Friday, May 11, 2018

There Is No Freedom of Religion Without Freedom From Religion.

Freedom of religion exists as a political construct. It's a political freedom under s. 2 of the Charter. It's also a human right, enshrined in Article 18 of the Universal  Declaration of Human Rights.

There are limits to freedom of religion. It does not extend to some right or power to truncate or abridge the freedoms and rights of others. It has no right to impose itself on others. America's Founding Fathers recognized this when they prescribed the separation of church and state.

Today, we're challenged by radical religion, fundamentalism. We have spent lives, time and treasure in a futile battle against Islamist fundamentalism in distant lands. We have denounced them for seeking to impose their religious will on others - religiously, politically, and socially.

Yet we have a surprising indifference to this same sort of fundamentalism as it works to insinuate itself and its ways in our own nation. We have allowed the contagion of Christian fundamentalism to seep into our civil and supposedly secular institutions.

Veteran Republican insider, Kevin Phillips, warned of this in his 2005 book, "American Theocracy: the Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century."

Career US Army commander turned historian, Andrew Bacevich, discussed at length the invasive influence of Christian fundamentalism on America's armed forces in his book, "The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War," a summary of which can be found here, here, and here.

Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author, explored America's fundamentalist scourge in "American Fascists: the Christian Right and the War on America," which, if you haven't read it is available free in PDF format here.

Veteran Republican Mike Lofgren, has written a book about the rise of "politicized religious fundamentalism and how the GOP evolved into anti-intellectual nuts."

Lofgren's book, "The Party is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless and the Middle Class Got Shafted,"

Religious cranks ceased to be a minor public nuisance in this country beginning in the 1970s and grew into a major element of the Republican rank and file. Pat Robertson’s strong showing in the 1988 Iowa presidential caucus signaled the gradual merger of politics and religion in the party. 

The results of this takeover are all around us: If the American people poll more like Iranians or Nigerians than Europeans or Canadians on questions of evolution, scriptural inerrancy, the presence of angels and demons, and so forth, it is due to the rise of the religious right, its insertion into the public sphere by the Republican Party, and the consequent normalizing of formerly reactionary beliefs. All around us now is a prevailing anti-intellectualism and hostility to science. Politicized religion is the sheet anchor of the dreary forty-year-old culture wars. 
The Constitution notwithstanding, there is now a de facto religious test for the presidency: Major candidates are encouraged (or coerced) to share their feelings about their faith in a revelatory speech, or a televangelist like Rick Warren will dragoon the candidates (as he did with Obama and McCain in 2008) to debate the finer points of Christology, offering himself as the final arbiter. Half a century after John F. Kennedy put to rest the question of whether a candidate of a minority denomination could be president, the Republican Party has reignited the kinds of seventeenth-century religious controversies that advanced democracies are supposed to have outgrown. And some in the media seem to have internalized the GOP’s premise that the religion of a candidate is a matter for public debate.
The religious right’s professed insistence upon “family values” might appear at first blush to be at odds with the anything but saintly personal behavior of many of its leading proponents. Some of this may be due to the general inability of human beings to reflect on conflicting information: I have never ceased to be amazed at how facts manage to bounce off people’s consciousness like pebbles off armor plate. But there is another, uniquely religious aspect that also comes into play: the predilection of fundamentalist denominations to believe in practice, even if not entirely in theory, in the doctrine of “cheap grace,” a derisive term coined by the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. By that he meant the inclination of some religious adherents to believe that once they had been “saved,” not only would all past sins be wiped away, but future ones, too—so one could pretty much behave as before. Cheap grace is a divine get- out-of-jail-free card. Hence the tendency of the religious base of the Republican Party to cut some slack for the peccadilloes of candidates who claim to have been washed in the blood of the Lamb and reborn to a new and more Christian life. The religious right is willing to overlook a politician’s individual foibles, no matter how poor an example he or she may make, if they publicly identify with fundamentalist values.

