Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Letter to the Religious Right

Hello folks in the Religious Right,

My name is James, and I want to talk to you about your religion. You need to know from the outset that I'm not part of your religion. In fact, I'm an infidel, or what you would call an "atheist." I just want to get that out of the way so that we have it laid plainly on the table from the start, even though I know that many of you won't have even made it this far because of that statement. If that happened, you have already proved my point, so however unfortunate it is, thank you for that if you did it.

I want to make clear that I know you. I am a Southerner, so some of you are my friends, my neighbors, my colleagues, and my clients, and I've been watching and listening to you, usually more patiently than you deserve. As it turns out, many of you are making the news as well--though I should note that none of you that I know personally have--for the many utterly asinine things that too many of you are saying, which really are a properly honest portrait of the beliefs that you would have done better to keep closer to your chests. 

The main thrust of what I want to say to you is simple. Your religious beliefs are an unfortunate tool by which you have been made into monsters.

Like I said, though, I know many of you, and you're not really monsters. I want to make this point clearly too: it's not your religion that is making you into monsters. As much as I would urge you to re-examine Christianity on its own grounds, your religion itself is not to blame, even if the book at its center has a lot to do with it. Rather, the fact that Christianity is being used as a tool to bend you into something scarier and worse than you are. This is important because you're literally ruining the world, and you don't see it. It has to stop.

You are a victim of manufactured religious outrage bent to political purposes.

I want to tell you about something Salman Rushdie recently pointed out about people you hate. Salman Rushdie is a very smart, very relevant, very talented writer that you're unlikely to have ever heard of. I really suggest you look him up. It's worth your time, although you're unlikely to like him much either. See, you've been trained not to like vast classes of people you don't even know on the basis that they don't agree with you, but we'll get back to that.

What Salman Rushdie said recently that is so poignant is that radical Islam, which you rightly hate, is a politically manufactured movement that is ruining a huge chunk of the world and causing big problems for essentially the rest of it. This forces us to distinguish radical Islam from all of Islam, much of which is not radicalized, a point many of you seem to miss because of your hard-right Christianity. Radical Islam is the hard right, the Religious Right, of Islam, just like you are in Christianity, and the majority of radical Muslims are political tools of angry, controlling, and dangerous men, just like you are.

Radical Islam, or Religious Right Islam, is a manipulation of people for political ends. It works upon their fears and hatreds to whip them into a politically useful frenzy by playing up the most uncompromising and most exclusionary notes in the Islamic religious beliefs. That, of course, is the same thing that the (Christian, American) Religious Right is doing to you, making you uncompromising, exclusionary, and dangerous, just like the terrorists that you think are America's biggest enemies. It's a good time to look in the mirror, my friends.

While these despots run the Islamic world into the ground by playing upon the most brutal and hateful aspects of the Islamic religion, the Religious Right in America has been force-feeding you a manufactured Jesus, one designed to make you distrust, if not hate outright, essentially everyone that doesn't think the same way as you do. If you keep letting these power-hungry and greedy men control you like this, then you will break America and probably the world. This is not hyperbolic or hysteric, as we will see shortly.

Incidentally, many of these men that are manipulating you are merely playing opportunistically on your religious beliefs, which they don't actually share. One good example is Mitt Romney, who you are unwisely about to try to elect as president of the United States. Mitt Romney is not a Religious Right Christian. He is a Mormon. That difference is not trivial and might prove consequential, but if you believe his religious beliefs and yours are aligned, it's only because he, with his political party (the Republican Party) has worked very hard to manipulate your thinking on the matter, knowing exactly what to say and how to say it to make it happen. This is particularly true since Mitt Romney doesn't even share your religious beliefs or your Taliban-like religiously based political agenda; Mitt Romney is a corporatist. (It is possible that he is also what you think you want, a theocrat, but if he is, you're going to be pretty damned sorry about it when you actually realize that he's a Mormon and Mormonism isn't actually the same thing that you believe.)

Stop trying to break science before you ruin the world!

Mitt Romney does have a particular view that he shares with many of you on the Religious Right, as well as with the Taliban. This view regards science, and it is of the highest importance. Now, I can't indicate that Mitt Romney is anti-science, though, because in a big sense, he's not. Mitt Romney and his party, though, are opportunists that are playing you like a fiddle on this point since you, generally, are anti-science, which has been cultivated in you by your religion more than by your politicians--just like we see with the Taliban.

Particularly, Mitt Romney's friends in the fossil fuel industry will benefit hugely from a denial of one particular science, that showing us the reality of global climate change (or global warming, if you rather). Have you ever stopped to wonder why you have oddly adopted climate change denial as part of your theology? It is a rather substantive bit of evidence, if not outright proof, that you are being manipulated since you, as hard-right Christians, have no real religious interest in climate science being true or false.

