Secular Right | Reality & Reason

TAG | 2012 Elections

Nov/12

11

Of Spiritual Paths and Other Matters

The New York Times takes a look at four arrivals in Washington with religious views that differ from the commonly (if inaccurately) understood norm:

For the real underdog story in the elections this year, you have to look further out on the margins of popular respectability. Consider the half-Hindu yoga practitioner just elected to Congress from Hawaii. Or the new Buddhist senator. Or the two religiously unaffiliated women headed for the House and the Senate.

These politicians constitute an unusual mini-caucus, whose members are unusual not for their religion, precisely, but for the fluid and abstract terms they use to talk about it — when they choose to talk about it, that is. Mormon or Orthodox Jewish politicians have succeeded before, but as the price of admission they have been forced to explain their faith. This new bunch is just saying, so to speak, “Don’t worry about it.”

That’s fine, of course, but then we read this:

Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat and an Iraq war veteran who won a seat in the House from Hawaii, is the daughter of a Hindu mother and a Roman Catholic father. She calls herself Hindu, a first for a member of Congress. But it is not quite that simple.

“I identify as a Hindu,” Ms. Gabbard wrote in an e-mail on Thursday. “However, I am much more into spirituality than I am religious labels.”

“In that sense,” she added, “I am a Hindu in the mold of the most famous Hindu, Mahatma Gandhi, who is my hero and role model.”

Ms. Gabbard wrote that she “was raised in a multicultural, multirace, multifaith family” that allowed her “to spend a lot of time studying and contemplating upon both the Bhagavad-Gita and the teachings of Jesus Christ in the New Testament.”

Today, her spiritual practice is neither Catholic nor traditionally Hindu.

“My attempts to work for the welfare of others and the planet is the core of my spiritual practice,” Ms. Gabbard wrote. “Also, every morning I take time to remember my relationship with God through the practice of yoga meditation and reading verses from the Bhagavad-Gita. From the perspective of the Bhagavad-Gita, the spiritual path as I have described here is known as karma yoga and bhakti yoga.”

TMI, I think.

Exhausted, I abandoned the rest of the article.

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Nov/12

11

Darwin the Candidate

The election results didn’t give me much to smile about, but here’s one exception.

The Athens Banner-Herald reports:

Charles Darwin, the 19th-century naturalist who laid the foundations for evolutionary theory, received nearly 4,000 write-in votes in Athens-Clarke County in balloting for the 10th Congressional District seat retained Tuesday by five-year incumbent Republican Rep. Paul Broun [who was running unopposed].

A spot check Thursday of some of the other counties in the east Georgia congressional district revealed a smattering of votes for Darwin, although it wasn’t always clear, based on information provided by elections offices in those counties, whether those votes were cast in the 10th District race. And because the long-dead Darwin was not a properly certified write-in candidate, some counties won’t be tallying votes for him, whether in the congressional race or other contests.

A campaign asking voters to write-in Darwin’s name in the 10th Congressional District, which includes half of Athens-Clarke County, began after Broun, speaking at a sportsmen’s banquet at a Hartwell church, called evolution and other areas of science “lies straight from the pit of hell.”

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Nov/12

8

Crashing the Party

The Daily Telegraph’s Damian Thompson:

[T]he Tea Party wasn’t the Religious Right – at least, not at first. When Christian fundamentalists jumped on board, that’s when public support began to bleed away.

There’s something to that, I think, not least because of some of the candidates that emerged as a result, like DeMint’s O’Donnell in Delaware back in 2010.

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Nov/12

8

Heckuva Job, Akin

Medieval obstetrics expert Congressman Todd Akin crashed to humiliating defeat in his attempt to unseat Missouri’s Senataor Claire McCaskill.

The Washington Post reports:

McCaskill had 54.7 percent of the vote, Akin 39.2 percent and the Libertarian candidate Jonathan Dine 6.1 percent…

By staying in the race this grotesquely selfish man threw away what should have been a GOP senate gain and, while he was at it, further tarnished a Republican national campaign already scarred by the earlier success of Rick Santorum.

What a disgrace.

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Nov/12

4

Icon of the Religious Left

Some hagiography here:
watch?v=6fSlpUsSeiM

Unclear how that whole “revenge” thing fits in with this, however.

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Aug/12

25

Huck Rides In

One clown rushes to the assistance of another.

Via CNN:

Tampa, Florida (CNN) – Mike Huckabee participated in a conference call Friday night with hundreds of Baptist pastors and Christian talk radio hosts in Missouri that was organized to coordinate a robust defense of Rep. Todd Akin as he faces pressure from Washington Republicans to drop his Senate bid against Democrat Claire McCaskill…

Speaking harshly about establishment Republicans who have tried to force Akin from the Missouri race, Huckabee at one point compared the National Republican Senatorial Committee to “union goons” who “kneecap” their enemies.

The former Arkansas governor said party bosses were “opening up rounds and rounds” of ammunition on Akin and “then running over with tanks and trucks and leaving him to be ravaged by the other side.”

“This is unprecedented, to see to this orchestrated attempt to humiliate and devastate a fellow Republican,” Huckabee said of Akin, who has deep ties to the Christian conservative movement. Akin spent Thursday in Florida meeting with evangelical leaders and evaluating his political future.

