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.

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.

Cannibals weren’t just lazy — they also lacked good nutrition…

❝ Note to the prehistoric party planner: One dead mammoth can feed 25 hungry Neanderthals for a month, but cannibalizing a human would provide the crowd with only a third of a day’s calories…Essentially, you’re a walking lunch.

❝ A study of ancient cannibalism estimated the food value of humans and Paleolithic animals…The findings: People are not so nutritious.

Humans have a low percentage of muscle and little caloric value.

❝ A new look at the nutritional value of human flesh shows that, compared with other Paleolithic prey animals, humans weren’t especially packed with calories for their size.

…Study author James Cole of the University of Brighton says…boars and beavers pack about 1,800 calories into each pound of muscle compared with a measly 650 calories from a modern human. That’s about what would be expected based on our overall size and muscularity compared to other animals…So…if humans aren’t especially valuable in terms of prey, why eat them? After all, unless they are sick or dying, they wouldn’t be easy to hunt…

Instead, Cole argues that perhaps not all ancient cannibalism was for filling bellies; it may have also served various social functions for early humans and their ancestors.

Gimme that old time religion!

❝ Archaeologists have found evidence of cannibalism in the human family tree at least as far back as 800,000 years. And though cutting and gnawing marks on bones can’t reveal motivations, ancient remains do offer a few clues to how widespread cannibalistic practices were throughout human evolution…

❝ Perhaps, anthropologist Erik Trinkaus says, the real message is that ancient people had more of a mix of motivations for cannibalism than we’ve given them credit for. After all, human cannibalism in recent centuries has many roots, including warfare, survival, spiritual beliefs, and psychosis.

The article is interesting in the diversity of patterns examined around the archaeologic world. Including conclusions about how and what cultural patterns contribute to the practice.

The collapse of white middle class America

❝ In 2015, a blockbuster study came to a surprising conclusion: Middle-aged white Americans are dying younger for the first time in decades, despite positive life expectancy trends in other wealthy countries and other segments of the US population.

The research, by Princeton University’s Anne Case and Angus Deaton, highlighted the links between economic struggles, suicides, and alcohol and drug overdoses…Since then, Case and Deaton have been working to more fully explain their findings…

❝ In a new 60-page paper, “Mortality and morbidity in the 21st Century,” out in draft form in the Brookings Papers on Economic Activity…the researchers weave a narrative of “cumulative disadvantage” over a lifetime for white people ages 45 through 54, particularly those with low levels of education.

Along with worsening job prospects over the past several decades, this group has seen their chances of a stable marriage and family decline, along with their overall health. To manage their despair about the gap between their hopes and what’s come of their lives, they’ve often turned to drugs, alcohol, and suicide.

Meanwhile, gains in fighting heart disease have stalled, and rates of obesity and diabetes have ploddingly climbed.

Here are the five big takeaways from the researchers’ new opus.

❝ 1) Suicides, alcohol, and drug overdose deaths have gone up across the entire country…It’s not just a rural problem…

2) Deaths from chronic diseases such as diabetes have been rising…

3) The least-educated Americans are suffering the most…

4) Other nonwhite racial groups aren’t experiencing the same mortality uptick — so it’s not just about income…

5) This story is unique to the US…

❝ If American wants to turn the trend around, then it has to become a little more like other countries with more generous safety nets and more accessible health care, the researchers said. Introducing a single-payer health system, for example, or value-added or goods and services taxes that support a stronger safety net would be top of their policy wish list…

America right now is, of course, moving in the opposite direction under Trump, and shredding the safety net…

No one ever complained about American voters being quick to react to economic and political dangers threatening their lives and lifestyle. The opposite prevails courtesy of pundits, priests and – I would venture – a lockstep 2-party political hierarchy that severely limits opportunities for change outside the boundaries of obedience.

It may be that the contemptible, sneering class warfare now being inflicted in tandem by Trump and neo-con Republicans will provoke sufficient opposition to rise fast enough and deep enough to flush out the Democratic Party deadwood. I hope so.

