The Watering Hole, Saturday, April 9, 2016: David Barton – What a Fool Believes

I know you’re at least a relatively intelligent person. I know some of you are at least as intelligent, though nowhere near as vain, as I. I know you’re not incredibly stupid, because you wouldn’t even be trying to read this blog if you were. You’d be perplexed by the preponderance of polysyllabic put downs pointed at perennially petrified prevaricators of poison posing as presidential possibles as you probe your proboscis with a pinky. You poopy-head. So I know you’re not so foolish as to believe what self-titled “historian” and delusional snake oil salesman David Barton had to say about the relationship between how one reads, interprets, and understands The Bible (specific edition and reasons why it’s better than the other versions unknown) and the Constitution of the United States (the one that makes no mention of The Bible or God, and which even says you can’t require a religious test for any public office in the United States, including Chaplain.) Barton’s been known to say ridiculous things many, many, many, many times before, but this recent one was a real head scratcher. Even scratching someone else’s head didn’t help.

“If your religious faith is such that it doesn’t connect you to God, you’re not going to be good for the country. How they look at the Bible will tell you how they’re going to look at the Constitution. I’m not saying the Bible and the Constitution are the same thing, but I’m saying you have the same view toward authority, you have the same view toward there are absolutes, there are standards that should be followed and must be followed.

He continued…

“The fervency with which someone follows their religious faith, a biblical faith, is nearly always a direct indicator of how well they will follow the Constitution. If they don’t respect the Bible, they won’t respect other firm, fixed documents like the Constitution, so we, as citizens, ought to engage in that type of personal religious test for our president.”

Didn’t someone just mention how the Constitution prohibits any kind of religious test to hold public office in the US? Oh, yeah! It was me, just a few sentences ago. My how time flies. And my how wrong he is. So very, very wrong.

If your religious faith is such that it doesn’t connect you to God,
There are thousands of variations of what are legitimately called religious belief systems practiced, for good or for evil, throughout the world. Many of them involve no gods of any kind, but instead promote a spiritual connection to the planet and all life on it, especially your fellow human beings. Atheism is not one of the religious belief systems, because Atheism is not a religion. It’s simply the belief that there are no such things as gods. Any other beliefs about the Universe, its origins, and whether or not you should work with your fellow human beings to make life better for all of us or be a selfish conservative jerk are entirely separate.

you’re not going to be good for the country.
I’m going to stop you again right there, Davey. There is this false conceit among Evangelicals that it is impossible to have a moral center without a belief in, and fear of, one or more gods. Nothing could be further from The Truth. People can be and are good without God. No matter which God you believe will punish you or reward you after you die, that God still wants you to follow one rule above all others that even the people who don’t believe in that God follow: Treat other people the way you would like them to treat you. It’s so simple, and there’s no argument against it. Human beings are social creatures (not me; I am a creature, just not a very social one), and in order to both survive and prosper, we depend on other people. No matter how much of a rugged individualist you might think you are, you cannot prosper alone. You might be able to survive, but you won’t be able to do more than that. And you probably won’t smell too good, either. We need the help of others, so it makes sense to treat others the way we’d like them to treat us. You don’t need to fear an eternity of pain and suffering after you die on this plane of existence to understand that. So why bother fearing it?

How they look at the Bible will tell you how they’re going to look at the Constitution.
How I look at a work of pure fiction, put together for the sole purpose of controlling people’s lives through fear and intimidation, will tell people how I look at the founding document that guides how my country will govern me and treat me as a citizen? Even when the founding document makes no mention of the work of pure fiction, or whether or not I have to believe it? Not sure how they’re the same.

I’m not saying the Bible and the Constitution are the same thing,
Good, because it would prove you’re an idiot if you did.

but I’m saying you have the same view toward authority,
No, you don’t. The Bible commands the People to obey the ones in authority; the Constitution commands the ones in authority to obey the People. The Bible is not for people who want to be free, it’s for people who want to be authoritarian followers.

you have the same view toward there are absolutes, there are standards that should be followed and must be followed.
I don’t want to digress into an area in which I’m not well educated, that of moral absolutes, but I will say that throughout human history there have been people who have found excuses to commit the most heinous of atrocities against other human beings, and often those excuses had their roots in religious beliefs.

