Use of contraception did more to reduce abortions than restrictive laws – of course

❝ US women are having abortions at the lowest rate on record since Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion, according to a new report. In fact, contrary to popular opinion, the abortion rate has been steadily declining for decades.

❝ The new report comes from a massive census of US abortion providers taken every three years by the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit research organization that supports legal abortion. It’s surprisingly difficult to get accurate data on abortion in the US…but Guttmacher’s census is the most comprehensive available on the subject…

❝ The abortion ratio — the proportion of abortions to live births — is also down to historic lows. In 1995, the abortion ratio was about 26 abortions for every 100 live births; in 2014, it was 18.8…

The abortion rate mostly fell because more women used birth control, and used more reliable methods…

But abortion rates in the US have been falling even faster than usual since 2008 — 3 or 4 percent per year instead of about 2. And while Guttmacher researchers Rachel Jones and Jenna Jerman caution that more research is needed to fully understand the link between abortion access and abortion rates, better contraception appears to be the main reason.

RTFA for a reasoned discussion about conclusions drawn by pro-choice scientists relying on data vs anti-abortion rights ideologues whose belief systems ignore credible data.

Sound familiar?

That big white church on the Hill

❝ The share of U.S. adults who describe themselves as Christians has been declining for decades, but the U.S. Congress is about as Christian today as it was in the early 1960s, according to a new analysis by Pew Research Center. Indeed, among members of the new, 115th Congress, 91% describe themselves as Christians. This is nearly the same percentage as in the 87th Congress (1961 to 1962, the earliest years for which comparable data are available), when 95% of members were Christian.

❝ Among the 293 Republicans elected to serve in the new, 115th Congress, all but two identify as Christians; there are two Jewish Republicans – Lee Zeldin of New York and David Kustoff of Tennessee – who both serve in the House. Democrats in Congress also are overwhelmingly Christian (80%), but there is more religious diversity on this side of the aisle. The 242 Democrats in Congress include 28 Jews, three Buddhists, three Hindus, two Muslims and one Unitarian Universalist – as well as the only member of Congress to describe herself as religiously unaffiliated, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. In addition, all 10 members of Congress who decline to state their religious affiliation are Democrats…

❝ The group that is most notably underrepresented is the religiously unaffiliated. This group – also known as religious “nones” – now accounts for 23% of the general public but just 0.2% of Congress…

❝ As with Republicans in the general public, Republican members of Congress are overwhelmingly Christian (99%). Among U.S. adults who identify with or lean toward the Republican Party, 82% are Christian…

There are fewer Christian Democrats than Republicans, both among U.S. adults overall (63% of those who identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party are Christian) and in Congress, where eight-in-ten Democrats identify as Christians…

❝ Within Christianity, however, Congress has seen a major shift as the share of Protestants has declined, a trend mirrored in the overall decline of the U.S. Protestant population. Protestants made up fully three-quarters of the 87th Congress, compared with 56% of the current Congress. Meanwhile, Catholics, who made up 19% of the 87th Congress, now make up 31% of the body.

Like the people who voted for them, I imagine most members of Congress are probably driving today’s version of their father’s Oldsmobile, as well. Cultural lag really is a significant feature of American electoral politics.

Even more unfortunate, I can’t help but feel that our Congress-critters think of Americans as all belonging to “their” church.

Is there a Religious Left in America?


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❝ The religious left is the Sasquatch of American politics. It leaves footprints in the snow but recent sightings of the creature itself are rare, and not always credible.

Progressive politics is dominated by secular ideals and, increasingly, secular voters. In recent decades, the words “Christian” and “evangelical” have been commandeered as synonyms for “white conservative.” Religious liberals never achieved the power of their conservative opposites…The once-explosive growth of conservative evangelicals has stalled. Yet the religious left doesn’t appear to be benefiting much.

Instead, the ranks of the religiously unaffiliated are growing. A 2016 report by the Public Religion Research Institute stated: “Today, one-quarter (25 percent) of Americans claim no formal religious identity, making this group the single largest ‘religious group’ in the U.S.”

❝ Yet if ever there were a moment for the left to seize the mantle of religion from conservatives, surely it arrives Jan. 20 at noon. Donald Trump received the votes of four in five white evangelical or born-again Christians. Hypocrisy is as old as humanity, but even hypocrisy has a gross weight limit.

Christian conservatives are now inextricably tied to an incoming president with a long, public history of exploiting the weak, and no documented history of charity, faith or Christian communion or witness. They have endorsed a First Lady whose modeling career included a pornographic photo shoot described by the Trump-friendly New York Post as “girl on girl.” Even among the plaster saints of the religious right, Trump is a heavy burden to bear.

