Thursday, September 30, 2010

Via HimalayaCrafts:

You can use your life in a very useful and intelligent way. You can very well transform that negative energy into a positive energy that empowers you and makes life meaningful. -- Zen Buddhist Monk

Via HRC:

Human Rights Campaign
Dear Daniel,
Communities are reeling from recent suicides.
Students are being pushed to the edge. The bullying must STOP.
This is an epidemic.
Last week, Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi killed himself by jumping off a bridge after his roommate secretly recorded him with another male student, then broadcast the video online.
I wish I could tell you this was an isolated incident. But Tyler's death as a victim of anti-gay harassment was just one of a number of recent suicides among teenagers who were ruthlessly "bullied to death."
Our schools and our nation cannot sit back and wait for the next tragedy. So today, we're calling on Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to speak out immediately – and to push every school anti-bullying program in the nation to include sexual orientation and gender identity like HRC's Welcoming Schools program. Please stand with us.
Tyler wasn't the only one.
After months of relentless bullying, 13-year-old Seth Walsh hung himself from a tree outside his California home this week. Billy Lucas of Indiana was 15 years old when he hung himself after being called a "fag" over and over again. Asher Brown's classmates teased him without mercy and acted out mock gay sex acts in class, and last Thursday he shot himself in the head. He was only 13.
And a single district in Minnesota has seen seven suicides in the last year by young victims of intolerance. As a virulently anti-LGBT candidate seeks the governor's chair (a man who could decide the fate of anti-bullying measures), it's clear that the very lives of Minnesota's children are at stake.
This isn't a new problem. It's been happening for decades. And too often, administrators fail to act, even after parents complain about the bullying at school.
That's why HRC developed Welcoming Schools, an innovative program that gives elementary school teachers, parents and students across the country the tools to help stop the name-calling, bullying and gender stereotyping that so many students face every day. It helps kids learn respect and tolerance early on, to prevent violence later in middle and high school.
But it's up to those who run our schools – from Secretary Duncan down to every local school board – to act to end the bullying.
Once you take action, I hope you'll write a letter to the editor of your local paper. I hope you'll also let educators and administrators in your local school district know about and explain why you want to see Welcoming Schools in elementary schools near you. The more we spread the word, the better our chances of preventing another tragedy.
If school officials don't act, more young lives will be tragically lost. We can't let that happen.
Joe Solmonese
Joe Solmonese

September 30, 2010

We Must All Protect Gay Youth from Suicide

Our family, and the staff and board at the Matthew Shepard Foundation, are all deeply saddened by the devastating report of at least the fourth gay or gay-perceived teen to commit suicide in this country in the last month.

Reports say that Tyler Clementi, 18, leapt to his death from the George Washington Bridge near his New Jersey college campus after a roommate allegedly broadcast him in a same-sex encounter behind closed doors in his dorm room, and apparently invited others, via Twitter, to view it online. Regardless of his roommate’s alleged tweet, Tyler had apparently made no statement about his own sexual orientation. I’m sure we will all learn more about this terrible tragedy as legal proceedings unfold, but the contempt and disregard behind such an invasion of privacy seems clear. In the meantime, we send our thoughts and prayers to Tyler’s family as they mourn their loss.

In the last month there has been a shocking series of teen suicides linked to bullying, taunting, and general disrespect regarding sexual orientation, in every corner of America. Just a few days ago, Seth Walsh, a 13-year-old in Tehachapi, Calif., passed away after 10 days on life support after he hanged himself. Police say he had been mercilessly taunted by fellow students over his perceived sexual orientation.

Billy Lucas, 15, hanged himself a few weeks ago at his Indiana home after years of reported harassment by students who judged him to be gay. Asher Brown, a 13-year-old in Harris, TX, who had recently come out, took his life with a gun after, his parents say, their efforts to alert school officials to ongoing bullying were not acted upon.

Many Americans also learned this week about Tyler Wilson, an 11-year-old boy in Ohio who decided to join a cheerleading squad that had been all-female. As a gymnast, he was interested in the athletic elements of cheering. He was taunted with homophobic remarks and had his arm broken by two schoolmates who apparently assumed him to be gay. He told “Good Morning America” that since returning to school, he’s been threatened with having his other arm broken, too.

