Horrified By Yet Another Mass Shooting? Get Used To It.

In the history of our nation, our individual citizens have never possessed such lethality. Guns are available to anyone, even children. At the same time, our federal, state and local governments have cut back on social programs, including mental health programs. The combination of the two is certain to ensure that more mentally ill people will be able to act on their inner demons with extreme violence and force.

The young man in Santa Barbara is a prime example. His parents knew he was mentally disturbed. They desperately sought help from law enforcement. But, under the  circumstances, there was little anyone could do to stop him. He was able to convince police that he was not a danger. And anyone who is mentally ill can buy a gun as long as they have not been previously confined. So he was able to legally purchase three semi-automatic handguns and more than 400 rounds of ammunition.

As a result, a number of promising young lives were snuffed out. Even those who survived or witnessed the event will be forever changed.

Responsibility for these deaths falls directly on the gun industry, the National Rifle Association, other gun groups and their members. (To be clear, I have owned guns most of my life, but I’ve never carried one and I’ve never embraced the anti-government paranoia of some gun owners.) Because of the NRA, we have been unable to reduce the lethality of available guns; unable to conduct universal background checks; unable to track the transfer of guns between individuals; unable to keep records of the number of shootings and deaths from guns. Thanks to the NRA, in some states pediatricians are even banned from discussing the potential problems of guns in the home with parents.

Had it not been for the greed and paranoia of NRA leaders, the parents of Elliot Rodgers might have been able to deny the shooter’s ability to obtain guns by notifying authorities of the potential danger and entering that information into a database to prevent him from purchasing a weapon. Had it not been for government cutbacks on mental health programs, his parents might have been able to force the young man to get help.

Where has the money for mental health programs gone? Most states have put the money into prisons. Indeed, prisons have become the American substitute for many social programs. By allowing people to commit crimes, we can house them in cells where they receive no treatment and no counseling. They are a danger to no one but the detention officers and themselves. And they contribute to the economy by generating profits for private prison corporations.

Sure, this system is inhumane. Sure, it results in more crimes and more deaths of innocent people. Sure, the system causes unimaginable pain to the families and friends of the mentally ill. Sure, the rest of the world is puzzled by such callousness. But this is the USA. We’re the world’s only super power. We can be as stupid and as mean as we want!

So get used to mass shootings. Get used to the sensationalized news stories. Get used to the deaths and the severe wounds. Get used to the anguish of families and communities. Get used to the mourning. Cover your eyes and ears to the horror. Close your minds to the obvious solutions. This isn’t about right and wrong. This is about maximizing the profits of the gun industry. It’s about business, power and politics.

Walmart May Be Finally Getting What It Deserves.

Earnings reports show that same store sales for Walmart have dropped for 5 consecutive quarters. One theory is that the slump is the result of wealth inequality and lower salaries for the bulk of Walmart’s customer base.

If so, it couldn’t happen to a better company.

Walmart began as the American flag-draped spawn of Sam Walton. For years, it advertised that its inventory was American-made even though the labels on its products clearly stated otherwise. Meanwhile, Walmart used predatory pricing to eliminate its competition. As a result, the retailer eviscerated small town America, forcing thousands of small retailers to close. When the competition had been eliminated, Walmart’s prices began to rise. At the same time, Walmart was putting such severe cost-cutting pressure on its suppliers that it caused the majority to outsource their production to nations that offered cheap labor with no labor protections and no benefits.

No company has had such a profound effect on the outsourcing of American jobs. A 5-year study found that, over that period, Walmart alone accounted for the loss of 133,000 American jobs!

In 1996, labor rights groups exposed the fact that a line of clothing sold by Walmart and endorsed by Kathie Lee Gifford was being made in sweat shops. Although Gifford had no control or responsibility for where Walmart chose to make her clothing designs, Walmart let Gifford take the criticism as it continued to wave the American flag.

More recently, labor rights groups have exposed the amount of corporate welfare given to Walmart in the form of tax write-offs, taxpayer-funded infrastructure for its stores and the taxpayer-funded benefits for its underpaid employees. A large percentage of Walmart employees are paid so little they need food stamps and Medicaid benefits to survive. Indeed, it has been reported that Walmart’s Human Resources department provides the government-assistance forms to employees the day they are hired.

