A Disconnection Projected

There is an overlap between those who demand immigrants assimilate to mainstream American culture and those who resist having their children assimilate to mainstream American culture by either homeschooling them or sending them to private schools.

I’m not sure how many people fit into this overlap. I suspect it is a significant number. Whatever their numbers, they seem to be a disproportionately vocal demographic.

Their view appears hypocritical, but maybe there is a hidden consistency based on a false belief. These kind of people seem to think their minority culture, typically of right-wing fundamentalism, often of the rural South Bible Belt, is mainstream American culture.

They are so disconnected that they don’t realize they are disconnected. Instead, they project their disconnection onto others and seek to scapegoat them. In reality, most immigrants tend to be more demanding about their children assimilating than are native-born parents and also tend to take the American Dream more seriously.

If everyone home-schooled their children or sent them to private schools, then and only then would American-style assimilation fail. Public schools are the backbone of our shared culture and they have been for a very long time.

It is strange how people forget history. Right-wing fundamentalists were the biggest supporters who originally pushed for public schools, and a major reason they gave was to help the children of immigrants to assimilate. This same group now attacks public schools.

The Fall of Beck

As usual, Glenn Beck is in the news for causing outrage, but I there is a difference recently. Many people, including myself, have predicted that it is inevitable that Beck would go too far at some point, if not entirely go over the edge. For the time being, he is still managing to hold onto his sanity, but he has steadily been losing support.

Advertisers have been leaving Beck’s show for a while, but Beck retains his corporate support because the attention he brings still translates into profit for Fox News in general. Plus, as long as he is serving the political purposes of the powers that be within the conservative movement, it’s worth supporting a show that isn’t justifiable in terms of profit. More telling is that recent articles have pointed out that there is dissent within Fox News. Some people working there think Beck is problematic for Fox News and for serious journalism. Management there have Beck on a short leash and so putting him on air is a calcuated risk. Is it paying off?

Certainly, Fox News became wildy successful during Bush’s administration for obvious reasons. They might’ve been fine if they had just coasted on that success, but instead they’ve pushed the fear mongering and hate mongering which has worked for them so well. The problem is that the public is finally getting tired about this kind of media outrage and frenzied bipartisanship… and this is Beck’s personal formula of success. At some point, Fox News will have to cut Beck free or else increasingly lose profits. I think they’ll keep him around at least until the next presidential election. Beck is the GOP’s big cannon. Also, it would be dangerous for them to let him go because then they could no longer keep him controlled and keep him on message.

At the moment, the real force of criticism against Beck is coming from the American public. He is just now getting to that point of going too far. Two issues recently exemplify this.

First, Beck had a recent show where he criticized some of the bastions of mainstream American culture including Bruce Springstein. Beck has become so paranoid that he sees Commies and Nazis everywhere. Many people have shared his general fear of some nefarious problem within our culture, but he will lose support when he pulls his attention away from politicians. Everyone loves to bash politicians. Bashing the Boss is, however, unacceptable. Springstein was for a long time seen as the voice of the working class, the Rock n’ Roll representative of middle America. Beck is treading on thin ice.

Second, Beck had another recent show where he attacked the Christian tradition of social justice as un-Christian. That is a very bad move. Christians are Beck’s base and this gives an opportunity for Progressive Christians to get heard. Jim Wallis once had hope that Bush was being honest when he campaigned on bipartisanship, but of course was disappointed. The GOP has no place for Christians who aren’t fundamentalists. Beck played off of this culture war that Bush ramped up, but people can only take so much of the endless outrage. In recent years, the right has been losing battle after battle in the culture wars. There influence is still great, but the influence of religious left has been growing. Even fundamentalists Christians are starting to question the role of religion in politics and starting to question whether the ends justifies the means.

Beck doesn’t really matter in the big picture. I’m increasingly convinced that he is just a symptom of a deeper problem. The American public isn’t well informed about most issues and they’re easily swayed by hate and fear. As long as that is the case, ideologues such as Beck will pop up whenever our culture becomes gripped by paranoia. It happens in cycles (Strauss and Howe claim it happens in predictable cycles). There was Father Charles Coughlin in the 1930s ranting against the same scapegoat/enemies that Beck rants against today. As the economy improves and the memory of 9/11 loses its edge, Beck will lose his popularity and he will just be another dark blotch on American history.

On a less serious note, the best defense against Beck’s brand of fear-mongering is humor and parody. Along with Fox News, Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert also rose to prominence during Bush’s administration. Liberals in general have taken note and people like Beck have been rightfully mocked. A high quality example of this is a recent video (link below) that demonstrates the inanity of Beck’s message. Enjoy!

http://beck.cnnbcvideo.com/#

The Ending of Culture Wars

I’ve noticed the news about issue of gays in the military. 

Smoke the Bigots Out of the Closet
By Frank Rich

A funny thing happened after Adm. Mike Mullen called for gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military: A curious silence befell much of the right. If this were a Sherlock Holmes story, it would be the case of the attack dogs that did not bark.

