The first part of this blog was published on the 16th, a couple of days ago. Here is the fourth part of This is a Christian Nation: What That Statement Really Means by Gregory W. Chmara.
In part I, Gregg listed four statements:
- “The United States was founded on Christian values and all are troubles are because we have drifted away from those.”
- “Christian values are founded on the rock solid principles of the Ten Commandments and they should be on display in public buildings and courts to remind us.”
- “All Christians believe the same things – those taught by Jesus Christ.”
- “I am a Christian and that settles the argument.” (Whatever the argument is.)
“I am a Christian and that settles the argument! (Whatever the argument might be.)”
As Dana Carvey’s Church Lady might have said, “Well, isn’t that special?”
Well not really. There are in excess of 15,000 various Christian sects for the billion professing Christians. I might add that one billion professing is a number greater than actual practicing Christians. Each sect has its own interpretation of what Christianity is, who gains the rewards of recognizing Jesus Christ as a savior in their own special way, and what range of issues they wish to control.
A person who stops conversations with the phrase, “I’m a Christian, and Christians believe…” is avoiding any real discussion or study of a particular problem. Those problems could range from whether Mary was a virgin (totally unimportant), world hunger (important), the proper role of clergy in politics (very important), and acceptance of science and technology in solving problems of health and well being (exceptionally important). Using “my mind is made up by Christ” statement above indicates blind, willful ignorance. It exposes the individual’s limited capacity to approach the real world in a thoughtful and understanding way.
The Amish Community openly rejects modern technology beyond that of a horse and buggy. Christians with a similar rejection of the discoveries of science should not be allowed to politically sway the rest of society. It is antithetical to everything I believe.
For example, science found that lives can be saved with blood transfusions. However, refusal to receive whole blood is a settled issue for Jehovah’s Witnesses. They are doctrinally enjoined from using whole blood to save their own life. They cite ecclesiastical and Biblical references to support their views and go as far as to maintain their own health facilities (I refuse to call them hospitals) that do not offer transfusions. I would hate to be in an accident with blood loss and be transported to a Jehovah’s Witnesses facility emergency room. It is OK for these ultra-religious people to accept that threat into their own life, if it’s a choice freely made but to push this anti-scientific faith-only doctrine as a law on everyone, or to force the belief on any other individual, including minor children or non-believing family members, is a crime against humanity. To deny that transfusions save lives more than prayer is a form of insanity — but it is a socially acceptable insanity under the U. S. Constitution, nonetheless.
This belief is similar to the no medical doctor or medicine beliefs promulgated by Christian Scientists. They, as Christians, believe that Jesus Christ was the great scientist healing with prayer, driving out spirits, demons, and defeating attitudes that caused ill health. A number of minor children with common but life threatening conditions have had to be removed from families who believed only prayer would save their disease ridden child. They imposed their irrational belief on the child often letting the child get close to death when a simple anti-biotic could quickly restore them to the state of health. (Prayer is not as effective as anti-biotics against infections.) Others have refused food to children in order to drive out demons. Recent court cases, luckily, have removed minors in danger from these fanatics and mandated life-saving treatment until the child is back to health. Personal religious belief does not trump an individual’s right to live with the protections of our advanced secular society.
Consider the Terri Shiavo case. It is another example where the Christian dogmatic arguments conflicted with science while determining life and death. Hundreds of thousands of dollars had been expended keeping Terri’s body alive by machine. Her body had shrunk and science showed that recovery was not possible. Her parents went as far as Congress to stop her legal representative (her husband) from pulling the plug. The Christians in congress aligned with the Catholic Church to make “pulling the plug” look like murder instead of recognizing very real and very unpleasant medical facts. Being Christian, the parents fomented a religious vote seeking congress to vote for the idea you fight for life regardless of truth, pain, medical evaluation, or cost. They tried to create a law that would make it a Christian’s (with a capitol “C”) duty to protect life at all costs and give prayer the time to work a medical miracle. The courts finally ruled that the husband had the right to withdraw the treatments that were running her vital signs by machine. As expected by Skeptics, no miracle took place and Terri Schiavo died. Prayers of all the Christians and even Congress did not save the life of her brain dead body. Quietly, an autopsy report was issued. It showed there was no possibility for recovery. Her dysfunctional brain had shrunk to a totally non-functioning organ during the months on the machines which kept her body “alive” in its vegetative state.