❝ Sojourners is one of the groups seeking to rally the religious left. “Our Constitution’s protection of religious freedom empowers faith institutions to oppose state-sanctioned bigotry and violence and creates strong sanctuaries for those Jesus called the ‘least of these’ in Matthew 25,” said Lisa Sharon Harper…

A coalition of groups has launched the “Matthew 25” initiative to fight an expected barrage of federal policies targeting the most vulnerable — including the poor, immigrants and Muslims. “These people are organizing under the banner of Jesus,” Harper said.

❝ In North Carolina, the liberal “Moral Mondays” movement has been partially credited with the election in November of Democrat Roy Cooper as governor. The success of the movement — named for weekly public demonstrations against the conservative legislature and incumbent governor — is a powerful precedent. It gained momentum not only because of charismatic religious leadership, but because of unusually aggressive Republican efforts to undermine voting rights and cut funding for education and services…

❝ Trump’s regular shocks to decency, along with an expected Republican assault on funding for the poor, will outrage both secular liberals and the religious left. But will that be enough to bring the left’s religious Sasquatch out of hiding?

I have no idea. Being an old cranky geek, I’m less likely to find myself marching than blogging, nowadays.

There was a time when I could count on cellmates who were priests, partners canvassing door-to-door who were nuns, family and friends who learned childhood ethics in Protestant Yankee denominations who dedicated time and effort to the betterment of life on earth – instead of preaching faith in Wall Street dollar$ over old-timey Christian values.

I wish Sojourners well. Same to the brave folks leading the activism of Moral Monday in Confederate and other Republican states. I respect your courage and integrity. As I always have. But, I surely wish you had more friends.

Mormon Tabernacle Choir member quits rather than perform for Trump

❝ A member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir has resigned in protest over the group’s decision to sing at President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration, saying “it will appear that [the] Choir is endorsing tyranny and [fascism] by singing for this man.”

❝ The famous choir, which is affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), first announced its decision to perform at Trump’s inauguration last week. The news sparked controversy among Mormons—many of whom are deeply ambivalent about Trump—but organizers justified the decision by noting that the group has performed at the inaugural celebrations of both Republican and Democratic presidents.

❝ …The reasoning was not enough for at least one performer: Jan Chamberlin, a member of the choir, published a Facebook post on Thursday morning announcing she would rather quit than sing for Trump…

“Since ‘the announcement,’ I have spent several sleepless nights and days in turmoil and agony…I’ve tried to tell myself that by not going to the inauguration, that I would be able to stay in choir for all the other good reasons. I’ve tried to tell myself that it will be all right and that I can continue in good conscience before God and man.” Chamberlin wrote. “But it’s no use. I simply cannot continue with the recent turn of events. I could never look myself in the mirror again with self respect.”…

❝ “Tyranny is now on our doorstep; it has been sneaking its way into our lives through stealth,” she wrote. “We must continue our love and support for the refugees and the oppressed by fighting against these great evils.”…

“I only know I could never ‘throw roses to Hitler.’ And I certainly could never sing for him,” she wrote.

Bravo! A courageous stand against bigotry. An evil Mormons have often faced in their young history. Too bad so many mainstream and evangelical sects in this land haven’t the same sense of history and justice.

The Pope says atheists don’t have to believe in God to go to heaven


Osservatore Romano

❝ In comments likely to enhance his progressive reputation, Pope Francis has written a long, open letter to the founder of La Repubblica newspaper, Eugenio Scalfari, stating that non-believers would be forgiven by God if they followed their consciences.

Responding to a list of questions published in the paper by Mr Scalfari, who is not a Roman Catholic, Francis wrote: “You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don’t believe and who don’t seek the faith. I start by saying – and this is the fundamental thing – that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience.

“Sin, even for those who have no faith, exists when people disobey their conscience.”

Not bad. I know a few Christians who try to live up to that standard.

❝ Robert Mickens, the Vatican correspondent for the Catholic journal The Tablet, said the pontiff’s comments were further evidence of his attempts to shake off the Catholic Church’s fusty image, reinforced by his extremely conservative predecessor Benedict XVI. “Francis is a still a conservative,” said Mr Mickens. “But what this is all about is him seeking to have a more meaningful dialogue with the world.”

Given the reliance upon conservative Christians demonstrated by our most reactionary politicians you have to wonder what kind of dichotomy is required of folks who consider themselves fundamentally dedicated to the best of their faith – who then support, work for, and vote for some of the most hate-filled creeps in American history.

Six seconds of porn is more than enough time for most people to enjoy themselves — Huh? Wha?

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❝ Vine will not be left to shrivel up and die on itself, not if Pornhub has anything to say about it.

Earlier on Thursday Twitter announced it was ending Vine’s short run, and the adult site was quick to come to the rescue…maybe.

