Jehovah’s witnesses and American religious diversity

Got a link to this analysis of racial/ethnic diversity in American religions from Pew in my facebook feed (headlining Catholic diversity) and I was so excited to look up Jehovah’s Witnesses.  What these people believe is nuts (seriously, no celebrating of holidays or birthdays??!!  Not to mention they are just a modern-day version of the Arian heresy), but one thing I’ll say for them (they knock on my door about one Saturday a month and they have a church just down the road) is that they sure have this diversity thing down.  Of course, all I had was my own observations of mixed-race groups nearby, but thanks to this chart, I can see that they are, in fact, among the most diverse of religions in America.

How Racially Diverse are U.S. Religious Groups?

But come on– no holidays and birthdays?  It’s a wonder any kid growing up in this faith would ever choose to continue.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Bill Ayers on Greece:

I don’t see a similar discussion with regard to Greece. There is plenty of agreement that the Greeks have borrowed way too much money, and plenty of finger-pointing at them for having done so. But who lent them that money? At what point did those lenders cross the line between responsible and irresponsible lending? The IMF apparently figured out that Greece will never be able to repay all of its debts; where were the other lenders when that calculation should have been done? It’s easy to point fingers as the “lazy” Greeks, but somebody (mostly Germany, by most accounts) lent them the money. What responsibility do lenders have to do their homework and lend responsibly?

2) John Oliver talks and New York listens.  Okay, not really the causal chain, but great to see NY embracing much-needed bail reform.

3) Jimmy Carter is done with oppressing women in the name of Christianity.

4) There’s been a lot of attention in NC to whether magistrates would have to marry same-sex couples.  According to Republicans, to do so would violate their religious freedom.  Now that they can opt out, only 14 of nearly 700 have done so.

5) Not that they can do much but complain, but the Louisiana Supreme Court is not happy about same sex marriage.

6) Seth Masket on why Bernie-mentum is not all its cracked up to be:

This doesn’t mean that Sanders can’t actually make a difference in this contest. He may well win a few important primaries and caucuses, and he may play an important role in the nominating convention next summer. But everything we know about the way presidential nominations work says that Hillary Clinton has a bigger advantage than anyone ever has who wasn’t an incumbent president.

7) Drum points out that not only are we willfully ignorant as a society about GMO food; the same goes for irradiated food.  This could do wonders to reduce food-borne pathogens, but everybody is too freaked out about “radiation!”

8) Baltimore police– not so great even if you are a white Baltimore resident. These guys need to try harder.

9) This is not anything new for the Catholic Church, but it is nice to see Pope Francis state it so plainly:

Francis explained that both scientific theories were not incompatible with the existence of a creator – arguing instead that they “require it”.

“When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so,” Francis said.

10) Really interesting piece on the rising concern over “micro-aggressions” and how this reflects differing views of “moral culture.”

We can better understand complaints about microaggression and the reactions to them if we understand that each side of the debate draws from a different moral culture. Those calling attention to microaggressions have rejected the morality dominant among middle-class Americans during the 20th century — what sociologists and historians have sometimes called a dignity culture, which abhors private vengeance and encourages people to go to the police or use the courts when they are seriously harmed. Less serious offenses might be ignored, and certainly any merely verbal offense should be. Parents thus teach their children to say, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”

Microaggression complaints make clear that this is no longer settled morality. Those who see microaggressions as a serious problem and who bring up minor and unintentional slights reject the idea that words can’t hurt, that slights should be brushed off, that even overt insults should be ignored. This attitude reveals the emergence of a new moral culture, one we call victimhood culture, since it valorizes victimhood.

Put me on the side of dominant middle-class culture.

11) Can’t say I was really all that surprised on the massive failure of American efforts to build schools in Afghanistan, but it is depressing.  And some surprisingly strong reporting in Buzzfeed, of all places.

12) Onion on the pros and cons of flying the confederate flag– pure awesomeness.

13) Just in case you didn’t know, that whole crack babies thing is a myth.  A great example of spurious correlation.

14) Paul Krugman on how Republicans want to bring all the policies of the Greek disaster to America.

15) The piece on autism in the last quick hits led me to this older, but better, look at understanding the rising prevalence of autism (short version: whatever environmental factors contribute, they are a small part).

16) I loved this eulogy for the epistolary email, as it so reflects my own personal experience.

