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VirusHead Blog Against Theocracy

VirusHead Blog Against Theocracy

Once again, it’s time for the annual Blog Against Theocracy blogswarm. Thanks to Jolly Roger for reminding me.

Blog Against Theocracy 2008

BAT logo by Tengrain of Mock, Paper, Scissors, who also points out:

The theme [of the blogswarm], like always, is the Separation of Church and State — we are for it. But the variations on the theme are many…This is not a bashing of religion – peeps can believe what they choose, however they choose — but it is a reminder that the Government should keep out of religion, and Religion should keep out of the government.

Last year, I highlighted my favorite bits of the blogswarm. I won’t be doing that this year, but I will make every effort to read every post.

So, what to say? Here is what I say:

The drive to “christian” theocracy is a profoundly destructive force. Participation in it leads to the corruption of one’s individual spiritual path by power-mad group-think.

I believe that such group-think strangles the intellect, encourages hysteria, and promotes cruelty. It creates dynamics that become the very opposite of kindness, humility, ethics, collaboration, and cooperation – the opposite of every virtue, and especially of the virtues we so desperately need in order to confront the actual problems facing the people of this country.

A will to power and domination can never lead to the fruits of the spirit, but can only undermine and finally destroy one of the most beautiful aspects of our country – the freedom of religion (with its corollary guarantees of freedom of expression and freedom from persecution).

There is also the matter of idolatry. Human individuals or groups that insist upon conformity to their own flavor of religious belief attempt to put themselves in the place of God and to claim God’s authority for their own agendas.

Beware of any claim that any group or person represents deity or is the voice of God on this earth. Beware of false prophets. Give unto Caesar only what it Caesar’s. Trust not in the traditions of men. And so on.

The rest of my post is simply to highlight some pertinent quotations:

“Good intentions will always be pleaded for any assumption of power. The Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.” – Daniel Webster

“Freedom is an indivisible word. If we want to enjoy it, and fight for it, we must be prepared to extend it to everyone, whether they are rich or poor, whether they agree with us or not, no matter what their race or the color of their skin.” – Wendell Wilkie

“To put it in a few words, the true malice of man appears only in the state and in the church, as institutions of gathering together, of recapitulation, of totalization.” – Paul Ricoeur

“The Bible tells us to be like God, and then on page after page it describes God as a mass murderer. This may be the single most important key to the political behavior of Western Civilization.” – Robert Anton Wilson

“Therefore, I am convinced that I am acting as the agent of our Creator. By fighting off the Jews, I am doing the Lord’s work.” – Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf

“The people who have come into [our] institutions [today] are primarily termites. They are into destroying institutions that have been built by Christians, whether it is universities, governments, our own traditions, that we have…. The termites are in charge now, and that is not the way it ought to be, and the time has arrived for a godly fumigation.” – Pat Robertson

“Whoever wants to be a Christian should tear the eyes out of his reason.” – Martin Luther

“Patriotism? Your patriotism waves a flag with one hand and picks pockets with the other” – Ingrid Bergman to Cary Grant in Notorious

“Religion is against women’s rights and women’s freedom. In all societies women are oppressed by all religions.” – Taslima Nasrin

“The secular democratic state is the surest protector of religious and intellectual liberty ever crafted by human ingenuity. Nothing is more fallacious, or inimical to genuine religious liberty, than the seductive notion that the state should “favor” or “foster” religion. All history testifies that such practices inevitably result in favoring one religion over less powerful minorities and secular opinion. In the long run governmental favoritism vitiates the religious spirit itself. Where in the Western world is organized religion stronger than in the United States where the church is a take-your-choice affair? Where is it weaker than in Europe where sophisticated secularists joke that they have been “inoculated” for life against religion by compulsory religious indoctrination in state schools? Preserving the secular character of government and the public school is the surest guarantee that religion in America will remain free, vital, uncorrupted by political power, and independent of state manipulation.” – Edward L Ericson

“It would be good for religion if many books that seem useful were destroyed. When there were not so many books and not so many arguments and disputes, religion grew more quickly than it has since.” – Girolamo Savonarola (of Bonfire of the Vanities fame)

“Faith” is a fine invention, when gentlemen can see / But microscopes are prudent, in an emergency.” – Emily Dickinson