That doesn’t mean I’m confident.

The death rate gap widens between urban and rural America


Sometimes you actually get what you voted for

❝ If you live in a city or a suburb, chances are you’ve seen the health of people around you improve over time — fewer deaths from cardiovascular disease, better cancer treatments, and fewer premature deaths.

But if you’re one of the 46 million Americans who live in a rural area, odds are you’ve watched the health of your neighbors stagnate and worsen.

❝ New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that rates of the five leading causes of death — heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries, chronic lower respiratory disease, and stroke — are higher among rural Americans. In other words, mortality rates in rural areas for these preventable deaths, which were going down, are now plateauing and even increasing…

❝ …More than income, more than the frequency with which you exercise, the simple fact of where you live can have a huge impact on your health…

…the most pronounced rural-urban gaps are deaths from unintentional injuries — like suicide or drug overdose — and deaths from chronic lower respiratory disease…

❝ …According to the CDC, part of it is that people in rural areas often don’t have access to health care facilities that can quickly treat severe trauma. The opioid epidemic is also overwhelmingly concentrated in rural pockets of the US, as are the related overdose deaths.

But it’s not just deaths from unintentional injuries that disproportionately affect rural Americans. Rural Americans are also far more likely to die from CLRD, which encompasses a wide range of lung diseases from occupational lung diseases to pulmonary hypertension. The CDC believes this discrepancy is largely due to cigarette smoking being far more prevalent among adults living in rural counties…

❝ Additionally, a higher percentage of rural Americans are in poorer health. Generally speaking, rural Americans report higher incidences of preventable conditions like obesity, diabetes, cancer, and injury. They also face higher uninsured rates in addition to fewer health services.

Yes, these folks represent one of the significant communities that voted for Trumponomics, Republican plans to repeal Obamacare, just about any government program predicated on mandating better healthcare and preventive medicine.

The operative question remains – stupid or ignorant? You might throw in gullible if you look at folks who rely on “good enough for Grandpa”.

Georgia homophobes want Christian sharia — 400 companies ready to say “Goodbye”

A coalition of more than 400 companies is openly opposing a Georgia “religious liberty” bill that is rapidly heading toward passage, with at least one major company already leaving the state over the proposal.

The proposed law would allow both individuals and organizations to refuse to conduct business with or otherwise discriminate against anyone whose marriage they find counters their religious beliefs. It also protects individuals from existing nondiscrimination laws in Atlanta and elsewhere.

A similar bill was dismissed last year, but the speed at which this year’s version…is moving has raised serious concerns among state lawmakers, business owners, the faith community and activists.

The bill passed both the House and, in a different form, the Senate this month. The most recent version bars the government from taking “adverse action” against a person or faith-based organization that “believes, speaks, or acts in accordance” with the religious belief that “marriage should only be between a man and a woman”.

Telecom startup 373k announced it would to relocate from Decatur, Georgia, to Nevada immediately after the Georgia senate voted in favor of the measure last week…

Based on the over 500 emails he’s received from members of his district and elsewhere, House Representative Taylor Bennett agrees there’s “overwhelming opposition” to the proposed law.

Just in the last week, roughly 100 businesses have joined a coalition of what is now over 400 companies opposing the religious freedom bill. The group Georgia Prospers, of which Moore is a member, includes a range of businesses – from Fortune 500 companies like Delta, Coca-Cola, and Home Depot to smaller ones across the state – in support of “treating all Georgians and visitors fairly”.

Several have cited fears that Georgia will suffer lost revenue, as in Indiana where public disdain for a similar bill, before it even became law, is said to have cost the state $60m. Atlanta’s chamber of commerce and visitors’ bureau produced separate studies citing a potential loss of $1bn to $2bn if the bill passes without civil rights protections.

The religious community is also represented among the many in opposition to the law. Nearly 300 clergy members in the state spoke out this week against the “overly broad, discriminatory” proposal.

