Never Mind Jews, Blacks, Immigrants, Gays: Kill the Pagans!

8 06 2009

Good discussion at Betty’s about Obama and Elie Wiesel, religious wars and what it will take to stop fighting them when at last enough people of good will want to badly enough. . .

No soaring rhetoric, just simple belief and statements that reached his audience. He said: “We have not learned.”
For anyone who knows his story, we know he speaks the truth.

I woke up this morning thinking I might blog the latest faith-based fear-mongering incitement of the Ignorant from history professor Newt Gingrich, that real Americans are “surrounded by paganism” (not Palinism? that’s what I see) and how maybe the Constitution’s citizenship requirements need to be changed to include fealty to The Christian Creator as chief justice uber alles — but then Betty sucked me in over there, and her online manners are more gracious than mine even if she’s not a southern girl, so we might as well let her host this party. 😉

See also Hapless Major in Terrorism and the Public’s Right to Know:

The hapless young idealists in today’s story were arrested by the FBI, *before* they could hurt me, because they had been taught sufficiently scary stuff, said the government. It’s called “preemptive justice” (arrest before crime, which the courts call impermissable “prior restraint” when it comes to journalism and the public’s right to know) — hmmm, but public education IS the public’s right to know, so shouldn’t schooling be just as constitutionally free from prior restraint as journalism, not to mention terrorist wannabes? Maybe more so?

Did these hapless twenty-somethings have the right to educate themselves in middle eastern terrorism, without prior restraint? Yes? — is that more or less freedom from prior restraint than a hapless middle schooler gets, to not dress out for PE because she’d rather read in the library? If we don’t restrain her from the library, will we restrain her from reading certain things once there — just in case it might lead her thinking astray?

Will the government test her on whatever she is allowed to read, until she learns that reading is a state function? Never mind her rights, will all that serve our right to have her know what we need her to know, to protect OUR rights from government?

and DoCtor JJ’s Religion-Choosing Research Up in the Air
(this one’s especially good for the comments and links, among which you will find):

. . .here’s a religious direction I’d like to learn more about in real life, something some call “complexity theory.”

Reinventing the Sacred: A New View of Science, Reason & Religion

. . .In this controversial lecture based on his new book, the world-renowned complexity theorist Dr. Stuart Kauffman . . . believes that the science of complexity provides a way to move beyond both reductionist science and dogmatic theology to something new: a unified culture where we see God in the creativity of the universe, biosphere, and humanity. Kauffman explains that the ceaseless natural creativity of the world can be a profound source of meaning, wonder, and further grounding of our place in the universe.

His theory carries with it a new ethic for an emerging civilization and a reinterpretation of the divine that will change the way we think about the evolution of humanity, the universe, faith, and reason.

Stuart A. Kauffman is the founding director of the Institute for Biocomplexity and Informatics and a professor of biological sciences, physics, and astronomy at the University of Calgary. He is Emeritus Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Pennsylvania, a MacArthur Fellow, and an external professor at the Santa Fe Institute. His [earlier] books include “The Origins of Order” and “At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self-Organization and Complexity.”

From his edge.org essay (which sounds Obama-like to me in my current state of consciousness):

“The Biosphere and Human Culture are Ceaselessly Creative in Ways that Cannot be Foretold.”

. . .natural parks are valuable because life is valuable on its own, a wonder of emergence, evolution and creativity. Reality is truly stunning.

So if you find this useful, let us go forth, as was said long ago, and invite consideration by others of this new vision of reality. With it, let us recreate spiritual community and membership. Let us go forth.

Civilization needs to be changed.

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23 responses

8 06 2009
JJ

Columnist Leonard Pitts today:

We’ve seen this before. They sullied the word ”feminist” so thoroughly even feminists disdain it. They made ”liberal” such a vulgarity you’d never know liberals fought to ban child labor, end Jim Crow or win women the right to vote.

Having no record of their own of responding compassionately to social grievance (ask them what they did during the civil rights movement and they grow very quiet) conservatives have chosen instead to co-opt the language of that grievance. . . There is something surreal about hearing those who have historically been the enemies of racial progress define racial progress as looking out for the poor white brother.

