What the Religious Right Doesn’t Get About Religious Freedom

Sep 3, 2014

PHOTO CREDIT: Rob Rogers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

by Robyn Blumner

As Congress gets ready to reconvene, there’s a renewed sense of urgency in the Middle East. The Islamic State is wreaking havoc across Iraq and Syria with a frightening mission to wipe out religious minorities. This sectarian violence highlights why international envoys focused on religious freedom must become a priority in Washington.

Just a few weeks ago, President Barack Obama signed a bill creating a new position at the State Department — special envoy to promote religious freedom of religious minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia. Also, the Senate has yet to approve the president’s July nomination of Rabbi David Saperstein as the new ambassador-at-large for religious freedom. Filling these posts need to happen immediately.

Saperstein is well known for his strong support of religious minorities and church-state separation. He would demonstrate that our nation’s religious tolerance and secularism are key elements of peaceful co-existence and social stability, sharply contrasting with the Islamic State and other terrorist groups who use religious zealotry to justify violence.

But, a blogger for the Christian conservative Family Research Council is raising concerns over the rabbi’s nomination. A known progressive, Saperstein would represent everyone’s beliefs fairly and equally, including the non-religious and that’s got the religious right shaking in its jackboots.

FRC blogger Rob Schwarzwalder’s litany of complaints against Saperstein includes the rabbi’s criticism of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby decision. Saperstein objected to the court’s finding that corporations have religious freedom rights to deny employees contraceptive coverage in their health insurance in violation of the Affordable Care Act.

Coming from a minority faith, Saperstein is attuned to the religious oppression to come now that corporations — mostly representing the majority faith — may impose religious dictates on employees. His ambassadorship will undoubtedly urge freedom from religion as well as freedom of religion — something chilling to the FRC and its ilk.

The group I represent, Openly Secular, is calling on the Senate to quickly confirm Saperstein when the body reconvenes a week after Labor Day. Our organization, a coalition made up of more than two dozen secular organizations, supports Saperstein because we share a common mission: to stem intolerance and support diversity of belief, including that of atheists, agnostics, humanists and freethinkers.

Saperstein is a rabbi of global prominence who has led the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism for more than three decades. If confirmed, he will also be the first non-Christian to hold the position.

Schwarzwalder claims Saperstein’s Judaism is not a problem, but calls the rabbi’s liberalism “troubling.” He points with derision to Saperstein’s role as a board member for People for the American Way, an organization devoted to defending equality. In Schwarzwalder’s words, the group’s “‘progressivism’ includes the marginalization of faith in public life, unrestricted access to abortion-on-demand, and what People for the American Way calls ‘dumping’ the Defense of Marriage Act.”

Let’s analyze this together, shall we?

Schwarzwalder’s concern over PFAW’s “marginalization of faith in public life” is PFAW’s support for the separation of church and state. Who better than an ambassador for religious freedom to remind the world that religious displays by government dangerously alienate and disenfranchise minority religions and the nonreligious? In many parts of the world, Iraq and Nigeria to name current hotspots, when governments take religious sides, violence ensues.

PFAW’s support for “unrestricted access to abortion-on-demand” is the group’s support for a woman’s unfettered right to choose an abortion within the framework of Roe v. Wade, a position that reflects American law, but infuriates FRC. Conservative evangelical groups like the FRC have worked furiously to interfere with women’s access to abortion services around the globe.

Its efforts to thwart women’s reproductive rights include keeping the United States from ratifying the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women — making our nation one of the world’s last holdouts.

PFAW’s support for marriage equality for gays and lesbians and its opposition to the federal Defense of Marriage Act run counter to the FRC international agenda of promoting discrimination against gays and lesbians.

See, the FRC and conservative evangelicals have it all wrong. They view religious freedom as the right of governments to impose religiously grounded (as long as it’s Christian-based) public policy on their populations.

Saperstein rejects that view. Instead, he will stand for American principles that have demonstrably brought peace and stability to a pluralistic society: church-state separation, equality for all people, the protection of religious minorities, and the rights of people who subscribe to no religion at all.

This expansive view of religious freedom is crucial when so many of the world’s problems are an outgrowth of one religion imposing its views on others. With no further delay, Saperstein should be confirmed.

Robyn Blumner is executive director for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science and the project director for Openly Secular.

68 comments on “What the Religious Right Doesn’t Get About Religious Freedom

  • PFAW

    Who?? – ok, People for the American Way.

    why would anyone call us a “hate group”?

    That would be the Southern Poverty Law Center doing its job.
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  • The term “religious freedom” is self contradictory. There is no freedom in religion, only the mental and social shackles it places upon its adherents, – and anyone else within reach of the heavenly handcuffs. Those extolling the virtues of “religious freedom” are just those types who would happily have lit the flames underneath the likes of me some 400 years ago.

    It’s September already. Are we going to hear the first whines about the so-called “war on Christmas” yet ? Bill O’Reilly and Bill Donahue sharpen their knives and practise singing to the choir in their remarkably dissonant way !
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  • 5
    Katy Cordeth says:

    People For the American Way are the good guys here, folks. Just cos their name sounds like something Rick Santorum would have tattooed on his butt and Tea Partiers would emblazon on bumper stickers doesn’t mean PFAW has a similarly psychotic agenda.