As it turns out, you have other anti-scientific agendas, particularly related to evolutionary biology and, to a lesser degree, cosmology. Your religion has taught you these agendas specifically because the theory of evolution unsettles issues too core to your theology for comfort, which shakes the entire house of cards that holds up your belief structure, which is very important to you for easily explained reasons. The future of medicine in this world depends upon people knowing and understanding evolutionary biology, though, and so your anti-scientific agenda in this arena puts the future of the human race on this planet in a rather rickety balance. Stem cell research, which many of you reject on religious grounds, does the same thing. This is a huge problem that your theology is spinning, and because of the general anti-science note required to play this tune, climate change denialists can easily harmonize upon it to get you whipped up against that as well, and they have, very effectively.

Climate change has bigger consequences than evolution, though, at least for now. Whatever damage future diseases will cause and whatever hindrances we have on finding cures to other problems like cancer, Alzheimer's disease, paralysis, blindness, and many, many others, nothing at present compares to the disaster we face when global warming gets beyond a certain point--a point that might literally be only a single presidential term away, although we probably have two. The current estimates for the economic damage that global warming will do to our world exceeds 180 trillion dollars, more than enough to cause a real global economic collapse that will literally ruin your children's lives if we don't change things soon. The economic catastrophe that President Bush caused that you wrongly blame President Obama for is a drop in the bucket compared with what climate change is likely to do to us by as soon as 2030 or 2035. Mitt Romney is absolutely on the wrong side of this issue so some of his wealthy friends can benefit now, and he's using your religious distrust of science to fool you into ignoring it.

Here, we literally are talking about the fate of the world being in the balance, and you're being worked up on the wrong side of the biggest problem in the world simply because it's politically useful to do so and because it's so damned easy to do it to you. While you play a few loud notes of science denialism against evolution, stem cell research, and reproductive science, climate change is an easy, if cacophonous, chord to strike. This isn't a game anymore, though. You're going to end the world, at least as we need it to live in as we know how. If you won't, your children will pay a very heavy price because your religious beliefs are being manipulated this way.

Get on the right side of history with social issues, or at least stop getting played by them.

You're being played like a fiddle not just on science denial, though, but also on social issues. To be completely frank, you are being taught to hate: you hate gays, hate independent women, hate freethinkers, hate people of different religions, and even still hate other races. You are also taught doublethink on your hate with clever but essentially meaningless platitudes like "don't hate the sinner; hate the sin." You are literally being taught to hate these people, though, to discriminate against them, to oppress them, to refuse them their rights, to attempt to take away their rights, to silence them, to control them, and to fail to extend the one thing your God commands above all other things that you extend to them: love. You do this while you wave a flag and yell "freedom." You have been taught by a useful manipulation of your religious beliefs to mistake your hard-won freedom of speech for a platform to judge, to oppress, and to hate.

This is all very useful indeed politically, at least by evil men and women, and your socially conservative religious beliefs make you ripe and ready to be molded to their reckless political goals--just like organizations like the Taliban do to Muslims in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and throughout the rest of the radicalized Muslim world. You are taught to hate, and that division is used to split you from people whose political interests you actually should share. Economically, it makes absolutely no sense that you would vote for rich people to do better while you are left to do worse. But you do, and you do it in droves marching in a maniacal lockstep that threatens to break the fallacy implied by Godwin's law.

This is why we've seen members of your ranks repeatedly say absolutely unacceptable things about women, contraception, the LBGT community, science, slavery, and especially rape over the past four or five years. Almost all of these people, incidentally, represent the Republican Party (which happens to be the one that is manipulating you, in case you haven't realized it yet), especially the Tea Party wing that many of you form. Until only a few years ago, no person could say those things in public in the United States and retain their relevance. They'd rightly be shamed out of the spotlight after a forced apology, and their careers would be completely over, particularly in politics. Many of you look at President Obama and say things like "our country is not on the right path." You are right, but you're looking at the wrong person. We're on the wrong path because of men like "legitimate rape" Todd Akin, "science is lies from the pit of hell" Paul Broun, "gift of God rape" Richard Mourdock, "Sandra Fluke is a slut" Rush Limbaugh, and so many others like them--almost all on the hard-right. We're on the wrong path because you have been taught through your religion to support those men, something that can only be justified by hating the ones they demonize.

This is not what we see now, though. We see you, again waving that bullshit banner of perverted "freedom," supporting these unconscionable and embarrassing statements and then electing the unqualified and dangerous buffoons. They've made sure to use your religion to get us to a point where they are no longer afraid of paying the just social price for saying these kinds of things aloud. Worse, they have used your religion to make you hate your fellow Americans that speak up as well, teaching you wrongly to associate the concept of evil with the word "liberal." How can you not see how they teach you to hate and use your religion of "love" to do it? Has hate blinded you that much already?

In the process, these people have used you to manufacture and to protect what can only be called an obscene shitstorm of oppression--mostly of women, gays, and minorities, although I might mention infidels here too. Your religion is at the center of most of this, and it's unacceptable. You surely know that "war on Christmas" we keep hearing about, and you are equally surely aware of all of the attempts by "the liberals" and "atheists" to remove and/or destroy Christianity in America. This is all a big load of horseshit manufactured to keep you on-edge about your religious values, to keep you angry about them so that you will zealously and fanatically defend anything and anyone that appears to be supporting them. This is one way they play you, and they play you so hard that the rest of us would feel sorry for you if you weren't using it to fuck everything up, just like your masters want you to.

