"Like all great satire, the book is cerebral, irreverent and hilarious, while also edifying" Publisher's Weekly
"This book is hilarious... [Lanham] didn't skimp on his research. The book provides a telling overview of the religious right's leadership, the beliefs they espouse, and just how incredibly absurd and hypocritical they are." The Campaign to Defend the Constitution
Editor's Pick: "From the author of The Hipster Handbook comes this irreverent navigation of all things Evangelical. Learn enough slang to fit in at a church picnic or why SpongeBob SquarePants is an agent of the Devil" Chicago Sun-Times
"This guy has written quite a funny book." Alan Colmes, Fox News
"A funny book with some funny cartoons on everyone from Rick Warren as the evangelical Jimmy Buffett to a guide for Christian haircuts that is hilarious... I was chuckling until I saw that I am the postscript" Mark Driscoll, pastor of the largest megachurch in Washington State
"Every good little liberal will have this book on order as a stocking stuffer come Jesus' birthday." Time Out
"A handbook for coping with bible thumpers.... When considering the power and influence evangelical Christians wield in this country, you have to laugh to keep from crying. Robert Lanham... understands this well and offers much needed, totally biased comic relief." Village Voice
"Not only is this an important book, it's a funny book." Marc Maron, Air America Radio
"Author Robert Lanham is an observer... but with his latest, The Sinner's Guide to the Evangelical Right, Lanham's keen eye has hit perhaps his most entertaining target." Metro Paper
"It’s hard to remember a more pointed and scathing attack… Lanham launches a focused, sustained barrage on the Pat Robertsons and James Dobsons of the world… He’s done his homework. The book is thoroughly researched and packed with quotes and analysis of the famous and not-so-famous leaders of the evangelical right… the research is truly impressive. " The Reader
"An utterly biased, humorous one-stop guide to the major evangelical players." Details
"Check out Robert Lanham's (author of the fabled Hipster Handbook and former Bible Belt resident) Sinner's Guide to the Evangelical Right. It's funny because it's true." Elizabeth Spiers, founding Editor of Gawker
"Like the Daily Show or The Colbert Report, it's humor reveals the basic truth. Which is to say that the "sinners" of the world may be closer to Jesus and the divine than those who use God's name for personal enrichment, power building, and political gain." Buzzflash
"The book does for religion what Jon Stewart does for politics." CanWest News Service
"Informative, laugh-out-loud funny and horrifying at times, check out this snide, leftie-geared guide to the major evangelical players... Robert Lanham has a writing style that resembles... McSweeney's, and the irony-stacked humor of TV programs such as "The Daily Show" Style Weekly, Richmond VA
"Hilarious... go out and buy this book now." Sam Seder, The Majority Report
"This book should lay at the lifeless feet of your corpse as a silent, yet
powerful and all encompassing explanation as to why you took your own life."
David Cross, Arrested Development
Linette Servais, 50, played the organ and sung with the choir for 35 years. Much of her work as choir director and organist was done without pay. When her parish priest asked to meet with her, she thought it was to say thank you. Instead, she was told to quit her sales job with company known as Pure Romance or she would lose her position in the church.
Pure Romance in Loveland, Ohio, is a $60 million per year business that sells spa products and sex toys at homes parties attended by women. It has 15,000 consultants like Servais.
She said her decision was not hard: She began working with Pure Romance after a brain tumor and treatment left her sexually dysfunctional. The job allows her to help other women who have similar problems.
"After I got over the initial shock, I prayed over this a long time," she said. "I feel that Pure Romance is my ministry."
The Rev. Dean Dombroski felt differently, removing her from the choir loft just before Thanksgiving and gradually taking away other church duties. Servais can no longer take pictures during First Communion services or lead the committee planning St. Joseph's annual late-summer picnic.
Dombroski said he couldn't discuss the situation because it involves personnel. But in a letter to his rural congregation, he wrote: "Linette is a consultant for a firm which sells products of a sexual nature that are not consistent with Church teachings. Because parish leaders are expected to model the teaching of our faith ... she could stay on as the choir director/organist or she could continue to be a consultant but she could not do both."
Servais responded with her own three-page letter to church members, saying she felt compelled to help other women, especially those suffering from problems caused by cancer. Many choir members quit in support, she said, and some have gathered at her home on occasional Thursdays to sing hymns.
"Father Dean made it sound so sinful," she said. "There is so much more to this business than toys."
A museum that tells the Bible's version of Earth's history -- that the planet was created in a single week just a few thousand years ago -- attracted thousands to its opening as protesters rallied outside.
The dozens of demonstrators argued Monday that the Creation Museum's central tenets conflict with scientific evidence that the Earth is several billion years old. Overhead, an airplane pulled a banner with the message: "Thou Shalt Not Lie."
The privately funded museum had more than 4,000 guests on opening day, said Mark Looy, a co-founder of the $27 million facility 20 miles southwest of Cincinnati. The parking lot was filled with license plates from dozens of states.
"The guests were very happy with the museum experience," Looy said. "Of course, we had some naysayers come through and engage us in conversation, and that's fine -- we want them."
Lawrence Krauss, an author and physicist at Cleveland's Case Western Reserve University, decided to view the museum firsthand.
"It's really impressive -- and it really gives the impression that they're talking about science at some point," Krauss said. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being best, "I'd give it a 4 for technology, 5 for propaganda. As for content, I'd give it a negative 5."
The museum features high-tech exhibits designed by a theme-park artist, including animatronic dinosaurs and a wooden ark at least two stories tall, plus a special effects theater and planetarium.
Some exhibits show dinosaurs aboard Noah's Ark and assert that all animals were vegetarians until Adam committed the first sin in the Garden of Eden.
In the book, DeLay criticizes Gingrich for, among other things, conducting an affair with a Capitol Hill employee during the 1998 impeachment trial of Bill Clinton. (The woman later became Gingrich's third wife.) "Yes, I don't think that Newt could set a high moral standard, a high moral tone, during that moment," DeLay said. "You can't do that if you're keeping secrets about your own adulterous affairs." He added that the impeachment trial was another of his "proudest moments." The difference between his own adultery and Gingrich's, he said, "is that I was no longer committing adultery by that time, the impeachment trial. There's a big difference." He added, "Also, I had returned to Christ and repented my sins by that time."
More important than the lesson Mel Gibson taught Hollywood about drunken anti-Semitic tirades (that they’re bad for publicity) is the one gleaned from his 2004 film “The Passion of the Christ.” The movie demonstrated just how many evangelical moviegoers there are and how much money can be made from them.
