Glenn Beck’s Anti-Atheist Rantings

I wasn’t in the mood to blog, but I noticed a video of Glenn Beck (here and reposted below).  It’s hard to feel apathetic while listening to Beck and I don’t mean that he inspires me.  I genuinely try to listen to his message and not judge too quickly.  Despite my annoyance, I do want to understand what makes him tick… and what makes him interesting to so many people (whether they agree or disagree with him).

I appreciate what he says the most when he is talking about libertarianism which seems to be the most clear when he is talking to libertarians.  I can tell how much he wants to be accepted by libertarians and it brings out the reasonable side of his personality.  He is actually capable of cogent arguments on occasion despite his typically relying too much on emotional persuasion.  However, he goes into righteous ranting mode anytime he brings out his religious patriotism… and what amount of reason he does possess quickly goes out the window.

Some video responses:

The guy in the last video has some strong opinions about Beck, but that isn’t why I included it.  I noticed some interesting points mentioned by one of the commenters and wanted to quote this person.

alphacause (1 week ago):

If anyone of Glenn Beck’s idiotic followers is watching this, let me educate you. First, it is an elementary fallacy to take an isolated incident like this, and presume that this is the norm. As lamentable as this tragedy is, it does not underscore any true epidemic of violence in this country. Secondly, if the increase in secularism corresponds to a rise in crime rates, then the FBI crime statistics should reveal this. But they DONT reveal this.

In fact the FBI crime statistics reveal that violent crime has actually either stayed relatively the same, or is on a downward trend. Just Google FBI violent crime statistics over the years and look at the first few links. Also do a search of violent crimes by state, and you will find that many states in the Bible Belt have just as high crime rates as those in more urban and secular areas; and sometimes they have more crime.

Glenn Beck is merely sensationalizing a regrettable incident. It should also be noted that African Americans generally go to church more often than people in white communities. Furthermore, if Beck ever actually ventured out of his posh and cloistered neighborhood he would know that if you ask any gang member, almost all of them have a belief in God, and in fact display prominent religious paraphernalia such as the Virgin Mary.

Apparently belief in a higher power doesnt make gang members more moral. Probably, just as in the case with Islamic suicide bombers, religious beliefs make them more comfortable with they idea of dying for stupid reasons.

Two issues that Beck brought up are (1) the rising numbers of “religious nones” and (2) the “In God We Trust” being taken off of our money.

Okay, first issue.  Beck is woefully incorrect about equating “religious nones” to atheism and to anti-religious sentiments.  The religious issue is complex anyhow and even some religious people are atheists.  As for “religious nones”, it simply means someone doesn’t identify (fully or at all) with any particular organized religion.  I’m a “religious none” who is an extremely spiritual agnostic.  What polls show is that American’s have a growing sense of informality about religion and are more willing to mix-and-match.  Americans may mistrust religious authority figures and hierarchical religious institutions more than they used to, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have more mistrust towards a higher power or towards their personal sense of spiritual truth.  So, some “religious nones” are atheists and some aren’t.

The second issue I don’t know too much about.  I hadn’t noticed “In God We Trust” disappearing from money.  From a quick Google search, all that I can tell is that Beck might be referring to the new dollar coins.  They still have the religiously patriotic motto, but it’s on the edge of the coin.  However, the original (albeit unofficial) motto of our country (E Pluribus Unum) is also on the edge of the new dollar coins.  The religious right think it’s sacrilege because “God” might get rubbed off of the edge of our coins.  This is unlikely for the new dollar coins because few people actually use them (I’ve been a cashier for years and it’s rare when someone gives me one).

Anyways, this is the type of issue Beck likes to rant about.  When you look into it, there is no substance.

Let’s be clear that “In God We Trust” has only been our national motto since 1956.  I find it interesting that the American government decided to officially declare allegiance to God only after having dropped atomic bombs on two large cities filled with innocent civilians.  Was the Congress feeling some guilt for an action (decimating cities) usually reserved for the biblical God?  The founding fathers didn’t put it on our money.  It only first appeared on some US currency during the civil war (another era of religious patriotism).

