Pharyngula

A recent court decision went against the Bush administration, and also reveals some of the contemptible influence peddling that went on in that gathering of scoundrels. The subject was birth control, in particular Plan B and other forms of emergency contraception, and as many of you know, the Bushite regime dragged its feet with ridiculous deliberation in allowing the FDA to approve these forms of contraception, and effectively blocked them from public access. By hook and crook, by cheating and deception, and by lying to the people, as this court decision affirms. This is why we fight the inclusion of religion in government: it poisons everything.

This decision is remarkable in its detailed accounting of the corruption that religious viewpoints can wreak upon public policy. That the right-to-life community was able to derail the availability of emergency contraception so easily is a testament to how bad things truly were in the Bush Administration. It should be unnecessary to say this, but I will: Science, health, and healing should be the focus of the FDA. The pattern of conduct the district court decision reveals is lawless, not only with respect to FDA procedures, but also with respect to the constitutional right to obtain contraception established by the Supreme Court Griswold v. Connecticut. This is not the state’s role. Indeed, the imposition by the Bush FDA of the religious beliefs of some upon others who do not believe is antithetical to our system. The core of the Establishment Clause is intended to prevent this sort of substitution of religious reasoning for sound public policy decisionmaking.

But that era is over, right? Don’t start cheering yet.

President Bush seems not to have been able to make public decisions without reference to right-wing religious beliefs. That inclination was probably reinforced by his practice of having a weekly conference call with conservative Christian clergy.

It is troubling to learn that President Obama appears to have instituted the same practice of scheduled weekly consultation with clergy. While Presidents from the start have looked to their faith to give them courage and solace, and many have had a religious counselor for one-on-one discussions, the weekly call with a committee of clergy is quite different. It would be very hard to believe that the discussion does not veer away from spiritual counseling, and into public policy. And what other political interest groups get this kind of access to the President? Reading Judge Korman’s well-reasoned and well-supported decision in Tummino, one is reminded that one cannot assume that religious advising is always, or even usually, politically-neutral. Moreover, it is never accountable to the people, by constitutional design. The President, however, is.

Also, don’t forget that these so-called “spiritual leaders” use the credibility conferred by these weekly meetings to reinforce their political authority and push a political agenda on their flocks. It’s a tool that is abused and gives political leverage to people who are often the enemies of secularism.

Does anyone know who Obama’s consulting clergy are? These are people to be watched; I’d also like to see that we urge Obama to also listen to dissenting voices. Where’s the weekly consultation with atheists, I might ask? Or with scientists and engineers? Why is he wasting time with those pious con artists, anyway?

Comments

  1. #1 cervantes
    April 2, 2009

    The entities to which they impute “sanctity” are not human beings, but anything that’s kind of like a human being, in having human DNA, but is otherwise unlike what most of us think of us being human in having no ability to survive independently, and no consciousness. And where do they get the idea that lives of microscopic balls of cells, fetuses with unformed cerebral cortexes, and former humans whose cortexes have been destroyed, are somehow “sacred”? They obviously don’t get it from the Bible. There is not one word about abortion anywhere in the Bible, Old Testament or New, even though abortion, and for that matter infanticide, were widely practiced in the Biblical world. For that matter, the Bible certainly does not put forth any concept of the “sanctity of life.” The Hebrews are commanded at various times to slaughter people, steal their land, rape their women, and enslave their children. God himself massacres innocent children in Egypt and elsewhere. God commands the Hebrews to stone a man to death for gathering sticks on the sabbath.

    And of course, the Bible could not possibly assert that “life begins at conception” because people in Biblical times didn’t have the slightest idea what conception was or how fetuses developed. In fact, if you believe in God, then you also have to believe that God is the most prolific abortionist in history, by many orders of magnitude, because something like 2/3 of “human lives” — the zygotes created at the moment of conception — never successfully develop. Most of the time, the woman is not even aware that she was ever pregnant. If abortion is murder, this is the death of tens of millions of innocent children every year. Should it not be the absolutely highest priority of medical research to save those babies’ lives? But you never hear a peep from these people about it.

    Christian prohibition of abortion is an entirely modern phenomenon, dating at its very earliest to the late 19th Century. And what happened at that time to suddenly provoke the concern of the Pope? It wasn’t any scientific discovery — understanding of the nature of conception and the zygote did not come until about 100 years later. No, what got the Christian fathers riled up was the women’s movement. The idea that sex could be uncoupled from reproduction, or that women could choose not to become mothers, was appalling to the (putatively) celibate old men who ran the Catholic Church, and later to the Evangelical “Christian” conservatives who share their views on the semi-human status of women, although they otherwise think Catholics are heretics who God intends to torture for all eternity. And vice versa.

    The reason I bring all this up, although you already know it, is because nobody in public life seems willing to take this issue on at the fundamental level of morality and logic. The most assertive anyone is willing to be about it, including NARAL, is to say that people differ in their views of the morality of abortion and that the law should not impose one view on everyone. I say it’s time to get serious about this and expose the hypocrisy and fundamentally nonsensical basis of “pro-life” activism. Answer these lying bigots who would lead the world back into darkness. Explain to people why their views and public discourse makes no sense. Reveal their true agenda, to oppress women and for that matter all of humankind. To rule the world through terror and deceit.

    Not a damn thing Christian about them.

  2. #2 Muse142
    April 2, 2009

    The NY Times revealed Obama’s spiritual advisers here:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/15/us/politics/15pastor.html

    They aren’t as crazy as most, but.. you know.. religionists. Shrug.