    I think it’s actually pretty savvy for this group to have named itself using language of the sort usually employed by the other side. The reason hate groups like FRC almost always have the word ‘family’ in their title is so they can accuse their critics of being anti-family if they speak up. And people say Hamas hides behind children and women.

    Respec’ to People For the American Way for selecting a name which makes you think of Superman standing atop the White House roof tucking into a slice of apple pie and whistling ‘I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy’ through a mouthful of pastry flakes.

    I don’t blame people for being confused; Robyn Blumner’s article does seem to be missing a bit of background info. These Schwarzwalder and Saperstein names won’t mean much to anyone outside the States.

    As Wikipedia would say, “This article is a stub. Please expand it by adding links to other verifiable sources.”
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  • 6
    Barry.M says:

    These Schwarzwalder and Saperstein names won’t mean much to anyone
    outside the States.

    You’re not wrong there (I live in England). However, I looked them up on Google and although David Saperstein was easy to identify, I had to wade through recipes for Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte before I found Rob Schwarzwalder!
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  • 7
    alaskansee says:

    Respec’ to People For the American Way for selecting a name which makes you think of Superman standing atop the White House roof tucking into a slice of apple pie and whistling ‘I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy’ through a mouthful of pastry flakes.

    Yup, there’s nothing more American than an illegal immigrant sitting atop of a Neo-Greek building singing a British folk song that mocks Americans while eating fruit from Asia all wrapped up in Muslim style pastry.

    Mm mm mm, tasty! Maybe eating with your mouth full is American?

    Sorry just teasing Katy, we’re all African’s anyway, 😉
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  • I agree Mr DArcy with you about the term religious freedom. I hope that america will ratify Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Women all over the world are more and more targets of violence in any form, and I hope that soon they will stand by each other in fight for their freedom.
    I have never understood what “American way” is. It seems that there is no precise definition of that term but it change itself over and over regarding current policy, but I have also noticed that “american way” is some sociopathic state of americans where they are loyal to their nation. They cause disturbance all over the world defending their so called “american way” like they nation is somehow threatened (yet they live on an island physically separated from other nations, except Canada and Mexico to be rough). I understand that they need to keep their population in fear to manipulate them,…they like the term “american way” to be constantly threatened. Sadly. And that mode, with hand in hand with religion, is no surprise. It is a wrong way, but nationalism and religion are two brothers in arms for thousend and thousend of years. Brothers of evil. Freedom comes with responsibility. Religion have non, it is an way of life withot accountability (towards human being anyway), and I do not think that religion deserves term freedom.
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  • Religions that in this country enjoy no taxation, an undue amount of representation in our government, media and social consciousness and huge amounts of money donated from their parishioners have absolutely no room to complain about any constraint of freedom. They have far too much influence on everything as is, and have been left unchecked for centuries.

    When this statement is commonly used it is not to rail against an actual freedom being taken away, it is to complain about having to live on equal footing to everyone else because Christianity in particular has always had more influence than any other sect of religion in this country, and it’s always been an unfair amount. It was simply accepted and therefore commonplace. It never made it right.

    Every religion in the US is free to be as religious as they please, but there is a profound difference between being religious and trying to overtly convert everyone to your way of thinking with government sanction. This is what many people advocating their version of ‘religious freedom’ refer to, and the idea is simply and very profoundly wrong.
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  • I think the religious have this idea that ‘Freedom’ is where they get the right to force other NOT to have freedom. The idea that whatever they want is paramount and screw everyone else.

    Maybe using this logic serial killers and pedophiles should have a ‘right’ to practice the freedom of mass murder and kiddy fiddling too!

    After all if we take abortion rights they are after all only rights… they ALLOW women to have an abortion… if you insist you don’t want an abortion thats okay too… its only a right… its not bloody mandatory!

    So nobody is ever going to FORCE the religious to abort a child…. as far as I know thats only practiced in Ireland at the moment by observance of their ANTI abortion laws where a woman was recently FORCED to have an abortion to protect the child from being aborted by the mother… I mean seriously how twisted is that?

    In this case it seems abortion is ‘Mandartory’ in order to stop abortion from occurring….
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  • The religious right knows exactly what they are doing. They are not loyal to America, they are loyal to their indoctrination. There is no other option for them, this nation was created by god so any law, value, constitution, founding father, that goes against that, is not valid. They will do anything to that end, including lies and deceit and they will justify the means by the ends.
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  • In that case, it’s the freedom to choose your own shackles, rather than having someone else’s ill-fitting shackles forcibly put on you.

    While I’m an Atheist and I generally abhor religion, I still fight for the right to freely think what I and everyone else wants to think. Abolishing religion altogether is not freeing everyone to think, it’s forcing my values on other people, and basically the same thing that people like the Family Research Council want, just a different set of values.

    I want to continue to think freely, and I want to extend the ability to do so to everyone else in my country.
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  • 18
    Gordon Hide says:

    Yes, the originators of the idea first called it “freedom of conscience”. Much better I think. In the US calling it freedom of religion has turned it into religious privilege.
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  • 19
    Joseph says:

    This article reads like a reply to another article, but I don’t think it is a reply. As the Executive Director of anything, one would need to be effective as a communicator, I would think.

    Ms. Blumner, please define intialisms and acronyms when first used. Also, the reader should get a little more information whenever a person is mentioned, at least a first name. Way too many people are having to explain the content of this article in the comments section for the article to be called effective communication.