Mindful of that market, Universal Pictures has teamed up with Grace Hill Media, a public relations firm that reaches out to religious groups, to publicize the mainstream film “Evan Almighty.” Scheduled for wide release on June 22, it stars Steve Carell as a politician who abandons Congress in order to build an ark, taking off on the story of Noah.
“Forty-three percent of this country is in church; that’s a big chunk of folks,” said Jonathan Bock, the president of Grace Hill Media. “You get into the once-a-month -- that’s two-thirds of the country. That’s not a little niche audience.”
Mr. Bock was approached last year by Universal executives to help with publicity for “Evan Almighty,” the sequel to the director Tom Shadyac’s 2003 movie “Bruce Almighty,” which starred Jim Carrey.
One result of the effort is ArkAlmighty.com, a Web site that promotes good deeds. It suggests acts of random kindness and helps participating congregations create online bulletin boards to post requests for help and offers of service among members.
In addition, Universal has held several screenings of “Evan Almighty” with religious leaders, hoping that they will recommend the film -- with a PG rating and a protagonist who heeds a call to change the world -- to their congregations.
The Walt Disney Company pursued a similar strategy in 2005, holding private screenings of “The Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” for religious leaders before the film’s general release. It went on to make almost $300 million at the box office in the United States.
Other studios have gone even further in trying to win evangelicals’ favor. Last year, 20th Century Fox created FoxFaith, a unit dedicated to making movies with religious themes.
By comparison, “Evan Almighty” seems an unlikely candidate for this kind of marketing. Unlike “The Passion of the Christ,” it is a comedy that portrays God in the flesh (played again by Morgan Freeman, wearing a natty white suit). “Bruce Almighty,” which made more than $240 million at the box office in the United States, was better known for irreverent humor and Mr. Carrey’s mugging than for any underlying religious message.
Universal may have reasons enough to look for divine help. The budget of “Evan Almighty,” a movie full of elaborate special effects, has been estimated above $175 million, although the studio will not confirm that figure.
According to Adam Fogelson, the president of marketing for Universal, the studio has had many conversations about appealing to the faithful ever since Mr. Gibson’s blockbuster.
“I don‘t believe there is a way -- or maybe I’m just not sophisticated or smart enough to know what that way is -- to use traditional marketing tactics or tricks to convince the faith audience the film is appropriate for them,” he said. “This film is not about cutting trailers and TV spots and radio spots to skew a piece of material to make it seem like a good movie for this crowd.” He declined to say how much Universal had spent appealing to religious groups.
While the official Web site for the film, evanalmighty.com, provides links to sites about environmental conservation and global warming, it does not include any mention of Universal’s outreach to religious groups. But Mr. Fogelson said that omission did not reflect ambivalence toward marketing to them.
He pointed out that Universal had also undertaken marketing efforts to appeal to Latino and youth audiences, but that the “Evan Almighty” Web site did not contain links to those efforts either. “To take the general secular movie site,” he said, “and to have a link to a specific faith strikes me as awkward, bordering on inappropriate.”
Poland's conservative government took its drive to curb what it sees as homosexual propaganda to the small screen on Monday, taking aim at Tinky Winky and the other Teletubbies.
Ewa Sowinska, government-appointed children rights watchdog, told a local magazine published on Monday she was concerned the popular BBC children's show promoted homosexuality.
She said she would ask psychologists to advise if this was the case. In comments reminiscent of criticism by the late U.S. evangelist Jerry Falwell, she was quoted as saying: "I noticed (Tinky Winky) has a lady's purse, but I didn't realize he's a boy."
"At first I thought the purse would be a burden for this Teletubby ... Later I learned that this may have a homosexual undertone."
Poland's rightist government has upset human rights groups and drawn criticism within the European Union by apparent discrimination against homosexuals.
Polish Education Minister Roman Giertych has proposed laws sacking teachers who promote "homosexual lifestyle" and banning "homo-agitation" in schools. READ IT ALL
Combining ingredients such as frankincense and myrrh, Virtue® is a perfume inspired by Biblical ingredients and marketed as a tool for spiritual attainment. The product's literature advises the consumer to "hold it in Sacred regard as a means to train yourself to readily contact your Spiritual Self," so as to "serve both your worldly fragrance needs and provide a means of focusing your Spiritual Intent." Pioneered by Vicki Pratt and Rick Larimore, Virtue retails for $80 a bottle.
A product like Virtue reveals much about the changing face of lived religion in America. There was a time when mainstream American Protestantism would have been highly suspicious of associating Christianity with a scent. Fragrances, images, and other sensory experiences were once considered to be the hallmarks of Catholic idolatry. But in 2004 the "Christian retail market" -- selling Christian versions of everything from golf-balls to gangsta rap -- hit $4.3 billion in sales. The suggestion of idolatry has been largely circumvented by marketing these products as tools for evangelism. For example, creators of Virtuous Woman, a rival fragrance to Virtue, imagine that their perfume caters "to the needs of women who are interested in incorporating a passion for sharing their faith with a beauty product that makes them feel and smell really good."
...thus underlining the fact that Bush and Cheney believe the twisted "moral" standards they want to impose on the rest of the nation don't apply to them or their loved ones. From WorldNetDaily
Mary Cheney, the lesbian daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney, became a mother today when she gave birth to a baby boy. Samuel David Cheney was born at 9:46 a.m., weighing 8 pounds, 6 ounces, at Sibley Hospital in Washington, D.C. [...]
"The vice president is pleased to be a grandfather for the sixth time," spokeswoman Megan McGinn said.
According to reports, Mary's homosexual partner of 15 years, Heather Poe, "will have no legal relationship with her child. She can't adopt as a second parent. She won't have her name on the birth certificate." [...]
President Bush told People magazine in December that Mary Cheney would be "a loving soul to her child."
The remark came in response to a question about his 2005 comment to the New York Times, as he noted: "I believe children can receive love from gay couples but the ideal is -- and studies have shown that the ideal is where a child is raised in a married family with a man and a woman."
"The vice president took me aside and gave me the good news. He and his wife, Lynne, are very happy for Mary," Bush said. "I think Mary is going to be a loving soul to her child. And I'm happy for her."
"Anybody on the left who hopes that when people like Reverend Falwell disappear that the opportunity to convert all of America has gone with them fundamentally misunderstands why institutions like this [Liberty University] were created."
Some Republican figures were expected for the funeral, but none of the party's presidential candidates said they could attend. The White House was sending a midlevel aide. Among the Virginia Republican leaders attending was Attorney General Bob McDonnell.
