(Most of this article originally appeared on the blog God is for Suckers! on June 21, 2010. Since so many theocratic Christian Tea Party candidates have been elected to office and are now working hard and fast to legislate their religious beliefs, I thought it was worth reposting.)
Whenever I write about religion, I’m often asked, “What makes you an expert?”
I’ve got news for you. We’re all experts on religion to one degree or another, every last one of us. Religion is not like, say, heart surgery or entomology or aviation. Sure, there are people who spend years in school studying theology and the bible, years in seminaries becoming clergymen. But there are also people who wake up one morning and decide to start their very own religion, and then do it. You, if you so desired, could go online and, for a small fee (small compared to the tuition that would be required to get a degree in anything), become an ordained minister, start a church and – presto-chango! – become a tax-free religion (yes, it really is that easy).
In any field of endeavor in which you are free to make it up as you go along, the word “expert” has little or no meaning.
We’re all experts on religion by virtue of our experience with it. No matter who you are, no matter what your religion or denomination, whether you’re agnostic, atheist, Satanist, Rotarian, Pisces, a Nobel Prize winner or someone who lives in a refrigerator box in an alley with nothing to your name but a grocery cart full of unmatched old shoes, you have had a great deal of experience with religion. If you live in the United States, you’ve had more than most.
The United States of America is the most religious nation in the industrialized world. According to a 2009 survey of 21,000 people in 21 countries conducted by the Bertelsmann Foundation’s Religion Monitor, 89% of Americans identify themselves as religious, 62% highly religious. In the United States — an ostensibly secular nation whose Constitution makes no mention of god, Jesus Christ, the bible, or the ten commandments and mentions religion only to prohibit from government its promotion or hindrance — 76% of Protestants and 65% of Catholics say that religion influences their political views in ways ranging from moderate to substantial.
If you live in the United States, religion is a part of your everyday life, and that religion is Christianity. Whether you’re religious or not, believer or atheist, Jew or Muslim, Democrat or Republican, outraged by it or indifferent to it, it’s everywhere you go, everywhere you look. You can’t even sneeze without someone invoking a deity. Literally! The only way to avoid it is to stay home and never leave your house. But even that doesn’t work, because then they will bring it to your door.
We are all experts on religion, whether we like it or not, and that qualifies us to speak out about it. The only problem is … that’s not really allowed.
Religion has always been an untouchable subject. We are not allowed to comment on someone’s religious beliefs in any way that does not involve abject praise unless we’re willing to be pilloried by nearly everyone within earshot. Why? That is a very good question.
We can argue about politics, sports, movies, history, literature, art, science and any other topic you can imagine to our hearts’ content. We can disagree about them and with them, criticize them, ridicule them, denounce them, and no one cares. But when it comes to religion, we are expected — by some unwritten law, some unspoken universal agreement — to respect the beliefs of others and remain silent about them. No. Matter. What.
If a man says he cannot leave the house without flipping every light switch in it on and off 40 times so the earth won’t burst into flames, we might tell him that he has a treatable problem and urge him to get help, and that’s acceptable. If a man says he can fly and intends to jump off a cliff to prove it, we do everything we can to stop him because we know he is delusional and will kill himself, and that’s acceptable. If someone says he doesn’t like us because of the color of our skin, or our weight, or our political affiliation, we can tell him to go piss up a rope and that’s acceptable. But if parents refuse to get medical treatment for a sick child because that goes against their religious beliefs and they are certain that god will intervene and heal the child, we are expected to zip our lips and respect that because it is a religious belief and it is somehow unacceptable to say or do anything that might offend the believer. Never mind the poor child, who’s being allowed to suffer and perhaps even die — we don’t want to offend the believer. Even the state is reluctant to step into such situations, although it sometimes happens — and then many become outraged and complain that religious rights are being violated.
If someone comes to your door on an otherwise peaceful Saturday morning to inform you that your soul is in danger of eternal damnation if you do not embrace their religion and live your life the way they say you should — which, as far as I’m concerned, is the height of arrogance and obnoxiousness because this person has actually come to your home without the benefit of an invitation to do it — you are expected to gently, politely decline, thank that person for stopping by and send him on his way with a smile, because it would be unacceptable and offensive to the believer to cut him off mid-sentence and tell him and his bible to get the hell off your porch before you get the garden hose.
