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Religion Last Updated: Mar 7th, 2006 - 01:36:49

Unintelligent Design and the Christian Right�s other wars on reality
By Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D.
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Mar 7, 2006, 01:30

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In his article �Rebuking the �Clergy Letter Project,�� Rev. Mark H. Creech harshly criticized the 10,200-plus clergy who �signed a letter stating they rejected a literal interpretation of the creation story.�

The Clergy Letter Project� argues that �the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist.� As Rev. Creech noted, �the purpose of the letter is to urge school board members to reject such teachings as Scientific Creationism and Intelligent Design and �preserve the integrity of the science curriculum by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge.'"

But that�s not what Creech and other dogmatic biblical literalists want:

 . . . to doubt a literal interpretation of the creation account is to undermine everything taught in the Bible. In Exploring Genesis, John Philips argues that to abandon the creation account as �unfactual and unreliable, as mere mythology, as a doctored-up copy of the Babylonian creation epic, as totally unacceptable to modern science� is to surrender to Satan. Philips adds, �If the Holy Spirit cannot be trusted when He tells of creation, how can He be trusted when He tells of salvation. If what He says about earth in Genesis 1 can be questioned, then what He says about heaven in Revelation 22 can be questioned. If the Holy Spirit cannot be trusted in Genesis 1, how can he be trusted in John 3:16?�

Accepting reality and acknowledging science constitute a �surrender to Satan�? How much more dogmatic, how much more medieval can you get? And just for the record, only Christians take John 3:16 literally.

In an interview with The Philadelphia Inquirer, John E. Jones III, the judge in the �intelligent design� case involving pubic schools in Dover, Pa., was as rational as Rev. Creech and John Philips were irrational:

Inquirer: Reading through the opinion, it was hard to evade the impression that you were surprised at the weakness of one side of the case. You used very strong language to characterize the case as a whole and the presentation.

: I�ll answer that question indirectly. . . . The opinion speaks for itself. There was something I said in the opinion that was grossly misunderstood. . . . I said that on the issue of whether intelligent design was science, that there wasn�t a judge in the United States in a better position to decide that than I was. [Commentator Phyllis] Schlafly interpreted that as my saying that I am so brilliant and erudite that I could decide that better than anyone else could. What I meant was that no one else had sat through an intensive six weeks of largely scientific testimony, and in addition to the task at hand, which was to decide the case, I wanted the opinion to stand as a primer for people across the country. . . . I wanted it to stand as a primer so that folks on both sides of the issue could read it, understand the way the debate is framed, see the testimony in support and against the various positions . . . and what is heartening to me is that it�s now evident that it�s being used in that way. . . . We did some of the lifting in that trial. To my mind . . . it would be a dreadful waste of judicial resources, legal resources, taxpayer money . . . to replicate this trial someplace else . . . [italics and link added]

It would be. But there are those hell-bent on doing so. According to a March 2, 2006 Focus on the Family article, Nevada may be the next place to waste judicial resources and taxpayer money:

A proposed constitutional amendment in Nevada would require teachers to instruct their students that there are many unanswered questions about the theory of evolution. Opponents of the proposal claim it�s a �thinly veiled attempt� to allow intelligent design into the schools . . .

But unintelligent design is only one front in the Christian Right�s war on reality.

Some of the most rabid of the radical Christian Right will be holding �The War on Christians and the Values Voter in 2006� conference, March 27-28, in Washington, D.C. They do so love to play victim as they victimize everyone who doesn�t agree with them.

An article that appeared on the website of The Christian Underground in late January was titled �The Passion of the Left: Hating Christians.� The author went through the usual withering litany of grievances, this time in reference to a conference, entitled �Examining the Real Agenda of the Far Religious Right.� But, as usual, while playing victim the author also admitted the truth:

At one point, a speaker spoke about the need �to save democracy� from the �Christian Right,� to which the audience broke out in applause. An associate professor of comparative studies equated the zeal of the �Christian Right� with that of �suicide bombers.� A former Pentecostal minister gave a presentation titled, �Christian Jihad,� while someone claimed to unveil, �The Real Hidden Religious Agenda: The Theocratic States of America.� For those suffering under such delusions, evangelical Christians are indeed the biggest threat to America and the entire world for that matter. [italics added]

A February 21 Agape Press article -- �Homosexual Activists� War Against Christianity� -- by Ed Vitagliano of the American Family Association continued the plaintive wail of the victimizer playing victim. You remember Mr. Vitagliano, the American Family Association�s homophobic �researcher� who began the SpongeBob fiasco.