“The fervency with which someone follows their religious faith, a biblical faith, is nearly always a direct indicator of how well they will follow the Constitution.
That would mean the reverse is true, too. That how well they follow the Constitution is an indicator of the fervency with which they follow their biblical faith. There is absolutely no connection between the two. Virtually every president in our nation’s history, from all parties, has to a certain extent violated the Constitution. Some did it to test principles, and some did it because didn’t know any better. But all of them (to date) claimed to be Christians. I can only name one president who I know practiced what his faith taught him to do, who actually did what his religion said he should do for people less fortunate than himself, and to this day he continues to be vilified by the very people who claim if you’re not Christian, you’re not worth public office in the United States. And that man is President James Carter. The Religious Right wanted to deify Ronald Reagan so much that they had to make the political opponent he defeated, Jimmy Carter, out to be the most evil human to walk the planet. If Ronald Reagan was going to be a saint, then Jimmy Carter had to be the devil. Does anybody truly believe that Jimmy Carter would deliberately violate a law passed to ban him from giving money to certain people by trading arms for hostages? Religious Conservatives is so nutty.

If they don’t respect the Bible, they won’t respect other firm, fixed documents like the Constitution,
There is absolutely no truth to this statement, and it’s a mighty huge insult to anyone who does not consider him or herself a Christian, to suggest that you must respect the Bible in order to be able to respect the Constitution. BTW, Barton is also promoting the staunchly held but wrong conservative belief that the Constitution is fixed, with only one correct interpretation. To believe something like that, you would have to think the Framers had no intention of the government having a say in how things like electronic communication devices could be regulated or used. Or in how huge multi-national oil companies (which they would have objected to being allowed to exist in the first place) could exploit our habitat without concern for anyone telling them how they can run their business in the US. Such things did not exist 230 years ago, so by conservative logic, nothing in the Constitution should apply to those things.

so we, as citizens, ought to engage in that type of personal religious test for our president.”
Except for that no religious test thing again. If only the Constitution didn’t keep getting in the way of forcing everyone to follow the Bible, they could turn this place into Hell on Earth. And then they’d put Ted Cruz in charge of it. And Life as we know it on this planet would come to an end.

And then a few million years from now, asteroids carrying various minerals will crash into what’s left of the Earth. The minerals they bring will combine with amino acids to form new lifeforms, just as they did here billions of years ago. And Evolution will kick in as more and more life forms develop so that the ones most suitable to the environment as it will exist then will prosper the most, and pass on their DNA to their offspring, some of whom will be slightly different from their parents. And before you know it, Jesus will be saying, yet again, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” That is, if you’re a Christian who claims to believe in Evolution.

Daily open thread. From whom do you buy your snake oil?

The Watering Hole, Saturday, October 3, 2015: Backward, Christian Soldiers

There is a belief among some people (and when I say “some people,” I mean Conservative Christian Americans) that the United States of America was founded as a Christian nation, on Judeo-Christian values, and for the benefit of Christians. They are wrong on all three counts. The only evidence I’ve seen that the USA was “founded” as a Christian nation come from David Barton, a well-known snake oil salesman who has been misleading people for decades, and all of it refers to the USA as it was founded under the Articles of Confederation. Barton and his ilk want the USA to be a Christian nation so badly that they promote a philosophy called Seven Mountains Dominionism, which is a plan to establish a virtual theocracy here. In their minds, the Bible takes precedent over the US Constitution. (I can promise you this atheist will oppose such a movement at every turn, but I seriously doubt any such thing will ever happen.) But I don’t believe that any of their thinking is correct regarding the secular United States of America formed under our present Constitution. The authors of the First Amendment saw what a government run according to someone’s idea of Religion, Christian or otherwise, could do and decided they wanted no part of that. Besides, when Conservatives speak of “Judeo-Christian values,” what they’re really talking about is Old Testament punishment for things they personally find offensive, especially gay people. (If someone could explain below why there are both Leviticus 18 and Leviticus 20 in the O.T., I’d really like to know. Both list pretty much the same sins, but Lev 18 says the sinners should be banished, while Lev 20 says they should be put to death. Which one Conservative Christians quote can tell you a lot about them as human beings.) And just because it was Christians escaping persecution in Europe for their extreme conservative Christianity who landed here and took the land from the people living here at the time does not mean this nation (under our present Constitution) was founded just for Christians. Again, some people (see above) actually believe that. The only argument I can say against that belief is that nowhere in the body of the Constitution, or in its Amendments, are the words “God,” “Christ,” or “Christianity” to be found. If the USA was really “founded as a Christian nation,” wouldn’t you expect those three words to be all over the Constitution and its Amendments? Why would they not be? BTW, through his usual tactic of lies and deception, Barton is pushing a new movement to get Conservative Christians to vote for Christians candidates and principles. I have to wonder why this movement would be necessary if this were already a Christian nation, founded on Judeo-Christian values, for Christians. Logic means nothing to people like this.

