from the cardinal to attend that. And a good number of the justices show up every year. I went one year, and I will never go again, because this sermon was outrageously anti-abortion. Even the Scalias -- although they're very much of that persuasion -- were embarrassed for me."

Justice Ginsburg said that she and her Jewish colleague, Justice Stephen G. Breyer, succeeded in blacking out the first Monday in October when the date conflicts with the Jewish religious calendar. "We will not sit on any first Monday that coincides with Yom Kippur," she said.


JUNE 2006


[Suzan Mazur, reporting in New Zealand's Scoop, thinks the FBI is covering up for the Mormons, in particular the polygamous sect known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The larger Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints still includes polygamy in its scriptures. Says John Dougherty of the Phoenix New Times, "The only difference between the FLDS and the LDS is that the FLDS practices what the LDS preaches." While the FBI has placed FLDS leader Warren Jeffs on its most wanted list, Mazur considers this a distraction from the real story. In her piece, Mazur interviews Buster Johnson, a Los Angeles deputy sheriff in the 1980s, assigned to narcotics, who is now a resident of Mohave County, Arizona -- which includes the polygamist town of Colorado City. Johnson has served on the Mohave County Board of Supervisors for the past nine years.]

Suzan Mazur - Are most residents [of Colorado City] members of the polygamist FLDS church?

Buster Johnson: All residents are members of the FLDS church.

Suzan Mazur: Can you briefly describe Arizona's position on polygamy?

Buster Johnson: It really has no statute against polygamy that's enforceable. It has a law against bigamy but that doesn't pertain to the FLDS church or the polygamists because they're only married one time. The only thing that we can really go after [under existing legislation] is when they're married in a formal setting - in a church or through a justice of the peace. That way we can prosecute. But we have no control over the celestial marriages that they have. . .

Suzan Mazur: Do you know if Arizona has any plans to update the bigamy statute?

Buster Johnson: There's nobody championing that cause in the legislature right now. . .

Suzan Mazur: Is the legislature in Arizona like Utah's where it's very dominated by the Republican party?

Buster Johnson: Yes. At this point we're very heavily Republican.

Suzan Mazur: Now in 1985, according to Twin City historian Ben Bistline, the Mohave County Board of Supervisors enabled the town of Colorado City to incorporate. And at that point the town became eligible for government grants. Its that right?

Buster Johnson: Yes, it is. . .

Suzan Mazur: What happened next is that Colorado City applied for a grant to build an airport in the canyon lands and it didn't even have bus service into the nearest town. But it applied for a grant for this airport and did indeed receive $3 million in federal money - 91% of the grant was federal, 4.5% was state and 4.5% local. It also got a HUD grant of $1.8 million to spruce up the neighborhood. What's your response to this?

Buster Johnson: Obviously, I wasn't around when they were doing that. But you have to question the reasons behind the town building an airport, the sincerity. I mean you have an area that is so sparsely populated, which had locked itself away from civilization with no public means of transportation and with one road in and out of Colorado City so the people living there could be controlled as well as the people who come in and out. Why would an airport be built when there weren't even any planes in that area?

Suzan Mazur: Yes. Why not put a bus line in to the nearest town for starters?

Buster Johnson: And these people aren't allowed to be traveling anyway. You wouldn't see kids get on the bus to go to town by themselves. When they travel, they have chaperones - they go as a group. The average person would take advantage of a bus system, where a group like this would not.

Suzan Mazur: Then Arizona in 1992 declared the airport "Airport of the Year". And when I spoke to LaDell Bistline, the Colorado City airport manager in 2001, he told me there were only about seven planes kept there, including then-FLDS prophet Rulon Jeffs' leased jet. What do you suppose the purpose of the Colorado City airport is?

Buster Johnson: When I was first elected to the Mohave County Board of Supervisors in 1996 and before I took office, the people who'd been elected, we all took a plane ride up to Colorado City because I hadn't been there before. I'm not sure if the others had or not. And we landed at the airport. And the airport was locked in. You couldn't get in or out without calling somebody at the municipal offices to come and let you in or let you out.

So it wasn't like open to the public. And I saw the plaque that said "Airport of the Year" and I wondered why because there weren't any airplanes sitting on the tarmac or hangars for planes to be sitting in. And coming from a law enforcement background, I thought - here's a remote airstrip sitting in the middle of nowhere - drug running came immediately to mind. . .

Suzan Mazur: Has anyone you're aware of actually chronicled events at the airport? Has anyone actually gone there and done a stake out? Are there accounts of any of this activity?

Buster Johnson: Reports came to me when I first started looking into this regarding the airport and regarding drugs and other things that possibly could be coming in. It isn't until recently that some eyes were on it. Up until the last few years, you could not even enter the town of Colorado City without being followed by the police.

Suzan Mazur: I experienced that myself.

Buster Johnson: And then you were escorted out.

Suzan Mazur: Right.

