You Can’t Politicize Religion Because Religion Is Politics

Religion and PoliticsI came upon this article from over four years ago, The Good Christian. It’s basically about how I don’t dislike Christians. I just dislike Christianity as I normally find it in America. Since then, I’ve written a number of articles about different aspects of this. I think, for example, that the Sermon on the Mount is one of the most beautiful pieces of writing ever. And it makes clear that religion and politics are really the same thing.

Any time someone claims that you are “politicizing” religion, what they really mean is that they don’t like your religion. Unless you are going to stick to theoretical discussions of ontology, religion is politics. And the sort of people who claim that it isn’t are exactly the kind of people who don’t even think of ontology as part of religion. For them, religion is dogma at best, and tribalism at worst. “I’ve been told that the soul enters the fetus at conception, and that’s that.” They really ought to change those bumper stickers that read, “God Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It.” It would be more accurate to say, “My pastor told me, I believe it, that settles it.” Because there ain’t nothing in the “literal word of God” that says the zygote has a soul.

In looking for images for another article, I entered “Liberal Christianity is” into Google and it offered the suggestion, “Liberal Christianity is not Christianity.” There are almost 33 million pages for that search. If you enter “Conservative Christianity is” into Google, it offers the suggestion, “conservative Christianity is dying.” There are a half million pages for that search. “Conservative Christianity is not Christianity” provides only 19 million pages. But it does indicate that in the English language, conservative Christians really think that the basis of their religion is control of women and hatred of fags. (Is it any wonder conservative Christians hate fundamentalist Muslims so much? They are almost the same.)

My Religion Isn’t Political!

There is a constant problem of my religion being obviously what God believes and your religion being obviously just what you want to believe. But the truth is that I value religion and I really am interested in the religious beliefs of others. I’ll be honest though, I’m pretty bored with the the whole “personal relationship with Jesus,” which is so common in this country. For one thing, it is a very recent invention. I don’t know the history, but I don’t think it is more than a few centuries old, and didn’t really catch on until the last fifty years.

But what it does is allow people to imagine that religion is easy — that they have a direct pipeline to God. So any notion that comes into their minds must be true. And this is how we get the vulgar displays of professional football players claiming that God was on their side. It’s vulgar because it belittles religion. It makes it all about the believer and not about God. The sports hero who wins the game had God’s backing, but starving Ethiopian children do not. (Note: Ethiopia is a majority Christian country.)

So you see: even the simple act of proclaiming that God is on your side is a political statement. It is a claim that the status quo is right. God wants the poor to starve. God wants the rich to flourish. We all know that God works in mysterious ways, but those ways lead us to where we are now — to the world as it actually exists. Now I have my own conception of God: a linguistic trick allowing us to talk about the nature of existence. That kind of religion isn’t political, because God isn’t something that has any interest in the world. How could it?! It’s a word! But for the vast majority of religious people here in the United States, religion is little but politics.

Donald Trump’s Heterodoxies Are No Problem With GOP Base

Donald TrumpI listened to a little bit of the most recent Republican debate. And Ted Cruz used the same attack on Donald Trump again and again: that he sounded like Hillary Clinton. But I thought the attacks fell flat. It seems to me that Republicans hate Hillary Clinton because she’s Hillary Clinton; but they don’t think that every idea she has is a bad one. And that’s especially true on foreign policy because she’s well known as a hawk. People like Cruz (and honestly, Marco Rubio too), the Republican catechism is so well known, that they don’t realize it is more or less meaningless to most actual Republicans.

The one bit that stands out is Trump’s claim that he will work a deal that will make everyone in the Middle East happy. To Ted Cruz, this is ridiculous. The United States will stand behind Israel no matter what. If they start dropping atomic bombs on Iran and Saudi Arabia, we will stand with them. This is just Christian Nationalism nonsense. And although there is a good percentage of the Republican Party that believes this stuff, most Republicans (like most Americans) would just like to see the Israel-Palestine conflict worked out. There really are very few people who think, “Israel, right or wrong!”

