Saturday, April 12, 2008

McCain a Christian Nationalist?

Frederick Clarkson at Talk2Action writes of an interview John McCain gave to Beliefnet last year. Clarkson says that in that interview, "John McCain came out as a Christian nationalist." Mr. Clarkson, rightly perturbed by McCain's perfidy, went on to say "This is a disturbing development from a man who has been profoundly critical of the religious right in the past, but has courted movement leaders, and received the endorsement of some while seeking the GOP nomination for president over the past year.

"In this interview, he comes out more strongly as a Christian nationalist and critic of separation of church and state than any nominee for either party in modern American history."

The interview was conducted by Dan Gilgoff and titled "John McCain: Constitution Established a 'Christian Nation.'"

Here's one of the questions and McCain's answer:

Q: A recent poll found that 55 percent of Americans believe the U.S. Constitution establishes a Christian nation. What do you think?

McCain: I would probably have to say yes, that the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation. But I say that in the broadest sense. The Lady that holds her lamp beside the golden door doesn't say, "I only welcome Christians." We welcome the poor, the tired, the huddled masses. But when they come here they know that they are in a nation founded on Christian principles.

Abraham Foxman, national director of the ADL, wrote McCain about this interview last October. He said, in part, "We and others are confused and dismayed by the comments you made in the course of this interview.... you came to the conclusion that 'the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation."

McCain responded by saying "I did not assert that members of one faith have a greater claim to American citizenship than another....I believe people of all faiths are welcome here and entitled to the protections of our Constitution....I observed that the values protected by the Constitution -- such as respect for human life and dignity - are rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition. That is all I intended to say to the question: is America a Christian nation?"

The ADL replied that McCain's "clarification" with regard to "human values cherished in America....[as being] values cherished in the Judeo-Christian tradition" was heartening, but expressed disappointment that McCain did not specifically retract the statement that "the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation."

McCain was, of course, involved in the well-known exercise of eating his cake and having it, too. By stressing human values being rooted in the so-called Judeo-Christian tradition, he thought he could get the ADL and other "liberals" off his back, and by not specifically retracting his statement about the Constitution creating a "Christian nation," he could pacify his extremist supporters hanging far out on the Christian right wing.

Unfortunately, for John, one of these days he's going to flip-flop too hard, land on his head and it will be all over! Right now John believes anything you want him to believe so long as you vote for him. But that only works for a little while...

I don't know who wrote the following, but it demolishes this nonsense about the U.S. being a Christian nation rather effectively. It begins by telling Mr. McCain to "listen up:"

"It has often been said that to find God in the Constitution, all one has to do is read it, and see how often the Framers used the words 'God,' or 'Creator,' 'Jesus,' or 'Lord.'

"Except for one notable instance, however, none of these words ever appears in the Constitution, neither the original nor in any of the Amendments.

"The notable exception is found in the Signatory section, where the date is written thusly: 'Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven'". The use of the word 'Lord' here is not a religious reference, however. This was a common way of expressing the date, in both religious and secular contexts. This lack of any of these words does not mean that the Framers were not spiritual people, any more than the use of the word Lord means that they were.

"This lack of these words reveals neither a love for, nor disdain for, religion, but the feeling that the new government should not involve itself in matters of religion. In fact, the original Constitution bars any religious test to hold any federal office in the United States.

"So tell us again John, why you feel the Constitution establishes the U.S. as a Christian nation, given that the word 'Christian' nor any of its derivatives is even mentioned?

That says it very well! And it leads us to suggest that Mr. McCain take a course in American government as well as American history -- you know, just to get some of the fundamentals down.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Fires, Big Bucks, Christians & Atheists in Illinois

This is a confusing story. Two years ago, a Baptist church in Chicago caught fire and burned to the ground. The church had started its life as a synagogue, but had been bought by the Pilgrim Baptist group and things had been going quite well until the fire.

Illinois' governor, Rod Blagojevich, promised $1 million to rebuild the church. (By the by, the governor has also promised Rabbi Philip Lefkowitz $400,000 to build a non-sectarian community center in Uptown two years ago. That promise is as yet unfulfilled.)

One million dollars was disbursed, supposedly to rebuild Pilgrim Baptist Church. But, according to the governor's office, there was a "bureaucratic mistake," and the $1 mil went to a private school, the Loop Lab School, which rented space from the church. That space burned when the church burned.

Now things get weird. The Loop Lab School had been in trouble. State and federal folks were trying to collect thousands of dollars in unpaid taxes. Staff was not getting paid. The school's director, Chandra N. Gill, is a convicted felon (aggravated battery on a police officer). Gill was pardoned by the governor in 2007. The $1 million grant was already in the works.

Again the governor said it was a mistake but "If we find out -- and we're hopeful -- that this school that is in question is providing good services to kids, then we're happy that they get an extra million dollars to educate kids."

Right. What's a million bucks of state money anyway? It just comes from the taxpayers. Why not fund every private school in Illinois?

The governor said he intends to find another $1 million to help Pilgrim Baptist rebuild its administrative center.

Wait, it gets crazier. The Illinois legislature is looking into these expenditures; evidently even Illinois doesn't look kindly on a governor doling out millions of dollars in taxpayer money to private and/or religious institutions. So, the House State Government Administration Committee went into session to take comments from citizens.

A well-known atheist activist from Buffalo Grove, Rob Sherman, came before the committee to testify against using state funds for private and/or religious schools. All was well until one state legislator, Monique Davis (D-Chicago) began shrieking.

Here's how it went:

Davis: "I don't know what you have against God, but some of us don't have much against him. We look forward to him and his blessings. And it's really a tragedy -- it's tragic -- when a person who is engaged in anything related to God, they want to fight. They want to fight prayer in school.

"I don't see you (Sherman) fighting guns in school. You know?

"I'm trying to understand the philosophy that you want to spread in the state of Illlinois. This is the Land of Lincoln. This is the Land of Lincoln where people believe in God, where people believe in protecting their children... What you have to spew and spread is extremely dangerous, it's dangerous --"

Sherman: "What's dangerous, ma'am?"

Davis: "It's dangerous to the progression of this state. And it's dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists! Now you will go to court to fight kids to have the opportunity to be quiet for a minute. But damn if you'll go to [court] to fight for them to keep guns out of their hands. I am fed up! Get out of that seat!"

Sherman: "Thank you for sharing your perspective with me, and I'm sure that if this matter does go to court--"

Davis: "You have no right to be here! We believe in something. You believe in destroying! You believe in destroying what this state was built upon."

Now, I may have missed something, but I didn't hear anything from Ms. Davis relative to the right of the governor to use public money for private and/or religious schools. What I did hear is a very angry, and disturbed woman who is out of control.

I have to agree with the assessment of the Council for Secular Humanism. Ronald A. Lindsay, director of the Council's First Amendment Task Force has called for Davis to resign as she does not represent all of her constituents. "She is unfit to serve in her office, just as a representative who told a Jew or a Hindu to 'get out of that seat' would be unfit to serve. If she does not resign, the Illinois House has an obligation to expel her."

Between the governor and Monique Davis, Illinois obviously does have a couple of problems . But it's nice to know that Florida isn't the only state overrun with fruitcakes!

Update from Rob Sherman: "Rep. Davis said that she had been upset, earlier in the day, to learn that a twenty-second and twenty-third Chicago Public School student this school year had been shot to death that morning. She said that it was wrong for her to take out her anger, frustrations and emotions on me, and that she apologized to me."