Our young people deserve better than to go to schools where they are treated this way. We have to make schools a safe place for our youth to prepare for their futures, not be confronted with threats, intimidation or routine disrespect.

Quite simply, we are calling one more time for all Americans to stand up and speak out against taunting, invasion of privacy, violence and discrimination against these youth by their peers, and asking everyone in a position of authority in their schools and communities to step forward and provide safe spaces and support services for LGBT youth or those who are simply targeted for discrimination because others assume they are gay. There can never be enough love and acceptance for these young people as they seek to live openly as their true selves and find their role in society.

Suicide is a complicated problem and it is too easy to casually blame it on a single factor in a young person’s life, but it is clear that mistreatment by others has a tremendously negative effect on a young person’s sense of self worth and colors how he or she sees the world around them. Parents, educators and peers in the community need to be vigilant to the warning signs of suicide and other self-destructive behaviors in the young people in their lives, and help them find resources to be healthy and productive. We urge any LGBT youth contemplating suicide to immediately reach out to The Trevor Project, day or night, at (866) 4-U-TREVOR [866-488-7386].

Judy Shepard
President, Matthew Shepard Foundation Board of Directors

Please visit our website at

Via JMG: WISCONSIN: Man Attacks 14 Year-Old Girl Carrying Gay Pride Flag

La Crosse, Wisconsin police are investigating an incident in which a man shoved a 14 year-old girl in an attempt to wrestle away a version of the gay pride flag the teen was going to carry in the city's Maple Leaf Parade.
The teen was rollerblading and carrying a flag pole with two rainbow flags — one a hybrid of the American flag and the gay pride flag — as members of 7 Rivers LGBT Resource Center’s float prepared for the parade about 9:45 a.m. Saturday on Rose Street, said Roseanne St. Sauver, the center’s executive director. Commodore Mark Schneider, who was on a float nearby, approached the girl and put his hands on the flagpole, St. Sauver said. St. Sauver walked over, placed her hands on the pole and told him, “Please stop, she’s a 14-year-old child." “He said, ‘I do not care. Look what you are teaching them,’” St. Sauver said. That’s when, St. Sauver said, Schneider shoved the girl with his body. St. Sauver said Schneider told the girl: “Go to a country where they will hang people like you.“ The incident left the teen crying, and others upset, St. Sauver said. This is the first year the center has participated in the parade. “I had tears in my eyes,” she said. “He specifically targeted us and made statements about our sexual orientation.”
Schneider says he was upset about the alteration of the American flag and not anybody's sexuality. Yeah, right. Yesterday he issued an apology to the girl and his family, presumably in return for assault charges being dropped. Here's the asshat in a news story about his being named "commodore" of Riverfest 2010.

NOH8 Campaign (a tribute from DC Douglas)

G.A.Y.S. (Guys Against You Serving) A new organization tells you exactly why they don't want gays serving in the military.

Via JMG: (Awsome) Rosie Perez FIGHTS BACK

Via JMG: "Jumping Off The GW Bridge. Sorry."

The New York Times reports more details about the suicide of 18 year-old Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi, who jumped off the George Washington Bridge after his roommate streamed live video of Clementi having sex with a man. Clementi's final Facebook update: "Jumping off the gw bridge. sorry."
It started with a Twitter message on Sept. 19: “Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay.” That night, the authorities say, the Rutgers University student who sent the message used a camera in his dormitory room to stream the roommate’s intimate encounter live on the Internet. [snip] The Middlesex County prosecutor’s office said Mr. Clementi’s roommate, Dharun Ravi, 18, of Plainsboro, N.J., and another classmate, Molly Wei, 18, of Princeton Junction, N.J., had each been charged with two counts of invasion of privacy for using “the camera to view and transmit a live image” of Mr. Clementi.

