First up from the God Machine this week is a look at the increasingly aggressive efforts on the part of the religious right movement to blame secularism and church-state separation for last week's massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.
While the NRA's Wayne LaPierre blamed the media and the entertainment industry for gun violence, Franklin Graham went a step further, initially blaming television, music, and video games, before turning his attention to government neutrality towards religion.
For those who can't watch clips online, Graham complained, "Why are we shocked? We shouldn't be shocked. This is what happens when a society turns its back on God."
Throughout the week, this was the standard line from prominent religious right leaders and organizations, which pushed the argument that violence would be diminished if government officials endorsed, sponsored, and encouraged religiosity. Focus on the Family founder James Dobson attributed the shootings to the notion that God has "allowed judgment to fall upon us" because Americans accept reproductive rights and marriage equality.
"[M]illions of people have decided that God doesn't exist, or he's irrelevant to me and we have killed 54 million babies and the institution of marriage is right on the verge of a complete redefinition," Dobson said. "Believe me, that is going to have consequences."
As nutty and tone deaf as LaPierre's speech seemed yesterday, there's an entire religio-political movement that has spent a week making similar remarks from a theocratic perspective.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* In western Pennsylvania this month, an elementary school music teacher shot his ex-wife while she played the organ during church services. He then left, returned to the First United Presbyterian Church of Coudersport, and shot her again to make sure she was dead (thanks to reader R.P. for the tip).
* Paul Ecke Central Elementary School in Encintas, California, has introduced yoga classes for kids, which has sparked protests among local conservative activists who believe yoga crosses the church-state line.
* Paolo Gabriele gets an early Christmas present: "Pope Benedict made a surprise pre-Christmas visit to the jail holding his former butler on Saturday and pardoned him for stealing and leaking documents that alleged corruption in the Holy See."
* Blake Page, a 24-year-old cadet, quit West Point less than six months before graduation, citing religious discrimination -- Page isn't religious, and felt uncomfortable in a military culture that promotes religiosity and, according to Page, disrespects nonreligious cadets.
* In Alaska, a Republican state legislative aide became "obsessed" with her role in an anti-Islam group and "illegally used state resources" to promote Stop Islamization of America's interests. The aide, Karen Sawyer, resigned and has been permanently banned from rehire by Alaska's legislature.