What I’m Listening

Busy week, little time to listen podcasts but got a few gems to share.

The Benito Juárez Experience 17 TBJE 2.0 Luciano and I reboot the show after 16 episodes. We discuss what we liked, what we want to change, and the changes that are coming to the show in the near future.

Understanding Latin American Politics: The Podcast 38 The Russia-Cuba Connection Been reading a lot about several of these topics recently. Good timing, good podcast subject by UNC-Charlotte Prof. Greg Weeks who interview Prof. Mervyn Bain from Univ. of Aberdeen.

La Voz del Centro 754 La toma de Jayuya en la Revolución de 1950 Since nationalism seems to be a trendy subject these days, listen [en español] about the 1950 Nationalist Revolt in Puerto Rico.

Who Thinks Atheists are Immoral?

Other atheists. That's according to a new study co-authored by psychologist Will Gervais. Says Gervais:

I suspect that this stems from the prevalence of deeply entrenched pro-religious norms. Even in places that are currently quite overtly secular, people still seem to intuitively hold on to the believe that religion is a moral safeguard.

-Will Gervais, PhD

The scope of the study was international and according to the write up in The Guardian "Only in Finland and New Zealand … did the experiment not yield conclusive evidence of anti-atheist prejudice…"

From an American perspective this finding doesn't surprise me. I've met plenty of atheists who sort of believe that most religious leaders are closet atheists conning people out of their money. That kind of thinking reached fever pitch this year when Michael Shermer gloated about [white] evangelicals getting duped by immoral atheist Trump (I write why I think he's wrong here).

Some other circumstantial evidence comes from PRRI's 2013 American Values Survey. They found that the nones reported a score of 77 (out of 100) in a cold-warm scale. But that number dropped to 71 for atheists. Sample size limitations don't allow for an analysis of Atheists' responses.

Read the full Gervais et al. study at Nature Human Behavior.

Democrats Still Fighting the Last Election

In his latest post at Sin/God Luciano argues that "Democrats Need To Stop Considering Backing Anti-Choice Politicians." He's right on so many levels and here's a sample:

The Democratic Party would strengthen itself if it reaffirmed a commitment to women’s rights and it would embolden many of its supporters who like me felt and feel incredibly disappointed by some within the Party reportedly considering this cowardly move.

Luciano González, Sin/God "Democrats Need to Stop Considering Backing Anti-Choice Politicians"

I agree that the Democratic Party needs to embrace reproductive rights more strongly. The vast majority of women holding legislative office, and virtually all women of color in Congress and state legislatures, are Democrats. The majority of women, thanks to the overwhelming support of women of color, voted for Hillary Clinton.

And yet, the Party as an institution is still trying to win elections by attracting the voters they don't have -and likely won't have ever again: religious conservatives. Those working and not-so-working class whites that once were the core of the Party before women joined the labor force en masse and people of color asserted their rights to equal citizenship. The ones who fell for Nixon and his Southern Strategy hook, sink, and liner. The ones who enthusiastically supported the Mediocrity in Chief.

Instead, Party leaders should focus on not diminishing the enthusiasm and activism that the Trump presidency has awakened. Rather than trying to replay the last election, they should focus in winning the next one. There's a constituency out there who will support a Party with principles. Just stop trying to be a nicer version of the other party because a Republican-lite Party is one that still throws the core of the Democratic Party under the proverbial bus. And that's no way to win an election.

What I’m Reading

The Lost Cause Rides Again (Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic) A must-read about HBO's ill-conceived "Confederate" show proposal.

Progress Never Just Happens— We Must Always Fight For It (Sara Pevar, The Establishment) A good reminder that all the progress that we have achieved wasn't the result of some magical decision by people to finally stop being jerks. It happens because some people cared and fought for it.

Democracy is dying – and it’s startling how few people are worried (Paul Mason, The Guardian) All over the planet, illiberalism is growing…and people don't seem to care.

