“All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit." -- Thomas Paine
As I've stated here, and many other places before, religion has no place in politics.
A cursory glance at history proves my point: places and times where religion occupies the majority, if not all, of the Public Sphere tend to be periods in which Humanity stagnates, where oppression and repression are the order of the day, and where social institutions and human relationships are corrupted or usurped. Wherever there is the symbiotic conjunction between faith and politics, as one lends legitimacy to the other, as one props the other up, as one feeds upon the other, the business of society finds itself handicapped by forces outside of it's control and beyond it's power to influence.
Civic peace becomes impossible because of the arbitrary rule of religion; the common bond of Humanity that holds people together is constantly gnawed at and frayed as people identify with one over the other. Abuses of power that would normally be considered immoral or which offend the common sense of Humanity are suddenly excused or justified by claim to an authority which is otherworldly and otherwise unlikely to be either held to account, or to respond in any manner, whatsoever, and those who would claim this authority through a connection to an unanswerable and unquestionable authority are cynical assholes who need to be slathered in honey and staked to an anthill.
People are not rioting in the streets of Tehran today because they hate God.
Jew and Palestinian are not fighting over a patch of sandy ground because they have any basic physical differences.
Catholic and Protestant do not oppose one another because of any real differences in outlook, only opposing viewpoints on the proper form and role of faith.
The recent kerfuffle over Judge Roy Moore in Alabama's special election (more like a Special Ed election, if you ask me) has brought this argument -- religion and politics don't mix -- to the fore again. Without rehashing the entire, sordid affair, suffice it to say that if there is a lesson to be learned from that disturbing display of Stupid People Given the Right to Vote, it is this:
Hypocrisy abounds, but never more than when it comes to questions of faith. Faith generates hypocrisy in the same way that democrats generate bullshit, which is to say, because it can. That is to say that because Faith requires no attachment to Logic it is susceptible to being twisted into whatever form one needs at the moment, and the people who twist it are quite confident that those infected with Faith will follow along with nary a question being asked.
"Good Christian Men" who, at any other time except for these politically-charged ones, would have had a necktie party of Roy Moore's front porch at the merest whisper of the word "pedophile" chose instead overlook a sin that would normally make their blood boil in an effort to elevate the profile of their own stupid religion in the United States Senate (and, presumably, throughout the entire government) on the ridiculous basis that Roy Moore's defense of a Ten Commandments monument was a Godly Act that should transcend all his other (alleged) Ungodly Acts.
This is necessary and justified, these assholes will tell you, because "Christianity is under assault in America".
This is evident because "you can't say Merry Christmas, anymore", and every Nativity Scene results in a lawsuit. It is a fire stoked by modern notions of political discourse involving competition between identifiable groups who are cynically turned against one another as a means of winning elections (by both sides), where words like "tolerance", "liberty", "diversity" are perverted deliberately in order to make them mean their direct opposites.
This feeling of being "under assault" springs, ultimately, from ignorance, intolerance and fear (everywhere), and is also baked into the Christian cookie; it's not too big a stretch to believe that a religion predicated upon an act of martyrdom, and whose biggest and brightest figures are all martyrs, should engender an overly-emo, over-the-top, drama-queen-level of fucktard quality in those who follow it. The "assault" is made worse by the fact that after 230-odd years of monoculture the arrival of The Others is upsetting the carefully-constructed prerogatives of both religion and race, and that a segment of the population that hasn't made the Great Mental Leap out of the Middle Ages -- and is, therefore, unequipped to adapt to or accept change -- feels as if the world as they know it is being destroyed.
This tendency towards a pure, menstrual martyrdom mentality, married to a changing social fabric, and hitched to the wagon of Managerialist politics in the form of Identity, have finally combined to do something which is usually only ever seen in Muslim countries: the needs of power overcame the dictates of both faith and common sense. Some Alabama voters were willing to send a potential sinner, accused of some of the most heinous crimes against children, to the Senate, in opposition to the tents of their faith and against all common sense, in an effort to save some vestige of their religion in the public square.
And to do so with an attitude that fairly screams "Fuck you!" to the rest of society.
My, how very Christian (but not terribly unexpected, from my experience) of them.
“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?" -- Epicurus
In speaking, corresponding, and debating with many friends and acquaintances of the "Christian" persuasion, specifically on the subject of Moore's candidacy, I began to notice a few peculiar tendencies among his supporters that had me half-convinced that I was living in Bizzaro World, and the rhetoric was of such quality that it reminded me of a phrase I used to use to refer to a particular strain of shithead GOP'er during the Clinton years: wraparound conservative. That is to say, a right-winger who has begun to act, speak, and react in a way that is reminiscent of a left-winger. In other words, they had gone so far to the right that they circumnavigated the political spectrum and emerged looking and sounding like left-wingers.
