07 June, 2008

On the Importance of Keeping Religion In My Crosshairs

I want everyone who considers religion irrelevant to politics to consider a few things.

The Carpetbagger Report, one of the best political blogs in existence, regularly runs a Saturday feature called "This Week in God." Steve Benen finds religion intersecting politics often enough to find abundant examples for his feature, and they're usually chilling. Some past highlights: a lawsuit against the Wilson County school system in Tennessee for "allowing a group of parents to pray during instructional time and pass out fliers to students on campus;" Arizona's voucher program coming into direct conflict with the state Constitution; and a religious right group encouraging churches to ignore federal tax law and act directly to help the Republicon party achieve success.

To find those items, I had to wade through over a dozen stand-alone posts exploring too many ways that religion is directly impacting politics. And this is all in just the last two months.

We're at a point in this country when an American can't be elected President without impeccable Christian credentials (despite the Constitution's implacable statement that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States"). We barely managed to elect a Muslim to the House, and I'm sure you all remember the uproar from the Christian right over that one. "Academic Freedom" bills are springing up like wood mushrooms in Seattle (trust me, they spring. A lot). Crazed white evangelical pastors are feted at the White House (whereas crazed black evangelical pastors are pilloried by our crazed media talking heads). I could go on, but I think you have the idea.

But if you still think that fighting religious idiocy and advocating for more reason and critical thought are sideshows to the main political battle, consider this terrifying tidbit from the New York Times:

What happens in Texas does not stay in Texas: the state is one of the country’s biggest buyers of textbooks, and publishers are loath to produce different versions of the same material. The ideas that work their way into education here will surface in classrooms throughout the

It should terrify you that eight people have the ability to influence education throughout the United States.

The Texas story wraps politics, religion and science in a tidy package. School boards are political bodies. The state board of education in Texas is packed full of creationists right now - they hold a near-majority, and they're perilously close to approving science standards that slip in another creationist Trojan horse: "Strengths and weaknesses." This would erode the quality of science education throughout the country, thus putting us ever further behind the rest of the world. Religion has gone virulently political, and it's infecting us all.

If you read the article, you'll hear from plenty of Christians who are no more happy about this than I am. It's going to take a united front of atheists, agnostics, and people of all religious persuasions who believe that church and state should remain resolutely separate to ensure that a fundamentalist Christian worldview isn't forced on us all.

That means speaking out. That means stamping out the fires of fundamentalism whenever they flare up. And that means that there's going to be plenty of talk about religion around here for the foreseeable future. The Smack-o-Matic 3000 shall know no rest as long as rabidly religious fuckers continue their efforts to make their religion a matter of our politics.


breakerslion said...

Please take no offense if this welcome is late in coming. I do not mean to imply that you have not been thus engaged for some time, should that be the case.

Welcome to the fray. When you're as frayed as I, perhaps you'll join me on the "Mad Hatter" side of the fence. Whatever, just don't give up (I hope). I currently operate on the premise that reason has failed to reach these delusional types, so perhaps an overdose of contradictory unreason might snap them out of it. No luck so far.

You'd make a great Pastafarian in that Jack Sparrow get-up by the way.


Dana Hunter said...

Gracias! I'm somewhat new - just started fighting the good fight back in February, and this blog didn't start until late March, but ye gods, I feel like a twenty-year veteran already. Battle after battle after battle...

Maybe what we really need to try is tag-team unreason. Missionaries usually come to the door in pairs. Perhaps there's a reason for that, and it explains why your tactics have had no effect thus far.

We will eventually overcome the religious fuckery, FSM willing!