A theist told me that without god I’m just molecules in motion…
We are molecules in motion. Only not just.
We are also heirs (at the very least) to 5 thousand years of history, 14 thousand years of civilization, 50 thousand years of behavioral modernity, 3 billion years of biology, 14 billion years of physics, chemistry, and cosmology.
We are descended from the cosmos — “A way for the universe to know itself.”
Not a p a r t from it, but a part of it.
We are particles that dream. Atoms that love. Star dust configured to comprehend its own existence.
We are kin and kindred to every earthly organism that is or ever was and perhaps ever will be.
We sail across an ocean of human toil and pain and blood…and of hope.
We are curators of knowledge. Co-authors of the human story.
At our feet, all of human achievement, above us endless possibility, within us untapped potential.
And the truly beautiful part, the sweetest, most succulent, warm and fuzzy, spine-tingling, uplifting, stupefying, humbling, unequivocally, undeniably most beautiful part about it…
The Huffington Post has an interesting article about a recent Gallup poll showing that many Americans have lost confidence in organized religion. The shift represents a more than 22 point swing over the last forty years.
While the polls are clearly denoting a loss of faith in the institutions of organized religions and NOT a loss of faith in God or religious doctrine, they still represents cracks in the armor. Growing up, I don’t know that I held anyone outside of my immediate family in higher esteem than my church elders. Even after I was no longer a practicing Christian, I considered the ‘the cloth’ as an estimable position to have.
Very public scandals involving the Catholic church and televangelists preachers have clearly had a deteriorating effect on people’s trust in church leadership. There was the immediate effect of those scandals of course, but there were also long term effects. By painful example a religious title obviously doesn’t give a person greater insight into the human condition. It doesn’t make a person more wise or less prone to mistakes. It certainly doesn’t make a person better at decision-making.
I think another factor in this loss of confidence is the proliferation of the personal relationship with God central to evangelical Christianity–the fastest growing religion in the world. Evangelicals don’t need church fathers to intermediate between God and themselves. Through prayer and contemplation they seek the connection with God themselves and only turn to church officials for guidance in this effort.
While I still maintain that individual spirituality can have a obstructive impact on some advancements in science and technology as well as human rights, organized religion is the true culprit in the fight against cultural egality.
Most of the people I have observed who characterize themselves as spiritual rather than religious, no matter how similar their beliefs might be to organized religious dogma, do not presume nearly the same level of moral authority to impose those beliefs on others.
Obviously, the power of the church is far from broken. It’s more accurate to say the overall influence of the church is somewhat diminished and it has been considerably diminished over the last decade or so.
While it is my hope that–someday–everyone will come to see the merit–even wisdom–of skeptical reason, I have the utmost respect for religious freedom. In practical terms alone that goes to our basic freedoms of speech and thought. So I am not interested in any course that leads to the restriction or loss of rights for any churches or belief systems (except that any church that is politically active loses its tax exempt status. No one should be able to use tax free dollars to influence policy.)
It will be interesting to see how this trend continues. As an element of civilization, I think it is inevitable. The more we know, the less superstitious we become. Still, even the inevitable can take centuries and be rife with backslides and regressions. Hopefully, this trend will instead snowball to a point where we start moving towards policy dictated by evidence-based argument rather than unfounded claims based solely on religious beliefs.
It has been alleged that I like calling people stupid. 🙂
I actually don’t. It’s just an honest observation. Group think and mob mentality are well documented psychosocial states. Sometimes it manifests as a trend in the stock market other times as a guy being dragged to death behind a pick-up truck. Of course, stupidity comes in myriad forms.
I am not talking about people with legitimate cognitive disabilities, but rather people who fail (or refuse) to put adequate thought behind their words and deeds.
Like evil, stupidity is a result of behavior. It stems primarily from speaking or acting from ignorance. Ignorance is unawareness of–or disregard for–information, logic, reason, and common sense. So stupidity is nothing more than ignorance in action. It is learned and reversible.