And whatever comes beyond surreal is what describes these three men in particular . . . We are, after all, talking about a man (Tancredo) who once called majority Hispanic Miami ”a third world” country, and another man (Limbaugh) who advised a black caller to ”take that bone out of your nose.” These are fighters against racism?

. . . The forces of intolerance seeking to redefine the parameters of a debate they can win in no other way. . .

There is to it a breathtaking cynicism and a willingness to manipulate for political gain one of the rawest places in the psyche of a nation. The goal is not to persuade. It is to muddy the water, confuse the debate. Because when you can’t win the argument, confusing it works almost as well.

Based on one foolish quote, we have spent a week asking if Sotomayor is a racist. I’d call that mission accomplished.

8 06 2009
JJ

Excerpt from a long 2007 interview to read all the way through at Salon dot com, with Middle East war and terrorism reporter Chris Hedges, relating the human savagery of religious terrorism to American politics:

You say they would like to impose a totalitarian system. How much of a conscious goal do you think that is at the upper levels of organizing, with, say, somebody like Rod Parsley?

I think they're completely conscious of it. The level of manipulation is quite sophisticated. These people understand the medium of television, they understand the despair and brokenness of the people they appeal to, and how to manipulate them both for personal and financial gain. I look at these figures, and I would certainly throw James Dobson in there, or Pat Robertson, as really dark figures.

I think the vast majority of followers have no idea. There's an earnestness to many of the believers. I had the same experience you did — I went in there prepared to really dislike these people and most of them just broke my heart. They're well meaning. Unfortunately, they're being manipulated and herded into a movement that's extremely dangerous. If these extreme elements actually manage to achieve power, they will horrify [their followers] in many ways. But that's true with all revolutionary movements.

The core of this movement is tiny, but you only need a tiny, disciplined, well-funded and well-organized group, and then you count on the sympathy of 80 million to 100 million evangelicals. And that's enough. Especially if you don't have countervailing forces, which we don't.

If there's a historical period that's analogous to the situation we have now, it would come close to being the 1930s in the United States. Obviously we're not in a depression, but the situation for the working class is very bleak, and the middle class is under assault. There has been a kind of Weimarization of the American working class, and there's a terrible instability in the middle class. And if we enter a period of political and social instability, this gives this movement the opportunity it's been waiting for. But it needs a crisis. All of these movements need a crisis to come to power, and we're not in a period of crisis.

Speaking personally, when I’ve read about totalitarian movements, I’ve always imagined that I’d know enough to pack up and go. That would seem to be a very premature thing to do here.

Well, most people didn’t pack up and go. The people who packed up and left were the exception, and most people thought they were crazy. My friends in Pristina had no idea what was going on in Kosovo until they were literally herded down to the train station and pushed into boxcars and shipped like cattle to Macedonia. And that’s not because they weren’t intelligent or perceptive. It was because, like all of us, they couldn’t comprehend how fragile the world was around them, and how radically and quickly it could change. I think that’s a human phenomenon.

Hitler was in power in 1933, but it took him until the late ’30s to begin to consolidate his program. He never spoke about the Jews because he realized that raw anti-Semitism didn’t play out with the German public. All he did was talk about family values and restoring the moral core of Germany. The Russian revolution took a decade to consolidate. It takes time to acculturate a society to a radical agenda, but that acculturation has clearly begun here, and I don’t see people standing up and trying to stop them. The Democratic policy of trying to reach out to a movement that attacks whole segments of the society as worthy only of conversion or eradication is frightening.

Doesn’t it make sense for the Democrats to reach out to the huge number of evangelicals who aren’t necessarily part of the religious right, but who may be sympathetic to some of its rhetoric? Couldn’t those people be up for grabs?

I don’t think they are up for grabs because they have been ushered into a non-reality-based belief system.

