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Summary: "Many in America's Catholic leadership and on the evangelical right claim there's a war on religion. In fact, they are waging a war on individual liberties."

Right-wing religion is waging a war on our civil liberties. (image: unknown)
Right-wing religion is waging a war on our civil liberties. (image: unknown)

Right-Wing Religion's War on America

By Rob Boston, AlterNet

14 April 12


rom a posh residence in the heart of New York City that has been described as a "mini-mansion," Cardinal Timothy Dolan is perhaps the most visible representative of an American church empire of 60 million adherents and vast financial holdings.

Dolan and his fellow clergy move easily through the corridors of political power, courted by big-city mayors, governors and even presidents. In the halls of Congress, they are treated with a deference no secular lobbyist can match.

From humble origins in America, the church has risen to lofty heights marked by affluence, political influence and social respect. Yet, according to church officials, they are being increasingly persecuted, and their rights are under sustained attack.

The refrain has become commonplace: There is a "war on religion." Faith is under assault. The administration of President Barack Obama has unleashed a bombardment on religion unlike anything ever seen.

The average American would be hard-pressed to see evidence of this "war." Millions of people meet regularly in houses of worship. What's more, those institutions are tax exempt. Many denominations participate in taxpayer-funded social service programs. Their clergy regularly speak out on the issues of the day. In the political arena, religious leaders are treated with great respect.

Furthermore, religious organizations often get special breaks that aren't accorded to their secular counterparts. Houses of worship aren't required to report their income to the Internal Revenue Service. They don't have to apply for tax-exempt status; they receive it automatically as soon as they form. Religious entities are routinely exempted from employment laws, anti-discrimination measures and even routine health and safety inspections.

Unlike secular lobbies, religious groups that work with legislators on Capitol Hill don't have to register with the federal government and are free from the stringent reporting requirements imposed on any group that seeks to influence legislation.

Religion in America would seem to be thriving in this "hands-off" atmosphere, as evidenced by church attendance rates, which in the United States tend to be higher than any other Western nation. So where springs this "war on religion" talk?

Twin dynamics, mutually related and interdependent, are likely at work. On one hand, some religious groups are upping their demands for even more exemptions from general laws. When these are not always extended, leaders of these groups scream about hostility toward religion and say they are being discriminated against. This catches the attention of right-wing political leaders, who toss gasoline on the rhetorical fires.

A textbook example of this occurred during the recent flap over coverage of contraceptives under the new health care reform. The law seeks to ensure a baseline of coverage for all Americans, and birth control is included. Insurance firms that contract with companies must make it available with no co-pays.

Houses of worship are exempt from this requirement. But religiously affiliated organizations, such as church-run hospitals, colleges and social service agencies, are dealt with differently. The insurance companies that serve them must make contraceptives available to the employees of these entities, but the religious agencies don't have to pay for them directly.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) attacked this policy and insisted that it violates the church's right of conscience. Furthermore, the hierarchy insisted that all private employers should also have the right to deny any medical coverage that conflicts with their beliefs - no matter what the religious views of their employees.

The issue quickly became mired in partisan politics. Claims of a "war on religion" expand on long-held Religious Right seasonal claims of an alleged "war on Christmas." The assertions of yuletide hostility paid great dividends to the Religious Right. They boosted groups' fund-raising efforts and motivated some activists to get involved in politics.

Religious Right leaders and their allies in the Catholic hierarchy are hoping for a similar payoff through their claims of a war on religion.

With the economy improving, Republicans may be on the verge of losing a powerful piece of ammunition to use against Obama. The party's Religious Right faction is eager to push social issues to the front and center as a way of mobilizing the base.

Many political leaders are happy to parrot this line. For the time being, they've latched on to the birth control issue as their leading example of this alleged war.

To hear these right-wing politicians tell it, asking a religiously affiliated institution that is heavily subsidized with taxpayer funds to allow an insurance company to provide birth control to those who want it is a great violation of "religious liberty."

In mid February, House members went so far as to hold a hearing on the matter before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, stacking it with a bevy of religious leaders who oppose the rule on contraceptives. Among them was Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., who heads up a new Catholic lobbying effort on this and other social issues.

Americans United submitted testimony to the committee, but Republicans on the panel denied the Democrats' request to hear testimony from Sandra Fluke, a student at Georgetown Law School who supports the contraceptive mandate, thus leaving the panel stacked with religious figures - mostly men - who are hostile to contraceptives. (See "No Fluke," April 2012 Church & State.)

The idea was to create the impression that the religious community - and by extension the American public - is up in arms over the regulation. In fact, the religious figures who spoke at the event were from ultra-conservative traditions that represent just one segment of religion in America. Many religious leaders and denominations support access to contraceptives, and several polls have shown support for the Obama administration's position hovering at around 65 percent. (Polls also show that many American Catholics disagree with the church hierarchy on this issue.)

This isn't surprising in a country where use of contraceptives is widespread. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 98 percent of women who engage in sexual activity will use at least one artificial form of birth control at some point in their lives.

Contraceptives are also often prescribed for medical reasons, such as shrinking ovarian cysts or relieving menstrual pain. Americans respect religious liberty, but most believe it can be maintained while safeguarding access to needed medications.

Most Americans, in fact, understand the need to balance rights. Religious organizations have the right to believe and preach what they want, but their ability to rely on government to help them spread these views is necessarily limited.

In addition, valid social goals can override an overly broad definition of religious liberty. In some states, fundamentalist Christian parents have been ordered by courts to take their children to doctors. The theory is that a child's right to live free of sickness and disease outweighs the parents' religious liberty concerns.

In addition, religious liberty has not traditionally been construed as license to trample on the rights of others.

"People who cry moral indignation about government-mandated contraception coverage appear unwilling to concede that the exercise of their deeply held convictions might infringe on the rights of millions of people who are burdened by unplanned pregnancy or want to reduce abortion or would like to see their tax dollars committed to a different purpose," wrote Erika Christakis, an early childhood educator and administrator at Harvard College, on a Time magazine blog recently.