Buster Johnson: Let alone the airport. And people, some of the women I talked to and some of the boys would tell me planes at the airport would land, products would be unloaded and planes would take off in very short order. Because it's such a closed community, they obviously weren't allowed to talk to anybody on the outside, so you didn't question anything. Plus, the majority of the people are not streetwise. They're raised in a society that's not familiar with drugs, so they wouldn't know what would be unloading or what wouldn't be unloading, if it was legal or illegal.

At the same time, we had numerous reports of drug labs in the Colorado City area. And at that time there wasn't so much worry about those people using drugs. They were more into the money part of it. Where they facilitate it and make a profit from the drugs. . .

Suzan Mazur: So the airport's closed off at night and no one can just walk in.

Buster Johnson: No. It's chain-linked fenced-in.

Suzan Mazur: But I thought it was a "municipal" airport - a sort of public place.

Buster Johnson: Even when we flew in as elected officials in 1996, as I mentioned earlier, we had to call somebody to come and unlock the gates to let us out.. . .

Suzan Mazur: Isn't anybody in government looking into where the money's going?

Buster Johnson: You would hope so. But obviously not. . .

Suzan Mazur: Do you lament the lack of action on the part of the FBI in dealing with the problem on the Utah-Arizona border? I mean they're going after one guy. And I assume largely for the assets he's got.

Buster Johnson: The FBI has been contacted over the years time and time again with allegations about the FLDS and complaints of what we believe has been going on in Colorado City, and they basically refuse to do anything. Anytime you ask them or state agencies a question, they'll say: "If you bring me this information and you can get the witnesses, then we'll do something."

Well I thought that was their job. I thought if complaints came forward and you knew about this, then it was the FBI's responsibility to say: "We're going in and look at this and clean it up once and for all. We have something or we don't have." It's not like it was just one person making this complaint. . .

Suzan Mazur: I also understand the Senate Judiciary Committee which oversees the DOJ and FBI is having no luck in dealing with them. Not only on this issue but on every other issue. So we have a shut down of Justice. What's going on?

Buster Johnson: And it comes from LDS leadership in the Justice Department and FBI. Obviously, this is not something they want to take action on. Even now that they've put Warren Jeffs on the 10 most wanted list. Does he deserve to be there with so many murderers out there? I'd like to see attention brought to the Colorado City issue. But you can remove Warren Jeffs tomorrow and the issue's still going to remain. They'll just pick another prophet.

To me, the FBI is grandstanding by saying, "Yes, we're looking for this guy, and yes, 10 years ago or 12 years ago he may or may not have molested an eight-year old boy. And he may or may not be performing these illegal marriages."

Does that qualify him for the top 10 when we have murderers and other people? I don't think so. I think there are other people who qualify for that top 10 list much more. . .

The way I look at it is, government has allowed this to grow to the proportion it has. They're responsible. Law enforcement is responsible and could be indicted as co-conspirator. Like you say, government allowed the Colorado City polygamists to be incorporated.

That's tantamount to arming the Mafia who are say, "Hey we have our own town. We want to be legitimized."

And government saying, "We're legitimizing your town. Now you can get federal grants. And have your own police force and have access to anything that the City of New York has."

Suzan Mazur: The atrocities have been going on for a hundred years on the Utah-Arizona border. There's a lot to account for.

Buster Johnson: And because of these incestuous relationships, producing deformities and that sort of thing, the lifestyle of raping young daughters, raping young boys, brutalizing women and the brutalizing of women among women - I think that these people basically are so hard core that they cannot be allowed back into normal society. They need to be allowed to die out completely.

You can't just say, "Okay we're going to take this family and place them in LA or somewhere." First of all it's not fair to the family itself. Nor is it fair to the community. They need to go somewhere where you can deprogram them and show them another life. And it's going to be just as hard as kicking the drug habit or any other addiction. . .

Suzan Mazur: Is there anything you'd like to say in closing?

Buster Johnson: We need to look at who has facilitated the cult for all these years. And those people need to be held accountable - specific elected officials, bureaucrats, law enforcement people who turned their back and allowed the people of Colorado City to get to the position where they are today. Where it's normal for people to be raped and beaten and there are no consequences.


mailto:sznmz @ aol.com



PETER ECKSTEIN, MICHIGAN PROSPECT - The Michigan House of Representatives has passed a resolution seeking to have the Ten Commandments displayed in or around the State Capitol. State Representative Casperson sees this as an important way to restore "a moral compass to our society." Rep. Gosselin calls the Commandments the "bedrock of Michigan law," while Rep. Hoogendyk calls them "the foundation for the freedoms we hold dear." None of these assertions is valid.

The First Commandment begins, "I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt." Many of our citizens are Moslems, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Taoists, Shintoists, Jains, Confucians, and adherents of Native American religions. . .