The company has used its size and political clout to bully local governments to keep them from raising the minimum wage. It has demonstrated a pattern of suppressing employee hours in order to avoid providing benefits. Yet, while it forces a large portion of its labor force to live at or near the poverty level, Sam Walton’s heirs have become the wealthiest family in America.

Now, according to a report by Robert Greenwald published by Salon, Walmart says that it will spend $50 billion a year more on US-made products by 2022 in order to help build families. One suspects the retailing giant may have realized that, as a result of its policies, fewer and fewer Americans can afford to purchase what they once could. Nevertheless, let’s hope Walmart follows through on its pledge. But given the company’s past history, don’t hold your breath.

Tea Party Is Just Another Version Of Posse Comitatus.

Posse Comitatus is from Latin, meaning “power of the community.” As you might expect, the modern organization by that name rejects the authority of the federal government and any form of taxes. Its roots go back to the origins of our country and it blossomed briefly during the Great Depression. After fading into oblivion for decades, the group was given new life in 1970 by William Porter Gale who combined his anti-government beliefs with Christian Identity and racism. This modern version believes that blacks are subhuman and that Jews are children of Satan.

Posse Comitatus operated largely beneath the radar until Posse Comitatus follower, Gordon Kahl, murdered two federal marshals in North Dakota in 1983. Following that, the movement once again faded from public view. But those who share the group’s anti-government beliefs spawned numerous offshoots following the financial crisis of 2008.

Those include the Sovereign Citizens movement, various “Patriot” groups, and the Tea Party.

That fact was made abundantly clear by Tea Party support for Cliven Bundy’s confrontation with the Bureau of Land Management. Not only did the Tea Party’s greatest apologists – from Sean Hannity to Rush Limbaugh – use the incident to attack the federal government. Numerous Tea Party-backed militias (including military veterans) and politicians raced to Bundy’s side for photo ops and media statements. They turned Bundy into a poster child for their ideology.

Like Posse Comitatus, the Tea Party isn’t out to merely change our government. It’s out to destroy it!

For example, both the Tea Party and Posse Comitatus believe that all of the lands within a state’s borders should be under state control. They do not recognize federal authority over national parks, national forests and other government lands. They despise the Federal Reserve, and they believe we should return to the gold standard. They believe that the federal government has no authority to impose income taxes, capital gains taxes, estate taxes or any other kind of taxes. In fact, they don’t recognize the federal government at all.

They believe in the nullification of all federal laws. They believe county sheriffs are the only legitimate law. They collect large stores of weapons and ammunition. They refuse to comply with any court orders. And they threaten to exercise their Second Amendment rights to prevent the government from enforcing those orders.

All the while they wave the American flag and call themselves “patriots.”

The good news is that most Americans are finally beginning to recognize the Tea Party for what it really is…a hate group. In fact, a recent Gallup poll found that the Tea Party’s favorability rating has dropped to an all-time low of just 22 percent. That may explain why Tea Party candidates were soundly thrashed in this past week’s Republican primaries. Of course, it has become increasingly difficult to tell a Republican from a Tea Party candidate. Nevertheless, it appears the influence of these nitwits is finally waning.

Good riddance!

VA Problems A Product Of Our Never-Ending Wars.

Since taking office in 2009, President Obama has been confronted with an extraordinary list of problems: Two wars, a failing economy, the collapse of our largest financial institutions, a massive number of home foreclosures, a failing auto industry, high unemployment, rising deficits and rising debt. Those are just the problems he inherited the day he took office. In addition, he’s faced a multitude of other issues: An obstructionist and do-nothing Republican Party, a racist and increasingly angry Tea Party, a porous southern border, belligerent leaders in Israel and Russia, rising poverty, and a vanishing middle class.

You may not believe the President has done enough to solve our problems but, in reality, his performance has been nothing short of remarkable. Without the leadership of his administration, we may have experienced a second Great Depression – a fact that is clearly spelled out in Timothy Geithner’s new book Stress Test. Of course, Teapublicans don’t want to talk about that. They call it the “Blame it on Bush Syndrome,” and they hold Obama responsible for all the problems he inherited.

Similarly, the Obama administration is now being blamed for delays at some VA health facilities. Yet VA problems existed long before Obama took office. Indeed, he appointed General Eric Shinseki to fix the problems and reduce delays. By most accounts, Shinseki has had some success. But no one can hope to change a health system that serves more than 8.6 million veterans overnight. The problems could be the result of a few incompetent bureaucrats. If so, they must go.