This isn’t a matter of, “This is one viewpoint, here’s another.” This is a world of magic and signs and miracles and wonders, and [on the other side] is the world you hate, the liberal society that has shunted you aside and thrust you into despair.

The rage that is directed at those who go after the movement is the rage of those who fear deeply being pushed back into this despair, from which many of the people I interviewed feel they barely escaped. A lot of people talked about suicide attempts or thoughts of suicide — these people really reached horrific levels of desperation. And now they believe that Jesus has a plan for them and intervenes in their life every day to protect them, and they can’t give that up.

So in a way, the movement really has helped them.

Well, in same way unemployed workers in Weimar Germany were helped by becoming brownshirts, yes. It gave them a sense of purpose. Look, you could always tell in a refugee camp in Gaza when one of these kids joined Hamas, because suddenly they were clean, their djelleba was white, they walked with a sense of purpose. It was a very similar kind of conversion experience. If you go back and read [Arthur] Koestler and other writers on the Communist Party, you find the same thing.

This is a question that I get all the time, and you’ve probably heard it too: Do you think Bush is a believer, or do you think he and his administration are just cynically manipulating their foot soldiers?

I think he’s a believer, to the extent that this belief system empowers his own arrogant sense of privilege and intellectual shallowness. When you know right and wrong, when you’ve been mandated by God to lead, you don’t have to ask hard questions, you don’t have to listen to anyone else. I think that plays into the Bush character pretty well.

I think there are probably other aspects or tenets of this belief system that he finds distasteful and doesn’t like. But in a real sense he fits the profile: a washout, not a very good family life — apparently his mother was a horror show — a drunk, a drug addict, coasted because of his daddy, reaches middle age, hasn’t done anything with his life, finds Jesus. That fits a lot of people in the movement. . .

9 06 2009
writestuff444

” finds Jesus,”..You know, JJ, I think this jumped out at me, because it is my experience that those people who have had dramatic conversions to any religion or movement and that conversion Improved their life, which it often does, that they become the really hardline soldier for God or whatever movement. For those of us who grew up in Christian homes and our life for the most part has been reasonable, on target, steady, “boring” (lol), we seem to have missed this fanaticism gene..We believe in the message of Christ, instead, that message of compassion, love, patience, tolerance..and not hell fire and brimstone.

At least, since my childhood church, wasn’t a hellfire and brimstone church, but a thinking reasoning one, that encouraged scientific thought and respect for differences, that worked to fight real racism, to make those powerful social changes in the 60 and 70’s, it’s always been hard for me to find fault with my childhood religion..even as it slowly slipped into fundamentalism.

And for these recent converts who suddenly find a new way, or as we use to label it, The Way, then it would be natural to fight for that, to think that movement has the answers for everyone else, and want to “force” it on others and to “defend” it with words and deeds.

This article really made sense to me, and helped me see a little clearer the call to fundamentalism, at the same time as it made me even more afraid of the warriors of fundamentalism who kill abortion doctors and think that their words didn’t spur on the murderer..who still calls for more violent action, even from his jail cell.

The crisis…that could come….be anything. It’s a crap shoot right now, what could bring Obama down..and bring the new dark ages, so many predict..

I think it’s most likely to be environmental crisis..the kind the fundamentalist still claim is false…the deniers of environmental crisis–who will have the death of future children on their heads because they refused to listen to the overwhelming evidence of modern scientists…and refused to make the changes we need, instead of relying on outdated energy methods and their addiction to oil..

9 06 2009
boremetotears

They made ”liberal” such a vulgarity you’d never know liberals fought to ban child labor, end Jim Crow or win women the right to vote.

Hi JJ,
I thought I’d drop in on your blog to escape a commenter at mine who is tagging “liberals” – and their “Age of Aquarius” – for the Catholic priest scandal.

Wow. Hedges. He is so spot-on about this movement:

I think the vast majority of followers have no idea. There’s an earnestness to many of the believers… I went in there prepared to really dislike these people and most of them just broke my heart. They’re well meaning. Unfortunately, they’re being manipulated and herded into a movement that’s extremely dangerous.

