Right-wing Christian “rats”?

Progressive Christian writer and activist John Shore just wrote a post I found really worrisome.

Do I smell a right-wing Christian rat behind Ohio State’s psych quiz “controversy”?

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Yesterday I published Ohio State University teaches Christians are stupider than atheists. I came across the story on Google News, thought, “Here’s a bit of fluff I can have some quick fun with before I get back to writing my novel,”—and blip I wrote what I did.

The website that originally “broke” this story is Campus Reform. This morning, poking about the Campus Reform website, I found this on their Mission page:

As a watchdog to the nation’s higher education system, Campus Reform exposes bias and abuse on the nation’s college campuses.

Our team of professional journalists works alongside student activists and student journalists to report on the conduct and misconduct of university administrators, faculty, and students.

Campus Reform holds itself to rigorous journalism standards and strives to present each story with accuracy, objectivity, and public accountability.

A few clicks later I learned that Campus Reform is owned and operated by the hyper-conservative The Leadership Institute. Here’s a bit about them:

The Leadership Institute identifies, organizes, and trains conservative college students to promote and defend their values on campus.

Institute programs prepare thousands of conservatives each year. Conservatives learn how to:

· Form independent conservative student groups
· Manage grassroots-oriented campaigns
· Publish independent conservative school newspapers
· Communicate a conservative message using the media

Gee, I wonder why the complaining OSU “anonymous student” knew nothing about the Psych 1100 class that had so offended him or her (see below)—and why exactly they were quoted as having said:

I understand that colleges have a liberal spin on things so it didn’t surprise me to see the question … . Colleges will tolerate pretty much any religion other than Christianity.

I smell a rat. A lowdown, lying, cheating, right-wing Christian rat trying to drum up a little cheese for itself.

Ugh.

It pains me to have at all contributed, however cursorily, to the lie that there was any credibility whatsoever to the original story. Me, helping to further the agenda of hardcore right-wing Christians!

So sad. So wrong. So … what can totally happen when you’re trying to keep two blogs going and write a (major) first novel.

After reading my post yesterday my good friend Dan Wilkinson got interested in what the story behind that story might be. Dan getting interested in something is like a coke-detecting police dog getting interested in a suitcase. It’s kinda scary. But awesome to watch.

Courtesy of Dan “Sniffy” Wilkinson, here is what’s really going on with OSU’s Psychology 1100 classs:

First we have the class syllabus. As you’ll see, it’s a totally normal, duly formidable college class.

One of the tools used in the class are the online LearningCurve quizzes. As you may recall, the particular Learning Curve question that has caused such a stir is this one:

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Here are a few other LearningCurve quiz questions (which taken altogether comprise only 10% of the grade for the class):

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Notably, all of the quiz question are pulled directly from Psychology, the textbook used in the class (which Dan managed to get hold of, and which is on Amazon here—for only $159.48!). Each includes exactly where in the book information informing that question can be found. So literally none of the quiz questions should be a surprise to any student in the class.

While the above questions might at face value seem inflammatorily ill-informed, within the context of the class they make perfect sense. And those are only four of the (it looks like) hundreds of questions derived from the chapter of the textbook dealing with what intelligence is and isn’t, the history of testing intelligence, the uses, abuses and shortcomings of such tests, and the complexity of entire issue.

The authors of Psychology thoroughly explore the findings that certain groups consistently test higher or lower on intelligence tests, carefully considering the factors that contribute to that result:

Although the average difference between groups is considerably less than the average difference within groups, Terman was right when he suggested that some groups perform better than others on intelligence tests.

But do group differences in intelligence test scores reflect group differences in actual intelligence? …

Some groups outscore others on intelligence tests because (a) testing situations impair the performance of some groups more than others and (b) some groups live in less healthful and stimulating environments. There is no compelling evidence to suggest that between-group differences in intelligence are due to genetic differences.

Interestingly, intelligence test scores also seem to be fairly good predictors of a person’s political and religious attitudes: The more intelligent people are, the more likely they are to be liberal and atheistic (Deary, Batty, & Gale, 2008; Lynn, Harvey, & Nyborg, 2009; Reeve, Heggestad, & Lievens, 2009; Stankov, 2009). All in all, intelligence tests scores are excellent predictors of a remarkable range of important consequences. IQ clearly matters.

