Tag: Ronald Reagan

Religious Expressions Are Rooted in Fear-Based Politics

From Psychology Today, Our Humanity Naturally

By  Dave Niose

N.B.: Separation of Church/State is more important than ever.

“Most historians trace the origins of the modern Religious Right to the late 1970s, when a surge of conservative religious political activism resulted in the creation of the Moral Majority. It’s true that Jerry Falwell and others on the Christian Right exploded onto the scene at that time, helping to put Ronald Reagan in the White House in 1980 and never looking back thereafter. But if we really want to trace the historical events that gave rise to the Religious Right, we would be remiss if we did not consider the decade that arguably resulted in more successful anti-secular efforts than any other: the 1950s.

Known for the Red Scare and fear-based politics, the 1950s were extremely anti-secular times. In the midst of the McCarthy era, when outward expressions of patriotism were expected and a mere accusation of communist sympathy could ruin a career, visible religiosity crept into all facets of American public life. The first major assault that decade against Jefferson’s wall of separation came in 1952, with passage of a bill that requires the president to declare a “National Day of Prayer” each year. Occasional days of prayer had been declared previously, but they were relatively rare and never an annual occurrence. With the rise of the Soviet Union as America’s chief rival in the post-war world, however, religion suddenly became an important means of distinguishing between America and the godless communism of the Soviet system. Atomic weaponry was now in the hands of both superpowers, and the role of fear in defining the atmosphere of the era is difficult to overstate. With schoolchildren being trained to dive for cover under desks in the event of a nuclear attack from evil communist adversaries, it wasn’t hard for religious interests to lobby successfully for governmental endorsement of religion.

Those religious interests, led by the Catholic fraternal group the Knights of Columbus, scored another huge victory two years later, when they convinced lawmakers to insert the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag. No longer would America be “one nation indivisible,” because instead the Pledge would demand that the nation be seen as “under God.” That this version discriminates against non believers and others who do not accept the idea of the nation being under a God is beyond dispute, but in the hysteria of the McCarthy era such questions of equal rights mattered little.

Still not content, religious interests then turned their attention to the national motto. Since the founding era the de facto motto of the country had been E Pluribus Unum, which is Latin for “out of many, one.” This inclusive, pluralistic motto had served the nation well since the Revolutionary War, but to the God-fearing lobbyists and politicians of the 1950s it didn’t suffice, so in 1956 they passed legislation declaring the nation’s new motto to be In God We Trust. Little consideration was given to those good Americans who simply do not believe in a deity, let alone trust one.

The social psychology that allowed this string of hyper-religious governmental actions arose from a unique confluence of factors: the existence of a godless adversary, the invention of apocalyptic weaponry, recent memories of the horror of the Second World War and the Holocaust, misinformation campaigns that trained the public to associate secularity with totalitarian atrocities, assertive religious institutions determined to get their way, passive secular groups, and the general paranoid environment of the Cold War and McCarthyism. With this as the backdrop, it’s little wonder that religious conservatives found it easy to chip away at the wall of separation between church and state.

Today, over half a century later, we still live with the fallout from the hyper-religiosity of the 1950s, except that few remember the paranoia that gave rise to this mixture of religion and government.  Because Americans tend to be historical amnesiacs, few remember that the annual National Day of Prayer is a recent invention. And few know that “under God” was added to the Pledge in 1954, or that In God We Trusthas not always been the country’s motto.

Most Americans simply assume that it has always been that today’s governmental religiosity traces back to the founding, and therefore religious expressions are seen as proof that America has always been a very religious country. Because of this, a key goal of today’s secular groups and activists is to educate Americans that most governmental expressions of religiosity are not longstanding traditions at all, but recent inventions of religious activists exploiting a climate of fear.”

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/our-humanity-naturally/201111/religious-expressions-are-rooted-in-fear-based-politics

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Has American-Style Conservatism Become a Religion?

From AlterNet, by Joshua Holland

N.B.: Separation of Church and State is more important than ever!

“As the American right lurches from traditional conservatism – a go-slow approach to governing that stresses the importance of continuity and social stability – to a far more reactionary brand typified by acolytes of Ayn Rand and Tea Party extremists waving misspelled signs decrying Democrats’ “socialism,” the time has come to ask whether modern “backlash” conservatism has become a religious faith rather than a pedestrian political ideology.

Ideology is grounded in the real world. It offers us a philosophical lens through which we can efficiently process what’s happening in the world around us. Religion is different. It’s a fixed belief system, based on faith, and it is immune to – or at least highly resistant to – challenges mounted by objective reality. Which better describes the belief system of a typical Rush Limbaugh fan or Tea Party activist?

Like religious faiths, the hard-right reveres an original text – the Constitution – and, like all religious fundamentalists, conservatives claim to adhere to a literalist interpretation of it while actually picking and choosing from among its tenets. Just as the vast majority of Christian fundamentalists don’t actually stone their daughters to death when they’re obnoxious to their fathers, the Tea Partiers conveniently ignore more or less the entirety of Article 3. Also like other fundamentalist sects, most conservatives actually have a poor understanding of what the text they revere actually means.

