Monday, September 1, 2008

On Christianity and Liberalism

Controversy generates better comments, so, for my own amusement, I offer you controversy.

We should all be concerned about the absurd posturing of our politicians on the subject of Religion. I respect Religion more than they do, more than you do too, odds are, but I don’t believe in any of it, not a bit. I respect them all, though, right down to those remaining Animists out in some jungle somewhere worshiping the spirits of the trees. But politics is not the place for Religion.

“We are seriously misguided when it comes to the role of religious belief in political races. Faith in God should no more trump perspicacity in matters of governance than it should replace olive oil in Italian cuisine.” John S. commenting on an essay about Robert Ingersoll, who was a nationally respected Atheist in the late Nineteenth Century.

Our political dialog is swimming in Christian platitudes and religiosity, but among the spewing politicians no one makes the point about the connection between their own actions and the message of Christianity? Precious few anyway. For most of these openly religious politicians, even a cursory examination of their own lives betrays an active contradiction of Christian ideals.

Even if a Christian governor believes that it is just to carry out a death sentence, it is certainly unchristian to mock the condemned person. Even if a practicing Christian believes in good faith that in some circumstances it is morally acceptable to unilaterally divorce one’s wife, it is certainly unchristian to do so because she is no longer beautiful and a woman fifteen years her junior, beautiful and incredibly rich has come along and volunteered for the job after heavy lobbying and some adultery; or to visit a wife who is hospitalized and suffering with breast cancer and bully her into signing divorce papers on the spot. It’s not only presidents and others that I don’t like who engage in this behavior. It is equally unchristian for a president to engage in sexual liaisons with a page, especially with an immature and slightly goofy page; at that level of power-inequality, and considering the age and blissful air-headedness of the woman, behavior like that is little more than rape. And in what universe is torture sanctioned by Christian politicians as the official policy not only of the country that they serve, but also of the people that they represent? (Including me, and it embarrasses me, it degrades me and personally annoys me, that they would do such a thing.) Christians, my ass.

President Ronald Reagan started all of this nonsense. An amoral political genius, he and his cronies developed the strategy of using the pretended belief in evangelical Christianity to trick those unfortunate people into voting for Republican so-called conservatives, voting, as it were, against their clear economic interests. These people, largely poor, largely uneducated, largely rural, are the very Americans that are most dependant upon Liberal social innovations like Social Security. Many of them wouldn’t even have electricity if it weren’t for Liberals. Many of them wouldn’t have ever been born if it weren’t for Liberals, their parents would have starved to death in a shack during the Great Depression. But since the late Seventies these Christian Fundamentalists have been voting with Republican Conservatives whose core program is to do away with these very social programs and divert the money thus saved to the highest level of property owners in the country. All it took was a little, “they say you can’t pray in school . . .” and some, “evolution is a theory that is still being debated . . .” and a bit of, “abortion is murder.” That and a little public pontificating. They shamelessly stand for pictures with their second, or third families and proclaim themselves to be good, Christian family men with “Family Values.”

Reagan . . . there are tapes of speeches that President Reagan delivered to fundamentalist groups in which he waxes poetic about his mother reading him the Bible when he was a boy, and how he sees the signs and believes that the Tribulation is fast approaching. The Tribulation! That’s way out there with snake-handling. Does anyone allow a one percent possibility that he actually believed in the Tribulation at all? That would be the belief that in the “End Times,” when the “Last Judgment” is at hand, “Believers” will simply disappear, all of them, at once, having been assumed body and soul into heaven to be with “God,” and he included the belief that we would actually see that weird event in our lifetimes. These people will say anything to gain control of a voting block.

Does anyone think that Dick Cheney is a good Christian? None of his nicknames reflect that prejudice. George W. Bush? He talks about his Christianity more than most of them but displays personal Christian values less than almost all of them.

Alas! Babylon!

If any American wishes to believe that anyone who has not “recognized Jesus as his personal savior” will not, indeed cannot, upon their death be admitted to heaven, let them do so in private, and if they wish to discuss it, let them discuss it with like minded people in private. If anyone wishes to believe that Jews are devils, or that “polytheists” may freely be killed, or that newborn babies bear a curse that came down from God and has afflicted every single human being since the beginning of time, or any other such foolishness, it is their Constitutional Right to do so. I would fight for their right to their own beliefs.

