Browsing the archives for the Religion category.


Impulse and Ideology

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conservatism, firearms, Religion, Social Issues, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

Some guy at MSNBC argues that it makes “little sense” to call Jerad and Amanda Miller, the Las Vegas shooters, “right-wing extremists.”

He said right-wing extremists typically focus their anger on federal authorities, not local law enforcement officers like these.

“They weren’t the ATF, they weren’t the FBI. They couldn’t be seen as the representatives of a repressive government,” Levin told NBC News. “There are some militia group members who believe that the only valid authority is at the county sheriff level. In fact, many right-wing extremists love the police. They feel kinship to local law enforcement.”

So we’re just supposed to ignore the white supremacist literature, the shooters’ attempt to join the crew at the Bundy ranch and the “don’t tread on me” flag.

I wrote in my first post about the Las Vegas shooting that I doubted the shooters were working with the Bundy crew, who have decided only the federal government is evil. But the remarks at MSNBC reflect a basic misunderstanding of the connection between ideology/belief, whether political or religious, and violence.

This is something I spend a lot of time on in My Book, Rethinking Religion: Finding a Place for Religion in a Modern, Tolerant, Progressive, Peaceful and Science-affirming World, because I think understanding this connection and how it functions is critical to dealing not only with our ongoing domestic violence problem but also with understanding religious violence around the world.

My thinking on this issue is very much influenced by Jonathan Haidt’s book, The Righteous Mind. Very simply, Haidt makes a strong argument that our moral choices — including the choice to be violent — and our political and religious beliefs are rooted deeply in the subconscious. We are born pre-wired to interface with the world in particular ways, and this pre-wiring disposes us to leaning left or right, say, or determines whether we are likely to be dogmatists or open-minded. And, of course, the way we perceive, interpret and experience ourselves and the world also is very much influenced by cultural and other conditioning.

As we meander through our lives and bump into myriad phenomena, including religious and political beliefs and moral issues, all of this pre-wiring and conditioning and whatnot clanking around in our psyches churns up emotional responses. These include feelings of comfort and discomfort. We naturally want to affirm those things that make us feel good while denouncing the stuff that frightens or disgusts us. We then call on our rational minds to craft a narrative that justifies our feelings. These narratives are merged into our primary narrative, or personal myth, which is the ongoing story we tell ourselves about who we are and what the events in our lives might mean.

Another factor is what Buddhists call “mental formations,” or our states of mind, which can become habitual. This (in part) refers to the way some people tend to easily become defensive and critical, while others in the same situations are understanding and accepting. This also speaks to our basic orientation toward the world and whether we feel integrated with it or estranged from it.

By the time we are adults this wiring/conditioning “stuff” has become extremely complicated, and I doubt any two human beings who ever lived have identical inner stuff. But it’s important to understand that, ultimately, we are drawn to our beliefs and ideologies because of the stuff, not because it appeals to our rational mind. For this reason, what an ideology or political position represents to an individual on a subconscious or even metaphorical level is more critical than intellectual consistency.

This is what the guy on MSNBC doesn’t get. From their own words and actions, it’s obvious that right-wing anti-government rhetoric and the Bundy ranch drama resonated deeply with Jerad and Amanda Miller and represented something enormously significant to them, even if how they understood the “movement” differed in some particulars from most of the rest of the Bundyites.

More crudely, they wanted to kill police because they wanted to kill police, and in their minds the militia anti-government movement gave them permission, and even made killing police a righteous and praiseworthy act. They weren’t being logical, no. But does anyone seriously think the crew in the desert pretending to be at war with the federal government got there because of logic?

This is why the “he did it because of mental illness” excuse for Elliot Rodger didn’t fly for me. Crazy is a continuum, and we’re all on that continuum. None of us are entirely rational. Everyone feels a violent impulse now and then. But except for those who are demonstrably psychotic, we are capable of choosing to not act on those impulses. And Rodger was not psychotic. His writing was ordered and organized, even if the ideas he expressed were outrageous. This means he was rational enough to choose to not do what he did, as were the Millers. They all knew perfectly well they were breaking laws. Had they lived, it’s enormously unlikely they would have gotten off on an insanity plea.

But what Rodger and the Millers had in common was that they had seduced themselves into believing that their impulses were righteous and justified. And this is where public rhetoric and hate-group subcultures really do get people killed. Within the misnamed “men’s rights” subculture, talk of violating and killing women meets with social approval. Women as a class are perceived as evil and dangerous; violence against women is therefore justified, even heroic. Likewise, the right-wing anti-government rhetoric permeating American society can make killing government officials seem justified, even if some are a little hazy about the distinction between state and federal government officials.

