by Frank Schaeffer
July 3, 2011
Frank Schaeffer is
a writer and his new book is, Sex, Mom, and God: How the
Bible's Strange Take on Sex Led to Crazy Politics - and
How I Learned to Love Women (and Jesus) Anyway
The deluded religious belief
that any people or nation or church is a "chosen" people
is the root of almost all our troubles.
The earth bursts with life. Far right
exclusionary religion bursts with death. If there is a creator of
life He/She/It must hate fundamentalist religion.
The countries in the world that are the most fundamentalist and
religious, and/or those whose identity is most religion-based, are
the world's greatest troublemakers.
...come to mind.
If the rest of the human race could find a time machine to roll back
the clock and make a world where these countries/city states had
never existed we'd live in a better world.
Just take one example of religion's baleful influence: President
Woodrow Wilson's messianic religion-inspired intervention in World
"My life would not be worth living" Wilson wrote, "if it
were not for the driving power of religion, for faith, pure and
(Letter to Nancy Toy, 1915)
Wilson's religious views were the driving force in his political
career, informing his quest for world peace.
And like all fanatics
he decided to achieve this "peace" through war. The devout
Wilson upset fellow Presbyterians as he moved the nation toward
entering World War One, including William Jennings Bryan, who quit
as secretary of state in protest.
What did Wilson's religious idealism actually achieve?
Germany's loss of World War One led to
the rise of Hitler, and the Second World War. Wilson picked sides
between two equally tarnished nationalistically-inspired colonial
contenders and weighed in. So Wilson set the stage for the rise of
Hitler and World War Two. With no World War Two there would be no
Israel because there would have been no holocaust. Zionism would
have simply become a forgotten quirk.
And there would have been no
Cold War either, maybe not even a Soviet Union.
The twentieth century began with wars rooted in religion and
nationalism and ended as the century of wars rooted in ideological
atheism led by the likes of Stalin, Hitler and Mao. Now the twenty
first century seems to be shaping up to be the age of renewed wars
of religion led by fundamentalist fanatics on all sides who believe
in the divine destinies of their nations and/or religions.
These fanatics - they are all of the far right - have ranged from
the Ayatollah Khomeini to
George W Bush, from the far right leaders
of the state of Israel to far right American fundamentalist like
Michelle Bachmann who - if she and her fellow travelers have their
way - would replace the Constitution and Bill of Rights with the
Bible and turn America into a (Reconstructionist) theocracy.
The deluded religious belief that any people or nation or church is
a "chosen" people is the root of almost all our troubles.
So is the
lunacy of believing in "Truth" revealed through one special
to one special peoples and/or tribe, be they Jews, Muslims or
American Evangelical Christians, or conservative Roman Catholics who
believe in the special primacy of their popes.
Eliminate willful self-serving tribal religious delusion from the
globe and there might be hope for the survival of the human race.
Combine tribalism and religious conviction with nukes and the
"right" to exploit the earth and disaster looms.
It's no accident that the most dangerous cultures today are also
most religiously observant societies. The ultra-religiously
observant USA embraces perpetual war as a way of life.
notion of "exceptionalism," we fear the "other" who might challenge
our notion of having been chosen by God for some special task.
Like the USA the state of Israel has become an intransigent
provocation to the world as it slides inexorably toward becoming the
next apartheid state taking up oppression based on race and tribe
where South Africa left off.
Israel is the place where a demographic
minority of the "chosen" already represses (and/or has expelled) the
majority of the "un-chosen."
As for the ultra religious state of Pakistan it was actually founded
on self-aware religious difference! Pakistan is now the leading
exporter of terror worldwide alongside Iran. Both Iran and
Pakistan's intelligence agencies are the purveyors of terror. And
both countries (when not busy condemning people to death for the
crime of heresy etc.) see themselves as having special prophetic
The Saudis - "keepers of the Holy Places" - don't need nukes because
they have oil. They threaten destruction to the rest of us every bit
as catastrophic as war by funding terror, not to mention exporting
the most intolerant forms of Islam worldwide into tens of thousands
If Israel, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the Vatican and the USA
just went away, or had never existed, and/or changed their essential
neuroses and accepted a role of "ordinary" nations filled with just
folks or saw their religions as a way, not the way, the world would
take a giant step toward peace.
But to admit this, let alone to say it publicly, is to court the
condemnation of being anti-Semitic, and/or anti-Islamic,
anti-Catholic and/or anti-Christian, even anti-American… which is a
little ironic because the sort of right wing religious Americans who
fancy themselves as "pro-American" and "pro-Israel" regularly get
our men and women in uniform killed and maimed by starting wars of
So who is the patriot here?
Let's get one thing straight:
...aren't special, except in the
religion-addled brains of the members of their religious right wings
and ruling elites.
They're just geographical areas like any
others filled with ordinary people like any others, no better and no
Someday these "special" and "chosen" countries will cease to exist
as will all nation states. Someday they will not even be remembered
because all things pass from time into oblivion, nor will their
"holy" books and "holy" places exist forever, simple geology will
take care of that. What makes them dangerous today is their shared
religious delusion that they are somehow essential and eternal.
The delusion is this:
"We're chosen, special and
enlightened, and only we have The Truth."
