At no time in history has the United States had such a high percentage of theocratic members of Congress - those who expressly endorse religious bias in law. Just as ominously, especially for those who share the values and views of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, at no other time have religious fundamentalists effectively had veto power over one of the country's two major political parties. As Sean Faircloth argues in this deeply sobering yet highly engaging book, this has led to the crumbling of the country's most cherished founding principle - the wall of separation between church and state.
While much of the public debate in the United States over church-state issues has focused on the construction of nativity scenes in town squares and the addition of "under God" to the Pledge, Faircloth, a former politician and current executive director of the Secular Coalition for America, moves beyond the symbolism to explore the many ways federal and state legal codes privilege religion in law. He demonstrates in vivid detail how religious bias in law harms all Americans-financially, militarily, physically, socially, and educationally - and directs special attention to the outlandish words, views, and policy proposals of the most theocratic politicians, a group he labels the Fundamentalist Fifty. Sounding a much-needed alarm for all who care about the future direction of the country, Faircloth concludes by offering an inspiring ten-point vision of an America returned to its secular roots and by providing a specific and sensible plan for realizing this vision. Both his vision and his plan remember and remind that the United States is, above all else, one nation under the Constitution.
Sean Faircloth is the director of policy and strategy for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (US). He served for a decade in the Maine State Legislature, where he successfully spearheaded over thirty pieces of legislation. He was elected majority whip by his colleagues in his last term.
Richard Dawkins is a scientist and author of numerous best sellers, including The Magic of Reality, The Greatest Show on Earth, and The God Delusion
©2012 Sean Faircloth and Richard Dawkins (P)2012 Pitchstone Publishing
I am a Hitchens loving, Dawkins adoring atheist. Even so, I found this uncomfortable reading. Yes the religious have a lot of get out jail of free cards. Soem of them rather revolting. I found the book giving them too much respect through attention. The way to quiet a wailing child is to ignore them. Make them irrelvant.
Let's move on.
"Was expecting more but well worth it"
Although I enjoyed this book and is one of the better critical thinking books out there (actually interesting and not too long headed) I wanted more out of it. There just wasn't enough practical methods of dealing with looney religious wackos.
It boils down to marketing, exposure, and keeping an audiences attention. It's about image and not what you say. This is where skeptics miss the mark every time. It's sad really when geek culture is so relevant nowadays but at least this book is a spark of hope.
"A Solid Message Foiled by Author's Self-Narration"
On Religio-Industrial villainy.
This is former Majority Whip Sean Faircloth casting a light on the evils of believers put in positions of power. It's an undeniably important message, and the lengthy discussion of childcaregivers is some gruesome, damning stuff. But given a heavier-handed editor, this could've been whittled down significantly and lost very little of its content.
Faircloth could've turned over the narration reins to virtually anyone else and we'd have produced a better product. Dawkins performs his own forward and it's as spot-on as his other reads, but Faircloth suffers from a host of unedited vocal snafus. Heavy breaths, awkward pauses and jarring stumbles mar the message of the text. And, for whatever reason, his insistence on vocalizing every "open quote-- end quote" annoyed the ever-lovin' piss out of me.
Absolutely, but the performance made doing so nigh intolerable.
Ultimately, I just couldn't finish it. Where a better narrator could have pulled the book through some of its more meandering segments, Faircloth slogging through his own words started to take on an almost filibustering tone. I reluctantly returned this one, my first time doing so.
"...and What We Can Do About it"
YES! I have listened/read/watched other what I'll call
That daycare centers affiliated with a religion do not have the same regulations as far as child safety as the non-religious ones. What kind of a deal is that? Child safety concerns should be universal, either its a good idea to keep medicines locked away or it isn't, for example.
"Eloquent Passion, Concern and Hope from a Patriot"
Concerned by faith-based initiatives, tax and regulatory exemptions for Christian "charities" (but which are conspicuously absent for the other religions out there, including Hinduism, which predates Judaism), Faircloth summons his biting sarcasm and thorough research skills for a well-reasoned clarion call to action. Although most of the theocrats he takes to task are Republicans, he does criticise Barack Obama for failing to remain faithful (no pun intended) to a pre-election promise.
Chock full of trustworthy sources, Faircloth reveals that unfair, unequal legal standards are applied; one for the religious, and one for everyone else. Faith harming (in some cases degenerating to faith murder) by religious parents who believe in sin, lies by the Reagan administration linking pornography to violence, blackmailing foreign aid recipients on the condition that they forbid reproductive education for women are just the tip of this perniciously polluted iceberg.
Perhaps most importantly, every issue identified by Faircloth here is paired with a reasonable solution that will provide real, tangible benefits for everyone, not just those who share a particular philosophy.
Separation of church and state is being torn asunder. The First Amendment is being misconstrued and lied about.
Jefferson explicitly stated the Founding Fathers' desire for a WALL of separation (which likely led to Texas attempting to remove him from the state's textbooks). There are numerous cases of faith torture and murder (when parents refuse to get their children even the most rudimentary care) are conducted under the banner of special exemptions for religiously-based "conscientious" objections. One particularly ghastly incident involved a child developing a tumour the size of a baseball on their shoulder. "Special" rights are a common "justification" used to deny equal marriage rights to same-sex couples. This misses the essence of the issue - love and informed, consenting adults. Religious verses are used to justify and promote violence. Let's face it, "Do not kill" is vastly outnumbered by edicts demanding the opposite in the book of Exodus by several dozen orders of magnitude. Rick Warren equated Michael Schiavo to Nazis. Caring more for the brain dead than for those who can still suffer will do that to one's moral sensibilities. Churches are rarely audited by the IRS, which only allows them to flout their loopholes in ever more brazen fashions, including setting up their ministers and their families in lavish multi-million dollar McMansions. Religious groups can fire whoever they wish, even in states with anti-discrimination laws. Numerous politicians advocate mandatory creation classes
Unregulated church businesses (inc. gyms, treatment centres, etc) are exempt from the usual regulatory standards, leading to atrocious treatment of toddlers in religious daycare centres.
