Texas's war on history

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Texas's war on history

Post by Bryant on Thu May 17, 2012 6:13 pm

Texas's war on history
Christian-nationalist zealots are trying to rewrite US history, airbrush slavery and enshrine creationism in Texas schools

Katherine Stewart
www.guardian.co.uk


Don McLeroy, chairman of the Texas State Board of Education from 2007 to 2009, is a "young earth" creationist. He believes the earth is 6,000 years old, that human beings walked with dinosaurs, and that Noah's Ark had a unique, multi-level construction that allowed it to house every species of animal, including the dinosaurs.

He has a right to his beliefs, but it's his views on history that are problematic. McLeroy is part of a large and powerful movement determined to impose a thoroughly distorted, ultra-partisan, Christian nationalist version of US history on America's public school students. And he has scored stunning successes.

If you want to see a scary movie about this movement, consider taking in Scott Thurman's finely-crafted documentary Revisionaries, currently making the festival circuit, which records the antics of McLeroy and a hard right majority on the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) as they revise the textbook standards that will be used in Texas (and many other states).

The first part of this documentary deals with the familiar "science wars", in which one side seeks to educate children in the sciences, and the other side proposes to "teach the controversy" in order to undermine those aspects of science that conflict with its religious convictions. But it's the second part of the movie where the horror really kicks in. As I explain in more detail in The Good News Club: The Christian Right's Stealth Assault on America's Children, the history debate makes the science debate look genteel. While the handful of moderates on the SBOE squeals in opposition, the conservative majority lands blow after blow, passing resolutions imposing its mythological history on the nation's textbooks.

Cynthia Dunbar, a board member who has described public education as a "subtly deceptive tool of perversion", and who homeschooled her own children, emerges as a relentless ideologue. During the hearings, she yanks Thomas Jefferson from a standard according to which students are expected to "explain the impact of Enlightenment ideas … on political revolutions from 1750 to the present", and replaces him with the 13th-century theologian St Thomas Aquinas. Moderate Republican board member Bob Craig points out that the curriculum writers clearly intended for the students to study Enlightenment ideas and Jefferson in this part of the standard, not a mix of Protestant and Catholic theologians, but the resolution passes anyway.

Dunbar isn't very subtle about her agenda. In one scene, the filmmakers track her to a prayer rally in Washington, DC, where she implores Jesus to "invade" public schools.

The board goes on to remove the word "slavery" from the standards, replacing it with the more benign-seeming "Atlantic triangular trade". They insist on calling the United States a "constitutional republic" rather than a "democracy" – largely because they want students to think of their country as Republican, not Democratic. So convinced are they of the timeless superiority of American/Republican values that one of them introduces a standard asking students to "explain three pro-free-market factors contributing to European technological progress during the rise and decline of the medieval system".

Historical figures of suspect religious views (like Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin) or political tendency (like union organizer Dolores Huerta) are ruthlessly demoted or purged altogether from the study program. Meanwhile, the board majority makes room for an eclectic array of ancillary figures from the revolutionary period, such as Charles Carroll and Jonathan Trumbull. What these marginal figures have in common, other than being dusted off from high shelves and promoted by the board, is the fact that they were loud defenders of orthodox Christianity.

Even by their own admission, the board members were hopelessly unqualified to make judgments about the history. So they appointed a committee of academic "experts" to vet the standards. The committee was a model of "bipartisanship" in the modern era. For their part, the moderates on the board appointed credible historians, professors at Texas universities; one was defended by a moderate Republican board member as "a good Republican … not some kind of crazy liberal".

The conservatives, on the other hand, appointed Peter Marshall of Peter Marshall Ministries, a group that seeks to "reclaim America for Christ" and is "dedicated to helping to restore America to its Bible-based foundations through preaching, teaching, and writing on America's Christian heritage and on Christian discipleship and revival". They also appointed pseudo-historian David Barton, the former vice-chairman of the Texas GOP and founder of the Black Robe Regiment. The latter, sinister-sounding organisation is an association of "concerned patriots" whose goal is to "restore the American Church in her capacity as the Body of Christ, ambassador for Christ, moral teacher of America and the world, and overseer of all principalities and governing officials, as was rightfully established long ago".

