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Kate Marie

Lance, I always admire your writing, and I appreciate the caveats that you incorporate into your posts (that you're not arguing for or against religion or a belief in God, etc.), but sometimes it seems like your definitions and categories are rather fluid and conveniently defined. For instance, "God-ed" people defended slavery, yes, but "God-ed" abolitionists condemned it; "God-ed" people defended Jim Crow and segregation, but "God-ed" people also defied and rejected it. Martin Luther King was "God-ed," wasn't he? I understand you want to define your sense of "God-ed" more narrowly, but if that's the case, your argument becomes a kind of rhetorical sleight of hand by which the God-ed are merely all the evil racists and haters and the godless are all those who opposed them. The facts of history simply don't support something quite as simple as that -- because MLK and Gandhi were "God-ed" and Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot were "godless." The history of the twentieth century should caution us against arguments that suggest that the scariest and most evil people can be identified simply as those who claim God is on their side.

Angie

The history of the twentieth century should caution us against arguments that suggest that the scariest and most evil people can be identified simply as those who claim God is on their side. --- george w. bush.

Need I say more?

Kate Marie

Yes, Angie, I think you do need to say more. Leaving aside the fact that most of Bush's allegedly evil deeds were done in the twenty *firt* century, do you really think merely intoning Bush's name proves some sort of point? *My* point is that the suggestion that religion or religious believers have caused most of the evil in the world is merely the flip side of the notion that godless people -- by virtue of their godlessness -- have caused great evil in the world. Does the fact of Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot give you any pause, at least?

And I'm also rather puzzled by this notion that believing God is on one's side is inherently evil. Again, that's not necessarily the case. Presumably, the abolitionists, MLK, Gandhi, etc. believed that God was on their side -- or more specifically, that God was on the side of the ideals/principles they espoused. The evil lies in believing God is on one's side no matter *what* principles one espouses. Whether Bush believes that is debatable and kind of beside the point, unless the point is simply to pronounce shibboleths.

blue girl

I am so over the Right thinking that their the ones with God on their side. And the final straw for me was when I read where Tom Delay said -- that when he was getting his mug shot taken, all he could think about was striving to let people see Jesus Christ through him.

Can you believe that?! (I could never add enough slammers there to properly express my disbelief.) - !

When I heard Al-Zarqawi was killed, I thought of Nick Berg's family and just assumed that they would be so relieved.

And when I saw his dad on CNN in that interview and heard what he said, I was humbled by it.

blue girl

Whether Bush believes that is debatable and kind of beside the point...

It's not beside the point because Bush&Co. use their almighty belief, or better yet, strategy, that God is on their side only as a marketing tool. This grand concept has been boiled down and used to win elections and other devious shenanigans.

Kate Marie

Blue Girl,

I don't get it . . . do you mean they've managed to convince the electorate that God is on their side? Was the electorate just a lot smarter during Clinton's two terms, or did they fall for some other cynical ploy? Or is your point that you're offended by the idea that *anyone* would use God for purposes of political expedience? Or are only liberals sincere about their religious beliefs?

Forgive me for sounding a bit snarky, but I find this whole line of discussion rather tiring and bafflingly imprecise. It *sounds* like the argument is either "Republicans/conservatives are all hypocrites who cynically exploit religion for political purposes, and Democrats/liberals are all purists who wouldn't dare sully the name of God for so base a purpose" or it's "People who think God is on their side . . . ooooh, scary!" Neither of those propositions is, to my way of thinking, very convincing.

But maybe I'm just missing something. Does George Bush really believe what he says about God and religion? Does Jesse Jackson really believe what *he* says about God and religion? I have no idea how to answer either of those questions. But why, in the sceme of things, does it matter?

blue girl

do you mean they've managed to convince the electorate that God is on their side?

Um, yeah. As compared to liberals?! And they keep on truckin'.

People were living a soap opera during the Clinton years...I still haven't figured all that out.

Or is your point that you're offended by the idea that *anyone* would use God for purposes of political expedience?

Yeah, I don't like it. But I can agree with the concept more when someone's referencing God when making an argument to feed hungry children (blatant extreme example) than when they do it to get elected or get ahead.

(I don't care for Jesse Jackson and his tactics either.)

But maybe I'm just missing something. Does George Bush really believe what he says about God and religion? (Skipping Jesse Jackon, cuz I already covered him) ...But why, in the sceme of things, does it matter?

Because of what you wrote earlier...

The evil lies in believing God is on one's side no matter *what* principles one espouses.

I think it's most evil when you use that concept to do evil things.

I know that everything I just wrote can be cracked into like crazy. I have a habit of being bafflingly imprecise.

Go for it.

