Well, the pope has been and gone, so this is a good moment for another post about religion. We’ve had religion come at us from all angles lately: ISIS and the Taliban and Muslim fundamentalism in general in the Middle East, Christian fundamentalists here in America screaming bloody murder about the fact that same sex marriage is now the law of the land, and now the pope, who … oh, who actually wasn’t hysterical, didn’t focus on exclusion and telling people they’re going to hell if they’re not Catholic, and who doesn’t deny climate change.
When the whole country was in an uproar over Kim Davis, many online were in turn angry about that, claiming that the Syrian refugees are a bigger problem. I beg to differ. I don’t think they’re separate problems at heart. They both stem from religious fundamentalism. ISIS takes the Koran literally when they claim that all non-Muslims should be killed and Kim Davis takes the Bible literally when she claims that, as a Christian, she can’t marry same-sex couples. Both Kim Davis and ISIS are looking to ancient books–the Bible written mostly in the Bronze Age and the Koran in the early Middle Ages–for their moral justification of exclusion, hatred and violence.
I think that the difference between Christian Fundamentalists here in the United States and ISIS and the Taliban in the Muslim world is that there is a Muslim world, but no Christian world. Most countries in the Middle East are theocracies, with laws based on the Koran. And theocracies are per definition extreme, because all the leaders have to do is say that God wills it so, and hey presto, it’s the law. Reason or the rights of all play no role in theocracies.
Although western Europe started off being a collection of theocracies, most have long since changed to constitutional governments, with equal rights, freedom of religion for its citizens and freedom from any religion imposed by the government.The views of religious folks are considered no less, but also no more than those of others. What becomes law is decided by elections and by governments that are based firmly in their constitutions. Because of this, Christianity in the west has had to become more moderate overall. Because of this, western societies overall have not stagnated in Medieval morality. Because of this, Europeans are no longer fleeing from the Catholics or the Protestants or both.
I wonder how different a “modern” Fundamentalist Christian theocracy would be from many Muslim theocracies. Sure, right now the most extreme they get is screaming that God hates America at funerals for gay soldiers and killing the odd abortion doctor. But what if these folks ran the show? How soon would public hysteria turn from screaming anti-gay slurs at rallies to large-scale physical violence like the spontaneous stonings in Pakistan that make international news?
And that’s why it’s important to stand up to the Kim Davises of America. We have to adhere strictly to the constitution, in which civilians have the right to their religion, but the government cannot impose any one religion on its citizens. Kim Davis is a county clerk and as such she acted as the government. She has absolutely no right to single-handedly overrule the Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage nation-wide. As a citizen, she is free to exclude gays from her life, so if that’s what she wants, she should step down and become a regular citizen. (Also, as she refuses to do the job she is paid to do but apparently has no problem accepting the salary that the tax payers give her for that job, she is in effect stealing from everyone in her county, but I suppose that’s okay within her reasoning. She believes in a higher authority and somehow that sets her above the law.)
My point is that the only reason we don’t have millions of people fleeing from one or the other extremist group in this country, the only reason Christians of all types as well as Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, humanists, etc. are living in reasonable peace here is the constitution, the fact that this is a democracy in which the laws are determined by the people, not by a supernatural being whose will is interpreted for all by whoever has the biggest mouth or the biggest guns.
Both the events in Syria and people like Kim Davis show us that we can never take our freedoms and our relative peace for granted.
In my next post I will write more about the Pope’s visit to America, among other things.