Thursday, November 30, 2006

What Pope Benedict is up to, opinion

Benedict is not the charismatic world figure of John Paul II or the gentle harbinger of hope and ecumenical unity as was John XXIII. Benedict first and foremost is a theologian, a man of the mind who thinks upon and expounds about religion.

In a nutshell, Benedict’s argument against fanaticism is such: Violence is the enemy of reason. Violence has no place in religion because to act against reason is to act against the nature of God. Reason is the line he draws in the sand; it creates and interesting fulcrum from which to juxtapose comparisons of faith, fanaticism, violence and the secular proclivities of modern religion.

Christianity has a rich history of sectarian violence. The Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades, the Anglican cleansing of Catholic England, the burning of heretics in Lutheran Germany and the removal of the Huguenots from France are a few examples. Many of these persecuted sects found their way to our American shores. Here they establish a relatively harmonious Christian conglomerate. Lately we have witnessed a revolutionary evangelical fundamentalism in America; faith based incursions into the societal and political arenas often fall short of the measure of reason. While such fanaticism seems minimal compared to the murderous intent of Sunni/Shiite sectarianism the religious right's interference in human and constitutional rights is obsessive and unreasonable. Make no mistake; Benedict is also addressing this sort of secularism.

The pope's remarks rekindle an examination of whether spirituality and religiosity can stand on faith alone. If faith stands at odds with scientific and moral truth it must assert itself through coercive means. Life is reduced to confliction in which the most powerful and violent among us reign supreme. Righteousness absolves the faithful from moral clarity and human charity. At once Moqtada al-Sadr and Pat Robertson appear more similar than dissonant.

Benedict seeks an alliance with Islam and other monotheistic faiths to confront the larger danger of liberal secular humanism, hedonism and unbridled consumerism that he feels corrupts the moral core of Western society. Beware! Pope Benedict XVI wants the keys to your SUV and the remote to your plasma T.V.

by source being sought.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Science and Religion, an update.

A Free-for-All on Science and Religion

Maybe the pivotal moment came when Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate in physics, warned that “the world needs to wake up from its long nightmare of religious belief,” or when a Nobelist in chemistry, Sir Harold Kroto, called for the John Templeton Foundation to give its next $1.5 million prize for “progress in spiritual discoveries” to an atheist — Richard Dawkins, the Oxford evolutionary biologist whose book “The God Delusion” is a national best-seller.

Or perhaps the turning point occurred at a more solemn moment, when Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City and an adviser to the Bush administration on space exploration, hushed the audience with heartbreaking photographs of newborns misshapen by birth defects — testimony, he suggested, that blind nature, not an intelligent overseer, is in control.

Somewhere along the way, a forum this month at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif., which might have been one more polite dialogue between science and religion, began to resemble the founding convention for a political party built on a single plank: in a world dangerously charged with ideology, science needs to take on an evangelical role, vying with religion as teller of the greatest story ever told.

Carolyn Porco, a senior research scientist at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo., called, half in jest, for the establishment of an alternative church, with Dr. Tyson, whose powerful celebration of scientific discovery had the force and cadence of a good sermon, as its first minister.

She was not entirely kidding. “We should let the success of the religious formula guide us,” Dr. Porco said. “Let’s teach our children from a very young age about the story of the universe and its incredible richness and beauty. It is already so much more glorious and awesome — and even comforting — than anything offered by any scripture or God concept I know.”

She displayed a picture taken by the Cassini spacecraft of Saturn and its glowing rings eclipsing the Sun, revealing in the shadow a barely noticeable speck called Earth.

There has been no shortage of conferences in recent years, commonly organized by the Templeton Foundation, seeking to smooth over the differences between science and religion and ending in a metaphysical draw. Sponsored instead by the Science Network, an educational organization based in California, and underwritten by a San Diego investor, Robert Zeps (who acknowledged his role as a kind of “anti-Templeton”), the La Jolla meeting, “Beyond Belief: Science, Religion, Reason and Survival,” rapidly escalated into an invigorating intellectual free-for-all. (Unedited video of the proceedings will be posted on the Web at

A presentation by Joan Roughgarden, a Stanford University biologist, on using biblical metaphor to ease her fellow Christians into accepting evolution (a mutation is “a mustard seed of DNA”) was dismissed by Dr. Dawkins as “bad poetry,” while his own take-no-prisoners approach (religious education is “brainwashing” and “child abuse”) was condemned by the anthropologist Melvin J. Konner, who said he had “not a flicker” of religious faith, as simplistic and uninformed.

After enduring two days of talks in which the Templeton Foundation came under the gun as smudging the line between science and faith, Charles L. Harper Jr., its senior vice president, lashed back, denouncing what he called “pop conflict books” like Dr. Dawkins’s “God Delusion,” as “commercialized ideological scientism” — promoting for profit the philosophy that science has a monopoly on truth.

