As presidential candidates have announced their ambitions one thing that has been a constant, especially among the Republicans, is an intense effort to proclaim their religiosity - real or feigned - in an effort pander to the ignorant, superstitious party base. While personal religious belief - religion in general - should have no place in public discourse much less public policy, for these men, it's almost all about religion and the policies that far right Christianity demands no matter how inconsistent it is with the Gospel message of the New Testament. A column in Salon looks at the disgusting pandering and why it is important to confirm the real agenda of the candidates beyond mere lust for power and egomania. Here are excerpts:
Aspirants to the White House, both Democratic and Republican, have, as we all know, begun “announcing,” thus initiating, from a rationalist’s point of view, a media carnival featuring, on both sides, an array of supposedly God-fearing clowns and faith-mongering nitwits groveling before Evangelicals and nattering on about their belief in the Almighty and their certainty that if we just looked, we could find answers to many of our ills in the Good Book.The candidates will cloak their true agendas – serving the Lords of Wall Street far more zealously than Our Father who art (or really, art not) in heaven – in pious patter about “values,” about the need to “restore America” and return us to the state of divinely granted exceptionalism President Obama has so gravely squandered. This Season of Unreason will end with the elections of November 2016, but its consequences – validation of the idea that belief without evidence is a virtue, that religion, and especially Christianity, deserves a place in our politics, our Constitutionally enshrined secularism notwithstanding – will live on and damage the progressive cause.But it does not have to be this way. . . . . A survey just out shows that 7.5 million Americans have abandoned their faith since 2012, the year of the Pew Research Center poll that established that one out of five have no religious affiliation. Nonbelief is trending, and among a sizable, growing demographic.Professing belief in a fictitious celestial deity says a lot about the content of a person’s character, and what sort of policies he or she would likely favor. So, we should take a look at those who have announced so far, and what sort of religious views they hold. Let’s start with the Republicans.Paul, the eye-surgeon senator from Kentucky, is officially a “devout” Christian, but he has subtly hinted that he really does not believe. . . . Nevertheless, he says, he always does “come back” to Jesus. He closed his announcement speech asking for “God’s help” in getting elected. Whether he meant it, we don’t really know.. . .With the dapper Florida Sen. Marco Rubio we move into the more disturbing category of Republicans we might charitably diagnose as “faith-deranged” – in other words, as likely to do fine among the unwashed “crazies” in the red-state primaries, but whose religious beliefs would (or should) render them unfit for civilized company anywhere else. . . . . Yet even as a re-minted Catholic, Rubio cheats on the Pope with a megachurch in Miami called Christ Fellowship. As religion and politics blogger Bruce Wilson points out, Christ Fellowship is a hotbed of “demonology and exorcism, Young Earth creationism, and denial of evolution,” and is so intolerant it demands its prospective employees certify they are not “practicing homosexuals” and don’t cheat on their spouses.Yet of the Republicans, the most flagrant irrationalist is clearly Texas junior Sen. Ted Cruz. For starters, Cruz pandered fulsomely to the faith-deranged by choosing to announce at Liberty University, that bastion of darkness located in Lynchburg, Virginia. Once administered by the late Jerry Falwell, Liberty promises a “World Class Christian education” and boasts that it has been “training champions for Christ since 1971” – grounds enough, in my view, to revoke the institution’s charter and subject it to immediate quarantine until sanity breaks out. . . . . One wonders, in Cruz’s case, if the malady of faith isn’t acquired, but transmitted genetically. In 2013, his father Rafael, an Evangelical pastor, suggested interring atheists in “encampments” (or “Heathen Zones“) surrounded by an “electrified fence,” where they would be “free to dance naked around the fire, brand the mark of the Devil on their flesh or whatever else they want to do.” Should they escape, “we shoot them between the eyes.The sole Republican candidate unbound by religion’s “mind-forged manacles” appears to be the little-known Mark Everson, a native New Yorker who served as George W. Bush’s IRS commissioner. A dank, stygian gloom overhangs his campaign, however; he doesn’t even mention the Lord in his site’s “Letter to America.” He has thereby doomed himself among the faith-deranged. He gets next to no press.Hillary Clinton has announced, of course, by Twitter and a video, the first part of which was so bland I kept waiting for the tiny clickable SKIP THIS AD box to appear in the lower right-hand corner of the screen. The diversity of characters her clip features bodes well, though, for the faith-averse; she could not get away with ranting about the Bible unless she wanted to alienate such folk.Yet Hillary does believe. Not only that, she claims to have grown up in a family elbow-to-elbow with none other than the Almighty: “We talked with God, ate, studied, and argued with God.”Hillary aside, with the ex-pastor Mike Huckabee and the Roman Catholic Jeb Bush (both inclined to wear their faith on their sleeve), rationalists can contemplate a depressing, even infuriating, 19-month run-up to the election. Reporters should do their job and not allow any of these potential commanders-in-chief to get away with God talk without making them answer for it, as impolite as that might be. Religious convictions deserve the same scrutiny any other convictions get, or more. After all, they are essentially wide-ranging assertions about the nature of reality and supernatural phenomena. As always, the burden of proof lies on the one making extraordinary claims. And if the man or woman carrying the nuclear briefcase happens to be eagerly desiring the End of Days, we need to know.Here are some questions journalists might ask the candidates.You accept the New Testament, of course, which includes Matthew 5:18’s pronouncement that every last bit of the Bible shall be implemented, including the Old Testament, which enjoins the death penalty for all manner of often minor infractions and approves of behavior that, to put it kindly, is no longer acceptable (at least outside ISIS-occupied territory).So, if you accept the Bible in its totality, do you think sex workers should be burned alive (Leviticus 21:9) or that gays should be put to death (Leviticus 20:13)? Should women submit to their husbands, per Colossians 3:18? Should women also, as commands 1 Timothy 2:11, study “in silence with full submission?” Would you adhere to Deuteronomy 20:10-14 and ask Congress to pass a law punishing rapists by fining them 50 shekels and making them marry their victims and forbidding them to divorce forever?Will you call on Congress to repeal the Thirteenth Amendment and reinstate slavery, since the Bible, in 1 Peter 2:18, de facto sanctions the horrific practice and demands that slaves submit to their “masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the cruel?” Please clarify.Ted Cruz, will you denounce your father for his suggestion that atheists be tossed into camps?Marco Rubio, please explain how your membership in the fanatical homophobic cult of Christ Fellowship has influenced you? How much demonology do you believe? Has the Fellowship conducted any exorcisms lately? If so, have you taken part?
The media, of course, for the most part will not undertake this important task. Nonetheless, the batshitery of these "believers" needs to be called out over and over again. Make them explain what their supposed religiosity includes. Were that to happen, many sane Americans would run screaming for the GOP. The embrace of ignorance is NOT a virtue.