“But it is dominion we are after. Not just a voice. It is dominion we are after. Not just influence. It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time. It is dominion we are after. World conquest.” – Thomas Ice
Atheists are enjoying three things that we have not had the privilege of enjoying since the advent of religious belief became the evolutionary norm in our species. Those are the three basic human desires I have been referring to. To be understood, to be heard and to belong. As we increase in these areas, it stands to reason that we are stealing some of the thunder from the fundamentalists. Not to be outdone, and in fear of being undone, they have had to kick it up a notch. Or two. Or three.
Muslim extremists, already having a lot of experience making loud noises, have had to use increasingly divisive rhetoric, make louder noises and take more drastic measures as regimes continue to fall in the Middle East. It is the only way they can keep control over whatever nations they may be able to hang onto.
The American Fundy…
American fundamentalists are no different. Because atheists and our respective sympathizers are more understood than ever, being heard louder than ever and being more accepted than ever, the fundamentalist must, by virtue of being human, respond. But they are not responding with logic, reason and inclusiveness. Not by a long shot. They are acting out like their extremist Muslim counterparts, only usually without the incendiary devices. Usually. The “American Fundy” is using even more divisive rhetoric, making even louder noises and taking even more drastic measures than ever before to set themselves apart from anyone who does not believe as they do. They are no friend to ecumenism, tolerance and inclusiveness.
Mainstream believers have become easier to work with, more reasonable and better neighbors, however, in just a few short years the fundamentalists have graduated from being regular crazy to batshit crazy. That has got to be some sort of record. As well, more and more of them are running for political office and a few have actually managed to get elected to some pretty high offices, including Congress and the Senate. One almost made it all the way to the office of the Vice President, you betcha.
Like their Middle Eastern Muslim extremist counterparts, the American fundamentalist desires to be heard. From the standpoint of your average American, there’s not much attractive in a fundamental religious cult. In impoverished, undeveloped Middle Eastern Nations, being heard by virtue of blowing yourself up is not only a rite of honor, but an escape from a life that is without hope of getting any better than the previous shell-shocked day of death and destruction. But in America, we’ve got HBO, Smartphones, Tivo, Keith Stone, designer wardrobes and a veritable buffet of legal vices to choose from.
You would think that in an age where atheism, free thought and secular humanism is gaining ground that those who would ditch all of the above to lead the life of a fundamentalist would be in decline. Yet, much like their Muslim counterparts, many are joining fundamentalist cults. Some are even getting rid of anything and everything that their church deems worldly, un-Christian or blasphemous. Some are even deactivating their Facebook accounts. Oh, the horrors…
And they are doing it in some surprising numbers. But what is particularly disturbing is the decline in mainstream denomination church membership. While membership in these moderate churches are declining; the fundamental cults and sects are enjoying new growth. But statistics show that non-theism is on the rise, too. So where are all these new converts coming from? How can atheism be on the rise at the same time that fundamentalism is on the rise, but with very little increase in new converts?
Easy… They are transferring their memberships from the moderate institutions into the fundamentalist groups. The rise of the mega church also has parallels to the rise of atheism. More and more of these stadium-sized churches are being built and they are filling up as fast as they can add on new wings.
This increase in fundamentalism has caused another parallel phenomenon that is rather unfortunate. We have long been shaking our heads at the signs held up by radical Muslim extremists that call for various beheadings and other horrific acts of violence in the name of Allah. While we were busy shaking our heads, the religious right and their supporters and sympathizers have become more and more accepting of increasingly acidic rhetoric that is starting to cause real, physical problems, especially in the United States.
People are dying over words, and many fundamentalists do not understand just how much words matter. They can cause a plethora of emotional reactions in various individuals. Words can make us laugh, they can make us cry, they can make us feel alive inside and they can give us pause to think about things. They can educate, as well.
However, words can also hurt, destroy and slander. Those whose words have the ability to influence millions of people also have a responsibility on how to use their words. While I am no fan of censorship, I also understand that with great power comes great responsibility. The Apostle Paul said, in 1 Corinthians 10:23, “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial.” I refer to Scripture here because of the irony involved. This is a concept that seems to be lost on the latest crop of fundamentalist talking heads who have surreptitiously blended the emotionally charged rhetoric of religion with words that have caused some very mentally challenged people to commit horrendous acts of violence, resulting in the deaths of many innocent people.
The only difference between the fundamental Islamic bomber and the American Olympic Park bomber is that the American was not willing to lose his life in the process. It has become obvious to me that there is little difference in principle between the Imam who uses thinly veiled language that suggests executing someone for the drawing of cartoons and a highly influential fundamentalist Christian politician using gun-friendly language and putting cross hairs over opposing political districts on a website.
They should all be duly ashamed of themselves, but they won’t be, because they do not even have enough sense of responsibility to recognize when they have acted wrongly.
I return here to the movement of believers between the mainstream denominations and the fundamentalist cults. The examples I am using in the section are within the confines of the United States, but I am positive that this is an equally disturbing problem in other developed nations. The phenomenon of believers moving from one religious group to another has never been much of a concern from an atheist perspective, or even from a political perspective. Sheep stealing has always been the business of shepherds and realistically, there was not much difference between the old-line denominations.
