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Tag: Theocracy

Do Atheists Want to Turn the United States Into an Atheist Nation?

anti atheist sign

I speak generally about atheists and atheism. I cannot speak for all atheists.

The short answer is no!

I do not know of one atheist who is working to turn the United States into an atheist nation. I do know a number of atheists who are working very hard to stop theocrats from turning the United States into a Christian nation.

Most atheists want neutrality. Theocrats want authority, domination, and control. When it comes to government and public education, atheists want Christian dogma checked at the door. Atheists want science taught without creationism and other mythical Bible stories being part of the curriculum. Christians are free to learn about creationism at home or in their houses of worship. They are also free to home school their children or send them to Christian schools. However, when it comes to public schools, evidence-based science is the only science that should be taught in classrooms. Atheists expect public school classrooms to be free of sectarian prayers, Bible readings, and attempts to proselytize school children.

Atheists want oaths and prayers to God banished from the halls of Congress and any place our secular government does its business. Atheists want the first amendment and the separation of church and state strictly applied. Atheists know that the United States is a secular state, and they expect the government to function as a secular state.

Atheists promise to fight attempts to use government funds and programs to support churches and private religious schools. Atheists promise to work to end church tax exemptions, clergy tax exemptions, and the clergy housing allowance. The fight is direct and to the point . . . there is no place in the United States for state sanctioned, state funded religion.

Atheists respect the right of religious people to believe what they want, and they ask Christians to extend atheists the same courtesy. Atheists have no desire to turn the United States into an atheist state, and they sure as hell do not intend to let theocrats turn the United States into a Christian state. Atheists know that history clearly shows that when church and state are one, people die and freedom is lost.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Rebellion and How an Authoritarian God Deals With It

rebellion

Rebellion is a common word in the vocabulary of Evangelical Christian pastors, church leaders, husbands, and parents.

Here’s what the Bible says about God’s view of rebellion:

For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king. (1 Samuel 15:23)

Those who practiced witchcraft were to be put to death (Exodus 22:18, Deuteronomy 18:9-11), so it is clear that God considered rebellion a serious matter.

God commanded a harsh punishment for a rebellious son:

If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them; Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you and all Israel shall hear, and fear. (Deuteronomy 21:18-21)

The Old Testament is the written record of how a thrice Holy God dealt with a rebellious people, Israel. Page after page details God’s judgments against his people and those who got in his way.

When we get to the New Testament, the word rebellion is not used. Does this mean that God has changed? Of course not. How is it possible for a perfect God to change? Malachi 3:6 says:

For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.

The Bible says, speaking of Jesus:

Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. (Hebrews 13:8)

It is clear, from the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God that God is immutable. He doesn’t change (though there are a few texts that seem to suggest otherwise).

Evangelical churches and pastors generally believe that both Testaments are authoritative (especially those Old Testament verses about tithing). Granted, Evangelicals are quite contradictory in their interpretations of the Old Testament, picking and choosing what they want to believe, but they do say all sixty-six books of the Bible are authoritative.

The key word is AUTHORITATIVE.

Evangelicals take seriously the matter of rebellion because they believe that the Bible is an authoritative text, and from that text they deduce an authority structure.

It goes something like this:

  • The Christian God is the supreme authority over everything. He is the sovereign King and Lord over everything. He is the creator. He is in complete and absolute control. Even with salvation, no one can be saved unless God permits them to be saved. Both Calvinists and Arminians alike believe God is the final arbiter when it comes to salvation.
  • The Christian God has established an authority hierarchy in the church. Under Jesus Christ, pastors (elders, bishops) are the head of the church. They have been called by God to teach, correct, lead, and direct the church. They are to initiate discipline when necessary to ensure the church is a pure, holy body (though many churches have a pretty low standard for pure and holy).
  • The Christian God has established authority hierarchy in the home. Again, under Jesus Christ, the husband is the head of the home, and his wife is to submit to his authority. Children are to obey their parents, and submit to their authority.
  • The Christian God has established an authority hierarchy for nations. All nations are to bow to the authority of the Christian God. Their laws should reflect God’s law. Better yet, theocracy, God rule, is the best form of government.

Evangelical Christians believe God rules over everything. There is no King but Jesus, and no God but the trinitarian deity of Christianity.

The problem here, of course, is that Evangelical Christians are human. Contrary to all their talk about being saved and sanctified, Christians are pretty much like the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world. For all their praying and confessing sin, they live and talk just like everyone else. Simply put, like all of us, they do what they want to do.

And that is a big, big problem.

You see, the authoritative God of the authoritative Bible demands absolute obedience. God expects Christians to implicitly and explicitly obey his commands. All of them. God will have none of this picking and choosing that American Christians love to do.

So everywhere you look you have Christians in some form of rebellion against God, their pastors, their parents, or their husbands. No matter how much they pray, read the Bible, go to the altar, and promise to really, really, really obey God this time, they continue to lapse into sin and rebellion.