“Minds fettered by this doctrine no longer inquire concerning a proposition whether it is attested by sufficient evidence, but whether it accords with Scripture; they do not search for facts as such, but for facts that will bear out their doctrine. It is easy to see that this mental habit blunts not only the perception of truth, but the sense of truthfulness, and that the man whose faith drives him into fallacies treads close upon the precipice of falsehood…. So long as a belief in propositions is regarded as indispensable to salvation, the pursuit of truth as such is not possible.” – George Eliot

“Truth, in matters of religion, is simply the opinion that has survived.” – Oscar Wilde

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” – Galileo Galilei

“I do occasionally envy the person who is religious naturally, without being brainwashed into it or suckered into it by all the organized hustles.” – Woody Allen

“The person with B.S. (note: “Belief Systems”) knows the “right answer” at all times and knows it immediately. This makes them very happy – and very annoying – because most of their “right answers” don’t make sense to the rest of us. Common sense and/or science require investigation and revision, etc. B.S. only requires a Rule Book (sacred scripture, Das Kapital, or whatever) and a good memory. People with “faith” represent mental health problem #1, because memorizing rule books cuts you off from sensory involvement with the existential world. It also produces the kind of intolerance that produces witch-hunts, Inquisitions, purges, Bushware 1.0, Bushware 2.0, etc. Belief Systems, “faith,” certitudes of all sorts, result from deliberately forgetting the fallibility of human brains, especially the brains of those who wrote your favorite rule book, and this leaders to a paradoxical rejection of the best functions of the brain – namely, its ability to rethink, revise, and correct itself.” – Robert Anton Wilson

“The man who has never wrestled with his early faith, the faith that he was brought up with and that yet is not truly his own — for no faith is our own that we have not arduously won — has missed not only a moral but an intellectual discipline. The absence of that discipline may mark a man for life and render all his work ineffective. He has missed a training in criticism, in analysis, in open-mindedness, in the resolutely impersonal treatment of personal problems, which no other training can compensate. He is, for the most part, condemned to live in a mental jungle where his arm will soon be too feeble to clear away the growths that enclose him, and his eyes too weak to find the light.” – Havelock Ellis

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.” – Siddartha Gautama, the Buddha

“We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love.” – Jonathan Swift

The Posts Against Theocracy

The Posts Against Theocracy

Look at everybody who participated in the blogswarm against theocracy! Take a look. There are some great reads here.

From Kristim (at MPS)
The Aristocrats
Montag at Stumplane
life’s journey
Chip Berlet (at T2A)
Frederick Clarkson (at DKos)
A poetic justice (several poems)
The Quaker Agitator
Balls and Walnuts
Zaius Nation
Birmingham Blues
Chaotic Good
Dangerously Subversive Atheist Penguin
Northgate Science
Austin Atheist
The Greenbelt
Essential Saltes
Knight of Pan
Evil Bender
I doubt it
Abnormal Interests
Tengrain (at MPS)
Deleted Items
Religious Right Watch
Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub
Timeline of Theocracy (at T2A)
The Skeptical Alchemist
Dark Christianity
The Rational Christian
Another Ravan Perch
Unrepentant Old Hippie
AP Lawrence, Blogger
Happy Jihad’s House of Pancakes
God is for Suckers!
There are no Barking Sparrows
Beep Beep It’s Me
Cause for Concern
The Jaded Skeptic
Cassandra Waites (at T2A)
Hot Cup of Joe
Big Brass Blog
Dawne Gee at Clean Cut Kid
Cross Left
Ten Percent
Killing time, making noise
Phillip Allen
Live and times of an ex(2)-pat Yank
Darwin’s Dagger
Les Enrages
David 2’s Brutally Honest Random Thoughts
Runesmith’s Canadian Content
Nonsensical Ravings of Finely Tuned Insanity
Barefoot Bum
No More Mister Nice Guy!
do not read this blog
commander others otherwhirled
Journeys with Jood
Fitness for the Occasion
after the bridge
Hard-boiled Dreams of the World
The Daily Pulse
Midget Queen
The Jewish Atheist
Fetch Me My Axe
North of Center
Doing My Part for the Left (podcast)
Liberal Street Fighter
Blue Wren
Laughing Goo
Robert Colgan (at MPS)
Flatus the Elder
Progressive Historians
Virus Head
Club Lefty
Blue Gal
Recovering Liberal
Blast Off!
Ordinary Girl
The Neo-Skeptic
Not Soccer Mom
Mock Paper Scissors
A Blog Around the Clock
An American in Melbourne
Everything and more
Atheist Revolution
About Kitty
Half Nixon
I Speak of Dreams
Feminists Don’t Bake Bread
Americans United Blog
Dog Emperor
At Center Network
God Vs. Darwin
Action Skeptics
Frank L. Cocozzelli (at T2A)
The Largest Minority
Facilitate Wonder
From Sorghum Crow (at MPS)
Mauigirl’s Meanderings
Chris Rodda (at T2A)
The Spiritual Humanist Blog
The Stormy Days of March
The Springy Goddess
The Shikon Jewel
Clyde the f-ed up cousin of Jimmy Dean (at MPS)
Vagabond Scholar
Ron’s Blog
Journeys with Jood
The Learning Curve
Pissed in NYC (at MPS)
This *is* it.
Tangled up in Blue Guy
A Stitch in Haste
One Act in the Eternal Play of Ideas
commander other (at MPS)
Thoughts in a Haystack
We Are All Giant Nuclear Fireball Now Party
Coffee Messiah
Fitness for the Occasion
Peace, order and good government, eh?

