For decades, Christofascists and and other far-right extremist conspirators have been training and indoctrinating children to take over our secular institutions. (If that term is new to you - as it was when I woke up this morning - check out this wiki article about the totalitarian and imperialistic movement. tldr: The Christian parallel to al Qaeda.)

Most of us have heard of the “Quiverfull” and similar extremist movements before, people who are trying to overwhelm the nation through rapid breeding and homeschooling, but had no idea just how common such radicals are, nor how effective their training, until after meeting a growing number of escapees from that system in my classes.

This leads me to this article: “I Was Trained for the Culture Wars in Home School, Awaiting Someone Like Mike Pence as a Messiah.”

The article, written by a woman who escaped the brainwashing, tells the horrifying tale of how this nation has come to the precipice over which we now stand shaky and about to fall. These cryptofascist "Christian" extremists have been methodically indoctrinating and training their rapidly growing agents - innocent children - in the tools and weapons of government to make them more effective combatants in political warfare. The most well-known example I can think of is the Phelps family, which was ruled by a dictatorial father who created an army of philosophically violent lawyers by using these strategies to train his children to use otherwise-reasonable rules against the very systems that operate on them.

Excerpts from someone who intimately knows the movement:

“They see Election 2016 as their moment. Pence, with his proven track record of legalizing discrimination and acting against women and marginalized people, is in the White House. The Right has given the tyrant Trump power and fame; he will do whatever they want in order to keep it. This way they can sneak Pence in on a piggyback while filling Congress with even more evangelical conservative Republicans

“Evangelical conservatives are convinced that their agenda will save the country from God-ordained death. Pat Robertson and many others believe that natural disasters are sent from God specifically to punish America for letting marginalized people have rights and be alive. This motivates them to do everything in their power to “save” the country from the ungodly – even, maybe especially – if it involves stripping others of the freedoms they deem to be against God’s wishes. They don’t care if their war for Christ hurts humans they see as living wrongfully, because they are capital “R” Right and that’s what matters. Their Rightness, they believe, comes from God Himself. Their beliefs are callous and without empathy, prioritizing dogma over people. These beliefs are dangerous. Many of us who have come out as queer, trans, or even merely gone to college, have lost family because of this worldview. A single powerful person who is convinced of their own Rightness with no thought of introspection is dangerous. We now have a government full of them.”

With the election of the Trump administration, Christofascists have begun their coup in earnest:

When the “Senate Confirmed Dangerous Christian Extremist Mike Pompeo as CIA Director,” we see how the administration installed someone who believes the US is at war with Islam as the head of our intelligence services.

Betsy DeVos and God’s Plan for Schools” describes how she plans to use school vouchers to strip funding of public schools and support religious training.

Trump’s top strategist, Stephen Bannon shares the vision of a threatened Christendom: “I believe the world, and particularly the Judeo-Christian West, is in a crisis,” he said in 2014. What crisis? “...of our church, a crisis of our faith, a crisis of the West, a crisis of capitalism.” Here’s an article worth reading to understand Bannon: “President Trump’s right-hand man Steve Bannon called for Christian holy war: Now he’s on the National Security Council.”

At the heart of the Christian far-right’s response to this imagined crisis is its “apocalyptic conviction that extreme measures are needed. There is nothing conservative about this agenda; it is radical. Gutting public education will be just the beginning.”

We need to stop them before it’s too late.

We’re in a fight for the survival of our democracy, but only one side seems aware that it’s at war. Right-wing extremists literally call this “the culture war,” and have spent generations preparing for this. The rest of us - the majority of this nation - must immediately organize to fight this existential threat. Moderates and the Left have been piss-poor organizers. We’re only just starting to figure out how to work together for an extended period.

There’s no time to prepare for this. We don’t have generations to train, as they did. The war has already begun. Flags should already be flying upside-down. As the utopian Culture in Iain Banks’ novels (which starts with Consider Phlebas) had to do when faced with religious extremism bent on war, all we can do is organize, defend our present freedoms, train for this form of battle, arm ourselves in the ways that Christofascists have spent generations building up ideological arsenals, and hold the line against aggression until the day we can realistically expect to start pushing them back.

If we are to save this democracy, and (because the US is still the world’s dominant military power) the Earth itself, we need to immediately stop wasting time and resources fighting ISIS and other daesh militants. They’re only a minor threat, and their only big PR victory in the US took place 16 years ago. You deal with small bands of criminals through police actions, not by mobilizing national militaries or stirring up primal fear of The Other. The only thing studying ISIS and daesh attacks has been useful for is as training to combat our real threat: home-grown Christofascism and far-right terrorism.

Make no mistake: As soon as they begin to lose, they’ll resort to terrorism, just as their Islamic brothers-in-philosophy have in the Middle East. The only reason the Christofascists’ attacks have been limited so far to small-scale murders like at Planned Parenthood clinics or Canadian mosques is that they’re winning.The winning side doesn’t need to use terrorist tactics. Their position as the dominant force, by itself, puts them into position to create all the terror they need to control the minds of the masses. And that puts them in de facto control of our nation.

In the same way that moderate Muslims are in the best position to fight Islamic extremism, moderate Christians - those who follow the words of Jesus - need to stand up to Christofascism. They’re on the inside, and the only way to change an institution (short of destroying it) is to clear out its toxic influences and work within the system to rebuild something healthier.

Fight Fascism in all its forms. Restore the separation of church and state. Restore and expand personal freedoms - and that must include children’s freedom from dangerous and destructive cryptofascist indoctrination and brainwashing. 

We’re in the midst of ideological war. The enemy doesn’t need to murder the entire US government (as in The Handmaid's Tale) to create the Republic of Gilead. 

They already are the US government.

Stand up. Speak out. Protest. Create change. And do it now, because time is running out.
mckitterick: (write hard die free)
( Mar. 8th, 2016 01:11 pm)

I just realized that losing my religion as an early teenager led to a lot of troubled times throughout my teens and even into my early 20s.

I'd actually believed this religious stuff before then. I'd been raised as a Christian, and everyone I knew was a church-going Lutheran or Catholic (though the latter was eyed with suspicion), with a couple Evangelical Free friends. As I begin drafting this late at night, after pondering this article (about how Religious children are meaner than their secular counterparts) and this debate on the Facebooks, I can clearly recall being really emotionally moved by hearing certain sermons or reading stories about Jesus and salvation through love and sacrifice. About how, after He came along to burn down the authoritarian patriarchy, we could throw away all those old hateful bigotries and prejudices, and look forward to a utopian future based on love - if only everyone would just believe in Him!

