Showing posts with label Religious Fundamentalism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Religious Fundamentalism. Show all posts

Thursday, April 27, 2017

TBT - Show Some Respect, Damn You!

Respect. How does that work, anyway?
























“I have met some highly intelligent believers, but history has no record to say that [s]he knew or understood the mind of god. Yet this is precisely the qualification which the godly must claim—so modestly and so humbly—to possess. It is time to withdraw our 'respect' from such fantastic claims, all of them aimed at the exertion of power over other humans in the real and material world.”
― Christopher Hitchens, The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever


Respect.  We hear a lot about it. But, how do we as individuals and as a society determine who is deserving of our respect? The Paige Sultzbach story got me thinking about this.

Most of us are taught that we must show respect for the essential humanity of all people. We are told in school, at work and at home that we must respect other people as our equals - fellow human beings. Beyond this baseline, though, people are usually expected to earn any higher, more deferential level of respect through their meritorious behavior. We are not usually expected to pay respect to people who behave immorally, who harm us or who harm other people. Usually, we are not compelled to respect ridiculous or destructive ideas, either. But there is one glaring exception to these sensible guidelines: religion.

We hear every single day that we owe special, unassailable, respect for the religious beliefs of others, simply because they are religious beliefs. There is no way to evaluate the relative merits of religious ideas because the very act of questioning, evaluating or criticizing religious beliefs is deemed disrespectful and being disrespectful of religion is taboo. This catch-22 situation means that even when religious ideas clearly cause harm to ourselves or others, the cultural taboo which demands unearned respect for religious dogma and practices also forbids questioning them.

More precisely, people are pressured every day of their lives to pay respect - and be subordinate - to the religious majority wherever they live. In Iran, Pakistan or Saudi Arabia (to name a few countries under explicit Islamic rule) that would be the Muslim majority. In the USA, Denmark, Hungary, Canada and Great Britain (to name a few countries with explicit or implicit Christian state religions) it is the Christian majority. Of all of these, the United States was the first to explicitly guarantee in its Constitution that no single religion would be established by the state, thus preventing the official empowerment of one religious group over all others. In this way, the framers of the Constitution hoped to provide the foundation for a truly revolutionary new kind of nation: a country where people could be as free as humanly possible; where the rights and welfare of the individual would be balanced as far as humanly possible with the rights and welfare of the rest of the people, preventing both tyranny of the majority and the rise of theocratic dictators.

Freedom of religion!* 
*For Christians only.
The founding fathers, who were educated in religious and political history, understood that religious sectarianism has always resulted in oppression of minorities and the rise of theocratic dynasties - usually, but not always monarchies. Whether they were monarchies or putative republics, the ruling elites always claimed to rule by divine right. The framers of the US Constitution - James Madison and Thomas Jefferson in particular - recognized that constant sectarian strife and vicious social inequities enabled by the power structures which churches prop up would destroy Americans' hopes for a better life in the fledgling new state as surely as the suffocation of those very hopes had driven them out of Europe. And the founders understood that it was state-sanctioned empowerment of favored groups (nearly always identified by religion) which was the reason why the common people in every country in the world lived in miserable poverty under the rule of religiously-privileged "noble" classes.

Demonstrating a wisdom beyond experience (because such a nation had never been tried before), they determined that, in order to form a more perfect union, the United States must be kept free of the appalling religious strife that had destroyed virtually every great civilization in history before them. They were convinced that freedom of religion in a nation that could not legally favor any one religion over the others would offer the best hope for the country to prosper, by enabling the people to prosper in peaceful coexistence as equals.

The freedom to practice their own religion has never been enough for some Christians; they have always sought special status and special power.

But there have always been ambitious groups who seek to restore the bad old days of feudal oppression for their own benefit. There have always been people who consider themselves the chosen ones - the nobility which is called to rule over the lesser classes. Before the ink was dry on the US Constitution, religious groups were attempting to circumvent the prohibition of establishment of state religions. The freedom to practice their own religion has never been enough for some Christians; they have always sought special status and special power. That battle over the separation of church and state has been waxing and waning constantly in the 225+ years since Independence, and while the Constitutional guarantee has held in theory, in practice the religious power-play has succeeded in carving so many inroads into the separation of church and state that the country has been reduced to a de facto Christian nation.

You want to build a mosque? Well, we have news for you.
Just guess whose country we think this is! 
In theory, the First Amendment still protects religious minorities and non-believers from unwanted Christian intrusion into their lives, but in practice this is not so. From public holidays honoring Christian holy days to public religious displays, to compelled silence for Christian prayers in legislatures, in schools and at events of huge public significance, from the casual assumption of Christian privilege and prominence to the very real favoritism via tax exemption and government funding which has enriched churches - secretly and without public oversight - at the public expense, the reality is that churches, especially Christian churches, are intimately entwined with the state. The battle to gain special status and the resulting economic and political power was on from the moment James Madison signed the First Amendment (actually even before) and for good reason from the point of view of the churches. They have benefited enormously from these unconstitutional arrangements.

The truth is that the Christian religion has been quietly empowered both financially and politically, and it aims to gain supreme power by replacing the current republic with a Bible-based state. Christian conservatives will never cede that power willingly. The truth is that when minority religions or the non-religious expect equal respect from the Christian majority, the Christian majority cries persecution and refuses to honor the Constitution that they claim to uphold, but which they are undermining because they hate it as a threat to their ambitions. When a minority's beliefs conflict with majority Christian beliefs, the majority will use every avenue available to force the minority to accept having Christian belief shoved down its throat, even when the Constitution has promised that this will not happen. For Christians, the First Amendment guarantees their religion; they believe that it guarantees that they have the right to strip away the freedom of others to enjoy public life free of Christian proselytizing and the presumption of Christian supremacy. Christians regard the insistence of others that the Constitution guarantees them the same freedoms and rights as Christians as a challenge to Christian rights.

...as long as it is Christianity
Merely requesting that the Constitutional guarantee for religious freedom for all be upheld results in public outcry from the majority, lawsuits, threats and ostracism of the individual(s) who dare to stand up for the right of the minority not to be oppressed by the Christian majority.  Respect for Christian beliefs is deemed of such paramount importance that we must disrespect the beliefs of others or we are accused of persecuting Christians and oppressing Christian belief. On the rare occasions when citizens (sometimes even Christian themselves) push back against the ubiquitousness of Christian belief  - for example  by objecting to its illegal injection into the publicly funded spheres of our society - the Christian majority shrieks that it is being oppressed or persecuted.