But if they wish to criticize my beliefs, they are engaging in politics and should lose their tax exemption immediately. If they wish to inject themselves into politics at any level, they should lose their tax exemption immediately. As for the politicians who cynically affect Fundamentalist Christianity to effect this voting block, there is much that can be done.

Firstly, they should be challenged constantly by the media for the hypocrisy apparent in their daily lives. The defense of, “these people are attacking your right to your beliefs!” should be easy enough to brush aside. They should also be called out on their “Conservative” credentials; their true positions on all issues are much further to the right, they are deeply reactionary almost to the point of vigilantism.

Secondly, Liberalism has allowed itself to be demonized without raising a hand in self defense, and that must end. Liberalism took a failing Capitalist playground and turned it into a middle-class democracy. Liberalism in America eliminated more hunger, suffering and discrimination than any prior political system in any country. This failure of Liberalism to defend itself has allowed the recreation of the deeply stratified and dismally undemocratic “Gilded Age” of the Robber-Barons.

Thirdly, and most importantly, our progressive politicians must wake up to their responsibilities. It is impossible to oppose these shrill, so-called Conservatives in a polite manner. Liberals and progressives must realize that they are in a back alley knife fight, and the sociopath with the knife cannot be reasoned with. If they are too genteel for knives, and if they abjure the use of gunpowder, let them put a half of a brick in one hand and a stout cudgel in the other and beat the sociopath until five minutes after he has stopped responding, metaphorically, of course. Be assured, this can be done in good conscience, the opponents have demonstrated a hundredfold that they do not deserve any greater consideration.

Liberalism . . . to be a Liberal . . . the current demon myth must be dispelled. Big Business needn’t worry; did not Big Business thrive under Liberal administrations? Fundamentalists needn’t worry; Liberal policies would give them all of the religious freedom that they could stand, plus a middle-class lifestyle in which to enjoy it. The rich needn’t worry; the rich, like the poor, will always be with us, and Liberalism values leadership and innovation as much as any political system. All of that whining, oh, Liberals want to deny entrepreneurs the benefit of their innovation, it’s all such crap, tell it to Professor Land (inventor of the Polaroid process, the “Polaroid Land Camera) or the inventor of the Barbie Doll.

I welcome the rich! I will give them the thanks that they deserve for improving society! But anyone for whom fifty or sixty million dollars on hand is not enough, and for whom five or six million new dollars a year is insufficient, well those people have no place in a rational society and should be hospitalized immediately as a danger to themselves and others. Anything over that should go to taxes and charitable contributions. And anyone who can’t sleep at night, angry at having to share out most of his or her one hundred million dollars received this year as “income,” angry at having to offer it to society as charitable donations, angry at having to live for an entire year on only five or six million dollars, anyone like that has a dangerous mental condition requiring immediate, compassionate treatment.

Of course I’m just blogging this, which is like sitting half-drunk in your own room talking back to the TV, or privately reading a well written essay and mumbling, “you’re god-damned right.” Maybe I should put on a sandwich-board like those “Soon, A Cleansing!” guys I used to see preaching glassy eyed on Wall Street. I should try it sometime. Go stand in front of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in mid-town Manhattan with a sign that says, “RELIGION IS DOOM!!!” yelling, “Religion has made you idiots! Your ‘personal savior’ is a danger to America and the World!”

But I’m lazy, and a coward, so I’ll stick to blogging.


Anonymous said...

I refuse to waste a minute of my finite time thinking about or arguing something as bogus as religion. What arrogance we humans have, to think that our life is somehow more important than an ant's.

fred c said...

That's the ultimate pretense right there: to think that when we die we are somehow less dead than an ant, or a dog, or a tree for that matter.

I don't mind thinking about religion, it's just human history after all. But I do object to its excesses, and I particularly object to its misuse by politicians.

Anonymous said...

When anyone in my company seriously mentions god, religion, etc, it is my cue to stop talking to them, immediately. I know I will never have a rational conversation about anything with them. Saves a lot of time. Best social diving-rod for compatibility I've found.

fred c said...

That was my plan lawyering in L.A. Anyone raised Religion in conversation and I just listened with faux interest and agreed. Politics too, no sense in telling them that I want to take their heros and hang them on meat hooks.