See also late postings from Hail Dubyas and Prose and Thorn.

Blogging Against Theocracy

Blogging Against Theocracy

Even if George W. Bush has succeeded in drastically expanding the power of the executive branch, there is no anointed king here in America. No president has claimed to be a god, and senators are not priests.

In the United States, claims to divine authority tend to be somewhat more subterranean and implicit, if no less powerful. The religiously-tinged ideas of “manifest destiny” and “American exceptionalism” have served as covers for territorial acquisitions, genocidal violence, exploitation, and domination here and around the world. Domestically, I hope every American is aware of the costs to native tribal communities. Slavery was also rationalized under the banner of religion. The Massachusetts Bay Colony was dominated by Puritan ideology, and there were scattered theocracies across the colonies until they agreed to freedom of religion.

The pledge of allegiance, already a creepy nationalistic ritual, has claimed since 1954 the status of the nation as existing under (the protection of? guidance of? stamp of approval of?) God.

The literal meaning of theocracy is “rule by God or gods.” Theocratic governments can be formed of any significant mixture of claims to divine authority, the wielding of secular power by religious groups or figures, or a melding of the state with religion such that religious freedom is not possible. While there are subsets of society – intentional religious communities – that could be considered theocracies, these are protected under freedom of religion in the United States. We are in danger of – already in the the process of – forming a governmental theocracy here in the land of the free, and that is an entirely separate issue.

The specific theocratic threat to our nation right now is the erosion of the separation of the powers of church and state under an attempted coup by a very specific kind of christian ideology – dominionism.

Dominionism – a trans-denominational movement composed of radical fundamentalist, charismatic, and pentacostal protestants – openly seeks to establish totalitarian control over the nation and its people. To further their stated goals of secular domination, they have called for their followers to exert whatever influence they can – at any and every level and aspect of society – in order to bring our society into conformity with their beliefs.

Several years ago, these radical extremists found common purpose with the Republican party, which needed to expand its base (an interesting mirroring – al Qaeda: translation “the base”). Politics entered the congregations, and the congregations infused the party. Despite the uneasy nature of this unholy communion, the agendas of dominionists and their followers are now an established force in American politics. Their version of God’s requirements was very convenient.

Please remember that not all christians are dominionists. Many still understand that the kingdom of God is within, and that humility is a christian virtue. Some christians still remember and advocate forgiveness, compassion and kindness.

Dominionists, on the other hand, seem very comfortable with throwing the first stone (and any further stones that may be required). Instead of freedom and justice for all, they seek conformity to their warped (and very selective) biblical interpretations. Some do so because they honestly believe that it is ordained by God and destiny; others do so for even more unsavory reasons. All this under a paranoid fantasy of persecution, and in the name of a special – even exclusive – relationship with the divine.

In many ways, dominionism is an anti-christian movement. “Christian Reconstruction looks more like straightforward destruction of the Christian message and its values. Setting a christian example? Their version looks like a dance of hatred. I will never believe that power-hungry control freaks speak for God, or represent the teachings or example of Jesus, or stand for any profound religious insight at all. They do not help to bring people into a relationship with the divine, but instead appeal to the darker aspects of their followers while appearing to shine as angels of light. I believe that the beliefs and actions of such extremists are in profound contradiction with deeper spiritual truths.

