Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Check Out Our New Church & State FAQ

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Book cover showing words Church and State FAQI made some updates to Secular Left that you might be interested in. A big change is moving the blogroll links previously seen on every page, to a new “Church & State FAQ” page. Also on the page is some basic information about the separation of church and state with links to websites and groups that support the issue for more information. After that information are the blogroll links – blogs and other websites that may or may not deal specifically with church state issues but may be of interest to the reader.
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A Review of a Review

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I received an e-mail from Robert Meyer, who writes editorials on the RenewAmerica website. I have responded to a couple of his previous articles. One was concerning elected officials praying for the victims of Hurricane Katrina (see: Why should we care if the President asks everyone to pray?) and the other was his article about the “war on Christmas” (see: More on “war” on Christmas: writer wants special treatment for Christians). Earlier on Monday, I got a Google alert on “secular left” and found an article by Meyer, offering his views on this blog and my POV.

I think it is appropriate to give a review on his review:

He begins with this:

I would be the first to admit there are misrepresentations, name calling and incorrect assertions propagated by the right-wing at times. However, when Berger says that there are lies being told, he moves into an accusatory position that will cause me to demand a higher standard from his claims also. To call someone a liar, you must know something about the thoughts and intentions of the individual making the claim. In this era of reckless character assassinations, we have become impervious to the principle that if lying is despicable, then calling someone a liar gratuitously is proportionally as repugnant.

Misrepresentations by the “secular left”

Actually I don’t think I have ever called someone a liar unless there was evidence that showed a purposeful misstatement of the facts. One example was the article I wrote about Coach Dave Daubenmire, who basically posted a false bio on his website where it talked about the court case he lost (see: Coach Dave Daubenmire attempts to rewrite history again ) and the spin put out by the Mayor of San Diego and his religious right allies concerning the Mt. Soledad Cross, where they flat out lied about place the cross plays in the public park. (see: Religious Right lies about Mt. Soledad Cross)

If the facts of an issue are known and a person and group “spin” it the other way then they have lied. Their intention is clear.

Most of the time I do give people the benefit of the doubt and classify their misstatements as “myths”.

Next Meyer writes:

Berger goes on to identify his target audience.

“People covered by the label ‘secular left’ 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 protection, and those who trust science as a tool for solving problems or answering questions in our world.”

And here is where our analysis will begin.

First off, I don’t consider the secular left to be the whole Democratic Party. The problem is the national democratic platform…

Meyer is slightly off his analysis. If one looks at the quote he uses from my About page in context you can see that I am not identifying my audience with those words. I am pointing out the label “secular left” as used by the political and religious conservatives:

The term “secular left” began to appear in 2005 when religious and political conservatives started using the term as a pejorative to pander to their extreme religious conservative base. The label includes anyone and any group who dissents against their extreme political conservative agenda, especially in regards to social and culture issues.

People covered by the label “secular left” 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 protection, and those who trust science as a tool for solving problems or answering questions in our world.

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

About Secular Left

I will give Meyer a thumbs up for pointing out that not all religious and political conservatives are outside the points of view mentioned in the quote he used. I do try to avoid painting with a broad brush and I try to only point out specific ideas, views, or writings that are opposed to the issues I post about. My concern is the few if any voices being heard outside the shrill intractable extreme right on many of the issues.

Those views do cloud Meyer’s points. For example he writes:

I have always believed in ecology and sensible conservation. I demonstrate that in the automobile I choose to drive (should choice be applicable here?), the temperature setting of my house thermostat, and my affinity with nature. On the other hand, the belief that man is causing global warming seems to be a declaration of faith more than fact. The earth has warmed before without any combustion engines or factory smoke to help it along. This issue seems the equivalent of the “left’s” Armageddon.

Global warming isn’t based on “faith”. There is quite a bit of science out there and they pretty much say that the rate of warming is faster since humans reached the industrial age and has been even faster in the past 50 years of heavy world industry and clearing of rain forests. (see: Global Warming for a start)

Now it could turn out that Meyer is right – science is always tentative and changes as more or better information is found – and the warming is just a blip? No harm no foul I guess, however views like Meyer’s is always founded in other issues besides the science.

It seems more a result of short term economic and political policy. Basically conservatives don’t want to pay for it now but would rather pay for it later if needed. Kind of like Congress not wanting to pay for better security at airports until after 9/11 forced them to do it. Or the $27 million asked for the levee program in SE Louisiana before Katrina compared to the $9 billion needed to fix the system to get them to insurance certification after Katrina. (see: Levee Repair Costs Triple )

I much prefer prevention. Prevention always tends to be cheaper in the long run than paying a penalty later after the damage is done.

