Saturday, November 27, 2004

I am the enemy

As I consider the implications of a mindset takeover by the so-called religious right I feel compelled to announce that I stand in firm opposition. I think it is a potentially disastrous thing for our country and, because of our global influence, a potentially disastrous circumstance for the world at large.

First of all, I challenge the validity of their religions. I call them the "so-called" religious right because it is not genuinely religious at all. Fundamentalist generally hold that the purpose of life is to somehow earn enough merits or demerits to occupy heaven or hell in some speculation of the afterlife. I see it as a convenient formula by which some people exercise power and domination of others. It can even be an institutional thing. Religion can be a powerful influence because it requires an element of faith, of accepting as valid concepts that can not be proved or disproved. Once having broken the gullibility barrier it is far too easy for unscrupulous practitioners to the fantasies and speculations too far.

On the one hand I think it is admirable to have a vision of a better world and work to bring that vision into being. This is the kind of exercise of faith that pulls humans society forward and upward. I have no problem with that. In fact it is the kind of faith to which I aspire and hope.

But to the degree that the so-called religious folks look to a vision of a sinful and destroyed world of the future it bodes ill for the policies they would inflict upon the rest of us. They have cast away their hope for this earthly world and only find hope in the next one. They are little different than the fatalistic jihadist who finds it excusable to spread destruction in this world in order to achieve status in the next. When these kind of people are in power it is extremely bad news for civilization. They don't value human progress or human justice. They willingly become pawns for people seeking power for all kinds of reasons. Some are seeking the power to line their pockets, some to feed their own megalomania, and some have found that power is sufficient end in itself. But the so-called people of faith remain as a convenient power source to be harnessed by whomever can feed them the right line.

This is an old business. Much of the Old Testament is devoted to bringing people into line with religion and the fear of God as the tool. Calamities could be blamed by iniquities of which there is always a plentiful supply. Success stories could be constructed out of the distant past. And it's in the peril and judgement that the right-wing finds it's fountain of influence. While true Christianity speaks of love, forgiveness, and hope, this false Christianity harks back to the commandments and consequences of an intolerant God and is inviolable Law.

In the birthing of this country our founding fathers saw the carnage that had been wrought in their recent history when religion became allied with the state. Many of the colonists had come here to escape that deadly combination. The founders sought to avoid that evil by firmly basing our government on secular principles. And the secularism that has held forth a standard of objectivity in the policies of our country has served us all very well, even the religious-minded. Those who see our government as partner with religion do violence to our real history. I admit there has always been a tension there but this country's best moments come when we rise above sectarian concerns and act according to more universal secular ideals.

It's these secular ideals of justice-for-all, equal protection, and civic responsibility that trump sectarianism and bring us all together. It's our common ground of principles that make this country great not our wealth and not our submission to theology.

Even though I believe it is essential to guarantee religious freedom, I also believe that when religion threatens the founding secular principles of this country it borders on treason. This kind of excess needs to be vociferiously opposed and I intend to do so.

Sometimes the greatest danger to a country is genuinely from within.

1 comment:

S.W. Anderson said...

Excellent post. One of the best on this I've ever read.

To me, one of the most profound and meaningful insights concerning God and faith is also one of the simplest and most straightforward: God is love. (This fits nicely with another simple yet profound notion, the Golden Rule.)

Think about that. God is not some ethereal father figure aloft in the clouds, not some magical being who somehow existed before the first minute of time, before creation of the universe. When a young mother beholds her precious child asleep, her heart nearly bursting with hope and pride, and she gently tucks it in, kisses it, says a prayer for it, God's there and on duty. More such examples aren't hard to summon. You get the idea.

If God is love, God is also not a glorified scorekeeper, tallying the transgressions and sins of each and every one of his wayward children, classifying breaches as suitable for a future in purgatory or hell, depending, and assigning accommodations for eternity accordingly. Neither is God a Sunday-morning attendance taker.

It's more likely God has set up an ongoing system in this life that bestows rewards and metes punishments, generally, on the basis of behavior and attitude. So, when we act out of love, give love, honor and teach love, behave in goodhearted, kindly ways, these things tend to come back to us, reflected in the words and deeds of others. And when we don't we tend to go without, to miss out. Conversely, selfishness, spite, hatred and violence have a way of coming back to those who indulge in them

Funny how this simple, profound concept inevitably runs head-on collisions with so much of organized religion as organized religion has evolved.

For example, much of organized religion, especially the literalist/fundamentalist kind, seems to hold that homosexuality and lesbianism make those so constituted abominations in God's eyes. So, we're expected to believe that God the father, who is responsible for the creation of all life and of each life, deliberately creates some of his children to be, at the core of their being, abominable to him. Stained for all their days, because they must live a life bearing false witness about themselves, to themselves and to everyone else, or else be as they were created to be and so ensure His eternal displeasure. A God who would do that seems more like a mean-spirited practical joker than the epitome of love and perfection.

However, if one accepts fully the simple notion that God is love, gays and lesbians become God's children again, no longer status offenders by dint of birth. If God is love, homosexuals needn't live in pained conflict about who and what they are. The question isn't where their affections lie, but rather whether they conduct themselves honestly, decently, lovingly, in their relationships and particular rendition of life.

The thing about people basing their faith on such basics as the God-is-love concept and the Golden Rule is that a whole lot of religious hucksters and bureaucrats stand to lose money and power as a result. Were this to catch on in a big way, next thing you know, you'd have people just going into a room, alone, to pray quietly, etc. Can you imagine?