It’s what makes churches like Willow Creek and Saddleback such scary places. I think that most people attend because they want to belong to “something larger than themselves” – and “matter” to others. Of course, “belonging” comes with a price tag…

9 06 2009
JJ

Hi Lynn and Betty, yes and this combines with what Daryl and Dale are talking about to paint the big picture. We can’t communicate with each other because (not by accident!) a huge honkin’ Tower of Babel has been built around the faithful, word brick by word brick while people like me stood around remarking on the construction techniques, oh how interesting, why do you mix the mortar like that and how do you keep the brick supply funded and who are all those people helping from the inside out — hey, wait, where are the damn DOORS in this design, you’re walling them in, leave Terri Schiavo ALOoooooNE . . . . . . .
I have days when I feel like *I* personally, specifically, should’ve been better sooner, and seen how diabolical the “logic” and bible versing was. Been a whistleblower and an agitator. I saw it in the Church of Christ on my college campus but figured live and let live; , I saw it in the Moonies and the other cults sucking in vaguely gentle young girls with flowers in their hair who just wanted to feel loved and love in return. I still figured live and let live. Twenty years of it in education, another twenty in home education. Etc Etc.

Now I see my baby sister has suffered from a lifetime of dull, brutish southern men “empowered” by their biblical role as her lord and master, and yet she is raising my nephews in that same wrong-wrong-wrong church community listening to the same dangerous, destructive, mind-killing seduction to the dark side. And every moral tool, every power of story tool, I can think of to grab and try to fight back, has been broken and left littering the outside of the Tower or else is safely walled up inside with the “faithful” who of course won’t let me in and won’t toss anything down to me to help themselves, because they have been taught I am their enemy. Worse, god’s enemy. Pagans surrounding the real Americans . . .

9 06 2009
JJ

Betty, remember the Hedges interview was two and a half years ago. I think maybe the crises are here now.

10 06 2009
boremetotears

re: living and letting live

The thing that confuses me about Hedges is that he makes such a convincing case that “tolerating intolerance” is dangerous. Yet, in his next breath, he criticizes “new atheists” (who are really the only reliable critics of religious extremism) as “fundamentalists” and “no better” than the radicals they criticize, etc. If he has offered concrete ideas for how moderate religious people are going to address these problems, I haven’t heard them. Of course, his first task is to get enough moderates to talk as if they actually take the problem seriously. It’s so much nicer to live and let live, to think “I’m okay, you’re okay”… When the mooooon is in the Seventh House ~ And Jupiterrr aligns with Marrrs ~ Then peeeace will guide the planets ~ And lllove will steer the stars ~~ This is the dawning of the age of Aquar-i-us ~ The age of Aquar-i-us ~~ Aquar-i-us! ~~ Aquar-i-us! 😉

10 06 2009
Nance Confer

See, it is those dirty hippies! Just like your “Catholics Rule” friend at your blog said, Lynn. 🙂 Only completely the opposite of what he meant. . . never mind. 🙂

Nance

10 06 2009
writestuff444

Lynn,
Being one of those religious moderates who is trying…to be a bridge..I find the bridge pulled out from under me often by both sides, however. It is as though the sides are children in a pick up baseball game and they’re insistent that we all must choose..one side or the other…and that while many of us desperately want to be in the middle…and in effect, the middle of so many issues..

For instance, the big A word. I wrote about that recently..and it’s truly how I feel. I don’t believe in abortion. I would never have one, I have taught my daughters that casual sex that leads to casual birth can’t be undone by abortion. There are more effective ways of preventing pregnancy until you are ready to be a mother..

But that said…I believe we must maintain Roe vs. Wade or some form of abortion rights for women who are faced with the extremes that can occur in any life. Can I believe with whole heart in a religion that would force a woman who was raped to give birth to a child that she has no desire for? Even if I would give birth to that child? No..and society can’t ever be the vehicle that forces a woman to live the way society thinks she should..mothering, men in charge, (or at this time radical women in the right to life movement) telling them they must give birth..at danger to their own life..to bring yet another unwanted child into the world. No..I’m in the middle..

