The move toward American Theocracy by the empowered evangelical 'elite' in the US has made it almost impossible for an atheist or non-christian to be elected to office. Schools are having their curriculum undermined by creationist who wish to revise history, remove evolution from science, and prevent teaching sexual health and pregnancy prevention. Atheist fear reprisals for not being christian and are often discriminated against at work, socially, and most especially in the military. American as a "Christian Nation" is not a free nation or an ethical one.
Please- What ideas do you have on combating this most dangerous decline in American intellectual and social standards? I'm especially interested in ideas from outside the US. Whatever you wish to add.
Many of the original 13 states had officially supported religions. Massachusetts started as a Puritan colony, and Puritanism morphed into Congregationalism, which spread through much of New England. Virginia was Anglican, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island more open to a variety of faiths. In 1730, the great Puritan minister, Jonathan Edwards, kicked off the first Great Awakening. The writers of the Constitution were secularists who realized that the only way to protect religious freedom was to keep the government out of religion. Most were believers of one Christian faith or another, some devout, some rather casual. Jefferson was a Unitarian, often attacked as being an atheist. Franklin was pretty slippery, describing himself as a Deist in his youth but later believing that God had helped the Americans win their revolution. Washington went to the Episcopal (Anglican) church, but always left before communion, and would not allow any clergymen at his bedside when he died. I don't know about the others much, but even then there were "ranters" (fire-and-brimstone preachers) insisting on an official religion. They lost. The Christian argument today that the founders intended a Christian nation and that Americans wanted it doesn't hold water. If the founders had been Christians and most of the citizens Christians and all of them wanted a Christian nation, they would have had little trouble creating just that. The founders, who were for the most part educated landed gentry, knew the historical dangers posed by an official state church and so refused to create one.
In a sense, their plan backfired. Freedom of religion created space for crackpots and charlatans. So many charismatic preachers had picked through upstate New York that by the time Joseph Smith invented Mormonism around 1835, the area was known as the "burned over" ground. More and more groups sprang up, promising salvation and prosperity, and predicting the end of the world. Christianity has always been the enemy of intellectualism. Martin Luther, who came up with the idea of predestination and divine grace while seated on his toilet, said that reason was the "greatest enemy" of faith.
The last official state religion, the Massachusetts version of Congregationalism, was disenfranchised in 1833. On the frontier, itinerant preachers brought the Word to pioneers, miners, and cowboys. Most towns were too small at first to support a variety of Protestant churches, so doctrinal differences became less important, setting the stage for today's megachurches.
In 1859, Darwin's Origin of Species turned the Christian world upside down. The sciences took off, and the Higher Criticism, which advocated studying the Bible as if it were any other book, led to more liberal churches, chiefly on the East Coast. More literalist groups tried to put the brakes on around the turn of the century with the publication of the Schofield Bible, full of commentaries on various books, including the weird reading of Revelation that underlies Protestant Fundamentalism, and a series of pamphlets called The Fundamentals. "Mainstream" churches read the Bible metaphorically and symbolically in light of new scientific knowledge, while the Fundamentalists insisted on Biblical inerrancy and considered the Bible a reliable guide to religion, history, and all knowledge. Fundamentalist offers assurances of eternal life, so its followers "know" that they are saved. If one part of the Bible, though, is shown to be false, then the rest of it is threatened, so Fundamentalists stubbornly defended inerrancy, deciding that when science and the Book disagree, science must be wrong. Some states passed laws forbidding the teaching of evolution; such laws were tested beginning in Tennessee in 1925, and eventually discarded. When SCOTUS ordered the integration of American schools in 1954, Southerners fled the mainstream churches in droves, setting up their own churches and church schools for whites only. A number of the big evangelical leaders got started in the 1950s, and the Fundamentalists took over the Southern Baptist Convention in the late 70s. Jesus Freaks appeared, and the Fundamentalists instituted voter registration drives. They built "universities" and gave each other phony degrees in "prophesy" and "evangelism." They wrote many books. They have learned to speak a sort of pseudo-academic language, and they have built scientific "institutes" replete with long lists of "Fellows," aping the academic world and achieving credibility among millions of Americans.
Christianity has long tried to suppress knowledge. Listen to them debate, and it becomes immediately clear that they can't tell a fact from a fart. Unfortunately, most people can't, even pretty well educated ones. And education in America has become one vast vocational school. Many people graduate from college with degrees in computer science, electrical engineering, or education, for example, with only a few hours of literature, history, philosophy, and rhetoric under their belts, and nothing at all on religion. Many college graduates are quite weak in critical thinking, so it's hard for them to distinguish between research and quote mining or between science and religion. Many Americans think schools should "teach the controversy" between evolution and creation science because the Fundamentalists have become so adept at creating false equivalencies and manufactured controversies. When Fundamentalists argue about evolution, they inevitably veer off into abiogenesis and throw up false analogies as scientific "proof." What they refuse to admit and many Americans fail to grasp is that creationism, whether we call it creation science or intelligent design, has already been exposed to scientific method and has been soundly refuted again and again. They would like for us to treat it as science, not realizing that we already have, and it has been weighed and measured and found wanting. They argue that science can't say for certain how life began, so therefore God must have started it, a logical fallacy called a false dilemma, as if we must choose to believe science or the Bible. It's also an argument from ignorance, an "I don't understand it so God must have done it" stance. Further, if science is to be discounted because it doesn't yet have everything right, then Biblical cosmology must also be discounted because it has never even come close to being right about anything.