The courts have long recognized this need to balance rights. In the late 19th century, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down plural marriage, which was then practiced by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Mormon practice, the court held, was disruptive to society and had no roots in Western tradition; thus it could be banned.

In the modern era, the court devised a test whereby government could restrict religious liberty if it could demonstrate a "compelling state interest" and that it had employed the "least restrictive means" to meets its goals.

That standard was tightened even further in 1990, when the Supreme Court handed down a decision in a case known as Employment Division v. Smith. The decision, written by arch-conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, held that government has no obligation to exempt religious entities from "neutral" laws that are "generally applicable."

Since then, many religious groups have turned to the political process to win exemptions from the law. Generally speaking, they've been very successful. In a ground-breaking 2006 New York Times series, the newspaper chronicled the various exemptions from the law granted to religious organizations covering areas like immigration, land use, employment regulations, safety inspections and others.

The Times reported that since 1989, "more than 200 special arrangements, protections or exemptions for religious groups or their adherents were tucked into Congressional legislation…." The paper noted that other breaks "have also been provided by a host of pivotal court decisions at the state and federal level, and by numerous rule changes in almost every department and agency of the executive branch."

But religious groups, like any other special interest, don't get everything they want. On occasions when they've failed, some religious organizations have been quick to complain that discrimination or a hostility toward religion did them in. In fact, political leaders might have simply concluded that certain demands of religious groups are not in the best interests of larger society.

Is there any evidence that Obama is stingier with exemptions than past administrations or that the president has it in for religious groups? Not really.

Under Obama, the "faith-based" initiative, an idea that goes back to the days of George W. Bush, has continued to flourish. Obama even stepped back from a vow he made while campaigning in 2008 to require religious groups that receive support from the taxpayer to drop discriminatory hiring policies.

Mother Jones magazine reported in February that if Obama is hostile to religion, he has an odd way of showing it.

"But all the outrage about religious freedom has overshadowed a basic truth about the Obama administration: When it comes to religious organizations and their treatment by the federal government, the Obama administration has been extremely generous," reported Stephanie Mencimer for the magazine. "Religious groups have benefited handsomely from Obama's stimulus package, budgets, and other policies. Under Obama, Catholic religious charities alone have received more than $650 million, according to a spokeswoman from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, where much of the funding comes from."

Obama's Justice Department hasn't always pleased religious conservatives, but it has hardly been hostile to faith. The department sided with the state of Arizona in defending at the Supreme Court a private school tax-credit scheme that overwhelmingly benefits religious schools, going so far as to assist with oral arguments before the justices. When a federal court struck down the National Day of Prayer as a church-state violation in 2010, the administration criticized the ruling and quickly filed an appeal.

"If Obama is 'warring' against religion, he's doing it with a popgun and a rubber knife," Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, told The Washington Times recently. "On core religious freedom issues, they have been moderate, to a fault…. It's not much of a war."

Other observers note that in a nation where the government's regulatory touch over religiously affiliated institutions is exceedingly light, it's hard to take claims of a war on religion seriously.

"People who claim the government is hostile to religion are either insincere or uninformed," said Steven K. Green, director of the Center for Religion, Law and Democracy at Willamette University. "Religious entities enjoy a host of benefits and advantages that their non-religous counterparts lack.

Green, who was legal director at Americans United during the 1990's, added, "At the same time, many religious entities that enjoy exemptions from neutral regulations receive subsidies from the government for their operations. Rather than there being a 'war on religion,' the government surrendered its regulatory forces a long time ago." your social media marketing partner


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+72 # papabob 2012-04-14 17:42
Things have to be more simple. The simplest is what Jesus "actually" said. I don't mean the words that were put into his mouth b people across the centuries, and I don't mean how "organized" religions tell you the correct way to conduct yourself.
If you believe in him, he's your God, and what you do is right; if you don't, that's your business. Nobody has the right to tell you how to worship - nobody!

What's happening now is not a war on religion. If there is a war, it's against being told what to do and when to do it - by the organizers, be they any of the worlds religions that are run by people instead of the words of Jesus.
+19 # Ninure 2012-04-15 05:43
I doubt if anybody (Christians in particular) could put it better than you just did, papabob.

It's too bad there aren't enough of the louder voices of "reason" hearing that...
+15 # PGreen 2012-04-15 09:11
As well as arguably being a philosophy for the betterment of humanity, religion has a tradition of being used for social controls. (Hence the Marxist condemnation of it, which some consider throwing out the baby with the bathwater.) The first council of Nicaea, which created the Catholic Church, was used as a tool to organize the Roman empire. The council made a decision to spread Christianity based on emphasizing acceptance of the divinity of Christ rather than adherence to the teachings of Christian morality, as certain other groups (such as the Gnostics) preferred. This decision established the four gospels and rejected others.
But the trivialization of the teachings of Christ within some Christian groups continues to this day. (Remember Matthew 19:24, anyone?)
0 # dkonstruction 2012-04-17 14:16
the full quote is actually:

Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions.
Karl Marx, Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right

unfortunately the fundamentalists have switched from Opium to Crac
-8 # The Voice of Reason 2012-04-17 21:35
Realistically, the only cure for corrupt religion is for God to send a new Messenger, as was done in the past. Not to abolish the truth, and let people pander to base instincts (which you are free to do if you like).

Fortunately, God sent a new Messenger in 1844; but the reception by the religious leaders was violent ... again. Baha'u'llah appeared amid the most corrupt religion on the earth: Islam. The Islamic religious leaders are still trying to extirpate His teachings of unity and concern for our fellow human beings.

If you want communism to guide you, you should know they are run by criminals. But if you want true guidance, perhaps a look into the Baha'i Writings is worth an effort, no matter how small.

