Christianity in America grudgingly moves in opposite directions

A series of Pew Research Center polls released last week shows how ideas about religious belief and morality are increasingly falling along racial and political lines. Fifty-six percent of Americans now say that belief in God isn’t a necessary component of morality, up from 49 percent in 2011. The uptick reflects the wider prevalence of the spiritually unaffiliated, or “nones,” as nearly a quarter of Americans identified as atheist or agnostic in 2011.

The change may be only a 7-point difference. But those differences manifest themselves almost exclusively along political lines.

Having resolved this discussion to the best information available in science and philosophy – at the time – I’ve been a philosophical materialist, a dialectician, an atheist since 1956. Every serious scientific publication I’ve read since has only strengthened that conviction.

While Republicans have roughly held steady in their attitudes — 50 percent say a belief in God is necessary for morality, while 47 percent say it is not — Democrats have shown the most change in their perspectives. Almost two-thirds of Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters now say belief in God is not part of being a good person, compared with 51 percent in 2011.

RTFA for more directions – and direction – the authors seem solid that this portion of their survey speaks most accurately to changes in the United States.

Senate Committee Votes Against Republican Anti-Abortion Gag Rule

❝ In a vote that marks a rejection of the Trump administration’s foreign aid budget and approach to family planning policy abroad, the Senate Appropriations Committee moved Thursday to reinstate funding for the United Nations Population Fund and overturn the global gag rule, a longstanding Republican policy that forbids U.S. support for international health organizations that offer or discuss abortion services.

❝ The Mexico City Policy, the formal name of the global gag rule, was put into effect during the Reagan administration, has existed under every Republican administration since. Under President Donald Trump, it is more sweeping, denying funding for family planning, nutrition, child health, and certain illnesses to aid organizations that refuse to comply.

Previous Republican administrations only denied organizations family planning funds.

❝ Separately, in April, the State Department announced plans to end support for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), to which the United States is the second largest donor. The State Department cited allegations that the family planning arm of the U.N. participated in forced sterilization in China, something the international body called “erroneous.”

A polite way to acknowledge lies from the US government.

❝ Both of these policy moves came under fire as the appropriations committee was deliberating the Foreign Operations Funding Bill. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) proposed an amendment that would overturn the president’s version of the Mexico City Policy, and limit any future president’s power to reinstate it, while also restoring U.S. contributions to UNFPA. The amendment narrowly passed 16-15 with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) voting against it, while Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Ark.) voted for it.

Collins and Murkowski have both vocally opposed Trump’s decision to reinstate the Mexico City Policy since the president signed the executive order shortly after entering office.

Nice to see – and not entirely unexpected from Republican women – conservatives get up on their hind legs and separate themselves from 19th Century ideology.

Also not surprising to witness Manchin embracing one more backwards policy.

Turkey’s schools start to drop evolution — and add jihad

❝ From September Turkey will have a new education curriculum and this 38-year-old mother is among many parents who are worried. The changes affect first, fifth- and ninth-grade students, and the main controversy surrounds the exclusion of the theory of evolution from secondary education.

“In classes, nine- and 10-year-old students have been memorising prayers from the Koran. I believe religious education should be given at home, not in schools,” said the woman, who did not want to be named, due to security concerns.

❝ Other controversial changes include shortening the time allocated to studying the life of Turkey’s secularist founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, an introduction to the concept of jihad and more classes on religion…

❝ The secular opposition in Turkey says President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the governing AK party are trying to move the country away from its founding values, and make society more Islamic and conservative. Mr Erdogan has repeatedly expressed his ambition to raise pious generations…

RTFA. The changes are only a beginning. Enough to warm the cockles of any religious reactionary in other lands. The anti-science brigade doesn’t especially care which religion supersedes science in which country. The backwardness of the Dark Ages is a satisfying start – for them.

Callista Gingrich nomination to the Vatican stinks on ice


What passes for job qualifications inside the Beltway

❝ Let us consider the qualifications of President Trump’s nominee to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Holy See: one Callista Gingrich of Virginia.

❝ She is a former clerk on the House Agriculture Committee…She is the author of children’s books about an elephant named Ellis…She sings in the choir at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception…She plays French horn in City of Fairfax Band…And, she testified Tuesday, she has “looked at some of” Pope Francis’s encyclical on climate change.

❝ But really, Gingrich was receiving a confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee because of one qualification: She is married to Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House and a major backer of President Trump.