McCain's New Economic Advisor - Carly Fiorina

This post is essentially a summary of an article by Sam Pizzigati who edits the online weekly Too Much, and is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. The article can be read in its entirety here.

McCain's new economic advisor is Carly Fiorina. Fiorina was once the CEO of the computer manufacturer, Hewlett-Packard, and "the first woman ever to run one of the nation's 20 biggest publicly traded companies.

Fiorina is quite pleased to be working for McCain and thinks that McCain is up on things economic. "He understands innovation," says Fiorina.

Whether that is true or not, one must wonder if he understands Fiorina. Upon her arrival at HP, she received a four-year contract of some $90 million. "Less than six years later, in 2005, that CEO stint would end with a kick out the door and $42.5 million in severance."

Hewlett-Packard thought Fiorina was the real deal. HP thought she would take the company to new heights of technologic achievement and financial success. She began this corporate revival by asking all of HP's 93,000 employees to "accept voluntary cutbacks." (Remember she had just been given $66 million worth of shares, "the biggest no-strings stock grant up to then in U.S. corporate history, and assorted other pay goodies worth another $24 million.)

HP employees could choose: take a 10 percent pay cut; a 5 percent pay cut along with losing four vacation days; or just toss eight vacation days.

Before a month had gone by "Fiorina rewarded" the sacrifices of those employees by announcing a layoff of 6,000 more workers.

Unfortunately, this didn't work, nor did a huge merger deal, nor did her rearranging HP's corporate bureacracy, and by 2005, Fiorina was gone!

Now McCain's got her. If McCain, god forbid, should get elected prezident, the rest of us will be stuck with her!


Thursday, April 10, 2008

The National Day of Prayer - Be There or Be Unamerican?

Every red-blooded American will be expected to kneel down before the main god of the Christian Trinity, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, on the National Day of Prayer, which falls on May 1, 2008.

If you've never heard of it, The National Day of Prayer is an "official" event, sponsored by the United States government, according to the National Day of Prayer Task Force. The U.S. Congress established this event in 1952 via a joint resolution which was signed into law by President Harry S. Truman. At the time, some Americans, very worried about being blasted to kingdom come by the atheistic Soviet communists, thought a day of prayer might entice the Christian deity to rise up and protect them. President Ronald Reagan, a casual believer, set the date of the celebration to be the first Thursday of May.

The National Day of Prayer Task Force (known hereafter as NDPTF) says that the day is "founded on the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and freedom of religion and can be celebrated by all Americans." (That, of course, is a sneaky little Christian right-wing verbiage to make you think that the National Day of Prayer has something to do with freedom of speech and freedom of religion which it does not!)

The NDPTF insists that this day of prayer is not just for Christians. They lie. They say the NDPTF will act "specifically in accordance with its Judeo-Christian beliefs." (See below)

The NDPTF says the day is not a political event. It is for everyone. And every American can observe the National Day of Prayer in his or her own way. The first part of that's a lie, too!

The NDPTF is chaired by Mrs. Shirley Dobson, the wife of James Dobson, infamous leader of the far-right extremist Christian group known as Focus on the Family. Ms. Dobson is a volunteer, and the NDPTF is not affiliated with Focus on the Family, but it is headquartered in a building owned by Focus on the Family.

If you know anything of the organization Campus Crusade for Christ, you will recognize the name of Bill Bright, who headed up Campus Crusade for many years. Bill Bright was a far-right Christian theocrat who believed in the dominionist program of turning the U.S. government into a Christian theocratic state. His wife, Mrs. Vonette Bright, led the NDPTF prior to Ms. Dobson's reign.

The NDPTF insists the National Day of Prayer is not a Christian event. As we said, that is a lie! In fact, on the same web page where they say it's not a Christian event, they refer to "Christian leaders" on two occasions. It is quite clear there is no place for non-Christian leaders in their organization.

And in a previous year, when referring to National Day of Prayer Sunday (!), the NDPTF writes " Churches, when 40 million Christians come together to worship..." Not too much question as to expectations there!

But that's just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Let's look at this event more closely. As noted, the NDPTF lies about its not being a political event, too. It is as much a political event as it is a religious event, and thus it is unconstitutional! As an "official religious observance," it breaks down the wall of separation of church and state. The government has no responsibility or power to promote or encourage religious activity of any kind.

That did not, of course, stop President Bush from making this statement in 2002: "NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 2, 2002, as a National Day of Prayer..."

There is nothing in our constitution that gives the president authority to declare a national day of prayer. "Our politicians, the president included, are not authorized to make religious decisions for the citizens."

The people of this country can pray whenever they wish for whatever they wish. The president has nothing to say about it. So, when George says "by virtue of the authority vested in me..." he is blowing smoke. He has no authority "vested" in him to establish a Day of Prayer.

He needs to read (hah!) Thomas Jefferson, who wrote in a letter to the Rev. Samuel Miller in 1808, that "Certainly no power to prescribe any religious exercise or to assume authority in religious discipline has been delegated to the General Government..."

James Madison, considered by many historians to be the "Father of the Constitution," said that prayer proclamations were inappropriate, although he did issue a few "prayer day" proclamations while president. But he regretted his actions, and wrote that these kinds of religious proclamations "seem to imply and certainly nourish the erroneous idea of a national religion."

Another major problem (other than the whole thing is unconstitutional!) is that the National Day of Prayer has become a vehicle to promote the agenda of fundamentalist Christianity and the Republican Party.

The NDPTF is up front about its fundamentalist view of the world and its claim that the United States is a Christian nation. The Texas Freedom Network warns that "the NDP Task Force has cloaked the National Day of Prayer in a political mantle. Adopting the culture war language of the Christian Right, the group explicitly instructs participants to pray about social issues such as 'condom distribution, the promotion of homosexuality and a refusal to acknowledge God [in public schools].'"

As mentioned previously, another very large lie relates to the NDPTF's claim that the event is for all Americans, not just Christians. In fact, the NDPTF explains that "Our expression of ... involvement [in the National Day of Prayer] is specifically limited to the Judeo-Christian heritage and those who share that conviction as expressed in the Lausanne Covenant."

It's interesting, but I've never found anyone who could explain, with any degree of cogency, that phrase, "Judeo-Christian heritage." It definitely has nothing to do with the Lausanne Covenant, and most Jews I know reject it out-of-hand. Christians, from Paul onward, have been very clear about disavowing the most important facets of any Jewish heritage, and today the Christian churches in all their myriad forms have, at best, only faint glimmerings of anything Jewish, many being openly anti-Jewish.

The Lausanne Covenant you probably wouldn't know about unless you are a fundamentalist Christian. This derives from a 1974 attempt made by fundamentalists to put into writing the essence of what they believed must be believed to be a Christian (the better to dismiss heretics within their midst.) The Lausanne Covenant is a good example as to why the notion of a Judeo-Christian heritage doesn't cut it; The Lausanne Covenant instead disses all persons as unworthy of salvation and unable to attain salvation, who do not accept the following formulations (There are other components of this covenant, but these are the most significant for our purposes):

1. Bible inerrancy - "We affirm [that the Bible is] without error in all that it affirms, and [is] the only infallible rule of faith and practice."
2. Christian Exclusivity - "Those who reject Christ repudiate the joy of salvation and condemn themselves to eternal separation from God.

In addition, the NDPTF materials are filled with references to "Christ," and their sample materials assume that only Christian pastors and leaders will be involved. Other religious groups are not only not wanted, but are banned from participation as happened in Plano, Texas in 2005 when local NDPTF volunteers refused to allow non-Christian faith representatives to be part of the prayer festivities.