Falwell, 73, died a week ago after collapsing in his office at Liberty University. His physician said Falwell had a heart condition and presumably died of a heart rhythm abnormality. READ IT ALL
With her jail term only two weeks away, Ms. Hilton is pulling out the big guns to prepare for her stint in the pokey, carrying the Bible and "The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment" as she left her home yesterday.
Say goodbye to the sinner -- and hello to the winner! Amen.
When lighting strikes a holier-than-most location like the Mother Cabrini Shrine in Golden, Colo., only small quantities of faith and/or imagination are needed to see the possibilities for divine actions. After all, she was the first American citizen canonized as a Roman Catholic saint.
When the lightning strike actually hits a 33-foot statue of Jesus at the aforementioned shrine, shearing off his left arm, right hand and a piece of a foot, it’s even easier to jump to conclusions.
The shrine’s Sister Ilaria was there to bring some sobriety to the aftermath. It came from the heavens, she told The Denver Post, but it was not a sign from the heavens.
Sisters did see God’s hand in what the lightning didn’t do: injure anyone or damage the “sacred heart” encased in plexiglass at the statue’s base. Sister Cabrini made it herself.
Dependably, the local WCBS 4 closed out its report in its own perfect way. Please read the following in your best anchorman voice.
“The sisters here say it’s clearly a sign,” Raj Chohan said, pausing just long enough to nail the punchline. “A sign they need to get a new statue.”
And that wasn’t the only statue raising questions today.
In Nepal, a statue for the Hindu God in charge of trade and commerce is drawing thousands of worried onlookers for its recent perspiration issues. The statue’s custodian told Reuters that it had been dry since just before the last major tragedy in Nepal’s troubled history: the death of nine royals in a shooting rampage by the crown prince.
And in Denmark the Little Mermaid statue was found this morning dressed in a Muslim dress and head scarf. Most wrote that one off as a prank.
The evangelical Christian movement, which has been pivotal in reshaping the country’s political landscape since the 1980s, has shifted in potentially momentous ways in recent years, broadening its agenda and exposing new fissures.
The death of the Rev. Jerry Falwell last week highlighted the fact that many of the movement’s fiery old guard who helped lead conservative Christians into the embrace of the Republican Party are aging and slowly receding from the scene. In their stead, a new generation of leaders who have mostly avoided the openly partisan and confrontational approach of their forebears have become increasingly influential.
Typified by megachurch pastors like the Rev. Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Orange County, Calif., and the Rev. Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church outside Chicago, the new breed of evangelical leaders -- often to the dismay of those who came before them -- are more likely to speak out about more liberal causes like AIDS, Darfur, poverty and global warming than controversial social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage.
But the conservative legacy of the religious right persists, and abortion continues to be a defining issue, even a litmus test, for most evangelicals, including younger ones, according to interviews and survey data.
“The abortion issue is going to continue to be a unifying factor among evangelicals and Catholics,” said the Rev. Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, who is often held up as an example of the new model of conservative Christian leaders. “That’s not going to go away.”
The persistence of abortion as a core concern for evangelical voters, who continue to represent a broad swath of the Republican base, could complicate efforts by Rudolph W. Giuliani, who has been leading the Republican presidential field in nationwide polls, to get primary voters to move past the issue and accept his support for abortion rights. The broader impact that the changing evangelical leadership may have on politics appears to be just beginning. Many evangelicals remain uneasy about the other leading Republican contenders, Mitt Romney, because of his Mormon faith and his past support for abortion rights, and Senator John McCain of Arizona, who has long had a tenuous relationship with conservative Christians.
The evangelical movement, however, is clearly evolving. Members of the baby boomer generation are taking over the reins, said D. G. Hart, a historian of religion. The boomers, he said, are markedly different in style and temperament from their predecessors and much more animated by social justice and humanitarianism. Most of them are pastors, as opposed to the heads of advocacy groups, making them more reluctant to plunge into politics to avoid alienating diverse congregations.
“I just don’t see in the next generation of so-called evangelical leaders anyone as politically activist-minded” as Mr. Falwell, the Rev. Pat Robertson or James C. Dobson, he said.
Mr. Warren, 53, who wrote the spiritual best seller “The Purpose-Driven Life,” has dedicated much of the past few years to mobilizing evangelicals to eradicate AIDS in Africa. Even so, he remains theologically and socially quite conservative. He tempers the sharper edges of his beliefs with a laid-back style (his usual Sunday best is a Hawaiian shirt). Although he does not speak from the pulpit about politics, he sent a letter before the 2004 presidential election to pastors in a vast network who draw advice from him, urging them to weigh heavily “nonnegotiable” issues like abortion, stem cell research and same-sex marriage from a biblical perspective.
Mr. Warren, along with Mr. Hybels, 55, and several dozen other evangelical leaders, signed a call to action last year on climate change. The initiative brought together more mainstream conservative Christian leaders with prominent liberal evangelicals, such as the Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners and the Rev. Ronald J. Sider of Evangelicals for Social Action, who have long championed progressive causes. Notably absent from the list of signatories were several old lions of the Christian right, some of whom were openly critical of the effort: Mr. Falwell; Mr. Robertson, 77; and Mr. Dobson, 71, founder of Focus on the Family.
Another evangelical standard-bearer who did not sign the statement was Charles W. Colson, 75, founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries, who said in an interview that there were many environmental groups behind the statement that were hostile to evangelical causes. Nevertheless, he said he appreciated the direction that younger evangelical leaders are taking the movement.
“What’s happening today is the evangelical movement is growing up,” he said. “The evangelical political conscience today is much more sophisticated than it was in the early ’80s.”
The Rev. Joel C. Hunter, 59, a Florida megachurch pastor who signed the climate change statement, stepped down last year as the president-elect of the Christian Coalition over what he said was resistance among members of the organization’s board to expanding its concerns beyond the usual social issues. He has been active in encouraging evangelicals to speak out on issues like global poverty, and signed on this month to an evangelical declaration on immigration reform that called for a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. He is critical of the tactics and rhetoric employed by the old religious right.
Despite the changes in the movement, Mr. Hunter predicted that Mr. Giuliani would not garner much of the evangelical vote because of his liberal views on social issues.
“There always will be in the evangelical movement a strong identification with what we call the traditional moral issues -- abortion, marriage between a man and a woman, addiction to pornography,” he said.
A poll conducted this year by the Pew Research Center showed that white evangelical Protestants have similar concerns to other Americans, including the war in Iraq, education and the economy, but a far greater percentage continue to cite tackling the “moral breakdown” in society as a key priority. They remain solidly Republican.
“While I think a lot of their leaders have begun to talk about other things, like Darfur and the environment, this remains a pretty social conservative group in some respects,” said Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center. “There doesn’t seem to me to be any sign of a sea change.”
