PDA

View Full Version : Free Will: The Family's Secrets


Bloggingheads
05-18-2008, 12:11 PM

Eastwest
05-18-2008, 01:39 PM
Wow!

So much for separation of Church and State.

Interesting in conjunction with the "Is This a Christian Nation?" Diavlog and Peter Wehner's spooky "wink-wink" denial of interweaving of Christian Right and government under George Bush with "Faith-Based Initiative," transformation of the Air Force Academy into an Evangelical organization, the flood of young hard-core evangelical political operatives into all levels of government, etc.

Far worse though are the implications: This "plot" to establish a 1000 years of godly government to set up the return of Christ establishes priorities on a secret level. The "Family" is big enough that, linked with the only slightly differently-tuned Evangelical power lust partisans, its Family members can secretly make the call on who and what has success at every level of US government.

Very, very spooky.

Fine DV.

EW

bjkeefe
05-18-2008, 01:47 PM
Couldn't agree with EW more.

I'll add a shoutout to Jeff for investing the time to find out about this group and for his low-key, "just the facts" style of presenting his findings.

Good get, Will. And thanks for not hedging when expressing your view of these guys.

graz
05-18-2008, 01:50 PM
Wow!

So much for separation of Church and State.

Interesting in conjunction with the "Is This a Christian Nation?" Diavlog and Peter Wehner's spooky "wink-wink" denial of interweaving of Christian Right and government under George Bush with "Faith-Based Initiative," transformation of the Air Force Academy into an Evangelical organization, the flood of young hard-core evangelical political operatives into all levels of government, etc.

Far worse though are the implications: This "plot" to establish a 1000 years of godly government to set up the return of Christ establishes priorities on a secret level. The "Family" is big enough that, linked with the only slightly differently-tuned Evangelical power lust partisans, its Family members can secretly make the call on who and what has success at every level of US government.

Very, very spooky.

Fine DV.

EW

I had nightmares after yesterday's Pre-Apocalyptic episode.
Now I have to temper my fear of extinction with my dread of being ruled by the "Family." What to do?

bjkeefe
05-18-2008, 01:52 PM
graz:

Yeah. I was going to say that I couldn't decide which diavlog was scarier, yesterday's "Science Saturday" or today's "Free Will."

Eastwest
05-18-2008, 02:04 PM
graz:

Yeah. I was going to say that I couldn't decide which diavlog was scarier, yesterday's "Science Saturday" or today's "Free Will."

Actually, I started feeling "grim" with the "Is This a Christian Nation?" DV. Even the Belief.Net honcho brought on by the "hush-hush about the agenda" Peter Wehner seemed to have a bit of the "yeah, we've got to keep this subtle" mind-set.

Stack on the "Pre-Apocalyptic Edition" (Great DV, btw) and today's "Family-Oriented Programming Edition" and my long-standing political pessimism tilts from dark grey into blackness.

EW

Eastwest
05-18-2008, 02:09 PM
Would somebody please map "The Family"?

Sure would be nifty if this whole "Family" network could be "sniffed-out," mapped and watched via an "Open Source" website wherein all their political and economic moves could be watched on a month-to-month basis and displayed in full view on the Internet on an on-going basis.

That would be a true public service.

EW

graz
05-18-2008, 02:20 PM
Bob Wright discussed the "Family" with Mickey in a previous diavlog:
"Facts on the Ground" 3/18/08
Mickey poo-pooed it as a nonstarter regarding Hillary's visit to the "prayer breakfast."
While this certainly says something about Mickey's journalistic instincts, it reminds me that Bob might have some inside dope.
Will's mention of the bhtv financial backer and "Family" member might prompt Bob to comment. I hope so. Maybe he could do a "Meaning of Life" session.

ed fielding
05-18-2008, 02:31 PM
Modestly speaking, a million thanks.
I’ve been waiting for this one.
But it has exceeded any reasonable or extravagant imagined expectation.

At 65, I grew up in, had the terms of my existence set by, a world formed in part by this—well, one way or ’tother I guess we all did, for me it was an explicit determinative presence. High school with Gigi Graham, George Beverly Shea cooed at my infant daughter, lots of friends in seminary as well as art school, regarded Francis Schaeffer as a friend, fellow of Patmos Workshop; a perpetually present but pretty much private preoccupation.

This episode speaks to so much of my lifetime of experience, with the questions encountered, I can’t help but regard this one hour as the most important thing, and most satisfying in its range and depth, of anything I have encountered on the web.

I look forward (eagerly) to the discussions this opens up. Already while listening I linked it to Obsidian Wings and will probably spend the afternoon posting it to almost everyone I know, ant oh yeah facebook.

Many happy trails. So Rich.
Mr. Sharlet, my deepest thanks.
My respect for your capacity for inquiry was propelled several orders of magnitude beyond the imaginable by your saying as an emphatic aside “I read the Bible a lot. I love it.” Those are words seldom spoken and never in my experience in journalism. It speaks of a depth of inquiry as appearing utterly natural to you. It amazes me.

ed fielding
05-18-2008, 02:32 PM
(oh aka felix culpa)

ed fielding
05-18-2008, 02:43 PM
Oh yes.

Let the games begin, and conversation ensue.

bjkeefe
05-18-2008, 02:48 PM
EW:

Sounds like a good idea to me. Probably be best if at least one person on the team lived in D.C.

David Thomson
05-18-2008, 03:32 PM
Is this sort of joke? Are these guys smoking an illegal substance? I am a theological modernist and not a defender of Christianity. In many respects, I am something of a non practicing Unitarian-Universalist. It is foolish for Will Wilkinson and Jeff Sharlet to focus so much attention on a group of religious zealots who possess little political power. The real threat to our concept of separation of church and state is the black churches. These left-wing religious institutions often flagrantly violate our laws. Pastors like Rev. Jeremiah Wright may even be the norm. Why do our two hosts essentially ignore the constitutional threat of these black pastors? There are two reasons. They are afraid of being charged with racism---and they also do not perceive black churches as defenders of traditional values. When everything is said and done, Wilkinson and Sharlet are most likely pro-abortion and pro-gay marriage. Everything else is considered of secondary importance.

bjkeefe
05-18-2008, 03:42 PM
David:

It is foolish for Will Wilkinson and Jeff Sharlet to focus so much attention on a group of religious zealots who possess little political power.

