Sunday, January 24, 2016

Anti-intellectual Religious Wing-Nuts Run the GOP

The so-called GOP establishment - namely, money men on Wall Street and pundits who like to contemplate their navels - like to think that they still run the Republican Party, but those days are over as evidenced by the rise of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.  Instead, the party is ow run by ignorance embracing religious fanatics, people the country club Republicans of my parents generation would have viewed with horror and deemed socially unacceptable. Why anyone in this segment of society has remained in the GOP is baffling to me. A piece in Salon looks at the evil posed by religion.  While the focus applies to Islam, the warning and call to opposition applies to virulent forms of Christianity now so favored by the Republican Party which has been taken over by religious fanatics and those who take pride in their ignorance.  Here are highlights:
Faith-inspired anarchy and bloodshed continue to spread around the globe, with no letup in sight.
January has proved especially sanguinary. Three days after President Obama’s State of the Union reminder to us all that he took out Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida (specifically, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb) sprang back into action and launched one of its most lethal assaults in recent years, laying siege to a hotel in the West African country of Burkina Faso, killing 30, injuring 156, and taking hostage 176.

Yet here at home . . . . Those same faith-crazed seditionists are more entrenched than ever, and now pledge to “never, ever” return the Malheur facilities to the federal government. This they do without the slightest resistance from Washington – a matter that has irked Oregon’s Governor Kate Brown, who has called on the federal government to “move quickly to end the occupation and hold all of the wrongdoers accountable.”

In sum, these are times that try rationalists’ souls. Yet our politicians are offering precious little frank discourse on the one thing inspiring all the above-mentioned instances of murder and mayhem – religion. Which is to say, a congeries of ideologies mandating, on the basis of no evidence whatsoever, belief in fantastic, often ludicrous, unverifiable assertions about the cosmos and mankind’s place in it.

Such anti-intellectual constructs would attract scorn and derision were they to obtain in any other sphere of human endeavor. Take science. If I were to proclaim, without offering a whit of proof, that the law of gravity does not apply to me, that I disobey it at will, that I have always disobeyed it, and that I demand all and sundry accept the veracity of my absurd proclamation, and respect it, cherish it, and even kill in its name, I would rightly be thought insane. 

Thomas Paine said, “The whole religious complexion of the modern world is due to the absence from Jerusalem of a lunatic asylum.” He was right. I would, though, rephrase and update his statement: Those who, despite the torrents of evidence flowing forth from biology, physics and the other natural sciences, persist in believing the preposterous postulates of Abrahamic religions stand in urgent need of an intervention consisting of one treatment: forthright free speech from rationalists about their cherished delusions. We and our planet have ever less and less time to spare.

This question would be more amenable to resolution if the president would just come clean and state, flat-out, that the “killers and fanatics” of ISIS are implementing a literalist interpretation of the Quran, with strong emphasis on jihad and martyrdom, and that this poses a huge problem for us all today, one we need to discuss openly.

We need to have a candid conversation about this and recognize that there is a correlation between scripture and [the Islamic State] . . . . We cannot shoot our way out of this.” Shifting the blame from Islamic doctrine to a bunch of armed crazies amounts to a slap in the face of those, like Nawaz, who are trying to reform the religion from within.

The overarching problem is, yes, religion, and the determination of almost everyone in power to accord it respect. But posit a mass outbreak of atheism in the Middle East, and what would happen to ISIS? To the Sunni-Shia schism?

Such a turn of events is, yes, improbable. But as I proposed above, religion can be cured with rationalist free speech. We should begin therapy now. This means, for starters, the cessation, in public and private life, of respect for all faiths, including Islam. Nonbelievers should stop pussyfooting around the Abrahamic creeds’ manifold absurdities – including, inter alia, a metaphysical despot siring a kid with a hapless earthling virgin, the notion that our morality derives from a message supernaturally chiseled on slabs of stone, and that a member of our species soared heavenward on a winged ungulate – and let believers know what they really think, recalling, always, that they are helping them become the atheists of tomorrow.

For now, though, we do need Thomas Paine’s lunatic asylum. Potential inmates, to be sure, we have aplenty. But no matter how much damage the faith-deranged are doing these days, the rising tide of godlessness is with us.
We need to treat the deeply religious as mental patients in need of treatment and end all deference or politeness towards them.  Deferring to those who believe in myths and fantasies is no way to lead a 21st century superpower.   We are living in 2016, not 1016.

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