  3. #3 whitebird
    April 2, 2009

    I’m hoping that Obama’s meetings are some kind of lipservice…but he’s already elected…maybe they’re Unitarians?

  4. #4 Glen Davidson
    April 2, 2009

    Eesh, I can’t imagine any reason why a president ought to actualy consult with clergy on policy.

    I understand that the president’s worldview is going to affect matters, and I don’t see that as necessarily wrong if it is influenced by religion. I don’t like the idea of clergy being one of the “three estates,” any more than I like the idea of plutocrats being one.

    Of course, since plutocrats do have inordinate influence, I don’t suppose it’s surprising that the clergy might as well.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

  5. #5 thefryingfish
    April 2, 2009

    I am so glad I live in Canada and have free access to the plan b pill. That’s saved me and my girlfriend’s ass a couple times… I guess conservatives really like teen mothers.

  6. #6 www.10ch.org
    April 2, 2009

    @#2 Muse142
    Are there still some things that religion has poisoned in them?

  7. #7 DGKnipfer
    April 2, 2009

    Why is it I always feel like I voted for the Lesser of Two Evils after a presidential election?

  8. #8 Alex
    April 2, 2009

    Why is he wasting time with those pious con artists, anyway?

    Hopefully (but sadly), it is simply for appeasement.

  9. #9 xeric
    April 2, 2009

    From Pam Spaulding:
    Homophobe coach asked to serve on Obama’s ‘Faith Council’
    http://www.pamshouseblend.com/showDiary.do?diaryId=10173

  10. #10 Sharmin
    April 2, 2009

    From the article: “Those chosen for the Advisory Committee did not have the resumes that normally dignify such an appointment. Instead, the court found, they “‘had very limited experience in product development, clinical trials. They were not well-published.” Why? The Bush FDA was seeking not to find the finest possible doctors and scientists, but rather to achieve a “balance of opinion” on the Committee. Accordingly, the court found, “[M]any qualified nominees [were rejected] in favor of individuals who shared a common ideological viewpoint…”

    When are people going to realize that when you want information about science you have to ask a scientist and not a religous leader? I’m in pharmacy school and it annoys me that the standards for my profession and the rules I will have to follow may be based on religion instead of on what is best for the patient.

  11. #11 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    April 2, 2009

    Anton Szandor LaVey… FROM THE PITS OF HELL!!!11

    Oh sorry. Was that out loud?

  12. #12 www.10ch.org
    April 2, 2009

    “Why is it I always feel like I voted for the Lesser of Two Evils after a presidential election?”
    Hey, at least it is still progress from Bush.

  13. #13 Richard Harris
    April 2, 2009

    All are men, two of them white and three black ? including the Rev. Otis Moss Jr., a graying lion of the civil rights movement. Two, the entrepreneurial dynamos Bishop T. D. Jakes and the Rev. Kirbyjon H. Caldwell, also served as occasional spiritual advisers to President George W. Bush. Another, the Rev. Jim Wallis, leans left on some issues, like military intervention and poverty programs, but opposes abortion.All are men, two of them white and three black ? including the Rev. Otis Moss Jr., a graying lion of the civil rights movement. Two, the entrepreneurial dynamos Bishop T. D. Jakes and the Rev. Kirbyjon H. Caldwell, also served as occasional spiritual advisers to President George W. Bush. Another, the Rev. Jim Wallis, leans left on some issues, like military intervention and poverty programs, but opposes abortion.

    OH, SHIT! So Obama does believe in the delusional, religious, magic, spirit otherworld.

  14. #14 JD
    April 2, 2009

    Just don’t tell me Rick Warren’s fat ass is going to be influencing policy. I’d rather have Stephenie Meyer. At least she’s *only* a stupid Mormon and a slipshod author.

  15. #15 Alex
    April 2, 2009

    …but rather to achieve a “balance of opinion”…

    You know what they say about opinions, they’re like assholes. Some are just shittier than others.

  16. #16 Jake
    April 2, 2009

    I’ll take ‘How to waste the President’s time’ for 500 Alex.

  17. #17 blf
    April 2, 2009

    Consulting with religious kooks would provide clews as to what not to do and/or what is not important.

    Appointing kooks kwoks to positions concerned with “the public good”, especially because of their kookiness, is appalling.

  18. #18 www.10ch.org
    April 2, 2009

    @#10 Sharmin
    The masses of the people choose to remain ignorant about what is best for science, and for the country. I would suppose that it is a cultural thing – but more than that, I would suppose that it is a political thing. What really is the opinion of the people if they wanted to choose between “balance of opinion,” and scientific expertise? I think that this is actually more a political thing than a cultural thing. Both parties know what is right, but neither wants to make the right informs, perhaps due to vested interests.

  19. #19 www.10ch.org
    April 2, 2009

    @#17 blf
    “Consulting with religious kooks would provide clews as to what not to do and/or what is not important.”
    Well, it certainly does not provide a good international impression – not that U.S. people care much about international stuff anyways.

  20. #20 HenryS
    April 2, 2009

    They aren’t as crazy as most, but.. you know.. religionists. Shrug.”
    **********
    Maybe they aren’t crazy but 4/5 are homophobes and I think all are “pro-life”..

    “Caldwell runs a ministry that states:
    “We are pleased to announce the creation of ‘The Way, The Truth and The Life,’ a program created to provide Christ Centered instruction for those seeking freedom from homosexuality, lesbianism, prostitution, sex addiction and other habitual sins.”

    Kirbyjon Caldwell was on the SC primary campaign that included the gospel singing homophobes Donnie McClurkin and Mary-Mary.