And now, for his support of Trump, he is getting the ultimate patronage: the chance to live in Rome on the taxpayer’s dime while his wife, the president of Gingrich Productions, enjoys a plum posting…

❝ National Catholic Reporter’s Michael Sean Winters called it “astonishing that a party that celebrates family values at every turn has a president who is on his third wife and who has bragged about his extramarital affairs and who is appointing an ambassador to the Vatican who had a six-year affair with her future husband while he was still married to his second wife.”

The nomination of Callista is also Trump’s beatification of Newt, who has done as much as anyone to coarsen American politics — and to pave the way for Trump — with his name-calling, demonizing and brinkmanship.

Appointments like this one are often payback for loyalty. With a so-called president who values loyalty as the dearest form of obedience, I guess no one should be surprised at an appointment as incompetent as anything else he’s done to demean the presidency.

Pope hosts conference on sustainability – takes delivery on Electric Popemobile


Click to enlarge

Vatican City wants to become the first C02 free country in the world through the use of electric mobility and renewable energy.

During Laudato Sì, a sustainability conference addressing key environmental issues and future mobility, hosted by the Vatican earlier this week, Opel’s CEO Dr. Karl-Thomas Neumann presented his Holiness Pope Francis with the keys to a brand new Opel Ampera-e…

During the conference, Vatican City, along with Opel and Italian energy company Enel, promised to develop a sustainable mobility program for the smallest country in the world.

The Opel Ampera-e isn’t a bad place to start, its 520 km of NEDC rated range dwarf its next closest competitor by at least 100 km.

Yes, it is a Chevy Bolt – the German version produced by Opel.

Trump’s Likely Pick for USDA Chief Scientist Ain’t A Scientist, Of Course

❝ The USDA’s research section studies everything from climate change to nutrition. Under the 2008 Farm Bill, its leader is supposed to serve as the agency’s “chief scientist” and be chosen “from among distinguished scientists with specialized or significant experience in agricultural research, education, and economics.”

But Sam Clovis — who, according to sources with knowledge of the appointment and members of the agriculture trade press, is President Trump’s pick to oversee the section — appears to have no such credentials.

Clovis has never taken a graduate course in science and is openly skeptical of climate change. While he has a doctorate in public administration and was a tenured professor of business and public policy at Morningside College for 10 years, he has published almost no academic work.

❝ Clovis is better known for hosting a conservative talk radio show in his native Iowa and, after mounting an unsuccessful run for Senate in 2014, becoming a fiery pro-Trump advocate on television.

Being a conservative Christian mouthpiece for Agribusiness and reactionary corporate interests in general is good enough for our so-called president. Evidence-based scientific findings mean nothing to Trump, the chumps who voted for him, the political party which rolls over and sticks all four feet into the air when challenged to support pretty much anything on any issuie which would aid the lives of Americans who work for a living.

Way More Americans Probably Are Atheists Than We Thought

❝ After signing an executive order earlier this month that seeks to relax restrictions on the political activities of tax-exempt churches, President Trump said the order was an important affirmation of the American identity. “We’re a nation of believers,” he said. Trump is right in one sense — 69 percent of Americans say a belief in God is an important part of being American — but he’s wrong demographically: Atheists constitute a culturally significant part of American society.

❝ We’re not sure how significant, though. The number of atheists in the U.S. is still a matter of considerable debate. Recent surveys have found that only about one in 10 Americans report that they do not believe in God, and only about 3 percent identify as atheist. But a new study suggests that the true number of atheists could be much larger, perhaps even 10 times larger than previously estimated.

❝ The authors of the study, published earlier this year, adopted a novel way to measure atheist identity. Instead of asking about belief in God directly, they provided a list of seemingly innocuous statements and then asked: “How many of these statements are true of you?” Respondents in a control group were given a list of nine statements, such as “I own a dog” and “I am a vegetarian.” The test group received all the same statements plus one that read, “I do not believe in God.” The totals from the test group were then compared to those from the control group, allowing researchers to estimate the number of people who identify as atheists without requiring any of the respondents to directly state that they don’t believe in God. The study concludes that roughly one-quarter (26 percent) of Americans likely do not believe in God.

While this result is fairly stunning and not consistent with any published survey results, there is good reason to suspect that more direct measures significantly underestimate the number of atheists.

Interesting article. Interesting methods. Having figured out I knew enough science to be an atheist by age 13, a philosophical materialist by age 18 – the questions are moot. If not boring. But, then, I don’t know anyone following my personal blog who’s older than me either. 🙂 Sorted these questions a long, long time ago.

Americans are a small measure less chickenshit about such questions, nowadays. Small.