Friday, November 11, 2005

Religion and Politics

On a similar subject, have a look at this short article from Beliefnet, about a liberal California church being investigated by the IRS:

The IRS notified the church of the investigation in a letter that cited an Oct. 31, 2004, sermon by Regas called “If Jesus Debated Senator Kerry and President Bush.” Church leaders say they have done nothing wrong.

And later:

Regas' sermon speculated about what Jesus would say to Bush and Democratic candidate John Kerry on subjects including poverty, violence and war.

In his introduction, Regas said he did not intend to tell people how to vote, but at one point, Regas imagined the words Jesus would have for Bush: “Mr. President, your doctrine of a pre-emptive war is a failed doctrine. Forcibly changing the regime of an enemy that posed no imminent threat has led to disaster.”

Right. The liberal church gets investigated. Over at the Washington Monthly blog, Amy Sullivan weighs in:

Today we learn that Bush's IRS is investigating a prominent liberal Episcopal church because of a sermon last fall in which the minister condemned Bush's policy in Iraq. (No word on whether the agency is also going after the Baptist church that kicked out members who voted for John Kerry. Or the churches that helped out the Bush/Cheney campaign last year by sending in their membership directories. Or the Catholic priests who told parishioners it would be a sin to vote for Kerry.)

See the original for links.

The IRS scours the Earth to find the one liberal church it can go after, while ignoring the fact that a great many churches and religious organizations serve as arms of the Republican Party. Lovely. Even worse is that your typical red state fundamentalist would not see anything hypocritical in this. Fundamentalist religion has very little to do with sincere faith, or with forging a relationship with God. It's about political power and their own perceived moral superiority.

Personally, I think it's ridiculous that religious organizations get a tax exemption to begin with. As George Carlin once put it, if they want to get involved in poitics, let them pay the entrance fee like everyone else.

That Robertson Quote

By now I'm sure you've heard about Pat Robertson's stupid quote du jour:

I’d like to say to the good citizens of Dover. If there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city. And don’t wonder why He hasn’t helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I’m not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that’s the case, don’t ask for His help because he might not be there.

Charming fellow. Andrew Sullivan offers these wise words on the subject:

Before I get emails from conservatives saying that Robertson represents no one in the Republican coalition, let me remind you that he was one of the religious leaders phoned by Karl Rove to discuss Supreme Court nominees. My rule of thumb is that I will trust the good faith of any Republican politician who is prepared to criticize Robertson publicly. Until then, he's their problem.

I often get into high-minded discussions with people about the legitimacy of religion, and about whether Christianity in particular can defend any of the truth claims it makes. Those are interesting discussions, but here we have Robertson showing us what it's really all about. Worship the way I do or else.

Actually, the advice not to count on God in a crisis looks pretty sound to me...

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

New Creation Watch Column

My new column for CSICOP's Creation Watch site is now available. I put to rest once and for all the nonsense that Stephen Jay Gould would have objected to NCSE's “Steves” list (which is named in Gould's honor. Enjoy!

Election Round-Up

The big news, from my perspective, is that Democrat Tim Kaine beat Republican Jerry Kilgore by a comfortable 52-46 margin in the Virginia Governor's race. Just a year ago Bush beat Kerry here by a 54-46 margin.

This is great news. It's great partly because Democrats generally do a better job of governing than Republicans do. But it's also great because of the campaigns the two candidates ran. Kaine's was almost entirely positive, and even his few negative ads were not especially vicious. Kilgore, by contrast, took a page straight out of the usual Republican playbook. Every one of his ads that I am aware of were negative, and most were thoroughly obnoxious or vicious. Some were dishonest as well.

This shows that even in a generally Republican state such tactics do not always get rewarded. It should also be pointed out that Kilgore based his campaign almost entirely on social issues like the death penalty and abortion. Kaine stressed economic issues and education.

How bad was it for the Republicans? They lost in Lynchburg. That's Jerry Falwell country.

Bush campaigned for Kilgore in Richmond the day before the election. In that spirit I would point out that Kaine received 38,357 votes in Richmond, versus 11,383 votes for Kilgore. The full results by county and by city are available here. Surely it's obvious to all but the most hackish Republicans that for now at least Bush is a liability.

There is an interesting subtext to this election. Virginia's current popular Democratic governor, Mark Warner, is widely being touted as a possible Democratic Presidential candidate in 2008. Kaine was his chosen successor. On the Repulican side, Virginia senator George Allen is viewed as a likely presidential candidate, and Kilgore was a protege of his. By Kaine winning so convincingly, Warner has effectively won the first round in that race.

The other big election news comes from Dover, Pennsylvania, where all eight of the pro-ID school board members were voted out of office and replaced with anti-ID candidates. (Anti-ID in science classes anyway). The York Daily Record has the full story. This is great news, of course.

More good news from New Jersey, where Democrat Jon Corzine easily won the governor's race. Arnold Schwarzeneggar lost all four of his ballot initiatives in California. I don't know anything about California politics and can't comment on whether these were good initiatives or not. But I'm happy they went down. On general principles I don't like the idea of being able to recall the governor one year after the election, simply because of general dissatisfaction with the guy. And I definitely don't like B level movie stars thinking they know anything about running a state.

Oh, did Kansas do something dumb? So what else is new.