  21. #21 Scott S
    April 2, 2009

    You can go to http://www.whitehouse.gov and send comments. Perhaps if enough people brought up the idea that it would be nice if Obama had regular meetings with scientists as well. . .

    Of course it would probably never get to him, but it only takes a minute.

  22. #22 HenryS
    April 2, 2009

    Another one of the Obama religious inner circle:

    Jim Wallis

    Reverend Jim Wallis, one of President Obama?s top religious advisors and a member of his Faith Council tells The Brody File that if covering abortions is part of any government healthcare plan then President Obama?s big plans for healthcare will be dead in the water.
    (snip)
    President Obama has spoken about the need to reduce abortions in America and Jim Wallis has been and will be a key player in this area. He has the President?s ear on this issue and will be responsible (along with other faith leaders) in developing ideas for an abortion reduction initiative

  23. #23 dsadsad
    April 2, 2009

    Sometimes I imagine a world with no religion, and think of how nice it would be to have so many problems just go away. Granted, it wouldn’t be free of conflict, but it would be so wonderful if people didn’t act based on delusional things for which there is no evidence.

    Then I remember I’m stuck in the real word. Ugh.

  24. #24 Fake Al Gore
    April 2, 2009

    How do all of you stay sane? The past two weeks have been terrible for science and reason, and I can barely think coherently anymore due to the rage building up against pro-zygote religionists, right-wing pro-diseasers, etc.

  25. #25 HenryS
    April 2, 2009

    And Rev. Meeks:
    A spring 2007 newsletter from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) named Meeks one of the “10 leading black religious voices in the anti-gay movement”. The newsletter cites him as both “a key member of Chicago’s ?Gatekeepers’ network, an interracial group of evangelical ministers who strive to erase the division between church and state” and “a stalwart anti-gay activist? [who]? has used his House of Hope mega-church to launch petition drives for the Illinois Family Institute (IFI), a major state-level ?family values’ pressure group that lauded him last year for leading African Americans in ?clearly understanding the threat of gay marriage.’”

    The SPLC newsletter also noted that, “Meeks and the IFI are partnered with Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council and the Alliance Defense Fund, major anti-gay organizations of the Christian Right. They also are tightly allied with Americans for Truth, an Illinois group that said in a press release last year that ?fighting AIDS without talking against homosexuality is like fighting lung cancer without talking against smoking.’”

  26. #26 RM
    April 2, 2009

    Adding Dungy to the mix will give Obama another insane voice to hear. I originally had high hopes that President Obama was only paying lip service for political gain to these religious idiots. Now, I think he believes that crap as well.

    It is so disappointing.

  27. #27 blf
    April 2, 2009

    10ch @17, yep! Based on my own experiences?I’ve lived in Europe for over 20years now?people (in Europe) usually draw the distinction between government policy/(in)action and culture. Culturally, the high religiousness is merely baffling. It is, as you say, the influence of religion which is unimpressive.

    Of course, that’s all anecdotal amongst other flaws?

  28. #28 Rick R
    April 2, 2009

    #23- I’d settle for a world where these idiots would realize that their personal morality is just that- a personal code they’ve chosen to live their own lives by.

    And stop forcing it on everybody else.

  29. #29 Scott
    April 2, 2009

    The truly amazing thing is that, despite loading the Advisory Committee(s) with like minded people to achieve a “balance of opinion”, the AC still voted 23 to 4 in favor of Plan-B. It required direct intervention from the White House to squelch the approval.

  30. #30 Lowell
    April 2, 2009

    The court’s opinion is pretty devastating:

    Plaintiffs have proffered evidence that the Commissioner did not make the decision on his own, but was pressured by the White House and ?constituents who would be very unhappy with … an over-the-counter Plan B.? There is also evidence that the Commissioner transmitted this pressure down the chain of command at the FDA: pressuring Dr. Galson not to approve over-the-counter use of Plan B without age restriction; and removing Dr. Galson’s authority to make any decision on Plan B after he told the Commissioner that he believed Plan B could be used safely OTC by adolescents 17 and older. Moreover, despite the overwhelming evidence that Plan B could be used safely and effectively by 17 year olds without a prescription, the FDA, citing fanciful and wholly unsubstantiated ?enforcement? concerns, arbitrarily and capriciously limited that age groups access to Plan B.

    (Citations omitted).

  31. #31 Matt
    April 2, 2009

    Why is Obama doing this? One (hyphenated) word:

    RE-ELECTION.

  32. #32 www.10ch.org
    April 2, 2009

    I do believe that religion can go away in this generation, but if it shall go away quickly, there must be something to replace it which can comfort people’s emotions and serve to facilitate social relations, something which does not drive people to fanatical extremes.

  33. #33 www.10ch.org
    April 2, 2009

    @#31 Matt
    I am sure Obama would be more concerned about the economy if he wanted re-election.

  34. #34 Josh
    April 2, 2009

    …for those seeking freedom from homosexuality, lesbianism, prostitution, sex addiction and other habitual sins.

    For those seeking freedom from homosexuality. I love that. What a bunch of self-important, judgemental assholes.

  35. #35 Janine, Insulting Sinner
    April 2, 2009

    But who speaks for those of us who are not seeking freedom from lesbianism?

  36. #36 Denis Loubet
    April 2, 2009

    Let’s hope it’s just a case of Keeping Your Enemies Closer. That would be nice.

    Holding my breath…

  37. #37 GMacs
    April 2, 2009

    @32
    Head shops, maybe?