That brought an angry rejoinder from Richard P. Sloan, a professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, who said his own book, “Blind Faith: The Unholy Alliance of Religion and Medicine,” was written to counter “garbage research” financed by Templeton on, for example, the healing effects of prayer.

With atheists and agnostics outnumbering the faithful (a few believing scientists, like Francis S. Collins, author of “The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief,” were invited but could not attend), one speaker after another called on their colleagues to be less timid in challenging teachings about nature based only on scripture and belief. “The core of science is not a mathematical model; it is intellectual honesty,” said Sam Harris, a doctoral student in neuroscience and the author of “The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason” and “Letter to a Christian Nation.”

“Every religion is making claims about the way the world is,” he said. “These are claims about the divine origin of certain books, about the virgin birth of certain people, about the survival of the human personality after death. These claims purport to be about reality.”

By shying away from questioning people’s deeply felt beliefs, even the skeptics, Mr. Harris said, are providing safe harbor for ideas that are at best mistaken and at worst dangerous. “I don’t know how many more engineers and architects need to fly planes into our buildings before we realize that this is not merely a matter of lack of education or economic despair,” he said.

Dr. Weinberg, who famously wrote toward the end of his 1977 book on cosmology, “The First Three Minutes,” that “the more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless,” went a step further: “Anything that we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done and may in the end be our greatest contribution to civilization.”

With a rough consensus that the grand stories of evolution by natural selection and the blossoming of the universe from the Big Bang are losing out in the intellectual marketplace, most of the discussion came down to strategy. How can science fight back without appearing to be just one more ideology?

“There are six billion people in the world,” said Francisco J. Ayala, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Irvine, and a former Roman Catholic priest. “If we think that we are going to persuade them to live a rational life based on scientific knowledge, we are not only dreaming — it is like believing in the fairy godmother.”

“People need to find meaning and purpose in life,” he said. “I don’t think we want to take that away from them.”

Lawrence M. Krauss, a physicist at Case Western Reserve University known for his staunch opposition to teaching creationism, found himself in the unfamiliar role of playing the moderate. “I think we need to respect people’s philosophical notions unless those notions are wrong,” he said.

“The Earth isn’t 6,000 years old,” he said. “The Kennewick man was not a Umatilla Indian.” But whether there really is some kind of supernatural being — Dr. Krauss said he was a nonbeliever — is a question unanswerable by theology, philosophy or even science. “Science does not make it impossible to believe in God,” Dr. Krauss insisted. “We should recognize that fact and live with it and stop being so pompous about it.”

That was just the kind of accommodating attitude that drove Dr. Dawkins up the wall. “I am utterly fed up with the respect that we — all of us, including the secular among us — are brainwashed into bestowing on religion,” he said. “Children are systematically taught that there is a higher kind of knowledge which comes from faith, which comes from revelation, which comes from scripture, which comes from tradition, and that it is the equal if not the superior of knowledge that comes from real evidence.”

By the third day, the arguments had become so heated that Dr. Konner was reminded of “a den of vipers.”

“With a few notable exceptions,” he said, “the viewpoints have run the gamut from A to B. Should we bash religion with a crowbar or only with a baseball bat?”

His response to Mr. Harris and Dr. Dawkins was scathing. “I think that you and Richard are remarkably apt mirror images of the extremists on the other side,” he said, “and that you generate more fear and hatred of science.”

Dr. Tyson put it more gently. “Persuasion isn’t always ‘Here are the facts — you’re an idiot or you are not,’ ” he said. “I worry that your methods” — he turned toward Dr. Dawkins — “how articulately barbed you can be, end up simply being ineffective, when you have much more power of influence.”

Chastened for a millisecond, Dr. Dawkins replied, “I gratefully accept the rebuke.”

In the end it was Dr. Tyson’s celebration of discovery that stole the show. Scientists may scoff at people who fall back on explanations involving an intelligent designer, he said, but history shows that “the most brilliant people who ever walked this earth were doing the same thing.” When Isaac Newton’s “Principia Mathematica” failed to account for the stability of the solar system — why the planets tugging at one another’s orbits have not collapsed into the Sun — Newton proposed that propping up the mathematical mobile was “an intelligent and powerful being.”

It was left to Pierre Simon Laplace, a century later, to take the next step. Hautily telling Napoleon that he had no need for the God hypothesis, Laplace extended Newton’s mathematics and opened the way to a purely physical theory.