It’s interesting that Beck also brings up the Battle Hymn of the Republic which also was written and became popular during the civil war.  The civil war was not only the most divisive time of American history, but a time when massive numbers of Americans were being killed by other Americans.  Now, there is religious patriotism for you (yes, both sides invoked God to support their beliefs and actions).

Anyways, there is nothing less Christian one could do than put God’s name on money.  Jesus himself distinguished quite clearly between God and Caesar.  The fact that we have God on our money simply shows how corrupt of a country we’ve become.  As an example, the Baby Boomers were the first generation to grow up with “God” printed on all of their money.  What kind of moral character did the Boomers have?  They have been a politically divisive and opinionated generation.  The protests that they were involved in (whether as protesters or as police) were some of the most violent protests in American history.  Also, I’ve heard that more wars were started during the time Boomers have been in political power than anytime before in history.

Let me share specific statistics.  From the Wikipedia article on Crime in the United States:

Since 1964, the U.S. crime rate has increased by as much as 350%, and over 11 million crimes were reported in the year 2007 alone.[10] Crime in the United States has fluctuated considerably over the course of the last half-century, rising significantly in the late 1960s and 1970s, peaking in the 1980s and then decreasing considerably in the 1990s.

So, almost in direct correspondence crime rates increased massively right after “In God We Trust” became our national motto, and it was declared as such right in the middle of the Baby Boom.  The Baby Boomers grew up bottle fed on this post-war patriotic religiosity.  How did it affect them?  From the Wikipedia article on Baby Boom Generation:

In 1993, Time magazine reported on the religious affiliations of baby boomers, stating that about 42% of baby boomers were dropouts from formal religion, a third had never strayed from church, and one-fourth of boomers were returning to religious practice. The boomers returning to religion were “usually less tied to tradition and less dependable as church members than the loyalists. They are also more liberal, which deepens rifts over issues like abortion and homosexuality.”[9]

Now, compare that to Generation X that followed.  Generation X grew up with less overt religiosity.  As older GenXers were coming into positions of power during the 90s, they began influencing society and they helped the technological boom.  What else happened?  Crime began to decrease for the first time since “In God We Trust” became our national motto.  Our national allegiance to God led to almost a half century of sky-rocketing crime.

There is no correlation between religious moralizing done by conservative Christians and actual moral behavior.  From religioustolerance.org:

There is consensus that the overall U.S. divorce rate had a brief spurt after WW2, followed by a decline, then started rising in the 1960s and even more quickly in the 1970s, then leveled off [in the] 1980s and [has since] declined slightly.”

Those are general statistics and there are many factors to consider.  Still, like crime, divorce rates increased after “In God We Trust” became our national motto.

The slogan: “The family that prays together, stays together” is well known. There has been much anecdotal evidence that has led to “unsubstantiated claims that the divorce rate for Christians who attended church regularly, pray together or who meet other conditions is only 1 or 2 percent. 8 Emphasis ours]. Dr. Tom Ellis, chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Council on the Family said that for “…born-again Christian couples who marry…in the church after having received premarital counseling…and attend church regularly and pray daily together…” experience only 1 divorce out of nearly 39,000 marriages — or 0.00256 percent. 9

A recent study by the Barna Research Group throws extreme doubt on these estimates. Barna released the results of their poll about divorce on 1999-DEC-21. 1 They had interviewed 3,854 adults from the 48 contiguous states. The margin of error is ±2 percentage points. The survey found:

bullet 11% of the adult population is currently divorced.
bullet 25% of adults have had at least one divorce during their lifetime.
bullet Divorce rates among conservative Christians were significantly higher than for other faith groups, and much higher than Atheists and Agnostics experience.