This is what Jesus told his followers in Matthew 5:48:

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

It seems “nice” Jesus didn’t lower the standard when he came to earth. God expects and demands perfection. God will have none of this “I am not perfect, just forgiven” cheap grace Christianity. Jesus expects his followers to walk in his steps. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, they have been given everything they need pertaining to life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3)

The difference between atheists and Evangelical Christians is guilt. Evangelicals live in a constant cycle of living right, rebelling, feeling guilty, repenting, and going back to living right. This cycle can go on numerous times a day. Atheists can feel guilty at times, but since they are not encumbered by a long list of Biblical laws, commands, rules, regulations, precepts, or standards, they are less likely to feel guilty. With no God hovering over them and no pastor preaching at them, the atheist is pretty much free to enjoy life. Generally, atheists try to live by the maxim: don’t hurt or cause harm to others, and when they fail they are likely to make restitution and ask for forgiveness from the people they hurt. No need for a God, Bible, church, or pastor. As humans, atheists have all the faculties necessary to be a good person.

What makes it worse for Evangelicals is that when they go to church on Sundays, their pastors remind them, from the Bible, of course, of how rebellious they are. These fallible, frail, sinful men of God point out the sins of their congregants, reminding them that God hates sin. These whitewashed sepulchers call on rebellious church members to repent. You would think that people would get tired of all this, but each week they dutifully return to church so their pastors can remind them of their sinfulness and need of repentance.

Children, especially teenagers, get this same treatment from their parents. When children don’t obey their parents, they are chastised and reminded that God hates rebellion. But kids will be kids, as every parent knows, and in most homes, it seems that children are either starting into rebellion or coming out of it.

Parents are commanded by God to beat the rebellion out of their children (Proverbs 13:24). God provides himself as a good role model to follow.  Hebrews 12:5-10 says:

And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.

The Bible records how God goes about chastising rebellious Christians. He maims them, makes them sick, kills their families, takes away their possessions, starves them, and, if necessary, kills them. God goes to great lengths to make sure a Christian seeks after the “peaceable fruit of righteousness.” (Hebrews 12:11)

Here’s how God expects Evangelical Christian parents to respond to the rebellion of their children:

Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him. (Proverbs 22:15)

Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell. (Proverbs 23:13,14)

Let me tie this all together.

A divinely authoritative text from an authoritarian God establishes authority structures (hierarchies) for the church, family, and nations. Disobedience to God-ordained authority is to be punished.

For those of us raised in this kind of Christianity, we well know how this works out practically. The Bible, in the hands of God’s man, the pastor, is used to dominate and control people. Individuality and freedom are discouraged, and, in some cases, severely punished.

Pastors remind their churches about “pastoral authority.” Parents remind their children that they are to be obedient, and threaten them with punishment if they don’t. Husbands remind their wives that they are the head of the home and their word is f-i-n-a-l. Collectively, Christians warn government officials that Jesus is the Lord of Lords and King of Kings, and God demands they submit to the authority of God, the Bible, and his people (this is the essence of the theocracy movement in this country).

Some readers are likely weeping by now. Their minds go back twenty years or more to a time when they were teenagers. Their parents considered them rebellious. Often their rebellion consisted of things such as listening to rock music, smoking, getting pregnant, talking back, having sex, or smoking marijuana. Their parents, needing to show them that they were in charge, sent them off to group homes to get their “rebellion” problem fixed. What really happened is that they were cruelly misused, abused, and debased. Years later, their lives still bear the marks of the Godly “rebellion” treatment they received.

It is hard not to see cultism in all of this. I am sure Bible-believing Christians — people of the book — will scream foul, but the marks of a cult are there for all to see if they dare but open their eyes. Millions of people attend churches that believe the things I have written about in this post. This is what Bible literalism gets you. How could it be otherwise?

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Quote of the Day: What Does U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr Really Want?

bill barr

But at least since Mr. [Bill] Barr’s infamous speech at the University of Notre Dame Law School, in which he blamed “secularists” for “moral chaos” and “immense suffering, wreckage and misery,” it has become clear that no understanding of William Barr can be complete without taking into account his views on the role of religion in society. For that, it is illuminating to review how Mr. Barr has directed his Justice Department on matters concerning the First Amendment clause forbidding the establishment of a state religion.

In Maryland, the department rushed to defend taxpayer funding for a religious school that says same-sex marriage is wrong. In Maine, it is defending parents suing over a state law that bans religious schools from obtaining taxpayer funding to promote their own sectarian doctrines. At his Department of Justice, Mr. Barr told law students at Notre Dame, “We keep an eye out for cases or events around the country where states are misapplying the establishment clause in a way that discriminates against people of faith.”

In these and other cases, Mr. Barr has embraced wholesale the “religious liberty” rhetoric of today’s Christian nationalist movement. When religious nationalists invoke “religious freedom,” it is typically code for religious privilege. The freedom they have in mind is the freedom of people of certain conservative and authoritarian varieties of religion to discriminate against those of whom they disapprove or over whom they wish to exert power.