“What concerns me now is that even if you’re as brilliant as Newton, you reach a point where you start basking in the majesty of God and then your discovery stops — it just stops,” Dr. Tyson said. “You’re no good anymore for advancing that frontier, waiting for somebody else to come behind you who doesn’t have God on the brain and who says: ‘That’s a really cool problem. I want to solve it.’ ”

“Science is a philosophy of discovery; intelligent design is a philosophy of ignorance,” he said. “Something fundamental is going on in people’s minds when they confront things they don’t understand.”

He told of a time, more than a millennium ago, when Baghdad reigned as the intellectual center of the world, a history fossilized in the night sky. The names of the constellations are Greek and Roman, Dr. Tyson said, but two-thirds of the stars have Arabic names. The words “algebra” and “algorithm” are Arabic.

But sometime around 1100, a dark age descended. Mathematics became seen as the work of the devil, as Dr. Tyson put it. “Revelation replaced investigation,” he said, and the intellectual foundation collapsed.

He did not have to say so, but the implication was that maybe a century, maybe a millennium from now, the names of new planets, stars and galaxies might be Chinese. Or there may be no one to name them at all.

Before he left to fly back home to Austin, Dr. Weinberg seemed to soften for a moment, describing religion a bit fondly as a crazy old aunt.

“She tells lies, and she stirs up all sorts of mischief and she’s getting on, and she may not have that much life left in her, but she was beautiful once,” he lamented. “When she’s gone, we may miss her.”

Dr. Dawkins wasn’t buying it. “I won't miss her at all,” he said. “Not a scrap. Not a smidgen.”

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Is God no longer Pro-Republican, on their side?

For several years now we have heard from our Republican friends and the mainstream media that the Republican party is the part of family values, that they are the protector of all that is good in our society, and further that liberals and Democrats are destroying our society. Radio talk show hosts are severe in stereotyping and blaming liberals and Democrats for all thst is wroing in our society. Republicans alone had the moral high ground, right? Here is an interesting view.

From Dr. KA Paul.
web site


Why 25% Evangelicals Voted for Democrats

Two years ago, President Bush won his reelection with a slim, but sure majority of the nationwide vote. In addition, strongly worded state referendums passed in many states reflecting conservative anti-gay views of same sex unions. The word was out and it seemed clear – 2004 was a referendum on morals and values – and Bush, the Republicans and their fellow Conservatives proclaimed their mandate to clean society, infuse more religious values and make the United States a God fearing country, again.

If indeed that were true, and God was on their side, what does November 2006 say about how opportunities were squandered, moral high ground was yielded and self righteousness replaced virtue and honesty? God is mad at my Republican friends and their evangelical choirboys.

Billy Graham once said, “If God doesn't judge America soon, He will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.” In 2004, people like Graham believed God was judging. On November 7th, however, not only was America’s voice heard, but God’s voice was heard all too well. How could the party and its followers who claim to have a direct line to God’s will have misread or misrepresented that will so vastly?

I have no more link to God’s ear than does Billy Graham, or George W. Bush for that matter, but if I had to guess, Evangelicals and Republicans who claim Jesus as their philosopher, instead of preaching the gospel to the unreached billions throughout the world have delayed the second coming by not focusing and obeying God’s commands. Matthew 24:14 states “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations.” In II Peter 3:12, we read, “Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God.” But we have delayed this with policies which have taken missionaries away from the unreached, and have created far worse conditions than only two years prior.

The Bush Administration’s foreign policies have created more widows and orphans through its prolonged and even unnecessary war in Iraq. Instead of rescuing widows and orphans, as James 1:27 says “The religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world,” the war policy, the neglect of domestic and worldwide poverty, and the passive approach to genocidal tyrants in places like Darfur, have created countless millions who are deprived of basic needs, liberty, life and even the American ideal of the pursuit of Happiness.

“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you,” from Matthew 5:44 offers a guide to living. Yet, those who claim Jesus as their master have helped create more enemies through policies that run counter to scripture.

When self-righteousness replaced rectitude, God then decided to take action. President Bush’s said in his second inaugural address, “I have earned the capital and I will spend it,” but he failed to remember the lesson of Matthew 5:5, “Blessed are the meek in spirit, for they shall inherit the earth.” The antithesis should be, Cursed are the prideful – they shall lose their friends. Americans were incredulous over President Bush’s self-proclaimed mandate. God was too.

Then there were the personal scandals and the hypocritical messages from national leaders that further damaged any claim to moral superiority. The lobbying scandal showed us that money, not God, was the calling of the day. The same people, who only two years earlier tried to claim a moral high ground through relentless verbal and legislative persecution of those with whom they disagreed, were caught taking money for policy, covering up for decadence, lying and creating sins of their own. That certainly was not a divine calling.