This is part of the same range of defenses erected and attempted early days of the civil rights movement. Hard-core bigots can always rely on their officially religious peers to support any rejection of the rest of the nation moving forward. They get what they deserve when the civil portion of the United States decides to boycott backwards ideology and reactionary behavior.

I would be no more likely to support a business or social endeavor in a state with laws like this than I would have to deal with comparable bodies in apartheid South Africa BITD.

Want to go back to 19th Century bigotry – then you deserve a 19th Century income.

More than 80 bodies surface in Ganges River — sanitation must supersede religion


“Normal” pollution

India’s special environmental court has criticised the government for its failure to curb river pollution, a lawyer petitioning the court has said, after scores of bodies surfaced in the Ganges river.

Last week more than 80 bodies – mostly decomposed skeletons and half-burned corpses – surfaced in the river in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh after a drop in water levels.

Their emergence has reignited concerns among environmentalists over the uncontrolled practice of body disposal in the Ganges by Hindus, who consider the river to be sacred.

On Monday the National Green Tribunal, a court set up to look at environmental grievances, ordered both the water resources and environment ministries to explain who should be held responsible for the pollution in the Ganges…

Millions visit places along its banks, such as the sacred city of Varanasi, to cremate their dead and scatter their ashes in the river.

Others bathe in the Ganges in an act of ritual purification, believing the river cleanses them of sin and frees them from the cycle of rebirth.

Authorities say the corpses in the Ganges are the deceased from poor families who cannot afford to buy enough firewood for cremation and are forced to immerse the half-burned bodies of their loved ones in the river.

Unmarried women and children are often buried in shallow graves along the riverbank, and their remains can be washed into the river when water levels rise.

Bansal said at least 3,000 bodies were recovered from the Ganges annually, yet the government had remained a “mute spectator” to the health risks of cremations and burials along its banks.

Exactly the kind of reason requiring the separation of religion from the civic responsibilities of government.

Young Americans moving US to be less religious, more rational


Plenty of seating, eh?

Declining levels of religious belief and practice among the generation of Americans born in the last two decades of the 20th century is shifting the US towards becoming a less devout nation, a major new survey has found.

The growing proportion of “millennials” – young adults now in their 20s and 30s – who do not belong to any organised faith is changing America’s religious landscape, says a report by the respected Pew Research Center, based on a survey of 35,000 people.

The religiously unaffiliated or “nones”, who include atheists and those who describe their religion as “nothing in particular”, have grown to 23% of the US population, compared to 16% at the time of the last comparable survey in 2007.

But three out of four Americans still have some religious faith, mainly Protestant denominations, Catholics, Jews, Mormons, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus. And 89% of US adults say they believe in God – including a significant proportion of “nones” – making America more religiously inclined than other advanced industrial nations.

“Advanced” referring to industrial economy and GDP. Not necessarily education, quality of life.

Youth largely equates with a lack of religious activity, says the report. One in four millennials attend religious services on a weekly basis, compared with more than half of those adults born before or during the second world war. Only 38% of adults born after 1990 say religion is very important in their lives, compared with 67% of those born before 1945…

In general…“as older cohorts of adults (comprised mainly of self-identified Christians) pass away, they are being replaced by a new cohort of young adults who display far lower levels of attachment to organised religion than their parents’ and grandparents’ generations did when they were the same age”…

The changes are reflected in support for the two main political parties, with “nones” now forming the largest single religious group among Democrats, while evangelical Protestants make up the largest religious bloc among Republicans.

Nearly all major religious groups have become significantly more accepting of homosexuality, the report says. A majority of all Christians now say homosexuality should be accepted by society, up from 44% in 2007 to 54% in 2014, with the proportion of Catholics up from 58% in 2007 to 70% in 2014.

There has been little change in attitudes to abortion, with 53% of all adults saying it should be legal in all or most cases…

11% of all US Christians say they speak or pray in tongues at least once a week…Slightly lower than the generally accepted percentage of Americans who think the Earth is flat.