What ruined this for me was when my confirmation teacher forced us to say that the unbaptized go to hell. (It was a fundamentalist strain of Lutheranism that no longer exists, closest to the Missouri Synod.)

"What about babies born in areas where they could never have heard of Jesus?" I asked, trying to fit this logically into what I'd studied about this religion's eponymous founder.

"It's tragic, but that's the Lord's law," she said.

This bore no relation to anything I had come to believe about Jesus, or the very foundations of what I believed Christianity to be. So it couldn't be right. But this religious teacher - and the pastor's wife embodying the Church itself! - was insistent this irrational notion was true. When I asked my Mom about this, she said to do what I was told (ah, the underlying virus of religious authoritarianism) and "just say the damn words! You don't have to believe them."

But if that were true, what was the point of the Church (in its broadest sense), the most-massive and enduring undertaking in all human history? If we simply recite the words but don't believe in them, how can we call it "faith"? More importantly in the societal sense, if we don't need to believe what we're told or what we say, what's the purpose of organized religion at all?

The existentially horrifying part of all this is that seemingly everyone in America (where 83 percent identify as Christian) was part of a conspiracy of fear ("You'll burn in Hell for eternity if you're a disbeliever!"), or else consciously trying to suppress reality - and trying to infect the minds of their children with this mind-virus. So it seemed that either everyone was aware of the lie and complicit in its perpetuation, or they were dangerously out of touch with reality, allowing fear to control their minds so they could accept blatant untruths, or some mix of scary-unhealthy world-views. Or all of these.

So on that day, like the clouds parting for the first time to let sunlight illuminate what used to lurk unseen in the shadows, it became lucidly clear that my faith in the teachings of Jesus as told in what I'd thought of as historical documents bore no relevance to what humans had hammered into doctrine.

Worse, what if this thing that had consumed so much of human creativity and ingenuity over the millennia had merely been a tool for authoritarian oppression devised by men seeking to control a populace who appear willing to swallow nonsense and spout things they don't even believe? And who continue propagating the lies and delusions, forcing their children also to blindly obey?

This was terrifying. Remember the movie THEY LIVE? It felt like that, as if I were surrounded by threatening aliens. How could the people around me not see them? Certainly pre-teen me couldn't be smarter or more insightful than the vast milling masses of adult church-goers. So were they collaborators in some vast alien conspiracy to take over the minds of children?

Which is worse?

Regardless, this is the moment I point to, when I lost my religion and my faith in anything. From here on out, unless I see verifiable evidence of something bandied as truth, or morally right, or real, I disbelieve. Just because some authority says something is so doesn't mean a thing, because clearly authorities were fallible, all the way back to the dudes responsible for founding the early Christian church - and obviously those who created early superstitious religions were wrong: Not only are we taught this by the leaders we're told to believe and obey, they're falsifiably incorrect. I mean, only the most protean animistic religions bear any relation to the real world, because we can see how lightning causes fire or how animals behave in the face of storms. Only the philosophy-based religions seem to offer anything useful to their practitioners, yet look at how even Buddhism has been twisted by the patriarchy.

Before this revelation, I had seriously considered pursuing a career (or at least an avocation) in religious work. During my years of crisis, I spent a great deal of time and energy researching religious systems, seeking to piece together a core set of universal and rational beliefs in an attempt to construct a religion relevant to our times. Something I could believe in, something that might help make sense of a world that otherwise seems intentionally insane.

Nothing came of the search except a deeper appreciation of the universe. I've never lost my spiritual connection to nature - the animals who've inhabited this world far longer than we've built cities, the planets where such beings can live, the stars that provide the energy to fuel our lives, and the rest of the universe, which provides the soil for everything else to grow.

But that wasn't enough to soothe my existential angst. I suffered pretty traumatic and turbulent teenage years, and barely made it out of then alive. Because this is also when I lost faith in human beings. I mean, if the single greatest communal effort to build and maintain something in all of human history - the Church in its diversity of manifestations - was either a lie, or a delusion, or a shield against fear, how could we hope for a better future? If people choose ignorance, accept on faith things that are verifiably untrue, and oppress those who do not believe mutually incompatible articles of faith, there's no hope for a long-term human future.

I just now also realize that my rejection of Christianity (and organized religion in general) is probably a big part of why my Mom treated me so much worse than she treated my brother. For whatever reason, and despite her powerful intelligence and terrible childhood, she was deeply religious. She's the one who forced child-me to go to church every Sunday and holiday, and to attend Sunday school and Confirmation classes. When I was an adult, she forwarded me so many hateful, bigoted, racist spam-mails that I had to filter out most of her messages (once such capabilities appeared). These were indications that she was probably one of those hateful Christians who now rule the American discourse. She probably hated me for rejecting her God, and her Church (she did every so often tell me that she hated me). Despite her strong advocacy of feminist concerns, I know she hated how I reject out of hand all forms of authoritarianism. She was always a leader in everything she did - work, church, friends - which was an outstanding trait for a woman in the 1970s. But it was still authoritarianism, and she still served the patriarchy.

So when my brother told me at mom's funeral that my childhood experience under Mom was nothing like his, it makes sense. He went to church, and Sunday school, and Confirmation. He accepted authoritarian rule. He continued to say the words that he was supposed to say; he might not have believed them, and I know that in his heart he was not obedient to authority, but he pretended to be. And that seems to be all that really matters to religious extremists.

To Mom, my brother was one of Them, or at least a willing conspirator, whereas I was loud and determined in my rejection of the entire enterprise. Burn it all down and start fresh!

As a boy standing alone in the dark beside my telescope, I remember calling out to the starry sky, begging benevolent aliens (for what other type would visit such a flawed world yet not eradicate us like vermin?) to take me away. I drew spaceships that I could imagine piloting far away. I dreamed of exploring the moons of Jupiter alone, far from the insanity of Earth, of the coming changes that would transform our society and ourselves into something worthy to endure into the future. I wrote stories about these things, and the fall of adult civilization, and imagined a world where I could bear to live.

See, this was also the time during which I discovered most of my friends and many of my closest relatives had endured horrifically abusive childhoods. What kind of species tortures their young? The same kind that holds them down and injects cognitive retro-viruses into their brains.

I spent a great deal of my teens and early 20s in deep depression, suicidal on occasion but mostly fearless of death, because how could it be worse than having to dwell in the shadow of the monsters who rule our world, whom we must obey - or at least pretend to obey? I've never been any good at pretending such things.

