Tag Archives: debate

Biden And Ryan Debate Offers Snapshot On Church And State

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image of VP Joe Biden & Rep. Paul Ryan
VP Joe Biden & Rep. Paul Ryan

Thursday nights Vice Presidential debate between current VP Joe Biden and GOP nominee Rep. Paul Ryan contained topics from domestic issues and foreign affairs. Toward the end of the night debate moderator Martha Raddatz asked, since both men are of the Catholic faith, about abortion. Each man’s answer drew a sharp contrast on the relationship between faith and public policy. I thought Vice President Biden had the correct view.
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Skye Jethani teaches us how to marginalize minorities

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Skye Jethani is an ordained pastor and author who wrote a recent article on Huffington Post titled “What Evangelicals and Atheists Have in Common” that shows us how a Christian apologist can marginalize atheists or other religious minorities and frame a “concern” into a positive spin about one’s own religion.

Jethani gets right to the point:

For example, some within New Atheism are proselytizing their beliefs with the fervor, and in come cases anger, more often associated with evangelicals. From an international ad campaign on buses dismissing belief in God, to rallies at universities inviting students to exchange their Bibles for pornography, atheists are no longer content with a live-and-let-live approach to those adhering to religion. Instead, they are actively trying to convert (or is the word un-convert?) the masses.

What Evangelicals and Atheists Have in Common

He forwards a false notion that atheists not remaining the submissive quiet doormats he is use to is some how “new”. He also believes that atheists speaking out and using some of the same techniques that Christian believers use to advance their religion is some how against our atheist beliefs.

Christians like Skye Jethani typically miss the forest for the trees and that is understandable when one is in the dominate religion in the country. It is much like how many white men never seem to understand how their male privilege hurts women and other minorities in society. When one is on “top” it is hard to see or understand those under you.

To me Jethani’s remarks are just like if he had said “look at those black people using advertising and publicity stunts to get noticed. Who do they think they are?”

In another part of his essay he complains about Christopher Hitchens’ fiery comments about religion – which again isn’t new. Jethani tries again to draw a false parallel with loud mouth evangelicals:

Shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, one evangelical leader made the following statement, for which he subsequently apologized:

I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say, “You helped this happen.”

Sadly, these kinds of judgments are not uncommon. Other church leaders made similar remarks after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and following the earthquake in Haiti. Presumably, according to the logic within these proclamations, the way to prevent terrorist attacks and natural disasters in one’s country is by earning the Almighty’s affection and protection through moral behavior, adherence to prayer, traditional family values, and frequent worship.

While I applaud the effort to acknowledge that some on his side are butt-heads, notice how Jethani doesn’t NAME the person who said any of the nasty things he complains about? He is quick to point the finger at Hitchens and Richard Dawkins but when it comes to naming those on the evangelical side Jethani is mum.

Any atheist who is worth their salt KNOWS who said the quote Jethani mentions and not naming the guy is an effort – as happens most often when direct names aren’t used – to minimize what was said.

What really is new about these so-called “New Atheists” is we are finally tired of the expectation that we remain silent and deferential to Christian privilege. It isn’t harming Christians to point out their privilege and we get tired of their constant whining about being a victim.

If and when people like Skye Jethani start calling out their brothers and sisters and stop rationalizing their privilege then maybe we atheists won’t seem so loud and hurtful to them.

Happy Birthday Charles Darwin!

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Today marks the 200th Birthday of the man who forwarded the concept of Evolution of species, which is a basic foundation of the science of Biology. Evolution is also a flash point in arguments between people with different views on religion. Even though Evolution has nothing to do with religion or religious beliefs, it has been used as a scapegoat for some people’s beliefs that might conflict with the results and facts of Evolution. How did we get there?

One problem has been a misunderstanding of the term Evolution. In science Evolution’s basic definition is: a process that results in heritable changes in a population spread over many generations.

That’s it. Nothing about monkeys turning into humans or “survival of the fittest”, which have been claims used against teaching of Evolution. All it means is to describe changes in a population over time.

Darwin called his idea “Natural Selection” and by that he meant species changed over time by adaptation controlled by the environment they lived in. Species that adapted appropriately passed their genes on to the next generation while those that didn’t adapt eventually died out. It isn’t that one species was “better” than the other only that one adapted better than the other and was able to pass on its genes.