Every human being on the face of the earth deserves respect. But somehow, we have allowed ourselves to be convinced that those human beings who choose to believe in invisible, unprovable, and nonexistent things — and, in turn, to believe that we must believe in those things, too, or we are bad people who will be eternally lost — entitles them to some greater degree of respect, and we must be tolerant and silently endure their presumption, arrogance and simply rude behavior because they believe and have faith — and aren’t those wonderful things?
Well, I disagree with the whole arrangement. I have nothing whatsoever against people practicing their religion, but when it intrudes on my privacy and disrupts my life, when it is rudely pushed at me, or when it abuses others or is used to break the law, I must object. I’ve discovered that I am far from alone in objecting, but even most of those who feel as I do are afraid to voice their feelings because of the inevitable response, which is always swift and angry and sometimes even threatening and violent. And that is unacceptable.
I don’t expect religion to go away. That won’t happen anytime soon, and certainly not in my lifetime. Although I must admit that this would be a better world without it. It would be a freer, more peaceful world and we would have advanced farther and faster than we have with it. By now, without religion, we might even have those damned flying cars we were promised by the year 2000! At the very least, Salman Rushdie’s security bill would be a lot more manageable.
I am a sincere and passionate supporter of the freedom of religion provided by the United States Constitution. Hell, I’m a cheerleader for it. I agree that everyone should be able to worship as they please, believe whatever they want, and apply those beliefs to their lives. Spirituality is an intensely personal and individual thing for those who need it and embrace it, and no one should ever be made to feel that their spirituality must conform to anyone else’s. Our founding fathers recognized that individuality and wanted to protect it, which is why the Constitution declares that no one religion will be recognized by the United States government, which remains secular and divorced from religion. That is left up to the individual. And that is a significant part of what makes that document one of the greatest ever written.
But not everyone needs or embraces religion (or, if you prefer, spirituality) or is even interested in it. Those of us who fit that description should not have to keep swatting religion away like swarming flies as we go about the business of living our lives. We shouldn’t have to deal with pamphlet-bearing Christians who come to our door and claim to have something we cannot live without. We should not have to listen to politicians, who are annoying enough as it is, talk about god or Jesus or prayer or about how this is a Christian nation when it most certainly is not; it is a secular nation that is populated mostly by Christians — there’s a big difference.
It is not my intention to offend anyone, but in the case of religion, it is virtually impossible not to. One does not need to attack or insult a religious person to cause offense — one need only disagree with, question, or in any way criticize that person’s religion. I have found religious people to be among the most thin-skinned on the planet. They demand that everyone respect their religion by complimenting or praising it or saying nothing at all — and yet they seem incapable of showing respect as they routinely and casually criticize and condemn others who do not share their beliefs for living lives of which their religion does not approve. They spout and spew their dogmatic nonsense freely and without pause. But when others openly disagree or criticize, their response is, “Just shut up!”
The Constitution guarantees us the freedom to believe –- or not believe — as we see fit, but nowhere in that document is there a guarantee that others will agree with our beliefs. Nowhere is there a guarantee that others who do not share our beliefs will take seriously our gods and rituals. And there certainly isn’t anything about others being required to show reverence or deference to a god or a belief system that they do not worship or share. There’s not even any requirement that they take them seriously.
While they may be the majority in the United States, the right guaranteed by the Constitution is not guaranteed to Christians alone. It is guaranteed to each and every single individual in this country so that individuals can decide for themselves what they believe according to their own conscience. It guarantees these individuals the right to gather with others who share their beliefs and engage in rituals that uphold those beliefs.
And that’s about it, folks. It ends there.
But somehow, any response to religion other than praise, agreement or respectful silence has become a social crime in our culture!
In an April 23, 1803, letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Nothing but free argument, raillery and even ridicule will preserve the purity of religion.” Jefferson didn’t think criticizing — no, no, ridiculing — religion was a crime; he thought it was a necessity. Of course, Jefferson didn’t think too highly of the clergy. He saw them as corrupt tyrants who controlled the masses with confusion, spiritual threats and mystical intimidation, and who craved ever more power. Here are two excerpts from his letters that serve as perfect examples of Jefferson’s attitude toward men of the cloth:
“History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.”