The most serious charges carry a maximum sentence of five years. Mr. Ravi was charged with two additional counts of invasion of privacy for trying a similar live feed on the Internet on Sept. 21, the day before the suicide. A spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, James O’Neill, said the investigation was continuing, but he declined to “speculate on additional charges.” Steven Goldstein, chairman of the gay rights group Garden State Equality, said Wednesday that he considered the death a hate crime. “We are sickened that anyone in our society, such as the students allegedly responsible for making the surreptitious video, might consider destroying others’ lives as a sport,” he said in a statement.
Ravi is claiming that the first broadcast of Clementi was an accident, but police say he attempted a second live-stream two days later. Last night police recovered the body of a red-headed young man from the banks of the Hudson River. The family will make the identification today.
reposted fromJoe

Via JMG: AC360 - MI AG Mike Cox Defends Andrew Shirvell's Right To Cyber Bully

It Gets Better - Michael

it gets better michael urie

Today's Can anyone possibly be more stupid than this post::

PhoboQuotable - Eugene Delgaudio

"Last night, I had a dream. It was 2011 and Republicans were celebrating a sweep of the House and near takeover of the Senate. But that dream became a nightmare. A wounded soldier sat in a veteran’s hospital after returning from Afghanistan. Noticeably shaken, his doctor walked in and choked out the worst news of this young soldier’s life: He’d been infected with HIV. You see, the doctor informed him that his wounds came in contact with those of a practicing homosexual, now allowed to serve in our military. 'How could this happen?' the soldier expressed shock and disappointment right before I awoke.

"Today I was reminded of several disturbing news stories. Left and right I see conservatives -- even some good conservatives -- who no longer seem to care. And that’s when it hit me. In my nightmare, conservative Americans had been too busy focusing on jobs and the economy before the November elections. Distracted, they failed to maintain a committed resistance to the Homosexual Agenda." - Public Advocate head Eugene Delguadio, from a fundraising plea titled "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Stalled In Senate By Public Advocate.

Send him money! He single-handedly stopped the repeal of DADT!

reposted from Joe

Via Truthout: "Underground" Group of Cadets Say Air Force Academy Controlled by Evangelicals

Mike Ludwig, Truthout: "An anonymous cadet at the US Air Force Academy (USAFA) spoke out against alleged religious discrimination at the school last week, saying that some cadets must pretend to be evangelical Christians in order to maintain standing among their peers and superiors. In an email to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), the whistleblower stated that he is part of an 'underground group' of about 100 cadets who cannot rely on proper channels to confront evangelical pressure. The email, published by Veterans Today, applauds the MRFF from the 'underground' and indicates that the academy is 'literally overrun with Christian conservative fanatics.'"
Read Article

Time to Evolve

More "It gets better"

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

via belirico: This is what persecution looks like

There's been quite a bit of chatter over this video today. Many sites are proclaiming that the villain is a closet case and that's why he's so obsessed with a younger gay man. While he certainly sets off the ole gaydar, I sure as hell wouldn't want to claim him. He can agitate about the "radical homosexual agenda" all he wants, but the truly radical and definitely detrimental person here is looking him in the mirror.

For the record, while Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell claims that college student Chris Armstrong was elected student council president with the help of the Victory Fund, the group doesn't make endorsements or give contributions to student government campaigns. Armstrong interned at Victory Fund; that's it.

The Gay Test

Thanks JMG: Just feeling a little surreal (Possibly NSFW)


Via JMG: Quote Of The Day - Wayne Besen

"We blame the anti-gay industry for fighting measures to end bullying in schools, and school officials who turn a blind eye to brutality. We are fed up with what amounts to anti-gay schoolyard muggings that are foolishly dismissed as ‘boys being boys’. In reality, it is ‘boys beating boys’, and these bullies receive tacit approval for their violent, homophobic behavior by teachers and certain vocal segments of society.

