Americans increasingly reject religion and its grift, hypocrisy, hate and prejudice
TheCriticalMind, Community (This content is not subject to review by Daily Kos staff prior to publication.)
Friday December 31, 2021 · 8:36 AM PST , Share this article
(Interjection by Don Chapin: This article targets conservative evangelicals, who are normally Protestant, but the American Catholic church hierarchy is in the same category… going so far as denying Pres. Biden Communion and being strongly anti-LGBT…. basically “Birds of a Feather.” However, the “non-believers” referred to are non-believers in religions, which are artificial organizations, not a Superior Power/a God.)
If you listen to the media, you would think America was as religious as ever. However, evangelical Christians are an egregious example of how a noisy minority can appear to be a more significant number of people than they actually are. And they have used that noise to grab political power by hijacking the GOP.
But as conservative evangelicals in the US have solidified their hold over the Republican party, Americans as a whole are becoming less religious. In 1980, 89% of Americans Identified as Christian. By 2020 that number was 68%. And what is even worse news for organized religion is that the move to secularism is generational. The young are not buying what the church sells. Which raises the question, what is religion selling?
According to its propaganda, the Church says it provides a haven in a harsh, uncertain world. It explains where we came from and where we are going. It guarantees entry to heaven (if you check the right boxes). It provides a moral guide. It gives solace to people when they are hurt or grieving. And it is a community where like-minded people can socialize. My mother went to church every Sunday of her life. But I have no evidence that she believed in God — she never talked about the subject. Nor did she ever use God as a reason to promote bigotry and prejudice. And ironically, I think an older woman provides a clue as to why younger Americans no longer feel drawn to the church. Because, while she embraced the charity and compassion of traditional mainstream Protestantism, the Church today is best known for its arbitrary moral absolutism and judgmental prejudice.
Ever since the Moral Majority supported Ronald Reagan, a divorced, non-church goer, over Jimmy Carter, a devout evangelical Christian, conservative Christianity has not only been a political force but America’s largest promoter of hatred, bigotry, and anger in the public sphere. And the youth of America don’t like it. Voting patterns provide evidence for that argument. Millennials overwhelmingly voted for Democrats, who comprise the party supporting the rights of disadvantaged groups in America – aka, those who do not fit the white, male, heteronormative mold. Or, put another way, they champion people whose civil rights would be stripped from them if religious bigots got their way. And these are issues that resonate with younger adults who are more likely to support the LGBTQ+ community, immigrants, a social safety net, and a woman’s right to choose.
In fairness, it’s not only the young. Many older Americans also back the same positions. The support for gay marriage, which stood at 27% in 1996 when Gallup first asked the question, has now reached 70%. Even the majority of Republicans support it. You will not find it used as a political issue much anymore. But the damage to evangelicals from their campaign against same-sex marriage — which exposed them as hateful and even unChristian — lingers.
Going hand in hand with political power is the root of all evil, the want of money. The Church is big business. And wherever there is money, there are liars, thieves, cheats, con artists, and cynical opportunists. I don’t know if religion has a higher percentage of grifters than other fields of financial buccaneering, but one thing the church has in spades is hypocrites. When Bernie Madoff was putting his hand in your pocket, he wasn’t telling you how you should lead your life. or enumerating who was a sinner destined for hell. But religious snake-oil salesmen lard their larceny with moral mandates they themselves often ignore.
Consider televangelist Jim Bakker, founder of the PTL club. In 1979, the FCC investigated him for fraud. In 1985, a confidential IRS report found Bakker and his wife Tammy Faye had used $1.3 million in charitable donations for their benefit from 1980 to 1983. But no action was taken by a Reagan administration that turned a blind eye to the financial sins of its evangelical base.
In 1987, news surfaced that Bakker had had sex with the 21-year-old secretary, Jessica Hahn. He said it was consensual. She said she had been drugged and raped. He paid her $279,000 in hush money. Bakker might have survived the sex, but the bribe upset the sanctimonious. So he had to quit.
In 1989, he was found guilty of 24 charges of fraud and received a 45-year prison sentence. An appeals court reduced it to eight years. And he ended up serving five.
Currently, he is selling food and other supplies to doomsday preppers. And his latest scam is promoting colloidal silver as a cure for COVID. Sued once more, he had to make restitution for fraudulent claims again.