– To Alexander von Humboldt, December 6, 1813
“In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own. It is easier to acquire wealth and power by this combination than by deserving them, and to effect this, they have perverted the purest religion ever preached to man into mystery and jargon, unintelligible to all mankind, and therefore the safer engine for their purposes.”
– To Horatio G Spafford, March 17, 1814
Jefferson did not trust the clergy. He saw their greed for power and control as a threat to liberty, and it seems that he thought ridicule was one way of preventing that threat from being realized. It’s pretty hard for something to become a threat to liberty as long as people are allowed to openly criticize it, expose its weaknesses and faults and even joke about it.
Jefferson thought the Christian doctrine of the Trinity was utter nonsense and had no qualms about saying so. He believed it was the kind of nonsense only a priest could decode and explain to his flock, using that concocted understanding as a tool to make himself necessary to them and further control their minds and lives. In a July 30, 1816, letter to Francis Adrian Van der Kemp, he wrote:
“Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus.”
Can you imagine the outrage and uproar such a remark would cause today? An infuriated and harrumphing Rush Limbaugh would vilify Jefferson for hours and hours on national radio, five days a week. A sobbing Glenn Beck would denounce Jefferson as anti-American and declare him to be a supporter of concentration camps for Christian patriots. Ann Coulter would call into question the size of Jefferson’s penis and his ability to use it. And Fox News would go on red alert and probably hire extra on-air talent to handle the amount of incensed coverage the story would get. All of that would happen because Jefferson’s fear has become a reality, and it has been a reality for a long, long time now — speaking in any critical or negative way about religion has become such a taboo that religion has been allowed to gain power and control which it does not deserve. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at some of the things this unwritten law, this unspoken agreement has intimidated us into respecting with our silence.
Since 1949, Billy Graham has been the biggest Christian star since Jesus Christ himself. He has been beloved by Christians around the world, and his “crusades” have always attracted massive throngs that would have made Cecil B. DeMille envious. He’s the one evangelist people have taken the most seriously and have seen as the most sincere — so much so that he has been the pastor to the presidents. But all of that should have been called into question when, on Thursday, February 28, 2002, the National Archives released an audio recording of an Oval Office meeting between Graham and then President Richard Nixon. In reference to the influence the minister thought Jews had on the United States, Graham said, “This stranglehold has got to be broken or the country’s going down the drain.”
“You believe that?” Nixon said.
Nixon said, “Oh, boy. So do I. I can’t ever say that, but I believe it.”
“No, but if you get elected a second time,” Graham said, “then we might be able to do something.”
Do something? Wow. Sounds like Billy was ready to fire up the ovens again. I can see the two of them, Nixon and Billy, standing together in a crowded back yard, each wearing an apron — Nixon’s reads, “I am not a cook!” and Billy’s reads, “Eat this in remembrance of me” — and Billy, holding a spatula, shouts, “Okay, everybody, how do you like your Jews cooked?”
Later in that same conversation, Graham told Nixon that he had Jewish friends in the media who “swarm around me and are friendly to me. … They don’t know how I really feel about what they’re doing to this country.”
So, when Billy was preaching Jesus’s love and forgiveness all those years, apparently it did not extend to Jews … even though Jesus, according to the bible, was a Jew. Another Jew — hmmm. Tell you what, Billy, while you’re heating up those ovens, why don’t you grab a hammer and some big nails so just in case Jesus does decide to come back, you’ll be ready for him.
Jerry Falwell was a fundamentalist Baptist minister and televangelist who helmed a megachurch (a church that has 2,000 or more members) in Lynchburg, Virginia, founded Liberty Christian Academy and Liberty University, and cofounded the Moral Majority. He was one of the most prominent and respected Christian leaders in the United States for decades. During that time, he said some things that were, well … interesting.
In 1999, Falwell saw what he believed to be homosexual indoctrination in the UK TV show for preschoolers called The Teletubbies. He identified one of the Teletubbies — a character named Tinky Winky — as gay in a “Parents Alert” in his National Liberty Journal. Falwell wrote, “He is purple — the gay-pride color; and his antenna is shaped like a triangle — the gay-pride symbol.” In a statement issued later, he said, “As a Christian I feel that role modeling the gay lifestyle is damaging to the moral lives of children.”