Consider this bumper sticker I saw recently in central Georgia: "God said it, I believe it, that's the end of it."
And that's about as deep as it gets.
Sorry about the rant. I've been a bit peeved lately about the whole situation. And I veered off topic, so:
The Hebrews actually came up with a great idea. They were surrounded by polytheistic idol worshipers. Gods were usually associated with particular cities or "nations," and when one nation conquered another, it was seen as evidence that the winners' god was greater than that of the losers. The Hebrews thought their God was the strongest, but as time went on, they insisted he was omniscient and omnipotent. (Not omnibenevolent, though.) So when shit happened, they didn't credit it to the power of someone else's god; they believed that when they suffered, it was because they had screwed up, so Yahweh caused a plague or a drought or an invasion by the Assyrians or Philistines. Their gods weren't stronger; Yahweh was letting them win to punish his people. The sins of some of the people were enough to bring the wrath of God down on ALL the people. (The Romans distrusted both Jews and Christians because they wouldn't take part in pagan sacrifices, which might bring the wrath of whichever god or goddess they considered the protector of their city.) Shift this idea to modern America, and it's easy to see that Hurricane Katrina, for example, hit New Orleans because it was a sinful city, or that the Iraq war, as Fred Phelps likes to say, is God's punishment for America's tolerance toward gays. If we establish a theocracy, they reason, then God's law--or their version of it--will be kept and America, God bless her, will endure. It's sort of a theocratic retelling of "Horton Hears a Who."
Craig, that was a well-written piece. Thanks for preparing it so well.
Thank science for atheism.
there is a book "day of the triffids". it points out the unworkableness (?) of a sociaty built on power strugles and rule from authority. it was made into a movie but the movie censors did not like the original storie line and changed it to a sort of "god(s) fixes everything in the end".
fuck the movie...read the book.
we just need to reject the current structure and start a new one. work only with this current government enough to keep them off our backs and just start a rational society...in real life not just online.
a sort of atheist only country.
but at least it would be a rational utopia.
Sounds like the movie 'Starship Troopers'. The book was a brilliant military/political novel. The movie had the politics stripped out, and the military themes were almost completely reversed. They somehow changed "Always make pickup; never leave a man behind!" into "If someone is in trouble, shoot him yourself, to put him out of his misery."
The movie was a fucking travesty. What's sad is that the action scenes would have been so much more awesome if they had followed the book, too. In the movie, they had a bunch of idiots running around on foot with rifles. In the book, they were mobile infantry, each of them in a 600 pound 'ape suit', with hand flamers; pill-grenades launched from a y-rack on their back; jump jets that could take a man half a mile at a jump; various, assorted nastiness, such as a 30 second bomb that says in the local language, "I am a 30 second bomb ... 29 ... 28 ... 27 ..."; and some members were equipped with low-yield atomic rockets. In the book, every member of the mobile infantry was a walking catastrophe. The opening scene with the individual deployment drops from orbit would have been awesome, too.
Anyway, about your book ... I'm not sure we have a high enough percentage of rational people to make it work. Besides, how do you actually get the power away from the people in the current power structure? The only plans I've seen are things out of Ayne Rand novels, and she was a hypocritical crackhead who idolized serial-killers and other sociopaths.
About 30 years ago the religious right figured out that the best way to influence government was through a political party. They had tried to start a new party and did not get very far so they set their sights on the Republican Party. They ran for committee positions in their local cities and counties. Well, they reached a place where they had to be heard!
We need to do the same! The Democratic party is our best bet.
I think you are right. Unfortunately we have to vote for them because they are the lesser of two evils. I vote Dem and I usually agree with them. I just think you always need a viable alternative in politics. If we vote Democratic and continue to do so they will be able to control more and then we could get even better candidates. I hate the folks who do not vote because the D's are not exactly what they wanted. You think you're going to get the same deal from Reps?
There needs to be a way to help people and yet bring out self sufficientciecy in them. There needs to be a concept of values other than religious put forth. After all- look at how 'pure' some of those preacher-men are. (Don't even get me started on that money ho Joyce Myers. She's a whole book in herself.)
Im still worried about theocracy.
When the book, The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood came out, British women thought it was a good story, Canadian women called it creepy, American women said, "How long have we got?"
Be worried about theocracy. Be very worried.
I remember thinking that at the time. "Not totally beyond possibility." They shot that sucker in the south in summer. There were winter scenes so folks were wearing full winter clothes. A few got heat stroke. Since it's a right to work state the extras had little recourse. The Republicans would strip all rights to recourse and kill OSHA if they could. They just don't seem to realize that people who will not act ethically end up with more rules.
I miss real conservatives. Obama is pretty close.
I did not know the book was made into a movie, I'll have to look for it.
I am disappointed with Obama. I think he's believes his decisions are pragmatic, but pragmatism with little regard for it's affect on people is a very conservative trait. You're right, he is pretty close.