Under such rule, there can be no bright future. There can be no utopia.

Ever since I discovered it, science fiction has served as my primary existential comfort, and it remains so. SF needs no gods, and if it has religion, it can illuminate what's wrong with how we do it. It offers visions of futures where things can be different.

It taught me that change is good. That it is, in fact, necessary for growth, healing, learning, and everything else that is positive in our lives. If we're not changing, we're dying. (Huh, I just realized something else: This is what The Galactic Adventures of Jack & Stella is all about, and where its themes come from.)

Only by finally letting go of desperately clinging onto the plague-ship of religion was I able to restore my faith in humankind. Only be letting go was I able to imagine futures without hate or bigotry, where we can build something instead of expend all our energy dragging along the toxic casks from our past.

I sometimes joke that my religion is the Church of Science Fiction. Looked at in the right light, SF does serve that purpose better than any church I've ever encountered, in that it also offers stories about the Big Questions, about our origins and our ultimate end, what's right and wrong, transformations and transcendence. It's a space where we can identify flaws in our world today and envision possible futures where those things have either gotten worse or where we've solved them. It needs no gods but those within us and around us and illuminating the sky. It does not demand faith; it rewards knowledge and imagination and creative re-envisioning. Like science itself, it questions everything and accepts nothing that cannot be verified. Best of all, it's a community and an ongoing conversation. It's a family.

And SF is more true than any religion could hope to be.

Organized religion almost killed me. Science fiction kept me from falling into the abyss. I survived to become a science-fiction writer, a teacher of SF literature, and - like long-time friend and SF writer Frederik Pohl - a science enthusiast.

The only way our species can survive is to transcend as a whole the self-perpetuating, outdated, and damaging authoritarian structures we drag along from our past, which hold us back from reaching for the future. Science provides the tools and methods to determine what needs to be changed, and science fiction provides the safe laboratory where we can test-run alternate visions of ethics, societal structures, and an infinity of other things, including ourselves.

So, yeah, if I retain any semblance of religion in my personal life, it's definitely science fiction.

Conservatives in the US - especially of the evangelical-Christian variety - have been wailing about our nation's plight in this week since the election proved Romney is no kind of savior. An author whose blog I watch (largely out of "I want to understand the other side" motivation) recently linked to this post by a religious teacher trying to understand what it means that Obama was re-elected. I found reading the post and other people's responses immensely enlightening. I've always wondered why otherwise-seeming reasonable people go off the rails about President Obama. He is not a socialist (far from it), fascist (less so than other recent Presidents, anyway), Kenyan (really?), or Muslim (did they forget his controversy-stirring Christian pastor?). He is not the antichrist (one assumes). So I've wondered why they were so freaked out about him. I've also wondered why I've wondered why they're so filled with bile and venom about gays, secular government, even the new healthcare law - I mean, it does the kinds of things Jesus taught, like helping the poor. Heck, if it had lived up to what many wanted it to be - nonprofit healthcare for all Americans (what the US Right feared, and what the US Left wanted, and which no one got) - we would be living in a much more Christian nation.

Well, now I think I understand the fundamentalist, evangelical Right a lot more:

1) Fundamental religionists (particularly from the evangelical branches of Islam and Christianity) hope to establish religious states not only where they live but to spread their fundamentalism across the world.

2) Those who do not believe as they do are wrong in the eyes of their respective gods, lost, and therefore unworthy of respect. Those gods, I might add, are the same "one true God," only with different prophets reforming His message in slightly but significantly different ways.

3) When fundamentalists pray but do not get what they want, they do not see the opposite result as God's will. Instead, they twist the results to prove that this is God teaching them a lesson... say, to work harder on the thing that someone with clear vision would see as something God did not want. If God really did want, say, Romney as President of the US, and you believe in an omnipotent god, don't you think it would have happened? By simple deduction, Obama's winning re-election despite people praying otherwise proves that God wanted Obama to win. (This sort of reasoning is nonsense, of course, in either direction.)

4) The recent US healthcare law is the work of anti-religion because it includes women's health and family planning as part of "healthcare."

5) I knew this one: Favorite passages from the Old Testament of the Christian Bible are more important than the teachings of Jesus.

This brings me to two conclusions:

A) "Fundamentalist" is another word for "illogical" and "self-contradictory."

B) Most importantly: So-called "fundamentalist" religionists don't follow the fundamentals of their religion at all. They pick-and-choose their favorite messages of hate and exclusion from pre-prophet writings while ignoring their chosen prophet's messages. They use their religion and the strength of numbers it provides in order to get what they want, rather than following the teachings of their prophets.

Fundamentalist religion is just another display of human selfishness. The illogic and ignorance they display is a symptom of their selfishness. They feel they know their god better than God's chosen prophet, who came to Earth to teach us the truer message. I don't claim to be an Islamic scholar, but I was raised Christian in an evangelical, fundamentalist branch of Lutheranism, so I'll talk in terms of Jesus' message.

If Christian fundamentalists were truly "Christian," they would follow the reformations that Jesus taught:

They would love one another as themselves, not fear everyone who is different. They would feel sorrow, sympathy, and compassion for others, not hate the "other."

They would turn the other cheek when attacked and love their enemies, not identify everyone who isn't just like themselves as "enemy" and then seek to destroy them.

They would sell everything you have and give to the poor, not strive to accumulate wealth by sucking dry the middle class, placing corporate profits above human welfare, and exploiting the lower class.

Finally, they would follow Jesus' "greatest commandment," which was, "Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind," followed closely by, "Love thy neighbor as thyself." This precludes hating others, because that is hating God's work. It precludes hate at all, because if "God is love," then hating is turning one's back on God's love - giving in to Satan, to use Christian metaphor.

So this loony little post taught me a lot about American fundamentalist Christians: They are not Christians at all. Fundamentally, they are no different from the Taliban: Selfish hate-mongers who think they understand their gods better than their chosen prophets. If, in all practical ways, they oppose Jesus (or Mohammed), how can they claim to follow the reformed religion with which they associate?

If empathy is the highest goal a human can strive to achieve (in these and many other religions), what happened to make their fundamentalist adherents so blind to their prophets' teachings and spiritually sick?

I can only conclude that ethical humanism is closer to the fundamentalist teachings of these reformist prophets than the modern evangelical religions, and that - in their recent US election defeats, however they perceive them - the lesson their gods are trying to teach them is: You are wrong. Pay attention.