Indeed, the survey showed that fewer evangelicals assigned top priority to protecting the environment than did the overall population, and that roughly the same number of evangelicals identified alleviating poverty as a top priority as did the general population. Meanwhile, evangelicals identified reducing illegal immigration as a priority at a much greater percentage than the population as a whole.
In a separate survey in 2004, John C. Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, however, placed evangelicals into three camps -- traditionalist, centrist and modernist -- based on the how rigidly they adhered to their beliefs and their willingness to adapt them to a changing world. The traditionalists are evangelicals who are usually labeled as the Christian right, while the centrists might be represented by the newer breed of evangelical leaders, who remain socially and theologically quite conservative but have mostly sought to avoid politics. The two camps are roughly the same size, each representing 40 to 50 percent of the total.
Experts agree, though, that the centrist camp is growing. Estimates of the number of evangelicals nationwide vary, depending on how they are counted and how the term is defined, but Mr. Green put it at 26.3 percent of Americans.
The full electoral implications of the shift that is occurring in the movement will likely unfold over the next decade or more, several religious experts and activists said, as opposed to in this next presidential election cycle.
“I think we’re talking about a 20-year effect,” said Andy Crouch, an editor at Christianity Today.
The tremors of change are, nevertheless, detectable, especially among younger evangelicals. Many are intrigued by Senator Barack Obama, Democrat of Illinois, who has demonstrated the ability to speak convincingly about his faith on the campaign trail, as a presidential candidate.
“The person I just hear about all the time is Obama because he is seen as spiritually serious, even if people know he’s really kind of a liberal Christian,” Mr. Crouch said.
Gabe Lyons, 32, is emblematic of the transformation among many younger evangelicals. He grew up in Lynchburg, Va., attending Mr. Falwell’s church. But he has shied away from politics. Instead, he heads the Fermi Project, a loose “collective” dedicated to teaching evangelicals to shape culture through other means, including media and the arts.
“I believe politics just isn’t as important to younger evangelicals as it has been for the older generations because we recognize from experience that politics does not shape the morality of a culture,” he said. “It simply reflects what the larger culture wants.”
There are other signs of attitude changes among younger evangelicals. Recent surveys conducted by the Barna Group show that younger “born again” Christians are more accepting of homosexuality than older ones and are less resistant to affording gays equal rights. But on abortion, they remain almost as conservative as their parents — more fodder for both political parties to weigh as they consider the future.
Environmental activists are building a replica of Noah's Ark on Mount Ararat--where the biblical vessel is said to have landed after the great flood--in an appeal for action on global warming, Greenpeace said Wednesday.
Turkish and German volunteer carpenters are making the wooden ship on the mountain in eastern Turkey, bordering Iran. The ark will be revealed in a ceremony on May 31, a day after Greenpeace activists climb the mountain and call on world leaders to take action to tackle climate change, Greenpeace said.
"Climate change is real, it's happening now and unless world leaders take urgent, decisive and far-reaching action, the next decades will see human misery on a scale not experienced in modern times," said Greenpeace activist Hilal Atici. "Those leaders have a mandate from the people ... to massively cut greenhouse gas emissions and to do it now."
Many countries are struggling to address global and national standards for carbon emissions. U.N. delegates are meeting this week in Germany to prepare for December negotiations on a new set of international rules for controlling emissions. The new accord would succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which ends in 2012.
Climate change will also be on the agenda when the Group of Eight major industrialized countries--the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, Canada and Russia--meet in Germany in June.
• From an article called Parents Alert: Tinky Winky Comes Out of the Closet: "He is purple - the gay-pride colour; and his antenna is shaped like a triangle - the gay-pride symbol."
• If you're not a born-again Christian, you're a failure as a human being.
• "I think [Desmond Tutu]'s a phony, period, as far as representing the black people of South Africa."
• AIDS is not just God's punishment for homosexuals; it is God's punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals.
• On September 11: The ACLU's got to take a lot of blame for this... I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Wayall of them who have tried to secularize AmericaI point the finger in their face and say, "You helped this happen."
• I hope I live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won't have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!
• It appears that America's anti-Biblical feminist movement is at last dying, thank God, and is possibly being replaced by a Christ-centered men's movement which may become the foundation for a desperately needed national spiritual awakening.
• There is no separation of church and state. Modern US Supreme Courts have raped the Constitution and raped the Christian faith and raped the churches by misinterpreting what the Founders had in mind in the First Amendment to the Constitution.
• The Jews are returning to their land of unbelief. They are spiritually blind and desperately in need of their Messiah and Savior.
• Grown men should not be having sex with prostitutes unless they are married to them.
• Christians, like slaves and soldiers, ask no questions.
• Textbooks are Soviet propaganda.
• The whole (global warming) thing is created to destroy America's free enterprise system and our economic stability.
• I do not believe the homosexual community deserves minority status. One's misbehavior does not qualify him or her for minority status. Blacks, Hispanics, women, etc., are God-ordained minorities who do indeed deserve minority status.
Falwell was hospitalized in "gravely serious" condition after being found unconscious Tuesday in his office at Liberty University, a school executive said earlier.
Ron Godwin, the university's executive vice president, said Falwell, 73, was found unresponsive around 10:45 a.m. and taken to Lynchburg General Hospital. Godwin said he was not sure what caused the collapse, but he said Falwell "has a history of heart challenges."
"I had breakfast with him, and he was fine at breakfast," Godwin said. "He went to his office, I went to mine, and they found him unresponsive."
Falwell, a television evangelist who founded the Moral Majority, became the face of the religious right in the 1980s. He later founded the conservative Liberty University and serves as its president.
Falwell survived two serious health scares in early 2005. He was hospitalized for two weeks with what was described as a viral infection, then was hospitalized again a few weeks later after going into respiratory arrest. Later that year, doctors found a 70 percent blockage in an artery, which they opened with stents.
Liberty University's commencement is scheduled for Saturday, with former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich as the featured speaker.
The Rev. Jerry Falwell was hospitalized in "gravely serious" condition after being found unconscious in his office Tuesday, a Liberty University executive said.
Ron Godwin, the executive vice president of Falwell's Liberty University, said Falwell was found unresponsive around 10:45 a.m. and taken to Lynchburg General Hospital. Godwin said he was not sure what caused the collapse, but "he has a history of heart challenges."
"I had breakfast with him, and he was fine at breakfast," Godwin said. "He went to his office, I went to mine and they found him unresponsive."
Godwin said Falwell was receiving emergency care. A hospital spokeswoman said she had "no information to release at this time" on Falwell
Falwell, a television evangelist who founded the Moral Majority, became the face of the religious right in the 1980s. He later founded the conservative Liberty University and serves as its president.
