How Dumb Is Rick Santorum?

People for the American Way have posted a recent radio interview with former U.S. Senator and all-star culture warrior Rick Santorum.

During the discussion, Santorum said that Christians have allowed their faith to be removed from the public square and need to start fighting back, arguing that removing the Bible from public school classrooms is not neutrality but rather the promotion of the secular worldview. He suggested that conservative Christians should respond by “calling secularism a religion because if we did, then we could ban that too.”

Claiming that the absence of religion is itself a religion, Santorum said that Christians must reassert themselves and insist that Christianity “should be taught in the schools” instead of worrying about offending people.

Leaving aside the massive constitutional ignorance Santorum (once again) displays,  I’m intrigued. How do you ban the absence of something?

Earth to Santorum: “secular” means “not religious.” It doesn’t mean “anti-religious.” An experiment in science class is secular; the study of the periodical table of elements is secular. English grammar is secular. History–even when it includes study of the influence of religious beliefs and movements–is secular.

Stuff that isn’t religious is secular. It’s a descriptive term, not an ideology.

The removal of religious doctrine from the public sector (government)(which is not at all the same thing as its removal from the public square, where religious expression is protected by the Free Exercise Clause) is simply a recognition that in a free society, the government doesn’t get to impose or endorse a set of preferred religious beliefs. The transmittal of religious doctrine is the prerogative of families and religious institutions.

There are a lot of culture warriors who really do understand the First Amendment, but choose to pander to the sizable number of Americans who don’t. I don’t think Santorum is one of those. I think he’s a true believer.

And not a very good thinker.

In fact, his diagnosis of secularism reminds me a lot of his diagnosis of Terri Schavo. He sees things that aren’t there.



Scary, Aren’t They?

Sometimes, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Yesterday, our Attorney General/religious warrior Greg Zoeller appealed the unanimous Seventh Circuit opinion striking down Indiana’s ban on same-sex marriages.

With zealots like Zoeller fighting to deny LGBT folks equal rights, with all the vitriol aimed at them, with the thousands of dollars of tax money being spent in the courts to prevent them from marrying the people they love, with the overheated rhetoric about The End of Western Civilization as We Have Known It–this is what all the fuss is about.

This is what poses a “threat to traditional marriage.”


The whole horrifying, Satanic story is here.


Reduction by Addition

Over at the Washington Post, John DiIlio (late of the Bush White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives) makes a point I’ve frequently made--if we want to reduce the actual size of government, we need to hire more federal workers.

As DiIlio points out, the number of federal civilian workers (excluding postal workers) has been flat for quite some time. When George W. Bush became president, the executive branch employed about 1.8 million civilians–virtually the same number as when John F. Kennedy won the White House.

There were more federal bureaucrats (about 2.2 million) when Ronald Reagan won reelection in 1984 than when Barack Obama won reelection in 2012 (about 2 million)…

This is the dirty secret behind all those debates over the size of government. Yes, government is big and is dangerously debt-financed, but it is also administered by outsiders — and that is what guarantees that our big government produces bad government, too.

DiIlio calls this state of affairs “Leviathan by proxy,” and it’s an apt phrase.

America has had a 30-plus year love affair with “privatization.” The problem is, what we’ve been doing is not privatization–it’s contracting out, a very different animal. As my friend Morton Marcus is fond of pointing out, privatization is what Margaret Thatcher did; she sold off enterprises that government didn’t need to operate. They became private, they paid taxes, they either prospered or failed. What Americans call privatization is dramatically different–we provide government services through third-party, for-profit or non-profit surrogates.

Not only does this mode of service delivery lead to the inefficiencies and management problems that DiIlio identifies in his article, it makes the size and reach of government less visible. It enables Leviathan.

The last time I looked, there were approximately 18 million people working for federal, state and local governments who were not on any government’s payroll. The number of employees who work for contractors doing the work of government agencies–people whose full-time jobs are to deliver government services and who are paid with tax dollars– dwarfs the number of bureaucrats actually employed by those governments. It is virtually impossible to keep track of them, let alone ensure their accountability–constitutional or otherwise.