All we need now is Santorum.

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Aug/12

24

The Science of Akin

From the Guardian, one possible theory for the source of Akin’s idiot ‘science’:

The idea that rape victims cannot get pregnant has long roots. The legal position that pregnancy disproved a claim of rape appears to have been instituted in the UK sometime in the 13th century. One of the earliest British legal texts, Fleta, has a clause in the first book of the second volume stating that:

“If, however, the woman should have conceived at the time alleged in the appeal, it abates, for without a woman’s consent she could not conceive.”

This was a long-lived legal argument. Samuel Farr’s Elements of Medical Jurisprudence contained the same idea as late as 1814:

“For without an excitation of lust, or the enjoyment of pleasure in the venereal act, no conception can probably take place. So that if an absolute rape were to be perpetrated, it is not likely she would become pregnant.”

This “absolute rape” is not quite the same as Akin’s “legitimate rape”. Akin seems to be suggesting that the body suppresses conception or causes a miscarriage, while the earlier idea of Farr relates specifically to the importance of orgasm. Through the medieval and early modern period it was widely thought, by lay people as well as doctors, that women could only conceive if they had an orgasm.

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Aug/12

20

Junk Science Watch

Todd Akin lends an assist to the Democrats (the New York Times reports):

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In an effort to explain his stance on abortion, Representative Todd Akin, the Republican Senate nominee from Missouri, provoked ire across the political spectrum on Sunday by saying that in instances of what he called “legitimate rape,” women’s bodies somehow blocked an unwanted pregnancy.

In a senate already filled with clowns, Akin would fit right in. But I doubt that he’ll get the chance.

Obama must be laughing.

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Reason cites a New York Times editorial discussing Paul Ryan’s budget proposals:

These cuts are so severe that the nation’s Catholic bishops raised their voices in protest at the shredding of the nation’s moral obligations.

Mr. Ryan’s budget “will hurt hungry children, poor families, vulnerable seniors and workers who cannot find employment,” the bishops wrote in an April letter to the House. “These cuts are unjustified and wrong.”

Paul Ryan is so evil, argues the Times, that the Roman Catholic congressman has even drawn the ire of Catholic bishops with his budget proposal. The word of the Catholic bishops, in this case, should be taken at face value. But the Times is no friend of religious institutions or even of those same Catholic bishops. From a Times op-ed on “the politics of religion,” published just a few months ago:

“Thirteen Roman Catholic dioceses and some Catholic-related groups scattered lawsuits across a dozen federal courts last week claiming that President Obama was violating their religious freedom by including contraceptives in basic health care coverage for female employees. It was a dramatic stunt, full of indignation but built on air…”

This is a clear partisan play. The real threat to religious liberty comes from the effort to impose one church’s doctrine on everyone.

Except, apparently, when that doctrine happens to align with a liberal agenda, then its a moral obligation for our political leaders. Thanks for clearing that up, New York Times!

Fair point, well made.

Equally, one must again point to the contradictions of a church that urges increased government spending, but benefits from substantial tax privileges, a church that argues for universal health care but tries to reserve for itself the right to opt out of those parts of universal healthcare legislation with which it disagrees.

Religious institutions have every right to be in the public square (in fact it’s good that they are there), but once they are in it, they should not be allowed to claim “rights” that exempt them from the rules that bind everyone else in that same venue.

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Aug/12

11

The Tea Party: “More Paul than Santorum”

David Kirby and Emily Ekins write in Politico:

The Republican National Convention this week announced speaking slots for libertarian Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and social conservative Rick Santorum. Both claim the “tea party” brand. However the 2012 primary season reveals that the tea party playbook is more Paul than Santorum.

Conventional political wisdom for at least two decades has held that Republican primaries are won by emphasizing values issues to placate socially conservative voters. Observers point to Santorum’s strong showing in the presidential primaries. Exit polls, however, reveal Santorum never won a majority of the tea party vote in any primary.

Republican candidates must increasingly win over both Paul and tea party supporters on economic issues. Libertarians and the tea party movement are intertwined in ways the campaigns and the media have yet to fully appreciate.

Tea party supporters are actually united on economics, but split on social issues, we find, compiling data from local and national polls with dozens of original interviews with tea party members and leaders. Roughly half the tea party is socially conservative, half libertarian: fiscally conservative, but socially moderate to liberal.

Libertarians led the way for tea party disaffection with establishment Republicans. Starting in early 2008 through the early tea parties, libertarians were more than twice as “angry” with the Republican Party as social conservatives; more pessimistic about the economy and deficit during the Bush years, and more frustrated that people like them cannot affect government. Libertarians, including young people who supported Paul’s 2008 presidential campaign, provided much of the early energy for the tea party and spread the word through social media.

In fact, 91 percent of tea party libertarians are more concerned about taxes and jobs than gay marriage and abortion, according to a New York Times poll. Religious bona fides will not win the tea party vote in primaries. The tea party’s strong libertarian roots help explain why more and more Republican candidates are running as functional libertarians—emphasizing fiscal issues such as spending, tax reform and ending bailouts, while avoiding subjects like abortion and gay marriage—and winning…

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