This form of “religious liberty” seeks to foment the sense of persecution and paranoia of a collection of conservative religious groups that see themselves as on the cusp of losing their rightful position of dominance over American culture. It always singles out groups that can be blamed for society’s ills, and that may be subject to state-sanctioned discrimination and belittlement — L.G.B.T. Americans, secularists and Muslims are the favored targets, but others are available. The purpose of this “religious liberty” rhetoric is not just to secure a place of privilege, but also to justify public funding for the right kind of religion.

Mr. Barr has a long history of supporting just this type of “religious liberty.” At Notre Dame, he compared alleged violations of religious liberty with Roman emperors forcing Christian subjects to partake in pagan sacrifices. “The law is being used as a battering ram to break down traditional moral values and to establish moral relativism as a new orthodoxy,” he said.

Barr watchers will know that this is nothing new. In a 1995 article he wrote for The Catholic Lawyer, which, as Emily Bazelon recently pointed out, appears to be something of a blueprint for his speech at Notre Dame, he complained that “we live in an increasingly militant, secular age” and expressed his grave concern that the law might force landlords to rent to unmarried couples. He implied that the idea that universities might treat “homosexual activist groups like any other student group” was intolerable.

This form of “religious liberty” is not a mere side issue for Mr. Barr, or for the other religious nationalists who have come to dominate the Republican Party. Mr. Barr has made this clear. All the problems of modernity — “the wreckage of the family,” “record levels of depression and mental illness,” “drug addiction” and “senseless violence” — stem from the loss of a strict interpretation of the Christian religion.

The great evildoers in the Notre Dame speech are nonbelievers who are apparently out on the streets ransacking everything that is good and holy. The solutions to society’s ills, Mr. Barr declared, come from faith. “Judeo-Christian moral standards are the ultimate utilitarian rules for human conduct,” he said. “Religion helps frame moral culture within society that instills and reinforces moral discipline.” He added, “The fact is that no secular creed has emerged capable of performing the role of religion.”

Within this ideological framework, the ends justify the means. In this light, Mr. Barr’s hyperpartisanship is the symptom, not the malady. At Christian nationalist gatherings and strategy meetings, the Democratic Party and its supporters are routinely described as “demonic” and associated with “rulers of the darkness.” If you know that society is under dire existential threat from secularists, and you know that they have all found a home in the other party, every conceivable compromise with principles, every ethical breach, every back-room deal is not only justifiable but imperative. And as the vicious reaction to Christianity Today’s anti-Trump editorial demonstrates, any break with this partisan alignment will be instantly denounced as heresy.

….

“What does Bill Barr want?”

The answer is that America’s conservative movement, having morphed into a religious nationalist movement, is on a collision course with the American constitutional system. Though conservatives have long claimed to be the true champions of the Constitution — remember all that chatter during previous Republican administrations about “originalism” and “judicial restraint” — the movement that now controls the Republican Party is committed to a suite of ideas that are fundamentally incompatible with the Constitution and the Republic that the founders created under its auspices.

Mr. Trump’s presidency was not the cause of this anti-democratic movement in American politics. It was the consequence. He is the chosen instrument, not of God, but of today’s Christian nationalists, their political allies and funders, and the movement’s legal apparatus. Mr. Barr did not emerge in order to serve this one particular leader. On the contrary, Mr. Trump serves a movement that will cynically praise the Constitution in order to destroy it, and of which Mr. Barr has made himself a hero.

— Katherine Stewart and Caroline Fredrickson, The New York Times, Bill Barr Thinks America Is Going to Hell, December 30, 2019

Quote of the Day: The Rise of Christian Fascism

chris hedges

The greatest moral failing of the liberal Christian church was its refusal, justified in the name of tolerance and dialogue, to denounce the followers of the Christian right as heretics. By tolerating the intolerant it ceded religious legitimacy to an array of con artists, charlatans and demagogues and their cultish supporters. It stood by as the core Gospel message—concern for the poor and the oppressed—was perverted into a magical world where God and Jesus showered believers with material wealth and power. The white race, especially in the United States, became God’s chosen agent. Imperialism and war became divine instruments for purging the world of infidels and barbarians, evil itself. Capitalism, because God blessed the righteous with wealth and power and condemned the immoral to poverty and suffering, became shorn of its inherent cruelty and exploitation. The iconography and symbols of American nationalism became intertwined with the iconography and symbols of the Christian faith. The mega-pastors, narcissists who rule despotic, cult-like fiefdoms, make millions of dollars by using this heretical belief system to prey on the mounting despair and desperation of their congregations, victims of neoliberalism and deindustrialization. These believers find in Donald Trump a reflection of themselves, a champion of the unfettered greed, cult of masculinity, lust for violence, white supremacy, bigotry, American chauvinism, religious intolerance, anger, racism and conspiracy theories that define the central beliefs of the Christian right. When I wrote “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America” I was deadly serious about the term “fascists.”

….

