Wednesday, March 20, 2013

As Their Power Declines in America, Christofascists Are Moving to Developing Countries

Perhaps realizing that the cancer of religious based ignorance and bigotry is dying in America - the rapid upsurge in support for gay marriage is but one example - the Christofascists are busy exporting their hate and venom to the developing world where uneducated populations provide a more receptive audience to their anti-science and fear and based form of Christianity.  Hence the Catholic Church's rapid growth in Africa even as it is losing power and respect in the developed world.  Would that the Christofascists would emigrate themselves.  A lengthy article in AlterNet looks at the phenomenon (read the full piece).  Here are some highlights:

Sometime last year, the US quietly passed a milestone demographers had long been predicting: for the first time in its history, this country is no longer majority Protestant. Fewer than 50 percent of Americans now identify as Protestant Christians of any denomination. 

 This change has come on surprisingly recently, and from a historical perspective, with breathtaking speed.  As recently as 1993, almost two-thirds of Americans identified as Protestants, a number that had remained stable for the several preceding decades. But sometime in the 1990s, the ground started to shift, and it's been sliding ever since.   .   .   .   The rise of so-called megachurches, like Rick Warren's Saddleback Church in California or Mark Driscoll's Mars Hill in Seattle, represents not growth, but consolidation. 

What's happening to these vanishing Protestants? For the most part, they're not converting to any other religion, but rather are walking away from religion entirely. They're becoming " nones," as the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life puts it. It seems likely that this is the same secularizing trend being observed in Europe, as people of advanced, peaceful democracies find religion increasingly irrelevant to their daily lives. 

The spokespeople of the religious right have noticed this trend as well, but it's clear they have very little idea what to do about it. In a column from 2005, Albert Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, declared that "theological liberalism" is at fault for Christianity's decline, and that the only thing they need to do to reverse it is to make "a bold commitment to biblical authority." Far from it, the evidence is clear that churches clinging to antiquated dogma are part of the problem, as young people turn away from their strident decrees about gays and women. 

As their power declines in America and Europe, they're[fundamentalists]  increasingly moving abroad, to developing countries not as far along the secularization curve, where they often find a more receptive audience. 

The first example is Uganda, where the most despicable kind of American culture warriors have run amok with horrifying results. Since 2009, the country's parliament has been debating an "Anti-Homosexuality Bill," which among other things would establish a crime of "aggravated homosexuality," punishable by life imprisonment or death.

It's not just LGBT people in Uganda who've been harmed by the spread of aggressive evangelicalism. American megachurch pastor Rick Warren has a Ugandan protege, a pastor named Martin Ssempa, who has preached aggressively against contraception (in one bizarre public stunt, he burned condoms in the name of Jesus). 

American evangelicals have spread their poisonous influence to other African countries as well. A report by Political Research Associates, " Globalizing the Culture Wars," chronicles in detail how American religious-right groups, especially the theologically conservative Institute on Religion and Democracy, have worked together with their counterparts in Africa to foment homophobia and oppose feminism and gender equality. Uganda, Nigeria and Kenya, three major English-speaking African nations, have seen the brunt of this effort.

In part, religious conservatives are doing this as a power play against religious liberals in their own countries  .  .  .  .   the conservatives want to enlist the African branch of those churches to help them oppose and undercut liberal efforts for social justice. (Conservative Anglicans in America want African Anglicans to help them defeat liberal Anglican proposals to let gay people serve as clergy.) But it's the African people who bear the collateral damage of this cultural proxy war. 

The point of all this is that stopping the religious right is a global issue. The harm they do in America isn't trivial, but they do far greater harm in developing countries where constitutional protections aren't as strong, and where American money exerts an outsized influence. If we can't stop them here, there are people all over the world who will suffer much worse repercussions. 

The Christianists continue to be a dangerous and poisonous force and - along with Islamic fundamentalists - represent true evil in the world.  They and other fundamentalists of other faiths need to be stopped and driven from power once and for all. It is far past time that they cease being viewed as either nice or pious people.

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