The very act of respecting the beliefs of non-Christians - or even of allowing them to be visible, free to simply exist in this society - is perceived by Christians as an attack upon them. In short, the Christian majority claims to be oppressed if they are prevented from oppressing others. It is an amazing fact of western life that the concept of religious persecution has been perverted by the Christian majority to such an extent that it is no longer recognizable as a meaningful description of the reality of what persecution actually means. It has been turned on its head. In the United States today, Christian religious belief is accorded such a level of public respect that it must be deferred to in every situation. In schools, in government offices, in supermarkets, hospitals and gas stations, non-Christians cannot escape the constant demand for public obeisance to Christianity.
Ah, religious respect 
for girls and women.

Last week, a young girl was made the scapegoat in a fundamentalist Catholic power-play. The fact that Christian misogyny is still so open and accepted in society is bad enough, but the repeated expressions of respect by everyone involved - including the victims of the discrimination itself - for this medieval, systemic marginalization of women and girls was little short of amazing. In a breathtaking show of oppositional apologia, the ultra-conservative Catholic school in question brazenly couched its policy of discrimination against girls as "teaching boys to respect ladies". Apparently, the only way to "respect ladies" is to bar them from sports they are qualified to play, deny them opportunities to compete with their ability peers and generally limit their horizons as far as possible within strictly segregated, narrowly traditional gender roles.

The gender roles that Our Lady of Sorrows and similar ultra-conservative Christian organizations advocate for boys and girls tend - as always when "religious tradition" is invoked - to mean these things: active, dynamic, leadership roles for boys;  passive, submissive, invisible roles for girls. In this religiously-fueled zeal to squeeze their female adherents into a suffocatingly circumscribed world of few joys and almost no choices, conservative Christians are exactly like their conservative brethren of other faiths - ultra-orthodox Jews and the Islamist Taliban, for instance - which enshrine repression of women into their orthodoxy under the same perniciously virtuous-sounding label of "respect for women".

A lifetime of shrouded invisibility.
Now, that's respect!
These religious extremists do not respect women. Their actions betray that their motives are the polar opposite of respectful; they intend not to respect the rights and autonomy - the humanity - of women and girls, but to deny them autonomy and rights - and their humanity. The purpose of this dogma is to control women for the use and service of men: to keep them subservient, less than men, silenced and invisible. The farce of conservative respect for women is nothing more than a cruelly ironic cover for the conservative campaign for the subjugation of women. There is real harm being done in the name of religion and it ought not to be allowed to continue without vigorous criticism.

I do not respect the beliefs of Our Lady of Sorrows school. I condemn their beliefs and their actions as the  immoral, repressive expression of deeply misogynistic theology. Attempts to establish medieval religious extremism should never go unchallenged in a civilized, egalitarian, free society. We would do well to remember that no society is impervious to the ever-present danger of right-wing authoritarianism. Domestic turmoil usually lays the conditions for the rise of oppressive theocracies, but war and failed government are not the only ways that authoritarian rule can gain a foothold in a contemporary society. Too often, authoritarian theocratic regimes take over when the people of a country have become complacently overconfident in their ability to detect and deflect such extremism. Tolerance of religious oppression is not respectful. It is foolhardy.

We would do well to remember that no society is impervious to the ever-present danger of right-wing authoritarianism.

It is time to stop paying undeserved respect to religious groups which marginalize and disrespect selected groups of human beings - usually female-bodied human beings. People who possess sincere respect for the essential humanity and dignity of others must refuse to offer "respect" for these oppressive ideologies. We must stand up and declare that this behavior is an affront to human dignity. It is immoral and people must have the courage to call it what it is. Religion is powerful. It is powerful enough to call for the elimination of its opponents in many parts of the world, and most religions do not hesitate to do so when they feel threatened. But, if people who value freedom of religion and who understand the threat which tyranny of the majority poses will not stand up, then we are - willingly? - participating in the destruction of our own democratic republic.

(This post was previously posted in 2012)


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Good News Clubs Are Bad News For America
























Urgent: If you're short on time, skip my essay and go straight to the excellent video at the bottom of this post. I've written about this before, but this video is well worth watching - in a short, fast-paced documentary, Sophia's investigation makes the case far better than my verbosity ever could.

The Child Evangelism Fellowship is a Christian dominionist group which directly proselytizes to young children in public schools, often in defiance of the wishes of parents (see shocking video below as parent group tries, unsuccessfully, to protest). The vehicle through which the CEF gains access to your children, whether you want them to have access or not, is the Good News Club. You may have heard of them. They are not "good news". The Good News Club is an ideological and psychological attack on our children by the Christian right.

The CEF does not even hide the fact, anymore. Since they were handed an unconstitutional invitation to invade the neighborhood public school and tell your children that they are filthy, dirty sinners who deserve to die and burn in hell forever and ever, the CEF has been crowing about its ability to target your child preferably without your approval and especially if you are trying to raise your child with a different religious worldview. Yes, the CEF prefers - and relishes - the fact that they have been given government power to inflict psychological harm on your children without your consent. They delight in the fact that you are powerless to prevent them from spreading their "gospel" of hate, shame and fear:

“How’s it going at that school you were telling me about? The one where the principal was - you know - uncooperative?” a gray-haired gentleman in a plaid button-down shirt asks a younger friend in a white vest. 

“We slaughtered ’em!” the younger man replies. 

They both nod, satisfied. Throughout the convention, a phrase that I keep hearing is “kicking in the doors” — as in 

“We’re going to kick in the doors of every public school in the country!”  (excerpt from The Good News Club: The Christian Right's Stealth Assault on America's Children).


Some parents may approve of these messages—but many, like Havener, find them antithetical to the values they want to instill in their own children. Because the club doesn’t reveal its hardline approach at the outset, it can end up converting children away from their parents’ beliefs. In fact, this is one of the Club’s explicit goals. At one CEF conference I attended, CEF leaders strategized about how to convert the children of Hispanic families. 

“Don’t discredit the Catholic church,” a head of CEF’s Spanish ministries named Claudia Calderon warned a room full of Good News Club instructors. “At least, not at the beginning.” Do Evengelical Kids Clubs Deserve Freedom of Speech in Public Schools? Katherine Stewart, The Atlantic, March 2012.

One would think that the public discussions of Jesus Camp, and the disturbing videos which came out about it, would have alerted concerned parents to the danger of letting religion have a free pass to indoctrinate their youngsters, but apparently not.  Religion is given a pass once more.  Actually, religion is not just given a pass but is still presumed to be, on the whole, a positive and good thing for children, even by parents who would be horrified if they knew the true intentions of religious proselytizers who have targeted their children for training as warriors for Jesus.