Of course, the proper rituals must be observed before an erring politician can obtain absolution. In November 2011, at a forum sponsored by religious conservatives in Iowa, all of the GOP presidential candidates struck the expected notes of contrition and humility as they laid bare their souls before the assembled congregation (the event was held in a church). Most of them, including [Herman] Cain, who was then still riding high, choked up when discussing some bleak midnight of their lives (he chose not to address the fresh sexual harassment charges against him, which surely would have qualified as a trying personal experience preying on his mind). Even the old reprobate Gingrich misted up over some contrived misdeed intended to distract attention from his well-known adventures in serial matrimony.
Said Gingrich: "If we look at history from the mid-1960s, we’ve gone from a request for toleration to an imposition of intolerance. We’ve gone from a request to understand others to a determination to close down those who hold traditional values. I think that we need to be very aggressive and very direct. The degree to which the left is prepared to impose intolerance and to drive out of existence traditional religion is a mortal threat to our civilization and deserves to be taken head-on and described as what it is, which is the use of government to repress the American people against their own values." 
That is as good an example as any of cheap grace as practiced by seasoned statesmen like Gingrich—a bid for redemption turned on its head to provide a forum for one of the Republican Party’s favorite pastimes: taking opportunistic swipes at the dreaded liberal bogeyman. How quickly one forgets one’s own moral lapses when one can consider the manifold harms inflicted on our nation by godless leftists!
Some liberal writers have opined that the socioeconomic gulf separating the business wing of the GOP and the religious right make it an unstable coalition that could crack. I am not so sure. There is no basic disagreement on which direction the two factions want to take the country, merely how far it should go. The plutocrats would drag us back to the Gilded Age; the theocrats to the Salem witch trials. If anything, the two groups are increasingly beginning to resemble each other. Many televangelists have espoused what has come to be known as the prosperity gospel—the health-and- wealth/name-it-and-claim-it gospel of economic entitlement. If you are wealthy, it is a sign of God’s favor. If not, too bad! This rationale may explain why some poor voters will defend the prerogatives of billionaires. In any case, at the beginning of the 2012 presidential cycle, those consummate plutocrats the Koch brothers pumped money into Bachmann’s campaign, so one should probably not make too much of a potential plutocrat-theocrat split.
...The Tea Party, which initially described itself as wholly concerned with debt, deficit, and federal overreach, gradually unmasked itself as being almost as theocratic as the activists from the religious right... If anything, they were even slightly more disposed than the rest of the Republican Party to inject religious issues into the political realm. According to an academic study of the Tea Party, “[T]hey seek ‘deeply religious’ elected officials, approve of religious leaders’ engaging in politics and want religion brought into political debates.” The Tea Party faithful are not so much libertarian as authoritarian, the furthest thing from a “live free or die” constitutionalist.
Closer to home, we saw an example of this political fundamentalism earlier this week when rejected fundamentalist, Shifty Steve Harper, an avowed Likudnik and Armageddonist-in-Waiting, couldn't restrain himself from adding his endorsement to a full page newspaper ad praising Trump for breaking the Iran nuclear pact.

This Christian fundamentalism has been an unhelpful presence in Canadian politics ever since the "advent" of Preston Manning's Reform Party. My MP for many years was a chiropractor-doctor, James Lunney, who did not a stitch of good for his riding but was always ready to champion Israel, no matter how extreme the policy.

Perhaps it's time Canada came up with a clear statement embodying the separation of church and state, a provision that leaves no doubt that no religion shall have a say in Canadian politics.


Gyor said...

Freedom of Religion is very much a human right, but in the hierarchy of human rights it's the lowest, with all other human rights coming first when a religious and other human right is in conflict.

Trailblazer said...

I have to give one up to Trump who has played the Christian Taliban of the excited states to his advantage.
I suppose that deep down neither Trump or his supporters , especially the The Tea party,have a "Christian" bone in their body.
To to those people the ten commandments are a challenge to break!!

Here in Canada we have Jason Kenny trembling with excitement with the opportunity of making Alberta great again and Christian , no less.

The religious amongst us have one advantage in politics.
They are super organised and often generous in donations.
Though nothing near a majority; they truly punch above their weight.
They also scare the shit out of me..


the salamander said...

.. in my humble opinion, the christian posturing of twisted politicians is just part of their scumbaggery camouflage.. it like them having a press pass. It allows their children to be baptized. Most of them are as actually as religious as one of our dogs.. Great article however, gets another read later. I wish I had the time for that pdf.. will try a quick scan at least. Nice to see a broadside fired at Stephen Harper who was expert level christian posturing.. knew where the votes were.. and where the donations were.

Politics is diseased in my view, Mound.. and rolling in the mysticism of christianity uber alles, judaism, burning bushes, parting of red sea & the Rapture, aint gonna save us from the shithogs like Jason Kenney.. these are desperate times as political animal christians cling to dilbit and fracking.. and rev up their stock portfolios & pension funds

Wanna be a millionaire? Get into politics & go to church.. utter the right passwords

Anonymous said...

Actually the Democrats became crazy ditching constitutional democracy for cultural-Marxist mobocracy.

