For Christ's sake, Part II

In my earlier piece about Christianity and terrorism, the Ku Klux Klan was cited as a “Christian terrorist” group. I kind of let that slide, but it occurred to me one very compelling argument why that’s a bogus categorization.

If you look at the examples of the Klan, my adversary cited their bombings of 19 churches in the summer of 1964. That would be 19 Christian churches. Kind of takes the steam out of the “Klans as Christian terrorists” notion, when they’re blowing up their fellow Christians.

Further, I don’t recall the other criterion I specified being fulfilled with any of the groups cited as ‘Christian terrorists” — that they are either endorsed or, at least, refused to be condemned by — mainstream Christian leaders. In Islam, there is most often a deafening silence when militant Islamists commit their acts of terror. That, or a soft codemnation of the act, followed by a quick rationalizing of the act by citing “offenses against Islam” that “provoked” the atrocities.

Now, on to the main point of this piece. How do I, as a proclaimed agnostic and non-Christian, feel about a lot of the Church-State arguments going around?

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First of all, let me say that I think Michael Newdow is a world-class asshole. He’s got way, way too much time on his hands, and a serious problem with making sure no one nowhere ever dares disagree with his beliefs.

Does “IN GOD WE TRUST” belong on our currency? Probably not. I don’t like government messing around with religion, and religion messing around with government. I don’t think the government has any business pushing any sort of particular faith, even something as broad as monotheism. But it’s no big deal to me. I could care less. It means absolutely nothing to me, as an issue.

Should “under God” be in the Pledge of Allegiance? No, I think not. It wasn’t in the original Pledge, but was added in the 50’s in the efforts to fight Godless Communism. But whenever I’ve recited the Pledge, I’ve usually blipped over that phrase. I think that part should be considered optional, for people like me who feel a fierce loyalty and pride in our citizenship, but don’t feel any similar feelings towards a higher power. If someone tries to compel that, then I’d support fighting it on the “establishment” grounds. But until that happens, again it’s no big deal to me.

Faith-based charities? Governments enouraging and cooperating with religious institutions to commit acts of charity? I am innately suspicious, but with a few minor restrictions, I have no problems. The institutions should not be allowed to discriminate on who they offer their aid to, cannot put conditions or requirements on the needy, and should minimize their proselytizing. But it’s an unmistakable fact that these institutions are taking these actions because of their religious beliefs, in accordance with the tenets of their faith. To require them to conceal or deny that motivation is unrealistic, offensive, and just plain wrong.

So, do I think that the Religious Right is trying to make the United States over into a theocracy? No, I don’t. Sure, there are some who’d like to see steps in that direction, like Pat Robertson, but they’re kept at arms-length by most people. It ain’t happening any time soon.

I do think that there is a push among conservatives to prefer people of strong religious faith in high office over those who lack that, and again I have no problem with that. Those people tend to have a stronger sense of ethics than others, and I think that’s generally a good thing. It’s no guarantee — I personally think of myself as an exception, and certainly don’t think that faith is a guarantee of good behavior — but I think it’s certainly an indicator, and there are worse grounds for choosing leaders. For example, I really can’t think of why Ted Kennedy keeps getting re-elected.

So, in the end, I am a bit suspicious of large-scale organized religion. It seems to me that many of the greatest atrocities in human history were committed in the name of God, and I am not eager to see that happen again. But the more recent ones were done in the name of ideologies that rejected God (Nazism, Communism), so it’s no hard and fast rule. And for the most part, religion has been a positive force in society.

But anyone who tries to coerce me into ascribing to their faith is in for a very unsatisfying experience. I know just enough about most of them to be able to blaspheme quite strenuously.

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