“The Evangelical “brand” has gone from being an asset to a liability, and it is helpful to understand the transition in precisely those terms.”
Back before 9/11 indelibly linked Islam with terrorism, back before the top association to “Catholic priest” was “pedophile,” most Americans—even nonreligious Americans—thought of religion as benign. I’m not religious myself, people would say, but what’s the harm if it gives someone else a little comfort or pleasure.
Back then, people associated Christianity with kindness and said things like, “That’s not very Christian of him,” when a person acted stingy or mean; and nobody except Evangelical Christians knew the difference between Evangelicalism and more open, inquiring forms of Christianity.
Those days are over. Islam will be forever tainted by Islamist brutalities, by images of bombings, beheadings, and burkas. The collar and cassock will forever evoke the image of bishops turning their backs while priests rub themselves on altar boys. And thanks to the fact that American Evangelical leaders sold their congregations to the Republican Party in exchange for political power, Evangelical Christianity is now distinctive—and widely despised.
Another way to put this is that the Evangelical “brand” has gone from being an asset to a liability, and it is helpful to understand the transition in precisely those terms.
How Brand Assets Get Depleted
In the business world, a corporation sometimes buys or licenses a premium brand in order to either upgrade their own brand desirability or to sell a lower quality product. Coca-Cola acquired Odwalla for example. Dean Foods acquired Silk soy milk. Target and Walmart license various designer labels for their made-in-China housewares and clothes. Donald Trump sells his name to real estate developers who use it to set an expectation of quality.
Once a premium brand or label is acquired, the parent company often uses the premium label to sell an inferior product. Alternately, if they acquired the whole company rather than just the name, they may gradually change the product, ratcheting down input costs (and quality) to the point that the premium brand becomes just another commodity. The profit advantage comes from the fact that it takes people a while to notice and change their brand perceptions. Also, being creatures of habit, a person may stick with a familiar brand even though the quality of the product itself has changed. In this way, a corporation can draw down the value of a brand the way that a person might draw down a bank account.
Republican Acquisition of the Evangelical “Brand”
A generation ago, the Republican Party realized that Evangelical Christianity could be a valuable acquisition. “Evangelical” had righteous, “family values” brand associations, the unassailable name of Jesus, the authority of the Bible, and the organizing infrastructure and social capital of Evangelical churches. Republican operatives courted Evangelical leaders and promised them power and money—the power to turn back the clock on equal rights for women and queers, and the glitter of government subsidies for church enterprises including religious education, real estate speculation, and marketing campaigns that pair social services with evangelism.
As in any story about selling your soul, Evangelical leaders largely got what they bargained for, but at a price that only the devil fully understood in advance. Internally, Evangelical communities can be wonderfully kind, generous and mutually supportive. But today, few people other than Evangelical Christians themselves associate the term “Evangelical” with words like generous and kind. In fact, a secular person is likely to see a kind, generous Evangelical neighbor as a decent person in spite of their Christian beliefs, not because of them.
The Evangelical brand is so depleted and tainted at this point that Russell Moore, a prominent leader of the Southern Baptist Convention recently said that he will no longer call himself an “Evangelical Christian,” thanks—he implied—to association between Evangelicals and Trump. Instead he is using the term “Gospel Christian”—at least till the 2016 election is over. While Trump has received endorsements from Evangelical icons including Jerry Falwell, Jr. and Pat Robertson, other Evangelical leaders (e.g. here, here) have joined Moore in lamenting the deep and wide Evangelical attraction to Trump, which they say is antithetical to their values.
But how much, really, is the Trump brand antithetical to the Evangelical brand? Humanist commentator James Croft argues that Trump is what Evangelicalism, in the hands of the Religious Right, has become:
“The religious right in America has always been a political philosophy based on bullying, pandering, projecting strength to hide fear and weakness, and proud, aggressive ignorance. That’s what it’s been about from the beginning. Trump has merely distilled those elements into a decoction so deadly that even some evangelicals are starting to recognize the venom they have injected into American culture.”
Croft says that Pastors like Joel Osteen and Rick Warren use Jesus as a fig leaf “to drape over social views that would otherwise be revealed as nakedly evil.”
As a former Evangelical, I have to side with Croft: the Evangelical brand problem is much bigger than Trump and his candidacy or the morally-bankrupt priorities and theocratic aspirations of fellow Republican candidates Cruz and Rubio. Evangelicals may use the name of Jesus for cover, but even Jesus is too small a fig leaf to hide the fact outsiders looking at Evangelical Christianity see more prick than heart.
