I like this article over at Frontpage by Lowell Ponte-he’s a conservative, but pretty balanced I think about what’s going on. I do want to add one thing though-Ponte points out the Left’s hypocrisy when it comes to the use of religion, good if it serves "progressive" ends, bad if it is in favor of socially conservative ones. For instance, the Catholic Church is great when the bishops push universal health care, not so congenial when they want to roll-back abortion rights. On the other hand, I used to watch CNBC years back, in college, and Jerry Falwell would sometimes be on this or that show. One time when asked why he opposed a lot of social welfare, he stated that "to force people to give to those in need removes the act of virtue since it is not done freely out of charity and compassion, but coerced." I remembered this when weeks later Falwell sadly admitted that though this country would never ban pornography, he wished it would, because it was a terrible sin. In this case, Falwell did not seem inclined to err on the side of free will and allow people to virtuously choose The Good and reject the sin. Just goes to show, hypocrisy is a human universal.
fn1. OK, before anyone jumps on me for saying a nice thing about a religious conservative, I was an activist for Campus Freethought Alliance back in the day and have been in the past relatively active in the internet atheist community. I can’t get worked up over this stuff going on in Alabama because I can’t relate to Alabama, the state I live in has the highest number of non-religious (almost 20%) in the country, and most of my friends are as non-religioius as me. The town I live in probably has a greater number of Buddhists than evangelical Christians. Not that I reject universal principles & church state separation-but I think there are bigger things in the world to worry about. I am thinking of pitching an article to Frontpage addressing my contention that seculars and christians should stop their bitching & clawing and look to the threats from the outside and the weakness at the heart of Western civilization that they both claim to love. Amen!
Godless briefly comments:
Moore is a fundy in the Pat Robertson/Jerry Falwell mode:
The Alabama chief justice famous for his Ten Commandments fight warned an audience Tuesday night of "great consequences" when America turns away from God and suggested the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks might be an example.
Roy Moore, in Washington to accept an honorary doctorate in divinity from the National Clergy Council and Methodist Episcopal Church U.S.A., implied a parallel between the attacks and what he contends has been a 40-year legal erosion of religious rights, including his own right to display the Ten Commandments in court.
He pointed out similarities between the devastation and the Biblical words of Isaiah, who had forecast a "day of great slaughter, when the towers fall."
"How many of you remember Americans running to get gas masks because (of) some bearded man in Afghanistan?" Moore asked during his address at Georgetown University. "Fear struck this country. … You see, there are consequences when we turn away from our source of our strength."
Has anyone actually read the 10 commandments? There are several versions floating around, but in every case these are primitive taboos we’re talking about, on par with Thor and Asgard. Like Moore, the authors of the 10 commandments had an uncertain grip on "cause and effect" :
I Am The Lord Thy God; Thou Shalt have no other gods Before Me.
Thou Shalt Not Take The Name Of The Lord, Thy God, In Vain.
Remember The Sabbath Day, to Keep it Holy.
Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery.
Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his cattle, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s..
Obviously I’m not in favor of perjury, murder, theft, or disrespecting your parents. I’m neutral on greed, though…in my experience, it’s only considered "greed" if someone else is making money hand over fist :)
Beyond the obvious points of agreement, we get to the nub of the question, which is that many religious practices are primitive superstitions that make no sense whatsoever. Are we going to prevent stores from opening on Saturdays? Are we planning on outlawing adultery or utterances of "goddamn"? Are we planning on constraining religious freedom by preventing people from having other Gods (or no gods) besides the Christian God? Are we going to sanction the tacit endorsement of slavery ("the manservant is *thy neighbor’s*")?
What this manufactured controversy boils down to is whether we are going to accept the rambling injunctions of the jealous & vengeful Yahweh over the laws of the United States of America. Much more on this here. I’m not a militant atheist (anymore), but Moore-like stupidity brings it out in me…
fn2. Does anyone really think that the radical Islamists wouldn’t have attacked us on 9/11 if we had been more religiously observant?
Addendum from Razib: This post really wasn’t about the Roy Moore case per se, rather the role of religion in American life. Or rather, the lives of Americans, does it surprise us that the 10 commandments are being shown in an Alabama courthouse, while California funded the building of a statue to Quetzalcoatl? I think Lowell is being a bit disingenius, "One Nation Under God" is a patriotic assertion, the statue to Quetzalcoatl is more an acknowledgement of the historical past of some Californians (putatively) than it is an attempt to promot his cult. We are a nation with schizophrenic attitudes toward religion-and Lowell is correct when he notes that the cultural Left has a double standard, heaping contempt on "toothless evangelicals" while respecting & promoting faiths espoused by minorities that are rather weird or quite often regressive. On the other hand, I do believe that the religious Right has not squared the circle of broad pluralism in concert with a tightly focused public piety.
fn3. It is disputable that many of the ancestors of today’s Latino Californians were Aztecs. Many are mestizo to begin with-and even then their indigenous ancestors were probably of the conquered peoples.