Thursday, March 31, 2011
Now, to understand how someone who is considering running for our nation's highest office could say something like that and be taken seriously, we have to understand the crowd to which he was speaking. John Hagee's church in San Antonio is one of the most influential mega-churches in the U.S. Hagee is known to have far-reaching ties in Washington and with Israel. The people who fill the pews at Cornerstone Church are probably far more likely to vote for someone who shares their Christian conservative values (at least vocally claims to share their values despite being on his third wife) than they are someone who may take a more moderate approach to their religion and politics. It is easy for the Newts of the country to stroll into that environment and make absurd claims like he did. Most of them probably didn't think twice about what he said because they have probably been filled with similar nonsense claims for years. Claims such as the frequently heard (at least on Fox News and out of the mouths of conservative Christian politicians and pundits) erroneous idea that Christians are a persecuted minority in the U.S.
This is little rant I had on facebook and would like to share it here. It is not intended to offend but I cannot be responsible for what others find offensive. As I am currently jobless (but searching) I have more time on my hands than usual and spend some of that time reading the news and following specific types of legislation. The following issues are just some of the more troubling problems I see with American politics today. I know it is quite lengthy, but please read on and provide your comments if you would like.
It has recently become increasingly intolerable to watch or read the news. Everywhere you turn there are stories of legislatures, both state and federal, attempting to pass laws that threaten women's health, science education, and church/state separation, among others. As a Marine Corps veteran, and recent college graduate, I find it troubling how some of our elected leaders are trying to "solve" our nations' problems. From bills being considered that would require doctors to pass on debunked myths (1) to women considering the incredibly difficult decision to have an abortion, to bills that would allow for the stealth introduction of "intelligent design," aka creationism, in our public school classrooms (2), the religious right and the conservatives in our government seem to be trying to spread their version of religious morality via the legislative process. While I am not one to try to tell people they have to shelve their religious beliefs, I am opposed to the religious beliefs of elected officials being used to introduce bills that are inherently religious in nature.
A recent bill sponsored by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) would allow hospitals that receive government funding to deny life-saving abortions to women (3). I don't know how someone can claim to be "pro-life" and be in support of this bill. The idea that a woman could be denied a life-saving operation because of the religious view points of hospital staff is disturbing, wrong, and quite frankly, inhumane. Yet this Congressman is part of the so-called "Pro-Life Caucus." How is it pro-life to say that sometimes women should just die with their unborn fetus? How do these people view women? As walking wombs? They certainly don't appear to value women for anything other than that. If it came down to choosing between my wife and our unborn child, I choose my wife. I wonder what Rep. Pitts would do if his wife, or his daughter, were in this position? Would he be fine with letting her die? For some reason, I doubt it. However, this is not the only bill introduced that would devalue and endanger the lives of women. You may have heard of the bill that attempts to redefine rape in cases where the victim is impregnated by her attacker (4). Now, this bill was altered because of the uproar it caused, but it nevertheless was introduced. As it stands, federal funds can be used for abortion in cases of rape, incest, or when the mothers life was at risk. This bill intended to make it so that federal funds could only be used in cases of "forcible rape." As if there is any other kind of rape? It also tried to put an age limit on when victims of incest could have a federally funded abortion - if the victim was over the age of 18, well, oh well. I guess at 18 she should be okay with incest? Per usual, these bills, among many others, were introduced by religious men. Because they apparently know what is best for women.
Although less disgusting in nature, the bills popping up all across the country in favor of teaching "intelligent design" in public classrooms are also troubling (2). If this were even five or ten years ago, these bills would have directly advocated the teaching of intelligent design in public schools, as was the case in 2005 in Dover, PA (5). If it were 25 to 100 years ago, the bills would have directly advocated the teaching of creationism in public schools. Now, however, the bills are aimed at "teaching the controversy." As intelligent design/creation backers have consistently been handed defeat after defeat in court, they have had to change up their game. Now, instead of pushing for their religious-based doctrine to be taught in public schools directly, they have come up with the nifty little idea of "teaching the controversy" or "academic freedom." Of course, this supposed controversy doesn't exist in mainstream science but only in the minds of those who believe that the complex nature of the Earth and life itself are indicators of the hand of an intelligent designer (in the case of most ID proponents this "designer" is of course the biblical god).