The Second Commandment forbids making any "graven," or carved, image - or bowing down to one. Does the legislature wish to display this warning in front of the noble statue of Michigan's Civil War governor, Austin Blair? . . . The Second Commandment also threatens to visit "the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation." Should a child visiting the capital start to become fearful because long ago a great grandfather may have struck his thumb with a hammer and impulsively used the name of the Lord in vain? Does any American law seek to punish children, let along grandchildren and great grandchildren, for the sins of the fathers? . . .

The Fourth Commandment forbids any work on the Sabbath. Does the Legislature wish to reinstate "blue laws" that forbid working on Sunday (and presumably on Friday for Muslims and Saturday for Jews)? Does it wish to ban all shopping malls, golf courses, television stations, restaurants, football teams, backyard gardeners and flood harvesters from operating on the Sabbath?. . .

The Third forbids taking "the name of the Lord thy God in vain." Courts have held that the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech protects even blasphemy.

The Fifth enjoins us to "honor thy father and thy mother." Most parents deserve to be honored, though no law requires it. In 2003 the state found 26,700 Michigan children to have been victims of abuse or neglect. Are all of them required to honor their parents?

The Seventh says, "Thou shalt not commit adultery." This was the foundation for some laws in the past, but there have been no prosecutions for adultery for several decades. Has the practice disappeared in Michigan? If so, it has happened without the Commandments being posted in the state capitol.

The Tenth forbids coveting not only "thy neighbor's house" but also his wife, servants, ass and "anything that is thy neighbor's." Frank Loesser once enunciated a clear principle of American law - "Brother, you can't go to jail for what you're thinking." More important, isn't it a trifle quaint today to be listing a man's wife among his possessions? Consider too, that the "maid servant" in the Commandment was commonly a concubine - often purchased from her own father. . .

"Thou shalt not kill" is a powerful statement, but violation of eight of the Ten Commandments is subject to the death penalty. One is murder, still subject to the death penalty in many other states. But others are cursing one's parent, sacrificing for the wrong god, idolatry, adultery, blasphemy, working on the Sabbath, and bearing false witness. Would the Legislature ask us to emulate these archaic and brutal standards?



DUNCAN CAMPBELL, GUARDIAN - Jesus was almost certainly a cannabis user and an early proponent of the medicinal properties of the drug, according to a study of scriptural texts published this month. The study suggests that Jesus and his disciples used the drug to carry out miraculous healings. The anointing oil used by Jesus and his disciples contained an ingredient called kaneh-bosem which has since been identified as cannabis extract, according to an article by Chris Bennett in the drugs magazine, High Times, entitled Was Jesus a Stoner? The incense used by Jesus in ceremonies also contained a cannabis extract, suggests Mr Bennett, who quotes scholars to back his claims. "There can be little doubt about a role for cannabis in Judaic religion," Carl Ruck, professor of classical mythology at Boston University said. . .
"If cannabis was one of the main ingredients of the ancient anointing oil _ and receiving this oil is what made Jesus the Christ and his followers Christians, then persecuting those who use cannabis could be considered anti-Christ," Mr Bennett concludes.




MICHAEL BEHE,: Nice to be with you.

RICH LOWRY: Let's start right off the top with a basic question. Are you a creationist?

MICHAEL BEHE, AUTHOR, "DARWIN'S BLACK BOX": No, never have been. I'm Roman Catholic. I learned about Darwin's theory in parochial school. It was always fine with me. I just don't think it explains what it purports

ALAN COLMES: But you admit it's religion and that this is really an attempt to get religion taught in schools.

BEHE: No, I disagree. It's not religion. It has religious implications, much like, say, the big bang theory has religious implications, but it's a scientific theory. But that - nonetheless, I think that's one reason that some - a lot of scientists oppose it.

COLMES: Who's the designer?

BEHE: Well, as I've said since 1996 when I published "Darwin's Black Box," I'm a Catholic. I think a good candidate for the designer is God. But that is not straight - that's not a conclusion that you come from ,from the structure of the bacterial flagellum.

COLMES: What would be the other options if it's not God?

BEHE: Well, you know, other things that would strike us as, you know, as pretty exotic, you know. Space aliens or time travelers or something strange.



RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE - The Bill of Rights of the Texas Constitution (Article I, Section 4) allows people to be excluded from holding office on religious grounds. An official may be "excluded from holding office" if she/he does not "acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being."

This would specifically exclude all Atheists and Agnostics from holding public office. It would also exclude: Most Buddhists, who do not believe in a personal deity. Members of the Church of Satan; they are typically agnostics. Some Unitarian Universalists. Some followers of the New Age who do not believe in the existence of a personal deity

However, Wiccans and Zoroastrians are acceptable, as they believe in two deities -- twice as many as Section 4 requires. Hindus would also be good enough because they generally acknowledge the existence of millions of deities. The number, gender, shape, size and other attributes do not matter, as long as you believe that a Supreme Being of some sort exists.

This form of religious intolerance is not limited to Texas. Six other states ( MA, MD, NC, PA, SC and TN) all have similar language included in their Bill of Rights, Declaration of Rights, or in the body of their constitutions.

