Category Archives: Definitions

An Example Of Christian Privilege And Persecution Complex

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screencap from a newsreportI was doing some “spring” cleaning by finally digitizing some old VHS tapes I had. These contained TV show clips and news stories I saved over the years. One of the news stories was about a controversy over a Nativity scene in Lancaster Ohio back in 1999. I wrote about it for my website back then but had no way of embedding a video clip. I watched it again and found a perfect example of Christian privilege and persecution complex in the space of a short 15 second comment from someone interviewed by the reporter. I now have a short clip I can show people who don’t know what Christian privilege is or don’t understand their expressed irrational persecution complex.
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What Does Religious Freedom Day Really Mean?

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image of the logo for Religious Freedom DayJanuary 16th is National Religious Freedom Day. The day commemorates the Virginia General Assembly’s adoption of Thomas Jefferson’s landmark Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom on January 16, 1786. The Virginia Statute was the basis of the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution and also can be used to support Jefferson’s idea of the separation of church and state. The Religious Right have of course co-opted the day by mass marketing misleading information about what real religious freedom means in this country. Luckily, Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) has some help available to tell the truth.
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A new survey says 21% of atheists believe in God?

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While reading the Washington Post online last night I came across this little headline:

Atheists Who Pray?
On Faith Panel | New Pew survey says 21% of atheists believe in God, 10% pray. What gives?

Indeed – what gives?

It seems that according to a new Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life survey, 21% of American atheists believe in God or a universal spirit, 12% believe in heaven and 10% pray at least once a week. I followed the link to the report and sure enough that is what their survey says. Being that atheists make up approximately 10% of the population – the survey results are pretty troublesome.

The Post posed the question to their “On Faith” panel for an explanation.

While most of the panel reveled in the contradiction of the results, with most saying basically “we told you so”, Susan Jacoby had the best response:

That one out of five Americans who identify themselves as atheists also say that they believe in God or a “universal spirit” and that one out of ten pray at least once a week can lead to only one conclusion. These people don’t know that an atheist is, by definition, someone who does not believe in God or in the supernatural. To say that you’re an atheist who believes in God and prays is the equivalent of saying that you’re a vegetarian who loves to scarf down barbecued ribs and T-bone steak. Or a Christian who rejects the teachings of the New Testament. Or a religiously observant Jew who also believes that Jesus was the Messiah. Or a Muslim who believes that Jesus was God.

I think that the explanation for these seemingly contradictory findings lies in a phenomenon I discuss at length in my recent book, The Age of American Unreason . Americans as a people have become supremely ignorant about and indifferent to the specific meanings of words, and they are equally confused about important historical distinctions.This is a serious cultural disease throughout our nation. A majority of Americans, in what is supposedly the most religious nation in the developed world, cannot name the four Gospels or identify Genesis as the first book of the Bible. Why shouldn’t some American atheists be as ignorant about the meaning of atheism as many religious Americans are about religion?

Don’t Know Much About Theology, Don’t Know Much Philosophy…

I agree.

Not Just About The Words

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In the past week, Michael Newdow, the man who lost his lawsuit against “under God” in the pledge of allegiance on a technicality, lost his lawsuit concerning the use of the words “In God We Trust” on US currency. The federal judge based his decision on a previous case from the early 1970′s that upheld the words on the currency. Using Aronow v. United States, the court ruled that the motto is a “secular motto” having only a spiritual, psychological and inspirational value.

The topic came up with some co-workers who were upset that Newdow was making a big deal out of some words. What is more disturbing is that even some of my atheist friends make the same complaint. They tell me that Newdow’s efforts make believers hate us more and it is a waste of time to raise these complaints.

It all reminds me of the time I had to explain, to another friend, why such words about God go against all that this country is suppose to stand for and why it is harmful. I used a sports analogy. This one may not make sense to people outside of Ohio.

Imagine you live in a small town in Ohio and are a huge fan of the Ohio State Buckeyes. The majority of the town as well as the elected officials are bigger fans of the University of Michigan. Every football season the town council issues a resolution in support of U of M in their annual battle with Ohio State. Before council meetings the members lead those at the meeting in singing of the Michigan fight song. You find out that the council and the majority of the town either were born in Michigan or went to the University.

You complain that they are showing unfairness to non-michiganders. The council says they are only celebrating their U of M heritage.

While it is true, in this case, that such actions to confer special status for a group of people doesn’t “harm” people left out it does institutionalize separate classes of people. The “state” uses its time and tax payer dollars to give special attention to a particular group of people who happen to have something in common. Such actions ignore the plurality that is inherent in our democracy and that plurality makes those actions suspect.

Newdow explained the difference in a television interview when he compared the words “under God” in the pledge to the past practice of having separate water fountains for whites and blacks in the South. He noted that blacks still had water and the water was the same as what the whites drank but the practice was ended because it treated a group of people unfairly.

Or how about the debate in some southern states concerning the display of the Confederate flag on state property. It is claimed that it is just flag celebrating history but to others it symbolizes the entire era of slavery and the Jim Crow laws that followed the Confederate loss in 1864.

This isn’t about removing “God” from the public square – never has been. It is about holding our elected officials to the spirit of what it means to be neutral in a religious context. Singling out a specific sect for special treatment and recognition laughs at our democracy and makes a farce out of claims to be “only celebrating our heritage”. You never see a government (local, state, of federal) trying to single out any other sect but Christianity for special treatment.