17) New Yorker’s Patrick Radden Keefe on El Chapo’s latest escape.

18) If somebody suggested a story about two sets of identical twins that were switched at birth and raised as two sets of fraternal twins, chances are you would say it is too outlandish to be believed.  But it happened and it’s an amazing story.  It’s long, but I guarantee you won’t regret reading it.

Quick hits (part I)

Didn’t blog much at the beach, but still read lots of good stuff.  Many quick hits coming at you.

1) Really liked this perspective on Galileo— he was not as right as you think nor his critics as wrong.

2) Nice N&O Editorial on the latest example of NC Republicans deciding that local government is best– except when it is electing Democrats.  When Jesse Helm’s chief adviser says you’ve gone too far, you’ve probably gone too far.   And Thomas Mills on the travesty that is the NC Senate:

House Speaker Tim Moore came to power promising to show that the GOP could govern. Unfortunately, it’s not to be. The ideologues in the Senate are too busy micromanaging local governments and sticking square pegs into round, free-market holes to pay attention to what’s working and what’s not. They don’t seem to care whether policies are good for the people or the state. They only care that they fit into their narrow ideological box.

3) On the science behind “Inside Out.”  And seriously, if you haven’t yet, see this movie.

4) Nice piece from Bill Ayers on using the language of religious rights to deny rights:

As one lawmaker put it in North Carolina, “Just because someone takes a job with the government does not mean they give up their First Amendment rights.” A cake baker has apparently also decided to take his case to court, lest he be sanctioned for discriminating against gay couples in the making of wedding cakes.

I find this argument deeply troubling on many fronts. It strikes me as a species of other arguments people make which use the trappings of commonly-held values (in this case, the language about rights and freedom) to advance the opposite

5) Enjoyed this Slate piece on how Carli Lloyd and other US women soccer stars were rejected from youth teams and how that helped lead to their greatness.

6) I hate felony murder charges.  No, you should not rob somebody trying to sell you marijuana.  But when that goes wrong and the marijuana dealer falls off the truck and dies as it pulls away (and you are sitting in the back seat!) in no way are you a murderer at all.  Except, of course, under felony murder laws.  If I were on a jury for this case there would damn well be some juror nullification.  (Interesting that it happened at the park I visit every week with Sarah while Evan has his piano lessons).

7) A urologist argues in NYT that we need to bring back more prostate screenings.  This was a great example of smart commenters that you actually see in the NYT as they were all over the problems in this argument.

8) Apparently Amy Schumer’s jokes really are racist.  I, however, am not persuaded.

9) The best stuff I read on Germany and Greek debt last week.  Thomas Piketty on how the Germans are hypocrites. NYT’s Eduardo Porter makes a similar point.   And Harold Myerson.  Not like Greece doesn’t have plenty of blame to go around, of course.  For example, their crazy pension system.

10) I hate the tendency towards over air-conditioning in the summer.  I’ve been known to run my space heater in my office in the summer.  What a waste of energy.

11) I think I’m going to have to read this book on how over-parenting is ruining our kids.  I’m definitely no helicopter parent, but I fear I am not doing enough to make my kids learn tough life lessons on their own.

When parents have tended to do the stuff of life for kids—the waking up, the transporting, the reminding about deadlines and obligations, the bill-paying, the question-asking, the decision-making, the responsibility-taking, the talking to strangers, and the confronting of authorities, kids may be in for quite a shock when parents turn them loose in the world of college or work. They will experience setbacks, which will feel to them like failure. Lurking beneath the problem of whatever thing needs to be handled is the student’s inability to differentiate the self from the parent.

12) I’m glad I don’t have to rely on public schools in Texas to teach my kids history:

THIS FALL, Texas schools will teach students that Moses played a bigger role in inspiring the Constitution than slavery did in starting the Civil War. The Lone Star State’s new social studies textbooks, deliberately written to play down slavery’s role in Southern history, do not threaten only Texans — they pose a danger to schoolchildren all over the country.

On a related note, here’s some excerpts from a 1970’s Alabama history text.

13) Maybe autism is so more prevalent now because earlier clinicians actively worked to not diagnose it.

14) John Oliver on bail is, of course, excellent.

