First up from the God Machine this week is an unsettling look a ritual politico-religious exercise, which is now apparently being led by the former half-term governor of Alaska.
We are still a couple of days from Veterans Day, and 19 days from Thanksgiving, but it's apparently never too early to raise the alarm about the annual "War on Christmas." Dan Amira listened to the entire four-and-a-half hour audiobook version of Sarah Palin's latest release, which focuses on Palin's goal of "protecting the heart of Christmas."
The book is part tribute to the joys of Christmas, part how-to guide for oppressed Christians looking for ways to fight back against whiny and litigious secularists, and part manifesto on the general superiority of Christianity over atheism. Palin, throughout, appears incapable of fathoming why a business catering to people from all walks of life may prefer to use inclusive holiday-season language in promotional items, or why a non-Christian may not appreciate a government institution expressing a preference for Christianity over other religions. To hear her tell it, such attitudes imperil America's dedication to religious freedom itself.
Every year, I foolishly think the right will find a way to enjoy winter holidays without complaining about store clerks using inclusive language in a diverse, modern society. And every year, I'm mistaken.
In theory, the very idea that Sarah Palin would publish a book on the subject would seem to represent some kind of Peak Silliness, but if recent history is any guide, this is a nonsensical arc without end -- and a phenomenon we can only expect to see intensify in the coming weeks.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* Pope Francis took the surprising step this week of launching a poll: "The pontiff with a penchant for surprises is making new waves by launching a survey of his flock on issues facing modern families -- from gay marriage to divorce. Very specific questions are being sent to parishes around the globe in preparation for next year's synod of bishops, a grassroots effort that experts say is unprecedented."
* Oh my: "Doug Phillips, an outspoken proponent of male "dominion" over women and a leading home-schooling activist, has stepped down as president of his Texas-based Vision Forum Ministries after admitting to an inappropriate relationship with a woman" (thanks to reader R.P. for the tip).
* Billboard wars in the Big Apple: "After a Creationist-supported billboard went up earlier this week in New York City, Atheist activists have responded with one of their own."
* And First Lady Michelle Obama this week hosted an event to honor the Hindu "festival of lights." It led the American Family Association's Bryan Fischer to complain that a "doctrine of demons ... is being celebrated in the White House."