What's All This Then?

commentary on the passing parade

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Since I’m about to have hand surgery tomorrow which will make it even more difficult for me to use my computer keyboard for many days - maybe even weeks - I thought I would pen a few comments about at least one of the dozens of issues which are swirling around in my head. When you’re a self appointed observer of the passing parade and fail to spill out a few commentaries over an extended period of time, they have a tendency to stagnate and take up thinking space, crowding out functioning gray matter. Hopefully, these few words will relieve some of the pressure on my beleaguered brain.

What subject could bring me back to the blogosphere even when I am not yet ready to come back? If you guessed religion, go to the head of the class. First, some words of comparison. Just a week or two ago, our cousins across the pond had an election. It lasted all of three weeks and while no party won an absolute majority of parliamentary seats, a new government has already taken over. There were lots of issues that voters considered before going to the polls - the economy of course, in worse shape than ours - Britain’s relationship with Europe - and the British involvement In Iraq and Afghanistan being just a few. But conspicuous by their absence were issues that lurk in the background - and of late - increasingly in the foreground of American elections. Religion. The faith or lack thereof of individual candidates - and the religious offshoots of homosexuality, gay marriage and gays in the military. I would venture to say that in whatever speeches candidates for the House of Commons gave to voters in their districts, they didn’t end them with a call to God to bless the listeners or "England" or the "United Kingdom." This in a country that has an official religion and where one of the Queen’s titles is "Defender of the Faith." Religions simply isn’t a political issue in England. Here, in many instances, religion can be the "issue" that decides an election.

I’ve written about the influence of religion on our national life several times on this blog - and in October of 2005 I wrote about the fear of anyone running for political office being perceived as anything other than a person of faith. Of devout faith. My comments then were not only true but prophetic, because in this current campaign season - when is it NOT a campaign season - we have the hard to swallow example of a candidate in the Republican primary for governor in Alabama being accused of - wait for it - believing in, gasp - EVOLUTION. Of course the accused one - Bradley Byrne, wasn’t about to take such an accusation lying down and he came back with the assertion - nay, the assurance that he believes every word in the bible, which suggests a somewhat different history of mankind from that of evolution.

I don’t know what the issues are in Alabama. I would assume that the economy is pretty close to the top of the list and gubernatorial candidates would be putting forth their ideas about how to bring business to the state and to create jobs and fund popular and needed programs. It probably wouldn’t hurt any of them to cap their political speeches with an exhortation for the blessing of God. But if the sincerity of that exhortation is questioned by an opponent and that question becomes a political issue and voters accept it as a political issue, we’re in big trouble. How much different is this scenario from the countries that I’m sure both sides in the Alabama controversy would be quick to condemn as practicing perversions of religious belief? Maybe there’s no direct comparison with the religious Muslim extremists who believe that they’ll be rewarded with the attention of 70 heavenly virgins if they kill infidels while committing suicide. But how much more ridiculous can it get than a candidate for State wide political office declaring that he believes every word of the Bible. Literally. That a God "created" the earth in seven days and then gave the human race a kick start by creating Adam and Eve. And what is more ridiculous than attacking a candidate because he allegedly "believes" in evolution? That’s like attacking someone as unfit for office because he collects fossils. Evil artifacts created by the Devil to make us believe that the human race didn’t just suddenly appear five or six thousand years ago.

I’ll tell you what’s more ridiculous. If Bradley Byrne had greeted the attackers of his religious fealty with the response that their attack was ridiculous. That of course he believed in the overwhelming evidence of human evolution and that while he respected the Bible, anyone who thinks that the Biblical version of creation is anything other than allegorical needs to see a psychiatrist - he’d be out of the race before it began.

I thought that perhaps things might change when we moved from a president who claimed that he consulted with a "higher power" before making decisions and that it was God who wanted us to invade Iraq - to someone who appeared to have a more practical approach to life. But Obama has had to respond to attacks on his ancestry and beliefs with assurances that he is a practicing Christian with all that implies. I don’t imagine that the human race will be able to free itself from the grip of religious belief for the imaginable future. Maybe before the sun goes nova - if humans are still around. But in our lifetimes, I guess the most we can hope for is for the sane among us to do our best to keep it from infringing on the nation’s political life. The Alabama situation needs to be exposed as utter nonsense. I’m doing my part by saying so. Bloggers, talk show hosts, op-ed columnists please follow.