15) The most common reasons behind unfriending on FB:

In a 2014 study, Christopher Sibona, a researcher at the University of Colorado at Denver, actually pinpointed the four types of content that are most likely to prompt an unfriend:

  1. Frequent/unimportant posts
  2. Polarizing posts (politics and religion; liberals are, for what it’s worth,more likely to unfriend over political views)
  3. Inappropriate posts (sexist, racist remarks)
  4. Everyday life posts (child, spouse, eating habits, etc.)

Also, HS friends are most likely to get unfriended.

16) Iron Giant is going to be re-released on the big screen.  So going to take all the family to that.

17) I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but it never hurts to mention how near-useless the BMI is for addressing the health of individuals (there is some value as a population statistic).

18) A nearby public library that is actually inside a local HS is set to close.  Why?  People are worried about security:

The school system and Wake County partnered in the early 1980s so the Athens Drive High School library served students while also doubling as a public library.

But times have changed in terms of security at schools, said Ann Burlingame, assistant library director in Wake. High schools need to monitor who comes on their campuses, she said.

“We need to have a regard for the children and their safety,” Burlingame said…

No major security issues have been reported at the west Raleigh school. But Simmons said some parents have complained that it’s easy for library visitors to access the main part of the building.

Got that?  No actual issues in decades of use, but parents are worried.  So frustrating when the overly-fearful get to make public policy.

19) I had no idea about putative father registries.  Pretty interesting account of the laws and one disturbing case in South Carolina–yes, there are racial overtones (and the author was a friend of mine back at Duke).

 

Pet dinosaurs

So, a former student’s FB post about attending the Creation Museum inspired me to check out their website (of course, I’ve long-known of their existence, just never really investigated).  I was most fascinated to learn how they have simply decided to adopt dinosaurs and the fossil record and explain that they are just looking at it through a bible-based perspective rather than a science-based perspective.  They are proud of their fossils and have all sorts of pseudo-scientific explanations for how they are right and the scientists are wrong about evolution, natural selection, etc.  I ended up at the Answers in Genesis site where they proudly proclaim, “We’ve Invaded Their “Temple”! Humanists Are on Notice: We’re Taking Dinosaurs Back!”  Watch out you secular humanists!!

And, what is some of the air-tight logic upon which they are reclaiming dinosaurs?

And no, it’s not ridiculous to believe dinosaurs and people lived at the same time (as the Bible makes very clear)—it’s ridiculous and illogical not to! Consider the two signs pictured from one of Australia’s wildlife sanctuaries.

Think about it: according to evolutionary time, crocodiles have been around since the time of the dinosaurs1—and yet, humans live with crocodiles today. So why is it ridiculous to think humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time?

Sign from one of Australia’s wildlife sanctuaries

But it’s not just crocodiles—there are many other examples. On AiG’s website, there’s an article that quotes a leading evolutionist who said that finding a certain tree in Australia was like finding a “live dinosaur.” The article explained

This is because the tree, nicknamed the Wollemi pine, is known from fossils classed as so-called Jurassic age around 150 million years ago, but not from fossils in rocks of later periods.

Humans and the Wollemi pine tree live today, and yet from an evolutionary perspective, the Wollemi pine dates back to the “time of the dinosaurs.” That’s why the evolutionist called it the “dinosaur tree.”

While we don’t find fossils of the Wollemi pine tree and humans together, we do know they live together—because both are alive today.

WTF?  I can’t even get around the logic of how that all means humans, dinosaurs, and crocodiles are all only 6000 years old. But don’t worry, it’s science:

Nothing in observational science contradicts the obvious conclusion based on the Bible’s history:

  • Dinosaurs were created alongside man around 6,000 years ago.
  • Representative kinds of them were on Noah’s Ark.
  • Most dinosaur fossils are from the Flood (about 4,500 years ago).
  • Dinosaurs lived beside man after the Flood, but like lots of other animals and plants, have become extinct since that time.

Ouch, the stupid!

And, sure, it’s fun and easy to pick on the creation museum, but this is serious stuff.  Last year’s Gallup poll:

Trend: Which of the following statements comes closest to your views on the origin and development of human beings?

Get over it

As you know, I’m no dancing in the streets, tears of joy, etc., person when it comes to marriage equality.  All well in good, but the negativity over this on the right is just absurd and laughable to me.  For example, Bobby Jindal— a Rhodes Scholar who has turned himself into an utter intellectual embarrassment:

“The Supreme Court is completely out of control, making laws on their own, and has become a public opinion poll instead of a judicial body,” Jindal said in a statement on Friday. “If we want to save some money, let’s just get rid of the court.”

