Tag Archives: history

I’ll Never Understand How Some Christians Support Child Abusers

Posted on by

Olympic athlete Aly Raisman may not have predicted being able to face down her abusive team physician and actually winning. Her moving speech, delivered at the trial of former team doctor Larry Nassar, has captured the world’s attention.

But even as Raisman was preparing to compete for gold, the story of another member of Team USA Gymnastics, Rachel Denhollander, was falling on deaf ears. Not in the Indianapolis Star, where Denhollander’s story would eventually be published, but inside the halls of an institution she thought would help her feel safe — her church.
Continue reading

David Barton – most dangerous man in America and for our children

Posted on by

David Barton appeared on “The Daily Show” on May 4th and I sighed. David Barton is a SELF-TAUGHT historian and favorite of the cheap labor religious right conservatives. He has been involved in re-writing history text books in the Texas state school system, and testifying to state legislatures and Congress. Luckily “The Daily Show” had a real scholar on the other night to counter Barton’s false view of history.

The main problem with David Barton is his history seems to stop in 1860. The most ridiculous claim he makes is that the Bill of Rights don’t apply to the states since they didn’t when the Constitution came into force in 1791. He ignores or dismisses the 14th Amendment that explicitly applied the Bill of Rights to the states.

Here is the first segment of Barton’s interview on May 4th

Click here to see Part 2 of the extended unedited Barton interview

Click here to see Part 3 of the extended unedited Barton interview

There are so many falsehoods that Barton communicates in the interview that the People for the American Way has detailed pages specific to the Daily Show interview. For example:

5. The Treaty of Tripoli

In discussing the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli and its clear declaration that “America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,” Barton told Stewart first that the language in the treaty’s Article 11 did not mean what it clearly states, and second that the U.S. State Department says there really is no Article 11 in the Treaty. Here is the full text of Article 11:

“As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen,—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”

Barton argues unconvincingly that the Article was only meant to imply that American Christianity is different than European Christianity. His assertion that Article 11 is not in the treaty is simply wrong; it was unquestionably included in the treaty that was ratified unanimously by the Senate and approved by John Adams.

GOP Leaders’ Favorite ‘Historian’ David Barton on The Daily Show: Dishonest History & Frightening Constitutional Theory

Then on Wednesday May 18th, The Daily Show interviewed University of Pennsylvania historian Richard Beeman. Unlike David Barton, Beeman has a degree in history and works as a historian.

Beeman said on the show:

“The Constitution is federally devoid of any mention of religion except for one provision which says there shall be no test for public office or any position of public trust, so the only mention of religion is keep religion out of our government,” Beeman says, and “the debate in the [constitutional] Convention is virtually devoid” of religious references.

Here is part 1 of Richard Beeman’s extended unedited interview where he takes Barton to task for ignoring the 14th Amendment.

Link to Part 2 of the Beeman extended interview

As the Religious Right Watch wrote:

During part II of the interview with Beeman, Stewart noted that while Barton told him that he was OK with Sharia law in the US, he would likely make the opposite case to his conservative supporters.

In fact, that is exactly what happened, as Barton dedicated an entire radio program to denying what he plainly told Stewart about Sharia.

Such dishonest actions reflect the fact that Barton is a political activist, not a historian — he even was paid by the Republican National Committee to mobilize church groups to support President Bush’s reelection and Republican candidates. As Kyle notes, even his documentary on African American history is brazenly partisan.

Constitutional Historian Rebuts David Barton On The Daily Show

The goal of people like Barton – besides trying to institute Christian Dominionism – is to focus their religious right agenda on the local and state level as way to outflank national policies and laws that protect our religious freedom.

David Barton is a flim-flam man who has no real expertise in history and he should be kept FAR FAR FAR away from our government and our children.

Unbiased “God in America” uses biased scholar

Posted on by

I started watching the PBS mini-series “God in America” tonight and while the program claims to be unbiased one of the people interviewed is an old friend of the late Dr. James Kennedy, who holds a limited view of the separation of church and state.

Daniel Dreisbach is interviewed extensively in the first couple of episodes as they deal with religion in Early America through the writing of the Constitution. This disappointed me.

Dreisbach was a friend of the late evangelical Dr. James Kennedy. I wrote about his appearance in a FOX “news” religion special in 2006. See “Fox News report on “Religion in America” was slanted”. He used the usual religious right claim that the wall of separation of church and state written by Jefferson in his letter to the Danbury Baptist was a one way wall meant to keep only the federal government from establishing a church and didn’t apply to the states.

