Religion is a queer thing. By itself, itʼs all right. But sprinkle a little politics into it and dynamite is bran flour compared with it.
Finley Peter Dunneʼs “Mr. Dooley”
Notice any difference between the ancient Hebrewʼs “First Commandment” and our First Amendment? According to the “First Commandment” in the Bible “ye shall have no other gods before me” under penalty of death. While our First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion.
The Christian Right do not call upon their faith to certify their politics as much as they call for a country that certifies their faith. Fundamentalism really cannot help itself—it is absolutist and can compromise with nothing, not even democracy. It is not surprising that immediately after the Islamic fundamentalist attack on the World Trade Centerʼs twin towers and the Pentagon, two prominent Christian fundamentalists (Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson) were reported to have accounted it a justifiable punishment by God for our secularism. In thus honoring the foreign killers of almost 3,000 Americans as agents of Godʼs justice, they established their blood brotherhood with the principle of righteous warfare in the name of all that is holy, and gave their pledge of allegiance to the theocratic ideal of government of whatever sacred text.
E. L. Doctorow, Reporting the Universe (Harvard)
Iʼm not convinced that faith can move mountains, but Iʼve seen what it can do to skyscrapers.
William H. Gascoyne, “One-liners,” Op/Ed section, San Jose Mercury, Jan. 20, 2004
The Religious Right in Iraq
In post-Saddam Iraq many children are being educated in private Islamic fundamentalist schools where they learn to memorize the Koran, rather than being prepared for a world of complex diverse knowledge and higher paying jobs. Therefore, such schools breed further misunderstandings between world cultures, as well as perpetuate poverty, which in turn perpetuates anger. Moreover, as pointed out by professor W. Andrew Terrill (professor at the Army War Collegeʼs Strategic Studies Institute, and the top expert on Iraq there), “I donʼt think that you can kill the insurgency in Iraq. If you are a Muslim and the community is under occupation by a non-Islamic power it becomes a religious requirement to resist that occupation. Most Iraqis consider us occupiers, not liberators. Thereʼs talk of angels and the Prophet Mohammed coming down from heaven to lead the fighting, talk of martyrs whose bodies are glowing and emanating wonderful scents.”
W. Andrew Terrill, [Cited by Sidney Blumenthal, firstname.lastname@example.org, “Far graver than Vietnam,” The Guardian, Thursday September 16, 2004]
Fundamentalist Christian Leader, Pat Robertson, Flip Flops on the Necessity of “Separation of Church & State” Depending on the The Country
If the United States tries nation building [in Iraq], itʼs got to [have] at the very top of its agenda a separation of church and state…Itʼs… imperative to set up a constitution and safeguards that say we will maintain a secular state.
— Pat Robertson, 700 Club broadcast, March 17, 2003 (cited in a March 18th press release from Americans United for the Separation of Church and State)
We have had a lie foisted on us that there is something in the Constitution [of the U.S.] called separation of church and state.
— Pat Robertson, speech at the Christian Coalition “Road to Victory” Conference Oct. 12, 2002 (cited in a March 18th press release from Americans United for the Separation of Church and State)
President Bush is worried that Iraq is going to be overrun by religious fundamentalists. Hey, if itʼs O.K. for the Republican party, itʼs good enough for Iraq.
Jay Leno, The Tonight Show
We donʼt want the establishment of a state religion here, as in Saudi Arabia, where the religious police are permitted to whip with sticks any woman not modestly attired. There arenʼt enough trees in North America for the necessary sticks. Youʼd have to level Yellowstone just to deal with [insert name of hot female rock star].
James Lileks, “Bow Wow,” Fresh Lies
Guess Which Nationʼs Constitution Explicitly Excludes Mention of “God”
America is the first and only country to adopt a Constitution that specifically excludes all reference to a higher power. I say “specifically” because those meeting at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia considered and rejected any such reference. [They also considered and rejected whether or not to open their meetings with public prayer.—E.T.B.] Many bishops and preachers of the time warned that God would punish such decisions, but many were the preachers who said the same about the Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom, which did no more than state that no citizen could be obliged to pay for the upkeep of a church in which he did not believe.
Christopher Hitchens, “Believe It or Not: Making a Patriotic Case for those of Little Faith,” a review of Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism by Susan Jacoby, in the Book World section of the Washington Post, April 25, 2004 [slight editing and one added sentence by E.T.B.]
Did Jesus Pursue the Same Goals as Todayʼs Religious Right Leaders?
Was Jesus For Or Against the Separation of Church and State?
Jesus said, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesarʼs, and unto God the things that are Godʼs.”
- Matthew 22:21
Was Jesus For Or Against Public Prayer?
Jesus said, “And when thou pray, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. But thou, when thou pray, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father who sees in secret shall reward thee openly.”
