America: A Christian Nation?

In short, no. Period. Keith Olbermann sums it up:

Our founding fathers deliberating excluded any reference to a god or gods or creator in our Constitution, the law of our land. They were heavily inspired by John Locke and his Two Treatises on Government who argued that an effective government must remove the supposed divine-appointed roles of most popular monarchies at the time. (His theories on structuring the government into three primary branches — judicial, legislative, and executive — as well as his belief that humans all have the right to life, liberty, and property may also sound familiar to anyone who as studied American government.)

For some reason, people forget this. Perhaps it is not explicit enough. What about the Treaty of Tripoli, signed by President John Adams in 1797?

Article 11 of the treaty reads:

Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen,—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

Despite what the Sarah Palins of the world may say to rouse the crowd, the simple fact is that this country was founded on a basis of freedom for all, all faiths and non-faiths.

The references are numerous to support this, and nothing I’ve written here is new. So please. can we stop? Just stop the inane and insane repetition of falsehoods and misrepresented history?


Praying for a Bailout

The automotive industry is in trouble and it appears that a bailout plan may be decided upon by the end of today.

Surely the Rev. Charles Ellis at Detroit’s Greater Grace Temple will believe that his actions yesterday were directly responsible for it as the congregation at one of Detroit’s largest choices gathered to ask God to have Congress deliver such a bailout. They actually had SUVs at the alter, as described in the Reuters article “SUVs at altar, Detroit church prays for a bailout” –

Local car dealerships donated three hybrid SUVs to be displayed during the service, one from each of the Big Three. A Ford Escape, Chevy Tahoe from GM and a Chrysler Aspen were parked just in front of the choir and behind the pulpit.

Ellis said he and other Detroit ministers would pray and fast until Congress voted on a bailout for Detroit’s embattled automakers. He urged his congregation to do the same.

How would praying and fasting accomplish help turn a Congressional vote, you might wonder? Well, apparently:

“It’s all about hope. You can’t dictate how people will think, how they will respond, how they will vote,” Ellis said after the service. “But you can look to God. We believe he can change the minds and hearts of men and women in power, and that’s what we tried to do today.”

I’m sure that, were there a God, he’d have better things to do than to monitor the United States’ Congressional decisions on the state of the automotive industry. Just a guess.

It amazes me sometimes what people think prayer can accomplish and the role they figure God will play directly in their lives.

UPDATE: The New York Times has an article as well, complete with photographs of the SUVs, adding this quote:

“We have done all that we can do in this union, so I turn it over to the Lord,” General Holiefield, a U.A.W. vice president for Chrysler, told the crowd. A vice president for the parts suppliers, James Settles Jr., asked those present “to continue your prayers, so we can see a miracle next week.”

Obviously we are a Christian nation if our Congress can create miracles! I wonder how Pete Stark feels about that?


The God Delusion = Judas Priest = D&D = Suicide

When someone commits suicide it is common for that person’s friends and family to seek an explanation for the act; what caused the person to take such a drastic action? Who or what is to blame?

In modern days it’s not uncommon to evaluate those recent changes in a person’s life, specifically those changes that we do or did not approve of, and assign blame to them. Publicly, this has included things like heavy metal music or roleplaying games like Dungeons and Dragons, both of which were linked by loved ones and the press to suicides.

In these cases, friends and family find an immediate causal relationship between the perceived “negative” activities and the suicide; they do not necessarily recognize that correlation does not imply causation.

The story of Jesse Kilgore is a tragic one, for sure; but it is very representative of this phenomenon. As per the World Net Daily article:

Jesse Kilgore committed suicide in October by walking into the woods near his New York home and shooting himself. Keith Kilgore said he was shocked because he believed his son was grounded in Christianity, had blogged against abortion and for family values, and boasted he’d been debating for years.

While I understand that a father would be shocked by his own son’s suicide, I don’t quite know what Jesse’s views on abortion or the fact that he’d been “debating for years” have to do with anything. So what drove Jesse to suicide? His father believes he’s found the answer:

“This professor either assigned him to read or challenged him to read a book, ‘The God Delusion,’ by Richard Dawkins,” he said.

“I’m all for academic freedom,” Keith Kilgore said. “What I do have a problem with is if there’s going to be academic freedom, there has to be academic balance.

“They were undermining every moral and spiritual value for my [son],” he said. “They ought to be held accountable.”

Yes, Keith Kilgore believes The God Delusion killed his son and that, furthermore, that the public school system is at fault. He bases this on the fact that a college professor either suggested or challenged Jesse to read The God Delusion and that several friends and an unnamed relative describe Jesse in the days before his sucide as “pretty much an atheist, with no belief in the existence of God (in any form) or an afterlife or even in the concept of right or wrong.”

The quoted source also states that Jesse “thought that murder wasn’t wrong per se, but he would never do it because of the social consequences – that was all there was – just social consequences” — showcasing the common bias and misunderstanding about atheists and morality.

Jesse’s father, his friends, his relatives — all blame the suicide on the loss of faith created by his reading of the book. They see a direct causation there.