Barton is known for fabricating quotes from America's founders, or taking them out of context to build his case that America was established as a so-called "Christian nation". And here's the gruesome kicker: the Texas board actually ignored advice from its own, balanced committee whenever it contradicted the agenda of the far-right majority.

Sometimes, the most important characters in a story are the ones who don't show up. In the Texas battle over history, the heroes who went missing were the kind of people and organizations that might have defended the teaching of history in the way that the scientists mobilized to defend the teaching of biology. The scientists are reasonably well-organized. When creationism rears its paleolithic head in state legislatures or on school boards, it faces the opposition of organizations such as the National Association of Biology Teachers, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Center for Science Education, the American Institute for Biological Sciences, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, the National Earth Science Teachers Association, and others.

Defenders of biological sciences can also fall back on court rulings such as Kitzmiller v Dover Area School District and Edwards v Aguillard, which prohibit teaching of creationism. They also have a wealth of popular treatments of scientific issues to draw upon, such as explanations of evolutionary theory by Richard Dawkins and other scientists.

History, however, is often left to fend for itself.

To be fair, in the Texas proceedings, some historians and activists made valiant attempts to contain the damage. Kathy Miller, spokesperson for the Texas Freedom Network, an Austin-based research and advocacy group, was allocated several minutes for her impassioned defense of religious and political neutrality in public education. Professor Steven K Green, director of Willamette's Center for Religion, Law, and Democracy, used his five minutes in front of the board to remind them that "the supreme court has forbidden public schools from 'seeking to impress upon students the importance of particular religious values through curriculum.'" The board majority smiled and looked away.

So, where are history's defenders?

Part of the problem here has to do with a common fallacy about history. We think of history as a "soft" subject. We know that it always involves some degree of interpretation, that the "narratives" are always "contested", and that the answers are never so obviously right or wrong as they are in science. We also know that there have been leftwing versions of the history that are just as distorting as the rightwing propaganda served up by McLeroy and friends. But it's plain wrong to think that we can only throw our hands in the air and conclude that history is whatever anyone chooses to say it is.

Some academics have gotten too used to speaking only with one another. Many could do a more forceful job of seeking to protect the public from disinformation. When I was researching my book, I came across plenty of academic historians who were dismissive about David Barton in private; but few were willing to go public, or to invest the effort in refuting him in detail.

Barton recently came out with another piece of propaganda, The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You've Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson. To their credit, a pair of professors who identify themselves as conservative Christians, Warren Throckmorton and Michael Coulter, have stepped forward to debunk Barton's latest exercise in their book, Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims About Our Third President. But that hasn't stopped Barton's book from becoming a bestseller.

Maybe, we find it easy to underestimate the harm that bad history can do. McLeroy and his cohorts desperately want students to be taught that America is beyond criticism. It's greatness, they believe, stems from the values, principles, and methods of America's conservatives, and the only safe path to the future is to suppress or eliminate whatever does not conform to their image of a purified America. These "revisionaries" are far from the vision of the US bequeathed by the same founders whom the far right claims to revere.

The "glory of the people of America" as James Madison actually said, is that they broke free from the "blind veneration" of the ways of the past and learned how to draw on the "lessons of their own experience" in order to build the world anew.
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Re: Texas's war on history

Post by Miles1 on Fri May 18, 2012 1:45 am

So how long til they try to bring in a law that renames America as "Jesusistan"? Of course, it's not Jesus as the bible would have you believe (after all, the bible was written by Jewish liberals who weren't even american - they were arabs!), with all that hippy socialist "look after the sick and the poor" and "love thy neighbour as thyself" crap, it's Republican Jesus!


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Re: Texas's war on history

Post by Bryant on Fri May 18, 2012 9:34 am

Miles1 wrote:So how long til they try to bring in a law that renames America as "Jesusistan"? Of course, it's not Jesus as the bible would have you believe (after all, the bible was written by Jewish liberals who weren't even american - they were arabs!), with all that hippy socialist "look after the sick and the poor" and "love thy neighbour as thyself" crap, it's Republican Jesus!