As Abdu'l-Baha said, "So let us try, as an experiment, peace, and if the results of peace are bad, then we can choose if it would be better to go back to the old state of war!"
+2 # jerryball 2012-04-15 19:34
Couldn't be more right. Some of this Organized Religion are structured to be of the greatest service to Organized Power Over Others. Many of these groups worship a Trickster God of Dystheism. Their God is an unworthy God of Wrath against Humanity and superstitious Deism. Their Priests are experts in unbridled power to deceive and inveigle their flocks to unworthy worship of false values and should be considered as cults rather than churches. They are Pharisees of deceit and do not deserve our mercies.
+58 # Rick Levy 2012-04-14 23:47
Great commentary, but the one word that was missing regarding religious organizations in the U.S. that demand rights for themselves that they would deny other Americans is "hypocrisy".
+47 # Nominae 2012-04-15 09:00
@ Rick Levy

Well stated ! "Hypocrisy" indeed. And, for the past three decades at least, it has been as predictable as sunrise to determine what right wingers and religious groups are actually "up to".

Pretty much whatever they are screaming at others for doing ("Activist Judges", Vote Tampering", "War(s) on Christmas, Religion, etc.,) is almost always EXACTLY what they themselves ARE doing.

It is such kindergarten level stuff that it's astounding to believe, but the fact is that it has been WORKING for them !

The right screamed about the word "Liberal" until Liberals themselves started to treat it as a "dirty word" and decided that they were all "progressives".

I just wish the Left would show the cojones to stop caving in to sand-box bullies from the right-wing kindergarten schools.

And, for representatives and protectors of institutionaliz ed child molesters to pose an aura of "sanctity" anywhere at any time is *beyond* "hypocrisy" !
+9 # BLBreck 2012-04-15 15:37
To put it a certain vernacular: AMEN, Nominae, et al!
+5 # 2lilluc 2012-04-16 07:18
For a long time I have thought that politicians, religious leaders, corporate entity's, all act like kindergarten bullies on the playground. If they weren't playing with our lives it would be comical! What a bunch of big babies! Hypocrisy is certainly abundant! Talk about skeletons in the closet...when theirs come out its..oooops, but with anyone else, it's...bad christian, bad American, "liberals" out to destroy the fabric of our society...and if you don't believe what the right wing extremists believe, then again, you're a bad christian, a bad American, waging war against religion. If anyone is waging a war, it's them! I thought christianity was about kindness, tolerance, compassion, inclusiveness, non-judgement, acceptance, humanity, peace and love. In my book, all good human traits regardless of politics or religion.Someth ing to aspire to...yet not words I would use to describe extremist religious organization or this republican party!
+18 # Doubter 2012-04-15 11:56
I am too polite to say publicly what I think of institutionaliz ed religion.
As far as “belief,” or “faith” the part of their definition that states: “accepting something without sufficient proof or evidence” is what turns me off on them, though I recognize that my lack of accomplishment probably derives from lack of faith and/or belief. (guess I threw the baby out with the bath water)
Religionists are accustomed to being constantly lauded for their good works (brainwashing children?) and squeal like stuck pigs when criticized. - I had best stop here.
+20 # BLBreck 2012-04-15 15:47
“belief,” or “faith” the part of their definition that states: “accepting something without sufficient proof or evidence”

Which is exactly why people who believe this way should not have too much power to make decisions for a nation!
+35 # giraffee2012 2012-04-15 00:50
The spin-masters -- aka Karl (Marx) Rove makes me sick. And now their children -- aka bullies --- follow "their leaders" -- who are taking over our democracy -- in the "name" of religion. These people are not religious but hide under that name just as the pedi- file priests his under the C. church.

I am so against "organized" religion - when this crap hits my democracy and constitutional rights.

Lastly, these crazies fill their churches with people who believe in "social" issues like abortion rights (or not) who decide to VOTE these creeps into office - in spite of the fact that all these creeps want is to get these folks to vote against their (the flock's) best interests.

The war is on giving the rich tax breaks to create jobs and yes, they do create jobs, but NOT IN THE USA


How can anyone vote Against Obama when "they" don't say "how" "they" will fix all they accuse Obama of doing wrong? And some of these believers are college grads - even grads of Harvard!
+11 # DurangoKid 2012-04-15 09:24
How is it possible to conflate Karl Marx with Karl Rove? These two people are about as diametrically opposed as it is possible to be! Marx is radical; Rove is reactionary. There's a difference.
+9 # Cassandra2012 2012-04-15 14:04
right wing *radical* extremist =Rove?
+3 # DurangoKid 2012-04-16 11:16
Radical comes from the Greek word for 'root', as in getting to the root causes of an issue. Radicals are in search of the truth no matter where it leads or whose toes get stepped on. Extremists on the other hand are guided by the motto 'reducto ad absurdum', pardon my Latin. Their main interest is to prevail, facts be damned. What impinges on others on their way to victory is externalized. Not unlike a two-year-old screaming for lollies in the supermarket check-out line.
+3 # futhark 2012-04-15 17:05
Holocaust-era diarist Victor Klemperer equated the Nazis and the Communists in their use of propaganda and hierarchical power structures constructed to inhibit negative feedback from the masses. He then had to endure 15 years of living in post World War II East Germany. Neither Karl Rove nor Vladimir Lenin were really interested in hearing from those not in the inner circles of power.
-1 # dkonstruction 2012-04-17 14:21
Then why did Lenin come to critique the bureacratizatio n and undemocratic nation of the Soviet Union and call for no one person (whether it be Trotsky or Stalin...the two leading candidates at the time) be given the reigns of power, renewed his early call for "all power to the soviets" and call for the soviet union becoming a multi-party democratic state? I am not now nor have i ever been a Leninist (have never believed in the "vanguard party" idea) but to equate Lenin with Karl Rove is simply not accurate.
+60 # Patch 2012-04-15 00:50
Nothing is more dangerous, more damaging, more mind-numbing, more divisive than religious fundamentalism of all stripes. Religious organizations use spirituality (belief in God, a Higher Power, Creative Force) to further their political ends. Top among these are the complete subjegation and control of women. Religion, distinct from spiritual belief, turns the mind into pablem and when people don't think they don't protest.
+13 # James38 2012-04-15 08:26
I agree, Patch, but here is a quote from Wikipedia about that little red line under one of your adjectives: "Pablum is a processed cereal for infants originally marketed by the Mead Johnson Company in 1931. The trademarked name is a contracted form of the Latin word pabulum, meaning "foodstuff", which had long been used in botany and medicine to refer to nutrition, or substances of which the nutritive elements are passively absorbed. The aspect of passivity had already given a negative connotation to metaphorical uses of the word pabulum, and the marketing of Pablum influenced the usage to refer to something bland, mushy, unappetizing, or infantile...." How appropriate!
0 # Dave_s Not Here 2012-04-22 03:27
Pablum was invented by Doctor Allan Brown (who was my doctor until I was ten years old), of the hospital for sick children in Toronto, Canada.
+36 # James38 2012-04-15 02:52
The simplest thing that "persons of faith" tend to ignore is that belief in something does not make it true, nor does it mean it is true. Faith or belief in any concept has absolutely nothing to do with the truth or lack of truth of the concept.