In a few states whose constitutions include the text of the oath of office, the candidate must swear an oath to God. Such an oath would prevent ethical non-theists from taking office.

However, now that these Constitutions include discriminatory and intolerant language, the states are probably stuck with it. The passages will forever affirm that people who follow some minority religions were considered unreliable second- class citizens of questionable morality -- at least at the time that the state constitutions were written. They could only be removed through constitutional change; this requires at least a majority vote of the citizens of the state. With the present political leadership and religious climate towards non-theists, this is not going to happen.



MARY ALICE ROBBINS, TEXAS LAWYER - On Dec. 22, U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal of Houston dismissed claims against Pope Benedict XVI in a suit in which three plaintiffs allege that the pope conspired to cover up a seminarian's sexual abuse of them in the mid-1990s. Rosenthal based her decision in John Doe 1, et al. v. The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, et al. on Pope Benedict's head-of-state-immunity, although the suit was filed in 2004 before he was elected pope. Pope Benedict, formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, alleged in amended motions filed in May that he should be dismissed from the suit on several grounds, including immunity. . .

"I think it's a shame that our State Department would get involved in an issue that basically involved covering up the sexual abuse of children in this country," says Tahira Kahn Merritt, attorney for two of the plaintiffs. "We're going to go forward with the case against the archdiocese," says Merritt, of Kahn Merritt & Allen in Dallas. . .

The plaintiffs alleged in their complaint that Ratzinger "designed and explicitly directed" a conspiracy to fraudulently conceal tortious conduct in connection with Colombian-born Juan Carlos Patino-Arango's alleged abuse of them while he was a seminarian working at St. Francis de Sales Church in Houston. They further allege in the complaint that after the parents of one plaintiff reported the alleged abuse to the archdiocese, Patino-Arango was moved to a "retreat house for abusive priests" and later "secretly spirited" out of this country and sent back to Colombia.

A Harris County grand jury indicted Patino-Arango on a charge of indecency with a child in 2004 and he is a fugitive from justice, according to an Associated Press report.




SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE - NBC Peacock Singers, singing, in the spirit of diversity and fear, an all-inclusive medley for everyone.


Silent night, regular night
All is calm, all is bright
'Round the fire, mother and child
Random infant, religiously neutral
Sleep in comfortable beds
Sleep in comfortable beds


Away in a barnbox
No bib for their lunch
The donkey and camel
On straw they will munch
The stars in the sky
Shine down 'cuz it's night
The lamb and that donkey
Just got in a fight


O Tuesday Night
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night to watch TV and play cards

Fall on your knees
And do a jigsaw puzzle
Just stay inside tonight
It's half past nine
Just stay inside
Feelin' fine


How ya doin'
How ya doin'
How ya doin'
How ya doin'
I'm doin' just fine



[From United States History for Christian Schools written by Timothy Keesee and Mark Sidwell]

American believers can appreciate Jefferson's rich contribution to the development of their nation, but they must beware of his view of Christ as a good teacher but not the incarnate son of God. As the Apostle John said, "Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son" (I John 2:22).

On the whole, [the progressives] believed that man is basically good and that human nature might be improved. . . Such a belief, of course, ignored the biblical teaching that man is sinful by nature (Ephesians 2:1-3). Progressives therefore also ignored the fact that the fallible men who built the corrupt institutions that they attacked were the same in nature as those who filled the political offices and staffed the regulatory agencies that were supposed to control the corruption.

[From "Elements of Literature for Christian Schools," by Ronald Horton, Donalynn Hess and Steven Skeggs (Bob Jones University, 20010]

Twain's outlook was both self-centered and ultimately hopeless. Denying that he was created in the image of God, Twain was able to rid himself of feeling any responsibility to his Creator. At the same time, however, he defiantly cut himself off from God's love. Twain's skepticism was clearly not the honest questioning of a seeker of truth but the deliberate defiance of a confessed rebel.

[Emily] Dickinson's year at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary further shaped her "religious" views. During her stay at the school, she learned of Christ but wrote of her inability to make a decision for Him. She could not settle "the one thing needful." A thorough study of Dickinson's works indicates that she never did make that needful decision. Several of her poems show a presumptuous attitude concerning her eternal destiny and a veiled disrespect for authority in general. Throughout her life she viewed salvation as a gamble, not a certainty. Although she did view the Bible as a source of poetic inspiration, she never accepted it as an inerrant guide to life.

[From "Physics for Christian Schools," by R. Terrance Egolf and Linda Shumate (Bob Jones University, 2004)]

Some people have developed the idea that higher mathematics and science have little to do with the Bible or Christian life. They think that because physics deals with scientific facts, or because it is not pervaded with evolutionary ideas, there is no need to study it from a Christian perspective. This kind of thinking ignores a number of important facts to the Christian: First, all secular science is pervaded by mechanistic, naturalistic and evolutionistic philosophy. Learning that the laws of mechanics as they pertain to a baseball in flight are just the natural consequences of the way matter came together denies the wisdom and power of our Creator God. . . Second, physics as taught in the schools of the world contradicts the processes that shaped the world we see today. Trying to believe both secular physics and the Bible leaves you in a state of confusion that will weaken your faith in God's Word.