And it is rampant in the United States of America.
This is mainly because we accept it. We allow people to espouse unfounded and illogical beliefs without challenge. We have a media that simply parrots talking points. We have an education system that is merely prep for standardized tests. We elect ignorant people to positions of power and allow them to use their ignorance to impact everyone.
So why do we do this?
As is often the case, it goes back to religion (I’m not trying to beat up on it, I’m just noting where things come from). Our nation has Christian roots. And what Christianity teaches us is that the sin that has doomed our entire race to suffering and strife is the acquisition of knowledge. Not envy, or wrath, or greed, not murder or rape, but knowledge. I’ve considered the Adam and Eve story allegorical for as long as I can remember. A disappointingly large number of people take it as literal. Either way, it’s unsurprising that after inculcating, even beating, this story into millions and millions of kids over the course of centuries, we have learned to distrust knowledge.
This distrust is nothing more than willful ignorance.
Education, discussion, and exposure to new people and experiences can do away with involuntary ignorance. Hey, I didn’t know cause I didn’t know. But with willful ignorance, commonly expressed as, “That’s just what I believe,” this baseless, line-in-the-sand positioning becomes a bulwark against enlightenment. It is often considered principled, even noble, to hold firm to one’s beliefs regardless of their validity. Unfortunately, it’s used to hurt people for “honorable” reasons.
But it is not noble or honorable. It’s hubris. It’s dangerous. And it’s antithetical to progress.
Essentially one is saying, I am going to keep believing in something even though I have no reason to believe it other than I want to. At issue in these instances actually isn’t the belief itself but rather the feeling of safety, security, comfort and stability one gets from believing it. Ignorance really is bliss.
This is common refuge for religious people. To some degree I understand the obstinance. Faith deals with ideas that are often reassuring, unquantifiable, and–most importantly–unfalsifiable. It feels good to believe it and it can’t be disproved, so there’s little motivation to stop believing it. Plus, science doesn’t have any better answers in many cases.
While this type of reasoning is actually unsound, there is a pure logic to it that appeases common sense…until you actually think about it. Pleasant fiction is still fiction.
The troubled waters really begin when this type of thinking spills over into other aspects of life, especially legislation.
When stupidity dictates policy you get Stand Your Ground and Sharia Law bans. You get our crumbling education system. You get bigotry, tribalism, and antipathy.
You also get the Texas state GOP rejecting higher thinking skills, including critical thinking, on their official party platform. Or you get the Louisiana lawmakers who passed a school voucher program allowing people to send their kids to Christian schools pulling their support for the program after people started using those same public funds to send their kids to Muslim schools. It’s how you get people scoffing at global warming every time it snows or refuting radiometric dating without an iota of expertise.
Of course, these are right-wing issues.
On the left, fear of vaccines and other pharmaceutical drugs are built largely on conjecture, unfounded claims, and circumstantial evidence. Any charlatan with an alphabet soup after their name can write a book and present it to the masses as a breakthrough. The lay person lacks the acumen to challenge it. But does that book hold up to the scrutiny of other experts in their field? The only thing these miracle herbalists and holistic healers need to do is demonstrate–to other experts in the field–that their methods get consistent results–that anyone who follows their processes can duplicate. That is the standard for the scientific method.
Most of the people I’ve had discussions with could not articulate that standard of proof. We haven’t been taught to think in those terms. We believe what we want to believe.
So we do need better education. But we also need to let go of our own arrogance. We need to stop presuming that we’re right all the time. We need to stop thinking that we know and start proving that we know. We’ve got to stop being scared of challenging our beliefs.
I lean towards skepticism because it makes the fewest presumptions. It’s mantra is simply that I will believe whatever there is sufficient reason to believe.
It’s a renunciation of absolutes and it’s far from sexy. For some, it may seem like a cold proposition (of course, that is once again basing one’s beliefs on feelings rather than facts). Admittedly, the argument that there’s more to life than what you can measure and calculate has merit. But in terms of what rules we make to live by, we should go by a reality that we can mutually demonstrate. The standards should rely on independently verifiable evidence.