Here is what the Evangelical brand looks like from the outside:
Evangelical means obsessed with sex. Evangelicals are so desperate to fend off their own complicated sexual desires and self-loathing that they would rather watch queer teens commit suicide than deal with their homophobia. They abhor youth sexuality and female sexual pleasure to the point that they have driven an epidemic of teen pregnancy, unintended pregnancy and abortion—all because accurate information and contraceptive access might let the wrong kind of people (young unmarried and female people) have sex for the wrong reasons (pleasure and intimacy) without suffering for it.
Evangelical means arrogant. Wheaton College put Evangelical arrogance on national display when administrators decided to suspend and then fire a professor who dared to suggest that Muslims, Jews and Christians all worship the same God.
Evangelical means fearful and bigoted. While more secular Europeans and Canadians offer aid to Syrian refugees, Evangelical Christians have instead sought to exclude Muslims. They have used their vast empire of telecommunications channels to inspire not charity but fear of imminent Sharia in the U.S. and of refugees more broadly. They have urged that Latin American refugees be sent home so that we can build a wall across the southern border before they come back.
Evangelical means indifferent to truth. Evangelicals refuse to acknowledge what is obvious to everyone else, including most other Christians—that the Bible is a human document woven through with moral and factual imperfections. Treating the Bible like the literally perfect word of God has forced Bible believers to make a high art out of self-deception, which they then apply to other inconvenient truths. They rewrite American History, embrace faux news, defend in court the right of “Crisis Pregnancy Centers” to lie, and force doctors to do the same. The end justifies the means.
Evangelical means gullible and greedy. From televangelists and Prosperity Gospel to adulation of Ronald Reagan and Ayn Rand, Evangelicalism faces the world as a religion of exploiters and exploited—both of which are hoping to make a quick buck.
Evangelical means ignorant. The only way to protect creationism is to keep people from understanding how science works and what scientists have discovered. As evidence accumulates related to evolutionary biology, insulating children requires a constant battle to keep accurate information out of textbooks. Insulating adults requires cultivating a deep suspicion of science and scholarship, an anti-intellectualism that diffuses out from this center and defines Evangelical culture at large.
Evangelical means predatory. Evangelical missionaries prey on the young and ignorant. They have fought all the way to the Supreme Court to ensure they can proselytize children in public grade schools. Having failed to block marriage equality in the States, they export Bible based gay-hate to Central Africa, where gays are more vulnerable. Since Americans lost interest in tent revivals, evangelists now cast out demons, heal the sick and raise the dead among uneducated low-information people in developing countries.
Evangelical means mean. Opposing anti-poverty programs, shaming and stigmatizing queers, making it harder for poor women to prevent pregnancy, blaming rape victims, diverting aid dollars into church coffers, threatening little kids with eternal torture, supporting war, denying the rights of other species, . . . need I go on?
Laid out like this—sex-obsessed, arrogant, bigoted, lying, greedy, ignorant, predatory and mean—one understands why a commentator like Croft might say that Trump is Evangelicalism. But reading closer, it becomes clear that Trump and Cruz and Rubio are not the problem.
Despite the best efforts of reformers like Rachel Held Evans, the Evangelical brand is toxic because of the stagnant priorities and behaviors of Evangelicals themselves. Desperate to safeguard an archaic set of social and theological agreements, Evangelical leaders bet that if they could secure political power they could force a halt to moral and spiritual evolution. They themselves wouldn’t have to grow and change.
They also believed that they could get something for nothing, that they could sell their brand and keep it too. They couldn’t have been more wrong.
Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org. Her articles about religion, reproductive health, and the role of women in society have been featured at sites including AlterNet, Salon, the Huffington Post, Grist, and Jezebel. Subscribe at ValerieTarico.com.
This election with “The Donald” will definitely be one that will be remembered. It is also showing the “true colors” of what religion really is, by the side that it chooses. The biblical fundamentalists are dangerous terrorists in their own special category and have no place in American government
Valerie, I agree with all of the points you have made. However, there is still the nagging question of why, and perhaps even more important, why now.
I have watched as the GOP 2016 presidential race has become a circus of clowns and idiots, with evangelicals trying desperately to align themselves with one candidate or the other based on faith, regardless of how the candidates have managed to mangle that term. And, as you’ve pointed out, the evangelical name is now taken to be more pejorative than trusted, with the GOP/evangelical crowd now crashing and burning. But it was never like this, or as bad as this, until now.
