Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Liberals kill kids

I’m all for freedom of religion. While I no longer find much validity in practicing any organized form of spirituality, I don’t hold it against others who gain strength and solace from a belief in a higher being.

Then again, when I hear right-wing windbags like Rick Scarborough, blather his nonsense about how “liberals are killing kids,” I suddenly get defensive and think about reneging on my kindness and magnanimity towards religious folk.

What I have to tell myself is that right-leaning nut jobs like Rick Scarborough, are dyed-in-the-wool members of the American Taliban and that he doesn’t represent most religious practitioners in America, just a small, vocal minority. Oh, but an annoying minority they are.

This morning, one of my favorite progressive radio jocks, Rachel Maddow, of Air America, graciously extended an invitation to Scarborough, to talk about his book, Liberalism Kills Kids. With the book’s provocative title and more than enough experience with small-minded religious bigots, like Scarborough, I wasn’t feeling overly optimistic for Maddow’s chances of conducting an honest interview with Scarborough. My doubts had nothing to do with Maddow, who is a tough, but fair-minded interviewer. My concern was blowhards like Scarborough, who talk, talk, talk and never allow the host a word, edgewise.

Scarborough didn’t disappoint me. He rarely allowed Maddow any opportunity to conduct an interview. He ran his mouth, nonstop, during the entire segment. Maddow was only able to get an opportunity to talk by shaming Scarborough into giving up the mike for just a few seconds.

The best part of Scarborough’s playing the victim card, was his insistence that America persecutes Christians and prevents them from practicing their faith. What gives so-called followers of Jesus, like Scarborough, such a persecution complex? They continually assert that their rights are being violated, with little hard evidence to support that contention. In fact, I'd say that anti-intellectual bigots, like Scarborough, have had more than their fair share of face time given them, by the mainstream media. IMHO, I'd be more than happy to see them crawl back under the slippery rock they slithered from.


GuerrillasintheMidst said...

Hear, hear! This victimhood thing is quite interesting as it pops up all over the place when it's convenient. David Horowitz is a case in point.

I tend to think religion gets a bit of a bad rap though (regardless of validity). I've met many, many, many religious people who are inspired to act in accordance with the better parts of their respective holy books' dicta. Voices in the Wilderness is a great organization--making the ingestion of scriptures a bit more bearable.

It's just too bad that there are so many turds out there...

Jim said...

I caught Horowitz on C-Span's Book TV, last Sunday. He would definitely fit the "turd" category in my book.

I do concur with you about there being many good religious people (with leftward leanings)--Jim Wallis and his Sojourners organization would be another worthy of mention.

Speaing of VIW, I heard Kathy Kelly speak in Maine about two years ago. Hard to believe this slight woman packs so much wallop for positive change.

weasel said...

"I’m all for freedom of religion. While I no longer find much validity in practicing any organized form of spirituality, I don’t hold it against others who gain strength and solace from a belief in a higher being."

Boy, do I ever have a book for you: The End of Faith by Sam Harris.

To quote a little: "Religious moderates seem to believe that what we need is not radical insight and inovation in these areas (ethics, spirituality, etc) but a mere dilution of Iron Age philosophy."

And that's nothing compared to what he has to say about Scarborough and his ilk across the gamuts of the world's faiths.

Jim said...

I don't consider myself in the camp of religious moderates. I have a background that included fundamentalist xianity (of which I've blogged on occasion). Having experienced this lunacy, up close and personal, I've since become, what I call, post-xian (some might call it agnostic).

While you see danger in moderation, I see danger in any extreme position, which some of the cursory reviewing I've done of Harris' book seems to indicate he might be in the latter camp, like this lass and her, "granny was a religious crank and blamed daddy's accident on God, so now I'm an athiest" prattle by Natalie Angier.

I've met my share of progressive (and even conservative) people who call themselves sprititual, or even religious who use faith/spirituality as a springboard for good and betterment of society. Then, there are the nutjobs, like Scarborough, Falwell, Robertson, et al, who I have absolutely no use for.

I will have to pick up the Harris book, however and give it a more thorough going over.

Thanks for the recommendation.

BTW, I don't think criticizing one's religious beliefs/practices to be beyond the pale, either. If you are harming people by bombing in Jesus' name, I'll call you on it (and have). If your Unitarian/Universalist BS offends me, I'll let you know about that, also. I'm an equal opportunity crank, as you well know.

weasel said...

Just to clarify, I wasn't taking shots at you. Harris is ruder than me but I agree with his central point: spirituality is no less valid if it is the result of brain chemistry and interaction with our world than if it comes either through the literal interpretation of or through the selective interpretation of the alleged word of God.

I know you get this, but if anyone else is interested, try substituting the name "Zeus" everytime a politician or public figure utters the name "God" in a speech and listen to how inane it sounds; not really a basis or even a guideline for policy, is it, this believing in fairies at the bottom of the garden. or ponder this: if the bible/koran/torah is the work of god/allah/jehovah, why then in his infinite wisdom did he make Shakespeare a better writer? Or consider this- picture a situation 2,000 years from now where societies are at odds over different episodes in the "Star Wars" movie series, where each film is seen as a more perfect revelation than the last. It's just a different form of media- does the antiquity of the book make it magical?

Regarding the relative dangers of moderation vs. extremism i the sphere of religion, I don't see it as a zero sum game. Both involve abandoning reason to a varying degree which renders both unsuitable for consideration as a viable means of conducting public dialogue about our future as a society and as a species. I find it troubling that if a preacher from 400 years ago traveled through time his knowledge of astronomy, nutrition, medicine, ethics, and technology would seem risible to even a moderately educated 4th grader, yet his theology would be no more than superficially different from the broad range of churches that we have today. I'll agree that Harris is exteme, but in the same evidence based way that Kunstler is about peak oil. And I agree with Kunstler, by the way.

The idea that supernatural religion of any intensity or stripe- the most nebulous of human experiences that demands as a precursor of belonging a refusal to ask for evidence- is off limits for criticism is truly a disturbing concept. However when it comes to degrees of "turditude", the snake handlers are way worse than the selective interpreters.