It is not a “war on religion” to point this out, but it certainly helps get things in perspective. The power of a church leader comes from the size of the membership of the church, augmented by the amount of money the church has. Obviously no special status or immunity should be granted to the church in its dealings with the government. It is operating with the same social energy of any other business or interest group. To accord it any special status is to dabble in faith, and that is not the business of government.

This is why we have and need separation of church and state.

+42 # James38 2012-04-15 02:53

US citizens come in all varieties from religious to agnostic to atheist. Government officials from the President on down must respect all citizens equally, and treat them all fairly with the same standards. Government deals with factual projects, infrastructure, defense and security, education and health care; and faith based positions have no place in the work of government. The awful problems of the Taliban come from the imposition of arbitrary religious rules on all citizens. American religious groups that want to dictate their beliefs on the whole society are justifiably called the “American Taliban”. US democracy has no place for such dogmatism.
+27 # The Saint 2012-04-15 05:15
Very good. The irony is unbelievably heavy. Individual liberties? Let's begin WITHIN the Catholic Church: a virtual monarchy and patriarchal hierarchy run at the top by a Vatican City elite. Then extend to the implications of Catholic and right-wing evangelical social and "moral" teachings for the reproductive freedoms and rights of millions of women, for gays, and for children. Check the NY Times article on Niger and population. Empowering women economically, politically and personally is crucial.
+22 # Peace Anonymous 2012-04-15 05:41
Like hogs at a trough all special interests groups are diving in to fill up at the taxpayers expense.It seems that almost every article you read isn't about doing the right thing, it is about doing the thing which profits a specific group or individual. And religion has been a major tool used throughout the course of history to separate people from their money. I, like George Carlin, have never been able to figure out why God needs so much of our money? (Come to think of it I don't understand why Goldman-Sachs needs so much either?) I have a beautiful relationship with God these days. And I am very grateful for the fact that He is actually every bit as interested in my well being as I am in His.You see several years ago He suggested we eliminate the middle-man and I have come to actually know Him, rather than some guy who pretends to speak on His behalf for an hour a week on Sunday morning. Religion, politics, and our money. "Sorry Bishop, the LORD is my shepherd, get your hand out of my pocket." God is good; religion....not so much.
+31 # szq5777 2012-04-15 05:43
There is no war on religion! These right-wing idiots are insane. The religious right wants the United States to become a theocracy! Like a Christian version of Saudi Arabia! They want no religious freedom in this country. It is thier way or the highway! The Founders of this country would be shocked! They were educated men and knew what a theocracy was. If they wanted a theocracy they would have established one!
I am a Christian and Jesus is my savior, but I also believe in the seperation of church and state! How can you say you want religious freedom and at the same time want the government controling everyone's behavior regarding personal issues. The hypocracy of these vicious idiots is insane.
I hate republicans! I will proudly vote for Obama in November.
+23 # Wind in His Hair 2012-04-15 05:45
I think of Waco, Texas and the little children burning and wonder how could a government do this? They could have picked David Koresh up any time he went to town.
It was a slaughter of innocents. But was it a war, no, just fools who let power go to their heads. Just like the fools who dance to the music sung by small narrow minds like Little Ricky Santorum's.
+36 # RMDC 2012-04-15 05:46
The US is a perfectly Orwellian socieity. The aggressors always claim to be the victims and the media and most people believe them. No one is making a war against religion in the US. But many religious leaders are making war against America and Americans, especially women.

What business is it of a religion to invade a woman's reproductive rights. Who gave them the power to control sex and reproduction?

Religious leaders who enter politics and try to push the nation to the political right wing don't have any respect from me.

Jesus was a peace maker. When I see all religious leaders call for a national strike against war, prisons, poverty, low wages, racial and gender discrimination, that will be the day I sign up for a religion. Until then, I'll keep my distance.

Ironically the really good priests like Roy Bourgeois are being expelled from the priesthood for standing up for the social goals I just named.

Many churches and religious leaders in America are on the wrong side of history. This is not new but it is still a great atrocity.
+11 # 666 2012-04-15 12:31
I'd say that North Korea is the perfect Orwellian society. However, I am convinced that many on the right (GOP & Dem) have been reading & applying the lessons of "1984" for years. In the end, it's exactly what the right wants, a country of slaves to bleed dry while the elite do as they please.
+38 # riverhouse 2012-04-15 05:52
It is actually the religious liberty of the rest of us that is under assault by the religious fundamentalists from the Catholic Church and the evangelicals. They should not be allowed to impose their religious beliefs upon the rest of us. Freedom of religion means the right to one's personal beliefs or to no religious belief. It does not mean one set of believers has the right to establish religious principle to inflict upon others.
+28 # James38 2012-04-15 08:59
This is why it is perfectly reasonable to identify such religious fanatics as "The American (Christian) Taliban". They need to be called out as terrorists. They want to destroy religious freedom and impose a dictatorship. In their case, as in that of the Muslim Taliban, their preferred type of dictatorship is a theocracy. They have no understanding of nor respect for the meaning of US citizenship or the Constitution. They constitute the enemy within, and nobody who understands this would support them. All such religious fanatics need to take a step back and realize that they must, as US citizens, stop trying to impose their religious opinions on others. Keep it private, folks. You are the ones declaring war on basic freedom. If the rest of us fight back and you then squeal about a "war on religion", you are just being hypocrites. Your are playing the victim in your attempt to oppress a free society. That is an outrage, and is morally reprehensible. That is what dimwits like Santorum need to understand. You can believe in invisible sky fairies if you really want to, but telling me that your sky fairy wants me to swallow your opinions is VERY far out of line. You tell me any such thing, you definitely have a war on your hands.
+14 # kitster 2012-04-15 06:39
the war on religion is just another paper tiger raised by the right to attack an administration that they don't like because they couldn't win last time. plus, and i mean a big plus, potus o is an uppity african american. forget that he's really just a moderate republican in donkey's clothing.