As DiIlio notes,

Big government masquerading as state or local government, private enterprise, or civil society is still big government. And privatization that involves “acquisition workforce” bureaucrats contracting out work to entrenched interests is not really privatizing. The growth of this form of big government is harder to constrain, and its performance ills are harder to diagnose and fix, than they would be in a big government more directly administered by an adequate number of well-trained federal bureaucrats.

When you demonize government, but demand services, this is what you get.

It isn’t pretty–and it isn’t privatization.


If Those Are Christian Values….

Speaking of religion and football, as I did yesterday….the Dallas Cowboys have evidently signed Michael Sams after he was cut from the St. Louis Rams. For people who follow football as much as I do (i.e. not at all), I should explain that Sams is the first openly-gay player to be drafted into the NFL.

This, of course, has driven the homophobes crazy. (Okay–crazier.) According to Raw Story,

“We cannot just stand idly by as Christian values and morals are trampled,” said Jack Burkman, the GOP lobbyist working to keep Sam out of the NFL. “We will do whatever we can to preserve family values in this country.”…

Jerry Jones has betrayed American values, Christian values, and his own city’s values,” Burkman said. “The people of Dallas – and Christians all across this land – are about to make him pay a huge financial price. The Cowboys are no longer America’s team.”

Speaking of driving people crazy–people like Jack Burkman are driving good Christians crazy. Not to mention giving nonbelievers yet another reason to equate religious piety with small-mindedness and bigotry.

I am so tired of people like Jack Burkman (and Mike Pence and Greg Zoeller), people who use religion to justify picking on people who are different.

Football is a game. It’s competitive. The only question an owner should ask when adding someone to a team is: is he a good player who can help us win?

Can you play professional football, Jack? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Religion and Football–More Alike Than We Might Think

It’s Sunday, and today’s sermon will consider the origins of religion.

There are all kinds of theories about religiosity. Some scientists believe humans are “hard-wired” for religion, although there is considerably controversy over that theory.

Anther is that belief in a deity arose from the need to explain otherwise inexplicable phenomena –the “God of the gaps” thesis. Why did lightning strike that guy’s hut? He must have angered the Gods…The problem with the God of the Gaps theory is that science and empirical inquiry keep narrowing the gaps.  (Bill O’Reilly famously defended the existence of God by the fact that “the tides come in and the tides go out, and no one knows why.”  As Neil DeGrasse Tyson pointed out, however, we actually do know why, and God isn’t involved.)

Whatever the genesis of religion, social scientists have pointed to the benefits of religious affiliation, most of which can be explained by membership in a supportive community.

Because supportive communities come in all shapes and sizes, and don’t necessarily revolve around worship, one social scientist suggests that membership in a religious group is a lot like being a football fan.

Anthropologist Harvey Whitehouse has concluded that belief in the supernatural is window dressing on what really matters—elaborate rituals that foster group cohesion, creating personal bonds that people are willing to die for. (He doesn’t suggest that football fans go quite that far.)

The cooperation required in large settled communities is different from what you need in a small group based on face-to-face ties between people. When you’re facing high-risk encounters with other groups or dangerous animals, what you want in a small group is people so strongly bonded that they really stick together. The rituals that seem best-designed to do that are emotionally intense but not performed all that frequently. But when the group is too large for you to know everyone personally, you need to bind people together through group categories, like an ethnic group or a religious organization. The high frequency rituals in larger religions make you lose sight of your personal self….

All really large-scale religions have rituals that people perform daily or at least once a week. We think this is one of the key differences between simply identifying with a group and being fused with a group. When you’re fused with a group, a person’s social identity really taps into personal identity as well. And identity fusion has a number of behavioral outcomes. Perhaps most importantly, fused individuals demonstrate a significant willingness to sacrifice themselves for their groups….

Unfortunately, sacrificing oneself for one’s group has often meant demonizing–or even murdering–those who belong to other groups, who worship other Gods–or none.

Religion has been, at best, a mixed blessing.