You don't think Sam Brownback, Ed Meese, and Jesse Helms have (had) political power?

AemJeff
05-18-2008, 03:44 PM
David:



You don't think Sam Brownback, Ed Meese, and Jesse Helms have (had) political power?

Not compared to the Blacks. Who are you trying to kid, Brendan?

bjkeefe
05-18-2008, 03:50 PM
Not compared to the Blacks. Who are you trying to kid, Brendan?

Good point. And we should also admire Teh Blacks for being even more stealthy than The Family in their ability to disguise how much power they are wielding behind the scenes.

algal
05-18-2008, 03:59 PM
Wow. Fascinating. Really great episode.

I often feel that people who believe in conspiracies are a bit naive, that the world is not the dramatic. This episode makes me feel naive. I missed the first few minutes; when I joined halfway, I literally thought Mr Sharlet was describing a novel he'd written.

But thinking it over, it is all very human. Self-delusion knows no limits, and with the right ideology of power it's clearly more than sufficient to maintain a loose networks of high corruption.

Eastwest
05-18-2008, 04:03 PM
Self-delusion knows no limits, and with the right ideology of power it's clearly more than sufficient to maintain a loose networks of high corruption.

Talk about "Win-Win"!: Highly remunerative networking wedded to the most psychologically potent "feel-good factor" of having God on your side.

EW

graz
05-18-2008, 04:03 PM
It is foolish for Will Wilkinson and Jeff Sharlet to focus so much attention on a group of religious zealots who possess little political power.

The exact point made was that they do have political power.
Regardless of my agenda, this is a real concern, not a manufactured bogeyman that is only related to skin tone.

Eastwest
05-18-2008, 04:07 PM
Is this sort of joke?

Is David Thomson a BHTV System Virus?

It boots immediately in nearly all new Diavlogs, quickly draws the focus of all psychic system resources and determines an unnaturally right-wing wackiness direction for all ensuing discussion.

Suggested containment stratagem: Quarantine

EW

AemJeff
05-18-2008, 04:12 PM
Is David Thomson a BHTV System Virus?

It boots immediately in nearly all new Diavlogs, quickly draws the focus of all psychic system resources and determines the direction of all ensuing discussion.

Suggested containment stratagem: Quarantine

EW

Attempted ridicule stratagem does not seem completely effective, but is somehow refreshing. Must... restrain... impulse.

rcocean
05-18-2008, 04:33 PM
Like it or not, this country was founded by Christians and the Will's extreme idea of the "separation of church and state" would have considered "spooky" and "weird" 200 years ago.

The Family sounds like a nice organization spreading Christian fellowship.

Of course, the paranoid liberals have to keep busy fighting a mythical religious right wing otherwise they'd have nothing to do.

a Duoist
05-18-2008, 04:38 PM
How is the 'Family' not simply Calvin (the "select") in Geneva, or Khomeini (the "infallible") in Tehran, or Luther (adamantly, no freewill) in Wittenberg?

When one studies these ideo/theological movements such as the 'Family,' the notable common feature to all of them is their determinist world-view. Whether Marx on the secular Left or Ibn Wahhab on the religious Right, the 'true believers' share a belief in the lack of human agency.

The "passivity" of determinism permits the rationalization of ANY abuse of other human beings.

Wonderment
05-18-2008, 04:42 PM
Dave Thompson should do the next session on Bheads with Mickey, instead of Bob.

That way we could find out who undermines America more -- The Black Church or the Mexican Irrendentists.

Eastwest
05-18-2008, 04:57 PM
Like it or not, this country was founded by Christians....
The Family sounds like a nice organization spreading Christian fellowship.

No, this country wasn't founded just by Christians, but rather by Deists, agnostics, and sub-rosa atheists as well.

Even if so, so what? Even if the government was founded by Christians, does that mean it's right for modern Christians to covertly and corruptly ensure that Christianity maintains power over the direction of government and that other interests are allowed to coexist only at their sufferance? Obviously not.

The founders observed the perils to democracy from the alliance of apparatuses of government and any particular creed and so forbade encouragement of any such alliances by making laws "establishing religion." Obviously implicit in that is the proscription of church-determined agendas in government policy or action.

Your take on this matter appears to indict you as a traitor to the founders of the Republic. If there was a rightly-founded modern "House Un-American Activities Committee," you and yours would be legitimate targets, no?

Contrary to your absurd conclusion, "The Family" = Not-so-nice organization spreading self-serving political and financial-interest corruption.

Suggest you try on a less Christian-Power centric political analysis.

EW

Wonderment
05-18-2008, 05:00 PM
I'm sure someone will discover a collection of videos a Family preacher teaching Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and Mao's leadership skills to a group of US Congressmen.

Then it will be a matter of minutes before Fox News begins an endless loop of them, asking all the Bible-packing conservatives how they could possibly have remained in the audience.

bjkeefe
05-18-2008, 05:26 PM
The Family sounds like a nice organization spreading Christian fellowship.

I salute you for your attempt to make David Thompson feel more at home.

Abu Noor Al-Irlandee
05-18-2008, 09:22 PM
This was a great diavlog. Mr. Sharlet seems to have done an excellent job and it makes both his book and his comments in this diavlog 100 times more interesting (at least to me) that he is not some 'new atheist' activist but someone who understands the value of religion and understands the ways in which these type of people totally do not get that even though they are supposedly religious nuts.