At one point the NDPTF website included this quote: "We can and must win this cultural war." How to do that? Well, in 2005, of the "five great things to pray for," one was the media, because the media is "hostile to those who voice their belief in Christ," and another was education, because public schools are bent on "promoting a radical social agenda," which includes "condom distribution, the promotion of homosexuality."

Other "cultural war" concerns involve abortion, gay marriage, and the courts.

The NDPTF encourages all of the states to participate in the National Day of Prayer. Most of them do, all of the time. Governors adopt the NDPTF "theme" and utilize NDPTF materials, and help to establish celebrations for their states. One who refused was the former governor of Minnesota, Jesse Ventura. Always a maverick, and often right on target, Jesse was pressured in 1999 by the Minnesota Family Council, a far-right Christian group affiliated with the Washington-based Family Research Council.

But Ventura did not bow to that pressure and refused to "formally endorse" the National Day of Prayer. Jesse told reporters "I believe in the separation of church and state. We all have our own religious beliefs. There are people out there who are atheists, who don't believe at all. They are all citizens of Minnesota and I have to respect that."

Each year the NDPTF selects an "honorary chairman," who is supposed to promote the affair and say all the right and godly things and put together a terrific prayer for the actual event. Slacktivist, a cynical blogger (thus a favorite of mine) wrote this about the 2004's event:

"The honorary chairman," he says, "ideally should be someone who embodies the civil religious, next-to-of-course-god-america-i-love-you values of the NDP. The person should be prominent, widely admired -- a hero.

"Pat Tillman would have been a good choice -- a man who walked away from fame and a million-dollar career to serve his country. Except of course that he wasn't religious and now ... he's dead."

"John McCain, likewise, is a popular war hero, but he has never mastered the kind of platitudinous piety the role requires.

"Mel Gibson is, alas, not an American. And beside, Mel has never been convicted of lying to Congress to cover up the covert funding of terrorists.

"Thus for honorary chairman, the National Day of Prayer organizers chose the only appropriate man for the job: Oliver North. ...

"I was willing," cries Slacktivist, "to at least try to take this thing seriously, but Oliver North? Couldn't they at least pretend this event had something to do with genuine prayer or faith? Couldn't they even try to be at least a little bit subtle in wielding their piety as a partisan political club? Oliver freaking North."

This was the same year Shirley Dobson, on The 700 Club, portrayed (as usual) the United States as a Christian nation. She said "We live in the land of the free where 'we the people' can openly call upon God for wisdom, protection and blessing. In order to realize the potential outlined in the Declaration of Independence, we must continue seeking Divine counsel, asking for His intervention and direction."

Notice the words, "we the people," and "Declaration of Independence." None of those words have anything to do with prayer. But she ties them together nicely and one might even think that we are a wonderful, religious nation, with a wonderful, religious government. One might even forget that "we the people" can pray anytime we wish and do not need our government involved whatsoever; that in fact the Declaration of Independence was predicated on a government that could NOT tell people how or when or what to pray!

I can't help but wonder, too, why these fundamentalist Christians believe they have to pray all the time. Does their god not know their needs? And how does god grant them their wishes for wisdom and protection and blessing? And why should any god grant those wishes? And what is the potential outlined in the Declaration of Independence? And exactly how does god intervene and direct so that we can realize that potential - whatever it is?

We said before, that when it comes to the National Day of Prayer, non-Christians need not apply. I have a copy of the program for the 2005 National Day of Prayer for the city of Artesia, California. The people involved included a Methodist, an "Evangelical," a Roman Catholic, a "New Life" Christian, what appears to be a Messianic "Jew," someone from the World Full Gospel Mission (Pentecostal), and a pastor Dave from the Calvary Chapel. Not a real Jew anywhere. No Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, not even a Lutheran or Presbyterian. Sheesh!

On the national level in 2005, the Honorary Chair was Henry Blackaby, a "noted Southern Baptist discipleship leader." He urged "Christians to pray about his upcoming message," and he said that he was very worred about terrorist threats and the moral decay of American society.

Ms. Dobson was ecstatic about Blackaby. "His prayer for the nation couldn't be more appropriate for the culture we find ourselves living in today," she said. "He has graciously attended to our requests and his book, 'Experiencing Prayer with Jesus,' is garnering good attention in the market. Dr. Blackaby is a man of God and [we] have been incredibly blessed by his active support this year.

Blackaby is ready! Heck, his book is selling like hotcakes, and he knows about prayer 'cause he used to head up prayer stuff for the Southern Baptists. He also knows about bombs and chemical weapons and thinks that terrorists have "dirty bombs" and chemical or biological weapons at their disposal, and that's why "Blackaby considers prayer the nation's most powerful line of defense."

"That's why I'm convinced this National Day of Prayer is so urgent, because there's an immediate danger," said Blackaby. "Only sincere, God-honoring prayer will cause the hand of God to keep the enemy from hurting us badly." (Did Bush put him up to saying that?)

Another problem, of course, is the moral decay of the country. My god, there's talk of same-sex marriage "and we're plagued with increasing attempts to keep any references to God from the public square. Blackaby said the root of many problems is turning away from the Creator."

"The nation that honors God, He will honor," said Blackaby.

What a god these folks believe in! He (always "he") is going to sit back and allow his chosen people (Americans) to be destroyed by bomb-carrying, chemical weaponing terrorists because we don't pray on the National Day of Prayer? Or because we allow two people who love each other to be married? Or because we don't talk about God in the "public square?"

And doesn't this so-called "doctor" know that, according to the bible, praying is not what god considers as honoring her? Has he not read that god requires justice and mercy, not prayer?

In 2008, the 57th Annual National Day of Prayer will take place on Thursday, May 1. This year's theme, inapt as it may be, is "Prayer! America's Strength and Shield."

The honorary chairman is Dr. Ravi Zacharias, a "evangelical" minister, philosopher and evangelist. His doctorate is also "honorary," although he does have a Masters of Divinity. Dr. Zacharias believes that Christianity can answer all the important questions.

And Ricky Skaggs, the country singer, "a man of prayer," will also be praying on May 1. Ricky Scaggs grabbed his guitar and said "We are praying that a drawing toward Christ in relationship would take place. Prayer always precedes revival ever started without prayer. Prayer shows a dependency upon God."

I didn't know Ricky was an evangelist, too! And I didn't know that the National Day of Prayer was supposed to ignite a Christian spiritual awakening, or a fundamentalist revival in our fair land. And don't all you mainline Christians, and Jews and other non-Christians feel welcome and like full partners in this government authorized Jesus Christ prayer event?

Oh, yes, Coach Tony Dungy is going to pray, too - to Jesus.

And, you will be really glad to know that in 2007, "The Furniture Row # 78 CUP program, sporting the NDP paint scheme was on the track again at Talladega Motor Speedway [April 29] for the NASCAR Aaron's 499 Cup." I didn't know that, either. But "Featured on ABC News and the Speed Channel, the National Day of Prayer # 78 has been a huge success."

So, the National Day of Prayer is about car racing, too. Wow! Well, lots of NASCAR fans pay homage to "the man upstairs," so why not?

The National Observance will be held in Washington, D.C., our nation's capital (as the NDPTF is quick to point out!), from 12:00 noon to 3:00 p.m. (EDT) and will be broadcast LIVE via webcast. I wasn't able to determine exactly where this great event would take place. Evidently, if you haven't been invited, you're not wanted.

