Hard News by Russell Brown

Killing freedom with superstition

It seems that God-bothering and religious bigotry runs deep in the Bush dynasty. A friend of mine came up with a link referring to Bush Snr's statement that atheists should not be considered either American citizens or patriots. I had thought the story might be apocryphal, but here it is.

Bush Snr, of course, made this bizarre statement in the course of the same 1988 presidential campaign in which he responded to the USS Vincennes' unprovoked shooting down of an Iranian Airbus A-300 - killing 290 innocent civilians - with the immortal words: "I will never apologise for the United States; I don't care what the facts are." This really is some family …

Here's an intriguing demographic and political profile of America's religious right.

Here's Bush Jnr arguing against the Theory of Evolution last year. "The verdict is still out on how God created the Earth." Apparently.

This frightening story in the Los Angeles Times examines the way the current White House is debasing scientific values, principally - but by no means exclusively - by "using political and ideological screening tests to try to ensure that its scientific consultants recommend no policies that are out of step with the political agenda of the White House." Incredibly, those tests include: did you vote for Bush?

An open letter to the president urging him to "put reason ahead of belief" from Alan Alda, who these days fronts a science TV show. Preserving core values of science lists a few more offences against reason.

Robyn Blumner writes in the St Petersburg Times about the reality of Bush's announcement of $600 million in funding for drug and alcohol treatment: Religious indoctrination dressed up as social welfare.

But perhaps the President just wants to spend more money helping addicts? Hardly. Last week, he made a speech to the Religious Broadcasters' Association in which he said he was "especially" keen on money going to treatment programmes of a spiritual nature, and that religious charities should not "compromise their prophetic role" while they're providing treatment. Does this look like a federal subsidy for religious recruitment to you?

If you're interested in keeping regular track of contemporary America's lurch into the Dark Ages, the Internet Infidels Newswire has new stories every day.

Here's a backgrounder on the millennialist Christian US Senator (Republican, naturally) James Inhofe, who believes God allowed terrorists (he opened a "spiritual door" apparently) to attack America on September 11, 2001, because He was displeased with America's policy on Israel. Like Tom DeLay, the Republican Leader of the House, Inhofe believes that God requires the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from all of the occupied territories.

In most modern democracies, any politician who made such bizarre claims would be disowned - or at least made to shut up - by his party leader. But here's Dubya, six months after Inhofe's God-was-punishing-us-for-Israel claim, describing Inhofe as "a United States Senator who stands on principle, who does what he thinks is right, and has lived up to his word."

A recent and thoroughly deranged column from prominent US Christian conservative (and former pro wrestler) Tom Marsland, explaining what's really wrong with Europe. Their governments just don't believe in God: "Europe begat the modern-day humanist movement at the very same time we were founding a nation on godly principles. That is why we are superior ... and yes, we are."

One of the USA's founding fathers, James Madison, a Christian himself, was of a very different view in his 1785 Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments. The thorough separation of church and state was, he said, crucial to the young republic: "The Rulers who are guilty of such an encroachment, exceed the commission from which they derive their authority, and are Tyrants. The People who submit to it are governed by laws made neither by themselves nor by an authority derived from them, and are slaves."

And, on a different note, Google is getting into weblogs.