Newdow’s fight against “some words” has some big implications and is neither trivial nor waste of time.

Restore our Pledge of Allegiance

Restore the Pledge.org

Pledge Project

Newdow Loses “In God We Trust” Challenge; Pledge Case Still Pending

A basic definition of “Secular Left” in context

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In a previous post someone commented that secular left people were not centrists as they would be in Europe. Basically I want to post here what is meant by “secular left”.

First off it is not a political party. The word “secular left”, as used in the context of this blog, is from the pejorative used by extreme political conservatives to pander to their extreme religious conservative base. The label includes anyone and any group who dissents against the extreme political conservative agenda in regards to social and culture issues.

People covered by the label seem to include the entire Democratic party, those who support separation of church and state, those who support real religious liberty, those who support reproductive choice, those who work to lessen poverty, those who work for better world understanding, those who support sane environmental protections, and those who trust science as a tool for solving problems or answering questions.

Since the label is political it can include believers, atheists, agnostics, Freethinkers, liberals, and progressives.

“I think that was an injudicious thing to say, but that the secular left has behaved imperialistically–there’s no other word for it. They have subverted the democratic process by taking their issues to the judiciary. What the so-called religious right has done has taken their petition and their concerns into the democratic process, into the public square. They organize and they try to affect legislation, as opposed to being the subverted process of democracy which is what the secular left does.” — Mary Matalin, conservative commentator, on May 8th 2005 “Meet the Press”.

This weblog exists to take back the word from the conservatives and to express what is being demonized by people like Mary Matalin and to expose their lies and myths. I would not call myself a “secular leftist” but the topics and issues printed here are what I agree with and many included under their label would agree with as well.

Post #1: Purpose of this blog

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In short, the purpose of this site is to point out and tear apart the myths and lies expressed by the religious right and other conservatives against those of us who are either non-believers, agnostic, liberals, or progressive.

What is the Secular Left?

Last week, author David Benjamin wrote a piece that appeared on the Common Dreams website about hearing the term “Secular Left” for the first time during a Sunday morning political talk show.

On the show “Meet the Press” on May 8th, conservative talking head Mary Matlin said about the attack on the judiciary from the right:

MS. MATALIN: I think that was an injudicious thing to say, but that the secular left has behaved imperialistically–there’s no other word for it. They have subverted the democratic process by taking their issues to the judiciary. What the so-called religious right has done has taken their petition and their concerns into the democratic process, into the public square. They organize and they try to affect legislation, as opposed to being the subverted process of democracy which is what the secular left does.

This is all demagoguery. There is a secular left. There is a religious right. It is the way in which the secular left overestimates its uniformity is funny. They’re not–there’s not just Christian conservatives. There is a lot of the people who are concerned about traditional values and in politics and in the public square. There are lots of Jews, there are a lot of conservative Muslims. There are–it’s ecumenical. There’s Catholics. It’s across the board. There is not a uniformity. There’s lots of pluralism and they’re part of the democratic process. And this is just demagoguery on the parts of these left-wing extremists.

Transcript May 8th Meet the Press

Benjamin wrote:

A bigger problem is that conservatives — er, the religious Right — are the undisputed arbiters of political language. Consider, for instance, the right-wing campaign to discredit the word “liberal.” The. U.S. was founded as a liberal republic, but nowadays, a “liberal” risks being stoned to death in the public square by admitting to “liberalism.” “Liberal” has become “the L-word,” like some four-letter vulgarity unutterable in front of the children.

Likewise, the great right-wing machine of semantic revision — with often unwitting and uncritical assistance from TV news — has turned a progressive tax on extreme inherited wealth into a “death tax” that — mythically — robs middle-class Americans of their mom-and-pop candy stores and family farms. Among other pejoratives and euphemisms of the American vernacular generated by G.O.P. semanticists, each as misleading as it is universal, are these: “Axis of Evil,” “Evil Empire,” “evildoers,” “clear skies,” “compassionate conservatism,” “culture of life,” “faith-based,” “flip-flopper,” “free speech zone,” “homosexual agenda,” “judicial activist,” “liberal bias,” “liberal media,” “ownership society,” “partial-birth abortion,” “pro-life,” “racial quotas,” “regime change,” “shock and awe,” “Social Security crisis,” “tort reform,” “war of choice,” “welfare queen,” and, of course, Swift Boat Veterans for “Truth.”

“Civil liberties,” a term that embraces such basic American prerogatives as privacy, consumer rights, freedom of speech, freedom of the press and, yes, freedom of religion, are seen today as the purchased privileges of a “liberal elite.” This distortion is the linguistic legacy of the same American right wing that now cubbyholes its foes as the “secular Left,” and seems happy to gather at the river under the big (revival) tent of the religious Right.

Sticks and Stones and the “Secular Left”

I use the Google News alert tool where it will send you links to news stories containing keywords of your choice. I have several with keywords like “secular humanism”, “atheism”, and “godless”, and most of these alerts are to negative stories and blogs.

I just get tired of people with half a brain writing on issues they have little to no clue about. I hate the myths and lies they express about secular people and how they try, like Matalin, to paint everyone west of their view point with such a broad brush that it sounds ridiculous to those within those groups.

I have decided to do something about it.

In this blog and related material, I will take the time refute articles I find floating around that are simply wrong or at worst a lie from the conservative or religious right side.

I look forward to any comments you may have about any postings here or if you an article that drives you nuts – let me know.

Contact Doug.