For example, today both their "private" and "public" positions are to tear down the Mexican border and allow hundreds of millions of Latin Americans to pour into Big City Liberal inner-city ghettos. They say this will bring rainbows, unicorns and, not to mention, cheap maids, nannies and factory workers.

And if you disagree with their crazy, radical, fanatical, infantile, ignorant, ill-thought-out, half-baked opinions they'll scream "RACIST! BIGOT!" at you.

I was never a fan of the Christian-neoconservative coalition that existed from Reagan to Bush Jr. – to say the least. But American Christians were never this crazy. Not even close.

In fact, Democrat neoliberals are now saying Republicans are evil for veering away from neoconservative ideology. Like Bill Maher says if Bush Jr., Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, or any other neocon was the president he would be fine with it.

While Donald Trump tries to bring living wages to Latin America, Democrat (and Liberal) neoliberals and Republican (and Conservative) neocons try to keep Latin America under the boot of oppression.

They want to maintain the status quo of American neocolonialism that has wreaked havoc in the region since 9/11 – 1973. When the "war on socialism" rolled into Chile. By the late 1980s, it was the "war on drugs" tearing up the region.

All this evil and corruption so upper-crust moochers can get a better deal on mining rights and factory wages.

And void-worshiping fanatics supporting brutal continental systemic racism while screaming "racist" at their political enemies.

It don't get crazier than that!

Anonymous said...

This is what keeps Junior "awake at night":

Toronto Star: NAFTA talks focus on low wages for Mexican autoworkers

Northern PoV said...

"the separation of church and state"
as you've pointed out was a foundation of the USA.
And it was gloriously revolutionary at the time.
Perhaps it still is today given that Canada still has a sovereign who is the titular head of a church.

If humanity had continued to progress (I'd argue that we've gone off on an evolutionary dead-end detour) then religion would now be banished to the museums and history 101 courses.

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Anon. That's some Anne Coulter-grade crazy you're on. Who are these upper-crust moochers of which you speak? The Koch boys, the Coors family, Adelson, everyone who just pocketed millions of windfall greenbacks from the Republican/Trump tax cuts for the rich? You've got the patter down just fine. Your problem is the facts getting in the way of your narrative. Lock Her Up, Lock Her Up, eh?

The Mound of Sound said...

I agree, TB, they are a bit scary. Any time you get any significant number of people deeply embracing illusion there's reason to worry.

The Mound of Sound said...

Sal, there's a pattern to neoliberal politics. It doesn't leave enough oxygen for statesmanship, vision or even the courage to do what's right. It's politics in fetters, leg chains, just shuffling along to very little gain for the public, very big gain for the corporate sector and those who control it. Politicians obsess with growing the GDP, largely ignoring who actually benefits from that increased economic activity.

The Mound of Sound said...

I wouldn't worry too much, NPoV. Both the UDHR and the Charter offer pretty wide protections against dominant state religions. It's interesting, however, the alliance that has emerged in Russia between Putin and the Orthodox church.

Anonymous said...

People will always need religion , it's on of the few thing in life that is sure (along with death and taxes ) . Individual may dispense with religion . However , for society it's a must . There are no human society existed without a form of religion .
It's called "separation of state and church " and not "separation of state and religion " and there is a difference . The separation is to protect politics from priesthood and unquestioned power .
Form Farewell address by George Washington (via wikipedia )

"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice ? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle."

Note the brilliant last sentence , he noted that on individual level , someone can with
"the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure" reject religion .
But on the nation scale you cant hold up moral principles without religion .

Anonymous said...

IMO, godless patriarchs don't have the capacity or inclination to be honest. (People of patriarchal races.)

They don't believe they will be held to account. All their skin is in the OLTL game: clawing your way up the social-animal dominance hierarchy while manufacturing a public image of goodness. ("The masks the monsters wear to feed upon their prey.")

That's how you end up with empty-husk lawyer-politicians like the Clintons and Obama who have no qualms betraying the people and selling off their government to global oligarchs. Or revolving-door businessman-politicians like Bush Jr., Mitt Romney, John McCain, etc.

Then there are their middle-class neoliberal and neocon pets who look the other way on all their painfully-obvious pay-for-play corruption. They seem to have a Rosemary's-Baby-like covenant with their upper-crust masters. They go along no matter how rotten it gets. Probably one that goes WAY back.

The worst of the worst is a godless barbarian who thinks he or she in the right. (Fake Virtue. The road to hell is paved with evil, barbarian intentions.)