You are about to embark on an adventure. The study of physics reveals the wonderful orderliness of God's creation - so orderly that it can be comprehended in terms of relatively simple principles (mathematical formulas). ... Physics is important because through it mankind learns how creation actually works. It satisfies our God-given curiosity about nature. Seeing that God does "great things and unsearchable; marvelous things without number" (Job 5:9), men have dedicated their lives to unraveling the rich mysteries of creation. NY TIMES


ANNIE GOWEN WASHINGTON POST - Clarendon Presbyterian Church Pastor David Ensign has an alternative air about him. He wears an earring and has been known to pick up his guitar to play a few hymns during Sunday services. But he surprised even some of Arlington's die-hard progressives Nov. 3 at the county's annual human rights awards ceremony, where his church was honored. He used the occasion to announce the church's new wedding policy: "What we're saying is that in the commonwealth of Virginia, the laws that govern marriage are unjust and unequal," says Pastor David Ensign of Clarendon Presbyterian Church. To protest Virginia's laws banning same-sex marriage, Ensign and the church's governing council decided recently that Clarendon Presbyterian will no longer have any weddings, and Ensign will renounce his state authority to marry couples. Any heterosexual couple who has their union "blessed" in a "celebration ceremony" at the tiny church will have to take the extra step of being officially wed by a justice of the peace at the courthouse.



CHRIS HEDGES, THEOCRACY WATCH, 2004 - Dr. James Luther Adams, my ethics professor at Harvard Divinity School, told us that when we were his age, he was then close to 80, we would all be fighting the "Christian fascists."

The warning, given to me 25 years ago, came at the moment Pat Robertson and other radio and televangelists began speaking about a new political religion that would direct its efforts at taking control of all institutions, including mainstream denominations and the government. Its stated goal was to use the United States to create a global, Christian empire. It was hard, at the time, to take such fantastic rhetoric seriously, especially given the buffoonish quality of those who expounded it. But Adams warned us against the blindness caused by intellectual snobbery. The Nazis, he said, were not going to return with swastikas and brown shirts. Their ideological inheritors had found a mask for fascism in the pages of the Bible.

He was not a man to use the word fascist lightly. He was in Germany in 1935 and 1936 and worked with the underground anti-Nazi church, known as The Confessing Church, led by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Adams was eventually detained and interrogated by the Gestapo, who suggested he might want to consider returning to the United States . It was a suggestion he followed. He left on a night train with framed portraits of Adolph Hitler placed over the contents inside his suitcase to hide the rolls of home movie film he took of the so-called German Christian Church, which was pro-Nazi, and the few individuals who defied them, including the theologians Karl Barth and Albert Schweitzer. The ruse worked when the border police lifted the top of the suitcases, saw the portraits of the Fuhrer and closed them up again. I watched hours of the grainy black and white films as he narrated in his apartment in Cambridge .

He saw in the Christian Right, long before we did, disturbing similarities with the German Christian Church and the Nazi Party, similarities that he said would, in the event of prolonged social instability or a national crisis, see American fascists, under the guise of religion, rise to dismantle the open society. He despaired of liberals, who he said, as in Nazi Germany, mouthed silly platitudes about dialogue and inclusiveness that made them ineffectual and impotent. Liberals, he said, did not understand the power and allure of evil nor the cold reality of how the world worked. The current hand wringing by Democrats in the wake of the election, with many asking how they can reach out to a movement whose leaders brand them "demonic" and "satanic," would not have surprised Adams . Like Bonhoeffer, he did not believe that those who would fight effectively in coming times of turmoil, a fight that for him was an integral part of the Biblical message, would come from the church or the liberal, secular elite.

His critique of the prominent research universities, along with the media, was no less withering. These institutions, self-absorbed, compromised by their close relationship with government and corporations, given enough of the pie to be complacent, were unwilling to deal with the fundamental moral questions and inequities of the age. They had no stomach for a battle that might cost them their prestige and comfort. He told me that if the Nazis took over America "60 percent of the Harvard faculty would begin their lectures with the Nazi salute." This too was not an abstraction. He had watched academics at the University of Heidelberg , including the philosopher Martin Heidegger, raise their arms stiffly to students before class.