There is also a belief among some people (and when I say “some people,” I mean Conservative Christian Americans) that Christians in this country are being persecuted for their beliefs, with Rowan County, KY, Clerk Kim Davis being one of the latest examples. They believe that Christianity itself is under attack. They’re so insecure in themselves and in their Religion that they act as if the mention of any other religions will bring everything they believe crashing down. (In reality, the Truth is enough to do that.) It has gotten so bad that a conservative Christian organization in Georgia is freaking out because students are being taught the basics of the three Abrahamic religions (the ones who all worship the same God under different names) in their studies of the Middle East. [Never mind the school district being targeted has been teaching the same class for nine years without prior complaints.] Now face it, you can’t begin to comprehend the cultures and events in the Middle East without first understanding the role Religion plays in the region. For one thing, it is the birthplace of all three Abrahamic Religions. On that topic there’s something I have to say. For the life of me, I don’t understand how we can get three major Religions who all worship the very same God (on this, there is no dispute, even though some people in the story expressed disbelief of this, which is proof that this particular education is needed there) but who all say that worship must take place in different forms, under penalty of death (all three, not just one), yet all claim to be the “One True Religion”? And how can there be hundreds and thousands of variations of these Major Religions who also claim to be the one correct way to worship God? (They must be different or else they would all be the same one.) Anyway, perhaps that’s something the curriculum might have explained, but I’d have to move down to Georgia to hear it, and I have spent enough time in Georgia, thank you. (Military training. Can’t say more.) But why do Conservative Christians see teaching someone the basics (some call them “tenets”) of other religions as a threat to the free exercise of their own? Learning about them is not converting them to that religion. Besides, it’s what you actually do, not what you tell others you do, that defines which religion you practice. You can learn everything you want about Islam, but if you still pray to Jehovah, and you still attend church services each week, and you still wear a cross around your neck, you’re still a Christian, so stop worrying about it. There’s nothing wrong with being a Muslim anymore than there is with being a Jew or a Christian. You can pick apart any Religion based on a belief in a supernatural being who secretly tells only three people what he wants, and then expects everyone to believe that person (again, under penalty of death in all three cases), and find all kinds of things that make that religion look bad. If you want to save time, I’m sure you can find things in all three that make them look good. But there’s no reason for American Christians to fear persecution just because other Americans are exempt from Christianity’s rules. That hasn’t stopped our installing 44 consecutive Christians as President (one of them twice.) Get over it, Conservative Christians. No one is coming for your cross.

There is yet another belief of at least one person (and when I say “one person,” I mean the conservative Tennessee Lt Governor Ron Ramsey, a gun nut who believes the NRA’s crap about the purpose and scope of the Second Amendment) that because this latest mass shooting specifically targeted Christians because of their faith, those “who are serious about their faith” should “think about getting a handgun carry permit.” He goes on to say, “I have always believed that it is better to have a gun and not need it than to need a gun and not have it.” That’s funny, I have always believed it is better to resolve a situation without someone dying than it is to kill someone to bring it to an end. What I don’t understand is this belief that a gun is the only option for self-defense. It is because of this cavalier attitude toward guns that so many children have died from being shot by other children. I understand why Conservatives feel this way. (It has to do with the way their brains perceive danger more than a Liberal’s brain might.) But what I can’t understand is why a Christian would believe this, too, especially one who was “serious” about his faith. Jesus never carried a gun nor did he preach violence. The Lt Gov concluded his post with, “Our enemies are armed. We must do likewise.” Really? I’m no ally of any organized religion, and I may even go so far as to call myself an enemy of them, but I also believe in non-violence and I would never carry a gun around with me (absent the collapse of civilization) to make my enmity toward religion known. Like Jesus, I would use words to persuade my fellow Americans that more guns and religions are not the answer to America’s problems, one of which is the presence of too many guns and religions.

