pragueBlog

2003-08-25  

GOD RULES: Here's the title of the Grauniad article:
God help America

US law insists on the separation of church and state. So why does religion now govern?

From that word "govern," you'd be excused for assuming the article was about some sea change in US consitutional law in which religious figures had now been appointed to senior cabinet positions. Oops, it's not about that, it's about one state, Alabama, and its loony chief justice's battle to keep a stone tablet with the ten commandents chiseled onto it. In what sense is this journalism? One state's top judge has let the congenital mental damage resulting from many generations of southern in-breeding get the better of him, and ipso facto the entire US is now "governed by religion."

But wait, maybe I'm wrong. According to a Harris poll (the writer provides no link), there is a 94% chance that as an American I believe in God (snicker), an 86% chance I believe in miracles, an 89% chance I believe in heaven and a 73% chance I accept the existence of hell and the devil (barely suppressed guffaws).

Here's another statistic: 99% of the Americans I know would find those numbers silly.

"God" here clearly and immaturely insinuates the Protestant Christian sky god - old man with white beard in flowing robes sitting comfortably on a cloud and surrounded by harp strumming angels. But he does say "Americans" and I wonder how that 94% would break down between Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Catholics and Protestants? Since he's clearly cocking his sneer-o-matic at the stereotypical American evangelical Christian, that analysis might make things a little different, no?

As for miracles, he's got me there. Six months ago I got out of a taxi in downtown Prague and left my wallet on the dashboard. The driver called after me and handed it back through the window. I definitely believe in miracles.

Elsewhere I've seen these statistics, which got some play in the press some months ago when they first came out, taken down a peg or two. Wish I could remember where that was, but the gist is that the nature of belief and church-going is vastly different in the US than it is in Europe. Not to say there isn't a very large and thriving fundamentalist and fervently believing amorphous mass out there in the American heartland, but an equally large number of people are what you might call social church-goers. American churches fill a role largely unknown in Europe - equal parts social center or meeting point and house of worship, whatever that may mean. They engage their members in vastly greater numbers of ways than the stone-chilly, echoing, formal edifices you find in a typical European town, where the average age of people sitting in the pews is about 79. They have youth centers and community programs, they organize trips, singles events (ok, that gives me the creeps slightly, too), sports teams and elderly visitation programs. I know a great number of people in the states who attend church regularly or semi-regularly and would not recognize the image of them being painted by the author here. I'm not one of them, and not just because I don't live there. But I'm not going to say that church attendance translates into bible-banging psychosis, which the British and European chattering classes hold to be one of the truths self-evident.

The truth is that for a large percentage of people taking that survey, and yes, some of them may not be sophisticated urbanites, to answer yes to the simple question "do you believe in God" is more a matter of polite form than anything else. And yet here is the loud and clear statement that 94% of Americans bless their dinner each night by speaking in tongues and foaming at the mouth in religious ecstasy.

I've read a bit about the current fashion of biblical prophecy fulfillment among the religious right and would think that this is probably a more reasonable statement:

36% [of Americans] think that "the state of Israel is a fulfilment of the biblical prophecy about the second coming of Jesus".

I'll also take bets that that number corresponds rather nicely to the percentage of extreme fundamentalists in the American population at large in any period in US history. And yet we're being told that some vast and sinister wave of Christian believers bearing swords has replaced the population of the US in a body-snatcher switch, almost overnight.

But of course the most telling evidence that the US has been taken over by a cult is that

The first thing [George Bush] reads in the morning is not a briefing paper but a book of evangelical mini- sermons. When it came to casting the morality play for the war on terror he went straight to the Bible and came out with evil. "He reached right into the psalms for that word," said his former speech writer, David Frum.

Ah, the Psalms. Well, that's it then. I'm giving up my passport.

Personally I don't have a problem with the word "evil" applied to September 11.

I f*cking hate this kind of crap. Originally I was just going to link to this article and write, "Just shut up, you blithering idiot."

Amen.

Steve | 16:06 |
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