They had adopted the left-wing propensity to excuse the unexcuseable in the quest for power or position.
It became such that people who, on a good day, actually LIVE for the opportunity to judge the questionable and sinful actions of others suddenly reserved their judgment in order to achieve what they saw as a greater goal, and they were perfectly alright with this abrogation of their otherwise ironclad moral code. A moral code, mind you, which they believe makes them superior to others.
The people who were thoroughly disgusted by the shenanigans of Billy Jeff and the Blue Dress were now willing -- eagerly -- to excuse a potentially greater sin in the name of The Ten Commandments. All the other bullshit clinging to Moore -- that he was a former democrat, that he had been censured on the bench twice -- fell to the wayside. There was an opportunity to put a good Christian Soldier in the Senate, and they were going to take it as a means of sticking it to the dems, to the brown folk, to the Muzzies, to The Establishment, and even if success meant Roy Moore became an ineffective Senator or even one eventually taken down by criminal charges related to the allegations surrounding him, did not matter. It's about power and identity.
The Right, at least in Alabama, had learned to play by the Left's rules....and they considered themselves principled in doing so.
But because they're...well, the Right in Alabama... they did so inartfully.
Some of the defenses of Moore I heard during that time were patently ridiculous, ranging from lawyer talk to the outright lie that America is a Christian Nation.
It is no such thing.
The idea that America is a Christian Nation is part-and-parcel of the Identity Politics at play here. Just as African-Americans must cling to the myth of Institutional Racism, as Women must cleave to the Feminist stupidity of the Glass Ceiling, the Inbred Bible-Thumping Douchebag must cling to the narrative of deeply-religious and God-fearing Founders, who infused everything they did with Religious Significance.
This is patently false.
Alright, I will give you that most (by no means all) of the Founders were reverent men, after their fashion. A few, like Jefferson and Franklin, were deists (the next, best thing to Atheists in those days) who assumed the past existence of a higher power who was no longer present (they also believed in UFOs and life on other planets, something the mainstream Christianity of their day would have burned them at the stake for). However, when crafting the Constitution of this country, while invoking the deity and the favor of Divine Providence, they were assiduous in ensuring that no flavor of Christian Belief would take precedence over another.
In fact, that no stripe of religious belief would take precedence over another. This was only prudent, for they lived in a loosely-affiliated nation that was populated by disparate religious traditions and followers. Protestant and Catholic, Shaker and Quaker, Puritan and Jew, Huguenot and Mennonite, Moravian and Unitarian, Anglican and Methodist, Baptist and Evangelical, lived cheek-to-jowl with one another. Placing one of these above all others in law, and in cahoots with government, would have resulted in continuous unrest, at the very least, civil war, at the extreme.
This is because the Founders understood their own history far better than some asshole in Mobile, some dickhead in Cincinnati, or or some Talking Head in Washington does. Their history indicated that religion was nothing but a source of conflict, which I will get into in Part 2 of this stuff.
That history informed the Founders on the dangers of mixing religion and politics, and resulted in the First Amendment to the Us Constitution, the "Establishment Clause", and it's adjunct, "The Free Expression Clause". It begins:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...".
If I have to translate that for you, it says that the government shall not -- cannot -- either establish a state religion (as was the norm in Europe at that time, which is still the norm in the Islamic Lands) or interfere with the free expression of religious belief.
There is no "Official" religion in America, Christian or otherwise. There is a cultural legacy of Christianity and Christian Belief, but this makes the individual citizen a Christian; not the country.
Some will argue that every time the Ten Commandments are taken down from a courthouse, when prayer is forbidden in a public school, when a creche in a shopping mall results in a near riot and a lawsuit, that government is, indeed, "interfering" with the free expression of religion, particularly, and usually "only", when the Christian in the dispute loses (when he wins, they are notoriously silent. We don't hear about the wins, because there is no need for female-like whining and no opportunity to emulate the martyrs). Debunking this stupidity requires a case-by-case review, and I have neither the time, the inclination, nor the bandwidth to do so. If you'd like to research the particulars of any of these disputes, I recommend you go here.
Next time, we're going to discuss the historical legacy of the European Religious Experience on America's Founders, and why they did their level best to keep the sorts of religious disputes that plunged Europe into constant war away from their infant nation.
Part Two can be found HERE.