(repost) Because Theocracy Leads to Permissible Extremism

(original posted on Mock, Paper, Scissors on March 23, 2008)
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I cannot recall how many people I’ve spoken with, either via blogs or in-person, who reacted with the word “But nobody wants a theocracy in America” whenever I bring the subject up. And indeed, until recently, there wasn’t really a specific push to alter our Constitution in any formative way, and the only reason the American public has come to recognize that there are some minority movements in that direction is because of the thankfully-failed presidential campaign of Mike Huckabee. Thanks to his “charming” southern style and disarming smile, however, even given the suddenness of the our coming to understand that conservative fundamentalists DO want to turn this nation into a Christian Nation, many still don’t realize the true threat that impetus represents. And since nobody in that campaign ever used the term “theocracy”, these very same people who were “a bit put off” by Huckabee’s stance on altering the Constitution still don’t believe that anyone is creating, or has ever made any attempt to create, a theocratic state.

Head in the sands, their worldview is written on the backs of their eyelids, and its name is sciolism. But I’ve already spoken enough about that.

When the Buddha was destroyed in Bamyan by the Taliban back in 2001, everyone here in America seemed taken aback. But at least on the part of some of us, that incredulity was largely feigned. After all, we already live in a society which unapologetically and unabashedly forces galleries and museums not to display works of art that are uncomplimentary to the Christian Deity and Its Holy Progeny. We already live in a society which disallows admittance to certain schools to those who are openly homosexual, refuses military service to the same and withholds benefits to service men and women whose homosexuality becomes known. We already live in a society where religious-sponsored abstinence-only education is taught in public schools, where religious-sponsored “alternatives” to centuries-established science are required to be taught alongside the scientific curriculum, and where educators must mark as correct responses from students whose religious doctrine define the Universe as a 6,000-year-old mechanism created and overseen by the Christian Deity. We already live in a society in which the government sets up programs exclusively available to religious organizations, and subjectively requires candidates for political office to publicly hold at least some form of religious belief that is not Muslim, Wiccan, Satanist, or Pagan.

In many ways, America is already not very far removed from being a theocratic state. Hence this blogswarm and the absolute important it holds to those of us who recognize the potential impact of the things I detailed in the paragraph above. And of other things, I’m sure. One of the things that frightens me the most about the permissiveness with which religious bigotry is handled in our society is the impact it has on our children. Even in what has become a largely progressive society on many levels, these children still grow up thinking that only members of their religious denominations will share the “Kingdom of Heaven”—in some cases, only members of their particular congregation. Children are being home-schooled in higher numbers, and this only produces more insularity, more misunderstanding, and a greater sense of that misplaced entitlement that is already so pervasive in our world today. I do honestly look upon this treatment of our children as a form of child abuse. They are not prepared for the world at large whenever they do leave home, and that is the gravest error any parent can make: worse even than the rote teachings of intolerance, bigotry, self-righteousness, and duplicity they are given before they leave the house. And as adults, these children live in a society in which their intolerance and bigotry is tolerated, even encouraged, by the news media, by politicians, and of course by the company they keep in their insular segments of the society. In turn, those who do not eventually see the silliness (or perhaps the abject cruelty) of their ways, will start the cycle all over again with their own children.

What the Taliban did to Buddha in March of 2001 in one brazen act is no different than what conservative fundamentalists in America do each day to our nation as a whole through a measured, implacable series of legislation. The reason why we blog against these acts is to make people more aware that they even exist. Since ours is a society largely defined by convenience, attempting to recognize the patterns left behind by the religious fundamentalists takes work, and work is awful inconvenient. Even those who recognize these issues largely feel that anything they could do about them would be too limited, too small of a scale, to have any impact. That’s not true.