Could it be that the ongoing big discoveries being made by cosmologists and other scientists and the failure of religion to significantly reduce war, disease, suffering, climate disruption and environmental degradation, coupled with the fact that the once-imminent return of Jesus Christ hasn’t happened in 2,000 years, be causing a blowout in the minds of evangelicals? In short, are they going totally insane, given that their brand is, as you say, all used up?
I know that cognitive dissonance is an over-used term nowadays, but unrelenting CD, over many decades, might be the reason why evangelicals are going nuts today.
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So many questions! I do think that the Evangelical worldview (ie biblical literalism) is more intellectually untenable than ever before, thanks as you say to the growing mountains of evidence. Belief requires a greater and greater degree of cultural isolation and intellectual contortion, which is ever more threatened by multiculturalism and plain old population density/interdependence. Add that to the fact that Evangelicals, being overrepresented among people of lower SES and education have been losing economic ground for a generation. The easiest lens through which to make sense of this is the one through which they already see the world — that multiculturalism and women’s liberation and secularism are destroying the world.
Furthermore, since Evangelical belief depends on confirmatory thinking–the only way one can rationalize biblical literalism is to accept it and then make the evidence fit this a priori belief–Evangelicals assume that everyone else follows the same distorted process of motivated reasoning. They utterly cannot conceive that someone else might simply follow the evidence where it leads. This means that meteorologists believe in global warming because they want to, and biologists believe in evolution because they want to, and queer people choose to be queer because they want to. Public health officials say contraception prevents abortion because they want to believe this (in order to justify their own moral degeneracy).
Evangelical adults have dug a hole so deep that most of them will never get out of it, and they are doing everything in their power to take the next generation down that hole with them.
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Great article, Valerie, and great response here to the comment. As you began to imply, with the mention of and link to Rachel Held Evans, there is quite a large exodus from Evangelicalism by young adults… and not usually for things like “backsliding”, “rebellion”, etc. Rather for serious observation and thought about archaic or damaging dogmas and hypocritical practices.
And as I read and follow some of the older AND emerging scholars (in biblical scholarship, theology, etc.), it seems that Evangelicals’ bit of resurgence in these scholarly fields is quickly falling back. Some of the folks I follow came out of undergrad or grad (seminary) education in Evangelical schools, but at the PhD level (students and professors, both), tend to be “conservative” only in a general sense… neither “socially” nor theologically conservative though they may retain ties to traditional (and not always real liberal) churches.
A few examples: Pete Enns, Brian McLaren (a former pastor and writer/speaker more than professional scholar), Daniel Kirk, Chris Keith, Anthony LaDonne, Brian LePort, Joshua Paul Smith, John Bennison, etc. Thomas Jay Oord is another strong scholar – understandable explainer of complex issues – who last year was fired from an Evangelical school (perhaps fairly, in one sense) because his theology became too much like the “heretical” Process views I tend to hold to. (At least that’s my probably oversimplified understanding of the firing.) I don’t think his case got nearly the attention as did the recent Wheaton one… perhaps because of the less prominent school and the nature of the issues. So yes, the “identity crisis” of Evangelicalism itself is actually similar to that of the GOP right now… and not unconnected.
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Yes, thank you for that list, Howard.
Robert Altemeyer, a retired professor at the University of Manitoba, also found evidence that younger evangelicals/fundamentalists often abandon their faith because they were taught to find evidence for everything in the Bible, and when they find that they can’t, or when they find contradictions, they are told that it’s all part of God’s plan and not to question it. They can’t do that, because they’ve been so indoctrinated in the need to find The Truth, with trumpets, that when they discover these plot holes and irregularities in their holy book, they realize they can’t buy into the evangelical/fundamentalist brand anymore, and they walk away. The adults might stick around, but the young adults are leaving in droves.
That summarizes it pretty well. Even more broadly than the Evangelicalism of the last couple centuries or so, orthodoxy has based itself on the supposedly historical “facts” reported in the Gospels and Acts. Since “higher critical” scholarship has shown the error of this, in large part, the very basis for orthodoxy kinds of Xn faith has been undermined. The “departures” began big time in the Enlightenment and I think a 2nd surge is underway now.
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Howard, have you read Marcus Borg’s and John Shelby Spong’s critiques of the Biblical literalism movement? It’s fascinating reading.