Kate Marie

Blue Girl,

I'm wasn't trying to be a jerk about the "imprecise" comment. Or at least it's nothing personal. I'm just trying to figure out your point. Forgive me if I'm misunderstanding the gist of your comment above, but what it seems to boil down to is that you think Bush is an evil hypocrite who uses religion to get elected. Okay, he *may* be a hypocrite (as may Jackson or Jimmy Carter or Joe Lieberman or any number of people), but the thing is . . . I have no real way of knowing whether these people really believe what they say about God, so when I decide who to vote for, I base my decision mostly on whether I agree or disagree with their policies and proposals. I would have refused to vote for Carter (if I had been old enough to vote in those days), for instance, not because I thought he was a sanctimonious bible-thumper who thought God was on his side, but because I hated his policies.

almostinfamous

Lance, great post. I despise the putred stench of that horrible t*** too.

Kate Marie, all i can say is, not only are you living in a pre-9/11 mindset, you also don't get that this post is directed at Clodhead Coulter

harry near indy

lance, please don't waste your time with coulter. her time is running out. pretty soon she'll be as obscure as andrew dice clay.

and for the record, the only god that matters for some people is the christian god, who came to earth in the form of jesus of nazareth. all other religions are false.

Kate Marie

almostinfamous,

I actually did get that it was directed at Coulter, but it lapsed into "us" (the godless or differently God-ed) and "them" pretty quickly. And frankly, I couldn't tell whether I was supposed to be a hateful racist because I'm Catholic and tend to vote Republican, or only if I buy Ann Coulter's books (not to worry, I don't).

blue girl

Kate Marie,

Why don't we make this an out and out love fest, shall we? I didn't think you were being a jerk. I really meant that I can be baffingly imprecise, as some who edit me may agree.

But I do have to say that if either side at some point in time developed a strategy to brainwash the masses regarding who God loves more...and let's just say...both sides have tried it in their own ways...the Right is winning that battle. And it's a sickening spectacle.

And aif??!! This post is directed at Clodhead Coulter? Lord have mercy. I got off subject.

almostinfamous

I couldn't tell whether I was supposed to be a hateful racist because I'm Catholic and tend to vote Republican

well no, (except maybe you are a little masochistic) but that's not the discussion anyway.
It seems that you are rather stirred into a defense of your religious nature by this post, so why should it surprise you that Lance was stirred by the shrieking of that crazy cat lady known as coulter who, in the national media and press, denounces people of a non-religious nature?

the ones under attack, not directly by you it seems, but definitely by the people on "your side" of the political (and Jesus) aisle are the so-called Godless.

almostinfamous

oh, and BG. yeah. she;s got a new book that's called "Godless: how brown people make me feel sad about america" or something like that

almostinfamous

i shouldn't blog-spam like this, but i have to correct myself

Lance was stirred by the shrieking of that crazy cat lady known as coulter who, in the national media and press, denounces people of a non-religious nature?

should read:

Lance was stirred by the shrieking of that crazy cat lady known as coulter who, in the national media and press without being tarred and feathered at least metaphorically, denounces people of a non-religious nature?

oh, and in case you haven't seen it yet, rude pundit's got a couple that are good reads.

Kevin Wolf

Guys, this post is not about Coulter - Lance already covered her hateful brand of "thought." She was merely the jumping off point for the larger issue of God-ed vs Godless and the claims of the right wing that this contrast somehow easily and accurately describes the right vs the left.

For instance, "God-ed" people defended slavery, yes, but "God-ed" abolitionists condemned it; "God-ed" people defended Jim Crow and segregation, but "God-ed" people also defied and rejected it. Martin Luther King was "God-ed," wasn't he?

Kate Marie, I don't think Lance could have been any more clear when he wrote:

The evidence is clear that being God-ed makes you no more likely to be a good person than being Godless. ... Going by the evidence, I'd say that being God-ed makes a person more likely to be rotten.

Belief in God is more frequently used as a cover for evil acts than being without faith is. This is because most people have faith and associate it automatically with virtue. It's a perfect set up for the unscrupulous.

Lance Mannion

KM,

I'm sorry you felt personally insulted by this post. If I insulted you for being conservative and Catholic I also insulted my mother and sister and a whole lot of other people I love and admire. As almost infamous points out, this post is Coulter-inspired. It's also kind of a bookend to my post last week, The purpose of religion.

I don't believe that believing in God makes a person bad any more than I believe that not believing makes a person smart.

But if people are going to use religion as a club---in both senses of the word---and try to divide the country into the Good who believe in God and the Bad who are Godless, then they'd better make sure that those inside the club are Good. But it hasn't worked that way. It's tended to work the opposite. Most of the rottenness in the country is done by people who pray and go to church on Sunday and really do "believe" in God.

It happens that right now to be in the Club all you have to do is pray and go to church on Sundays and deny other women abortions and deny gay people their personhood and vote Republican and despise as Godless people who disagree with the Republicans and close your ears and eyes and minds to what the politicians in the Club are up to.

One of the easiest ways to manipulate people is to appeal to their hope that God is on their side.

And, harry, while Coulter's star may be in the decline, that argument has been a feature of Right Wing politics for generations now and it's not going away.

Jennifer

Kate Marie- I would like to know how you honestly feel (or think)this administration is doing. I don't want a long list of things from days gone by, but an assessment of how you feel (think) we are doing as a country right now. Do you feel our President is doing a good job?

