Monday, June 20, 2005

What exactly do right-wing Christians worship?

After several days at the beach, I am rested and ready to open a newspaper. So. Today's rant is thus occasioned by reading the Sunday New York Times Magazine article on fundamentalist views of gay marriage. Turns out that fundamentalist Christians consider homosexuality sinful. Who wudda thought? They claim, naturally, to love the sinner, but want to wipe out the sin. Or the disease. "Disease" functions here as an alternative word for sin.

We liberals are supposed to be tolerant. And I, personally, am. For example, I believe fundamentalists should be allowed to freely worship and proclaim their views, and proselytize in the streets if they wish. But for the state and its citizens to allow freedom of worship does not at all imply that we are all somehow obliged to not speak out against beliefs which, if acted upon, would lead to consequences any civilized human being will consider unthinkable.

So let's look at fundamentalism for a moment--specifically Christian fundamentalism.

God as imagined by fundamentalists was, and will be, guilty of the most monstrous genocides possible--assuming of course the Bible to be literally true, as fundamentalists believe it is.

We tend to fixate on their attacks on gays and on science and on women's rights, without noticing that the core of their religion is worship of a belligerent tribal deity, a wrathful stormtrooper godling overcome almost daily by something like road rage, a god with an anger management problem that makes Hitler seem like a choir boy. Such a god supposedly murders the entire human population of the planet, except for Noah and his family--plus he drowns most of the animals.

Because he was pissed. Nobody thinks about this story much.

If a human being committed such a crime, he would be thought the worst monster who ever existed. Most Christians and Jews, at least in modern times, have considered that this tale, and those like it, to be fables, and, if they think about them at all, derive metaphorical meaning from them, perhaps considering that the rain may be symbolic of affliction and the ark a symbol of fortitude--stuff like that. What else can civilized human beings do with such stories?

Fundamentalist Christians, however, believe it really happened, and, because they worship the deity in this story, are more or less bound by their ideology, even if not by personal wickedness, to approve of the crimes they imagine this deity committed. We decry the old Stalinists who followed--because they were blinded by ideology--the contortions of the Party line into incredibly immoral apologies for incredible crimes.

But we are too timid to speak up against other people, in this case Christian fundamentalists, who approve in principle of even greater depravities, and who in fact look forward, in their belief-system, to a re-creation of the Moloch-like planetary genocide they think was committed by the Old Testament God in ancient times, by their selfsame New Testament God, at the end of time.

What would we say to a group of Germans who were vying to make Germany once again a country giving its stamp of approval to the murder of six million Jews? We would say that the moral failure of people who approve of such criminality, like those who committed it, would be almost beyond human imagination.

So, then, what do we say of a group of Americans who are just fine with a far greater genocide, the killing of almost everyone on on earth--an event which they imagine to have been real--and who fall down on their knees before the author of it? And who want to make America a theocracy run according to supposed laws written by the very Horror they worship? And who want to see the destruction of mankind again, excepting of course the elect, who, not surprisingly, they consider themselves to be among.

(Well, one thing we would have to say of them, among many others, is that they are the Republican base. Red state fundie church folks. But I digress, as usual.)

Does the fact that the Horror they worship is simply a product of terrified and primitive imagination somehow make such worship morally acceptable? Obviously not. Is the moral problem of approving of the 40 days and 40 nights of deliberate death by drowning--a crime against humanity, shall we say, which is by no means unique in the catalog of mass killings supposed in the scriptures to have been committed by, or at the behest of, this same imaginary godling--somehow mitigated by the fact that the believers are too ignorant to know the belief is merely one among many fables of a tribe of ancient Middle Eastern herdsmen? Or, a little later in these same scriptures, that the ravings of the author of Revelations are the product of an unwell mind?

I would say no. To the extent that fundamentalists accept as articles of faith that the scriptures are both inerrant and literally true, these good folks, who like Nazi apologists may be exemplary friends, neighbors, and kinsmen, are in the truest sense morally decadent and a threat to everyone's well being.

We need to understand who we are dealing with.

The same freedoms which guarantee their right to worship, guarantees us the right to speak to the moral failure at the core of such worship. And I think our moral duty requires that we speak up.

Possibly some of them think that, by opposing them, we liberals are ipso facto advocating for them what many of them would advocate for us. This may cause them to, as they say, harden their hearts against us. But in all honesty, we need to realize that we are already fully demonized in their eyes, even as we have been meek and quiet.

What we need to do right now, I believe, is to calmly point out the moral implications of their beliefs. Many of these very believers do not, after all, approve of Hitler or Stalin, and some at least may be logical enough, or at least be _capable_ of the necessary logic, to see that the God they pray to is portrayed by their own holy book as guilty of things worse than Hitler or Stalin ever wished to do, or could have done.

In any case, our firm and vocal opposition to their creed, if based on the general moral consensus about genocide and mass murder shared by all civilized people and by most Americans and indeed by many fundamentalists themselves, cannot hurt a thing, and may turn some aside from the path of their folly--and may keep others from falling into folly. But we need to stop thinking that liberal tolerance somehow extends beyond tolerating their freedom to practice their religion, to remaining quiet in the face of their really morally flawed and profoundly dangerous religious ideas.

I am not, FWIW, a crusader against religion. And I certainly share the average liberal's aversion to falling into an obsessive objectification of fundamentalists as our Enemies, a different and evil tribe. But we can't escape the fact, and should not ignore the fact, that they believe incredibly stupid things that have really terrible moral implications, not to mention political consequences.

We need to attack those beliefs as vigorously as they attack evolution and abortion. Their beliefs are easy to attack. No one, in fact, can rationally defend them.

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