Full disclosure:
I abandoned organized Christianity decades ago. This dissociation started when my church tried to teach me that all unbaptized babies to go Hell. This did not sync with the teachings of Jesus, and when I tried to argue this point, I was told I could not be "confirmed" (accept Communion) without saying the words. This taught me fundamentalist evangelical Christianity is more concerned with human interpretation and the spread of their church than with understanding God's message from Jesus. My disillusion grew whenever I visited my stepfather's Catholic mass, which was less overtly hateful yet more smugly certain that everyone who went against the Pope's message was wrong. My search for spiritual fulfillment led me to study many other forms of religion, including the Christian mystics, Buddhism, Shinto, and countless less-favored forms. At the root of all these, I felt, we can identify God's or the gods' true message.

The mental readjustment for me arrived one day when I was camping in the Montana Badlands. This was the last day I lived in that state. I was the only human being for hundreds of miles around. A lone deer attended me as I hiked through dinosaur-bone-studded buttes. Layers of gray, brown, and black stone and dirt described in measurable form more than 100 million years of time piling upon the Earth. Occasionally the little deer came upon a flowering cactus - the only real color in that dusty place - and munched it, then resumed following me on my quest. At some point, in the quiet of my own thoughts punctuated only by breezes brushing loose mudstone pebbles, I realized that I was walking through a cathedral more holy than the greatest structure built by human hands.

As the sky darkened from cyan to cobalt to black, the endless universe around our little pebble of Earth began to appear in little pinpricks of light, extending the cathedral 12 billion light-years. Through telescopes I've glimpsed the miracle of star-birth amid vast clouds of gas and dust; I've seen stars gold and blue and yellow; I've watched distant galaxies pinwheel around their central supermassive black holes. By sweeping my telescope at random across the sky, I've explored the mysteries of the Milky Way, stumbled upon star-clusters ten thousand times the size of our Solar System, watched planets and their moons spin and orbit around the Sun, the hydrogen-powered ball of plasma and fusion from which all life on Earth depends.

Astronomy shows us the magic of the large-scale universe. It is silence and an infinity of stars overhead, an eyepiece to reveal the secrets hidden among them, Earth's rotation slowly sweeping new stars into view. For me, that's the best way to feel at one with the universe.

Biology and paleontology show us the magic of life, how living beings come to be, how they reshape over time and survive changing conditions, how they eat and mate and bear young and, yes, even love.

Geology and paleontology show us time, manifest. Each layer is an epoch, a million or ten million years of dust and death, compressed into stone. Buttes filled with relics of ancient days: Dinosaur bones literally poured out of those hillsides; you can feel the passage of time locked in rock.

Every science does this. They all seek to reveal the fundamental magic of the universe. Scientists openly share their results with others, and the practitioners who do it right praise the discoveries of others - even when new discoveries disprove part of what they believed until the moment when it was disproven. They then seek to fit this new discovery into their own world-view, or discard their prior belief if it cannot fit. And thus does science progress.

So that night in the Badlands, fatigued from hiking all day through rocks in my cowboy boots, I had to sit atop a dry-grass butte, for I could not stand beneath this beauty and glory that was the universal cathedral. The wondrous thing about the cathedral of science is that you do not avert your eyes from its mysteries; you stare into them to better understand! This is the moment I realized that religion is not the answer.

We will never find God at the core of any human-invented religion. The messages of religion are what's important, when they are appropriately examined, tested, and adapted to fit changing circumstances. By being secular humanists who strive to make the world a better place, who strive to feel empathy for all other creatures, who seek deeper understanding, we become closer to God than any fundamentalist evangelical follower of a human-manufactured organization could hope to approach.

We can only reach a fundamental understanding of our personal spirituality - become "at one with God," if you will - by seeking our individual connection with others and the universe around us. If there is any god, it resides in the energy of the stars, in the life-force of all living things, in sapient species' striving to understand the universe. All of this is God, as close as a secular universe allows. The stars and planets and galaxies form its body, nuclear fusion and other forces power its life, living beings comprise its spirit, and our self-awareness encompasses its mind. Our search for truth and understanding - the scientific process - is the universe coming to understand itself. So science, and sharing what we learn, and being open with one another, and active empathy - these are far better methods to be good followers of God than you could hope for by being part of any fundamentalist religion.

Chris

Aaaaaaaaa!


Seriously? People who aren't the Phelpses are MEMBERS of this abomination? And they're running for political positions where they can dictate that our children's future includes hatred and ignorance?

Can you even imagine how Dark Ages that Kansas could become should someone like that get on the Board of Education? The mind boggles.


Click the image to see the HuffPo article and more people messing with the Phelpses.

If you live in the appropriate district, please vote this lunatic off the island. Thank you.

This has been a public service announcement. Spread the word.

Chris
This is a terrific talk, in which Tyson discusses the danger of "revelation replacing exploration." He uses the example of how the world of Islam went from being the intellectual center of the world in science and discovery during its "Age of Enlightenment," the 300-year period from 800 AD through 1100 AD to where it is today, when the Middle East has given us nearly no Nobel Prize winners and is full of strife and poverty. Why? Because they turned away from scientific exploration and embraced religion. Why would they give up the wonders they had developed? Because religious leaders like Imam Hamid al-Ghazali declared that "mathematics is the work of the devil." These people invented math, but the dangerous religious meme of anti-intellectualism destroyed their Age of Enlightenment and helped collapse their civilization.

Then Tyson turns the mirror on the US, where the same thing is spreading like a disease across our landscape. Good lord (so to speak), this is scary, something we've been watching march toward us for years (click here to watch if it doesn't appear below):



You don't need to be a genius astrophysicist to see where we're headed.

If you're religious, please talk to your fellow faithful about this danger. Keep the conversation going to drown out those who use the name of religion to oppose real education or devalue understanding. "Intelligent design" and anti-evolutionism, prayer in schools and religious arguments against legal rights - these things are exactly the same kinds of dangers to our future that Hamid al-Ghazali was to the great Islamic culture of the 12th Century. Use Tyson's example and ask your fundamentalist friends if the Islmaic world is better off since it turned away from science and growth, since it replaced exploration with religion. Ask if we would be better off if we did the same thing to ourselves. Especially express this to the most reasonable-sounding among them, because the radicals will play to their fears and faith and win in the end.

Those who worry about Islamic fundamentalism are right to worry, because such radicalism is the root of much terror and oppression and war in the world today. But I'm more worried about Christian fundamentalism, because those are the folks who are the primary threat to Western world, especially in my own country.