This is just the third blogswarm on the topic of theocracy, and if I’m not mistaken, sometime during yesterday, we surpassed the number of posts from the last one. We blog, people read, people begin to understand. We are not helpless in our fight against theocracy, for our readers begin to recognize that the theocratic movement has many faces, many subtle nuances, and the most recent public expression of that desire was probably communicated out of sheer ignorance on behalf of Huckabee. The fundamentalists like to work in the dark, behind closed doors, sending hand-picked groups out into the open to whine and complain and argue and fight, knowing that they cannot be trusted to reveal the true mission, couching it instead in the simple terms of “Freedom of Expression”—the very same Freedom, in fact, they would hope to deny so many others.

So, over this weekend we have blogged again. But we are reaching a point where blogging, helpful as it is, is by no means enough. I believe it is time to do more than blog. I believe it is time to actively, even proactively, fight the elements of theocracy in our courts, our schools, our universities, and yes, even our churches, synagogues, and mosques. Religion has no formative place in our government. We can be proud of the fact that many religious people fought and died to earn this country its independence without having to hold every election under a cross. We can celebrate this country’s Judeo-Christian roots without turning every courtroom into a prayer service. And we can remind our friends and neighbors who have no problem with the efforts to make this a Christian Nation exactly where such ideas got the people of Afghanistan. Help them envision what life would be like without the Freedom of choice, the Freedom of expression, the Freedom of Art.

Here are some helpful questions you can ask those who don’t think this is a real issue:

  1. Would you love your God if the Law said you had no other choice but to do so?
  2. Would you want your children to attend a public school where Baptism was the first pre-requisite?
  3. Would you be excited to go to Church on Sunday if you were required to sing praises at work each day?
  4. Would you uphold the Law and stone your child to death for disobedience?
  5. Would you want to live in a Democracy where all the candidates were ministers? or priests? or rabbis?
  6. Would you want to live in a society where “choice” amounted to whether you go to mass on Saturday or Sunday?

Our freedom is at stake. Let’s not just leave it to a collection of postings once or twice a year.

(repost) The Roots of Sciolism

(originally posted April 8, 2007 on Mock, Paper, Scissors)
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Ah, you came back. Thanks for that. This won’t be so long, because the thing that makes a group of people tend towards the dismissive is fairly easily identified.

Neoconservatives are very quick to dismiss the “Blogging Against Theocracy” endeavor as one born of fear. We are apparently so afraid of Christianity, that even allowing a piffle—a tish, a skosh, a teeny bit—of it in our lives is too much to bear. Yes, yes, I know. It’d be a wonderful life if everything were so obvious! But of course, despite its inherent untruth, this argument is the most commonly chosen because it is the one stance with which they can readily identify.

One of the things which continually strikes me as I discuss “faith” with my religious friends, is that they tend to forget the entire premise of faith: that that in which they believe might well not be true. For if it was inherently true, there would be no need to have “faith” in its truth. If all the elements of a religious belief were known, scientific fact, faith would cease to exist, replaced by knowledge. And yet repeatedly, evangelicals speak about their “faith” in terms of what they know. They know the Word of their God is Inspired. They know He died for their sins. They know He rose from the grave. And yet, somehow, they wrap it all up and refer to this supposed knowledge as faith, implying that their knowledge may well be unfounded!

Yeah, have a sip of that wine or beer or whatever. This stuff makes my head hurt, too.

This happens because so very many of them practice their one true universal talent of sciolism on themselves. Oh certainly, there are many believers who understand what their faith is about, and who appreciate the inherent risk of believing in something that others don’t believe in. But there are many more whose faith amounts to the steadfast belief that what they think they know is right and true and pure and immutable and holy and…and…and…well, it’s just right! Because they’ve been taught that it is right in Sunday School, told that it is right in their households, and instructed that nonbelievers (and oftentimes those who practice the same religion in different ways) are simply wrong and going to Hell. I can’t even count the number of times during my own childhood when I was frustrated with my friends for not believing in our own cultish practice of Christianity, that I was told something to the effect, “Oh, don’t worry about them. They’re not going to share the Kingdom of Heaven with you.”