 George Barna, president and founder of Barna Research Group, commented:

 “While it may be alarming to discover that born again Christians are more likely than others to experience a divorce, that pattern has been in place for quite some time. Even more disturbing, perhaps, is that when those individuals experience a divorce many of them feel their community of faith provides rejection rather than support and healing. But the research also raises questions regarding the effectiveness of how churches minister to families. The ultimate responsibility for a marriage belongs to the husband and wife, but the high incidence of divorce within the Christian community challenges the idea that churches provide truly practical and life-changing support for marriages.

According to Divorce Magazine, divorce rates peaked in 1981 and are presently at the lowest they’ve been in a long time.  Not only are divorce rates the highest following the post-war patriotic religiosity but highest amongst conservative Christians who preach family values.  More from religioustolerance.org:

Barna’s results verified findings of earlier polls: that conservative Protestant Christians, on average, have the highest divorce rate, while mainline Christians have a much lower rate. They found some new information as well: that atheists and agnostics have the lowest divorce rate of all.  George Barna commented that the results raise “questions regarding the effectiveness of how churches minister to families.” The data challenge “the idea that churches provide truly practical and life-changing support for marriage.” 

Donald Hughes, author of The Divorce Reality, said:

“In the churches, people have a superstitious view that Christianity will keep them from divorce, but they are subject to the same problems as everyone else, and they include a lack of relationship skills. …Just being born again is not a rabbit’s foot.”

Hughes claim that 90% of divorces among born-again couples occur after they have been “saved.”

Furthermore, atheists and agnostics have the lowest divorce rate of all!

Age group % have been divorced
Baby boomers (33 to 52 years of age) 34%
Builders (53 to 72 years of age) 37%
Seniors (above 72 years of age) 18%

 Many seniors were married in the late 40’s or early 50’s at a time when divorce rates were much lower than they are today.

 People specifically married prior to the Congressional declaration of “In God We Trust” have the lowest divorce rates and it has only begun to decrease again in recent years.

What about teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases?  From the Wikipedia article on Teen pregnancy:

In the United States the topic of sex education is the subject of much contentious debate. Some schools provide “abstinence-only” education and virginity pledges are increasingly popular. A 2004 study by Yale and Columbia Universities found that fully 88 percent of those who pledge abstinence have premarital sex anyway.[57]

The conservative Christian belief in teaching abstinence and nothing but abstinence is a complete failure, just as much of a failure as Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign.  Schools with abstinence only programs have the highest rates of pregnancy and STDs.  Of course, some of this is caused by the sexual revolution and sexuality in the media, but my point is that it was the patriotic religiosity that preceeded the sexual revolution and contributed to the social atmosphere that led to the it.  But how does this compare to other countries?  From the Wikipedia article on Adolescent sexuality in the United States:

Every year, an estimated 1 in 4 sexually active teens contracts an STD,[9] and teen pregnancy is 2 to 10 times more prevalent in the United States than in other similarly developed countries.[10]

The United States is the most conservatively religious industrial nation and yet has one of the highest rates of certain immoral behaviors.  Obviously, righteous moralizing is far from helpful.

The percentage of teenagers who report they are currently sexually active has also been dropping since 1991. In 1997, only 37% of females and 33% of males who reported ever having had sexual intercourse said that they had sex in the past 3 months.[28] By 2005, the overall percentage of teenagers reporting that they were currently sexually active was down to 33.9%.[1]

So, the generations following the Boomers were raised with less traditional Christian values.  Atheism, agnosticism, and “religious nones” have been increasing with the post-Boomer generations.  Directly correlated with this are the rates of decreasing extra-marital sexual behavior among teens.  The ironic fact is that, even though abstinence had recently been increasing, abstinence only sex education has been far from proven effective.  From the Wikipedia article on Abstinence-only sex education:

Abstinence-only education has been criticized in official statements by the American Psychological Association,[16] the American Medical Association,[17] the National Association of School Psychologists,[18] the Society for Adolescent Medicine,[19] the American College Health Association,[19] the American Academy of Pediatrics,[20] and the American Public Health Association,[21] which all maintain that sex education needs to be comprehensive to be effective.

