I recently read the new book by DailyKos founder Markos Moulitsas and I found it more than slightly disturbing. Not because the content was shocking, but because his analysis was spot on. In the book, American Taliban, Markos confirms my belief that religious fanaticism is universal regardless of which religion the fanatics claim to represent. From the first page Markos slaps you in the face with concrete examples of how there is no difference between an Islamic fundamentalist blowing themselves up in a car bomb and a Christian zealot shooting a doctor in a church. Atrocities against innocents in the name of any God are and should be unacceptable. And yet we accept them. We may shake our heads in disbelief and condemn them but we certainly don’t do enough to stop the practice. The right-wing talk show hosts who encourage those types of actions simply turn a blind eye and do their best to distance themselves while pointing the finger of blame elsewhere.
I’ve seen the worst atrocities committed in the name of patriotism and/or religion and this book covers both. Have you had more than one sleepless night worrying that there is no more separation between church and state? You were right. Back in 2001 after George W. Bush was installed into the White House his first official act as President was to give tax breaks to faith based non-profit organizations. And it’s been downhill since then. If knowledge is power than this book should raise the awareness flag so we can begin the counter strategy. So why are some progressives attacking the author for even suggesting there is a correlation between the two groups?
As intelligent adults, we should be able to look at ourselves realistically and not be offended when someone calls a spade a spade. Are we so afraid of our own shadow that we tremble at the sight of it? Are we arrogant enough to think that we are infallible? By insinuating that there is such a thing as an American Taliban we are acknowledging that all Americans are not like us and maybe that’s too difficult a concept. Maybe we sleep better at night being able to point our terrorist radar the world rather than across the street. As they say in 12 step programs, the first step toward recovery is acknowledging you have a problem. We have a problem. Instead of sticking our head in the sand we need to get our heads out of our asses and realize that we have a real problem in this country and it’s getting worse. We need to rail against the perpetrators of the dangerous behavior not the person who forces you to see it. In other words, give Markos a break, he’s just the messenger. Personally I think it’s a good thing to remove those rose colored glasses every once and a while.
Oh, sigh. It’s the same argument I had with Sam Harris.
Yes – religious fundamentalists are dangerous, and there is a very similar mind set among them, never mind their views. From Mark Juergensmeyer’s “Terror in the Mind of God” to Jessica Stern’s “Terror in the Name of God” (you picking up a theme here?)many of us have known intellectually AND personally how similar the extremists are.
That said – not all people of faith are idiots and extremists. Most folks, especially those in the mainstream and progressive Protestant denominations, believe in science, see faith as a moral guide based on thoughtful reflection and compassion, and find it a unifying force for building community. Yeah, yeah, Harris is now out to “prove” that science does all that, but I will say: Edward Teller, and tell me how to get around THAT conundrum of pure science as moral evil.
People of faith were the backbone of ALL the nation’s progressive movements from ending the slave trade to abolition, women’s suffrage, ending child labor, promoting labor’s collective bargaining rights in unions, supporting civil rights and the farmworkers, to supporting women’s right to choose, and above all, ending war and torture. ALL the mainstream Protestant denominations have engaged with these issues. OK – some of them have a lot to answer for on Prohibition, but nobody’s perfect.
Faith is a sense of wonder. Faith is a sense that it’s not all about you. Faith is a sense of obligation to restore paradise on earth. Faith is a sense of connection to all the world’s people. Faith is a valuation of human rights. We give thanks to God because we have limited language and because while most don’t know who or what God is, just that something is MORE than just us as isolated individuals, we know we are fortunate to have the blessings of earth, whether it’s just happenstance or not. Who can look at the gorgeous world around us and not feel gratitude that we are HERE? Some feel a more personal connection to The One, some feel connected to only other people and the energy of the whole – who cares?
At the core difference lies a key factor – those of us in the faith community who believe in our connectional relationship to others are NOT motivated by personal salvation (and man was I peeved at Obama for pretending that’s an issue of concern in his denominational background – it is NOT.) There are two camps (broadly speaking) of faith vs. religion, of connectional links to all people vs. hyper individualism. Of following social justice teachings vs. pursuing salvation of the individual soul. It is the sense of links to the whole vs. utter preoccupation with the self. You can see it in the social policies of those who want to lift up their fellow humans and those who see the world as dog-eat-dog. If your personal salvation is YOUR responsibility, so are you income, home, kids, everything – government thus is evil for lifting up the “undeserving” – the “unsaved”. Hyperindividualism and fundamentalism go hand in hand. Social justice in the secular world goes hand in hand with the social justice persepective in Christ’s teachings (or Maimonides or Mohammed or Buddha.)
It’s why, at the bottom of the day, I love two statements about all this:
“Religion is for people who are afraid of hell. Faith is for those who have been there.”