The number of Good News Clubs and their influence in schools and communities has been growing at an alarming rate.  A recent article in the Guardian by Katherine Stewart (author of The Good News Club: The Christian Right's Stealth Assault on America's Children) has broken the story that the clubs, emboldened by the protection of a bad 2001 Supreme Court decision, are no longer bothering to even pretend that their real agenda is not proselytizing and grooming Christian warriors:

The CEF has been teaching the story of the Amalekites at least since 1973. In its earlier curriculum materials, CEF was euphemistic about the bloodshed, saying simply that "the Amalekites were completely defeated." In the most recent version of the curriculum, however, the group is quite eager to drive the message home to its elementary school students. The first thing the curriculum makes clear is that if God gives instructions to kill a group of people, you must kill every last one:

"You are to go and completely destroy the Amalekites (AM-uh-leck-ites) – people, animals, every living thing. Nothing shall be left."

"That was pretty clear, wasn't it?" the manual tells the teachers to say to the kids.

The Slaughter of the Amalekites
Asking if Saul would "pass the test" of obedience, the text points to Saul's failure to annihilate every last Amalekite, posing the rhetorical question:

"If you are asked to do something, how much of it do you need to do before you can say, 'I did it!'?"

"If only Saul had been willing to seek God for strength to obey!" the lesson concludes.


Even more important, the Good News Club wants the children to know, the Amalakites were targeted for destruction on account of their religion, or lack of it. The instruction manual reads: 


"The Amalekites had heard about Israel's true and living God many years before, but they refused to believe in him. The Amalekites refused to believe in God and God had promised punishment." How Christian fundamentalists plan to teach genocide to schoolchildren,Katherine Stewart, The Guardian.

These Christian proselytizing vehicles won the right to insert themselves into public schools under the deceptive and insidious ruling (one of the few majority opinions authored by the conservative Clarence Thomas) in 2001. In that decision (Good News Club vs Milford Central School), the Supreme Court Justice disingenuously agreed with the CEF defense that the clubs were not religious in nature at all, but were merely clubs performing the laudable function of “teaching of morals and character development from a particular viewpoint”. Nothing to worry about there, right? But, wait. Here is the CEF viewpoint, straight from their "About Us" webpage:

Jesus Camps and Good News Clubs:
nothing but good, harmless fun!
"Child Evangelism Fellowship® (CEF®) is a Bible-centered, worldwide organization that is dedicated to seeing every child reached with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, discipled and established in a local church."

Many parents uncritically accept these clubs as being what their deliberately kid-friendly name implies: a club for harmless fun and a sense of belonging, in the spirit of the Good News Bears. These parents either do not realise or do not want to realise that the raison d'être of Good News Clubs is to convert children and turn them into Christian evangelicals.  These clubs are designed to pull in children under false pretenses (in many cases offering after-school care which is almost irresistible to parents who are struggling with poorly paid jobs and a lack of affordable child-care which is becoming a national crisis) and then convert them to fundamentalist Christianity. The benign-sounding name, the lure of a fun-sounding "club" and the fact that the children are often strongly encouraged to join by respected authorities (the schools) are all part of an insidious strategy to gain access to children without the truly informed consent of their parents and, obviously, of the children themselves. School acceptance of these clubs, mandated by the Supreme Court, means that both children and their parents are deceived into thinking that the secular, public schools endorse these religious clubs - and that there is no deeper agenda - which is one of the main reasons why the CEF fought so hard and so dishonestly to get them into public schools in the first place.

The Christian church has long used childhood indoctrination to ensure that obedient and thoroughly cowed legions of believers continue to swell their ranks, providing them with the power of numbers, financial wealth and, of course, warriors willing to die for their god/church/divinely appointed rulers. It has always been in the interest of those who hold power to have a large faith following, and religion has provided both the means and the ends.

"Knock down all doors, all the barriers,
to all 65,000 public elementary schools in America
 and take the Gospel to this open mission field now!
Not later, now!"

(CEF  national convention keynote speech, 2010)
There was empirical evidence behind the oft-quoted assertion of St. Francis Xavier (one of the first Jesuits, a Catholic order of priests famed as educators): "Give me the child until he is seven and I will give you the man (alternatively: "and I care not who has him thereafter"). The well-educated, observant and intelligent Jesuits had noticed that people who are thoroughly indoctrinated in religious dogma in early childhood retain those beliefs throughout life, while people in whom religious belief has not been inculcated early are more difficult to convert - and to control. They realized, though they did not have the language to describe it yet, that the psychological impact of early indoctrination - particularly indoctrination based upon fear and confusion - usually lasts a lifetime.

Young children have no defenses against deliberate indoctrination. When they are taught to fear a god through stories which illustrate the god's relentlessly violent and implacably unforgiving reaction - not to lying, stealing and murdering which the Biblical god often condones and even orders, but to disbelief and disobedience - they learn the lesson through fear and they learn it well.  The Biblical god is a terrifyingly powerful "awesome" god and the one "sin" He will never forgive is lack of belief. The children are primed first with the "fun" and then the stories are told, gradually leading to the point when the children are tearfully, fearfully professing "belief".

Research has shown that one of the most powerful human motivators is fear, and one of the most difficult psychological challenges to overcome is irrational fear, especially fear that has taken root in the mind at an early age. Religious proselytizers know this, and this is why they are so insistent upon childhood indoctrination. Children are vulnerable to lifelong damage from the powerful emotional appeal of fear and guilt-based religious proselytizing.  They cannot "unthink" terrible thoughts which have been planted in their minds early. They cannot "unfeel" the horror and the fear that is elicited in their psyches through early Bible instruction.

Religious eschatology - and the terrifying images it evokes - is nothing less than psychological abuse of children. Yet, not only are parents permitted to subject their own children to these horrors, but religious groups are being permitted to sneak their fundamentalist religious indoctrination into public and private schools where they can prey on other peoples' children as well. In fact, gaining access to the children of parents who would not voluntarily subject their children to this violent, misanthropic and destructive theology is precisely the purpose of the Good News Club.

What we don't want to know
may seriously harm the USA.
The CEF is an explicitly evangelical, explicitly fundamentalist, explicitly and unapologetically dominionist Christian group and by continuing to be willfully blind to their purpose, parents are participating in the indoctrination of their children into extremist religion, whether they want to admit it to themselves or not. It is vital that more people speak out about this strategy of the religious right. They have already insinuated themselves into thousands of public schools in the USA and around the world, and they do not intend to stop until they have converted every child.

Telling ourselves that one powerful religious group really cannot take over like that or kidding ourselves that the first amendment will protect people from religious tyranny is being willfully blind, deaf and dumb. As we have seen with the concurrent (and not merely coincidental) strategy of powerful groups to get issues affecting minorities' Constitutional rights onto ballots so that they can be put to a majority vote, the longterm objectives of the conservative right wing have been carefully and patiently planned. There is a real danger that the majority can use its power and clout to force their view on the minority until the power is so nearly total that complete annihilation of opposing viewpoints is achieved. The 2001 case heard by the SCOTUS is where the freedom from religion part should have been upheld – but the court has also been swayed by the power of the Christian majority.