In short, there’s nothing whatever wrong or suspect about OSU’s Psychology 1100 class.

I wish I could say the same for the pathetic Leadership Institute.

Here was my response:

Hello dear John.
While I’m myself a progressive Christian actively supporting the acceptance of Gay couples into the Christian Church, I realize I can no longer endorse your tone and rhetoric.

I’m also against the Christian Right and expose quite often their false priorities and distortion of the Gospel.

But in spite of everything, I view them as human beings created in God’s image and NOT as right-wing rats . As a German liberal theologian rightly pointed out: “Fundamentalisten sind auch Menschen” = “Fundamentalists are human too”.

Even if it might be a daily struggle, should it not be our duty to love our fundamentalist foes as ourselves? I’m not pretending to be a better person than you because I fall short in countless other respects.

But I think it’s really a pity if your laudable and praiseworthy defense of Gay people degenerates into self-righteous hatred.

So I really hope you’ll back away from your rhetoric and adopt a more constructive tone because you’re unlikely to change the hearts of fundies while using such words.

Otherwise, I also feel pretty irritated by the psychological Quiz. It is extraordinarily reductionist in that it defines “Christians”, “Atheists” and “Liberals” as homogeneous groups. This is very far from being the case, there are numerous conflicting groups, ideologies and movements within Christianity and atheism and merging them together has a very poor scientific value.

I’d be interested if such IQ comparisons were carried out between VERY specific groups (such as “Secular Conservatives” against “Evolutionary theists”) to see what come out of it.
What is more, it is far from being certain that there is such a thing as intelligence which can be fully grasped by a unique measure such as IQ. Its assessment also depends a lot on psychological factors such as motivation, impulsiveness and anxiety.

Anyway I wish you all the best and hope you’ll begin to see Conservatives as fellow humans.

Rick Santorum’s rise means the GOP must fight– and lose– the culture war

Lovely greetings.

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Fostering Justice on the battle fields of the Culture War

Crude recently wrote a response to my last posts warning against Christians passionately hating homosexuals.

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“I like Lothar Lorraine. Truly I do – he’s a pleasant guy to talk to even if I disagree with him. He’s welcome here, he’s welcomed me at his blog, and until relatively recently most of my interactions with him have been civil, even when we disagree.

Except lately, if you’ve been following the conversations – previously linked – I’ve been spending most of my time yelling angrily, at least as much as you can do typing into a computer and still maintaining decent-enough grammar. I’ve been pissed off, not so much at Lothar as at his links of choice, and really, the “progressive” response to them.

Honest to God? I don’t like yelling in Lothar’s general vicinity. He’s nice. I can talk with him. At the same time, all the niceness in the world isn’t going to make me give an inch to dishonest hate speech directed anywhere, but particularly in my direction.

I’m talking real hate speech, by the by. Not, ‘You noticed that group X is responsible for more crimes than group Y by every available measure, that’s horrible of you’ styled bull, but full blown ‘This group of people is responsible for heinous acts and you should hate them all and fight them because this is WAR’ hate speech. “Whip up an angry mob to attack some people based on next to no evidence” hate speech.

So why has it kept happening lately? I have a hunch. Little more than that right now, but it’s worth airing.

I think there is a somewhat common breed of Christian who, while intellectually rather orthodox and conservative, is nevertheless on the more soft-spoken and diplomatic side. They are not fire and brimstone. They pride themselves on being open-minded, on ‘agreeing to disagree’, on setting themselves apart from the more fervent culture-war social conservatives who at times seem as if they are locked in a neverending battle against Islam, New Atheism, Liberals, the Gay Agenda, and more.And one way they send up the signal that they’re different from THOSE Christians is by conceding the intelligence and morality of their opponents, and openly, even eagerly, admitting to flaws.

Even flaws that aren’t really flaws, that are blown out of proportion, or that largely exist in the minds of people who hate them.