If nothing else, Conservative Christians want to take this country backwards, not forwards. They are likely the very people to whom then-Senator Barack Obama referred on the campaign trail as those who “cling to guns and religion” during frustrations with economic conditions. [BTW, I learned something in looking up that remark. I always heard that Mid-West Christian gun owners were offended by that remark, but they weren’t the only ones he mentioned. The entire sentence was, “And it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”] I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Jesus wasn’t a Conservative. And he wasn’t a gun nut, either. And he wasn’t afraid of other people. You’re the ones who are supposed to be like him, not me.

Give us this day our daily open thread, and forgive us our late posting, as we have forgiven those who have failed to timely post before.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, July 5, 2014: The Fault in Our Bartons

David Barton is at it again. In a span of about two minutes, the professional liar recently made several false claims, including that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is an “Atheist Mormon.” [From the audio clip on RWW’s site:]

He has actually proposed an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would re-write the First Amendment to take away original protections and limit the protections in the First Amendment.

Actually, Senator Reid didn’t propose the amendment, New Mexico Senator Tom Udall did. And campaign finance reform was not on the minds of the authors of the First Amendment, nor was it written to protect the flow of unlimited amounts of money in the federal campaign process. Senator Udall’s amendment would protect citizens from that flow.

What it also tells me is, and he’s apparently a Mormon guy, that’s fine. He is probably an atheist Mormon, Mormon in name only and the reason I say that is that so many Mormon folks are so conservative on the Constitution and such great defenders.

There is no “apparently” about it, Harry Reid IS a Mormon. (How do you like that little dismissal of Mormons – “that’s fine.”) And while it is true that Mormons as a group have the highest percentage of self-identified Conservatives and the lowest percentage of self-identified Liberals, it is not correct to call Liberals Mormons “in name only” just because they aren’t Conservative. It would be like saying soon-to-be unemployed VA Representative Eric Cantor is a Jew in name only because he’s Conservative. And it’s thoroughly hypocritical to have such a mendacious snake oil salesman who proclaims to be a Christian question someone else’s devotion to his faith. But the Gish Galloping continued.

And so, when you look at what he’s doing, the Bill of Rights is laid out in the Declaration of Independence, you start with the first belief that there’s a Creator, the second belief that the Creator gives us certain inalienable rights, the third belief in the Declaration is that government exists to protect those inalienable rights.

Where to begin? First of all, the Bill of Rights (which usually refers to the first ten Amendments to the US Constitution) is not “laid out in the Declaration of Independence.” While there are certainly references to grievances later addressed by the Bill of Rights (which was not written by the same body of people who wrote the Constitution), they are not all individually and specifically addressed. They’re pretty much ignored completely in the Articles of Confederation, written less than eighteen months after the Declaration. If the Bill of Rights were such an important part of the Declaration (as Barton implies), then why were they not mentioned at all in the Articles of Confederation, the framework for the first United States of America? As for the sequence of beliefs laid out in the Declaration, Barton is twisting things to support his erroneous agenda that the United States was founded as a Christian Nation. The first belief isn’t that “there’s a Creator” but that all men are created equal. It’s an important distinction because it’s true that all men are born equal whether or not you believe in a God. (I don’t believe in a God, but I do believe we are all born equal and that no one is born “better” than anyone else.) In fact, this line was specifically written as a refutation of the then-widely held belief by monarchs in the Divine Right of Kings. It was a message to King George III that just because he was born into a family of nobility did not mean he was better than anyone else, or that he was born with rights others did not have. It does say that government exists to secure these rights, but he leaves out an important distinction: “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed.” There is no dependence on God for our rights. Humans guarantee our rights with the support of other humans.