Some Christians see Satan around every corner, but Falwell saw gays, too. Judging by some of the other things he said about gay people, one might conclude that Falwell thought Satan himself was gay. In a March 11, 1984 broadcast of The Old Time Gospel Hour, in reference to the predominantly gay Metropolitan Community Church, Falwell said the following:
“Look at the Metropolitan Community Church today, the gay church, almost accepted into the World Council of Churches. Almost, the vote was against them. But they will try again and again until they get in, and the tragedy is that they would get one vote. Because they are spoken of here in (the biblical book of) Jude as being brute beasts, that is going to the baser lust of the flesh to live immorally, and so Jude describes this as apostasy. But thank god this vile and satanic system will one day be utterly annihilated and there’ll be a celebration in heaven.”
Here are a few other choice quotes attributed to the good reverend:
“The ACLU is to Christians what the American Nazi party is to Jews.”
“The idea that religion and politics don’t mix was invented by the devil to keep Christians from running their own country.”
“There is no separation of church and state. Modern US Supreme Courts have raped the Constitution and raped the Christian faith and raped the churches by misinterpreting what the founders had in mind in the First Amendment to the Constitution.”
“I hope I live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won’t have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!”
“Good Christians, like slaves and soldiers, ask no questions.”
“If you’re not a born-again Christian, you’re a failure as a human being.”
And my personal favorite:
“AIDS is the wrath of a just god against homosexuals. To oppose it would be like an Israelite jumping in the Red Sea to save one of Pharaoh’s charioteers … AIDS is not just god’s punishment for homosexuals; it is god’s punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals.”
On September 13, 2001, Falwell appeared on fellow evangelist Pat Robertson’s TV show and said the following about the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 only two days earlier:
“I really believe that the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way — all of them who have tried to secularize America — I point the finger in their face and say, ‘You helped this happen.’”
The next day, when confronted with this remark on CNN, Falwell backpedaled: “I would never blame any human being except the terrorists, and if I left that impression with gays or lesbians or anyone else, I apologize.” But in May of 2007, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour asked him again about his remark. Falwell said, “If we decide to change all the rules on which this Judeo-Christian nation was built we cannot expect the lord to put his shield of protection around us as he has in the past.” When Amanpour asked if he stood by his September 13, 2001, comment, he said, “I stand right by it.” A week later, in a gesture of uncharacteristic consideration for others, Falwell had the good taste to drop dead.
While he was certainly a master of the hateful, batshit-crazy statement, Falwell hardly cornered that market. He had stiff competition from his good buddy Pat Robertson, who had the advantage of living on after Falwell’s death, thus having plenty of time to outdo Falwell’s sterling record of being a douchenozzle.
Although an ordained Southern Baptist minister, Robertson functions mostly as a political spokesman for conservative Christians in the United States. Over the years, he has founded a university, a broadcasting network — all kinds of lucrative entities. And he tried to run for president in the 1988 primaries. He is, at this moment, probably the most prominent, influential and powerful — not to mention richest — Christian leader in this country. He is the host of The 700 Club, a Christian TV show that airs throughout the United States. Robertson has something to say about … well, everything. It’s usually something jaw-droppingly stupid, obnoxious and hateful, and he usually says it on his TV show. Here, in no particular order, is a selection of Pat Robertson quotes taken from The 700 Club’s page on the Internet Movie Database:
“The Constitution of the United States, for instance, is a marvelous document for self-government by the Christian people. But the minute you turn the document into the hands of non-Christian people and atheistic people they can use it to destroy the very foundation of our society. And that’s what’s been happening.”
“The public education movement has also been an anti-Christian movement. We can change education in America if you put Christian principles in and Christian pedagogy in. In three years, you would totally revolutionize education in America.”
(On homosexuals) “It’s one thing to say, ‘We have rights to jobs, we have rights to be left alone in our little corner of the world to do our thing.’ It’s an entirely different thing to say, well, ‘We’re not only going to go into the schools and we’re going to take your children and your grandchildren and turn them into homosexuals.’ Now that’s wrong.”