Tens of millions of Americans live hermetically sealed inside the vast media and educational edifice controlled by Christian fascists. In this world, miracles are real, Satan, allied with secular humanists and Muslims, is seeking to destroy America, and Trump is God’s anointed vessel to build the Christian nation and cement into place a government that instills “biblical values.” These “biblical values” include banning abortion, protecting the traditional family, turning the Ten Commandments into secular law, crushing “infidels,” especially Muslims, indoctrinating children in schools with “biblical” teachings and thwarting sexual license, which includes any sexual relationship other than in a marriage between a man and a woman. Trump is routinely compared by evangelical leaders to the biblical king Cyrus, who rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem and restored the Jews to the city.

….

The ideology of the Christian fascists panders in our decline to the primitive yearnings for the vengeance, new glory and moral renewal that are found among those pushed aside by deindustrialization and austerity. Reason, facts and verifiable truth are impotent weapons against this belief system. The Christian right is a “crisis cult.” Crisis cults arise in most collapsing societies. They promise, through magic, to recover the lost grandeur and power of a mythologized past. This magical thinking banishes doubt, anxiety and feelings of disempowerment. Traditional social hierarchies and rules, including an unapologetic white, male supremacy, will be restored. Rituals and behaviors including an unquestioning submission to authority and acts of violence to cleanse the society of evil will vanquish malevolent forces.

….

Christian fascism is an emotional life raft for tens of millions. It is impervious to the education, dialogue and discourse the liberal class naively believes can blunt or domesticate the movement. The Christian fascists, by choice, have severed themselves from rational thought. We will not placate or disarm this movement, bent on our destruction, by attempting to claim that we too have Christian “values.” This appeal only strengthens the legitimacy of the Christian fascists and weakens our own. We will transform American society to a socialist system that provides meaning, dignity and hope to all citizens, that cares and nurtures the most vulnerable among us, or we will become the victims of the Christian fascists we created.

— Chris Hedges, Truthdig, Onward, Christian Fascists, December 30, 2019

Quote of the Day: “The Family”

A secretive organization that has courted political leaders and built international influence while undermining the constitutional division of the church and the state in the process is at the center of a new five-episode documentary series called “The Family.”

Since 1953, the National Prayer Breakfast has remained a fixture in American politics that has boasted attendance by every president since Dwight D. Eisenhower on the first Thursday of every February. It has been hyped as an opportunity for the political elite of Washington, D.C., and visiting international dignitaries to put aside partisan differences and reflect on a higher purpose.

While the annual event is purportedly hosted by members of Congress, it is actually organized and run by an evangelical Christian organization called The Fellowship Foundation, or “The Family,” as it is referred to internally by its members.

The series, which debuts on Netflix on Friday, takes a look at the group that operates with its own higher purpose — quietly building its influence on global politics “in the name of Jesus.”

Video Link

“The Fellowship isn’t about faith and it spreads very little. It’s about power,” said Jeff Sharlet, whose books, “The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power,” and “C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy,” inspired the Netflix series.

“Internally, it is spoken of primarily as a ‘recruiting device’ with which to draw ‘key men’ into smaller prayer cells to ‘meet Jesus man to man,’” according to Sharlet. “Practically, the Prayer Breakfast has functioned from the very beginning as an unregistered lobbying festival.”

….

Citing 2006 documents, Sharlet estimates the number of dedicated organizers who handle recruitment at just 350. Those organizers, however, have built a network of prayer cells that the late Christian Right leader Chuck Colson pegged at 20,000-strong, calling it, “a veritable underground of Christ’s men all through government.”

Sometimes that has meant aligning with politicians who stray from Jesus’ example. In 2009, former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford gave a press conference outside of C Street emphasizing his religious pedigree upon resurfacing after disappearing from his state for days to visit a mistress in Argentina.

….

So, while President Donald Trump may not have the most pious of track records, Sharlet says the Family has embraced the unique opportunity provided by the most fundamentalist Cabinet in recent American history to advocate evangelical policy.

“The Fellowship believes God uses who He wants, and that power itself is an indicator of who He has chosen — it’s a theology of more power for the powerful,” Sharlet explained.

“The fact that Trump, with his “art of the deal,” is especially well-prepared to embrace this transactional theology — Trump puts the Christian Right’s people in power in return of their support — seals the deal.”

— Ethan Sacks, NBC News, Secretive Christian group at heart of D.C. politics ready for its close-up in Netflix docuseries, August 10, 2019

Purchase Books by Jeff Sharlet

The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power

C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy

Taking Back America For God: How Evangelical Christians View the World

taking back america

What follows are the lyrics for the Southern Gospel song, We Want America Back. Written by Fundamentalist Christian Jeff Steele, this song succinctly reveals how Evangelicals view the world. It’s scary to think that anyone thinks this way, let alone tens of millions of Americans. Jeff Steele is a member of The Steeles.