�The War on Christians and the Values Voter in 2006� conference is being sponsored by Vision America: �Our mission is to inform, encourage and mobilize pastors and their congregations to be proactive in restoring Judeo-Christian values to the moral and civic framework in their communities, states, and our nation.� According to a WorldNet Daily article, �The advisory board of Vision America includes Christian leaders such as D. James Kennedy, Don Wildmon, Jerry Falwell,� and other anti-gay, ultra-right theocratic luminaries [links added].

Speakers at the conference include Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), Phyllis Schlafly, Gary Bauer. And what would a conference on �values� be without two of the other confirmed speakers: Alan Keyes and Tom DeLay?

You remember Alan Keyes: the rabid homophobe whose run for the U.S. Senate resulted in one of the most humiliating defeats in America political history. In his 1996 presidential campaign, Mr. Keyes said, �If we accept the homosexual agenda, which seeks recognition for homosexual marriages, we will be destroying the integrity of the marriage-based family.� In his 2000 run, Keyes said that granting gay Americans the right to a civil union would mean �you�ve legitimized pedophilia.� And in his disastrous campaign for the U.S. senate in 2004, Keyes said that homosexuality is �selfish hedonism.� When asked if he considered Mary Cheney, the lesbian daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney, a �selfish hedonist� Keyes replied, �Of course she is. That goes by definition. Of course she is.�

Mr. Keyes� daughter, Maya Marcel-Keyes, is lesbian. As a article noted, Keyes believes she is also a �selfish hedonist.� When she �came out,� CBS news reported that �Marcel-Keyes told the [Washington] Post her parents have thrown her out of the house, stopped speaking to her and refuse to pay for college because she is gay.� So much for family �values� and valuing one�s family.

And who could forget the �values� represented by arrested, indicted and discredited Tom DeLay, who claimed to be on a messianic mission to bring �the biblical worldview� into American politics?

Appropriately, the spokesman for the �The War on Christians and the Values Voter in 2006� conference is Don Feder. In an article that first appeared on and was reposted on the website of The Christian Underground, Mr. Feder labeled the Anti-Defamation League and the American Civil Liberties Union the �Anti-Prayer Axis.� Feder�s self-description says it all: �I�m to the right of Sharon on Zionism, to the right of Pat Buchanan on immigration and Americanism, to the right of Mother Angelica on abortion, to the right of Chuck Heston on Second Amendment rights, and generally make the legendary Attila look like a limousine liberal.�

Some of the titles of sessions at the conference also speak for themselves: �The Gay Agenda: America Won�t Be Happy,� �The ACLU And Radical Secularism: Driving God From The Public Square,� and �The Media: Megaphone For Anti-Faith Values.�

But the most telling of all is �The Judiciary: Overruling God.� The conference is not about some alleged war against Christians and their �values.� It�s a war by radical fundamentalist Christians to make America their theo-fascist state. Alan Keyes� �declarationist� principles spell out the agenda:

All men are created equal. Hence they have equal natural rights as a gift of the Creator.

Our duty to seek and follow the will of the Creator is prior to all government. Accordingly, so is the liberty of religious conscience.

The authority of the Creator as prior to all civil society and human authority must be respected for liberty to endure.

A main focus -- if not the main focus -- in the American Taliban�s campaign to remake America in its own image is to dehumanize, disenfranchise, and hurt in any way possible gay and lesbian Americans. It�s also where their agenda is most transparent. They have no rational arguments for denying these Americans equal civil rights, including the civil right to a civil marriage. Their only arguments are based solely on their own politicized �religious� dogma.

Dogma n, [L dogmat-, dogma, fr. Gk, from dokein to seem] 1a: something held as an established opinion; esp: a definite authoritative tenet. B: a code of such tenents <pedagogical>. C: a point of view or tenet put forth as authoritative without adequate grounds. 2: a doctrine or body of doctrines concerning faith or morals formally stated and authoritatively proclaimed by a church.

�From dokein to seem . . . established opinion . . . a point of view or tenet put forth as authoritative without adequate grounds . . . formally stated and authoritatively proclaimed by a church� [italics added]. Religious dogma is an unsubstantiated opinion that must remain as is despite ever-changing social, cultural, scientific and political contexts. As one definition in the Oxford English Dictionary put it, dogma is �an imperious or arrogant declaration of opinion� which uses itself as its source of authority. (Recall Rev. Creech�s dogmatic argument that �to doubt a literal interpretation of the creation account is to undermine everything taught in the Bible?�)

When polls began to show more and more Americans favored some form of legally recognized same-sex �civil union,� the Christian Right�s dogmatists -- having long ago abandoned reason and belief in the civil equality of all Americans -- intensified their anti-gay campaigns with stereotypes and outright lies. Homophobe extraordinaire Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition is a master of this strategy. (See �America�s New McCarthyism: Homosexual Stereotypes, Myths, and the Politics of Fear,� Popular Culture Review, 16:2 [August 2005], 83-115 for an analysis of Sheldon�s and the TVC�s malevolent use of stereotypes.) They also intensified their use of the �protect the children� mantra in combination with stereotypes of gays as inveterate child molesters and pedophiles.