Birds of a feather
So it is no coincidence that the USA has a "special" relationship
with Israel, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and special "respect" for
Vatican and a soft spot for religion in general, for instance giving
religion tax deductions. And thus it is no coincidence we are at war
Certainty is a killer. And tolerance of certainty is, by nature,
intolerant when it comes to results.
For instance; we tolerate Zionism and Christian Zionism and so
the Middle East, because we picked sides in a religious
war and decided to back one "chosen people" (Jews) over another
"chosen people" (Muslims). This picking of sides between
ridiculous pre-science claims to divine selection is the real - and
only - reason for 9/11 and all that's followed.
America needlessly meddled in a tribal religious Middle Eastern war
of religion and has paid and is paying the consequences.
Meanwhile the world's most pressing problems, from global warming to
endless wars relate to the self-"chosen" nations and tribes and
countries. Of course China and India et al are involved in global
warming too, mostly because they imitated the West. Of course others
start wars too. But I'm talking about first causes of war and
threatened global destruction.
If and when we're plunged into capitalist/consumer global ecological
destruction chances are future generations - if any - will have
right wing fundamentalist religion of all kinds to thank for
"justifying" the rape of the earth.
And if and when we're plunged into an age of nuclear terror, lose
Washington DC or New York or London chances are that the fateful
moment will be rooted in Middle Eastern/American tribal-religious
war. We'll have the states of Israel, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia,
the Vatican and/or the USA to blame for putting humanity on a
collision course with reality.
The Jews gave us a book that commands the "dominion" of the earth.
The Muslims picked up this theme in
their book and predicted the dominion of their one and only "true"
religion over the earth, a global "caliphate" that - for instance -
the Pakistani extremists and Iranian "holy men" in charge of their
nukes (or soon to be in charge of their nukes) are working to
implement with the same religious ferocity as that displayed by the
Israeli "settlers" as they "justify" stealing another Semitic
Meanwhile along with American Evangelicals, the Vatican still holds
out a misogynistic/homophobic vision of "progress" and still claims
that it and it alone is God's special envoy on earth. The very
existence of such exclusivist claims - we'll go to heaven, it's hell
for the rest of you! - is a threat to human survival.
And the United States, the inventor of the bomb, the only country to
ever use it, is the granddaddy of the exploitation of the earth in
the name of economic growth, as something "given" by God to us as
"natural" and "right."
And now we Americans run a worldwide war
making machine par excellence, sure that we are the "good guys."
The Wilsonian ideological perspective-advocacy of "the spread of
democracy," the spread of Capitalism, in favor of intervention to
help create "peace" and the "spread freedom," is rooted in an older
religious tradition: we're special a "city set on a hill."
This insanity goes back to the very
religious foundation of the American colonies that were peopled by
Calvinist cranks from England and Holland who thought that they were
too good, too theologically pure and too "chosen" to co-exist the
likes of ordinary folks.
So they left those bad folks behind and
soon were burning Pequot Indians to death in the name of
That same intolerant Puritan inheritance drives us today and divides
America into "Real Americans" as Sarah Palin calls herself and her
followers, and everyone else. This is the "saved" and "lost" model
of theology directly applied to politics.
Result? We "Real
Americans" believe we're so special that we can and should police
The "holy books"
of all the religious cultures mentioned here follow
are compendiums of Bronze Age tribal self-serving myths, adopted and
updated by ignorant tribes in order to try to make sense of their
places in the universe pre-science.
Today they are the source of war
and the rape of the earth.
It's time to stop being polite about the religions that are
motivating the self-deluding right wing Israelis, the self-deluding
right wing Saudis and the self-deluding right wing Iranians,
Americans and popes.
They may all hate each other, but below the
surface they all share one dreadful and silly conviction:
unfounded belief that they and they alone (and their tribes) are
morally right and that the rest of us are the "other" to be
suppressed, converted or sometimes killed.
And they all say God is on their
If there is a God - I happen to believe there is, but I could
be wrong - a creator, a force responsible for the magnificent
diversity of nature and human aspiration, then that actual God, by
definition, must despise exclusive-type religion and tribalism and
the black and white world of "in" or "out" and "saved" and "lost."
Guessing what God might actually be like by what we see
around us, He, She or It is big, generous, non-ideological,
wonderful and all encompassing.
Just open your eyes to the earth
below and heavens above and try to reconcile what you see, hear and
feel with petty popes, Ayatollahs and preachers or the books they
If there is no creator (and who can say there is or isn't?) then
nature's diversity and adaptability is a silent and powerful rebuke
Put it this way; the Rockies don't know
they're part of an "exceptional" country and the Negev desert
doesn't know it was "given" to anyone! Nor do the sands of Medina
know that they're "holy" much less does the dust of Iran's "holy
city" of Qom know it's "sacred," or the plaster under the paint in
the Sistine Chapel know it's "owned" by the Vatican and the "one
The religions and tribalism of those who threaten the world the most
- Iran, the state of Israel, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, the Vatican and
the USA - is small, inward looking and backward.
It's time to tell the truth and say that
maybe it is possible to love God - if there is such an entity - but
it's not possible to love God and love the sort of tribal
exclusionary religions that are taking us all down.