Why is Katherine Stewart's nearly the only voice which has been raised publicly about this? Last year and again this year P Z Myers and Ophelia Benson blogged about it, as have I and some other bloggers, but why has this not been discussed in the mainstream media? It is a constitutional issue - a civil rights and religious freedom issue. Yet, the silence of the fourth estate is deafening.

This may be  one of those things where people who care about this country and who care about preserving religious freedom may have to make the effort to stand up for it, or risk losing it. The issue is now urgent. Please take half an hour to watch this thoroughly chilling video.

from ScottBurdick again: Sophia Investigates The Good News Club.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Barmy Bible Study - A Lesson On Obedience and Respect

God sends two bears to tear apart 42 little children for laughing at Elisha.  That's understandable, right?

































Yesterday, I posted about the creeping danger of extremist religion delivered directly to our schoolchildren in public schools. Today, I'd like to repost a Barmy Bible Study that relates to this issue. Reasonable people ought to challenge the accepted view that religion - and religious indoctrination - is benign or even "good" for children. Instead of simply skimming over the stories and "lessons" in the Bible and ignoring the very real horrors contained within the Good Book™, I'd like to challenge NiftyReaders to read - really read - what the lessons actually mean.

This week's Barmy Bible Study features Elisha and the She-Bears (bit parts played by forty-two little children).  Our text for this evening's study can be found in the book of Kings. I will post three different versions of the passage, since it is brief. It might be interesting to compare them (you go ahead; one version is more than enough for me): 
(Note: Atheists and other haters of GOD'S HOLY WORD, scroll past the blue text)

2 Kings 2:23-24
King James Version (KJV)
23 And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head.
24 And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.

2 Kings 2:23-24
Darby Translation (DARBY)
23 And he went up from thence to Bethel, and as he went up by the way, there came forth little boys out of the city, and mocked him, and said to him, Go up, bald head; go up, bald head!
24 And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of Jehovah. And there came forth two she-bears out of the wood, and tore forty-two children of them.

(During the renaissance of fundamentalist Christianity in the early 1980's, a newer, more politically-correct and friendly Bible was developed. People needed a Bible they could understand; one that rounded off the rough edges a little, one that suggested that the "little children" might in fact have been the very kind of "youths" that so many modern Christians  fear and despise. A little gentle manipulation of the text here and there and voilà! An Old Testament version massaged just enough to soften the jagged Truth™within):

2 Kings 2:23-24
New International Version 1984 (NIV1984)
Elisha Is Jeered
23 From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some youths came out of the town and jeered at him. “Go on up, you baldhead!” they said. “Go on up, you baldhead!”
24 He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths.

Don't worry kids, you will soon believe:
injustice is justice*, viciousness is righteousness
and fear is love.
The Good News™ is not for the meek!
Oh wait...
For some reason, this part of the Elisha story does not make it into the Sunday school curriculum or Sunday readings in church often enough - and, strangely, it is not mentioned at all in the wikipedia entry for Elisha, (although I am pleased to report that this Bible character is presented on wikipedia as an historical figure and the (positive) stories about him are presented as objective historical facts rather than unverifiable Biblical mythology, which is awesome) - but it really ought to feature prominently in children's Bible study. Sure, it might be frightening to a few little children, but who ever said that the Truth™ would be easy to hear? The terrifying and depressing stories in the Bible are inexplicably called the Good News™, after all. All true Bible-Believers know that terror brings comfort just as cruelty means love and death is life in Christian theology. It only takes a little early Biblical training to semi-permanently mold the human mind to this spiritual knowledge.

The story of Elisha and the She-Bears is the perfect introduction to Biblical morality for young Christians. It beautifully illustrates the character of the Biblical god, not to mention the character of Biblical leaders revered by Bible-believers. This story helps settle, once and for all, any confusion about the source from which modern conservatives derive their moral values. Most of all, it underlines in easy-to-understand terms just how important it is to respect the religious and their religious beliefs. The first four Commandments handed down by Moses are not about how human beings ought to treat one another, but about respecting the god of Israel and recognizing that all social and political power belongs in the hands of His followers. Belief is everything; moral behavior toward one's fellow human beings is secondary. Let there be no doubt what the Biblical priorities are: We don't call it Bible-based morality for nothing!

Study Questions for Elisha and the She-Bears:

1. What happened to Elisha as he approached the city of Bethel?

2. How did he react to this?

3. How does the Bible tell us that Jehovah responded to Elisha's reaction and what does his response teach us?

You know the type; always mocking the godly.
Just look at them - the arrogant bullies!
The Bible tells us that Elisha was a prophet and a servant of Elijah, the greatest of the Old Testament prophets. After Elijah was taken up to heaven, Elisha was understandably elated because not only would he no longer be playing second fiddle to Elijah, but he had asked for and received a double portion of Elijah's spirit as a deathbed blessing (interestingly, Elisha later punished his own servant without mercy for the sin of greed, but I digress*). He proceeded to travel the Holy Lands letting everyone know that he was the top prophet at last. As he journeyed from town to town, Elisha was occasionally disappointed in the people he found there. When he was disappointed, he wasted no time before calling down the wrath of his god upon them.  As a "Man of God", Elisha was able to flex that power that comes with being a favored son of Jehovah, and like the god himself, Elisha never hesitated to use it mercilessly to crush those who displeased him.

Take the day he traveled to Bethel, for example. Perhaps he was feeling a little testy that day (and, come on, isn't a Man of God entitled to a grumpy day now and then?), so his reaction to the teasing of a group of little children will be entirely understandable. Here is what happened:

Elisha was approaching the gates of the city of Bethel. No doubt he was tired from his journey and feeling irritable. Perhaps his bald head was noticably shining with perspiration due to his exertions. Whatever the case may be, a group of little children from the town ran out to watch his approach and for some unknown reason began to tease and taunt him, using the timeless, sing-songing repetition that has characterized children's games for generations.

"Go on up, you baldhead! Go on up, you baldhead" they called out to him. Twice.

Now, that was clearly disrespectful. These little children, in their arrogance, were obviously mocking the Man of God. They were making fun of Elisha's bald, sweatily glistening head! They may even have been ignorantly parroting things they may have overheard their elders saying about Elisha - perhaps that he was trying too hard to emulate Elijah and might just as well ascend into heaven like his deceased mentor - we cannot know for sure why the children did what they did, and they may not, in fact, have had any motive except silly childish games, but still. Their youthful innocence and ignorance of Elisha's exalted role as God's emissary was no excuse for this rude behaviour. Nothing is ever a valid excuse for mockery of a religious figure or a religion. That is blasphemy! Blasphemers are the worst of the worst. And justice* must be seen to be done.

