The language is English, but the theme is one that might be heard in Arabic, Farsi, Pashtoon, Urdu, Hebrew, or in a variety of other languages and dialects around the world. It is a rallying cry of religious fundamentalists, be they Taliban, Southern Baptists, Lubavitchers, or Catholics: “the war on religion.” Ironically, it is religious fundamentalism’s reverse psychology ploy to obliterate the wall between church and state.
It is of course complete nonsense, poppycock, fabrication, and utter bullshit. There may be in various places resistance to the growing power and intimidation of religious authorities into the affairs of secular life, but there is no war on religion.
But there should be.
It can be argued that there has been and is perhaps no greater scourge upon human advancement than organized religion. It is responsible for more wars, pograms, persecutions and forms of torture, limitations upon human and civil rights, forced migrations, and poverty and disease, then any other human institution. Yes, there are some good and charitable things that have been done by religion, but none of them are deeds that have not and cannot be done by secular authorities, and the record by religion hardly countervails its evils.
Only those who read history will recall the millennia in which religion coupled with secular power ruled people’s lives with a ruthless authoritarianism. These were times, not all that distant and still extant in many places, when an unfortunate expression or gesture might result in imprisonment and/or torture, or even execution. These were times, and are still times, when young children are allowed to be uneducated, sexually abused, or sold into bondage, especially females, with the blind eye or blessing of the prevailing faith. These were and are times when women can be raped, or acid thrown in their faces, or otherwise mutilated with the blind eye or blessing of the prevailing faith. These were and are times in which huge populations remain trapped in poverty by religious proscriptions against control of conception and birth. These were and are times when religious authority thwarts scientific knowledge advancement that challenges religious dogma, superstition and the power of religious authorities.
To claim that religion is the victim is a contradiction of the facts and a moral absurdity. History shows that most each and every time that religion––and this may apply especially so to religions that have themselves undergone periods of persecution––has achieved the blessing of or become one with secular political power, it is adopted an employed any and all means to retain and expand its dominion. Much is made of Imperial Rome’s persecution of the incipient Christian faith (although it was more ignored than persecuted) but it was nothing compared to the persecutions Rome conducted after Christianity became its unofficial faith in the 4th century A.D. It took very little time for those refugees from political persecution in England, the Pilgrims, to start executing “witches” and for the country that considers itself Christian to begin importing slaves and conducting systematic extermination of the “heathen” indigenous peoples.
All religions are based on fear and superstition. There is not a single faith that can provide a single shred of evidence for the existence of the God or gods that they worship and in whose name they committhe most egregious acts against those of other faiths and those whom they call infidel. Religion has historically employed war to divide humanity into “us” (we of the one true faith were being persecuted by all others) and “them” (the un-or wrong believers who need or deserve nor will obtain eternal salvation).
Religious fidelity and piety and become a virtual litmus test for anyone seeking public office in America. A Muslim is a better chance of being elected than an avowed atheist. Challenging a politician’s religious purity can be more effective than critiquing is public policy positions. Managing one’s religious profile is a critical political skill. Witness, for example, three, times married and serial adulterer Newt Gingrich, and consummate religion-switcher, managing to maintain a positive relationship with much of the fundamentalist religious right. Ah, the magic of Christian forgiveness.
But witness also the trials of alleged crypto-Muslim Barack Obama. Professing allegiance to the right faith is one thing, but protesting secretive non-allegiance to the wrong faith is an impossible proof. This lie is employed as a weapon of war by religious fundamentalists.
Both Obama and his likely opponent, Myth Romney, have given laborious addresses aimed at justifying their religiosity. Romney, of course an adherent to a faith that has many of the attributes of a cult, managed to complete his apologia while Mormonism only once in his entire speech. A faith that “dare not speak its name” may be more of a political burden than an asset. How this will play out should he become the candidate will give much more credibility to the fact that there is more a war among religions against them.
When we examine the charge that government can be used and is being used to wage war on religion it can be argued that quite the opposite is supported by the facts. Here’s what Mother Jones recently reported on the subject.
. . . all the outrage about religious freedom has overshadowed a basic truth about the Obama administration: When it comes to religious organizations and their treatment by the federal government, the Obama administration has been extremely generous. Religious groups have benefited handsomely from Obama’s stimulus package, budgets, and other policies. Under Obama, Catholic religious charities alone have received more than $650 million, according to a spokeswoman from the US Department of Health and Human Services, where much of the funding comes from. The USCCB, which has been such a vocal critic of the Obama administration, has seen its share of federal grants from HHS jump from $71.8 million in the last three years of the Bush administration to $81.2 million during the first three years of Obama. In fiscal 2011 alone, the group received a record $31.4 million from the administration it believes is virulently anti-Catholic, according to HHS data. [What War on Religion? http://motherjones.com/politics/2012/02/what-war-religion-obama-catholic-charities]
The Obama administration has left the Bush faith-based policies essentially intact. Moreover, although it has promulgated that federal funds may not be used to discriminate against the hiring of people of different faiths, or homosexuals, such practices have continued and the Department of Justice has not taken action and funds continue to flow. Obviously the political war being waged by religion is having its intimidating success.
What religions know perhaps better than any other institution is the uses of fear. Fear intimidates those who do not and cannot know what, if anything, lies on the other side of our mortality, into taking out the eschatological insurance that organized religions profit from, and it works wonders in extorting from politicians tax breaks, financial grants, and access to White House dinners. But now, when they encounter resistance to breaching the wall between church and state and morally micromanage our lives, they call out the time-honored canard that i are the persecuted, they are the victims.
Then again, maybe it is a plea for salvation by martyrdom. If so, I say give them what they wish for: Feed the lions.
© 2012, James A. Clapp (UrbisMedia Ltd. Pub. 2.24.2012)
Addendum (2.25.2012): Events this weekend prompt this addendum. While my central theme in this essay was that the so-called war on religion is a farce, I should have perhaps getting more attention to the warfare that is conducted between and among religions. It is 1st of all evident that religion, in this case particularly Islam, could very likely destroy the prospects for democracies that were hard-won by the revolutionaries who brought about in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, and who are currently in a pitched battle with the Assad dictatorship in Syria. Egypt in particular appears to be falling under the sway of Islam powers bent on the imposition of Sharia law. In several locations Coptic Christians are under assault by Islamists, their churches and businesses being attacked, and families being routed from communities in which they have lived for generations. Over in Iraq Sunnis and Shiites are now free of the weight of the Saddam dictatorship and the American occupation and attacks upon Christian communities and Jewish communities as well as the intramural war amongst the Muslims threatens a simmering civil war. And then there’s this rather silly and stupid account from Afghanistan, where American troops, putatively engaged in a nation-building process, supposedly “accidentally” burned several copies of the Koran amongst other material, provoking outrage that resulted in the killing of 2 Americans by one of the very forces their training. This is not the 1st of such incidents, and won’t be the last. So it seems, that this theopathic competitiveness between religions will be responsible for far more mayhem than the alleged bellicose infidels.