There’s a new girl on campus

Via AZCentral.com

She’s a Jack/Jane of all minorities. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat from Arizona, is a bisexual, secularist and a former Mormon. She supports gay marriage, abortion rights, marijuana and science education. In other words, she is a poster-child for the secularist movement.

The Secular Coalition of America has taken her under their wing and claimed her as a fitting successor for Rep. Peter Stark, a Democrat from Calif, and the only open atheist in congress. He lost in this years election, but his secularist presence was soon filled by Sinema.

Lauren Anderson Youngblood, the Coalitions communications manager, told Religion News Service how proud they were to receive Sinema into Congress:

She was able to run openly as a nontheist and it didn’t seem to be an issue. That is a great thing for the community, especially because with the loss of Pete Stark, we are left with a big hole.

Time will tell what work Sinema will be able to do in Congress, and how much she will live up to the secularists expectations. But the religious groups in Congress will be sure to watch her, as she will no doubt oppose many of their proposals.

Proactive nones

This past Tuesday I listened in on a conference call hosted by the Secular Coalition of America. Other secular groups were present, such as the Freethinkers and America United.

Among other things, what impressed me the most was the proactive spirit. They discussed the Nov. 6 election, the changes to congress, the defeat of Amendment 8 in Florida, as well as the disproportionate nature of the House in regards to the religious demographics of the United States. All in all it was a well set up meeting, with a variety of input from it’s constituents.

They were civil, eager to move forward with their wins over the election, but also looking for ways to improve based on their losses. One may hear the same type of talk come out of a Christian meeting about politics, simply with a different end goal.

But the nones are motivated, they are making headway throughout many realms of congress and the popular vote. I think it can properly be said that they are a force to be reckoned with and it is no hidden fact that Christians and nones share vastly different values. Therefore, they will clash on many occasions, but if Christians are going to come out on top they need to be even more motivated than the confidant nones.

‘Atheists are ruining Christmas’

Bill O’Reilly is bashing the atheists again. They are ruining Christmas, he says.

In Santa Monica the court has banned a Christian group from hosting a nativity scene in the public park, a tradition that was started almost 60 years ago. A staple in the community, one might say. However, the banishment of the nativity scene is not at all surprising. After all this is a battle that has gone on for years and will always be a topic for debate.

What really surprised me was O’Reilly’s response and flippant attitude toward nativity scenes and atheists in general. He is way too shallow in his interpretation of the atheist agenda, as well as the meaning of Christmas for that matter. Here is a video of he and  Adam Carolla, a pronounced atheist, discussing the issue:

First of all, the atheist O’Reilly decided to have on his show was one who didn’t even share any of the sentiments of the atheists involved in the Santa Monica case, nor was he an atheists because he hated God. Carolla just didn’t want to be “bothered.”  So, in other words, he is a wishy-wash atheists who would agree with everything O’Reilly said. If O’Reilly wanted to have a real conversation with someone he should have invited an atheist who might actually disagree with him.

Second, O’Reilly doesn’t seem to want to begin a dialog with these atheists. He is simply interested in making fun of them and moving on. “You want to find an atheist you go to the pier  or under the pier,” he said with a laugh as Carolla nodded in agreement. It was an atheist bash if I ever saw one.  I may not agree with most of what atheists teach, and I may have a real problem with how they act, but even I know the best way to begin a conversation with someone is not by belittling their social or religious stance.

Third, and perhaps most important to me, O’Reilly said the Christmas holiday is only “about the children.” Talk about belittling something! No offence to kids, but Christmas is about way more than them. To the secular world, sure, it’s about presents, shopping, Santa Clause and family. But to the Christian world Christmas is a celebration for the birth of a savior: born of a virgin, prophesied about for thousands of years, son of God, son of Man and sent to die for the sins of creation.  It’s a remembrance of one of the most pivotal portions of the Christian faith, and O’Reilly should know this.