A larger issue is what led to the crowding at VA hospitals…the willingness of too many politicians to send our youth to war for questionable reasons! When we continue to pursue military actions around the globe, we are going to create more veterans – many with serious and expensive-to-treat health issues. Yet it seems that Congress has not fully recognized that reality when it comes to the VA budget. It’s estimated that, in addition to the trillions spent on the Iraq and Afghan wars, the cost of treating our wounded soldiers could also run into the trillions…a fact that has been little discussed.

When the Bush administration took us to war more than a decade ago, few Americans were asked to make sacrifices. Instead, Bush asked us to go shopping. And, instead of raising taxes to cover the cost of his misadventures, he actually cut them! If it weren’t for the yellow ribbons, ribbon decals on cars, and the obligatory “thank you for your service” statement recited to anyone in uniform, there would have been little indication that we were at war. The Bush administration controlled the news media by forcing reporters to be imbedded in military units. It even banned news media from photographing the flag-draped coffins of those killed in war.

Out of sight…out of mind.

The lesson in this is that if you want to go to war, you better be willing to pay the price. Everyone should be asked to make some sacrifices. Everyone should be asked to pay for the sacrifices of those wounded in war. And those costs should be made abundantly clear. Indeed, such costs are the only real deterrent to cause voters and politicians to hesitate before waving the flag, beating the war drums and sending our troops into yet another foreign conflict.

Out Of The Mouths Of Comedians…

One of the sad facts about today’s media is that the hosts of several satirical “news” comedies are better journalists than the news readers on the so-called news networks. They are often more factual and probe more deeply into stories than many of those who pretend to be journalists. Moreover, they are even willing to take the few minutes needed to check their sources…something that many journalists don’t. That’s why so many news stories are superficial, sensational and hopelessly biased, such as Lara Logan’s infamous 60 Minutes Benghazi fiction.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that comedian John Oliver added some much needed perspective to the GOP claims of widespread in-person voter fraud and to the subject of capital punishment. On his HBO show called Last Week Tonight, Oliver noted that modern DNA testing has proven that approximately 4 percent of those prisoners awaiting execution on death row are innocent. But there were just 4 confirmed cases of in-person voter fraud over the past decade. That computes to something like 0.00000001 percent of all the votes cast!

Yet GOP conservatives have rushed to pass voter ID bills that will impose hardships on many voters, including college students, the elderly and minorities. At the same time, they literally applaud attempts by red state governors to speed up executions by reducing the number of appeals, even when there is reasonable cause to presume innocence.

Such are the values of today’s GOP. The fear of a token number of fraudulent votes trumps the fear of wrongly executing innocent people!

One suspects that conservatives might feel differently if they, or one of their family members, were wrongly convicted and sitting in isolation on death row. And since you are known by the company you keep, one imagines that conservatives might be embarrassed to learn that, when it comes to capital punishment, the US stands alongside Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and China. Together these nations conduct the vast majority of the world’s executions. Most of the rest of the world is horrified by our insistence on venegence. Indeed, that’s why the states determined to continue executions are struggling to find the necessary drugs…European pharmaceutical companies refuse to sell them to the US.

One cannot even justify capital punishment based on monetary savings. Despite claims to the contrary, the cumulative cost of court appeals, death row confinement and execution is 10 times more expensive than the cost of imprisoning a convicted murderer for the rest of his or her life. Further, there is a great moral cost for a society that is willing to exact venegence through capital punishment…especially when some of those executed are innocent. A single execution of an innocent person makes everyone who favors government-sanctioned murder a killer. There simply can be no denial of that fact.

Of course, we all might rest a bit easier if we could be certain of each and every verdict. But our justice system has proven to be all too fallible. According to the National Academy of Sciences, there have been 312 DNA exonerations since we have been doing advanced forensic testing. That’s 312 people who went through the horror of being convicted of a crime they didn’t commit; who were subjected to solitary confinement – often for many years – before being proven innocent.

Yet they were the lucky ones!

Those who were executed before modern DNA techniques or, in some cases, despite of them, lost their lives based on a mistake. In the immortal words of the nation’s most prolific executioner and amateur debater, Texas Governor Rick Perry…”Oops!”

Our Ongoing National Shame.

Teapublicans are fond of saying that racism is no longer an issue. Conservatives on the US Supreme Court have echoed that sentiment in decisions that weakened and overturned affirmative action. Indeed, many conservatives cite affirmative action as a form of reverse racism. And whenever a politician or African-American speaks out against discrimination, conservatives are quick to label them as racists.

Some conservatives, especially those in the media, are simply unabashed racists that will never listen to reason. Unfortunately, even the more thoughtful and open-minded conservatives have fallen into the trap of assuming that racism was ended by Martin Luther King, Jr. What they fail to comprehend is that the US is only 3 to 5 generations removed from emancipation and that slavery has left a lasting legacy.

Following the Civil War, the largely uneducated population of African-American slaves (for most slaves, education was forbidden) was freed to fend for themselves. Many of those given 40 acres and a mule had their property stolen by whites. Many were still abused. Most found low-skilled, low-paying jobs and were herded into ghettos with little opportunity for advancement. Their children were sent to substandard schools. Even those who struggled to excel in school were discriminated against and given few job opportunities. In many states, African-Americans were not even allowed to vote until a generation ago. As a result, most laws have been used to bludgeon African-Americans. Police forces have used drug laws to disproportionately incarcerate African-Americans even though African-Americans use drugs at roughly the same rate as whites. Virtually every African-American has been stopped for driving or walking while black. And we’ve all seen the TV “reality” crime shows that focus almost exclusively on minorities. (A producer for one of the shows admitted that no one wanted to watch a show that focused on police busting young, white men for the same crimes.)

In the 1960’s many white families abandoned our cities for the suburbs to enroll their children in white-dominated schools and leaving African-Americans with the burden of paying for the infrastructure of the central cities, for police and fire protection, for luxurious sports venues, and for the freeways used almost exclusively by suburbanites. Cities redistricted their schools along racial and economic lines. So today, on the 60th anniversary of the US Supreme Court ruling Brown v. Board of Education which ordered the desegregation of schools, many of our schools are more segregated than they were at the time of the ruling.

Moreover, a Center for American Progress study found that, nationally, we spend $334 less for the education of each black student than for each white student! We may be unwilling to pay for the education of African-Americans. But we sure don’t mind spending millions more to send them to prison. According to The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, there are now as many African-Americans in some stage of our “justice” system as there were African-American slaves at the beginning of the Civil War!

Yet the GOP somehow believes that the playing field has been leveled…that the problems faced by many African-Americans are simply the result of laziness, broken families and a culture of welfare dependency. Some, like Cliven Bundy, even suggest that “the Negro” would be better off as slaves.

Here’s an idea: Why don’t the Teapublicans who believe this nonsense trade places with those they so demean? Let’s see how Rep. Paul Ryan would fare in a ghetto with few prospects for anything beyond a minimum wage job. Let’s see how he fares in landing a job in a suburb with no car and no public transportation to get to that job. Let’s see how Justice Roberts’ children would fare in a school with significantly fewer resources than their peers. Let’s see how white Teapublican suburbanites like standing in line for hours to vote. Let’s see how Cliven Bundy would fare at picking cotton.

Just Politics?

Last week, the GOP unleashed its new election strategy. Not only did they vote for a “select” congressional committee with 7 Republicans and 5 Democrats to investigate Benghazi yet again (there have already been a total of 13 Congressional hearings, 50 Congressional briefings, 25,000 pages of findings, and numerous media investigations – all with the same result – there was no wrongdoing by the administration). They voted to hold former IRS agent, Lois Lerner, in contempt for invoking the Fifth Amendment and vowed to continue to investigate the already debunked claim that the IRS unfairly targeted Tea Party groups for extra scrutiny.  And they continue to claim that the Obama administration was somehow involved in Fast & Furious.

Of course, with all of this on their minds, the Teapublican-controlled House of Representatives (Isn’t it amazing how misleading that name now seems?) will have little time left to address the needs of the nation. Oh, they’ll find enough time to vote for more corporate welfare and to vote yet again to defund “Obamacare.” They’ll also likely vote for even more investigations intended to embarass the president. Numerous Teapublican leaders have even used the “I” word (impeachment) to rile up their base and ensure a strong Teapublican turnout for this November’s midterm elections.

When confronted by news media over the party’s obvious cynicism and divisive tactics, Teapublican leaders dismissed the issues as “just politics.” Seriously? Is this what now substitutes for a government of the people, by the people and for the people? To win at any cost? To filibuster every bill the other party introduces? To block virtually every nomination? To foment hate and divisiveness?

The whole notion of our two-party system was one of loyal opposition – that the two parties would compete for office based on ideas and what’s best for the nation. Then, following the elections, they would legislate and manage the nation based on those ideals. They could disagree, but they would work with the interests of the people in mind. How does the Teapublican determination to pursue bizarre conspiracy theories fit into that notion? How does that justify the use of government committees to destroy opponents rather than to help the nation? How does the Teapublican strategy of blatantly attempting to turn our citizenry against one another help our nation?

I am a social liberal and a fiscal conservative, so I could appreciate the compassion of the Democratic Party and its efforts to eliminate poverty and to help those in need. Likewise, I could appreciate traditional Republicans who focused on keeping taxes low and eliminating waste. Over the years, the goals and strategies of the Democratic Party are relatively unchanged. But the Republican Party no longer exists. It has been replaced with a hate-based, anti-government, win-at-any-cost group of sociopaths. It’s a party that panders to the wealthy and the powerful; that has never seen a military expenditure it didn’t like; that would give large corporations free reign to destroy our environment and defraud citizens; that will vote for any form of corporate welfare while taking food out of the mouths of single moms and children. It’s a party that can’t win on the strength of its ideas, so it resorts to dirty tricks, voter suppression and under-the-table campaign contributions.

Today’s Republican Party bears little resemblence to the party of Abraham Lincoln. It’s much more like the party of Joseph McCarthy.

What Good Are Smart Guns With So Many Dumb Gun Owners?

The National Rifle Association is apoplectic over attempts to market so-called smart guns by one of their own. They have threatened violence against the guns’ inventor and every retailer who has attempted to sell them. And they have shouted down those who support the guns by calling them just another attempt by the left to “take away their guns.”

Ordinarily, the fact that the NRA opposes something would automatically make me support it. But, on this issue, I have mixed emotions. On one hand, smart guns that can only be used by their owners wearing a watch-like device would likely prevent the deaths of children who innocently believe guns are playthings. On the other hand, the sale of these guns may give us a false sense of security. Don’t forget. Most of the guns would still be in the hands of the paranoid and mentally ill – the vast majority of those who purchase handguns today.

Smart guns wouldn’t have prevented the murder of Trayvon Martin or the movie-goer who was killed for sending a text to his young daughter. They wouldn’t have prevented a man from setting a trap and laying in wait to cruelly murder two unarmed teens who broke into his basement. They wouldn’t have prevented the mass murders at Sandy Hook Elementary, at the Aurora movie theater, at Fort Hood, or at Congresswoman Gabby Giffords’ Congress on the Corner meeting.

Certainly preventing the use of a firearm by someone other than its owner is an admirable goal. But it is only a beginning. Those who favor responsible gun reforms should view smart guns as only a first step. The bigger issue is to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill and those with a history of violence; to stop the marketing of candy-colored guns to children; to stop the sale of semi-automatics to gun nuts for use against law enforcement and the government; to stop the sale of sniper rifles and silencers; to stop the development and sale of plastic guns intended to escape detection; and to undo the so-called “carry everywhere” laws that make it legal to carry guns to bars, schools, events – anywhere that doesn’t have full security including metal detectors and gun storage lockers.

The Cliven Bundy armed standoff with the Bureau of Land Management gives us a glimpse of the future of our nation with the current gun laws. Smart guns won’t stop the militia, domestic terrorists and the criminally insane from bullying and killing. The only way to do that is through stricter gun laws, gun buybacks and the end of our nation’s insane love affair with guns.

Congress Should Have Given As Much Attention To Iraq As Benghazi.

Congress has spent far more time debating and analyzing the events at Benghazi than it did the invasion of Iraq. The results of the terrorist attacks on the US Consulate in Benghazi resulted in the tragic deaths of four Americans. While the cavalier invasion of Iraq led to the deaths of 4,486 US soldiers and, by at least one authoritative estimate, the deaths of more than a million Iraqis. The invasion of Iraq was based on false pretenses while the concern over Benghazi is that the White House falsely stated the cause of the attacks.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Benghazi has been investigated, analyzed and politicized to death. And the GOP is still out for blood. They want someone, anyone, to pay. They already derailed the nomination of Susan Rice for Secretary of State for merely stating what she believed to be true. And every investigation has proven that her remarks were accurate. But the GOP wants to hang Benghazi around the necks of President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. There is talk of impeachment and the everlasting hope that further investigations of Benghazi will prevent Hillary from running for president in 2016. There is also the very real likelihood that another sensationalized kangaroo investigation of Benghazi will help the GOP capture the Senate in the mid-term elections.

Yet, the many falsehoods and lies that led to the invasion of Iraq have scarcely been investigated. No one involved in the lies at any level has paid a price. Only recently has the Senate investigated the accusations of Bush-sanctioned secret prisons and torture! In an attempt to heal the wounds caused by that costly and unnecessary war, President Obama chose not to pursue investigations and sanctions against the pepetrators of the lies, even though there is clear evidence that the Bush administration lied about the existence of WMD (weapons of mass destruction), sanctioned torture, and punished anyone who stood in their way, going so far as to commit treason by outing a clandestine CIA operative as payback for her husband’s op-ed debunking the notion that Saddam Hussein had purchased yellow cake uranium from Niger.

And what of the warnings Bush, Cheney and Condoleezza Rice received before 9/11? What of claims from numerous credible sources that the Bush administration received more than 40 detailed warnings of the impending attack? What of the single investigation led by Condoleezza Rice’s pal, Philip Zelikow, which whitewashed the lead-up to the attack and absolved Rice of wrongdoing despite obvious negligence as the National Security Advisor? What of the administration’s blatantly false claims that Saddam Hussein had partnered with al-Qaeda?

Are the American media really so stupid that they would treat the Benghazi hoax more seriously than the deception and lies behind the Iraq War and the negligence surrounding 9/11? Can the GOP be so cynical as to perpetuate the Benghazi myth for obvious political purposes? Are American voters so stupid or naive that they would believe the GOP’s disproven theory that Benghazi is worse than Watergate?

Unfortunately, I believe the answer to those questions is an unqualified yes.

Why Religion Is Failing.

In many European nations, churches and cathedrals stand empty, saved from the wrecking ball only because of their historic value. In some cities, the buildings are occupied by tourist information centers; by clothing stores; by shopping malls; by nightclubs; even by strip clubs. Given the current sad state of affairs exhibited by many religions, this should come as no surprise to anyone.

Contrary to the numbskulls on Fox News Channel, it has nothing to do with any perceived “attack on religion.” Rather it is the consequence of self-destruction; of religions actively causing harm to themselves.

In many countries once dominated by the Roman Catholic Church, people have left the Church, horrified by the Vatican having turned a blind eye to sexual predators who have worn the trappings of priests. Many young people have abandoned other denominations due to a lack of relevance in their lives. Many accurately see churches as little more than tax-free social clubs. And many are disturbed by the tendancy of church leaders to engage in politics and to promote misguided, often provably false beliefs. The recent speech by James Dobson at what was billed as a nonpartisan, nondenominational National Prayer Breakfast is a perfect case in point. During his speech, Dobson labeled President Obama “the abortion president,” calling him responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent, unborn children. As a result, a Democratic Congresswoman understandably spoke up and walked out.

She should have known better than to have attended in the first place.

Dobson has long been a shill for political conservatives. He views himself as a kingmaker amongst conservatives. He has immersed himself in organizations devoted to passing legislation that discriminates against those he dislikes. Indeed, one of his groups was behind the discriminatory bill known as Arizona SB 1062…a bill that has been signed into law in Mississippi and elsewhere. Dobson is one of the evangelicals whose primary message is believe as I do…or else.

Dobson is but one of the many church leaders who regularly cross the line and use their status as “spiritual leaders” to sway politics. Many “pastors” have turned their pulpits into venues for political action. They have proselytized as much about politics as Biblical concepts. They have urged their followers to vote for candidates who meet their own narrow-minded views. They have rallied their flocks to support violence. They have turned military interventions into holy wars. They reject science and secular education. They cynically use natural disasters as examples of the failings of our society. They obscure the real teachings of Christ and selectively choose passages from Biblical texts to attack homosexuality and the poor.

And that’s just the Christians. Muslims and Jews have done much of the same and worse!

Given how far many religions have degenerated, it’s little wonder that more and more people, especially educated young adults, describe themselves as not being attached to any religion. It’s why traditional churches are shrinking. And, although some evangelical churches have seen growth based on a strong anti-abortion, anti-gay message, the overall trend is downward. Enlightened leaders such as Pope Francis may be able to reverse that trend, but it’s doubtful. Those leaders are outnumbered and out-shouted by Dobson and his ilk.