Happy End-times! It's 6/6/'6, and you know what THAT means. Blood rain from outer space. The Holy Land moves to Texas. And we're all about to be visited by the One Horsewoman of the Apocalypse, Ann Coulter, her Hillary-blonde mane cascading behind her in the righteous wind as her flying steed seeks out the unbelievers who need to be slaughtered like so many Iraqi children.
Prepare for another round of can't-turn-on-the-news-channel-without-seeing-that-skull terrors. Ann's message: the (tiny) atheist subset among the lefties (whom she'll smugly call "the godless left," like that's an insult) are just not stupid enough to have political power in America. Of course, she'll be using code words, but "not stupid enough" is really the gist. Ann and pals need people to be embarrassingly, horrendously, born-again-level stupid. Or, to be charitable, as if that matters, embarrassingly, etc. "unexamined."
See, to be as mindless as Ann Coulter's model American, you'll need to be comfy believing all this:
- About 1/3 of the Bible is divinely inspired. The rest is just there to make the book mysterious and impenetrable.
- The magical, invisible superhero she claims to follow sees all and knows all, but doesn't actually do anything helpful. It just exists "up there" (wherever "up" is on this globe) demanding tribute.
- There's a judgment coming in which those rich enough, hateful enough, and/or warlike enough will get tickets to heaven.
- If we just insist on teaching children the correct set of superstitions, we can make them all as moral, caring, and giving as Ann Coulter.
Ann and her stupid-enough compatriots, like bullshit artists since the species evolved language, use god exclusively as a tool. It's just a way to make individual humans seem bigger, more important, and more powerful than they actually are. "I don't like fags, but I'm just one little telegenic hate machine. I know! I'll say GOD doesn't like fags! Oh, I feel so godly all of a sudden."
But this column isn't about Ann Coulter, despite her name in the title and the opening and much of the content. She's a successful huckster, bolstering the tilt toward nonsense that will most likely kill off the species, but she's not the problem. The problem, as Ann might even agree, is us in the secular, reality-based world. She might even agree with my diagnosis: we're too tolerant.
To the extent that there's any discussion of religion's role in America, it's a biblical flood of mumbo-jumbo from one side meeting a crumbling dike of condescension and self-censorship on the other. We see proponents of competing superstitions killing each other and conning their kids into killing each other, and we call it "religious tension" or "sectarian violence" or some other sanitized phrase that doesn't reflect the truth: nonsense kills.
The Constitution guarantees freedom inside your head, to hold dear anything you choose. We say that's a value worth fighting for, but that's obviously not 100% true. We wouldn't really fight to protect your right to worship your uncle Toby's baby food jar of belly button lint that he says cures toothaches. (Icky!) But if you subscribe to an equally ludicrous proposition -- that some ancient guy fit a breeding pair of every animal on a smallish boat, for example -- we'll actually weigh that in your favor when we decide whether or not to crown you president. Even if you apply that type of nonsense to decisions that affect real-world people. Faith doesn't actually move mountains, but it sure melts glaciers.
We've let false tolerance take the place of the real deal. Of course you can believe what you want, and you can preach it as loud as you want. But you don't get a free pass when your wishes and dreams have to compete with reality. Having the biggest microphone or the gaudiest church can't win you your own set of facts, and we can only affect the world if it runs on facts.
Most Americans don't think about how con schemes work or how people allow themselves to be hoodwinked. And because so many on the left wouldn't dream of being intolerant to even the most profound injustice as long as it was wrapped in the radioactive label "religion," nobody talks about the elephant in the room: it's deadly dangerous to allow magic-believers to apply their childlike gullibility to public policy. It's almost as if we understand that religion is divorced from honesty, so we feel like we can't talk about it honestly -- at least in public; at least in America.
We would be much better served with honesty. I have faith that that's true, but I can't prove it.
So on this day of rampant superstition (and probably some pretty cool parties -- 666! Whoo!), here's some honesty: fearing god is just silly. It's absolutely indistinct from fearing elves. And chalking up human success to any god is no more admirable. No god ever ended a war or fed a hungry kid. When religious people say "I know," especially when they're looking all beatific, they mean "I hope." "God" is a stone-age proposition that serves no purpose in the twenty-first century other than to rain money from the pockets of self-indulgent fools onto the heads of id-coddling hate mongers -- be they priests or pundits.
PS - I hadn't read Chris Durang's interesting post on similar themes when I wrote this one. Morphic resonance, anyone?