I don’t think extremist right-wingers are inherently more prone to violence than extremist left-wingers. But at this moment in American history, the “extremist” Left is the fringe of the fringe, and it is absent from mass media. I’m not even sure it has much in the way of an internet presence. The applicable political spectrum here goes from a liberal/progressive Left that is well within the mainstream of American political traditions to a Right that stretches deeply into the tin-foil-hat section of the Twilight Zone.

And while you can find individuals on the Left expressing violent impulses, on the Right it’s not just individuals; it’s major media personalities and politicians serving in high-level state and federal offices. It’s coming from positions of authority, in other words.

This is why public rhetoric has consequences (see, for example, Paul Waldman, “How much does right-wing rhetoric contribute to right-wing terrorism?“). We’ve been having this conversation since Columbine, and the hate-speakers on the Right simply refuse to acknowledge any responsibility for the ongoing right-wing domestic violence. I have no solution to this impasse. I fear it will have to get worse before it can get better.

But this is why splitting hairs over whether the Millers were truly “right-wing extremists” because they killed local cops instead of federal BLM agents is stupid.

I’m seeing the same misunderstanding among western “Buddhalogists” in academia. There is a faction of western religious studies professors who are combing through Buddhist doctrines to find the “cause” of the Buddhist violence against Muslims in Burma, and some other places. And they are “finding” it by misinterpreting scriptures and even projecting meaning into scriptures that just plain isn’t there; I walked through an example of this in My Book.

The plain fact is that the violence violates everything the Buddha taught. The impulse is not coming from Buddhist teachings, but from racism and jingoism, and it’s being fueled by political expedience. “Buddhism” is not just a religion to the majority in Burma; it’s part of their ethnic and national identity. And a faction of monks has been cranking out rhetoric that justifies violence as “defending Buddhism.” So in spite of what it teaches, Buddhism has become a symbolic permission slip for violence in Burma.

And weirdly, in America, “patriotism” has become a symbolic permission slip for sedition. Looking for logical reasons for this is a fool’s errand.

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Roots of the Religious Right

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Religion

Here’s an article about religion in America, which gives me another opportunity to plug My Book.

The Real Origins of the Religious Right by Randall Balmer argues that it wasn’t abortion that turned evangelicalism into a political movement, but desegregation.

But the abortion myth quickly collapses under historical scrutiny. In fact, it wasn’t until 1979—a full six years after Roe—that evangelical leaders, at the behest of conservative activist Paul Weyrich, seized on abortion not for moral reasons, but as a rallying-cry to deny President Jimmy Carter a second term. …

…Today, evangelicals make up the backbone of the pro-life movement, but it hasn’t always been so. Both before and for several years after Roe, evangelicals were overwhelmingly indifferent to the subject, which they considered a “Catholic issue.” In 1968, for instance, a symposium sponsored by the Christian Medical Society and Christianity Today, the flagship magazine of evangelicalism, refused to characterize abortion as sinful, citing “individual health, family welfare, and social responsibility” as justifications for ending a pregnancy. In 1971, delegates to the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis, Missouri, passed a resolution encouraging “Southern Baptists to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.” The convention, hardly a redoubt of liberal values, reaffirmed that position in 1974, one year after Roe, and again in 1976.

Jerry Falwell got his start as a national figure by leading the resistance to school desegregation, and it was Weyrich who finally persuaded him to give it up as a lost cause and instead resist abortion and the Equal Rights Amendment, and that was in the late 1970s, a few years after Roe had been decided.

Same thing with birth control, as some of you might remember. I was living in the freaking Bible Belt when the pill became available, and I don’t recall any screams of outrage. Birth control was a “Catholic” issue, so the born-again crowd didn’t care. Now it seems conservative Christians generally have an issue with birth control.

The biblical basis for opposition to abortion and birth control is pathetically flimsy; note that 93 percent of American Jews support legalized abortion. To listen to conservative Christians these days you’d think Jesus’ entire mission was to stop gay marriage and abortion, even though he never addressed either issue and actually did talk about a lot of other, entirely unrelated, things.

One of the points I make in the book is that the more a religious faction gravitates toward extremist fundamentalism or terrorism, the less likely its adherents are to read their own scriptures or follow religious doctrines in any holistic way. Instead, they make a fetish out of some teachings, usually those having to do with sexual and other kinds of purity and veneration of symbols and icons, and mostly ignore the rest of it. This pattern is not limited to Christianity.