I like how American Jesus in that pic looks like Chuck Norris.

On the same note:
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Re: Texas's war on history

Post by Miles1 on Fri May 18, 2012 10:14 am

Bryant wrote:
I like how American Jesus in that pic looks like Chuck Norris.

Yeah, apparently Jesus believes in Chuck Norris :-P

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Re: Texas's war on history

Post by Dennis324 on Mon May 21, 2012 8:15 am

Bryant wrote:Texas's war on history
Christian-nationalist zealots are trying to rewrite US history, airbrush slavery and enshrine creationism in Texas schools

Katherine Stewart
www.guardian.co.uk


Don McLeroy, chairman of the Texas State Board of Education from 2007 to 2009, is a "young earth" creationist. He believes the earth is 6,000 years old, that human beings walked with dinosaurs, and that Noah's Ark had a unique, multi-level construction that allowed it to house every species of animal, including the dinosaurs.

He has a right to his beliefs, but it's his views on history that are problematic. McLeroy is part of a large and powerful movement determined to impose a thoroughly distorted, ultra-partisan, Christian nationalist version of US history on America's public school students. And he has scored stunning successes.

If you want to see a scary movie about this movement, consider taking in Scott Thurman's finely-crafted documentary Revisionaries, currently making the festival circuit, which records the antics of McLeroy and a hard right majority on the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) as they revise the textbook standards that will be used in Texas (and many other states).

The first part of this documentary deals with the familiar "science wars", in which one side seeks to educate children in the sciences, and the other side proposes to "teach the controversy" in order to undermine those aspects of science that conflict with its religious convictions. But it's the second part of the movie where the horror really kicks in. As I explain in more detail in The Good News Club: The Christian Right's Stealth Assault on America's Children, the history debate makes the science debate look genteel. While the handful of moderates on the SBOE squeals in opposition, the conservative majority lands blow after blow, passing resolutions imposing its mythological history on the nation's textbooks.

Cynthia Dunbar, a board member who has described public education as a "subtly deceptive tool of perversion", and who homeschooled her own children, emerges as a relentless ideologue. During the hearings, she yanks Thomas Jefferson from a standard according to which students are expected to "explain the impact of Enlightenment ideas … on political revolutions from 1750 to the present", and replaces him with the 13th-century theologian St Thomas Aquinas. Moderate Republican board member Bob Craig points out that the curriculum writers clearly intended for the students to study Enlightenment ideas and Jefferson in this part of the standard, not a mix of Protestant and Catholic theologians, but the resolution passes anyway.

Dunbar isn't very subtle about her agenda. In one scene, the filmmakers track her to a prayer rally in Washington, DC, where she implores Jesus to "invade" public schools.

The board goes on to remove the word "slavery" from the standards, replacing it with the more benign-seeming "Atlantic triangular trade". They insist on calling the United States a "constitutional republic" rather than a "democracy" – largely because they want students to think of their country as Republican, not Democratic. So convinced are they of the timeless superiority of American/Republican values that one of them introduces a standard asking students to "explain three pro-free-market factors contributing to European technological progress during the rise and decline of the medieval system".

Historical figures of suspect religious views (like Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin) or political tendency (like union organizer Dolores Huerta) are ruthlessly demoted or purged altogether from the study program. Meanwhile, the board majority makes room for an eclectic array of ancillary figures from the revolutionary period, such as Charles Carroll and Jonathan Trumbull. What these marginal figures have in common, other than being dusted off from high shelves and promoted by the board, is the fact that they were loud defenders of orthodox Christianity.

Even by their own admission, the board members were hopelessly unqualified to make judgments about the history. So they appointed a committee of academic "experts" to vet the standards. The committee was a model of "bipartisanship" in the modern era. For their part, the moderates on the board appointed credible historians, professors at Texas universities; one was defended by a moderate Republican board member as "a good Republican … not some kind of crazy liberal".