“Why are so many marriages falling apart? Why is the divorce rate so high? Why is there such a tragedy in marriage? Now the basic answer to the basic problem of marriages today is a question of leadership. The wife actually makes the husband the head of the household and she looks to him and she says, ‘Now you pray, and I’m going to pray for you that the lord will speak to you.’”
“If the widespread practice of homosexuality will bring about the destruction of your nation, if it will bring about terrorist bombs, if it’ll bring about earthquakes, tornadoes and possibly a meteor, it isn’t necessarily something we ought to open our arms to.”
(On Apartheid in South Africa) “I think ‘one man, one vote,’ just unrestricted democracy, would not be wise. There needs to be some kind of protection for the minority which the white people represent now, a minority, and they need and have a right to demand a protection of their rights.”
“Many of those people involved with Adolf Hitler were Satanists, many of them were homosexuals. The two things seem to go together.”
“There is no such thing as separation of church and state in the Constitution. It is a lie of the left and we are not going to take it anymore.”
“I have known few homosexuals who did not practice their tendencies. Such people are sinning against god and will lead to the ultimate destruction of the family and our nation. I am unalterably opposed to such things, and will do everything I can to restrict the freedom of these people to spread their contagious infection to the youth of our nation.”
“The key in terms of mental ability is chess. There’s never been a woman Grand Master chess player. Once you get one, then I’ll buy some of the feminism.”
(On Planned Parenthood) “It is teaching kids to fornicate, teaching people to have adultery, every kind of bestiality, homosexuality, lesbianism – everything that the bible condemns.”
“I am absolutely persuaded one of the reasons so many lesbians are at the forefront of the pro-choice movement is because being a mother is the unique characteristic of womanhood, and these lesbians will never be mothers naturally, so they don’t want anybody else to have that privilege either.”
(A nifty-keen science lesson from Professor Roberts) “I think the sky is blue because it’s a shift from black through purple to blue, and it has to do with where the light is. You know, the farther we get into darkness, and there’s a shifting of color of light into the blueness, and I think as you go farther and farther away from the reflected light we have from the sun or the light that’s bouncing off this earth, uh, the darker it gets. I think if you look at the color scale, you start at black, move it through purple, move it on out, it’s the shifting of color. We mentioned before about the stars singing, and that’s one of the effects of the shifting of colors.”
“NOW (the National Organization for Women) is saying that in order to be a woman, you’ve got to be a lesbian.”
Opposing the equal rights initiative in Iowa, Robertson wrote in a 1992 fundraising letter:
“The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.”
On page 218 of his book The New World Order, Robertson wrote:
“When I said during my presidential bid that I would only bring Christians and Jews into the government, I hit a firestorm. ‘What do you mean?’ the media challenged me. ‘You’re not going to bring atheists into the government? How dare you maintain that those who believe in the Judeo-Christian values are better qualified to govern America than Hindus and Muslims?’ My simple answer is, ‘Yes, they are.’”
The day after the January 12, 2010, 7.0 earthquake in Haiti that killed as many as 200,000 people, Pat Robertson went on TV and said the Haitians had brought the earthquake on themselves:
“They were under the heel of the French, you know Napoleon the third and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said ‘We will serve you if you will get us free from the prince.’ True story. And so the devil said, ‘Okay, it’s a deal.’ And they kicked the French out. The Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since they have been cursed by one thing after another.”
Of course, the above quotes are the words of only three of the most prominent Christian leaders, but there are many others whose statements are no less horrifying.
This is what we’re supposed to respect? This is what we’re supposed to tolerate with our reverent silence? This is what we’re not allowed to criticize? How did this happen? How have we been made into people who will sit still for this kind of — and I use this word loosely — thinking?
When we read of the horrific slaughter of certain races or religions throughout history, we often ask, How could this have been allowed to happen? How could people stand by and do nothing while this was going on? The answer is simple.
We’re living in it! This is how it happens — what we’re discussing right now, this unwritten law of silence and so called “respect” when it comes to religion in America. We have been intimidated into silence, into saying and doing nothing while hateful lies spread like a cancer that has metastasized throughout the population, resulting in discrimination, persecution, and even murder. We have been respectfully silent for a long time now. And look where it’s gotten us. Of course, where it’s gotten us is nothing compared to where it will take us if we continue to remain silent.