He is not alone among the religious degenerates. Jimmy Swaggart’s of prostitutes led to his defrocking. Noted homophobe, Ted Haggard, was busted for buying sex and crystal meth from a male prostitute. Tony Alamo was sentenced to175 years in prison for sexual abuse, transporting underage girls across state lines for sexual purposes, pedophilia, marrying an eight-year-old girl, and child rape. Alamo’s defense: he was framed by the Vatican.
And there are the reprobates who are not ministers but promote a Christian lifestyle. People like Josh Duggar (child porn), Jerry Falwell Jr. (three-way sex and lying), and David Vitter (prostitution).
You get the point and that’s enough for this diary. Let’s leave the Catholic Church and child rape for another day.
I predict that by 2032, the number of nonbelievers in the US may well reach 40%. Republicans could slow down the trend by supporting more immigration from Central and South America, because Hispanics are more religious than Gringos. Would a right-wing Bible-thumping racist ever chose to support large amounts of brown immigration? I suspect that, much as the scorpion stung the frog, the religious bigot would rather drown than do the decent thing.
A Heavily Warped Theology
We should thank Donald Trump, Jr., for showing us the truth about White Evangelical Christianity
Dartagnan,Community (This content is not subject to review by Daily Kos staff prior to publication.)
Tuesday December 28, 2021 · 3:04 PM PST, Share this article
As the year-end holidays slowly tick towards their inevitable conclusion; as families gather (however possible) to enjoy the warmth of the many shared experiences and trials of the past year; and as we eagerly await yet again the inexorable descent of that familiar iridescent ball in Times Square at the stroke of midnight on Jan. 1, it’s a special time. It’s a time to reflect on what truly matters to each of us as individuals, and, even more importantly, as a nation sharing a common purpose. I’d like to use this opportunity to thank a very special individual for whom we should all hold a place in our hearts for the great service he did for each and every one of us last week.
I speak of none other than Donald Trump Jr., eldest child of the former occupant of the White House. Out of all of those who could have stepped where others have refused to tread, it took this young(ish) man, now shorn, perhaps permanently, of life in the limelight—after finding himself so often blocked by his father’s shadow—to articulate a simple, basic truth about what’s shaped tens of millions of Republican voters who cast their vote in 2016, again in 2020, and who will do so in the future: that mass of ignorance and intolerance known as white evangelical Christianity.
It fell to the younger Donald to spell out what everyone should have realized about 80% of these people from the get-go, ever since they sold their souls so willingly to his father. The white evangelicals—who once claimed such special status among God’s elect that they described themselves as “born again”—have now wholly divorced themselves from any pretense of devotion to Jesus Christ’s teachings. They now simply exist to wield, like true fanatics, a new, updated gospel: a gospel of seething anger, violence, and revenge, now fully revealed to them by their savior, Donald Trump.
The revelation Junior delivered to his father’s flock came at the Turning Point USA conference on Dec. 19. As described by a horrified Peter Wehner, an evangelical Christian who writes for The Atlantic, the young Trump effectively drew a line in the sand, setting forth an edict proclaiming a new and improved Christian dogma for his father’s supporters. Speaking to a rapturous crowd, Trump elaborated on his new “Good News.”
“If we get together, they cannot cancel us all. Okay? They won’t. And this will be contrary to a lot of our beliefs because—I’d love not to have to participate in cancel culture. I’d love that it didn’t exist. But as long as it does, folks, we better be playing the same game. Okay? We’ve been playing T-ball for half a century while they’re playing hardball and cheating. Right? We’ve turned the other cheek, and I understand, sort of, the biblical reference—I understand the mentality—but it’s gotten us nothing. Okay? It’s gotten us nothing while we’ve ceded ground in every major institution in our country.”
As Wehner explains, the speech was designed to push all of the buttons that have been cultivated by the religious right as they justify their grievances against an American culture they feel has turned its back on them.
Throughout his speech, Don Jr. painted a scenario in which Trump supporters—Americans living in red America—are under relentless attack from a wicked and brutal enemy. He portrayed it as an existential battle between good and evil. One side must prevail; the other must be crushed. This in turn justifies any necessary means to win. And the former president’s son has a message for the tens of millions of evangelicals who form the energized base of the GOP: the scriptures are essentially a manual for suckers. The teachings of Jesus have “gotten us nothing.” It’s worse than that, really; the ethic of Jesus has gotten in the way of successfully prosecuting the culture wars against the left. If the ethic of Jesus encourages sensibilities that might cause people in politics to act a little less brutally, a bit more civilly, with a touch more grace? Then it needs to go.
