There are so many absurdities in our day-to-day political life related to religion. We have become inured to new standards of idiocy set by theocratic pols seeking to outdo each other sucking up to religious crazies.
The result of our collective hesitancy is that things keep getting worse. That is, the intrusion of religion in varied forms becomes more pervasive, and our drift toward theocracy increasingly pernicious.
The Pledge of Allegiance (“under God”) is bad, prayers at the start of government meetings, inaugurations, football games and so on are an abomination, Catholic Cardinals obstructing health benefits for all women (not just members of their “flock”) grates and a National Day of Prayer all boggle the mind. You would think these kinds of offenses against the Constitution would be the worst of it, as all get plenty of attention. Occasionally, there is successful resistance, as in a court case challenging the prayer proclamation last year when Federal District Judge Barbara Crabb wrote: “The same law that prohibits the government from declaring a National Day of Prayer also prohibits it from declaring a National Day of Blasphemy.” The judge noted that Congress may no more declare a National Day of Prayer than it “may encourage citizens to fast during the month of Ramadan, attend a synagogue, purify themselves in a sweat lodge or practice rune magic. It is because the nature of prayer is so personal and can have such a powerful effect on a community that the government may not use its authority to try to influence any individual’s decision whether and when to pray.”
But such bright spots of secular sanity are overwhelmed by a thousand little cuts that sap the vitality of the secular state of these United States. When secular people resign themselves to religious intrusions, things get much worse. Religion-related events take place that are not only ridiculous in the extreme but allow further sectarian encroachments precisely because so few notice anymore. When that happens, there is no or too little push back in a timely manner.
Which brings me to Marco Rubio.
Rubio, the freshman senator from the state of Florida, gave a speech at the Republican National Convention last summer. At one point, he said: “Our national motto is, ‘In God We Trust,’ reminding us that faith in our creator is the most important American value of all.” The Republicans loved it. But please – let’s get a grip here – what percentage of Americans truly believe that “faith in our creator” (never mind what such faith encompasses or what creator Rubio had in mind) is the most important American value of all? Is a religious belief in an imaginary friend more important to Americans than personal integrity, trustworthiness, benevolence and fairness? The late philosopher Paul Kurtz described these four as moral decencies, expressions of general principles and rules that provide general parameters that guide our conduct. They are independent of and in no way associated with faith in a creator, though most religions support such standards. They are a lot more directive as behavior guides than a meaningless bromide like faith in a creator. What a steaming pile of doo doo – U.S. senators and other public figures should be challenged when they make crazy claims, not given standing ovations, as Rubio enjoyed from the GOP (God’s Own Party) faithful.
Why should we suffer politicians who profess something as offensive as the idea that belief in a creator is more important than common decencies? Suppose the next senator to speak at that convention was a Muslim and said, “faith in Allah is the most important value of all?” How would that have gone over? Yet, what did those delegates, or anyone for that matter, really know, based on evidence, about the practical difference between faith in one god or another? How can anyone with any sense not view a claim that the highest American value is faith in a vague, invisible and ill defined creator is nothing but babble at best, more more likely either delusion or insanity? (More of Paul Kurtz’ discussion of common decencies here – http://www.secularhumanism.org/library/fi/kurtz_23_1_1.htm.)
Does Rubio really consider such a value more important to Americans than “telling the truth, not lying or being deceitful, being sincere, candid, frank, and free of hypocrisy, keeping one’s promises, honoring pledges, living up to agreements and being honest, avoiding fraud or skullduggery?” Do we want a politician who is first and foremost focused on faith in a creator or one who is loyal, dependable, who can be counted on, who is reliable and responsible?
Do we want god-talkers like Rubio or representatives whose moral values elevate goodwill and noble intentions, a positive concern for others?
Does Rubio hold faith in his creator to be a moral value superior to any personal conviction he possesses to not kill or steal, inflict injury, be cruel, abusive, or be vengeful?
Is faith in a creator more important to Rubio than values that lead him to be kind, sympathetic, compassionate, lend a helping hand, do what he can to decrease the pain and suffering of constituents and otherwise contribute to the welfare of society?
We wisely devote a lot of attention to the grave dangers posed by militant Islamic fundamentalism. Muslim fanatics use religion to teach hatred of Western moral values and to wage jihad against infidels. This usually means those whose most important value is faith in the creator. Not the same creator Rubio had in mind, but when you’ve dealt with believers in one creator, you’ve dealt with them all. The creators are all the bloody same – figments of imaginations, one and all, with consequences sometimes benign, sometimes not.
Rubio’s nonsensical slogan reminds us of something Dawkins wrote, namely, that religion welcomes free inquiry, science and reason about as much as Dracula enjoys sunlight.