Monday, August 18, 2008

Yay for religious zealotry

Megan, being much more informed about religion than us atheists who've read the Bible and studied Christian history, has something to say about the intermixing of religion and politics. In a pure coincidence, what she has to say is supportive of the conservative culture war evangelicals who want to install Sharia law Biblical law in place of the Constitution and Bill of Rights and all that moldy old bunk. It's not like she's a libertarian or anything.

But if I did have a firm belief in God, I'd have a hard time reconciling the following two principles:

1. There is an omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent deity, and man's highest destiny is to fulfill His purpose
2. I routinely ignore what this deity says because my neighbors disagree

I can't see how you can have any sort of meaningful faith and divorce it from your voting decisions. Religious faith is supposed to tell you, among other things, what is right and wrong. How are you supposed to vote without reference to your notions of goodness?
That's right, believers, Megan the AGNOSTIC is quite ready to judge your commitment to your faith, based on whether you meet her preconceived notions of what kind of small minded, hateful activities you should engage in for Jebus. (Btw, "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's" is apparently no longer in the Bible. Megan is an editor, after all.)
America, and to a lesser extent other western nations, have a long history of keeping doctrinal disagreements out of the public square, an excellent notion. But my reading of political history, admittedly incomplete, does not indicate that our predecessors actually thought that people were supposed to vote entirely without recourse to their relgious faith--that the Almighty God was supposed to be kept in a dark corner of your heart where he couldn't possibly affect any public portion of your life.
Yeah, that whole separation of church and state thing is just a notion, a vague guideline that no one ever took seriously. That's why Bush's attempt to undo the boundary is completely non-controversial.
Indeed, some of the noblest endeavors in American history, like the fight against slavery and the civil rights movement, were very explicitly religious movements, and wouldn't have succeeded half so well without the power of the church behind them. Though I don't share their faith, I'm totally okay with that. Believers will believe. The rest of us will have to judge their beliefs by our own lights, of course.
Also, the Salem Witch trials. And the acceptance of slavery in the Old Testament was never once used as justification for slavery. Neither has religion played any role in the subjugation of women, nor the genocide of the indigenous tribes of the Americas.* It's almost as if part of why the Founders tried to limit the role of religion in politics is because the Bible can be used to justify any action or position imaginable, and that small minded zealots and power hungry opportunists often use religion as a trojan horse for whatever hateful, self-serving agenda they choose.
After all, Jebus was all about hating on the gays, which means the evangelicals today are just following the dictates of their God when they try to keep homosexuals from having equal rights. It's not like Jebus made a point of saying the Old Testament was too brutal and no longer applicable cuz he was God n he said so. And it's not as if the Bible is actually a work of man, coming out of a specific context with specific cultural goals in mind for the period in which it was collected, meaning large amounts of it are effectively anachronistic and not eternal truths of any kind. And a Founding Father like Jefferson, being a deist, would not have agreed with what I just said, at all. Megan is ok with uninformed superstition and bigotry dressed up with religious imagery being made into public policy, probably because she thinks she'd be insulated from the outcome as a member of the DC Village and a child of wealth.
It's like with abortion rights. As long as no one she knows ever has to meet a bent coat hanger, Megan's not gonna worry about it.

Oh, and Megan?
For an agnotheist like me, all this means is a pretty healthy skepticism of prayer in schools.
That sentence means you are uncertain whether prayer in school exists. Not that you're unsure whether it's a good idea, but that you have doubts about its existence. Please go back to school and study English, you need to learn to write.

*- Or anything to do with why it took until 1960 to elect a Catholic President, or why we've never had a Jewish one.


bulbul said...

2. I routinely ignore what this deity says

*bangs head against wall repeatedly*

But wait, maybe we can try and stay positive and attempt to utilize the energy of teh stoopid which can be found in great amounts in Megan's, um, writing. Maybe we can point out that this not only proves conclusively that Megan has no fucking clue about religion, but that this misconception - that we actually KNOW what our deity says - is shared by a large portion of the American and even European public. I know Megan is beyond redemption, but maybe some other lost souls will listen when we start talking about the Bible and various interpretations thereof and different traditions. We could even mention that the conviction that we actuall know what God says is rooted in the fundamentalist (pseudo)literalism ('Bible is the literal word of God') and that their literal interpretation a) is not literal at all and b) doesn't prevent them from making shit up (the Rapture). We could even mention that in the whole Bible, there is not a single verse about abortion, so ipso facto opposition to abortion is not biblical. We could pile up argument after argument - and by we I of course mean somebody else. I'm exhausted already.

bulbul said...

Oh sweet Jesus, I only just got to actual post and I had to ctrl+w out of there after the first sentence:
I don't understand the idea that one would separate one's faith from one's politics.
Then go read up on European history, you dumb person. Start with Wycliffe, move through the Hussite wars then to Luther, Calvin and Zwingli, St. Bartholomew's Day massacre and end with the English reformation and the 30 Year's war. And then try to find out something about the Puritans.

Susan of Texas said...

I can't figure this one out; is she pandering so people will think she's a nice Catholic girl (without actually being nice, Catholic, or a girl), or is she genuinely as thick as a brick?

Chad said...

What's funny to me is that Megan tries so hard to be diplomatic toward devout Christians, but she ends up echoing a typical hard Christopher Hitchens-esque line: that sincerely religious people always try to impose their beliefs and morals on everyone else.

Geesh, not only does she manage to insult all socially liberal Christians out there, but, like bulbul points out, shows a total ignorance of European intellectual, political, and religious history. Even Justinian I<, who was as much of a Christian theocrat as you can find in history, didn't outlaw divorce, like some of his Christian advisers wanted. Well done, Megan, well done.

clever pseudonym said...

I don't know; I routinely look to the Bible for guidance on how to feel about subjects like free trade, globalization, immigration and economic stimulus plans, but amazingly enough, I haven't had much luck finding passages that address these issues. I read somewhere that St. Augustine once wrote a treatise on solutions to globabl warming, so maybe he'll be some help on that.

brad said...

Nah, Augustine was just basically presenting his own poor understanding of the neo-Platonists solutions for global warming, CP.
And the original Platonic ideas were much more viable, anyhow.
Neo-Platonists were all about trying to tie electrical cords to the departing souls of the freshly dead so we could tap the power of the Aether.

brad said...

I think, Susan, it means The Atlantic has a new policy of kissing evangelical ass, and Megan isn't quite sure how to do it yet.

NutellaonToast said...

Every time she types the word "agnotheist" a little part of me dies.

Hey, look, Firefox underlines that word in red. Someone should tell Megan that.

Mr. Wonderful said...

Every time she writes "agnotheist" I THINK a little part of me dies. But I'm not sure.