I’ve read at least a couple books by both and agree they have some great points, often well articulated. I’ve been a particular fan of Borg, though not read a lot by him, and heard him speak only once, in 2011. So sad he passed away a few months ago at only 73 (relatively young these days). Spong is well older but apparently still has energy to be out speaking, last I heard. I have a number of other dissenter favorites, some of them specialists or theory-creators such as Burton Mack (social interest theory of mythmaking and religion). A few others: Bart Ehrman, L Michael White, Hyam Maccoby, Dom Crossan (a bit speculative or meandering at times, but quite instructive), SGF Brandon (mid-20th-century specialized theologian on Christian origins going “against the grain” though still Christian in some sense), Richard Horsley, Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer… and I could go on. Enough for now!
“They utterly cannot conceive that someone else might simply follow the evidence where it leads.” you have stated the problem so very well. As an ordained priest working with the homeless and disenfranchised on the streets ( I do not have a Church Building ) I find that some of the behaviours and comments made by our evangelical ‘brethren’ are not just seriously flawed in terms of theology but they defy all common decency and sense. Having seen the laying on of hands and the tortured display of verbal piety , I am yet to see any practical follow up . The long term outcome of making promises in the name of Christ , constantly bringing up the ‘blood sacrifice ‘ and ordering God to do certain things bot just defies belief but hinges on the seriously disturbed. IT is not Christian to make a promise to an amputee that enough faith in Christ will restore a missing limb by the morning , that housing will come with sufficient faith. Basing these rewards on the level of faith displayed by any individual will again re-enforce the feeling of failure and disconnect from Society and God. The New Testament is very clear about that which will change the world for those that behave with love and kindness , cherry picking from the Old Testament to belabour the less worthy , the Victims and Survivors is not just pathetic , the very attempt shifts the responsibility to anyone other than the person relying on this literal fundamentalist approach. I also have the pleasure to live i a very Multi Cultural Society and have no problems talking with Muslims or any one else .
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Thanks for unmasking the Evilgelicals. I am so weary of their arrogant self satisfied “my way is the only way” mantra. I would hope they would read your critique and do some soul searching but I’m afraid I might as well wish it would rain beer.
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As usual, I find it easy to agree with you. One phrase caught my eye, however: “at a price that only the devil fully understood in advance. ” references to god, angels, the devil, etc. are so common, but I wonder if we perpetuate beliefs in such by including these references in our own writing or speech. So very many people “believe” in unexamined ways. I try to avoid these references just to discipline myself to find other language to explain things. What are your thoughts?
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Hi, Lighten up,
Perhaps you have a point. However, I’m not afraid to point out sayings that are attributed to Christ, to point out how un-Christlike Christians actually are. Perhaps Gandhi said it best: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
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Like! I really, really get a very large boost out of doing that very thing. I just love to dig up a bible verse that directly contradicts and even indicts some off the wall thing–usually on Facebook. Small of me perhaps. . .but feels good all the same.
Yours is a great point that I constantly make to myself. I do not use that names of aforementioned ghosts and demons in public but will occasionally take one of those names in vein when deploying an expletive at other drivers.
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Human beings tell stories to make sense of the world. In this sense, I think that using the Faustian story of “making a deal with the devil to get your heart’s desire” is not a religious story but a cultural one. We have similar stories from other cultures about “be careful how you word that wish; the djinn will find the most obscure meaning and give you that, which means when you wish that your family will never suffer illness you might go home to find them all dead.”
So in this sense, the idea of making a deal with the devil means promising something when you didn’t get to see the fine print of what you were promising (or ignored the fine print because you thought everything was on the up and up). We might say “They agreed to install the software without reading the EULA first.” But the “deal with the devil” story is timeless and easily understood as shorthand for all these types of situations, which is why I feel it’s appropriate here.
Changing the label doesn’t change the way these people act and are regarded by wider society. If Russell Moore wants to stop being associated with this subculture, he needs to repudiate its negative beliefs and attributes, not just simply replace a Greek word with its Germanic substitute.
A very powerful overview!
And it’s even worse than all that. Back in the late 50’s-early 60’s most Evangelicals agreed with Billy Graham’s emphasis that God loves every single human being so much so that God would have sent Jesus for only one single human being if only that one human being had sinned!
But then a huge change came (beginning in the 1970’s) as more and more Evangelical leaders adopted Calvinism. Instead of God loving everyone, these leaders such as R.C. Sproul, John Piper, etc. claimed that before the universe began God foreordained most humans–billions of us–to eternal damnation,
that every infant is in “essence, evil,” and that God plans all evil actions for his “own glory and pleasure.”
For years I fought against this horrific tide. When the Billy Graham Association even began promoting 3-4 Calvinists such as John Piper in their monthly magazine, Decision, I called them and spoke with a leader, protesting against this.
The leader said that Billy Graham still believes that God loves everyone, but the other leaders of the organization don’t.
The present leaders only think God loves a limited number of humans, that T.U.L.I.P. is true, that humans can’t make a “decision”!
According to such Evangelicals, I was never an “Evangelical.
Heck, they claim I was never a Christian even though I was one for 55 years until even the Billy Graham Association began to claim God only loves a limited number of people:-(.
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So, so broken.
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Great post! Some thoughts on the Trump angle:http://godcannotbecontained.blogspot.com/2016/03/how-does-donald-trump-compare-to-gods.html?m=1
Nailed it again Valerie. Kudos
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I saw “Spotlight” yesterday, and I was deeply moved. Crimes are exposed after 50 years, shocking everyone. The Church struggles for recovery. Now 15 years after that awful discovery, we are given the beautiful Pope Francis. If not for this recent movie…if not for the Academy awards, the Catholic Church would be on its way to full recovery. “Spotlight ” will jog our memory, briefly. Because the Power of Faith serves to erase the memory of Sin and Guilt. “Faith” is a euphemism for ignorance. I think the “Faith” brand is holding its own. Faith and this new different Papal Fig-Leaf will cleanse the stain. It will feel so good to be good….again.
I think you are right about the “Evangelical” Brand, the “Born-Again” Brand, but humans tend to replace words that have been tainted by awareness, with new, kinder and gentler words, brand new, born-again words. Language: Can’t live with it…can’t live without it.
My sentiments exactly.
“Faith is a cop-out. It is intellectual bankruptcy. If the only way you can accept an assertion is by faith, then you are conceding that it can’t be taken on its own merits.”
Dan Barker, FFRF
Superb, superb, superb article. This should be published in Salon, or better still, NYT’s OpEd (link below)
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Well said, Valerie – you nailed it!!! For your next post, will you please discuss Dominionism?
With an expose on the lunatic, Gary North
I don’t recall which online mag ran it, but there recently was a good article showing how Ted Cruz is quite aligned with “Christian Reconstruction”… and Rubio may not be far behind. These folks are “Reformed” (or from the Calvinist side of the spectrum), but many non-calvinists take a similar position, if not as thoroughly thought out. I don’t know if there is much conscious connection, but maybe the fact that Calvin served as basically (if not literally) mayor of Geneva for a while helps create or justify their sense that theocracy is a valid, workable model (even if they wouldn’t always use that word).
I have a Christian friend who complains that my anti-Christian polemics “lump him together with the fringe elements of Christianity,” that he works at an evangelical college and is required to sign an annual statement of faith that has all of the elements alluded to above, notwithstanding.
I consider this person to be a moral, basically good person, but I do not see the evangelical aspect of his faith as a pillar of those attitudes, but rather they exist in spite of it. Someone said “no one is so blind as he who will not see” and I think those words were put into the mouth of someone who demands “faith,” otherwise seen as “are you going to believe me or your lying eyes?”
Well said, Valerie – you nailed it! Would you considered writing about Dominionism?
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It is rather telling that, twice in recent history, evangelicals have stood against devoutly religious Presidents (Carter and Obama), while embracing someone who was quite the opposite (Reagan and Trump) to help them do “God’s work”!
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Modern Evangelical Christian groups have in the United States certainly sold themselves to Mammon and did so enthusiastically. They were taken up to the mountain top by the Devil [metaphorically speaking] and offered sovereignty over the kingdoms of the earth in exchange for their soul. Unlike Jesus, they took the deal and now have become the very thing their Christian Scriptures have denounced for 2000 years. Matthew 25:31-46 et al. They have become the sodomites condemned in the Jewish Scripture in Ezekiel 16:49-50.
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Reblogged this on rubiline.
You nailed it, Valerie! A certain Youtube poster named Calpurnpiso has a nice hyphenated word (which I’ve stolen for my own use) describing what evangelicals are really like: Christ-Psychotic.
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I have never thought of religion as benign. My opinion of religion was cemented ages before we learned of Catholic pedophile priests or Islamic terrorists. If neither of those things ever existed I would still be an atheist today. When I was a kid I remember flipping through the channels on a Sunday morning looking for cartoons, and I would come across a faith healing. I remember asking myself, “Why is this allowed? It’s obviously fraud, shouldn’t this be illegal?” And among all religions when I was a kid evangelicals were the ones trying to boss us around telling us what we cannot do. Saying we can’t listen to heavy metal music, or watch Three’s Company, or the Saturday Night Live comedians, or read MAD magazine. The only thing from my childhood they were not actively pissed off with was Lego and my Six Million Dollar Man doll.