As University of Chicago historian George Chauncey pointed out in Why Marriage? The History Shaping Today�s Debate Over Gay Equality, the claim that homosexuals recruit children and the stereotype of them as child molesters are relatively new and grew out of "the anxious years following the Second World War, when communists, criminal syndicates, and other half-invisible specters seemed to threaten the nation and when demonic new stereotypes of homosexuals were created and backed by government sanctions . . . The old tropes of anti-Semitic rhetoric . . . were especially influential in shaping depictions of homosexuals . . . And like Jews, they were depicted as a threat to children. In the most dangerous element of this new image, the escalation of antigay policing was accompanied, inspired, and justified by press and police campaigns that fomented stereotypes of homosexuals as child molesters."

The linking of Jews and child molestation is as old as Christianity. Such �common knowledge� was immortalized by Geoffrey Chaucer in the tale the Prioress told on the way to Canterbury. Anti-Semitism has a long history in America as well. It seems less than coincidental that the two Americans executed for treason during the McCarthy era -- when the U.S. State Department fired more homosexuals than Communists -- were Jewish. Homosexuals were a �natural� addition to Jews and Communists especially since they were defined primarily by their sexuality, an uncomfortable topic rarely openly discussed in post-WWII Christian America.

Truth is, there are mentally ill heterosexuals who are child molesters and there are mentally ill homosexuals who are child molesters. Nevertheless, the Christian Right and their allies persist in portraying all gay men as crazed pedophiles and molesters. But as Kathryn Conroy, assistant dean of Columbia University�s School of Social Work, pointed out in a New York Times piece, following the Vatican�s ban on �gay� priests, �Reliable studies show that pedophiles (those adults who sexually abuse children) are overwhelmingly heterosexual. In fact, homosexuals are statistically underrepresented as those who sexually abuse children.�

�Protect the children� has become the battle cry on another front of the Christian Right�s war on reality: adoption. Andrea Stone pointed out in her February 20 USA Today article that �efforts to ban gays and lesbians from adopting children are emerging across the USA as a second front in the culture wars that began during the 2004 elections over same-sex marriage.�

Again, there are no legitimate reasons to support denying these Americans the right to provide loving homes for homeless children. The �protect the children� mantra is without merit, as a previous USA Today article noted: �in support of adoption by gays, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) and adoption advocacy groups cite research that children with gay or lesbian parents fare as well as those raised in families with a mother and a father.�

The research affirming the position of the American Academy of Pediatrics includes the work by Charlotte J. Patterson, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, Stephen T. Russell, professor of human development at the University of Arizona, and Jennifer Wainright, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Virginia, in their longitudinal, comparative study of children being reared by same-sex parents and those being reared by opposite-sex parents. Their findings were published in the December 2004 issue of the Society for Research in Child Development�s journal Child Development.

Patterson and her colleagues based their research on a sample of 12-18-year-old adolescents from 88 families drawn from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Forty-four of the study participants were parented by same-sex couples and 44 were parented by opposite-sex couples. The two groups were matched by demographic characteristics including age, income levels, social situations and other factors to ensure they were comparable. Pertinent results included:

  • Teenagers of same-sex parents are developing as well as the children of opposite-sex parents;

  • Good quality family relationships are more important contributors to successful development than family type;

  • Teenage offspring of same-sex couples have similar dating and romantic relationship behaviors as children of opposite-sex couples;

  • On measures of their psychosocial adjustment and school results, such as grades and test scores, both groups had similar outcomes, and their adjustment was not affected by the type of family -- whether same sex or opposite sex parents.

As soon as the Patterson study was published, the anti-gay minions of the Christian Right -- especially those who operate for-profit programs that claim to �cure� homosexuals with �therapies� condemned as �unethical,� �dangerous� and �counterproductive� by the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Counseling Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of Social Workers -- denounced it (and all other studies that produced the same results) as �flawed� and �biased.�

Then they trotted out their own �experts,� such as discredited -- by the American Psychological Association -- �psychologist� Paul Cameron who, in true dogmatic form, used �his own studies to claim that homosexuals threaten public health, social order, and the well-being of children.�

But let�s not forget the masters of self-serving dogma: the Roman Catholic Church. Massachusetts Catholic bishops want an exemption for their agencies from the state�s anti-discrimination law requiring children be placed with qualified adoptive parents regardless of those parents� sexual orientation. The bishops� �reasoning� is that the law violates their �religious freedom� and is contrary to Catholic dogma, beliefs and values. One has to wonder where those beliefs and values were when Catholic bishops in Massachusetts and across the country were illegally covering-up decades of child abuse and pedophilia perpetrated by priests and kept shifting from diocese to diocese, enabling them to continue their abuses.

