The end of religion as we know it: Why churches can no longer hide the truth

From Salon:

“Caught in the Pulpit” author Daniel Dennett on closeted atheist clergy and our new age of radical transparency

Saturday, May 16, 2015

If Daniel Dennett is anything, he is a champion of the facts. The prominent philosopher of science is an advocate for hard-nosed empiricism, and as a leading New Atheist he calls for naturalistic explanations of religion. Dennett is also the co-author (along with Linda LaScola) of the recently expanded and updated Caught in the Pulpit: Leaving Faith Behind, which documents the stories of preachers and rabbis who themselves came to see…the facts.

 Caught in the Pulpit is a close cousin to The Clergy Project, an outreach effort to “current and former religious professionals who no longer hold supernatural beliefs”—many of whom must closet their newfound skepticism to preserve their careers and communities.

For Dennett, closeted atheist clergy are not simply tragic figures, they are harbingers of great things to come. Peppered amongst Caught in the Pulpit’s character vignettes are mini-essays in which Dennett predicts a sea change in religious doctrine and practice. Our digital information age, he argues, is ushering in a “new world of universal transparency” where religious institutions can no longer hide the truth. To survive in an age of transparency, religions will need to come to terms with the facts.

Dennett spoke recently with The Cubit about institutional transparency, the parallels between religious and atheistic fundamentalism, and the future of religion.

You describe non-believing clergy as “canaries in a coal mine.” Why does this group hold such significance for understanding the future of religion?

I think that we are now entering a really disruptive age in the history of human civilization, thanks to the new transparency brought about by social media and the internet. It used to be a lot easier to keep secrets than it is now.

In the March issue of Scientific American, Deb Roy and I compare this to the Cambrian Explosion. The Cambrian Explosion happened 540 million years ago, when there was a sudden, very dramatic explosion of different life forms in response to some new change in the world. Oxford zoologist Andrew Parker argues that the increased transparency of the ocean made eyesight possible, and this changed everything: now predators could see prey, and prey could see predators, and this set off an arms race of interactions. Well, we think something similar is happening in human culture. Institutions—not just religions but also universities, armies, corporations—are now faced with how to change their fundamental structure and methods to deal with the fact that everybody’s living in a glass house now.

Protecting your inner workings is becoming very difficult; it’s very hard to keep secrets. Religions have thrived in part because they were able to keep secrets. They were able to keep secrets about other religions from their parishioners, who were largely ignorant of what other people in the world believed, and also keep secrets about their own inner workings and their own histories, so that it was easy to have a sort of controlled message that went out to people. Those days are over. You can go on the Internet and access to all kinds of information. This is going to change everything.

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Must We Alienate Our Women Allies?

Not my headline. I don’t identify as trans. or as a transwoman with or without hyphen. I think the Transgender Borg ideology is total bullshit.  I didn’t have sex reassignment surgery to be a transwoman.  When I came out I came out as a woman and the end goal was to be a female bodied woman.

I think gender is a social construct as describe by Simone de Beauvoir in the late 1940s not as defined and described by Judy Butler of the impenetrable lannguage and made up words of the post-modern era.

I grew up a working class woman heavily influenced by the hippie and later 1970s era dykes.  I’m a female identified, woman identified woman.  I don’t do some things now due to physical limitations and not because of sex/gender roles.

Gender, gender, gender is as much a way to oppress women as anything concocted by Phyllis Schlafly.  The transgender movement’s attacks on feminism are as oppressive and anti-woman as anything the MRAs ever cooked up.

When I became a feminist there was a concern that women who had been born transsexual would co-opt the women’s movement and make it all about them.  we were different in tose days we gave priority to being women not transgender, which wasn’t in common usage.

I am tired of all the Trans-Games of things like “cis”.

I stand with women, I put women first.  I put the interests of women ahead of those of transgender identified people.

From Huffington Post:


There has been a long history of tension between lesbian trans women and lesbian cis women, manifested in the battles over admission to and inclusion at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, as well as admissions to women’s colleges. In some ways it’s to be expected, as an understanding of gender identity has taken a long time to even begin to permeate through society as a whole, let alone gay society. It is also no surprise that cisgender lesbian women, who see themselves through the prism of sexual orientation, don’t easily “get” trans women, who are rooted in the experience of a gender identity that is different from the one assumed at birth. Those lesbians usually don’t feel any challenge to their fundamental sense of self as women — that is, until one of their own decides to transition to male or to partner up with a trans woman. It’s at that moment that the deeper issues of identity as female force their way into consciousness. I will admit to envying my cis lesbian friends who are so comfortable just being women who love women and seldom feel the challenge anymore from an ignorant hatred that refuses to see them as women simply because they are gay.

Those battles, which unfortunately persist, are bad enough, but now there is a movement among certain young trans persons and allies to confront the class of straight cis women as well. I first noticed this trend last year when a group challenged local Texas NARAL and Planned Parenthood groups for using “women” in their marketing, claiming that that language excluded trans men. I’ve learned that the public debate began a year earlier, when Laura Rankin posted an op-ed on stating a need to reframe the battle for abortion rights. This year some women at Mt. Holyoke College decided to cease performing The Vagina Monologues because they felt that the play was no longer inclusive, and because they inferred, wrongly, that the playwright, Eve Ensler, is transphobic. Now the battle has made it into the mainstream leftist media in an article by Katha Pollitt, and the trans activists are misreading her words and creating a problem where there isn’t one.

Ms. Pollitt makes her point succinctly and compassionately, with no evidence of prejudice:

I’m going to argue here that removing “women” from the language of abortion is a mistake. We can, and should, support trans men and other gender-non-conforming people. But we can do that without rendering invisible half of humanity and 99.999 percent of those who get pregnant. I know I’ll offend, hurt and disappoint some people, including abortion-fund activists I love dearly. That is why I’ve started this column many times over many months and put it aside. I tell myself I might be wrong — it’s happened before. “Most of the pressure [to shift language] comes from young people,” said one abortion-fund head I interviewed, whose fund, like many, has “Women” in its name. “The role of people in our generation is to give money and get out of the way.” (Like many of the people I interviewed for this column, she asked to remain anonymous.) Maybe in ten years, it will seem perfectly natural to me to talk about abortion in a gender-neutral way. Right now, though, it feels as if abortion language is becoming a bit like French, where one man in a group of no matter how many women means “elles” becomes “ils.”

Pollitt points out that the critical issue today is access, and there seems to be little disagreement about that fact. She then goes on to point out the political impact of the demanded change:

The real damage of abolishing “women” in abortion contexts, though, is to our political analysis. What happens to Dr. Tiller’s motto, “Trust Women”? There was a whole feminist philosophy expressed in those two words: women are competent moral actors and they, not men, clergy or the state, are the experts on their own lives, and should be the ones to decide how to shape them. It is because abortion gives power specifically to women that it was criminalized. How did Selina Meyer put it on Veep? If men got pregnant, you could get an abortion at an ATM.

That’s the politics from a cis woman’s point of view. From a trans woman’s point of view, I see one more misguided attempt at providing inclusion that has the inevitable consequence of alienating millions of women who are or could be our allies, as we dilute their campaign while focusing solely on ourselves. No pregnant trans man has been denied access, according to reports; the problem lies with trans men feeling excluded by the language. Well, it’s not always about you or me. There are much bigger issues involved here, and demanding that the language that speaks to and empowers tens of millions of women should be neutralized so as not to offend a handful of trans men is unfair.

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The Big Picture: Expand Social Security with Robert Reich

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