Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sunday Sermon: American Taliban

¡Hola! Everybody…

Here’s hoping my Houston readers are well and safe. I have family in Texas (believe it or not) and fortunately, they are doing well. No one’s hurt and today they all have juice. Hope all those affected by Ike can say the same.

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-=[ The American Taliban’s War Against Freedom ]=-

News Item: Back in 1996, when she first became mayor, Sarah Palin asked the city librarian if she would be all right with censoring library books should she be asked to do so. According to news coverage at the time, the librarian said she would definitely not be all right with it. A few months later, the librarian, Mary Ellen Emmons, got a letter from Palin telling her she was going to be fired.

I recently had to fire an employee for unethical behavior. In actuality, she was beyond unethical, she was demented. I will be conducting interviews for the now open position. I can tell you in full confidence that any job applicants listing “being tortured” as a qualification for the job will not be considered. In addition, any applicants claiming not to have any experience as a qualification will be similarly dismissed. I believe any readers who own their own business would behave in a similar matter.

Why then, do we accept these as “qualifications” for the most powerful office in the known universe?

::blank stare::

In the same way, I will not be entertaining any applicants who cite a holy mandate as a qualification for the job. Let me put it this way: if you ask why you should submit to my desire to sodomize you and my response is “God wants it that way,” would you then bend over? (If you r answer is yes and you’re female, please PM me right away!).

Why then, would you accept this from a politician?

About half the people who voted in the last elections (roughly 20-25% of the population) accept these as qualifications for the office of the presidency of the United States of America.

Would you allow a doctor who dismissed the most important, most concrete theory of biology to treat you? I doubt it. And whatever your “beliefs,” if a cure using evolutionary theory would save your child or loved one from disease, you would use it without thinking about it. In fact, most of us do benefit from such a theory everyday of our lives.

As a young man, I would read of the Dark Ages and wonder how such a world could exist. It was hard for me to imagine a world in which religious superstition would eradicate knowledge, discourage the technology of how to build aqueducts, construct indoor plumbing, and practice sophisticated herbal medicine.

Today, I not only can better understand such a thing -- I believe I am seeing it. As I write this today, science in the United States – once a leader in virtually every research field – is under an intense assault from the extreme religious right – the American Taliban.

No matter how broad the scientific consensus that fossil fuels constitute the principal factor in climate change, conservatives have applied enough pressure that the current administration wouldn’t sign the Kyoto Protocol. The conservative movement will most likely have succeeded in convincing you that oil-drilling in the Alaskan wilderness will be good for you (ignorance is strength). You will vote for that though it will have at best a negligible effect on your pocket and will continue our dependence on fossil fuels when we should be leading the world in alternative fuel sources.

In 2006, the National Institutes of Health budget was cut – for the first time in thirty-six years. As a nation, we educate fewer scientists every year, and we now import more high-tech products than we export. Pressured by wild-eyed extremists such as McCain, Bush administration policy dictates that one third of all government HIV-prevention spending – literally hundreds of millions of dollars – must go to “abstinence until marriage” programs, while government funding for programs supporting condom use have been gutted. This, despite the tragic fact that failure rates for abstinence only programs are many times higher than for programs that are more comprehensive.

The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have both been forced to take unscientific positions in order to please religious forces. For example, they have had to bow to conservative pressure on the “morning after” Plan B pill and on condom use, provoking a mass exodus of scientists from both agencies.

Evangelical CDC appointee and Focus on the Family co-founder, Reginald Finger has gone on record as saying that he would oppose an HIV vaccine if one were to become available: “With any vaccine for HIV, dis-inhibition [meaning freedom from the fear of sex] would certainly be a factor and is something we will have to pay attention to.” These same people attempted blocking approval for and successfully politicized a vaccine protecting women against a virus that causes caner of the cervix. His worry was that, “This vaccine may be sending an overall message to teenagers that ‘We expect them to be sexually active’”

At the same time, conservatives send anti-choice lobbyists as delegates to international conventions on women’s health, and pressure global conferences on AIDS to have religious zealots lecture on “faith-based solutions to AIDS.” I could go on and on: the religious right’s effect on stem cell research, for example, is notorious, despite the majority of scientists – and U. S. citizens, including evangelicals – supporting research that stands to have the largest impact on health in the history of humankind, particularly affecting research on cancer, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, and paralysis.

We like to look down our collective noses at societies that ruled by “obsessed fanatics,” especially those in the Muslim world. The talking heads of the corporate media tsk-tsk about these societies and our political nominees love to fall back on the talking point that “they hate our freedoms that’s why they attack us.

Fair enough.

But what about our homegrown literalist, fundamentalist extremists? In 1997, a man named Gil Alexander Moegerle held a press conference in Colorado Springs. A cofounder of the group, Focus on the Family, he had just written a book, James Dobson’s War on America. Apparently taking his Christianity seriously for a change, Alexander-Moegerle offered a public apology to all women, men of color, Jews, Muslims, homosexual people, and others harmed by the “actions and attitudes on the part of the Christian Right in general and James Dobson and Focus on the Family in particular.”

The book is the first insider expose of a major religious-right organization that uncovers how the corrupt Christina Right operates behind the scenes and issues a warning to the American people.

There was virtually no coverage of his press conference (though it is still available in full: click here).

Many Christians will respond to my critiques of religion by pointing out that it applies only to a small number of vulgar, literalistic fundamentalists. But this is at best wishful thinking. The majority of Americans accept the Bible as a literal history, for example. A history which no rational person should treat as anything more than metaphorical myths. For example, a study using several different surveys found that a percentage of Americans believed:

  • Moses literally parted the Red Sea: 64%
  • God created the universe in six days: 60%

And some of us wonder why our educational system is in disarray? We have extremists running for office who advocate the censorship of books and discourage the teaching of sound scientific theory! How is that different form Europe’s Dark Ages, or the behavior of “radical Islamic extremists” today?

The decade of 1991-2001 saw a marked increase in multiple attacks on U.S. clinics and medical personnel providing contraception and abortion services, leaving 8 dead and 33 seriously wounded. Additionally, there have been more than 20 arsons and attempted arsons, 10 bombings and attempted bombings, and multiple clinics in 23 states have received threats of anthrax and chemical attacks. In fact, the American Life League (a Catholic Organization) ran an ad attacking Planned Parenthood, declaring “Abortion as the ultimate terrorism.”

How would this be treated if it were Islamic terrorists doing the bombing?

It’s time for us to reclaim this nation (or, for some groups, claim it for the first time). It’s time to return it to its original “patriotic” values. The Founders, flawed men that they were, knew they didn’t get it right. They realized that issues would come up, changes and discoveries would make some of their views irrelevant. They realized, that United States of America was (and still is) an experiment. The reason people want to come here is not because they want to shoot caribous in the wild or even buy plasma TVs. They come here because they want to be a part of that experiment.

After the first Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin was asked what type of government the Founders had chosen. His reply is as striking today as it was then: “We have given you a republic – if you can keep it.”

So... it’s up to us…



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