Chapter 2 deals with the founding fathers' actual intentions, private writings, and, crucially, the Treaty of Tripoli, which explicitly states that the US is not founded on Christianity. Sorry Turek, you lose. Most of the Fathers would never be elected to Congress, let alone the Presidency, today.
Chapter 3 is the longest, and in my estimation, the most crucial. It shows how laws that give special privileges and unearned exemptions to religious organisations hurts everybody, including Christians.
Emergency contraception is being denied to women because pharmacists can cite "religious objections" to dispensing contraceptives. The gag rule and hurdles to women's reproductive rights in foreign countries, under penalty of losing crucial aid, leads to back-alley abortions and death for women. This must be repealed. At present, the rule's enforcement depends solely on who sits in the Whitehouse. Abstinence-only "education" continues to be funded, despite their proven failure, leading to higher rates of STDs/unwanted pregnancies/abortions. If pro-lifers truly wanted to reduce abortion rates (and help teens make mature decisions concerning sex) they would ditch this nonsense. But they don't. Opposition to ESCR, even when embryos would be discarded otherwise, further reveals their hypocrisy and inverted sense of priorities. Death with Dignity legislation (well overdue) in Oregon and Washington is based on compassion and individual choice. The sooner a federal law is passed permitting this final right, the better. Faith harming/murder is explored in greater detail, as are religious nurseries and day care centres. James Dobson & Daniel Pearl's abusive parenting policies are derived directly from the bible, showing how useless the "good" book is for raising children.
Chapter 4 concerns sexual morality, true morality (harm vs benefits) and the hypocrisy of so-called pro-family groups (and let's not forget Ted Haggard). He is quite right to lambast the excessively PC left-wingers such as Andrea Dworkin.
A repressive, Victorian-era (some would say Puritan) approach to sex is not healthy. Fortunately, it did not lead to Bill Clinton's defeat in 1996.
And that's just the first half of the book. The second begins with fifty of the most vile, hateful and extreme "faithful" fundamentalists in Congress, who wield a disproportionate amount of power over all other Americans. Anti-gay hatred, tinfoil-esque conspiracies and whack-job tea party succor are just the appetizer. This book is a much-needed wake-up call to America in the 21st century, and we all owe Faircloth and debt of gratitude for writing this book.
"Food for thought."
Let me first get this out of the way, I am a committed Catholic. I also firmly beleive what the church teaches and do my best to practice that. I also can not imagine living in a country where there is no seperation between religious and civil law, such as Iran. I also beleive that seperation of church and state is a fundemendal principle that should stand firm. What Faircloth brought to light are disturbing trends in America that anyone watching should notice. What I object to is that he gives scant acknowlagement of the good the Church, Catholic and Protestent, has done while highlighting the scandal that has plaged it recently (and I do wish to point out that it is something we Catholics should be shamed by and pray that it never happens again). Having said that I do agree this is something that has to be countered before we find ourselves living under Christianed Sharia style law.
"OUR BASIC VALUES ARE IN DANGER"
This is a clear and compelling argument for why we can't shrug off today's Republican Party and the religious zealots who control it. Our basic values of separation of Church and State are under attack.
If we don't resist these American Taliban we will find ourselves living in a "Christian" nation under the rules imposed by a minority of our countrymen. We are becoming a more secular society and our country should reflect that. The Founding Fathers never advocated laws based on "Christian" values or Jewish, Muslim, Atheistic values. Freedom of religion was fundamental and we should not allow ourselves to be bullied by one small branch of any religion.
I will defend to the death the right of Evangelicals to worship anyway they want but in the larger society they must follow the rules of a civilized, pluralistic society and accept that not everyone shares their ideas or wants to live by their rules.
"Religion at its worst"
If you want evidence of religious fanaticism, well you have found it.
There is nothing likeable to be found here. Insightful yes. There are reports , to say
the least, that are extremely heart-wrenching and disgusting at the same time.
Religion has held us back for well over a thousand years with its inhuman treatment
in the name of God. It is all about power and indoctrination.
Read and beware.
Just how effective indoctrinated blind faith can become at its extremes.
All of it was very 'moving'.
I happen to agree with the politics of this book, but if you didn't, you wouldn't find this book very edifying. Short on facts. Long on opinion. This is an author narrated book, and though he does a better job than I would, it is definitely NOT professionally narrated.
I would highly recommend this book to someone else. Faircloth uses history and the current climate in the United States to promulgate the idea that a nation should not condone or reward partiality to religious institutions nor should it support or assist these entities. He explains why in an impassioned plea for secular Americans to become more aware of the problems associated with this overlap of government and religion, and to become more involved in trying to change existing norms and laws that give the religious right undeserved benefits at the expense of others, sometimes children, who suffer because of the religious right's status in our politics and culture. It is at times a poignant look at the suffering and damage caused by medical neglect by parents who believe in faith healing as opposed to science-based medicine, and at times a stirring summons to the reader to invlove themselves personally in the prevention of these kinds of abhorent atrocities, by taking an active role in achieving the vision of a secular America. It is for liberals and conservatives, and especially for any purveyor of United States history who believes in the consititutional rights of all Americans.
"The Details of the Dangers"
Sean really provided a lot of good examples of what's going on in our country and how the religious right is going about creating legislation to promote their agenda.
The best part of this book is the detail Sean goes into.
Sean's reading style is a bit stiff but it doesn't detract from the information he is presenting.
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