Archive for April 2017
From the not always reliable The Golden Bough:
In Münsterland these Easter fires are always kindled upon certain definite hills, which are hence known as Easter or Paschal Mountains. The whole community assembles about the fire. The young men and maidens, singing Easter hymns, march round and round the fire, till the blaze dies down. Then the girls jump over the fire in a line, one after the other, each supported by two young men who hold her hands and run beside her. In the twilight boys with blazing bundles of straw run over the fields to make them fruitful. At Delmenhorst, in Oldenburg, it used to be the custom to cut down two trees, plant them in the ground side by side, and pile twelve tar-barrels against each. Brush-wood was then heaped about the trees, and on the evening of Easter Saturday the boys, after rushing about with blazing bean-poles in their hands, set fire to the whole. At the end of the ceremony the urchins tried to blacken each other and the clothes of grown-up people. In the Altmark it is believed that as far as the blaze of the Easter bonfire is visible, the corn will grow well throughout the year, and no conflagration will break out. At Braunröde, in the Harz Mountains, it was the custom to burn squirrels in the Easter bonfire. In the Altmark, bones were burned in it.
Writing over at Patheos, the Friendly Atheist reports on the formation of the group Republican Atheists.
That’s good news, I reckon, but the Friendly Atheist seems a little, well, skeptical:
The group hopes to “build awareness of Atheist presence in the Republican Party,” though it may have more success building awareness of Republicans among the broader atheist community. The 116 likes on Facebook and 37 followers on Twitter suggest there’s a lot of room to grow. A survey conducted in 2015 among members of the Freedom From Religion Foundation revealed only one percent identified as Republicans — the low end — while a 2014 Pew Research Center survey said Republicans represented 15% of atheists.
According to Lauren Ell, the president of Republican Atheists, the group’s main intention isn’t to influence the legislative or electoral process. Not yet, anyway. Instead, she said in an email, they want to “challenge the concept that atheist equals Democrat and Republican equals religion.”
This is an important time to note that disbelieving in deities doesn’t mean a person necessarily aligns with any particular ideology, political or otherwise. If the existence of this group has you scratching your head — why would any atheist align with this Republican Party? — keep in mind that many of them may support a GOP that even many Republican politicians no longer recognize. They support the ideas of smaller government, fewer taxes, and more personal freedom, but not necessarily a party that seems to have merged with the Religious Right.
Oh come on.
That wasn’t true before Trump, and it’s even harder to claim that now.
Political parties, like (for the most part) religious groups, are coalitions. The faithful agree with this, they disagree with that, but on balance they stick with the creed with which they are, as a whole, most comfortable. What’s more, a choice of political party is often a vote against rather than a vote for. For all its faults, the Republican party is still the best bulwark there is against the Democrats.
To the Friendly Atheist, the Republican Atheists may be displaying “cognitive dissonance”, but that observation might say more about his beliefs than theirs. Some of the GOP policies most associated with the religious right (opposition to abortion, say) can be supported for reasons unrelated to the supposed commands of a mysteriously elusive God.
Equally, there is no reason that atheists, if they believe that religion is hard-wired into most of us (as I do), to be disturbed by a little God talk by a politician on the make (or, even, sincerely). Nor is there any need for atheists to waste time and goodwill pushing the church-and-state separation contained in the First Amendment to the bizarre extreme that they sometimes do. Religion can be a useful social glue (that’s probably part of the reason it evolved), and, as such, it is something that a conservative atheist might be expected to appreciate even if he or she believes that the underlying premise is nonsense.
To be fair, the Friendly Atheist notes:
“[A]theist” only means one thing: you don’t believe in a god. While there’s obviously a large overlap between atheists and liberals, it’s not an ironclad rule.
No it is not, either in the US or, even more so, Europe.
If I had to guess, the ‘large overlap’ here in the US owes more to the specifics of American history and culture rather than any ideological imperative.
All that said, there’s a reason that this blog is named Secular Right rather than Secular Republican or, even, Secular Conservative.