Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Those who have been telling us that Islam, not just revolutionary Islamism, is a lethal threat to Western civilization should now feel satisfied: the US president and his main advisers agree with them. Less than a century ago, the same arguments were used to exclude and persecute Jews.

Source: The New Anti-Semitism by Ian Buruma – Project Syndicate

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Draft executive order ‘reads like the administration was challenged to see how many violations of the Bill of Rights can be contained in one policy change’

 

A 2016 poll found two-thirds of Americans say churches and other houses of worship should not come out in favor of one candidate over another during political elections—but President Donald Trump wants to “destroy” the amendment that keeps it that way. (Photo: Peter Miller/flickr/cc)

President Donald Trump appears intent on demolishing the wall between church and state, telling an audience on Thursday that he will “totally destroy” an amendment that bars religious tax-exempt organizations from engaging in political activity—while his administration reportedly circulates a far-reaching draft executive order on “religious freedom” that effectively legalizes discrimination.

Trump told attendees at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday that he “will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution.”

The amendment, passed in 1954, prohibits churches and other tax-exempt organizations from endorsing political candidates; repealing it—which Trump and Vice President Mike Pence also vowed to do on the 2016 campaign trail—”would theoretically allow houses of worship and religious leaders to openly advocate for political candidates while retaining their tax-exempt status, while also allowing them to funnel religious donations into explicitly political efforts,” according to Emma Green at The Atlantic.

Repeal would require action by Congress. A 2016 Pew Research Center poll found that fully two-thirds of Americans say churches and other houses of worship should not come out in favor of one candidate over another during political elections, while just 29 percent say churches should get directly involved in electoral politics in this way.

Meanwhile, The Nation and the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) revealed Wednesday that the Trump administration is circulating a four-page draft executive order that would, according to the center:

  • allow religious organizations receiving federal dollars to hire and fire employees based on their beliefs;
  • allow employers to deny health care benefits for birth control;
  • allow federally funded groups to prevent married same-sex couples from adopting; and
  • protect federal employees who refuse to do their jobs if work duties violate their beliefs.

And “[i]t would create a section or group within the U.S. Department of Justice to enforce the order,” according to CIR’s outlet, Reveal.

Sarah Posner writes for The Nation: “The breadth of the draft order, which legal experts described as ‘sweeping’ and ‘staggering,’ may exceed the authority of the executive branch if enacted. It also, by extending some of its protections to one particular set of religious beliefs, would risk violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution.”

Or as the National LGBTQ Task Force wrote online, it would “completely destroy Church/State Separation to destroy lives and roll back fundamental rights.”

ABC News reported Thursday that “the draft appears to be among the hundreds of executive orders that are circulating—drafted by either the Trump transition team, the White House policy team, or even by outside groups—and that not all reflect administration thinking or likely policy. One official did not say who drafted this potential order, but did not dispute its authenticity.”

ABC further notes that the order contains language that “appears to be an attempt to roll back the Johnson Amendment” through executive action, as it “seeks to ensure tax-exempt status for religious organizations even if they speak out on beliefs opposing gay marriage, extra-marital sex, abortion rights, and rights for transgender individuals.”

In a statement, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) executive director Noah Bookbinder said Trump’s latest statements taken alongside the draft order constitute “a stunning assault on free speech, and a gift to dark money groups—as long as they agree with the president.”

Considered in the context of a post-Johnson Amendment landscape, the draft order “would eliminate longstanding restrictions on political speech by nonprofit organizations, and favor religion, allowing the government to penalize some political viewpoints by nonprofit organizations while protecting the opposite viewpoints, and would sanction discrimination against a particular group of people,” said Bookbinder. “It reads like the administration was challenged to see how many violations of the Bill of Rights can be contained in one policy change.”

He concluded: “The administration should immediately reverse course on this proposed executive order which could do nothing but catastrophic harm to our democracy.”

