Bahá’u’lláh, Mother Ann, Lamar Smith, the violent South, FFRF, and the power of the Religous Right

If Bahá’u’lláh, founder of the Bahai, hadn't disrespected homosexuals, his followers wouldn't hold them in contempt. If Mother Ann, founder of the Shakers (for whom we are indebted for the song in the video), had decreed that her followers have ten children, they would have borne ten children; but she instead prescribed celibacy, so her followers renounced their marriages and gave up their children. Religion is premised upon the belief that God speaks to few people, and that He expects the rest of us to take those people's word for what he said. The fact that this has resulted in unimaginable misery for millennia in no way makes the faithful question that it's all according to God's plan. Credo quia absurdum.

If your savior of choice makes moderate demands, and you're not personally fanatical, you might leave the world better for having lived; but if your savior is wicked or psychotic, only luck, and less often, clear thinking, will keep you from murdering nonbelievers; committing suicide in Guyana; mutilating the genitals of little girls; castrating homosexuals; and blowing up the ancient city of Palmya after beheading its 82-year-old defender. Despite such things, most of the world's population holds that religion is good, but that it can be twisted into something bad. But consider the Inquisition. Consider all the wars that religion has endorsed if not declared. You might argue that these things were an aberration, and that today's problems with religion are more of the same, but when was there a time that persecution in the name of God was not the norm? 

I receive a monthly newspaper called Freethought Today that exposes religious oppression and lists hundreds of verifiable accounts of the latest felonies committed by America's clergy. Rape and its conspiratorial cover-ups are the most common, but every other crime you can name also appears. Vulgar and threatening letters directed at the publishers are printed along with essays and news regarding the organization's latest lawsuits on behalf of people who have the guts to speak-out against religion's tax-supported intrusion into their lives. While physical assaults against those who object to the all-out effort by the Religious Right to create an American theocracy are relatively rare, losing friends, losing jobs, receiving death threats, having one's children harassed, finding one's property vandalized, and even having one's pets killed, are not. While most Christians don't take an active part in such things, they don't oppose them either, just as they didn't opposed the murders, bombings, and lynchings of 50-150 years ago.

I was six years old when a black World War II veteran and Civil Rights worker named Lamar Smith was lynched in broad daylight near the main entrance to my Mississippi courthouse. When questioned by police, the scores of bystanders presaged the oft repeated words of Sgt. Schultz on Hogan's Heroes: "I saw nothING! I heard nothING! I know nothING! nothING!" It was as though all of those "good Christians" (a term with which Christians like to favor themselves despite their Savior's insistence that only God is good) of my childhood took the position that, "Christ died for us, so we don't have to risk a goddamn thing for nobody." 

The oppression continues today in yearly outrages against all manner of Americans, including those who dare to complain when their local teachers, coaches, principals, mayors, policemen, aldermen, and postal workers, use their offices to promote the Christian religion. It might be a $75,000 taxpayer funded mural inside a church in Asheville, North Carolina; $1.4-million to remodel a Presbyterian church in Morristown, New Jersey; Latin crosses on Alpine, Texas, police cruisers; or the many places in which school principals allow clergy to approach individual students while they're eating to ask if they're "saved." All of these things violate the law; all of these things are skyrocketing under Donald Trump's hamstrung Department of Justice; and all of these things are done by people who claim that they alone can live with integrity because they alone have the Holy Spirit to guide them.

For the whole of the Civil Rights era, I attended church three times a week without hearing a single preacher in a single sermon criticize the burnings, beatings, bombings, and murders that were happening in my state. "How can you be so sure?" one might ask, "Maybe you just forgot." I can be sure because to hear any white person, much less a preacher from a pulpit, criticize the criminals or express sympathy for the victims would have been as memorable as a train wreck. 

While it's true that a prominent area insurance agent named Albert Heffner Jr. (whose daughter was Miss Mississippi) tried to reign in the violence; he was forced out of his community within days and out of the entire state of Mississippi within weeks, without a single local preacher taking his side. Yet, it was the Christian South that saw itself as leading the nation in fealty to Christ. As the preachers put it, we Southerners loved our Lord Jesus "without any variance or shadow of turning."

Another reason I know whereof I speak, is that I took my religion far more seriously than I wish I had, and this enabled me to remember other sermons. One common topic concerned the claim that Noah's son, Ham, became the father of "the negro race" when God cursed him and his progeny with black skin and servitude because he didn't look away when he saw his naked father passed-out drunk. Then there was the egregious rationalization that was preached from pulpits and printed in Jimmy Ward's front page editorials of the Jackson Daily News: Our niggers were happy until Communist inspired outside agitators like Dr. Martin Luther Coon, Jr. came in and stirred 'em up. The fact that Dr. Martin Luther Coon, Jr. was also a Southerner was ignored.

