Archive for January, 2015

Christian Terrorists Threaten Duke Chapel



Ah, the Duke Chapel. It has loud obnoxious chimes that go off every day play sweet Jesus muzak. I never minded. In my four years at Duke it was always kind of nice to hear the bells, and it was great because you always knew when happy hour ended at the Duke Pub. Hardly anyone actually goes to religious services there, and it’s mostly used for events..and for things like a backdrop for the Handmaid’s Tale. Most people at elite universities are not religious, and most of the Christians at Duke are not liberal Methodists so why would they bother.

Duke is a real meritocracy, much like MIT or Johns Hopkins. They’re more interested in getting the best students possible than in pleasing rich alumni by letting in little legacy Buffy who only scored a 1200 on the SAT. Little Buffy winds up at Vanderbilt or Princeton. Since we lifted the Oriental Exclusion Acts in 1965, a funny thing has happened. We’ve been hand-picking the best and the brightest people from all over the world to come to the United States! Many of these people come from Islamic nations; from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, etc. They get into the United States because they have advanced degrees and jobs lined up with corporations or universities that sponsor them. Go to small cities anywhere in the US and look for a physician, dentist, or radiologist. Notice the names, Khan, Bhutt, Anad, Alam….those are just a few that came up at the top of the list for our  humble town of Carbondale.  We have a serious shortage of medical professionals, and we’re filling that with immigrants. Since this is a college town, I could add to that the names of my many colleagues who are Muslim. Those same names would come up if I listed out the top honors students at Carbondale Community High School. As I showed in my book Changing Faith, American Muslims have high levels of education and income. And, their children have a propensity to perform at very high levels in academics. When I attended Duke in the late 1980s there were maybe 200 Muslim students, and most of them were probably international graduate students. Now, of the 15,000 students, over 700 are Muslim, and most of them are undergrads and Americans. And, they apparently turn up for stuff, particularly during Ramadan where they have hundreds of students breaking fast. Muslims make up about .6% of the American population, but 5% of Duke students. 

Duke added a Muslim chaplain to their stable, and as a nice gesture, they were going to chime a call for prayer on Friday afternoon from the giant Christian Chapel. Seems like a nice thing to do to be inclusive, and really a necessity when you have a sizable residential population of undergrads and no alternative in the Durham community. I’m an atheist but I understand that a university should try to help students adjust so that they can succeed.  And, minority faiths like Islam and Judaism don’t have institutional resources in what was until recently the rural South. Ah, but not if you’re a Christianist asshole. It doesn’t matter that the air is filled with Christian calls to worship on Sunday, and that Christian music plays during the Christian holidays. Givin’ them Muslin’s a call for prayer is caving in to Sharia law, and Billy Graham’s demon spawn says that if we don’t shitcan a 1pm firing of the high tech church bells, next year all freshwomen at Duke will be wearing burqas. And that’s the “civilized” response. It seems clear from what has come out from both the Duke Chaplains’ offices and University Central that there were very serious, specific terrorist threats by Christianists. I’m guessing that these were threats against the life of the Duke University Christian Chaplain, the Muslim Associate Chaplain, and threats to blow up the Duke Chapel. I doubt that I’m wrong. Christian terrorists are rather predictable.

Christian Sociology—it’s the opposite of the Sociology of Religion


This remains appropriate given the sorry state of the sociology of religion, and the ability of Christianist activists like Christian Smith to publish vitriolic blog posts on Oxford University Press. More proof that what I was whining about since 2005 is correct.

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Religion is good for me, how are you likin’ it?

My laptop crashed, again, and I was busily trying to salvage my old files when I stumbled across something quite appropos given the militant Christianity that has infected the sociology of religion. This is part of the introduction to a paper which written in 2005 and was supposed to have been published in Sociology of Religion in response to Christian Smith’s apologetic claiming that Christianity is just the greatest religion ever.. His invited essay was published, mine was not.

“American sociology was profoundly influenced by the Christian social reformers of the late 19th and early 20th century. This group of ministers and lay scholars were dedicated to the cause of improving the lot of the poor and downtrodden, so that they might be saved by the gods of Christianity from a fate of eternal damnation—a fiery hell of eternal torment…

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Religious Regulation—We need MORE!



The rise of supply side economic theories applied to everything from soap to religion fetishized religious “freedom” as a way to improve consumer choice of their favored religious products, thereby leading to flush markets full of happy consumers and hard-working firms. If we can’t have freedom, then religion won’t work properly and people won’t be satisfied. The problem is that religious consumers are not at all free to choose what they’d desire. Their desires are warped through the force of religious indoctrination beginning in childhood and continuing through the lifecourse. And, the stuff they feed their children is very often some pretty vile stuff born in the depths of savage bronze age monolatries.

We need to redefine what is meant by “religious freedom” in order to begin to confront the problem of the production of bad religion. This is kind of like preventing monopolists from selling bad products that kill people, or porn producers from making actors bareback it. There is a lot of bad religion, and the state has an interest in its regulation. Most importantly, the state has an interest in making sure that children have some degree of religious freedom–that they can choose what faith, if any, they want. Now, of course, we can’t practically round all of them up and put them in reeducation camps, but we can make sure that children are taught about civil society in a civil fashion, and not that everyone who isn’t one of you is deserving of eternal torture.

First, we need complete regulation of education and extension to childcare beginning at birth. We can make it optional to send your kid to daycare when they are very young, but by age 4 all kids should be required to attend secular public schools. All K-12 religious educational institutions should be eliminated and homeschooling should be made illegal.  If you want to teach your kids about your gods, do it at church or on your own time. Religious education is inherently divisive and it has a strong tendency to harbor extremism across all religious traditions.  Second, all persons who claim as an occupation to be a minister or religious leader must hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution and must be certified by an organized and registered religious denomination (everyone’s car has to be registered and insured, but religious hucksters can do anything they want?). Religious salepeople should also be subject to background checks and felons (terrorists and child molesters) should be denied a license to sell religion. No more goofball jackleg ministers in storefronts. You wanna buy religion? You have to go to a legitimate religion dealer, just like you have to go to the official weed dispenser or liquor retailer. Third, a salary cap on all directors of non-profit organizations (not just religion peddlers). and laws preventing the conversion or use of religious resources for private wealth and gain. Fourth, we need to vigorously oppose efforts to  silence people who criticize religion and challenge religious beliefs and authority, and demand that religious devotees follow the law. Keep your idiotic strongly held beliefs to yourself.

100 lashes if you haven’t laughed yourself to death yet.

Of course, none of this will happen. We’re allowing millions of children to have no education and then act as if it’s just as good as going to school. We’re privileging religious schools with tax breaks, free access to the children, and now direct subsidies in many places. Gee, you’d think the Christianists would worry about the Islamist school getting some of those vouchers, but in the UK it’s been more like a logrolling exercise with Christians, Jews, and Muslims working together to steal money from the state. Nothing critical of religion (at least not Christianity or Judaism) is taught in any of our supposedly secular schools, and religious activists are often quite successful in removing scientific and cultural content for all students. Religious salesmen continue to make huge profits, and the tax system favoring religion gives them myriad ways to become wealthy and powerful in a completely unregulated and undertaxed religion industry. And, of course, now religious nutjobs are free to flout any law they disagree with based on their sincerely held beliefs. Next up, they’ll say that public criticism denies Christians religious freedom. Making fun of people’s gods is disrespectful, and that crushes their freedom to demand moral superiority. Next, I guess they’ll start shooting people who offend their gods.