Friday, October 11, 2013

Anti-religious Hate Sells for Alternet

It would be a hard determination to make that it is the biggest one, but it's my impression that the often useful news accumulator site Alternet is a major non-specialist source of anti-religious hate-talk on the left.   I am only a casual reader of it but I don't recall a single time I've gone there when what can only be called anti-religious hate talk doesn't figure on its front page.   Today's carries one of Amanda Marcotte's anti-religious rants, "How Christian Delusions Are Driving the GOP Insane."  As is generally the case with Marcotte, her post may carry a germ which might bump against something real,  but she reduces a complicated issue into a convenient factoid of her typical anti-religious invective. This, part, in particular is just plain distortion and crappy journalistic practice

Pew Research shows that people who align with the Tea Party are more likely to not only agree with the views of religious conservatives, but are likely to cite religious belief as their prime motivation for their political views.  White evangelicals are the religious group most likely to approve of the Tea Party. Looking over the data, it becomes evident that the “Tea Party” is just a new name for the same old white fundamentalists who would rather burn this country to the ground than share it with everyone else,...

Apparently, from the comments I could take reading, not many people followed up on the link to Pew, because here is what the article said on that topic:

The analysis shows that most people who agree with the religious right also support the Tea Party. But support for the Tea Party is not synonymous with support for the religious right. An August 2010 poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that nearly half of Tea Party supporters (46%) had not heard of or did not have an opinion about “the conservative Christian movement sometimes known as the religious right”; 42% said they agree with the conservative Christian movement and roughly one-in-ten (11%) said they disagree.3 More generally, the August poll found greater familiarity with and support for the Tea Party movement (86% of registered voters had heard at least a little about it at the time and 27% expressed agreement with it) than for the conservative Christian movement (64% had heard of it and 16% expressed support for it).

Let me point this sentence in what Pew said, again

But support for the Tea Party is notsynonymous with support for the religious right.

The article Marcotte claimed as supporting her theme, contradicts it.   I have long suspected that the decrease in reading comprehension might account for a good part of the atheism fad as well as the fall of journalism,  people who are attracted by hate talk aren't much different from those attracted to other forms of stereotype based hate.   I've had my problems with Marcotte and false representations of what I wrote, just over seven years ago.  As is generally my experience with her,  she won't correct herself no matter how obvious the misrepresentation is.   That has been my experience when I was misrepresented by atheists.  Why that should be the case is something I won't speculate on but it has been my experience.

And it seems to have worked for Marcotte, other than that incident when the Edwards campaign dumped her as a campaign blogger when the early and less genteely espressed hate talk in her archive was used to embarrass them, Marcotte has benefited from the attention that her hate talk has gained for her.  She appears regularly atAlternet and more occasionally on other sites that are definitely a step up from Pandagon, where I first encountered her.  I even recall Rachel Maddow had her on once, in her more recent, cleaned up style.  If it were Jews or Muslims who were the focus of her hate talk instead of Christians, that would not have happened. 

An important clue to why she and other anti-Christian, anti-religious hate talkers have flourished saying inaccurate, untrue things that would not have never been accepted on "the left" if said about other groups can be found on the side column of Alternet.   This story is listed as #7 in its most read,  it is #5 of its most e-mailed, it is #1 of the most discussed.  Hate talk sells.  If you go on pushing the buttons to see what Alternet content is linked to on Reddit you'll find, "One-Third of Americans Under 30 Have No Religion -- How Will That Change the Country?" "Why are So Many Christians So Unchristian" and "Holy Freeloading! 10 Ways Religious Groups Take from the Public Purse"  by Valerie Tarico, another of Alternet's  in-house anti-religious specialists.   And they're not done there. Alternet hosts far more anti-religious content and bloggers, such as Bruce Wilson.   You can see more if you click on the tab marked "belief" to get a good idea of how Alternet generally presents religion, under the "Living" tab on their index bar.   For the people who run Alternet, hate sells.

Alternet may carry some useful content but it clearly is in the business of catering to bigots as surely as FOX is.  Unfortunately for the would-be left, the group they love to hate comprises the largest part of the population.  That is a political non-starter.  It is riding the crest of a fad for atheism which has been a minor fad and which will almost certainly not continue as a feature of a working left.  Anti-religious hate has been one of the major issues that has defeated the left in the period after the successes of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.   Hate has worked far better for the right, the goals of which are advantaged by hate. 

It might come as a surprise but I am of the opinion that there needs to be more informed criticism of Christian conservatives who I believe are misrepresenting the teachings of Jesus and those of his followers who knew him, something which is a serious and important obstruction of change in the direction of real American style liberalism.  It discredits one of the most potent forces for that change, Jesus advocated the most advanced of radical economics, far more radical than anything any Marxist has, and a far more radical egalitarianism than any secular group I'm aware of.  The anti-religious "left" generally devolves into either something which ends up aiding the far right or, as in the case of such people as Max Eastman, Christopher Hitchens and David Horowitz, they eventually join up with the far right.   Any atheist who wants to disavow the practices and the values of such people can, of course, disassociate themselves from them but that isn't done very often that I've ever seen.   I think it's way past time for religious liberals to do that with the fundamentalists.  We need to defeat the right wing abduction and misrepresentation of one of the greatest voices for truly radical change, Jesus.  Anti-Christians of the alleged left are enabling that misrepresentation for what boil down to quite similar goals.

