There is a confusion on the part of cultural, more casual Christian Americans as to why it is that Atheists, secularists and humanists even concern themselves with other people’s beliefs. The thing is, it’s not the irrationality of fundamentalist Christianity that anyone cares about per se’, but the way that they manifest themselves upon everyone in America via politics. Those of us with a historical acumen regarding the true nature of a theocracy care because we understand the socio/political implications of Christianity, and how it would affect the American legislative process if allowed to impose itself upon the state. Moreover, without the burden of irrational guilt and fear which religious faith accords, we have the ability to apply history to present day American politics objectively, rather than from the subjective perch of religious self scrutiny.
Which is to say that historically, Christianity and politics have not worked out well.
What most “conservatives” within the GOP fail to realize is that the traditional American values that they hope to propagate will be undermined if Christian Dominionists further erode the wall of separation between church and state. History has shown that if neglected, not only would Christianity –by its very nature– undermine the Constitution and dominate the sociological and legislative landscape, but would also war within itself until a singular Christian entity reigns. Political conservatism and Christianity is an unholy alliance.
Perhaps, you’re thinking that Christian infighting could, and would never happen in America. Or that Christian Americans are above such petty disputes. Well, if history is any barometer, it would be all but guaranteed. The tenets of the faith demand it.
Christian infighting within our borders is hardly unprecedented. In fact, in Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists where the phrase “Separation of Church and State” was coined, the Danbury Baptists were concerned that a religious majority might “reproach their chief Magistrate… because he will not, dare not assume the prerogatives of Jehovah and make Laws to govern the Kingdom of Christ,” thus establishing a state religion at the cost of the liberties of religious minorities. Jefferson’s letter was a response to a particular group of Christian Baptists being concerned that other Christian churches were becoming too politically influential. And it is the very thing that Christian fundamentalists hope to impose unto the American populace today in the form of Dominionism.
Moreover, the sixteenth century Protestant reformation led by Martin Luther (no K) and John Calvin were a direct response to church-state oppression. The ensuing Roman Catholic counter-reformation was the equal and opposite reaction of any ruling organization having their authority challenged. It was violent, bloody, and it all happened because different groups of Christians differed in their opinions as to the interpretation of the scriptures. It tore Europe apart, and we have seen this conflict play out in Northern Ireland (among other places) until this very day.
What are perceived as subtle differences in faith now, surely will manifest into a full scale conflict.
The principles are the same with what is occurring in the Middle East, with warring factions of Sunni and Shiite Muslims killing one another over whose side Allah is on. I have to be honest, I still don’t understand what the hell it is that they are killing one another over. I’ve heard reporters refer to either side as “extremists”, and “moderates”, depending on which way the political winds were blowing. But the reality is, it doesn’t matter if we Americans can understand the subtleties of Islamic interpretation. It’s only important that they do.
They do, and their killing one another over it.
So sure, Christian Americans all feel comfortable uniting under the same political banner now, but how long would it be after one particular Christian sect acquires too much political power before socio/political strife erupts within Christian Americana? How long will it be Catholics, Protestants, Evangelicals, and the rest of the Christian mosaic go to war with one another over discrepancies in scripture interpretation? Do Mormons really believe that they will be tolerated within the Republican party forever?
The Christian market share will only allow for short term political alliances. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. But make no mistake, this will end just as every other marriage of convenience does… loveless and destitute.
Just as the present day GOP is constantly trying to “out-conservative” one another over gun control and global warming, they are already starting to jockey for position at the right hand of Jesus. Already there are elected officials who not only want to teach the biblical story of creation in science class, but who have made overtures at writing laws based upon Mosaic principles. For instance, there is no constitutional basis for not allowing same sex marriage, but the Dominionist mindset won’t stop until homosexuality is criminalized. The justification for doing so is in the bible. As it has been with every other conservative issue, the candidate who make the most extreme proclamation will become the standard bearer for the Republican party.
Whenever a Republican primary is dependent upon Christian extremism, the crazy gets amped up.
To the objective observer, it all seems irrational. Christians vying against one another over political influence is like watching two nerds fight over whether Star Trek, or Star Wars was the superior franchise. To us it makes little sense. They’re both space shows, right? Yet the religious reflecting pool infrequently allows for similar objectivity. Christians rarely have the capacity to see themselves in either Muslims, or Science Fiction geeks.
But unlike Christians and Muslims, nerds don’t kill one another over their passion.
Which brings us to the main point behind Christian Dominionism within our political system. As it is with corporatist profiteers who exude a “hoarder-like” obsession with acquiring money –rather than collect a house full of old newspapers and pizza boxes, or even an amount of wealth that could never be spent in the lifetimes of several successive generations– The Dominionist psychosis demands that they gather unto themselves the unrestricted ability to impose their sense of self-righteous indignation, and their will upon the rest of us. And that is even more mentally deranged than your average hoarder.
Although power in itself is a corrupting force of nature, power achieved through god is never shared. It is the absolute power that corrupts absolutely. However throughout the first two hundred and fifty years of this nation’s history, we’ve been spared the oppression of church brutality. The civilizing component to Christianity in America has been church/state separation.