    Thank you. I’m just offering some tips. I have to generally write for idiots who need every detail explained, so writing here should be quite a bit easier. However, one cannot write an article assuming that everyone is as informed about an issue as the writer.

    Joseph
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  • Ernie in reply to me:

    In that case, it’s the freedom to choose your own shackles, rather than having someone else’s ill-fitting shackles forcibly put on you.

    The so-called “freedom” of a 5 year old to choose between San Quentin , Sing Sing, or (in the old days) Alcatraz. The shackles are just as binding.
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  • Ernie :

    While I’m an Atheist and I generally abhor religion, I still fight for the right to freely think what I and everyone else wants to think. Abolishing religion altogether is not freeing everyone to think, it’s forcing my values on other people, and basically the same thing that people like the Family Research Council want, just a different set of values.

    Oh don’t worry ! I am also in favour of people thinking freely ! It might help if their thinking had some basis in reality. IMO religion will not be abolished, it will die out in time, as is happening in large parts of north west Europe. No ” forcing” of values, just a dying out of superstitious nonsense.
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  • 23
    Katy Cordeth says:

    You’re only seeing the second part of Robyn Blumner’s article. Click on ‘Roll Call’ (just above the Twitter link) to access the full thing then shoot down to the end of the piece and click ‘1’ for page one.

    Come on RDnet techies, it’s been a day. Y’all should have fixed this by now. Has Nlib1 been given the heave-ho? When goof ups like this occurred in the past he was always on it like a shot.
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  • The original article explained it. It took me a couple of weeks to realize that the articles here on RD’s site are just snippets, not entire articles. Click the gray box next to “source” at the bottom of the story to actually read the full story. (I wish there was a note on this page saying so. “Source” isn’t the same thing as “read the full article”.)
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  • Perhaps a more legitimate way for her to celebrate her American status would be to turn on a light bulb that’s commercially viable. Or to use the internet, or talk about the intricacies of the double helix of dna, or to fly in a airplane. Maybe check out some pictures from the moon or some photos from Hubble that show the universe 13 billion years ago. Maybe to talk a little bit about the big bang, or the expansion of the universe, or the cosmic background radiation, or inflation theory. Maybe mention the fact that Americans very nearly have as many Nobel Laureates as the whole rest of the world combined.

    Lots of Americans are arrogant and think they’re god’s gift to the world, but a whole lot of them don’t and when I read a lot of the hyperbolic statements about Americans here, I just have to wonder how many Americans have you actually met. What makes the digs here at the U.S. population double lame is the fact that their going to be read almost exclusively by modest, liberal Americans that don’t think we’re that great in the first place. Your comment it’s self didn’t really prompt this reply, it’s more of a accumulation of comments. I think it’s been about three years since my last comment where I tried to point out that believe it our not, America actually does have a fairly impressive intellectual background and back handed consolatory comments about us all being from Africa anyway really aren’t necessary.
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  • I think that religion does lose its influence when things are going well in a society where everyone can at least aspire to a good life. If you do not need to depend upon God for your daily bread, then it’s not surprising that many forget Him or give little thought to issues of faith. However, that is not the same as it dying out. Those who are still religious will take their faith far more seriously since it will have to be a conscious choice. And, let us not forget that ages of unbelief are often followed in history by ages of faith and vice versa.
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  • david.graf.589

    I think that religion does lose its influence when things are going well in a society where everyone can at least aspire to a good life. If you do not need to depend upon God for your daily bread, then it’s not surprising that many forget Him or give little thought to issues of faith. However, that is not the same as it dying out. Those who are still religious will take their faith far more seriously since it will have to be a conscious choice. And, let us not forget that ages of unbelief are often followed in history by ages of faith and vice versa.

    The Christmas and Easter Syndrome ?And perhaps the odd Christening, marriage or funeral as well ? It’s not really surprising when Mammon has to be worshipped also. And if there is football, dancing celebrities, car chase films, rap music, and the countless other distractions nowadays, I sometimes feel a very wee bit sorry for Jesus. After all He only came to save us from the sins we hadn’t committed !

    Religion thrives on poverty and ignorance.
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  • 29
    Imperius says:

    And what the secular left doesn’t get about religion is this:

    Religions encode cultural practices that have proven themselves in the Darwinian struggle of history. Progressive secularism, on the other hand, being quite a new phenomenon, has yet to demonstrate that it can survive the test of time.

    For example, it’s well known that the most secular societies have well below replacement level birthrates, while the most devoutly religious have the highest birthrates. Thus, it stands to reason that the religious should displace the secularists if their memetic transmission systems aren’t disrupted. This is a key example where the time-tested wisdom of religion, of being fruitful and multiplying, has greater memetic fitness than our latest ideologies. Opposition to homosexuality, birth control, abortion, etc. all have similar reproductive utility. Rail all you want about the evils of religion, but if they outbreed you and you can’t convert them, then you lose.