“Lord, lead me into the presence of those searching for the truth, and deliver me from those who have found it.”
We aren’t all the same just because we claim the same name. And please do NOT tar us with the same brush. Some of us are under siege from “them” in the fundamentalist camps. We don’t need our friends breathing down our necks, too. Thanks!
You have tapped into the entire purpose of the book. Markos has been getting flack from those who feel he’s been unfair by painting all religions with the same brush. When in reality, he makes the exact point that you made. It’s not religion that is the threat, it’s extremism in any form that causes the concern. Those who have read the book get that because Markos makes it very clear. Those who read the title and don’t delve deeper are the ones who get smeared with that broad brush. Which is why it’s so frustrating for him to take criticism from ‘friends’ who haven’t done their research.
c’lady, I’m grateful for a bout of 3 a.m. insomnia, because it allowed me to find your wonderful comment of a week ago — which somehow, I had missed. I’m reminded again of how much I love what you write and the way you write it.
Isn’t it interesting that the Christian religious camp (Fundamentalism) which most furiously denounces the notion of “salvation by works,” is the one that puts the most extreme burdens on the individual to completely pull himself up by his own bootstraps?
Here, if you have a moment, is an interesting article on the role of faith in Progressivism, from a site that b’ito recommended:
And many thanks to TIAP for posting such an interesting article!
k’es, did you enjoy that article? Glad you found it.
The Role of Faith in the Progressive Movement
I did, b’ito. And I’m feeling a little Catholic guilt because I cited the article before I even had a chance to thank you for sending the link!
Does the fact that I gave you credit mitigate the situation?
It was my pleasure to share it with you. I was thinking of C’lady when I read part 6 also.
No guilt needed for that, at all.
Now, let’s see a paper with that much thought explaining the TParty. 😉
I think it was Reagan that sold the Republican Party to the Religious Right, but I could be wrong about that.
But I think that that is true, because being in Arizona since 1984, Barry Goldwater was still alive, and even though he was considered a nutcase when he ran for president in the 1960’s, and was known as “Mr. Conservative”, he really disliked Reagan.
Goldwater predicted during that time, that there would come a day when even Goldwater would be considered a “liberal”.
And Goldwater’s prediction has come to fruition and he mellowed over the years, or else we – meaning those of us who consider ourselves liberal in Arizona – Barry made sense and he became a ‘moderate’ voice.
Goldwater truly hated that Reagan sold the GOP to the religious right.
Compared to Goldwater in the ’60’s when he was regarded as too extreme to the right, and to today, Goldwater became known as a voice of reason.
I wonder if it’s all one of them things, whereby the country keeps going to the right in slow increments and now liberal or progressive doesn’t mean what it did back in the ‘good old days’.
Thank you for the synopsis on Kos’s book, and I will check it out of the library – if the library has it as being in Arizona there are so many cuts to balance our budget and they might not carry it.
I am with ya 100%. And let’s not forget those “secret militia’s” scattered across this country, clearly permitted to horde Gawd only knows what type of weapons and ammunition, preparing for….WHAT? It’s very frightening what is happening in America and for more years than I can tell ya, I’ve been searching for a country where I can afford to retire, live peaceably, and get the hell outta here. I don’t feel good about remaining here any longer than I have to. We have a veritable kettle boiling over with crazy angry people, and I’d like not to get caught up in that. Interestingly, I believe their all white people. hmmmmmm
NO NO NO, VB!
Please do not fall for the fear, and the left promotes the fear just as much as the right does.
If everyone were to leave, or everyone on the left, well, I shudder to think because I love my country.
And I’ve lived in France and Canada, and let me assure you, as much as I loved living in those countries, there is nothing like the USA.
We’re in hard economic times, which is nothing new, and every time that this country falls into hard times, it seems to blame immigrants or others.
Whenever OUR country falls into Democrats being in power, the right goes nuts – they accused JFK of the very same things as they are accusing Obama – that he was a Marxist socialist, plus back in them days being a Catholic was just as bad as being considered a Muslim today.
Never give up and stay to fight for the USA, because the USA is worth saving, and it’s not as bad as the corporate media portrays.
We need better leaders. and the only way we can get better leaders is to vote.
And the Tea Party people are getting/or going to get a very rude awakening in that they’ve been supporting corporate candidates.
Our founding fathers fought for this country so don’t give up.
WE THE PEOPLE will overcome.
It’s not going to be all that long before even the Tea Party wakes up.
I agree that we need to stay and fight. Voting is our best option at this point. And with that thought, I’m off to the campaign office to get Dems elected. I also received my packet in the mail yesterday for the polling place I will be working on election day. As an inspector, I know of at least 1 polling place that will be fair, non-partisan and safe for democracy.