The Moral Majority wore itself out to a grand failure 30 years ago. Jerry Falwell himself admitted the Moral Majority was a failure on CNN. I am amazed that as a whole, a religion that so vehemently waged a cultural and legal war to dictate what we can and can not do with our own lives managed to survive as a political brand as much as it did.
Hi, Catboy in a Dress,
One unfortunate fact about people is that many have short memories. (Perhaps this is understandable, especially in the internet age. We have such a mountain of information at our disposal that no one could absorb all of it.)
Case in point: The claim by the religious right that humans lived alongside dinosaurs. Apparently, many are unaware that, 20 or 30 years ago, the religious right claimed that dinosaurs never existed, and that the claim that they did contradicted the Bible. Once it became clear that, in the eyes of most, such a claim was ludicrous, the religious right quietly changed its spiel into its present incarnation.
Virtually NO ONE, pointed this out when it happened, and virtually NO ONE pointed out that this “revision” was, in effect, an admission that the “faith based” claim that dinosaurs never existed was false!
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Reblogged this on alphatacticus101 and commented:
Worth reading !
Adam and Howard.
Maybe young people are dropping out because they are discovering that religion and prayer does not pay your bills, put clothes on your back, keeps a roof over your head, gives you a good paying job nor does it prevent you from getting screw over by wealthy people and corporations like they saw how their parents and grandparents got screw for the last 36 years.
*shrug* I’m a Jew, so I don’t have a horse in this race. I would point out that religion was never intended to do any of those things, so I call strawman on your argument.
Oh, and by the way, I teach college and the inherent unfairness of the world as you’ve described it is a common topic in my classes, so I’m aware of it. But blaming religion for its failure to fix it? Strawman. If you were one of my students your response would get a C-, at best.
Although Guenther’s argument is a tad oversimplified, IMO, he does have a point. Congress has wasted time and taxpayer money trying to defund Planned Parenthood, deny climate science and interfere with stem cell research, largely at the behest of the religious right, instead of doing things to help the economy! As far as I can tell, no one here has blamed religion in general, but, given the above, blaming the religious right, at least in part, is, IMO, completely appropriate!
Given that the religious right has largely aligned itself with Trump, i beg to differ with you regarding your statement that, as a Jew, you “don’t have a horse in this race”. I’m not Jewish, but I think it’s safe to assume that anti-semitism hasn’t magically disappeared from the planet. Inserting “jews” into many of Trump’s statements regarding Hispanics or Muslims would make these statements indistinguishable from World War II Nazi propaganda. Also, the US turned away boatloads of Jewish refugees during World War II under essentially the same rationale as Trump, i.e., that we were erring on the side of caution, or keeping the country safe, because some of the refugees might be Nazi agents.
If you don’t mind answering a question?
What is your view of those Jewish thinkers who claim that God created evil?
Lowell: I am definitely scared of the Trump situation and I’m fully aware of the history of anti-Semitism with the rise of fascism. You’d have to be living under a rock not to have that knowledge.
But as far as the whole “religion is a crock and doesn’t help at all” argument that Guenther is putting forth, I don’t have a horse in that race, and that’s what I was talking about. You see, I don’t care what other people believe in terms of religion (or not) as long as they’re not in my face about it or harming me with it. I’m also on the liberal side of Judaism, so I have no horse in the religious right’s race, either – except to expect them to keep their noses on their own side of the fence. I know they don’t, but I fail to see how I can make them, or how my getting in their face would solve anything.
Daniel: Without names named, I can’t give you an answer on any specific Jewish thinkers, as I haven’t read their works in depth. Since you’ve named no names, how should I answer your question?
However, to me, it seems logical that if God created everything, evil had to have been part of what he created. If there was no evil in the world, we could not possibly know or know of the good, lacking any contrast.
Adam, at my stage in life, I could not really care what kind of grade you give me. If I decide to go back to college (if they ever decide to make college education free again), I will take classes for the fun of it and not worry about getting a grade.
I would really worry about strawman arguments from teachers who are employ at college/universities that are run by the Koch Brothers since they are buying influence at the higher learning places of educations or buying them outright.