It's up to religious liberals, those well versed in the record of what Jesus and his followers said to fight the "christian" right.   They are equipped to do that.  Anti-religious atheists have a long track record of failure on that account, as, indeed, they have in making much in the way of durable political progress.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Secularist Takes The Truth Out of Addiction Treatment As A Condition of Parole

I've written about the alleged atheist alternatives to AA before and how they are largely a false front.  In this article posted on "Truthout" yesterday, a link to a familiar atheist "alternative" was posted.  It's one of the things I ran across during the desperate search for something that our brother would, possibly try since he rejected his last chance, AA on the basis of its alleged religiosity.   I looked and found there was still one "contact" listed, a name a half a state away from where he lived with no actual way to contact them.  

The articlem by Julie M. Rodriguez, was one of the many, many knock-off whines about an alleged wrong done to atheists by a majority religious society that are ubiquitous these days.  In this case it was a meth user who wanted to be paroled.

An atheist man from California is suing the state after he was jailed for failing to participate in a court-ordered 12-step drug addiction program in 2007. After serving time for methamphetamine possession, Barry A. Hazle, Jr., was told that he would have to attend a local, religiously-oriented organization as a condition of his parole.

Hazle, a lifelong atheist and member of several secular humanist groups, expressed his discomfort to his parole officer. But the answer wasn't what he was hoping for — he was told there were no alternative groups available. Despite his misgivings, Hazle attended the group as ordered. When he continued to raise objections about the nature of the program, he was arrested for violating his parole and sent back to state prison for another 100 days.

Unfortunately, this is an all too-familiar story for many who are struggling with addiction. If you've never been to Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, or a similar 12-step recovery program, you may not realize that these organizations are all, at their heart, deeply religious. While they don’t endorse any particular sect or denomination, 5 of the 12 steps explicitly require members to accept and acknowledge the existence of God.

I'm not certain that there is actually any right to parole.  There wouldn't seem to be but I'm no lawyer and I'd have to have one explain how, if it is a right, that so many people seem to be denied it on a regular basis. And I've never heard of anyone being paroled without making some kind of agreement to abide by conditions.  Oddly, the court case that she sites, doesn't mention parole but of prisoners who are ordered to attend religious meetings.  So I'd like to know how it applies to this case?  

I would assume Barry A. Hazle, Jr would have had to agree to the conditions of his parole, including the 12-step.  If he did agree to those terms, I can't see that he has a leg to stand on if reason is the basis.   He didn't like the program he agreed to.  Lots of addicts don't like rehabilitation, even the allegedly science based ones.  If the atheist alternatives were more than a false front operation, I'd bet you anything that there would be a large number of drop-outs, and non-compliance with its restrictions.  But, of course, those aren't available as even this biased article has to admit.

This wouldn't be a problem if secular alternatives to these programs were available for people struggling with addiction. That leads to another fact that may surprise you: by and large, few non-religious alternatives for drug and alcohol addiction exist. In many parts of the country, they’re not available at all.

Well, perhaps the self-appointed rationalist, considered the situation for a few minutes, she would realize there's a good reason for that,.   ATHEISTS AND OTHER "SECULARISTS" HAVEN'T STARTED AND MAINTAINED THOSE ALTERNATIVES.

There was no AA until it was begun by a couple of guys who, among other things, had a sense of religious obligation to do it.  It was originally influenced by a rather conservative religious movement but it quickly expanded its service to people of many different religious beliefs and, yes, even those who are non-religious. There are atheist members of AA who report it's worked for them.  There are even explicitly non-religious AA meetings.   There was a specifically secularist AA meeting a lot closer than the closest "alternative" in that list, two states away from where my brother lived. But, helpfully provided with just one more excuse to not stop, that "AA is religious,"  he wouldn't consider it. Most irresponsibly of all, Rodriguez repeats the popular atheist accusation - also popular among alcoholics who really don't need even more excuses to not stop -  that AA is a "cult".

The devotion some attendees display towards AA has even caused some to label the group a cult.

Well, if you want to talk about cults on that basis, most of the atheist membership organizations could be considered for inclusion on that list.   Look at how many people Madalyn Murray O'Hair suckered in to her own AA, American Atheists, with all of its sleaze and intrigue during her tenure as President For Life.  You could say the same about CSICOP during the Kurtz era.  Go look at the blog threads at the "Free Thought Blogs"  Especially the heavy hitters like PZ Myers, Ophilia Benson etc.  Not to mention the quite secular, if not actually atheist psychotheraputic cults.  My brother went to a psychiatrist for eight years, without it seeming to do him the least bit of good.  And that was on the basis of a medical referral.  If he had been "addicted" to the "cult" of AA instead of the very secular, very molecular-based ethyl alcohol molecule, if he hadn't given his life up to that higher power, he'd still be alive, with a job, a house, a car and a life.

I'm at a loss to understand the point of the article.   That atheists addicts get to have parole on their own terms? That the courts have to provide these atheist "alternative" groups that people they define as "religious" have provided on a private basis?  Or that it's just another excuse for whining and religion bashing?   What does Rodriguez imagine parole boards and courts are supposed to do with atheist addicts who want parole?   I know. I know.   I said I wasn't going to write anything this weekend but this one strikes too close to home to ignore it. I will be posting it to another blog that I began and then immediately let lapse.

Friday, January 25, 2013

It's Time To Call The New Atheists A Hate Group

Because that's exactly what they are. More on this theme soon.