But I speak of olden times, olden as in fifty years. So what say you? 1,950 years of cruelty and oppression followed by fifty years of relative pacificity, and I should trust that Christians won't "gird up their loins" (another popular sermon phrase) for continued mayhem? Before Trump, I tried to do just that because life is more pleasant when I think well of others. I even continued trying to do it after the Christian vote put Trump into office, my assumption being that once America's Christians had ample opportunity to see Trump in action, they would realize their mistake. There was no mistake. They knew exactly what kind of man they were electing. You might say that popular Christianity isn't really the force for evil that I make it out to be, but if this should prove to be true, it won't be for a lack of trying...

Although legal (mostly extralegal) religion-based oppression has increased under Trump, the American public as a whole has been becoming less religious for decades, and the trend is accelerating. So what gives? What gives is that the religious right is composed of voters who wouldn't vote for the Holy Trinity if the Holy Trinity favored gun control, gay rights, abortion, and various other "hot button" issues. But let a candidate oppose such things, and America's preachers will demand that their flocks vote for that candidate or be sent to hell for all eternity by a thoroughly pissed-off Republican deity. This narrow focus combined with gerrymandering and, of late, help from Russia gives the religious right a strength disproportionate to its numbers, yet as day follows night, as their numbers decrease, their political strength will necessarily. 

Other factors that work against the religious right are its advancing age, the growth of minorities, and the absolute fury that millions of Americans feel based upon their perception that our Republican-led Christianized government isn't only failing to solve problems; it is the cause of many problems and the exacebator of others. A few examples: school shootings; unwinnable wars; global warming; the elimination of consumer protections; the approaching insolvency of Social Security; looming national bankruptcy; the unwillingness to stand up a president who is doing his utmost to deconstruct our democracy; and even something so obvious and so simple as paying the bills and approving a budget. 

Saint Ronald Reagan (for he is a saint to conservatives) is best known for saying, "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help." But if the government can't help, who can? Big Oil; Big Pharma; Big Banking? The people whom capitalism rewards the most appear to care the least about what happens tomorrow as long as there's money to be made today, and besides, the government has shown that it will bail them out when their greed pushes the entire country to the brink of bankruptcy. Big Religion (i.e. the religion of the status quo)? One lesson of Roy Moore is that if a candidate will do its bidding and echo its bigotry, the Religious Right will vote for him no matter how many little girls he has twiddled. This leaves us with the NRA whose members keep building bigger, and bigger, and bigger military style arsenals. Why? So they can wage war against the government if it should ever attempt to take away their arsenals or anger them in some other way.

So yes, I think people will wake-up, but I seriously question that they will wake up in time, or if there will ever be the political will to solve many problems, global warming being the most pressing, before it's too late. Ours is simply not a species that takes the long view.


Elephant's Child said...

Watching the world frequently feels like watching the proverbial train wreck. In (relatively) slow motion, without the power to change a thing. Which I find terrifying. And sadly the noisy religious fanatics (regardless of the flavour) seem to have more than their fair share of power.

Emma Springfield said...

Unfortunately when they do wake up there will be another evil they wish to perpetuate in the name of there god.

Sue in Italia/In the Land Of Cancer said...

You are so right Snow, which is so sad. If only more people were capable of critical thinking! But questioning dogma is just the opposite of faith and therefore'evil'.

Charles Gramlich said...

I made a joke on facebook the other day about following Satan down a road. One of my Christian friends told me that I should never follow Satan. Since I know she voted for and supports Trump, I said, "better to follow the Satan that you can know rather than the devil in disguise." I don't think she got it though.

Strayer said...

It is remarkable to me, a person who helps cats, that a good share of those who treat animals miserably also proclaim themselves to be Christian. Those who have the most guns and are most vocal about needing them, and who may also proclaim their hatred of liberals and that they should be shot, also claim to be Christian. The hypocrisy is too astounding to understand. I steer clear of them but I understand the very real threat that comes when people let other people think for them and tell them what to do. Free thinkers are few and far between.

PhilipH said...

A powerful and (sadly) 100% accurate post. I am so very sad when I think about the millions of American voters who put this cretinous person in the White House. WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH THESE MORONS?