So if someone angrily demands that they apologize for, say… ‘Christianity’s legacy of anti-science and bigotry and racism and homophobia and misogyny’, they’re going to typically, without reflection, say “Oh, yes, some Christians – nay, many – have been guilty of that. But many nowadays have come to regret that past and…” And on and on it goes. They get to show how open-minded and humble they are, their opponents get a concession to a million and one imaginary evils at the hands of Christians, and everyone is happy.

I am not one of these Christians. I do not grant the wickedness of Christians, even Christian groups I am not a part of, purely to score humility points. If I’ve investigated the issue and come to the conclusion that the accusations are fundamentally wrong or warped, I will say as much. And when I see what comes across as a calculated bit of hate speech to try and demonize Christians, I’m going to start yelling, loudly, about the flaws I see, demand evidence, and point out when it either fails to be forthcoming, or is weak beyond excuse.

I suspect that may be the problem here. I can’t read Lothar’s mind, but I think he may have heard ‘Conservative Christians HATE gays and want to kill them’ so many times – and other Christians may have granted this without argument so many times – that he brings this up, and (while admitting that not every conservative Christian is like this) expresses an interest in having my agree that this sort of thing is bad, so we can continue the conversation civilly. And then I explode and I’m off yelling and challenging people to, you know, provide some goddamn evidence of these claims and pointing it out for the hate speech that it is, and he’s wondering what he did wrong.

Well, HE didn’t do anything wrong, most likely. He simply was played – he bought a line offered up by a nasty little culture, perpetuated by weak-willed Christians more interested in being humble than being honest, and he’s run into a guy who’s not going to let it slide so easily, and who actually gets pretty pissed off when the accusation comes up. I’ll cop to real evils, real mistakes, and I’ll point out the context and the situation those mistakes took place in. I will not cop to progressive monster-fantasies that they conjure up in large part to let themselves sleep easier at night when they hear about the latest abuses their more fascist leadership is diving into.

Perhaps that will set the record straight. Or perhaps not. But there is my attempt for the moment. “

 

First of all, I’m thankful to Crude for all his kind words about me. I’m also grateful he emphasized many important points EVERY culture warrior (both on the left and on the right) ought to respect if he or she is sincerely pursuing justice.

 

Many self-proclaimed “progressives” are just serving the Zeitgeist and will uncritically accept any kind of arguments which promote their views and give them the feeling of belonging to the “forces of Good”.

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For me, being a progressive means challenging all kinds of dogmas hindering human well-being. It goes hand in hand with a huge responsibility and entails earnestly seeking to understand your opponents before bedeviling them.

 

Having often talked with Conservative Evangelicals about homosexuality (both in the real world and on the Internet), I know that there is a truly hateful minority among them.

If you don’t believe me, go to any Conservative Evangelical forum with a fundamentalist trend, be always nice and respectful but tell them that you’re a queer atheist. Wait on their reactions and start measuring how well they satisfy the Golden Rule.

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I don’t know well John Shore, but I linked his post because his description fits all too well what is going on in the right-wing part of Evangelicalism. I largely  support his notion of “Christianity with humanity” even if I find he is not as objective as he thinks.

 

AGAIN, I defend the right of Conservative Christians to disapprove of homosexuality and defend their position without having to fear any professional repercussion. And I clearly recognize there are MANY Conservative Evangelicals who oppose homophobia.

 

Still, it would be unhealthy to deny there is also a deep-seated hatred in some corners of Evangelicalism. Progressive Evangelical theologian Randal Rauser gives us nice examples here: [1], [2], [3].

 

When atheists make claims about past Christian misdeeds I know to be factually wrong, I won’t accept this just for trying to be viewed as one of “these cool Christians”.

But I must also clearly face the truth that there are real atrocities committed by followers of Christ, both in the past and the present.

 

Homophobia, Conservaphobia and legitimate criticism

I have no big problem with people respectfully disagreeing with each other abouthomosexuality.

I know there are Christian Conservatives who consider a homosexual relationship sinful but DO really love gay people as their fellow humans.

As I made it clear, I’m against any kind of discrimination due to their honest moral conviction.

What infuriates me are the Conservatives who passionately hate homosexuals and dehumanize them.