In a long interview on the “God in America” website Dreisbach continues the sham: (their questions are in bold)

[What was behind the ban on religious tests for office?]

… There is a forgotten religion clause in the unamended Constitution of 1787. And in Article VI, Clause 3, there is a prohibition on religious tests for federal officeholders. This is a rather significant departure from the Old World practices, where oftentimes a public officer was required to take a religious test.

Now, there have been those in our own time who have viewed the religious test ban as the cornerstone of the secular state and in some respects a precursor to the First Amendment, which was not added to the Constitution till 1791.

I see the religious test ban a little bit differently, because I think this also reaffirms this idea of federalism. I would argue that the religious test ban was written into the Constitution not out of a general denunciation of religious tests, but rather it was written into the Constitution to support and defend religious tests, albeit the religious tests that were already in place at the state and local levels. The great fear in 1787 was that this new federal newcomer would sort of come crashing onto the scene and supplant the various policies and practices at the state level. …

“Wall of separation”: Why did Jefferson write that letter to the [Danbury Baptist Association] and explain stuff to them?

[….]

I think that what we read in this “wall of separation” statement is not a broad principle that church and state must always be separate. Rather he’s reaffirming the principle of federalism. He’s explaining why he, as president, cannot issue such proclamations, and yet he, as the governor of Virginia, had issued days for prayer, fasting and thanksgiving.

And again, I would say that this is the lens through which you must look at whatever the Constitution has to say about religion. It is fundamentally about the separation of powers between what the national government can do and what state and local authorities can do. And the wall of separation is really, in my opinion, an affirmation of the principle of federalism.

Now, this is a metaphor that was picked up much later in American history. It was mentioned by the Supreme Court in an 1879 decision, but it’s really not until the mid-20th century, in an important Establishment Clause case in 1947, a case called Everson v. Board of Education, that the Supreme Court picked up Jefferson’s metaphor and virtually elevates it to the status of constitutional law. So today it’s very hard to have a conversation about church and state without invoking this “wall of separation” metaphor. It’s come to define the way in which many Americans, including scholars and jurists, talk about, think about the prudential and constitutional relationship between church and state. …

For white Protestant males, it wasn’t much of a wall, was it? For blacks, Catholics, Mormons, it must have felt much more like a wall.

I certainly think that we have seen a transition in our understanding, interpretation and application of the wall of separation or, more broadly, this idea of separation of church and state. It certainly means something very different if you live in a culture, in a society that presumes a Protestant cultural hegemony, and you move into the future, as we have done, to a society that is much less Protestant and is much more secular in nature.

We have a kind of religious diversity unimagined by the Founders. … So there has emerged a kind of a secular construction, a secular interpretation of separation of church and state, which is significantly different than a strictly Protestant conception of what separation of church and state means.

I think this is why so many very pious Protestant Christians today denounce the wall of separation, because they see it not as something that protects the exercise of one’s religious expression, but something that is used to exclude them from public life. It’s an instrument used to deny them the ability to contribute as citizens to public debates if their debates are informed by religious ideals.

Do you think they’re right to feel that?

There are certainly examples in our society today where this wall of separation has been used — and, I think one could argue, misused — to exclude faith-based ideas and faith-based arguments in the broader secular culture. …

Isn’t that the problem? The moment it becomes a faith-based idea, secularists and people who don’t believe the same thing feel that God or religion has skipped over that wall.

I don’t think that there’s any objection to allowing the faith-based ideas or arguments to be expressed. I think that the state cannot adopt policies that are not defensible on legitimate secular grounds. So there’s two parts to this. I think all arguments should be open in that marketplace, but the state is limited in the kinds of policies that it can adopt. …

Interview: Daniel Dreisbach

It seems that even after four years, Dreisbach is still wrong about church and state.

I am also concerned that the other people set to be interviewed during the rest of the series don’t seem to have any atheist or freethought cred – I didn’t know any of them.

Pope knows Nazis but doesn’t know what atheism is

Posted on by

Pope Benedict XVI is visiting the United Kingdom this week. It is the first state visit of a Pope to the UK since 1982. Not only is there the issue of clerical child abuse to deal with but Benedict stepped in the crap by suggesting that the Nazis and Hitler were atheists. Obviously he knows about Nazis having been in the Hitler Youth but he doesn’t know his history very well.

