The American Bear

Sunshine/Lollipops

Terrorism and the other Religions

As for political violence, people of Christian heritage in the twentieth century polished off tens of millions of people in the two world wars and colonial repression. This massive carnage did not occur because European Christians are worse than or different from other human beings, but because they were the first to industrialize war and pursue a national model. Sometimes it is argued that they did not act in the name of religion but of nationalism. But, really, how naive. Religion and nationalism are closely intertwined. The British monarch is the head of the Church of England, and that still meant something in the first half of the twentieth century, at least. The Swedish church is a national church. Spain? Was it really unconnected to Catholicism? Did the Church and Francisco Franco’s feelings toward it play no role in the Civil War? And what’s sauce for the goose: much Muslim violence is driven by forms of modern nationalism, too.

Terrorism and the other Religions

As for political violence, people of Christian heritage in the twentieth century polished off tens of millions of people in the two world wars and colonial repression. This massive carnage did not occur because European Christians are worse than or different from other human beings, but because they were the first to industrialize war and pursue a national model. Sometimes it is argued that they did not act in the name of religion but of nationalism. But, really, how naive. Religion and nationalism are closely intertwined. The British monarch is the head of the Church of England, and that still meant something in the first half of the twentieth century, at least. The Swedish church is a national church. Spain? Was it really unconnected to Catholicism? Did the Church and Francisco Franco’s feelings toward it play no role in the Civil War? And what’s sauce for the goose: much Muslim violence is driven by forms of modern nationalism, too.

Sam Harris, the New Atheists, and anti-Muslim animus | Glenn Greenwald

Sam Harris in 2005: “I am one of the few people I know of who has argued in print that torture may be an ethical necessity in our war on terror.”

Sam Harris in 2012: “We should profile Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim, and we should be honest about it.”

Sam Harris in 2005: “In our dealings with the Muslim world, we must acknowledge that Muslims have not found anything of substance to say against the actions of the September 11 hijackers, apart from the ubiquitous canard that they were really Jews.” (Harris’ own ugly canard would come as news to CAIR, the leading Muslim advocacy group, as well as most of the world’s Muslims).

By themselves, those statements - fully in context - negate 90% of the comments from Harris defenders. If you’re going to defend him, do remember to defend these.

One last point: I absolutely do not believe that Harris - or, for that matter, Hitchens - is representative of all or even most atheists in this regard. The vast majority of atheists* I know find such sentiments repellent. They are representative only of themselves and those who share these views, not atheists generally.

* I’m one of those atheists. It’s high time Harris is called out on this.

From Ian Murphy:

For a guy who purportedly came to be an atheist through his intellect, Harris routinely fails to demonstrate the faintest capacity to reason. By shamelessly trotting out the same ‘ticking-nuke’ fairy tale as every other Jack and Jill Bauer on Fox News, he failed to notice that torture rarely produces reliable intelligence, and that it’s a wildly counterproductive jihadist recruitment tool. And according to security expert Bruce Schneier, profiling on the basis on ethnicity is useless. But for all Harris’ sometimes lofty rhetoric about science, he’s just not amenable to evidence. Most grating, for someone who wrote a book titled The Moral Landscape, Harris’ ‘War on Islam’ zealotry is numerically unjustifiable. You’re four times as likely to die of a lightning strike than you are from a terrorist attack, and yet this constitutes the gravest threat to Western civilization, but 100,000 (at least) civilian casualties in Iraq is mere fodder for thought experiment apologia. Harris is basically a low-rent Hitchens, sans wit or the wisdom to waterboard himself.

