Category: Religion

The pledge of allegiance

Yesterday at the Supreme Court, Michael Newdow argued his own case against the phrase “under God” in the pledge of allegiance and apparently he did very well – managing to elicit a rare round of applause from the audience and ending gracefully on time and on point. Personally, although I am not religious, the phrase “under God” doesn’t raise my hackles. It’s the rest of the pledge that I hate.

Cato’s Gene Healy says it well:

From its inception, in 1892, the Pledge has been a slavish ritual of devotion to the state, wholly inappropriate for a free people. It was written by Francis Bellamy, a Christian Socialist pushed out of his post as a Baptist minister for delivering pulpit-pounding sermons on such topics as “Jesus the Socialist.” Bellamy was devoted to the ideas of his more-famous cousin Edward Bellamy, author of the 1888 utopian novel Looking Backward. Looking Backward describes the future United States as a regimented worker’s paradise where everyone has equal incomes, and men are drafted into the country’s “industrial army” at the age of 21, serving in the jobs assigned them by the state…Bellamy’s book inspired a movement of “Nationalist Clubs,” whose members campaigned for a government takeover of the economy. A few years before he wrote the Pledge of Allegiance, Francis Bellamy became a founding member of Boston’s first Nationalist Club….

Bellamy’s ritual for honoring the flag was right in step with those other National Socialists. Here’s a picture, dug up by Bob Wallace, illustrating the recommended salute (which later was to became politically incorrect).

bellamy.gif

The salute may be gone but the message remains.

Addendum: Hat tip to Walter in Denver who links to these even creepier photos of kids pledging allegiance.

Markets in everything, the ongoing saga

St. Francis Episcopal Church in Stamford, Conn., in a bid to fill empty pews, has introduced a monthly Sunday service for pet owners who wish to take their dogs and cats (and presumably birds, ferrets, and boa constrictors) to the altar to receive the host or a special benediction. Other houses of worship around the country, the paper noted, are also offering everything from pet-friendly services and prayers for the animals to pet funerals and “bark mitzvahs.”

Here is Kasha’s Bark Mitzvah. By the way, “All of Beth Shir Shalom’s Bark Mitzvahs are held in the parking lot, to avoid any “accidents” in the sanctuary.”

Here is a photo of the Episcopal version of a pet-friendly service (no fear of accidents, apparently; see also the attached comments, such as “It looks like that black dog in the picture has some sort of mind control over that old lady. It gives me the creeps.”). Here is the full story, add your own commentary, you don’t want to hear “My Take” on this one.

A Federal Marriage Amendment

Press release from a universe just parsecs from our own:

President Bush today announced support for the Federal Marriage Amendment to the constitution. “Marriage is a sacred institution” said the President “If we are to prevent the meaning of marriage from being changed forever, our nation must enact a constitutional amendment to protect marriage in America…Marriage cannot be severed from its cultural, religious and natural roots without weakening the good influence of society.”

Bush called on Congress “to promptly pass and to send to the states for ratification” an amendment to define marriage as a sacred union. Liberal courts, said the President, have undermined the institution of marriage by not taking seriously the damage done by those who violate their covenant with God and spouse. Calling for a return to family values, the President said the Federal Marriage Amendment will bring back the traditional penalties for those who violate their unions thereby restoring marriage to its rightful place at the center of a civilized nation.

North Korea on the Web

Check out the website of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. From the opening image of electrification to the leader worship and slogans (“The Great Leader Kim Il Sung Will Be Always With Us!”) the website looks and feels like an ironic museum piece. The fact that it is not, is an eerie if useful reminder of things too often taken for granted.

Thanks to Curtis Melvin for the link.

Don’t forget to say please

The Italian Bishops Conference has recently agonised about how to address the devil during exorcisms following a Vatican decision to translate into Italian the venerable Latin formula, Vade retro Satanas.

Bishops were unsure which form of “you” to use – the familiar “tu” or formal “lei”.

The full story is about Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, 66, the archbishop of Genoa, and a leading candidate to be the next Pope. Here are his controversial Ten Rules on Resisting Satan.

The betting market has Tettamanzi as a 5 to 4 favorite to win the Papal election.

Addendum: One reader wrote and asked why I found the rules for resisting the devil so controversial. As I understand the controversy, it has provoked controversy among Catholics, many of whom feel that the devil should not be so prominent in theology.

Kissing Cousins (More)

A John Tierney article in today’s NYTimes argues that the Iraqi tradition of cousin marriage and consequent clan loyalties make it difficult to establish democracy. (See Tyler’s earlier post for a map and some other links.) Most interesting claim is that the Western taboo against cousin marriage was promoted by the church explicitly in order to reduce loyalty to the clan and promote universal love. Key quote:

Cousin marriage was once the norm throughout the world, but it became taboo in Europe after a long campaign by the Roman Catholic Church. Theologians like St. Augustine and St. Thomas argued that the practice promoted family loyalties at the expense of universal love and social harmony. Eliminating it was seen as a way to reduce clan warfare and promote loyalty to larger social institutions – like the church.

By the way, recent genetic research indicates that cousin marriage does not lead to dramatically higher abnormalities in children.