You can link to it, though, to hear such luminaries as Condoleezza Rice, Mrs. Shirley Dobson, Dr. James Dobson, Dr. Ravi Zacharias, Rep. Mike McIntyre, Judge Janice Rogers Brown, Chaplain Barry Black, and Charles Billingsley.

Then again, you may want to forget all about it if you're a Jew or non-Christian, 'cause you're definitely not wanted and considered apostate. And if you're a Christian, well you can forget about it, too...because --

Jesus said, "...when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; they love to say their prayers standing up in the synagogue [read church or state or national capitol] and at the street-corners, for everyone to see them [read public square.] I tell you this: they have their reward already. But when you pray, go into a room by yourself, shut the door, and pray to your Father who is there in the secret place; and your Father who sees what is secret will reward you.

"In your prayers do not go babbling on like the heathen, who imagine that the more they say the more likely they are to be heard. Do not imitate them. Your Father knows what your needs are before you ask him." -- Matthew 6:5-8

And finally, "Not everyone who calls me 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but only those who do the will of my heavenly Father. When that day comes, many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, cast our devils in your name, and in your name perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them to their face, 'I never knew you; out of my sight, you and your wicked ways!'" -- Matthew 7:21-23

Let's kick the pray-ers out of our national and state capitols -- the "public square." Maybe there's still time to turn things around before god gets really pissed and the world blows up in our face!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Florida Senate Committee OKs Child Abuse

Well, maybe not child abuse in a technical sense, but close enough.

These fundamentalist Christians just never quit! In spite of the fact that the teaching of evolution has now been mandated in Florida's public schools, the state's Senate Judiciary Committee voted (along party lines!) to allow teachers to "present scientific information relevant to the full range of views on biological and chemical evolution."

In other words, the Republican morons on the Senate Judiciary Committee have approved child abuse. What else can you call it when you permit the teaching of nonsensical non-science, which will not only give children a false view of the universe and the world in which they live, but seriously handicap their chances for success if they should select a scientific field of endeavor as their life's work?

The sponsor of the bill, one Ronda Storms, a Republican (naturally) from Brandon, Florida, claimed that teachers and students in Florida's schools are afraid to discuss other "theories" of how life developed, such as intelligent design.

Ronda said "The bill is needed because the new science standards present the theory of evolution in a dogmatic way. Both teachers and students feel muzzled from expressing their views."

Actually, the true situation is the reverse of what Ms. Storms claims. Studies have shown that in this most backward of states, some science teachers are afraid to teach evolution because fundamentalist Christian parents complain and that can lead to a teacher's dismissal by a school board in fear of the wingnuts.

Furthermore, if a science teacher is so stupid as to teach Intelligent Design (which is nothing more than a cover for Creationism), then he or she should feel "muzzled." It is not appropriate to teach Christian religious dogma in a public school in Florida or anywhere else.

This bill is, of course, another attempt by the Religious Right (in this case, the Christian Right) to force their theological doctrines upon the children of the state. It has nothing to do with fairness because Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory but a religious dogma. And typical of the Christian Right, it tries to hide its true purpose behind the notion that it's only fair to teach "alternative theories of life's origin."

So, we'll say it again: There are no valid, scientific "alternative theories of life's origin!" There are merely unjustified and unscientific religious mythologies!

To teach public school children unjustified and unscientific religious mythologies is child abuse!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Archbishop Donald Wuerl - right or wrong?

This does not come under the heading of "news," for everyone already knows that Roman Catholic archbishops pretend to share the mind of god and thus know the difference between right and wrong.

And that's just what Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, D. C. said in an address on April 4 at Rome's Pontifical University of St. Thomas Acquinas. Cindy Wooden of Catholic News Service restated the archbishop's words thusly:

"The moral values taught by the world's main religions form the only ethical code with enough depth to help people judge what is right and wrong in a modern, increasingly technological society."

Religion, says Wuerl according to Wooden, "has been a key source guiding people to act righteously and promote the common good. ... more and more people are realizing that 'purely secular philosophy cannot offer the answers; it cannot provide a foundation deep enough' to respond to questions about right and wrong in an increasingly technological world."

One must accept "enduring moral values," said the archbishop, "which are both reasonable and confirmed by the constant teaching of the world's religions, or else 'personal preference becomes normative.'"

I suppose the archbishop is rather worried about the decline of the Roman Church, and the fact that the Muslims are now number one in the world and how a whole lot of the Roman Catholic faithful ignore much of what their church teaches because they know from experience it is neither moral nor ethical. Those may be the ones he's talking about for whom "personal preference becomes normative." They probably skip confession and Mass, too.

We are not told by the archbishop which of the world's religion's moral values we should accept, although he does mention Christians, Muslims and Jews. But what about the other religions of the world? Or are their moral values unworthy?

And which moral values taught by the world's religions should we be concerned with? The archbishop doesn't say.

So we are left with platitudes which will probably send folks off into the night shaking their heads in agreement because what the archbishop proposed sounds so good even though it is essentially empty of meaning and is, in truth, quite wrong.

Anyone with a smidgen of knowledge about the history of the world knows that the greatest perpetrators of hatred, violence and death and destruction have been the world's major religions. This is all detailed in the holy books subscribed to by these faith groups, and also by secular documents available for all to peruse and reflect upon.

On the other hand, it is also true that much hatred, violence, death and destruction has been thrust upon the earth's inhabitants by non-religious people. The "faithful" usually point to Stalin and/or Hitler, and of late, Saddam Hussein, as examples. Stalin, although he was raised in the Russian Orthodox tradition, did not show many religious tendencies when in power. Hitler, a Roman Catholic until the end, was a religious person and had an ongoing relationship with the Roman church and even invoked the Lutheran "saint," Martin Luther, as one who blessed his Nazi horrors.

Now if the archbishop is speaking of moral values, such as do not kill, or do not steal, or do not bear false witness, he need not go to religion to find them. The Ten Commandments, which so many people like to claim an affinity for, were not original with the Israelites, but a reworking of other ancient codes of law, such as the Code of Hammurabi (who, like Moses, believed God had chosen him to deliver the law to his people.) Perhaps Hammurabi was religious in his own way, but I don't think Archbishop Wuerl would accept that as "true" religion nor would he accept Hammurabi's moral values.

Furthermore, I'm afraid that some of those moral values that the archbishop refers to are values specific to the Roman Church. I think he is saying that a true moralist would be against all abortions, all family planning, anything that would contradict Catholic doctrine, and against the notion of separation of church and state.

In fact, he did mention the latter when he said that we need greater dialogue to defend "the essential role of faith in public life and human affairs."

Unfortunately, he left us out in the cold here, too, never bothering to explain the meaning of the phrase, "essential role of faith in public life and human affairs." We've got one home-grown example of how this might work, though. George W. Bush heard from god and god told him to invade Iraq. So much for faith in American public life and Iraqi human affairs!

Furthermore, if we look back through history to those days of yore when the Roman church actually did exercise its faith in public life and human affairs and all the hell on earth that caused, we'd probably suggest the archbishop was full of gas.

The truth is that Archbishop Wuerl's arguments have been dismantled over and over again by numerous philosophers and theologians. One can certainly defend one's religion as providing its adherents with a moral and ethical code. But it doesn't necessarily follow that it is the best or even a good moral and ethical code. Nor can one conclude that people without a religion are incapable of coming up with a moral and ethical code just as valid or even more valid than one based on a religion.