One option would be to change — to become better people who use their power, privilege and influence to make the world a better place. But that’s hard. It’s easier just to play make-believe. So they spin out fantasy scenarios in which they’re not privileged and powerful, but rather an oppressed, beleaguered and aggrieved minority suffering injustice at the hands of some other, imaginary powers that be. Then they can imagine that, in this fantasy, they’re just like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi and Harriet Tubman all rolled into one and they can imagine just a tiny taste of how proud they would be of themselves if anything at all like that were actually true. When talk of ‘civil disobedience’ is just masturbation (via azspot)

(via randomactsofchaos)

Missouri Legislator Introduces Bill To Teach Creationism As A Scientific Theory And To Teach Evolution As A Philosophy | Jonathan Turley

[…] The law [introduced by Missouri GOP Rep. Rick Brattin] dictates a religious based understanding of science, including “Intelligence-directed action is necessary to exceed the limits of natural species change, which is a combination of autogenous species change and environmental effected species change. Multi-generation breeding experiments illustrate the limits of natural species change and its inadequacy for developing required genetic information found in dissimilar species.”

The rather convoluted and pseudo-sciencific language then states:

(3) If scientific theory is taught, the theory shall be identified as theory when taught orally or in writing. Empirical data and conjecture may be presented to support taught theory where considered instructive. As used in this subsection, the term “theory” shall mean theory or hypothesis; (a) If a scientific theory concerning origin or destiny is taught without the teaching of opposing scientific theory, the taught theory may be criticized by the teaching of conflicting empirical data where considered instructive;
(b) If scientific theory concerning biological origin is taught in a course of study, biological evolution and biological intelligent design shall be taught. Other scientific theory or theories of origin may be taught. If biological intelligent design is taught, any proposed identity of the intelligence responsible for earth’s biology shall be verifiable by present-day observation or experimentation and teachers shall not question, survey, or otherwise influence student belief in a nonverifiable identity within a science course;
(c) If scientific theory concerning biological origin is taught in a textbook, the textbook shall give equal treatment to biological evolution and biological intelligent design. Other scientific theory or theories of origin may be taught.

The tortured language is an effort to avoid the word “creationism” and to dress up religious beliefs as scientific theory while treating evolution as a philosophy.

The bill would recreate “standard science” in a more faith-based image and guarantee Missouri will fall further in its educational rankings. What is clear is that the drafters may be the best argument against evidence of evolution. The law is poorly crafted and both intellectually and politically dishonest. It is little more than to legislate that science teachers will legitimate religious views despite the overwhelming support for the fact of evolution. [++]

I am an atheist, out and out. It took me a long time to say it. I’ve been an atheist for years and years, but somehow I felt it was intellectually unrespectable to say one was an atheist, because it assumed knowledge that one didn’t have. Somehow, it was better to say one was a humanist or an agnostic. I finally decided that I’m a creature of emotion as well as of reason. Emotionally, I am an atheist. I don’t have the evidence to prove that God doesn’t exist, but I so strongly suspect he doesn’t that I don’t want to waste my time. Isaac Asimov (via ikenbot)

(Source: afro-dominicano, via eyesdriftskyward)

7th Circuit Enjoins Contraceptive Coverage Mandate | Jonathan Turley

Because Jesus:

In Grote v. Sebelius, (7th Cir., Jan. 30, 2013), a 2-1 decision by the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals granted an an injunction, pending appeal, where the defendants are enjoined from enforcing the contraception mandate against the Grote Family and Grote Industries. Grote Industries is a privately held, family‐run business headquartered in Madison, Indiana. Members of the Grote Family are Catholic and operate their business according to the “precepts of their faith, including the Catholic Church’s teachings regarding the moral wrongfulness of abortifacient drugs, contraception, and sterilization.”

Judge Ilana Rovner’s dissenting opinion is interesting, read on

humanrightswatch:

Burma: Satellite Images Show Widespread Attacks on Rohingya
Attacks and arson in late October by ethnic Arakanese against Rohingya Muslims in Burma’s Arakan State were at times carried out with the support of state security forces and local government officials, Human Rights Watch said today. New satellite imagery obtained by Human Rights Watch shows extensive destruction of homes and other property in the predominantly Rohingya Muslim areas of Pauktaw, Mrauk-U, and Myebon townships, all sites of violence and displacement in late October 2012.
Damage Analysis: Human Rights Watch; Satellite Sensor: Pléiades-1; Image © ASTRIUM 2012; Source: SpotImage

humanrightswatch:

Burma: Satellite Images Show Widespread Attacks on Rohingya

Attacks and arson in late October by ethnic Arakanese against Rohingya Muslims in Burma’s Arakan State were at times carried out with the support of state security forces and local government officials, Human Rights Watch said today. New satellite imagery obtained by Human Rights Watch shows extensive destruction of homes and other property in the predominantly Rohingya Muslim areas of Pauktaw, Mrauk-U, and Myebon townships, all sites of violence and displacement in late October 2012.

Damage Analysis: Human Rights Watch; Satellite Sensor: Pléiades-1; Image © ASTRIUM 2012; Source: SpotImage

Non-religious on the rise | Natasha Lennard

A new study has found that for the first time the U.S. does not have a Protestant majority. The report from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released Tuesday put the number of Protestant adults below 50 percent (at 48 percent) for the first time in polling history. The reason for this is partly attributed to the spike in Americans who claim no religion (20 percent, compared to 15 percent five years ago.) The Pew study noted:

Their ranks [the non-religious] now include more than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics (nearly 6 percent of the U.S. public), as well as nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation (14 percent)… The growth in the number of religiously unaffiliated Americans – sometimes called the rise of the “nones” – is largely driven by generational replacement, the gradual supplanting of older generations by newer ones.

The data about the falling number of Protestants was collected from a sizable sample of 17,000 people. Similarly, a census report earlier this year found “for the first time” whites were surpassed as the majority in the U.S. Of course before European settlement a few centuries ago the area that’s now the U.S. had neither white nor Protestant populations.

Let’s begin with a brief history lesson. From the late 1940s to the late 1980s, when Communism provided the overarching ideological rationale for American globalism, religion figured prominently as a theme of U.S. foreign policy. Communist antipathy toward religion helped invest the Cold War foreign policy consensus with its remarkable durability. That Communists were godless sufficed to place them beyond the pale. For many Americans, the Cold War derived its moral clarity from the conviction that here was a contest pitting the God-fearing against the God-denying. Since we were on God’s side, it appeared axiomatic that God should repay the compliment.

Andrew Bacevich, Even Dumb Ideas Have Consequences

From time to time during the decades when anti-Communism provided so much of the animating spirit of U.S. policy, Judeo-Christian strategists in Washington (not necessarily believers themselves), drawing on the theologically correct proposition that Christians, Jews, and Muslims all worship the same God, sought to enlist Muslims, sometimes of fundamentalist persuasions, in the cause of opposing the godless. One especially notable example was the Soviet-Afghan War of 1979-1989. To inflict pain on the Soviet occupiers, the United States threw its weight behind the Afghan resistance, styled in Washington as “freedom fighters,” and funneled aid (via the Saudis and the Pakistanis) to the most religiously extreme among them. When this effort resulted in a massive Soviet defeat, the United States celebrated its support for the Afghan Mujahedeen as evidence of strategic genius. It was almost as if God had rendered a verdict.

Yet not so many years after the Soviets withdrew in defeat, the freedom fighters morphed into the fiercely anti-Western Taliban, providing sanctuary to al-Qaeda as it plotted — successfully — to attack the United States. Clearly, this was a monkey wrench thrown into God’s plan.

With the launching of the Global War on Terrorism, Islamism succeeded Communism as the body of beliefs that, if left unchecked, threatened to sweep across the globe with dire consequences for freedom. Those who Washington had armed as “freedom fighters” now became America’s most dangerous enemies. So at least members of the national security establishment believed or purported to believe, thereby curtailing any further discussion of whether militarized globalism actually represented the best approach to promoting liberal values globally or even served U.S. interests.

