First up from the God Machine this week is an interesting twist in Rep. Michele Bachmann's (R-Minn.) anti-Muslim witch-hunt in Washington. While much of the recent debate has been within the Republican Party, yesterday, for the first time, President Obama weighed in.
In the East Room of the White House, Obama hosted the fourth Iftar Dinner of his presidency, and devoted a portion of his remarks to the larger controversy launched by far-right voices within the Republican Party.
"They are entrepreneurs and lawyers, community leaders, members of our military, and Muslim American women serving with distinction in government. And that includes a good friend, Huma Abedin, who has worked tirelessly in the White House, in the U.S. Senate, and most exhaustingly, at the State Department, where she has been nothing less than extraordinary in representing our country and the democratic values that we hold dear. [Secretary of State Hillary Clinton] has relied on her expertise, and so have I.
"The American people owe her a debt of gratitude -- because Huma is an American patriot, and an example of what we need in this country -- more public servants with her sense of decency, her grace and her generosity of spirit. So, on behalf of all Americans, we thank you so much.
"These are the faces of Islam in America. These are just a few of the Muslim Americans who strengthen our country every single day. This is the diversity that makes us Americans; the pluralism that we will never lose."
It would appear Bachmann and her GOP defenders disagree, but it was nevertheless heartening to see the president express the sentiment anyway.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* Radical TV preacher Pat Robertson blamed "Satanic" atheists for last weekend's massacre at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. If there's a coherent explanation for this, I can't think of it.
* The strangely-worded Amendment 2 in Missouri passed this week, and it seems likely to spark quite a bit of confusing and costly litigation.
* The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the nation's largest group of American nuns, "sidestepped a confrontation" with the Vatican yesterday, announcing it would "'dialogue' with the archbishop appointed by the Vatican to take over their group, but not 'compromise the integrity' of their mission."
* An interesting study (pdf) was released this week on the "Global Index of Religion and Atheism." Among the findings are a general trend away from religion among countries that acquire more wealth (thanks to R.P. for the tip).