Saturday, April 28, 2012


The religious are sure making it easy to be a Humanist this week. Ross Douthat is plugging his book Bad Religion, in which he argues that Orthodoxy is good and Christianity had a better influence on us in 1957 than it does today. The Supreme Court may invalidate Health Care Reform and uphold Arizona's immigration law, Dan Savage's excellent monologue about his relationship to Catholicism was replayed on This American Life, and now Paul Ryan says that the Pope says that governments shouldn't help the poor.

Maybe I'm confusing "right" and "left" with "religious" and "humanist." But it's hard not to, when Republicans keep citing religion in the War on Women and Douthat thinks Christianity should have more influence over modern culture. (Actually, I think I probably agree with Douthat's politics more than I disagree. What bothers me about Douthat is his relationship to minority religions.)

I should probably unpack that comment. Douthat is arguing that the US is mainly a Christian nation (true) in the sense that Christianity has more influence than any other religion. He's also arguing that when Churches were the center of town life, the country was a better place. Not perfect, not Camelot, and not without major and even tragic problems, but better. What he doesn't seem to get about that is that segregation was integral to that model. Churches are inherently segregated. Because of the history of our country, African American religion evolved separately from White religion, but that's not even what I'm talking about.

If religion is the center of our society, then we are all divided by our religions, and the atheists have no community. Everyone is then trapped by their social structure into a particular religion, and there is mistrust between the religions because there is little or no social mixing. How is that good? One could argue that the centrality of churches to the social order in the 1950's is part of what gave rise to the social uprisings of the 1960's. In order to fight the political fight, the young people needed to separate themselves from their elders, and the only way to do that was to reject religion, which gave rise to free love and experimentation with Eastern religions--religions that had not ever ruled in the structure of American society.

On to Paul Ryan and the Pope (although you should check out Savage's monologue--it's beautiful.) Oh, I can't get beyond "Yech." Here. Read this and if you don't "Yech," too, explain to me what I'm missing.

I just don't want to be associated with these people in any way. Except Savage. He's cool.

1 comment:

  1. "Maybe I'm confusing "right" and "left" with "religious" and "humanist." But it's hard not to..."

    It may be hard, but it's important. Don't buy into the fallacy that the right have got it right when it comes to religion. It concedes too much. Don't give up arguing on their terms. This is important strategically, because arguing with someone on their own terms is generally the best way to convince them. But it's also important if you're interested in searching after the truth and wisdom and insight in religious tradition (irrespective of whether you believe in God). For example, when someone tries to use Torah to justify the policies of the current Israeli government, they're wrong not just on secular terms but on religiously Jewish terms. It's a misreading of the relevant texts and the tradition. It's not right if you believe in human rights, democracy, minority rights, and international law... and it's also not right if you believe in Jewish ethics. When someone says that Catholic theology justifies cutting support to the poor, they need to go read the gospels more closely, because Jesus is not in their corner on that one.