Saturday, October 20, 2007

Bad faith

In a speech the other day, Sam Brownback said the following: "The view of government without faith has been tried and failed; it was atheistic communism. It had the idea that somehow man would move himself into a perfected state, and it utterly failed. It didn't look to the transcendent, and didn't pull man out of himself in love.”

Here we have a fairly standard distortion, an imitation of actual thinking, in which the separation of church and state is identified with atheism. It’s designed to appeal to the fundamentalists. Liberty from religious intolerance, from the enshrinement of religious power in government power, is framed as a threat to faith. The harking back to communism is an almost nostalgic appeal to the knee-jerk hatreds of the Cold War. If you don’t want prayer in the schools, if you think women should be able to decide themselves whether they want to go through with a pregnancy, if you think gay people should have the same rights as everyone else, well you must be an atheist communist.

An all-too obvious aspect of all this—which is, however, seldom pointed out—is that Christian fundamentalists and their enablers must have incredibly weak faith, seeing as how they are in a practically constant state of anxiety about threats to it from liberals, feminists, gays, atheists, Muslims, or what have you. Their almighty God must be a puny little weakling if his rule is threatened by a few gays, or for that matter by any mortal who summons the courage to question his existence. But of course the fundamentalist faith is the real weakling, since it relies on a constant diet of hatred, resentment, anger, repression and contempt to stay viable. The spiritual midgets of the so-called religious right apparently think that God needs their help. Without Pat Robertson scrunching his eyes closed and asking for a Supreme Court Justice or two to have a heart attack, Jehovah just may not be able to succeed in his mission.

When someone like Brownback starts to pontificate about faith and the sacredness of life, etc., I am puzzled—no, dumfounded—trying to understand what he means. He voted no on requiring CIA reports on detainees and interrogation methods. I guess “faith” means keeping silence when people are tortured. He voted no on banning chemical weapons. So I guess “faith” shouldn’t interfere with the right of the state to use nerve gas on human beings. He has continued to block pulling troops out of Iraq. I guess “faith” means more war, more death, more militarization, more fraud, more lying, more lawlessness.

The faith that countenances continued violence and state-sponsored terror is no faith at all. It is a sham. And the only way someone like Brownback can tell himself that he is a man of faith is if “faith” is a concept so devoid of meaning as to simply indicate the craven exercise of power over others. And when our modern Pharisees hear of the suffering caused by their government, they cheer inside, and cry against those who stand for peace, and use the idea that liberals want to man to “move himself into a perfected state” as an excuse to do nothing.


Anonymous said...

>An all-too obvious aspect of all this—which is, however, seldom pointed out—is that Christian fundamentalists and their enablers must have incredibly weak faith, seeing as how they are in a practically constant state of anxiety about threats to it from liberals, feminists, gays, atheists, Muslims, or what have you.

I absolutely agree. There's something brittle and hysterical about right wing fundamentalists, as if relaxing and stopping fearing would deflate their self-balloons.

Somewhat off-topic, being of the boomer / hippie generation, I've known people, white people, who ascribe to their own version of Native American spirituality, going on vision quests, getting pierced at sun dances, etc.. It occured to me that Native American spirituality couldn't have been all that robust, since it appears to have collapsed utterly in the face of the white man's guns, liquor, and religion. Especially liquor.


Chris Dashiell said...

Well, I think the two cases are quite different. There was a deliberate effort to exterminate native religion. That's not the case with the religious right. They have thousands of churches, radio stations etc., and yet they're insecure. The Indians were vulnerable to force, like all humans are. But that doesn't constitute a critique of their "faith."

fiddler said...

Brownback's identification of communism with atheism is of course typical for the religious right. When you get all your values from one book then atheism must certainly be a deadly threat to your very foundations. What they deliberately ignore is the reason for communism's repudiation of religion. Marx realised that organised religion had at all times been misused as instrument of oppression, as a tool of worldly power. (He was mistaken though in ignoring that spirituality is much more than that.)
There is hardly anyone whom Marx' critique fits better than religious fundamentalists, as a tool of worldly power is exactly what religion is to them.

Bonnie said...

I can never understand how some people of faith can adjust their faith to fit what suits them personally, but they always seem to manage it.

Did you see this article about the U.S. soldier who was granted CO status?

That's gotta make some people's heads explode. However, please note that they made him serve his full time in Iraq before they would grant him CO status.

Even if I don't always comment, I am always reading your blog, Dash. Delish!


fiddler said...

@ bonnie: from reading the article I have no reason to doubt Capt. Brown's change of heart was genuine - do you have evidence to the contrary? I can easily imagine a place like Iraq making soldiers realise exactly what their chosen profession involves. "Playing" soldier at home, in boot camp, involves few moral questions, actually employing your new skills against actual human beings is a different thing however.

I also suspect (without having hard proof) most of the rank and file religious fundamentalists' beliefs are genuinely held and aren't easily changed in a utilitarian way. People may join a faith/denomination/cult wholesale because it suits them personally but I don't think they would (and are supposed to!) alter individual articles of faith on a whim.

fairlane said...

It might interest you to know this post is at 170 views and counting today.

Great post, and insight.