I even know some good people who somewhat like people like Rick Warren and Joel Osteen and it was interesting of Mr. Sharlet to relate their populist brand of pseudo-Christianity with the elite brand of pseudo-Christianity embraced by "The Family." I wonder if Hillary Clinton comes up in the book, I seem to remember in previous family discussions that she was mentioned as being a Prayer Breakfast backer and bible studier with Sam Brownback.

I would also really love to see Glen Loury's take on Mr. Sharlet's comments about Charles Colson. I seem to remember that Mr. Loury mentioned previously that he had served on the board of Prison Fellowship Ministries. Even Mr. Sharlet does not dispute that they may do some good work, but I'd love to see Mr. Loury's take on his view that the basic purpose behind the group is to depoliticize and make subservient the hundreds of thousands of people being pushed through the prison-industrial complex in this country. I'm certain that would trouble Mr. Loury.

http://abunooralirlandee.wordpress.com

graz
05-18-2008, 11:04 PM
Let the caterwauling begin.

Time for my nap.

Don't forget the meds.

Happy Hominid
05-18-2008, 11:43 PM
What? Do I really need to say anything?

sleepyhead
05-18-2008, 11:50 PM
Bob Wright discussed the "Family" with Mickey in a previous diavlog:
"Facts on the Ground" 3/18/08
Mickey poo-pooed it as a nonstarter regarding Hillary's visit to the "prayer breakfast."
While this certainly says something about Mickey's journalistic instincts, it reminds me that Bob might have some inside dope.
Will's mention of the bhtv financial backer and "Family" member might prompt Bob to comment. I hope so. Maybe he could do a "Meaning of Life" session.

Pretty sure Will said that the Koch family founded the Cato Institute and David Koch is on Cato's board of directors. I don't think he said anything about "Family" members being behind BHtv.

I think Bob's Clinton reference was to this Josh Green Atlantic post (http://thecurrent.theatlantic.com/archives/2008/03/clinton-fellowship.php) and this Sharlet article in Mother Jones (http://www.motherjones.com/news/feature/2007/09/hillarys-prayer.html), both of which discuss Clinton's relationship with the family. I don't remember Bob suggesting that he knew any inside dope, but it's been a couple months since I watched, so I could be wrong

graz
05-19-2008, 12:05 AM
Pretty sure Will said that the Koch family founded the Cato Institute and David Koch is on Cato's board of directors. I don't think he said anything about "Family" members being behind BHtv.

I think Bob's Clinton reference was to this Josh Green Atlantic post (http://thecurrent.theatlantic.com/archives/2008/03/clinton-fellowship.php) and this Sharlet article in Mother Jones (http://www.motherjones.com/news/feature/2007/09/hillarys-prayer.html), both of which discuss Clinton's relationship with the family. I don't remember Bob suggesting that he knew any inside dope, but it's been a couple months since I watched, so I could be wrong

You are correct about David Koch.
Thanks for the input. Darn... I had hoped to uncover a nefarious connection between bhtv and the Illuminati. I did go back and view the relevant parts of that "Facts on the Ground" episode. My memory proved selective, although Bob was considering looking up a member of the "Family" if possible. Maybe he did have the meeting and is now sworn to secrecy.

radmul
05-19-2008, 12:22 AM
The understatement of the century!
http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/11164?in=00:13:20&out=13:30

Happy Hominid
05-19-2008, 01:24 AM
It's obvious - Mickey is a member of The Family. He was just trying to cover up!

Seriously, this is deeply disturbing. I think Will was at least partly on target with his "rationality vs irrationality" thesis. But beyond that, even if it were just cynically used as a tool for self-advancement, it's very scary that, like Jeff said, this is not a group you can argue logically with. Not that logic works on "believers" but it's always good to know your opponents intentions and we do with the populist fundies. These elitists represents a whole different ballgame. I want to know the name of every member so I can view every action they take with the lens of "The Family".

ed fielding
05-19-2008, 01:24 AM
Consider it (the first part) done.
Just Google videos “Doug Coe”.
Fresh meat.

Happy Hominid
05-19-2008, 01:32 AM
Brendan - big LOL! Really - the inanity of these two is almost breath-taking. I have CHRISTIAN friends who I'm sure will be horrified when they see this diavlog.

Happy Hominid
05-19-2008, 01:40 AM
Hmmmm.... this diavlog certainly sheds some new light on the old sophistry that Hitler, Mao and Stalin were atheistic materialists following a Darwinian paradigm. I doubt The Family would have found them so appealing if they believed that bit of non-sense. Of course, anyone studying the details of the 20th century would already know this.

Ottorino
05-19-2008, 06:24 AM
This is the saddest diavlogue ever. It makes me want to cry.

Baltimoron
05-19-2008, 08:15 AM
I thought both Wilkinson's and Sharlet's inability to perceive the rationality of a person's need to be a part of a larger group naive and infuriating. Especially, if one considers that that group offers benefits. Consider a fiction reference: West Wing, Season Two, where the VP introduces Leo to AA. Leo needed AA for personal reasonings, but in his position could not just go down the block and do a meeting. In the same way, these depressing characters need support, too, but they're not going to do Facebook. The payoff for submitting to some nominal religious teaching is an increase in social standing and outreach.

I also observed a similar dynamic in the Army, where commanders encouraged NCOs to host bible reading classes. I went to a few, and it was the first time I had seen my senior NCOs in civilian clothes talking like normal men and with wives (and vice versa, female NCOs with husbands). But, considering how much of the content went into maintaining families and submitting to a higher authority as a man (when men find it hard to submit), I could see that the readings were fostering the Army's mission of keeping soldiers and families tight and helping soliders be good bureaucrats.

One doesn't need religion to see these dynamics.

graz
05-19-2008, 12:35 PM
I thought both Wilkinson's and Sharlet's inability to perceive the rationality of a person's need to be a part of a larger group naive and infuriating.
Especially, if one considers that that group offers benefits.

