Many Americans are concerned about the threat of a theocracy arising in Egypt and the Middle East as a result of the uprisings occurring there. Threat of theocratic government, or theocracy, is certainly a matter worthy of constant vigilance and I am among those who profess uncertainty about prospects for secular government in the Middle East. I recently engaged in a discussion with one of my conservative right-wing coworkers about the uprisings in Egypt and he was, intriguingly, supportive of the regime of Hosni Mubarak, not the people claiming to want a more secular democracy.
I found it unfortunate and disappointing that his entire perspective was based on incomplete information resulting from his own failure to adequately research the issues he was talking about mixed with propaganda transposed onto him by various right-wing media based on typical right-wing fear and denial about nuanced realities of the world. For instance, he slammed a newspaper onto my desk, pointing to a headline that said, “Protestors want a seat at the table”. Then he said, “See, that’s what I mean.”
Somewhat confused as to what exactly was his point, I asked, “What table do they want a seat at?”
He stammered just a bit, “Umm …well ...I don’t know,” with apparent recognition of the point I was about to make. “Well, let’s see,” I said.
I quickly scanned the first paragraph and informed my coworker that the table at which they wanted a seat was merely the table at which they could be included in determination of their new democratic government. Then I asked, “Isn’t that what democracy is all about? Why wouldn’t they want a seat at that table? Wouldn’t you?”
His only response was, “Democracy means Sharia Law to those people.”
When I pressed him for specifics about the situation in Egypt, it became clear that his primary concern was about “Sharia Law” possibly being instated in Egypt. His view is that to the protestors democracy means Sharia Law; something totally different than what we think of as democracy. I can not attest with absolute certainty to the correctness or incorrectness of his assertion, as only time will tell, but the protestors’ claims refute his opinion. My coworker has good reason to believe as he does, though, because, truthfully, there is a certain global dilemma in dealing with religion generally.
The United Nations has in recent years passed a “Religious Defamation Resolution” that supports criminalizing speech that criticizes religion. I blogged about this back in April of 2009 in a post titled, “United Nations: Combating Defamation of Religion”. The term “defamation” has a very specific meaning and it is logically impossible to defame religion because, as I discussed in that post:
“The act of defaming some-BODY or some-THING requires that the defamed entity can be proven to exist, or to be true, that it has been harmed by what has been said, and most importantly, that the defaming statement can be proven to be false.”
I’m always fascinated by the concern by so many Americans about religion taking control in other countries while they ignore – sometimes even encourage – the insidious religious threat that looms in America at this juncture. In fact, various elements of the entirety of American culture are diseased with religious remnants of the dark ages, a sort of dark plague, which retards societal progress, creates societal divisions and attempts to force religious mandates on society at large.
Christian elements are currently involved in efforts to impose religion in the U.S. military which represents merely one aspect of a cancerous religious attack. Practices in the military like “prayer breakfasts” and “spiritual fitness tests” are clear examples of this attack. The questions on the spiritual fitness test ask you to rate statements according to how closely they describe yourself. A sampling of those questions:
1) I often find comfort in my religion or spiritual beliefs.
2) In difficult times I pray or meditate.
3) I attend religious services.
Some soldiers who have failed the Army’s Spiritual Fitness Test have asserted that they were ordered to meet with chaplains where coercive attempts were made to instruct them in Christian doctrine.
South Dakota’s State House of Representatives considered a bill HR 1171 regarding abortion that would classify as justifiable homicide the murder of an individual who is attempting to cause an abortion. One is left to wonder where that slippery slope ends. For instance, what if someone destroys fertilized embryos in a Petri dish or a mother decides to have an abortion? In the quest to protect the “life” (life?) of the fetus, would these people be criminally prosecuted?
The absurdity of the legislation is more than obvious. Be that as it may, the fact that the legislature “tabled” the bill does little to mitigate the underlying dilemma, which is the blatant absurdity of the bill, not to mention the absurdity that it would have ever been considered seriously enough in the first place to need to be tabled. It’s important to note that merely tabling a bill leaves the possibility of taking it up again at some future date.
Continuing the theme of religious opposition to abortion, consider that the current U.S. House of Representatives has become the first chamber of Congress to defund Planned Parenthood:
The U.S. House of Representatives voted Feb. 18 to eliminate all federal funding for Planned Parenthood, the country's No. 1 abortion provider, during the remainder of this fiscal year.
It is apparently the first time a chamber of Congress has ever voted to defund the organization, which recorded more than 324,000 abortions at its clinics in 2008, the most recent year for which statistics are available.
Is the defunding of Planned Parenthood based in religious pandering? Religious pandering may not be the only motivation, but one is hard-pressed to find a reasonable argument that wholly disallows religious pandering as a factor.
“Innocent until proven guilty” – does that phrase ring a bell with you? That phrase used to be one of the most precious tenets of American beliefs. However, the conservative right-wing is casually eliminating it. Have you ever heard of “prenatal murder”? The article GA Representative Seeking to Make Miscarriages "Prenatal Murder" outlines the legislative bill introduced into the Georgia State Legislature that would, in essence, define a miscarriage as homicide and would require a mother-to-be who suffers a miscarriage to prove the miscarriage was not intentional. It would not require a prosecutor to prove that the miscarriage was intentional. When I first heard about this, I wondered rhetorically whether right-wing conservatives would hold their god criminally responsible for a miscarriage that is, in fact, unintentional on the part of the mother-to-be, or someone else. The question presents some interesting arguing points.
Another good example of this dark plague is currently making its way through the court system in Indiana. An Indiana court deprived a father, Craig Scarberry, of his parental rights based, at least in part, on his religious beliefs being different from those of his ex-wife, Christine Porcaro. According to the court’s ruling:
“…evidence indicated that the Petitioner/Father did not participate in the same religious training that the Respondent/Mother exercises and that the Petitioner/Father was agnostic."
Ms. Porcaro claims the religious difference is only one consideration in the ruling. Porcaro's attorney said:
"While religious instruction for the children is an appropriate consideration for the Court, Ms. Porcaro contends that it was but one of many factors considered by the court."
“Religious instruction for the children is an appropriate consideration for the Court”? Really? I don’t think it is, at least not according to the U.S. Constitution. The courts have no authority in “religious instruction” and it seems particularly odd that an attorney would suggest they do have such authority. Does Ms. Porcaro have legal standing to assert that her religious beliefs override Mr. Scarberry’s parental rights simply because he is agnostic? There should have been no consideration of religious beliefs as any basis whatsoever regarding custodial rights and such events represent a clear warning of the insidiousness with which religion creeps into societal decision-making.
While some Americans worry about theocratic takeovers in other countries, their own country is also being assaulted on the religious front and while a theocratic takeover of America is certainly not as imminent as in other countries, the fact remains that the dark plague never sleeps and constant vigilance is needed to safeguard against such a takeover. Egypt is hardly a threat to America, whether theocratic, democratic or dictatorship. The real threats to America currently reside within its own borders, on many fronts, not only religiosity.
Unfortunately, too many people still defend religion, primarily out of a sense of Political Correctness. The continued defense of religion as something essential to society is misguided.
You can hear an interview with Mr. Scarberry on Free Thought Radio.