Atheist Activist Newdow and Humorist Sweeney Join Secular Lobby

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For your information, from my inbox to yours:

For Immediate Release

April 26, 2006

Atheist Activist Newdow and Humorist Sweeney Join Secular Lobby

Washington, DC – The Secular Coalition for America is pleased to announce the addition of Michael Newdow and Julia Sweeney to its advisory board. The Secular Coalition for America is a lobbying organization representing the interests of atheists, humanists, freethinkers, and other nontheists in the nation’s capitol. The Secular Coalition made headlines last September when it hired Lori Lipman Brown, a former Nevada State Senator, as the first full-time lobbyist for atheists at the federal level.

Michael Newdow, a medical doctor and lawyer, is best-known for his Pledge of Allegiance case, Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow (2004). The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the phrase “under God” in the pledge constituted an endorsement of religion, and therefore violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider the case based on its merits and overruled this decision based on procedural grounds. Newdow has since filed a similar suit on behalf of three unnamed parents and their children. On September 14, 2005, U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton, citing the precedent set by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Newdow’s previous suit, ruled that the pledge was unconstitutional. In November 2005, Newdow filed a lawsuit to have “In God We Trust” removed from U.S. coins and currency. Information on the progress of his lawsuits can be found at www.restorethepledge.com.

The actor and comedian, Julia Sweeney is most well-known for her roles on Saturday Night Live, particularly her androgynous character Pat. She was also won critical acclaim for her one-woman shows God Said, Ha! and Letting Go of God. In the latter play, Sweeney discusses her Irish Catholic upbringing, early religious beliefs, and the life events and internal search that led her to the realization that the universe works fine without a God in charge of it. She is currently writing a book “My Beautiful Loss of Faith Story” for Henry Holt & Co. This book further explores her journey from religious faith to philosophical naturalism. You can find more information on Julia Sweeney at her official website www.juliasweeney.com.

Lori Lipman Brown, the Director of the Secular Coalition for America, stated “I have long admired Dr. Newdow’s courage, integrity, and intellect and Ms. Sweeney’s bravery, humor, and artistry. They have both publicly presented themselves as atheists at a time when the religious right has left many fearful to speak up. I am especially proud that Michael Newdow and Julia Sweeney have agreed to join the advisory board of the Secular Coalition for America to further our mission of increasing the visibility and respectability of nontheistic viewpoints in the United States and in protecting and strengthening the secular character of our government as the best guarantee of freedom for all.”

For more information contact Lori Lipman Brown, Director, Secular Coalition for America at 202-299-1091 or Lori@secular.org.

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Intelligent Design moves north to Canada

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In a stunning decision, the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, which funds social science research in Canada, turned down a grant request from Professor Brian Alters on the grounds that he’d failed to provide the panel with ample evidence that Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution is correct.

Alters requested Can$40,000 to fund his project titled, “Detrimental effects of popularizing anti-evolution’s intelligent design theory on Canadian students, teachers, parents, administrators and policymakers”. Alters is director of McGill University’s Evolution Education Research Center, in Montreal.

In its decision to deny the grant, the SSHRC panel said Alters had not supplied “adequate justification for the assumption in the proposal that the theory of evolution, and not intelligent design theory, was correct.”

Alters said he read the letter at a public lecture last week in Montreal and there were “audible gasps” from the large audience.

“Evolution is not an assumption and intelligent design is pseudo-science,” Alters said.

Janet Halliwell, the SSHRC’s executive vice-president and a chemist by training, acknowledged that the “framing” of the committee’s comments to Alters left the letter “open to misinterpretation.”

Halliwell said confidentiality obligations made it difficult for her to discuss Alters’s case in detail, but she argued that the professor had taken one line in the letter “out of context” and the rejection of his application should not indicate that SSHRC was expressing “doubts about the theory of evolution.”

However, Halliwell added there are phenomena that “may not be easily explained by current theories of evolution” and that the scientific world’s understanding of life “is not static. There’s an evolution in the theory of evolution.”

Prof denied grant over evolution

And in a strange twist, Professor Brian Alters holds teaching positions at McGill and Harvard University, wrote Defending Evolution, AND was a key witness defending Evolution in the Dover, PA trial last year.

*Side Note*

When I visited the article on the Montreal Gazette site to get the quotes used in the post, I found the following block of ads below the article:

How ironic that the ads presented are ones against Evolution – the topic of the article. BTW, I blacked out the addresses because I refuse to give them free business. If you want the links in the ads then go to the article webspage.