Point one is more than fair if group dynamics were denied by Will and Jeff.
I don't think they did. Fellowship is fine and dandy.
As to your second point: If the benefits didn't have larger consequences, maybe:
EW quote:

"Far worse though are the implications: This "plot" to establish a 1000 years of godly government to set up the return of Christ establishes priorities on a secret level. The "Family" is big enough that, linked with the only slightly differently-tuned Evangelical power lust partisans, its Family members can secretly make the call on who and what has success at every level of US government.

Very, very spooky."

PaulL
05-19-2008, 02:46 PM
Not providing condoms equals murder (http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/11164?in=00:44:10&out=00:44:32).
I guess by his thinking the guy who gave the girl Aids had no role in her death.

AemJeff
05-19-2008, 02:52 PM
Not providing condoms equals murder (http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/11164?in=00:44:10&out=00:44:32).
I guess by his thinking the guy who gave the girl Aids had no role in her death.

Separate the issues. Just because one is guilty, doesn't mean the other can't be, too. If you deliberately withhold a simple means to protect somebody from a horrible fate, you're complicit in that fate.

PaulL
05-19-2008, 03:00 PM
Separate the issues. Just because one is guilty, doesn't mean the other can't be, too. If you deliberately withhold a simple means to protect somebody from a horrible fate, you're complicit in that fate.
Can the same be said for Gun Control? Free handguns for everyone.
So by your logic if the Condoms are sent but the guy does not use them. The girl still dies of Aids but the US is no longer guilt of murder.

AemJeff
05-19-2008, 03:13 PM
Can the same be said for Gun Control? Free handguns for everyone.
So by your logic if the Condoms are sent but the guy does not use them. The girl still dies of Aids but the US is no longer guilt of murder.

The gun control analogy is tough to justify. The answer to the second is: of course. What more can you do than what's in your power to do? The interaction between two people is obviously too fine-grained for a foreign power to take responsibility for. The relationship between condom use and disease is not ambiguous. Parochial moral concerns regarding sexual morality between third parties has no place in a program to control disease. Insinuating them into such a program is an irresponsible act that can objectively be proven to kill the innocent. Causing the deaths of innocent third parties to assuage your moral conscience is murder.

Big Wayne
05-19-2008, 03:20 PM
Causing the deaths of innocent third parties to assuage your moral conscience is murder.

Ironically, it's also "pro-life," at least according to those who justify the policy. It's a sign of our Orwellian times that "pro-life" policies result in so many dead people.

AemJeff
05-19-2008, 03:26 PM
Yeah. My patience with that sort of argument is pretty short. One of my primary disagreements with religious moralists is the confusion of the parochial with the universal.

Wonderment
05-19-2008, 04:25 PM
Can the same be said for Gun Control? Free handguns for everyone.

Isn't that current policy? Flood the developing world with handguns and withhold the condoms?


The Small Arms Survey, an organization advocating the control of small arms (see external links) claims in their 2003 report that at least 1,134 companies in 98 countries worldwide are involved in some aspect of the production of small arms and/or ammunition. The largest exporters of small arms by volume are the European Union and the United States.

In addition, massive exports of small arms by the US, the former Soviet Union (AKM), China (Type 56), Germany (H&K G3), Belgium (FN-FAL), and Brazil (FN-FAL) during the Cold War took place to support ideological movements. These small arms have survived many conflicts and many are now in the hands of arms dealers who move them between conflict areas as needed.

-- Wikipedia: "Small arms proliferation"

jh in sd
05-19-2008, 07:05 PM
Stupidity of religious belief in general? That statement displays a monumental level of stupidity in itself.

Baltimoron
05-19-2008, 07:06 PM
Firstly, I don't have the psychological or sociological terms for the "dynamics" we're talking about. Secondly, I don't dispute how depressing this dialog sounded. But, honestly, having spent afternoons after Sunday School with parents and pastor discussing my behavior and opinions in class, I'm not all that creeped out.

Let me redirect: I think the dynamics themselves are pervasive, and span ideological lines and political affiliations. What's not so depressing is the content of the group's message, as are the social dynamics themselves. I think what I object to, as I did in Sunday School, is the authority some organizations exert on members to remain faithful versus the individual's cost-benefit calculation of joining or leaving. For instance, does Colson really believe, or is the benefit of this group's support, especially when he was just an ex-convict and pariah, more important to his agenda or personal dignity than the line he has to tow? I don't find the message so distrubing, as that the group can still keep recruiting members. That indicates for me some very human flaw that this group is not remarkable enough to claim as its conscious source of inspiration.

Wonderment
05-19-2008, 07:41 PM
Stupidity of religious belief in general? That statement displays a monumental level of stupidity in itself.

Although I am an atheist, I think the New Atheist movement (Dawkins, Hitchens, Keen and Dennett) has had a polarizing effect on civil discourse. This troubles me.

I'm much more inclined to go with a detente between religious and secular people, much as described as "nonoverlapping magisteria" by Stephen Jay Gould (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Jay_Gould).

Gould defended detente (he didn't call it that) by saying: "Nonoverlapping Magisteria [theory] enjoys strong and fully explicit support, even from the primary cultural stereotypes of hard-line traditionalism" and that it is "a sound position of general consensus, established by long struggle among people of goodwill in both magisteria."

bjkeefe
05-19-2008, 07:47 PM
I'm much more inclined to go with a detente between religious and secular people, much as described as "nonoverlapping magisteria" by Stephen Jay Gould (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Jay_Gould).

We've tried that. It doesn't work. You get creationists in the science classroom, bad government policy like abstinence-only programs and refusal to fund stem cell research, attempts to modify the US legal system with Christianist doctrine, priests withholding communion from members of Congress who are pro-choice, and so on. People who are deeply religious often feel entitled to push their faith into all walks of life, including upon those who do not share their faith.

jh in sd
05-19-2008, 07:55 PM
Wonder, I usually enjoy Will's DV's, so I guess I'm just disappointed in the arrogance and disrespect he shows in that statement.

bjkeefe
05-19-2008, 07:59 PM
Wonder, I usually enjoy Will's DV's, so I guess I'm just disappointed in the arrogance and disrespect he shows in that statement.