Why? Not just because of people like Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik. I fear we are treading the same path that the Islamic world stumbled down after al-Ghazali and his ilk.

Tyson nails on the head the number-one threat to humankind. Anything else, I believe we can deal with. Global warming? With enough research and creative energy, humans can find a solution. Vanishing easy sources of energy? Again, we'll find a solution if we have the intellectual and technological infrastructure to keep looking. Disease? Killer asteroids? Zombie apocalypse? I believe we can save the human species from any of these threats.

But only if our civilization promotes learning, investigation, and new ideas. Only if math, science, and creative pursuits are valued and respected will we remain capable of taking care of ourselves. If the West follows the Middle East into poverty and internescine strife, if we promote obsolete religious notions over scientific progress, if we look backward instead of forward - if we seek to be saved from outside rather than seek solutions ourselves, we're doomed as a species. Because we must find solutions to problems that will destroy the human species - and soon. If science and progress is considered a threat and a danger, we will not survive.

Science is not the enemy of religion; that is a meaningless distinction. Fundamentalist religion is the enemy of civilization, the enemy of the human species.

Chris
By now, everyone in the world knows that the Obama administration - in a misguided attempt to appease the birther-loons - got Hawaii to release our Prez's full birth certificate this morning. The Trump has been trumpeting the trumped-up nonsense that the birther-loons have been quacking, in an effort to be in the spotlight. You win, Trumpenator! You've earned your full-monty Loon Medal! And Republican party? You asked for this.

Will this release stop the noise? Of course not. What the Obama administration did was nothing more than feed the trolls, and we all know where that gets us.

Let's take a look at these folks. They honestly believe that Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior is going to initiate the rapture of the chosen few on May 21, 2011, and that Almighty God His Father will destroy this world on October 21, 2011. If only, except for that pesky "destroying the world" part.

The world has been promised destruction pretty much as long as we've had religions. Remember that famous case when aliens were going to wipe us out on December 21, 1954? And of course Scientologists are pretty certain that the Alien Overlords are coming to destroy/free/probe us.

Despite facts to the contrary, people believe any number of insane things. The Roman Empire will last for all time! (Came close, relatively speaking.) The United States will always be a superpower full of rich folks! (Sorry, Americans.) Global warming is a myth! (Keep on believing that, Sparky.) You name it. I won't even get into religion, because, well, lots of folks get some kind of comfort from that, when they're not destroying infidels, "saving" people from their own culture's belief systems, or compelling people to behave strangely in nonsensical rituals.

What is wrong with people?

This article nails it on the head:

"A man with a conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point.' So wrote the celebrated Stanford University psychologist Leon Festinger, in a passage that might have been referring to climate change denial - the persistent rejection, on the part of so many Americans today, of what we know about global warming and its human causes. But it was too early for that—this was the 1950s - and Festinger was actually describing a famous case study in psychology.

Festinger and several of his colleagues had infiltrated the Seekers, a small Chicago-area cult whose members thought they were communicating with aliens - including one, "Sananda," who they believed was the astral incarnation of Jesus Christ. The group was led by Dorothy Martin, a Dianetics devotee who transcribed the interstellar messages through automatic writing.

Through her, the aliens had given the precise date of an Earth-rending cataclysm: December 21, 1954. Some of Martin's followers quit their jobs and sold their property, expecting to be rescued by a flying saucer when the continent split asunder and a new sea swallowed much of the United States. The disciples even went so far as to remove brassieres and rip zippers out of their trousers - the metal, they believed, would pose a danger on the spacecraft.

Festinger and his team were with the cult when the prophecy failed. First, the "boys upstairs" (as the aliens were sometimes called) did not show up and rescue the Seekers. Then December 21 arrived without incident. It was the moment Festinger had been waiting for: How would people so emotionally invested in a belief system react, now that it had been soundly refuted?

At first, the group struggled for an explanation. But then rationalization set in. A new message arrived, announcing that they'd all been spared at the last minute. Festinger summarized the extraterrestrials' new pronouncement: "The little group, sitting all night long, had spread so much light that God had saved the world from destruction." Their willingness to believe in the prophecy had saved Earth from the prophecy!
(Click here to read the rest.)

Did you know that 25% of Americans still don't believe that Obama was born in the USA? Nothing will change their minds... in fact, trying to change their minds will only reinforce their beliefs. Last year, according to the Gallup Poll, 48% of Americans said that global warming's effects had been exaggerated. How about the whole "Aztec 2012 ZOMG!" craziness? And need I say more than the phrase, "Sarah Palin"?

I believe that humans are inherently good. I believe that seeking understanding, being open to change, and growing ourselves and our culture are our loftiest goals. I believe that, together, we can solve any problem, and that one day we will reach the stars.

Or is that only more proof of our infallibility regarding belief systems? Is it merely my own personal delusion?

Chris
mckitterick: (write hard die free)
( Mar. 27th, 2011 05:36 pm)
Remember how someone posing as Anonymous announced war against the Phelpses, and a day later Anon said, "We didn't post that," then the Phelpses immediately replied by mocking Anon and got lots of media attention etc? The prevailing theory is that the Phelpses posted the initial letter (calling for war against, um, themselves) in order to draw fire in order to gain more attention. Makes sense, in a twisted Phelpses way.

The best part, though, is that their sites went down to denial-of-service attacks shortly afterward... and are STILL DOWN.

This interview between Shirley Phelps-Roper and an Anonymous rep - whose user-icon is freakin' Batman attacking a Megashark using a light saber! - is icing on the cake and sheds a lot of light on things. Plus it's enlightening (and entertaining in a schadenfreude way) to watch the crazy stream off dear Shirley:



My favorite part is when Lightsaber-Weilding-Shark-Battling-Batman says, "Shirley, I have a little surprise for you" about a note he uploaded to the main Phelps website during the interview.

So let's tally the score of this little feud:
Westbugger Baptiste Churz: 0
Anonymous: 9000


The childish part of me is so very happy.

Chris
Over on Facebook, I got myself involved in a debate on religion. I know, I know; I should know better. But it's fun, y'know? Anyhow, what prompted the debate was this article on the BBC about how relgions go extinct. Good stuff.

Anyhow, it got me thinking about my interactions there and over here, and I'm curious about my friends' religious beliefs. Am I just living in an insulated bubble as described in that article, or are those national polls on religion just manipulated? So, a poll!

Here it is, a Google Docs poll so anyone can use it: Are you religious? What social networking tools do you use?

