Jesus wants you to sing in indoor groups and spread death

Let’s talk more about this awful, awful, awful decision from the CDC about singing in church.  If we know one thing about superspreader events, church (especially with singing) is bad!  People will die.  That’s not hyperbole.  There’s been a series of these events and they’ve invariably led not to just infections, but deaths (possibly because of the potential for immense viral load being spread while singing– might as well be a continuous sneezing fit).  Derek Thompson summarizes:

The Post with more on this abominable decision:

The Trump administration with no advance notice removed warnings contained in guidance for the reopening of houses of worship that singing in choirs can spread the coronavirus.

Last Friday, the administration released pandemic guidance for faith communities after weeks of debate flared between the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those guidelines posted on the CDC website included recommendations that religious communities “consider suspending or at least decreasing use of choir/musical ensembles and congregant singing, chanting, or reciting during services or other programming, if appropriate within the faith tradition.”

It added: “The act of singing may contribute to transmission of Covid-19, possibly through emission of aerosols.”

By Saturday, that version was replaced by updated guidance that no longer includes any reference to choirs or congregant singing and the risk for spreading virus. The altered guidance also deleted a reference to “shared cups” among items, including hymnals and worship rugs, that should not be shared. The updated guidelines also added language that said the guidance “is not intended to infringe on rights protected by the First Amendment.”

The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk about policy discussions, said there have long been concerns within the White House that there were too many restrictions on choirs. A CDC official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the guideline change also said the updated Saturday guidance was approved by the White House.

Ahhhh, ” too many restrictions on choirs.”  Morons!!!  That’s because choirs are uniquely well-suited for spreading Covid!

Earlier this month, the CDC issued a report warning about “superspreader” events where the coronavirus might be “highly transmissible in certain settings, including group singing events.” That report described a choir practice in Washington state in March at which one person ended up infecting 52 other people, including two who died.

White House officials battled for weeks with CDC aides about the scope of reopening guidelines. Officials in Vice President Pence’s office, the domestic policy council and other members on the president’s coronavirus task force were resistant to establishing limits on religious institutions even as the CDC issued detailed road maps for reopening other settings, including schools and restaurants, and as the agency warned of the dangers of significant virus transmission rates at religious events.

Some officials in the White House and on the coronavirus task force did not want to alienate the evangelical community and believed that some of the proposals, such as limits on hymnals, the size of choirs or the passing of collection plates, were too restrictive, according to two administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss policy decisions.
God forbid we alienate the Evangelical community by following… science!!!  They know better; they know Jesus wants them to spread Covid. 

I saw somebody sharing some CDC guidelines on something else today, and sadly, we really just cannot trust the CDC to the same degree any more.  Bernstein on the horrible shame of that:

It’s amazing how quickly the CDC has squandered its reputation for straight-shooting and scientific excellence during Donald Trump’s presidency (the latest embarrassments are here and here). There’s a lot to say about this and similar failures across the federal government, but what strikes me is what they reveal about healthy incentives — and how Trump manages to ignore them.

First, having an agency with a gold-standard reputation is a terrific resource for leaders who care about getting their way and also care about re-election. It allows them to speak with the authority of experts even if they themselves are relatively ignorant. It also gives them an opportunity to have most of the nation, and not just their supporters, at least potentially support their policies, since those policies can have the certificate of expertise attached to them. 

That matters. It matters desperately for Trump right now. His obvious goals are to reduce the spread of the virus while rebooting the economy as quickly as possible; for that, he needs ordinary citizens to follow best practices for safety and also to trust that it is safe to return to activities they gave up in March. And he needs strong supporters, strong opponents, and everyone in between to do both of those things, or else it won’t work. No politician is ever able to do that on his or her own. But trusted experts make it possible for the president to get it done.

To be sure, there’s a cost. For a president to get the seal of approval from experts, he or she has to listen seriously to them. This may mean compromising the president’s preferred approach. If the president simply ignores the experts but tries to use their reputation anyway, the agency’s bureaucrats may refuse to endorse the policy, or undermine it through such strategies as press leaks or testimony to Congress. Or, if the president succeeds in undermining the agency’s integrity enough that it will slavishly grant his every whim, its reputation — and thus its political usefulness — will be destroyed.

Notice that healthy incentives are built into the system. Agencies care about their reputations for reasons of professional pride, but also because it benefits them at budget time and helps them do their jobs without outside interference. And presidents have good self-interested reason to listen to those agencies. That’s a way to force politicians who care mainly about elections to seek expert input into policy…

Trump, unfortunately, is so bad at presidenting that he fails to follow those clear healthy incentives. To be fair, he did seem to take some expert advice seriously for two or three weeks in April. But he rapidly lost interest, and either he or others in the White House seem to have pressured agencies to go along with him even as he ignores their counsel. Now he wants the economy to reopen safely, but he has no idea how to get there from here, and he doesn’t have the assets the presidency once had. It’s not apt to work very well for the nation, or for him.

So, to summarize– president totally undermining the reputation of one of the most important public health institutions in the world (and damn does reputation matter when we are talking public health) to spread death among science-denying Evangelicals.  

Are we worrying about the wrong things?

How could people go to the swimming pool in a pandemic?  Well, starting Saturday, I’ll be able to go to the pool I belong to (though, I’ll probably wait for a prolonged patch of warm weather first– I hate cold water).  The rules for how the pool will operate will be quite stringent, and especially as it’s outside, and Cary, NC is definitely no hotspot, I will feel pretty safe in going there.  Similarly, I could get a haircut this weekend (haircut my wife gave me a few weeks ago is holding up great– between me and the three boys, we may save serious money in this department in the future).  All the employees will have to wear masks and the number of customers in the story will be limited.  Again, I’m waiting, but with the rules in place I’d feel pretty safe.

So, all this “public” stuff we’re worried about, I suspect will not be the problem if we do get spikes.  All the matters the government can regulate it is establishing smart and sensible regulations that would seem to follow the science (especially the encouraging of masks) in limiting spread.  It’s all the stuff the government doesn’t regulate that worries me.  I think we might start getting a lot more spread from all sorts of interpersonal contacts in all sorts of places where people don’t have to follow social distancing and mask guidelines and those who are inclined to say “yeah– we’re re-opening, let’s go!” will simply not be following sensible guidelines and getting each other sick.

My Catholic church is going to start have mass again soon and, good for them(!), they are requiring masks, limiting numbers in the church, and no singing.  I’m probably still not going to go, but I think I would feel pretty good about it under these circumstances.

So, if we do start seeing new clusters and outbreaks, I don’t think it will be from pools, or hair salons, or massage parlors, or nail salons, or, or sensible churches, or maybe even not restaurants (NC has been smart enough to keep bars closed), but rather from all the entirely unregulated gatherings of people wear sensible precautions will not be taken.

Spread disease for Jesus!

Utterly predictable from these “Christians” who care little for other people’s health and safety.

About 200 churchgoers rallied on the lawn of the Legislative Building in downtown Raleigh Thursday, insisting that they be allowed to hold regular worship service in spite of North Carolina’s stay-at-home orders.

The crowd was nearly all white and almost none wore protective masks or gloves.

Several in the crowd spoke of the “evil” behind Gov. Roy Cooper’s stay-at-home order aimed at limiting the spread of coronavirus…

One woman said testing is a lie and masks are a sign of slavery. She refused to give her name to a News & Observer reporter because she said she had received death threats. She has also been seen at ReOpenNC protests dressed as a handmaid…

The rally began with a prayer from Tim Rabon, pastor at Beacon Baptist Church in Raleigh.

“Lord, we’re asking you to move on Gov. Cooper’s heart,” he said. ”Lord, we don’t want to put anybody at risk. But Lord we want to gather as you have commanded us.”

Ummm, pretty sure the Lord commanded you not to take willfully dangerous actions that could harm others.  I actually miss church.  But lots of people in an indoor space talking and singing.  No way.  But, we should not expect right-wing Christians to be concerned about something crazy like science.  Meanwhile, a local sheriff is onto the power of Satan on this:

But on Wednesday, Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell said he and his deputies will not enforce stay-at-home rules that limit attendance at worship services.

In a statement released Wednesday, Bizzell said it is “inconsistent and unfair” that retail stores are able to open every day, but people can’t go to church once a week.

Pastors are more inclined to watch out for churchgoers than stores are to look out for customers, Bizzell wrote.

“As long as I’m Sheriff, my deputies nor I will … interfere or prevent church-goers to peaceably assemble and exercise their constitutional right to freely worship,” Bizzell wrote. “Before I would do that, I would lay down my badge and go home! NOW, LET’S HAVE CHURCH!”

I’ve been going to Food Lion.  I’m in and out.  I don’t talk or sing.  It’s not church when it comes to risk.

Trump: annointed by God

Another great piece from Thomas Edsall bringing together all the latest social science on Trump, religion, and the right-wing media echo chamber.  Lots of good stuff, but, damn, did this intro jump out at me.  Yes, I know that American white conservative Evangelicals are the worst, but wow:

In less than a year, from May 2019 to March 2020, the share of weekly church-attending white Protestants convinced that Donald Trump was anointed by God to be president grew from 29.6 percent to 49.5 percent.

This finding — based on direct responses to the question: “How much do you agree or disagree with the following statement? Donald Trump was anointed by God to become president of the United States” — comes from surveys conducted by Paul A. Djupe and Ryan Burge, political scientists at Dennison and Eastern Illinois Universities. Their study illuminates the depth of quasi-religious devotion to Trump among key segments of the population…

The study by Paul Djupe and Ryan Burge I mentioned at the outset demonstrates how the belief that Trump was anointed by God to be president rises in direct proportion to the frequency with which ministers raise “political speech topics.” These topics include immigration, gun rights, impeachment, same-sex marriage and abortion…

While elite “right wing media are having a profound effect on public opinion, serving to insulate Trump supporters,” Djupe and Burge write, the process is also “built and sustained from the bottom up. That is, political churches, among Republicans especially, reinforce the argumentation that is also coming from above.”

While most acute among white evangelical Republicans, Djupe and Burge continue, belief in the divine sanction “of the presidency is swelling across the board for the religious” of all faiths.

David Kreiss, a professor of journalism and the media at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, suggested in an email that there has been a dramatic shift in the political environment over the past 12 years:

What has changed between 2008 and 2020 on the right is the emergence of a vast extended network of digital and other media that is designed to strengthen the collective identity of the right and its constituent groups and generate internally consistent narratives and ideas about politics.

The conservative media, he continued, is

designed to create that self-referential universe. It exists to not only deflect criticism but literally to create new narratives of Trump (such as transforming his handling of the virus into a success), and to strengthen political and social divisions, undermine opponents, and provide people with identity and ideational resources to refute counter-narratives.

The 2020 election, Kreiss predicted, will be “a big test of whether empirical reality will outweigh motivated partisan reasoning.”

Hell of a country we’ve got here these days.

Quick hits

1) Given how right-wing evangelicals have so perverted the fundamental teachings of Jesus, sure, I’ll happily blame them for Trump.

2) Of course Europe is responding with smarter policy for mass unemployment.  NYT Editorial, “Why Is America Choosing Mass Unemployment? European countries are paying to preserve jobs during the coronavirus crisis. Sadly for American workers, the United States is charting its own path.”

3) It is somewhat encouraging that Americans really get the fact that Trump is utterly lacking in basic human empathy.  He polls really poorly on this.

4) Head of China’s CDC says our biggest mistake is not wearing masks.

5) I remain cautiously optimistic that Remdesivir will be a genuinely effective treatment.  Here’s a more sober, but mildly optimistic take.

6) Rachel Bitecofer is out with her 2020 election prediction model.  It suggests good things for Democrats.  She hedges a lot, rightly, but I almost feel like a politically predictive model in the midst of Covid should just wait for after Covid.  Talk about uncharted waters.  Still:

As the Democratic primary winds down, with a Biden nomination a delegate-math inevitability even if contests remain on the calendar, it is time for one of the few updates I plan to my forecast, this one, the post-primary update. Of course, this update comes at a time of incredible turmoil, not only in America, but worldwide, as the unprecedented COVID19 pandemic unfolds — bringing the global economy to a halt and forcing much of the world’s population into self-imposed quarantines. In the July 2019 release of this forecast, I said that little could occur that could alter the basic contours of this election cycle: Democrats are fired up in a way they were not in 2016 because of negative partisanship powered by backlash to Trump and thus would increase their turnout significantly and be less likely to defect to third-party candidates.

I also said, “barring a significant shock to the system, Democrats recapture the presidency.” Significant disruptions I identified included an economic recession, but with the market humming along, willing to handicap Trump even on trade wars with China and Europe, and rate cuts keeping the economy around its 2016 metrics in terms of growth and unemployment, a recession seemed unlikely. Now it is all but certain this fall’s general election will take place immersed in a serious one, with some early reports suggesting potential unemployment numbers, at least in the short term, well into the teens.

To be sure, voters will likely see this recession as they saw the first term of Obama’s presidency, in context. No president can do much to avoid a total standstill of the global economy from an unprecedented virus. But Trump’s mismanagement of the underlying pandemic causing the economy to melt down will be judged by voters, and it’s already clear that the president’s missteps in the early days of the pandemic are exacerbating America’s economic woes.

If Trump had political capital to spend heading into this crisis, that would be one thing. But after the Russia investigation was followed in short order by the Ukraine scandal, Trump’s political capital tank is already on empty, with few Americans outside of Republicans capable of trusting him. Trump will be heading into the fall with the dubious distinction of being the most embattled, controversial, and scandal-plagued president to seek reelection in the history of the republic — and that was before this virus emerged to create a massive public health disaster and destroy his strongest claim for reelection: the economy.

But Donald Trump does have one formidable asset to help his reelection prospects: political polarization and hyperpartisanship, which even in the face of a recession and potential fallout from COVID19 management will likely provide him with a steady and reliable base of support, preventing the type of erosion in approval ratings we saw in the second term of George W. Bush’s tenure.

7) Thomas Edsall with, basically, everything political science can tell you about religion and politics.

A steady religious realignment has reshaped the white American electorate, turning religious conviction — or its absence — into a clear signal of where voters stand in the culture wars.

As mainstream Protestant denominations have declined over the past half century, there has been a hollowing out of the center among white Christians of all faiths. New generations of Americans have joined the ranks of evangelical churches, while others, in larger numbers, have forsaken religion altogether.

These two trends have transformed the strategic underpinnings of political campaigning.

The more religiously engaged a white voter is, the more likely he or she will be a Republican; the less religious the voter, the more likely to be a Democrat. But, as we shall see it’s not that simple: The deeper you go, the more complex it gets.

Ryan Burge, a political scientist at Eastern Illinois University, has tracked religious trends for the past 30 years using data from the General Social Survey.

He reports that in 1988, 55.7 percent of Americans were members of traditional, mainstream denominations, 36.6 percent were members of evangelical and born-again denominations and 7.7 percent said they were not religious.

By 2018, membership in traditional denominations had fallen 20 points to 35.5 percent, born-again evangelical church membership had grown by 4.8 points to 41.4 percent, and the share of the nonreligious had tripled to 23.1 percent.

In an email, Burge warned that “in just a few years there will be no moderate Protestants left.”

This has been a windfall for the Republican Party.

Sorry this is short.  Spent too much time reading about Covid and not enough time on this post.  More later in the day :-).  But, heck, you’re probably under a stay at home order and not going anywhere anyway.

Quick hits (part II)

1) This is cool.  Nefarious boats can turn off their transponders, but they cannot hide from albatrosses.

2) As much as Senate Republicans seem comfortable with the idea of a dictator, the American president is not a dictator.  Which is why it is so absurd for Republicans who get the wrongness of Trump to say they could never live under Sanders or Warren.  Really, your life would be so little different under President Sanders than President Biden.  Paul Waldman:

But here’s something that people haven’t really considered: Whether you think a social democratic revolution of the kind Sanders promotes is good or bad, the realities of Congress will make it impossible to bring about. In fact, if Sanders is elected, the major policy contours of his presidency will be nearly identical to those of almost any other Democrat.

That’s true to a great degree of Warren as well (though she has done more thinking about how to use regulatory power to achieve progressive ends). And to be clear, I’m not saying the individual in the Oval Office doesn’t matter. There will be differences in what they prioritize, whom they put into key executive branch positions, and how they react to crises.

But on the big picture, any Democratic president will do most of the same things.

Consider health care. Sanders wants immediate passage of what would be the most generous single-payer system in the world. So what will happen when he puts out that plan?

The answer is: basically nothing. Sanders believes he can pass Medicare-for-all through reconciliation, which requires only 50 votes instead of the 60 needed to overcome a GOP filibuster. But even if Democrats take the Senate, the absolute best-case scenario would get them 52 seats. And not only aren’t there 50 Senate votes for Medicare-for-all, there probably aren’t even 40 votes. Maybe not even 30…

Again, I’m not saying every Democrat’s presidency would be identical. On foreign policy the president has the most latitude to move independently, and unfortunately the candidates have said relatively little about it, though we can be sure that Biden would be more hawkish than Sanders or Warren. But we’re in the midst of a process that convinces us that the future will be radically different depending on which one of these candidates becomes president, and that’s just not likely to be true.

So the Republicans who wake up in a cold sweat imagining the statist nightmare of oppression and deprivation that will result if the wrong Democrat wins the election can rest easy. You won’t like what a Democratic president does, but it won’t be anything like your worst fears, no matter who that president is.

3) Despite the fact that I love Indian food, I am not a Bernie supporter.  But a pretty interesting relationship here.  Lynn Vavreck:

There were no discernible differences on most of the nonpolitical questions across the candidates’ supporters in Iowa, such as on buying organic foods (most supporters of all the candidates think it’s important), using Twitter to read political news (most don’t) or watching television shows on premium outlets (also uncommon). Accounting for things like age and education soaked up most of the differences that appeared at first glance.

But, as has also been true in past contests, Indian food was a distinguishing characteristic. In Iowa, supporters of Mr. Sanders are its biggest fans: 71 percent of them report going to an Indian restaurant sometime in the last 10 years. Mr. Biden’s supporters are less likely to have done so by about 30 points. This makes sense. Mr. Sanders’s supporters are younger and perhaps more likely to live in the college towns or in major metropolitan areas. Still, this relationship persists even after accounting for age, race, gender, education, ideology, being an independent, or where a person lives in the state.

Mr. Biden loses 14 points of vote share among those who have been out for Indian food relative to those who have not, and Elizabeth Warren loses three. Mr. Sanders gains eight points, Pete Buttigieg gains five, and Ms. Klobuchar gains four.

Of course, it’s not that eating Indian food leads a person to support one Democratic candidate over another — that’s silly. (And there are voters for whom Indian food is the taste of home.) But a voter’s orientation toward the world is related to candidate choice, and it turns out that eating in restaurants that celebrate less familiar cultures is one way to measure where people think they are more connected: to those around them locally or to people farther afield.

4) Linda Greenhouse on the Supreme Court looking to break down the separation between church and state:

The case is also a perfect vehicle for showing something else: the contradiction at the heart of the religious claims being pressed on increasingly receptive federal courts. Those making these claims say that religion and nonreligion must be treated equally. “The rule is religious neutrality,” Richard D. Komer, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice, told the justices. So if parents are able use publicly financed scholarships for secular private school tuition, this argument goes, there should be no difference when it comes to religious school tuition.

When pressed, however, as they are in this case, religion advocates seek something more than equal treatment. It turns out that what they want is special treatment. That’s this case. The plaintiffs are claiming a continued entitlement to scholarships for their parochial school tuition despite the fact that the state court ended the scholarship program for religious and secular schools alike. No one gets the money.

It’s not enough that all parents are being treated the same, no matter where they choose to enroll their children. It’s different from the invitingly simple “religious freedom” story line, more complex, with deep implications for how Americans will live in an increasingly diverse society…

5) Catherine Rampell on the Trump administration’s nativism, “Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda isn’t about rule of law or economics at all”

The Trump administration’s latest rule massively restricting immigration is based on lies. But don’t take my word for it.

Just ask the Trump administration, whose own actions rebut the argument it gave for putting the rule in place.

On Monday, the Supreme Court allowed the administration to begin implementing a new policy that could dramatically reduce legal immigration. The rule says government officials can deny green cards or other visas to an immigrant if they suspect that someday — literally “at any time” in the future — the immigrant might use safety-net programs such as food stamps and Medicaid. The rule gives government bureaucrats enormous discretion to decide how to make such crystal-ball forecasts, too.

The policy could designate nearly half of the U.S. noncitizen population as a future economic burden (or “public charge,” to use the term of art), according to an estimate from the Migration Policy Institute. Which makes this rule look an awful lot like a backdoor attempt to slash legal immigration levels without consent from Congress…

There are a few reasons to be skeptical of this stated rationale. Foremost is that immigrants are, generally speaking, not an economic burden to the United States; they’re an economic boon.

Contrary to stereotypes of immigrants as lazy moochers, the foreign-born actually use fewer benefits than Americans born here. As a result, immigrants are net contributors to the U.S. economy: They pay more in federal taxes than they receive in services. Their children are also “among the strongest economic and fiscal contributors in the U.S. population, contributing more in taxes than either their parents or the rest of the native-born population,” according to a 2017 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

In a sense, then, this “public charge” rule appears to be a solution in search of a problem.

So what did the Trump administration do? It decided to make its imagined problem come true.

At the same time it professes concern that too many immigrants aren’t self-sufficient, it’s also implementing rules that prohibit immigrants from achieving self-sufficiency.

6) Dahlia Lithwick, “Trump’s Lawyers’ Impeachment Defense Will Reshape the Office of the President”

7) I’ve found the Bernie Sanders/Joe Rogan controversy to be pretty fascinating.  Love Yglesias take on the importance of actually winning elections over purity:

For years, Rogan has aired hours-long one-on-one interviews on topics ranging from mixed martial arts to comedy, business, politics, and beyond each week. The show’s appeal is a bit lost on me, but millions of listeners — particularly younger men — love it. His backing is valuable in part because he has such a large audience. But it’s also valuable because he’s a controversial figure who doesn’t hold progressive opinions on some issues.

There aren’t very many people who are fully ideologically consistent. Rogan is a typical example. There’s nothing complicated about the choice of whether to want the support of people like him. To do so is the essence of politics.

Winning elections — a necessary first step to vindicating the rights of trans people or accomplishing anything else in politics — hinges crucially on getting people with bad opinions to vote for you…

As Dylan Matthews put it, liberals “think that discriminating against or maligning someone on the basis of membership in a protected class — women, trans people, black people, and other racially oppressed communities, etc. — violates a rule that should be inviolable. In this view, such discrimination (be it legal, or expressed through hate speech, etc.) is not just wrong because it has bad effects, or because it harms members of the groups in question; it’s wrong because we have a duty to treat humans as equals, and it is never acceptable to violate that duty, even when doing so seems politically expedient.”

This is a reasonable moral theory. But my suspicion is most people who embrace it are not thinking clearly about exactly how inexpedient it is. As of 2018, for example, 47 percent of African Americans told the General Social Survey that it is “always wrong” for two same-sex individuals to have sex…

Meanwhile, 40 percent of white Democrats deny that the black/white gap in jobs, income, and housing is mainly due to discrimination…

Meanwhile, the question of whether Democrats should try to cast out every single person who dissents from every important item on the progressive agenda is a lot bigger than the primary. What may feel like a useful way of sticking it to Sanders or being a good ally to trans friends, in practice, sends an exclusionary message to a large population of voters that Democrats need if they want to win. The big tent really is important. It’s how Democrats can win and do the work necessary to make life better for marginalized groups, like the trans community.

8) Meant to include this from Waldman in an earlier post and forgot it.  It’s good, “Sanders might actually be the Democratic nominee. Nobody knows if he’s electable.”

So what we’ll be told — if you didn’t understand it already — is that Sanders has a long history as not just as a man of the left but a radical, one whose ideas are so outrageous that the general electorate could not possibly support him.

In support of that idea, we’ll hear about how he once advocated abolishing the CIA, how he once affiliated with the Trotskyite Socialist Workers Party, how he honeymooned in the Soviet Union, and how he praised Fidel Castro and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. And then there are some old ruminations on male and female sexuality that are, let’s say, problematic, or at least ripe for being taken out of context…

There’s no doubt that Republicans would try to make that case, that Sanders is a crazy radical who would turn America into a communist hellscape where we will all have our property expropriated and be forced to stand on line in shapeless gray overcoats to get our monthly bread allotment.

The trouble is, we have no idea whether that kind of attack would work. Yes, on many issues Sanders is far from the median American voter, but so is President Trump; it’s not as though majorities are clamoring to overturn Roe v. Wade and give more tax cuts to corporations. Americans don’t vote on the basis of ideology, something most of them barely understand…

So will voters reject this crazy leftist, or will he manage to hold Democrats while pulling over just enough moderates and Republicans to bring the party he still refuses to join on to victory?

Here’s the truth: We have no idea.

We don’t know how any of this will factor in a general election. There hasn’t been a nominee like Sanders in modern history, nor has there been a president like Trump for a nominee like Sanders to run against. Polarization is more intense than ever, and that adds another factor that complicates our ability to make accurate predictions. We all have our suspicions, and we can tell a story any way we like that sounds plausible.

Hell yeah!

Yes, I’m a practicing Catholic, but definitely not much of a believer in hell, as traditionally seen in our culture.  Much like, I reflexively and instinctively reject the all-too-comforting notion of heaven, that many seem to have of cavorting with lost loved ones.  Some things, to me, seem just too transparently conceived to make us feel good about death, i.e., just rewards and just punishments.

One of my favorite This American Life episodes (from waaay back), “Heretics“, features a Pentacostal pastor who comes to reject the idea of hell.

Why am I writing about this?  Because I loved this Op-Ed in the Times from a Philosophy and Religion scholar, “Why Do People Believe in Hell? The idea of eternal damnation is neither biblically, philosophically nor morally justified. But for many it retains a psychological allure.”

It’s comforting to imagine that Christians generally accept the notion of a hell of eternal misery not because they’re emotionally attached to it, but because they see it as a small, inevitable zone of darkness peripheral to a larger spiritual landscape that — viewed in its totality — they find ravishingly lovely. And this is true of many.

But not of all. For a good number of Christians, hell isn’t just a tragic shadow cast across one of an otherwise ravishing vista’s remoter corners; rather, it’s one of the landscape’s most conspicuous and delectable details.

I know whereof I speak. I’ve published many books, often willfully provocative, and have vexed my share of critics. But only recently, in releasing a book challenging the historical validity, biblical origins, philosophical cogency and moral sanity of the standard Christian teaching on the matter of eternal damnation, have I ever inspired reactions so truculent, uninhibited and (frankly) demented.

I expect, of course, that people will defend the faith they’ve been taught. What I find odd is that, in my experience, raising questions about this particular detail of their faith evinces a more indignant and hysterical reaction from many believers than would almost any other challenge to their convictions. Something unutterably precious is at stake for them. Why? …

Surely it would be welcome news if it turned out that, on the matter of hell, something got garbled in transmission. And there really is room for doubt.

No truly accomplished New Testament scholar, for instance, believes that later Christianity’s opulent mythology of God’s eternal torture chamber is clearly present in the scriptural texts. It’s entirely absent from St. Paul’s writings; the only eschatological fire he ever mentions brings salvation to those whom it tries (1 Corinthians 3:15). Neither is it found in the other New Testament epistles, or in any extant documents (like the Didache) from the earliest post-apostolic period. There are a few terrible, surreal, allegorical images of judgment in the Book of Revelation, but nothing that, properly read, yields a clear doctrine of eternal torment. Even the frightening language used by Jesus in the Gospels, when read in the original Greek, fails to deliver the infernal dogmas we casually assume to be there.

On the other hand, many New Testament passages seem — and not metaphorically — to promise the eventual salvation of everyone. For example: “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.” (Romans 5:18) Or: “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22) Or: “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2) (Or: John 13:32; Romans 11:32; 1 Timothy 2:3-6; 4:10; Titus 2:11; and others.)…

Theological history can boast few ideas more chilling than the claim (of, among others, Thomas Aquinas) that the beatitude of the saved in heaven will be increased by their direct vision of the torments of the damned (as this will allow them to savor their own immunity from sin’s consequences). But as awful as that sounds, it may be more honest in its sheer cold impersonality than is the secret pleasure that many of us, at one time or another, hope to derive not from seeing but from being seen by those we leave behind.

How can we be winners, after all, if there are no losers? Where’s the joy in getting into the gated community and the private academy if it turns out that the gates are merely decorative and the academy has an inexhaustible scholarship program for the underprivileged? What success can there be that isn’t validated by another’s failure? What heaven can there be for us without an eternity in which to relish the impotent envy of those outside its walls?

Not to sound too cynical. But it’s hard not to suspect that what many of us find intolerable is a concept of God that gives inadequate license to the cruelty of which our own imaginations are capable.

Good stuff.  But, I think lacking in a social-psychological perspective (damn Philosophy professors thinking they’re too good for social science!).  What strikes me as glaringly lacking from this analysis is Just World bias.  I really think it’s more about wanting “bad” people to be genuinely punished than feeling that a heavenly reward means less without hell.  In fact, I think you could do some cool social science research on that matter.

Anyway, very interesting and thought-provoking stuff.

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