Falwell survived two serious health scares in early 2005. He was hospitalized for two weeks with what was described as a viral infection, then hospitalized again a few weeks later after going into respiratory arrest.
President George W. Bush met privately with Focus on the Family Founder and Chairman James Dobson and approximately a dozen Christian right leaders last week to rally support for his policies on Iraq, Iran and the so-called "war on terror."
“I was invited to go to Washington DC to meet with President Bush in the White House along with 12 or 13 other leaders of the pro-family movement," Dobson disclosed on his radio program Monday. “And the topic of the discussion that day was Iraq, Iran and international terrorism. And we were together for 90 minutes and it was very enlightening and in some ways disturbing too."
Details of the meeting were disclosed by Dobson during Monday's edition of his Focus on the Family radio program.
Dobson described Bush as “upbeat and determined and convinced, adding, “I wish the American people could have sat in on that meeting we had.”
Dobson went on to enumerate a series of meetings convened by Christian right leaders in Washington to discuss the supposedly existential threat to the United States from a nuclear Iran.
“I heard about this danger [from Iran] not only at the White House but from other pro-family leaders that I met during that week in Washington," he said. “Many people in a position to know are talking about the possibility of losing a city to nuclear or biological or chemical attack. And if we can lose one we can lose ten.
"If we can lose ten we can lose a hundred," he added, “especially if North Korea and Russia and China pile on.”
Later in his broadcast, during a discussion about Iran with author and self-proclaimed “prophecy expert” Joel Rosenberg, Dobson drew a parallel between current Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and Adolf Hitler.
“The world looked at Hitler and just didn't believe him and tried to appease him the way we're hearing in Washington today,” Dobson remarked. “You know, the President seems to me does understand this, as I told you from that meeting I had with him the other day, but even there it feels like somebody ought to be standing up and saying, ‘We are being threatened and we are going to meet this with force -- whatever's necessary.’”
Dobson continued, “Some of our listeners might not like that but I tell you, if we didn't stand up to Hitler, we'd be speaking German today.”
You can listen to the broadcast here. [Fast forward to the 20 minute mark]
This week, Dobson is featuring a series on the "imminent" threat of Iran and Islam. Dobson's resident "prophetic" expert, Joel Rosenberg, is sounding the alarm that the apocalypse is near, if we fail to attack Iran immediately:
"To misunderstand the nature of evil is to risk being blindsided by it... [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad is telling people inside Iran that he believes that the end of the world is just two or three years away ... and he believes that the way to hasten the coming of the Islamic Messiah -- known as the Mahdi or as the Twelth Imam -- is to annihilate two countries: Israel ... and the United States."
"Iran has promised to to blow Israel off the face of the Earth, they've made no bones about that, and then they plan to come after us... Jihad is their sacred duty... The leaders of Iran and especially the president of Iran fully intend to wage war on us."
This is pretty scary shit considering Rosenberg and Dobson have the ear of our president, "The Decider."
While some evangelical Christians are defending the presidential candidacy of Mormon Mitt Romney from an attack by Al Sharpton, another prominent pastor is going further in his condemnation - saying a vote for the former Massachusetts governor is a vote for Satan.
…Keller also comes out swinging against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as a cult.
“This message today is not about Mitt Romney,” he writes. “Romney is an unashamed and proud member of the Mormon cult founded by a murdering polygamist pedophile named Joseph Smith nearly 200 years ago. The teachings of the Mormon cult are doctrinally and theologically in complete opposition to the Absolute Truth of God’s Word. There is no common ground. If Mormonism is true, then the Christian faith is a complete lie. There has never been any question from the moment Smith’s cult began that it was a work of Satan and those who follow their false teachings will die and spend eternity in hell.”
Pope Benedict condemned politicians - like Rudy Giuliani - who support abortion rights and said yesterday they should be excommunicated from the church.
Giuliani, who took on the Vatican over abortion when he was mayor, declined to fire back yesterday.
"First of all, I do not get into debates with the Pope," a smiling Giuliani told reporters in Huntsville, Ala. "That is not a good idea, and not just because I am a Catholic."
But on a more serious note, the pro-choice Republican said if elected President, he won't be taking his cues from the Pope and will defy Benedict and other Catholic prelates who demand pro-choice Catholic pols be denied Communion.
"Issues like that, for me, are between me and my confessor," he said.
During his flight to Brazil yesterday, the Pope told reporters he supports excommunicating Catholic politicians who recently legalized abortion in Mexico.
"It is part of the \[canon law\] code. It is based simply on the principle that the killing of an innocent human child is incompatible with going in Communion with the body of Christ," Benedict said.
When Giuliani was mayor, he loudly criticized the Vatican for getting involved in abortion politics, blasting Pope John Paul II in 1996 for condemning then-President Bill Clinton's veto of a ban on so-called partial-birth abortions.
"Such direct involvement in politics is not a good idea because I think it confuses people," Giuliani said then.
This is not the first time Catholic politicians have faced a dilemma over the abortion issue - but it is the first time the Vatican has suggested that their pro-choice views could lead to excommunication.
When Democrat John Kerry was running for President in 2004, St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke forbade him from taking Communion in his archdiocese.
The back-and-forth with the Pope came as aides said Giuliani would continue to discuss his views on abortion in settings that allow for greater elaboration. Those include a planned speech in Texas on Friday, as well as a sitdown on one of the Sunday news shows.
But they emphasized that Giuliani would not be changing his opinion that abortion should remain a matter of personal choice for women, even if he is personally opposed to the practice on moral grounds.
They also disputed reports that Giuliani was "deemphasizing" early states like Iowa and South Carolina, where abortion opponents are often pivotal, noting they have more staff in those two states and New Hampshire than any others.
The abortion issue was already hounding Giuliani before he came to conservative Alabama, where his stance brought criticism that he was trying to have it both ways.
"I'd have more respect for him if he just explained to me why he is pro-choice, rather than trying to stay in the middle," said Brett Whitehead, 37, a general contractor and elected member of the Tuscaloosa County school board who opposes abortion. "You can't be one thing in New York and another in Tuscaloosa."
Whitehead was reacting after listening to Giuliani address a breakfast gathering of the Tuscaloosa County Republican Party about the economy.
Others in the crowd said they were willing to look beyond Giuli.ani's pro-choice views because they see him as the Republican with the best shot of winning.