I'm going to quote a couple of paragraphs from Sam Harris. He may be an atheist, but Sam has a better handle on right and wrong than does Archbishop Wuerl:

"If a person doesn't already understand that cruelty is wrong, he won't discover this by reading the Bible or the Koran -- as these books are bursting with celebrations of cruelty, both human and divine. We do not get our morality from religion. We decide what is good in our good books by recourse to moral intuitions that are (at some level) hard-wired in us and that have been refined by thousands of years of thinking about the causes and possibilities of human happiness. ...

"We have made considerable moral progress over the years, and we didn't make this progress by reading the Bible or the Koran more closely. Both books condone the practice of slavery -- and yet every civilized human being now recognizes that slavery is an abomination. Whatever is good in scripture -- like the golden rule -- can be valued for its ethical wisdom without our believing that it was handed down to us by the creator of the universe."

I would add that in order to devise a proper moral and ethical code, one must of necessity ignore much of what is written in the holy books; which is exactly what religious people do, even the Christian fundamentalists who like to believe the Bible is the "inerrant" word of God!

However...with some deeply religious people flying airplanes into New York City skyscrapers and others working day and night to impose their beliefs upon our system of government, and true believers bombing the hell out of each other all over the world, it would seem that religion might be the last place one would go to find a workable moral and ethical system.

And that suggests that just because you're an archbishop doesn't necessarily mean you know what you're talking about.

Anti-Semitism in New York Radio?

According to David Harris, the executive director of the American Jewish Committee, the New York-based radio station, WQXR-FM, refused to air a 60-second advertisement dealing with the terror experienced by the residents of the Israeli town of Sderot.

WQXR-FM is owned by The New York Times.

Mr. Harris explained that the station's general manager, Tom Bartunek, said "several elements of the spot are outside our bounds of acceptability," whatever that means.

Bartunek further said that the ad "runs the risk of raising anxiety in a misleading way." He believes that to say, as the ad does, that rockets fall on Sderot "day or night" might be "misleading, at least to the degree that reasonable people might be troubled by the absence of any acknowledgement of reciprocal Israeli military actions."

In addition, Bartunek claimed the ad did not live up to the station's "guidelines! for decorum."

Let's see if we can figure this out. Hamas shoots rockets at any time, day or night, into the town of Sderot. The people of Sderot live in constant fear and often have only seconds to find shelter before a rocket destroys a home or school, or child, or ...

Mr. Bartunek, who is also the president of New York Times radio, thinks it is misleading to air an ad that says that. He thinks that because the ad does not explain how Israel sometimes fights back, it is "outside ... [the] bounds of acceptability." And it somehow disturbs the station's "decorum."

Methinks Mr. Bartunek is full of it and trying to cover up, with truly a truly pitiful rationale, his own anti-Semitism.

Not a hell of a lot changes over the years.

Rabbi Yoffie's a liar, says Hagee

Actually Hagee put it this way: Eric Yoffie, the leader of Reform Judaism has a "troubling disrespect for the truth."

You will remember we wrote a few days ago about Rabbi Yoffie's call for Jews to disassociate themselves from Hagee and his Christians United for Israel group. Yoffie said that Hagee was not a real friend to Israel and rejected a two-state solution and Hagee's attitude toward territorial concessions "would mean disaster for Israel, and would lead to diplomatic isolation, increased violence and the loss of Israel's Jewish majority."

At the time, I thought it interesting and unfortunate that Rabbi Yoffie did not deal with Hagee's end-times views which involves a nuclear war with Iran leading to the battle of Armageddon and the Rapture, all of which will ensure the slaughter of every Jew who has not accepted Jesus as his/her "Lord and Savior."

The wrong Rev. Hagee is a bit miffed at Rabbi Yoffie and claims that Yoffie misrepresented his views. Actually Hagee claims a lot of people misrepresent his views. The trouble is that his views have been noted and recorded for a number of years, so even though he claims he didn't say thus and so, it isn't difficult to point to chapter and verse and show him for the liar he is.

Hagee whined that "Rabbi Yoffie's speech demonstrates not only a lack of respect for me but a troubling lack of respect for the truth."

But why should anyone "respect" Hagee, a demagogue, a charlatan, a biblical terrorist, a man who strives to incite a final, cataclysmic conflagration that would literally destroy the earth?

Yoffie was right, even if he didn't cover all the bases. He could have and should have said a lot more about Hagee and his so-called "love" for the Jews. Rabbi Yoffie should have said Hagee is simply using the Jewish people and the land of Israel to bring about his insane visions derived from so-called biblical prophecies.

Israel needs all the help it can get. Israel does not need help from Hagee!

The Reincarnation of Durga

'Tis an unfortunate story: a little girl with two faces was born in a village in northern India. Each of her facial features are duplicated, except for her ears. This is a very rare condition called craniofacial duplication (naturally). She is reported to be doing just fine.

But in the village of Saini Sunpura, a very "religious" place, little Lali with two faces, is causing quite a stir. According to her father, she is being worshipped as a reincarnation of Durga, the Hindu goddess of valor, "a fiery deity traditionally depicted with three eyes and many arms."

The village chief intends to build a temple to Durga in the village. A member of the village council said that "Lali is God's gift to us. She has brought fame to our village." The same person said that every day about 100 people visit Lali in her home. They show their respect by touching her feet, and offer money and receive blessings.

Well, why not? Who's to say that these people are wrong? Who can prove that Lali is not really Durga come back?

What's unfortunate about this, however, is that no one seems to be very concerned about this little girl's future. Most little girls with two faces don't have one.

Isn't religion fun?

Blue & White Mosque?

Next month Israel celebrates its 60th anniversary.

Some people are thrilled. Others not so.

The "not so's" include many folks of the Arab persuasion, not a few of which intend to boycott any birthday celebrations.. But not all! The Israeli-Arabs living in the Galilee village of A-Taibeh near the Gilboa not only intend to join in the celebrations but have painted the dome of their mosque with Israel's national blue and white colors in honor of the anniversary!

About 2,000 people live in A-Taibeh. A village elder, HIsham Zouabi, said that "We are citizens of the State of Israel. For us religion encourages us to bring nations together. The goal is simple: coexistence. A Jew who comes here should not feel that the place is hostile but like home."

Wow! Too often we hear that Israel has no right to exist and must be pushed into the sea until the Jews are gone forever.

Maybe there is hope. Here's a glimmer, anyway.

[Thanks to JTA and for this story.]

Monday, April 7, 2008

Ultra-Orthodox riot in righteousness!

[Photo of Haredi man in Jerusalem - by Lisa Katz]

Fanaticism comes in a variety of forms. Fanaticism in religion is
often called fundamentalism.

There are fundamentalists in most religions, including Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. These share certain characteristics: they are "true believers" in the sense written of by Eric Hoffer in his famous work, The True Believer -- that is, they are so committed to a cause they will die for it; they are undemocratic, often slavishly following a charismatic leader and obedient to what they consider a higher "truth;" they tend to group together in common cause, and isolate themselves from society which they see as a threat to their purity; they are uncompromising, and insist that they are the righteous and the rest of the world must acquiesce to their way of thinking.

We are quite familiar with Christian fundamentalism and its various forms in the United States. Unfortunately, and much to our dismay, we have also become familiar with Islamic fundamentalism these past several decades. But I would guess most Americans are less familiar with Jewish fundamentalism.