The AMA “urges schools to implement comprehensive… sexuality education programs that… include an integrated strategy for making condoms available to students and for providing both factual information and skill-building related to reproductive biology, sexual abstinence, sexual responsibility, contraceptives including condoms, alternatives in birth control, and other issues aimed at prevention of pregnancy and sexual transmission of diseases… [and] opposes the sole use of abstinence-only education…”[17]

The American Academy of Pediatrics states that “Abstinence-only programs have not demonstrated successful outcomes with regard to delayed initiation of sexual activity or use of safer sex practices… Programs that encourage abstinence as the best option for adolescents, but offer a discussion of HIV prevention and contraception as the best approach for adolescents who are sexually active, have been shown to delay the initiation of sexual activity and increase the proportion of sexually active adolescents who reported using birth control.”[20]

On August 4, 2007, the British Medical Journal published an editorial concluding that there is “no evidence” that abstinence-only sex education programs “reduce risky sexual behaviours, incidence of sexually transmitted infections, or pregnancy” in “high income countries”.[22]

A comprehensive review of 115 program evaluations published in November 2007 by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy found that two-thirds of sex education programs focusing on both abstinence and contraception had a positive effect on teen sexual behavior. The same study found no strong evidence that abstinence-only programs delayed the initiation of sex, hastened the return to abstinence, or reduced the number of sexual partners.[23][24] According to the study author:

“Even though there does not exist strong evidence that any particular abstinence program is effective at delaying sex or reducing sexual behavior, one should not conclude that all abstinence programs are ineffective. After all, programs are diverse, fewer than 10 rigorous studies of these programs have been carried out, and studies of two programs have provided modestly encouraging results. In sum, studies of abstinence programs have not produced sufficient evidence to justify their widespread dissemination.”

Joycelyn Elders, former Surgeon General of the United States, is a notable critic of abstinence-only sex education. She was among the interviewees Penn & Teller included in their Bullshit! episode on the subject.[25]

Arthur Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, argues that abstinence-only sex education leads to the opposite of the intended results by spreading ignorance regarding sexually transmitted diseases and the proper use of contraceptives to prevent both infections and pregnancy.[26]

These are just trends and it’s hard to know which correlations may or may not imply causation.  The data isn’t always clear and much more study is needed to understand which programs work best, but my basic point remains true.  Simply put, religious moral claims have no basis in real-world scientifically proven facts.  From the Wikipedia article on Sex education:

Abstinence-only sex education tells teenagers that they should be sexually abstinent until marriage and does not provide information about contraception. In the Kaiser study, 34% of high-school principals said their school’s main message was abstinence-only.

The difference between these two approaches, and their impact on teen behavior, remains a controversial subject. In the U.S., teenage birth rates had been dropping since 1991, but a 2007 report showed 3% increase from 2005 to 2006.[28] From 1991 to 2005, the percentage of teens reporting that they had ever had sex or were currently sexually active showed small declines.[29] However, the U.S. still has the highest teen birth rate and one of the highest rates of STIs among teens in the industrialized world.[30] Public opinion polls conducted over the years have found that the vast majority of Americans favor broader sex education programs over those that teach only abstinence, although abstinence educators recently published poll data with the opposite conclusion.[31][32][33]

Proponents of comprehensive sex education, which include the American Psychological Association,[34] the American Medical Association,[35] the National Association of School Psychologists,[36] the American Academy of Pediatrics,[37] the American Public Health Association,[38] the Society for Adolescent Medicine[39] and the American College Health Association,[39] argue that sexual behavior after puberty is a given, and it is therefore crucial to provide information about the risks and how they can be minimized; they also claim that denying teens such factual information leads to unwanted pregnancies and STIs.