This means getting past life by je ne sais quoi, and into the realm of the provable, quantifiable, and falsifiable.
That means getting past stupidity, which means letting go of our ignorance, which begins by admitting that we are ignorant.
I know, it doesn’t feel good, but it gets better (I hope! :o).
And it’s important to remember that the problem is not the lack of knowledge but rather acting on the lack of knowledge.
Changing the culture is a generational thing. But it’s possible. And it starts with each of us.
President Barrack Obama has “evolved” to conform with the growing majority opinion across the country that LGBT Americans are Constitutionally entitled to the same rights as heterosexual Americans, including marriage.
The president had been inexplicably resistant to the idea of marriage equality even though his administration had otherwise made great strides in promoting LGBT rights. He always described his position on gay marriage as evolving. (As opposed to waiting for the right time, I guess. Classic Obama.)
Nevertheless, public opinion was changing and pressure was mounting. The Democratic party supplied the screws. Joe Biden tightened them on Meet the Press last Sunday. Then Amendment 1 passed in North Carolina. It imposes a state constitutional ban on gay marriage, civil unions, and domestic partnerships.
Apparently it combined with the previous environmental conditions to push President Obama’s evolution past the tipping point.
Obama is hilarious sometimes. But hey, you take the wins where and when they come.
This flip-flop/concession/self-realization/admittance of an actual belief moves us all one step closer to an America that recognizes the Constitutional rights of all citizens equally and the basic human rights of all humankind.
According to pastor Dale Davis, “I do think we have a right to say what businesses come to our community and we as a Christian community, we feel this is not a business we want in our community.”
Councilman Dennis Lujan is not so lily-livered in his opinion, informing the potential entrepreneurs, “You’re not welcome here, period.”
Forthwith, the Selma city council held a standing-room only meeting to craft an ordinance banning fortune tellers from operating within city limits (seriously). This, of course, is after the council learned that their current ban on fortune tellers was ruled unconstitutional a quarter century ago.
Aren’t these guys always talking about free markets and small government?
Selma is apparently overrun with fool-ass-clowns. It’s not a new development.
I’ve come to realize, and this Selma side-show clearly illustrates it, that many of these Christian fundamentalists see the U.S. Constitution in the same way they see the Holy Bible: as a confirmation of their personal beliefs irrespective of what the texts actually say. It’s like the people who argue that taxes are illegal even though it says in the Constitution, quite plainly, that congress has the power to levy and collect taxes and apportion those taxes as it sees fit.
Fundamentalists consider the very existence of lifestyles and opinions they personally disagree with as an attack on their way of life. So logically, attacking those other lifestyle choices and opinions is simply the defense of their own way of life. Forced vaginal probes impede the murder (as they see it) of unborn and in some instances–yet to be conceived–children. It doesn’t register for them that such a law could possibly be an attack on women.
Ships pass in the abyss.
Okay. So money out of politics first and foremost, of course. But whenever we get to the point where we can start really fixing education, we need an emphasis on civics and especially the U.S. Constitution, because there are a lot of people possessed of abject ignorance to what it says, and more importantly, what it means.
You might have heard about how U.S. Representative and incendiary quote factoryAllen West–an early candidate for both Fool of the Year and Fool of the Decade honors–followed up his not-so-subtle claim that “78-81” Democratic congressional members are card-carrying members of the Communist Party with the equally untrue assessment that economic justice is un-American.
(There are roughly 78 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC)–all Democrats. Again, not subtle.)
What you might not have heard is that the supposedly-Communist CPC proposed a budget in March of this year (which they suspiciously named The People’s Budget–Uh-oh!).
Their budget is designed to eliminate the deficit by 2021–in fact, it creates a budget surplus, while preserving Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.