  38. #38 Reginald Selkirk
    April 2, 2009

    We should request that nonbelievers be included in this “weekly conference call with conservative Christian clergy.” We should express to the Obama administration that the systematic exclusion of nonbelievers from this access channel to governmental power constitutes a violation of the establishment clause.

  39. #39 Steve in MI
    April 2, 2009

    Include me in the crowd that believes the President is doing this simply for political cover and public appeasement. One can only hope that he works this crowd the same way he has (for better or worse) worked the Congress: when they agree with him, he applauds them; when they disagree, he offers “dialog and leadership”. Ideally, this helps keep reasonable ideas from looking “evil” in the viewpoint of some segment of the religious conservative population; if the policy was put forward “in consultation with” respected (albeit hand-picked) clergy, it’s harder to argue that it violates the will of the local god.

    Or so one hopes.

  40. #40 HenryS
    April 2, 2009

    Posted by: Denis Loubet | April 2, 2009 4:10 PM

    Let’s hope it’s just a case of Keeping Your Enemies Closer. That would be nice.

    Holding my breath..
    **********
    The least convoluted explanation for Obama’s association with these people is that he agrees with their beliefs.

  41. #41 www.10ch.org
    April 2, 2009

    @#37 GMacs
    I doubt it. Drugs do little to uplift anybody’s emotions in the long term, and besides, it is not quite social at all.

    I think that art is one of the purest forms of the expression of emotion, but the disadvantage is that it is not really social at this time: someone writes or paints things, and people just read or sees the work, and might say, “that’s lovely,” or, “that’s was terrible.” Not very social, and it does not seem to have much community, but perhaps it can be made social, as an alternative to religion.

  42. #42 Zach
    April 2, 2009

    HEY!

    I happen to like creeping fungus a lot. Its pretty cool stuff, provided it’s not creeping on anything you happen to prefer fungus-free.

    religion… not so cool

  43. #43 Darren
    April 2, 2009

    When is Obama coming out of the closet and admit he has no faith? Perhaps the start of his second term?

  44. #44 Gm-ishi Ashi Gurum
    April 2, 2009

    @ 10ch, #33:

    Americans will lose their minds if Obama fixes everything but comes up short on religiosity. It is a prerequisite for any person in public office. That is precisely why Obama gives it so much lip service: he has to.

    I actually think the man is a non-believer, personally. Do these sound like the words of a man not just covering his ass:

    http://blog.beliefnet.com/stevenwaldman/2008/11/obamas-interview-with-cathleen.html

    He seems to think of “God”, “sin”, “prayer”, etc., in the most abstract and general terms possible, and stresses the role of *doubt*.

    “Its’ not formal, me getting on my knees. I think I have an ongoing conversation with God. I think throughout the day, I’m constantly asking myself questions about what I’m doing, why am I doing it.”

  45. #45 Matt
    April 2, 2009

    10ch:

    Of course the economy is his main priority right now.

    What I meant was that it is just something to which he can point at during the 2012 election and say to the faith-heads, “See, I am a deeply spiritual person.”

    Political money in the bank is what it is.

    I seriously doubt that he is a “man of faith”.

  46. #46 Steve in MI
    April 2, 2009

    Darren@43:

    Mother Theresa waited until the very end of her career to do so. I’m taking a pragmatic view on this; as long as the President pursues policies that are friendly to the irreligious population (the “United Heathens of America”), I don’t particularly care what religious viewpoint he professes publicly. As cool as it would be to have an acknowledged atheist in high office, I’m sure that his political opponents would use it as an excuse to block any sensible policy initiatives. Sadly, it’s far too easy in these parts to bludgeon an opponent by manipulating the ethnoreligious majority. I’m not sure that there’s any way around it, other than doing it better than your opponent does and using your evil powers only for good.

  47. #47 Gm-ishi Ashi Gurum
    April 2, 2009

    My dad thinks that, in his time, the only President he ever thought truly gave a real shit about religion, and was serious about it, was Jimmy Carter. That everyone else was either a non-believer or was just like “yeah, yeah, god and jesus, yeah, heaven, i believe that shit, whatever.” I suspect Bush falls into the latter category. Believes, but is not really a dyed in the wool YEC. The reason we saw so much catering to the religious right during the Bush admin was mostly I think because the PNAC Neo-cons running the show did not give a fuck about domestic policy, and just had a huge hard-on for reshaping the Middle East at whatever cost. they were fascists and would say whatever to whomever to help further their foreign policy misadventures. thus, dick cheney, father to a lesbian daughter he loves and supports, takes no moral stand on gay rights. they didn’t give a shit. to them, iraq and ME was everything.

  48. #48 www.10ch.org
    April 2, 2009

    @#44 Gm-ishi Ashi Gurum
    “Americans will lose their minds if Obama fixes everything but comes up short on religiosity. It is a prerequisite for any person in public office. That is precisely why Obama gives it so much lip service: he has to.”

    Perhaps pantheism can also get him by? You know, “I believe in God, if, by God, you mean the natural laws of the universe.”

  49. #49 www.10ch.org
    April 2, 2009

    @#46 Steve in MI
    “Mother Theresa waited until the very end of her career to do so. I’m taking a pragmatic view on this”
    Ii thought that she took Catholicism seriously. After all, she went on a tirade against abortion upon accepting the Nobel prize. Or was that all just a fib?

    @#47 Gm-ishi Ashi Gurum
    “I suspect Bush falls into the latter category”
    Well, upon exiting his presidency, Bush proclaimed that he did take some religion seriously, though not all. By the way, Bush never expected to focus on foreign policy until 9/11 happened – he was always expecting to focus on domestic policy.