"The goal of Exodus International and Focus on the Family is to purge LGBT people from society, although they disingenuously frame the issue as eliminating homosexuality, which is not possible. When you target homosexuality, the result is persecution and punishment of LGBT people, and in many cases it leads to gay bashing or suicides. The anti-gay industry should dismantle these despicable programs and work towards creating solutions instead of suicides." - Truth Wins Out executive director Wayne Besen, responding the rash of suicides among the nation's LGBT youth.

reposted from Joe

Via JMG: Christianists Discover "It Gets Better"

Calling it "inevitable," Dan Savage points out that the Christianists are beginning to find the It Gets Better Project on YouTube and posting their own vile responses. The below douchenozzle has gone as far as launching a website called The Lot Project. Here's a partial transcript from his clip, in which he says that recent teen suicide victim Billy Lucas is in hell for being gay.
"Billy Lucas, who hanged himself, obviously because he was gay, and unable to endure the guilt that the words of others prompted in him. This was indeed a tragedy, but not anywhere near the tragedy that Billy will discover in eternity when he faces the wrath of God upon rebellious and unrepentant sinners. Then, he will realize that his sin could not be atoned for by his own death, and he will realize that people like Dan Savage who encourage sin are deceivers. He will see them for what they are, the blind leading the blind. And he will realize that he has fallen into that ditch that the blind leading the blind inevitably fall into: that's eternal destruction and misery. Sadly, it's too late for Billy. For those who are viewing this video, however, their remains the opportunity of turning from sin to the obedience of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ."
Can you feel the righteous love of God's Gentle People? Do you feel Blessed In The Holy Spirit™? Take it away, Dan: "Fuck you and the bible verses you rode in on, you monstrously hateful pile of shit."

reposted from Joe

AC360 - Mich. Asst. Attorney General Andrew Shirvell Targets Gay Student Chris Armstrong

Via JMG: From SFGMC, It Gets Better

Via JMG: HomoQuotable - Charles Robbins

"I think that the fact that so many young people are so tormented—so ostracized by their family, peers, school, and society in general–that rather than engage and participate in life, they choose to end their life, says a lot about the Christian values that everywhere inform our culture. I think each and every one of us needs to look inside of ourselves, and examine those values for both the good and the harm they’re doing. What I would also very much like Christians to know is that being gay isn’t a choice that anyone makes. It’s not a switch you can turn off and on.

"Gay people were born into creation just like anyone else, and to devalue who they are by insisting God didn’t really make them as they are is to deny them the right to a rich and loving relationship with God–and that’s a terrible, terrible thing to deny anybody. No one should ever use scripture to justify removing another person from the spiritual process. If you’re a Christian—as I am—you should look to Christ for how to live and act toward others. And what does the Great Commandment of Jesus say, but that we’re all supposed to love our neighbors as we love ourselves? I wish more Christians would remember what Jesus himself told them to do." - Trevor Project executive director Charles Robbins, in an interview on the Christian issues site John Shore.

Read the entire interview and the readers' responses. It's encouraging and sadly rare.

reposted from Joe

Via JMG: MINNESOTA: Lay Catholics Organize "Return The Anti-Gay DVD" Project

Saying that the Catholic Church should be feeding and clothing the homeless rather than mailing out hundreds of thousands of anti-gay DVDs, a group of lay Catholics in Minnesota has launched a campaign to send those DVDs back to their bishops.
We are a group of Catholics who are concerned about the priorities of the leaders in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Their action, distributing 400,000 DVDs on the single subject of same-sex marriage shortly before the upcoming election, reflects misguided priorities and strays from the essential teachings of Christ. Our call to action is to create some good out of this unfortunate situation. We are collecting as many DVDs as possible and will return them to Archbishop John Nienstedt with a letter asking him to make the needs of the poor and love of neighbor his highest priority. We will personally make a financial donation for every DVD we collect to St. Stephens Human Services and Episcopal Community Services, non-profits working to help fight poverty and end homelessness in Minnesota.
The group stresses that they are not soliciting or accepting donations. They invite their supporters to instead send money to groups doing the real "work of Jesus."

reposted fromJoe

Via JMG: CALIFORNIA: Bullied Gay Teen Seth Walsh Dies Nine Days After Hanging Himself