On the other hand, proponents of abstinence-only sex education object to curricula that fail to teach their standard of moral behavior; they maintain that a morality based on sex only within the bounds of marriage is “healthy and constructive” and that value-free knowledge of the body may lead to immoral, unhealthy, and harmful practices. Within the last decade, the federal government has encouraged abstinence-only education by steering over a billion dollars to such programs.[40]

[…] In a meta-analysis, DiCenso et al. have compared comprehensive sex education programs with abstinence-only programs.[49] Their review of several studies shows that abstinence-only programs did not reduce the likelihood of pregnancy of women who participated in the programs, but rather increased it.

The most significant fact here is that there is evidence that abstinence-only sex education may lead to increased teen sexual activity.  The facts speak for themselves.

If that is what religious patriotism has to offer, I think we as a society should try something else.  The GOP and evangelical Christianity had a lot of political influence during this half-century period.  There is a reason that people are now seeking change and so elect Obama who is a liberal Christian with a progressive vision.

As for Beck’s religious patriotism, I have a hard time figuring out how that fits into his libertarianism.  He was arguing that atheism was leading to violence.  As the statistics above show, there is no evidence for this argument and there is no evidence that Christianity inspires Christians to live up to a higher standard of morality.  But Beck is free to have an opinion on the matter even if it’s completely baseless.  The problem with his view is that the biggest proponents of libertarianism are atheists.

This next video shows him speaking with a Christian and then speaking with a Randian libertarian.

The Christian guy blames Obama’s healthcare plan on atheism (which is very odd considering Obama’s Christianity) and Beck seems to agree, but then Beck tries really hard to find agreement with the libertarian.  The libertarian even points out how Beck’s view of Christianity has no basis in historical Christianity.  Beck’s response is that it’s fine that this guy is an atheist, that they don’t have to agree on everything.  He says he even admires Rand accept for the atheist part… which makes no sense since Rand was strongly against religion.  Beck’s trying to bridge these views seems either desperate or bassackwards.  Why is this libertarian’s atheism perfectly fine with Beck when Beck in the other video claims atheism is destroying America?  He can’t have it both ways.  Is he being irrational or is he being a hypocrite?  Or is he just plain schizophrenic?

Let me point out another aspect that demonstrates the lack of substance.  Beck brought up the Battle Hymn of the Republic in reference to the schoolchildren singing a song to President Obama.  The right wingnuts got all crazed about America’s children openly showing respect to the American president.  I really don’t have much opinion.  I was forced as a child to dress up as a boy scout and sit in the front row to show reverence to Ronald Reagan.  It didn’t warp my tender young mind or convert me to conservatism.  The silly part of this criticism of children singing a song to Obama is that it’s been done before.  Just 3 years ago, schoolchildren were singing praises to the First Lady at the White House and they were doing so at the behest of President Bush (see here).

“Our country’s stood beside us People have sent us aid. Katrina could not stop us, our hopes will never fade. Congress, Bush and FEMA People across our land Together have come to rebuild us and we join them hand-in- hand!”

And talk about cult of personality:

Speaking of kids being taught to worship a President?

Not new with obama. Here’s an article about kids singing to Reagan: http://articles.latimes.com/1996-12-14/l…

This guy remembers being made to sing a song about Reagan: http://gatheringofthevibes.com/forum/sho…

OMG!! Here’s a whole elementary school in Wisconsin named after Reagan! http://www.nbexcellence.org/schools/rr/ Call the police!!!http://www.pbvusd.k12.ca.us/schools/reag…

OMG! Here’s one in Bakersfield California!

OMG! Another in California: http://rre.leusd.k12.ca.us/ http://cedarparktex.com/schools/reagan-e… http://reagan.leanderisd.org/

OMG! Texas!