  50. #50 finchette
    April 2, 2009

    “When is Obama coming out of the closet and admit he has no faith? Perhaps the start of his second term?”

    Only if the majority of the US pop. becomes enlightened.

    It’s very common for politicians to feign religious belief, nay, it’s the norm. Heck, it’s even possible that the pope is an atheist.

  51. #51 tigerlily55
    April 2, 2009

    Is he going to have prayer sessions before staff meetings like Rumsfeld? Why no Unitarian Universalist ministers? Why no Rabbi’s or Muslim religious leaders? It just looks bad all the way around without even getting to the question of non-believers.

  52. #52 Newfie
    April 2, 2009

    Obama should come out as an atheist. That would really go over well. A godless black man in the White House. I’m sure that wouldn’t hamper his effectiveness as a legislator, or his life, in the least.

  53. #53 GMacs
    April 2, 2009

    10ch,
    While you make a good point, I know many a pothead who would disagree with you.

    Also, have you heard of Can-Theism? It’s kinda funny.

  54. #54 Connor
    April 2, 2009

    “Why no Unitarian Universalist ministers? Why no Rabbi’s or Muslim religious leaders?”

    This makes me think, even more, that he’s just playing the religious christian right.

  55. #55 Jim Etchison
    April 2, 2009

    I remain cautiously optimistic. Consider the fallout if Obama were to follow PZ’s wishes. Obama would be lauded by the ~20% rational thinkers in this country, but the ~40% wacko irrational religious contingent would spin that fact out of control, and win most of the other 40% of the lemmings to their way of thought. “Obama is rejecting religion by not meeting with religious leaders! Obama must be an atheist! Obama: Godless Thug/transvestite terrorist!”

    On the other hand, Obama might be meeting with religious leaders “winkingly” knowing that it is an essential posture a president must make in order to exact his policy on an extremely lame populace.

    I agree in principle that this is a waste of our leader’s time, but I will wait and see the results.

  56. #56 HenryS
    April 2, 2009

    Posted by: Newfie Author Profile Page | April 2, 2009 4:53 PM

    Obama should come out as an atheist. That would really go over well. A godless black man in the White House. I’m sure that wouldn’t hamper his effectiveness as a legislator, or his life, in the least.
    **********
    I have no problem with Obama having a religious advisory group…that is American politics…The problem is why these five??? Associating with and asking for “moral” advice from the likes of Meeks, Caldwell, Jakes, Hunter et al is the problem. When the Southern Poverty Law Center names one of the President’s religious advisors as one of the leading voices in the anti-gay movement, that is reason for concern, IMHO.

  57. #57 cicely
    April 2, 2009

    Cthulhu fhtagn!

    Oops! I thought this was the Cthulhu Day thread, what with the Creeping Fungus of Religion and all….

  58. #58 cousinavi
    April 2, 2009

    Why the phone conference with the God Squad? Because ignoring them whips up a frenzy of “Out with the Atheistic socialists!” in both the midterm elections, and then again in 2012 (when he might well be facing some Jesus on a Leash Freak like Palin or Jindal;
    because it’s easier to let them God Squad FEEL like they have access in a telephone conference, while he does some real work (or a sudoku puzzle) as they blither away about Jesus on the other end;
    because it’s better, politically, to make them feel included and consulted than it is to tell them “Fark off, you Jesus freaks,” and then have to deal with them whipping on the brainless electorate in Sunday sermons in large parts of particular states where they have opportunities to pick up more House and Senate seats.
    He cleared the way for stem cell research. There will be no litmus test on abortion for appointment to the USSC. The president digs science, folks…let’s not expect him to go out of his way to thumb his nose at the significant number of imbecilic VOTERS (pie chart please) who believe in Jesus and have that stupid ‘Footprints’ poster hanging in the kitchen.
    Be thankful that you have a president who promotes good science, listens to scientists, and isn’t listening to the God voices about where to bomb next. Be further thankful that he’s smart enough to manipulate those buggers into maybe NOT voting for Jindal / Gingrich / Palin idiocy.
    I know, PZ, that you ideally want someone who simply tells the Faithful Sheep to stick their Jesus up their crucifix (personally, I would find the reaction to that immensely amusing and genuinely frightening – truly a thrill ride with razors). Nevertheless, the fact remains that in order to give science it’s proper place in the formulation of policy, one has to first get elected. At a bare minimum, that means making the Jeebus Blowers FEEL like they have a friend in the oval office.

  59. #59 Newfie
    April 2, 2009

    The problem is why these five???

    Entertainment value?

  60. #60 www.10ch.org
    April 2, 2009

    @#53 Gmacs
    “While you make a good point, I know many a pothead who would disagree with you.

    Also, have you heard of Can-Theism? It’s kinda funny.”

    Well, it does not matter what those potheads think, because drugs as a replacement to religion will never work, whether they like it or not. It shall remain relegated to the fringes of society, because there is really no way to overcome the fact that drugs are un-social. You can hardly build a way of life based on drugs.

    As for culture and art, though, I see much potential. The thing that is needed to make culture and art a replacement of religion is somehow to make it more social and community-building than it is right now.

  61. #61 Margaret Morgan
    April 2, 2009

    Ahem. What is this use of “fungus” as a pejorative?

    Disappointed.

  62. #62 HenryS
    April 2, 2009

    He cleared the way for stem cell research.
    *********
    I am not sure about that…Two days after the Stem Cell exec order, he signed the Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009 which contained the Dickey-Wicker Amendment. That amendment bans federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

  63. #63 GMacs
    April 2, 2009

    “…there is really no way to overcome the fact that drugs are un-social.”