I thought this is showing how the culture wars started by the moral conservatives are slowly coming to an end.  Abstinence only sex education has been a failure and lost its funding.  Most Americans are against banning abortion.  American fundamentalists preaching against gays in Africa has backfired and turned into an ugly mess.  In every direction we look, the religious right is losing battle after battle.  And now even conservatives politicians are feeling cautious about what they say.

My grandmother who is still alive was a little girl when the KKK was having it’s last great resurgence.  It was with the KKK that the culture wars began.  The Birth of a Nation was the propaganda film that popularized culture wars and this is why the religious right has ever since been associated with proponents of “white culture” superiority.  With WWI, patriotic nationalism arose like never before and moral conservatism rode that wave.  Moral conservatism, through the Southern Strategy, became directly aligned with the Republican party.  The GOP has been fighting the good fight ever since and they gained great power by doing so, but times they are a’changing.

The last great hope of the moral conservatives was George W. Bush who was a born again Christian.  But now even Christians are starting to question the merits of politcizing religion.  Recent polls show that most Americans think religion and politics should be kept separate.  Political Christianity isn’t dead yet, but it certainly is ailing.   In general, the alliance is weakening between Christianity and moral conservatism.  The beliefs of Americans show a mix-and-match philosophy that is eating away at the dogma of fundamentalism.  I saw statistics that show even most conservatives think “don’t ask, don’t tell” should be repealed.

The culture wars aren’t over yet and moral conservatives still have some fight left in them, but for certain conservative morality is losing its political currency as a wedge issue.  The American public is becoming more socially liberal.  The younger generation is most definitely socially liberal.  Even political independents, fiscally conservative though they are, have become socially liberal.

I think it would be a good thing if the Republican party was no longer forced to be dependent on the support of the religous right.  I think it’s no accident that as Republicans turn away from the culture wars that they start to remember the importance of fiscal conservatism.  The Tea Party seems to be the attempt of true conservatives (such as Ron Paul supporters) to remind Republican politicians that they want their party back.  It doesn’t mean Republicans will forget about religion, but it does mean that religion will become increasingly a personal issue rather than a political strategy.

O’Reilly Pontificates on Atheists and Christmas

I have e-mail notification for O’Reilly and Beck.  I don’t usually pay much attention to what they say, but I like to check out what their opinionating sometimes.

Here is O’Reilly’s most recent article which was posted on his website just today.  O’Reilly doesn’t like atheists.  No big surprise there.  The only reason I’ve posted this is simply to share an example of how religiosity (or rather conservative religiosity) is often paired with a lack of knowledge about one’s religion.

Have Yourself A Godless Little Christmas By Bill O’Reilly

Once again we are in the Christmas season, and the coal-in-your-stocking crowd is back at it. This year the American Humanist Association is putting up bus ads in selected cities that say, “No god? No problem! Be good for goodness sake.” The picture accompanying the text shows a group of young people wearing Santa hats. Ho, ho, ho.

A second front was launched by the virulently anti-God group “Freedom from Religion.” It is celebrating Christmas in Las Vegas with ads that say, “Yes, Virginia, there is no God.”

Nice.

The question is, why bother?

Why does O’Reilly bother?  Why do Christians bother?  Why does anyone bother?

Why spend money at Christmas time to spread dubious will among men?

Why criticize (undubiously criticize?) others goodwill among men?

The reason, I believe, is that the atheists are jealous of the Yuletide season.

I truly doubt he honestly believes that.  Why make such inanely disingenuous statements?

While Christians have Jesus and Jews have the prophets, non-believers have Bill Maher.

Nope.  Non-believers have a long history of great thinkers who questioned conventional religious beliefs, and in it’s place sought a higher or more genuine goodness.  Some of the most brilliant minds of philosophy and even religion (such as many mystics) denied all limited notions of divinity and truth.  The history of atheism and skepticism goes back to the very beginning of Western thought.

There are no atheist Christmas carols, no pagan displays of largesse like Santa Claus.

I’m not sure about carols, but I have no doubt that there are plenty of songs out there written about atheism.  Just go to Youtube and I’m sure you’ll find more atheist songs and parody carols to entertain you through the entire holiday season.  Someone could be a pagan all the while being atheistic or agnostic about the fundamentalist Christian God or the Monotheist God in general.  Many pagans are spiritual without declaring any specific theist beliefs.  Anyways, how does the pagan origins of Christmas support the goodness of the Christian tradition?

In fact, for the non-believer, Christmas is just a day off, a time to consider that Mardi Gras is less than two months away.

Many people are just culturally Christian.  They don’t necessarily believe nor do they necessarily dis-believe.  They just enjoy Christmas either because it’s fun or they have good memories of it or they like to visit with friends and family.  The tradition of Christmas has been secularized largely anyways, and Christians don’t have sole ownership of Christmas as it originally was a pagan holiday.

But there is a serious side to this, and the American “humanists” should listen up. Christmas is a joyous time for children; that’s the big upside of celebrating the birth of Jesus.