The Haredi are "ultra-Orthodox" Jews (although some think the term "ultra-Orthodox" is demeaning) who believe that God wrote the Torah, strictly observe halacha (Jewish law), limit their contact with the world outside of their group and consider other Jews "unathentic."

The Haredi derive from an extremely conservative group of 18th century Eastern European Jews who fought all attempts to modernize Judaism and open Judaism up to new opportunities outside of the ghettos.

Today, the Haredi live in insular communities and their lives revolve around Torah study, prayer and family. By and large, TV, movies, secular writings, and the Internet are banned. The Haredi take care of each other and thus have little reason to depend upon the usual societal organizations. They are exempt from military service in Israel.

They also dress distinctively, much like their ancestors in the 18th and 19th centuries. Men typically wear black suits and white shirts and cover their heads with wide-brimmed black hats, under which they wear a kippah. Usually they also sport a beard and sidelocks. Women tend to wear long skirts and shirts with high necklines and long sleeves. Once a woman is married, she will cover her head with a scarf, hat, or wig.

The Haredi are rightly considered Jewish fundamentalists, as they are fanatical in their approach to religion and to life. Except for differences in religious beliefs, they are very similar to fundamentalist Christian groups around the world.

Self-righteous people, however, have a problem. They tend to think they are better than other people, and that their needs and desires should take precedence over the needs and desires of other people, and they sometimes try to impose their particular beliefs and way of life on other people. In extreme cases, they resort to violence to get their way, to protest, or to exact revenge for real or imagined slights to their righteousness.

Here's how one such event unfolded. A group of Haredi men, on an El Al flight from Israel to Kiev, started rioting because a movie was shown on board the plane. The Haredi claim that the airline had promised not to show a move during the flight. [Why El Al would agree to such a thing, though, is hard to understand.]

The Haredi were on their way to visit the gravesite of a Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav. When the movie screens began to come down, the Haredi went "wild." Others on the plane said the men started shouting and tried to physically stop the screens from dropping into place. I'm not sure how the situation was resolved.

Such craziness happened before on a 2002 El Al flight flying from Israel to Britain. An ultra-Orthodox man tried to wrap himself in plastic bags because he was a Cohen (a priest) and was afraid the plane would pass over the Holon cemetery and he would become impure. He had been warned of this by a Haredi rabbi from Lithuania. Later that rabbi said if one could wrap himself in thick plastic bags as the plane passed over the cemetery and avoid impurity. The plane's stewards unwrapped him and the plane returned to Ben Gurion Airport where the man was removed.

What does one do about this kind of fanatical behavior? How do we defend an open society, democracy, and secularism? As we've mentioned before Islamic fundamentalists in numerous countries are calling on the governments of those countries to acquiesce to their religious demands to not only teach Islamic doctrine in public schools, but to build schools just for the Islamists.

In the United States, we are assaulted daily by Christian fundamentalists who demand they be allowed to re-order society according to their god-given beliefs, thus allowing Christian prayer in public schools, posting copies of the ten commandments in public buildings (that I've never understood!), disallowing abortion and gay marriage, etc.

How does one combat true believers? Hoffer warns against rising up in hatred, because "We pay for it [hatred] by losing all or many of the values we have set out to defend." Rather, "The best way to fight is to encourage individualism, contrary thinking and a disinclination to follow blindly the teachings of any leaders, no matter how seemingly benign." (from a paper by Dr. Tim Madigan.)

I would add that any behavior that is unlawful, hurtful, deprecating to other people, be halted, forcibly if necessary, and the offenders arrested and brought to justice. No one is above the law, not even the most self-righteous! In the United States and in other democratic countries, no one can impose their religious beliefs onto others. As the saying goes, "Your freedom ends where my nose begins."

The Haredi on that El Al flight should have been arrested, charged appropriately for their offenses and brought to justice. They had no right to impose their beliefs on the other passengers. They could read the Torah rather than watch the movie. They could sleep. They could talk to themselves. They could talk to their god.

And the next time they decide to visit the rabbi's grave, walk!

Evangelicals tell the Jews they're going to hell

A few days ago, The New York Times carried an advertisement of sorts, sponsored by the World Evangelical Alliance. The advertisement was titled, "The Gospel and the Jewish People - An Evangelical Statement."

This "statement" was signed by a number of "evangelical" leaders and would-be leaders around the world, such as Lon Allison, the director of the Billy Graham Center; Mark Bailey, president of the Dallas Theological Seminary; D. A. Carson, Research Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; Chuck Colson, of the Prison Fellowship; Stan Guthrie of Christianity Today; Harold Hoehner, a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary; Jerry Jenkins, of the ChristianWriters Guild; Lon Solomon, pastor of the McLean Bible Church, McLean, Virginia; and many more.

This advertisement for "evangelicalism" starts out by professing love for the Jewish people, and a recognition that the church has been responsible for "anti-Semitic words and deeds." It pledges "commitment to be loving friends and to stand against such injustice in our generation."

BUT..."...we want to be transparent in affirming that we believe the most loving and Scriptural expression of our friendship toward Jewish people ... is to forthrightly share the love of God in the person of Jesus Christ."

It gets worse! These evangelicals of the world, great friends to the Jewish people, just also happen to believe that if Jews don't accept Jesus as their personal savior, they will burn forever in hell!

"We believe that it is only through Jesus that all people can receive eternal life. If Jesus is not the Messiah of the Jewish people, He cannot be the Savior of the World."

Oh boy...Contrary to what the "evangelicals" would like to believe, the fact is that the Messiah anticipated by the Jews in the first century was a kingly figure who was to conquer the world and rule the world from Jerusalem. Jesus was not the messiah of the Jews. In fact, Jesus did not claim to be the messiah.

Now, the final put-down: "It is out of our profound respect for Jewish people that we seek to share the good news of Jesus Christ with them, and encourage others to do the same, for we believe that salvation is found in Jesus, the Messiah of Israel and Savior of the World."

You just can't get much more arrogant than that! You can't get much more condescending than that! You really can't insult a group of people in a worse manner than that! And you can't find a better venue to show the world how stupendously ignorant you are than running an ad like this in The New York Times!

Friendship? Profound respect? I don't think so. If this is the essence of friendship and profound respect, who needs or wants it?

Here's a statement to the World Evangelical Alliance: Go study Torah!

Iraq becoming normal, says John McCain

It's all right, America, John McCain has given his blessing on the occupation of Iraq and the killing of American soldiers there, because "We are no longer staring into the abyss of defeat."

The wonderful "surge" brought about by our great warrior prezident has, according to Mr. McCain, brought about "something approaching normal" in the Mesopotamian capital.

How does Mr. McCain know all of this? Perhaps his expertise comes from the couple of days he recently spent hiding out in the Green Zone? Or maybe the Iraqi Prime Minister so informed him? Or, perhaps it was King George who presented him with these indelible facts?

But isn't it interesting that in spite of what McCain calls "The dramatic reduction in violence..." in Iraq, 2007 - the year of the surge, was the deadliest yet? The latest American soldier death toll is 4020, with three being killed in Baghdad wiithin the past couple of days.

McCain believes we'll have to provide Iraq even more help in the next year and a half as Iraq conducts a variety of elections. One can't establish a democracy without a strong military to keep the people in line, you know. McCain has further determined the U.S. will need to pour additional funds into the country to pay for reconstruction of all the stuff we and the insurgents have blown up.

I guess four thousand plus Americans dead, thousands more wounded, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead and hundreds of thousands more left with nothing but ruined lives, just isn't enough for American warmongers.