On October 10, 2006, I confronted Speaker Hastert about his role in covering up the Congressman Foley scandal. I told him that God wanted him to resign or he will be judged very publicly. November 7th was Judgment day. We saw the role Ted Haggard played when he so publicly preached and vigorously pushed an anti-gay agenda under the guise of religious fervor, and how he was forced to resign as president of the National Association of Evangelicals and was dismissed as Senior Pastor of his New Life Church when his personal gay lifestyle became public.
insert bold tagsDoes God want us to persecute those who some may believe are not living “intended” lifestyles? Does God want us to wage wars that have no purpose?
Does God want us to act corrupt even if we believe that the actions are ultimately for a greater good? Doubtful! What is known is what is universal to most Bible-based religions, and precisely what was missing from the Bush agenda; the basic tenet of scripture. The Jewish sage Hillel taught us when he was challenged to recite the Bible while standing on one foot that the essence of God’s word was to “Love thy neighbor as you wish to be loved yourself, all the rest is commentary.”

Perhaps the Republicans did not get that memo.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Gay Rights, War and Religion.

Published on Monday, November 13, 2006 by the Boston Globe
War, Religion, and Gay Rights
by James Carroll

In Jerusalem, Muslims and Jews have found common cause: attacking gay people.

A gay pride parade was scheduled for Friday. In Palestinian areas, Muslim leaders vigorously condemned homosexuality as criminal, and in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, Jewish demonstrators staged raucous protests. As a result, organizers canceled the parade. One of them said, "Now we are being dragged back into the dark world of religion."

In US elections last week, while a wave of change was reversing the nation's conservative direction, a counterwave crested, and it, too, attacked gays.

On the ballot in eight states were amendments defining marriage as between a man and woman, a direct repudiation of the right of homosexual couples to marry. In seven of those states, the amendment passed. One of those was Colorado, where a leader of the anti-gay-marriage movement, Pastor Ted Haggard, had, the week before, been forced out of his position as head of New Life Church in Colorado Springs because of an alleged relationship with a male prostitute. In his resignation letter, Haggard confessed, "I am a deceiver and a liar. There is a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I've been warring against it all my adult life."

In Massachusetts, ahead of last week's constitutional convention, the Commonwealth's four Catholic bishops took a rare political initiative, calling on Catholics to pressure legislators to support an anti-gay-marriage amendment here. The convention recessed without taking action, but the bishops had demonstrated the absolute priority of rolling back the right of gays to marry. When public crises are defined by an immoral American war, universal cuts in social services, violence among young people, resurgent nuclear arsenals, rising global inequity, unprecedented jeopardy of the earth itself, why are the bishops obsessed with this particular question?

Same-sex erotic love is not the issue. Humans, including Catholic bishops, have long accommodated it. But that accommodation assumes denial and shame. What brings demonstrators into streets across cultures, and what shows up in the United States as "values" politics, mobilizing bishops, is the movement to bring homosexuality out of the dark.

When gay people openly assert their identities as such, whether through parades or through the demand for full and equal social recognition, reactionaries cannot stand it. Why?

Two answers, one personal and one political. The open affirmation of gay identity can pose a mortal threat to people whose own sexual identity is insecure. The Haggard story is a cautionary tale. As it happens, I was present last year to hear Pastor Ted preach a sermon at his mega-church, and it included a digressive attack on homosexuals that was as venomous as it was gratuitous. He equated gay sex with bestiality.

Even at the time, I wondered about the dark energy of his hatred. That it is revealed now as self-hatred comes as no surprise. One needn't draw a direct line from Haggard's behavior to the private morality of Catholic bishops to sense that the church's own deepening insecurity on all matters of sexuality, especially those surfaced by the still unresolved crisis of priestly sexual abuse of children, informs its exceptional opposition to gay rights.

And so in Jerusalem. The insecurities of male establishments, whose dominance over women is threatened, readily explode in contempt for any expression of gay pride. Patriarchy is at issue.

There is a deflection here, and that points to the political use of gay bashing. At the end of the Cold War, when the Pentagon defined itself as the world's largest closet by decreeing "don't ask, don't tell," the issue of gays in the military was being used to deflect attention from the military's real problem: how to maintain Cold War levels of spending, and a Cold War nuclear arsenal, without a Cold War enemy?

The real "don't ask, don't tell" was "Don't ask us about our budgets and nukes, and we won't tell you about the future wars they will enable." All of the Sturm und Drang about gays in the military deflected American attention from the real issue of the moment, and it worked. The American Cold War ethos is still with us.

The human race is undergoing a massive cultural mutation. The meaning of sexuality is being transformed as biology revolutionizes reproduction. Women are demanding equality across the globe. Men are being forced to reimagine their familial and social roles. Gays and lesbians are at the center of these changes. Their refusal to be silent and invisible is one of the era's great resources, a magnificent sign of hope.

James Carroll's column appears regularly in the Globe.

© Copyright 2006 Boston Globe

Monday, November 13, 2006

What do you believe? Here is one statement worth considering

by Helen Caldicott

(You shoud know this person. Read and then review her identity at the bottom)

I believe that women have the fate of the Earth in the palm of their hands. Some 53 per cent of us are women and we really are pretty wimpish. We don't step up to the plate - and it's time we took over. I think men have had their turn and we're in a profound mess.

I believe that money is the root of all evil. When people start believing that materialism will produce ultimate, lasting happiness, it is a sure sign that they will be intensely unhappy. One third of Americans are on anti-depressants. Instead, what they should be doing is lifting their souls, not their faces.

I believe in the sanctity of nature. I believe we can save the planet. We are smart enough to do that, but we must act with a sense of dire emergency.

I believe that the media are controlling and determining the face of the Earth. As Thomas Jefferson said, an informed democracy will behave in a responsible fashion.

I believe in the beauty of classical music. I must have it; it feeds my soul.

I believe in the goodness in every person's soul even though it's sometimes hard to see. I treat a lot of patients where either their children are dying or they are dying. Even though sometimes it's heavily obscured, in extremes this goodness will emerge.

I don't believe in a god. I have helped many people to die and believe that it's ashes to ashes and dust to dust.

I believe that heaven and hell are present every day.

I believe that life is an absolute gift to be treasured accordingly. We are very privileged to even have been conceived.

I believe that we are here to serve. We are not here to make ourselves happy, to be self-indulgent or to be hedonistic. The happiest state that I achieve is when I work in my clinic helping my children with cystic fibrosis to face death and help to treat them and look after their siblings. I'm utterly exhausted at the end of the day, but deeply, deeply fulfilled.

I believe in the beauty of my garden. I've got two and a half acres and I'm never more in touch with the power of the universe than when I'm in my garden on a warm, sunny day tending to my flowers and my trees, with the pelicans circling overhead.

I believe that there are far too many people on the planet. In the year 1900 there were one billion of us in the world. Now there are 6.5 billion and the predictions are that within a few decades there will be 14 billion.

I believe that the greatest terror in the world is not a few terrorists hitting the World Trade Center. It's the fact that half the world's people still live in dire poverty and 30,000 to 40,000 children die every day from malnutrition and starvation, while the rich nations continue to get richer and richer.

I believe that the most important job in the world is parenting. Women need to be financially supported for it. Their job is far more important than that of chief executive officers at the head of huge corporations.

I believe the secret of happiness is a) serving our fellow human beings and loving and caring for everyone. I don't mean crappy Californian love; I mean really deep caring for each other; b) to understand our own psychology in a profound way, so we can be a more constructive human being; and c) to care for this incredible planet of ours.

The Australian paediatrician was named by the Smithsonian Institute as one of the most influential women in the world. 'Nuclear Power is Not the Answer' by Helen Caldicott is published by The New Press at £13.99

Copyright © 2006 Independent News and Media Limited

Have you considered writing a statement of your own beliefs?

Friday, November 10, 2006

How to Oppose Religious Extremism in the World, by McGinnis.


by Rev. Bill McGinnis

Religious extremism -- based on a very few false beliefs -- is a major contributing factor behind the most dangerous problems in the world today. This article briefly describes the situation and provides a starting point for correction and improvement.


Muslim religious extremism falsely believes that God desires the suppression of all religions but Islam -- by force, if necessary. This justifies and encourages Islamic violence and conquest everywhere. In particular, this false belief is used to justify the 9/11 attacks in the USA and Islamic Terrorism throughout the world.

Jewish religious extremism falsely believes that the people of Israel are entitled by God to do whatever they choose to do to protect and expand the state of Israel. This leads to a willingness to murder/ torture/smash/kill/invade/defeat/overthrow/suppress/destroy anything which threatens the state of Israel in any way -- such as Iraq or southern Lebanon or the Palestinians.

Christian religious extremism falsely believes that the state of Israel can do no wrong, and that God is planning a Third World War, starting in the Middle East, prior to the return of Jesus Christ to rule the world. These two false beliefs -- widely held by right-wing Christians in the USA -- led directly to Bush's Crusader War in Iraq, and they will lead to a Third World War if they are not corrected.


In each case, the extremists developed these false beliefs by misreading selected obscure verses in their Holy Book, then by ignoring other clear and authoritative verses which contradicted their flawed understanding of these obscure verses.

The Muslim extremists misread passages about spiritual struggle to conclude that God permits armed struggle -- including murder -- against peaceful non-Muslims. This completely ignores Qur'an 2.256, which clearly states that there shall be "no compulsion in religion." If they believe that the Qur'an is the infallible word of God, why do they ignore this clear prohibition against using force to establish Islam?

The Jewish extremists misread passages about God's love for Israel to conclude that He allows them to do anything they choose to do, including "targeted assassinations" (murder) of their supposed enemies and bombing civilian apartment buildings because they think some "terrorists" might be inside. This completely ignores Exodus 20:13 -- one of the Ten Commandments -- which says "You shall not murder." If they believe that the Ten Commandments are God's basic Law, then why do they ignore this Commandment?

And the Christian extremists misread parts of Revelation, which is by far the most obscure and hard-to-understand book in the Bible, to conclude that a Third World War is necessary and desirable as part of God's will. This completely ignores the clear and authoritative command in Romans 12:18 -- "If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live at peace with all people." So how can they disregard this clear command to live at peace, and then choose to follow their own imaginative interpretation of a mystical vision in Revelation, which leads them directly into war?


The first thing is to recognize these false beliefs and understand the serious problems they create. This we have begun to do, above.

The next thing is to begin a Battle Of Ideas against these false beliefs: all of them, not just the Muslim ones. I propose that the verses I have identified above -- Qur'an 2.256, Exodus 20:13 and Romans 12:18 -- be used as the basic weapons in this Battle Of Ideas. I now call upon the serious, truth-seeking scholars of all religions to develop more and better ideas to combat these false beliefs which are causing so much trouble in God's world. And I call upon all journalists, politicians, and other opinion leaders to do everything they can to undermine and eliminate these false beliefs which support religious extremism and its resulting violence in the world.

Blessings to you. May the One God, Who created all things, help all of us His children.

Rev. Bill McGinnis is an Internet Christian minister, writer and publisher. He is Director of, a small private think tank in Alexandria, Virginia, and all of its related websites, including,,, and His agenda is to help maximize the happiness and well-being of all people

Republicans = Scientologists

One of the tenets of Scientology is that anyone who criticizes the religion is fair game for any and all kinds of retribution. You can file lawsuits against them, you can harass them, you can spread lies about them, and it's OK because the critic is fundamentally evil.

This is the same reason Republicans have no problem running push polls, or handing out leaflets with false accusations, or calling Dems and telling them that their polling place has been changed... all this dishonest, sleazy stuff is OK because it's in the service of a greater good.

I'm not saying Dems don't indulge in vote shenanigans from time to time, but it's never on the same level. And when the Democrats do win, the impetus isn't to work with them, it's to destroy them - that was how Bill Clinton was received.

For a good chunk of the GOP base, the Democrats are literally in league with the Devil, so any means of keeping them out of power is legitimate.

In fact, this attitude is only a matter of degrees away from the belief radical Muslims have that any wrong perpetrated against the "infidels" is justified.

This also ties into the so-called father of neo-conservatism, the philosopher Leo Strauss, who argued that the only way to stop liberalism from ruining society was for the elites (a.k.a his neocon followers) to exploit myths (religion) or create new myths (the Islamic Menace) that will unite the hoi polloi in an orgy of nationalistic fervor. Sounds like fascism? Yup. But an interesting feature of Straussism is that the elites don't care if the myths they are exploiting are actually true; that's irrelevant as long as they're effective. Which is why we get Karl Rove talking about the Christian "nut-jobs," and the Kerry-hates-the-troops nonsense from last week. All those Republicans parroting the talking point re Kerry knew it was bullshit but they didn't care because it was an effective myth.

Bill Maher is the host of HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher" which airs every Friday at 11PM.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Haggard and Fundamentalist Christian Soul - Murder

November 7, 2006


By Carolyn Baker

During the past week, the secular and Christian worlds have been rocked by the unfolding of a made-for-Hollywood drama in fundamentalist Christian circles as a male prostitute from Denver exposed his three-year sexual relationship with Colorado Springs rabidly anti-gay pastor, Ted Haggard. While the gay and lesbian community and those who despise fundamentalism giggled and gloated, I experienced another emotion, even as I joined them in rejoicing over one of the most glaring revelations of jaw-dropping hypocrisy in the history of Christianity. While my atheist friends are yawning and moving on to what they consider more urgent matters, some of us in the gay and lesbian community who embrace a spiritual path, and may have once walked in Ted Haggard's shoes, are wincing at a particular nerve in our souls that has been struck during his demise.

Like me, Ted Haggard was born in Indiana in the town of Delphi on the Wabash River. His father was a veterinarian, a pig farmer, and later, a small businessman. While Ted was raised in a religious home, it was not until 1972 at the age of 16 that he had his born-again experience.

It is important for those not familiar with fundamentalist Christianity to understand what it means to be "born again" or to "accept Jesus Christ as one's personal savior." It is usually a peak emotional experience in which one admits that one was "born in sin" and opens one's heart to Christ who purportedly forgives one's sinful condition. Another way of saying this is that one admits that no matter what positive qualities one possesses, one is at his/her core, evil and sinful-even after being born again. One does not need to be a trained psychologist to recognize that this is a profound confession of one's inherent worthlessness which sets one on a path of self-esteem obliteration. Because of one's inherent worthlessness, one's only hope is total and complete surrender to Jesus Christ-but not the historical Jesus who supposedly lived and died in the first century BCE, but Jesus as interpreted by other born-again Christians.

While there are many varieties of fundamentalist Christianity, one in particular has skyrocketed in popularity in the past two decades, namely, the charismatic movement. That segment of fundamentalism teaches that one must not only be born-again, but must be filled with the Holy Spirit, as taught by St. Paul in the New Testament. Charismatic is an umbrella term used to describe those Christians who believe that the manifestations of the Holy Spirit seen in the first century Christian Church, such as healing, miracles, prophecy and glossolalia (speaking in other tongues or languages), are available to contemporary Christians and ought to be experienced and practiced today. Ted Haggard was a charismatic minister who preached the necessity of being filled with the Holy Spirit.

People often ask why "fundamentalism" is so named-what exactly is fundamental about fundamentalism? My answer is that, after all is said and done, there is only one fundamental: the literal interpretation of the bible. For many centuries since the beginning of the Christian church, there have been a plethora of interpretations of the bible, but during the nineteenth century, a number of Christian ministers and scholars who were also extremely politically conservative, such as Dwight L. Moody and Johh Nelson Darby, began teaching a rigidly-literal interpretation of the bible which, in their theology, spelled out specific "fundamentals" of Christianity.

The literal interpretation of the bible is not only extraordinarily problematic in terms of logic and collaboration with natural science, i.e., that "God created the earth" in six literal days, but if totally embraced, serves to encase and concretize the human mind in an intellectual penitentiary.

One of the fundamentals of human sexuality inherent in a literal interpretation of the bible is that heterosexuality is the only form of sexual expression acceptable to God, making homosexuality anathema. In other words, one cannot be gay or lesbian and interpret the bible literally. In more recent years, scholars such as historian John Boswell and the Reverend Troy Perry, founder of the gay and lesbian Metropolitan Community Church, have put the so-called anti-homosexual passages of the bible under the microscope of history and exegesis or critical interpretation, and revealed the absurdity of interpreting them literally.

While the work of such scholars as Boswell and Perry is monumental in liberating the minds and hearts of individuals struggling with gay or lesbian sexual orientation in a predominantly Christian, heterosexual society, any of those individuals who have been held mentally capitive by fundamentalist Christianity must be open to the alternative that such scholarship offers, namely, the internal, emotional freedom to follow and express one's natural orientation. Clearly, Ted Haggard is not.

The literal interpretation of the bible, regardless of one's sexual orientation, declares war on one's humanity. According to that (fundamentalist) interpretation, being abjectly sinful and worthless, human beings are on earth for only two purposes: to accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior and to proselytize and "win" as many other human beings to Jesus Christ as possible as Christians wait for the literal return of Jesus who will rescue them from the bondage of human existence and take them with him back to heaven. In fundamentalism, one's focus must always be on heaven, not on one's earthly existence. Being thoroughly emodied-honoring one's humanity and the pleasures of physical existence is considered sinful. Therefore, in the domain of sexuality, what matters above all else is that one be only heterosexual, and if that is not particularly fulfilling or if one finds oneself attracted to someone of the same gender, one must supress the attraction and express one's sexuality only with someone of the other gender. In fact, even the attraction to someone of the same gender is considered sinful.

It should now obvious that if a man or woman is attracted to his/her own gender, he/she cannot feel free to act on that attraction or honor his/her sexual orientation if the mind is held captive by a particular kind of spirituality that proscribes such activity. Thus, on one level, spirituality and sexuality are inextricably connected. If one holds no particular spiritual orientation or a spiritual orientation that honors the body and one's sexual attractions, then one is free to hold whatever sexual orientation one chooses.

Of course, the best thing that could happen to Ted Haggard, in my opinion, would be for him to be exiled to the streets of the Castro district in San Francisco for about a year and be required to engage not only in gay sex on a daily basis but ongoing dialog with mental health professionals and spiritual advisors who honor his sexual orientation. However, a man who has lived a lie for 34 years in fundamentalist Christianity, most of those years as a Christian superstar, pastoring a 14,000 member church and serving as a spiritual advisor to a U.S. president, having himself created his own empire in the charismatic Christian world, is not likely to abandon the literal interpretation of the bible and go off searching for a more liberating spirituality that gives him permission to live the rest of his life as a gay man, comfortable and fulfilled in his own skin.

Even if Ted Haggard were not a Christian celebrity, even if he were just a regular guy practicing fundamentalist Christianity, he would no doubt be terrified at the thought of abandoning fundamentalism. He would be tormented by questions such as: "What if the bible is right? What if there really is a hell? Will I go there if I reject fundamentalism? Will I betray the Jesus I really love? What if I lose my friends and loved ones?" These are no small questions, and they all have one common denominator which is the quintessential element of fundamentalism: fear.

Ted Haggard has now turned himself over to a program of "restoration" and placed himself in the hands of three very creepy fundamentalist superstars: James Dobson, Jack Hayford, and Tommy Barnett. Dobson is a clinical psychologist, but as rabidly anti-gay as Haggard purported to be, and all three fundamentalist ministers preach virulently against homosexuality. Haggard says that "those men will peform a thorough analysis of my mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical life. They will guide me through the goal of healing and restoration for my life, my marriage, and my family." Oh God, I shudder to contemplate what that will look like!

There is strong evidence that Haggard has already been through one one of the programs which the theological trio is likely to utilize, the so-called ex-gay movement which incorporates intense psychological counseling and bible study in a an extremely concentrated regimen over a period of months or years to "cure" homosexuality. One can gain a feel for the vehemence and abusiveness of the program by watching at video clip at the Ex-Gay Watch blog. Many individuals who have survived the program and have eventually embraced their sexual orientation report that the ex-gay approach was for them a living hell.

If Haggard has already "graduated" from the ex-gay treatment program, then his despair must be incomprehensible. He must either reject the fundamentalist paradigm and come out as a gay man, or he will merely complete the Dobson/Hayford/Barnett exercise in futility, proclaim himself "restored" as his accuser, Mike Jones, predicted and return to the charismatic clergy to write more books, make more videos, and preach more sermons castigating gay people, and hence, himself. One thing is certain, Haggard will never free himself of his attraction to men; it just isn't humanly possible, and his only alternatives are to embrace it or live a lie for the rest of his life that can only lead to internal anguish, harm the people closest to him, create physical symptoms, or, God forbid, force him to take his own life.
But the Haggard drama is only one in a long line of scandals that have jolted the fundamentalist world in recent years. What is it about that paradigm that produces so much duplicity? Shakespeare would say, "Methinks thou doth protest too much", and Jung would say, "We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses." Should we not be suspect of those who rail so vociferously against certain evils? All this time Ted and Gayle Haggard have denounced gay marriage only to wake up and discover that they are in one.

My principal intent in writing this article is not to convey a message of "poor Ted" but rather validate those individuals, of which there are millions, whose lives have been tormented by the soul-murder of fundamentalist Christianity. Some have committed suicide; others are in mental hospitals, addicted to drugs or alcohol, and many are living the same kind of lie that Ted Haggard has been living, according to him, all his adult life.

Like Ted Haggard, I harmed myself and my loved ones for years before I could extricate my mind from fundamentalist Christian programming and come out to myself and the world. Anyone who has been enslaved by a literalist interpretation of the bible can testify to the devastation that it ravages on the mind and soul and can only be horrified at the dominionist vision of the world that the religious right and its minions hold in which homosexuality would be eradicated, even if by imprisonment, and according to some fundamentalists, by execution. In that fantasyland, Christianity would be the predominant religion, women would be subjugated to the will of men, and educational institutions would teach only the Christian world view and its psuedo-science.

In other words, dominionism's vision (our nightmare) is a fascist society of heterosexual robots and submissive women whose souls and sensuality have been murdered by patriarchal piety. Yet fundamentalist Christianity is only one symptom of a soul-murdering society plummeting toward totalitarianism and away from the democratic republic its founders envisioned. I see no political solutions for the demise of that republic, but I believe that individuals and communities can most effectively weather the gathering storms by supporting themselves and each other with a life-affirming, nuturing spirituality that embraces our wholeness and the sanctity of our love for each other, whatever that orientation may be.

CAROLYN BAKER, Ph.D. is an adjunct professor of college history and the author of a just-published book, U.S. HISTORY UNCENSORED: What Your High School Textbook Didn't Tell You as well as THE JOURNEY OF FORGIVENESS, published in 2000. She maintains her website where her books may be ordered and she may be contacted.

Authors Website:

Authors Bio: Carolyn Baker grew up in the Midwest and resided in Colorado and California for most of her adult life. She holds a Ph.D. in Health and Human Services and a Masters in History. She has worked extensively in non-profit administration and was a psychotherapist in private practice for nearly two decades. In addition, she is the author of Reclaiming The Dark Feminine: The Price Of Desire and The Journey Of Forgiveness: Fulfilling The Healing Process. For the past eight years, she has been an adjunct professor of history and managers her own website at where her book may be ordered and where she may be contacted.