So I think that the following logo was a welcome move:

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Given that, it is only fair that progressive Christians such as Michelle provided such an answer:

 

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This is how I want societal debates to be carried out.

 

 

My sincere apologies (and how I hope to overcome the culture war)

I made quite a few people angry due to a silly sentence I wrote in my last post.

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Crude wrote this as a response to me on his blog.

 

A “Progressive” Problem, and an unfortunate decision

 

By political and intellectual temperament, I’m broadly conservative. I’m against gay marriage. I favor small government. I prefer charity over government welfare. I believe illegal immigrants should largely be sent back to their country of origin. I oppose abortion. I oppose racial preferences in work or school. The list goes on. I argue with conservatives often, and many times I come to conservative conclusions through a different intellectual route than many others do – but at the end of the day, I’m largely an economic and social conservative with some caveats.

But I also reject clannish mentalities. Just as the fact that I’m Catholic doesn’t mean I can’t find common ground with many protestants, jews and otherwise, the fact that I’m conservative doesn’t mean I don’t try to find common ground with liberals. I can’t prove this to anyone – I can point at some past conversations here and there where I talked with liberals and kept cool, just as I can point at many friendly atheist conversations – but it’s never going to be beyond dispute. All I can tell you is that I have – for many years now – tried to find common ground. I’ve tried to keep in mind that the socialist-inclined person may well be acting out of a sincere concern for the poor, and if they are Christian, this may ultimately be rooted in their faith. I’ve tried to keep ultimately benevolent motivations in mind for everything from the agitation for gay marriage to the demands to grant mass amnesty to illegal immigrants to otherwise. This has been a point of pride for me, I will say outright – instead of going right to the conservative or, God forbid, GOP clan behavior, I try to remain calm and cool. I do not want, especially among Christians, yet another bit of pointless fracturing.

I am fast starting to come around to the view, however, that this approach – indeed, this mentality – is flawed. No, more than just flawed. I’m beginning to think that it’s counter-productive, pointlessly idyllic, and ultimately dangerous to regard any self-described “progressive” as anything but, intellectually, a hostile individual.

Pardon me if this post is more about my own experiences and psychology than the broad topics I normally deal with, even if flippantly, but I feel it must be said.


I wrote recently about the worry I have with “progressive” Christians: that the only reason they even stand in opposition to the New Atheists is because the Cultists of Gnu are openly hostile to them, and that this is actually a relatively recent intellectual development. Prior to the New Atheists, atheists and “progressive” Christians were, more often than not, social and political allies. They both favored very liberal cultures. They both despised conservative culture and politics, and wanted them wiped out. They voted the same way, thought the same way about many issues, and even rejected much of the same religion. The only reason they are not working hand in hand anymore is because the atheists have gotten aggressive and decided they don’t need the “progressives” anymore, and that it’s a net liability to work with them. You can see this in Richard Dawkins’ own writings, among others.

Now, I’ve thought about this for a while – but I classified it merely as a worry, intellectually. A possibility, something to pay attention to but which I wasn’t quite willing to invest myself in as accepting as true. But I’ve finally been forced to realize… in each and every situation where I have encountered a self-identified “progressive” – not necessarily a “liberal” (which is fast becoming a word for a certain kind of older generation of thinker), but a “progressive” – I have found a person who was keenly interested in building bridges with atheists, and wiping conservatives off the map. I don’t merely mean disagreeing with social conservatives and arguing against them. I mean thinking up ways to pass laws to make it, quite literally, in practice illegal to even have (particularly socially) conservative beliefs, much less to act on or spread them.

I have seen the “progressives” defend laws that force Christians to take part in gay weddings – knowing full well that these Christians will be targeted by activists and forced to compromise their principles. They do it with glee, smiling happily and feeling all warm at the thought that somewhere out there a person who disapproves of gay marriage is going to have their feet put to the fire, and that if they don’t do as they’re fucking told, the government will step in and punish them severely. I see these “progressives” cheering when someone is fired from their job when they’re outed as having supported Proposition 8 in California, or if they disapprove of gay marriage. I do not consider these minor issues. These are situations where government – the men with guns and the power to take your property, your children, your livelihood – are being used as the tool of choice to advance a political agenda that ultimately comes down to requiring people to give their active blessing to any and all sexual acts deemed ‘good’ by the morality police. The “progressive” Christians know this. They embrace it. They say “Civil Rights!” and that’s all that needs to be said, as far as they’re concerned, no matter how goddamn inane it is to try and extend civil rights to a sexual act.