    Not to be rude, but what about Woodstock or hippie communes? There was also the Height-Ashbury District.

    Some religions are un-social as well. Some aspects are downright antisocial.

    But you are right, drugs don’t help that much. Personally, alcohol only “helped” for a bit, then I moved on to weed. Now that I’m off the gonja I don’t wanna try anything else because all else terrifies me. It’ll mess you up, make you do crazy things, and make you believe crazy things… like a poison.

  64. #64 www.10ch.org
    April 2, 2009

    @#63 Gmacs
    “Not to be rude, but what about Woodstock or hippie communes? There was also the Height-Ashbury District.”
    They were temporary for a reason. They are not quite social after all.

    “Some religions are un-social as well. Some aspects are downright antisocial.”
    I wonder what is the success of such religions. See, culture and religion in general are what gives unity to people, because it gives people a common identity. However, I wonder whether any religion that you have spoken about, those anti-social religions, are of huge success, and how they could have achieved that success despite being anti-social.

  65. #65 Qwerty
    April 2, 2009

    I voted for Obama, but his keeping of this council plus faith-based inititives makes me nervous.

    Bush should have been impeached and this perversion of the FDA’a approval power should have been one of many charges against him, but a cowardly congress…

    *shakes head*

  66. #66 Patrick
    April 2, 2009

    Hey! That’s offensive to fungi- as a biologist, Dr. Myers, I would assume you’d have more tact.

  67. #67 doug l
    April 2, 2009

    As distatefull as it may seem, I am sometimes convinced that if the US were to declare a national religion…some sort of protestant thing, and insist on teaching it in schools, it would, just as it has in other modern countries, dry up and blow away into irrelevance where it would become some quaint reflection on our irrational past.
    Just as the Tibetans are unlikely to just dry up and dissappear as most other superstitious religions have already now that the Chinese have expended so much energy trying to eliminate it. And what have they accomplished exactly? The exact opposite..in fact I just read there’s a growing interest in some young Chinese who have become dissaffected with the materialist philosopy officially espoused and are starting to doubt what they were taught in school. Imagine that.
    Why worry about worry about some knot headed teacher insisting on teaching ID in school.
    All smart kinds know most of what they are teaching is largely bogus, but they use the controvesy so they don’t have to study in class and appear as if they have their own developed ideas. It’s a sham and a fraud.

  68. #68 www.10ch.org
    April 2, 2009

    Well, anyways, the majority of young people think that evolution is most likely correct. Although the percentage of those who think that evolution is correct has remained unchanged for the last 20 years or so, I do think that it will go significantly higher from now on. The trick, of course, is to keep it that way.

  69. #69 Cliff
    April 2, 2009

    I’m not so sure that anyone has actually stated the problem with this yet other than “Fuck those crazy people that believe in god.” Not considering that this is mostly just a cultural practice based on their family upbringing…

    Yeah, sure, there’s a problem with using religion to guide policy – especially when it disregards science or basic common sense – but, seriously, this is just an advisory council. One of many. It’s a conversation.

    US culture and policies have always been shaped by religious thought. This could possibly be because (gasp) a large number of people in this country attend church. Obama attended church throughout his life. Are we going to ask him to disregard that now? Change his life, his morals, his way of thinking? Just because some parts (albeit the loudest, most disrespectful parts) of religion negatively influence things? Are we going to yell at the churches doing charity work as well?

    If we took religion out of this country, the charity that goes with it (that silent part we don’t hear about too much) will disappear as well. Obama is smart. This is not simply a political move. This is democracy respecting part of its population. Obama has shown his willingness to do this in nearly EVERY part of his “inclusive” presidency.

  70. #70 Anonym
    April 2, 2009

    jakes : outhouse, privy (M-W)

  71. #71 ZK
    April 2, 2009

    “While Presidents from the start have looked to their faith to give them courage and solace, and many have had a religious counselor for one-on-one discussions, the weekly call with a committee of clergy is quite different.”

    No it’s fucking not any different. All of the above says that any president who indulges in such fantasies is a mouth breather with a room temperature IQ.

    Pfffffffffft!

  72. #72 Blind Squirrel FCD
    April 2, 2009

    Janine, Insulting Sinner @35

    But who speaks for those of us who are not seeking freedom from lesbianism?

    MY ex-wife?

  73. #73 frog
    April 2, 2009

    HenryS: The least convoluted explanation for Obama’s association with these people is that he agrees with their beliefs.

    I don’t see how that’s any less convoluted than assuming that he’s keeping these folks close to use them. People aren’t billiard-balls; they’re naturally conspitorial, and the more “social” they are, the more they like to juggle many conflicting social forces.

    It’s actually quite convoluted to believe that a successful politician keeps folks close because they’re already on his side — that would require the pol to intentionally cut himself off in order to stay in some kind of boring comfort zone, yet still be a competent social manager.

  74. #74 Blind Squirrel FCD
    April 2, 2009

    Ja, what is with all this hating on fungus? Ichthyophthirius multifilis upon your zebras!

  75. #75 frog
    April 2, 2009

    Cliff: I’m not so sure that anyone has actually stated the problem with this yet other than “Fuck those crazy people that believe in god.”

    The problem is pretty clear. Privileged access to power because of a sectarian view. Yes, a bunch of posters will say nonsense just because they hate anything associated with religion; but I don’t give a damn about people’s private perversions, just the input that has on policy (aka, me and my society) — and that’s what this is about, policy.