- Matthew 6:5-6
Did Jesus Rail Against Abortion or Infanticide?
Jesus didnʼt mention either topic, though the Hellenistic world not only employed abortifacents, but also abandoned unwanted newborns, usually females, to die (or be picked up by anyone who wished to raise the newborn as their slave).
So What Did Jesus Rail Against?
Jesus railed primarily against two things: 1) “the rich,” and, 2) overly pious, legalistic, self-righteous religious “hypocrites.” Those were his two priorities when it came to a good railing.
Jesus does not sound like the kind of person todayʼs Religious Right would let lead them.
What If Jesus Ran For President?
Washington, D.C.—Jesus Christ formally declared himself a contender for the Republican presidential nomination today, amid growing controversy over his purported “anti-family” views.
Mr. Christʼs principal rivals for the GOP nomination were quick to cite an occasion reported in Luke 9:60, where Mr. Christ refused to allow one of his campaign volunteers time off to bury his father. One senator added that the next two verses of that same chapter show that Mr. Christ does not even permit his volunteers to so much as say goodbye to their families when they join his campaign. “Thatʼs just plumb shameful,” deplored the senator.
Leaders of the religious right were even more critical of Mr. Christʼs stand on family issues. The head of the Christian Coalition quoted Matthew 10:35-36—verses, he insisted, that revealed Mr. Christʼs “secret plan” to destroy the traditional family: “For I am come to set a man at variance with his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a manʼs foes shall be they of his own household.” The head of the Christian Coalition added, “What further proof do we need that Mr. Christ is the enemy of all that is good and wholesome in American family life? Even the most extreme elements of the homosexual lobby havenʼt proposed anything as subversive as this!”
Responding to rumors that Mr. Christ had sought to address a mass meeting of the male Christian organization known as “The Promise Keepers,” and had been turned away, the organizationʼs founder said that Mr. Christʼs appearance at the Promise Keeperʼs rally would be “inappropriate,” given the organizationʼs avowed purpose of helping men become better husbands and fathers. Mr. McCartney said it is common knowledge that Mr. Christ is over thirty years of age, still unmarried, hints at the ideal of becoming “a eunuch for the kingdom of heaven” (Mat. 19:12), and leads a rootless, itinerant lifestyle. Furthermore, he noted, Mr. Christ encourages his married followers to leave their families behind when they come to work for him.
Hal Gordon, article in The Texas Triangle, Dec. 1, 1996
If Jesus Ran For President, How Would His Political Opponents Counter His Statements?
Jesus: “Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you.”
COUNTER: Jesus favors more government handouts for welfare cheats.
Jesus: “Judge not, that you be not judged.”
COUNTER: Jesus is soft on crime.
Jesus: “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesarʼs.”
COUNTER: Jesus will raise your taxes.
Jesus: “Do not resist one who is evil. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other.”
COUNTER: Can we trust Jesus to fight the War on Terror?
Jesus—Wrong on social services. Wrong on crime. Wrong on defense. Wrong for America.
A Lesson From the Christianized Rome Empire
After Christian Emperors assumed the leadership of Rome and began throwing enormous quantities of state money and support at Christianity, many concrete “worldly” problems were no longer treated as such, but began being blamed on “Satan,” while the finest minds of the Empire were reduced to brooding over Biblical minutia and spiritual problems, from “sniffing out heresies” to “preserving oneʼs virginity.”
Biblical Ethical Relativism
In the Bible you cannot find any verses that say polygamy, concubinage, slavery(*) or mass murder are always and everywhere “sins.” In fact, according to the Bible such practices are perfectly acceptable to “God,” even praiseworthy—depending on the circumstances.
(*)Male and female non-Israelite slaves, and also female Israelite slaves, were not offered release during “Jubilee.” And any children that resulted from a master setting up two slaves as a couple, remained the masterʼs.
Is More Christianity “The Answer” To A Nationʼs Woes?
The percentage of the U.S. population that is in prison is the highest percentage for any nation on earth. One child in five grows up in poverty in the U.S. (a conservative estimate). So we do not appear overly “blessed” when compared with nations that have lower crime rates, less poverty, and far fewer “Christians” than we do. Yet the U.S. spends more money on weapons of mass destruction than all other nations combined. Which makes you wonder, how exactly do those other nations, with fewer Christians, less Bible reading and less churchgoing, achieve lower crime rates, less poverty, lower rates of unplanned pregnancies, and higher educational test results?
Maybe “more Christianity” isnʼt necessarily “the answer” to a nationʼs woes?
Do We Want A Nation “Blessed” By God?
