Wednesday, November 20, 2013

On American Theocracy

I don't generally consider myself to be anti-religion per se.  I wholeheartedly support and champion the Right of each person to live by their own conscience and belief in the privacy of the heart and home, no matter what tradition that person subscribes to.  I consider myself an advocate of the most forward-thinking facet of our national heritage:  The Separation of Church & State.

I think we all have seen this painting at one point or another.  It depicts perhaps the greatest perverse nightmare ever conceived for a Secular Republic founded on the cornerstone of Separation of Church & State.  The attempt by Religious Regressives to claim exclusive ownership of a document and nation founded on Secular Reason.

Many Regressives have been calling for "a return to God" or for "the Bible in law".  Initiatives are popping up in many States forcing the teaching of Bibilcal myth in Science Classes and Biblical dogma is cited again and again in issues ranging from Marriage Equality to a Woman's Right to Choose.   These arguments end up far over the line into the ridiculous.

Ultimately, the common theme in such Regressive arguments is a call for religious law to replace secular as the foundational law of the land.  Otherwise known as Theocracy.

Theocracy was actually applied in the early days of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  There, the Puritans founded what they hoped would be a Utopian society based on their strict interpretation of the Bible.  It resulted in the disastrous and shameful period in our history noted for the Salem Witch Trials, in which over 200 hundred people -- mostly innocent women -- were burned at the stake or executed in other horrific ways for the crime of "witchcraft" -- a catch-all term which conveniently applied to pretty much any woman who dared act or think of her own accord, rather than submit to Biblical authority to the degree determined by the male leaders of the community.  This was why the Founding Fathers expressly said in the Constitution "Congress shall make no law establishing religion".  Because it's used so often to justify the worst bigotry and abuses of human nature and costs innocent people their lives.  

It is that submission to their own privilege that these Regressives are really looking for from the rest of us.  And history shows again and again that Religious authority is always willing to resort to violence to ensure its privileges.  Just look at Saudi Arabia and Iran -- which Regressives are always willing to condemn for their "backward" ways and are always screaming at us to fear.  How ironic when you consider that Regressives are calling for the same thing here in the enlightened USA.

They don't always come right out and say it.  Usually, Regressive theocratic arguments are put in terms of "religious freedom", usually calling for exemption from a secular law they don't agree with.  Like allowing people to marry whom they choose, especially when afforded that right in their state.  Or allowing women access to birth control -- ironically the best choice for preventing an abortion (but that's another post).  Strange, is it not, that those who most often scream about "personal choice" when it comes to religion are always the first to interfere with other people when it comes to their own bodies?  A statement beginning with "Well, I'm a Christian and..." has become code for "I'm about to say something that's going to offend reasonable people" -- and rightly so!

Usually, religious Regressive arguments are cherry-picked to fit their own desires, rather than Biblical doctrine.  The Bible expressly forbids the eating of pork, yet I'll bet each and every Regressive who uses the Bible as an authority will be having Ham this X-Mas.  The usual claim is "Jesus freed us from the old law", and yet they're more than happy to force "the old law" on those who don't believe in it when it suits their purposes.

What we're really seeing is not a defense of religious freedom, but of religious privilege and prerogative over our laws --an attempt to force private belief on the public sphere.  

Again, religion in and of itself is not all bad.  There have been as many cases of amazing human beings, inspired by the divine, contributing wonderfully to the betterment of humanity.  But ultimately, the question of religion is one best decided in the privacy of the heart and home, not in Congress or the Court.  The minute one particular religious tradition gains control of our public national laws, all other religions lose the freedom to practice freely in private.  Whether it's Sharia, the Westboro Baptist Church, the Vatican or the Church of Scientology dictating our laws, it's still one religion forcing all others to bow to its particular and often inherently limited point of view.  The minute that happens, all of us are in serious danger.


  1. It's unarguable that many of the earliest groups that emigrated from Europe to North America did so to escape the persecutions of State-sponsored religion. For me, any thinking person should automatically place the re-establishment of religion in government right alongside the re-establishment of monarchy!

  2. If only people thought that critically about it. All they seem to care about is taking more authority than they deserve by wrapping themselves up in the cloak of "faith" and dictating to everybody else how we should live our lives. Private & Public are two very different things and Religion definitely falls squarely in the "Private" category.