    Viewed in this light, modern atheism is a kind of memetic parasite, which must prey upon more fecund religious communities to survive and grow. The problem, of course, is that this parasitism probably isn’t sustainable. We hear a lot about environmental sustainability, but the crisis of cultural sustainability of the progressive memeplex is rarely mentioned. Well, I just mentioned it. What say you, secular progressives?
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  • if they outbreed you and you can’t convert them, then you lose. imperius

    This is the dilemma faced by rival religions throughout the world. Economic imperatives demand an educated workforce. The age of the female breeding-machine is over for economically advanced countries so religion is increasing confined to failing and stagnant states. Boko Haram and the Islamic State may have temporary success but they are no model for the future.
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  • Religions encode cultural practices that have proven themselves in the Darwinian struggle of history. Progressive secularism, on the other hand, being quite a new phenomenon, has yet to demonstrate that it can survive the test of time.

    And most religious societies have a very motivated and united military force that can extend boundaries and colonize neighbours. Witness ISIS versus the Iraqi army. Unthinking religious zealots will out perform independent thinkers. In an evolutionary sense, there has been selection pressure on homo sapiens to produce a dumb follower worker bee type human, as the norm, with a small percentage of leader types.
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  • That’s because most Americans have never read the Constitution nor understand it or the context of the times it was written. Jefferson made it clear the the “establishment clause” was intended to prevent individuals OR the state from imposing religion on ANYONE or requiring anyone to join or practice any particular religion (or any at all) in order to participate in civic life… it was meant to protect “freedom of religious practice” and “freedom from religion” in all other circumstances.

    Beginning in the 1980s, the religious right devised and have successfully implemented a strategy to systematically take over schools across the country by taking over the local school boards. They have successfully accomplished this… one county at a time. Today, school boards are full of evangelical religious nuts who continually try to pass “rules” to teach creationism in the classroom, prevent expression that counters religion in any context, and spend school funds to bring in thinly disguised religious advocates to present “value discussions” to students which often include student “rallies” that are carefully structured to work the students up and encourage “action” to demonstrate their “values.” These school rallies are often followed by community “revivals” on the same evening they “hit” the public schools.

    This is further reinforced by the religious clubs and “after school” programs. They are “voluntary” but many students and their families do not know this. In addition, many working parents have no other source of after school childcare. This is “provided” while the local school board (evangelicals all) vote to cut the funding for district run and paid for after school care that includes help with math, reading, and writing. These groups all work together to indoctrinate the children… 4 to 14 is the motto…

    Wake up people– this is what is happening every day right under your nose!
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  • Secularism is not an ideology. To be an atheist is a natural state of a human being, so “secularism” is also that. Human beings are not born religious, they are forced into it. It is unnatural phenomenon, an invented one, and anti human in every aspect. And if any atheist manage to demonstrate knowledge and true order of the universe to a religious person it is a win situation. Howewer, an atheist never thinks in the terms of an competition regarding evolution and basic true of life existence. The true parasite in a healthy society is religion, and I think that this parasitism will continue as long as societies are based upon hierachy, instead on equal reciprocity, on equality of humans, on equal relationships. Religious people as well as capitalists have founded their lives on hunger for private property (in which they include people). Hierachy is the mean to provide them with those properties. Secularism, atheism, life without gods (authority) is a life worth living, and it is not an ideology (ideology is a term of hierachical society).
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  • I’m not sure that the Iraqi army is made up of independent thinkers. I’d say it’s an example of an army with a cause vs an army that doesn’t know who or what it is supposed to be loyal to and largely joined up because it was a steady pay cheque in a shattered country.

    One could argue that breeding is irrelevant these days – the better educated and economically strong side will win every time because one man can destroy a million if he has the right weaponry. Tellingly, that only holds true if his leaders aren’t stupid enough to sell that weaponry to the breeders.
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  • Imperius Sep 5, 2014 at 9:09 pm

    Viewed in this light, modern atheism is a kind of memetic parasite, which must prey upon more fecund religious communities to survive and grow.

    The rate of recovery from religion in secular societies, is a reversal of the spreading memes of evangelical religion.
    It is a confused viewpoint which sees the absence of assorted religious memes as a meme.

    The problem, of course, is that this parasitism probably isn’t sustainable.

    The lack of religious parasitism is parasitism and isn’t sustainable??????

    We hear a lot about environmental sustainability, but the crisis of cultural sustainability of the progressive memeplex is rarely mentioned. Well, I just mentioned it. What say you, secular progressives?

    Religions may promote reproduction in backward societies such as some African or Arab countries, but the consequential poverty, disease, and starvation reduce their numbers down again – as do the genocides and refugee problems, arising from warring religious factions.

    The indications are that where immigrants escape from theocratic countries, the majority of immigrants into secular societies, become progressively secular.
    The secular countries should certainly see that “citizenship” requirements for new immigrants are met, so as to avoid immigrants bringing with them, chunks of the destructive cultural baggage they have fled from when looking for a better life!
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  • 37
    Imperius says:

    In reality, atheism isn’t just the absence of religious memes. It includes a whole payload of of its own memes, which I’ve called “secular progressivism”. This usually includes things like “gay rights”, “women’s rights”, “reproductive freedom”, “rationalism”, “physicalism”, etc.

    As far as religious countries being “backwards”, to some degree that’s just your progressive memeplex speaking, according to which all of history is a process of development along an upward curve from premodern religious barbarism to postmodern secular modernity. We might call this way of thinking the Religion of Progress.