And before someone says “not every “progressive” Christian is like that”, all I’ll say is – if there are ones who oppose such things, they are apparently so small in number as to be considered functionally irrelevant.

That’s only the tip of the iceberg on the broad political front. The problem is, the personal front has not been any better – the “progressive” Christians I’ve met and interacted with. I documented my exchange with James McGrath, where he tried every which-way to justify his little hate campaign, complete with fellow “progressive” allies. I’ve watched “progressive” Christians I know of pipe up in conversations about gay marriage, subtly presenting themselves as opponents of gay marriage but whimpering that ‘we’re losing the younger generation by pushing this’ and how we should temporarily be quiet about it ‘so we can save more souls’, when the reality was they were lockstep in favor of gay marriage and were just doing their part to encourage dissent (and in this case I knew, because I saw them argue as much elsewhere). In each and every encounter I’ve had with a “progressive” Christian, I have ultimately lost respect for them – not because they differ with me on various issues, but because of their tactics of choice, because of their focus. It became obvious to me that if they had to choose between a fellow Christian becoming an atheist who was in favor of liberal politics, or remaining a Christian with conservative leanings, they would push for atheism every time. And before anyone acts offended that I would infer this about them, now’s a good time to mention I really don’t give a shit who’s offended by this. It’s the impression I’ve gotten, and I’m speaking frankly.

But I think the last straw for me – the final blow – was when I went to Lothar’s blog recently, and read the following:

I agree with anti-theist Richard Dawkins that stressing this to small kids is a form of child abuse and that this damnable doctrine ought to be jettisoned.

I want to stress something here. When Lothar embraces this kind of anti-scientific, unfounded (save for a very interesting case of philosophical and metaphysical commitment) view, he is saying something along the lines of the following: Take a parent who teaches their children that some people are sent to hell for eternity. Put them alongside a father who fingered his son’s anus, and a mother who punched her daughter so hard she knocked a tooth out. These three people are all, in a broad sense, guilty of the same general crime, and should be treated accordingly.

Let me highlight this point: if someone claims that teaching a child about hell is child abuse, they have been put in the following dilemma: they must either believe some forms of child abuse should be legal, or they must believe that children with parents who teach them this belief should be punished and have their children taken away from them by the state. The fact of it is, it’s not a fucking minor point, nor is it a game. To make that commitment – to decide that your personal preference about religious doctrine should be enforced by the arm of the state – is not just a bridge too far. It is a country too far. And, I will note, this kind of “progressive” Christian talk never gets directed at atheists. Show me the “progressive” who believes that teaching children naturalist or atheist beliefs about death and even existence – and these are not ‘pretty’ or ‘encouraging’ things – constitutes child abuse. They are nowhere to be found.

I do not say this lightly. I’ve liked Lothar. He’s interacted with me pleasantly, considerately. He has done me, personally, no wrong. But I can’t turn a blind eye to this sort of thing anymore and convince myself that we are in any real sense on the ‘same side’. I’m tired of watching the New Atheists, a collection of people which included actual marxists and certainly very loud left-wingers, being cast as ‘a right-wing hate group’. I am tired of watching ‘conservative’ evangelicals come in for a repeated beating as the people who are somehow doing the most the harm Christianity, when the fact is that if someone ever tries to persuade you that Christianity is true then 9 out of 10 times it’s probably a conservative, because “progressives” largely think belief in Christianity is near-irrelevant anyway and would find such preaching mortally embarrassing. I am tired of watching the agitation for every sect of Christianity in the world to quickly start ordaining women because it’s just so damn important and no dissent is ever to be tolerated on that issue either. I am tired of every passage in the bible that involves God saying or doing something a “progressive” does not automatically approve of being jettisoned with the ‘well the bible isn’t inerrant so we’ll just interpret God as meaning something else’ line – and treating dissent or disagreement on this topic as itself damnable. I am tired of the mental gymnastics where the only real and clear sins someone can engage in are to believe the earth is young, to vote against universal health care, or to oppose gay marriage, feminism, global warming initiatives or whatever else is trendiest this week.