Like the Manicheans – adherents of one of the world’s great religions at one point in history – they tend to see a world defined by a conflict between the forces of light and darkness. The forces of good are decent, conservative, “real” Americans – mostly white, married Christians, but with exceptions made for others who keep the faith. They stand opposed to a wide array of diabolical figures: liberals, gays and lesbians, Muslims, Mexicans, socialists and other foreigners, especially the French.

And like adherents of other religious faiths, they hold a special enmity for apostates. When stalwart conservatives like David Frum started talking about “epistemic closure” – “conservatives’ tendency to operate in an information bubble” – they were pilloried by their fellow travelers, accused of the worst offense: liberal heresy. Not only are moderate conservatives like Kathleen Parker or Christine Todd Whitman ripe targets, but so are red-meat Republicans who stray from the party line to any degree. Even people like former Utah Senator Bob Bennett can be painted as RINOS (Republicans in name only) if they stray from church doctrine even slightly.

Backlash conservatives also have their prophets and their saints. Just listen to Republicans talking about the Founders – a groups of liberals, moderates and conservatives of their day who agreed on very little but are assumed by the flock to have been staunch right-wingers. The faithful conveniently ignore the real-world foibles of their Holy Men. Yes, Ronald Reagan offered amnesty to undocumented immigrants, raised taxes 11 times and ran roughshod over the separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution, but to the believers, he remains as pure as the Virgin Mary is to Catholics. (Reagan would be polling right there at the bottom with Jon Huntsman if he were running for the GOP nomination today.)

Perhaps the easiest parallel to draw between conservatism and religion is the right’s vilification of climate scientists98 percent of whom agree that human activities are changing our world with dangerous consequences. The attacks are reminiscent of the Catholic Church’s running battle with “Copernicans” who believed that the Earth revolved around the sun; a theory that flew in the face of church doctrine. In that sense, Michael Mann of “climate-gate” fame is like a modern Galileo (only Mann has been completely vindicated while Galileo was handed over for trial by the Roman Inquisition and lived out the rest of his life under house arrest).

But I think another belief may be more telling; that cutting taxes always brings in more revenues to the government’s coffers. There are two reasons this claim is more a manifestation of religious dogma than just the usual spin. First, it represents a perfect article of faith – universally held among the brethren but without any discernible basis in reality (see here for more explanation).

In 2007, Time magazine reporter Justin Fox surveyed conservatives on whether they believed the myth. He found a perfect split: all conservative politicians, pundits and operatives bought into it while conservative economists or budget experts — people who have to remain somewhat grounded in evidence — didn’t hesitate to call it out for the nonsense it is, and that included “virtually every economics Ph.D. who has worked in a prominent role in the Bush administration.”

It’s also a relatively new tenet, popularized in the 1970s, when it offered a temporal benefit to church leaders. This is how religions tend to deal with changing circumstances. It was only revealed to the Mormons that blacks should be eligible for the priesthood in the wake of the civil rights movement when college basketball teams were refusing to play Brigham Young University. Conservative Judaism decided that electricity wasn’t really the same as fire after all when people realized how nice it was to run fans on hot Sabbath days. Religious dogma is flexible, changing with the times. The Anglican Communion didn’t split from Rome over some fundamental clash of beliefs, but in order for King Henry VIII to ditch his wife and marry Anne Boleyn. That Rome’s English holdings came under the crown’s control in the process was a bonus.

Although the idea that cutting taxes increases revenues wasn’t new, it was really embraced after the traditional states’ rights argument for “limited government” began to be equated with opponents of civil rights legislation and lost its luster. In the 1950s and 1960s, political scientists had also amassed a pile of research showing that while Americans were quite responsive to non-specific messages about fighting “big government,” they also had very favorable views of most of the specific public services the government performs and didn’t want to see them eliminated.

Conservative politicians had a dilemma: they were on solid ground running on cutting people’s taxes, but faced serious political peril saying they’d offset those tax cuts by slashing popular social safety net programs, education funding, budgets for cops and firemen and the list goes on. And then this new core belief that cutting taxes led to greater cash-flow became part of church doctrine, a tenet that allowed them to go on the stump and promise to cut people’s taxes without cutting the services those taxes financed.

Some articles of faith produce wonderful things. Many believe that Jesus said, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven,” and that belief has led to countless charitable efforts. But other religious beliefs have disastrous real-world consequences – untold millions have died in conflicts justified by faith.”

(N.B.: When Community Chest (United Way) was established in Cleveland in 1919, the founders had to turn to Jewish leaders in the community for ideas, as that tradition had a much more charitable tradition than Christianity).

“When you look around at the aging state of our once-great public infrastructure, know that it is deteriorating, in part, because of an article of religious faith. When you ponder the fallout from the Tea Party’s “austerity recession,” remember that it is as bad as it looks because of a theology passing itself off as a set of ideological preferences. And as those extreme weather events come at us faster and harder, keep in mind that the true believers who saw the world as a contest between good and evil consigned our entire scientific community to the latter category, and fought like hell for years to prevent us from doing anything about it.

This country needs a lot of things, and maybe first and foremost among them is for our brand of conservatism to return to earth as a responsible, evidence-based, secular ideology.

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/story/152434/has_american-style_conservatism_become_a_religion_?page=entire