Freedom, Liberty, and Religion

  • Liberty and freedom, vs. conformity to religion;
  • More on how some Christians now think Jesus was too “woke”;
  • How Republicans politicians lie, because it works: their “distorted reality insulates right-wing media consumers from contradictions and challenges to their beliefs”;
  • And a revisit to a 2014 essay by a writer whose “father lost his mind” to Fox News.

Here’s an essay with what may seem like a startling premise, but one which actually is implicit in many cultures.

Adam Lee, OnlySky, 21 Aug 2023: Don’t be yourself

A growing movement of Christian evangelicals decries “expressive individualism,” or in other words, the freedom to make your own choices and decide what to do with your own life.

Before reading the article– What strikes me now is that, when I was growing up in the 1960s, I absorbed the then common presumption, at least in America, that life was about discovering who you wanted to be: what career you wanted to pursue, where you wanted to live, who you wanted to marry. Time passed and I realized eventually that these assumptions in the 1960s were quite new, driven in part by the Civil Rights movement and especially the “liberation” of women, compared to the standards of the 1950s, the era the MAGAites apparently want to return to, when America was a Christian straight white male enterprise. We’ve just been reminded by the Barbie movie how revolutionary that doll was — she wasn’t a toy infant for little girls, proto-mothers, to play with, to mimic their futures as mothers themselves; she was an adult role-model who could be anything, even a doctor or an astronaut. Of course there were many who took exception to such ideas then, and there seem to be even more of them now, with the MAGA movement and its underlying drives toward what I’ve been calling the Savannah or tribal mentality — in which individualism is discouraged, because life should be about conforming to the tribe in order to support survival of the tribe. So that there are Christian nationalists who object to people making their own choices about life is no surprise at all. But let’s see what Adam Lee says.

If America had its own Ten Commandments, the first one would be “Be yourself.”

It’s written into our founding document: the right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It’s woven into our mythology. Whatever our beliefs or politics, we’re drawn to stories about lone heroes rebelling against oppressive systems.

Obviously, the individualist mindset is a blade that cuts both ways. It’s given rise to a culture of selfishness and cutthroat competition, with all the exploitation, poverty and unnecessary suffering those things entail. It teaches people to care only about their own comfort and pleasure, even if it’s achieved at the expense of other humans or the welfare of the planet as a whole.

But at the same time, individualism drives creativity, innovation, and questioning of the conventional wisdom. It powers courageous resistance to oppression, prejudice, and stultifying cultures of conformity. When we encounter an ideology which preaches that a person’s only purpose in life is to serve their family, or their nation, or their church, that’s the time to raise the banner of individualism high.

However, we don’t have to give up the good parts of individualism. Within the framework of reciprocity, everyone should have the freedom to be themselves. We should all have the right to dress how we want, believe what we want, love who we want, do with our bodies what we want. There’s no one way to be human, and we should recognize and celebrate that exuberant diversity rather than trying to stamp it out.

This of course aligns with Harari’s idea of liberalism. (video here.) Thus it’s no surprise that not everyone agrees.

Every movement for moral progress had a core of individual freedom. The freethought movement argued that coerced belief was no belief at all, and that we should all decide for ourselves what we believe or don’t believe about gods. The feminist movement, that women have the right to self-determination and shouldn’t be confined to marriage and motherhood. The civil-rights movement, that people shouldn’t be held down or judged by their race or the color of their skin. The LGBTQ movement, that everyone had the right to love and express themselves in accordance with their own heart’s desires.

There are Christians who recognize this, too. And they hate all of it.

Lee goes on to quote examples from various Christian apologists who insist that such ideas of individual freedom and liberty contradict the gospel. Lee counters:

Christian apologists say this because they’re blinded by the delusion that Christianity owns morality. They don’t think of their religious beliefs as one worldview among many, but the only way to live a good, moral, and happy life. In their arrogance, they dismiss every alternative, all the infinite variety of culture thought up by humans past and present. They would outlaw it all if they could.

Lee goes on to ask, “what’s the alternative?”

There’s only one thing that this could mean. They’re calling for an oppressively conformist society where a church or some other authority decides by fiat how people should live.

With examples of how it’s been tried. And a quote from Senator Josh Hawley denouncing the idea that “human beings have the freedom to choose how to live their lives.”

This is where Christians are at now. Opposed to the core American values of freedom and liberty.


The same site follows up the story (noted six days ago) about how some Christians think the teachings of Jesus are inappropriate for the modern world.