the real religious "war" is an intermural kerfuffle characterized by the condemnation of pachy poseur romney's mormonism that has come from the religious, hypochristian right of his own party.

nothing obama has done, or could do, can please these sore losers. 'cause everything he's done is a "war" on them. just fill in the blanks.

but if you think the blather from these boobs is bad now...and i include the out-of-touch catholic bishops in that bunch...wait 'til obama wins again.

and he will.
+29 # walt 2012-04-15 06:55
Perhaps they protest too much and fail to see all the benefits afforded to churches.

My gripe with all Christian churches is this. They are making noise over birth control which is an option and not forced on anyone. Why are they not speaking out about war and U.S. drone attacks killing innocent people around the world? One of the clearest admonitions of Christ was against the use of violence, yet many churches pray every Sunday for "our troops."

Not only is the violence wrong, but we are sapping from our own people in need to support the wars and military. That is unconscionable.
-13 # MidwestTom 2012-04-15 08:17
Walt. you bring perhaps the strongest point of discussion in this whole lint. Why are churches not protesting? Probably the biggest reason is that under the Patriot Act and the American Defense Act anyone can be detained for speaking against the government. If the guilty party is a church, they can lose their tax exempt status. Our government does no0t allow criticism of it's actions. During the 2004 election several churches were threatened with loss of tax exemption if they continued openly supporting Bush. However, in the 2008 election many of the Block churches around here ran voter registration tables inside the church beside life size pictures of Obama.
-1 # Doubter 2012-04-16 00:42
I won't give you a minus vote because you have just about the right amount.
+14 # Regina 2012-04-15 12:03
Misogyny is also wrong, and it drives much of their bogus gripes, including birth control which they conflate with abortion. They're joining their war on women with their claim of a war on religion because they firmly believe in the second-classedn ess of women as mere "helpmeets," not fully free human beings. Who needs Sharia for sexism?
+12 # dick 2012-04-15 07:18
Grow up, folks. There is no "Easter Bunny."
+18 # James38 2012-04-15 09:05
Watch it dick. There may be no "Easter Bunny", but MY Sky Fairy is the only really real and truly true Sky Fairy, and if you think you can tell me your Sky Fairy is better, you are an agent of the Devil. The rest of them Sky Fairies is just Easter Bunnies in disguise. Beware, my Sky Fairy will smite your butt.
+26 # lcarrier 2012-04-15 07:22
Individuals do not get the tax breaks afforded corporations and religious organizations. Agnostics and atheists should be the ones complaining about discrimination, but because these are usually rational people who don't want to engage in mud-slinging and finger-pointing , they just let it go.
+18 # James38 2012-04-15 09:22
Bad mistake to "just let it go." I did that for years, since I had been creeped out by the whole political/relig ious mudbath, but then I began to see how the very concept of a free society and the constitution was being eaten away by religious fanatics and corporate flacks, and I had to wake up. I am back in the fray now, and I am going to fight back as hard as I can against these purblind anti-democracy fruitcakes. Addiction to "faith" of any sort is worse than addiction to heroin or tobacco. At least drug addicts just want to be left alone. The religionuts want to dominate all of us, and destroy the country in the process. The separation of church and state needs to be fully enforced. Any church that spends a dime on political advertising or sermonizes about imposing religious beliefs on society needs to lose its tax status and be hammered hard. Religious people need to wake up to the fact that they have NO RIGHT to impose their opinions on anybody else.

I am willing to "respect" religious freedom as long as religious people respect my freedom. Causes like getting prayer out of schools and eliminating the ridiculous phrases "under god" and "in god we trust" from the pledge of allegiance and the currency are important places to start. Those were the camel getting his nose under the edge of the tent. Now the camel is IN the tent, and we have a problem.
+8 # James38 2012-04-15 15:30
It just makes me ill that the phrase "under god" was ever inserted into the Pledge of Allegiance. I was a freshman in high school when that happened in 1954. I had always gotten a feeling of pride and community from reciting the Pledge in unison in class every day. Then they told us about the change. I was young, but I felt sick. I couldn't say it. I was embarrassed to stand silent, so I would mouth the words and silently mumble nonsense over the "under god" part. It was horrible. I was aware enough to feel all this partly because a minister who led a youth group I attended was a wise man, and had encouraged us to discuss our thoughts openly. We discussed our doubts about the existence of god, and most of us were very relieved to discover it was "allowed" to be agnostic, at least, and that we had plenty of time to think further. Then this came along. I was very glad when the recitation was no longer required.

We need to realize that this phrase is a contradiction of the freedom of religion part of the constitution, and eliminate it. The worst part for me is to think of new citizens being forced to say that as part of the pledge to their new country. It is just so wrong. Land of the free, but you have to declare "faith" in god to become a citizen. Awful. That decision must be personal and private to have any meaning at all. Connecting it to being a citizen is a violation of our rights.
0 # Dave_s Not Here 2012-04-22 03:38
I was a Canadian, in a Florida public school then. I got out of it by just standing there silently, hands at my side. I had a good excuse... being a citizen of another country.

I did get called a communist more than once.
-1 # James38 2012-04-23 10:21
God damned godless commies. Yep. How typically "christian" that kind of attack is.