    If Obama’s going to meet with “different” sectors of society, it should actually reflect society; wizards are a very small percentage of American society.

  76. #76 Keanus
    April 2, 2009

    I’ll have to take issue with a couple of Cliff’s comments.

    Obama wasn’t raised in a religious tradition, given that neither his mother nor his maternal grandparents who raised him were at all religious. He embraced religion after finishing college, and in neither of his books does me make the reason for that embrace entirely clear. The religious will claim it’s his inherent piety; critics will claim it’s political cynicism. I suspect it’s somewhere in between.

    The second point is the implication that doing away with religion will diminish charity. In recent years close to half of all “charity” donations are to religious groups, but most of that goes to support churches, temples and mosques which I consider in the realm of donating to one’s own bank account?a legal slight of hand winked at by our government. Only some subset of that finds its way into truly charitable functions. As for the secular charitable donations, the ones that do not pass through some church’s hands; the vast majority goes to real charity. So the religious sector does not dominate charitable giving. It only does so if the portion that goes to support the minister, pastors, priests, rabbis and imam is considered true charity. I submit that it is not.

  77. #77 frog
    April 2, 2009

    GMAcs: Some religions are un-social as well. Some aspects are downright antisocial.

    Hmm… those are called insanity. When it’s social, it’s a religion, when it’s asocial it’s called mental illness. The important part of religion to the followers is the social aspect — the ideology is just a loyalty oath.

  78. #78 Cannabinaceae
    April 2, 2009

    gathering of scoundrels

    I propose the collective noun “larceny…”

    …as in “a larceny of scoundrels”

  79. #79 Akiko
    April 2, 2009

    Do not be fooled into thinking that the Anti- Abortion and Anti-Birth Control movements are about “saving babies”. It has been and always will be about controlling women and putting them back in their place. The Bible says we should do as our men tell us, obey and serve. Sleep with our fathers, or his enemies to save him, be sold into slavery, let our husbands marry our sisters and slaves and hide ourselves when we have our periods. That is why the overwhelming majority of the Anti-Abortion movement is men. Those men want to have total control over women again just like the Taliban does. It is like they are the same weird cult. If it was about saving innocent lives they would be marching for better prenatal care or preventing birth defects or helping children have access to healthcare. It was never about the children but about controlling their mothers’ bodies.

  80. #80 Ali
    April 2, 2009

    Um, I’d just like to thank Cervantes back at #1 for his (guessing) post. Well thought out and well written, and I thought it only polite to say so… this after staggering out of the sledgehammer-to-the-brain thread that was “Science of Watchmen”. Josh: Molly, but, people, Alan Clarke really, really needs to be set to “ignore”. Life is short, and you’re talking to an idiot. Cervantes: thank you again for bringing me back to thinking about civility.
    As for PZ’s bringing up influence peddling: it happens. It’s endemic. I’m not a US voter, but I would hope that you all know enough about your own political system to get engaged in changing things. My admittedly narrow scope of reference here is a) Doonesbury, b) Robert Altman’s Jack Tanner (clutches old video tape) and c) West Wing. From the UK, I’m an optimist.

  81. #81 FlipConstantine
    April 2, 2009

    “President Bush seems not to have been able to make public decisions without reference to right-wing religious beliefs. That inclination was probably reinforced by his practice of having a weekly conference call with conservative Christian clergy.

    Is it just me or is “conference call” a little bit of a strange avenue to be delivering religious advice? In my mind I’ve seen “conference calls” being the domain of Men with Money Making Deals. Shadowy boardrooms where our lives our secretly bought and sold, where pepsi cola negotiates the overthrow of South American banana republics, ratios of civilian deaths to war profits meticulously calculated. Granted, I’ve never really been under the illusion that Religion doesn’t operate this way, but a weekly conference call with bishops/pastors/imams/men with funny hats, just strikes me as a little blatant. Hasn’t anyone read the 1001 Nights? Viziers, men in funny hats advising kings, are *always* a bad idea.

  82. #82 C. M. Baxter
    April 2, 2009

    I am not sure about that…Two days after the Stem Cell exec order, he signed the Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009 which contained the Dickey-Wicker Amendment. That amendment bans federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

    It is my understanding that the Dicky Amendment prevents Federal funding for the development of new ESC lines. But, once new lines are developed through private funding, the Government is free to fund research on those lines. I might be wrong though.

  83. #83 Aquaria
    April 2, 2009

    As distatefull as it may seem, I am sometimes convinced that if the US were to declare a national religion…some sort of protestant thing, and insist on teaching it in schools, it would, just as it has in other modern countries, dry up and blow away into irrelevance where it would become some quaint reflection on our irrational past.

    At this point, we cannot do that. Europe got state religions after centuries of bloody wars. If anyone even attempted to establish a state religion here (which 3/4 of all states would have to agree on according to the current constitution), warfare would break out, and it would be extremely nasty. Hell, the Southern Baptists can’t even agree on things with the Free Will Baptists! Imagine what Baptists think of the Methodists! And a lot of the Protestants really hate the Catholics.

    It would be bloody anarchy until one of them was left standing.

    While all that was going on, every non-Christian who couldn’t get out of the country would be murdered–Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, pagans, atheists–the Christians would turn on them first. Tens of millions would become refugees.

    It’s too late for state religion now.

  84. #84 Cannabinaceae
    April 2, 2009

    hope that you all know enough about your own political system to get engaged in changing things

    They also serve who only sit and shout…NOT?