“Marriage between a man and a woman was established by God, and no earthly court can alter that,” he added.

Although several other 2016 GOP candidates came out in opposition to the decision, with a few even suggesting the need for a Constitutional Amendment to overturn it, they all stopped short of advocating for what amounts to an undemocratic insurrection.

Enjoyed Jennifer Rubin (a phrase I rarely use) on Jindal

First, the intensity with which one utters disapproval is not a measure of one’s conservative bona fides.  Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s hysterical rhetoric suggesting we defund the Supreme Court does not make him more conservative or more anti-gay marriage than other conservatives who disagreed with the court. Former Texas governor Rick Perry said, “I’m a firm believer in traditional marriage, and I also believe the 10th Amendment leaves it to each state to decide this issue. I fundamentally disagree with the court rewriting the law and assaulting the 10th Amendment. Our founding fathers did not intend for the judicial branch to legislate from the bench.” The former version not only turns off people who disagree with Jindal on this issue but a great many others who think now think he’s reckless.

But what really got me started on thinking about this post was a NYT article on how Evangelicals are dealing with this new reality:

WEST CHICAGO, Ill. — The tone of the worship service was set at the start. An opening prayer declared it “a dark day.” The sermon focused on a psalm of lament. In between, a pastor read a statement proclaiming the church’s elders and staff “deeply saddened.” …

“I came in with a great sense of lament, because of what happened on Friday,” the church’s teaching pastor, Lon Allison, told worshipers before reading a statement declaring, “We cannot accept or adhere to any legal, political or cultural redefinition of biblical marriage, nor will we conduct or endorse same-sex ceremonies.”

A dark day?  Sadness?  Get over it.  Nobody is going to make you marry gay couples in your church.  Nobody.  Presumably, these churches accept that gay couples exist, whether they like it or not.  Similarly, civil marriage exists, whether they like it or not.  In reality (and not like this point hasn’t been made hundreds of times), it literally has almost nothing to do with them.  A major theme of Christianity is doing what is right, whether it is popular or not.  Well, then, accept that you have an unpopular, minority viewpoint, continue to practice it, and stop freaking out that the majority of America (and our political institutions) disagrees with you.

And, of course, this is really going to have very little impact on people who aren’t actually gay couples or their close families.  And everybody will just get used to it.  Jon Bernstein:

As early as the general election in 2016, but almost certainly soon afterward, same-sex marriage will be an ordinary part of life in the U.S.

Oh, bigotry will still be with us, and it will be appalling in some situations. Changing attitudes takes time. And there are still legal and legislative challenges ahead, beginning with the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would make it illegal to fire people because they’re gay.

Marriage, however, is a done deal. And despite the close 5-4 split in Friday’s Supreme Court decision, including vigorous dissents to Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion, this issue will rapidly be tossed into the history books alongside questions of whether women should vote or alcohol should be prohibited.

In other words, this is going to be very much like Loving v. Virginia, which recognized the right to marriage regardless of race or ethnicity.

How do I know? Because we’ve seen it in state after state in which marriage equality was enacted. There’s no controversy remaining in Massachusetts; for that matter, there’s little or no controversy remaining in Iowa, which had court-imposed marriage equality in 2009. On a related issue, conflict over gays and lesbians serving in the military ended immediately after “don’t ask, don’t tell” was replaced four years ago. In practice, extending full citizenship and human rights to all regardless of sexual orientation and identity is actually not all that controversial — at least not after the fact.

Yep.  Evan (9) is just old enough to get what’s going on here, but by the time Sarah (4) is a teenager she’ll just live in a world where men can marry women, men can marry men, and women can marry women, and that’s that.  This ship has sailed.

Francis and climate change

So, today we got more official proof of Pope Francis‘ awesomeness with his encyclical calling for government action to address climate change:

Pope Francis on Thursday called for a radical transformation of politics, economics and individual lifestyles to confront environmental degradation and climate change, as his much-awaited papal encyclical blended a biting critique of consumerism and irresponsible development with a plea for swift and unified global action…

“The basic idea is, in order to love God, you have to love your fellow human beings, and you have to love and care for the rest of creation,” said Vincent Miller, who holds a chair in Catholic theology and culture at the University of Dayton, a Catholic college in Ohio. “It gives Francis a very traditional basis to argue for the inclusion of environmental concern at the center of Christian faith.”