I also argue that religion is easily corrupted when it becomes an identity. It then is easily fused into racial, national, or political identity, which leads to beliefs of national exceptionalism (not limited to the U.S.) or political messianism, neither of which ever lead to anything good.

In the case of the Religious Right in the U.S., though, it actually goes back a lot further than Brown v. Board of Ed. Religious reactionism tends to attach itself to political reactionism, so whenever right-wing politics is pushing against progress and modernity, right-wing religion tends to be right beside it, to one extent or another, and this has been true throughout U.S. history. And the same thing happens in other nations as well.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries political and religious progressivism also made alliances, but for some time political progressivism has kept religious progressivism at arm’s length, and that’s a shame. One of the reasons I wrote the book is to argue that things don’t have to be that way.

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Hate as a Virtue, Part I

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Religion

I started to write this post a few days ago, when I saw this at Washington Post. Basically, it says that people who say they hate everybody in Washington (as opposed to just the people they disagree with) overwhelmingly vote Republican.

Lots of people weighed in on why that might be true — people may not like Republicans but agree with Republican policies, for example. I propose another reason — that there is a subset of our population who believe it to be virtuous to hate everybody in Washington. To admit that maybe you don’t hate everybody in Washington is a sign of weakness, that someone is duping you. Many teabaggers, for example, will speak ill of the Republican Party even as they cheer Republican antics and vote for Republican politicians.

So as a sign of intellectual independence, they thump their chests and declare they hate everybody in Washington, because that’s what their peers expect them to say. It’s a variation of groupthink, in other words.

(To be fair, these folks have their counterparts on the Left; for example, those who continue to say that President Obama could have gotten us a single-payer healthcare system if he had just tried.)

Since then we’ve had a lot more hate fests on the Right. The Duck Dynasty nothingburger scandal reached a height of absurdity when an Illinois businessman running for Congress called the DD paterfamilias Phil Robertson the “Rosa Parks of Our Generation.”

And for a jaw-dropping argument that intolerance of his intolerance is oppression, because his intolerance is just the spice that makes life interesting, do see Mark Steyn. But keep the Pepto-Bismol handy.

The version of what Robertson said floating around on the Right is that he was just expressing what the Bible said about homosexuality and had added that it was not for him to judge. See? He’s not a bad guy. But if you look at Robertson’s actual comments, what he said was vile and, yes, judgmental. This is a cheap hatemonger’s trick; say hateful things and then add the qualifier “but it’s not up to me to judge” or “let God sort ’em out” or some such, and that’s supposed to cancel out what you just said. This is a variation of the “I was just joking” qualifier that’s supposed to make it OK to wish someone to eat poison and die.

This takes me to my subject, which is hate as a Christian virtue. For at least a subset of Americans who self-identify as Christians, it seems their “religion” is mostly about hating people. Of course, they qualify this by saying they “hate the sin but love the sinner,” but that’s just the qualifier they tack onto hate speech aimed directly at the “sinner,” not the sin.

And, of course, if you are even halfway acquainted with the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels, you would know that Jesus frequently cautioned his followers to not hate anybody, even enemies (see Matthew 5:43-48). Well, OK, you’re supposed to hate your parents for some reason (Luke 14:26), but I suspect that wasn’t meant to be taken literally.

Most of the really alarming stuff haters use to justify hating, including homosexuality and racism, is in the Old Testament, although a bit of the anti-gay stuff comes from St. Paul. However, there is data that shows Jews are one of the most liberal and tolerant religious demographics in America. According to Pew Research, 79 percent of American Jews (and 82 percent of American Buddhists, btw) think homosexuality should be accepted. By contrast, only 26 percent of Evangelicals, 24 percent of Mormons, and a whopping 12 percent of Jehovah’s Witnesses agree with that. And by more contrast, a small majority of Catholics and “mainline” Protestants put themselves in the “accept” category. So there’s no consensus among Christians on this point.

What’s really happening — and I see the same thing happening in Asian Buddhism, so I’m not just harping on Christians here — is that people drag their cultural biases and bigotries into church with them. And because they lack the moral courage to admit that, often, their biases are immoral according to what Jesus actually taught, they twist religion around to justify the biases. So you end up with Bizarro World Christianity in which not being allowed to discriminate against others is religious persecution.

