Tuesday, April 04, 2006

On Religion, Republicans, and Respect

I am certainly not the first would-be pundit to address this topic - but can there be anything more ridiculous than Christians in this country complaining that they are the victims of persecution? Poor American Christians, forced to ride in the back of the bus, passed over for promotions, barred from exclusive country clubs...all because they're not Moslem, or Jewish, or any of the other minority faiths in this country whose holy days have been made into legal holidays, while Christmas is utterly ignored!

The fact is that, just like the power-mad Republicans who weren't satisfied with winning a simple majority, but wanted to control everything, the most militant Christian elements in this country aren't satisfied with their dominance of American culture - they want it all! For starters, they want America to acknowledge itself as a "Christian nation," Jeffersonian church-state separation be damned! And they want the Bible (which they call the "literal word of God" without bothering to explain how that can be true of a book that has been translated countless times) to take precedence over secular law.

The most glaring example of the ruthless, greedy Republican is, of course, Tom DeLay, who is finally being forced to step down...and, like the man said, it's good riddance to bad rubbish. Interestingly, Tom DeLay has been the darling of the so-called "religious right," and has missed no opportunity to remind his allies that he is doing "God's work." Talk about your unholy alliances! Exactly which obscenely wealthy, poor-worker-exploiting, environment-despoiling corporation would Jesus have owned stock in?

It's not that difficult to understand why the same people who can't stop quoting the Bible (while not having a clue about charity, mercy, or any of those other supposedly "Christian" values) also support Bush and the Republicans. Both modern Republicans and that old-time fire-and-brimstone Christianity share the same technique, appealing to man's most basic emotion...fear. Bear with me here: the Bible-thumpers want you to believe that if you transgress - such as by tolerating same-sex couples - you'll writhe in eternal agony. Toe the line, however, and eternal bliss is yours. (Sound a bit like the 72 virgins awaiting those Islamists who fight the Christian infidel? Hmmm....)

Wait, it goes further: if you don't buy the Judeo-Christian concept of an omnipotent deity who made you in His image (and have you looked in a mirror lately, Porky?), and promises you immortality in heaven, then you have to accept the Finality of It All; this is it, guys and gals, and your eternal reward is to be worm food for the ages. The point is that most folks find the idea that there isn't anything after this life simply terrifying; it's much more comforting to believe that you'll meet all your dead relatives on the other side...although, I don't know about your family, but my relatives weren't that much fun to be around when they were alive!

If the Heavenly Father is taking care of all of us, then you don't have to decide for yourself whether homosexuals might be that way because of their neurochemistry, or whether a ball of undifferentiated cells could really be considered a human being - it's all been decided for you. It creates an extended childlike state: when your parents were infallible, you didn't have to think for yourself; now God is infallible, so you still don't have to think for yourself. Similarly, if you cling to the delusion that the president of the United States must always be right - because America is always right - then you don't have to trouble yourself with deciding the morality of invading a sovereign nation that did not attack or threaten us, murdering 35,000 of its citizens, and losing 2,500 young Americans in the process. It has to be right because the president, who told us he was doing God's work, said it was the right thing to do! (Excuse me, I have to go puke.)

The Republican brand of Christianity brooks no dissent; anyone who questions the Gospel is a "blasphemer." (And there they go sounding like those pesky "Islamic fundamentalists" again!) The irony is that the most extreme branches of American Christendom are still Protestant sects. Now look at the root of that word: "Protestant" comes from the word "protest." The largest branch of Christianity exists because people were questioning and dissenting from the Catholic Church! But, just like the Puritans who came to the New World seeking religious freedom, and then denied it to everyone else, the right-wing Christians want freedom of religion...for themselves, and the rest of us can go to you-know-where.

Of course, it was convenient for the Republicans to ally themselves with the Catholic Church over issues like institutionalized homophobia, and oxymoronic condemnation of both abortion and contraception. Funny how they played down the "alliance" when the late Pope John Paul II declared the invasion of Iraq "immoral." Then we had the spectacle of American bishops - who are supposed to consider their pontiff infallible - refusing communion to John Kerry (the war hero who wasn't responsible for lying us into an immoral war) because of his stance on women's reproductive rights. Don't get me started...

A recent newspaper editorial challenged the notion that all religions are deserving of respect simply because they call themselves religions. What more proof of the folly of this notion do we need than the "church" of Scientology, which is nothing more than a dangerous cult based on the ravings of a distinctly untalented science fiction writer? The editorial goes on to suggest that religions must earn our respect by demonstrating their genuine benefits to humanity. Most Americans would question the value of a religion that murders people over a handful of newspaper cartoons. The key point is this: the more a particular faith seeks to persecute those who do not follow it, the less it deserves our respect. By these criteria, the Republican brand of Christianity wouldn't pass muster either. Similarly, the occupant of the White House shouldn't get automatic respect (beyond the title of his office) unless he earns it. And there is no doubt that, as a consequence of his actions while in office, George W. Bush deserves nothing but our contempt.


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