Numerous Christian organizations are eager for America to seek the “blessings of God.” But have they studied what happened to that other nation “blessed by God,” the nation of Israel? Hmmm, letʼs see…According to the Bible, the God of Israel tried to kill Moses (and failed); struck dead two sons of Aaron; commanded “brother to kill brother” leading to the deaths of 3,000 Israelites (right after He gave them the commandment, “Do not kill”); opened up the earth and buried alive “wives, sons and little children;” sent a fire that consumed 148 Levite princes; cursed his people to wander in the desert for forty years and eat 40,000 meals of quail and “manna” (talk about a monotonously torturous diet—and when they complained about it, God killed 3,000 Israelites with a plague); had a man put to death for picking up sticks on the Sabbath; denied Moses and Aaron entrance into the “promised land” because Moses struck a rock twice with his staff instead of talking to the rock; delivered to his people a “promised land” that was parched, bordered by desert, and a corridor for passing conquering armies; sent fiery serpents among Israel, killing many; wanted to kill every Israelite and start over with Moses and his family (but Moses talked God out of that plan); drove the first king of Israel to suicide; killed someone who tried to steady a teetering ark of the covenant; murdered king Davidʼs innocent child; sent plagues and famines upon his people that killed men, women and children; ordered the execution of 42 children of the king of Judah; “smote all Israel” killing half a million men of Israel in a civil war between Israel and Judah; “delivered into the hand of the king of Israel” 120,000 Judeans massacred in one day along with 200,000 Jewish women and children; gave Satan the power to kill Jobʼs children and servants (in order to win a bet); let the Babylonians conquer the holy city of Jerusalem, and then the Greek forces of Alexander the Great, followed by the Romans; and finally left the Jews homeless and persecuted by Christians and Moslems for nearly 2000 years. Furthermore, the large number of laws in the Hebrew Bible concerning the treatment of lepers and those with sores demonstrates that the Israelites were far from being blessed with unparalleled good health. And archeological evidence indicates that in ancient Israel the infant mortality rate was as high as fifty percent.
So, knowing everything that happened to that nation “blessed by God,” Iʼve got to ask the Religious Right WHAT THE #%$?! ARE THEY THINKING?
E.T.B. [See the Bible for all of the cases mentioned above, except for the archeological evidence concerning ancient Israelʼs infant mortality rate. For the latter see, Drorah OʼDonnell Setel, “Abortion,” The Oxford Guide to Ideas & Issues of the Bible, ed. by Bruce Metzger and Michael D. Coogan (Oxford University Press, 2001)]
Another Nation That Invoked “Godʼs Blessing”: The South
After the states of the South seceded from the Northern states in the U.S., the Confederacy drew up its own separate Constitution and made sure it contained an invocation to God: “We, the people…invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God…”
Learning what the South had done, a few legislators in the North drafted bills to have a Divine invocation added to the Constitution in the North, but all such bills were voted down. To this day (2004), the U.S. Constitution does not mention “God” nor invoke “Godʼs favor and guidance.”
E.T.B. (See The Confederate Constitutions, compiled by Charles Robert Lee, Jr.)
Yet Another Nation That Invoked “Godʼs Blessing”: Nazi Germany
Each belt buckle that German soldiers wore had embossed upon it “Gott Mit Uns” (“God Is with Us”). Over the door of the courthouse in the Palace of Justice complex in Nuremberg were engraved the Ten Commandments.
Fredrick R. Abrams, M.D., in the foreword to Vivien Spitzʼs Doctors from Hell: The Horrific Account of Nazi Experiments on Humans
“Forced Religion Stinks in Godʼs Nostrils”
The “godly and zealous” Roger Williams was a prime example of an extreme separatist. He arrived in Massachusetts in 1631 and was elected minister of the church in Salem in 1635. But his opposition to the alliance of church and civil government turned both ministers and magistrates of the colony against him. He insisted that government magistrates should have no voice in spiritual matters and that “forced religion stinks in Godʼs nostrils.” He also advanced the radical idea that it was “a national sin” for anyone, including the king, to take possession of any American land without buying it from the Indians. For these teachings he was banished by the General Court. Williams departed Massachusetts in January 1636, traveling south to the head of Narragansett Bay. There he worked out mutually acceptable arrangements with the local Indians and founded the town of Providence. In 1644, after obtaining a charter from Parliament, he established the colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. The government was relatively democratic, all religions were tolerated, and church and state were rigidly separated. Whatever Williamsʼs temperamental excesses, he was more than ready to practice what he preached when given the opportunity.
Dr. Priestʼs Magical History Tour, AP U.S. History, On-line History Textbook, Chapter One, Europe Discovers America
I am in favor of the separation of church and state. I figure, either of those institutions screws you up so much on its own, put them together, you got certain death.
George Carlin, Saturday Night Live, 1984
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