Natural selection also infers that species can come from a common ancestor since it had to start some where to get to that particular point in time. There is strong evidence that Humans and apes share aspects that suggest we came from a common ancestor. At one time there was some species that then split into apes and another branch split into Humans.

That’s where religious people get upset. They fully believe that God created all the creatures on the Earth and if Evolution is true then it puts that idea into jeopardy.

The religious people are the ones who make it an issue. Darwin never cared about all it ALL began. All he did was forward the idea of how species got to where they are. Nothing in the study of Evolution is meant to be anti-religious or to intentionally contradict the story of creation. Many scientists support Evolution and consider themselves believers in a God.

However since Evolution, like all science facts, are tentative, there could be information collected soon or in the near future that solves the ultimate mystery of how it ALL got here.

That’s the promise of science – learning the answers to all the questions we have about the universe in which we live.

A tip of the hat today to the man who got the ball rolling – Charles Darwin (12 February 1809 – 19 April 1882).

Some links for further info on Darwin and Evolution

The Origin Of Species: 6th Edition

Charles Darwin bio

Charles Darwin Day

FAQs about Evolution and the religious debates

Religion comes up in CNN/YouTube debate

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The Democratic candidates for President of the US held a debate that was hosted by CNN and YouTube. Of interest to those who support the separation of church and state, is one of the questions about religion and government:


COOPER: In our remaining few minutes, the questions turn to two subjects — God and guns. First question.

QUESTION: Hi, I’m Zenne Abraham in Oakland, California. The cathedral behind me is the perfect backdrop for this question. This quarter reads “United States of America.” And when I turn it over, you find that it reads “liberty, in God we trust.” What do those words mean to you? Thank you.

COOPER: Senator Biden.

BIDEN: Religion informs my values.

BIDEN: My reason dictates outcomes. My religion taught me about abuse of power. That’s why I moved to write the Violence Against Women Act. That’s why I take the position I take on Darfur. It came about as a consequence of the reasoning that we’re able to do it.

You know, look, I don’t think they’re inconsistent. I don’t find anything inconsistent about my deep, religious beliefs and my ability to use reason. I think the coin’s got it just right. I think I have it in perspective.

COOPER: Here’s a question from the other side of the coin.

QUESTION: Good evening. My name is Stephen Marsh of Thousand Oaks, California, proud citizen of the United States of America that does not believe in God. However, the former President Bush said this statement was an oxymoron.

Now, I am worried about the amount of time given to evangelical concerns while secular voters are more or less getting a snubbed — the faith and politics forum.

So my question is this: Am I wrong in fearing a Democratic administration that may be lip service to the extremely religious as much as the current one? And if so, why? Thank you for your time.

COOPER: Senator Edwards?

EDWARDS: As president of the United States, we will embrace and lift up all Americans, whatever their faith beliefs or whether they have no faith beliefs, as Stephen just spoke about. That’s what America is.

Now, my faith is enormously important to me personally. It’s gotten me through some hard times, as I’m sure that’s true of a lot of the candidates who are on this stage.

But it is crucial that the American people know that as president it will not be my job — and I believe it would be wrong — for me to impose my personal faith beliefs on the American people or to decide any kind of decision, policy decision, that will affect America on the basis of my personal faith beliefs.

(APPLAUSE)

COOPER: Senator Obama?

OBAMA: I am proud of my Christian faith. And it informs what I do. And I don’t think that people of any faith background should be prohibited from debating in the public square.

OBAMA: But I am a strong believer in the separation of church and state, and I think that we’ve got to translate…

(APPLAUSE)

By the way, I support it not just for the state but also for the church, because that maintains our religious independence and that’s why we have such a thriving religious life.

But what I also think is that we are under obligation in public life to translate our religious values into moral terms that all people can share, including those who are not believers. And that is how our democracy’s functioning, will continue to function. That’s what the founding fathers intended.

Part II: CNN/YouTube Democratic presidential debate transcript


To me Senator Edwards came out the strongest in support of separation of church and state while Biden and Obama were less definite. YMMV.

Republicans get their turn with this format on September 17th.

Your voice to be heard in historic debates