This will teach those smart-alecs to fear God!
Remember children: fear is love.
And vicious, capricious cruelty is God's love.
Remember that now, little ones...oh wait...too late!
So Elisha did what any Man of God would do: he called on Jehovah to right this appalling injustice - this unforgivable mockery of a godly man - the playful nyah-nyahing of laughing children who must surely have been little minions of Satan! You might think that the all-loving god of the Christian imagination would have gently chastised the little children, understanding that their behaviour was nothing more than a stage in the developmental path that the god himself, after all, had ordained for humanity. You might think that He would have counselled Elisha to smile patiently and go about his business as not only a Man of God, but also as a mature adult. You might think these things, but you would be wrong. Jehovah answered Elisha's call the Biblical wayand how! -->

Jehovah (aka "God") sent two ferocious bears - she-bears, naturally - which then proceeded to rip forty-two of the little children to pieces. The story goes that as the bears tore the limbs off little boys and girls and sank their massive teeth into tiny necks and torsos, Elisha continued on into the city of Bethel to spread the Good News™ of Jehovah's boundless love to the men within. Then, of course, he simply carried on his way to his next stop, Samaria. The Bible never does say how the townspeople of Bethel reacted later when they found the bloody, dismembered bodies of forty-two of their children. It moves smartly on to more important topics, obviously.

It may seem as though Elisha was indifferent to the suffering of little children whom he had condemned to terrible deaths for the "crime" of laughing at him, but we learn from this story that he did it for a good reason: disrespect for a "Man of God" - especially disbelief in the invisible and silent, unknowable and undetectable, yet omniscient and omnipotent creator god - is never to be tolerated. The One True Faith must be respected at all costs - revered by everyone, including the innocent, the ignorant and the unbelievers - and when it is not, the insult is so intolerable that anything is permitted.

Elisha stood strong against 
the little children.
Let Biblical justice be done!
In Bible studies all over Christendom, people nod in agreement and barely flicker an eyelid upon reading about the massacre of little children, because they believe in Biblical values, which are far superior to any mere humanist morality. They know that allowing little children to be torn apart by wild bears is nothing compared to the horror of allowing a Man of God to be ridiculed without dire consequences. Bible-belief lifts true Christians above the filth of mere human emotion and tender feelings for other human beings. These are the values that modern Christians strive to apply to their own lives, for the good of humanity. Those who will not bow down respectfully before the Christian religion clearly choose not to, and therefore they choose whatever they have coming to them. That's not bigotry, that's the Biblical way.

Every right-minded Christian understands that to be laughed at or mocked for one's beliefs, while it is expected, is an intolerable offense that the godly should never have to endure. As followers of the One True Faith™, righteous Christians must never be prevented from defending against insults using every weapon at their disposal.  Throughout history, of course, Christians waged wars, persecuted unbelievers and punished blasphemers mercilessly, just like Elisha and his god. But those were the good old days (whatever happened to just being able to burn heretics at the stake? That's another of our freedoms stolen by those damned liberals!). Today, right-wing Christians in the western world are prevented by secular liberal society from responding to criticism or mockery in the time-honored Biblical way, sadly, but some groups have devised ingenious ways of getting around the protection obstruction of the secular Constitution.

Whether their fellow citizens want it or not, Bible-believing Christians know that it is imperative that the United States be brought to its knees before them the one true god. Great strides have been made since the Reagan era made it clear that there were ways around the First Amendment, and Christian power in government and society has since grown enormous. Every level of government, every profession, every cultural sphere and every educational institution has been infused with the holy spirit in the form of planted emissaries of the favored Christian faith. It is time for the Christian Right to stand up even taller in defense of their faith: the criticism coming from liberals and moderates is intolerable and outrageous. It must be silenced. It is not simply free speech in a free country - it is persecution of Christians!

Turns out God and Guns is a
winning combination, after all!
Might makes right; that's the
Biblical way!
The story of Elisha and the She-Bears teaches us without ambiguity that the Biblical God is a mercilessly punishing god. To disrespect him - even unknowingly - is to bring his wrath down upon even the most vulnerable and innocent among us. Righteous, Bible-believing Christians know this Truth™and they fear it. The anger of the all-loving, all-powerful god is terrifying and there is no room for mutual understanding, acceptance of different beliefs or of ignorance. The Good News™ must be embraced by everyone - force-fed to them, if necessary - for the good of humanity.

Righteous, Bible-believing, born-again Christians will not be fooled by liberals who disguise themselves as Christians, either. So-called moderate Christians - who are too tolerant of others, who accept other people for who they are and who believe there may be many pathways to God - will never be accepted as real Christians by the true Bible-believer. Moderate, liberal Christians are like the little children who mocked the great Man of God, Elisha. They look innocent but they are false Christians, perhaps even the devil's minions and they, likewise, must be shown no mercy. It is hard Truth™, but true Christians know that they must be strong enough to do whatever is necessary to defend their beliefs. In the words of bible.org, "We need more Elishas, those who will stand fast and act in biblical ways leaving the results to the Lord." Wow. Indeed! How awesome is Biblical love!

Here is what every loving Christian parent knows: The lesson about God's righteous justice that they learn from the story of Elisha and the Bears is good for Christian children. Fear is good. We know this is true because the Bible tells us so. The Bible says it. We believe it. That settles it. However, there is always the danger that some Christians may recognise the raw, power-hungry psychological manipulation for what it is fail to accept and understand this wondrous mystery unless their beliefs are seared into their psyches through childhood indoctrination inculcated early and thoroughly. Might as well get them started in pre-school! Below you will find an example of a fun way to introduce the important message of the story of Elisha and the She-Bears to young children - use a colouring page! It's just the thing. Find your copies at any Christian supply store and start training up your children the right way today!

*Justice is injustice. Injustice is justice. The Bible is always right. This is Biblical logic. Get used to it. 'We need more Elishas' and, if the Christian right gets its wish this election, we will have them at long last. We could soon be enjoying a far more Biblically correct America. Praise God!

Class dismissed.

The child who coloured this page added a nice touch when he drew in the spurting blood.
This boy shows righteous promise! A future Elisha, perhaps?


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Teach Your Children Right!


A little girl at "Jesus Camp" expresses her "joy" in the Christian gospel while other children look on uncertainly.






























(Reposting this after reading recently on Butterflies and Wheels that this situation is accelerating. Previously posted in June, 2012):

Two recent FreeThoughtBlogs posts have brought attention to the improper use of public schools by fundamentalist religious groups to indoctrinate children into their terrifying "faiths". One would think that the public discussions of Jesus Camp, and the disturbing videos which came out about it, would have alerted concerned parents to the danger of letting religion have a free pass to indoctrinate their youngsters, but apparently not.  Religion is given a pass once more.  Actually, religion is not just given a pass but is still presumed to be, on the whole, a positive and good thing for children, even by parents who would be horrified if they knew the true intentions of religious proselytizers who have targeted their children for training as warriors for Jesus.

