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Overheard (August 2021)

Today we have other ways of policing morality, but this evolutionary heritage is still with us. Although statistics show that atheists commit fewer crimes than average, the widespread prejudice against them, as highlighted by our study, reflects intuitions that have been forged through centuries and might be hard to overcome.

Dimitris Xygalatas, associate professor of anthropology and psychological sciences at the University of Connecticut, in his column, “Are religious people more moral?”

Yahoo News, 5-25-21

They didn’t care about the democratic process; they cared only about what they believed. This is what happens when you mix politics with a religion that has decided to go off the rails. You have people who become radicalized.

Historian Anthea Butler, regarding how the Jan. 6 insurrection was largely started by conservative Christians talking about how they needed to take back the country and how God ordained Donald Trump to be the president, in the article “Nationalism, American evangelicals and conservatism.” 

Penn Today, 5-19-21

Their pervasive theology shapes policies that cause women untold suffering. . . . It’s also the specter that makes women forgo hysterectomies because, we are told, it’s better to endure suffering than lose the possibility of giving birth. . . . Catholics should ask themselves whether the church’s anti-abortion fight is less about babies and more about controlling women’s fertility and, with that, women’s freedom. . . . Giving pregnant people the legal right to have control and agency over their bodies translates to other aspects of their lives, namely the capacity to claim political, economic and social autonomy.

Jamie Manson, president of Catholics for Choice and a former columnist for The National Catholic Reporter, in her column, “The Catholic Church’s reproductive fight is about controlling women’s freedom.”

The New York Times, 5-27-21

People who profess no religion live in constant fear of their lives and safety. They live in fear of being tortured or disappeared, summarily executed, or taken to a mental hospital for leaving a religion or for holding and expressing blasphemous views and opinions.

Leo Igwe, in his column “Freedom of religion or belief and nonreligious persecution in Nigeria.”, 6-2-21

If a taxpayer-funded religious social services organization can discriminate against individuals based on the assertion their sexual orientations are inconsistent with the organization’s own religious tenets, it can almost certainly discriminate against individuals whose religious beliefs are inconsistent with its religious tenets.

Samuel Brunson, prior to the Supreme Court decision in Fulton vs. Philadelphia, where the court ruled that Catholic Social Services may discriminate against families headed by same-sex couples when providing taxpayer-funded public foster care services.

Religion News Service, 5-28-21

It’s almost like leaving a cult, and you’re about to do something that your religion frowned upon for the first time.

Lydia Greene, on how she was able to get out from under the online conspiracy theories about Covid-19 vaccines., 5-28-21

How can Jews believe in an omnipotent, beneficent God after Auschwitz? Traditional Jewish theology maintains that God is the ultimate, omnipotent actor in the historical drama. It has interpreted every major catastrophe in Jewish history as God’s punishment of a sinful Israel. I fail to see how this position can be maintained without regarding Hitler and the SS as instruments of God’s will. To see any purpose in the death camps, the traditional believer is forced to regard the most demonic, anti-human explosion in all history as a meaningful expression of God’s purposes. The idea is simply too obscene for me to accept.

Richard L. Rubenstein, theologian, in his 1966 book After Auschwitz: Radical Theology and Contemporary Judaism. Rubenstein died May 16. 

The New York Times, 6-5-21

Secularization or rationality has little chance of correcting or convincing QAnon believers. . . . The beliefs of QAnon followers are decidedly irrational, and no rational arguments will address them. 

Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, president of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, in his column “What nonbelievers don’t get about conspiracy beliefs.”

Religion News Service, 6-7-21

For me, the parallel is that I think a lot of people want to see Jan. 6 as the end of something. I think we have to consider the possibility that this was the beginning of something.

Cynthia Miller-Idriss, director of the Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab at American University, who notes the rise of Naziism was preceded by a series of attacks, failed coups and other efforts to undermine democracy.

New York Times, 6-10-21

If you doubt that a threat of violence exists, look at the recent poll from the Public Religion Research Institute and the Interfaith Youth Core, which shows that a dangerous QAnon conspiracy theory is believed by 15 percent of our fellow Americans — including almost one in four Republicans, 14 percent of independents and even 8 percent of Democrats. 

Barbara Comstock, a Virginia Republican and lawyer and former member of Congress, calling for an investigation into the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

New York Times, 6-10-21

Viewed through a contemporary, secular lens, a community built around a charismatic founder and dedicated to the lionization of suffering and the annihilation of female selfhood doesn’t seem blessed and ethereal. It seems sinister.

Columnist Michelle Goldberg, in her column, “Was Mother Teresa a cult leader?”

The New York Times, 5-21-21