  85. #85 CalGeorge
    April 2, 2009

    “The White House has invited recently retired NFL Coach Tony Dungy, whose outspoken Christian faith fueled his 2007 support for a gay marriage ban and has won accolades from evangelical leaders, to join its Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, U.S. News has learned.”

    http://www.usnews.com/blogs/god-and-country/2009/3/31/exclusive-former-nfl-coach-tony-dungy-invited-to-join-white-house-faith-council.html

    Obama is seeking advice from a homophobic, fanatically religious, football coach?

    Yes, he can fuck up. Yes, he can.

  86. #86 HenryS
    April 2, 2009

    It is my understanding that the Dicky Amendment prevents Federal funding for the development of new ESC lines. But, once new lines are developed through private funding, the Government is free to fund research on those lines. I might be wrong though.
    *********
    That reasoning is the “loop hole” but it is difficult to do. Also has not be tested in court.

    http://www.parkinsons-information-exchange-network-online.com/parkmail1.4/2009a/msg00405.html

  87. #87 frog
    April 2, 2009

    Ali: I’m not a US voter, but I would hope that you all know enough about your own political system to get engaged in changing things.

    Significant change is difficult. There is an American state religion — it’s worship of the status quo. The Constitution to many Americans is a sacred object, like the Koran or the Bible, innerant and perfect — the only problem is that we don’t follow it perfectly enough (heard that before?)

    Even though, like the Bible and Koran, it’s been so completely re-interpreted by time and change that it often means the opposite of what it originally meant — our ethics are better than those of our forefathers in some ways, and worse in others. We live in a completely different context, and necessarily must change with the times. And even though we should know it was written by politicians looking to make a quick solution to the problems of their day (just as we should be aware of that for those other holy books), still we are required to say that it’s the greatest document ever written, by the greatest men to ever set pen to paper.

    So we nibble around the edges. Sometimes, we go ahead and simply change the constitutional order, and declare that it’s a literal reading of the Founder’s intent. Sometimes we shoot each other and both sides claim that they are protected the original meaning of the constitution. But just as being hobbled by those other sacred texts, it makes it very difficult to clearly discuss the issues when you must always be genuflecting to dusty old tomes and pretending to be a literal interpreter, instead of openly discussing what’s wrong in the system and what’s right.

  88. #88 Emil
    April 3, 2009

    So we nibble around the edges. Sometimes, we go ahead and simply change the constitutional order, and declare that it’s a literal reading of the Founder’s intent.

    Yes, often by misrepresenting the Founders’ intent by referring to them with misleading labels such as “men of God”. As anyone familiar with the actual history of the founders is aware, many of them were at least a-religious, and several openly atheists. (Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin most notably.) I would argue that the founders were aware of their own limited perspective and fore-sighted enough to provide the tools for change within the Constitution, although the knowledge of those tools is actively suppressed and politically discouraged.

    To wit, I believe it is well past time for a second Constitutional convention. According to some historians, the founders actually expected us to go back periodically and revise the document wholesale.They made provisions in the Constitution itself for regular updating of the document. Doing so would enable the reinforcement of those parts of the document that are worth saving (i.e., separation of powers) while eliminating or adapting those parts which are unworkable or outdated. (i.e., the electoral college system)

    It is interesting to note–and more than a little ironic–that many of the most humanist of the early inhabitants of the country were also religious people. After all, many of them came here in the first place because they were fleeing religious persecution in their homeland. I wonder how they would feel about being used as tools of the current religious right in their pursuit of exclusionary, xenophobic immigration policies?

  89. #89 BGT
    April 4, 2009

    Hey all, a little late to the post, but this song is cool, and apropos….

    From Jill Sobule…

    Our lord loves the family, our lord loves the saved
    Our lord love the unborn babies and the NRA
    Our lord~hates the liberals, the faggots and their friends
    We’re soldiers of Christ and we’re here to defend

    The way it used to be
    The way it ought to be
    The way it’s going to be again

    In the days of Cain and Abel
    In the days of crusades
    In the days of inquisitions
    They made the damned behave
    Before emancipation
    Before Roe Vs. Wade
    Before they taught little children
    That they evolved from apes

    The way it used to be
    The way it ought to be
    The way it’s going to be again
    And when we’re in heaven you’ll be sorry then

    Our lord loves the sinner as long as he don’t sin
    He knows the thoughts you’re thinking
    He knows with whom you’ve been
    And out lord loves this country, he’s with you at the polls
    He knows the lever that you pull
    He’s keeping track of souls

    The way it used to be The way it ought to be The way it’s
    going to be again And when we’re in heaven you’ll be sorry
    When we’re in heaven you’ll be sorry When we’re in heaven
    you’ll be sorry then!

    Sound familiar?

  90. #90 Samantha Vimes
    April 4, 2009

    “Know your enemy.”

    It may be a very good move to meet weekly with a group who are closely in touch with what large numbers of people who have strong irrational beliefs on a certain set of subject think and say.
    He may not be using their advice in the way people expect.

  91. #91 Sili
    April 11, 2009

    I’d like to see the contents of these meetings made public.

    If it’s just spiritual counselling it can’t be a question of national security. And if they’re really that good at counselling their advice should be made public so that as many people as possible can benefit from it.

    And if they do enter into policy we deserve to see their opinions. So we can expose them as fringe frauds.

    Of course, it’ll be fun to show how this comittee of spirituals with a direct link to gods can’t agree among themselves.

  92. #92 JohnB
    May 7, 2009

    What I would like to see is why this would not work against them across the globe? http://www.september12009.com/

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