He added: “Critics will say the church can’t teach policy, the church can’t teach politics. And Francis is saying, ‘No, these things are at the core of the church’s teaching.’”

And the are.  Stewardship for the environment is one of the core tenets of Catholic social teaching.  Alas, one too often not taking seriously enough as bishops prefer to engage in divisive culture wars.

In anticipation, earlier this week Pew published this FactTank summary on the political divide over the issue.

Liberal Democrats Overwhelmingly Say Solid Evidence Global Warming is Occurring; Most Conservative Republicans Say There is Not

As one of my students (a libertarian) said in an email to me today, Republicans are approaching flat-earther on this.  But, damn, with Fox News and Republican elites falling into line, the Flat Earth view is embarrassingly pervasive.  A slim plurarilty actually endorses the view that the earth is not warming at all (forget human made).

Oh, and for those who argue that the earth has stopped warming, a more careful look at the data suggests there’s no hiatus at all:

The new results, published in the journal Science, may dispel the idea that Earth has been in the midst of a “global warming hiatus” — a period over the past 20 years where the planet’s temperature appears to have risen very little…

Here’s why: The single number — average global temperature — comes from tens of thousands of independent temperature readings. And, in recent decades, the technology for getting those readings has gradually shifted…

Even though the two thermometers were in the same place, they gave different readings. And it was happening all over the world. As more buoys were dropped into the sea — all delivering measurements that were consistently cooler than a ship would show in that same spot — the warming trend in the average global temperature seemed to slow dramatically.

But Karl and his colleagues believe what looked like a flattening of the warming trend actually just reflected a change in the way the temperature was taken. When the team factored in a correction to the historical data that reconciled the buoys with the ships, they found that what had seemed to be a hiatus in warming disappeared.

I’m sure George Will and friends will soon be writing columns about this (well, they might, about how the scientists are lying as part of the global, one-world government agenda).  But let’s end with some fun.  Awesome New Yorker cartoon of the day:

Daily-Cartoon-Climate-Change-Confession

 

 

 

NC legislature and God

The NC House yesterday passed a bill allowing civil magistrates (note: civil) to recuse themselves from performing same-sex marriage ceremonies.  What annoys me so about this is the type of Christianity used to justify the bill.  It’s stuff like this that makes me hate “Christians” even though I am one (though, without the quotation marks):

Rep. Larry Pittman, R-Cabarrus, said the measure protects government officials from being forced to be “traitors against the kingdom of God” by taking part in same-sex marriage, which he described as “perverted and morally unconscionable.”

Yowza!  Seriously?!  So depressing to think somebody like this represents the people of my state.  Alas, he’s not alone:

“Marriage is not necessarily a right,” said Rep. Bert Jones, R-Rockingham, citing state law that bans relatives who love each other from marrying. “We don’t allow that. Yet. That’ll be the next thing.”

“It is the goal of the secular left to destroy the family and destroy the institution of marriage,” Jones added. “Liberty is not just doing whatever you want.”

“I believe in my heart that as we’re moving further and further away from God and his word, that we can expect to see his blessings disappear,” Jones warned.

Oh please!  The stupid, it burns.  That’s it– liberals would love nothing more than to destroy families and marriage.  We should all live in hippie communes of unrelated people.  They’re onto us!  Of course, the movement away from God must be why all the Scandinavian countries are sinking into the Ocean and face constant volcanoes, fire, and brimstone.  Oh, wait.

But don’t worry, there’s non-religious stupidity on display here, too:

Rep. Sarah Stevens, R-Surry, argued that magistrates aren’t the only option because individuals can go online and pay for a minister’s license to marry couples.

“It’s not going to be an issue that these people can’t get married,” Stevens said.

Right.  Because the government doesn’t have to treat people the same so long as there’s a private alternative.  Just kind of like the government doesn’t have to let Black people go to public schools, because they can go to private schools.

This really depresses me on two levels 1) that so many people share this vision of Christianity and somehow think that it should be guiding public policy in a way that is clearly at odds with basic American principles of separation of Church and State; and, 2) these ignorant people are the one’s determining public policy in my state.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 633 other followers

%d bloggers like this: