Tag Archives: Bill Maher

Trump and the End of Evangelicals’ Moral High Ground

With the election now thankfully behind us, we can hopefully move forward, let the dust settle, and be thankful elections only come once every four years.  We can also reflect on the lessons learned from this presidential race.  And one of the biggest lessons that we’ve all learned is where Evangelical’s, Fundamentalist’s, and really most Christian’s loyalty really lies.  As Bill Maher so eloquently put it:

“Before leaving this election behind, we must all thank Donald Trump for the one good thing he did – he exposed Evangelicals, who are big Trump supporters, as the shameless hypocrites they’re always been.” 

That’s right.  Watching Christians in America throw themselves before the alter of the most vile, immoral, and bigoted presidential candidate this country has ever seen, exposed the world to the ugly underbelly American Christianity.  Those of us who were once part of the Evangelical ranks are all too familiar with what’s behind the “Jesus is Love!” facade found in most churches, but even we were a bit surprised at just how low they stooped this time.  Making decisions based on fear, ignorance, and tribal rules has always been the Religious Rights MO, but with Trump; they’ve taken it to a whole new level.

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I kept waiting for the shoe to drop.  I kept waiting for Trump to say something or do something that was so outlandish, so immoral, that Christians would finally wake up, see that this emperor has no clothes, and withdraw their support.  But, no.  A full 81% of white Evangelicals backed Trump this election, with other Christian denominations not faring much better.  Even the infamous “pussy grabbing” tapes weren’t enough to turn most Christians.

This election will certainly go down in history for a number of reasons, but there’s one in particular I want to talk about today.  After this election, Christians in America can no longer pretend to have a monopoly on morality.  They can no longer claim to be morally superior than those outside their tribe.  They no longer get to attempt to be societies “designated adults”.  Christians have lost any perceived higher ground they once had to judge how other people live out there lives.  This election has proven, once and for all, that when it comes to morals, most Christians don’t have a fucking clue what that word really means.

“This year much of the Church has been fully complicit in elevating to the highest levels of the political process, a man completely devoid of anything remotely representing Jesus, and passed him off as sufficiently Christian. Celebrity pastors and name-brand Evangelists have sold him as “a man after God’s own heart”, or at the very least a decidedly imperfect tool of Divine retribution in the style of the Old Testament—and they’ve repeatedly bastardized the Scriptures, insulted the intelligence of the faithful, and given the middle finger to the Gospel in order to do it.

And millions of Christians have held their noses and washed their hands while still trying to make their beds and cast their lots with the most openly vile, profane, hateful Presidential nominee in history. The desperate theological gymnastics and excuse making professed Bible-believing churchgoers have engaged in to try and justify it all has been the height of tragic comedy, with all the laughs coming at the expense of the Good News.” – John Pavlovit

And spare me the excuses – I don’t want to hear them.  If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone trying to make excuses for Christians selling-out to Trump…

“They don’t really support Trump, they just think he’s the lesser of to evils.”  First of all, you don’t get to claim “two evils” when there where four fucking candidates on the ballet!  Secondly, I don’t care by what standard you measure “evil”; Trump wins by a landslide.  This goes especially for those who claim that they “live their lives according to Jesus”.  Can people honestly convince themselves that Trump in any way, shape, or form, is anything that even remotely resembles the life and teachings of Jesus?

Jesus healed the blind, Trump mocks the handicapped.

Jesus taught to turn the other cheek, Trump threatens to sue anyone who speaks badly of him.

Jesus loved his enemies, Trump wants to bomb their families.

Jesus taught not to look at a women with lust, Trump sexually assaults them.

Jesus taught to “let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’”, Trump is a compulsive liar.

Jesus taught not to take up treasures on Earth, Trump is a greedy, corrupt billionaire.

Jesus cared for the poor and needy, Trump wants to kick them out of this country.

Jesus taught peace, Trump insights violence.

Another common excuse I hear is that people are voting for Trump because they believe he is “pro-life”.  Please.  Just because he has made baseless claims of appointing a SCOTUS judge who will overturn Roe vs Wade to pander to his gullible voting base, in no way makes him pro-life.  (Never mind the fact that it was a Republican SCOTUS that legalized abortion, and a Republican SCOTUS that upheld it in Planned Parenthood v. Casey)  “At the heart and core of what it means to be pro-life is a deep, unshakable belief, that all life has infinite worth and value,” writes Benjamin Corey, “and that this innate worth should be something we as a culture honor and value.”  Corey continues:

“Nothing about saying, “I like to just grab women by the pussy” reflects a view that all people have sacred value and that they should be honored.

Nothing about mocking people with physical disabilities says that a person holds a foundational belief that all life has worth and value.

Nothing about grabbing a woman and kissing her without consent, telling an employee that she’d “look really good down on her knees,” or saying that it’s hard for women with small breasts to be beautiful, tells us this is a man who believes that the image of God in others must be honored and protected.

Nothing about deporting the undocumented parents of U.S. born children, destroying family units and creating orphans, speaks to a foundational belief about the value of human life.

Nothing about advocating that we kill the entire families of suspected terrorists tells us that he believes that all life is sacred.

To claim that Donald Trump is pro-life is to say that one can belong to a movement without *actually* believing the foundational beliefs that a given movement is based upon.”

Christians are without excuse when it comes to their unwavering support of Donald Trump.  They can claim “lesser of two evils” and “pro-life” all they want, but the real reason Christians support Trump is pretty clear – they’re towing the party line.  The Evangelical church got into bed with the Political Right decades ago and it has been their primary source of “truth” ever since.   Having sold their souls to the Republican party, seemingly intelligent, well meaning Christians all over America voted for a man that is the polar opposite of everything they claim their religion to be about.

So, from now on, whenever a Christian chimes into a discussion regarding social and political issues and wants to claim that they have the all answer, or the “TRUTH”,  because they read the Bible, follow Jesus, go to church, whatever; you can politely remind them that if they supported Trump, they no longer get to claim they have a superior moral standing than anyone else.

Pavlovitz writes in his article 7 Things Christians Are Giving Up By Supporting Donald Trump:  Christian no longer get to talk about “family values” or the “sanctity of marriage” “after supporting a candidate currently on marriage number three, one with a documented history of infidelity. Their continued efforts to deny LGBT people a single marriage on the basis of protecting supposed God’s ordained one man-one woman standard, ring noticeably hollow as they tolerate Trump’s trinity of ever-younger spouses.”

Christians no longer get to claim to be “pro-life” after supporting a candidate who, with his open racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and his contempt for immigrants and the working poor, Donald Trump has shown contempt for a great swath of Humanity. Advocating for him to preside over all the laws of our country and all of its people, is not a gesture that honors life beyond the most narrow definition of it. It becomes more about politics and semantics than defending the living.”

No longer do they get to police people’s “sinful behavior” as societies designated adults.  One of Evangelicals favorite pastimes is evaluating the conduct of other people and measuring their moral worth accordingly. Celebrity preachers and ordinary pew-sitters like to pull-quote Jesus and demand to see “the fruit” in the lives of others as conformation that they are people of Jesus, that they have sufficiently repented, that they indeed have been born again: the proof is in the pudding. To then rationalize away the orchards of rotten fruit in Donald Trump’s personal and business history by saying ‘God looks at the heart’ and warning those who bring these things up by chastising them ‘not to judge’, puts them on really shaky ground and gives them zero credibility to ever critique anyone else again.”  

And finally, no longer do Christians get to ask atheist, agnostics, and “nones” where we get our morals from.  No longer do they get to claim, “No God, no morality!”.  We have all seen what the Evangelical standards for morality are and just how far they are willing to go to excuse one of their own’s behavior, no matter how deplorable it is.  You don’t get to question where my morals come from while supporting a man like Donald Trump.

This election is yet another reminder of why this country needs to become one based on secular principles, not religious.  Secular countries surpass the US in just about every category that matters.  The Religious Right has been the sole obstacle to social progress for far too long.  Let’s hope that this election marks the turning point, where religion starts to loose its power and influence over society and politics.  Want to “Make America Great Again”?  Start by getting religion out of politics.

Thanks for reading.

 

Is Religion a Sign of Mental Illness?

As of late, I’ve been seeing some posts on social media sites debating whether or not being religious or subscribing to a religion/faith is a sign of mental illness.  This is certainly not a new debate, but it seems that it has become more prevalent in recent years.

A quick Google search will bring up plenty of articles and blog posts on the subject.  Known atheists Bill Maher has called religion “a neurological disorder”. Sam Harris wrote in The End of Faith, “it is difficult to imagine a set of beliefs more suggestive of mental illness than those that lie at the heart of many of our religious traditions.” Recently there was an article making the round about the American Psychological Association classifying a strong religious belief as a mental disorder.*  You can even find Facebook groups with hundreds of members claiming religion is a “mental disorder” or “mental disease”.

In my opinion, the notion of religion being a sign of mental illness is a gross oversimplification of the issue.  It shows a lack of understanding of both religion and mental illness.  The word “religion” covers such a myriad of beliefs and values that it is irresponsible and likely impossible to render such a simplistic diagnosis to the issue.

And I’m not alone.

Sincere Kirabo, who blogs on Patheos’s Atheist channel, was also getting  frustrated with atheists making such bold and unwarranted claims regarding religion.  So, he penned an email and sent it to a number of experts in a multitude of different fields.  The letter simple asked:

“Is there any merit to the assertions that religious belief is the result of either mental deficiency (retardation, stupidity, etc.) or mental illness?”

The responses that he received speak for themselves.  I encourage you to read the post for yourself, but the overwhelming opinion amongst the scholars questioned was that (1) There’s zero evidence showing religious belief is the result of mental defect or a mental illness. (2) Religiosity stems from naturally-occurring, intuitive cognitive systems. 

One of my favorite sayings is, “Strong claims require strong evidence”, and in this case, there simply isn’t sufficient (or any) evidence to warrant the claim that religion is a result of mental defect.

Some would argue that many of religions claims are fundamentally and demonstratively false, so doesn’t that mean that there is something wrong with the people who believe them?

No.  We have all been guilty of believing false claims at some point, and will likely continue to make errors in judgments throughout our lives.  That’s simply part of being human.  I myself was once a Christian and wholeheartedly believed all of it.  I didn’t (and still don’t) have a mental disorder – I was simply a product of my upbringing.

People belong to churches or religious groups for a number of reasons.  The majority belong because it’s how they were raised.  Some do it for community.  Others do it for their kids.  Many people find a sense of purpose in belonging to a congregation.  There’s nothing wrong with any of these reasons, certainly not to the extent of labeling someone mentally ill.

That’s not to say that I’m excusing religious people for the nonsense that most of them believe.  Willful ignorance and confirmation bias are rampant in most religion, especially amongst Judaeo/Christian ones.  So much so, that some religions depend on it for survival.  And this kind of resistance to empirical truths is what makes religion so dangerous at times.  Yet, someone being fundamentally wrong about something does not make them mentally ill – it just makes them wrong.

All that being said…

I do believe that there are certain people within religious institutions who suffer varying degrees of mental illness, but it goes unnoticed because of the culture and belief systems of those particular religions.

In my many years as a Christian I’ve know people claimed to hear an audible “voice of God”.  There have been some who believe they had the “power of the Holy Spirit” in them and could heal people by simply “laying on hands”.  Many people claim to have visions.  I have often heard people claim they had been “chosen” or have some sort of divine purpose.   It’s not uncommon to hear people say they have had encounters with angels or demons.  There are many people who firmly believe in the “end times” and spend an unhealthy amount of time preparing for and searching for the “signs” of the coming apocalypse.

None of these probably sound unusual to anyone from an Evangelical background.  But these could all be considered signs of psychosis – a mental disorder characterized by a disconnection from reality. Some of the signs and symptoms of psychosis include:

  • false thoughts/delusions
  • audio/visual hallucinations
  • anxiety
  • suspiciousness
  • withdrawal from family and friends
  • delusions of grandeur

If the people mentioned above acted in the same manner in any other institution (prison, hospital, etc) or even in public, they would likely be diagnosed and treated.  But, because their delusions manifest in a way that is acceptable or even supported by their religion, no one thinks that it’s unusual.  In fact, in some circles, people who exhibit these types of behaviors are held up and recognized as having a “spiritual gift”.

Consider this: with the first example – someone claiming they can hear the voice of God – replace “God” with any other name (Elvis, aliens, long-dead grandma) and suddenly everyone thinks they’re crazy, and rightfully so.  Devout believers don’t get a free pass simply because they use “God” – it’s still delusional to hear voices that aren’t there.

There’s an inmate in the prison I work at that not only believes in demons, but claims that he can “see them in other people”.  He is heavily medicated and kept on a special ward.  I’ve known people in churches that would make the same claim, and no body bats an eye.

Is it possible that some of the people making these claims are faking it?  Are they simply going along with the crowd?  Have they found something that gets them attention and they’re exploiting it?  Yes; it is entirely possible.  But that doesn’t make it acceptable behavior and the fact that such beliefs are socially acceptable is a real indicator of how disconnected from reality that religious body is as a whole.  I also firmly believe that there are people who genuinely have a mental disorder and it goes unnoticed and untreated because of the religious culture they are a part of.

 

 

I spend a good amount of time poking holes in religion, but I try to be fair and informed about it.  Making overreaching claims does nothing to address the real issues.  As Miri Mogilevsky said in a great article on this subject, “Calling religion a mental illness keeps us from asking serious questions about what actually does attract people to religion.  [It’s] a convenient way to avoid thinking about what we could actually be doing to make the secular community more welcoming and inclusive, and what sorts of resources we are lacking that people can find in religious communities.”  

To my fellow non-believers – let’s not be found guilty of using the same Straw-man arguments that believers so often make.  Stick to what we know and what can be proven with evidence.  There’s enough of it out that that we don’t need to be resort to ridiculous theories and wild speculation.  Thanks for reading.

 

*Most people failed to check out the original story and notice that the story, and it’s site are purely satirical, but that didn’t keep some atheists from running with it.