As his father’s heir apparent, only the former first son could unveil this scripture that none before him dared to disclose: The only true Christians are ones who come prepared to project their intolerance, looking past bigotry and violence if necessary to get what they want. Further, to the extent Jesus Christ himself may have said or implied something in the distant past that might conceivably contradict this, he should be ignored (or better yet, reviled as “fake news”).
As Tyler Huckabee writing for Relevant explains, beyond the familiar Christian teaching of “turning the other cheek,” the dominant tone of Christ’s teachings is rooted in personal humility and self-restraint.
Nearly every page of the Gospels has stories of Jesus refusing earthly power and exhorting his followers to do the same. In fact, there are few things Jesus talked as much about as the upside down Kingdom of God where “the last shall be first” and “blessed are the meek.” Moreover, he cautioned against seeking earthly influence, going so far as to proclaim “woe to you who are rich.” The most cursory reading of Scripture would leave anyone with the sense that this is not a manual for getting stuff.
The abandonment by the majority of the white evangelical community of such “traditional” Christian principles, such as humbly accepting the differences of others and extolling the virtues of compassion and generosity, should come as no surprise to anyone who has paid the slightest bit of attention over the past three decades. Even still, the Trump administration has effected by far the most dramatic, public transformation of the white evangelical movement.
As The Washington Post’s conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin writes, the embrace of intolerance and exclusion by many of these purported “Christians”—as part and parcel of their political identity—is now a necessary and integral requirement to joining their ranks.
The demographic — which remains in the throes of White grievance and an apocalyptic vision that postulates America (indeed “Western civilization”) is under attack from socialists, foreigners and secularists — forms the core of the MAGA movement. Many have rejected the sanctity of elections, the principle of inclusion and even objective reality.
Understanding this phenomenon goes a long way toward explaining the MAGA crowd’s very unreligious cruelty toward immigrants, its selfish refusal to vaccinate to protect the most vulnerable and its veneration of a vulgar, misogynistic cult leader. If you wonder how so many “people of faith” can behave in such ways, understand that their “faith” has become hostile to traditional religious values such as kindness, empathy, self-restraint, grace, honesty and humility.
In order for this “faith” to endure, however, it’s become necessary to refashion Jesus Christ from his previously understood role as a humble teacher into a vicious fanatic exhorting his followers to hatred, revenge for imagined slights, and even murder of others as exemplifying the “essence” of Christianity. Racism, bigotry, and intolerance have to become “Christian” virtues in order for this warped version of “faith” to sustain itself.
Rubin quotes Robert P. Jones, head of the Public Religion Research Institute. Jones describes this “new” Christian ethic among most white evangelicals in which “the willingness to act in self-sacrificial ways for the sake of vulnerable others—even amid a global pandemic—has become rare, even antithetical, to an aggressive, rights-asserting white Christian culture.”
As self-identified evangelicals reject small inconveniences and show disdain for others’ lives, Jones observes, “there is no hint of awareness that their actions are a mockery of the central biblical injunction to care for the orphan, the widow, the stranger, and the vulnerable among us.”
None of this should come as a surprise. After all, even the violent, Trump-supporting thugs who attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 demonstrated a revealing moment of this “muscular Christianity” when they briefly paused their looting, smashing, and defecating in order to say a mutual prayer professing their divine sensibilities. As this video taken in the Senate chamber shows, it was a tender moment of piety for all of them.
Yet before Trump Jr.’s speech, no single voice—not even that of the elder Trump—dared to so boldly and directly repudiate the teachings of Christ himself. None but Don Jr. has so directly dared to rend the tattered fabric of morality that white evangelicals long wore, however much it annoyed or inconvenienced them. Never before had anyone so directly crumpled up the pages of the New Testament, wadded them into a ball, and proudly wiped his ass with it.
But Donald Trump Jr. was willing to show us all exactly what type of people the majority of these white evangelical Christians are, what they aspire to be, and what they are willing to do to create the world they believe
we all they deserve.
We don’t often see the curtain ripped down in quite that way. It couldn’t have been easy for him. And for that, Americans should be forever thankful.
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