Seriously, for a subset of American Christians, their religion is all about the hate, and Jesus is a big permission slip to hate, revile, and persecute whomever they wish. Put another way, hate speech isn’t hate speech if you mention the Bible or Jesus in the paragraph somewhere. You can say any vile, hateful, inflammatory thing you want, and the mere mention of Christianity along with it washes the statement of all impurity and is supposed to put you beyond criticism. And if it doesn’t, that’s religious persecution. It’s just like what happened to Rosa Parks.

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Wingnuts: Grapple With Your Own Theodicy and Leave Me Out of It

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abortion, Religion, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

Amy Sullivan, truly the David Brooks of religion writing, thinks that liberals are misreading Richard Mourdock’s position on abortion.

Take a look again at Mourdock’s words: “I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And…even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” The key word here is “it.” I think it’s pretty clear that Mourdock is referring to a life that is conceived by a rape. He is not arguing that rape is the something that God intended to happen.

I understood him perfectly well and I still think it’s outrageous. This goon is saying that women must be forced to carry a pregnancy to term even in cases of rape. I think that’s barbaric and cruel.

Amy wants this to be about theology —

This is a fairly common theological belief, the understanding of God as an active, interventionist. It’s also not limited to conservative Christians. There are liberal Christians who also argue that things work out the way they’re supposed to. Some of them are in my own family, and I think they’re wrong. But it is one way of grappling with the problem of theodicy, trying to understand why God would allow bad things to happen.

And they can grapple with it all they like; just do the grappling with their own bodies, thanks much.

Sullivan goes on to explain the theological arguments about things being intended by God, as if any of us who were sent to Sunday School at least a dozen times didn’t already know them.

And I say that the next time Richard Mourdock gets pregnant from rape and chooses to carry the baby to term because he thinks it’s god’s will, I’m just peachy with that. Whatever floats his boat. But this theo-idiot is planning to force everyone else to live by his conscience and not our own. And, y’know, to a lot of us that looks like good old-fashion oppression.

Most religion looks ridiculous to outsiders. If Mourdock can somehow reconcile in his own head that God did not intend the rape but did intend the conception, that’s not any of my concern — as long as it stays in his own head.

Despite the assertions of many liberal writers I read and otherwise admire, I don’t think that politicians like Mourdock oppose rape exceptions because they hate women or want to control women. I think they’re totally oblivious and insensitive and can’t for a moment place themselves in the shoes of a woman who becomes pregnant from a rape. I think most don’t particularly care that their policy decisions can impact what control a woman does or doesn’t have over her own body. But if Mourdock believes that God creates all life and that to end a life created by God is murder, then all abortion is murder, regardless of the circumstances in which a pregnancy came about.

In other words, Sullivan is making a distinction between actively hating women and being “oblivious and insensitive” to our individuality and humanity. I don’t really see the difference. A man who is incapable of perceiving women as human beings in their own right, who cannot empathize with them or respect that their perspectives are just as valid as his, is what we call a “misogynist.” There is a spectrum of misogynist attitudes that goes from garden-variety sexist pigs to psychopathic serial killers, but it’s a difference in degree, not in kind.

And I oppose this creep Mourdock not because I disrespect his religion but because he disrespects mine. He also disrespects my humanity. I find that annoying.

As you can see from an old post, Amy Sullivan has a long-standing pattern of finding distinctions with no differences. Her shtick for years has been that liberals are mean to proper religious folk because we misunderstand them. Well, I doubt one fundamentalist in a million understands a dadblamed thing about my religion, and that doesn’t bother me in the least as long as they leave me alone about it.

The real issue is that from the earliest days of our Republic conservative Christians have tried to use government to impose their beliefs on everyone else, establishment clause notwithstanding, and they must be opposed. Period. What their theological rationalizations are is irrelevant to me.

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The Limits of “Conscience”

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Health Care, Religion, science

The wingnuts are screeching that we must allow Catholic bishops to dictate the nation’s health insurance policies, because otherwise we are violating their religious conscience. As one non-Catholic explained,

As Americans–Catholics and Baptists alike–we are in absolute agreement on the inviolable freedom of conscience, a right recognized and guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution to every American citizen.

“Religious exemptions” are being granted to pharmacists who don’t want to fill birth control prescriptions. As Mistermix wrote,

Tebow and his only begotten son Bieber help us if this keeps up, because we’re going to have a medical profession full of delicate conscientious objectors whose heartfelt beliefs keep them from doing their goddam job. Where does this idiocy end? If you’re a Jehovah’s Witness, whose religion forbids blood transfusions, and you want to become a trauma surgeon, will some federal judge support your right to let your patients bleed to death?