[If] Christian Theology provides no justification for the ‘new’ man and his sinful nature, while only constant repentance and utmost commitment to Christ’s teachings can save man from hell, then theology directly contrasts with the standard reactionary line concerning human nature. The latter requires more than just acceptance of the new man’s fallen nature, it accents the fallen character of the sinful man, pushing him to be more sinful: more greedy, prone to theft, less neighborly, and far more likely to worship the wrong master (according to the Bible, mammon). If theology were to be taken seriously by the conservative elite, a political system that sharply represses the sinful qualities in man would have to be taken seriously. Of course, that’s not a commitment the elite can make unless they want to remove their elite status, or perhaps abolish it altogether and proceed to work for a system compatible with the fundamental theology they supposedly espouse and represent. William Shaub, Theology and Conservative Ideology

Those of us who enjoy freedom of expression, freedom of thought, and engage in the academic discipline of critical inquiry cannot and should not be intimidated into silencing our examination, research, and yes, our critique of religion simply because many vocal (and a few violent) religious fundamentalists don’t like it, regardless of the religion under examination and regardless of the nationality of the protestor. Whether it takes place in the streets of Cairo, the airwaves of talk radio, or on the stage of the Republican National Convention, scholars should never back down from critiquing the virtues and vices of any ideology, be it politics, economics, or religion. Dr. Robert R. Cargill (via azspot)

(via azspot)

September 11th, Islamophobia, and the ‘Persecution Industry' | Jadaliyya

What I find disturbing is the alacrity with which particular US political forces have taken up the cause of anti-Christian persecution, notably over the past decade, just as the “war on terror” has gained so much momentum. And perhaps unsurprisingly given these political links, “persecution experts” have, much like their counterparts in the ‘terrorism expert’ industry, tended to find their way to particular think-tanks in Washington.

Arguably the leader in this regard is the Hudson Institute, which houses the Center for Religious Freedom under the directorship of Nina Shea. According to the Hudson Institute’s website, the Center “promotes religious freedom as a component of U.S. foreign policy by working with a worldwide network of religious freedom experts to provide defenses against religious persecution and oppression.” Despite the emphasis in this description on a ‘worldwide network,’ a quick scan of op-eds by Center staff reveals that the geographic scope of their concern is substantially narrower: The vast majority of the articles concern the Muslim world, and among them, Egypt features most prominently. The venues in which Center staff publish op-eds is likewise worthy of note, and far and away the most popular is National Review Online, “America’s most widely read and influential magazine and web site for conservative news, commentary, and opinion.”

Why would American conservatives take a particular interest in sectarian tensions in Egypt? As is well known, in recent decades, evangelical Christians in the United States have moved increasingly rightward in political orientation. At first glance, it would appear that Christian conservatives are moved by the plight of fellow Christians like the Copts. In practice, however, these Christian conservatives are moved to a still greater extent by Israeli protestations of insecurity. Given their track record of unstinting support for Israel, and relative disregard for the plight of Palestinian Christians, the focus on Egypt’s Copts emerges as a function of ‘Realpolitik’ rather than ideals. And with the political rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt since the 25 January revolution, accusations of anti-Christian persecution have become a particularly useful tool for discrediting the Islamists who are now in government.

It is disturbing enough that the important issue of sectarian relations in Egypt is bandied about Washington as a means of leveraging Israeli security. Emblematic of this was how a panel at this year’s American-Israel Public Affairs Committee conference evolved into a sort of elegy for the Coptic community, led by Nina Shea.

Perhaps more disturbing, though, is how particular Copts have endorsed the Islamophobia of “persecution experts” without considering their political consequences in Egypt or the United States. In this regard, I cannot help but recall an image recently posted to “The Free Copts” page on Facebook. In the image, President Obama, with a photo-shopped beard and turban, appears under the following caption: “This idiot helped transform Egypt from a modern state into a Muslim Brotherhood dominated tribe and still claims it’s a transition into democracy!” In a breathtaking concoction of bigotry, white anxieties about a black president are fused with Coptic anxieties about the rise of Islamism. To my mind, the post speaks powerfully to the influence, and the ignorance, of the “persecution industry.”