OnlySky, Jonathan MS Pearce, 22 Aug 2023: Christians: Jesus is too woke

Concerning one Russell Moore. Quoting from Christianity Today:

Moore told NPR in an interview released Tuesday that multiple pastors had told him they would quote the Sermon on the Mount, specifically the part that says to “turn the other cheek,” when preaching. Someone would come up after the service and ask, “Where did you get those liberal talking points?”

“What was alarming to me is that in most of these scenarios, when the pastor would say, ‘I’m literally quoting Jesus Christ,’ the response would not be, ‘I apologize.’ The response would be, ‘Yes, but that doesn’t work anymore. That’s weak,’” Moore said. “When we get to the point where the teachings of Jesus himself are seen as subversive to us, then we’re in a crisis.”

Pearce wryly notes, concerning Trump:

It sometimes seems a mystery as to how such vocal Christians can embrace someone who has clearly never read the Bible to the point that he is unable to answer what his favorite book of the Bible is while also claiming the holy tome is his favorite book.

And follow him blindly they do, excusing all the many moral foibles the narcissistic autocrat clearly has.


And here’s one more from the site OnlySky.

OnlySky, Captain Cassidy, 22 Aug 2023: Ammon Bundy knows why Republican politicians lie: It works like a charm


For years now, scholars have known that conservative politics and media distort and mischaracterize reality. This distorted reality insulates right-wing media consumers from contradictions and challenges to their beliefs.

Ammon Bundy became notorious just as that bubble began to form in earnest.

Ammon Bundy is the son of the guy, Cliven Bundy, who led a standoff, in 2014, with the Bureau of Land Management, becoming a celebrity among the anti-government right-wing. The article is mostly about Ammon, whom I don’t particularly care about. My interest is in the first three screens, which takes for granted what everyone has noticed, except for the right-wing cultists. The article opens:

The big news lately is that a Republican staffer defected to the Democratic party, then revealed a shocking, mind-boggling fact: Republican politicians lie to conservative voters.

I know. Wild, right?

Well, it might have been shocking and mind-boggling to any space aliens who’ve only just entered Earth’s orbit. Non-Republicans already knew that. They’ve known it for many years. Republican politicians twist reality and obfuscate every fact they can get in their mitts. After all, it gets them votes.

We’ve known for years that right-wing media outlets and social media bubbles have created a very strange new political and cultural landscape for everyone. Using evangelical Christian leaders’ strategies, Republican politicians have trained their target audiences to perceive reality itself through a fact-free filter. Nothing can get past that filter except what this audience’s leaders want the flocks to believe.

Again, social media is implicated in the increasing lunacy of the right wing, whose news sources simply don’t tell them anything that would discomfort them.

Right-wing media presents this alternate reality for a reason: It works grandly

Evangelical church leaders might be having a hard time persuading the flocks to plant their butts in the pews more often. But Republican politicians have far simpler needs. All they need is loyalty to the Republican Party and votes for Republican candidates and causes.

More legitimate news sites have reported aplenty on Republican dishonesty. Right-wing Americans never found any evidence of election fraud, but Fox News viewers still believe the 2020 election was somehow stolen from Donald Trump. They’re also still fanatically loyal to him. I doubt they were troubled at all by Lynne Cheney’s admission in March that her Republican colleagues wanted her to lie in support of Donald Trump’s various false claims. Or by that former Republican staffer’s admission of corruption and dishonesty in the self-appointed Jesus Party.

It’s all out there for the finding. But if right-wing voters even detect the existence of these stories at all, they have an array of antiprocess negation tools at their disposal to avoid engaging even superficially with the material presented.


The article has a link to an infamous article from 2014, which I posted about here, but which I will highlight again now.

Salon, Edwin Lyngar, 27 Feb 2014: I lost my dad to Fox News: How a generation was captured by thrashing hysteria, subtitled “Old white people are drowning in despair and rage. Here’s how my father lost his mind — thanks to his cable diet”

I’ll quote the portion that I did in 2014.

My father sincerely believes that science is a political plot, Christians are America’s most persecuted minority and Barack Obama is a full-blown communist. He supports the use of force without question, as long as it’s aimed at foreigners. He thinks liberals are all stupid, ignorant fucks who hate America.

He consumes a daily diet of nothing except Fox News. He has for a decade or more. He has no email account and doesn’t watch sports. He refuses to so much as touch a keyboard and has never been on the Internet, ever. He thinks higher education destroys people, not only because of Fox News, but also because I drifted left during and after graduate school.


So, big picture: the problem isn’t just social media. The silo effect of people following only those who confirm their pre-existing biases goes back to cable TV. The internet and social media have just made the problem worse.

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