Thursday, April 28, 2005

In the beginning was the MS Word...

Suburban Guerrilla reports that Microsoft is paying $20,000 a month to Ralph Reed, the former head of the Christian Coalition and now a "public affairs consultant".

WASHINGTON -- Microsoft Corp. is paying social conservative Ralph Reed $20,000 a month as a consultant, triggering complaints that the well-connected Republican with close ties to the White House and to evangelist Pat Robertson may have persuaded the company to oppose gay rights legislation.


Microsoft spokesman Mark Murray said the company has hired Reed on several occasions to provide advice on "trade and competition issues." He said Reed's relationship as a consultant with the software company extends back "several years.

Can you even buy computer software these days without financing school prayer, teaching of creationism, coerced parenthood,...?

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Designs on the University

The prestigious science journal Nature has a feature in its 28 April 2005 issue titled "Who Has Designs on Your Students' Minds?" This article points out the increasing prevalence with which ID is given attention at our colleges and universities, and the alarmingly receptive audience found among incoming students.
But despite researchers' apparent lack of interest, or perhaps because of it, the movement is catching on among students on US university campuses. Much of the interest can be traced to US teenagers, more than three-quarters of whom believe, before they reach university, that God played some part in the origin of humans. But others are drawn to the idea out of sheer curiosity.
As the article points out, only 20% of adults with a high school education or less believe that the theory of evolution is well supported by the scientific evidence, and only 18% of US teenagers accept human evolution as an unguided process occurring over millions of years. Fully 38% of teens believe that God created human beings in their present form within the last 10,000 or so years.

That's a lot of children being left behind.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Onward Christian Soldiers...

Could it be that those secular Humanists who have supposedly taken over the American judiciary, media, and schools are actually... Christian?

A Washington Post op-ed by Paul Gaston titled "...Smearing Christian Judges" makes just that case.
What these self-avowed Christians do not acknowledge -- and what the American public seems little aware of -- is that the war they are waging is actually against other people calling themselves Christians. To simplify: Right-wing and fundamentalist Christians are really at war with left-wing and mainstream Christians. It is a battle over both the meaning and practice of Christianity as well as over the definition and destiny of the republic. Secular humanism is a bogeyman, a smoke screen obscuring the right-wing Christians' struggle for supremacy.
As Gaston notes, nearly all of the judges demonized for their secular Humanist commitment are, in fact, practicing Christians.

Yet another reason that the Humanist community should forge alliances with liberal religionists in opposing the increasingly theocratic leanings of the right-wing extremists in our midst.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Pop Goes, per Weigel

George Will, in an Op-Ed piece titled "Suicide by Secularism," paints a bleak picture of Europe's future, laying its demise at the feet of secular humanism. Based on John Paul II biographer George Weigel's new book, "The Cube and the Cathedral: Europe, America, and Politics Without God," Will speaks of a shrinking reproduction rate and increasing secularism in Europe as leading, in the very near future, to Europe's "demographic suicide."
"What," Weigel asks, "is happening when an entire continent, wealthier and healthier than ever before, declines to create the human future in the most elemental sense, by creating a next generation?" His diagnosis is that Europe's deepening anemia is a consequence of living on what he considers the thin gruel of secular humanism that excludes transcendent reference points for cultural and political life. Such reference points are, he thinks, prerequisites for freedom understood as "the capacity to choose wisely and act well as a matter of habit."
It seems that secularists don't take seriously enough the biblical admonition to be fruitful and multiply. In a world contending with an ever-increasing population and a finite resource base, this should be a good thing. Will's concern, though, seems to be that by failing to do their part to over-populate the world Europeans may abdicate control over their futures to hordes of migrating Muslims - in essence, he suggests procreation as the duty of Europeans and, by extension, Christian Americans.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Republicans: Keepers of the Faith

The front page of today's New York Times features an article titled "Frist Set to Use Religious Stage on Judicial Issue." According to the article Senate majority leader Bill Frist is going to participate in a conservative Christian religious broadcast characterizing Democratic opponents of some of President Bush's judicial nominees as employing a "fillibuster against people of faith."
"As the liberal, anti-Christian dogma of the left has been repudiated in almost every recent election, the courts have become the last great bastion for liberalism," Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and organizer of the telecast, wrote in a message on the group's Web site. "For years activist courts, aided by liberal interest groups like the A.C.L.U., have been quietly working under the veil of the judiciary, like thieves in the night, to rob us of our Christian heritage and our religious freedoms."
In other words, only the judiciary, and the U.S. Constitution, stand between us and theocracy.

As the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on the legality of two Ten Commandments displays within a matter of days or weeks, it is almost certain that the opinion will either embolden the religious right if in their favor, or invigorate the religious right if against them. The culture war seems now to be escalating.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The Secular Assault

The Washington Times has started a three-part series titled "Religion Under a Secular Assault," focused primarily on the efforts of the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, People for the American Way, and the Freedom from Religion Foundation.