Source: Trump Seeks to Take Wrecking Ball to Division Between Church and State | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

Presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) speaks at a town hall on Wednesday. (Photo: Elise Amendola / AP)

Perhaps nothing captures the imperialist arrogance of Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz more succinctly than his campaign’s statement declaring, “What is best for America is best for the world.” In addition to the obvious issue that billions of people around the world might disagree with Cruz on this point is the fact that it is not at all clear that the Republican presidential candidate’s proposed policies are even best for most Americans. But given his victory this past week in the Iowa caucus, Cruz’s ultra-conservative views can no longer be ignored while mainstream and progressive pundits busy themselves dissecting the bombastic rhetoric of the far less scary Donald Trump…

Source: Terrifying Ted and his Ultra-Conservative Vision for America | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

…The self-identified religious institutions that thrive preach the perverted “prosperity gospel,” the message that magic Jesus will make you rich, respected and powerful if you believe in him. Jesus, they claim, is an American capitalist, bigot and ardent imperialist. These sects selectively lift passages from the Bible to justify the unjustifiable, including homophobia, war, racism against Muslims, and the death penalty. Yet there are more students—2,067—at the evangelical Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary alone than at the divinity schools and seminaries of Yale, Harvard, Union, Vanderbilt and Chicago, whose combined enrollment is 1,537.

The doctrine these sects preach is Christian heresy. The Christian faith—as in the 1930s under Germany’s pro-Nazi Christian church—is being distorted to sanctify nationalism, unregulated capitalism and militarism. The mainstream church, which refuses to denounce these heretics as heretics, a decision made in the name of tolerance, tacitly gives these sects credibility and squanders the prophetic voice of the church…

 

Source: Chris Hedges: The Suicide of the Liberal Church – Chris Hedges – Truthdig

Ammon Bundy speaks at a press conference in Oregon (screen grab)

  1. In the Bible, God controls humans by raining down death, destruction and terror on those who defy or anger him.
  2. The Bible both opens and closes with graphic descriptions of torment and fear inflicted by God and designed to keep the faithful in line.
  3. In addition to inflicting terror directly, God does so via human and nonhuman agents.
  4. During armed conflict, God and his messengers command the Israelites to slaughter civilians and destroy their homes and means of food production including livestock and orchards.
  5. As in ISIS, sexual enslavement of conquered women is one means of humiliating enemy combatants.
  6. Terror isn’t  just an Old Testament affair. In the New Testament gospels, Jesus himself threatens violence and torment against those who don’t fall in line.

Source: Here is how the Bible condones terrorism

… Speaking in 1997, she remarked that “the world is being much helped by the suffering of the poor people,” describing how it was “very beautiful for the poor to share [their suffering] with the passion of Christ.” For Mother Teresa, poverty and sickness were gifts that provided the opportunity to develop one’s connection with God. Her mission was not so much to alleviate suffering but to ensure it happened within a framework of religious belief. Indeed, by her own admission she was motivated by a desire to fulfill her own religious convictions rather than altruistic concern for the world’s poor. “There is always the danger that we may become only social workers … our works are only an expression of our love for Christ,” she told a BBC journalist in 1969. This attitude is manifestly disparate from the utilitarian principles by which humanitarian efforts are ordinarily judged.

Yet this reality, of Mother Teresa as a missionary first and an altruist second, is not the image that has taken precedence in the West. She won the Nobel Prize not for her religious convictions but “for work undertaken in the struggle to overcome poverty.” Reports from volunteers, journalistic investigations and academic research that decries her “glorification of suffering instead of relieving it” has had little impact on her glowing reputation. This remains as true within secular communities as religious ones, with pollsters consistently reporting that Americans consider her one of the most admired figures of the 20th century.

The extent to which Mother Teresa is considered a humanitarian hero is a significant victory for the Catholic Church, which coordinated a high-profile campaign to have her “fast-tracked” to sainthood. However, in many ways it is no surprise that she remains so popular among Westerners. She presented a narrative – that of a European nun going to help the world’s poor – that acted to both resolve the internal guilt of wealthy churchgoers while also presenting their religion as a relevant, modern force for good. Meanwhile, her conceptualization of suffering as a positive experience provided rebuttal to those who criticized the West’s repeated failings to inspire tangible action on global inequality.

Speaking on world tours, her fatalistic attitude toward poverty, combined with an insistence on remaining “apolitical,” defined her disinterest in confronting the structural causes of destitution. She presented to the West a perfect role model: a do-gooder who didn’t threaten to challenge the status-quo. In the words of Kolkata-born journalist Mihir Bose, “She’s part of the western agenda, it makes the West feel better; ‘this is one of us, once again rescuing the third world.’” …

Source: The West’s big lie about Mother Teresa: Her “glorification of suffering instead of relieving it” has had little impact on her glowing reputation – Salon.com

What “War on Christmas” believers don’t get is that the holiday is an amalgamation of many beliefs and traditions

Source: Putting the “War on Christmas” to rest: Fox News, sorry to break it to you but it’s always been a secular holiday – Salon.com