But here’s the thing about Christian Dominionism within our legislative process. As they push for Mosaic law to be imposed on the United States –much as Sharia has been imposed in the middle east– the larger umbrella of Christianity will surely give way to intra-faith war. Much as the Shiite and Sunni are in constant bloody battles over –what seems to outside observers to be– minor discrepancies within Islamic tenets and interpretations of the Koran, could it be long after Christian Dominionism becomes the major political influence in America before like-minded blood is shed between Catholic and Protestant? Does anyone with the slightest sense of history believe that the “Born Again” American evangelical lobby will ever capitulate to the will of the Vatican?
And as long as the axiom holds true that he who holds the keys to heaven controls the world, there will be violence committed in Christ’s name, and the keys to heaven will be coated with blood.
As western civilization struggled during the post-renaissance era between choosing art, science and discovery over the church’s attempts to re-impose its authority in the form of the “Christian Reformation”, there were a few lesser known historical figures who helped shape western culture for the next few centuries. Faced with the prospective of having their imagination stymied, their curiosity arrested and their expression proscribed, the choice of socio/political direction was clear for a generation who defined themselves by their intellect. Christian rule? Hell no.
The church had their chance to govern, and for a thousand years humanity suffered needlessly, died young, and lived in fear, poverty and squalor. Today we refer to that period of history as “the Dark Ages.” Choosing to revert back to that after western civilization had the chance to experience progress would have been somewhat equivalent to returning to prison for a crime one never committed once they’d already experienced freedom. Thanks, but no thanks.
In what’s known today as the “Age of Enlightenment” –or the “Age of Reason”– there was a cultural movement of intellectuals whose purpose was to reform society using reason, and advance knowledge through the scientific method. Intellectuals such as Isaac Newton, Voltaire, and John Locke built upon the genius level contributions to humanity of the renaissance, and challenged ideas grounded in tradition, mythology and faith. They determined that societal precepts should be able to survive the test of scrutiny. To put it simply, truth should supersede superstition.
During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Enlightenment was a movement that hoped to undo the abuses of power by the church-run state by promoting factualism as arrived at through peer reviewed evidence. Folklore and unfounded beliefs promoted by the church were assaulted with skepticism, and as such were exposed as blatant falsehoods. It wasn’t enough to believe that demons caused illnesses when there were cures that needed to be found.
It was in the eighteenth century that the Enlightenment had reached the American colonies, and which eventually led to the founding of the United States of America. Men like Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, and James Madison –intellectuals all– recognized that when the church and state become one, the people suffer. Hence, they wrote the single greatest document in the history of civilization specifically disassociated from church authority… The United States Constitution.
The founders of our nation were men of the enlightenment.
Which leads us to today, and the rules of socio/economics mirroring those of physics, leading to the equal and opposite reaction to the force of enlightened reason. There is a concerted political effort at a re-imposition of church authority, and it goes by the name of Christian Dominionism. And it is as rooted in ignorance, greed, and lust for power at the expense of the populace as their medieval predecessors.
For the twenty first century Dominionist Christian, they hope to transform our nation back to a time when fear, intolerance and superstition governed our choices, and science was viewed as heresy. We see it today, with Dominionist politicians denying genetic biology (evolution), the origin of our species, the age of our planet, and even climate change. Dominionist Christians are replete within our legislative body (they help write our laws) and in the 2012 presidential election, ran several Dominionist candidates. One almost got the Republican nomination.
The thing is, it really takes a malevolent, psychotic derangement –at this point in history– to deny peer reviewed, scientific facts and evidence in favor of promoting superstition and fairy tales. However political Dominionists need to do this in order to create a fearful, ignorant –albeit fervent– voting base. The main difference between twelfth, and twenty-first century Christian fundamentalists is that the former had the luxury of scientific incomprehension, while the latter is burdened with contradictory scientific confirmation. Which means that the contemporary Dominionist has to outright lie to his or her constituency.
For example, the Dominionist conceptions for our nation needing to “return to” mosaic (biblical) law are based on the fundamental lie that is that our nation was founded on “Christian principles”. As if they –in the name of Christianity– claim ownership of basic morality (while simultaneously ignoring the founder’s departure from the church when forming the precepts of our nation). The truth is that the United States citizenry were never subject to mosaic law, or church authority in the first place.
The most glaring example of the founder’s intentions regarding the church place within our legislative process, is that there is no mention of God, Jesus, or Christianity anywhere in our constitution. So either our founders simply forgot –which is an absurd assumption– or they did not define their moral principles under Christian terms. Which might also explain why seven of the ten commandments are unconstitutional to enforce, while the three that remain –killing, stealing, lying under oath (bearing false witness)– are laws that have spanned millennia, culture, and religion.
These basic moral precepts are not Christian-only principles. In fact, virtually every civilized culture in history has had these very same laws. Still, Dominionist politicians blur the concept of “morality”, as they do science and history, to coincide with their socio/economic agenda. This might come as a shock to good Christian folks, but Jesus wasn’t the first character in literature to have determined that we should try not to be jerks to one another.