They hobnobbed with the world quite well. This is not the case with the fundamentalists. As I have previously stated, they are not looking to belong by being inclusive within society, but by being separate from it. Be in the world, but not of the world, or so the popular fundamentalist creed goes. This is another parallel I draw between fundamental Christianity and fundamental Islam.
As stated in the last chapter, the religious right began their concerted agenda for taking over the Republican Party as early as 1979, and had accomplished much through the early eighties at the hands of Weyrich, LaHaye and Reed. The late eighties and the first half of the 1990’s belonged to Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, but it was a reaction to a plenary speech given by the late Rev. D. James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Ministries at the Christian Coalition’s 1994 National Convention that kicked everything into high gear.. Kennedy said,
“…true Christian citizenship involves an active engagement in society to take dominion over all things as vice-regents of God.”
From that point on, Pat Robertson’s policy of laying low and not touting your faith was thrown out the window as political campaigns of Republicans began to pop up advocating “traditional family values, more jobs, lower taxes, welfare reform and choice in education.”
Cut to the last few years and you would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between a preacher on Sunday morning and Palin, Bachmann, Beck or any one of a hundred or so ignorant, loud mouthed, backward, talking head buffoons on a Saturday night. The fundamentalist preacher is using material from people like Palin, Bachmann Beck & Co., and they are using material from fundamentalist preachers.
They are effectively melding the religious mind virus into the political arena even more so than it already was, and the combination of the two is creating an atmosphere where more and more people are beginning to believe that a theocracy would be a preferred form of government over a democratic republic. Americans are advocating violence against other Americans, on American soil, over religious differences.
The fundamentalists that follow these like-minded leaders actually consider themselves the only true American Patriots. Their agenda and blatant belief that their actions come at the command and blessing of the Christian god are no different from Islamic extremists. This is obvious, considering the current popularity of Beck, Bachmann, Palin and the rest of the fundamentalist Christian political consortium who have been attempting to hijack the GOP for years.
But the hijacking of the Republican Party was not enough for this new incarnation of the fundamentalist religious right. The more divisive they became, the more the GOP was distancing themselves. This is because within the GOP there are still many old-line centrist moderates who would not budge for anyone. So they went rogue and they are becoming a meme in their own right.
A Spot of Tea, Anyone…?
Enter the Tea Party movement, which was a most unexpected and unintended outgrowth of Terry Leach’s “Young Americans For Liberty” 1 in New York, which, depending upon who you ask is either Libertarian, Voluntarism or a combination of the two. It was a protest against an obesity tax and a few other annoying bits of legislation that were presented by Governor Paterson whereas some of the protestors wore garb that was similar to what might have been worn by the original Tea Party protestors in Boston during the 18th century. But that’s not important right now.
What is important is that according to polls2, more than 7 out of 10 Tea Party supporters feel that the United States should have no diplomatic relations with Muslim nations. Almost 9 out 10 support controversial immigration laws that include revisions to the fourteenth amendment. More than 8 out of 10 stand staunchly against gay marriage and more than half think homosexuals wield too much power, already. This makes the Tea Party the perfect group to become the love child of the fundamentalist religious right. They are loud, they are Christian and they are exclusionary. A trifecta. Trinity, if you prefer.
Continued Replication – Building the ‘Base’…
Because the lines have blurred so much between religion and politics, it is apparent that the vast majority of fundamental Christians in the United States would choose, as I stated above, to convert our secular Nation to a Christian Nation. This, of course, without regard to the tens of millions of other perfectly legal American citizens that are either atheist, agnostic or a member of a religion that is not Christian (or not the correct brand of Christian.) Apparently all men are created equal, but some men are created more equal than others. George Orwell would be proud. It would be easy to say that it is primarily the young and impressionable who are taken in by the Tea Party, but that’s just not true. Tea Party supporters are a cross-section of the Americans.
Two things they have in common are their overwhelmingly Christian religiosity and their nearly universal support of ultra-conservative politics and politicians. Thus, there are a disproportionate number of Tea Party supporters that come from the same ranks of those who believe that President Obama is a Kenyan Muslim Socialist. Most of them don’t understand evolution, are anti-science and support the usual initiatives to bring back prayer to schools, government meetings and the installation of the Ten Commandments in courthouses all across the land. Just like in the 1950’s.
Atheism is on the rise on planet earth. To the Muslim extremist and to the Christian fundamentalist, atheism represents the single most dangerous threat against each of their goals to dominate the planet. We do not scare easily and do not cower to threats of hell and damnation, We are painfully aware that as long as the fundamentalist Christian maintains that they are the one true faith and all others are destined for divine destruction, the more emboldened the Islamic extremists are becoming in pointedly defying that claim with the use of terrorism.
I don’t know what the solution to the impending destruction of the human race over who has the truer imaginary friend is, but I do know this. The solution is going to have to come, or we all lose.