Now, you might be saying, Isn’t it unfair to base a characterization of all Christians on the ugly remarks of a few TV hucksters? To you they might be TV hucksters, but to Christians, these guys are (or, in the case of Falwell, were) leaders. These men represent Christianity in the United States — throughout the world! How do you think they got so rich and powerful? How do you think they built their media empires? Off of bake sale earnings? Kino winnings? No. They got rich off the loving, supportive and generous — not to mention tax-free — donations of their followers.
If these men do not represent the thoughts and feelings of Christians everywhere, then when they make these appallingly hateful and lunatic statements, where is the outrage of Christians who don’t want to be represented by them? Why haven’t throngs of Christians denounced them? Why hasn’t the money stopped flooding in? Why haven’t their television ratings plummeted?
That hasn’t happened because these men and others like them do represent the thoughts and feelings of Christians everywhere. And we are supposed to say nothing about it. We have been convinced that it is somehow wrong to criticize this because faith and belief are such sacred things. And if we do criticize it, then the Christians cry persecution.
Try having a conversation with a Christian about the words of Falwell or Robertson or any of the other tyrannical, homophobic, misogynistic, hate-mongering greedbeasts who represent them. The Christian will always inject his BUT into the conversation. Christians have a lot of very big BUTS and they use them as dividing lines. Before the BUT, you will be told what the Christian thinks you want to hear in an effort to soften you up and get comfy with you, to make you think you’re thinking alike. Then after the BUT, the Christian will tell you exactly what he thinks. The latter always completely contradicts the former. It goes something like this:
“I certainly don’t agree with Pat Robertson about the earthquake in Haiti and I think it was wrong of him to say that. BUT. He has every right to say it because the Constitution guarantees it, and after all, Robertson has sent a lot of food and money to Haiti to help those poor people. What have you done for them? And when you think about it, he’s not too far off the mark. I mean, historically, he’s right, isn’t he? Where does voodoo come from? Haiti! And that’s Satanic! I think you just have a problem with religion, that’s all. I don’t know what’s made you so bitter, but you shouldn’t try to impose your angry personal feelings about religion on others. Christian-bashing is prejudicial, but these days, Christians are the only people it’s okay to hate in America, and I think it’s terrible. A person’s religious beliefs are personal and deeply felt and you should show them respect. Why don’t you focus on all the good things Pat Robertson has done instead of just pointing out his mistakes?”
Good things? How many good things can possibly be done by someone who says the things Pat Robertson says? And on the outside chance that he is doing something good while hating women and homosexuals and everybody who isn’t a Christian and drawing on his formidable resources to limit or even abolish the rights of those people, does it really matter?
And there’s that word “respect” again. We are told over and over again that we owe our respect to the religious. But shouldn’t some respect be earned? How respectful are they? Do you see any respect for fellow human beings in the quotes from Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson? Was Robertson being respectful of others when, on January 14, 1991, he said on his TV show:
“You say you’re supposed to be nice to the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians and the Methodists and this, that, and the other thing. Nonsense. I don’t have to be nice to the spirit of the antichrist. I can love the people who hold false opinions but I don’t have to be nice to them.”
Was Jerry Falwell being respectful when he wrote in his book Listen, America!:
“The Jews are returning to their land of unbelief. They are spiritually blind and desperately in need of their messiah and savior.”
Are these people who have respect for others? If the word “respect” can be defined as “bigotry and hatred shown to all who do not conform to your beliefs,” then yes, they are abundantly respectful! But what dictionary gives that as the definition of the word? In the above quotes, both Robertson and Falwell were talking about other religions! If they don’t show cowering respect for the religious beliefs of others, then why the hell should anyone else?
Respect is a two-way street and it needs to be earned in both directions. I don’t know about you, but I refuse to show respect for people who speak, write, support or believe the words spoken by these men, or any other words like them. And I do not apologize for that refusal.
Christians are quite convinced that they are being persecuted at every turn. Here’s Pat Robertson again, being interviewed by Molly Ivins in 1993:
“Just like what Nazi Germany did to the Jews, so liberal America is now doing to the evangelical Christians. It’s no different. It is the same thing. It is happening all over again. It is the Democratic Congress, the liberal-based media and the homosexuals who want to destroy the Christians. Wholesale abuse and discrimination and the worst bigotry directed toward any group in America today. More terrible than anything suffered by any minority in history.”