This is primarily done by cutting waste in defense spending, applying the Buffet Rule, taxing capital gains as regular income, and eliminating oil subsidies and corporate loopholes from the tax code. Their budget enacts a public option for healthcare. It fixes–REPEAT–fixes Social Security’s insolvency. It invests US$1.45 trillion in job creation, education, clean energy, housing, and broadband infrastructure. It promotes energy independence. It eliminates emergency war funding which will help prevent presidents from going to war without congressional consent (as mandated by that pesky U.S. Constitution).
In short, this is a budget that is not only balanced, but saves money by reducing spending overall, eliminating waste, and moving us closer to a flat tax rate (for all but the very poor). It might sound made up but it’s not. I got all this directly out of the actual budget proposal (which you can read here).
The CPC budget stands in stark contrast to the budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan which devastates social programs, imbalances the tax code even more in favor of the rich and large corporations, and in the end INCREASES the deficit by more than US$3 trillion. Despite being denounced by religious leaders as “immoral” and “irresponsible,” the Republican majority in the House passed the Ryan Budget on March 29, 2012.
The CPC budget proposal was voted down the very same day, 78-346. It barely managed a ripple in the national media. And Allen West called them communists for proposing it.
(A bipartisan budget proposal incorporating ideas from both sides also went down in flames that day.)
West has been one of the louder voices in the cacophony denouncing social justice as socialism, communism, Marxism, Leninism, Maoism, hell, syllogism, and whatever other ism they think will get a rise out of people.
Much as socialism and capitalism have been locked hand-in-hand by our Constitution, so has liberty and justice (I’m pretty sure I heard that somewhere). Before the Founders even got started with the particulars of how our newly formed nation would work, they made their intentions clear:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
My glasses might be smudgy but I think justice is first. Now obviously this isn’t a prioritized list but justice seems to at least be equally important as the other things. I hear so much talk of liberty being an American value. Yet when many people say that they only mean economic liberty. Oddly, many of these same people don’t interpret justice to include economic justice.
Communism dictates that an engineer and a janitor should earn the same income. It’s ridiculous. I’d be willing to bet that less than 0.01% of Americans believe anything remotely close to that. What I believe, and I think many other Americans believe, is that a janitor should be able to put food on his family’s table and a roof over their heads. That his kids should have access to a college education. That no children should starve. That no one should die of untreated illnesses or exposure to the elements.
These are not radical assaults on American liberty. They are American values that simply place a higher priority on justice. There’s actually a reasonable argument to be made that economic justice increases liberty because it allows more people the freedom to enjoy it.
Allen West’s type of partisan name-calling is usually just a means of deflection. Unfortunately, so are the calls for a “change in the tone” of political discourse. I disagree. Our lives, our freedoms, our futures–and our children’s futures–are at stake. We should be passionate about these things, so long as that passion doesn’t supersede truth and reason.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
This is the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, one of the most broadly interpreted–and hotly contested–parts of the U.S. Constitution.
The Establishment Clause was initially interpreted to mean the U.S. Congress only. Many of the states had already adopted official churches. However, by the early 19th century–when many of the founding fathers were still involved in governance–the interpretation had already been broadened to include elements of state and local government. However, the Clause didn’t formally include the states until the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1947 ruling on Emerson vs. The Board of Education. The ruling echoed writings by Thomas Jefferson on the subject in which he envisioned a “wall of separation” between the government and the church. It makes sense. They had just rebelled against a Christian theocracy; it stands to reason that they wouldn’t want to re-establish the same system here in America.
Like many of the ideals expressed in the Constitution, our interpretation of the church/state relationship has evolved. Both sides have positions rooted in the origins of our nation. The real question is, do we want to progress with those ideals or go backwards?
This is where Conservatives and strict Constitutionalists miss the point. The greatness of the U.S. Constitution is its adaptability to the needs of the times while maintaining core values regarding liberty, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, pursuit of happiness, et al; not because it was perfect as-ratified in 1788, long before the automobile, the airplane, the nuclear bomb, modern medicine, and the Internet. Remember, the Constitution also allowed for slavery and counted slaves as 3/5 of a person.