Why isn't it equally arrogant to be convinced of a belief system that says believing in it makes you superior, and all without a shred of evidence? Why isn't it disrespectful to say that anyone who doesn't share your faith is inferior?

(By "you," I mean those guys in The Family, mostly.)

jh in sd
05-19-2008, 08:05 PM
bj, People who are deeply secular often feel entitled to push their secularism into all walks of life, including upon those who do not share their lack of faith.

bjkeefe
05-19-2008, 08:10 PM
bj, People who are deeply secular often feel entitled to push their secularism into all walks of life, including upon those who do not share their lack of faith.

I disagree. There is little interest in harassing people in church (temple, mosque, etc.). What you're thinking of is pushback in reaction to the attempts by the religious to modify secular aspects of life.

We won't agree on this, of course. Which, I think, supports my original point in this thread, that the ideal of non-overlapping magesteria doesn't work.

Big Wayne
05-19-2008, 08:11 PM
bj, People who are deeply secular often feel entitled to push their secularism into all walks of life, including upon those who do not share their lack of faith.

In other words, secularists are imposing freedom, while the Christianists are restricting it. The worst you have to fear from secularists is that they are going to prevent you from trampling on the freedom of others.

What's your best example of "pushing secularism" into all walks of life?

jh in sd
05-19-2008, 08:19 PM
bj, It is disrespectful to call people stupid, and arrogant to do so when you know it itsn't true. It is also arrogant to think that you are superior to others because of what you believe. But I disagree strongly with you if you believe that most Christians believe they are superior to others because of their beliefs.

jh in sd
05-19-2008, 08:24 PM
Millions of babies being aborted are not having freedom imposed on them. To the contrary, they are being denied their right to life by the imposition of secular world view upon the law.

bjkeefe
05-19-2008, 08:26 PM
bj, It is disrespectful to call people stupid, and arrogant to do so when you know it itsn't true. It is also arrogant to think that you are superior to others because of what you believe. But I disagree strongly with you if you believe that most Christians believe they are superior to others because of their beliefs.

I agree with most of that. I do think it's okay to call some beliefs stupid, and I do think that some Christians believe they are superior because of their faith (as do some members of all other faiths that I've ever encountered). Most of the politically active conservative Christians in this country, in particular, project this belief.

Big Wayne
05-19-2008, 08:35 PM
Millions of babies being aborted are not having freedom imposed on them. To the contrary, they are being denied their right to life by the imposition of secular world view upon the law.

Right to life? A fertilized egg does not have a right to life. What you are really saying is that you believe you can expand the boundaries of freedom by imposing a Christian theological doctrine on millions of people who don't want anything to do with it. By limiting the freedom of women, and denying them the ability to make decisions about their own lives and bodies, you believe you are expanding freedom.

We both know this is a fruitless topic of debate. So I will ask: Can you think of any other example of "deeply secular [people] ... push[ing] their secularism into all walks of life" in such a way that limits or curtails your freedom?

jh in sd
05-19-2008, 08:37 PM
Brendan, In my experience, it is best to refrain from using the word stupid when trying to have a civil discussion.

bjkeefe
05-19-2008, 08:53 PM
Brendan, In my experience, it is best to refrain from using the word stupid when trying to have a civil discussion.

Mostly I agree with you, jh. But sometimes it's better to be blunt. You occasionally have a chance of keeping somebody from going too far off the rails, and you usually at least save a lot of time. Some beliefs are stupid and they shouldn't be suffered in silence.

I do grant your original point, that it's probably not polite to make a sweeping statement like "all religious beliefs are stupid."

jh in sd
05-19-2008, 09:10 PM
Wayne, Evidently you've never heard of late-term abortion.

One example is of how the ACLU tried to block Prison Fellowship Ministries access to prisons in one state. This even though no taxpayer money is spent on the program, participation is strictly voluntary, and these program have been proven to decrease recitivism.

jh in sd
05-19-2008, 09:16 PM
Brendan, True, some things should not be suffered in silence, but frankness delivered tactfully works better than being blunt. But maybe I'm just quibbling over semantics (although I do love to quibble over semantics).

Big Wayne
05-19-2008, 09:23 PM
Wayne, Evidently you've never heard of late-term abortion.

One example is of how the ACLU tried to block Prison Fellowship Ministries access to prisons in one state. This even though no taxpayer money is spent on the program, participation is strictly voluntary, and these program have been proven to decrease recitivism.

I've heard enough about late term abortion to know that it is basically never used except on the advice of doctors to protect the life or health of the mother. Anyway, please, let's not debate abortion.

I don't know anything about the Prison Fellowship Ministries case, but the fact that this is your best non-abortion example of the pernicious effects of freedom suggests to me it isn't a serious problem.

I note that you say "the ACLU tried." Did the ACLU succeed? If not, then your best example of secularism imposed on Christians is no example at all.

bjkeefe
05-19-2008, 09:25 PM
Brendan, True, some things should not be suffered in silence, but frankness delivered tactfully works better than being blunt. But maybe I'm just quibbling over semantics (although I do love to quibble over semantics).

Yes, good point. I shouldn't have created the impression that I believe it breaks down into a binary choice: to say "stupid" or not to say "stupid," because I don't. I agree, there is a whole range of frankness available.

Big Wayne
05-19-2008, 09:50 PM
One example is of how the ACLU tried to block Prison Fellowship Ministries access to prisons in one state. This even though no taxpayer money is spent on the program, participation is strictly voluntary, and these program have been proven to decrease recitivism.

The article below seems to be the case JH is referring to. A couple of notes:

1- The culprit was not the ACLU, but the US Constitution, which the court found the program to be violating.

2- The program did, in fact, use taxpayer money.

