Agnostics, 1; theocrats, 0
February 16, 2009
by Tom H Hastings--

"I am seeking the counseling of my pastor, my mother and other loved ones and I am committed, with God's help, to emerging a better person."

Awww... Who could not forgive and forget someone with such a stellar attitude? Especially one who has enlisted God as a little helper? These words are attributed to R&B star Chris Brown, who was arrested and charged with beating a woman. Other brave music luminaries have risen to defend the God-connected Brown, including hip-hop star Kanye West. It's only a woman, after all, and God is now even more involved. Of course, according to Reuters, Brown's public relations statement was crafted by a pricey PR crisis management firm, so they know God, too.

Gwynne Dyer, who earned his Ph.D. in military and Middle Eastern history at King's College in London in 1973, served in the Canadian, American and British armed forces and produced the PBS series War. He once wrote that the only way to make war more cruel is to add religion.

Recently, I had lunch with a wonderful Iraqi woman whom I've known since she arrived in the US as a refugee. I feel a special obligation to all Iraqi refugees, since I was part of a failed effort to stop Bush's Crusade for Oil that ruined her country, drove out or displaced some 4.2 million Iraqis like her and her daughters, crushed her nation's infrastructure and ruined its environment.

We were discussing hatred and violence and she said that "God" instructs us to "correct" the behavior of those who have made the "choice" to be gay or lesbian and that, unlike the US, there weren't such people in the Middle East. Out of respect for her suffering I didn't get up and walk away in disgust at yet another summoning of this God to justify stoning, beheading, bombing, shooting, beating or generally attacking other people. But I did find my alienation from that God deepening.

The US, for the moment, possibly but barely seems to have survived eight years of faith-based warmongering, the nearest to a theocracy we've had since, ...um…who?... Methodist Ulysses Grant and his drunken fervor to wipe out redskins who didn't convert to Christianity and settle into barren reservations as alkaline dust farmers? And then there's also Dutch Reformed Theodore Roosevelt and his racist imperialism?

We've now just passed the 20th anniversary of the Ayatollah Khomeini's issuing his fatwa calling for Salman Rushdie's death for writing a book. Thank God Rushdie survived those two decades. Thank God the Ayatollah is no longer with us. Thank God the pen has not been completely decapitated by the sword. No thanks, sadly, to God's nominal followers.

Most of us also have survived Valentine's Day, which is suddenly a hot button for the escalation of religious hatred and violence in India, featuring some Hindu fundamentalist attacks on women who were dancing with—gasp!—men in Mangalore, and beatings of couples who displayed public affection for each other, including a brother and sister in Ujjain.

God save us from those who declare themselves God's people acting in God's name, interpreting God's words from various texts written by men. Fundamentalist Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists—all need some Religious Reality Therapy to help them learn how to keep their religion sheathed unless it's to express love and tolerance, not the irrationalization of hate and violence.

Thank God for the agnostics who founded this nation on separation of religion from governance. Now if we could separate religion from violence we could take the next big step.

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Excellent article...nalatal184702009-04-17 11:13:26