14
Apr

retrocampaigns:

Al Smith, the first Catholic nominated for the presidency by a major party, faced vicious anti-Catholic prejudice during his 1928 run against Herbert Hoover. The opposition claimed that under a Catholic president, Protestant marriages would be annulled, bibles would be banned and the Pope would have a special office in the White House. The Lincoln Tunnel, then under construction, was rumored to be a secret passage to bring him from Rome to Washington.

Should Al Smith Be President? by Selsus E. Tull, D.D., Pine Bluff, Arkansas, via Baylor University - Central Libraries

23
Dec
Earlier this year, during a candid moment with a female Post reporter, [Phil Robertson] asked whether she was seeing anyone.
When she said no, he responded, ‘Must be hard in New York — what with all them gays.’
-

New York Post

Come on now, he’s just expressing his religious beliefs. It’s right there in scripture… Deuteronomy 33:12: “Thine metropolitan area shall have proper straight dude to straight lady ratio, for it displeaseth the Lord when his daughters searcheth OkCupid profiles for a seed-bearer.

06
Nov
This morning, the [Supreme] Court will hear oral arguments in Greece v. Galloway. [Linda] Stephens (who is an atheist) and [Susan] Galloway (who is Jewish) jointly sued their town in 2008. They claimed that the town of Greece violated the Constitution by opening its monthly Town Board meetings with a Christian prayer for nearly a decade. (In 2008, after Stephens and Galloway complained about the prayer practice, the town invited three non-Christians to deliver the prayer.) Specifically, Stephens and Galloway argued that the town’s prayer practice violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The text of the Constitution provides that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” but the provision has been interpreted more broadly to prohibit any government body from aligning itself with a religion. Establishment Clause jurisprudence is notoriously chaotic, and Greece v. Galloway is one of the more high-profile cases of the term. Court watchers are speculating that the Court may seize Galloway as an opportunity to impose order onto a famously scattershot corner of the law.
-

The Atlantic

As a procedural issue, a simple moment of silence should suffice. It would allow religious attendees to pray while everyone else prepares to yell at their local officials. Why the good Christians of Greece can’t agree on such a sensible compromise is beyond me. The appeal to tradition (“we’ve been praying at these meetings for years”) is never convincing. Slavery and other abhorrent practices were once traditions, yet we no longer honor them.

That some citizens of Greece insist upon reciting a Christian prayer prior to a town meeting seems to violate the spirit of the Establishment Clause. If a state religion was established, surely the recitation of prayers at all official government events would be mandated. A government that aims to treat all faiths equally shouldn’t promote one specific faith by publicly praising its God on a regular basis. Granted, these kinds of prayers are fairly ubiquitous throughout the country, but considering that the number of Muslims and religiously unaffiliated in the U.S. is growing each year, a more inclusive attitude is necessary. 

24
Apr

A couple serving probation for the death of their toddler after they turned to prayer instead of a doctor could face new charges now that another son has died.

Herbert and Catherine Schaible belong to a fundamentalist Christian church that believes in faith healing. They lost their 8-month-old son, Brandon, last week after he suffered from diarrhea and breathing problems for at least a week, and stopped eating. Four years ago, another son died from bacterial pneumonia.

02
Apr

Email war erupts between Glenn Greenwald and Sam Harris

Sam Harris: “The article is defamatory—indeed, it is beneath responding to—and it was destined to be buried in noise until you retweeted it. You endorsed it and amplified its effects—hence my annoyance. What part of that process don’t you understand?” 

Glenn Greenwald: “I think you’re embarrassed that people are now paying attention to some of the darker and uglier sentiments that have been creeping into this form of athesim advocacy, and are lashing out at anyone helping to shine a light on that. A bizarre and wholly irrational fixation on Islam, as opposed to the evils done by other religions, has been masquerdaing in the dark under the banner of rational atheism for way too long.”

The bickering is in reference to this article, which posits that New Atheists, and Harris in particular, promote “scientific racism” towards Muslims. Greenwald tweeted the article earlier today. Harris also posted the email exchange on his blog.

04
Mar

Paying a Price for Religion

A provocative report from the Council for Secular Humanism examined the subsidization of religion by all citizens via tax exemptions. The authors wrote:

While some people may be bothered by the fact that there are pastors who live in multimillion dollar homes, this is old news to most. But here is what should bother you about these expensive homes: You are helping to pay for them! You pay for them indirectly, the same way local, state, and federal governments in the United States subsidize religion—to the tune of about $71 billion every year.