3- The "freedom" curtailed by this decision was the "freedom" of a right-wing Christian group to spend my money promoting their religion (and, I would bet, promoting their political agenda; this is Chuck Colson we're talking about).


Prison Fellowship Ministries Forced to Close Bible Program at Iowa Prison
Saturday , June 03, 2006

DES MOINES, Iowa —

A judge has ruled that a Bible-based prison program violates the First Amendment's freedom of religion clause by using state funds to promote Christianity to inmates.

Prison Fellowship Ministries, which was sued in 2003 by an advocacy group, was ordered Friday to cease its program at the Newton Correctional Facility and repay the state $1.53 million.

"This calls into question the funding for so many programs," said Barry Lynn, executive director of the Washington-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which filed the suit. "Anyone who doesn't stop it is putting a giant 'sue me' sign on top of their building."

Lynn's group accused Prison Fellowship Ministries of giving preferential treatment to inmates participating in the program. They were given special visitation rights, movie-watching privileges, access to computers and access to classes needed for early parole.

U.S. District Judge Robert Pratt called the perks "seemingly minor benefits" that constituted unfair treatment to those not in the religious program. Despite any claims of rehabilitating inmates, the program "impermissibly endorses religion," Pratt wrote.

The InnerChange Freedom Initiative was implemented in Newton in 1999. State prison officials have said they hired the religious group to improve inmate behavior and reduce recidivism — not promote Christianity.

Ministry president Mark Earley said in a statement Friday that the group plans to appeal the ruling and believes its program is constitutional.

"This decision, if allowed to stand, will enshrine religious discrimination," Earley said. "It has attacked the right of people of faith to operate on a level playing field in the public arena and to provide services to those who volunteered to receive them."

The judge gave the group's workers 60 days to leave the prison, though he put a stay on his order, meaning the decision won't officially be implemented until the appeals process is complete.

AemJeff
05-19-2008, 10:17 PM
bj, People who are deeply secular often feel entitled to push their secularism into all walks of life, including upon those who do not share their lack of faith.

But, that's not the same thing, jh. Religious morality is in many ways a set of strictures, a list of things not to do. Not everybody shares the underlying belief systems, yet religious morality seems to like to insert itself into the public square.

Gay marriage is a good example. The secular view would generally be tolerant of it. If gay marriage is legally tolerated, it doesn't change the lives of people who don't think it's a good thing at all. If it's not tolerated, millions of people are deprived of something they'd like very much to have.

jh in sd
05-20-2008, 12:37 AM
Wayne, Thanks for the clarification. But is still illustrates my point. The state of Iowa hired a group with a proven record of reducing recitivism to work with inmates. Because the group promotes a Christian worldview, they are no longer allowed in the prison. So now inmates are denied the opportunity to work with the group that has the best proven record of helping inmates avoid reincarceration. So what is better, a person released into a caring Christian community or a person with a greater likelyhood of reoffending.

Other examples of a secular progressive worldview being inposed on the public are in the MSM and in public higher education. Much has been written on both of these subjects.

My point is that it is hypocritical for atheists and secularists to criticize Christians for imposing their views on others when they themselves to it to an equal degree.

Alworth
05-20-2008, 12:45 AM
Totally agree. I've been reading Sharlett since his first article years ago in Harper's about the Family, and I wondered if he would be able to be balanced. He seems at every opportunity to extend the most generous reading to the group and individual members of the Family. It's almost disarming, and really drew me in. I'm gonna go buy the book.

Alworth
05-20-2008, 12:53 AM
It is foolish for Will Wilkinson and Jeff Sharlet to focus so much attention on a group of religious zealots who possess little political power.

When Sharlet first started writing about the Family, the members had enormous power. In an early article in Harper's, Sharlet links the Bush family to this Family, along with many members of Congress. I think one of the reasons it's flown under the radar so long is because of reactions exactly like this--in minimizing or ignoring it, we fail to account for its influence.

bjkeefe
05-20-2008, 06:17 AM
jh:

Other examples of a secular progressive worldview being inposed on the public are in the MSM and in public higher education. Much has been written on both of these subjects.

My point is that it is hypocritical for atheists and secularists to criticize Christians for imposing their views on others when they themselves to it to an equal degree.

You're free to characterize things how you like, but it is my view that insisting that science be taught in science classes, or that research results be reported accurately in the media, or that evidence be used when constructing government policy, or that ideas from different schools of thought be presented in college classes, or that legal action be taken to prevent a religious group from being dictating its teachings on a captive population, is hardly "imposing" secularism. It is instead upholding the spirit of a pluralistic society, one of whose fundamental principles is not only freedom of religion, but freedom from religion.

It also strikes me that you're not doing much of a job to support your case by making vague and sweeping generalizations like this. "Much has been written ...?" By whom? Religious people who want control of an institution and resent the pushback from those who don't share their views?

As I recall one of the "Prison Fellowship" cases, the inmates were given a choice of participating in the program or being de facto removed from consideration for parole.

As far as abortion goes, your views about the "rights" of an embryo are not shared by the entire population. You're free to consider it a human being and make your own choices about an unwanted pregnancy accordingly, but you are not free to control another woman's body because of these views.

Finally, I don't know which part of the MSM you consume, but I'd say that my two primary MSM sources (NY Times and NPR) cover religion regularly. In fact, I am often annoyed by the amount of space they do give, and the deferential and uncritical tone of most of the stories.

jh in sd
05-20-2008, 10:45 AM
bj, My original point was that atheist, particularily militant ones, can make sweeping generalizations and be as zealous as many evangelizers. I believe in the importance of separation of church and state to protect everyone's choice in regard to religion. But you seem to be unwilling to concede to the fact that religion has had and will continue to have many positive influences in our society. If you can't acknowledge that, you are only furthering your own propagandistic anti-religious views.

bjkeefe
05-20-2008, 11:32 AM
bj, My original point was that atheist, particularily militant ones, can make sweeping generalizations and be as zealous as many evangelizers.