It's been five long, deadly, godawful years thus far. But not even all that death and destruction can deter real warriors like Bush and Cheney and McCain. After five years one would think we would have made a little progress -- toward what I don't know -- but that hasn't happened. So, we're still spending $12 billion a month to occupy and stabilize this pile of Middle Eastern sand.

Someone needs to tell McCain to shut up. He's singing the same song we've heard over and over again - "Mission accomplished." The situation is under control. Democracy is coming to Iraq. The people love us because we got rid of Saddam. Any year now Iraq will have electricity and water again. The insurgents are losing. The battle is won.

We don't need McCain to add to that chorus of bullshit. We don't need to hear that finally "something approaching normal" is happening in Iraq. We don't need to hear "We are no longer staring into the abyss of defeat."

Tell that to the families of the 4,000 plus who have died and to all the Iraqis who have been murdered or exiled or find their lives destroyed beyond repair.

McCain also said that "If we [American imperialists] are honest about the opportunities and the risks, I believe they [the American people] will have the patience to allow us the time necessary to obtain our objectives."

I wonder who wrote that for him? American militarists have never been "honest" about anything related to Iraq. And why, after five years of the same bullshit, should the American people be asked to be patient?

But the big kicker is that neither McCain nor any other American politico can even define "our objectives."

Perhaps the American people might consider allowing additional time to "obtain our objectives," if, first of all, those objectives were made clear to all and made some sort of sense; and secondly, if every member of of the Bush administration who pushed for the invasion of Iraq, and every member of Congress who voted for this unbelievably stupid "war," put on a uniform and shipped out to Iraq to serve as foot soldiers in the various "combat" zones.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Pat Robertson, Insanity, and Faith-Based Initiatives

[The following is from the article, "The Christian with Four Aces," by Bill Sizemore.]

Things became bloody and genocidal in Rwanda in 1994. But Pat Robertson and his international charity, Operation Blessing, were ready to help. Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) "launched a media blitz, pleading for donations to send medical teams and win two million souls for Christ..."

Mr. Robertson informed his suckers, oops, viewers that Operation Blessing needed a Lockheed L-1011 jumbo jet which would be transformed into a "Flying Hospital." People sent him money. The jet cost $25 million. The jet was too big for the remote areas it was supposed to serve. And it was too expensive to run. "By 2001, it was sitting unused in the Arizona desert."

Then Robertson got on TV and told his viewers that he'd obtained some cargo planes, and indicated they'd be used to bring doctors and medical supplies to Zaire's refugee camps. Wasn't it wonderful that they would have a chance to contribute to the success of this ministry? He even showed a photo of an airstrip which he claimed the natives had hacked out of the jungle.

"What Robertson didn't tell viewers was ... [that] The airstrip was actually built so the planes could bring in equipment to dredge diamonds from a remote jungle riverbed for the African Development Company, a for-profit owned by Robertson and registered in Bermuda, where there is no corporate income tax and business regulations are lax. The three planes, two of which were registered to Operation Blessing, were used almost exclusively for a mine deep in the jungle...Only one or two of more than forty flights were charitable."

After Robertson became intricately involved with the notorious and brutal Zairean dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko, things began to come apart. Mobutu had granted Robertson a mining concession in Zaire in exchange for Robertson's lobbying to reverse U.S. sanctions against Mobutu's travel to America.

Janet Howell, a Virginia State Senator, realized all was not on the up-and-up at the Robertson show, and suggested the attorney general investigate the possibility that Robertson might be using charitable contributions for other, less charitable causes - like lining his own pockets.

An investigation discovered evidence that Mr. Pat had "willfully induced contributions from the public through the use of misleading statements and other implications..." But the investigation was impeded by the fact that Operation Blessing did not respond promptly to requests for materials and when they did send materials the latter were often incomplete and confusing. Lawyers involved in the investigation thought that Robertson had made false claims but didn't think they could prove "he intended to defraud donors."

In the end, Robertson was not indicted, but he did reimburse Operation Blessing $400,000 for use of the planes and agreed to make some changes in the way Operation Blessing worked.

Later, Robertson cozied up to the bloodied Liberian madman president, Charles Taylor. In 1999, Robertson, under the name of Freedom Gold, a for-profit company, signed a mineral development deal with Taylor.

Taylor is not a nice man and his climb to power involved much brutality and viciousness -- including "forced labor, torture, and executions. In order to obtain diamonds for funding his enterprise, Taylor gave weapons and support to Sierra Leone rebels who were noted for "hacking limbs off civilians and slicing open the bellies of pregnant women."

The U.N. "slapped Liberia with an arms embargo, a travel ban on government officials, and a prohibition on diamond exports.

"Robertson lobbied vigorously to get the sanctions lifted."

"In 2002, Taylor was the star attraction at a three-day 'Liberia for Jesus' rally, which Robertson helped organize and covered on The 700 Club. ... Taylor stepped down in 2003 ... and is now on trial for war crimes in The Hague.

At last report, Robertson's gold-mining venture, which had been disrupted by the factional fighting, had resumed operations."

If you have followed the career of Marion Gordon "Pat" Robertson, you will remember how he has claimed many times that God speaks to him and through him; that God instructed him to run for president in 1988, and that he has healed many thousands of sick people, that he has turned hurricanes aside, that he has personally fought Satan "and the demons at his command," that God told him we are in the last days and that Jesus will return soon ... and that he will be present when that happens.

Robertson claims that God gave him the job to usher in the 2nd coming of His son...which will happen on Jerusalem's Mount of Olives. At one point after Robertson had obtained METV (Middle East Television), CBN officials put together a detailed plan as to how to televise Christ's return. "We even discussed how Jesus' radiance might be too bright for the cameras and how we would have to make adjustments for that problem," said one of the men involved.

You may also remember how in January of 2007, Robertson said that God had "personally warned him of a major terrorist attack, 'perhaps nuclear,' that would occur before year's end." That "prophecy" made Robertson look like a fool, but most of his viewers don't seem to care.

There's a lot more to say. But this is enough to declare that, like John Hagee, Pat Robertson is a certified lunatic! In a semi-perfect world, we would carry him off in a white jacket and put him in a room where he wouldn't hurt himself and then, using the latest therapies and drugs, try to help him become sane.

The evidence shows clearly that Pat Robertson is insane!

Maybe that's what it takes to succeed in our world today. Consider this: When prezident George W. Bush, by executive order, channeled billions of federal dollars through his Faith-Based Initiative to religious groups and groupies, Operation Blessing, in 2005, received $14 million of your tax money and my tax money!

Fourteen million taxpayer dollars!!! So who's crazy now?

Jeff Sharlet, The Family, & Faith-Based Initiatives

Jeff Sharlet's new book, The Family - The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, will become available next month.

Mr. Sharlet has spent years researching the ultra-secretive sect known as The Family or The Fellowship. The Family is a thriving, pulsating virus striking at the very heart of constitutional government in this country.

The following comes from the bookjacket:

The Family represents "fundamentalism's avant-garde, waging spiritual war in the halls of American power and around the globe. They consider themselves the new chosen, congressmen, generals and foreign dictators who meet in confidential cells, to pray and plan for a 'leadership led by God,' to be won not by force but through 'quiet diplomacy.' Their base is a leafy estate overlooking the Potomac in Arlington, Virginia, and Jeff Sharlet is the only journalist known to have written from inside its walls.