So eleven years later when the Founding Fathers did the Bill of Rights they said, hey, these are those rights that we were talking about that the government is not allowed to touch because these come from the Creator and government exists to protect rights from the Creator.

The “Founding fathers” did not “do” the Bill of Rights, the First Congress (a body of men elected after ratification of the US Constitution, which had no Bill of Rights when it was ratified) did. They were introduced by James Madison (one of the primary authors of the Constitution), but he didn’t think they were necessary, and that his primary motivation for introducing the original twelve amendments was so that they could tell their constituents who wanted them that they tried. In his introduction of the Bill of Rights, Madison made no mention of God or a Creator, nor did he reference the Declaration of Independence, nor any “God-given rights.”

So that’s why we’ve never messed with the Bill of Rights because they were always off limits to government because they came from God directly to man, they did not go through government to get here.

Actually, if you read Madison’s comments, he mentions that several States already had a Bill of Rights, and that the ones he proposed were similar to the ones in the States. It’s important to Barton that he maintain the fiction that our rights came only from God and not from an agreement among humans that people should be treated better than they have been.

If you don’t have the belief that you will answer to God for what you do, you will sell your country, you will sell your kids’ future, you will sell everything going on and that’s where we’re getting. And so it’s not just a belief in God, it’s the belief that you answer to God and you believe that, and see that’s where Harry Reid is not. You know, he may believe in God, he probably says he does; I don’t think he has any cognizance of having to answer to God for what he does.

Actually, Davey, Harry Reid doesn’t have to answer to God for what he does in Congress. He only has to answer to the people of the state of Nevada. And they continue to send him back to Congress despite the right wing crazies the Republicans run against him.

If the David Bartons of the world have any fault, it’s that they so badly want the United States to become a Theocracy that they’ll ignore the Ninth Commandment not to bear false witness (lie) about the intent of the people who threw off the shackles of oppression to declare the colonies free and independent states. And it’s up to the rest of us to stop them from succeeding. And that is best done by voting.

This is our daily open thread. Have at it.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, January 12, 2013: There’s Truth, and There’s What Some People Believe

We have a serious problem in America. Too many of our fellow countrymen believe things that are just plain demonstrably untrue. I’m not referring to religious beliefs, which presents its own set of misguided believers (did you know that over the past thirty years, Gallup polls have consistently shown that around 45% of Americans believe that God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so?), I’m talking simple facts. It sure surprised me to learn that about one in five Americans believes the Sun revolves around the Earth. I always thought that one was a “no-brainer” and I guess for those one in five, it’s true – they have no brain.

That’s not to say that intelligent people can’t believe something highly unlikely or, in the opinion of some people, highly implausible. A National Geographic poll from last year found that about 80 million Americans (about 36%) believe UFOs exist. Scientists will tell us this is highly implausible. They are certain no intelligent, sufficiently advanced life exists elsewhere in our own solar system, so any extra-terrestrial life forms must come from another star system. But because of the vast distances between stars (our nearest neighbor is roughly 25 trillion miles away), it would require faster-than-light travel to get here, and that, they claim, is scientifically impossible. FTR, I am not of this belief. I believe that vast distances can be traveled, but we just haven’t figured out a practical way to do it yet. And while I am not one of those who believes aliens crashed landed in Roswell, NM, over 65 years ago and our government covered it up, I do believe we are not alone in the universe and that it is entirely possible that we have been visited before by extra-terrestrial life. When I was a kid, my mother and sister came home from shopping saying there were three green lights in the sky that seemed to follow them home. Of course, many people perceive lights in the sky to be following them, especially when those lights are far away. I looked outside and could see them myself. To this day, I have no idea what they were, but since there were three of them, and not one, and they were much bigger than a small dot, I knew they couldn’t be the object most commonly mistaken for a flying saucer.