The cruelty and prejudice, equaling racism in its vitriolic unreason, so often coming from the "religious right" is frightening. Those people haven't the remotest idea what "Christ's" teachings were all about. Common sense decency and the "Golden Rule", and simple basic respect for others are the minimum one should expect from any person professing any kind of decent religion. The totalitarian attitude not only contradicts the fundamental teachings of any sane religious philosophy and common sense, they show that the religion has been subverted and perverted into a tool of social domination and control. Some versions of religion have created a god that demands violent subjugation of “unbelievers”. The whole world needs to draw a line, saying clearly that ANY attempt to force compliance with a particular set of beliefs is unacceptable.

Where no proof is possible, no enforcement is tolerable.

This rule needs to be incorporated into the definition of an acceptable nation. The United Nations needs to realize that any form of totalitarianism is incompatible with the very concept of living on a planet together, and having an organization called “The United Nations”. Dictatorship, whether secular or sectarian, is not something that should be tolerated. It simply needs to be seen as the source of most war and oppression, and be summarily outlawed.
-1 # James38 2012-04-23 10:23

No dictator should ever be accorded the honors or respect due to the head of a government. Any society in danger of falling under the control of a dictator of any sort needs to be helped by the world community. It is the same concept as international efforts to control a communicable disease. The illness can spread and cause needless misery. Cooperative effort and resolve is needed to prevent such unnecessary tragedies.

We are not dealing with a war on religion, we are dealing with a war in the name of religion - a war on freedom and real religion as it was originally intended by peace oriented religious leaders. The image we have of Christ is of a person who would be horrified at the vile, inhumane, greedy nastiness being perpetrated in "His" name.
+25 # NWPatriot 2012-04-15 08:01
The religionists rail against the government as "interfering" with religion. Why don't they refer to the words that the Bible assigns to Jesus: "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's...and to God, the things that are God's." THIS is a basic proclamation for the separation of Church and State. And it comes from the RELIGIONISTS' SOURCE! The mandate of non-interferenc e works in both directions: The government may not interfere in religion, but also, RELIGION MAY NOT INTERFERE IN GOVERNMENT!
-25 # Joeconserve 2012-04-15 08:22
Question: Is there a Left Wing Relgion? Is it that one where there are no rules, every member sees truth as relative,anythi ng goes,reproducti ve rights are solely within the control of the female, life after death is well maybe not or you have a choice as to how you return for another go at it, or maybe it's just a human thing? Perhaps it's nothing more than an opportunity group for the likes of Mr. Boston to get his 15 minutes among his Latte group.

I recommend you all get the book, "Adam & Eve After the Pill" by Mary Eberstadt. It's a great read. It will help you put the current conventional wisdom in perspective. If the title bothers you, hide your eyes and open the book quickly.
+10 # PGreen 2012-04-15 10:01
If I take your meaning correctly, the answer is, "sure there is." The religious distinction you refer to exists between orthodoxy (or so called, "fundamentalist " practices) and Polydoxy. (Note that heterodoxy simply refers to heretic, or dissension from orthodoxy, whereas polydoxy refers to many creeds.) The term is descriptive of a style of religious thought and belief rather than a particular practice itself. In Christianity, left-wing religion is sometimes referred to as simply, "progressive Christianity," or the "Christian left." Examples of Christian religions that are generally more polydox, or progressive, include the Society of Friends and the Unitarians. Also, "Liberation theology" was a Latin American Catholic movement of economic emancipation based loosely on interpretations of the teachings of Jesus. (Like the Gnostics centuries earlier, the church soon put an end to it.)
+4 # tclose 2012-04-15 14:56
Add also the Bahia faith to your list of progressive religions (partly Christian).
+6 # Douglas Jack 2012-04-15 09:03
'Religion' from the Latin 'religio' means 'to relate' implying personal / group reflection & interaction or exchange among a diversity of beliefs. Religion does not imply church dogma, or rigidity of beliefs. Like many other words 'religion' is perverted to the exact opposite of its original meaning because of control & monetary issues.

Humanity's 'indigenous' (L = 'self-generatin g') ancestors based society in critical mass grouping (50, 100 to 150 individuals) of individuals, families & extended families in multihome buildings. Longhouse (apartment-like ) or Pueblo (townhouse-like ) held distinct private home compounds but as well specialized service access to community kitchens, child or specialized production space.

Critical-mass 'caucusing' (Iroquois = grouping of like-interests) is equivalent to creating an intimate family based 'corporation' (L 'corps' = 'body') where the primary 'economy' (Greek 'oikos' = 'home') is mutual-aid & production. Time-based accounting in Production Society specialties include all contributions by females / males in progressive ownership from youth to elder. 100 people interacting this way represent a decent powerful 2,000,000$ of earning & spending / year.