❝ In a letter from Pornhub VP Corey Price to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey that was shared with CNET, Price lays out the rationale:

“We figure since Twitter has dropped (Vine) and is having significant layoffs, that you and your stakeholders could benefit from a cash infusion from the sale of Vine. Not to mention we would be saving Vine gems like ‘Damn Daniel,’ ‘Awkward Puppets’ and many more.”

Pornhub also promises to “restore Vine to Its NSFW glory,” saying that clips “of porn in six seconds is more than enough time for most people to enjoy themselves.”

❝ Uh…yeah…

❝ …Who knows, maybe Twitter will be willing to deal with Pornhub. Let’s just hope it doesn’t lead to a rash of six-second naked prank vids; that might be the only thing worse than killing off Vine.

CNET’s analysis of financial news is probably the only thing worse than their product reviews. Still, they made it to the humor plateau. Poisonally, I doubt the PornHub folks are kidding or foolish. Unlike most adult industrial nations in the mainstream of Western constitutional democracy the United States still defines most ethics by the morality stored in the fundamentalist Christian guidebook originated to the designs of a 17th Century monarch.

The most successful pornographers know better than that.

Thanks, Om

New Hampshire now the least religious state in the United States

❝ New Hampshire is the least religious state in the U.S., edging out Vermont in Gallup’s 2015 state-by-state analysis…Mississippi has extended its eight-year streak as the most religious state, followed closely by neighboring Alabama…

Hmmm. Think education has anything to do with this?

❝ Gallup classifies Americans into three religious groups based on their responses to a question measuring religious service attendance and how important religion is in their daily life.

Very religious Americans are those who say religion is important to them and who attend services every week or almost every week.

Nonreligious Americans are those for whom religion is not important and who seldom or never attend religious services.

Moderately religious Americans meet just one of the criteria, either saying religion is important or that they attend services almost every week or more.

❝ Gallup began tracking several religious indicators on a daily basis in 2008. Some of these indicators have shown significant change over this time, most notably the percentage of Americans who report no formal religious identity when asked to name their religious preference. But the percentage classified as very religious on the basis of their attendance and view on the importance of religion has stayed remarkably stable.

Yup. My view on the not-usefulness of religion hasn’t changed since 1951. Been an atheist ever since. Extended the depth of that understanding through studies in science and philosophy in following years.

Feds investigating church selling bleach as a cure for autism

❝ Federal prosecutors continue to scrutinize a bizarre church and its exiled founder who claims he was sent here from another galaxy to sell a “miracle cure” for autism.

The Genesis II Church of Health and Healing has been accused of preying on thousands of families with autistic children by selling the corrosive antidote known as “Master Mineral Solution,” which is nothing more than household bleach…

“They might as well be selling Clorox,” Ben Mizer of the U.S. Department of Justice told ABC News in an investigation into the church. Mizer said so far one person has been prosecuted for selling the so-called cure…

❝ Humble, who…now says he is a billion-year-old god from another galaxy, writes on one of his websites that he “discovered” the antidote “whilst prospecting for minerals deep in the jungles of South America” and used it on a companion who fell ill with malaria.

Now the bottles are sold on several fringe websites, including one U.S. based company that charges $12.95 for a 4 ounce bottle, and up to $96 for a package of 12 bottles. The store’s site says all sales are donated to the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing…

❝ Experts in the autism community say there’s no merit to their claims and that Humble and other church members are peddling “poison.”

This is a poison. This is high-strength industrial bleach,” Dr. Paul Wang, the senior vice president of Autism Speaks…“It really scares me that people would give this to their kids, because it is a poison…”

A sucker born every minute is a long-standing American religious proverb.

So, um, how did you celebrate Oilfield Prayer Day?

❝ In an announcement we only wish were part of an SNL cold open, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin proclaimed Oct. 13 Oilfield Prayer Day. All you need to celebrate is rest, relaxation, and a solemn request to the heavens to make fracking great again.

❝ The official statewide initiative is the brainchild of Fallin and Reverend Tom Beddow, who runs the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma’s Oil Path Chaplains ministry. “We’re asking churches all over Oklahoma to open their doors, put on a pot of coffee, and pray for the oil field,” Beddow told The Oklahoman. While originally calling upon only Christians, Fallin revised the proclamation Monday to beseech oil-enthusiasts of all faiths.

❝ Last month, Oklahoma saw a 5.8 magnitude earthquake — the state’s largest in recorded history — in an area regularly injected with wastewater from oil and gas companies. That type of wastewater disposal has been linked to earthquakes. With that in mind, Oilfield Prayer Day seems a distasteful addition to a week filled with real holidays such as Indigenous People’s Day and Yom Kippur.

Given the dedication to 14th Century ideology practiced by both state and citizens in Oklahoma, none of this surprises me. There is little of our Constitutional separation of church and state at offer in that benighted state.