These are just a couple of extreme cases but they demonstrate that the ignorant, very vocal, dogmatic Christians involved were effective in using their passion and religiosity to sway public opinion and thwart the benefits of scientific advances. They used their beliefs to suggest all good Christians must morally support their radical view or lose heaven, and maybe go to jail. While Terri Schiavo’s body lived under the type of artificial stimulation that makes a dead frog’s leg jump with a shock from a battery, the legislators wearing their Christianity on their sleeves used the moral bludgeon of guilt (we are all sinners, but we can prevent this one murderous death) to force their view into a political precedent, one that could affect everyone under law in the United States, believer or not.
This is the same technique used by the Roman Catholic church in its very political alliance with Evangelicals to outlaw abortion. Consider this, the term “abortion” (not just for birth control) covers natural functions of a women’s body and now includes psychological guilt cast on women who suffer a natural miscarriage and may seek medical aid. Consider too, that the religious articles of faith advanced by each Christian group as to when a soul enters a human embryo or fetus to make it human are very different. The Catholic Church believes the soul’s potential begins with ejaculation and even condoms are a form of “abortion.” Conjecture, evidence, and evaluation standards other than those found in the 2,000 year old philosophies of the Bible need not apply. Evangelical doctrine agrees that abortion is a sin — but not necessarily with the Catholic prohibitions on condoms.
In Arizona the legislature, controlled by Republican religious conservatives, passed a law that makes abortion illegal past 20 weeks following the last intercourse before a woman misses her period. Where is the evidence that would support this law’s assertion? By what fiat do they make rules for all women based upon little or no medical efficacy? Now it’s up to the courts to decide if this law is another religious travesty. What happened to the previous tacit and legal agreements that a fetus must be viable before the mother’s choice is limited by state intervention?
Then there is this: In the past few years the infallible Roman Catholic Pope declared that Limbo does not exist — but did not explain what happened to all those souls of fetuses that previously allegedly resided there — or if in-vitro baptism to save them would be restored.
It was not too long ago that the Catholic Church was sure that any aborted (or miscarried) fetus’s soul went to Limbo instead of Hell. Now, everyone (infants too) who is not baptized as a Catholic ( you know those who are supposed to hell anyway) has no way station to get to Heaven except Purgatory, a place of punishment for sin until released to heaven, after burning to perfection.
This doctrinal change is in no way is a comfort to Catholic women who lose a fetus and have tremendous hormonally caused emotional problems of loss to deal with but most Christian’s believe “God’s ways are not man’s ways” as if that was an explanation or comfort.
Previously, not too long ago in history, the Catholic church in its wisdom required in-vitro (in the womb) baptism to save an unborn child or fetus in danger of dying before emerging from the woman’s body. This applied especially in cases of then inoperable and deadly breach birth and used enema like inserts. This would assure the unborn fetus a place in heaven, even if it risked the life of the mother and/or child.
Now, add to this the consideration that the Catholic Clergy’s mind is made-up in all matters of birth control. The Roman Catholic Church equates all birth control methods, except vaginal intercourse on the rhythm method, with abortion in the weighing sins that will get you to Hell.
If you look closely you will discover that those particularly Catholic doctrinal views have now slowly been inveigled into state and national health bills riding alongside arguments and legislation to remove a woman’s right to choose, (abortion) under the broad-brush that Christian views do not permit birth control. This now influences not just abortion but all pre and post coital birth control measure in use — and if and when legislated, controls everyone of every faith or non-faith.
Many Christians who may feel that abortion is morally reprehensible and distasteful are less than thrilled with this shift in the anti-abortion movement’s goals. They believe in family planning. These Christians do not want their newly won reproductive and sexual rights to contraception and birth control that is scientifically viable, safe and healthy, should not be broad-brushed into a Christian anti-abortion issue by those Catholics.
The dogma and doctrine of these Christians and the allied Roman Catholics hierarchy openly conflict in the real world when you move beyond the issue of abortion.