Romney Panders to Evangelical Right At Pat Robertson's University
He failed to mention his Mormonism (which has been a point of contention for some Jesusy rightwingers), but was quick to blame the Virginia Tech tragedy on video games, music , and TV. From Washington Post
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R) did not discuss his Mormon faith as he continued his outreach Saturday to conservative Christians in a graduation speech at Regent University, the school founded by televangelist Pat Robertson.
Instead, Romney, who is intensely courting this key segment of the Republican base in hopes of winning the party's 2008 presidential nomination, expounded on conservative themes such as the importance of child-rearing and marriage and the presence of evil in the world....
He added: "Pornography and violence poison our music and movies and TV and video games. The Virginia Tech shooter, like the Columbine shooters before him, had drunk from this cesspool."
Robertson, who has not endorsed any of the 2008 presidential candidates, called Romney an "outstanding American."
It was Romney's second appearance at Regent University in the past four months. His visits underscore the competition for support from top Christian conservative leaders such as Robertson, whose television programs have millions of viewers. Romney, along with several other GOP hopefuls, attended a convention of religious broadcasters in February. Former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani will appear at Regent next month.
Some conservative Christians have questioned the intensity of Romney's opposition to abortion because, when he was running for governor, he said he would not seek additional restrictions. And some conservative evangelicals also wonder about his Mormonism. On the Web site of the Christian Broadcasting Network, another Robertson entity, a page called "How Do I Recognize a Cult?" says that "when it comes to spiritual matters, the Mormons are far from the truth."
In private meetings with conservative leaders and members of Congress, Romney has asserted that his experiences in dealing with stem cell research as governor hardened his antiabortion views, and he tried to explain misconceptions about his faith. READ IT ALL
The archeologist who located King Herod's tomb at Herodium said Tuesday that the grave had been desecrated, apparently shortly after his death, but called the discovery a "high point."
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem announced Monday night that it has uncovered the grave and tomb of Herod, who ruled Judea for the Roman empire from circa 37 BCE.
Professor Ehud Netzer of the university's Institute of Archaeology told reporters Tuesday that the tomb was discovered when a team of researchers found pieces of a limestone sarcophagus believed to belong to the ancient king. READ IT ALL
An investigator for the Maine Human Rights Commission has found reasonable grounds for a manager's claim that he was fired from his job at DeCoster farms because he's an atheist. Cacy Cantwell says Austin "Jack" DeCoster told him before he was fired that they might have to "part ways" because Cantwell didn't believe in God.
The backing of the investigator bolsters Cantwell's case, which is expected to go before the full commission, said Patricia Ryan, executive director. Cantwell was working for Maine Contract Farming, a DeCoster subsidiary where he was hired as a manager in 2003. DeCoster is the region's largest brown egg producer.
The official reason for Cantwell's firing in November 2006 was "poor job performance," but the commission's investigator, Barbara Lelli, said Cantwell received no written warnings about performance problems.
Cantwell, who was provided housing he shared with a non-married partner, two of his children and three of her children, said he was criticized by DeCoster, a devout Christian, who didn't approve of the living arrangement.
On another occasion, DeCoster brought up God in a conversation, and Cantwell responded by saying he was an atheist and didn't believe in God.
Cantwell told the investigator that DeCoster put his hand on his shoulder and told him: "I can't have someone like you here. We might need to part ways."
A hate crimes bill passed by the House yesterday, extending coverage to people victimized because of sexual orientation, gender identity or disability, is attracting opposition from an unusual coalition of Christian leaders.
Proponents say the bill - similar to one the Senate is expected to pass in the next few weeks - is a moral imperative. But some Christians are depicting it as a "thought crimes" bill attacking 1st Amendment freedoms of speech and religion. A coalition of evangelical, fundamentalist and black religious leaders is mounting a furious assault on the bill, airing television ads and mobilizing members to stop its progress. President Bush has said he might veto the measure.
If the bill, approved 237-180, were to become law, they say, a pastor could be held liable for giving a sermon against homosexuality if a listener later attacked a gay individual .
"This legislation strikes at the heart of free speech and freedom of religious expression," said Andrea Lafferty, executive director of the Traditional Values Coalition. "Statements critical of sexual orientation or gender identity can be prosecuted if those statements were part of the motivation of a person committing a crime against a homosexual or cross-dresser."
The bill's supporters say that such an assertion is nonsense, and that a sermon could never be considered an inducement to violence unless it explicitly advocated it.
In addition to broadening the federal definition of a hate crime victim, the law provides funds so that local authorities can request federal assistance for prosecutions in the aftermath of a hate crime.
In the Maryland delegation, Republican Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest joined Democratic Reps. Elijah E. Cummings, Steny H. Hoyer, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes, Chris Van Hollen and Albert R. Wynn in voting for the bill. Republican Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett voted against it.
Hoyer, House majority leader, said before the vote that the bill was necessary "because brutal hate crimes motivated by race, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation and identity or disability not only injure individual victims, but also terrorize entire segments of our population and tear at our nation's social fabric."
Opponents argue that the bill is un-American, in that it effectively creates a two-tiered justice system. In defining only certain groups as legal victims of hate, many argued, the law's supporters were leaving out other categories of people deserving of protection, such as members of the military, pregnant women and the elderly. An amendment to add these groups to the hate crimes law failed in the House shortly before the bill's passage.
"All violent crime is tied to hate in some way," said Carrie Gordon Earll, a spokeswoman for Focus on the Family, another conservative group opposing the measure. "The Virginia Tech shooter said in his diatribe that he hated rich kids. Well, rich kids aren't protected in this hate crime bill. If we're going to start choosing categories of people for additional penalties when they're victimized, where does the list end?"
Peter J. Gomes has been at Harvard University for 37 years, and says he remembers when religious people on campus felt under siege. To be seen as religious often meant being dismissed as not very bright, he said.
No longer. At Harvard these days, said Professor Gomes, the university preacher, “There is probably more active religious life now than there has been in 100 years.”
Across the country, on secular campuses as varied as Colgate University, the University of Wisconsin and the University of California, Berkeley, chaplains, professors and administrators say students are drawn to religion and spirituality with more fervor than at any time they can remember.
More students are enrolling in religion courses, even majoring in religion; more are living in dormitories or houses where matters of faith and spirituality are a part of daily conversation; and discussion groups are being created for students to grapple with questions like what happens after death, dozens of university officials said in interviews.
A survey on the spiritual lives of college students, the first of its kind, showed in 2004 that more than two-thirds of 112,000 freshmen surveyed said they prayed, and that almost 80 percent believed in God. Nearly half of the freshmen said they were seeking opportunities to grow spiritually, according to the survey by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Compared with 10 or 15 years ago, “there is a greater interest in religion on campus, both intellectually and spiritually,” said Charles L. Cohen, a professor of history and religious studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who for a number of years ran an interdisciplinary major in religious studies. The program was created seven years ago and has 70 to 75 majors each year.