Thanks!
Chris
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Here's an insightful and hilarious essay on faith, atheism, and being a good person from the award-winning British comedy star. A wonderful curative for the Christmas season (archived here to avoid annoying-as-hell animated flipping story thing while reading):


Ricky Gervais is the writer and star of HBO’s “Ricky Gervais Out of England 2: The Stand-Up Special.” To go to his website click here.

Why don’t you believe in God? I get that question all the time. I always try to give a sensitive, reasoned answer. This is usually awkward, time consuming and pointless. People who believe in God don’t need proof of his existence, and they certainly don’t want evidence to the contrary. They are happy with their belief. They even say things like “it’s true to me” and “it’s faith.” I still give my logical answer because I feel that not being honest would be patronizing and impolite. It is ironic therefore that “I don’t believe in God because there is absolutely no scientific evidence for his existence and from what I’ve heard the very definition is a logical impossibility in this known universe,” comes across as both patronizing and impolite.

[UPDATE: For more from Gervais, go to Does God Exist? Ricky Gervais Takes Your Questions.]

Arrogance is another accusation. Which seems particularly unfair. Science seeks the truth. And it does not discriminate. For better or worse it finds things out. Science is humble. It knows what it knows and it knows what it doesn’t know. It bases its conclusions and beliefs on hard evidence -­ evidence that is constantly updated and upgraded. It doesn’t get offended when new facts come along. It embraces the body of knowledge. It doesn’t hold on to medieval practices because they are tradition. If it did, you wouldn’t get a shot of penicillin, you’d pop a leach down your trousers and pray. Whatever you “believe,” this is not as effective as medicine. Again you can say, “It works for me,” but so do placebos. My point being, I’m saying God doesn’t exist. I’m not saying faith doesn’t exist. I know faith exists. I see it all the time. But believing in something doesn’t make it true. Hoping that something is true doesn’t make it true. The existence of God is not subjective. He either exists or he doesn’t. It’s not a matter of opinion. You can have your own opinions. But you can’t have your own facts.

Why don’t I believe in God? No, no no, why do YOU believe in God? Surely the burden of proof is on the believer. You started all this. If I came up to you and said, “Why don’t you believe I can fly?” You’d say, “Why would I?” I’d reply, “Because it’s a matter of faith.” If I then said, “Prove I can’t fly. Prove I can’t fly see, see, you can’t prove it can you?” You’d probably either walk away, call security or throw me out of the window and shout, ‘’F—ing fly then you lunatic.”

This, is of course a spirituality issue, religion is a different matter. As an atheist, I see nothing “wrong” in believing in a god. I don’t think there is a god, but belief in him does no harm. If it helps you in any way, then that’s fine with me. It’s when belief starts infringing on other people’s rights when it worries me. I would never deny your right to believe in a god. I would just rather you didn’t kill people who believe in a different god, say. Or stone someone to death because your rulebook says their sexuality is immoral. It’s strange that anyone who believes that an all-powerful all-knowing, omniscient power responsible for everything that happens, would also want to judge and punish people for what they are. From what I can gather, pretty much the worst type of person you can be is an atheist. The first four commandments hammer this point home. There is a god, I’m him, no one else is, you’re not as good and don’t forget it. (Don’t murder anyone, doesn’t get a mention till number 6.)

When confronted with anyone who holds my lack of religious faith in such contempt, I say, “It’s the way God made me.”

But what are atheists really being accused of?

The dictionary definition of God is “a supernatural creator and overseer of the universe.” Included in this definition are all deities, goddesses and supernatural beings. Since the beginning of recorded history, which is defined by the invention of writing by the Sumerians around 6,000 years ago, historians have cataloged over 3700 supernatural beings, of which 2870 can be considered deities.

So next time someone tells me they believe in God, I’ll say “Oh which one? Zeus? Hades? Jupiter? Mars? Odin? Thor? Krishna? Vishnu? Ra?...” If they say “Just God. I only believe in the one God,” I’ll point out that they are nearly as atheistic as me. I don’t believe in 2870 gods, and they don’t believe in 2869.

I used to believe in God. The Christian one that is.

I loved Jesus. He was my hero. More than pop stars. More than footballers. More than God. God was by definition omnipotent and perfect. Jesus was a man. He had to work at it. He had temptation but defeated sin. He had integrity and courage. But He was my hero because He was kind. And He was kind to everyone. He didn’t bow to peer pressure or tyranny or cruelty. He didn’t care who you were. He loved you. What a guy. I wanted to be just like Him.

One day when I was about 8 years old, I was drawing the crucifixion as part of my Bible studies homework. I loved art too. And nature. I loved how God made all the animals. They were also perfect. Unconditionally beautiful. It was an amazing world.

I lived in a very poor, working-class estate in an urban sprawl called Reading, about 40 miles west of London. My father was a laborer and my mother was a housewife. I was never ashamed of poverty. It was almost noble. Also, everyone I knew was in the same situation, and I had everything I needed. School was free. My clothes were cheap and always clean and ironed. And mum was always cooking. She was cooking the day I was drawing on the cross.

I was sitting at the kitchen table when my brother came home. He was 11 years older than me, so he would have been 19. He was as smart as anyone I knew, but he was too cheeky. He would answer back and get into trouble. I was a good boy. I went to church and believed in God -– what a relief for a working-class mother. You see, growing up where I did, mums didn’t hope as high as their kids growing up to be doctors; they just hoped their kids didn’t go to jail. So bring them up believing in God and they’ll be good and law abiding. It’s a perfect system. Well, nearly. 75 percent of Americans are God-­‐fearing Christians; 75 percent of prisoners are God-­‐fearing Christians. 10 percent of Americans are atheists; 0.2 percent of prisoners are atheists.

But anyway, there I was happily drawing my hero when my big brother Bob asked, “Why do you believe in God?” Just a simple question. But my mum panicked. “Bob,” she said in a tone that I knew meant, “Shut up.” Why was that a bad thing to ask? If there was a God and my faith was strong it didn’t matter what people said.

Oh…hang on. There is no God. He knows it, and she knows it deep down. It was as simple as that. I started thinking about it and asking more questions, and within an hour, I was an atheist.

Wow. No God. If mum had lied to me about God, had she also lied to me about Santa? Yes, of course, but who cares? The gifts kept coming. And so did the gifts of my new found atheism. The gifts of truth, science, nature. The real beauty of this world. I learned of evolution - a theory so simple that only England’s greatest genius could have come up with it. Evolution of plants, animals and us - with imagination, free will, love, humor. I no longer needed a reason for my existence, just a reason to live. And imagination, free will, love, humor, fun, music, sports, beer and pizza are all good enough reasons for living.

