Friday, 7 November 2008

Critical eye on the God thing

One anomaly of the post-election euphoria is the California vote against gay marriage, an odd victory for the sand-swept Mormon Church amid the deep-blue sea of western voters. Mormons, who can’t seem to eliminate polygamy and systematic child abuse in the states they run, poured huge sums into the fight to screw up people’s lives who aren’t trying to tell them what to do.

Although it’s an annoying expression of mean-spiritedness that doesn’t fit with the joyously inclusionary times, marriage equality won’t be stopped, just postponed. But I’d be a little nervous if I were a religious fanatic just now.

We’ve been saddled with a vision of religion’s role in public life for decades now that has more in common with 20th-century totalitarianism than with the teachings of Jesus, whom the born-agains wouldn’t recognize if he were pissing in the next urinal. Enlightenment naiveté about human perfectability inspired Bush who thought he knew exactly what the big Guy was thinking at all times.

Barack Obama is known to follow the thinking of Reinhold Niebuhr, the Protestant theologian who warned against passivity in the face of evil and at the same time cautioned people against deputizing themselves as saints. Andrew Bacevich has some prudent words in today’s Boston Globe about the failures of evangelism as foreign policy, and we may well be in for some interesting national discussions about where all the self-righteous Bible-thumping has taken us in 30 years and especially the last eight.

I think the light may soon be shown on that old biped hobbyhorse, Hypocrisy, especially as manifest in the projection of our own worst tendencies onto the hated enemy. Just as the Mormons should focus on some home-town clean-up, our (emphasis on our) nation may be in for some soul-searching about how religion-driven delusions blinded the country to its own crimes, just as much as any Iranian mullah or mad bomber from Sri Lanka.

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