University officials explained the surge of interest in religion as partly a result of the rise of the religious right in politics, which they said has made questions of faith more talked about generally. In addition, they said, the attacks of Sept. 11 underscored for many the influence of religion on world affairs. And an influx of evangelical students at secular universities, along with an increasing number of international students, means students arrive with a broader array of religious experiences.
Professor Gomes (pronounced like “homes”) said a more diverse student body at Harvard had meant that “the place is more representative of mainstream America.”
“That provides a group of people who don’t leave their religion at home,” he said.
At Berkeley, a vast number of undergraduates are Asian-American, with many coming from observant Christian homes, said the Rev. Randy Bare, the Presbyterian campus pastor. “That’s new, and it’s a remarkable shift,” Mr. Bare said.
There are 50 to 60 Christian groups on campus, and student attendance at Catholic and Presbyterian churches near campus has picked up significantly, he said. On many other campuses, though, the renewed interest in faith and spirituality has not necessarily translated into increased attendance at religious services.
The Rev. Lloyd Steffen, the chaplain at Lehigh University, is among those who think the war in Iraq has contributed to the interest in religion among students. “I suspect a lot of that has to do with uncertainty over the war,” Mr. Steffen said.
“My theory is that the baby boomers decided they weren’t going to impose their religious life on their children the way their parents imposed it on them,” Mr. Steffen continued. “The idea was to let them come to it themselves. And then they get to campus and things happen; someone dies, a suicide occurs. Real issues arise for them, and they sometimes feel that they don’t have resources to deal with them. And sometimes they turn to religion and courses in religion.”
Increased participation in community service may also reflect spiritual yearning of students. “We don’t use that kind of spiritual language anymore,” said Rebecca S. Chopp, the Colgate president. “But if you look at the students, they do.”
Some sociologists who study religion are skeptical that students’ attitudes have changed significantly, citing a lack of data to compare current students with those of previous generations. But even some of those concerned about the data say something has shifted.
“All I hear from everybody is yes, there is growing interest in religion and spirituality and an openness on college campuses,” said Christian Smith, a professor of sociology at the University of Notre Dame. “Everybody who is talking about it says something seems to be going on.”
David D. Burhans, who retired after 33 years as chaplain at the University of Richmond, said many students “are really exploring, they are really interested in trying things out, in attending one another’s services.”
Lesleigh Cushing, an assistant professor of religion and Jewish studies at Colgate, said: “I can fill basically any class on the Bible. I wasn’t expecting that.”
When Benjamin Wright, chairman of the department of religion studies at Lehigh, arrived 17 years ago, two students chose to major in religion. This year there are 18 religion majors, and there were 30 two and three years ago.
At Harvard, more students are enrolling in religion courses and regularly attending religious services, Professor Gomes said. Presbyterian ministries at Berkeley and Wisconsin have built dormitories to offer spiritual services to students and encourage discussion among different faiths. The seven-story building on the Wisconsin campus, which will house 280 students, is to open in August.
At Colgate, five Buddhist and Hindu students received permission to live in a new apartment complex on the edge of campus this year. They call their apartment Asian Spirituality House and they use it for meetings and occasional religious events.
The number of student religious organizations at Colgate has grown to 11 from 5 in recent years. The university’s Catholic, Protestant and Jewish chaplains oversee an array of programs and events. Many involve providing food to students, a phenomenon that the university chaplain, Mark Shiner, jokingly calls “gastro-evangelism.”
Among the new clubs is one created last year to encourage students to hold wide-ranging dialogues about spirituality and faith. Meeting over lunch on Thursdays in the chapel’s basement, the students talk about what happens when you die or the nature of Catholic spirituality.
Called the Heretics Club (the chaplains were looking to grab students’ attention), the group listened to John Gattuso talk about his book, “Talking to God: Portrait of a World at Prayer” (Stone Creek Publications, 2006), a collection of essays and photos about prayer in world religions.
“Do you need to believe in God in order to pray?” Mr. Gattuso asked.
The discussion was off and running, with one student saying one needed only to believe in “something outside yourself” and another saying that “sometimes ‘Thank you’ can be a prayer.”
Afterward, several students talked about what attracted them to the sessions, besides the sandwiches, chips and fruit. Gabe Conant, a junior, said he wanted to contemplate personal questions about his own faith. He described them this way: “What are these things I was raised in and do I want to keep them?”
The call for an "exodus" from public schools continues to gain momentum in the Southern Baptist Convention, according to sponsors of a resolution being proposed at this summer's SBC annual meeting in San Antonio. Bruce Shortt, a representative of Exodus Mandate, a Christian ministry that urges parents to remove their children from "government" schools and educate them either at home or in Christian schools, announced today plans for the fourth straight year to introduce a resolution encouraging the expansion of Christian alternatives to public education.
Shortt, an attorney from Houston, is co-sponsoring the resolution with Voddie Baucham, an African-American author and conference leader who worked together with Shortt in 2005 in convincing the convention to adopt a resolution on Christian education affirming that parents, and not the government, are primarily responsible for educating their children.
The 2007 resolution seeks to build momentum on a comment made by SBC president Frank Page shortly after his election last summer in Greensboro, N.C. Page, pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C., told Agape Press he is disturbed that many teenagers leave the church after graduating from high school and he hoped that more churches would begin offering Christian schools.
Bauchum said Page's call for more Christian schools reflects "an expanding debate" among Christians over public education. Seminary president Albert Mohler has called on Baptist parents to develop an "exit strategy" for their children from public schools.
"Dr. Page’s call for more Christian schools is the beginning of the 'exit strategy' that Dr. Mohler has urged be developed," Baucham said. "If the SBC and American Christianity are to survive in any culturally relevant way, we are going to have to repent of our unfaithfulness in the education of our children. And we need to do this sooner rather than later."
Shortt, author of The Harsh Truth About Public Schools, said Page's "bold recommendation demonstrates how far the debate over how we educate our children has moved since 2004." That is the year that Shortt and former SBC officer T.C. Pinckney introduced a failed resolution calling on all Southern Baptists to remove their children from public schools and instead see that they receive a "thoroughly Christian" education.