We may be closer to that than you realize. Charles Pierce points to the measles epidemic in Indiana and notes a connection to religion:

The state health authorities in Indiana have released a list of possible places where the victims of the outbreak may have contracted the disease. Several of them, including the College Park Church in Indianapolis and a basketball tournament for homeschooled children, are intriguing because of the cross-pollination between fundamentalist Christianity and the anti-vaccination movement. In 2005, a young Indiana woman came home from a mission trip to Romania and kicked off another measles outbreak within the congregation of her church. …

…In 1985, across the border in Illinois, there was a measles outbreak at Principia College, a Christian Science institution. There were 112 confirmed cases and three deaths associated with that outbreak. Between that episode and 1994, there were four large-scale measles outbreaks at Christian Science institutions around St. Louis. By the way, Principia College still maintains a religious exemption from the requirements of Illinois law mandating proof of vaccination.Instead, Principia students can present an “accommodation form” stating their religious objections to vaccination.

And, never fear, a number of states are considering bills that would exempt school children from vaccinations if their parents object for “philosophical” reasons.

I don’t know if anyone has died in the current Indiana outbreak, but all but two of the cases reported have occurred in anti-vaccination families.

A lot of us geezers caught measles when we were kids, and recovered in a few days. But it tends to be harder for adults, and the disease can be fatal. And then there’s German measles, which causes horrific birth defects when a pregnant woman is infected. Are the whackjobs going to start that up again?

I believe a lot of states have allowed Christian Scientists to slide on the vaccination thing, but since there are so few of them it didn’t cause that much of a problem. I’m reading that now about 10 percent of families with small children are refusing or delaying at least some vaccinations, if not all of them, believing the shots are dangerous. Like the diseases they prevent aren’t?

I believe most states hold parents responsible if a child dies from a curable disease and the parents refused to seek medical help on religious grounds. So there’s a limit to “conscience.” You can refuse medical care for yourself, but not for your minor child. But the vaccination issue points to how interdependent we really are, and how a decision made for oneself could impact a lot of other people. And, IMO, where lives are on the line, your “conscience” has to take a back seat to reality.

This is getting ridiculous. So I’m pushing back on the notion that “religious conscience” trumps all other considerations. My modest proposal is that at the very least, anyone who has not received all recommended vaccinations must be required to wear some kind of ID badge or bracelet, so the rest of us know to keep our distance from them. I suspect a lot of folks will quickly decide that maybe vaccines aren’t so bad after all.

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Florida Primary

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Mittens, n00t, Religion, Republican Party

Nate is giving Mittens a 97 percent chance of winning the Florida primary today, so it’s all over but the votin’. The establishment, faced with a choice between Mittens and Newt, have now congealed around Mittens. Barring an intervention by God, Mittens will be the nominee.

However, word is that Newt is crazy/deluded/narcissistic enough to keep campaigning. I hope so; Mittens is such a crashing bore.

Speaking of the Great Gas-Passing Orifice — Newt’s latest contribution to our nation’s political discourse is another doozy —

The transcript, via Think Progress

GINGRICH: Now, I think we need to have a government that respects our religions. I’m a little bit tired about respecting every religion on the planet. I’d like them to respect our religion.

And what religion would that be, Newt? The Church of Asshattery? But you see why I would be sooo disappointed if Newt drops out now.

Newt says President Obama and Mittens have been waging a “war against religion,” most recently for not permitting the Catholic bishops to dictate the reproductive choices of their non-Catholic employees. Apparently this violates the bishops’ “freedom” to force their beliefs on people who don’t agree with them.

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Christian Conservative Dirty Tricks

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Religion, Republican Party

You may have heard that over the weekend a group of more than 100 Christian conservatives met to discuss their choices for the Republican presidential nomination. And you may have heard that the group voted to endorse Rick Santorum.

Today some of the attendees say the ballots were rigged.

A civil war is breaking out among evangelical leaders over allegations of a rigged election and ballot stuffing at a Saturday gathering of religious and social conservatives. …

… in back-and-forth emails, Protestant fundamentalist leaders who attended – most of them backing former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to be the anti-Romney candidate — are accusing Catholic participants of conniving to rig the vote.

They said they were conned into leaving after the second ballot on Saturday. They said pro-Santorum participants held a third ballot which Mr. Santorum won with more than 70 percent of the vote — far higher than the nine-vote margin he won on the first ballot.