Two decades later, even in the face of the growing reach of the Christian Right, his prediction seems apocalyptic. And yet the powerbrokers in the Christian Right have moved from the fringes of society to the floor of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Christian fundamentalists now hold a majority of seats in 36 percent of all Republican Party state committees, or 18 of 50 states, along with large minorities in 81 percent of the rest of the states. Forty-five Senators and 186 members of the House of Representatives earned between an 80 to100 percent approval ratings from the three most influential Christian Right advocacy groups - The Christian Coalition, Eagle Forum, and Family Resource Council. Tom Coburn, the new senator from Oklahoma , has included in his campaign to end abortion a call to impose the death penalty on doctors that carry out abortions once the ban goes into place. Another new senator, John Thune, believes in Creationism. Jim DeMint, the new senator elected from South Carolina , wants to ban single mothers from teaching in schools. The Election Day exit polls found that 22 percent of voters identified themselves as evangelical Christians and Bush won 77 percent of their vote.


SEPTEMBER 2005. . .


When thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou has shut thy door pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. - J. Christ


TENNESSEAN, WHITE HOUSE, TN - Two aldermen here say league and tournament games should be banned in the municipal park on Sunday mornings for religious reasons. Alderman Darrell Leftwich wants organized games in White House Municipal Park to be restricted to the 1-4:30 p.m. period on Sundays. "I am concerned that we are not sending the right message to the community by having tournaments and league play during worship hours," Leftwich said.

Leftwich said that he drove by the park last Sunday morning on his way to church and saw that it was full of people attending a soccer tournament. He attends services at Temple Baptist Church in White House. . .

"God our Father intended the seventh day to be one of rest and worship," Leftwich said during a recent city board meeting. "At my church, several people brought up the tournament. In their opinion and mine, I feel like we should establish new hours for our parks."

Alderman Farris Bibb Jr. said the city should look into the matter further. "With all due respect to Alderman Leftwich, the seventh day of the week is Saturday," Bibb said. . .

"I understand that people have a freedom of choice as to whether or not they attend church, but I still think that we, as a city, should send the right message to the community and restrict the hours of play," Leftwich said.


RUTH GLEDHILL, TIMES, UK - Religious belief can cause damage to a society, contributing towards high murder rates, abortion, sexual promiscuity and suicide, according to research published today. According to the study, belief in and worship of God are not only unnecessary for a healthy society but may actually contribute to social problems. The study counters the view of believers that religion is necessary to provide the moral and ethical foundations of a healthy society.

It compares the social performance of relatively secular countries, such as Britain, with the US, where the majority believes in a creator rather than the theory of evolution. Many conservative evangelicals in the US consider Darwinism to be a social evil, believing that it inspires atheism and amorality.

Many liberal Christians and believers of other faiths hold that religious belief is socially beneficial, believing that it helps to lower rates of violent crime, murder, suicide, sexual promiscuity and abortion. The benefits of religious belief to a society have been described as its "spiritual capital". But the study claims that the devotion of many in the US may actually contribute to its ills.

The paper, published in the Journal of Religion and Society, a US academic journal, reports: "Many Americans agree that their churchgoing nation is an exceptional, God-blessed, shining city on the hill that stands as an impressive example for an increasingly sceptical world.

"In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion in the prosperous democracies. The United States is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developing democracies, sometimes spectacularly so."

Gregory Paul, the author of the study and a social scientist, used data from the International Social Survey Program, Gallup and other research bodies to reach his conclusions. . .

The study concluded that the US was the world’s only prosperous democracy where murder rates were still high, and that the least devout nations were the least dysfunctional. Mr Paul said that rates of gonorrhea in adolescents in the US were up to 300 times higher than in less devout democratic countries. The US also suffered from " uniquely high" adolescent and adult syphilis infection rates, and adolescent abortion rates, the study suggested. . .

He said that the disparity was even greater when the US was compared with other countries, including France, Japan and the Scandinavian countries. These nations had been the most successful in reducing murder rates, early mortality, sexually transmitted diseases and abortion, he added.


AUGUST 20005. . .


JULY 2005. . .


BBC - Praying for patients undergoing heart operations does not improve their outcomes, a US study suggests. A study found those who were prayed for were as likely to have a setback in hospital, be re-admitted, or die within six months as those not prayed for. The Duke University Medical Center study of 700 patients, in the Lancet, said music, image and touch therapy did appear to reduce patients' distress. . .

Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist prayer groups were assigned to pray for 371 of the patients. The rest had no prayer group. In addition, 374 of the patients were assigned MIT therapy and the rest none. MIT involved teaching the patients relaxed breathing techniques and playing them easy listening, classical, or country music during their procedure.

The researchers found that neither therapy alone, or combined, showed any measurable treatment effect on serious cardiovascular events, hospital readmission or death.

But those given music, imagery and touch therapy had less emotional distress and had a lower death rate after six months, though this was not seen as statistically significant.

JUNE 2005. . .


MICHAEL PAULSON, BOSTON GLOBE - In his 56 years as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Kim B. Clark had met the church's president exactly once, and had never had a real conversation with him. But for Mormons such as Clark, 95-year-old Gordon B. Hinckley is not just the top of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, not just the holder of the keys to all of the ordinances of salvation; he is also a prophet, a seer, and a revelator.