I name you and yours false prophets
because you do define the phrase,
You lead the would-be faithful
always far and further astray.
Placing demon masks
on the faces of our kin,
undoing all the fragile good
that lets us breathe again.

More compassion-based religious people should continue to engage in debates and discussions about the issues – spiritual, ethical, even biblical – raised by dominionists, as well as the questionable interpretations that they rely upon. A wealth of credible biblical scholarship is available, and it is time for it to become more widely known. Contextual ethics needs to re-enter the public sphere as well.

No American should be forced to comply with (or participate in) any particular religious ideology, and this is especially the case for one that has such destructive repercussions on American life and liberty, and which seems to represent a fairly hateful infantile sort of God-character. In addition, let’s remember that freedom of religion also implies freedom from religion and its organizations.

I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, and I have seen some of the costs of pseudo-religious authoritarian control in terms of the real human lives it affects.

Jehovah’s Witnesses describe themselves as a theocracy. In their case God lives in Brooklyn, so to speak. God’s power, spirit and guidance are believed to be directed through the members of God’s channel (a group of men known as the Governing Body) and transmitted through the Watchtower magazine and other publications. Their somewhat anonymous leaders and authors claim to be a few of the 144,000 “slave class” who they believe are intended to rule with Christ over the post-apocalyptic paradise earth. Ever “faithful and discreet,” this slave class has created a very lucrative publishing empire with an unpaid sales force – the “great crowd.” The great crowd are second-class citizens, although they do not recognize themselves as such since most of them would rather live in Paradise than in Heaven. Still, they are unworthy of even partaking of the wine and bread at their yearly memorial of the last supper. In addition to their publications, the Watchtower corporations control their followers with circuit overseers, district overseers, local uneducated elders, multiple weekly meetings of repetitive pseudo-bible study, family and congregational peer pressure, and the threat of shunning. Their followers live in expectation of God’s immanent (and loving) slaughter of most of humanity at the hands of the Prince of Peace. Their judgment of society is just as rigid as the dominionists, with many of the same hatreds and prejudices, but their reaction is to separate their people from “worldly influences.” They don’t vote or salute the flag. They don’t fight in worldly wars. They don’t run for office, or join the boy scouts, or celebrate “pagan” holidays like Christmas, or even accept the blood of others to save their children’s lives.

From my perspective, dominionists are something like an example of “When Jehovah’s Witnesses Attack.”

America’s contract with its citizens is to be (or at least try to be?) a land of freedom, with liberty and justice for all. The rise of religion in America is directly associated with the national experiment of religious freedom. Without the separation of religion and the government, and the accompanying protection of religious freedom, religious groups could never have thrived as they do in this country. We have an amazingly diverse religious population, and this is because every American is free to choose the path of his or her own religious journey.

This weekend, many Americans are celebrating the risen Christ – whether with or without the traditional elements of spring fertility signified by the Easter bunny, bright clothing, and the hunt for colorful eggs filled with candy treats. Other Americans are observing the traditions of Passover. Others celebrate something else, or nothing at all.

Whatever your religious tradition or inclination, I would ask you – please – to take a moment or two to reflect upon the nuggets of spiritual insight that you may have collected and found to be valuable and wise. Consider whether any of them involve hatred, domination, or control over others.

It is an insecure (and I think inauthentic) kind of faith that cannot stand on its own merits and inspire others with its goodness. It is pure spiritual arrogance – hubris, really – to believe that anyone has the whole truth about God, or that they must impose it on everyone else. We are human. To target fellow humans simply because they do not subscribe to one fallible interpretation of what God may want of humanity is profoundly anti-religious. To do so at the level of government is anti-American. And to do so under the mantle of a claim of divine authority may be the closest thing I know of to blasphemy.

Is this not a sin against the spirit of love? Does this not take God’s name in vain?

There is no authentic spirituality based on fear and hatred of others or on the endless quest for power.

“There is no disguise that can for long conceal love where it exists or simulate it where it does not.” – Francois de La Rochefoucauld

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering. I sense much fear in you.” – The character of Jedi master Yoda, in Episode I of the Star Wars films

Be sure to check out the other blog posts on the Blog Against Theocracy swarm. The logo was designed by Tengrain of Mock, Paper, Scissors.

A big thank you to Jolly Roger at Reconstitution for the invitation to join in. Thanks for thinking of me (smile).

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