    And you still haven’t addressed my main point, which is that secular progressivism seems to act as a kind of memetic weapon of mass destruction, which suppresses the reproductive behavior of its host societies to the point that they are now ALL DYING OUT, ETHNICALLY CLEANSING THEMSELVES AND BEING DISPLACED BY MORE FECUND CULTURES. How is this “culture of death” sustainable?
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  • Imperius Sep 6, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    In reality, atheism isn’t just the absence of religious memes.

    So you assert, but atheism is “an absence of a diversity of religious memes”!

    It includes a whole payload of of its own memes, which I’ve called “secular progressivism”.

    This appears to be your description of western or European culture rather than anything specific to atheism.

    This usually includes things like “gay rights”, “women’s rights”, “reproductive freedom”,

    These are simply liberation from dogmatic religious repressions.

    “rationalism”, “physicalism”, etc.

    Rationalism and physicalism are simply respect for the realities of science – which is lacking in some religious cultures.

    As far as religious countries being “backwards”, to some degree that’s just your progressive memeplex speaking,

    That is just gobble-de-gook denying the evidence that theocracies are both culturally and scientifically backward as a result of placing dogma ahead of evidenced reasoning.

    according to which all of history is a process of development along an upward slope from premodern religious barbarism to postmodern secular modernity.

    This is just a simplistic strawman.

    We might call that way of thinking the Religion of Progress.

    It is religions and specifically Xtian religion (along with associated politicians) which claims humans (and in some – theistic evolution) to be a central or “higher” form of life.

    Science makes no such claims for the evolved human species, but merely describes what works consistently in the real world. Respect for its success, leads to the increasing use of its knowledge and products spreading its rational culture.

    And you still haven’t addressed my main point, which is that postmodern secular modern seems to act as a kind of memetic weapon of mass destruction, which suppresses the reproductive behavior of its host societies to the point that they are now ALL DYING OUT, ETHNICALLY CLEANSING THEMSELVES AND BEING DISPLACED BY MORE FECUND CULTURES.

    There is no evidence that “secular cultures are dying out”! If anything, their expertise, technologies, and cultures of rational thinking, are expanding across the world and dominating the economic and social life-support systems.
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  • . Imperious. reproductive behavior of its host societies to the point that they are now ALL DYING OUT, ETHNICALLY CLEANSING THEMSELVES AND BEING DISPLACED BY MORE FECUND CULTURES. How is this “culture of death” sustainable?

    I’ve read several of your posts at different times and they all seem to show a fixation with the prospect of the secular world ‘dying out’ due to reduced numbers!
    It would appear to me, that the large number of migrants and refugees seeking to be relocated on our shores will more than compensate for a reduced birth rate. ( those new settlers also reduce their birth rate once the technologies are available to them.)

    What is on your mind….exactly! Are you advocating a return to the large family? Would you like to see an increase to the 7 billion already here?
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  • In reality, atheism isn’t just the absence of religious memes. It includes a whole payload of of its own memes, which I’ve called “secular progressivism”. This usually includes things like “gay rights”, “women’s rights”, “reproductive freedom”,

    No, it’s not just a meme when you don’t have irrational reasons for not giving equal rights to these people you realise there has been great injustice inflicted on them and as a human become concerned that more than half the population are expected to be second class citizens. Can you give me a reason not based on dogma that should lead me to believe these people should not have equal rights?

    “rationalism”,

    Yes I try to be rational, I don’t think of it as an ‘ism’ though. You are trying to paint the act of being rational with the same brush as religion here. It is not, I’m sure you don’t want irrational pilots, doctors, politicians etc.

    “physicalism”, etc.

    Not sure what you mean here. Do you mean that I believe in the physical world and that where-ever possible your beliefs should map to reality. If so then guilt as charged. But again, this is just the consequence of loosing the dogmas that get in the way of being rational and wanting your beliefs to map reality.

    which suppresses the reproductive behavior of its host societies to the point that they are now ALL DYING OUT, ETHNICALLY CLEANSING THEMSELVES AND BEING DISPLACED BY MORE FECUND CULTURES. How is this “culture of death” sustainable?

    For one, our whole planet needs to move towards a negative population growth for a time, particularly in the West where we consume far more than the rest of the world.

    Essentially what you seem to be saying is their irrational culture is worse than ours so we’d better keep out breeding or they’ll take over. Is this a fair characterisation? If so then you’ll lock us into environment catastrophe if nothing else. I suggest we start looking for a better way.
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  • Modesti Sep 6, 2014 at 10:41 am

    Secularism is not an ideology. To be an atheist is a natural state of a human being, so “secularism” is also that.

    Secularism is no more a meme or an ideology, than an antibiotic is a bacterial infection!
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  • A small clarification from my part – I wrote a comment just AFTER FIRST time “Imperius” wrote hers/his. I do not know why it was published quite late. My comment referred to “Imperius” one. 😉
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  • Imperius. Your Venn diagram is screwed. Atheism is an optional sub set to secular progressivism and/or sometimes a sub set of rationalism. Delusions of grandeur on behalf of atheism, perhaps? Atheism may sometimes be authored, but its refreshing emptiness authors nothing per se, its very singular virtue.

    Fecundity is also a function of female education and empowerment, and paradoxically inverely related to infant mortality rates and general health. (Birth control is employed once mothers feel confident their off-spring will live.)