The New Crusade

Rolling Stone Online has posted a feature titled "The Crusaders."
Meet the Dominionists -- biblical literalists who believe God has called them to take over the U.S. government. As the far-right wing of the evangelical movement, Dominionists are pressing an agenda that makes Newt Gingrich's Contract With America look like the Communist Manifesto. They want to rewrite schoolbooks to reflect a Christian version of American history, pack the nation's courts with judges who follow Old Testament law, post the Ten Commandments in every courthouse and make it a felony for gay men to have sex and women to have abortions.
It's enough to put the fear of god in an atheist.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Rx Regnant Sed Non Gubernat

Ellen Goodman has an op-ed in today's Washington Post titled "Dispensing Morality," on the theme previously raised here (see "What Would Jesus Prescribe?") about pharmacists exercising conscience clauses and refusing to fill prescriptions for, among other things, contraceptives.

The pharmacist who refuses emergency contraception is not just following his moral code, he's trumping the moral beliefs of the doctor and the patient. "If you open the door to this, I don't see any place to draw a line," says Anita Allen, law professor at the University of Pennsylvania and author of "The New Ethics." If the pharmacist is officially sanctioned as the moral arbiter of the drugstore, does he then ask the customer whether the pills are for cramps or contraception? If he's parsing his conscience with each prescription, can he ask if the morning-after pill is for carelessness or rape? For that matter, can his conscience be the guide to second-guessing Ritalin as well as Viagra?
Today's New York Times published several letters on this subject.

As Goodman notes, while we need to respect the conscience of each individual we can ill afford to allow healthcare providers and others who have accepted responsibility for protecting our lives to become the self-appointed arbiters of our morality. In the case of pharmacists, their responsibility to ensure the validity and safety of physician instructions should not extend to subjective judgments on morality. We would scarely tolerate such moralizing by providers of non-essential services (e.g. a hotel refusing a room to a homosexual couple or a bookstore refusing the sale of books promoting secular Humanism), and must not tolerate it among physicians, pharmacists, soldiers and first-response emergency personnel. Accepting such jobs means that, to some degree, personal morality is suspended while on duty.

Overly-permissive "conscience clauses" merely transfer the right to exercise conscience from the end user to an intermediary. It is not inconceivable that the continued liberalization of such regulations will result in pronounced regional differences in access to certain forms of healthcare. To what degree can we permit the personal autonomy of the service provider to trump that of the client?

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Values Agenda on the Wane?

USA Today reports "Many wary of GOP's moral agenda." Many Americans have finally come to realize, apparently, that religious conservatives have too much influence with the Republican Party and the current administration.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

National Day of Reason (5 May 2005)

A message from the National Day of Reason web project:

Now, more than ever, America needs a Day of Reason.

With the religious right firmly in control of the Presidency and Congress, and with the threat to our Judiciary looming large, there has never been as important a moment in which to affirm our commitment to the Constitutional separation of religion and government, and to celebrate Reason as the guiding principle of our secular democracy.

View the complete message here.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Body and Soul

From today's Washington Post, a "Mystery of Body and Soul" in which author Philip Clayton explores the Terri Schiavo case from both a religious and scientific perspective.

Some who integrate science and values in this way do so in religious terms, others eschew religious categories and adhere instead to a humanist philosophy....The humanist response is more subtle, amorphous and hence harder to describe. But for many nonreligious people, the sense remains that life is somehow sacred even if it is not grounded in a divine creative act. Something more emerges in life, and something more is lost when it ends, than medicine can ever fathom. Perhaps the value of an individual's life is a product of how we treat him or her.

The distinction not made above, though, is between mere human life, and human personhood. And that is, indeed, more subtle, amorphous and hence harder to describe.

What Would Jesus Prescribe?

An Editorial in the New York Times (Sunday, 3 April 2005) titled "Moralists at the Pharmacy" brings to light the growing number of pharmacists who refuse to fill contraceptive prescriptions on the basis of their personal religious beliefs.
An organization of antiabortion pharmacists is pushing for professional associations and state legislatures to adopt "conscience clauses" recognizing the pharmacist's right to refuse to dispense a drug or even refer the customer to a pharmacist who will; many pharmacy associations have already adopted such clauses. Several states have laws granting pharmacists the right to refuse, and legislators in at least 10 states are pushing similar legislation.
The Planned Parenthood Federation of America has a web page dedicated to the issue of healthcare provider refusals to provide service. Among other things, this page provides data on the current regulatory environment, and on the disturbing cases where hospitals have even refused, on religious grounds, to provide emergency contraception to women who were the victims of sexual assault. For yet another perspective, see the National Women's Law Center's Pharmacy Refusal Project.

Friday, April 01, 2005

If Only HHS Would Abstain

A number of advocacy groups, including the American Humanist Association, have sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt calling for the agency to take down its new web site. According to a story posted online by the Baltimore Sun, these groups claim that the site provides inaccurate and misleading information, and stresses abstinence-only approaches to reducing sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy. In addition, the site portrays homosexuality as a lifestyle alternative, urging parents who suspect their child may be gay to seek a family therapist who "shares your values."