So when Hinckley called Clark on May 25 to ask him to leave his post as dean of Harvard Business School and take a job heading a Mormon college in Idaho, Clark knew the answer before Hinckley posed the question.

The answer was yes.

And now Clark, who at Harvard holds one of the loftiest jobs in academe, is heading off to Rexburg, Idaho, to become president of the newest outpost of Mormon higher education: Brigham Young University-Idaho, a proud name for a campus that until four years ago was a two-year institution known as Ricks College.


LAURIE GOODSTEIN, NY TIMES - An Air Force panel sent to investigate the religious climate at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs found evidence that officers and faculty members periodically used their positions to promote their Christian beliefs and failed to accommodate the religious needs of non-Christian cadets, its leader said Wednesday. But the panel said it had found no "overt religious discrimination" - only "insensitivity" - and praised the academy leadership for working aggressively to confront religious problems in the last two years. . .

Among the incidents highlighted in the report were fliers that advertised a screening of "The Passion of the Christ" at every seat in the dining hall, more than 250 people at the academy signing an annual Christmas message in the base newspaper that said that "Jesus Christ is the only real hope for the world" and an atheist student who was forbidden to organize a club for "Freethinkers."

[The Times story then included this remarkable graf]

The group found that several incidents widely covered by news organizations were overblown. The report said a chaplain who reportedly exhorted cadets in a worship service to tell their classmates to accept Christ or "burn in hell" was merely using language "not uncommon" for his Pentecostal denomination.

[Apparently, it's okay to be an evangelical bigot as long as one uses language "not uncommon" to your denomination]


I am writing you with much concern after I read of your hearing to decide whether the alternative theory of Intelligent Design to be taught along with the theory of Evolution. I think we can all agree that it is important for students to hear multiple viewpoints so they can choose for themselves the theory that makes the most sense to them. I am concerned, however, that students will only hear one theory of Intelligent Design..

Let us remember that there are multiple theories of Intelligent Design. I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. It was He who created all that we see and all that we feel. We feel strongly that the overwhelming scientific evidence pointing towards evolutionary processes is nothing but a coincidence, put in place by Him.

It is for this reason that I'm writing you today, to formally request that this alternative theory be taught in your schools, along with the other two theories. In fact, I will go so far as to say, if you do not agree to do this, we will be forced to proceed with legal action. I'm sure you see where we are coming from. If the Intelligent Design theory is not based on faith, but instead another scientific theory, as is claimed, then you must also allow our theory to be taught, as it is also based on science, not on faith.

Some find that hard to believe, so it may be helpful to tell you a little more about our beliefs. We have evidence that a Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe. None of us, of course, were around to see it, but we have written accounts of it. We have several lengthy volumes explaining all details of His power. Also, you may be surprised to hear that there are over 10 million of us, and growing. We tend to be very secretive, as many people claim our beliefs are not substantiated by observable evidence. What these people don't understand is that He built the world to make us think the earth is older than it really is. For example, a scientist may perform a carbon-dating process on an artifact. He finds that approximately 75% of the Carbon-14 has decayed by electron emission to Nitrogen-14, and infers that this artifact is approximately 10,000 years old, as the half-life of Carbon-14 appears to be 5,730 years. But what our scientist does not realize is that every time he makes a measurement, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is there changing the results with His Noodly Appendage. We have numerous texts that describe in detail how this can be possible and the reasons why He does this. He is of course invisible and can pass through normal matter with ease. . .

We will of course be able to train the teachers in this alternate theory. I am eagerly awaiting your response, and hope dearly that no legal action will need to be taken. I think we can all look forward to the time when these three theories are given equal time in our science classrooms across the country, and eventually the world; One third time for Intelligent Design, one third time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, and one third time for logical conjecture based on overwhelming observable evidence.

Sincerely Yours,

Bobby Henderson, concerned citizen.



WALTER GILBERTI AND JOSEPH KAY, WORLD SOCIALIST - On June 23, the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., is scheduled to show a documentary, "The Privileged Planet," put out by the Discovery Institute. The Seattle-based Discovery Institute is the country's most prominent advocacy group for the "theory" of intelligent design, a quasi-religious teaching that seeks to undermine the science of evolution.

The Smithsonian is a government-funded institution and one of the most prestigious museum systems in the country. Its decision to show the film has the effect of lending the anti-scientific views of the Discovery Institute a legitimacy of which they are completely undeserving. The film's showing is part of an ongoing attack on scientific thought in the United States, an attack that has been spearheaded by Christian fundamentalist groups closely allied with the Bush administration. . .

The National Museum of Natural History is noted for showcasing its substantial collection of fossil organisms, as well as its displays elaborating the workings of the process of Darwinian evolution. But according to Discovery Institute president Bruce Chapman, the Smithsonian is "warming up" to the theory of intelligent design.