Both Ophelia Benson and PZ Myers posted this morning about the Good News Club, an explicitly Christian evangelical initiative of a group which calls itself the Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF), whose number and influence in schools and communities has been growing at an alarming rate.  A recent article in the Guardian by Katherine Stewart (author of The Good News Club: The Christian Right's Stealth Assault on America's Children) has broken the story that the clubs, emboldened by the protection of a bad 2001 Supreme Court decision, are no longer bothering to even pretend that their real agenda is not proselytizing and grooming Christian warriors:

The CEF has been teaching the story of the Amalekites at least since 1973. In its earlier curriculum materials, CEF was euphemistic about the bloodshed, saying simply that "the Amalekites were completely defeated." In the most recent version of the curriculum, however, the group is quite eager to drive the message home to its elementary school students. The first thing the curriculum makes clear is that if God gives instructions to kill a group of people, you must kill every last one:

"You are to go and completely destroy the Amalekites (AM-uh-leck-ites) – people, animals, every living thing. Nothing shall be left."

"That was pretty clear, wasn't it?" the manual tells the teachers to say to the kids.

The Slaughter of the Amalekites
Asking if Saul would "pass the test" of obedience, the text points to Saul's failure to annihilate every last Amalekite, posing the rhetorical question:

"If you are asked to do something, how much of it do you need to do before you can say, 'I did it!'?"

"If only Saul had been willing to seek God for strength to obey!" the lesson concludes.

Even more important, the Good News Club wants the children to know, the Amalakites were targeted for destruction on account of their religion, or lack of it. The instruction manual reads: 

"The Amalekites had heard about Israel's true and living God many years before, but they refused to believe in him. The Amalekites refused to believe in God and God had promised punishment." Katherine Stewart, The Guardian.

These fundamentalist Christian proselytizing vehicles won the right to insert themselves into public schools under the deceptive and insidious ruling (one of the few majority opinions authored by the conservative Clarence Thomas) in 2001. In that decision (Good News Club vs Milford Central School), the Supreme Court Justice disingenuously agreed with the CEF defense that the clubs were not religious in nature at all, but were merely clubs performing the laudable function of “teaching of morals and character development from a particular viewpoint”. Nothing to worry about there, right? But, wait. Here is the CEF viewpoint, straight from their "About Us" webpage:

Jesus Camps and Good News Clubs:
nothing but good, harmless fun!
"Child Evangelism Fellowship® (CEF®) is a Bible-centered, worldwide organization that is dedicated to seeing every child reached with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, discipled and established in a local church."

Many parents uncritically accept these clubs as being what their deliberately kid-friendly name implies: a club for harmless fun and a sense of belonging, in the spirit of the Good News Bears. These parents either do not realise or do not want to realise that the raison d'être of Good News Clubs is to convert children and turn them into Christian evangelicals.  These clubs are designed to pull in children under false pretenses (in many cases offering after-school care which is almost irresistible to parents who are struggling with poorly paid jobs and a lack of affordable child-care which is becoming a national crisis) and then convert them to fundamentalist Christianity. The benign-sounding name, the lure of a fun-sounding "club" and the fact that the children are often strongly encouraged to join by respected authorities (the schools) are all part of an insidious strategy to gain access to children without the truly informed consent of their parents and, obviously, of the children themselves. School acceptance of these clubs, mandated by the Supreme Court, means that both children and their parents are deceived into thinking that the secular, public schools endorse these religious clubs - and that there is no deeper agenda - which is one of the main reasons why the CEF fought so hard and so dishonestly to get them into public schools in the first place.

The Christian church has long used childhood indoctrination to ensure that obedient and thoroughly cowed legions of believers continue to swell their ranks, providing them with the power of numbers, financial wealth and, of course, warriors willing to die for their god/church/divinely appointed rulers. It has always been in the interest of those who hold power to have a large faith following, and religion has provided both the means and the ends.

"Knock down all doors, all the barriers,
to all 65,000 public elementary schools in America
 and take the Gospel to this open mission field now!
Not later, now!"

(CEF  national convention keynote speech, 2010)
There was empirical evidence behind the oft-quoted assertion of St. Francis Xavier (one of the first Jesuits, a Catholic order of priests famed as educators): "Give me the child until he is seven and I will give you the man (alternatively: "and I care not who has him thereafter"). The well-educated, observant and intelligent Jesuits had noticed that people who are thoroughly indoctrinated in religious dogma in early childhood retain those beliefs throughout life, while people in whom religious belief has not been inculcated early are more difficult to convert - and to control. They realized, though they did not have the language to describe it yet, that the psychological impact of early indoctrination - particularly indoctrination based upon fear and confusion - usually lasts a lifetime.

Young children have no defenses against deliberate indoctrination. When they are taught to fear a god through stories which illustrate the god's relentlessly violent and implacably unforgiving reaction - not to lying, stealing and murdering which the Biblical god often condones and even orders, but to disbelief and disobedience - they learn the lesson through fear and they learn it well.  The Biblical god is a terrifyingly powerful "awesome" god and the one "sin" He will never forgive is lack of belief. The children are primed first with the "fun" and then the stories are told, gradually leading to the point when the children are tearfully, fearfully professing "belief".

Research has shown that one of the most powerful human motivators is fear, and one of the most difficult psychological challenges to overcome is irrational fear, especially fear that has taken root in the mind at an early age. Religious proselytizers know this, and this is why they are so insistent upon childhood indoctrination. Children are vulnerable to lifelong damage from the powerful emotional appeal of fear and guilt-based religious proselytizing.  They cannot "unthink" terrible thoughts which have been planted in their minds early. They cannot "unfeel" the horror and the fear that is elicited in their psyches through early Bible instruction.

Religious eschatology - and the terrifying images it evokes - is nothing less than psychological abuse of children. Yet, not only are parents permitted to subject their own children to these horrors, but religious groups are being permitted to sneak their fundamentalist religious indoctrination into public and private schools where they can prey on other peoples' children as well. In fact, gaining access to the children of parents who would not voluntarily subject their children to this violent, misanthropic and destructive theology is precisely the purpose of the Good News Club.

What we don't want to know
may seriously harm the USA.
The CEF is an explicitly evangelical, explicitly fundamentalist, explicitly and unapologetically dominionist Christian group and by continuing to be willfully blind to their purpose, parents are participating in the indoctrination of their children into extremist religion, whether they want to admit it to themselves or not. It is vital that more people speak out about this strategy of the religious right. They have already insinuated themselves into thousands of public schools in the USA and around the world, and they do not intend to stop until they have converted every child.