Actually, I’m willing to bet that if you asked children the reason Christmas is a joyous time is because of the presents… and the general festivity of it all.

Why, then, do people who want to “be good” spend money denigrating a beautiful day?

Why do righteous Fundies want to denigrate the entirety of the religion of Christianity with their bigoted and hateful beliefs every day of the year?

Could it be that the humanists are not really interested in good at all? Maybe.

Could it be that the righteous Fundies are not really interested in good at all? Maybe… or at least no one’s good but their own.

The head humanist guy, Roy Speckhardt, says the anti-God signs are worthy because they send a message that atheists shouldn’t be vilified as immoral. Well, old Roy needs to wise up. The signs actually create resentment and hostility toward atheists. Here’s a bulletin: Many parents don’t want their children to see bus signs proclaiming that God is a big hoax. That message may be constitutionally protected, but it is not going to engender much goodwill among believers.

Well, old Bill needs to wise up… and quit being a wise ass.  People like O’Reilly create resentment and hostility towards theists (and in the world in general).  Many parents don’t want many things.  The free speech of loud-mouthed pundits may be constitutionally protected, but their virulent ranting is not going to engender much goodwill among non-believers and open minded believers alike.

Of course, Roy Speckhardt knows that, and he is being disingenuous with the “just looking out for atheists” posture. What many non-believers enjoy doing is mocking those who embrace theology. I guess that makes some atheists feel better, because there is no other reason to run down Christmas. It is a happy day for most human beings.

 Of course, Bill O’Reilly knows that, and he is being disengenuous with the “just looking out for theists” posture.  What many believing pundits enjoy doing is mocking those who embrace intelligent thought.  I guess that makes some theists feel better, because there is no other reason to run down people advocating morality that applies equally to all people and not just Fundamentalist Christians.  It is a happy day for most human beings… until the Fundies get their panties in a bunch.

The latest Rasmussen poll on the season says that 72% of Americans like saying “Merry Christmas,” while just 22% prefer the greeting “happy holidays.” So the evidence suggests that, despite the ACLU, atheist groups, and a politically correct media, Christmas is actually gaining in relevance and, perhaps, reverence.

I just love how pundits like O’Reilly can take data out of context, misinterpret it, and come to an exaggerated conclusion.  I’m sure people have many different reasons for preferring the phrase “Merry Christmas”, but I’m absolutely certain that those 72% of Americans aren’t all Fundamentalist Christians.  People say and do all kinds of things simply because that is what they’ve always said and done.  People like traditions, but most people don’t worry about what a tradition means or if it means anything at all.  So the evidence suggests, depite O’Reilly, Fundamentalist Christians, and a politically biased Fox News, Christmas is a holiday that many believers and non-believers enjoy because it’s fun and not because of anyone’s righteous ideology.

Most folks know a good thing when they see it, and the converse is true as well.

Yes, most folks know a good thing when they see it, and that is why the Fundamentalist Christians of the far religious right represent a minute fraction of a percentage of believers in the world.  Most folks just want to be good people without shoving their religious beliefs into the faces of other people.  Christmas is about goodwill.  Christmas isn’t about attacking non-believers.

 That’s why they know these anti-God signs at Christmas time are dumb and unnecessary. Isn’t that right, Virginia?

It’s rather ironic that his last comment is the most dumb and it concludes an entire piece that is unnecessary.  Preach to the choir if it makes you happy, but don’t pretend you’re making an intellgent argument.  I’d love to see Bill O’Reilly post this to some discussion forums that were atheist, agnostic, non-fundamentalist and inter-faith.  This nonsense would be ripped to shreds the moment it was posted.

By the way, if Bill O’Reilly wants to argue that Christians are morally better than atheists, then he probably shouldn’t use a smug and snarky tone of self-righteousness in delivering that claim.  I don’t know about the specific groups he mentions, but most atheists and agnostics don’t claim to be morally superior to everyone who believes differently.  Yes, there are some atheists who are as bigotedly annoying as O’Reilly.  But, no, these atheists don’t represent all or even most non-believers. 

Most people who argue for an inherent goodness within human beings (rather than original sin) believe this potential exists in everyone and not just non-believers.  That is the difference.  The fundamentalist Christian, as O’Reilly demonstrates here, can only make their argument by attacking and dismissing the views of others.  If goodness was inherent to every person rather than being something bestowed upon us by a church tradition or dogma, then it would be absolutely true that “no God” would mean “no problem”.  Considering that only a small percentage of the world’s population believes in the Fundamentalist Christian God (and considering that even within that small percentage there is much strident disagreement), the apocalypse would already be upon us if goodness was dependent on our believing in such a “God”.

In conclusion, if someone wants to argue for goodwill, then they should try to express goodwill in the argument itself.  Otherwise, they come off as a hypocrite… as O’Reilly sounds in this diatribe.  Furthermore, if O’Reilly genuinely believes in goodwill, then he might want to stop his inciting violent people with phrases such as “Tiller the baby killer”.  Just a suggestion…

Happy Holidays!