But then Christian fundamentalism has its roots in the vestiges of slave culture. In the 1960s Republicans courted southern whites enraged over the Civil Rights Movement as part of the Southern Strategy. Republicans positioned themselves not simply as proponents of Christianity, but rather as defenders of Christian supremacy. This is not about protecting peoples’ right to worship; it’s about imposing their particular brand of Christianity on all Americans.
This brand of Christian fundamentalism is called Dominionism, the belief that secular government must be eliminated in favor of theocracy. It’s basically fascism toting a crucifix. Rick Perry, Michelle Bachmann, and Sarah Palin number among the nationally known Republicans who subscribe to this theory.
…Which brings us back to the Establishment Clause.
I believe that, much like the issue of slavery, the Founding Fathers were not stauncher in their enforcement of the Establishment Clause in the interests of pragmatism. It would have been detrimental to the birth of the new nation to embroil it in a battle over economics and religion.
Yet regardless of how we might interpret the Establishment Clause, what is not debatable is that the Founders did not intend for us to be a theocracy, Christian or otherwise. How do we know this? The Constitution itself. All the framers needed to do was state, “These United States of America shall be a theocratic union…” or ” The official religion of these United States shall be…” or something to that effect. The fact that such language is notably absent from the Constitution speaks volumes about the Founding Fathers’ intentions.
Of course, there are the words of the Founding Fathers themselves:
“And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. But may we hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this most venerated reformer of human errors.” —Thomas Jefferson, Letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823
“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.” –George Washington, Farewell Address
“The priesthood have, in all ancient nations, nearly monopolized learning. And ever since the Reformation, when or where has existed a Protestant or dissenting sect who would tolerate A FREE INQUIRY? … But touch a solemn truth in collision with a dogma of a sect, though capable of the clearest proof, and you will find you have disturbed a nest, and the hornets will swarm about your eyes…and fly into your face…” — John Adams, letter to John Taylor
“It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are 20 gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”–Thomas Jefferson
The Christian Right mistakenly argues that our nation’s founders were all Christians (much less wanted a Christian theocracy). Many did believe. Many others, including, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams were Deists. It stands to reason then, that they would want a nation in which all people were free to believe–or not believe–as they choose. It was a concept unique in the world at the time and which many Christian fundamentalists have difficulty comprehending.
Obviously, faith can be a guide, but it cannot be the basis by which laws are made.That would, by definition, make us a theocracy, no different structurally than Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.
This is where the Republican party bears responsibility. In courting the Christian fundamentalist vote they have perpetuated a dangerous element in politics. And the Republican leadership supported fundamentalism not because they shared their deep, albeit hateful, type of faith. They did it to acquire a devoted, factually ignorant, and malleable voting block, one conditioned to accept cloudy answers and fall in line with a simple call to faith.
They set discriminatory and oppressive policies, cherry-picked in the interests of their own insecurities, and shroud them in religion. They claim their purposes are noble; faith is personal and sacred; and to challenge their beliefs is disrespectful and taboo. In fact, we are the cultural assailants because we won’t let them impose their beliefs on us.
On top of all of that, the most terrifying thing about these Christian extremists is their longing for the Rapture. Call it Armageddon, call it Judgement Day, they yearn for the destruction of this world because they believe God’s Kingdom awaits them on the other side. True, the Christian extremists controlling the Republican party want to fundamentally change our form of government. But their ultimate goal is a Holy War. Therefore, it is incumbent upon both people of reason and reasonable faith to join together to not only oppose Republican Dominionism but to eradicate its influence from American politics. This is not about abortion rights. It’s not about gay marriage or the social safety net or U.S. foreign policy.
This is about what kind of America we want to live in: a Christian theocracy based on a narrow interpretation of the Bible, or a nation of laws based on reason, liberty, and equality of opportunity for everyone. We have to decide and then fight for it.
Otherwise we are going to reap the whirlwind.