    Thus we can see Roman Catholic countries in Europe (Spain, Italy, Poland) with birthrates at the bottom end. Amongst Muslim countries birthrates strongly correlate with female emancipation and education. Turkish familes have 1.5 kids on average.

    Hand wavy explanations are most often incomplete accounts of complex social phenomena.
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  • 45
    Imperius says:

    In certain circles there’s an idea called “Gnon” – a reverse acronym for “Nature or Nature’s God”. Gnon is the cruel god of evolution and survival. You may not have to obey Yahweh’s laws, but you must obey Gnon’s laws or you’ll perish.

    I’m saying that even atheists aren’t as smart as evolution, and they’re disobeying Gnon. I’m saying that religions contain an evolutionary wisdom that modern secularists seem to lack. The most ignorant religious person often behaves in a more intelligent way than a high IQ progressive in a larger Darwinian sense, due to the wisdom encoded in their religion. Without such a memetic tradition, we have to try to work things out for ourselves and hope that Gnon doesn’t punish our mistakes. I looks to me like atheists are making mistakes, disobeying Gnon and getting punished for it.

    For one, our whole planet needs to move towards a negative population growth for a time, particularly in the West where we consume far more than the rest of the world.

    This may be another case of disobeying Gnon. The “whole planet” is a meaningless abstraction whose needs Gnon probably doesn’t care about. It could very well be that Gnon wants fewer Westerners around, but since they’re the most secular and progressive, that suggests Gnon disapproves of their memes.

    Remember, there’s no reward in the hereafter for being an atheist who bred responsibly. However, there will be punishment by Gnon if your genes and culture fail to replicate. Evolution will simply route around your kind, and life will go on.
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  • Imperius Sep 7, 2014 at 5:17 am

    In certain circles there’s an idea called “Gnon” – a reverse acronym for “Nature or Nature’s God”. Gnon is the cruel god of evolution and survival. You may not have to obey Yahweh’s laws, but you must obey Gnon’s laws or you’ll perish.

    It should be obvious, that anyone attributing anthropomorphism or god-like purposes to evolution, has no idea what they are talking about.

    I’m saying that even atheists aren’t as smart as evolution,

    Human scientific cultures, can plan for their own survival.
    Evolution has no plans for the survival of humans or any particular tribe or species! – With mass starvations and genocides, illustrating this in areas of theistic backwardness!
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  • I am coming to the view that religious freedom is an obsolete concept. You deserve certain freedoms, whether or not you desire them for religious reasons. For example, you should have the right to:

    wear strange clothes.
    cut on not cut your hair in weird ways.
    gather to sing and make other noises.
    enter public buildings.
    live anywhere you can afford.
    go to public school.
    be free from beatings and harassment.
    refrain from military service where you are expected to kill people.

    There should be no need for special religious freedoms. Religious “freedoms” generally are not really freedoms, but licenses to harm or impinge on the freedom of others.

    For example, I don’t think we have the freedom or religious freedom to have what we consider a suitable meal served to us on an airplane. By thinking of these as “religious freedoms” we end up granting special privilege to the religious.

    Religion is just one reason humans are denied fundamental human freedoms.
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  • 49
    Imperius says:

    Humans aren’t born with ability to read, write or use computers either; should we force them into doing those things? Your claims about religion sound like regurgitated propaganda to me. Religion has existed as long as civilization has, and long before that in its shamanic forms. Creating religions is one of the things human beings do, like language and tool-making. So to claim that atheism is “a natural state of a human being” is like saying “living naked in the jungle without tools or language is a natural state of a human being.” In fact, asciencism is a much more natural state for human beings than atheism; do you think the scientific way of thinking comes naturally to most humans? And if, as you say, secularism provides a life worth living, why are the societies where it prevails all dying out?
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  • Imperius Sep 8, 2014 at 6:06 pm

    And if, as you say, secularism provides a life worth living, why are the societies where it prevails all dying out?

    You repeatedly assert this “dying out myth”, but there is no evidence whatever that it is happening!
    All the evidence is, that those in backward theistic states, are queueing up to emigrate, and join the secular societies to obtain a better life.
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  • 52
    Imperius says:

    Right, people are immigrating from more religious societies into the secular societies, which will either: 1) make them semi-sterile like the natives or 2) make the societies less secular, and more fecund. I’m guessing you disapprove of option 2.

    The statistics are out there friend: secular nations and demographics all have sub-replacement birthrates, in some cases catastrophically so (see Singapore). This means they are DYING. Try to make a distinction between the effects of immigration (largely from less secular societies) and the behavior of the secular natives. The latter are in a slow death spiral, yet insist that they occupy the summit of cultural evolution, enlightenment and power. Global demographic changes should cure them of this delusion in fairly short order.
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  • @Imperius

    I’m saying that even atheists aren’t as smart as evolution, and they’re disobeying Gnon. I’m saying that religions contain an evolutionary wisdom that modern secularists seem to lack.

    No, religion says – ‘be fruitful and multiply’. What does evolution show us? That this leads, starvation, famine and death. It’s simple, the planet is finite we cannot keep breeding indefinitely. On the basis of your analogy you should at least understand that you cannot afford to attempt to out-consume your planet.

    The “whole planet” is a meaningless abstraction whose needs Gnon probably doesn’t care about.