Agreed, although I would say the number of "militant atheists" is dwarfed by the number of politically active religious fundamentalists, and the funding and organizational structure associated with the two groups is even more disproportionate. I would also say that there is much more of a tendency for religious people to attempt to affect clearly secular realms, like science classrooms, the military, and other government agencies, than there is a tendency for atheists to intrude upon clearly religious realms.

... But you seem to be unwilling to concede to the fact that religion has had and will continue to have many positive influences in our society. If you can't acknowledge that, you are only furthering your own propagandistic anti-religious views.

I am happy to acknowledge, when talking to somebody who is reasonable, the many positive contributions that religion has made, in individuals, in communities, and in society as a whole. My complaint is that many religious people and organizations are often not reasonable -- they are overly sensitive to criticism, and expect carte blanche as soon as they play the faith card. I also believe that there is a frequent tendency among religious people to dismiss the negative aspects of religion as exceptions.

If I emphasize the negative over the positive, it is because I have the feeling that the voices pushing the positive messages and the various religion-based agendas are considerably louder and more powerful than those who try to offer objections or criticisms. I also feel that many of the more extreme religious people have no interest in compromising on any political issues. Therefore, I view it as a good thing to provide a counterweight on the other side, equally far from the midpoint.

jh in sd
05-20-2008, 12:06 PM
bj, I find that most people don't responds to criticism of their views in an overly-sensitive manner if that criticism is delivered in a non-dismissive and respectful manner. We would all do better by remembering that. Also, don't forget that, as you mentioned in previous posts, there are many variants in the strain of religion, and that goes a long way to balancing against extremeism in this country. Unfortunately, when the extremeists are the squeaky wheel that gets greased, it overshadows the more reasonable points-of-view. What I object to is the over-greasing of the squeaky wheels.

bjkeefe
05-20-2008, 12:32 PM
bj, I find that most people don't responds to criticism of their views in an overly-sensitive manner if that criticism is delivered in a non-dismissive and respectful manner. We would all do better by remembering that. Also, don't forget that, as you mentioned in previous posts, there are many variants in the strain of religion, and that goes a long way to balancing against extremeism in this country. Unfortunately, when the extremeists are the squeaky wheel that gets greased, it overshadows the more reasonable points-of-view. What I object to is the over-greasing of the squeaky wheels.

jh:

Not much for me to disagree with there. I would say that I'd like to see more of an effort by reasonable religious people to speak out and act against the religious extremists.

I'm not sure what you meant by your last metaphor, but if you're asking me not to call a wingnut a wingnut, I am sorry to say that I will not be able to agree to this. The politically active fundamentalists are too dangerous to our society not to be clearly labeled.

Happy Hominid
05-20-2008, 02:38 PM
jh:

As far as abortion goes, your views about the "rights" of an embryo are not shared by the entire population. You're free to consider it a human being and make your own choices about an unwanted pregnancy accordingly, but you are not free to control another woman's body because of these views.


I know I'm in to this one way late and I hope JH is still around.

My point on abortion (in continuation of BJ's remarks) is simply that you realize that when you make a statement equating abortion with murder, you are doing so exclusively from a "faith" position. There is no way to look at abortion as murder other than through the lens of religious belief. There is no objective evidence for that position. Since we don't all believe what you believe, you can't expect us to accept that position. The fact that you (as religious people ALWAYS do when confronted with this argument) bring up late term abortion, only shows that you know this is true! The religious start with the claim of murder, further claim that it involves "millions" of "deaths", and yet only a tiny percentage of abortion is late term! The main point of this is simply that when we look at "imposing" beliefs, it is the religious who impose when it comes to abortion. As BJ said, if it violates your conscience, then don't have an abortion. But understand that for equally well-meaning people, there is no issue of conscience.

jh in sd
05-20-2008, 03:06 PM
HH, So, lets remove the Creator who endows us with our rights to life and liberty. And then let us add socialized medicine. Since we are now nothing more than an organization of cells, each of us at different stages of development, who gets to determine our value, our viability, and for what purpose in the cost/benefit analysis. As techonlogical advances in medicine and biotechnology are rapidly occuring, questions of medical and bioethics will need to come to the forefront. Take a look at some of the grand scale experiments in secularism that took place in the 20th century and see how well things went. Is that a world you want to live in?

Also, show me your objective evidence that life doesn't begin at conception.

bjkeefe
05-20-2008, 03:20 PM
Why we fight (http://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2008/05/one-in-eight-hi.html).

(h/t: Andrew Sullivan (http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2008/05/creationists-in.html))

AemJeff
05-20-2008, 05:42 PM
HH, So, lets remove the Creator who endows us with our rights to life and liberty. And then let us add socialized medicine. Since we are now nothing more than an organization of cells, each of us at different stages of development, who gets to determine our value, our viability, and for what purpose in the cost/benefit analysis. As techonlogical advances in medicine and biotechnology are rapidly occuring, questions of medical and bioethics will need to come to the forefront. Take a look at some of the grand scale experiments in secularism that took place in the 20th century and see how well things went. Is that a world you want to live in?

Also, show me your objective evidence that life doesn't begin at conception.

jh, "Life" is a term of art, isn't it? Bacteria are alive. The blood cells left behind from a minor scratch are "human life." "Life" in the technical sense exists before conception, since the gametes themselves are living things. If the issue isn't "life" or "human life" then what is it? The corpus, the whole of a living being, who also happens to be human? But, at the moment of conception that too is a somewhat hazy distinction. Where does the mother end and the daughter begin? This becomes a matter of definition, of language.

I'm sympathetic to concerns about third trimester abortions. A fetus at that stage is a fetus only by dint of its location within a womb. More importantly, to me, it has a brain and the shadow of a mind. But these are less arbitrary distinctions than the one you suggest, in my opinion. If you choose to draw the line at conception - I think you should have that right. If somebody doesn't share your view, I see no reason why your particular choice should be binding for that person.