Suicide is rarely a quick and spontaneous decision, and the decision to take one’s own life is usually predicated on a number of reasons. I cannot speak to Jesse’s intentions, and know only what the WND articles tells me of him, but I would guess that there were other circumstances leading to his action.

Perhaps he did find himself disbelieving and, fearful of the response from his religious family, could not cope? Perhaps, as a military veteran, he was suffering from other duress?

As mojoey points out:

How about this instead: Jesse Kilgore killed himself because of, mental illness, depression, drugs, girls or maybe boys, guilt, poor grades, or… maybe  because he just woke up one day without faith and realized he could not confront his overbearing father. Perhaps the environment in which he was raised was not welcoming to rational thought…

Instead of considering these options, however, Keith Kilgore has instead assumed that it must be a political enemy, an attack on his faith, and a representation of how our country is straying from the so-called Christian ideals. Again, from the WND article:

Keith Kilgore told WND he feels, by allowing his son to move into the atmosphere of a secular school, like “I put a toddler in the front of my car.”

“My son is the Adam Walsh of the culture war. That’s who my son is,” he said, referring to the child abduction victim whose case was used to create a wide range of amber alert and other programs to protect children.

He said he has a wake-up call over the anti-Christian agenda of public education. And he has some goals.

“I want to hold schools accountable for what they’re teaching our kids. This was malpractice,” he said.

Giving his son the opportunity to have a secular education was akin to putting a toddler in front of a car?  Adam Walsh?


Jesse Kilgore’s death is, obviously, a tragedy and the young man was clearly battling a number of metaphorical demons. He was not a martyr. He was not a victim of the secular, “anti-Christian” atheists. He was just a trouble young man.

Keith Kilgore seeks justification, understandably. But as I mentioned before – correlation does not imply causation and rather than angrily accuse his own perceived enemies of taking his son he should grieve for the loss and find the support he needs to continue on with his life.

[Edit to add the following]

Scarily, some Christians, apparently, don’t think Keith Kilgore’s views are quite extreme enough:

A time may come for that but I think there is a better solution:  transform the public schools.  This will require some ‘get tough’ action by concerned individuals in this country by people who generally aren’t ‘activists.’  They generally try to mind their own business, unlike the other side, which is filled with rabid ideologues who, literally, take to the street if they don’t get their way- or worse.   A story like this one helps illustrate the stakes involved.

Just. Wow.


The Burning Christmas Cross

Is it just me or does this “Original Christmas Cross” seem, well, just a little inappropriate?

AFA Burning Christmas Cross

Granted, it is a product of the American Family Association, and organization known for sharing in the idyllic love and peace of Christianity; an organization that is known for its peaceful and loving embrace of all people.

In this year’s annual return of the “War on Christmas” I’m sure that the AFA will gladly send out free Christmas Crosses to those that make its annual “Naughty or Nice?” retailer list!

(via Gizmodo)


Newsweek: Is Obama the Antichrist?

Newsweek, the fairly reputable weekly news magazine, has published a column titled “Is Obama the Antichrist?” as part of their Belief Watch series.

The Washington Monthly takes them to task for this, noting:

When bizarre, fringe publications speculate openly about who may or may not be the Antichrist, it’s easy to dismiss. When Newsweek publishes a 600-word piece on those who wonder about Obama being the Antichrist, one really has to wonder what on earth the editors were thinking.

Perhaps it might be reasonable to assume that this topic could be considered newsworthy, assuming it was a widespread belief that was directly impacting peoples’ lives. But to legitimatize the extreme religious notions held by a group?

The author, Lisa Miller, is Newsweek‘s Religion editor and should know better than to make statement like:

The people who believe Obama is the Antichrist are perhaps jumping to conclusions, but they’re not nuts: “They are expressing a concern and a fear that is widely shared,” Staver says.

This logical fallacy is one of the more common arguments for religion as well; so many people believe there is a god, so therefore there must be a god. This is a baseless logical argument.

(It should also be noted that Miller is quoting Mat Staver, Dean of the Liberty University School of Law (part of the baptist Liberty University, founded by Jerry Falwell) and the founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, a law firm and ministry whose goal is to protect Christian religious liberty.)

Even the article’s subtitle is not quite accurate and relies on the belief of the many:

The winning lottery number in Illinois was 666, which, as everyone knows, is the sign of the Beast.

Scholars actually quite disagree on the Number of the Beast and it is commonly believed that the “666″ is actually a reference to Nero.

Still, it’s not uncommon these days for long-established media organizations to branch out from traditional journalism with the addition of blogs and web-based columns; these formats allow the traditional media to adapt and compete with the plethora of independent blogs out there and to adopt a less-formal, more conversational (and less objective) presence than they’d normally be required to maintain in print.

But this is not just a Newsweek blog post; this article appears in their print edition as well. I think The Washington Monthly sums it up nicely:

I can appreciate the fact that there are a handful of very odd people in the world, some of whom believe the Book of Revelation foretold Obama’s election. Strange people can be led to believe strange things. That’s not a reason for Newsweek to publish articles about their inanity.