    You have a point here, the planet does not give a fig about us. However my point was that we are overpopulating the planet and threatening ourselves in the process. I’m sure the Earth will cope without us just fine, I’d rather my son and his children had a suitable planet to live on though.

    Remember, there’s no reward in the hereafter for being an atheist who bred responsibly. However, there will be punishment by Gnon if your genes and culture fail to replicate. Evolution will simply route around your kind, and life will go on.

    When did I say fail to replicate? I said we need a negative population growth for a time this might for example mean people having only one or two children instead of 4 or 5. This does not mean 0. I am not suggesting eating your children (as God forces on those who displease him by the way.

    Isaiah 49:26: “I will feed those who oppress you with their own flesh; and they shall be drunk with their own blood, as with sweet wine”

    So much for the religious having a greater natural source of wisdom.
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  • The statistics are out there friend: secular nations and demographics all have sub-replacement birthrates, in some cases catastrophically so (see Singapore). (Imperius)

    Singapore is a very strange choice as an example of ‘secularism’. You are using the word in the sense of ‘non-religious’. There’s quite a lot of religion in Singapore. There’s a very low birthrate but there is a greater increase in population than in many notably religious countries. Immigration, largely, accounts for this but what evidence do you have to indicate that the immigrants are any more or less religious than other Singaporeans, have more children or that it has anything much to do with religion in any case?
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  • 55
    Rachael says:

    You people seem like very intelligent people, and I would like to share something with you all. I had a spiritual experience and saw the risen Jesus Christ and so have many other people. I mean science is a good thing but it is forever changing. And im sure your more intelligent to think that we were created by a piece of slim. Also if there was ufo’s and aliens wouldn’t we all know about them now. I truely think it is a way of decieving people by the new world order the illumanty. Please check it out and if you really want to disprove Christianty then disprove the bible. I love people and I want them to know the truth thats all have a lovely day and thank u for letting me share this with u.
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  • science is a good thing but it is forever changing.

    science is a good thing and it is forever refining…..fixed.

    I’m having a lovely day, thank you. You’re concern for truth is admirable; so much more to be cherished than its nemesis, faith.
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  • Rachael Sep 11, 2014 at 7:07 pm

    I mean science is a good thing but it is forever changing.

    Scientific methods of objective investigations and repeated testing by competent people don’t change. Only the details of the subjects investigated change. Science classifies the accuracy of claims based on evidenced investigation according to probability. – Speculation, hypotheses, theories and laws.

    And im sure your more intelligent to think that we were created by a piece of slim.

    You need to study biology to understand evolution (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Last_universal_ancestor), and to study astronomy and geology to understand the time-scales of planetary formation.

    Please check it out and if you really want to disprove Christianty then disprove the bible.

    The onus is on Christians to produce evidence for their claims. Unfortunately most simply believe what their preachers tell them without any understanding of the history of how the bible was written or (mis)translated. The Bible is a collection of bronze-age myths, rather like those of the ancient Greeks. The Old Testament developed from stories about earlier Canaanite gods, while the New Testament was edited from an assortment of conflicting gospel stories, by Constantine’s Roman bishops in 325AD. They rejected any gospels from Christian sects they did not like or texts which were not useful to the Romans.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gnostic_Gospels

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Council_of_Nicaea

    I love people and I want them to know the truth thats all

    If you want to know the truth, look up the details of the history and the science.
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  • phil rimmer
    Sep 7, 2014 at 5:17 am

    Birth control is employed once mothers feel confident their off-spring will live.

    Indeed it may be. It may also be employed because a woman chooses not to have off-spring.

    This has nothing to do with evolution, with memes, but that as humans we have, and can make, a choice.
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  • Seriously, I landed on this page, and this is the first comment I land on, perhaps chose in some subliminal sense.

    It is a confused viewpoint which sees the absence of assorted religious memes as a meme.

    So what is this absence of assorted religious memes, if not itself a meme?

    A truth?

    The truth?

    Or something else?

    Please, some enlightenment.
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  • ajw Sep 11, 2014 at 9:04 pm

    It is a confused viewpoint which sees the absence of assorted religious memes [atheism] as a meme.

    Atheism is an understanding of the improbability of the existence of gods or the supernatural, – creating a viewpoint where the world carries on as usual but from from which gods (but not their followers) are absent.

    So what is this absence of assorted religious memes, if not itself a meme?

    Perhaps this will help explain it.

    So what is this absence of assorted stamp-collecting memes, if not itself a meme?

    “Non-stamp-collecting” is NOT a meme! It is the absence of a meme!

    It is life without the meme of stamp-collecting being involved!

    There could even be a world with no stamp-collectors!
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  • As the Nigerian Cardinal Onaiyekan says in the video:

    cardinal-onaiyekan-religion-gets-misused

    ‘Boko Haram has the objective to impose the sharia in Nigeria but for the rest of us [the Catholics] that objective is impossible […]
    It is obvious that no religion can claim now to be the official religion in Nigeria [according with the Nigerian Costitution] […]
    [We have to think] the place of religion in our society, on one hand we don’t want to be a godless people, on the other hand we don’t want our religion to become the cause of killing one another.’

    And on this we can agree, I think. But …

    When the cardinal ansvers the question on human rights, especially gay rights and repressive Nigerian laws he says: ‘the law has the approval of the vast majority of Nigerians […] the important is what the Nigerians wants, is that not the rule of democracy?’