Answers like that, and the rebuttals you see to this endeavor from the evangelicals, are easy. I don’t think they’re malicious by any means—and let’s do keep in mind that most of these people merely do what they believe is the right thing to do!—but such responses are a form of fear-mongering. And fear is the root of sciolism. After all, the most formative periods of growth in any religion are during those times when it’s being persecuted. It’s a human nature thing: we perform more efficiently, and often more effectively, under duress. And goodness knows that with the ease of making a few Moslem extremists look like an entire religious society (a theocracy, no less) is set against “America” (which to fundamentalists means “Christians”), the neoconservatives are under a lot of duress. Even acknowledging that there is at least one religion in the world that is practiced by more people than those who subscribe to the tenets of their own faith must have been difficult.

One last sip. We’re almost done.

So now, they claim their religion is being attacked on all sides. All they want to do is have a little prayer, and we “unfairly” want to keep them from doing so. Read Bob’s interpretation of the tenets of this endeavor that I shared with you yesterday. It is written from fear. We’re out to get them. We’re out to force them to change their ways. We’re out to undo all the good they’re doing. We’re out to redefine their definition of “good” and “right”. And it’s oh-so-easy, and ever so disingenuous, to describe us in this manner, because Bob and people like him honestly fear the fact that responsible members of society might hold a faith that differs from their presumption of knowledge. That’s a by-product of sciolism, for they have failed to understand what we’re talking about, just as they fail to understand the true intent behind the actions of church leaders on the national level. People like Bob may not intentionally be wanting a theocratic state (and for what it’s worth, I believe his assertion in this regard), but I do not believe the same is true for those for whom neoconservatism is abusiness.

But what is most striking—and of most concern—to me is the depth to which these fundamentalists fear themselves. If they truly had faith in their religion and their ability to teach and enforce its tenets, then what would they have to fear by not infusing public education, political discourse, and state and federal legislation with their religious beliefs, practices, and interpretations? If their God is truly all-powerful, what risk is there in leaving the religious education of their children to home and church? Let us not forget, that no matter what happens in the world at large or in their private lives, they will say that it was God’s Will that whatever-it-was came to pass. And if that’s really true, what is the harm in leaving science to scientists, literature to academics, and religion to the priests and ministers?

If they truly have faith in their chosen way of life, then people like myself would simply be targets for that “Go Ye Therefore” doctrine, right? We wouldn’t be “the enemy”, and neither would anyone else. Instead, due to their sciolistic review of their own religion, “preach the gospel” has become “make up a new ‘science’ and try to teach it” and “attempt to pass anti-abortion legislation instead of trying to extend the definition of ‘life’”. Because those things are easier to do, dismissively treating dissenting views as reactionary.

It’s easier, you see, because that way, proponents of their “faith” will band together and work harder for their “cause” under this manufactured duress, as opposed to having faith, even in themselves. Fear has become the new faith for them, and Fear is a much more demanding god than what they had before.

A pity, that.

{published on the otherwhirled as well}

(repost) How Sciolism Defeats Discourse

(a repost of the original, as found on Mock, Paper, Scissors, April 7, 2007)

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Sit back, grab a beer or a glass of wine, turn the lights down, put on some quiet music, and imagine with me for a moment:

Imagine a world where people of diverse ideas can discuss important topics without burning straw men. . . .a world in which our natural, innate curiosity is shared by adult members of all political and idealogical persuasions. . . .a world in which it is by no means satisfying to glance at a thing—an idea, a principle, a philosophy—and consider it known. . . .a world in which a dismissive attitude towards the things which question one’s sense of normality, emotional security, or even personality, would be a foreign concept.

Imagine a world, in other words, devoid of the vagaries of all those things which have become the hallmarks of neoconservative philosophy: hypocrisy, duplicity, intolerance, sanctimony, deceit, guile, pretense, and sciolism.