Steve Benen points out that both Gingrich and Santorum are Catholic (Newt being a convert). Still, it shows us that the Religious Right ain’t the political juggernaut it used to be.

It also shows us that the word “evangelical” is now being stretched to cover conservative Catholics as well as a subset of protestantism, which certainly didn’t use to be the case.

And WWJD? Live in Canada, one suspects.

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Texas vs. the First Amendment

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Obama Administration, Religion, The Constitution

Once again demonstrating they don’t know the Bill of Rights from Longhorn Pie, the state of Texas has approved this vanity plate design:

Of course, to be in constitutional compliance Texas would have to offer plates for people who are not Christian. I’m betting a few live in Texas. I’m proposing the following designs:

Of course, actually putting one of the alternative plates on one’s car would no doubt incite some born-again yahoo to slash one’s tires.

To Texas’s credit, it nixed a Confederate flag plate proposed by the Sons of Confederate Veterans. I understand the Sons are suing.

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They Can Do That?

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Cordoba House, Religion

According to the New York Post — not the most reliable source — ConEd is using dirty tricks to evict the Park 51 developer from its section of the old Burlington Coat Factory in lower Manhattan.

The old coat factory occupied what is actually two different properties. Park 51 owns one property and ConEd the other part. The Park 51 developers have been renting ConEd’s part and wants to buy it, and then knock the structures on both properties down to build their Islamic community center. Here’s what the Post says —

But the plan hit a major obstacle in August when Con Ed raised the rent from $2,750 a month, a rate set in 1972, to $47,437 a month, retroactive to July 31, 2008, The Post has learned.

They can do that? They must have found one mother of a loophole in the rental agreement.

When the mosque failed to fork over the $1.7 million, the utility fired off a letter demanding the money by Oct. 4 and threatening to evict.

Park51 principals responded with a lawsuit to stop the increase, calling Con Ed’s rent demands “outrageous.”

That’s just wrong. Somebody got to somebody.

The rented section is the area being used for prayers. The other part is being used for community events, such as a recent photography exhibit.

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The Jack Boot of Conservative Correctness

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Religion, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

During its coverage of the U.S. Open Golf Tournament, MSNBC left the words “under God” out of the Pledge of Allegiance and righties went on the warpath.

The sports coverage opened with a brief, and unabashedly patriotic, clip that toggled back and forth between soldiers engaged in a flag-raising ceremony and school children reciting the pledge. After the children recited “one nation” the clip toggled to the flag-raising soldiers, and when it came back to the children it picked up where they said “with liberty and justice for all.”

The words skipped were “under God, indivisible,” which by wingnut logic would suggest NBC is both anti-God and pro-secession.

A normal person wouldn’t read anything into some skipped words, since the action of the film had moved away while the children were reciting. But then there are wingnuts. The network apologized a couple of hours later, but complaining has not stopped.

No one may violate the sacred boundaries of conservative correctness and get away unscathed.

I found it interesting that the various rightie sites still complaining didn’t clarify whether they felt insulted on religious or patriotic grounds. I take it they haven’t thought about it real hard themselves. To them, the pledge is more of a tribal totem than an expression of anything meaningful.

It’s a historical fact that “under God” was not part of the original pledge, which was written in 1892. “Under God” was added in 1952 by President Eisenhower. It’s also historical fact that earlier in the 20th century, Jehovah’s Witnesses endured considerable persecution because they refused to say the pledge, on the grounds that it violated their religious beliefs to say a pledge to any flag.

Some other Christians object to saying the pledge as well, saying it violates what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount:

Mat 5.33-37 “Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.’ But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great king. Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ {or} ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.”

And, of course, atheists have rights, and there are a lot of religions in the world that don’t recognize the God of monotheism. Leaving out the “God” part, or even refusing to say the pledge at all, ought to be a matter of personal conscience. Things are different in Wingnut World, however. The wingnuts may pay lip-service to a God-given right to free speech, but God help you if you try to exercise that right.

For some vivid examples of what’s wrong with America, read the comments at Newsbusters. They seem to think that not saying the pledge as they want it said is an act of treason, and that NBC somehow violated their First Amendment freedom of religion by changing the words of the pledge.

This led me to reflect awhile on the way civilization has allowed even the extremely stupid to survive to adulthood and reproduce, which means advanced human societies are all doomed to self-destruct under the weight of idiocy. Oh, well.

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