This was the title of one of my favorite essays by Lenin. The title itself is a powerful comment on the human condition. I can imagine early humans taking two steps forward as they left the canopy of the never-ending forest to see the clear blue sky overhead. Then they took one step back because the unfamiliar is frightening. Then they took two more steps forward. Then another step backwards. Eventually the bolder amongst them took three steps forward and one step back. Then four steps forward as the more timid fell behind. Soon the tribe broke up as the bolder went on to explore the savanna and the rest returned to the familiar gloom of the forests.
The more things change the more they stay the same. To this day we still have the explorers and the chickens. The explorers go forward into uncharted territory while the chickens huddle in the familiar as they are determined to fight change at any cost. The problem is that change is the only guarantee in life. The more the chickens fight change and huddle together for warmth and security, the more change happens. Back in the old days, the tribe that stayed in the forest was forced backwards as the forest receded to changing climate. The tribe that went forward founded the modern civilizations. The tribes who stayed in the forests tried to keep civilizations from happening.
Of course this is an oversimplification. Dynamics are rarely black and white. Absolutes do not occur in nature, but two steps forward and one step back describes life as we know it. Take Christianity for instance. I know Christians who are very progressive, yet Christianity as a whole is regressive institution. While Dr. King was leading the civil rights movement, Christianity as an institution was doing everything it could to hold him back. White preachers condemned him outright, or begged him to hold off until society was “ready” to accept African Americans as equals. There were many African American preachers who condemned him as a dangerous radical.
Today there are Christians who welcome gays into their congregations. There are Christians who will support a “separate but equal” condition for gays (“why do they have to call it marriage?”), and Christians who actively discriminate against gays. There are even Christians who will murder gays. Yet there are Christians who deny that there is any correlation between gay rights and Dr. King’s civil rights movement. Oh, how I remember the Southern Crackers who trotted out the Bible to tell us why civil rights were a sin! Gays are facing the same religious resistance today.
The few exceptions do not justify the whole. The fact that there are a few progressive Christians does not justify Christians resenting being classed together with other Christians. Very few progressive Christians do anything to protect their good names from being lumped together with Fred Phelps. Most progressive Christians are not doing anything to stop discrimination in the name of Christ. There are no Christians suing Pat Robertson for hate speech. At the very least I will say that progressive Christians are not active abusers. A very few are making a token attempt to improve their own ranks. The remainder are enablers who are allowing abuse to happen by trusting God to stop it rather than changing their lifestyles and stopping it itself.
Just so Christians don’t feel as if I am picking on them exclusively, I can toss in other religions as well. Walk through San Francisco’s Chinatown and you will see Buddhist Temples as ridiculous and bigoted as anything Pat Robertson could think up. The Islamic countries are famous for their discrimination against people outside of the tribe. Over the last twenty five years I have watched the Pagan movement become more and more like the Christians to the point where the Goddess looks like Jesus in drag (except in one notable instance where she was Joseph Smith in drag, but that’s another story.) My attempts to talk CAW into acknowledging the rapes and sexual assaults that happened amongst them have fallen on deaf ears. That’s the thing about religions, they think they can get away with anything because some make-believe higher power loves them.
I think that Starhawk made a huge mistake when she tried to graft anarchism onto religion. What she created was the social equivalent of a nuclear reactor. What is a nuke plant but a giant steam engine powered by the most unstable energy source on Earth? Religion is as reactionary as a steam engine, and anarchism is certainly a very unstable political system. The two have been in the middle of a meltdown where many branches of Paganism are taking on the most unsavory aspects of mainline religion: arrogance, intolerance, and the Protestant Work Ethic. Any religious movement, no matter how well meaning, eventually becomes a social anchor, and limits the believers to events that happened in the past rather than that which is to come. Be it Paganism or Christianity, religion is the force that makes us take one step backwards for every step forward.
I find myself coming back to this question over and over again. I think that this is because of the dialog I accidentally started with Church of All Worlds members. Maybe it’s because we are facing an even bigger financial meltdown than the crash of 1929. (How I regret some of my more optimistic posts.) Perhaps it is because I am reaching the age when I begin feeling the cold winds of my own mortality. It seems that the older I get the more I find myself agreeing with Richard Dawkins. Divinity is the biggest plague that humanity ever wished upon itself.
Well, maybe not the biggest plague. Maybe God is a gateway plague that leads to greater plagues. Belief in God leads to self -righteousness and morality. That leads to the greater plagues of bigotry and intolerance, and then before you know it you are invading Iraq and murdering gay college students. Of course, everybody has different tolerance levels. William S. Borroughs was a junkie all his life. He lived to be 79 and left a legacy of great literature. There are lots of people who are perfectly fine on God. God gives them a buzz that gets them through life. They go around doing good and smiling and bringing joy to people. These people can be seen as the happy hippies of religion. Then there are the Fred Phelps of the world. They can be seen as junkies who mug people for their fixes.