It makes me think back to being a kid and forced to go to catechism. The Catholic Church doesn’t want its members to be coming to mass out of habit. They want the congregation to understand what it is that the church actually stands for. This whole Republican nominating contest has show that the Republicans really do need the same thing. Because it appears that Republicans don’t much believe in anything other than that “those people” are bad. It’s not surprising, given that for the last 50 years, Republicans have by and large used racist demagoguery to get elected. And it has been so successful that they haven’t even had to justify their ever more exclusive economic policies. But still, you would have thought they would have paid more attention.

Hillary ClintonBut it does lead us to the point where the Republican Party establishment can’t counter someone like Donald Trump by comparing hims policies to Hillary Clinton’s policies. Because the base doesn’t care. They hate Hillary Clinton. They don’t hate Hillary Clinton policies. It’s just like they hate Obamacare, but not Obamacare policies. I’ve noted this many times before. It’s amazing how popular universal healthcare is with Republican voters. It is only when they told that it is not something their side believes in that they have a problem with it. As it is, Obamacare is as conservative a law as you could have that would actually improve the healthcare situation. So why do conservatives hate it? Because they were told to.

During the debate, Ted Cruz attacked Donald Trump for being for the individual mandate. But I think it was just eight years ago that the Republican candidate for president was in favor of the individual mandate. The policies mean nothing to the Republican voters. What matters is that Hillary Clinton is not on their team. And Donald Trump is. Otherwise, who cares? The Republican Party has gone off the rails when it comes to economic matters. Hillary Clinton’s economic policies are far more popular among Republicans than those of Cruz and Rubio.

These candidates — and the whole Republican Party establishment — are fooling themselves if they think Trump’s heterodoxies will hurt him in the Republican primary. Most Republicans don’t even know they are heterodoxies. And the Republican Party establishment ought to be glad that they don’t. Otherwise, they might start voting Democratic.

Morning Music: Life on Mars

Hunky DoryToday, we listen to “Life on Mars.” My favorite David Bowie album by far is Hunky Dory. I’m not even sure why. It’s probably just that there seems to be too much going on in his other albums. And despite the fact that he spent much of his early career dressing like a clown, he seemed always to be taking himself far too seriously. That’s not the ultimate killer, though. I like Aladdin Sane. But there’s something to it. If you want to be taken seriously, don’t be a pop star. And don’t dress up like a clown.

I would have more to say if I weren’t having all kinds of computer problems. So I better get this out. Today, we are listening to “Life on Mars.” I don’t really know what it’s about. I always thought vaguely that it was about those wonderful science fiction films from the 1950s. But I guess it is just a love song. Or something. It doesn’t make a lot of sense. And that’s fine. It’s pleasant to listen to.

Afterword

This was supposed to go up yesterday, but I screwed up the time. So here it is.

Anniversary Post: Leap Day and Hattie McDaniel

Leap Day and Hattie McDanielWell, it’s Leap Day my friends. The only person I’ve ever known who was born on this day was my grandfather. It’s always seemed a curious way to deal with a calendar. But there is a lot about our calendars that I don’t care much for. I don’t like months being different lengths. And then February really screws things up not being static. And why February? Wouldn’t it make more sense to put it in December? You could start with January at 31 days, and then alternate 30, 31, 30, and so on. That would give December 30 days on a Leap year. At least it would make sense and everyone would be straight on the number of days in each month.

Given that we just had the Academy Awards, it’s interesting to note that Hattie McDaniel won her award for Best Supporting Actress on Leap Day in 1940 for Gone With the Wind. Such awards generally make a career in Hollywood, and Hattie McDaniel was no different. She went on to play maids in several films before moving into radio and television. She died at the age of 57 of breast cancer.

The one good thing about Leap Day, however, is that it does provide another day of work this month to get paid. I didn’t get much work done this weekend, because the very idea of it seems just too much. Not that there is much of an alternative. We have, as usual, the Schopenhauerian paradox of working to work some more. The one place that’s not true is working on the book. Soon, it will be done and I will never be stupid enough to get involved in such a ridiculous waste of time again. That’s a cheerful thought.

But we have to salute Hattie McDaniel. She was good, even if Gone With the Wind is really a far more troublesome film than Birth of a Nation. I mean, only film students watch Birth of a Nation, and I’m convinced a fair section of Americans get their ideas about slavery from Gone With the Wind.