The truth is, that even the founders who did identify themselves as Christians understood the need for a separation of church and state. It was the oppression of the church in England which caused many of these intellectual giants to brave the Atlantic ocean and start life anew in the colonies in the first place. However despite these very researchable historical and scientific facts, there are many who revise history and science to coincide with their astigmatic, Dominionist Christian predispositions. After two hundred and fifty years of church/state separation, Christianity is being re-packaged as patriotism.
There is certainly a reason why we refer to the millennium of church rule as the dark ages, and the period of discovery from which this nation was born as the “Enlightenment”. One needs only to read a few history or science books. The struggle between Christian Dominionism and secularism is literally between willful ignorance and intellectual subjugation, versus sociological advancements in science, medicine, economics, and technology …Or as some might put it, Dark vs. Light.
Our great nation was founded by those who defied church authority, and chose the light.
The last gasp of a person who finds themselves on the losing side of a debate is usually an awkward, pathetic attempt to salvage some sense of respectability. It almost always fails, miserably.
Such is the case whenever a Christian fundamentalist attempts to engage someone whose world view is based on scientific facts, and peer reviewed evidence, and who tries to interject fairy tales as if they were written as a reliable first person account of history rather than a series of metaphors. In any rational venue, a person who tries to introduce magic as credible subject matter and speak of it as if it’s proven fact would get laughed out of the discussion. That is, unless the magic was performed by an omnipotent deity who only performed miracles before there was YouTube. Yet when their counterpoint inevitably crumbles in the face of truth derived from perky facts, their final reply is sadly predictable:
“I’ll pray for you”.
Well, that’s just terrific. Thanks a diaper load for the passive aggressive flip off. And while you’re having a chat with your invisible deity, and asking him to take time out of his busy day so that he can have yet another excuse to allow fifty thousand people per day to starve to death, and to see if he can’t force me to lose my sense of reason and capitulate to believing in unsubstantiated nonsense… I’ll try to make the world a better place. While you are on your knees muttering like a homeless person, asking god to deviate from his plan because it’s not quite meeting up to your expectations, I’ll support scientists who cure diseases, engineers who build things, and academics who impart knowledge.
But I’m not so naive to believe that when a frustrated fundamentalist offers prayers, that they are truly concerned with my immortal soul. I know they are not actually “praying” for me. What they really mean to say –but won’t because it is unbecoming to their alleged faith– is that they are going to tell on me. It’s as if we’re both six years old and I’ve said a bad word. “Just wait until daddy gets home, you’re gonna be in trouble!” It’s a futile, last attempt to sign off with a “zinger”… an ethereal raspberry blown as a parting shot.
Here is what the words “I’ll pray for you” truly mean: “Hey, maybe my all powerful, omnipotent super wonderful god hasn’t noticed yet that you don’t believe in him, so I’ll just point that out so that he’ll be sure to put you on the goin’ straight to hell list”. Oh how I would squeal with delight if any such condescending, indignant, imbecile would fall face first into a deep fryer.
It’s not that I give a damn if you talk to yourself like some Prozac laden mental patient, or waste as much of your own time as you want. By all means, clasp your hands and ask the almighty for a better job, for your spouse to not be such a loser, or even for my soul. While you’re at it, deny the hypocrisy of doing this from the comfort of your suburban middle class home with all the comforts that your local Walmart can provide. Just understand that while you’re doing so, nine year old girls are getting raped all over the Sub Sahara.
The vitriol it takes to offer such a cavalier disregard for human suffering all over the world as retribution for me speaking reason to you is the exact opposite of what the Christian faith pretends to convey. It does little more than exposes these cross-wearing, murmuring dolts –who are silly enough to believe that there is a celestial being in the sky who is listening to their vapid complaints– for the self centered, narcissistic, intellectually attenuated, hateful asshats that they are. Sure, people have cancer, and live in horrible poverty, but surely god will listen to *YOU* as you rat on non-believers because you and he have such a wonderful, personal relationship. Shoot, god just helped you get new curtains.
The reality is, prayer does nothing. Only what can happen, does happen. When prayers coincide with a lost limb growing back, then maybe I’ll consider their validity. But god apparently doesn’t know that trick… but you know who does? SCIENCE.
If you want to help someone, then help them. Talking to an imaginary friend is psychotic. “Dear God, do you know that Cancer that you allowed little Billy to have?… well, could you change your mind about that?… He’s a nice boy.” All Prayer accomplishes is feigning that you care, when you really don’t. “Oh, I’ll Pray for you… as soon as there is a commercial, just please don’t ask me to actually do anything.”
So the next time some dunce who believes that the world is six thousand years old despite the myriad of scientific evidence to the contrary –and in a frustrated, demeaning reply offers a conciliatory prayer on your behalf– rather than thank them, you should respond as you would any other time anyone purposefully insults you…
“You’ll pray for me? Good. I’ll not be an idiot for you.”