Sunday, July 29, 2012

Trivialization of concerns about theocracy

I've had more than a few of my believer friends try to reassure me about the threat of a theocracy being imposed on the USA.  In fact, some of them claim the opposite process is underway - attacks on religion from the heathen secular humanists, not vice-versa.  However I might feel about it, the objective evidence is that religion is doing quite well in the USA, with its tax exemption helping to bolster its bulging coffers, with more than 40,000 denominations of christianity alone (according to, with some 350,000 congregations (according to the Hartford Institute for Religious Research), and with a strong majority of the population here in the USA.  If the humanists are attacking, their attacks have been pretty ineffective!  The biggest challenge some believers face is not being allowed to force their beliefs, doctrine, and icons onto all Americans!

Of course, many of my believer friends are "moderates" who have no particularly strong drive to transform the USA into a theocracy, so they essentially judge the probability of the USA becoming a theocracy to be ... well ... trivial.  The minority of believers who do wish to impose their religion on the USA (so-called dominionists) are also trivialized by my believer friends, seeing them as marginalized extremists (more or less as I do).  Where we differ is that I'm still concerned about politically active minorities with a threatening agenda - history provides examples where tiny minorities nevertheless eventually came to power.  So long as things are going well, these minorities snipe away on the margins of society, but as history shows repeatedly, these splinter groups can come to the forefront when society falls into chaos.  One example is the Bolsheviks, who despite their name (which means "the majority" - a clever publicity trick by Lenin) - had always been a tiny minority party, until they seized power in 1918, during the social and economic chaos following the earlier overthrow of the Tsars.  The moderates were overwhelmed by Bolshevik propaganda tricks and lies and could never mount an effective opposition as an alternative to the radical rhetoric, blatant falsehoods, and slogans of the Bolsheviks.  Does any of this sound familiar to anyone?  Eventually, the moderates eventually either joined the Bolsheviks, or they were killed, or sent to the Gulag.

I'm also told that having "In god we trust" on our currency, or "under god" in the pledge of allegiance, or the ten commandments displayed on government property, and so on are only trivialities.  Why should nonbelievers or those of other religions be upset?  Just ignore them.  Trivialities can safely be ignored, right?  What harm do they cause?  Besides, we're only exercising our religious freedoms, so why can't you leave well enough alone?  The intent seems clear:  by trivializing the concerns of nonbelievers, they seek to end any effort to change these "trivialities" to conform with Constitutional mandates.

Since the founding of the American government with the adoption of the US Constitution, there has been, up until recently, a slow but meaningful decrease of the intrusions of religion in the government.  School prayers have been virtually abolished.  Religious holiday displays on government property are being challenged and removed, for the most part, by judicial orders.  Much progress has been made to exclude religion from government, although more remains to be done, of course.  This is all consistent with the "wall of separation" envisioned by Jefferson and many of the framers of the Constitution.  Throughout this process, that wall of separation has served both secular and religious groups well - clearly, as the numbers I gave at the beginning show, most religions have prospered under the secular Constitution and the wall of separation.

The insertion of "In god we trust" on our currency began in 1864, during a religious revival brought about in part by the horrors of the Civil War.  Coincidentally, both sides claimed the deity to be on their side!  The phrase "Under god" was inserted into the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954, during a time of heightened fears resulting from the Soviet threat in the Cold War.

But the dominionists yearn for a mythical, simpler past -- a completely imaginary picture of a time in our past when religion was that "good old-time religion" (that, among other things, dominated the lives of most Americans, dictating for many, including nonbelievers, how to think, what to think, and what to do) -- and so wish to roll back the clock, re-imposing their religion as the controlling factor in everyone's life.  They see this as the cure-all for what ails us at the moment - such evils as LGBT marriage, abortion, uppity women who demand their rights, pornography being openly sold and displayed for anyone to see, teen pregnancy, drug abuse, and so on, and on, and on ... .  The dominionists seek to seize control over all of us, regardless of race, color, or creed.  And depending on which religion winds up the leader of a possible theocracy, all other religions and moderates better watch out!  Dominionists will have no problem imposing their will by any means necessary - they have the absolute truth and the deity on their side, after all.

If the aforementioned "trivialities" are so trivial, then why don't the believers step aside and allow us simply to abolish them?  Or even help us to abolish them?  If they're so trivial to believers, then why do those believers support their retention?  The hypocrisy always reveals the lie (an aphorism coined by my friend RJ Evans).  Believers worked hard to impose these tokens of religiosity onto our nation!  They didn't consider them trivial at all, and still don't!!  Freethinkers are said to be exaggerating their importance but make no mistake - believers also think they're important.   They're stepping stones to future intrusions of religion into government.

We're not a nation united "under god" at all!  We're a nation united under the Constitution!  Our national slogan originally was not "In god we trust" - it was the Latin phrase E pluribus unum (from many, one) that concisely and clearly expresses the national spirit of unity as Americans, inclusive of all human diversity and offering equal opportunity to all.  Religions, by their very nature, are divisive and exclusionary, which is why they make a dangerous moral compass for any state, secular or religious.  Our concerns are decidedly not trivialities - they're important as serious matters of principle:  the principles set forth in the US Constitution.

My christian believer friends seem secure in their place because they can't imagine anything bad happening as a result of their religion.  They're part of the overwhelming majority.  How could a radical splinter movement of christians threaten them?  Hence, they see my concerns as being paranoia over trivialities.  I see their lack of concern as being complacent - the moderates may well eventually be forced to choose between renouncing their personal beliefs and supporting the radical agenda of the victors, or being killed, or imprisoned, or "reeducated".

This blog owes its origin to a live discussion on the American Heathen show.


Chuck Doswell said...

Much of what atheists have to say about religion in the USA focuses on what christians are doing and saying, because christians are the majority here. This blog was aimed directly at the reality of the non-trivial threat from christian "dominionists" and such ilk.

However, I'm constantly hearing feedback that we have more to fear from islamic terror than from the remote chance of a christian theocracy being imposed on us. In my opinion, islamic fundamentalist fanatics don't constitute much of a threat in comparison to christian fundies here in the USA, even in possible chaotic times in the future - they're a non-native culture with little chance to win over adherents in a revolution.

Much more fearful is a home-grown christian threat. The historical examples of splinter groups seizing power I could cite are all native radicals who used familiar cultural issues (and phobias) to attract adherents. Most muslims in the USA wouldn't even know HOW to do this, much less actually pull it off.

Acts of terror are a direct admission they are the weak ones in a fight - is a flood of Muslims into the USA going to overwhelm the rest of nation? I seriously doubt it in the immediate future. Their biggest threat is the fear they generate, which could cause us to give up our freedoms in response. Then they will have succeeded and we will have handed them that victory!

I have no love for islam - it's another detestable, bestial abrahamic religion and is even more openly militant than the christians at this moment of history. Islamic and christian fundies are brothers under the skin, though. And there are many more christian fundies here than islamic fundies!

Garrett Fornea said...

Though I believe in God and in the Bible, I admit that after seeing what Rick Santorum had to say about privacy and libertarianism I am inclined to agree that fascist theocracy from the right-wing side of the spectrum is a threat. Thank God that Rick Santorum did not get the Republican Nomination. I've said it before and I will say it again, he's a fascist! (To give a little backstory to myself, I grew up in the Religious Right and was mostly converted to libertarianism around my freshman and sophomore year.)
While I respect your right to your opinion and the fact that this is your blog, I would like to state that I feel calling the Abrahamic religions "detestable, bestial" seems a public forum.
I will agree that a large threat to our liberty is giving up our freedoms for security, in the face of fear of terrorist. No wonder FDR said the only thing we have to fear is fear itself!

Chuck Doswell said...

Strictly speaking, Garrett, "ad hominem" would properly be applied to comments directed toward a particular person (as opposed to a religion), not what the person is saying. If I were to respond to your comment with "You're a stupid moron!" that would be an ad hominem response. I hasten to add that I don't believe you're a moron at all!! I respect you and appreciate your willingness to offer comments.

What you apparently object to is my opinion of abrahamic religions - but I reserve the right to express my opinion. I've explained my reasons for that opinion elsewhere.

Garrett Fornea said...

Well then...thank you for clearing up my misconception as to what "ad hominem" means, and I apologize if I came across as disrespecting your right to an opinion. As I've said before, good thing some of can agree to disagree!