The problem with this idea though is that not only is it not scientific but it cannot separate itself from its creationist origins. I know there are people out there who would disagree with me, and I ask one question to those people: When describing intelligent design, does your argument not end up being something along the lines of "this is complex and science has yet to explain it, therefore it was intelligently designed (aka god did it)?" Another tactic of the ID crowd is to point out "flaws" or "gaps" in the existing scientific explanations. However, just because there may be a gap in a scientific explanation does not mean that their "explanations" warrant merit. Until their explanations can be proven or viewed as genuine science by the scientific community, they are merely making noise for those who view science as anti-god. Science has no room for supernatural "explanations" because science deals with the natural world, or in other words, reality. People can choose to believe what they want (whether that be the biblical story of creation or modern day intelligent design) but that does not mean it is science and should therefore be taught as such in our public schools. As other societies are advancing in science, we seem to be going backward. Our society seems to be growing more and more ignorant as the days pass and denying our future leaders a solid education in science is not the way for us to continue to advance.
It is rather disturbing to me to listen to some of the leading voices of the current republican/tea party/conservative movement as of recent. From Rep. Michelle Bachmann's claims that the motto "E Pluribus Unum" is somehow anti-American (6) to the near constant claims on Fox News programs (specifically Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly, and Sean Hannity) that Christians are being oppressed in the U.S., it seems clear that these people are disconnected with reality. It is not uncommon to hear someone make the argument that you can't pray in public, or that secularists are trying to take god out of the U.S. How can anyone take this argument seriously? Christians are oppressed in the U.S.? Really? As far as I know, out of the 535 elected members of Congress there is only one non-theist and one Muslim. Every other Congressperson is Christian or Jewish. Roughly 85% of our entire population shares some form of Christian faith. So, is the idea that since they are not being allowed to run roughshod over everyone else, they are being oppressed?
Another issue is the hypocritical approach that some conservatives take to morality. Take Newt Gingrich for example. The man is on his third wife. He divorced one wife, while she was battling cancer, for the woman with whom he was having an affair. Yet, he is always preaching on about morals and how secularists are taking morality out of America. He was a key player in the call to have President Clinton impeached. Given his track record, I would say he is in no place to be passing judgment on others. Or how about Sarah Palin, the conservative/tea party darling? She is a strong advocate for abstinence only education, yet isn't she the one who had a pregnant 16 year old daughter? Another issue I have with conservatives lately is their apparent lack of knowledge regarding our nations' history. Take Rep. Bachmann for example. The woman claimed that the founding fathers fought tirelessly "until slavery was no more" (7). Anyone who thinks that is true is in serious need of education. How about the near constant claims from conservatives that the U.S. is a Christian nation and not a secular one? Do they not understand that our nation was not founded on the bible? Our government was founded by men who were escaping religious persecution. Their experiences with religion controlled governments were severe enough that they ensured that the government they were forming was not controlled by a church but by the people. That is not to say that many of the founders were not Christian. Many were. However, that does not equate to a Christian government. If the founders had decided to include Christianity, or the bible, or Jesus, or anything religious in nature in the Constitution, it would be in the Constitution, which it is not. Funny thing... the only parts of the Constitution that discuss matters of religion are the parts limiting its involvement in government or the governments' involvement in religion. Seems rather clear to me that their intent was to, as Thomas Jefferson wrote, build "a wall of separation between church and state" (8).
I should say that I am not a democrat, nor republican, nor liberal or conservative. I consider myself a moderate and an independent. I do not agree with much of the conservative stance nor much of the liberal stance. It just seems that recently I have much more concern with the conservative, religious agenda. As someone who gave five years of my life to defending the Constitution of the United States of America, I am simply concerned with the course our elected leaders are taking. It is my sincere hope that people will wake up and stop accepting the things they hear on Fox News programs as truth. Until then, I can only expect to continue to hear news stories like the ones I've referenced. As a secular American, I only hope that people stop using their privately held religious beliefs to demonize, degrade, threaten, control, and oppress those who do not share their mythical beliefs or don't live up to their hypocritical moral ideals. Citizens of the United States need to wake up and realize that what the religious right is fighting for is not good for America. Unless, of course, that America is a theocracy, in which case, we're on the right track. I have more to say on the matter but will end for now. Please, feel free to share your thoughts, concerns or arguments with me.
Part II to come...
Links to articles:
1) Abortion leads to increased risk of breast cancer - http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/09/indiana-women-abortions-breast-cancer_n_833388.html
2) A quick look at this page will show you the bills being considered: http://ncse.com/