The Rise of Dystopian Fiction: From Soviet Dissidents to 70's Paranoia to Murakami (Yvonne Shiau, Electric Literature) The early pioneers of dystopian futures didn't need much imagination.

What I’m Listening

The Benito Juárez Experience #16 Trinity Lutheran v. Comer Luciano and I talk about the recently decided SCOTUS case with Utica College political science professor Dr. Daniel Tagliarina, an expert on the Supreme Court and an old graduate school pal.

Resist Podcast #20 The Importance of Local Political Involvement and more with Sean Omar Rivera Danielle Muscato continues her interviews from the Secular Student Alliance conference, this time with student leader Sean Omar Rivera about the importance of local political involvement.

Code Switch #71 The U.S. Census and Our Sense of Us Great show about the importance of the U.S. Census. Gene Demby & Shareen Marisol Meraji interview former Census Director John Thompson. Also, Professor Cristina Mora talks about how the term Hispanic became a thing.

No Jargon #93: Melting Pot, Boiling Pot Hazelton, PA enacted Trumpian immigration ordinances before Trumpism was a thing. Avi Green interviews University of Washington professor Dr. René Flores who found that stirring anti-immigrant fears of criminality led to criminality indeed…against immigrants.

The Benito Juárez Experience #16: Trinity Lutheran

This week Luciano and I discuss the recently decided SCOTUS case Trinity Lutheran v. Comer. We debate the merits of the case, discuss the nuanced differences in opinion between justices, and wonder what's next in church-state jurisprudence with Utica College political science professor Daniel Tagliarina.

Links

The Benito Juárez Experience #16: Trinity Lutheran

Trinity Lutheran v. Comer Opinion

A Major Church-State Ruling That Shouldn't Have Happened (Garrett Epstein, The Atlantic)

Written by Professor Tagliarina

Free Exercise on the Playground

How Roberts Blurs Church and State in Trinity Lutheran Case

Various Interpretations of First Amendment in Trinity Lutheran Case

Theology Over Politics

Daniel Schultz has a very good piece in Religion Dispatches on the main weakness of the so-called religious left. As Schultz puts it:

[Rev. Dr. William] Barber wants Christians to decide which side they’re on: that of the rich and powerful, or the poor, in whose corner God stands. This sort of appeal to the authority of scripture is well-used by both the religious left and right. It’s what Christians think they should do when sorting through options: Come, let us reason together by interpreting the word of God.

But as he further argues, this strategy doesn't work for two reasons. First, it requires "a shared understanding of the Christian responsibility to the poor." Second, because it also requires "a shared identity as Christians."

This understanding of Christianity is problematic, particularly for someone in the religious left. Contrary to the religious right, that is essentially a Christian movement with some conservative Jews in the mix, the religious left is a multi-faith coalition. Sure, the vast majority of those are Christian, but minority religions are better represented than in their right-wing counterpart. If the concern for the poor is primarily a Christian thing, then where does that leave their fellow travelers in the movement who don't happen to be Christian.

Their diversity makes for a shaky coalition, something that Mark Silk has argued before, because they are unwilling to use the tools of partisanship to achieve political victories. Luciano Gonzalez and I expand on why this phobia of partisanship is the major weakness of the religious left in episode 12 of The Benito Juárez Experience. In his Religion Dispatches piece Schultz further argues that

When liberals appeal to a shared religious identity to guide policy decisions, then, the argument becomes about the faith, not the policy. Jim Wallis has been talking about all the scripture passages concerning the poor for like 40 years, and it hasn’t changed much of anything, because conservatives don’t understand the priorities the same way.

He is right, right-wing religious leaders baptize policies as Christian after the fact, not the other way around. If you debate how a Christian policy would look like you could keep arguing forever with nothing to show as an outcome. Bragging about holding the high moral ground may be nice but doesn't change the desperate situation many Americans live in. Holding power and the ability to change that reality is much better, but to many on the left -particularly religious figures- power is something to fear rather than embrace.