    And the journalist (Folly Bah Thibault) wasn’t swift enough to ask to the cardinal: what if the vast majority of Nigerians wants a law that forbids the Catholic religion, is that not the rule of democracy?

    So, in my opinion, What the Religious Right Doesn’t Get About Religious Freedom is … a mirror.
    In fact if the cardinal (he says of himself “a potential pope”) looks his own face in a mirror he can see his …
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  • Dear Rachael, I am not surprised that You are not at all upset by the fact that You have seen a ghost. You are obviously a religious person. But You will never find the truth if You think that seeing ghost is a healthy state of human biology,… and You do not question Yourself about Your opinions and ways of thinking (and hallucinations, because You see, it is not normal to see dead persons unless ones consciousness, and biology is somehow altered).
    People who are healthy human beings do not have an urge to find a truth, they live it, it is characteristic immanent to them. Only people that are not complete seek the truth, or seek in general, or want others to see things as they see it. Whole person have no urges to show anything to anyone, we live happily in a present moment. Only incomplete seeks. And You will never find truth if someone is serving You with the “truth” trough faith,… people who accept it are obedient and therefore irresponsible and dangerous.

    As Phil Rimmer said the truth and faith are incompatibile.
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  • 65
    aroundtown says:

    The religious, and profiteers who use them, form their conclusions based on absolutely nothing (no evidence) and we who believe in reason have to suffer them to our peril. It’s like a game of wack-a-mole, beat them down again and again and they keep coming back with the delusion in an attempt to continue in their manufactured comfort zone. It’s all hogwash and they fear the charade being un-clocked, but they cannot hide behind the curtain any longer and they know it.

    I appreciate that we are in essence playing a child’s game of pin the tail on the donkey, or whacking at pinatas, but as luck would have it we are connecting here and there and the religious are saying ow! that hurts. We need to keep swinging the bat of reason and if they don’t like it, that’s too bad. Time is on our side not theirs, and reason will prevail. Let us just hope that the tide turns before the repair operation becomes insurmountable.
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  • Alan4discussion Sep 12, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    “Non-stamp-collecting” is NOT a meme! It is the absence of a meme!

    It is life without the meme of stamp-collecting being involved!

    This is conflating two concepts (or two memes if you wish). As an example to clarify this:-

    Although in fact the concept goes back at least to Juvenal, let’s imagine a medieval European is the first person ever to think, “I wonder if there might be black swans somewhere in the world”. No-one else has conceived of a black swan before this person. He asks his friend “do you think there might be black swans?”. Let’s say this was in 1450. His friend says “don’t be silly, all swans that anyone has ever seen are white”. And the meme quickly goes viral, the ‘black-swanists’ thinking there might be, the ‘non-black-swanists’ thinking not.

    Prior to 1450 the concept, notion, thought, meme, ‘black-swanism’ did not exist, nor did ‘non-black-swanism’. But we, in 2014, can’t now say ‘non-black-swanism’ is NOT a ‘meme’.

    We can though say that neither ‘black-swanism’ nor ‘non-black-swanism’ was a ‘meme’ prior to 1450. In other words we need to qualify, by time, by place, by group etc.

    However prior to 1450 nobody could say “‘non-black-swanism’ is NOT a ‘meme'”, because they would have first to have created the concept (meme) firstly of ‘black-swanism’, then of ‘non-black-swanism’, (let alone the concept of ‘meme’) and in this hypothetical that did not occur before 1450. They might have uttered a noise that sounded exactly like someone saying this, but it would have just been a noise, not someone saying something.

    So we can say the “absence of assorted religious memes was the case” 1,000s of years ago; or is the case for the penguin population, say. We can also say there is an absence of assorted religious memes within the meme “folding the ends of loo-rolls into triangles in hotel rooms”; but the latter is still a meme. We could say the same of atheism, but because

    Atheism is an understanding of […]

    that still makes atheism a ‘meme’. In fact it is questionable whether there is an absence of religious memes within atheism. To be an atheist, one needs a conceptual grasp of what theism is. We may say an instance of the ‘God meme’ might be someone imagining a bloke with a big beard and lightning coming out his finger. Any atheist can imagine that, and possibly does automatically when they hear the word God. And before somebody first came up with the idea of God, neither ‘meme’ (atheism/theism) existed – there were no atheists nor theists.

    “Non-stamp-collecting” is NOT a meme – can be said of someone for whom the idea of stamp-collecting has never occurred. But of someone who obsessively collected stamps, and had to develop strategies to give up what he classed an addiction, then “Non-stamp-collecting” is a meme.

    Your argument is trying to say – the meme “Non-stamp-collecting” is NOT a meme. In this regard it’s worth looking at the many essays written in connection with the assertion ‘The concept horse is not a concept’ arising in response to Gottlob Frege’s work.

    There could even be a world with no stamp-collectors!

    There could even be a world with no black swans!
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  • I get Saperstein’s urge to bridge build. But labeling anyone a hate group based on a few tarnishing the reputation of the many leaves everyone in a bad position. From more than a few comments commenters have made, and even many that Dawkins has made, the new atheism could be labeled a hate movement.

    What is most needed is an open marketplace of ideas once again, where we can demean and insult and enlighten one another without fear of any harm other than to our egos.
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