After nine days on life support, 13 year-old Seth Walsh has died. Seth hung himself from a tree in his back yard after enduring years of anti-gay bullying from his classmates.
Tehachapi police investigators interviewed some of the young people who taunted Seth the day he hanged himself and determined despite the tragic outcome of their ridicule, their actions do not constitute a crime. "Several of the kids that we talked to broke down into tears," Jeff Kermode, Tehachapi Police Chief, said. "They had never expected an outcome such as this." He said the students told investigators they wish they had put a stop to the bullying and not participated in it. Friends said Seth was picked on for years because he was gay. School administrators said they have an anti-bullying program in place, but schoolmates said staff at Jacobsen Middle School in Tehachapi offered Seth no protection or guidance. A YouTube video by a family member sends a message about Seth: "He was bullied and teased, now in the hospital, this face right here is suffering because of bullying, never say a mean thing again."
A family member created the below video while Seth was first hospitalized.


reposted from Joe

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Via JMG: Tweet Of The Day - Christopher Barron

In addition to opposing ENDA, the Matthew Shepard Act, or any federal protections for LGBT Americans, GOProud feels that marriage equality is a states' rights issue and therefore they are OK with the 31 states that have passed constitutional bans on same-sex marriage at the behest of groups like NOM. That's just democracy in action!

reposted from Joe

Via JMG: Quote Of The Day - Barack Obama

"I've been here two years, guys. And one of the things that I just try to remember is that if we have accomplished 70 percent of what we committed to in the campaign, historic legislation, and we've got 30 percent of it undone — well, that's what the next two years is for, or maybe the next six. Understandably, everybody has a great sense of urgency about these issues. But one of the things that I constantly want to counsel my friends is to keep the long view in mind. On social issues, something like 'don't ask, don't tell.' Here, I've got the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff both committed to changing the policy. That's a big deal.

"Now, I am also the commander in chief of an armed forces that is in the midst of one war and wrapping up another one. So I don't think it's too much to ask, to say 'Let's do this in an orderly way' — to ensure, by the way, that gays and lesbians who are serving honorably in our armed forces aren't subject to harassment and bullying and a whole bunch of other stuff once we implement the policy. I use that as an example because on each of these areas, even those where we did not get some grand legislative victory, we have made progress. We have moved in the right direction." - President Obama, discussing DADT in a lengthy interview with Rolling Stone.

reposted from Joe

San Francisco says "It Gets Better!"

Via JMG: LAUNCHED: HRC & Courage Campaign Collaborate On "NOM Exposed" Site

The Human Rights Campaign and the Courage Campaign today launched NOM Exposed, a site devoted to unmasking the players, major backers, and strategies of the National Organization for Marriage. Via press release:
As the National Organization for Marriage, or NOM, embarks on a fall election campaign to defeat candidates who support full marriage equality, the Human Rights Campaign, in collaboration with the Courage Campaign, unveiled "NOM Exposed," a live, interactive website which reveals NOM's deep anti-gay affiliations, its long connections to the Mormon and Catholic churches and its quest to keep voters in the dark about its financing.

At the same time, HRC announced the formation of the NOM Project to follow the ongoing political work and propaganda of NOM as it attempts to influence elections and legislative campaigns across the country. The project will be led by Kevin Nix, a longtime LGBT advocate and political and media consultant. A former communications director at both Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and the Family Equality Council, Nix also worked at Media Matters in the 2004 presidential cycle.

"NOM and its leaders project a message of tolerance yet NOM Exposed shows that behind the well-trained talking points is an anti-gay animus and moneyed connections that it is loath to reveal," said HRC President Joe Solmonese. "This website is not static. Working with the Courage Campaign, we will be watching the campaign trail and documenting NOM's political buys and bedfellows. We will connect the dots for voters."
NOM Exposed is one of the most extensive takedowns of the enemies of the LGBT movement that I've seen on the web yet, and I've only just begun to dig in. Take note of the site's "Rogue's Gallery" and start from there. This is fantastic.