If you really need a clear piece of evidence that you're essentially the American Taliban, you need to look at what you are doing with rape up on the public stage, which you obviously must support. You have allowed, and partly forced, one of the major national political parties to say something overwhelmingly embarrassing about rape, rape, almost on a weekly basis--a rate that seems to be accelerating with time. We have "easy rape," "legitimate rape," "gift from God rape," "forced rape," "true rape (of a virgin)," and all kinds of idiocy flying around one of the easiest questions we now face: RAPE IS RAPE, AND RAPE IS BAD.

Why? It's partly because you have your heads too far up your own asses about abortions, which suddenly become very hard to deny justifiability when the pregnancy resulted from a rape. That's actually only a tiny bit of the reason, though--and it's a huge one on its own and endemic of the big one. The big reason you have your heads completely wrong about rape is because your entire party has all of its heads completely wrong about women in exactly the same way the Taliban does.

These questions about rape (and contraception, and abortion) all come down to a fundamental belief that women are essentially the properties of their husbands, vessels through which to produce progeny, and otherwise too diabolical to be trusted (if you ask the female head of the Tea Party in Central Mississippi, Janis Lane). Just like the Taliban, you think of women in a completely and utterly wrongheaded and oppressive way, and this one we can actually pin directly on your hard-right interpretation of Christianity. As you can see, politicians are quick to play you on this too and attempt to make legislation that seriously limits the civil liberties (something you're supposed to be all about, remember?) of half of the population. Not to beat a dead horse, but do you know who else does this? The Taliban does!

You are, for the most part, better and smarter people than this. I know you, so I know it's true. You just have hard-right radicalized ideas pushing your hate on a scale unmatched by any significant modern group other than the hard-right Islamists that you hate so much--the ones that flew planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon in 2001.

You're pushing people away from your Jesus by being so hateful!

Of course, all this political pronouncements are very obvious to the rest of us. We notice. Indeed, you might should know, the reason I am an atheist today is largely because of you supporting and promoting these monstrous, obsolete ideas on the public stage. These outrages against modernity were what forced me to carefully evaluate the religions themselves, which resulted in my abject rejection of them. They are also what made me first start speaking out against religion. You should take note of that, since you claim to be working primarily to win souls to your God. Your bullshit is pushing them away in record numbers, particularly your children and grandchildren. You are arguably more effective at making people into atheists than all the atheists, scientists, and liberals combined!

The biggest reason young people are turning away from religions like Christianity is because of the fact that you hard-right Christians are actually more and more identifiable with being hate groups. It works because you're so politically mobilized as you are by power-hungry people who hardly care about your religion (you might call them antichrists if you weren't too busy waving banners to support them).

If you really believe your religion, it's a good time to turn it down and realize the monsters it's making you--again, as a political tool of men who have dreams of a lot of power, just like the hard-right Islamists like the Taliban.

This brings us back to radical Islam, then.

I'm stunned, honestly, by the number of you that I've talked to that don't realize that the word "Allah" simply means "God" in Arabic. For an analogy, the word "Dios" means "God" in Spanish. Observe, though, that when a Spanish speaker (most of whom many of you hate for political, but not personal, reasons) says "Dios," you don't hate him for worshipping a false God. You do accuse Muslims of of it for praying to Allah, though.

This, then, is unlikely to land on you as squarely as it needs to. While Islam is a different religion from Christianity (in a more substantial way than Catholicism is different from Protestantism, or than that Mormonism is different from both of those), the God they call "Allah" is the same God you pray to, thank, worship, and use as an excuse to hate everyone that you decide or are taught not to like. This God is called the Abrahamic God because it is the God that the Bible says made a covenant with Abram (who was renamed Abraham). This is the same God of the hard-right radical Islamists, like the Taliban, who frighteningly and ironically (since you both call him the "One True God") was changed less by Islam than He was by Christianity. You are both worshipping the same God and using that belief to hate each other for it, among other mostly politically manufactured ills.

These Muslims you have so much in common with, as much as you hate to hear that, are the recipients of a number of hateful things that pass your lips and sometimes occupy your thoughts. The same is true of many, many Muslims who aren't hard-right Islamists and have something more significant in common with you, being human beings that are trying to do good work and find some measure of happiness and comfort in a hard life. Meanwhile, if we're real about it, you indiscriminately and hatefully call them all by a variety of discriminating  and hateful names like Muzzies, muck-mucks, camel-jockeys, towel-heads, and sand niggers. As it turns out, it is common among you that you want to bring war to them, kill them, wipe them and their religion from the planet, and, very generally, hate them, which is why you're trained to hate them so much, which your religion is very, very good at doing to you. That's politically useful, and your masters in the pulpits, on Religious Right television programming, and in the emerging Tea Party and Republican leadership all know it well.

But I know you're not bad people. I mean, really, I know you.

The thing is that you're not really monsters, not most of you. I know enough of you to know that firsthand. Most of you are better than that, either raised better or having outgrown your raising, and I see you getting played. It cannot be denied, though. You in the Religious Right, the hard-right Christians in America, are really the American Taliban.

Wake up. We all need you to.

With kindness and sincerity,
James


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