December 20, 2007

Cats and Dogs Living Together: Charles Krauthammer Finally Catches a Ride to Reality

...This campaign is knee-deep in religion, and it's only going to get worse. I'd thought that the limits of professed public piety had already been achieved during the Republican CNN-YouTube debate when some squirrelly looking guy held up a Bible and asked, "Do you believe every word of this book?" -- and not one candidate dared reply: None of your damn business.

Instead, Giuliani, Romney and Huckabee bent a knee and tried appeasement with various interpretations of scriptural literalism. The right answer, the only answer, is that the very question is offensive...

...a certain kind of conservative is not content to argue that a religious underpinning for a policy is not disqualifying. He insists that it is uniquely qualifying, indeed, that it confers some special status.

Romney has been faulted for not throwing at least one bone of acknowledgment to nonbelievers in his big religion speech last week. But he couldn't, because the theme of the speech was that there is something special about having your values drawn from religious faith. Indeed, faith is politically indispensable. "Freedom requires religion," Romney declared, "just as religion requires freedom."

But this is nonsense -- as Romney then proceeded to demonstrate in that very same speech. He spoke of the empty cathedrals in Europe. He's right about that: Postwar Europe has experienced the most precipitous decline in religious belief in the history of the West. Yet Europe is one of the freest precincts on the planet. It is an open, vibrant, tolerant community of more than two dozen disparate nations living in a pan-continental harmony and freedom unseen in all previous European history...

...It's two centuries since the passage of the First Amendment, and our presidential candidates still cannot distinguish establishment from free exercise.
These crazy anti-god liberals writing columns denouncing religion's proper influence on the presidential race! Clearly, the author of the above quotes must be some god-hating, anti-Christian ACLU member!

Well, no. Actually, the author is conservative pundit Charles Krauthammer writing in The Washington Post. While I don't agree with everything he's written — because I am one of those people who thinks that religious beliefs are a poor basis for making real-world decisions — I find myself in uneasy agreement with most of what he's written in his column.

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, and particularly if you're one of those people who was reading my rants about politics and policy on LiveJournal a few years ago, you must understand that this is a very strange experience for me. I am in substantive agreement with Charles Krauthammer. Surely, this is a sign that the End of Days is upon us!
Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies. Rivers and seas boiling. Forty years of darkness. Earthquakes, volcanoes... The dead rising from the grave. Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together - mass hysteria.

Ghost Busters (1984)

When I look at my country, I see something going terribly wrong. I see a wave of ignorance being enshrined as "what America is about." I see examples of extreme gullibility and the proferring of religious literalism as "a way of knowing" that trumps rational inquiry, a position advanced by a combination of stubbornness and reliance on profound and engineered misrepresentation. I see a Talibanization, if you will, an effort to make a country into "the kingdom of heaven on earth."

If anything, I don't think Krauthammer's admonitions go far enough. We've spent several years in the United States worrying about what would happen if a radical religious fundamentalist group got their hands on nuclear weapons and declared war on the unbelievers. It's a worthwhile concern, no doubt. What if that radical group turned out to be America itself? Does it improve humanity's condition if those declaring religious war, or even threatening it, turn out to be those that have gained control of the White House? What happens when the very people who think Christianity is persecuted in this country get their hands on the trigger of the biggest weapon of mass destruction on the planet and decide that it's time for China, for example, to bow down? Like the archetypal radical Muslim terrorist who believes in the promise of eternal reward for blowing himself to bits in the name of his religion, what do radical Christian evangelicals have to lose by dying for their own ideology? They, too, gain eternal reward for their martyrdom, after all.

Ironically, I think Krauthammer himself helped in bringing about the circumstances that he opposes in the column cited. Now he's worried about them, and suddenly I have to come to terms with agreeing with him that, in the very least, the rise of an Evangelical America threatens the very basis of American democracy. We both see our country slipping away, little by little, gradually eroding freedom and setting us down a path that leads eventually to a high-tech, Christian version of the Taliban's Afghanistan. Neither of us want that, and neither of us sees much that can be done about it at this point. The role of religion in the campaign for 2008 frames a profoundly disturbing picture of what America has become and is still becoming for those of us who do not agree, and will never agree, to combining church and state in the persona of a president.

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