Telling ourselves that one powerful religious group really cannot take over like that or kidding ourselves that the first amendment will protect people from religious tyranny is being willfully blind, deaf and dumb. As we have seen with the concurrent (and not merely coincidental) strategy of powerful groups to get issues affecting minorities' Constitutional rights onto ballots so that they can be put to a majority vote, the longterm objectives of the conservative right wing have been carefully and patiently planned. There is a real danger that the majority can use its power and clout to force their view on the minority until the power is so nearly total that complete annihilation of opposing viewpoints is achieved. The 2001 case heard by the SCOTUS is where the freedom from religion part should have been upheld – but the court has also been swayed by the power of the Christian majority. The issue is now urgent.

PZ's post    Ophelia's post, Kill Them All, Children.



Saturday, February 2, 2013

A Modern David and Goliath Story - Teenager Zack Kopplin Takes On The Christian Right






























When Zack Kopplin was in his sophomore year at Baton Rouge Magnet High School, in 2008, he started his fight against a new law called the Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA), which has earned him fame and notoriety for being a notable advocate for science in defiance of this law's disguised attempt at introducing creationism into the classroom in Louisiana.*


For your Saturday Inspiration, may I present a modern day David vs Goliath story:

When Christian fundamentalists in the Louisiana legislature passed the Louisiana Science Education Act, it was a signal that the religious right had finally declared open war against reality-based public education. This law virtually guarantees that growing numbers of children will be deprived of education as the modern knowledge available through comprehensive educational curricula is replaced by medieval constraints on learning where all access to knowledge must be restricted to whatever can be Biblically referenced.   

Alarmed and angered by these developments, LA teenager Zack Kopplin pushed past his shyness and fear of retaliation to protest the law. Zack began by writing a research paper on the subject while still in high school. Since then, he has sought and gained the support of 78 nobel laureates in his effort to persuade the Louisiana legislature that the LSEA was not just a mistake, but potentially disastrous for Louisiana children and the future economic growth of the state. He was disappointed in that effort: the Louisiana legislature refused to repeal the law. To Zack's (and many others') horror, Tennessee soon followed Louisiana's example and passed a similar creationist bill of their own.

Zack's concerns are founded in chilling reality. Not only has the LSEA opened the door for creationism to be taught to unsuspecting children by dishonestly calling it "science", but the Louisiana legislature - with the blessing of Governor Bobby Jindal - has also passed bills for school voucher programs which funnel public tax dollars into religious schools which teach this overtly religious material. This blatant violation of the Constitutional prohibition against government endorsement of religion was made possible through a cleverly packaged bill purporting to support "academic freedom".

While science has been in the crosshairs of religious fundamentalists for decades, it is not the only school subject in danger. History is being rewritten in Texas (the source of the vast majority of textbooks used by all American schoolchildren), while Bible-based Mathematics (yes, Math!), Economics and  Literature, currently being taught inside the Christian homeschooling movement, are poised to be launched into the public school curricula as soon as Christian fundamentalists succeed in getting their agenda passed in state legislatures around the country. Louisiana is far from the only Republican-controlled state to be pushing through these anti-education measures, either. In addition to Louisiana, Tennessee, and Texas (unofficially), four more states are considering legislation which will allow religious fundamentalists to do an end run around both the Constitution and reality-based educational standards.

Fresh legislation has been put forward in Colorado, Missouri and Montana. In Oklahoma, there are two bills before the state legislature that include potentially creationist language.
A watchdog group, the National Center for Science Education, said that the proposed laws were framed around the concept of "academic freedom". It argues that religious motives are disguised by the language of encouraging more open debate in school classrooms. However, the areas of the curriculum highlighted in the bills tend to focus on the teaching of evolution or other areas of science that clash with traditionally religious interpretations of the world.
Four US states considering laws that challenge the teaching of evolution, Paul Harris, The Guardian, January 31, 2013.

Why are religious fundamentalists so determined to inject religion into science curricula (and into public education, generally) anyway? What possible benefit can there be in denying reality and refusing to accept the scientific theories which enabled humankind to develop technologies and medical treatments which these same people presumably do not refuse to use? The answer is sadly banal. Christian fundamentalists are attempting to destroy secular public education for the same reason that religion has always opposed allowing the people access to real education: for the preservation of the religious elite's power and wealth.  

American Christianism - like all religions - is a symbiotic relationship: religious elites derive their power and wealth from legions of followers who look to pastors and preachers for leadership and who believe that the religion they promote is true. Church is big business. From the enormous, multi-million dollar mega-church corporations to the one-man storefront church business, there is a huge incentive for preachers and their organizations to do whatever they need to do to maintain their "moral authority" over their flocks and thus hold on to their power and wealth.

The allure of religion
For their part, Christian believers provide a steady flow of income and huge political power to their church leadership (in the form of the "Christian" vote) in exchange for a sense of order and purpose in life, moral guidance and perhaps most important of all (though seldom acknowledged as a separate reason) the sense that they are valued members of a powerful majority.  For many born-again believers, that sense of belonging to a powerful majority is one of the few comforts they have in an often bewildering, disempowering and depressing life. 

The foundation for this mutually beneficial relationship is the Christian belief system. The moral authority of the religious leadership depends upon general acceptance of - and willingness to profess belief in - the doctrines of the faith. It is this belief system which is the weak link in the power structure of the business of religion. When the supremacy of the belief system is challenged, the power of the leadership is threatened. 

The problem for both the fundamentalist leaders and their willing followers is this: Christian beliefs - like most religious belief systems - are founded in mythology and the supernatural so evidence-based reality is obviously a threat to that foundation. Reality-based education, the goal of good, secular schools, is a direct threat to religion because by teaching children empirically supported facts about the natural world and giving them the critical thinking skills to continue to seek the truth about the world and our place in it, it teaches them the skills they need to understand how religion manipulates and controls the culture and to see how that manipulation is often motivated by very worldly, selfish goals. 
The Christian right has long suspected
that colleges are their enemies.

Well-educated people may not lose their belief in gods, but they often move away from organized religion. As more and more educated people moved away from organized religion during the last century - and gained independence from religiously-mandated tithing, rules for living and political activism - the wealth, power and influence of the church began to decline. The religious elites realized that public education was their mortal enemy. In the 1970's, a group of influential evangelical Christian leaders joined forces and formulated a plan to "take back America" - and a major focus of that plan was to undermine the public education system which they saw as the most dangerously effective dispeller of religious mysticism.

It wasn't only religious leaders who wanted to maintain the illusion of religious Truth™, however. If that were the case, they would have failed miserably since they are a relatively small elite with nowhere near the number of votes they would need to control elections or influence legislatures. They needed an army of loyal followers willing to act against their own material interests to provide the financial backing and votes needed to support the fundamentalist Christian agenda. Incredibly, they were able to marshall just such an army of dedicated, ideologically-driven followers within a couple of decades. Why?