Now there is data showing most people hate Atheists

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American Atheists, in an article posted on their site on Saturday March 25th, discussed a report that will be published in American Sociological Review, by researchers at the University of Minnesota.

The research is part of the American Mosaic Project which monitors attitudes of the population in respect to minority groups.

Researchers concluded: “Americans rate atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants, gays and lesbians and other minority groups in ‘sharing their vision of American society.’ Atheists are also the minority group most Americans are least willing to allow their children to marry.”

Disturbingly, Atheists are “seen as a threat to the American way of life by a large portion of the American public,” despite being only 3% of the U.S. population according to Dr. Edgell, associate sociology professor and the lead researcher in the project.

A significant finding of the new study is that despite growing acceptance and tolerance of different groups within the religious community, Atheists are viewed as outsiders, “others,” who do not share a common community vision. “What matters for public acceptance of atheists — and figures strongly into private acceptance as well — are beliefs about the appropriate relationship between church and state and about religion’s role in underpinning society’s moral order, as measured by our item on whether society’s standards of right and wrong should be based on God’s laws.” The study found that conservative Protestants especially rejected the “possibility of a secular basis for a good society.” This, more than anything else, may be the driving factor placing Atheists outside the cultural mainstream in the minds of nearly a majority of Americans.

The Ultimate Outsiders? New Report Casts Atheists As “Others” Beyond Morality And Community In America

The report also talked about the relationship between Atheists and people’s perception of Atheism:

“Some people view atheists as problematic because they associate them with illegality, such as drug use and prostitution — that is, with immoral people who threaten respectable community from the lower end of the social hierarchy.” Presumably, this might be rooted in the claim that only religion can provide an authentic moral compass, and that without a deity (and the presumed punishment in an afterlife), people have little to lose by engaging in certain immoral, sinful behaviors.

“Others saw atheists as rampant materialists and cultural elitists that threaten common values from above — the ostentatiously wealthy who make a lifestyle out of consumption or the cultural elites who think they know better than everyone else.” In both cases, atheists are perceived as “self interested individuals who are not concerned with a common good.”

The debate over Atheists, Atheists and the issue of religion in civil society has been fueled by the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The Minnesota team devoted a section of their report to quotes from leading officials such as former Attorney General John Ashcroft, who in public statements invoked religion as a guarantor of freedom and human dignity. The 2004 presidential campaign witnessed similar rhetoric.

The study underscored the role of Atheists as “symbolic” of angst permeating American culture. “Negative views about atheists are strong,” noted the researchers, although “survey respondents were not, on the whole, referring to actual atheists they had encountered.” Instead, the Atheist is a sort of boundary marker distinguishing members of a wider policy from “others,” outsiders, those not sharing assumptions about morality and the role of religion. Religion is widely perceived as providing “habits of the heart,” and a disposition which includes one in membership within a larger community. Americans “construct the atheist as the symbolic representation of one who rejects the basis for moral solidarity and cultural membership in American society altogether.”

Very interesting reading and seems to prove some of the points I made in my last post about the myth of Christian persecution in the US.

For further reading:

What I’ve been saying all along…

Ohio and other states move to stop wacko religious conservative protests at soldier funerals

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Several states are working on laws to limit protestors at soldier funerals. The protestors aren’t ultra liberals mad at President Bush for leading us to war in Iraq. The protestors the law is directed at are religious conservatives led by crazy Rev. Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan.

Phelps group shows up at funerals of soldiers who have died in Iraq or Afghanistan and protest that the troops have died as punishment from God aimed at the US which harbors homosexuals.

Starting 10 years ago Phelps and his nut brigade picketed funerals of people who died from AIDS.

Naturally, grieving families don’t care for the pickets.

Shirley Phelps-Roper, Phelps’s daughter and a lawyer for the church, said states cannot interfere with their message that the soldiers had been struck down by God because they were fighting for a country that harbors homosexuals and adulterers.

Lawmakers are ”trying to introduce something that will make them feel better about the holes we’re punching in the facade they live under,” Phelps-Roper said. ”If they pass a law that gets in our way, they will be violating the Constitution, and we will sue them.”

Among the states considering such measures: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Some of the bills specify noisy, disruptive behavior, or signs with ”fighting words,” as in Wisconsin. Some bar protests within one or two hours before or after a funeral starts; others specify distances ranging from 10 car lengths to five blocks away; some include both.

States try to block protests at troops’ rites

You know you’ve gone off the deep end when even regular people try to outlaw you.