The good news is that while roughly 36% of Americans believe that UFOs exist, only about a fourth of that number (8%) identify themselves as Tea Party people. This is way down from April 2010 when 24% proudly called themselves Tea Party people. The things they believe make no sense at all, and what’s worse is that they’ll desperately hang onto those false beliefs no matter what we try to tell them. One of their heroes is a charlatan named David Barton. Barton is a self-professed “historian” who looks for ways to distort the historical record in an attempt to convince people that the United States of America is not a secular nation but a Christian one, not simply because three-quarters of our citizens self-identify with some form of Christianity, but because the Founding Fathers were Christians, not Deists, who wanted everybody to practice Christianity. (Which version is never made clear.) His most recent book, “The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson,” was so full of errors that the publisher withdrew the book from publication. (Barton apparently bought back all his books from there original publisher, Thomas Nelson, and then tried to pass them off as coming from Barton’s own publishing company, Wallbuilders.) Barton claims that “much of the disputed material within his book could easily be clarified if not for the editing performed by publisher Thomas Nelson. Much of the removed material, Barton argued, contained supporting information for those facts which have been questioned.” Did that deter Barton or his followers? No. One of his most ardent supporters, one who quoted him all the time and gave him a forum to spew his lies, is Glenn Beck. Beck has decided that his publishing company, Mercury Ink, will publish Barton’s book. Barton said the new edition “will not include any substantive changes, but I will rephrase some things to remove any potential confusion.” I’m pretty sure the only confusion that exists is in your own mind, David, where you believe yourself to be a legitimate historian. It doesn’t help your case that Newt Gingrich, a known distorter of facts and reality, thinks highly of your work as an historian. I also wouldn’t be proud to have Mike Huckabee, former Governor of Arkansas and presidential candidate, introduce you with comments like, “I almost wish that there would be something like a simultaneous telecast and all Americans would be forced, forced—at gunpoint, no less—to listen to every David Barton message.” Gee, I should be forced to listen to David Barton at gunpoint? And this from an ordained minister?

David Barton is just one glaring example, but there are others. Sadly, some of them walk the Halls of Congress in between writing and voting on laws that govern the entire nation. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), when asked in an interview with GQ magazine, “How old do you think the Earth is?” ducked the question and gave a lame answer which simply proved he had no idea and couldn’t be bothered to find out:

I’m not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I’m not a scientist. I don’t think I’m qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It’s one of the great mysteries.

Rep. Paul Broun, speaking at the 2012 Sportsman’s Banquet, which was held in a church, told the crowd, “God’s word is true. I’ve come to understand that. All that stuff I was taught about evolution, embryology, the big bang theory; all of that is lies straight from the pit of hell.” The article goes on to say, “Broun, a Republican from Oconee County, is a medical doctor and running unopposed in District 10 on the November ballot. He serves on the Congressional science and technology, and homeland security committees.” A medical doctor who thinks that stuff he was taught about embryology was a lie serves on a Science committee.

Worse still is the right wing denial of climate change, which is unquestionably real and caused by human activity, something about 97% of climatologists who took part in an online surveyed confirmed. Let me try to explain this as best I can. Since the Industrial Revolution, humans have been burning a hell of a lot more coal and oil than they did before. When the coal and oil stays in the ground, the carbon within it stays in the ground with it. When you burn it, the carbon dioxide goes up into the atmosphere and eventually comes down into the Earth’s oceans. Carbon dioxide holds heat very well (which is why it’s called a greenhouse gas), and this means the Earth’s oceans are warmer. When storms form out over the ocean, they get energy from warm waters, so as they pass over warmer waters, the storms tends to pick up in intensity. This is what produces those intense summer and winter storms we’ve been seeing in recent years. It’s not that climate change is causing the storms (which is one way right wing climate change deniers distort the facts), it’s that climate change is making the storms we get stronger. Climate change is one reason why Hurricane Sandy was so devastating. But having climate change deniers sit on Congressional committees that deal with Science is a recipe for a nation ill prepared to deal with the effects of climate change, which include rising sea levels that threaten everybody who lives on the coasts. It’s almost as if these people equate having an opinion with having a valid opinion. Science, and reality, don’t work that way.