This is the end of Bill Maher’s documentary Religulous. It’s a bit too broad and propagandized, but hyperbole aside, it’s accurate about a point many people don’t want to talk about.
Ayn Rand is definitely one of the more interesting thinkers of the 20th Century. Conservatives absolutely love her. She’s the jam to their jelly roll.
Ms. Rand pioneered a philosophy called Objectivism, which argues that reality exists as an independent absolute. There is no God, no spirituality, no insight, no intuition, and no instinct; there is only man–made heroic by self-determination–his perception, and the cold hard reason by which he can comprehend this reality. Since there are no higher powers, the crux of morality is rational self-interest. We have no intrinsic moral responsibility to our community. Self sacrifice is a fool’s endeavor. In other words, get yours.
It’s not warm and fuzzy, but it’s rational–after a fashion–and served as an interesting counterbalance to the existentialist malaise pervading 20th century Europe.
According to Ms. Rand, the highest form of government is 100% free-market capitalism: No regulations, no health or safety standards, no taxes, no labor laws, etc. This is the best environment for the self-determined individual to prosper and the cream to rise. As for the unlucky, well, they deserve whatever fate they receive. Life’s hard.
This is where her philosophy goes wonky. Ms. Rand believed that in an utterly laissez-faire environment people will somehow, for some inexplicable and–by her own rationale–unjustified reason, come together and engage in honest, fair, well-intentioned business with one another.
Liberals are always painted as dreamers and idealists with our heads in the clouds. Meanwhile, this free-market-heals-all-wounds Shangri-la bullshit is the biggest political fiction of the last century…except for maybe supply-side economics. (Ironically, Rand was a chain smoker and contracted lung cancer from cigarettes manufactured by an unregulated tobacco company that lied about the effects of its product.)
The fundamental flaw here is that objectivism holds the rights of the individual as the highest moral good. Yet it doesn’t take much thinking to come up with plenty of circumstances where the needs of the group would exceed the needs of the individual. We are not islands. Establishing and maintaining market standards, transportation, communication, and defense would ensure an overall better standard of living for more people. In objectivism, the rights of one individual supercede the rights of the group. The theory that unregulated markets will lead us to Utopia where there won’t be rampant lying, cheating, scamming, robbery, graft, racketeering, intimidation, violence, and murder is fantastical and was disproved by history long ago.
I could spend all day picking apart this cockamamie philosophy. But the truly repugnant aspect I take from it–and that Republicans embrace–is the disregard for their fellow man. Objectivists believe that we are not beholden to one another; that it’s a better world when we’re all just looking out for ourselves. There are no higher authorities, therefore the ultimate moral good is to get as filthy stinking rich as you can.
Decent, rational people cannot possibly believe this.
To Ms. Rand’s credit, she was at least consistent. She believed the government had no right to impose, either to help or to hinder.
Republicans however, use Rand’s philosophy to justify corporate cronyism. It is the ultimate goal of the Republican Party to eliminate all government-run social programs and give those proceeds to the top 1%. There is no level of success or amount of good that can be done that will change their minds about the social safety net. We could end illiteracy, end hunger, hell, we could wipe out cancer; if the government took a penny from a single citizen to do it, they consider it philosophically and morally wrong. And they will continue to actively undermine these programs to further their agenda…no matter who gets hurt by it.
This is grand-scale sociopathy. Republicans justify their cruelty by blaming the poor and infirm, stereotyping them as weak, lazy, and dumb. They admit that “something” should be done to help them; but proclaim that the government has no place imposing in such matters, even if it’s the will of the majority. Somebody has to die of disease or starvation or exposure–not because we can’t prevent it, but because we have no responsibilityTOprevent it.
This is some sinister shit.
It’s Republican red meat.
And it’s yet another reason to hate what they represent.