reposted from Joe

Via JMG: MONTANA: Bozeman Commission Backs Gay Couples In Marriage Lawsuit

The Montana GOP might want to outlaw gay sex, but the Bozeman City Commission is more enlightened. Yesterday Bozeman's city commissioners unanimously approved a resolution backing a pending lawsuit calling for the legalization of same-sex marriage in Montana. Bozeman, population 27,000, maybe be small by most standards, but they are the fifth largest town in Montana and the very first to back same-sex marriage.
From a group of pro-gay activists holding signs and cheering outside, to the packed seats of the commission room, City Hall was filled with powerful emotion during a Monday night meeting. Commissioners heard from comments on all sides of the homosexuality debate before making their unanimous decision to support the resolution. Mayor Jeff Krauss drafted the document, saying he wants Bozeman to put forth a clear message. "I think there are kids out there that are terrified of who they are and what they are," Krauss said. "They need to hear they are all welcome here and yes life for you can be normal here in Bozeman." "So proud, very proud and very grateful. The commission (is) doing the right thing at the risk of losing political cash," said one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Mary Leslie.
Seven gay couples are suing Montana. The case resumes next month.

reposted fromJoe

Via JMG: Jelly Belly To NOM: Get Lost!

When NOM published the itinerary of their latest Bus Fail Tour, many noted that tomorrow's first stop is the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield, California. JMG reader Carrie fired off an email to Jelly Belly to see if the famed candymaker was down with NOM's bigotry. Their response:
We were unaware of the “National Organization for Marriage” coming to visit prior to several emails that we received. We do not accept reservations for our free tours and tour buses often stop here for our free public tours. We have not rented any of our facilities for this group and no event or rally will be held here. Jelly Belly does not allow any group to promote their special interests, pass out flyers, or approach our visitors for their own interests at our public tours. We appreciate your offer to share with your blog community. Sincerely, Kit McCoy, Consumer Affairs Manager, Jelly Belly Candy Company.
I like that Jelly Belly encouraged Carrie to spread the news, even if they don't allow any political groups on their premises. Maybe NOM would have better luck with See's Candy, which last year lost its lease with San Francisco for refusing to offer LGBT benefits.

 Labels: , , ,

reposted from Joe

LKL - Ann Coulter Against Gay Marriage & Repealing DADT

Via JMG: TEXAS: 13 Year-Old Boy Commits Suicide After Years Of Anti-Gay Bullying

Eighth grader Asher Brown put a bullet in his brain this week after enduring years of anti-gay taunting and bullying at his Texas middle school. His parents say they complained to the school repeatedly. The school, of course, claims no knowledge of such complaints.
Cy Fair ISD officials said Monday that they never received any complaints from Brown's parents before the suicide about the way the boy was being treated at school. School district spokeswoman Kelli Durham said no students, school employees or the boy's parents ever reported that he was being bullied. That statement infuriated the Truongs, who accused the school district of protecting the bullies and their parents.

"That's absolutely inaccurate — it's completely false," Amy Truong said. "I did not hallucinate phone calls to counselors and assistant principals. We have no reason to make this up. … It's like they're calling us liars." David Truong said, "We want justice. The people here need to be held responsible and to be stopped. It did happen. There are witnesses everywhere." Numerous comments from parents and students on the Web site of KRIV-TV Channel 26, which also reported a story about Brown's death, stated that the boy had been bullied by classmates for several years and claimed Cy-Fair ISD does nothing to stop such harassment.
On the morning of his suicide, Asher told his parents that he was gay, but his stepfather says they were accepting of Asher's revelation. "We didn't condemn," he said. The day before, Asher had been tripped and pushed down a flight of stairs at his school. The school claims to have investigated that incident, but says they can find no corroboration.

Texas law does not protect students from anti-gay bullying, no doubt thanks to the work of Christianist groups like Focus On The Family, who lobby nationwide for the right of Christian students to abuse LGBT kids.

reposted from Joe

Via JMG: Atheists Know The Most About Religion

A survey testing Americans' knowledge about the religions of the world showed that atheists and agnostics know more than professed believers. Interestingly, some of the questions most frequently answered incorrectly were about the responders' own religions.
Forty-five percent of Roman Catholics who participated in the study didn't know that, according to church teaching, the bread and wine used in Holy Communion is not just a symbol, but becomes the body and blood of Christ. More than half of Protestants could not identify Martin Luther as the person who inspired the Protestant Reformation. And about four in 10 Jews did not know that Maimonides, one of the greatest rabbis and intellectuals in history, was Jewish. [snip]

