Saturday, March 17, 2012

Rick Santorum: a case for militant atheism


I thought this was an interesting essay by Colby Hess on why Rick Santorum makes a strong case for militant atheism.  (Thanks to Jeff for the link.)

Keep in mind that "militant atheism" isn't a term commonly used by atheists. Indeed, it's far more often used by opponents of atheism, and it's usually meant to imply that atheists want to use force, even actual violence, to get their way.

That's quite rare among atheists, although - people being people - not completely absent. Still, our opponents are frequently willing to label as "militant" any atheist who speaks his mind. And in return, some atheists - like Hess, apparently - are willing to embrace the term as describing their active hostility to religion, defining "militant" as "aggressive," not "warlike."

At any rate, it's just a label, and labels are always subject to misinterpretation and even deliberate misuse. It's not actually important here, but I figured I needed to mention it. To get back to the essay, here's an excerpt:
The ongoing circus act that is the Republican primaries are an excellent case study in personification, for the ringmaster of the moment is the very embodiment of all that atheists despise about religion. Rick Santorum is so ignorant, so bigoted and hypocritical, so authoritarian, theocratic, shortsighted, and so out of touch with facts and with reality in general, that if he did not happen to exist already, it would almost be necessary to invent him in order to serve as the poster child for everything that’s wrong with religion – especially when it gets mixed up with politics.

Rick Santorum hates nearly every societal advance that has been achieved since the Dark Ages – in short, everything that we refer to as “progress.” He hates the growing secularization of society and the implementing of laws based on things like equality, fairness, justice, and reason instead of blind deference to imaginary authority. He hates the empowerment of women and their having control over their own bodies instead of being merely meek and obedient baby-making machines. He even hates the Earth itself, which he looks at as some kind of vassal state to be plundered at will.

It would be easy to write off all of his fanatical policy positions as merely one asshole’s eccentricities, but that would be disingenuous, for he gets his ideas from a source far older and far more widely respected than any washed-up former senator from Pennsylvania could dream up on his own; his ideas come straight out of the Bible. ...

Republicans love talking about “freedom of religion,” and that’s fine – it’s clearly spelled out in the First Amendment of the Constitution. The problem is, to those on the far right who wield it like a machete, it only applies to their own religion. They’re all about prayer in schools so long as that means Christian prayer. They’re all about freedom of conscience when that means the freedom to deny medical care to those they disagree with. Furthermore, they live in a complete fantasyland regarding the founders of our nation and their intentions to maintain a “wall of separation between church and state” in order to have a government both free from religious control, and limited in its control over religion.

To atheists, people like Rick Santorum make it abundantly clear why religion has become a danger to free society and to the survival of the human species. There’s no point in beating around the burning bush in trying to identify the root of the problem. If you want to see what a religion-controlled government looks like, you only have to look to Afghanistan, or Iran, or Saudi Arabia, or Europe between the fall of the Roman Empire and the coming of the Enlightenment. We’ve seen it; we’ve been there, and it’s not pretty.

Yes, that's exactly why I'm a "militant atheist." :) Oh, for me, it started during the Bush Administration, but it's only gotten worse and worse since then. Rick Santorum and the Taliban are both perfect examples of why faith-based thinking is wrong and, especially, why we need the strict separation of church and state.

Yes, most Christians in America do support freedom of religion and the separation of church and state - although they tend to be very fuzzy on the details - but it's always easy to want an exemption for your own beliefs. After all, your beliefs are true, right? And you just want what is best for our country...

Well, we all do. Rick Santorum, too. Just as the Taliban only want what is best for their country (and for ours, if we'd only just embrace Islam). And for all of these people - "militant" atheists, too - it's easy to think that the end justifies the means. What you want is so beneficial to everyone that it justifies almost anything in order to get there, right?

But that's not true. The end does not justify the means. In fact, in most cases, the means is far, far more important than the desired end. After all, you can never be completely sure that you'll actually get to that end, can you? That may be your goal, but you could always end up somewhere you really don't want to go - especially if you're willing to use any means to get there!

OK, I don't want to get off on a tangent here. Yes, Rick Santorum is a poster child for everything that's wrong with religion. And he's as good a reason as any for atheists to speak up. In fact, maybe, just maybe, you theists might start to sympathize with us a bit, if you really look at Rick Santorum - and the whole Republican Party these days.

3 comments:

Jeff said...

That figures; Frothy rocking an Iowa State vest. He does fit the prototype of an

Idiot
Out
Wandering
Around

A loser associating himself with other losers.

GO BIG RED!!

Tony Williams said...

Just an aside on the US Presidential civil war (the term "election" somehow doesn't seem adequate). I visited the USA last week and went into a couple of tourist souvenir shops in Washington DC to pick up some mementoes. I was rather startled to see, amongst all the usual stuff, sections containing caps, T-shirts etc with slogans slagging off President Obama and calling for his replacement in November (no other politician was featured, incidentally, just him).

I can't imagine a British tourist shop selling such stuff criticising the Queen or even the Prime Minister - and I think they'd be a public outcry if it did. It would simply be regarded as totally inappropriate to include political campaigning in an outlet like that, let alone in such a biased, one-sided way.

I don't know if those responsible for this realise it or if they are too blinded by internecine hatred, but the message which comes across to the visitor is not that Americans want to change their President but that they have no respect for their own Presidency as an institution. And that leaves a very bad impression of the country.

WCG said...

Tony, the right-wing has no respect for any of America's institutions. In fact, there has been a deliberate campaign against them.

"Government can't do anything right." "All politicians are alike." "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'" (That last is a direct quote from Ronald Reagan.)

There has been a concerted effort, for decades now, to get Americans to distrust their own institutions of government - executive, legislative, and judicial branches, all three.

The joke is that Republicans say government doesn't work, and then they get elected and prove it. But in reality, this perception helps them, because they're the "anti-government" party.

So no matter who's in office, Republicans tend to gain when we Americans lose faith in our institutions. They know that, too, which is why they do it. What it does to our country, well, I guess that's not so important to them.