The Pope said on 9/16 in front of Queen Elizabeth II:

Even in our own lifetime, we can recall how Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live. I also recall the regime’s attitude to Christian pastors and religious who spoke the truth in love, opposed the Nazis and paid for that opposition with their lives. As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the twentieth century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus to a “reductive vision of the person and his destiny”

Today, the United Kingdom strives to be a modern and multicultural society. In this challenging enterprise, may it always maintain its respect for those traditional values and cultural expressions that more aggressive forms of secularism no longer value or even tolerate.

ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI Palace of Holyroodhouse – Edinburgh Thursday, 16 September 2010

Jaw drops on floor….

Even a middle school student of history KNOWS that Hitler and the Nazis were NEVER atheist or anti-theist. NEVER were.

Religious conservatives like Pope Benedict like to rewrite history and attempt to associate Hitler with atheism since it fits their narrative. In fact Hitler was another in a long line of Catholic fascists in history – the same religion that gave us the Spanish Inquisition.

All one has to do is read what Hitler wrote and said during his time:

“I believe today that I am acting in the sense of the Almighty Creator. By warding off the Jews I am fighting for the Lord’s work.”

Adolf Hitler, Speech, Reichstag, 1936

And that is just one of many quotes proving the Pope’s comments were ignorant.

Evan Harris in The Guardian wrote:

Secularism is unfairly characterised and attacked by religious leaders as a way of seeking to protect their privileges.

Secularism is not atheism (lack of belief in God) and nor is it humanism (a nonreligious belief system). It is a political movement seeking specific policy end-points. Many secularists are religious and many religious people – recognising the value of keeping government and religion separate – are secular.

A secularist manifesto

The Catholic Church has been good at collaborating in order to preserve their power and privilege. The Church did that with the Nazis when they signed The Reichskonkordat

This agreement did some of the following:

* Unhindered correspondence between the Holy See and German Catholics. (Article 4)
* The right of the church to collect church taxes. (Article 13)
* The oath of allegiance of the bishops: “Ich schwöre und verspreche, die verfassungsmässig gebildete Regierung zu achten und von meinem Klerus achten zu lassen” (English: I swear and vow to honor the constitutional government and to make my clergy honor it; Article 16)
* State services to the church can be abolished only in mutual agreement. (Article 18)
* Catholic religion is taught in school (article 21) and teachers for Catholic religion can be employed only with the approval of the bishop (article 22).
* Protection of Catholic organizations and freedom of religious practice. (Article 31)
* Clerics may not be members of or be active for political parties. (Article 32)

A secret annex relieved clerics from military duty in the case that mandatory military service should be reinstated.

There is some feeling that the Pope slandered secularism and atheism to distract from the clerical child abuse issue in the media. That could be a reason he made such a stupid statement about Nazi history.

The distorted history of Steve Kellmeyer

Posted on by

I have written about Steve Kellmeyer, who posts on the Renew America website, before. A previous post took him to task for claiming that secular humanism abuses women.

In his recent article CNN: God’s gift to religion Kellmeyer tries once again to slander secular humanism.

The thrust of the article critiques a special on CNN called “CNN Presents: God’s Warriors” that starts on Tuesday August 21st and hosted by Christiane Amanpour. According to the website, the program “examines the intersection between religion and politics and the effects of Christianity, Islam and Judaism on politics, culture and public life.”

Kellmeyer doesn’t like the program – which hasn’t aired yet – because he feels it left out a group:

You see? It isn’t secular humanism that causes problems. How could it be? Secular humanism has only been around since the Enlightenment, has only really gained traction in public culture with the growth of industrialization in the late 1800’s, and only had public advocates in the American political sphere in the latter half of the 20th century, that is, within the last thirty to fifty years.

No, the problem isn’t secular humanism, rather, it’s the explosion of faith into a powerful political force in the last 30 years that causes “anger, division and fear.” As every CNN viewer knows, faith in politics was never a powerful political force prior to 1970.

Then he says:

Every European and trans-Atlantic war since (and including) the French Revolution has been based in secular humanist principles. Together, they have generated more famine, rapine, torture and slaughter than the rest of human history combined. What could possibly be the problem?

CNN: God’s gift to religion

Really?

Once again Kellmeyer offers no evidence for his bold claim of his distorted history.