Now, take a sip of whatever that is you chose to drink for this, and bear with me, because I’m about to address something that most, if not all, of us participating in this Blog Against Theocracy have been tap-dancing around, to our collective detriment. For in our attempt to be respectful and considerate, we have left this relatively indefensible word, “theocracy”, dangling out there, ripe for the picking. After all, there is, to all perception, no overt movement to set aside the First Amendment, so when we use this word “theocracy”, it is easily dismissible by those invested with a solopsism so self-definitive that they truly do not understand the relevance of differing opinion. And as a result, our mission is undermined at the outset, victim to the sciolistic tendencies of evangelicals, who honestly believe that in cursorily perusing a few posts relating to this endeavor, they understand not only our mission, but our impetus and our history.

And I’m very sorry, but there’s really only one religion in America which attempts to suborn the separation of Church and State instead of confronting it directly. I don’t need to name it. Theirs is a facile stance for argument, you understand, because it inherently makes all counter-arguments reactionary, and our being reactionary is something the more juvenile among them take great pride in pointing out.

Another sip, if you will, because I must beg your patient indulgence in explaining this.

I know that I was very clear, when I announced on Clean Cut Kid, that I would be participating in this endeavor. I said:

I believe that this is an important endeavor to support, and please note the careful wording of the intention behind this movement. We are not anti-religious, or even necessarily predisposed against any particular relgion. [sic, sorry]

So, shortly thereafter, one of South Dakota’s most extreme voices signs on with this as rebuttal. Go ahead, click the link and read the whole thing; it’ll open in another window for you. An excerpt follows.

Oh, they included a description of what it is they’re against. It isn’t any stuff that constitutes a theocracy, but they’re apparently so repulsed even a whiff of Christian beliefs being expressed publicly or informing public policy that they’re calling it “theocracy”:

* religious discrimination (not sure what this means–disparaging those who worship government?)
* end-of-life care (i.e. kill the disabled and infirm at will)
* reproductive health decisions without legal restraint (i.e. kill your baby if it interferes with your sexual fulfillment)
* academic integrity (i.e. vehemently reject anything the Bible says, no matter how much scientific sense it makes, in favor of anything that fits an atheistic worldview, no matter how little sense it makes)
* sound science (i.e. embrace naturalism)
* respect for all families (i.e. whether they’re a family or not, let them call themselves one, because feeling good trumps all facts or truths)
* the right to worship, or not (a right guaranteed and enjoyed by all Americans, unless you are a Christian who wants to express your faith in public)

Did you catch all that in the full post? The dismissiveness, obviously barren of any investigation (let alone concern) whatsoever into whatever it is we’re talking about as “theocracy”? The deliberate rendering of an anti-theocratic stance as anti-Christian. The placating tone of one who not only firmly believes what he believes, but who is palpably unappreciative of the fact that SOMETHING might be going on in the world that could at the very least be construed as sowing the seeds of religious hegemony? And why should he be appreciative of it? If a theocratic state is eventually founded on his principles, then the right thing would obviously have been done. There are many points on which his post could be rebutted, and not the least important of those would be the fact that many of those participating in this endeavor are religious individuals. He’s got digg on his blog, so you can agree or disagree with him on your own accord.But my point here is not what or how Bob thinks. Far from it, for Bob and everyone else are quite welcome to their own thoughts. Bob is merely an example of how certain people think, or fail to think. I don’t even care that he is a devout Christian, for even more fundamental than that, Bob is a sciolist. That is, one who indulges himself in superficial knowledgability, both to his own detriment, and to ours. A rational discussion on this subject cannot actually be held with sciolists, for they do little but utter rhetoric while pretending such utterance invests them not only with holiness, but with the right to expect all others to subscribe to their belief in what is holy. Sciolists will skim over a dissenting writing, or worse yet, just hear about it, and presume that not only can they rationally refute it, but that they can also argue the dissenting point and play “devil’s advocate”.