Respondents to the survey were asked 32 questions with a range of difficulty, including whether they could name the Islamic holy book and the first book of the Bible, or say what century the Mormon religion was founded. On average, participants in the survey answered correctly overall for half of the survey questions. Atheists and agnostics scored highest, with an average of 21 correct answers, while Jews and Mormons followed with about 20 accurate responses. Protestants overall averaged 16 correct answers, while Catholics followed with a score of about 15.
The best predictor for religious knowledge, unsurprisingly, was level of education.

reposted from Joe


  Religious question? Better ask an atheist

  By Laurie Goodstein    New York Times 
Americans are by all measures a deeply religious people, but they are also deeply ignorant about religion.    Researchers from the independent Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life phoned more than 3,400 Americans and asked them 32 questions about the Bible, Christianity and other world religions, famous religious figures and the constitutional principles governing religion in public life.     

On average, people who took the survey answered half the questions incorrectly, and many flubbed even questions about their own faith.      
Those who scored the highest were atheists and agnostics, as well as two religious minorities: Jews and Mormons. The results were the same even after the researchers controlled for factors like age and racial differences.     

“Even after all these other factors, including education, are taken into account, atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons still outperform all the other religious groups in our survey,” said Greg Smith,     a senior researcher at Pew.     

That finding might surprise some, but not Dave Silver-man, president of American Atheists, an advocacy group for nonbelievers that was founded by Madalyn Murray O’Hair.     

“I have heard many times that atheists know more about religion than religious people,” Silverman said. “Atheism is an effect of that knowledge, not a lack of knowledge. I gave a Bible to my daughter. That’s how you make atheists.”     

Among the topics covered in the survey were: Where was Jesus born? What is Ramadan? Whose writings inspired the Protestant Reformation? Which Biblical figure led the exodus from Egypt? What religion is the Dalai Lama? Joseph Smith? Mother Teresa? In most cases, the format was multiple choice.       

The researchers said that the questionnaire was designed to represent a breadth of knowledge about religion but was not intended to be regarded as a list of the most essential facts about the subject. Most of the questions were easy, but a few were difficult enough to discern which respondents were highly knowledgeable.     

On questions about the Bible and Christianity, the groups that answered the most right were Mormons and white evangelical Protestants.     

On questions about world religions, like Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism, the groups that did the best were atheists, agnostics and Jews.       

One finding that may grab the attention of policymakers is that most Americans wrongly believe that anything having to do with religion is prohibited in public schools.     

An overwhelming 89 percent of respondents, asked whether public school teachers are permitted to lead a class in prayer, correctly answered no.     

But fewer than one in four knew that a public school teacher is permitted “to read from the Bible as an example of literature.” And only about one-third knew that a public school teacher is permitted to offer a class comparing the world’s religions.       

The survey’s authors concluded that there was “widespread confusion” about “the line between teaching and preaching.”     

Smith said the survey appeared to be the first comprehensive effort at assessing the basic religious knowledge of Americans, so it is impossible to tell whether they are more or less informed than in the past.    The phone interviews were conducted in English and Spanish in May and June. 

There were not enough Muslim, Buddhist or Hindu respondents to say how those   groups ranked.    Clergy members who are concerned that their congregants know little about the essentials of their own faith will no doubt be appalled by some of these findings:     

Fifty-three percent of Protestants could not identify Martin Luther as the man who started the Protestant Reformation.    

Forty-five percent of Catholics did not know that their church teaches that the consecrated bread and wine in Holy Communion are not merely symbols but actually become the body and blood of Christ.      
Forty-three percent of Jews did not know that Maimonides, one of the foremost rabbinical authorities and philosophers, was Jewish.     

The question about Maimonides was the one that the fewest people answered correctly. But 51 percent knew that Joseph Smith was Mormon, and 82 percent knew that Mother Teresa was Roman Catholic.   

Via Adam & Andy: