This Week in God

First up from the God Machine this week is a Thanksgiving-related news story, which had some conservatives pretty worked up this week.

Here, for example, was the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer warning American consumers about the scourge of Muslim turkeys:

“I want to talk a little bit about Butterball turkeys. And I want to let you know [that] every single Butterball turkey sold in the United States of America has been sacrificed to Allah.

“Every single turkey that Butterball sells has been ritually slaughtered according to Islamic practice and has had an Islamic prayer prayed over that bird while it is being slaughtered.”

Anti-Muslim blogger Pamela Geller was also outraged by the prospect of “stealth halal turkeys” on dining room tables nationwide.

“Across this great country, on Thanksgiving tables nationwide, infidel Americans are unwittingly going to be serving halal turkeys to their families this Thursday. Turkeys that are halal certified — who wants that, especially on a day on which we are giving thanks to G-d for our freedom? I wouldn’t knowingly buy a halal turkey — would you? Halal turkey, slaughtered according to the rules of Islamic law, is just the opposite of what Thanksgiving represents: freedom and inclusiveness, neither of which are allowed for under that same Islamic law.”

Geller went so far as to call for a boycott of Butterball, while Fischer wants right-wing activists to pressure the company on this.

What in the world are these folks talking about? Well, it turns out that Butterball slaughters its turkeys in a pretty standard way, but that method happens to coincide with Jewish and Muslim dietary laws regarding food preparation. It allows Butterball to appeal to Jewish consumers who want to eat kosher, observant Muslims consumers, as well as everyone else who might want to buy a turkey. The company isn’t promoting or favoring one religion; it’s just trying to sell its product to as diverse an audience as possible. It’s about capitalism, plain and simple.

Right-wing hysterics notwithstanding, there’s just nothing for sane people to get excited about here. The turkeys themselves, in all likelihood, probably aren’t religious, and there’s nothing about their slaughter that associates them with any specific faith tradition.

This is just about some bigots who’ve decided that even turkeys at Thanksgiving should be turned into a culture-war squabble.

Also from the God Machine this week:

* The latest research from the Pew Research Center suggests Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith may affect his chances in the GOP primaries, but even conservatives who hate Mormons would vote for him over President Obama.

* Officials in Denmark are eyeing changes to the country’s marriage laws, and want to allow “same-sex couples to get married in formal church weddings, instead of the short blessing ceremonies that the state Lutheran Church currently offers.” (thanks to R.P. for the tip)

* Psychology researchers at the University of British Columbia have found that atheists are “among the least liked people … in most of the world,” and believe the animosity is driven by a lack of trust.

* In Ohio, seven members of the so-called “Bergholz Clan,” a cult-like breakaway Amish group, were arrested by FBI agents this week, charged with “violating the Hate Crimes Prevention Act in connection with a string of beard-cutting incidents.”