"Big Oil; Big Pharma; Big Banking?" ... you omitted Big Social Sites. The Facebookers, the Twitterers et al. Where would Trump spout a lot of his shite if he couldn't Tweet?

Religion is dwindling quite nicely in the UK according to surveys and churchgoing numbers are to be believed. Unfortunately, I shall be long gone before this country finally discards all this 'pie in the sky' fantasy, but it's GOT to come, in time. Time heals, and all the sick and stupid religious dogma will be healed. Thank God!!

Snowbrush said...

"And sadly the noisy religious fanatics (regardless of the flavour) seem to have more than their fair share of power."

They've had a lot of political wins of late, and are acting as if they're unstoppable despite the fact that the route to the bottom is a lot shorter and faster than the trip to the top. Later this year, there will be what are called midterm elections (midterm between the every four year election when the presidency and other high offices are up for grabs) and I'm fairly confident that the Republicans are going to get the stuffing beat out of them because they are SO hated by SO many different demographic groups.

I have a friend (a very pleasant woman) who just came back from Italy and reported that she was generally treated discourteously. I obviously don't know why this would have occurred, but I do know that I would be extremely embarrassed to go anywhere out of country right now and have people realize that I was an American. Trump says that, thanks to him, America is being respected for the first time in a long, long time, which leads me to wonder the same thing that I wonder about Trump every single day for one reason or another, by which I mean, is he lying, or is he really and truly THAT delusional. He's such an amazing man in so many ways, every last one of them bad.

More to come...

Snowbrush said...

"... Where would Trump spout a lot of his shite if he couldn't Tweet?"

Because you don't live in America, you probably don't know that Trump just lost a lawsuit over his blocking of Twitter readers who had criticized him. He claimed that doing so was legal based upon his "right of association," but the court held that this right was trumped (ha) by his use of Twitter to conduct presidential business, and that by blocking people based upon their criticism of him as president, he was practicing governmental "viewpoint discrimination," and thereby limiting their free speech rights. Now that Republican office holders in various states have been imitating Trump in regard to blocking followers, it's unclear what those people will do. As for Trump, well he'll appeal naturally. When you have all the money in the world, you can at least tie things up for a long, long time, and that's assuming he's even having to spend his own money.

Tom said...

As religion wanes in America, I wonder if politics is now fanning the flames of fanaticism. They seem to thrive not on how helpful, kind and constructive "we" are, but on how terrible, ignorant and selfish "they" are. When are we going to realize that we're all in this together?

kylie said...

The news about Trump losing the lawsuit has made it to Australian shores and met rejoicing in this household.

I have a cousin who claims to be Christian and is super conservative. He makes a sport of "explaining" to me that I have misunderstood Christianity because I insist on my more liberal and socialist views. As he does this he invokes the name of my grandfather, who has been dead for 25 years, and tells me that if Grandpa was a conservative, he will be too. If that is the mentality of the religious right, then it's no wonder we are all going to hell in a hand basket.

In all honesty, I don't know where to begin ranting on this subject and after a lifetime of believing that people should be allowed to believe what they believe I am starting to think that I want to single handedly shake up the church, at least in the overly comfortable middle class west

Snowbrush said...

"As religion wanes in America, I wonder if politics is now fanning the flames of fanaticism. They seem to thrive not on how helpful, kind and constructive "we" are, but on how terrible, ignorant and selfish "they" are."

Conservative politics and conservative religion are now inseparable, so the fanaticism you're criticizing isn't separate from religion but rather a product of religion. As for charges that "they" are "terrible, ignorant, and selfish," look at what Trump has done, and tell me how people who are generous and fair-minded could give him the 90% approval rating that he enjoys within the Republican Party. When I look at the Party of Trump, I quite honestly don't see a "we." I think of the Republican Party as no less the enemy of my country as the Russians of whom their leader is so enamored.

"When are we going to realize that we're all in this together?

Maybe when there's another Great Depression, which was a time when the country moved in the direction of a socialism that we're still enjoying today, and which could be extended in a similar situation. A major war could also do it because when people are focused on an external threat, they tend to forget about their differences with one another.

"He...tells me that if Grandpa was a conservative, he will be too. If that is the mentality of the religious right, then it's no wonder we are all going to hell in a hand basket."

I grew up being told that liberalism was "new fangled," but the conservatism that dominated for most of my life was not the conservative of today. For example, conservative politics used to be the champion of a low deficit. Today's conservatism gives tax breaks even while increasing our already crippling deficit.