Overheard (March 2018)

The forgotten stepchildren of the Great Awakening are America’s skeptics and unbelievers. . . . Modern American culture, our understanding of the Constitution, and American religion itself would look much different had these gadflies not done their unpopular work.

Book review of Leigh Eric Schmidt’s Village Atheists: How America’s Unbelievers Made Their Way in a Godly Nation.

Journal of Southern History, 11-1-17   

They shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed or guilty. If you lose your virginity, you’re not a chewed piece of gum. . . . These lessons are not only dated, but biased and harmful to students.

Gina Tonello, who got the Baldwinsville, N.Y., school district to bar a Christian-based group from teaching sex education classes after an instructor compared a girl losing her virginity to already chewed gum.

Syracuse Post-Standard, 12-10-17

Because it has caused real harm to the quality of care available to pregnant women at critical moments. Because it has not and cannot change the reality that abortion is a present and permanent part of Irish life. Because it seeks to force women to carry a pregnancy to term when they have been the victim of a rape or incest or when they have received the diagnosis of a fatal fetal abnormality. Because it requires that pregnant women and doctors are faced with criminal sanctions.

Michael Martin, leader of the conservative Irish Fianna Fail party, on why he supports a referendum to repeal Irish constitutional prohibitions against abortion.

New York Times, 1-20-18

When those [religious] beliefs lead to actions determined to restrict a woman’s right to control her own body, that’s where I, and I think we, draw the line as a country. And that’s where we stand on that.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, affirming freedom of religion, but supporting guidelines adopted by his government in December requiring groups applying for a federal grant program providing student jobs to affirm respect for “individual human rights in Canada.” The checkbox on the electronic form has been criticized by anti-abortion groups.

New York Times, 1-20-18

Don’t tell us how you and God have made amends, or how you are different. You need to confess the facts.

Emma Ann Miller, one of over 200 women, mostly gymnasts, testifying at the historic sentencing hearing against convicted Olympic physician Lawrence G. Nassar, about enduring years of sexual abuse as children and teenagers under his care.

New York Times, 1-25-18

[When] the constitution established a separation of church and state. That’s so important, because if you look at almost any religion, especially the major three, there is an oppression of women. I feel very lucky to be in a country with a more secular mindset.

Rachel Bloom, creator, writer and lead actor in the comedy-drama series “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” listing one of her “favorite feminist moments.”

Newsweek, 1-25-18

Freedom of religion is essential — and so is access to health care. Current law tries to accommodate both, but the far right has stirred unfounded fears that religion (and Christianity in particular) is under assault, and that people of faith are in danger of being forced to do things they find morally objectionable. In recent conflicts between patient needs and religious freedom, patients have too often lost. The Trump administration wants to keep it that way.


New York Times, 1-28-18

I don’t understand why any political campaign would have a faith adviser.

Gloria Steinem, commenting on sexual harassment allegations against Burns Strider, aide to Hillary Clinton in her first presidential campaign, whose primary duty was to send Clinton scriptural passages every morning.

New York Times, 1-27-18

To those of you who accuse me of being an atheist, my answer is that it is my constitutional right to believe in any god or in no god. And, frankly, in a country that has for nearly a quarter of a millennia had the separation of church and state as a cornerstone of its political system, it’s none of your goddamn business whom I worship or if I worship.

Columnist Sasha Abramsky, in his column, “‘Wild-eyed,’ ‘atheist,’ ‘foreigner’ replies to his critics.”

Sacramento Bee, 1-28-18