The Christian Broadcasting Network says this is the meaning of Christmas:

Christmas can be a season of great joy. It is a time of God showing His great love for us. It can be a time of healing and renewed strength. You see, Christmas is when we celebrate the birth of the Christ child. God sent His Son, Jesus, into the world to be born. His birth brought great joy to the world. Shepherds, wise men, and angels all shared in the excitement of knowing about this great event.

But O’Reilly sluffs it off as being “about the children,” so naturally the atheists should give them their nativity scene because the kids want it, and if they don’t than the children will cry and the whole world will be unhappy. I think your way off base with that one O’Reilly.

He has managed to alienate both Christians and atheists in one two minute video. His comments spurred a post from the liberal website News Hounds: “Actually Bill, if anybody is ruining Christmas, it’s you! And if anything has ‘gone way too far’ it’s your bogus War on Christmas!”  This will always be the attitude in response to a performance like the one O’Reilly gave.

But what is even more surprising is that in a different part of his show, O’Reilly actually got back on track and talked about the infringement on the First Amendment and religious freedom rights. Where was all this talk during his “atheist bash” with Carolla? Is religious freedom about the kids? Should we have freedom of speech and freedom of religion because it is good for the kids, or is it because it is a right given to all mankind as equals – fought for through the generations by people of many religious backgrounds? This is the central issue here! So Why did O’Reilly chose to talk about unhappy kids and stupid atheists instead?

Come on Bill, in a nation where almost 20 percent of the population claim they are non-religious, this is not the best way to build unity throughout our land.

Should we have more nones in Congress?

Via the CNN Belief Blog

For the second time since 2007 we have a religiously unaffiliated, or none, in Congress. Newly elected Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Sinema claimed her none status for the Pew Forum’s recent survey of faith in the 113th Congress. Sinema’s presents isn’t really that much of a change however, because California Congressman Peter Stark was a public non-theist since 2007. He lost this years election, leaving Sinema as the lone none.

Stephen Prothero, writing a recent article in CNN’s Belief Blog, picked up on this, saying that the small increase of religious diversity in congress is not an adequate mirror of the religious diversity throughout America.

For all the talk of the election of 2012 inaugurating a new era in American politics, Protestants will continue to be over represented on Capitol Hill, where they will account for 56% of our representatives versus only 48% of American adults.

However, what seems to be swept under the rug by Prothero is the concept that members of congress are voted into office by the American population. He is frustrated at the lack of diversity, but like it or not, these are the people voters wanted in office. And is this such a bad thing?

The lack of nones in Congress says something interesting about the change of values in America. If, as the election and recent surveys seem to suggest, citizens are increasingly unaffiliated, why is the majority of congress still Christian? They were voted in by the American population, but so many were, and still are, heralding this election as the turning point in American values.

Greta Christina praised the advancement of the unaffiliated movement in her blog post, published soon after the election.

This election was, to a great extent, a referendum on secular values versus the values of the theocratic religious right — and secular values won. Atheists are not in opposition to American values. Atheists are on the cutting edge of them.

I do believe the election is a picture of where America is going, but we simply can’t ignore the fact that 56 percent of congress is Christian because Americans voted them in that way.  It wasn’t because of white supremacists  or the lofty 1 percent, or even because of Republicans – it was because that is what the people wanted. But Prothero says the lack of diversity in Congress is unacceptable.

This data shows that the much heralded “new America” is still years away. Yes, the Senate will be 20% female, but women are more than 50% of the population. And the U.S. Congress will still be far more Christian (87%) than U.S. adults as a whole (70%).

It’s getting to the point where people like Prothero wont stop at accusing members of state, religious groups or political conservatives of bigotry. Now he has gone on to accuse the American public of favoring the religious right.

Via the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life

So, for as “advanced” as Americans seemed to be after the election, it turns out that many of them still cling to the old ways. But this attachment to traditionalism is a prime example of the split in American values:

At least 70 percent, if not more, of Americans would say that a Christian/Protestant majority in Congress is a good thing. It means biblical values will be fought for and will win more than secular values, thus keeping American values from changing, at least for now. 

vs. 

At least 20 percent of Americans claim more unaffiliated congressmen is a small step in the right direction, but there is still far to go. The further America gets out from under the thumb of religious principles in politics the better.

Prothero’s comment, “when it comes to religion, the U.S. Congress doesn’t yet look like the voters who are sending them to Washington,” is true. However, what this seems to be saying is that American values are more complex than what is uncovered in a survey or an election. Perhaps voters are focusing on more than just religious conviction. Or perhaps when it came down to it, voters simply liked more of what they saw in the Christian candidate than the other guy. Which would suggest that American values come in line more with Religious/Protestant than with the unaffiliated.

Either way, it is obvious that voters put the people they wanted into congress, and Prothero should simply try and accept that this is the way America is, without turning it into a hostile takeover by the religious politicians.

Bill O’Reilly: ‘secularism erodes traditional power’

Oh Bill…

Remember my previous post, Secular Values = American Values?, well here is Bill O’Reilly’s take on the issue. However, O’Reilly, being a political man, uses the terms “traditional America” and “secular progressives.”

Watch this video and you will do one of the following: laugh, nod enthusiastically, howl in outrage, or simply turn it off cause you can’t watch anymore.

If you just want to hear a 2012 election analysis than by all means listen to the first 2 minutes. But don’t stop there! Please listen further! It really gets good around 2.20 minutes.

Now, I’m no expert, but I feel as though Obama’s C on the Secular Coalition of America’s scorecard does not make him the Secular Progressives’ “poster child,” All it really does is make him better than Romney.  There’s my small issue with that comment.

Anyways, some great stuff in this video!

Are you telling me God doesn’t want people to go to church?

According to Brian McLaren, the increase in nones might be the work of the Holy Spirit. I was actually very surprised when I watched this, and it has admittedly left me a little speechless.

In essence, McLaren is trying to slap God back onto the nones. So instead of simply admitting that there is a disconnect between the church and the nones, he chalks it up to God’s will. The church is doing something wrong, he says, and the nones are actually doing the right thing by leaving.

Certainly the church is not perfect, and Christians would say nothing happens outside of God’s control, but I wonder how many would agree with McLaren’s interpretation of the rising nones.

 

You’re not bad, you’re just unlucky

In his recent speech, Sam Harris approaches the fascinating topic of freewill. But Harris took a position that honestly surprised me.

I expected him to take the stance of the narcissistic “I” and rebel against the religious doctrines that say God is in control of our lives. But instead Harris admitted that we have no control over our lives, but God has nothing to do with it. He rebelled, not against the notion of God being in control of everything, but against the idea that human beings even have freewill to make the right or wrong decision.

Instead, he says, the atoms and molecular makeup of our brains are not in our control. Who raises us and the experiences we have are not in our control. Our own thoughts are not in our control. Therefore, there is no such thing as freewill.

In other words, there is no such thing as the sinful nature of man, there is no such thing as taking responsibility for a wrong committed. There is just good luck and bad luck, and we are not in control of which one we get.

To me this sounds very depressing, but Harris has another interpretation. By removing all responsibility for the evil in a human being, and blaming it all on science and life experiences, we should have much less need to hate that person. After all, they have no control over what they do, they have no freewill so we should not judge them for the horrible acts done.

Harris even goes so far as to say that Uday Hussein, Saddam Hussein’s son, was not responsible for the horrible and evil crimes he committed. Were he still alive, he would be a victim of his upbringing and genetic manipulation. He should be locked up so as to protect the rest of society, but he should not be held responsible for acts that were out of his control. WHAT!?

I anticipate that many Christians will have issue with Harris’s interpretation of life. I welcome comments in response to this video. It is definitely worth watching.