In our family of five, finally we can talk freely about religion, now that our younger son has broken free from his 20-year entrapment in Mormonism. He jettisoned the junk when he saw that Joseph Smith’s Book of Abraham was a total hoax. Now I’m pleased to say (in fact, I’m proud to say), we’re all secular humanists (in fact, scientific humanists).
Unfortunately, though, our poor grandchildren are still trapped in their mother’s religious delusions. We hope that, as they mature, our grandchildren will be able to see all religions for what they are (namely, silly speculations by schizophrenics and ignoramuses, promoted by fools and power mongers), but experience has shown that gaining such insight can be very slow.
Thereby, experience has also shown that at least one of Christ’s “prophecies” was valid, namely, his alleged statement in the New Testament at, for example, Matthew 10, 34:
Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a son’s wife against her mother-in-law…Similar is reported in the Gospel of Thomas (16):
Jesus said, “Perhaps people think that I have come to cast peace upon the world. They do not know that I have come to cast conflicts upon the earth: fire, sword, war. For there will be five in a house: there’ll be three against two and two against three, father against son and son against father, and they will stand alone.”Such evil promoted by Jesus prompted me to write one of the “Christian limericks” that I relayed in an earlier post:
Although Christ claimed that he was all heart
Filled with love, which he'd love to impart,
I say it's untrue:
The worst thing to do
Is to work to break families apart.
Filled with love, which he'd love to impart,
I say it's untrue:
The worst thing to do
Is to work to break families apart.
In contrast to our open communications about religion, however, our family of five has learned to constrain our comments about politics and politicians. The trouble is, we’re split “down the middle” – which, come to think of it, is actually quite a feat, given that there are five of us! My wife and I are proud that our older son was elected as a delegate for Hillary (not necessarily for his choice, but for his commitment, effort, and success); I admit that we’re always proud of our daughter, who supports Obama; so, that sums to two Democrats. My wife and younger son repeatedly vote Republican; so, I expect that they’ll vote for McCain. And me? Well, in principle at least, I’m a Libertarian.
I admit that, being a “welfare brat” when I was a kid, I support the Democrats' emphasis on cooperative communities. I also support their liberal ideas. Yet, it really gets to me to see how the Democrats essentially “buy votes” by promising so many “goodies” to so many lazy consumers (by pilfering the producers via exorbitant taxes), as well as the Democrats’ continued emphasis on government “solutions” to problems best solved by free markets. And on the other hand, having worked hard and having been influenced during my early career by Ayn Rand’s philosophy, I admit that I support the Republicans’ commitment to individualism and their desire to see that the producers keep the rewards that they honestly earn. Yet, it also really gets to me not only to see how the Republicans use corporate money to essentially buy votes (especially, by spreading rumors about opponents) but also – and especially – their horrible entanglement with “the Religious Right” (or better, “the Religious Wrong”).
As Isaac Kramnick and Laurence Moore write in their book The Godless Constitution (p. 85):
The religious right today wants only half of the laissez-faire ideal to which the founders of this country adhered. They accuse those we call liberals today [i.e., the Democrats] of abandoning the founders’ faith in economic laissez-faire, and there is much truth to this accusation. But they themselves [and therefore most Republicans] have abandoned the other half of our founders’ ideals, religious laissez-faire, in the name of a restored religious tyranny, the religious correctness of a revived Christian commonwealth.Only the Libertarian Party maintains commitment to both religious and economic laissez-faire; unfortunately, though, the Libertarian Party hasn’t yet developed sufficient “marketing skill” to generate widespread support.
For me, consequently, it comes down to judging the capabilities and personalities of the Democratic vs. Republican candidates. Gerald Ford wasn’t in the White House long enough for me to reach a judgment about him, but I learned enough about the others so that, for president, I don’t want another God-nut like Eisenhower or Carter, I don’t want another crook like Nixon, I don’t want another narcissist-bully like Johnson and Reagan, I don’t want another womanizer like Kennedy and Clinton, and I sure as hell don’t want another fool like both the Bushs. In fact, during the past 50 years, the only two occupants of the White House that I remember admiring are Barbara and Laura Bush - save for their choices of husbands!
Which then brings me to McCain vs. Obama. Could either be another Truman? Certainly I’m impressed by McCain’s record of service, courage, perseverance, willingness and capability to work with others, and his desire to help his country. I’m not overly impressed, however, either by his knowledge or his intelligence, and his comments during the interview conducted by Dan Gilgoff of beliefnet.com really turned me off.
For example, consider the following exchange:
Gilgoff: A recent poll found that 55 percent of Americans believe the U.S. Constitution establishes a Christian nation. What do you think?Gimme a break! Is McCain that stupid, that poorly educated, or is he just pandering to the Religious Wrong? I hope someone includes in his “summer reading list” not only Kramnick and Moore’s The Godless Constitution but also Robert Boston’s book Why the Religious Right is Wrong.
McCain: I would probably have to say, yes, that the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation…
That 55% of Americans believe that “the U.S. Constitution establishes a Christian nation” isn’t surprising, given that (as I review and reference elsewhere):
- In 1988, 94 million Americans didn’t know that the Earth went around the Sun and took a year to do so,
- In 1990, 47% of adult Americans thought that UFOs are real and 27% though that aliens have visited the Earth,
- In 2004, 60% of Americans said they believe in ESP and 41% thought that astrology is at least somewhat scientific,
- In 2005, 51% of Americans believed humans were created in their present form by God, with only 15% accepting that “humans evolved from less advanced life forms over millions of years.”
- In 2006, 60% of Americans of ages 18 to 24 couldn’t find Iraq on a map of the Middle East, 48% were unable to find Mississippi, and 47% couldn’t find India on a map of Asia.
Didn’t McCain ever read in some history book about Roger Williams (1603–83) who founded the colony of Rhode Island? There, Williams established the principle of separation of Church and State, maintaining that “a pagan or anti-Christian pilot may be as skillful to carry the ship to its desired port as any Christian mariner or pilot in the world and may perform that work with as much safety and speed”, concluding:
All civil states, with their officers of justice, in their respective constitutions and administrations, are proved essentially civil, and therefore not judges, governors, or defenders of the spiritual, or Christian, state and worship.As a politician, doesn’t McCain know anything about John Locke (1632–1704), his political philosophy, and his theory of rights, which were foundational in the formation of the American republic? Doesn’t McCain know anything about how Jefferson and Madison extended Locke’s and Joseph Priestley’s ideas not only about “life, liberty, and property” but also to establish similar rights for all Americans, not just “god believers”? Such ideas led Jefferson to state:
The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither breaks my leg nor picks my pocket.Has McCain never seen Jefferson’s explanation about why the Virginia legislature rejected the attempt to insert the words “Jesus Christ” into his and Madison’s bill for religious freedom? Jefferson wrote:
The insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they mean to comprehend within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and the Mohometan [Muslim], the Hindoo [Hindu], and the infidel of every denomination.Or if unaware of the ideas of Jefferson and Madison, surely the military man McCain should have learned about General Washington’s instructions to his general (and subsequent traitor) Benedict Arnold on 14 September 1775:
…as far as lies in your power, you are to protect and support the free exercise of religion of the country, and the undisturbed enjoyment of the rights of conscience in religious maters, with your utmost influence and authority.Or if not that, how about what President Washington wrote to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island:
…happily the government of the United States… gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance… Everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.And if not even that, I’d suggest that McCain consider President Washington’s response to Tench Tighman on 24 March 1784 when asked what type of workman to get for Mount Vernon:
If they are good workmen, they may be from Asia, Africa, or Europe; they may be Mahometans [Muslims], Jews, Christians of any sect, or they may be Atheists…Or failing even that, surely Senator McCain should at least consider the Treaty of Tripoli, negotiated by Washington, approved by the Senate on 7 June 1797, and signed by President John Adams on 10 June 1797, whose Article 11 starts:
As the government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion…But if McCain has studied neither history nor politics, shouldn’t he at least have studied the Constitution, which if he’s elected as president, he’d be required to take an oath (or affirm) to “preserve, protect and defend”, but NOT (as can be seen in the Constitution) by adding the words “so help me God”? Where in the Constitution does it establish that America is a Christian nation? The Constitution not only doesn’t mention Christianity, it doesn’t mention any religion (or any god). Its Article VI states, “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States”. And as if that weren’t enough, clearly displayed with banners and flags on the wall between religion and the new secular, republican government is the Constitution’s First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of [any] religion…
As a former military man, McCain should know that the long war between those who wanted a theocracy and those who wanted a republican government separated from religion was won during America’s birth, more than two hundred years ago, by the secularists. Declaring his allegiance to the side that lost may help McCain garner some votes from the Christian Wrong, but if he desires to be president of all Americans and if he’s willing to swear on his honor that he’ll protect the Constitution, then he’d be well advised to read it, understand it, and withdraw and apologize for his atrocious statement: “Yes… the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation.”
And if that ill-considered statement weren’t enough, there’s more from McCain in the Gilgoff interview (dealing with the nonsense that America was founded on “Judeo-Christian principles”), but since Obama has recently been promoting the same errors and their refutation should be extensive, I’ll set them aside for a later post.