This year's resolution says the majority of Southern Baptist children are being discipled by "an anti-Christian government school system," that undermines values taught in church and home. "Continuing to fail to repent of our unfaithfulness in the education or our children will lead to justified charges of hypocrisy," the resolution says. KEEP READING
Though a National Day of Prayer seems innocuous enough, its become a politicized "holiday" run by extreme rightwing evangelicals. Namely the Dobsons. From Wikipedia:
The National Day of Prayer Task Force is a non-governmental organization created by the National Prayer Committee to help coordinate events on National Day of Prayer. Based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, they work out of facilities from Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian organization. Shirley Dobson (wife of prominent evangelical and Focus on the Family founder, James Dobson) is currently at the head of the Task Force.
The Task Force's charter is tolerant of all religions, although it does not allow members of all religions to participate equally. The Task force's website says in their FAQ section: "Americans of all faiths are encouraged to participate in the [National Day of Prayer] according to their own traditions. However, the [National Day of Prayer] Task Force [only] provides promotional materials and sponsors several events in keeping with the Judeo-Christian tradition". The application for volunteer coordinators with the Task Force lists the following as a primary qualification, "Commitment to Christ. A volunteer must be an evangelical Christian who has a personal relationship with Christ. I acknowledge that I am working for the Lord Jesus Christ and the furthering of His Work on earth and agree to perform my work with the highest standard of Christian faith."
In the National Day of Prayer School Events Guide available on the National Day of Prayer Task Force's website, they argue for the constitutionality and need for a National Day of Prayer, claiming that the "Founding Fathers did not mean for our government to be separated from our God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob".
Issues of Government involvement with religion are often disputed because of the Establishment clause in the First Amendment.
Those opposed to a national day of prayer have established another observance that coincides with the National Day of Prayer called the National Day of Reason.
Making matters worse, James Dobson has been using his radio pulpit as leverage to get Spitzer to agree to observe the holiday. Dobson's Focus on the Family website gloats that Spitzer finally agreed to take part after being "flooded with phone calls from family advocates around the nation."
Of course, Dobson knows, it never hurts to throw in a mention of 9-11 when you're on the ropes. From ChristianPost
"Considering what happened in New York City on 9/11, and the fact that New York has been most often targeted for destruction by terrorists, we believe prayer in that state should be a priority,” Dobson said in his statement Monday, after the proclamation was officially issued. “We are pleased that Gov. Spitzer has now designated Thursday, May 3rd, as a day of prayer.”
As New Yorkers, do we really want to participate in a holiday organized by a group that thinks SpongeBob is gay?
Christopher Hitchens Discusses God Is Not Great, Bush, erections
Instead of admitting he was wrong about Iraq, the relentlessly annoying Bush apologist Christopher Hitchens has conveniently decided to change the subject. Here he is sounding off on his new Richard Dawkins rip-off book God is Not Great: From NY Mag
One of the most annoying things about Christopher Hitchens is that, even at his most vitriolic, he makes at least as much sense as the majority of sober journo-intellectuals buzzing around Washington. This despite the fact that he is one of the last defenders of Bush’s Iraq war--a position that has cost the former Nation contributor a multitude of friends and gotten him new ones like Paul Wolfowitz. Hitchens, who started questioning his faith at age 9 (and wrote a polemic against Mother Teresa called The Missionary Position), has finally written the ultimate attack book, God Is Not Great. He spoke to us about his favorite religious stories, Karl Rove (infidel?), and the one time he found himself praying.
You say in your acknowledgments that you’ve been writing this book your whole life. Do you think it’ll mean as much to others as it means to you?
No, it’s one small step for C.H. into one enormous argument dominated by giants in philosophy and theology and science.
So what makes it different from recent atheist screeds by the likes of Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins?
I don’t think Richard Dawkins would mind me saying that he looks at religious people with this sort of incredulity, as if, “How possibly can you be so stupid?” And though we all have moods like that, I think perhaps I don’t quite.
And what if one of your children found God? Would that be a problem?
Not at all. My children, to the extent that they have found religion, have found it from me, in that I insist on at least a modicum of religious education for them. The schools won’t do it anymore. And I even insist, though my wife [who is Jewish] isn’t that thrilled, on having for our daughter a little version of the Seder.
What’s your favorite Bible story?
“Casting the first stone” is a lovely story, even though we’ve found out how much it wasn’t in the Bible to begin with. And the first of the miracles. Jesus changes water into wine. You can’t object to that.
Well, you’ve said plenty about the pleasures of drink before.
But it also shows the persistence of the Hellenic influence in those regions. If the Jews had not made the crucial mistake of rejecting Hellenism and philosophy and submitting themselves, or being reconquered, by the Maccabean ultra-Orthodox, everything would have been better and we’d never have had to endure Christianity and Islam.
So I guess you’re not a fan of Hanukkah.
And they picked it for the worst possible reason, because it happens to be nearest to Christmas! I mean, it’s so tawdry.
You’re an even bigger critic of Islam.
If you ask specifically what is wrong with Islam, it makes the same mistakes as the preceding religions, but it makes another mistake, which is that it’s unalterable. You notice how liberals keep saying, “If only Islam would have a Reformation”--it can’t have one. It says it can’t. It’s extremely dangerous in that way.
Do you think an avowed atheist would ever get elected in the U.S.?
Yes. I do not believe any of the statistical claims that are made about public opinion. I don’t see why anybody does.
Has anyone in the Bush administration confided in you about being an atheist?
Well, I don’t talk that much to them—maybe people think I do. I know something which is known to few but is not a secret. Karl Rove is not a believer, and he doesn’t shout it from the rooftops, but when asked, he answers quite honestly. I think the way he puts it is, “I’m not fortunate enough to be a person of faith.”
What must Bush make of that?
I think it’s false to say that the president acts as if he believes he has God’s instructions. Compared to Jimmy Carter, he’s nowhere. He’s a Methodist, having joined his wife’s church in the end. He also claims that Jesus got him off the demon drink. He doesn’t believe it. His wife said, “If you don’t stop, I’m leaving and I’m taking the kids.” You can say that you got help from Jesus if you want, but that’s just a polite way of putting it in Texas.
Do you consider yourself a hawk?
I used to wish there was a useful term for those of us who thought American power should be used to remove psychopathic dictators.
So one day we’ll all see just how right you all were about Iraq?
No, I don’t think the argument will stop, perhaps forever. But when it does become the property of historians rather than propagandists and journalists, it’ll become plainer than it is to most people now that it was just. Most of what went wrong with it was that it was put off too long. What a lot of people wish is that the thing could have been skipped. [....]
Have you ever prayed in your life?
I probably once did pray for an erection, but not addressed to anyone in particular. Nor completely addressed to my cock. You’re too polite to ask if the prayer was answered.
No. There was an answer, but I don’t think it was the result of the prayer. After all, if one was not a mammal, and could get erections on demand, there’d be no need for prayer in the first place.