I think the problem is to reconcile the concepts of "personhood" and "humanity." The life of many things things that are human (a donated heart, for instance) are treated with less gravity than the life of child. My view is that a blastocyst, certainly, has not yet attained the status of a living "person." That's not a matter for science - you can't "prove" a definition.

Big Wayne
05-20-2008, 05:59 PM
Take a look at some of the grand scale experiments in secularism that took place in the 20th century and see how well things went. Is that a world you want to live in?
This is a really fascinating discussion and I appreciate that you're sharing your views with us.

For now, I will only say that the United States of America, the greatest nation in the history of the human race, is a grand scale experiment in secularism.

And it has revolutionized civilization around the world. We haven't reached every pocket and every corner of the world, yet, but the great promise of America is to secularize the globe.

If the Middle East was a little more secular, as George Bush is ostensibly spending trillions to achieve, the world might be a better place.

Personally, I don't like being ruled by religious fundamentalists in police state theocracies, whether Islamic or Christian.

Happy Hominid
05-21-2008, 03:11 PM
Exactly right, Big Wayne. JH asks if, essentially, if I want a Soviet form of secularism. NO. I want the American form that was created 230 years ago.

As to JH's query as to my ability to objectively show that life does NOT begin at conception - irrelevant. I'm not the one trying to force that down the throats of theists via laws.

nellevad
05-22-2008, 02:44 AM
In other words, secularists are imposing freedom, while the Christianists are restricting it. The worst you have to fear from secularists is that they are going to prevent you from trampling on the freedom of others.

What's your best example of "pushing secularism" into all walks of life?

C'mon Big Wayne, you know perfectly well what the examples of "pushing secularism" are. It's any and all of those anti-american "separation of church and state" issues the "commie" ACLU is always trying to foist on what we all should know is a "Christian Nation". Gay rights protection, right to choose and our God given nationally guaranteed right to assult weapons to mention the obvious. Disregard the fact that these folks simply don't know a thing about the foundation of our country. Without regard to wether the founders were Christians, Deists, Agnostics or downright Athiests, they agreed to leave religeon conspicuously out of the constitution except to: A. acnowledge a "Creator", and B. eliminate it from consideration when running for office. They don't know because they were asleep during Civics class (back when it was taught) and lern't about America's christian roots from their Pastor, Bill O'reilly and Rush Limbaugh. Accomodation of these misconceptions is unacceptable and "The Family's Secrets" is the reason why! Any informed religeous person should defend the "separation" to insure the purity of his/her beliefs. I suppose the answer here lies in the oxymoronic term "informed religeous person" 'cause a lot of them shure aren't acting that way these days.

bjkeefe
05-22-2008, 07:05 AM
nellevad:

Without regard to wether the founders were Christians, Deists, Agnostics or downright Athiests, they agreed to leave religeon conspicuously out of the constitution except to: A. acnowledge a "Creator" ...

Where in the Constitution does the word "Creator" appear?

thouartgob
05-22-2008, 01:57 PM
Call me a bigot but I would like to adjust those scales on my own thank you. The dingalink you provided was a highlight of the discussion I thought.

There are real psychological benefits to many devotional practices and having faith in a compassionate view of the universe can add years to your life by reducing stress and giving you a healthy mixture of neurotransmitters.

But when some devoted clique uses revealed truth as a substitute for my cognitive abilities and make their job my salvation, at some arbitrary cost to me and my loved ones, count me out.

We all have an idea about the nature of reality and it varies from one consciousness to another so finding common ground is essential for the survival of our socially inclined species. I would life to start with thinking that a young girl's life trumps her eternal destiny until she sees fit to make that decision based on her own "free will" such as it is.

thouartgob
05-22-2008, 02:04 PM
I wonder what the overlap would be between these cabals and how together they can make our lives serve their god's purpose. I feel so useful knowing that they have plans for me :-)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominionists
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Family_%28Christian_political_organization%29

jag
05-23-2008, 07:25 PM
Will Wilkinson and Jeff Sharlet are a great combination: very dynamic interview. Their unique points of view are a great introduction to the topic. In general though, it's crucial for us to now hear the point of view of insiders. (There are probably a variety of different points of view even from inside.)

It's not that I distrust Jeff's careful analysis and sincerity, but this is not his tradition and hence he can only present the impressions and criticisms of an outsider. These impressions and criticism demand a response. Those who should be responding are probably not being invited into the dialogue and may hesitate to stick their necks out.

What exactly is the justification for secretiveness? Do they acknowledge the problems associated with secretiveness? etc. Are there things Jeff may have misunderstood during his time with the Fellowship?

More likely these prayer cells are "open" but have a mission of networking only those with the greatest power, hence the secretiveness sort of evolved. The present leader took the helm in 1968 or early 70's I believe, so was probably reacting to the "excesses" of that era by committing to getting more religious people into power positions...raised money to do so and never took the time to study his own religion professionally--except as it related to his goal. Beyond the influence of the leadership and those financing it, probably a lot depends on the mix of participants in each "prayer circle/breakfast."

Those who come may have to listen to a loose theology from organizers/leaders that they don't always agree with. Participants who understand mainstream Christianity should challenge any questionable "theology," but power networking or perks are involved so they probably don't. Perhaps the "theology" was fairly self-serving so they began to be won over. They stopped going to church where some ordinary folks would react to their exclusive or outrageously repellent thinking.

All in all it is similar to many other power-hungry groups. But now that some of their egregious thinking is exposed, I’d like to give them a chance to clean it up.

Bottom-line: we know who the players are now and can watch their behaviors. Merely participating in groups with questionable history or saying religious things that can easily be misinterpreted by outsiders is not enough to condemn them outright. And they should be challenged to swear off their past support for dictators and mass killings in the name of any ideology, let alone religious beliefs. It's hard to imagine anyone would think Jesus would be in that vanguard.