After it came under some criticism for deciding to show the film, the Smithsonian eventually gave back the $16,000 fee charged to the Discovery Institute. However, it did not cancel the event, even though the museum's stated policy is to prohibit the showing of any material of a religious or political nature. The Discovery Institute was so delighted by the Smithsonian's sudden and unexpected pliability on this matter that it is claiming that the museum is co-sponsoring the event, something the Smithsonian vigorously denies.


WASHINGTON TIMES - A population and immigration boom has flooded Northern Virginia with residents who are filled with the Holy Spirit, officials with the Catholic Diocese of Arlington said. The diocese -- which encompasses 21 counties and seven cities in Northern Virginia -- has experienced a 42 percent increase in registered Catholics over the past decade. The increase has prompted the creation of a new parish and two new missions. . .

About 400,000 registered Catholics live in the diocese, which officials said is among the top five fastest-growing and the 50th largest in the country. More than 12,000 Catholics join the diocese each year, officials said. The membership growth of the diocese has directly correlated with the population growth in Northern Virginia. Loudoun County, with a population of 229,429 last year, is the fastest-growing county in the nation, census figures show. The population in Prince William has grown by 19.9 percent from 2000 to last year.


USA TODAY - Nearly all U.S. respondents said faith is important to them and only 2% said they do not believe in God. Almost 40% said religious leaders should try to sway policymakers, notably higher than in other countries.. . . In contrast, 85% of French object to clergy activism - the strongest opposition of any nation surveyed. France has strict curbs on public religious expression and, according to the poll, 19% are atheists. South Korea is the only other nation with that high a percentage of nonbelievers.

MAY 2005. . .


[One of the more remarkable clips from network TV]

When the President Talks to God"
When the president talks to God
Are the conversations brief or long?

Does he ask to rape our women's' rights
And send poor farm kids off to die?
Does God suggest an oil hike
When the president talks to God?

When the president talks to God
Are the consonants all hard or soft?
Is he resolute all down the line?
Is every issue black or white?

Does what God say ever change his mind
When the president talks to God?
When the president talks to God
Does he fake that drawl or merely nod?
Agree which convicts should be killed?
Where prisons should be built and filled?
Which voter fraud must be concealed
When the president talks to God?

When the president talks to God
I wonder which one plays the better cop
We should find some jobs. the ghetto's broke
No, they're lazy, George, I say we don't
Just give 'em more liquor stores and dirty coke
That's what God recommends

When the president talks to God
Do they drink near beer and go play golf
While they pick which countries to invade
Which Muslim souls still can be saved?
I guess god just calls a spade a spade

When the president talks to God
When the president talks to God
Does he ever think that maybe he's not?
That that voice is just inside his head
When he kneels next to the presidential bed
Does he ever smell his own bullshit
When the president talks to God?

I doubt it

I doubt it

Lyrics from Alternet

[From a taped telemarketing call from United American Technologies, a "Christian based phone carrier," as reported by the NY Sun]

MR. MIRMAN: MCI has hardcore child pornography?

UNITED AMERICAN TECHNOLOGIES: Yes, they are. They have a pedophile Web site for men who love boys. It's a Montréal based Web site....

MR. MIRMAN: And so MCI basically has a child pornography ring?


MR. MIRMAN: What about the others? What does Verizon do?

UNITED AMERICAN TECHNOLOGIES: Okay. Verizon, what they do is they train their employees to accept the gay and lesbian lifestyle.

[No public link]

GREG BEATO, WONKETTE - With 2000 customers reportedly switching to United American Technologies each month, Christian-based lying and phone homophobia is a lucrative business. But they're not just in it for the money. A cut of the proceeds helps fund conservative political campaigns, via a 527 called "Faith Family and Freedom" created by the Republican floor leader of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.


And you thought the Christian right was full of itself. . .]

AMERICAN JEWISH COMMITTEE - A new analysis of 30 years of research shows that Jews are the most distinctive ethnic and religious group in America, exhibiting strong support for personal choice, liberal ideals and higher education. At the same time, the report reveals that the gap between Jews and other Americans has narrowed over the years, largely because other ethnic and religious groups have moved closer to positions held by Jews.

[The self-congratulatory lead over, the news release then turns to some interesting stuff]

Asked to rank five values for children, 71 percent of Jews said thinking for oneself was the most important value for children compared with 50 percent of non-Jews. Of all ethnic and religious groups, Jews are the most supportive of abortion rights, the issue where Jews and non-Jews disagree the most, the research shows.

On the religious front, Jews are the least likely of any religious group in America to pray on a daily basis, at 26 percent, compared with 56 percent of non-Jews; they are also the least likely to be sure that God exists. Still, the same percentage of Jews and non-Jews say they have a strong religious attachment.

Among other findings, the reports states that: Jews are the most pro-civil liberties of all ethnic groups on most issues; Jews strongly support separation of church and state, and are the group most in favor of the Supreme Court ruling against school prayer; Jews are more supportive of racial equality, integration, and inter-group tolerance than other groups are.