Now, you know as well as I do that Christians in America are not being rounded up and ushered into concentration camps. No one is giving them blankets infected with smallpox. They are not being tortured and slaughtered. They are not even being abused or discriminated against. In fact, every right they have ever had in the United States remains untouched and fully intact — they just want to have more rights while others have fewer. If anyone is persecuting anyone, I think the above quotes from Robertson make it quite clear as to who is being victimized by whom. He says women are to be subjugated and they are to like it; he says feminists and lesbians are child killing witches; he says homosexuals are Satanists and child predators and if we treat them like human beings, horrible natural disasters will result; he says the Constitution is for Christians only, that only Christians are capable of properly running the country, and everyone else is anti-American. And yet he claims that he and his fellow Christians are the ones being persecuted?
Come on, people — did we just fall off the idiot truck yesterday?
Robertson’s claim that Christians are being persecuted in America is, quite frankly, a bald-faced lie. But it’s a lie told often, and it’s catching on. And it’s not the only lie — there’s also the lie that America’s founders were all devout Christians, that America is a Christian nation, founded by Christians, for Christians. These lies, too — despite all the proof available to refute them — continue to be repeated, and they, too, are catching on with an increasingly distracted public that is sadly ignorant of its nation’s history.
Joseph Goebbels, who knew a thing or two about influencing the masses, said, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”
Pat Robertson? Meet Joseph Goebbels. Oh, I’m sorry — you’ve already met? Great! Then I’ll leave you two alone so you can catch up.
Now, you might be saying, Sure, they’re nuts, but they have every right to believe whatever they want to believe. They’re harmless. Just ignore them.
Harmless? Just ignore them? Really?
While interviewing syndicated columnist Joel Mowbray, author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Endangers National Security, Robertson said:
“I read your book. When you (the reader) get through, you say, ‘If I could just get a nuclear device inside Foggy Bottom, I think that’s the answer.’ I mean, you get through this, and you say, ‘We’ve got to blow that thing up.’”
Foggy Bottom is a Washington, D.C. neighborhood where the United States Department of State is located. The term “Foggy Bottom” is frequently used to refer to the State Department. So let me make sure this is clear –- in the above statement, Pat Robertson, on national television, advocated the destruction of the United States Department of State with a “nuclear device.” If you or I did that, we would, at the very least, be on a watch list so fast that all the Dramamine in the world wouldn’t keep us from puking. But Pat Robertson is a man of god, right? He represents the biggest religion in the United States, so to criticize this remark would disrespect his religious beliefs and offend Christians throughout the country. And we just can’t do that. Right?
On his TV show, Robertson once said the following about Islam:
“I want to say it again and again and again: Islam is not a religion, it’s a political system meant on — bent on world domination, not a religion. It masquerades as a religion, but the religion covers a worldwide attempt to exercise power and to subjugate the world into their way of thinking.”
Now read the following Pat Robertson quotes and tell me — doesn’t his description of Islam above apply just as accurately to his description of Christianity in America?
“Ladies and gentlemen, I want to say this very clearly. If the people of the United States — all across America, in their churches and in their civic groups and in their legislatures — decide that they’re not going to allow the Supreme Court to dominate their lives in the fashion that it has been in this nation, the Supreme Court does not have the power to change that. They are not going to be able to overturn the will of a hundred million American people. And I think the time has come that we throw off the shackles of this dictatorship that’s been imposed upon us. We had a war in 1776 that set us free from the shackles of the arbitrary rule of the British crown … And I think the time has come that we do that.”
– The 700 Club, quoted in Conrad Goeringer’s article “A Not-So-Modest Proposal – Post the Commandments, Spare Not the Rod”
“We have enough votes to run the country. And when the people say, ‘We’ve had enough,’ we are going to take over.”
– in a speech given to the April, 1980 “Washington for Jesus” rally
“We at the Christian Coalition are raising an army who cares. We are training people to be effective — to be elected to school boards, to city councils, to state legislatures, and to key positions in political parties. … By the end of this decade, if we work and give and organize and train, the Christian Coalition will be the most powerful political organization in America.”