I don’t know of any secular humanist suicide bombers or terrorists. I also don’t know of any secular humanists who attack clergy or burn their churches. It wasn’t secular humanists who got a majority of people in 11 states to take away rights from gays in 2004 when laws outlawing same-sex marriage were passed.

As for secular humanists being responsible for every war since the French Revolution, I had no idea that President Bush was a secular humanist when he invaded Iraq in 2003.

One of these days Kellmeyer might actually get his history right and not have to resort to cheap shots at secular humanists.

Inherit the Wind still relevant

Posted on by

I caught the 1960 version of “Inherit the Wind” which starred Fredric March and Spencer Tracy on TCM this weekend.

I always liked the film because it was based on the 1925 “Scopes Monkey Trial” where a school teacher was put on trial for teaching Evolution. At the time state law forbade the teaching of anything that was against the Bible story of creation.

Although the film uses the Monkey trial as the starting point it was never meant to be a documentary of that trial. The film was based on the stage play by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee as a statement against McCarthyism – not religion vs. science. However it offers a good look at the still constant struggle of science against religious fundamentalism.

Basically the real trial ended in the conviction of Scopes and a $100 fine. It wasn’t until 1968, in the case Epperson v. Arkansas, that laws requiring creationism to be taught in the public schools were unconstitutional. However, the law John Scopes was convicted under only prohibited the teaching of evolution. It didn’t require creationism in its place.

One view of the trial, even around the freethought community, is that the trial and its publicity actually caused the religious fundamentalists to fight back against the teaching of evolution. It is said that because Clarence Darrow made William Jennings Bryan look like a fool, it ticked off the fundamentalists causing many of the issues we see today between science and religion. Some believe that because of that, we freethinkers prolong the battle.

Even that really isn’t true.

Gregg Easterbrook writes on Beliefnet.com:

When “The Fundamentals,” a popular series of tracts that sparked the modern American fundamentalist movement, began publication in 1909, most of these works spoke kindly of Darwin, suggesting that evolution helped people understand God’s process of creation.

Only in the 1920s did Darwin and religion come into regular conflict in the United States. There were several reasons. One was that paleontologists were beginning to accumulate evidence that human beings descended from earlier primates… While many churchgoers might have been content to believe that the horse evolved from the ancient proto-equus called eohippus, they were less than enthusiastic about evidence that Homo sapiens did not come about in a single divine act of creation. This put opposition to selection theory into play as an American public issue.

The Scopes Monkey Trial

Easterbrook also mentioned that other causes of the conflict included the arrival of universal publicly funded high-school education and the then fashionable idea of “Social Darwinism” also known as Eugenics. Some people were afraid of the implications of Eugenics – the poor, the disabled, and the troubled should be removed for genetic reasons.

While the play and film made fundamentalists look like buffoons, viewing the film again made me realize that life has come to imitate art. While the scenes of the mob and jeers didn’t happen in the real trial, it seems that the anger and divisiveness of the religion vs science battle has become more heated.

I think the main reason is because some believers can’t accept that humans aren’t special. Like Easterbrook, I think that people can accept that other animals evolved but can’t stand the thought that humans are just another animal and there is no special purpose for us. To accept it would call into question their entire belief system – even though it doesn’t have to.

The trial didn’t win the battle for evolution. Andrew Bradbury writes on his site The Scopes “Monkey” Trial that it wasn’t until the 1960’s that evolution began to take on a larger role in the teaching of biology.

By 1930, according to one pro-evolution commentator, Maynard Shipley, an estimated 70% of all public high schools omitted all reference to the theory of evolution in their science classes. This situation prevailed for over three decades after the Scopes Trial, so that as late as 1959 Harvard Professor of palaeontology George G. Simpson, in a lecture entitled “One Hundred Years Without Darwin are Enough”, observed that “Most [US high school science textbooks] relegate evolution to a single section, preferably in the back of the book, which need not be assigned.” According to researchers Judith Grabiner and Peter Miller, “Not until 1960 was the treatment of evolution in the most widely used high school texts substantially improved over that found before the Scopes trial”.

Education After the Scopes Trial

I should note that during the 1960’s there was a greater emphasis on science for national policy reasons as we battled the USSR in the Cold War.

Public opinions on evolution haven’t changed much since 1925. A majority still believe that the Bible story of creation is just as valid as the science of evolution and should both be taught in the schools.

I think that is why the film “Inherit the Wind” is just as relevant today as it was in 1960, even if for different reasons.