Religious institutions receive revenue through personal and corporate donations, fund-raisers, volunteer labor, direct subsidies, and corporate profits. Donations result in tax deductions for those making the donations. Religions do not pay income, property, investment, or sales tax.

Mark Rienzi, from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, countered by arguing that ”Whether it is the Quakers opposing slavery, Reverend King arguing for equality, or a Catholic soup kitchen feeding and sheltering all in need, our history is full of examples confirming the great public benefit of our religious diversity.”

What Mr. Rienzi ignores in his brief and unsatisfactory summation of religion’s supposed benefits to society are, to be similarly brief about it, preaching against homosexuality, bankrolling campaigns for anti-gay legislation, colluding with Nazi Germany, harboring child rapists, declaring that the use of condoms could make the AIDS crisis worse, and other assorted nonsense and bigotry.

Religion’s ultimate effect on society is immeasurable, which is, in part, why it’s ludicrous to assert that churches deserve tax exemption for the purpose of public charity. Whatever genuinely beneficial charitable acts and goodwill come from religion also come with “baggage,” to be politely euphemistic about it. Perhaps subsidizing religion yields soup kitchens, homeless outreach, and communal bonding. But it also, undeniably, can provoke hostility towards those deemed “immoral” by ancient texts. Surely the benefits of compassion can come without the expense of the protection of child rapists or the denial of marriage equality.

Perhaps most frustrating about tax-exempt status for churches is that these same institutions, granted so much undeserved leeway already, ceaselessly insist that they are under attack. They claim, amongst other things, that a religious organization being ordered to pay for contraception is a violation of both religious liberty and the moral conscience of the faithful. But what about the conscience of gay couples unable to marry or adopt? Or the conscience of the victims of clergy sex abuse? Or the conscience of the health workers watching people die from AIDS because condoms are considered immoral? Or those who object to the moral teachings of the Bible? Or those who find it revolting that women are shamed for having abortions? Or those who object to religion’s insistence that its holy texts offer realistic depictions of the universe? The moral conscience of these people are, in effect through the subsidization of religion, totally ignored and disrespected.

If Mr. Rienzi would like Americans to help fund an abolitionist organization or a civil rights group, or a soup kitchen, I’m sure many would be happy to oblige him. But he has no right to demand that everyone subsidize organizations that often preach highly objectionable moral and political views.

More and more people are declaring themselves spiritual but unaffiliated with any particular religion. They are, in the words of Thomas Paine, declaring their minds to be their own churches. In light of this trend of independent thinking, the subsidization of religion seems increasingly unjust and antiquated.

27
Feb
It is not too much to say that whoever wishes to become a truly great moral human being (and let us not ask whether or not this is possible) must first divorce himself from all the prohibitions, crimes, and hypocrisies of the Christian church. If the concept of God has any validity or any use, it can only be to make us larger, freer, and more loving. If God cannot do this, then it is time we got rid of Him.
- James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time
21
Jan
Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.
17
Jan
8 Then Judah said to Onan, “Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother.” 9 But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother. 10 What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death also.
26
Dec
25
Dec
21
Dec
Gotokuji, Tokyo

Gotokuji, Tokyo

21
Dec
Cat shrine - Gotokuji, Tokyo

Cat shrine - Gotokuji, Tokyo

25
Oct
The Great Buddha of Kamakura, Japan
12
Oct
"Whether you read it online or hold the physical object in your hands, this issue of Newsweek is best viewed as an archaeological artifact that is certain to embarrass us in the eyes of future generations. Its existence surely says more about our time than the editors at the magazine meant to say—for the cover alone reveals the abasement and desperation of our journalism, the intellectual bankruptcy and resultant tenacity of faith-based religion, and our ubiquitous confusion about the nature of scientific authority. The article is the modern equivalent of a 14th-century woodcut depicting the work of alchemists, inquisitors, Crusaders, and fortune-tellers. I hope our descendants understand that at least some of us were blushing.”
- Sam Harris

"Whether you read it online or hold the physical object in your hands, this issue of Newsweek is best viewed as an archaeological artifact that is certain to embarrass us in the eyes of future generations. Its existence surely says more about our time than the editors at the magazine meant to say—for the cover alone reveals the abasement and desperation of our journalism, the intellectual bankruptcy and resultant tenacity of faith-based religion, and our ubiquitous confusion about the nature of scientific authority. The article is the modern equivalent of a 14th-century woodcut depicting the work of alchemists, inquisitors, Crusaders, and fortune-tellers. I hope our descendants understand that at least some of us were blushing.”

- Sam Harris

Elsewhere