Campaspe

That link about Michael Berg is fascinating. I have to admit, I am not much better at understanding his refusal to rejoice in Zarqawi's death than most right-wing pundits. If someone did that to my child ... well, it doesn't bear thinking about. I am in stone-cold shock, however, at the vitriol being directed at Mr. Berg. If gleefully secular little me can recognize an absolute embodiment of pure Christian thought and turning the other cheek, why does it strike the wingers in that link as so subversive? It is nothing of the sort; it is as pure as Mother Theresa (no liberal she) reacting to Bhopal with "Forgive, forgive."

You can set your watch by Ann Coulter rushing to defame Mr. Berg, though.

almostinfamous

It happens that right now to be in the Club all you have to do is pray and go to church on Sundays and deny other women abortions and deny gay people their personhood and vote Republican and despise as Godless people who disagree with the Republicans and close your ears and eyes and minds to what the politicians in the Club are up to.

btw, that club's flagship member is this lady

Kate Marie

Kevin Wolf, Lance says: "The evidence is clear that being God-ed makes you no more likely to be a good person than being Godless. ... Going by the evidence, I'd say that being God-ed makes a person more likely to be rotten." That last part is where I disagree, and that's why I mentioned the bloodbath of the twentieth century, where the "godless" have a higher body count than the "God-ed." So I'd say that, going by the evidence, becoming godless makes you no less likely to be rotten than being God-ed.

Lance, I didn't really take your post personally. I accept that, when I read your blog, a certain amount of generalization about "the Right" comes with the territory, and yet I keep reading -- partly because I *love* your posts about movies, books, pop culture, etc., and partly because, despite our political differences, you just seem like a very nice guy.

Jennifer, I'd be happy to oblige, but wouldn't that be kind of off topic? And when you say you don't want a long list of things from "days gone by," do you mean you don't want me to assess the entire performance of the Bush administration over the course of its tenure? Isn't that kind of anti-historical? In general, I am satisfied with the way the Bush administration has prosecuted "the war on terror" (though I hate that designation and I'm certainly not pleased with every aspect of its prosecution); happy with the Supreme Court picks; unhappy with Republicans' trotting out the FMA when they want to boost their support among the "religious right" (though I'm kind of conflicted about the gay marriage issue in general, in that I'd prefer a "federalist" approach, and I do think that gay rights advocates who want to make it a judicial/constitutional matter are kind of hoist by their own petard, ideologically speaking, when their opponents suggest a constitutional amendment); dissatisfied, in general, with the Bush adminstration's domenstic policies (no energy policy, no real policy on immigration reform, NCLB is well-intentioned but it's hard to reform education at the federal level and the entire project may be past saving, etc.). I could go on, but this is already off-topic.

Campaspe, I don't know that much about Michael Berg, but I'm not sure whether I'd consider him "the absolute embodiment of pure Christian thought" based solely on his reaction to the news of Zarqawi's death. In any event, he certainly has "standing" -- if anyone does -- to forgive Zarqawi. Berg's response seems a bit off-kilter to me -- not in its willingness to forgive, but in the way his forgiveness seems to obliterate moral distinctions (and that goes for Mother Teresa and for Gandhi -- who thought it would be a good idea for Jews to commit mass suicide to protest Hitler -- as well). On the other hand, I suppose grace *does* ultimately obliterate moral distinctions, in its idea that we are all equally undeserving -- and Jesus' teachings ultimately call us to be something more than, or other than, "merely" human.

That's why, despite my religious beliefs, I'm enormously attracted to Orwell's attitude about "sainthood," as expressed in his essay about Gandhi: "The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection, that one *is* sometimes willing to commit sins for the sake of loyalty, that one does not push asceticism to the point where it makes friendly intercourse impossible, and that one is prepared in the end to be defeated and broken up by life, which is the inevitable price of fastening one's love upon other human individuals. No doubt alcohol, tobacco, and so forth, are things that a saint must avoid, but sainthood is also a thing that human beings must avoid."

Jennifer

Kate Marie- Thanks for the info, off-topic or not.

evolvedreason

For many their religion is simply a necessary tool that is assumed to further their earthly pursuits. It is a suit of armor that is worn to display ones membership in the tribe and to deflect the arrows launched by rational voices. Before too long these masquerading faithful realize that the rational and true voices within their own tribe are few in number. It comes as quite a relief to them to realize that the heavy weight of this armor can be confidently put aside as long as they remember to continue to wear the arm band with the tribal crest prominently displayed.

And this, in my view, is what is holding back and even hurting America today. The life sustaining waters of rationality, both religious and non religious, that are being held back by the primal instinct of the tribe.

The Viscount

Awesome post Lance.

Worst. President. Ever.

"Thos who can make you believe absurdities can also make you commit atrocities."

Voltaire

Campaspe

KM: I didn't mean Mr. Berg himself, of whom I know little to nothing. I meant his action of forgiving his son's murderer, which is as "Christian" as it gets, period.

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