– a July 4, 1991, fundraising letter
Christian activist Randall Terry founded the anti-choice organization Operation Rescue, which used to blockade the exits to women’s clinics to prevent them from getting abortions. He has spent much of his life actively campaigning against abortion and gay rights and denounced and disowned his adopted son Jamiel because he was gay. According to the August 16, 1993 edition of Fort Wayne, Indiana’s The News Sentinel, Terry said the following:
“I want you to just let a wave of intolerance wash over you. I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good. … Our goal is a Christian nation. We have a biblical duty, we are called on by god to conquer this country. We don’t want equal time. We don’t want pluralism.”
Gary North is quite a celebrity among Christians. He is an economist and publisher and the founder of the Institute of Christian Economics, which disbanded in 2001 and transferred its assets to Dominion Educational Ministries, Inc., a non-profit organization that runs Christian daycare centers. In Albert J. Menendez’s book Visions of Reality: What Fundamentalist Schools Teach, North is quoted as follows:
“So let us be blunt: we must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy in constructing a bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberties of the enemies of god.”
In his book Political Polytheism: The Myth of Pluralism, North wrote:
“The long-term goal of Christians in politics should be to gain exclusive control over the franchise. Those who refuse to submit publicly to the eternal sanctions of god by submitting to his church’s public marks of the covenant – baptism and holy communion – must be denied citizenship, just as they were in ancient Israel.”
These men seem to have little interest in carrying out the biblical instructions of Jesus Christ, who told people to be selfless, to provide for the unfortunate and disadvantaged. These are not the words of men who want to spread the love of Jesus Christ. These are the words of men whose religion is nothing more than a disguise for a political system bent on dominating and subjugating others. These are the words of revolutionaries who want to overthrow a free and secular nation, abolish its Constitution, and establish a theocracy.
These are words of sedition.
But we can’t criticize these words because they wear the sacred cloaks of religion? We aren’t allowed to stand up and say, This is wrong! This is anti-American! because it might offend the faithful believer in the exercise of his constitutional freedom of religion?
Well, I don’t know about you, but I call bullshit on that.
The same Constitution that gives these people the right to say these horrible, hateful things also gives everyone the right to denounce and condemn those things. And they deserve to be denounced and condemned. They deserve to be shouted down and loudly identified as the hateful anti-American bigots they are.
But there’s that unwritten law, that unspoken agreement that we won’t say anything negative — anything at all — about the sacred, constitutionally protected religious beliefs of others. We are to respect it! Obeying that ridiculous unofficial rule has created nothing but trouble. We have remained silent for so long that religion has grown into a big monster that is hungry for power. It’s time to break the silence and start calling that monster what it is, loudly and clearly.
You don’t want to offend anyone? You don’t want to make waves? You don’t want to exercise your constitutional right of free speech? Fine. Then don’t complain when, someday in the not too distant future, the government tithes you as well as taxes you. Don’t come whining to me when prayer in schools becomes mandatory and your kids come home from their classes to watch reruns of The Flintstones as part of their homework because their science teacher says it’s a documentary. You’ll have no room to gripe when your favorite sex act becomes illegal because it offends god.
Because that is what these people want.
Silence may be golden, but in this case it’s deadly. Remember what Jefferson said about the priest being “hostile to liberty” and always being “in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.” And remember what he said about ridicule being “the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions” and the only way to preserve “the purity of religion.” If Jefferson were somehow able to rise from the grave and see how “free argument, raillery and even ridicule” regarding religion have been smothered into silence, and see how severely religion has been allowed to encroach on the freedoms of this secular nation, he would simply drop dead and have to be buried again.
The silence is being broken finally, thanks to the work and encouragement of great writers and thinkers like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and others. But it’s happening too slowly. America is experiencing trying times right now — economically, socially and politically. Times like these make any country vulnerable to drastic change — often not for the better. Times like these are often irresistible to those who want to dominate and subjugate, especially when the people being dominated have been convinced that it’s wrong to speak out and resist the very tools those dominators use to achieve their goals. We can’t afford to be silent right now.
Speak up. It’s your Constitution, too.