Archive for October 21st, 2010
Only a few weeks ago, the Pope arrived at Edinburgh to blame people like me (I don’t belong to a religion) for the Nazi holocaust. These outrageous claims constitute the kind of abject bigotry that can lead to ostracism and violence against those of us who, sincerely and after careful consideration of the evidence, do not believe in supernatural beings. As reported by The U.K. Guardian:
Benedict XVI used the first papal state visit to Britain to launch a blistering attack on “atheist extremism” and “aggressive secularism”, and to rue the damage that “the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life” had done in the last century. The leader of the Roman Catholic church concluded a speech, made before the Queen and assembled dignitaries at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, with the argument that the Nazi desire to eradicate God had led to the Holocaust and a plea for 21st-century Britain to respect its Christian foundations.
Incredibly, he described pedophilia as an ‘illness’ whose sufferers had “lost their free will.” The Guardian article is well worth a read. It offers a fascinating look into the corrupted soul of the Vatican.
Richard Dawkins had more than a few pointed things to say about the Pope and his church. In fact, his speech took the form of an sharp indictment. I couldn’t agree more with Dawkins, even though it somewhat pains me to say this. You see, I was raised Catholic and I have many friends who are still practicing Catholics who are generous, kind and thoughtful. It’s a pity that their spiritual leader would rather blame secularists and allow millions of people to die by depriving them of condoms, than to own up to the mass-rape perpetrated and covered up by many of the “leaders” of his Church. On top of that, consider the Catholic Church’s systemic disparagment of women. Such horrifically screwed up priorities.
For many years, the Vatican has annoyed me with its pomposity and hypocrisy, exacerbated by the way the mass media fawns over so many things that Popes utter, rarely pointing out the vagueness or the absurdities. I’m afraid that I’ve now reached a tipping point. It’s time to completely disregard the fact that the Pope is revered by so many others. Despite the fact that the Pope dresses up in expensive clothes and that he works extremely hard to obscure his absurdities with impenetrable language allegedly based on ancient books, he plainly stands before us as a man whose head is filled with numerous terrible ideas.
Here’s what Dawkins had to say:
Recent polls show that a majority of voters admire candidates which don’t compromise on issues. When we look at the recent political history of compromise within the Democratic Party, we may discern a major source of voter discontent with Democratic candidates in the upcoming November elections.
Recently, US House and Senate Democrats failed to call up for a vote the expiration of Bush era tax breaks for the wealthiest of Americans. According to a recent CNN poll, 69% of Americans support having the Bush era tax breaks for the ultra-rich expiring on January 1, 2011.
Republicans adopted an “all or nothing” approach which clearly favored the wealthiest Americans and which Republican approach would have taken away Middle Class Tax Cuts from the Democrats’ Stimulus Plan and given them to the ultra-rich to the tune of $731 billion. The increase in the total national debt of $13.64 trillion from the Republican plan from continuing these tax cuts alone would be 5.4%.
The White House also has adopted a “compromise with ‘yourself’” approach in an attempt to garner Republican support for issues even though the GOP has not supported anything put forth by the Democrats during the Obama Presidency. Witness the pre-legislative demise of the “public option” in health care which is still favored by a majority of Americans. Many Democratic candidates are running away from their votes for healthcare reform when according to a recent Pew Center study a majority of voters and large majorities of Democratic and Independent voters support those who voted for healthcare reform.
So, while many believe that the “partisanship” of politics is destructive, it is clear that holding the line on your policies is more favorably viewed by voters than any type of compromise. Democrats are likely to learn a very costly lesson in the value of “NO!” come November, 2010. But, the lesson will mostly inform any future minority in the US House or Senate that obstruction and obfuscation are more valuable than compromise, even when a majority of voters support the other side of an issue.
Polls recently indicate that more and more Americans link being an American with being a Christian. Yet the consensus on what this actually means is as nonexistent as ever. We hear a lot about how this country was founded on “Christian principles” and that the Founders wanted this to be a “Christian nation.” Yet with a few exceptions, most folks would likely chafe horribly should be actually try to return to anything close what that meant in 1787.
The question of what the Founders intended is an interesting one, since even cursory research produces conflicting statements on both sides. Many of the most prominent clearly felt that what they had wrought in the Constitution was a device for keeping religion from distorting government. They intended, it seems, that people as individuals should decide for themselves, within a private sphere, how to believe and subsequently how to worship. The government, they claimed, should not be permitted to interfere with that. The question, of course, is whether they intended this to be the case in the other direction.
In a way, it’s a ridiculous question. How do you prevent an individual’s religious ideas from informing his or her political actions? You don’t. However the individual believes, that is what will be taken to the polls. All such questions may be similarly addressed—what goes on within your skull is yours and the government cannot interfere with it.
But public displays, judicial acts, and legislation ought to be free of overt religious sentiment. Passing laws should be based on common welfare—if an exhortation to god is necessary to make a law seem “right” then that law is not Constitutional. It has to make secular sense.
But the issue is muddy, because the same Framers often talked about christian principles and the common bonds of christian community, at least in private, and often in speeches. Is this a contradiction?
I believe not. The problem is, the idea as currently framed and debated is simply out of context, not broad enough. What did it mean to be part of a christian community in 1787? That everyone went to church, prayed the same way, believed in the same god or description of god?
At that time, I suspect, “christian community” was a label for a total package of cultural markers. One didn’t have to believe overtly in any specific christian doctrine in order to accept social ideas about what made a community. Being a christian was a political, social, and economic condition as much if not more than a religious conviction. While you might not pray in that church down the street, you would defend it and move easily in the externalized community around it.
What would this have meant in practice?
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