Yes, I can blame religion since most of us spent the best years of our lives as kids and adults being brainwashed that if you have problems, then you need to pray, put faith in God, go to church, talk to your priest, do good works, donate money to the church, etc, but found out it was all for nothing. In addition, you have our political, business, and religious leaders blaming the problems of the country on the lack of faith, people discarding their religion, people dropping out of church, etc., and then these same people think that if they restore religion back into the country, all our political, social, and economics problems will be solved. Furthermore, you have right wing evangelists who believe that the Bible should be the main book when it comes to teaching evolution and various math, biology, and science disciplines. If the Bible could teach us all these subjects, then we would be saving a bunch of money that is spent on school textbooks.
I’m not going to continue this conversation, because I do not have time or energy to correct your misconceptions and assumptions about me.
And it’s still a C- at best. Have a nice day now.
I intentionally avoided giving names because in the past that has sidetracked dialogues from the central point. But since you asked, I was thinking of books such as
Jesus, First Century Rabbi by Rabbi David Zaslow, who writes on page 106 “But dualism is antithetical to the biblical view of a God who is sovereign and is in absolute control of both good and evil…God says, ‘I form the light, and create the darkness. I make peace and create evil. I the LORD do all these things.”
This is the horrific theology that I rejected when finally came to the conclusion, after 55 years, that Christianity can’t be true. It also speaks of God as “sovereign,” as God being the cause of evil:-(
I am a hard atheist when it comes to such a conception of God.
I have read of Jewish thinkers along with many Christian ones think that God plans horrific historical events even the Nazi Holocaust.:-(
Jewish leaders I have respect for are Rabbi Harold S. Kushner and Eli Wiesel. For many years I taught Night to high school students.
I don’t know what evangelical circles you’ve traveled in, but your perception is grossly distorted from what I’ve seen over the last 35 years. Sure, there are some that match your description, but your characterizations are gross distortions of most of it. Maybe you’ve been reading too many evangelical critics and cherry-picking from the evangelicals who match your ideas. I hope no one who reads this who isn’t an evangelical will do his or her own research and try to get a less distorted picture.
Adam, darling. I do not care what grade you give me and I do not care whether or not you believe that somehow I have assumptions or misconceptions about you. All I know is right now people don’t care or want to what evangelists have to say and don’t like having religion shoved down their throats or being condemned for using their logic that God does not exists, or dropping out of religion because the institution of religion has not done a thing in making people’s lives better.
Britches Blistering indictment! Thank you again, Valerie, for shining a mega watt spotlight!
The idea that the Evangelical brand alone is (or has become) corrupt is interesting, but it ignores the history of the major religious movements in the past 2,000 years. Control of sexuality, the demonisation of outsider groups, control of association and the requirement for ignorance on the part of the congregant is the norm in faith. Being more accepting, charitable and open minded is the exception not the rule.
Look at the Pauline epistles which are clearly enkratic (encouraging celibacy) and his denigration of those who have been circumcised. Paul is constantly pleading for money and expecting support. The legend of Peter generally parallels Paul’s but includes the Petrine where a couple who would not share all their wealth were killed by God in front of the congregation. It is not until the Gospels that the hate starts being preached – irrationally against the Jews which was possibly to encourage Roman and Greek membership of the Christian cult. This simple beginning led to loathing that bred the full fledged anti-antisemitism apparent from about 600 onwards.
Of course Christianity is not the only sinner in this respect. Similar bigotry, sexual control and limitation of foreign religious input was later encouraged by Islam and had always been apparent in Judaism.
Sticking with Christianity the same threads can be trace throughout the history of The West. When the processes of the Reformation and the enlightenment begot the industrial and scientific leap forward from about 1600 onwards then the faith could be used to justify Racism. Simple, temporary technological advantage became the idea that non-European races were somehow inferior and could be enslaved or maltreated with impunity. The fact that similar technical advances had lead Muslims to propose the racial inferiority of Europeans escaped the attention of the Christian faithful.
Regarding Trump, there’s one strange coincidence that nobody except me seems to have noticed: Trump’s incendiary statements started WITHIN DAYS after the Confederate flag was removed from the South Carolina Capitol grounds. It’s clear to me that the flag removal was an effort on the part of the Republican Party to “have its cake and eat it”, and that the removal was motivated by the obvious hypocrisy of “reaching out” to Black people while simultaneously displaying a symbol of bigotry, rather than by any “moral awakening”.
Until Trump, the Republican Party had been careful to express bigotry in euphemisms and “code words”, e.g. “welfare queens”. IMO, the reason that the Republican Party is apoplectic about Trump is that he is showing the true colors of a sizable portion of the Republican base. It’s clear that Republicans are defensive about this issue, inspiring “pants on fire” statements such as the recent claim by Paul Ryan that bigotry has no place in the Republican Party.. (Is he serious?)