Something is wrong with America.
She once held the Bible as her conscience and guide.
But we’ve allowed those who hold nothing to be sacred,
Like Sodom of old, to push morals aside.
Where are the men who once stood for right?
And the women who championed their cause?
We must return to the values we left,
Before this country we love is totally lost.
We want America back.
We want America back,
From those who have no self-control,
We want America back.
This nation is like a runaway train,
Headed down the wrong track,
It’s time for the army of God to arise,
And say we want America back.

Narrative to be used (before singing Stanza 2):

I love America. But I do not love what she has become.
Scripture has said, Blessed is a Nation whose God is the Lord,
and America has forgotten the Godly foundation upon which she was built… Something is wrong
Our children are asked to attend public schools that in many cases resemble war zones,
without even the most basic right of any soldier… the right to pray to the God of heaven.
Many times a wild-eyed, drug-addicted, gun-carrying teenager is allowed to stay in school,
while our Supreme Court decided to expel God from the classroom over thirty years ago.
Something is wrong. Television daily bombards the senses of our nation with the idea that wrong is right,
that the abnormal is normal, that the abhorrent is acceptable, and that what God calls an abomination is
nothing more than an alternate lifestyle. And it’s had an effect. Thirty years ago, the number one television
program in America was “The Andy Griffith Show.” Look what we have today. Something is wrong.
When our government can pass out contraceptives to children is school without parental consent,
and yet the Gideons can no longer pass out the Bible on campus . . . something is wrong.
When our leaders can tell your children and mine that premarital sex is alright as long as it’s safe. . . yes . . .
something is wrong. And I for one am ready for a change. I will say to my government, “I’m not raising
dogs at my house; I’m raising children . . . created in the image and likeness of almighty God.
And I’m going to teach them the Bible. If the Bible says it’s right . . . it’s right.And if the Bible says it’s wrong . . . it’s wrong.”
The only hope that America has is that Godly men and women of character
will stand together as one might army and declare to the immoral, the impure, the obscene and the foul,
“Your days of unlimited access the minds of America are over.
The army of God, that has been silent for too long, is taking America back!”

Stanza 2:
We want America back.
We want America back,
From those who have no self-control,
We want America back.
This nation is like a runaway train,
Headed down the wrong track,
It’s time for the army of God to arise,
And say we want America back.
It’s time for the army of God to arise,
And say we want America back!!

Here is a video of this song. It is being sung by Barbara Fairchild and her husband Roy Morris at a 2012 Patriotic Rally. Please take the time to view the video. Listen carefully to the ad libs that are added to the spoken part of the song. Still think religious beliefs are harmless?

Video Link

Trump, Israel, Golan Heights and the Evangelical March to Armageddon

armageddon
Comic by Kevin Siers

Warning! Snark ahead, mixed in with serious-as-a-heart attack political commentary, and seasoned with a few choice words for Donald Trump. You have been warned. Now, full steam ahead, matey.

Most Evangelicals believe that there is coming a day when Jesus will return to the earth and rapture away True Christians®. Once the true followers of Jesus are safe in God’s internment camp, Jesus and his Father will unleash on the inhabitants of earth the horrors recorded in the book of Revelation. After seven years of non-stop slaughter and devastation, the Great Tribulation will end with Jesus again returning to earth. Jesus will arrive on a white horse, bringing with him an army of angels. He will do battle with the Beast, False Prophet, and their followers. Jesus, of course, wins this battle. Jesus is a W-I-N-N-E-R!  He kills everyone remaining on earth, and then casts the Beast and False Prophet into the Lake of Fire. Jesus will then reign on earth for 1,000 years (the millennial reign of Christ). At the end of this period, the Beast and False Prophet will be let out of the Lake of Fire so they can once again deceive the inhabitants of earth. This leads to another epic battle against Jesus and the forces of evil, with Jesus winning once again. Jesus always wins in this story. Afterward, Jesus will make a heaven and a new earth for True Christians®. Everyone else is cast into the Lake of Fire where they will be eternally tortured by the Christian God. Never, ever forget that this God, knowing human bodies will not withstand the horrors of Hell, plans of giving every non-Christian a new fire-proof body. All the pain, without melting flesh and eyeballs, said the Son of God — supposedly.

Did you get all that? Now, Evangelical eschatology is more complex than what I wrote above — Evangelicals fight amongst themselves over the finer points of the End Times — but that gives you a good idea of what most Evangelicals believe will happen sometime very soon — but not before the last season of Game of Thrones.

Central to Evangelical eschatology is the belief that people currently living in Israel (and New York) are God’s chosen people; that they are Abraham’s descendants spoken of in Genesis 22:15-18:

 And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: [Abraham had agreed to murder his son because God asked him too] That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.

Evangelicals take these verses literally — kinda.  Evangelicals believe that these verses literally reference God’s chosen people, the Jews. Yet, they get all metaphorical when someone points out that these verses also literally say that the descendants of Abraham will be numbered as the “sand which is upon the seashore.”  One website estimates that there are about 5,000 billion billion (5 sextillion) grains of sand on earth’s beaches. According to a BBC news report, roughly 107 billion people have lived on earth. If we take the aforementioned Bible passage literally, this number should actually be more than 5,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. Cue music, let the Bible literalists start dancing with their index fingers in their ears.