Why would millions of people vote against their own interests and support a leadership which is working to deprive them of rights and their children of education?  On some level they know the Bible-based worldview is flawed and that the anti-science movement is wrong. They know it - even if they refuse to acknowledge it - because they use science-based technology, medicine and reproductive technology every day. Yet they deny the truth and vote to deny the truth to their own children and their neighbors' children, too. 

It is tempting to chalk this up to stupidity or irrationality, but that is a mistake. Christians are no more stupid than any other Americans. They can understand the truth but they choose to ignore it. Religionists see that the power lies in going along with the fiction, and they see what happens to people who refuse to bow to religious power. People gravitate to power and they can see that in a democracy the power is with the majority, so many make a choice to join the majority. That is not stupidity, it is calculation. In a purely objective calculation - looking at the negative social consequences experienced by outspoken non-Christians, for example - it may actually be more stupid not to go along with the Christian majority.  

The charge that Christianists are "irrational" is probably without merit, too. We cannot know what people really believe in the privacy of their own thoughts, only what they profess to believe. We can, however, see that perfectly sensible people say and do objectively irrational things for very rational reasons.  For example, when people endure hazing rituals in order to be accepted into a highly desired group, it is clear that they do not "believe in" the irrational things they must say or do to win a place in the group, but it is equally clear that they are willing to do whatever it takes to be members because they do believe in the value of belonging to the group. Self-professed Bible-believing Christians may or may not believe that the Bible is literally the source of all truth and knowledge, but they definitely believe that belonging to the Christian religion is worth saying that they do. When you consider the harm that they know they would experience in their social, personal and professional lives should they refuse to submit to the pressure to profess the Christian faith, it is undeniable that in a very real sense it is more rational to go along with Christian fundamentalism than it is to fight against it.

So, while it is true that supporting the Christian Right's agenda is harmful to their own material interests, for many Christians the psychological benefits - they might call it their spiritual interests - of belonging to the church are more important. Church followers were, and still are, anxious to preserve the fictional foundation upon which their own position in a powerful majority is built.  They support lies in order to preserve their religious privilege. Feeling safe in a modern world full of cures and conveniences made possible by science, they cannot imagine losing those gains so very few followers of fundamentalist Christianity can see any downside to denying reality in this manner. They don't see that, having grown up with a decent education themselves, their religious "belief" is a choice, but for children who know nothing else but indoctrination (backed up by the fear of hellfire), there may be no psychologically safe "choice" possible. They only see the upside: the consolidation of their group's position of supremacy in American society: the continued normalization and forced public acceptance of false beliefs which supports their own psychological comfort and social position. 

Public apathy about the creep of religious fundamentalism into the public sphere will have a profound impact upon the future of this country. This is not a fringe movement which poses no threat to our reasonable, sensible little corner of the world. This is a powerful, well-organized and - until very recently - stealthy campaign to concentrate power into a few hands, using religion as the weapon to subdue and incapacitate the people. Nearly 50% of the population already professes to believe that the creation myth explains our existence and the Bible is literally the source of all knowledge. That number could jump to an overwhelming majority of future voters if an entire generation of schoolchildren is deprived of the ability to think critically or to understand the basic principles of math and science which underpin nearly all of modern technology and medicine.

A child devastated by the  
"good news" of Christian
indoctrination. (Jesus Camp)
The school voucher concept was the brainchild of religious extremists who were determined to completely dismantle the secular public school system and reduce all education in this country to a training ground of future foot soldiers for the conservative Christian elites. They have been working on this elsewhere in the world (in places where the public education systems are far less robust than in the USA) through their "mission" programs, too.  The United States was a tougher arena for the Christian war for supremacy, but little by little, the religionists have succeeded in chipping away at the Constitutional protections which once guaranteed that American children would have access to an education free of ulterior agendas. Laws like the ones that Zack Kopplin is fighting in Louisiana deprive children of a real education while indoctrinating them mercilessly with the mythology, eschatology and psychological terrorism of fundamentalist Christian theology. The Christian right intends to return Christendom - within a generation or two - to an appalling condition where a majority of the population will not understand the nature of reality and will be too cowed by theological terrorizing to ask any questions about it. 
"Give me a child until he is seven
and I will give you the man."

Coming soon to a school near you: Belief instead of knowledge. Feeling instead of thinking. Obedience instead of understanding. Acceptance instead of justice. Conformity instead of liberty. Fearful self-loathing instead of hopeful confidence. 

Unless America wakes up to put a stop to this madness, the result of these laws will be the perversion of every cherished American ideal. Christian fundamentalists have been working on this particular strategy to control American society for more than 30 years (before that, they tried other strategies which were not as successful). If this sounds alarmist to you, consider that these religious extremists are counting on that. They are counting on the moderate middle of America to dismiss those who are raising the alarm, while they continue their stealth campaign to destroy the foundation of religious liberty and establish a Christian theocracy in the USA. If we continue to ignore this situation and allow religious extremists to write, lobby for and pass laws which enshrine a particular religious ideology as the government-endorsed national ideology, the consequences for religious, political and intellectual freedom - not to mention technological and economic development - in this country will be disastrous.

Please read more on this topic and spread the word.  Below, you'll find some links worth checking out (even if you have no time to read, please take 5 minutes to watch the video linked at the bottom of this post):

*Meet Zack Kopplin: The Millenial Fighting Creationism in Louisiana (Q&A), Dillon Zhou, policymic, January 28, 2013.
How 19-year old activist Zack Kopplin is making life hell for Louisiana creationists, George Dvorsky, i09, January 16, 2013. Loch Ness Monster used to debunk evolution in state-funded school, Claudine Zap, June 25, 2012
Christian Fundamentalists teach US Children Loch Ness Monster is Real to Disprove Evolution, Lucy Sherriff, The Huffington Post UK, June 25, 2012.
New Creationist Bill in Colorado, Ed Brayton, Dispatches from the Culture Wars, January 27, 2013.
She Brainwashed Me With Science, Ed Brayton, FTB, January 24, 2013.
Another Clueless Legislator on Evolution, Brayton, January 26, 2013.
Texas Public Schools: Still Teaching Creationism, Josh Harkinson, Mother Jones, January 28, 2013.
Critics say Montana allows creationism in schools, Associated Press (OregonLive), January 25, 2013.
Loch Ness Monster seen as real dinosaur in biology books taught in Louisiana school, Eric Ortiz, NYDailyNews, June 26, 2012.
14 Wacky "Facts" Kids Will Learn in Louisiana's Voucher Schools, Deanna Pan, Mother Jones, August 7, 2012.




If you doubt that the school voucher idea is for anything other than to undermine secular, public education for American citizens, please take five minutes to view this video excerpt from the documentary, School Choice: Taxpayer-Funded Creationism, Bigotry and Bias.