The conservatives, on the other hand, appointed Peter Marshall of Peter Marshall Ministries, a group that seeks to "reclaim America for Christ" and is "dedicated to helping to restore America to its Bible-based foundations through preaching, teaching, and writing on America's Christian heritage and on Christian discipleship and revival". They also appointed pseudo-historian David Barton, the former vice-chairman of the Texas GOP and founder of the Black Robe Regiment. The latter, sinister-sounding organisation is an association of "concerned patriots" whose goal is to "restore the American Church in her capacity as the Body of Christ, ambassador for Christ, moral teacher of America and the world, and overseer of all principalities and governing officials, as was rightfully established long ago".

Barton is known for fabricating quotes from America's founders, or taking them out of context to build his case that America was established as a so-called "Christian nation". And here's the gruesome kicker: the Texas board actually ignored advice from its own, balanced committee whenever it contradicted the agenda of the far-right majority.

Sometimes, the most important characters in a story are the ones who don't show up. In the Texas battle over history, the heroes who went missing were the kind of people and organizations that might have defended the teaching of history in the way that the scientists mobilized to defend the teaching of biology. The scientists are reasonably well-organized. When creationism rears its paleolithic head in state legislatures or on school boards, it faces the opposition of organizations such as the National Association of Biology Teachers, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Center for Science Education, the American Institute for Biological Sciences, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, the National Earth Science Teachers Association, and others.

Defenders of biological sciences can also fall back on court rulings such as Kitzmiller v Dover Area School District and Edwards v Aguillard, which prohibit teaching of creationism. They also have a wealth of popular treatments of scientific issues to draw upon, such as explanations of evolutionary theory by Richard Dawkins and other scientists.

History, however, is often left to fend for itself.

To be fair, in the Texas proceedings, some historians and activists made valiant attempts to contain the damage. Kathy Miller, spokesperson for the Texas Freedom Network, an Austin-based research and advocacy group, was allocated several minutes for her impassioned defense of religious and political neutrality in public education. Professor Steven K Green, director of Willamette's Center for Religion, Law, and Democracy, used his five minutes in front of the board to remind them that "the supreme court has forbidden public schools from 'seeking to impress upon students the importance of particular religious values through curriculum.'" The board majority smiled and looked away.

So, where are history's defenders?

Part of the problem here has to do with a common fallacy about history. We think of history as a "soft" subject. We know that it always involves some degree of interpretation, that the "narratives" are always "contested", and that the answers are never so obviously right or wrong as they are in science. We also know that there have been leftwing versions of the history that are just as distorting as the rightwing propaganda served up by McLeroy and friends. But it's plain wrong to think that we can only throw our hands in the air and conclude that history is whatever anyone chooses to say it is.

Some academics have gotten too used to speaking only with one another. Many could do a more forceful job of seeking to protect the public from disinformation. When I was researching my book, I came across plenty of academic historians who were dismissive about David Barton in private; but few were willing to go public, or to invest the effort in refuting him in detail.

Barton recently came out with another piece of propaganda, The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You've Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson. To their credit, a pair of professors who identify themselves as conservative Christians, Warren Throckmorton and Michael Coulter, have stepped forward to debunk Barton's latest exercise in their book, Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Checking Claims About Our Third President. But that hasn't stopped Barton's book from becoming a bestseller.

Maybe, we find it easy to underestimate the harm that bad history can do. McLeroy and his cohorts desperately want students to be taught that America is beyond criticism. It's greatness, they believe, stems from the values, principles, and methods of America's conservatives, and the only safe path to the future is to suppress or eliminate whatever does not conform to their image of a purified America. These "revisionaries" are far from the vision of the US bequeathed by the same founders whom the far right claims to revere.

The "glory of the people of America" as James Madison actually said, is that they broke free from the "blind veneration" of the ways of the past and learned how to draw on the "lessons of their own experience" in order to build the world anew.
Oh man... *Sigh*

Ok, my comments relate to the article, not anyone here. And I should preface this by saying I'm an 'old earth' creationist. I mean...when you find settlements that are over 12000 years old, its hard to argue against an old earth. Lol!