Not only does the Bible say how many Jews will live on earth, it also tells us exactly where they will live:

In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates: The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims,1 And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites. (Genesis 15:18-21)

According to the Bible, Moses — who took 40 years to cross a Walmart parking lot — led the Israelites out of Egypt to the land promised to Abraham. The location of that land is described this way in Numbers 34:

And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Command the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land of Canaan; (this is the land that shall fall unto you for an inheritance, even the land of Canaan with the coasts thereof:) Then your south quarter shall be from the wilderness of Zin along by the coast of Edom, and your south border shall be the outmost coast of the salt sea eastward: And your border shall turn from the south to the ascent of Akrabbim, and pass on to Zin: and the going forth thereof shall be from the south to Kadeshbarnea, and shall go on to Hazaraddar, and pass on to Azmon: And the border shall fetch a compass from Azmon unto the river of Egypt, and the goings out of it shall be at the sea. And as for the western border, ye shall even have the great sea for a border: this shall be your west border. And this shall be your north border: from the great sea ye shall point out for you mount Hor: From mount Hor ye shall point out your border unto the entrance of Hamath; and the goings forth of the border shall be to Zedad: And the border shall go on to Ziphron, and the goings out of it shall be at Hazarenan: this shall be your north border. And ye shall point out your east border from Hazarenan to Shepham: And the coast shall go down from Shepham to Riblah, on the east side of Ain; and the border shall descend, and shall reach unto the side of the sea of Chinnereth eastward: And the border shall go down to Jordan, and the goings out of it shall be at the salt sea: this shall be your land with the coasts thereof round about.

Got all that? Me neither. Fortunately, Wikipedia has a map of the land irrevocably promised to Abraham and his descendants, the Jews.

the promised land

In May 1948, the nation of Israel was established with the blessing of the United States and other Western powers. Oh, and God approved too. This partitioning of land pushed Arabs into what is called the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The goal was to have independent Arab and Jewish states. This, of course has not happened. Instead, the Palestinians and Jews have been fighting one another for over five decades, leading to bloodshed and death. While both parties are to blame for the carnage, I can’t ignore the fact that Israel actively persecutes the Palestinian people, leading some people to charge Israel with genocide. One thing is increasingly clear, Israel has no plans to walk away from the West Bank and Gaza. This, and other parcels of Middle Eastern land, was promised to them by Jehovah. End of discussion.

In 1981, after military skirmishes in 1967 and 1973, Israel annexed from Syria a parcel of land called Golan Heights. Israel’s action was widely criticized at the United Nations, but Israel gave the international community a big fuck-you and said, this land is ours. End of story.

For the past seventy years, the aforementioned Bible verses have provided a foundation for the United States’ foreign policy towards Israel, Palestine, and the Middle East. Ponder that thought for a moment. Here we are, the greatest military power on the planet, and our foreign policy is determined by some verses in a religious text written by Bronze Age sheepherders. Evangelicals, in particular, loyally and resolutely support Israel. Many Evangelicals do so because the Bible says in Genesis 12:1-3:

Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

Millions and millions of American Christians believe that their health and prosperity depends on the United States supporting the nation of Israel. They fear God cursing them if the United States fails in their God-given blessing duty to the Jews. This is made worse by the fact that many of our political leaders buy into this nonsense. This is why Israel can literally get away with murder and the United States will not do anything. The U.S. continues to give Israel billions of dollars in military and foreign aid. Israel is a nuclear power, and they are because aid from the U.S. gave them the means to do so.

This brings us to President Donald Trump. Trump knows 81 percent of voting Evangelicals voted for him in 2016.  Ever the calculating psychopath, Trump knows that he will need the Evangelical vote again if he expects to be re-elected in 2020. The president has spent the past two years fawning over Evangelicals, giving them big wins on Supreme Court/federal court appointments, abortion, LGBTQ issues, and other hot button social issues. The man is a degenerate, but Evangelicals love him anyway. As long as he coddles Evangelicals and beckons to their every call, they will continue to love and support him. And in doing so, they have sold their souls to the devil and ceded any moral ground they may have previously held.

Evangelical Christianity has been co-opted by the Republican Party. Yes, there are pockets of progressive Evangelicals here and there, but they have been unable to mount an effective counter attack to Trumpism. My advice to progressive Evangelicals is for them leave their churches, taking their money with them. Start a new denomination or join up with mainline progressive Christians. The U.S.S. Evangelical is sinking with Captain Trump at the helm, and it’s time for thoughtful Evangelicals to abandon ship.

Since taking office, President Trump has made two decisions affecting Israel that have Evangelical preachers walking around with a perpetual boner. First, he recognized Jerusalem as the rightful capital of Israel. This decision, of course, caused outrage among Palestinians locally and Arabs/Muslims across the globe. This decision alone was enough to fuel a war in the Middle East. Fortunately, cooler heads have prevailed, mainly due to the fact that the United States has not yet officially moved its embassy to the City of David, Jerusalem.

Second, the president recently said that the United States recognizes that the Golan Heights belong to Israel, not Syria. When I heard this, I said to my wife, how stupid can this dumb ass be? Does he not know or care what might happen as a result of this decision? I know, I know, rhetorical questions. Trump is too stupid to know that one of the underpinnings of U.S. policy is the belief that one day the Christian God will fight and defeat non-Christians in the Battle of Armageddon; that this battle will take place in the Middle East. All the president cares about is his bank balance and getting re-elected. War? Sure, bring it on. War is good for the American economy!

The president may be clueless, but some of his cabinet members aren’t. Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — an Evangelical Presbyterian Christian — was asked the following question during an interview on nutter Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN):

Today’s being Purim, a celebration. Jews worldwide and here in Jerusalem are talking about the fact that Esther 2,500 years ago saved the Jewish people with God’s help from Haman. And now 2,500 years later there’s a new Haman here in the Middle East that wants to eradicate the Jewish people like just like Haman did: the state of Iran. Could it be that President Trump right now has been sort of raised for such a time as this, just like Queen Esther, to help save the Jewish people from the Iranian menace?

Pompeo replied:

As a Christian, I certainly believe that’s possible. It was remarkable – so we were down in the tunnels where we could see 3,000 years ago, and 2,000 years ago – if I have the history just right – to see the remarkable history of the faith in this place and the work that our administration’s done to make sure that this democracy in the Middle East, that this Jewish state remains. I am confident that the Lord is at work here.

Let this be a warning to those who revel in the thought of Trump being impeached. The next in line is vice president Mike Pence, also an Evangelical Christian. Unlike Trump, Pence is a cold, calculating, educated Fundamentalist. Both he and Pompeo, along with other Trump cabinet members and political operatives hold Evangelical eschatological beliefs. This should scare the shit out of us. Global warming? No worries, because if these Bible thumpers get their way the earth is going to be turned into the location for the theater production of Cormack McCarthy’s book, The Road.

Still think religious beliefs aren’t harmful and don’t pose a threat to the rest of us? Still think Evangelicals are a bunch of irrational people with quaint, but irrelevant, beliefs? If you have read this far, surely it has dawned on you that Evangelical eschatological beliefs pose an existential threat to the future of humanity. I am not overplaying my hand here. God’s chosen people, Israel, and God’s city on a hill, the United States, both have nuclear weapons. So does Russia. Do you know that millions of Evangelicals believe that a war against the United States and Russia is prophesied in the Bible? I don’t have enough time to wade into this issue, but let me be clear, once the first ICBM or other nuclear weapon is launched, the world as we know it ceases to exist.

Theology matters, my atheist and non-Christian friends. We must not ignore that which can lead to our demise. We must politically push back against political leaders and policies that find their power in the pages of the Protestant Bible. Our future depends on secularism winning its battle for the heart of soul of the United States. As long as Evangelicals continue to attack the separation of church and state and demand the establishment of a theocratic state — and make no mistake about it, Evangelicals want God-rule — we must roll up our sleeves and fight. Imagine what the world will be like if we don’t.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Portland, Oregon City Leaders Consider Giving Non-Believers Civil Rights Protections

freedom from religion

Portland City Council plans to hold a hearing tomorrow on an ordinance that will grant atheists and other non-believers civil rights protections under Portland law. The summary of the ordinance states:

Amend Civil Rights Code to add non-religion such as atheism, agnosticism and non-belief to the definition of Religion (Ordinance; amend Code Chapter 23.01)

The City of Portland ordains: Section I. The Council finds that:

I . Discrimination on the basis of non-religion such as atheism, agnosticism, and non-belief exists in the City of Portland and the state law does not explicitly prohibit such discrimination against these groups. This change is necessary to clarify that disbelief, or lack of belief should be included in the protected class of “Religion” in order to provide every individual an equal opportunity to participate fully in the life of the City.

2. Providing protections for non-religion such as atheism, agnosticism, and non-belief promotes the intent of the Council to remove discriminatory barriers to equal participation in employment, housing and public accommodations in the City of Portland. Other cities, such as Madison, Wisconsin, have taken similar measures.

3. It is necessary to update citations to the Oregon Revised Statutes as cited in Chapter 23.01 to the most current version in order to maintain accuracy.

