The culture wars have been revived yet again by the Romney campaign. Unable to get people to stop asking him for his tax records, and pointing out he has no economic plan other than Bush policies taking to extremes, Romney has returned to the usual attempts to create wedge issues between Americans, right out of the McCarthyism playbook. Conservatives want to be the sole arbiters on : Who has the right “values”? Who are “true Americans” or “true Christians”, etc and how do we tell? Who “deserves” the rights guaranteed in the United States Constitution?
And thus, despite their own claims of a war on religion being waged by President Obama and some bogeyman “libbuls”, we have them waging a war of religion themselves on those believers who don’t agree with their particular religion and sect. What of those who have completely different religions? Do these other religions have a the same rights as the religious “right” claims they have?
Perhaps more importantly, from the viewpoint within the US, what of those Christian believers who do agree with allowing gay marriage, who do support the separation of church and state? Who think that government is a good way (if not perfect) to help the “least among you”? These are their values as much Christian as those who would claim that their god hates such things. Would their religious beliefs be just as protected as the radical right wants theirs to be? Or would they be considered not “Christian” enough to qualify for those protections? As it stands, it certainly seems not. Romney, and those who support him, however reluctantly, only want their beliefs and their religion to be what everyone must follow. As Freud said succinctly: “A religion, even if it calls itself the religion of love, must be hard and unloving to those who do not belong to it.” — Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, 192
Let’s consider what a “war on religion” would be in reality. I don’t like religion and feel that it is innately harmful, but I would not say that people should be prevented from believing what they want as long as it does not harm me, or restrict *my* rights or those of others. But what if I did want to eradicate religion completely and by force, like many religious conservatives like to pretend in order to feel all martyr-y? We can look to other countries for what they do, most especially countries that have a state religion and who want to protect that religion from any doubt. Pity for them that if you outlaw doubt, then you will always have to wonder who “really” believes. Police states are popular when religion is part of the gov’t, always looking for the “impure”. We can look to China who controls much of the religions that exist in China, breaking the “church/state” wall from the other side. We can look back at Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union and its flunky, East Germany for textbook examples on how to control a population and persecute them. Unfortunately there is no lack of examples.
- Limit the practice of religion in any form or those forms that the state disagrees with
- Restrict or forbid them from communicating their various messages
- Put onerous penalties on them
- Keep those who follow such practices from being able to serve in the government, military and indeed tolerate or support private companies who exclude them
- Remove every external symbol of a religion from the temples and churches that exist
- Restrict or prevent the sale and/or distribution of their literature
- Encourage the destruction of their gathering places.
I’m sure there are other tactics.
So any of this happening in the US to Christians (of all or any type) as the Romney campaign would have us believe with his ad about the war on religion? My own observations:
– My cable station has at least a dozen religious channels on it, all happening to be Christian. All sorts of sects, from Roman Catholic to various shades of Protestant. They are available 24/7 (of course except when they sell their network time for infomercials)
– There are at least 39 self-described Christian radio stations in PA, often a relay of WORD. That’s *only* in Pennsylvania and there is a good chance that it isn’t a complete list.
– Religious organizations do not have to pay taxes for their land, buildings or pay sales tax since they are considered non-profit. They get to use tax-supported services because it is assumed (with no good reason) that they benefit the community. They also are exempt from many labor laws because how dare anyone think that they should employ someone that they must hate for not agreeing with them! They also can refuse medical insurance for their employees if they don’t agree with it in their non-profit role. The Obama Administration has expressedly given them this loophole; a loophole which could very easily be used to refuse mental health covers, vaccines, blood transfusions, and essentially ever bit of modern medical care if the religious institution doesn’t agree with it and want to claim that their “god” will take care of such things.
– There are around 10 pages in my local Yellow Pages of religious entities. I walk past at least 20 churches in three miles on my way home. Probably a pretty average number of churches in any small city and the community around. We have many *many* sects of various religions, they don’t agree, don’t support each other, and depend on secular law to exist separately as their own ever-so divinely “right” selves. They don’t even have to support the local mission which is always asking the entire community for donations, even pesky atheists like me. You’d think they’d have no trouble if all churches were in agreement and actually did support the community.
– Laws are continually being proposed, and unfortunately occasionally passed, to allow state funds to support religious schools, to legalize keeping your children ignorant (see Missouri’s new constitutional amendment making it okay for people to refuse to educate their children if it contradicts their personal beliefs).
– Parents who allow their children to die or be irreparably harmed by refusing them medical care because of their beliefs are rarely charged at all or if charged are only given a slap on the wrist for murder.
– Street preachers and anti-women activists are allowed to harangue anyone they want with only legal actoin making them stay away. Free speech works both ways and the religious radicals seem to often forget that.
– Faith-based government initiatives are still being supported by the Obama Administration. President Obama said:
“The particular faith that motivates each of us can promote a greater good for all of us. Instead of driving us apart, our varied beliefs can bring us together to feed the hungry and comfort the afflicted; to make peace where there is strife and rebuild what has broken; to lift up those who have fallen on hard times.” – President Barack Obama
National Prayer Breakfast Thursday, February 5th, 2009.
This obviously isn’t good enough for some Christians and emblematic of how theists often are responsible for any war on religion, on any but their own.
– People who advocate for the children of gay parents being kidnapped aren’t imprisoned as advocating for commiting a federal crime. “we need an Underground Railroad to deliver innocent children from same-sex households” Bryan Fischer, American “Family” Association (quotes are thanks to AFA’s continual hatred and attempts to redefine the word family.) Sounds just like when Native American children, and Australian Aborigine children, were taken from their families because someone didn’t think that their families were good enough. Mr. Fischer has evidently also decided that he can break laws with impunity “We must obey God’s law, not man’s law”, even though his bible says that all laws and all gov’t are in place because his god wants them to be, no exceptions of those laws and gov’t you don’t like, there being no distintion between some god’s law and man’s law (Romans 13).
The advertisement by the Romney campaign is called “Be Not Afraid”. Unfortunately, it depends *completely* on fear and redefining persecution as not getting their way all of the time. They want to claim that they and only they are the True Christians and the True Americans, and they depend on people being too fearful, ignorant and greedy to question their baseless claims. . We should be *very* afraid. For those words have been uttered time and time again, and only misery results.
“Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics
And the Catholics hate the Protestants
And the Hindus hate the Moslems
And everybody hates the Jews
But during National Brotherhood Week
National Brotherhood Week
It’s National Everyone-Smile-At-
Be nice to people who
Are inferior to you
It’s only for a week, so have no fear
Be grateful that it doesn’t last all year!”
– Tom Lehrer, “National Brotherhood Week”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dUwbZ9AlSPI