"The Family is about the other half of American fundamentallist power--not its angry masses, but its sophisticated elites. Sharlet follows the story back to Abraham Vereide, an immigrant preacher who in 1935 organized a small group of businessmen sympathetic to European fascism, fusing the Far Right with his own polite but authoritarian faith. From that core, Vereide built an international network of fundamentalists who spoke the language of establishment power, a 'family' that thrives to this day. In public, they host prayer breakfasts; in private they preach a gospel of 'biblical capitalism,' military might, and American empire. Citing Hitler, Lenin, and Mao, the Family's leader declares, 'We work with power where we can, build new power where we can't."

I was most surprised to learn that Hillary Clinton joined a Bible study group with The Family in 1993 and has spoken of its leader as a source of spiritual insight.

For additional information click here.

John Gorenfield, writing for "Talk 2 Action," reported that on Friday, April 4, Mr. Sharlet "dropped an amazing tidbit. Seems that the Faith-Based initiative--the Bush plan to send billions of tax dollars hurtling to religious groups--was dreamed up by the geniuses at The Family, the District of Columbia's spiritual mafia and no fans of the Establishment Clause."

Gorenfield goes on to describe an amusing, if ultimately frightening, series of events he was involved in some six years ago. "Way back in 2002," he says, "below the radar, a bunch of God-oriented offices sprang up within the Department of Labor and other secular agencies. The idea was to grease the path of dollar bills from the U.S. government to social programs inspired by one deity or another."

That prodded Gorenfield to get his hand in to see what he could pull out. He got "in touch on behalf of a controversial faith--the fictitious congregation from H.P. Lovecraft's classic horror stories, about a terrifying fiend from the deep." He wrote to the Department of Labor as a representative of the Church of Cthulhu, "a.k.a. 'the thing that cannot be described.'"

The Department of Labor responded by sending him a letter "Announcing Grant Opportunities," and a pamphlet with a god-awful picture of a burning bush, containing the caption "Not everyone has a burning bush to tell them their life's calling."

Gorenfield received other mail from the DOL, but he can't find it. That mail came addressed to his "fictitious Church of the Robot."

How many billions of dollars has the Bush administration wasted on this unconstitutional and illegal scheme? We'll probably never know. Another important question is "What will happen to the Faith-Based Initiative" when Bush and cronies leave office?

Last month, Bill Berkowitz, at Media Transparency, noted that none of the current presidential candidates have provided any specifics as to how FBI will be implemented or not-implemented during their tenure, but each of them has, according to Christianity Today, "voiced support for federal funding of faith-based social services."

Obama said he wants to look at the program in detail to see "how monies have been allocated ... before I make a firm commitment ..."

Clinton actually has a "director of faith-based outreach," not a good sign. His name is Burns Strider and he indicated that she could continue funding the organizations "but would seek to maintain an appropriate boundary between church and state." [There is no "appropriate boundary." The boundary has been torn down!]

A spokesman for McCain promised that McCain would essentially keep things going the way they are. Of course he would.

Berkowitz notes that Bush, in his last State of the Union speech said he wants "to make his faith-based agenda a permanent part of the federal government." Well, we've known for seven years that George neither understands the U.S. Constitution nor feels bound by it. So that's no surprise.

Bush said, "Our government should not fear the influence of faith in our society." Which faith? Any faith? From what I've read, monies distributed through this faith-based scam have gone almost entirely to fundamentalist Christian groups. Not too much has found its way to social programs sponsored by Muslims.

But Bush doesn't even understand the problem. Again, he has twisted things around to suit his own misguided view of government. The problem isn't that government "fears" the influence of faith in our society. The problem is that the government wants to define that faith and impose the strictures of fundamentalist Christianity upon the population. What he meant and would have said, if he had been truthful, is that we have nothing to "fear" from a government that's tied to faith.

That's the con, and that, of course, is precisely what we should fear the most, because historically, every time a government and a religion have joined as one, the result has been an unmitigated disaster!

Bush's current "faith-based czar," Jay Hein, submitted a "seven-year progress report," detailing the "successes" of the Faith-Based and Community Initiative. Bushites promote the report as evidence that they were right all along as it "makes ... clear that, contrary to the imaginings of some critics, this is a serious, substantive, careful, and significant effort to improve social services, make government collaboration with grassroots and faith-based groups more fruitful, and better follow the constitutional mandate to protect religious freedom and ensure equal treatment of all."

What a crock! There is nothing "serious" or "substantive" about it! The Bush Administration set up this program as a sop to the Righteous Right, and also because it falls in line with neocon thinking that the government should rid itself of providing social services. Let the churches do the social stuff, is the official line. In neocon thinking, government is bad and thus as many government services as possible should be shuffled off to other, non-governmental groups.

Furthermore, the constitutional mandate is not "to protect religious freedom and ensure equal treatment of all." The constitutional mandate is simply that the United States government shall establish no religion and that there shall be no religious test to hold office in the U.S. political establishment.

What the Bushites have done is broken down that wall of separation of church and state precisely by establishing religious groups to do government work with taypayer dollars! And, as has become clear, the religious groups which are being established have, for the most part, a fundamentalist Christian identity.

Even a number of conservative politicians and leaders have criticised the program. Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, for example, were afraid that bad groups related to Scientology and Krishna would get taypayer bucks. Not entirely irrational.

But a major problem has been the lack of oversight which allows religious groups to discriminate and/or indoctrinate, and the lack of fiscal responsibility. Furthermore, as Berkowitz says, "there are still no adequate measures in place to gauge whether religious organizations providing social services outperform -- or even perform equally as well -- as their secular counterparts. In addition, the initiative has been used as a religious patronage system to recruit minority religious officials and bolster Bush's conservative evangelical constituency."

Let's see now: Seven years ago, at the instigation and with the support of The Family, the Bush administration rammed through [see below] a faith-based program to fund religious organizations providing social services. While the Bushites claim this is in line with the U.S. Constitution, many believe it to actually be in direct violation of the Constitution.

At the end of these seven years the FBI has turned out to be exactly what many of us thought it was when first announced -- a transparent effort to shunt mega-bucks to right-wing fundamentalist organizations to build up that part of Bush's political base - without which he'd still be back shoveling shit in Crawford.

At the end of seven years and billions of dollars of taxpayer money gone up in holy smoke, no adequate evaluation as to the program's effectiveness has been undertaken, especially as it relates to other, non-religious programs. The program continues to lack proper controls to ensure that these religious providers do not discriminate or proselytize.

What we do have at the end of seven years is a proliferation and expansion of the program. The Bush administration claims that "some 35 governors and 100 mayors have established faith-based offices; opened the doors for more religious organizations to be eligible to receive government grants; doled several billion dollars to (mostly) constituent religious groups; and overcame political opposition by [the] issuing of several significant executive orders to move the project forward."

Greed rules. Greed rules everywhere. Greed rules religion and religious institutions.

Perhaps you would like to join my new religion, the Church of Haysus Mexicano. We are going to apply for a grant to provide assistance to illegals who need shopping bags to pick up aluminun cans along the highway. Everyone wanting a shopping bag would, of course, need to attend a series of "workshops" titled "Haysus Mexicano can help you find a can." We wouldn't force them to join our church, but we could imply they'd find a lot more cans if they did, and that would mean they'd earn more income.

I figure our operating expenses for the first year would run about $2 million. Seems I've lost the address for the Department of Labor, however. If you know what it is, please send an email and we'll put you on our mailing list. Oops! Mailing lists are expensive. I'd better bump our application to $2.5 million.