So many things, I’m in the middle, me and millions of other Americans..and yet we must choose on each issue, on the validity of each issue that faces us; Climate change, finance funding, war, abortion, Supreme Courts..and that’s when I am faced with the truth. I have chosen a side..and it’s just left of the middle..and so I am labeled a liberal Democrat..that dirty name that means so much more than that label. When all along, I felt I was an independent moderate.

There is a time for fence sitting and there is a time to take a stance. I find the time to be now.

10 06 2009
JJ

Well, there is Obama’s approach. Moderates seem to respond to it well.
It’s a lot like my power of story frame, how he speaks “church” for good instead of evil so to speak. 🙂

Muslim moderates in the middle east sure liked it! Maybe Christian moderates do too, and they are doing all kinds of good work but within their faith “family” so we wouldn’t really notice it in process out in the public square, until it plays out in elections, referenda results, etc.?

10 06 2009
JJ

Betty, I’ve felt EXACTLY that way about religion and politics, my whole adult life. Independent moderate in a war zone, trying to make transcendent moral and intellectual sense of all the stories, refusing to grab onto just one and throw the rest in a Savonarola bonfire. (thus the crazed one-story zealots threaten to throw me in next!)

10 06 2009
JJ Ross

Speaking of the Age of Aquarius sneer against the sixties, Dale has a new post recommending a book I haven’t read but MUST!

“The War for Children’s Minds” by Stephen Law
From its Amazon site:

Behind headlines on the conflict in Iraq and global terrorism, a much deeper battle is raging over children and the values they should adopt. Political and religious leaders including Blair and Bush have been joined by the popular press in Enlightenment-bashing and bitter attacks on ‘liberal parenting’, calling for a return to authority and religious tradition.

How do we raise good children? How do we make good citizens? In defiant yet acute fashion, Stephen Law urges us to re-evaluate the liberal tradition of thinking about morality.

Tackling authoritarian rhetoric head-on, he argues that children should learn about right and wrong, and respect for others, but that their education should be grounded in the hard-won values of the Enlightenment. Taking on neo-conservatives and religious and media commentators, The War for Children’s Minds is a candid and controversial call for a liberal, philosophically informed approach to raising children.

Rejecting accusations that liberal parenting is a Sixties hangover that entails an aimless ‘whatever’ attitude to morality, Stephen Law exposes the weaknesses of arguments calling for a return to authoritarian styles of moral education.

He clearly shows that thinking for oneself does not mean that all moral points of view are equally good, or that we must reject faith in order to think freely.

A staunch defence of the humane, liberal life, The War for Children’s Minds is a much-needed guide to an urgent moral conundrum.

And here’s what Philip Pullman (author of Golden Compass et al) says:

The War for Childrens Minds is a brilliantly clear and convincingly argued defence of liberalism in moral education.

Stephen Law examines and demolishes all the arguments in favour of authoritarian ways of teaching, and shows that in spite of the insistence of popular commentators from the religious right, a liberal and rational examination and discussion of moral questions does not lead to relativism and the decay of ethical behaviour, but can in fact be the best defence against them.

This book won’t be read by popular journalists: they will attack it without reading it. But it should be read by every teacher, every parent, and every politician. What’s more, it should form the subject for discussion in every church, synagogue, mosque, and religious youth group. Its one of the most engaging as well as one of the most necessary books that I’ve ever read in the field of moral education. — Philip Pullman

10 06 2009
JJ

Betty, I think you might like reading more, perhaps even writing here?

Why Killing the Buddha? For our purposes, killing the Buddha is a metaphor for moving past the complacency of belief, for struggling honestly with the idea of God. As people who take faith seriously, we are endlessly amazed and enraged that religious discourse has become so bloodless, parochial and boring.

Any God worth the name is none of these things. Yet when people talk about God they are talking mainly about the Buddha they meet. For fear of seeming intolerant or uncertain, or just for lack of thinking, they talk about a God too small to be God.

