Links and Comments: Suffering Death without Religion; Fox News; Fundamentalism

New York Times: Surviving the Death of My Son After the Death of My Faith, subtitled, I had lost the one thing that could have numbed my pain. By Amber Scorah.

A woman leaves her religion, gets on with her life, has a son, and then the son dies at age 4 months.

And slowly, over these days, came letters, like dispatches from another dimension, from people all over the country. They landed on my doorstep and on my computer screen. Words from names I did not know, telling me how to survive this, like the strangers in the ancient books had done, telling me that my son was in heaven, that he would come back, or I would meet him again one day, that he was watching over me, that though gone, he was not truly gone.

I was moved by these words from strangers. And I wanted to believe these messengers who told me my son lives or will live again. Perhaps these were the people we in my old religion called prophets and apostles — people who dispatched words of hope to those in distress.

But though they were sincere, none of what they said was true. There is no heaven, no door at the end of my life that I will find my boy behind, no paradise Earth. He simply had ceased to exist.

I suspect that these people rushed to save me because, deep down, somewhere unacknowledged, they too knew the truth. We all know that there is something desperately sad that we have to protect one another from. Our stomachs know it, our spines know it. Our humanity doesn’t want to let us believe that this is all there is, that a child can just disappear. And that is why these strangers cared so much about a stranger like me.

I am not saying there is no God, but I am saying no God would do this to someone.

If belief were a choice, I might choose it. But it’s not. I don’t trade in certainty anymore. If there is something more, it’s not something we know. If we can’t even grasp how it is that we got here, how can we know with any certainty where, if anywhere, we go when we die?


New York Times, Farhad Manjoo: Worry About Facebook. Rip Your Hair Out in Screaming Terror About Fox News. Subtitled, Novel forms of digital misinformation still pale in comparison with Fox News’ full-time hall of mirrors.

So, Facebook wouldn’t take down a video doctored video to make Nancy Pelosi look drunk, and everyone raised a ruckus. But Fox News did the equivalent, and no one cared, because we’re used to Fox News’ duplicity.

Worry about [Facebook], sure, but not at the risk of overlooking a more clear and present danger, the million-pound, forked-tongue colossus that dominates our misinformation menagerie: Fox News and the far-flung, cross-platform lie machine that it commands.

Indeed, what was remarkable about Fox’s Pelosi video was its very ordinariness. Instead of slowing down Pelosi’s speech, Fox Business misleadingly spliced together lots of small sections of a recent news conference to make it look as if Pelosi stammered worse than Porky Pig.

While Facebook moved quickly to limit the spread of the doctored Pelosi clip, Fox is neither apologizing for airing its montage nor taking it down, because this sort of manipulated video fits within the network’s ethical bounds.

I understand the fear about digital fakery. But to focus on Facebook instead of Fox News is to mistake the symptom for the disease.

The disease is an entrenched, well-funded, decades-in-the-making, right-wing propaganda network, one that exists to turn faintly sourced rumors into full-blown, politically convenient narratives. The propaganda network’s tentacles now infiltrate every form of media — magazines, books, talk radio, social networks — but it still finds its most profitable and effective outlet in the Murdochs’ cable empire.

And it is devastatingly effective: Just about every political lie that has dominated American discourse in the past two decades — the Swift Boaters and the birthers, death panels, the idea that undocumented immigrants pose an existential threat but climate change does not — depended, for its mainstream dissemination, on the Fox News machine.


This dovetails with a long article in the new issue of Free Inquiry called Why Do Fundamentalists Lie about the Bible? (subscriber protected).

The article discusses “fundamentalist bibliolatry” and its attendant concepts including Biblical inerrancy.

The puzzling question that naturally arises is why fundamentalist bibliolatrists adopt and tenaciously defend theopolitical positions that are not supported by or are even flatly contradicted by God’s perfect word. Before considering the question of why fundamentalists lie about what the Bible says, I will document the assertion that they do, in fact, lie about what Holy Writ actually says and doesn’t say.

The writer then goes on to describe ten issues about which fundamentalists claims Biblical support, despite obvious lack of such support or even contradictory texts on those issues in the Bible itself. With numerous scriptural references.

Abortion, animal welfare, capital punishment, decalogue displays, family values, Jesus’ teachings, public prayer, same-sex marriage, slavery endorsement, and sworn oaths.

He then describes the three strategies whereby fundamentalists misrepresent the Bible on these issues: textual selectivity; “proper exegesis”; and pretending the New Testament doesn’t endorse the Old.

But the more interesting question is *why* fundamentalists lie about the Bible. (Why does Fox News lie?)

Despite overwhelming evidence, they won’t even concede that their theopolitical positions are not supported by scripture. Of course, they can’t acknowledge this well-documented truth, because to do so would force them to admit that their strong commitment to biblical inerrancy is untenable.

The truth, the writer suggests, is that commitment to positions on those 10 issues arose for nonscriptural reasons –

When did they emerge in the fundamentalists’ war against modernity? How were they derived and verified? Who pronounced them to be official doctrine? By what process was abortion declared to be murder, same-sex marriage asserted to be contrary to God’s plan for humanity, and so forth? Careful analysis could locate the historical antecedents of these theopolitical opinions.

As a final question, we can ask why fundamentalists don’t acknowledge some degree of disparity between their views and scripture as a basis for adjusting some of their positions to conform to biblical truth. To do so would require them to rehabilitate their “Christian worldview” and adopt some positions that they have condemned as contrary to God’s word for as long as a century or more. This is probably not going to happen across the board, but it is the only reasonable course of action if they want to respect the doctrine of scriptural inerrancy without continuing with their ongoing program of public deceit.

The similarity between Fox News and fundamentalists is that are both committed to political and social positions and will twist the evidence to fit; they don’t consider the evidence and draw conclusions from them.

And here, as in so much else about the modern world, we see the irrational human mind at work. Haidt describes humans as, not instinctive rationalists, but instinctive lawyers, always conniving to justify conclusions reached for emotional reasons. And those reasons are often those of tribalism and group solidarity, of fear of the other, from the conviction that everything must ‘mean’ something, of magical thinking about how the world works. Science is hard; religion and other ideologies are easy. That’s human nature.

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