But most of all, I am tired of trying to ignore the fact that in practically every one of these cases, the “progressives” are not only venomously hostile to dissent, but they openly agitate for their opponents to be squelched, crushed, persecuted, fined and even jailed. And I’m tired of having to pretend that such people are not, put simply, monsters.

This is not specific to Lothar. It is, in my personal experience, near universal among “progressives”, Christian or not. But I will say one thing. Lothar has written critically about France’s historical attempts to purge the german language from their country, in the interests of having a nice, unified french-speaking nation. He has called this cultural genocide. But the fact is, cultural genocide is exactly what he ultimately endorses with regards to conservative Christians, more or less across the board. I say it with a heavy heart – it is hard to criticize someone who has been consistently considerate with me like this. But the idea of having common ground with “progressives” now truly appears to me as little more than the grounds for a work of fiction, one that is particularly fantastical – and it was that hope for common ground that drove a lot of my silence and hesitancy previously. The hope is gone.

So, I suppose, this little blog post in the middle of nowhere can stand as a testimonial on behalf of one broadly conservative, Catholic individual. If you are a Christian conservative who has thought that maybe a shared belief in God or Christ can build some bridges between conservative and progressive Christians, take it from someone who has talked with a number of them, watched them, and thought about this for years: they do not want cooperation. They want you, and anyone who thinks like you, converted or pushed to the absolute margins of society. They would sooner have you be a “progressive” atheist than a conservative Christian if the option were available. They are engaged in a war of cultural genocide against you, and they are not above carrying this war out through any means necessary, from having you fired to making it illegal to even raise your children with your values and beliefs in mind.

Behave accordingly.”

 

I responded there

Okay Crude, I recognize this was an (incredibly) silly sentence, I should have said that “traumatizing a kid with hell CAN be a true child abuse”.

After all, my own parents are nominal Catholics (and nominal secular Christians) and they taught me that evil people would suffer eternally, yet this didn’t terrorize me by any means.

I have a very impulsive personality (having ADHD) which leads me all to often to “shoot from the hip” while regretting it in hindsight.

 

I further recognize that instead of fostering a dialog between people with different views (as my blog is all about) I have all too often myself used an emotional rhetoric sometimes even bordering on bullying.

I have failed my Conservative readers in many respects by NOT fairly and impartially analyzing their arguments and motives, resorting instead to rhetoric tricks.

 

Don’t get me wrong: my view that many Conservative Christian dogmas are harmful for both the society and the Church hasn’t changed.

But there are many good conservative ideas as well as many arguments they use which are not as easy to dismiss as many liberals think they are.

I sincerely apologize to all my Conservative readers for not having fairly represented their strongest arguments and most rational positions.

 

It is my hope they will forgive  me and still comment on my blog because I want to foster a true dialog where people disagree in a spirit of mutual respect.

 

Promoting a really tolerant and open society

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Crude is entirely right that too many liberal Christians have an intolerant mindset and want to impose their ideas by any means.

I am, unfortunately, not always an exception.

 

I think that rational arguments should be employed for promoting our progressive convictions.

Firing someone just because he does not accept gay marriage is an ignoble act.

I will soon blog about this phenomenon and explain why it strongly INCREASES homophobia instead of combating it, as it can be observed in France.

 

I don’t want to DESTROY Conservative Christianity as a whole and have many Conservative Christian friends with whom I agree to disagree.

What I want to defeat is the bigotry one can find in many American Conservative lobbies.

But now I also want to destroy the very same intolerance which is conspicuous on the left side of the Kulturkampf.

 

My (unattainable) dream would be to live in society where being for or against gay marriage has no repercussion in terms of employments, friendships and relationships and where people really strive for mutual understanding instead of yelling at each others.

I obviously still far short in that respect.