Friday, March 16, 2012

The Religious War of 2012

Yes, there is a Republican “War on women,” and it has escalated from a war on abortion to a war on contraception. In Arizona it threatens to be a war on sexual intercourse for any reason other than to produce a pregnancy. Arizona wants to pass a law to the effect that a woman would have to prove she wants a contraceptive device for a specific health reason, not for birth control (even though I don’t think this had anything to do with the approval of birth control in the first place). I don’t know who in particular is responsible for this absolutely idiotic idea, and I grant it is extreme even by most states, but it is fundamentally not unlike what seems to be a more widespread attempt to regulate women’s health and bodies. Rick Santorum has also indicated that believes contraception is harmful and promotes promiscuous sex thus “interfering with the way things are supposed to be,” whatever that is. I suppose if Arizona were to get away with allowing contraception only with a doctor’s prescription for an actual medical condition, it would be not long before you might have to prove you wanted to buy a bed or a mattress specifically only to sleep on. It makes me wonder if people in Arizona are born without brains or if homeschooling is responsible for such outrageous stupidity. Remember that until the 1930’s contraception was illegal in virtually all states. The Catholic Church in particular worked very hard to keep it illegal but eventually failed and it slowly became more and more permissible until now it has been used at one time or another by fully 99% of American women, including Catholic women. As the Church remains opposed to contraception even now, you can say there has been a religious “war” of sorts going on for a long time that has now resurfaced in importance at the present time, aided by Fundamentalist Christians.

But there is much more to this “war” than merely abortion and contraception. It is, in fact, the same war that Andrew D. White wrote about as early as 1895 in his well known work, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom. You might think this important issue was settled a long time ago and it pretty much has been in all modern industrialized nations except, apparently, the United States. That this issue has appeared once again in the year 2012, and is now center-stage in the U.S. is incredible, mind-boggling, stunning, astonishing, virtually unbelievable, but it has. And make no mistake, this is a religious war on perceived “secularism.” Newt Gingrich, having tried three different religions and now settled on Catholicism, has said there is a secular war on religion, that the day Obama is re-elected he will immediately mount an attack on Catholicism. Rick Santorum has made it quite clear he does not believe in the separation of church and state. There have been all kinds of attempts to introduce “creationism” into our schools as an alternative to evolution, and even public attractions displaying dinosaurs interacting with humans, so say nothing of a gigantic representation of Noah’s Ark. Representative Jerry Bergevin has said that “evolution is an evil idea which has led to genocide and other horrors.” Many people apparently still believe the earth is a mere 6000 years old. Inhofe of Oklahoma has announced that global warming is a hoax because “only god can change the climate.” Santorum, too, believes global warming is merely a hoax. These people do not believe in science. Several of the recent Republican candidates for the nomination claim they were instructed by God to enter the race. This is not, strictly speaking, a war merely between secularists and religious people in general, it is basically a war between those who believe in science and reason and those who do not.

What is happening on the Right is nothing less than another Crusade. These people believe they have the truth and they are determined to impose it on the rest of us. They do not hesitate to promote “wars” with Muslim countries to rid the world of that (false) threat to our Christian way of life. They want to believe that Obama is a secret Muslim determined to turn the U.S. into a Muslim country. The Mayor of Clovis, New Mexico not only believes that Obama is “the carnal manifestation of evil,” but has also been trained by the CIA to accomplish the goal of promoting Islam, crazy, yes, but not completely unusual in “Tea Party” circles. You often hear pundits and others say that for Republicans to want to do away with contraception and force women to endure unwanted sonograms and so on is political suicide and makes no sense. That is true, but it is not politics that is driving their war on women, it is the same kind of religious fervor that drove the Crusades and fueled the Inquisitions. It is a religious war against what they characterize as “godless secularism,” or what used to be “Pagans” and “Heathens” and other “Non-believers.”

These conservative religious Republicans want you to believe there is a secular war on religion. But that has it entirely backwards. If some 97% of the world’s scientists say global warming is real, and I want to believe in science and thus in global warming, this does not indicate I am at war with religion (in fact I think religion in this context is simply irrelevant). If the scientific evidence is completely clear the earth is far older than 6000 years, and I believe it, that does not mean I am at war with religion. It only means that I, along with the vast majority of educated people in the world, believe in science rather than completely unsubstantiated myths and fairy tales. This religious war on the rest of us is clearly biblically driven by Fundamentalist bible believers that insist the bible is the true word of god and is infallible, and by the Catholic Church that insists it is the only true faith and in most respects has not changed since the Middle Ages, especially as it relates to the position of women. I am hardly an authority of the bible, having never been able to get past the first 6 or 7 pages, but if you want some idea of how it views women read an article in Truthout today by Valerie Tarico, “15 Bible Texts Reveal Why ‘God’s Own Party” is at War With Women.’” Of course if you wish you can drudge up some Biblical justification for virtually anything you want, just another reason to not take it seriously.

Scriptures, n. The sacred books of our holy religion, as distinguished from the false and profane writings on which all other faiths are based.
Ambrose Bierce (The Devil’s Dictionary)

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