10 06 2009
JJ

Lynn: he criticizes “new atheists” (who are really the only reliable critics of religious extremism) as “fundamentalists” and “no better” than the radicals they criticize, etc.

I wonder if it’s the power of story again, that the psychology and setting of a physical act makes a difference like, oh, exercising on a treadmill or indoor track say, as opposed to jogging outdoors and fully being in the moment. REading a book because someone makes you versus reading the same book because you can’t wait to see what happens? Or smiling with your mouth when you don’t feel it and so your eyes and your heart can’t fake it, and so people instinctively can tell the difference and they respond differently? The physical description of the act seems the same but the mindset and therefore the total effect can differ?

10 06 2009
boremetotears

Very good points, Betty and JJ. Maybe “new atheism” serves us best by moving the middle and making room for leaders like Obama to “speak church” for good. That said, I also defend new atheists who I know to be driven by a sense of urgency (related to the worldwide rise of fundamentalist / apocalyptic thinking) that makes a gradual progress seem unwise. I sway 😦

10 06 2009
JJ

Oh, me too!

12 06 2009
writestuff444

Swaying with ya!, sister. 🙂

But, after the killing at the Holocaust Museum..I think all of our conversation is just moot points. People are dying, because of right wing rhetoric in our culture.

I haven’t seen any liberals picking up a gun and shooting Rush Limbaugh…and I shall not write another word…because I might say something nasty and mean.

I think you’re right JJ, Obama has managed to find a middle ground of faith, intellect, reason, and compassion. Hmm…like Thomas Jefferson..and Lincoln…

12 06 2009
writestuff444

Thanks for Killing the Buddha link, JJ. like it. You all should check it out if you haven’t.

12 06 2009
COD

Obviously you haven’t seen the new meme going through at the right wing blogs trying to fabricate a case that the Holocaust Museum shooter is actually a liberal.

13 06 2009
JJ

Good point Chris — and more mainstream thus more troublesome for society, all the news media glossed over the extremist religion driving the clinic shooter but jumped all over the extremist religion driving the recruiting shooter. Why? One was Christian, the other Muslim.

See Religious Dispatches for Muslims Murder, Christians Don’t: What Went Missing in Analysis of Tilller:

Some, like the Times, actually manage to exclude nearly all of the details of Roeder’s religion altogether.

The Times, however, is not unique in its reporting of either case. CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News all relegate Mr. Roeder’s religious motivation to the margins, while all play up Mr. Muhammad’s connections to Islam.

Unsurprisingly, Fox News’ coverage is the most extreme. Its main story about Muhammad explores his every connection to Islam, with each of the first four sentences of the story providing separate details of Muhammad’s faith, including the shocking revelation (attributed to jihadwatch.org) that while in Yemen he studied jihad with a Muslim cleric. (Fox News is not known to let a dubious source stand in the way of a good story about scary Muslims.)

In contrast, Mr. Roeder’s Christian faith is not reported on in any Fox News-authored article. Details of his biography, in fact, are kept to a bare minimum, with the articles focusing instead on Dr. Tiller’s clinic and the history of protests, vandalism and violence that he and his clinic faced over the years.

One article, redolent of the logic sometimes deployed against rape victims, even implies that Tiller himself was the source of his problems, since his profession made him a natural target. By playing up the murder victim’s connection to abortion and downplaying the alleged perpetrator’s connection to Christianity and anti-government ideology, Fox News is no doubt crafting its news coverage to the ideological tastes of its generally right-leaning audience (i.e., the victim was doing something we all think is bad; the criminal’s evil motives have nothing to do with what we think is good).

13 06 2009
COD

But remember, the media is totally slanted to the left 🙂

13 06 2009
JJ

Heck, the Christianity that’s supposed to be so conservative now, was slanted to the left when I was a kid.

3 10 2009
How Humans Are Hard-Wired to Treat Each Other « Cocking A Snook!

[…] Never Mind Blacks, Immigrants, Gays — Kill the Pagans! […]

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