It is in this way that our discussion of the imminent theocracy in America is immediately curtailed, for when we talk, or write, or post, we are precluded from effective communication by the very act of intentional, willful, directed ignorance—sciolism, in more succinct terms. And as long as Bob and people like him indulge themselves in this sanctimonious pretense of understanding things which they dismissively ignore and impugn, we will continue to have to operate on the same level as political extremists. And what is most aggravating about that is the fact that working to protect the First Amendment is at least philosophically as centrist as one can be.

Oh, by all means. You need another drink? No worries. I’ll wait for you. Like I said, this will take a while.

Next: the roots of sciolism ~ {cross-posted to the otherwhirled, which probably will not have unique content throughout the weekend}

Blog Party: The Post-non-Rapture, Pre-non-Apocalypse Version

Blog Party: The Post-non-Rapture, Pre-non-Apocalypse Version

(this was the last official broadcast of Thinking Unenslaved in its form at the time. which is funny, because given the subject matter, maybe it was the end of the world after all….)

from the show page:

Sorry. It took me a while to get Internet connected down here in my post-rapture bunker. I understand the world is now being ravaged by demons, angels, zombies, and other nefarious things. I hope some of you are left alive to help me get a grip on what’s going on.

Dangit. There’s that scratching noise at the door again. I may have to talk very quietly….

10pm eastern, 9 central, 8 mountain (mostly), 7 pacific. or something like that.

Fundamental Euphemisms

Fundamental Euphemisms

from the show page:

We unfortunately missed last week due to circumstances beyond our control (aka reality). I was chagrined to miss it, but events shortly thereafter handily lent themselves to providing me with a some decent preparation time for once.

Tonight, we’ll start with some observations on current events in politics and religion. From there, we’ll move on to a clarification between Islamic fundamentalism and, well, Islamic fundamentalism. As is the case with so many things, I’ve found that this phrase is misused to a degree that impedes honest discourse. And the differences between the definitions applied to it are significant to consider in other ways, as well. And then there’s the question of the apparent motives behind the different defintions. Lots to talk about, in other words.

And we’ll also talk about the end of the world coming up this weekend. We’re not too far from living in a post-apocalyptic world! Whoo-hoo!

Our Chemical Romances

Our Chemical Rmoances

from the show page: Tonight’s show will be a little bit different than normal. There are several extinuating circumstances which may preclude the full two hours tonight. I’ve got an interesting topic for us to discuss (Dreams, Spirituality and Biochemistry), but wasn’t able to pull in a guest of the caliber that I believe the subject warrents. However, we’ll have a good discussion, some laughs, and maybe a burrito or two!

April Blog Party

April Blog Party

from the show page:

It’s the fourth Wednesday of the month, which means we’re holding a small contest for blog submissions on the topics noted below. In addition to soliciting content from some of the more prominent bloggers, our panel will read (excerpts of) the entries aloud and discuss (no, not necessarily eviscerate if we don’t agree) them on the air in our Round Table format. We’ll choose one or two recent blog posts from each of the following categories:

Submission Categories:

  1. Atheism or Agnosticism
  2. (Secular) Humanism
  3. Religion
  4. Sociology
  5. Philosophy

Minimum Requirements for Consideration:

  1. Article is “recent” (within the past three months ~ exception might be made in deference to kick-ass authorship)
  2. Article is comprised of at least 600 words
  3. Article contents contain at least 75% unquoted content

Pretty simple, huh?

Authors of the selected articles will be asked to come on the show for a brief interview and to read and discuss their articles. Show participation is not mandatory. There is no monetary award for being chosen.

Submission Guidelines and Deadline:

  1. Submit link(s) to blog post(s) in the comments on the Segment Website
  2. Maximum of 5 links per contestant
  3. Deadline is 10pm EDT April 26, 2011.
  4. Selections will be announced by 10am EDT on April 27, 2011 via unenslaved.com and @Synthaetica (twitter).

Join us Wednesday night, April 27, 2011 at 10pm EDT for some unique and dynamic show content from great authors around the Internet!