I dont know much about this movement either, nor do I support it (yet), but one thing that comes to mind is that if our schools were not being deluged with left wing groups trying to "indoctrinate" the kids with radical left wing ideas, this probably would never be an issue. Groups detemined to normalize homosexuality with books, speakers and pamplets in public schools. School administrators passing out condoms to 3rd graders. Is it any wonder that conservatives want homeschool or send their kids to private academies? A lot of social issues being forced on the kids go against what conservative families want. So I'm not really surprised when some people are upset at what is being forced on their kids. A parent tries hard to raise his kids according to their faith and the public school system throws tons of money in an effort to undermine everything the parent is teaching at home?

The author here states that McLEroy has a right to his beliefs, but then goes out of her way to crucify him for having those beliefs. Which is it? Also the author criticizes those who teach that the United States is a 'Constitutional Republic' rather than a democracy, saying its an attempt to get kids to think of this country as republican, rather than democrat. This is ignorant, pure and simple. A Republic does not mean the same thing as 'Republican' (as in GOP). A 'Republic' is a form of govt, not a political party. Our nation is a Republic. It is a democratic form of govt (of which there are many), not a pure democracy. I'm sorry but this author is an idiot.

As for Atlantic triangular trade. That is not a term to make the slave trade seem benign. Triangular trade, or triangle trade, is a historical term indicating (trade) among three ports or regions. The best-known triangular trading system is the transatlantic slave trade, that operated from the late 16th to early 19th centuries, carrying slaves, cash crops, and manufactured goods between West Africa, Caribbean or American colonies and the European colonial powers, with the northern colonies of British North America, especially New England, sometimes taking over the role of Europe. Public schools have been teaching this for decades. I know I was taught this way back in the late 60s and again in college. Its a legitimate historical term. Its much like the term 'Silk Road'.

A classic example would be the trade of sugar from the Caribbean to Europe or New England, where it was distilled into rum. The profits from the sale of sugar were used to purchase manufactured goods, which were then shipped to West Africa, where they were bartered for slaves. The slaves were then brought back to the Caribbean to be sold to sugar planters. The profits from the sale of the slaves were then used to buy more sugar, which was shipped to Europe, etc. The trip itself took five to twelve weeks.

She calls the 'Black Robe Regiment' sinister sounding. But the black robe regiment is taken from the historical pastors of the coloniel days....most of whom wore black robes in their pulpits (I guess like Episcopal). Nothing sinister at all about it. And she goes out of her way to demonize David Barton by saying he fabricated quotes from our nation's founders...but gives no evidence! I have read and wtched David Barton and let me tellya, there's nothing sinister about him.

Geez louise some writers have such an agenda and the sad fact is that ...if you havent studied your history, you might be fooled into going along with what this idiotic author is spouting.

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Re: Texas's war on history

Post by Dennis324 on Mon May 21, 2012 8:23 am

Btw...that article? It was featured on Richard Dawkins' website. Dawkins is an outspoken atheist and a prominent critic of religion.

So there's yer agenda. Tryin to pull a fast one on us Bryant? You give a link to the guardian's homepage...not even the article in question. I guess you didnt figure we actually click on links. You guys have criticized me for using Fox News as a source, and you pull this?

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Re: Texas's war on history

Post by Bryant on Mon May 21, 2012 6:38 pm

Dennis324 wrote:Btw...that article? It was featured on Richard Dawkins' website. Dawkins is an outspoken atheist and a prominent critic of religion.

So there's yer agenda. Tryin to pull a fast one on us Bryant? You give a link to the guardian's homepage...not even the article in question. I guess you didnt figure we actually click on links. You guys have criticized me for using Fox News as a source, and you pull this?

Oh please, Dawkins had nothing to do with this article. Here is the link to the article its self, I found it by googling the article title.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2012/may/17/texas-war-on-history
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Re: Texas's war on history

Post by Marconius on Tue May 22, 2012 12:28 am

Hey, if we give hacks like Zinn and Chomsky awards for their retelling of history.....why can't we give these guys awards too.