Worldwide indigenous people feel most proud of their ability to economically 'welcome' & include others.
0 # Regina 2012-04-15 12:07
Thanks for the etymology!
+18 # grindermonkey 2012-04-15 09:11
Fundamentalists are a school of small fish in a shallow, shrinking pond of political relevance. Their recent attacks on women indicate a deep fear of reality and their own teetering position in reasoned dialogue. Any spiritually bankrupt minister scanning his audience of faithful, protruding brow, diminished intelligence congregation has no choice but to manipulate their subliminal perceptions of evil and extort them to their fullest excitable state. What better example than the twisted political antics of Fox News and the woman sitting in the pew next to you? This merger of religion, government and misogyny has long been warned against and cannot be justified Biblically, morally, politically or intellectually.
+17 # angelfish 2012-04-15 09:48
Religion and the "church" have NO business in our Government! The Conservative Religious Right want to march us back to the Dark Ages when "heretics" were tortured and burned at the stake if the didn't adhere to "church" dogma. We are a Country founded on FREEDOM of and FROM religion! The sooner we return to the Founders' vision of an individual's right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness the better off we'll be! NO religion has the right to influence ANY political decisions that affect ALL American citizens.
+1 # jerryball 2012-04-15 19:52
...and yet, here come the Mormon Cultists with their national entree into American Politics. After their foray into Utah's interference in other sovereign State's Rights, e.g., Prop 8, of California, and in other states (Maine, et al.) via their birth of the NOM political organization, they have honed their abilities to shove their "religion" upon ALL of us through the White House now. The Elders are rubbing their hands in anticipation.
+8 # DurangoKid 2012-04-15 09:51
Christianity, like many organizations, is founded on a self/non-self paradigm. You agree with them and are saved or you are a heretic and a potential threat. Their world view requires this dichotomy. Part of maintaining this dichotomy is to attack all comers who would challenge their perceived hegemony on truth and spirituality. And if no challengers can be found, they must be made. This is why Christianity is such a good fit with imperialism. Unfortunately for the Christians, their system has been supplanted by the modern industrial propaganda state and they don't like it. It's much more profitable to convince people to find their wholeness through consumerism than threaten them with Hell. But, still they keep trying. The Republicans are perfectly willing to use them as allies in their fight against the Enlightenment and Liberalism. You remember those? Equality, liberty, justice? The Republicans are more interested in absolute property rights as their Christian allies are interested in an absolute truth. The problem for the rest of us is, if either of these two groups have their way, it might be another several hundred years before we can breath easy again, notwithstanding breathing is particularly easy right now.
+9 # reiverpacific 2012-04-15 10:25
Organized religions are (in my opinion -a phrase you will hear neither on the right nor in a church) a rarefied type prison for it's -by default- lockstep adherents.
I just watched a kind of creepy video on the BBC news website, of 70,000 N. Korean soldiers applauding in unison, the new successor to that weirdly repressive fantasy-throne, Kim Jong-Un (who never smiled once).
Well, is that any different from the scenes in St. Peter's Square or anywhere else the Pope appears, or in the Mormon Tabernacle, or in the square in Mecca around the Black stone, or in the "C" Street lodgings (cum church) or in a Washington Prayer Breakfast, or in a Meg-a Church or evangelical TV and Radio -and so on?? Yet they all despise each other with a mindless hatred unbecoming of any of their unwitting founders, all poor and mostly indigent, whose words and deeds have been manipulated down through the centuries for power and material gain through mass-murder, ingenious methods of torture and repression, and war-mongering.
If all these usurpers were taxed like the rest of us, it would go a long way to paying off the current deficit. And the "good works" they allegedly do so selectively could be funded from the tax base.
The following sums it up nicely -as in truthfully and eloquently -enjoy, I dare ya's.
I'm a recoverin' Catholic by the way.
+12 # tswhiskers 2012-04-15 10:35
History proves that organized religion is potentially dangerous. The struggles in the Middle East right now are proof. For even more proof, look at Christianity between approx. 1400 and the 17th century. The history of Christianity is not pretty in the least. It is the best argument I can think of for separation of church (or mosque) and state. As many historians have said, there is something about monotheism that brings out the worst in people. Religion is at best a necessary evil; it provides comfort to some, it discourages questions that might derail dogmas or theologies, it acts as a source of fear that may help control behavior of a few, it acts as a source of community for many. The fact that few Europeans go to church probably reflects the mixed history of religion in the West. In the U.S. we have not had to suffer the long history of war, torture and persecution that occurred in Europe. I live near Walhalla, SC. This is the German word for Heaven. The German farmers who settled there in the late 18th cent. named it so because they could worship there as they wished. Nowadays we forget there was a time when people really did suffer if they refused to follow the state religion. Looks like the fundamentalists are reincarnated Puritan bigots.
+4 # Regina 2012-04-15 12:11
And Roger Williams has been forgotten in American history. Look him up, folks.
0 # jerryball 2012-04-15 20:04
Except the Real Puritans fled Europe because they were being religiously denied and starved for freedom of religion. They were refugees from religious persecution in Europe.
+7 # tswhiskers 2012-04-15 22:22
Yes, they were. Unfortunately they forgot their persecution as soon as they were free of it themselves and decided that religious freedom was meant to be for themselves alone.
0 # slimslider 2012-04-17 22:58
Quoting jerryball:
Except the Real Puritans fled Europe because they were being religiously denied and starved for freedom of religion. They were refugees from religious persecution in Europe.

And as soon as they got here their band had perfect freedom of religion .. as long as they believed exactly what they were told by the most intolerant religious sect ever! If you didn't believe the way they did you could look forward to being burned as a heretic or witch! The concept of religious "freedom" came along much later.
+8 # afrizunk 2012-04-15 11:56
Courageous, true writers on this subject. I've never voted so many green thumbs-up approvals on any other subject. It's always "follow the money" isn't it, and tax free at that.
+15 # jwb110 2012-04-15 12:05
There was no "war" on religion until they got into politics. Had they maintain the best thing that ever happened to religion, The Separation of Church and State, none of things they are moaning about would have never happened.
+9 # wminot 2012-04-15 13:11
Until Rome realizes how out of touch it is by excluding the voices, talents and experience of women, it is destined to become even more hostile and defensive, as its power wains.
+8 # SimonSays 2012-04-15 14:40
Its important to note that, by its very definition, FAITH means "lack of knowledge". I would not appreciate the label 'man of faith'.
Question: Why, in the name of sanity, do we continue to invest, directly or by tax favors, in every organization that professes 'lack of knowledge'?
+8 # jack406 2012-04-15 15:19
Shouldn't tax-exempt organizations, such as the Catholic Church, that protect and hide pedophile priests and bishops LOSE THEIR TAX EXEMPT STATUS?
+7 # futhark 2012-04-15 17:08
All churches that take active roles to inhibit citizens from enjoying equal treatment and opportunities under the law, and here I refer chiefly to the Church of Latter Day Saint's campaign for Proposition 8 to outlaw same sex marriage, ought to lose their tax exempt status.
+6 # Dave_s Not Here 2012-04-15 17:04
Religion is a scam perpetrated by the priestly caste on the flocks of the deluded. They are parasites stealing money from the poor by selling them a phony story of a better life in the hereafter.
0 # Mystic11 2012-04-15 17:53
This is the first time I am adding a comment to an RSN thread. The truth is, a number of posters already published the points, insights, and observations I'd intended to make in response to this article. I'd like to offer my kudos to: Reiver Pacific, Angelfish, Riverhouse, James 38, Midwest Tom, Walt, RMDC, Durango Kid, and Grinder Monkey with the exception of reminding him that the Bible reference doesn't seem to belong to the "list" at the conclusion of his otherwise apt post.

Why? Because given the intrinsically patriarchal nature of so much of its commentary and perspective, when it's not overly misogynistic, often THAT subtext is there. Check out Riane Eisler's book, "The Chalice and the Blade" to see Western history's assertions and assumptions about the deep roots of our past, added to similar suppositions about "Human Nature" enter the junk-heap of disproven theories.

Peace to all in these uber: uncertain times.
0 # James38 2012-04-23 11:10
Welcome aboard, Mystic11. Hope to hear more from you. This is an excellent forum, and many of the contributors offer their most sincere thoughts and insights.

The moderators get it right, and promote serious discussion of the issues.
+11 # Paul Scott 2012-04-15 21:41
“The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe with blood for centuries.”
James Madison
0 # James38 2012-04-23 11:05
+2 # Jane Gilgun 2012-04-15 22:29
The agenda of fa right Christians concerns Christians who do not share their desire to control others. Christians who are not controllers can't seem to figure out how to respond to controlling, far right Christians. Republicans who don't share the drive to control others don't know what to do either. This is a perfect storm. The howlers and the poor thinkers have far too much power. The rest of us are not effective in pushing back. What's our problem?.
+3 # szq5777 2012-04-16 06:20
You are right Jane. I am a Christian and Jesus is my Savior but I also believe in the seperation of Church and State. I am sick of the idiot right-wing so called "Christians" saying that only conservitive republicans can be Christians. It never used to be this way. It is only in the past thirty years or so that republicans have controled the conversation and poisoned the retoric. The American people fell for there vicious poisonous ideology.
I remember a time when Democrats and republicans went to the same church, worshiped the same God, and actualy spoke to each other. These republican extreemest are not Christians. They have distorted Jesus's message for thier own political agenda! Vote these idiots out of office!
0 # James38 2012-04-23 11:04
Great comment, szq. You are a perfect example of how a person can make a choice to believe some religious principles while retaining respect for other opinions. Well done. Thank you.
0 # James38 2012-04-23 11:02
We need to realize that the far-right wing-nut program is one of literal totalitarianism , and we need to define it out of existence. They have literally declared war on freedom of (including from) religion, which means they have declared war on any citizen who does not believe as they do. They are fully justifiably called the "American Taliban", and the only way out of this mess is to demand full application of the separation of church and state. This may very well necessitate the elimination of most if not all tax exempt status for religions. I am not sure how that exemption can be justified without undue influence of religion on political and economic policies. Perhaps an exemption could be justified for money completely expended on charitable work that does not involve proselytizing.

It is going to require a major effort to get this done. Just imagine how difficult it will be for someone as soaked in religious self-righteousn ess and fanaticism as Ricky "Sanctimonious" Santorum to understand the necessity for the actual separation of church and state. That is going to be akin to teaching a poodle how to do calculus. Some of those people are just going to have to be told NO! - Just the way you tell a poodle not to grab the steak off your plate.
+5 # gina 2012-04-15 23:57
The US has long held to the idea of a divide between secular law and religious law. The right wants to outlaw abortion, the left wants it legal. Simple solution? Leave it legal and those whose religious beliefs make it unconscionable for them to have one do not utilize the services available. People cannot force their beliefs on other people. Dragging the insurance companies into a debate with the Vatican over whether their health plans should pay for contraception is ridiculous. Insurance plans cannot differentiate based on religious preferences. All people should have the same medical benefits available to them, if they choose not to use them due to religious beliefs that is their right. Live your faith but don't force it on others, be messengers not tyrants.
0 # James38 2012-04-23 10:29
Beautifully put. Thanks, gina.
+2 # 2012-04-16 10:55
Article right on point! Some of you may want to delve deeper into this issue. I have a new book, HYPOCRISY, INC: How the Religious Right Fabricates Christian Values and Undermines Democracy. It will be out shortly on Amazon and elsewhere.
0 # Jane Gilgun 2012-06-08 02:01
Good luck. Religion as I understand it means respect for the dignity and worth of others, telling the truth, being fair and honest in all our dealings. Why don't more people talk about this and run for political office on this? It's simple and fundamental.
+4 # slimslider 2012-04-16 12:46
Our pledge should be," nation, under hypocrisy, with justice and exemptions for all churches." How dare the evangelicals cry discrimination, ...the entire constitution is no more sacred than a Putin promise the way it cowers to the religious establishment! Separation of Church and State? Yeah, right. "One nation "under God."... How did Eisenhower get that past the Supreme Court? I guess no one in that day and age had any different ideas. We were all just one deluded mass of ignoramuses.
Now, the real kicker is the money issue. How in the hell can church donations be deductible? again, separation of church and state? A guy takes his family out to a ballgame and spends $100 for entertainment. The amount he can deduct - zero %. His buddy goes to church on Sunday, sits in an air conditioned building with cushioned seats. He donates $100, and the deduction - 100%! It's all entertainment,f olks. What's the difference? Would people stop donating to churches if it wasn't deductible? Most probably would. Then they could donate to causes that actually made a difference to society. Or, we could pay off the national debt in a decade. People could learn how to be self-righteous in other places.
+3 # ThinkRodan 2012-04-17 12:04
PULPIT PIMPS of the "religious mode"are ruining the nation,while getting RICH off their patrons! Too often,we read about another "pastor" who has stated,"I have sinned",but they never STOP! They probably ENJOY their sins,while condemning everyone else to pergatory!
+1 # James38 2012-04-23 10:26
Slimslider and ThinkRodan, GREAT comments. Cracked me up. Well said.

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