P.S. A longer, more objective version of Ayn Rand’s interview (Mike Wallace still kinda steps all over her rather than just letting her speak her piece):
So I’m coming back to this series of blogs discussing what I hate about Republicans discussing one point in each blog. At some point, I plan to move on to what I hate about Democrats, politics in general, and the media (probably sometime in the fall of 2071 at this rate :(). What I initially expected to be 3 or 4 subjects quickly expanded as I started giving the topic some thought. I limited it to 10:
Obviously, I could write a book on each and every topic–and maybe that’s something I will ultimately do. The problem with blogging in such a partitioned way is the loss of context which I think is crucial to understanding what Republicans are trying to do.
A good example of this is an element of social conservative philosophy I–and others on the left–call the Fall From Grace theory. For many social conservatives, the Founding Fathers are, like Christ and the Disciples (or Adam and Eve), fetishized archetypes representing the purity and apex of an ideal–an ideal from which, according to conservatives, we have strayed. Having fallen from grace we need to “get back to our core values” in order to right the ship.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? It should. This is a key tenet of fundamentalism.
Obviously this is a nonsensical concept since America’s values have been evolving constantly since our nation’s inception (see slavery, women’s suffrage, civil rights, etc.). Nor were our founding Fathers of one unified mind. Their greatness lies in their ability to bring such strong willed and brilliant men of wildly disparate opinions not only to accord but an accord that still stands among the great achievements in political thought. But Republicans don’t overly concern themselves about being historically accurate (I’m looking at you, Newt). In fact, they outright oppose it. Tea Party Republicans in Tennessee are fighting to have slavery–and the fact that many Founding Fathers owned them–removed from history books (And don’t even think about mentioning Thomas Jefferson’s jungle fever). They don’t want anything that makes America ‘look bad’ being taught to children.
This is Orwellian propaganda at its unmitigated worst.
Yet the reasoning behind this philosophy is synergistic. It incorporates several Republican/conservative ideologies that I am critical of including anti-Americanism, extreme nationalism, and Christian fundamentalism. This is a crystal clear snapshot of their vision for America. But when you break the actions down into parts, you can lose the image of the whole.
The Republican party needs to be exposed for what it is: a party of fear and hate.
Force conservatives to either admit to that fear and hatred or distance themselves from it. And if you want make the argument that the Democratic party has titanic problems as well, I’ll be the first to agree with you. But the Democrats aren’t pushing for more war in Iran and Palestine. Democrats aren’t legislating against LGBT Americans’ right to marry. Democrats aren’t trying to take reproductive and contraceptive rights away from women. Democrats aren’t pushing stupid laws like Florida’s stand-your-ground self-defense law, which let Trayvon Martin’s killer walk away from the scene of the crime without arrest, murder weapon in hand. Democrats aren’t trying to re-segregate schools in North Carolina, or take the truth out of American history classes, or science out of education. Democrats aren’t trying to prevent Muslims from building mosques and practice their religion freely.
These are things we should be talking about. I don’t want to lose the general idea of Republican lunacy because I keep fixing my nose to each little point.
‘Cause there is a lot to hate about today’s Republican party.
This post was inspired by a rant on Sinister Blog and the subsequent comments and responses. I’ll be reiterating some of the ideas discussed there.
Why do Republicans hate women?
The answer is, they don’t. They just hate strong independent women. They hate women who think they are the equal of men. For them this hate is justified; men are physically stronger.
Might makes right. Right?
Leaving aside the fact that pretty much any woman is capable of picking up a .357 and turning your dome into a stadium, we live in the age of information and technology. Brains are far more important than brawn. (And for those of you who would argue that women aren’t as intelligent as men, I would say that this is the point where I must beg your leave so that you may return to digging in the mud with your mighty fine stick. Never argue with fools, I says; let them run and play.)
For the rest of us, we need to understand how we got to this point before we can truly determine where we need to go.
1. Back Story
Religion, as in nearly all things in our culture, plays a significant role in the subjugation of women. Religion didn’t give birth to misogyny, it merely justified it.
Back in the hunter-gatherer days, marriage didn’t really exist, not the way we consider it today. Groups of people stuck together for protection and to raise young but there was, generally speaking, and so far as we can tell, no higher purpose.