But living an honest life - for that you need the truth. That’s the other thing I learned that day, that the truth, however shocking or uncomfortable, in the end leads to liberation and dignity.

So what does the question “Why don’t you believe in God?” really mean. I think when someone asks that they are really questioning their own belief. In a way they are asking “what makes you so special? “How come you weren’t brainwashed with the rest of us?” “How dare you say I’m a fool and I’m not going to heaven, f— you!” Let’s be honest, if one person believed in God he would be considered pretty strange. But because it’s a very popular view it’s accepted. And why is it such a popular view? That’s obvious. It’s an attractive proposition. Believe in me and live forever. Again if it was just a case of spirituality this would be fine.

“Do unto others...” is a good rule of thumb. I live by that. Forgiveness is probably the greatest virtue there is. But that’s exactly what it is - a virtue. Not just a Christian virtue. No one owns being good. I’m good. I just don’t believe I’ll be rewarded for it in heaven. My reward is here and now. It’s knowing that I try to do the right thing. That I lived a good life. And that’s where spirituality really lost its way. When it became a stick to beat people with. “Do this or you’ll burn in hell.”

You won’t burn in hell. But be nice anyway.


A lovely sentiment for this particular god's officially recognized holiday! Thanks, Ricky Gervais. You're awesome!

Here's wishing that Zeus, or whatever other god(s) you worship/ pray to/perform ritual sacrifices for/fear/love/whatever smile upon you/smite your enemies/provide you with magical powers/or so forth for this official 3-day weekend!

Full disclosure: I consider myself an Anti-Religionist Agnostic Deist who believes that the entire universe and everything within it - stars, planets, single-cell organisms, sentient beings - are "god," and that we all have a responsibility to seek to understand the greater thing we are all a part of, to do our best not to fuck it up, and to improve everything about it - including ourselves! - in every way we can.

Love,
Chris
Tags:
Perhaps you heard that a 62-foot-tall and 40-foot-wide statue of "Touchdown Jesus" was struck by lightning and burned to the ground on Tuesday, leaving only a blackened steel skeleton and chunks of smoldering foam.

Before Wrathful Lightning Strike:


After Wrathful Lightning Strike:

Click the images to see the story.

The church has announced plans to rebuild a bigger, better, fireproof Jesus statue by year's end. Um, folks, weren't you listening the first time? Now you're really asking for it.

Let me point you to a related story:

In 2003, actor Jim "Torture-Porn Jesus" Caviezel was struck by lightning - TWICE - during the filming of Mel Gibson's film, The Passion of the Christ. My favorite quote, from producer Steve McEveety: "I'm about 100 feet away from them when I glance over and see smoke coming out of Caviezel's ears."

Let this be a lesson, idolaters! The Big Guy is watching!


Click the image to see the UWEC lightning project.

In other news, early this morning I sent off the finished, edited, outta-my-hands copy of my novel, Transcendence, to my publisher, [livejournal.com profile] ericreynolds of Hadley Rille Books.

*Happy Dance of Done-Ness*

Chris
This is the best analysis of why the Conservative movement in the USA has withered as champion of individual freedoms, degenerated into lunacy, and, frankly, supported evil over the past ten or so years. It's time for all people who live in the reality-based world to fight back, not try to pacify them. As with Hitler (see, I'm using one of their straw-men!), appeasement does not help them accept reality, it only lengthens their leashes, and if a mad dog has a long-enough leash, it'll break free. Then how comfortable are you with granting them their crazy? One of the reasons the US Progressive movement has been so flaccid is that it's all about finding consensus, touchy-feely love-ins where we all get along. Guess what? Given the chance, those you're trying to appease will slap your "let's all get along" ass in Guantanamo.

It's also greatly reassuring to see that someone of Hari's mental caliber recognizes how the Republican's contemptible warping of religious faith is complicit in the corruption of Conservatism. "Faith-based reality" is not the real world, so it's easy to manipulate folks who blindly follow whatever they are told. It's disgusting.

Lj-cut here and there to shorten your F-list, so be sure to read the whole thing under the cut. Emphases are mine.


The Republican Party Is Turning Into a Cult
By Johann Hari in the Huffington Post.

Something strange has happened in America in the nine months since Barack Obama was elected. It has best been summarized by the comedian Bill Maher: "The Democrats have moved to the right, and the Republicans have moved to a mental hospital."
Read more... )
Since Obama's rise, the US right has been skipping frantically from one fantasy to another, like a person in the throes of a mental breakdown. It started when they claimed he was a secret Muslim, and - at the same time - that he was a member of a black nationalist church that hated white people. Then, once these arguments were rejected and Obama won, they began to argue he was born in Kenya and secretly smuggled into the United States as a baby, and the Hawaiian authorities conspired to fake his US birth certificate. So he is ineligible to rule and the office of President should pass to... the Republican runner-up, John McCain.

These aren't fringe phenomena: a Research 2000 poll found that a majority of Republicans and Southerners say Obama wasn't born in the US, or aren't sure. A steady steam of Republican congressmen have been jabbering that Obama has "questions to answer." No amount of hard evidence - here's his birth certificate, here's a picture of his mother heavily pregnant in Hawaii, here's the announcement of his birth in the local Hawaiian paper - can pierce this conviction.

This trend has reached its apotheosis this summer with the Republican Party claiming en masse that Obama wants to set up "death panels" to euthanize the old and disabled. Yes: Sarah Palin really has claimed - with a straight face - that Barack Obama wants to kill her baby.