4. Updates to make language used in Chapter 23.01 more inclusive are also needed

According to a 2015 Public Religion Research Institute survey, Portland is the most non-religious city in the United States. Forty-two percent of Portland residents self-identify as non-religious. Unsurprisingly, the most religious community in America is the Baptist stronghold of Nashville, with only fifteen percent of residents identifying as non-religious. Nationwide, almost one out of four Americans check NONE when asked their religious affiliation. This number continues to grow, scaring the shit out of Christian church leaders. Southern Baptists, in particular, are desperately trying to find ways to stem attendance loss. Millennials, especially, show an increasing indifference towards religion. I should note that being non-religious and being an atheist are not one and the same. All atheists are non-religious, but not all NONES are atheists. Most just don’t care about matters of faith. Most of my children fit in this category. They simply have no interest in organized religion. Do they believe in a deity of some sort? I don’t know, but I can tell you that such questions don’t interest them in the least.

According to Portland Commissioner Amanda Fritz, the reason for the ordinance is simple:

Portland has a large percentage of residents who identify as religiously unaffiliated. We need to make these changes to our Civil Rights Code to remove discriminatory barriers, so they may participate equally in employment, housing, and public accommodations in the City.

Readers might be surprised to know that in many locales non-religious people do not have the same civil rights protections as the religious. At the Federal level, atheists have been forced to claim atheism is a “religion” in order to gain equal protection under the law. While atheists are growing in number and influence — much like the LGBTQ community — they often lack the same rights as religious people — especially at the state and local level. Groups such as the Freedom From Religion FoundationAmerican Atheists, the American Humanist AssociationAmericans United for Separation of Church and State, and the American Civil Liberties Union tirelessly fight for civil rights protection for non-believers, diligently challenging  separation of church and state breaches and discrimination against non-believers. These battles are fought daily, and the good news is that unbelievers are, for the most part, winning. This does not mean, however, that the playing field is fair and just for atheists and other non-believers. It’s not. The United States is a long way away from living up to its secular heritage. Religious sectarians are, by nature, exclusionary, demanding that their beliefs be given preferential treatment. Evangelicals, in particular, believe that the United States is a Christian nation, a bright shining city chosen by God to conquer the world with the Christian gospel and the teachings of the Bible. In their minds, atheism is a religion too, albeit a false, Satanic one. I laugh when an Evangelical says to me atheism is a “religion.” If atheism is, indeed, a religion, it is the only sect in American history without beliefs, buildings, clerics, and holy books. Atheism can be defined with one sentence: The disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods. That’s it. If atheism is a religion, it’s the only sect that doesn’t ask anything, including money, of its adherents. Maybe we should get the word out about the First Church of Atheism®. Keep your money, sleep in on Sundays, and eat succulent roasted babies for dinner. Better forget that last one, I suppose.

It will be interesting to see if Portlandian Christians object to the aforementioned proposed ordinance. In 2015, the city of Madison, Wisconsin, became the first community to pass a law making discrimination against atheists and other non-believers illegal. Local Christians said nothing. Channel 3000 reported at the time:

The vote amends the city’s equal opportunity ordinance, adding atheism as a protected class in the areas of employment, housing and public accommodations.

“There are many categories that are protected,” Weier said. “And it did occur to me that if religion was then perhaps the opposite should be”

UW graduate student, and former Atheists Humanists and Agnostics president Chris Calvey was among the five atheists speaking in favor of the proposals.

They told the council stories of housing, employment, volunteer, community, and parental custody discrimination because of their non-belief in God, saying that fact has no bearing on their character, values or what type of job they do.

“It’s actually something we’re commonly very concerned about, just because atheism is viewed as such a taboo in this country. And there’s such a stigma with it. That people in my student group for example are very hesitant to be honest about their lack of belief in God out of fear that they are going to be discriminated against in employment opportunities. If that came up in a job interview that’s held against them,” Calvey said.

“Having it on the books, where we’re legally a protected class, that’ll make things much easier for atheists,” Calvey said. “And we’ll be able to be confident that at least if we’re honest about what we actually believe, then we have the law backing us up so we can’t legally be discriminated against.”

“It’s really making a big statement that we’re not going to put up with discrimination in the name of God. That being a believer doesn’t mean you can discriminate,” Freedom From Religion Foundation co-founder Annie Laurie Gaylor said.

If such a law were proposed here in the land of God, Guns, and Republican Politics, I am certain local Christians would be outraged, filling local newspapers with letters to the editor about how evil and un-American atheism is. I have been personally attacked in the pages of the Defiance Crescent-News by Evangelicals and Catholics outraged over my atheism, anti-Christian views, and liberal/progressive politics. (Please see My Response to Daniel Gray’s Lies.) One of the reasons I take photographs for the local school district is to put a real flesh-and-blood face on atheism. I want locals to be confused by what they know about me as a man and what their pastors say about evil, Satanic atheists. If Christians actually know an atheist, that relationship often changes their opinion about unbelievers. Behavior matters. I know, when it came to me and my hostility towards LGBTQ people, my beliefs didn’t change until I actually knew and befriended someone who was gay. The same goes for atheists. Take the time to get to know an atheist/agnostic/humanist/pagan or other non-Christian and you will find out that we are not much different from the people you sit next to in church every Sunday. We have the same wants, needs, and desires as you do, and it sure would be nice if we had the same civil rights protections too.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.