Also note that I’m LIVID at Democrats for not pointing this out!
I agree with you completely in that I don’t care how “off the wall” someone’s beliefs are, as long as no effort is made to impose those beliefs on others. Unfortunately, by definition, Evangelicals “evangelize”. :)
I must tell you, however, that I agree completely with Guenther regarding religion. I usually express my opinions in less strongly worded terms, however, to avoid a negative or defensive reaction. IMO, the overwhelming majority of the time, religion has no effect on a person’s character, (Obvious question: Why do so many people embrace it?), and, the few times when it does, the effect is negative. Case in point: the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. Although Black churches were clearly at the center of this movement, its focus was primarily on creating job opportunities for Black males. Black women were still supposed to be content with cleaning toilets and emptying bedpans! Also note that the blatant hypocrisy of many Black clergy continues today, with their opposition to gay and transgender rights!
My previous post is long, but there’s on additional statement I wish to make. There are few statements by Karl Marx with which I agree, but one of them is his claim that “Religion is the opiate of the people.” IMO, the promise of an “afterlife” is one of the prime motivators keeping people from rising up against oppression. (This is, of course, not unique to Christianity. In the Hindu religion, “untouchables” were taught that, if they accepted their fate, they would eventually be reincarnated into a higher caste.) IMO, if more people believed, like we Atheists, that there is no “afterlife”, and that this life is the only shot we have at a meaningful existence, the attitude of oppressed people, and their likelihood of resisting oppression, would be far different!
Lowell, here is what famous or infamous French leader (depending on your viewpoint) said about religion:
Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet. Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.”
― Napoléon Bonaparte
Perhaps when people thought that the earth was the center of the universe, and its vastness wasn’t understood, it was plausible that some individuals would believe in God. However, with current knowledge that there are something like 6 x 10^27 stars in the universe (that’s 6,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000!) the existence of a “super being” capable of controlling everything in the universe seems a bit much. :)
That said, I necessarily must acknowledge that there are people with a brain, a conscience, and ideas that belong in the current century who disagree with me. :) The “nones”, i.e., people who have no religious affiliation, currently constitute 24% of the US population, and this percentage increases every time it’s measured. Despite their disenchantment with religion in general, about 2/3 of these folks believe in God. I see no point in alienating them, so I “tread lightly” regarding my disbelief.
This is especially important in an election year. By the numbers, we have more than enough votes to counter the religious right, and IMO, sufficient votes to guarantee that kowtowing to crackpots and/or bigots is a surefire way to lose an election (if everyone votes!). It’s also important to note that, over the next 8 years, three Supreme Court justices will likely be replaced.
Wow, what an interesting debate; to which I’m late here. I’ll pick up just one thread. Concerning whether or not- in fact or “guesstimate” opinion- Religious belief (as we characterize it) is Benign, if is “not in my face.” My guesstimate: it is invariably harmful to our species’ survival prospects. Because? It is, some greater or lessor ‘extant’ one widely employed way, for One to take a place somewhere on the “comfortable-lazy-uninformed-irresponsible” spectrum. (Whatever else is one’s individual complex life situation. Which of course is influenced by myriad other “things.”) It serves to allow one not to expend their persona “resources”l learning or caring more about the Real physical world/universe/cosmos. And thus about what we might need to be doing, collectively and individually, in order to have a shot at a future. Cheers to Val and All.
So I am writing today, then read your post. Agreeing: “Those days are over.” Heck yeah, Catholic Churches are closing everywhere. I wrote this in my notes earlier: “What I call my programming you call your religion.” Valerie, wonderful awakening post!
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My comment: So I am writing today, then read your post. Agreeing: “Those days are over.” Heck yeah, Catholic Churches are closing everywhere. I wrote this in my notes earlier: “What I call my programming you call your religion.” Valerie, wonderful awakening post!
Evangelicals and mainstream religious organizations have taken the Bible and rewritten it to satisfy their greed. As for catholicism(regarding a previous article) well its plain to see that nazisism and catholicism are the same thing. There is so much hate among supposed Christians that it becomes harder to tell the difference between one of them and a true rasist. One more thing, Jesus Christ refused to participate in politics and further more he even turned down an offer from Satan to rule over all the governments of the world. But people are so blind and deaf when it comes to reasoning with the truth that the Bible promotes.
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