You have to admire the audacity of the right. Here's what's actually happening. The US is the only major industrialized country that does not provide regular healthcare to all its citizens. Instead, they are required to provide for themselves - and just under 50 million people can't afford the insurance. As a result, 18,000 US citizens die every year needlessly, because they can't access the care they require. That's equivalent to six 9/11s, every year, year on year. Yet the Republicans have accused the Democrats who are trying to stop all this death by extending healthcare of being "killers" - and they have successfully managed to put them on the defensive.
Read more... )
A few months ago, a recent board member for several private health corporations called Betsy McCaughey noticed a clause in the proposed healthcare legislation that would pay for old people to see a doctor and write a living will. They could stipulate when (if at all) they would like to be withdrawn. It's totally voluntary. Many people want it: I know I wouldn't want to be kept alive for a few extra months if I was only going to be in agony and unable to speak. But McCaughey started the rumor that this was a form of euthanasia, where old people would be forced to agree to death. This was then stretched somehow to include the disabled. It was flatly untrue - but the right had their talking point, Palin declared the system "downright evil", and they were off.
Read more... )
These claims have become so detached from reality that they often seem like black comedy. The right-wing magazine US Investors' Daily claimed that if Steven Hawking had been British, he would have been allowed to die at birth by its "socialist" healthcare system. Hawking responded with a polite cough that he is British, and "I wouldn't be here without the NHS." Frank Laffer, the right-wing economist lauded by David Cameron, claimed on CNN that it would be a disaster if the government got its hands on Medicare, the program providing healthcare for the elderly, paid for entirely by... the government.
Read more... )
For many of the people at the top, this is mere cynical manipulation: one of Bush's former advisors, David Kuo, has said the President and Karl Rove would mock evangelicals as "nuts" as soon as they left the Oval Office. But the ordinary Republican base believe it. They are being cruelly manipulated into opposing their own interests through false fears and invented demons. Last week, one of the Republicans sent to disrupt a healthcare town hall started a fight and was injured - and then complained he had no health insurance. I didn't laugh; I wanted to weep.

Indeed, if you spend any time with American right-wingers - as I have, reporting undercover on events like the National Review cruise and the Christian Coalition Solidarity Tour of Israel - you soon find that your arguments don't center on philosophy. You have to concentrate on correcting basic factual errors about the real world.
Read more... )
How do they train themselves to be so impervious to reality? It begins, I suspect, with religion. They are taught from a young age that it is good to have "faith" - which is, by definition, a belief without any evidence to back it up. You don't have "faith" Australia exists, or fire burns: you have evidence. You only need "faith" to believe the untrue or unprovable. Indeed, they are taught that faith is the highest aspiration and most noble cause. Is it any surprise this then percolates into their political views? Faith-based thinking spreads and contaminates the rational.

Up to now, Obama has not responded well to this onslaught of unreason. He has tried to conciliate the elite economic interests, and joke about the fanatical fringe they are stirring up. He has shamefully assured the pharmaceutical companies that an expanded healthcare system will not use the power of government as a purchaser to bargain down drug prices, while wryly saying that he "doesn't want to kill Grandma." Rather than challenging these hard interests and bizarre fantasies aggressively, he has tried to flatter and soothe them. His healthcare plan is weaker and harder to explain as a result.

But this kind of mania can't be co-opted: it can only by over-ruled. Sometimes in politics you will have enemies, and they must be democratically defeated. The political system cannot be gummed up by a need to reach out to the maddest people with the maddest fears. There is no way to expand healthcare without angering Big Pharma and the Republicaloons. So be it. As Arianna Huffington put it, "It is as though, at the height of the civil rights movement, you thought you had to bring together Martin Luther King and George Wallace and make them agree. It's not how change happens."

However strange it seems, the Republican Party really is spinning off into a bizarro-cult who believe Barack Obama is a baby-killer plotting to build death panels for the grannies of America. Their new slogan should be - shrill, baby, shrill.
Some interesting things about priests:

1) Apparently, once upon a time, priests would build power and pass it down to their children. This is why the church instituted the celibacy rule. EDIT: Actually, like most things, it's more complicated than that. See comments below.

2) For 1200 years, women priests were part of the Catholic Church. Not sure why they outlawed that one.

3) "An unjust law is no law at all." - St. Augustine.


Click the image to go to the Up to Date story.

Just some notes from the current Up to Date show on NPR.

Best,
Chris
Tags:
mckitterick: Yes, this is one of my actual scooter helmets. RESPECT THE EMPIRE. (Flying Spaghetti Monster)
( Dec. 13th, 2007 11:32 am)
A fantastic answer to the Entellajent Dezine folks:

The universe doesn't care what you believe...

Best,
Chris
Tags:
Senator vehement in his denials of lewd conduct, homosexuality.

Sen. Larry Craig on Tuesday denied any wrongdoing despite his guilty plea this summer in a men’s room police sting. He emphatically added: “I am not gay. I have never been gay.”

Um, hello? Gay is okay, Mr. Senator. The louder you deny it, the more people will realize that you're gay. Hating gays doesn't make you less gay.

Isn't it time for all the anti-gay types out there to just come out with their gayness and accept themselves? Then perhaps they'd have less desire to take away the rights of others.

Oh, and a little message to Mr. Phred Phelps: It's time to just come out. You're the gayest thing on Earth. Just accept it and move on.

Hugs and kisses,
Chris
This sounds like a joke, but it's not:

"It is a spiritual journey," explained Francesco Gherra.

Chris

PS: You know that I had to use that "Virgin Galactic" user icon.
China Regulates Buddhist Reincarnation
by Matthew Philips
Aug. 20-27, 2007 issue of Newsweek

In one of history's more absurd acts of totalitarianism, China has banned Buddhist monks in Tibet from reincarnating without government permission.read the full story )____
Just... wow. Either Chinese government is more beaurocratic than imaginable or they are evil and shrewd. You can't have two Dalai Lamas, right? So this could destroy the notion of the reborn Dalai Lama if they impose a reincarnated version different than the one chosen by the current Dalai Lama.

Chris
This is heartening; I was raised Lutheran and gave that up about the time I was confirmed. Now the church is currently looking less and less like the "upbaptised babies go to hell" sect it was then.
____
Lutherans vote to allow gay clergy
CHICAGO, Aug. 11 (UPI) --The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Saturday voted to refrain from disciplining clergy in committed same-sex relationships.

The vote at a national assembly in Chicago came the day after the gathering's delegates voted against removing the requirement that gay clergy remain celibate, The Chicago Sun-Times reported. In practice, gay clergy will apparently face no consequences within the 20-year-old grouping - the largest Lutheran denomination branch in the United States.

“It’s a huge victory,” said Jeremy Posadas, a delegate from Decatur, Ga. “The gospel of inclusion has won and we’re going to keep winning.”

Other delegates were less enthusiastic.

“This decision does not reflect the will of the people, but of bishops and clergy who disregard God’s word,” said the Rev. Mark Chavez, a leader of Lutheran CORE - a coalition that seeks to preserve traditional authority within the church.

The issue of gay clergy is a wrenching one in a number of denominations. The consecration of an openly gay Episcopal bishop has come close to splitting both the U.S. church and the worldwide Anglican Communion.
____
Best,
Chris
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