So what can we do? I don’t know. The challenge we face is that telling people the truth doesn’t seem to work, especially when it comes to political matters (which ought to be based on facts and science). Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt (whose great paper “What Makes People Vote Republican?” I highly recommend) said in a recent interview

Political views aren’t like views about factual matters. If you believe that it’s faster to drive to the airport than take mass transit, and I give you evidence that mass transit is faster, there’s a good chance that I’ll change your mind, because your goal is actually to get to the airport more quickly. With political and moral questions, our goal isn’t “the truth.” That’s why it’s always vital to bear in mind the importance of group membership when trying to understand political differences. Political beliefs act as badges of membership, badges that say who we are and give us a sense of meaning and purpose. They’re badges that we display to show our moral character. So simply refuting someone’s views about global warming or needle-exchange programs or abortion or anything else will have little effect, because people aren’t going to betray their team because you show them evidence that they’re wrong.

The only solution I see is to not vote for Republicans until they start accepting that Reality is not what you decide it is, but what it actually is, no matter how much it contradicts what you would like it to be.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss Reality, climate change, Republican refusal to accept facts, or any other you choose. Just don’t lie to me.

The Watering Hole – Saturday Aug 11, 2012 – Bearer of False Witness

Conservative evangelist David Barton, who likes to go around the country telling people he’s an historian, suffered a major setback this week when Thomas Nelson, the Christian publisher of his book, “The Jefferson Lies,” pulled the book from publication because it contained too many lies. And who could blame him them? Readers at the History News Network voted the book the “least credible history book in print.” But try not to weep too much for this Right-Wing Nut Job. He will publish the book under his own publishing company, Wall Builders, and is already selling the book at a discount.

What happened was that two conservative Christian professors, Warren Throckmorton and Michael Coulter, did some fact-checking and found that many of Barton’s claims about Jefferson simply didn’t hold up to objective scrutiny and published their findings in a book called “Getting Jefferson Right.” According to the Amazon website page for the book, some of the questions they answer include:

-Was Jefferson unable to free his slaves under Virginia law?

-Did Jefferson sign his presidential documents, “In the year of our Lord Christ?”

-Did Jefferson and other Founders finance a Bible in 1798 to get the Word of God to America’s Families?

-Did Jefferson found the Virginia Bible Society?

-Was Jefferson an orthodox Christian, who only rarely expressed questions about orthodox Christian doctrine?

-Did Jefferson edit the Gospels of the New Testament to remove sections he disagreed with?

-Did Jefferson found the University of Virginia to be the first transdenominational Christian college?

If you’ve ever watched David Barton being interviewed in a non-friendly setting (by which I mean some place other than Fox News Channel or Newt Gingrich’s bedroom), like The Daily Show, you can almost immediately see him employ his deflective tactics to weasel his way through the conversation. One of this favorite techniques is to re-define words in the middle of the discussion to “prove” that you don’t understand history as well as he does. He also likes to throw out obscure, difficult-to-disprove factoids, as evidence of his claims. And, as with many on the right, he likes to use the Straw Man argument, such as when he claimed that people everywhere call Jefferson an atheist, as evidenced by a billboard that went up somewhere, when most of us who know the truth know that’s not true. Jefferson really did believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ, he just didn’t buy into all the divine miracles attributed to the man.

But Barton also likes to divert the conversation to what he believes are examples of Christians being denied their First Amendment right to practice their religion. He cites Pastor Mark Holick of Kansas, saying he was arrested just for trying to pass out Bibles to anyone who walked by. That’s not exactly what happened, or why he was arrested. He was arrested because he was blocking the entrance to a mosque while trying to get Muslims to take his Bibles. When a police officer told him to move up the sidewalk, he refused. This is but one example of the deception David Barton uses to sell his conservative Christian agenda. He so desperately wants to believe that the United States of America is NOT a secular nation (at least, according to the definition of “secular” that he claims the courts use) and that it is, in fact, a Christian nation (again, according to the definition of “Christian nation” that he likes to use.)

I recommend trying to sit through all the parts of the Daily Show interview, including the multi-part extended interview, with the Bearer of False Witness known as David Barton. I know it can be difficult to listen to this weasel in action, but I strongly urge you to refrain from giving into your desire to punch his smarmy little face with something big and heavy, like a bowling ball. Or you can do something else today because it’s Saturday! Yea!

This is our open thread. Feel free to discuss any topic you want.

Cross-posted at Pick Wayne’s Brain.