Frederic Rich: The Christian Right is Not Just Cranks and Knuckleheads

After the 2008 election, I think a person could be forgiven for thinking the tide had finally turned on the Religious Right, as a young, progressive, black politician was elected president. All the fear-mongering and rumors churning about whether Barack Obama was a secret Muslim, or perhaps Satan himself, didn’t seem to stop the dam from bursting on the Bush years.

The political elastic, of course, snapped back pretty hard in 2010 (though I would never take a midterm election to be representative of the entire potential electorate, since turnout in those is usually limited to activated partisans), and particularly in state legislatures, we saw Christianists swarm into power.

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Prepare for YouVersion, the Instagram of Bibles!

There is a technological revolution underway, and it’s happening under the radar of we hip skeptical types: iBibles.

Now, I’m not talking about some clunky Kindle-clone that contains only The Word, I’m talking about an extremely popular, cross-platform, nondenominational mobile app, labeled in your app store simply as “The Bible,” but officially known as YouVersion.

What’s so special about this? After all, there are hundreds, probably thousands of apps that reproduce the Bible in digital form. YouVersion is notable because it’s an app that contains a huge variety of versions of the Bible, and hundreds of translations in myriad languages. In addition, it offers up the Good Book with an interface that is remarkably, well, Apple-like. Versions and languages are easily accessible, typeface and style are easily customizable, there are audio and video options, note-taking functionality, and the app is generally sharp and pleasing to use.

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Why Atheists ‘Obsess’ Over Religious Beliefs

We’ve probably all been confronted with some variation on this question from frustrated theists or apathetic “nones” who find our whole movement a little baffling: Why do you atheists spend so much time worrying about a God you don’t even believe exists? If you think he’s not real, why not just let it go at that?

Austin Cline, About.com’s Atheism and Agnosticism guide, recently highlighted just such a query from a reader, one who reaches a conclusion that requires something of a Super Mario-worthy leap:

Doesn’t [atheists'] obsession with non-belief indicate that they secretly do believe? Otherwise, wouldn’t their actions be inconceivable?

I can’t for the life of me put that one together. Even if you grant the premise that atheists are irrationally obsessed with their lack of belief, there’s no connection I can imagine that thereby leads to “therefore they actually are theists, Q.E.D.” Maybe that whole “denial ain’t just a river in Egypt” thing? I dunno, I’m reaching.

But that’s not really what I wanted to highlight about this post. I particularly liked Cline’s conclusion at the end of his post:

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On Being an Apple ‘Catholic’

It is no new thing to compare Apple, Inc. to a religion. The fanatical devotion it has inspired over the decades has made many outsiders eye it suspiciously, as it hawks a kind of techno-faith in which the textbook charismatic leader, Steve Jobs, emits a Reality Distortion Field that turns the skeptical into zealots, hungry for the latest sleek combinations of glass and aluminum like the damned crave absolution. The term “Cult of Mac,” begun by Leander Kahney in his book and website of that title, both pokes fun at and celebrates this comparison.

Those who live inside the Reality Distortion Field, in my experience, rarely resent this. Just as true religious zealots do not mind being known for their blind faith, but wear it as a badge of honor. This is a bit of an exaggeration, of course, as even the most doughy-eyed Apple user will still vent criticisms and complaints, but very often this is done in the spirit of keeping true to a central credo; as in, if device X does or does not have Y feature, is that really keeping with The Apple Way? Is it What Steve Would Have Done? Et cetera.

I, too, have embraced this. Being an atheist, in particular, it’s actually kind of fun to have a pretend religion to subscribe to. I follow the teachings of The Steve, Apple keynotes are like a twice-yearly mass, and I look for signs from the prophets Tim Cook and Jony Ive, just as much as I shook my head in despair at the heretics Scott Forestall and John Browett as they fell from grace.

At New York Review of Books, Edward Mendelson explores the idea of Apple-as-religion anew:

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Ex-Muslims Rally for Persecuted Moroccan Atheist Imad Iddine Habib

In an earlier post, I told you about Imad Iddine Habib, a Moroccan atheist now in hiding as authorities seek him out for the crime of “shaking religious faith.” His case is gaining more attention, as the threat to his life grows. Among the strikes against him, Imad is the founder (at 22 years old) of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Morocco, and to rally support to Imad’s cause, the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain has declared May 15 “International Imad Day.” From their website:

We, the undersigned, are extremely concerned about Imad’s safety and life and call on the Moroccan government to guarantee his security and respect freedom of expression and thought. Rather than prosecute freethinkers, the government should prosecute those who issue fatwas and death threats.

On 15 May we call for an International Imad Day in order to stand with and defend Imad.

He is all of us.

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