That the church hierarchy is corrupt is no secret. At least there are good, honest people working for the adoption agencies whose only interest is the well-being of the children they�re trying to place:

Seven members of the Catholic Charities board resigned Wednesday [March 1] to protest a request by the state�s Roman Catholic bishops to exempt Catholic social service agencies from a law requiring them to place some adoptive children in gay households.

In a statement, the seven board members said they were �deeply troubled� by the course set by the four bishops, and said it �undermines our moral priority of helping vulnerable children find loving homes. . . . We also cannot participate in an effort to pursue legal permission to discriminate against Massachusetts citizens who want to play a part in building strong families,� the statement read. �The course the Bishops have charted threatens the very essence of our Christian mission. For the sake of the poor we serve, we pray they will reconsider.�

The Massachusetts legislature indicated it was not interested in granting the exemption the Catholic bishops wanted. Governor Romney had the same position, until recently:

Romney met with church leaders on Wednesday [March 2], saying religious beliefs should trump antidiscrimination laws, though he admitted that state law would have to be changed to fulfill that wish. �Ultimately, legislation may need to be filed to provide an exemption based on religious principles,� Romney said in a statement.

On March 3, The Boston Globe reported that "the governor�s spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom, expanded on the governor�s earlier remarks and said 'important issues of religious liberty [are] at stake here.'�

�'We think special legislation is called for, and we�re willing to work with the church to help them carry out their charitable mission,' Fehrnstrom said in an email message."

The Globe also reported that "Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, in a break from the governor, said yesterday she would not support a measure allowing the state�s Catholic bishops to exclude gays and lesbians from adopting children from Catholic agencies. . . . 'I believe that any institution that wants to provide services that are regulated by the state has to abide by the laws of the state,' Healey said yesterday. 'And our antidiscrimination laws are some of our most important.'�

Romney�s anti-gay attitudes are well documented, as are his political aspirations. Does the word �pandering� come to mind?

But beyond all the studies, all the dogmatic claims and sleazy politicking, there�s reality: the reality so clearly expressed in readers� responses to the February 20 USA Today article.

These insights came from Florida:

It is absolutely amazing. The religious right has convinced the Republican leadership of 16 (mostly red) states that gays and lesbians should not adopt children . . .

Are Republicans so scared for their majority in the upcoming midterm elections that they are actually going to move forward with this cheap stunt, just to increase voter turnout of their base?

It is a truly sad day in this country when the only issues that get people motivated are abortion and gays.

Wake up, people. Why don�t we start talking about the real issues facing this country -- such as budget deficits, welfare, education, Social Security, the environment and a dozen other things that really need to be fixed?

These are children who need families. Who cares whether the adoptive parents are gay? If opponents of gay adoptions can come up with concrete evidence that gay people are not fit to be parents, I say bring it on. Until then, keep quiet and let these children in need be adopted.

These came from Texas:

I was interested in USA TODAY�s article about the groups that are opposed to gay foster and adoptive parents. It seems there are a lot of people concerned about the children. Yet there is a terrible shortage of foster homes . . .

USA TODAY�s story says there are about 520,000 kids in foster care in the United States. It also states that the organization of the Rev. Russell Johnson, who opposes gay adoptions, �plans to tout the adoption ban in a mailing� to 500,000 supporters. Maybe his supporters who are qualified could agree to become a foster parent or adopt a �hard to place� child.

And surely there are enough people from [James Dobson�s] Focus on the Family or [Beverly LaHaye�s] Concerned Women for America who could make up the balance of foster homes that would still be needed.

If the true concern of opposing groups centers around what�s best for our children, then they should be willing to take on the jobs of providing loving, heterosexual, conservative family environments. [links added]

But the most poignant and insightful came from California, and first-hand experience:

Thanks so much for the story about the political sensation surrounding gay and lesbian adoptions. The timing of this article had such impact on my family.

My partner and I, along with our 11-month-old son, went to court last week to finalize his adoption. We are so excited and proud. It has been a long road for us, nearly three years in the making, but the reward of having a wonderful son far outweighs the struggle.

When I read that families like ours are in the crosshairs of a vicious, religious minority, I nearly cry. I can�t imagine having our family torn apart or never allowed to be. I hope children aren�t dragged into the ugly war of partisan politics.

Alas, as they have repeatedly demonstrated, the dogmatic megalomaniacal leaders of the American Taliban will use anyone, do anything, and say anything to achieve their social and political goals. That is, after all, the nature of theo-fascism.

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