As hunting and gathering gave way to farming, the importance of owning stuff increased. People wanted to pass their lands on to their kids. A fertile wife could provide lots of children to help out around the farm. So a “good woman’ (i.e a virtuous woman) had value. Monetary value. A virtuous woman was one about whom their could be no controversy regarding the paternity of children. The easiest way ensure this was by marrying a virgin. Thus a virtuous woman was either a virginal woman or a faithful mother and wife. At the same time, nobody wanted this other woman to take the family’s hard-earned (and often hard-fought for) possessions, so ownership passed from father to son. A woman was considered an asset, like a sturdy mule.
So marriage wasn’t always the wondrous union of love-struck souls it supposedly is now; it was a business transaction. This social contract was codified pretty much unanimously in the western religious texts:
Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour’s wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour’s house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbour’s.
We always quote the first part, but not the rest. Kinda changes the meaning, doesn’t it? And remember that the Old testament is a canonical religious text for Jews, Christians, and Muslims. There are other texts that demand a woman’s submission to man, but Deuteronomy clearly illustrates the idea that a woman was viewed as a man’s property, like his slaves, his animals, and his land.
2. Present Predicament.
Like all things, the role of woman has evolved over time. What has remained constant, however, is that in nearly every return to cultural piety, the status of women is greatly reduced. There currently is an effort to return to those times once more.
Unlike many other issues of social injustice, gender discrimination is not confined to religious fundamentalism. It is far more pervasive and goes to the core of our culture itself. The true liberation of women requires a fundamental redefining of gender roles. Women can take care of themselves and no longer need men to provide for them. When a man can no longer hold over a woman provision for her lifestyle, he is forced to use other, less developed skills to maintain her favor. It gives women much more control in relationships and other social interactions.
Additionally, women have increasingly become legitimate competitors in the professional world. Women graduate from high school, college, and graduate school at higher rates than men. Women also tend to get better grades in school. More young women have become disinterested in starting a family, preferring instead to pursue other interests.
Then comes the scary part: women asserting their sexuality. Women have become increasingly free to explore and express their sexual desires and interests. And it turns out, women are as kinky and perverted as men (over 30% of all pornography is purchased by women). That all sounds fine and dandy…until your girlfriend breaks out a surprise apparatus she wants to try on you.
Things can get a bit confusing.
I believe this confusion has led to resentment from men and women alike. The backlash seems to have started sometime in the 1990s when women’s liberation was rolling along.
I started hearing terms like feminazi catching steam. “Shut up and make me a sandwich” jokes started making the rounds again. Then corporations began doubling down on the glass ceiling. Equal pay became an unreasonable demand because women are hormonal and unreliable employees. In the media, women became increasingly portrayed as victims of physical and sexual brutality or objectified for their sexual beauty. Pornography got flat out violent. Slut shaming became vogue again. And now, reproductive decision-making is being taken out of women’s hands and given to the state.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to see the interconnectivity between these events. They’re man’s way of reasserting gender dominance. Unfortunately for its proponents, this reassertion is nothing more than a last desperate gasp. In the end, the War on Women will share the same fate as the Jim Crow south. The extreme vestiges will linger; the rest will die.
3. Looking Forward.
As with any movement in social justice, action must be purposeful and deliberate. And in the push for women’s rights we are doubly obstructed. Women are as confused by the redefining of gender roles as men. Many women conform to the male-driven ideal of sexual objectification and submission to remain appealing; many other women conform because they agree with it. Plus, many women are confined by their own guilt and shame about their sexuality.
The problem is we cannot, as a society, empower women; women must empower themselves (see Rihanna & Chris Brown). Society can only give women tools: the information and social programming that will allow them to suffer neither fools nor abuse by a fool’s hand; and to explore their own individuality without constraint or societal judgment. Women’s liberation is not about making every woman a bisexual-chic big city professional; it’s about a woman being accepted for whatever she chooses to be.
If we truly love women as we claim, we will all work (and fight) to ensure such a future.