Clearly, these are secular issues, at best, based upon the health of a mother and potential child, and her mate. Religious discussion of fantasized and unsubstantiated claims of when a fetus is imbued with a soul belongs in a religious frame of the specific sect’s beliefs and rules do not belong in secular law. They should not be imposed on those who do not subscribe to them.
And without a clear understanding of responsibilities for raising a child, when a fetus becomes viable, the potential costs to society of hundreds of thousands of dollars in care for the fetus and child, and the mental and physical health of the potential mother, legislation based upon religious dogma or doctrines should not be part of our secular government.
Now turn to this. There are some who believe that the theory of evolution is wrong-headed and un-Christian. It is supposedly capable of morally turning man into no more than an animal. They would have us use a broad-brush to think this is a widely held Christian belief.
But the Catholic Church accepts evolution and believes the evidence for it is more than substantial, at least until it comes to the infusing of the soul of man into the human body. That infusion is the work of God. Other sects believe that evolution and godliness ran concurrently, over unknown eons,
The broad-brush of fundamentalist, literalist, and anti-evolutionary theory Christians does not admit to the fact that science is always investigating, researching, and revising, based upon the latest information and advances, even contradictory evidence.
While us humans do not know every last step of development from single cell creature billions of years ago to humanity, we can see and prove not only the blind alleys and pathways that nature has taken to develop life and human thought and curiosity, but we can use our brains to connect the dots. We can demonstrate a solid convoluted path to thinking humans even those using religious thought and blind belief to explain the creation of the world.
This should be clear to anyone who is rational, and more importantly in the future will be able to understand all the developments in medicine, physics, germ theory, and the sciences and technologies of human life and curiosity.
Let’s turn to global warming. Note, more than 90 per cent of every living species that has ever been on earth is now extinct. There is a Christian belief offered and promulgated on a broad-brush basis saying that the end of the world is near. Broad-brush Christian preachers offer the idea that an apocalypse will occur in our lifetime, so we need not worry about the rapidity with which man (as a species) has changed (some would say spoiled) the ecology of the planet.
Is it possible they do not understand the belief that Christ predicted that ‘the apocalypse” would happen before all the original apostles left the earth 2,000 years ago? Then consider the Christian apocalypses of 1,000 CE, and Y2K, etc.
A change must be made in this broad-brush Christian belief. It is too often applied to keep people in ignorance of our industrial destruction of the planet and changes that must be made, no matter how unpopular and difficult those changes may be. And changes must be made if we are to offer a living planet to future generations. These Christian people have a right to their apocalyptic opinions and speech. However I also have an opinion and a few rights under law and beliefs I feel are moral. First, remember that law can be amended to account for modernity. I believe ignorance is not a benign state or a state of grace. I believe that deliberately blind ignorance is at least a misdemeanor if not an intellectual crime against humanity. It is an excuse for not thinking, then not acting unless directed by a “Christian leader.” By the way, I plead guilty of inaction for too many years.
I firmly believe those who use the four arguments quoted at the start of this article have no right to avoid evidence, they have no right to promulgate falsehood (remember thou shalt not lie — as in bear false witness, etc.). They have no right to force their unsubstantiated doctrinal beliefs into law or public policy to govern everyone.
No, we are not a Christian nation. We are a human nation experimenting in self government. We do not subscribe to religious blind belief and adherence to mindless dogma or doctrine handed down from an unseen, improvable, invisible beings. We realize statements of doctrine come through men, whether they claim to be prophet, priest or king. Men, especially men in ecclesiastical power, have agendas that vary from advancing the full bloom, curiosity and development of mankind. These agendas may be couched in godly phrases, but most often do not bring liberty, thoughtfulness, and progress to all humans. Rather they benefit the select few in power or who subscribe to the dogma and doctrine advanced.
In closing, let me paraphrase the old Negro College Fund public service announcement used to raise funds during and after the Jim Crow era:
“A closed mind is a terrible thing – it is a waste of human potential.”
A nation that lets itself be run by religious totalitarianism, closed minds and willful ignorance, with laws based upon lies and misinformation that has been preached and repeated from pulpits and biased, unknowledgeable, and frightened news sources, deserves everything it gets. And that nation will probably, in the end, lose everything it really values as it deserves. That’s my broad-brush statement.