Religion, American Identity, and Race

(Cross-posted to Daily Kos.  Not sure where is appropriate for this sort of diary)

I hate anecdotal evidence, the favorite argumentative tool of cherry pickers such as the Bush administration on Iraq.  So with the recent brouhaha over Barack Obama's speech, I examined some hard data. While looking at the 2004 General Social Survey, an important annual data set collected by the National Opinion Research Center, I found an interesting question: "HOW IMPORTANT FOR BEING TRULY AMERICAN DOES RESPONDENT CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING...To be a Christian".

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"The Da Vinci Code": It's just a movie

"The Da Vinci Code" is just a movie. There, I said it. Is that really so hard an idea to grasp? A movie that, in fact, I haven't yet seen. Nonetheless, "The Da Vinci Code" is just a movie, just like "Road House" and "Cannonball Run II" before it.

It's a successful film based on a best-selling book, just like "The Firm" or the "Harry Potter" series. It stars the guy from "Bachelor Party", the girl from "Amelie" and Magneto from "X-Men". A work of fiction intended to do one thing better than any other: Make money.

That so many people can't wrap their heads around so simple an idea is a testament to how stupid our society has become. That thousands, maybe millions, consider "The Da Vinci Code" a direct threat to their faith speaks to a paranoia beyond my comprehension. It's just a movie, folks. Get over yourselves.

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Dignity's Apostle: My Interview With Author Robert W. Fuller

The diary below was originally posted earlier today on my blog, the Intrepid Liberal Journal.

Progressives are struggling to synthesize a movement that can rise above identity politics and mobilize people under a unified theme. Robert W. Fuller, Ph.D. argues in his newly published book, All Rise (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.), that simple dignity is an elusive need that cuts across demographics of race, gender, age, and class. Fuller attributes this void to a culture of "rankism" which he defines as "abuses of power associated with rank." In his writings Fuller advocates for a grassroots effort to establish a "dignitarian society."

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Speaking to Secularists

"We must learn to speak to faith based voters!"

How many times have we heard those words in the wake of Democratic losses at the polling places. We have observed John McCain's destruction in 2000 by the Religious Right in South Carolina and Howard Dean's uncomfortable, forced discussion of his religious beliefs in 2004, all because politicians have been made to feel required to justify themselves to self appointed religious guardians.

And those who don't believe? Well, they're beyond the pale. Politicians have learned to fake it. Ronald Reagan, it is said, seldom darkened the door of a church before his Presidency. One of JFK's sisters, when queried by somebody writing a book on his religious beliefs, responded "that would be a short book."

Secularists, Humanists, Non-believers, Atheists, Agnostics, whatever you call us we are between 5 and 10 percent of the population, depending on which poll you believe. That's about the same as Jews in the United States, and more than Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and other groups no politician would think of offending or ignoring. Yet we are apparently the last remaining offendables in politically correct society.

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Us vs. Them: The Root Of Conflict

Generally, definitions are used to distinguish the meaning of one word from another. They tell us what a word means and in so doing they should likely, by omission, tell us what a word doesn't mean. While a dictionary is an invaluable tool, sometimes the meaning of words cannot be understood by simply reading the definition. Occasionally it requires looking at the underlying differences or similarities with other words.

Such is the case in a current issue that may have more global significance than any we have witnessed in a number of decades. The backdrop to this issue is religious beliefs. The conflict is being played out across a huge theater that spans multiple continents and involves numerous countries. At the same time, the battle lines cannot be distinguished by continent or country...or for that matter by city or community. This issue can best be seen in two defining conflicts. They are the `war on terror' and the `culture war'. The following definitions are essential to defining the conflict, and more importantly, to begin exploring the solutions. I've gathered this information from Wikipedia and Merriam-Webster OnLine.

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