IDAHO!! http://www1.nsd131.org/mainsite/schools/… Home of the RoadRunners!http://www.rogers.k12.ar.us/schools/reag…

Arkansas:

California again: http://www.kingsburg-elem.k12.ca.us/Reag…

California: http://www.cusd.com/schools/reagan.htm

California: http://teacherweb.com/CA/SangerRonaldRea…

Indiana: http://www.brownsburg.k12.in.us/reagan/

Nebraska: http://mps.rres.schoolfusion.us/

Do you need links to Ronald Reagan High Schools in San Antonio, Milwaukee, Florida, and North Carolina? See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronald_Reag…

Finally, I would be remiss to ignore middle schools: http://reagan.gpisd.org/ http://www.dixonschools.org/buildings.ph…

Gosh, it sure is an awful thing when kids are taught to respect presidents, isn’t it???

Oops, let me rephrase that … it’s fine when they’re taught to respect a republican president, but it’s awful when they’re taught to respect a democrat.

 – – –

Here is another video of Beck that demonstrates the delusion he lives in.

In the first video Beck was complaining about the “religious nones” as the fastest growing category.  In this last video, he was arguing that most Americans’s are God-fearing patriots just like him.  He constantly jumps back and forth from his attitude of “the media doesn’t represent us” and “we surround them”.  These two attitudes don’t perfectly fit together.

Some of the examples he used were the media focusing too much on protesters, but protesters are just ordinary people.  If protesters had lots of money and influence like Beck does, then they wouldn’t be on the street trying to get heard.  Beck is the mainstream media he complains about.  The guy gets more attention than most movie stars.  Who in the mainstream media was playing a video of violence?  Yep, Beck.  He does accurately point out that the problem with contemporary entertainment/news is that it sensationalizes, but in his fear-mongering and conspiracy ranting isn’t he the most sensationalistic pundit in mainstream media?

When Beck’s sensationalism turns towards fear-mongering, I feel utterly disgusted by his behavior and I find it hard to have much respect for him.  But he can be a silly guy which combined with his sensationalist tendencies can make him seem a bit loony at times.  If Beck’s ratio of silliness to seriousness was much higher, I’d actually have more respect for him.

Here is a rather humorous video montage of Beck.

So, where did Beck’s weird behavior come from?  Well, he began as a radio talk jock and that does seem to explain it somewhat,  I found this video of his radio days to be quite enlightening.

To get back to the issue of mainstream media, here is another video where he is complaining about what gets covered in the news.  I don’t know the entire context for this video, but part of his focus is on atheists not deserving the media focus they get.  This is rather ironic considering how much media attention he gives to atheists.

Okay, okay… so, how does Beck represent the average American?

His show is relatively popular, but that doesn’t mean his view represents most Americans.  The number of his viewers only represents a fraction of a percent of the American population.  And guess what?  The majority of American voters voted for Obama who Beck likes to criticize.  How is that populism?  Having a popular show isn’t the same thing as being a populist.  Seinfeld and Roseanne were popular shows; Star Trek and Stargate were popular shows; and these shows were far from the message that Beck preaches.  Besides, not everyone who watches him believes all or even most of what he says.  Going by the blogs and videos, many people who watch his show on a regular basis are his critics.  Heck, as a Mormon, he doesn’t even represent the majority of Christians.

Here is a video that analyses Beck’s “populism”.

During times of conflict and stress, pundits like Beck pop up in US media and they rant for a while.  People want simple, clear black and white answers during tought times.  But when the times become better, such pundits are forgotten again.  So, by being loud and divisive, he has been able to draw attention to himself.  Also, he’s worked in the entertainment industry for years and he knows how to entertain.  So?  Whatever he may be, he is far from being the voice of the average American.

He does touch upon a raw nerve in the American psyche and so it’s important to listen to him if only for that reason.  Even so, his opinion is just an opinion.  There are many other commenters who also resonate with many Americans… for example, Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert.  Even just considering the average American libertarian, I suspect that Bill Maher is more representative than is Beck.

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