We cannot have it only one way because that way might just be the one we agree with.


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Re: Texas's war on history

Post by Dennis324 on Thu May 24, 2012 8:15 am

Bryant wrote:
Dennis324 wrote:Btw...that article? It was featured on Richard Dawkins' website. Dawkins is an outspoken atheist and a prominent critic of religion.

So there's yer agenda. Tryin to pull a fast one on us Bryant? You give a link to the guardian's homepage...not even the article in question. I guess you didnt figure we actually click on links. You guys have criticized me for using Fox News as a source, and you pull this?

Oh please, Dawkins had nothing to do with this article. Here is the link to the article its self, I found it by googling the article title.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2012/may/17/texas-war-on-history
I know, I saw that too. But I dug a little deeper and saw where it was a headline on Richard Dawkin's website. What made you even think to look up 'Texas' war on history'? I suspect you did see it on Dawkin's website.

The article is an attack on Christian America. And knowing the little bit I know about your feelings on faith, I just put 2 and 2 together.

Smile

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Re: Texas's war on history

Post by Bryant on Fri May 25, 2012 5:35 pm

Dennis324 wrote:
Bryant wrote:
Dennis324 wrote:Btw...that article? It was featured on Richard Dawkins' website. Dawkins is an outspoken atheist and a prominent critic of religion.

So there's yer agenda. Tryin to pull a fast one on us Bryant? You give a link to the guardian's homepage...not even the article in question. I guess you didnt figure we actually click on links. You guys have criticized me for using Fox News as a source, and you pull this?

Oh please, Dawkins had nothing to do with this article. Here is the link to the article its self, I found it by googling the article title.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2012/may/17/texas-war-on-history
I know, I saw that too. But I dug a little deeper and saw where it was a headline on Richard Dawkin's website. What made you even think to look up 'Texas' war on history'? I suspect you did see it on Dawkin's website.

The article is an attack on Christian America. And knowing the little bit I know about your feelings on faith, I just put 2 and 2 together.

Smile

It sounds like you've spent more time on Dawkin's website than I have. I understand why he may like it, however I fail to see how that is to the determent of the article.

I don't think this article does much of anything to attack Christian Americans, however it isn't very kind to those who wish to create a Christian America.
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Re: Texas's war on history

Post by Bryant on Fri May 25, 2012 5:36 pm

Marconius wrote:Hey, if we give hacks like Zinn and Chomsky awards for their retelling of history.....why can't we give these guys awards too.

We cannot have it only one way because that way might just be the one we agree with.


Did someone give Chomsky an award for retelling history? I'm not very familiar with his works (all I remember about him was that Marc was a fan).

Who is Zinn?
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Re: Texas's war on history

Post by Dennis324 on Sun May 27, 2012 8:53 am

Bryant wrote:
Dennis324 wrote:
Bryant wrote:
Dennis324 wrote:Btw...that article? It was featured on Richard Dawkins' website. Dawkins is an outspoken atheist and a prominent critic of religion.

So there's yer agenda. Tryin to pull a fast one on us Bryant? You give a link to the guardian's homepage...not even the article in question. I guess you didnt figure we actually click on links. You guys have criticized me for using Fox News as a source, and you pull this?

Oh please, Dawkins had nothing to do with this article. Here is the link to the article its self, I found it by googling the article title.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2012/may/17/texas-war-on-history
I know, I saw that too. But I dug a little deeper and saw where it was a headline on Richard Dawkin's website. What made you even think to look up 'Texas' war on history'? I suspect you did see it on Dawkin's website.

The article is an attack on Christian America. And knowing the little bit I know about your feelings on faith, I just put 2 and 2 together.

Smile

It sounds like you've spent more time on Dawkin's website than I have. I understand why he may like it, however I fail to see how that is to the determent of the article.

I don't think this article does much of anything to attack Christian Americans, however it isn't very kind to those who wish to create a Christian America.
Ah, ok then. Smile I just thought you were tryng to stir the pot a tiny bit. No harm no foul. Smile

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