Like the Robber Baron Victorians who pretended to be upstanding Christians while committing crimes against humanity across the globe. (The difference between the Anglo Deep State and Hitler? About 500 years of holocaust – still ongoing.)

Those who make big bets on the void just might wake up to find a mountain of debt and burning shame. Anyone who knows math, knows the universe is inexorable on all of its accounts. It's not a good bet to make.

“Lo! there ye stand, my children,” said the figure, in a deep and solemn tone, almost sad, with its despairing awfulness, as if his once angelic nature could yet mourn for our miserable race. “Depending upon one another's hearts, ye had still hoped that virtue were not all a dream! Now are ye undeceived! — Evil is the nature of mankind. Evil must be your only happiness. Welcome, again, my children, to the communion of your race!”

Herein did the Shape of Evil dip his hand, and prepare to lay the mark of baptism upon their foreheads, that they might be partakers of the mystery of sin, more conscious of the secret guilt of others, both in deed and thought, than they could now be of their own. – Nathaniel Hawthorne, Young Goodman Brown

the salamander said...

.. back in the way before.. for me.. we laughed at the stories of Indian legend.. You know, the turtle chewed some mud, spat it out and North America was created.. Meanwhile the myths of the Catholic Church were even more far fetched.. The Immaculate Conception, The Burning Bush etc.. Moses parts the Red Sea.. the world was created 6,000 years ago.. Adam and Eve.. the snake and the apple.. the Body of Christ.. Loaves n Fishes - zany stuff.. and the Holy Bible was some twisted dictated mythology, handwritten by monks.. and the general population could not read.. this was stuff the Mayans did too, throwing sacrificial children off cliffs, or other horrible versions of some wild assed 'god'

Today I trust more to the turtle legend than Adam and Eve level mythology.. and not sadly.. the Holy Bible appears to be mainly horsetwaddle fabricated to hold the ignorant Christians under some wort of weekly mind control. I knew there were issues back in 1958 when a kindly priest rested his hand on my shoulder to list to my angelic voice.. it was a gentle grooming touch, but all of us altar boys knew the score.. it was a selection process

Today we should kiss organized religion goodbye and on Sunday or anyday.. bring a dog to old age homes.. push a wheelchair outside and to the Dairy Queen.. bring some chicken wings or Elmore Leonard books and read to our elders.. or visit hospitals dressed as clowns and cheer up the sick and injured.. just be great.. nice, kind, caring and screw the thoughts and prayers.. like do something more useful than being a religious idiot. Help with turkey dinner for the poor.. mash some potatoes, stir the gravy, hell, buy the damn turkey and drop it off with 10 pounds of stuffing

Back in the day near our farm at Orton, Ontario, population 80 - we attended local churches only for fowl supper, all the fixins, pies to die for.. and dropped off whatever we had just enjoyed.. exactly the same - to a hospital - two orders at least, ideally six. This was not my family's idea.. but a classmate's family who always did so.. and it was for the residents working night shift.. to share, eat, give away.. Nice big tinfoil containers.. dropped off at the nurses stations.. intensive care

Herman was a navy vet and chicken farmer.. There were always 4 dozen prime chickens he raised from every cycle that never made it to Colonel Sanders.. He never went to church could have walked there in 4 minutes, nor did my best buddy, his son.. He had better ideas.. Across the town line 500 feet away was a farm & custom butcher shop.. So hamburger, prepped chicken were run to from there to St Joseph's in Guelph by his son and thugs like me.. who had been stitched, our broken basketball noses set there.. those residents worked astonishing hours.. and we always suspected they spoon fed hospitalized elders.. the turkey n dressing.. ribbon winning blueberry pie & butter tarts from the Erin Fall Fair..

So that was religion to me.. lend a hand .. to any farmer as need be.. even if there's no pay.. even an entire haying season or long hours on the combine or pulling the plough.. just hike over and hop on a tractor or get up in the mow.. dress up and sit in the pew? Waste an entire Sunday morning? Listen to a pithy sermon? Gotta be kidding.. I would gather fiddlehead greens instead.. or study trout in the stream who were studying me at the source of the Speed River.. and a preying mantis on my arm was the kind of praying I was into

The Mound of Sound said...

Anon, I find it telling that you list a host of what you consider scoundrels but completely, and I suspect quite deliberately, leave out the worst of the lot, Beelzebub incarnate, Trump himself. It seriously detracts from the persuasiveness of your argument. However I'm sure you're not writing for me. You're writing for yourself.

The Mound of Sound said...

I understand completely, Sal.