Some atheists are getting meaner and more threatening. Trevor Logan tells about a new book, endorsed by the usual celebrity atheists, entitled A Manual for Creating Atheists, calling its author, Peter Boghossian, the “atheist version of a Westboro Baptist Church pastor.” Boghossian calls for treating religion as a public health menace, “a virus of the mind,” that needs to be systematically eradicated by the government. (Sound familiar?) [Read more…]
What would it be like if religious belief were to become utterly socially unacceptable? Imagine a time when believing in God would be as contemptible and as shameful as racism is today. That’s what Irish actor Chris O’Dowd is calling for. He says that he used to be tolerant around religion, but that he has become “less liberal.” Now he thinks that religion should become as unacceptable as racism. And that people shouldn’t be “allowed” to say religious words.
There are so many more religious people than atheists that this is unlikely for the foreseeable future. But, still, note the trajectory. Being unbigoted used to mean “not discriminating according to race, color, or creed.” Then other categories were introduced: sex, gender, sexual orientation, physical handicap, etc. But there are attempts now to start excluding “creed.” But hating people because of their religion and hating people because of their race are both bigotry. [Read more…]
“Jesus Christ in the conversation embarrassed her the way sex did her mother.” So said Flannery O’Connor of one of her characters in the short story “The Displaced Person.” Sex, though, today is out in the open. But religion, to be socially and politically acceptable, must be closeted.
The great sociologist Peter Berger (a Lutheran) surveys the array of lawsuits in the United States and Europe against open displays of Christianity. Here is what he concludes:
In all these cases the authorities accused of violating the plaintiffs’ rights operate with a definition of religion as a private matter to be kept out of public space. . . .There is a very ideological view of the place of religion in society. In other words, religion is to be an activity engaged in by consenting adults in private. [Read more…]
People are digging up Rick Santorum’s religious addresses from years back. And though what he says is pretty conventional to most of us Christians, his sermons are being used to alarm the voting public. This is about something he said in 2008 at Ave Maria University, a conservative Catholic college:
“Satan has his sights on the United States of America!” Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum has declared.
“Satan is attacking the great institutions of America, using those great vices of pride, vanity, and sensuality as the root to attack all of the strong plants that has so deeply rooted in the American tradition.”
The former senator from Pennsylvania warned in 2008 how politics and government are falling to Satan.
“This is a spiritual war. And the Father of Lies has his sights on what you would think the Father of Lies would have his sights on: a good, decent, powerful, influential country – the United States of America. If you were Satan, who would you attack in this day and age?”
“He attacks all of us and he attacks all of our institutions.”
Santorum made the provocative comments to students at Ave Maria University in Florida.
Wouldn’t any of us agree with that? I’ve heard even liberal theologians with liberal politics talk like this. And yet, in a political context, from someone running for president, it sounds whacky, if not crazy and dangerous. But it isn’t!
Santorum doesn’t seem to have moral transgressions in his closet, so the opposition researchers are focusing on his religious beliefs. (He doesn’t believe in birth control! He believes Satan is attacking America!) But whose religious beliefs couldn’t be made similarly scary? (He wants to eat Jesus and drink His blood!)
Vanderbilt is doubling down on its insistence that Christian groups on campus must admit non-Christians. What’s interesting is hearing the university try to justify that. Robert Shibley of the civil liberty group FIRE quotes Vanderbilt’s provost explaining the policy to a gathering of students, answering a question from someone in the Christian Legal Society:
VANDERBILT LAW STUDENT AND CLS MEMBER PALMER WILLIAMS: I am a little confused by the fact that under your policy, I can gather with a group of my friends, or a group of like-minded people, I can state my beliefs, but as soon as I go as far as writing down what we believe in, and then try to live by those beliefs as a community on campus, then I’m not allowed to do that.
VICE CHANCELLOR [RICHARD] MCCARTY: What I’m going to challenge you to do, [is] to be open to a member that doesn’t share your faith beliefs who could be a wonderful member of CLS, maybe even a leader. But we’re not saying you have to vote for that person. We’re simply saying that person, who maybe does not profess allegiance to Jesus Christ as his or her Lord and Savior, should be allowed to run for office in CLS. Maybe it’s not chair or president, maybe it’s a person who is amazing at social outreach. It would still be consistent with your goals of serving the underserved with legal advice and legal services, but maybe isn’t Christian but they endorse what you’re trying to do. Give that person a chance. . . . Now let me give you another example, and this would affect all of you. I’m Catholic. What if my faith beliefs guided all of the decisions I make from day to day?
[At this point, the crowd applauds the idea that people should live according to their faith.]
No they shouldn’t! No they shouldn’t! No they shouldn’t! No they shouldn’t! [Disagreement from crowd.] Well, I know you do, but I’m telling you that as a Catholic I am very comfortable using my best judgment as a person to make decisions. As a Catholic, if I held that life begins at conception, I’d have a very big problem with our hospital. Right? Would I not? . . . I would, but I don’t. . . . We don’t want to have personal religious views intrude on good decisionmaking on this campus. They can guide your personal conduct, but I’m not going to let my faith life intrude. I’ll do the best I can at making good decisions, but I’m not going to impose my beliefs on others, not going to do it.
Comments Mr. Shibley: “Yes, you just heard the vice chancellor of Vanderbilt University tell students that they shouldn’t let their religious views intrude on their decisionmaking. That their religious beliefs should not guide their day-to-day actions. That people who reject faith in Jesus Christ should be given a chance as leaders of a Christian group (he later adds that Muslim groups must retain leaders who have lost faith in Allah). And to top it off, he uses the fact that as a Catholic, he has no problem with the abortions performed in Vanderbilt’s hospital as an example of what is expected.”