There are no clear boundaries between the good guys and the bad guys. The happy hippy could belong to the same sect, religion, or cult as the mugger. So when somebody says “It’s all the same God” it’s like saying “it’s all the same drug”. Like all drugs, people have different tolerances and different reactions to God. God makes some users violent and some users mellow. There is a school of thought that suggests that God’s gender makes a difference as to the effects. From my experience it makes no difference. I have met Pagans whose Goddess is Jesus in drag, and who are as crazy as any fundie I ever met.
At the risk of mixing even more metaphors, I suspect that belief in divinity is a social neurosis. God and invisible spirits were a good way to explain things that were not easily understandable. Babies came through sex, but nobody understood the unseen mechanism of sex. So when you had sex you made the invisible spirits happy too, and a baby came out of it. So when somebody dies, which is sad, the person comes back through the happy mechanics of sex. But over the centuries this coping mechanism changed to become the God of Fred Phelps and the lunatic pagan who screamed “monogamy is immoral” in my face.
Today we have the scientific method. We know the physics behind lightning and fire. We do not need God to explain the world to us. We have done a noble job on our own. We have outgrown divinity. Yet we do not abandon an outworn concept. Divinity remains a concept that guides our thoughts and actions. What really amazes me is how easily divinity can be used to manipulate the masses. Look at the support for the Iraq war. The Christianoid churches organized their brainwashed minions to wipe out the evil of Islam. Christians and Muslims are fighting each other over whose imaginary friend is greater.
As a nation, we have been way too tolerant of religions. We have allowed Christian religions to organize and take over our government and our military. It’s about time for us to take a stand against God. The Taney Decision of 1829 clearly gives us a right to curtail certain freedoms when such freedoms are proven to violate the common good. There is no doubt in my mind that the Christianoid right has definitely violated the common good. We have the right to stop them. In fact, not standing up to them only feeds into their delusions.
I have been thinking about religion lately. With the current financial melt down and the bail-out, I imagine that religion is on a lot of people’s minds. How many people do you think are praying that Pelosi loses her seat in Congress? Right now, how many people are on their knees saying, “please, Jesus, may Obama keep just one campaign promise”? Maybe people are praying that their jobs are not outsourced to the mysterious East, or maybe they are praying for the safety of a loved one in Afghanistan or Iraq. The Almighty must hire a legion of angels simply to keep all the prayers organized.
What really puzzles me is how the Almighty decides which prayers to answer. For every person who prays that Pelosi loses her seat in Congress, there is at least one person who is praying that she keeps her seat for the sake of his mutual fund portfolio. For every Democrat who prays that Obama wins the election, there is somebody praying that the dark-skinned man with the funny name loses the election. For that matter, for every American praying for a serviceman, there is a very angry Iraqi or Afghani praying that God smites the invaders. So just who does God listen to? When there is a choice between two sides, does God flip a coin?
There are religions out there who think they are really slick and they try to bribe God. Pagans and Catholics will light candles and burn incense in order to entice God to see things their way. Voodun will sacrifice a chicken. For the life of me, I cannot imagine what God would do with a dead chicken. I suppose a chicken sacrifice is as good a way as any to make chicken soup. What I would like to know is if their prayers are answered more often than Protestant or Jewish prayers.
Another thing that really puzzles me is why people argue over God. I recently saw a quote on an Atheist website that said something about arguing over who’s make-believe friend is better. That’s what it comes down to. Muslims claim that Allah is supreme. If so, why are Christianoids rocking and rolling through Iraq and Iran? Christianoids claim that Jesus is Lord! In that case, how come a bunch of Arab hillbillies managed to utterly pants us and destroy the World Trade Center? If Jesus or Allah were actually the high poobahs, wouldn’t you think that one of them would put his divine foot down and say, “that’s a no-no”? More recently, there is a huge tempest in a teapot over which gender God is. Is God a woman?
Another mountain out of a molehill is the amount of Gods there are. God is one. God is a pantheon. God is male. God is returning and She is pissed. It amazes me to see what people can argue over. In the cosmic scheme of things, we have more important things to worry about than the existence or non-existence of somebody else’s make-believe friend. We have real life problems going on right now. Who cares if your make-believe friend is male or female? Who cares if you have one huge almighty make-believe friend, or a whole storybook full of them?
If we are going to spend all this energy over a being or beings who probably does not even exist, why don’t we agree on a nice make-believe friend. This is why I have decided that I am directing all my prayers to Hobbes the Stuffed Tiger. Could you think of a better make-believe friend? He’s loyal, he tells the truth, he is a comfort during the bad times, and a faithful troublemaker during the good times. Hobbes gives good advice, but he’s there with a warm hug when you ignore the good advice and Suzy gives you what you deserve. At the same time, Hobbes has never smitten anybody for his sins. He has never killed anybody’s firstborn kids, or commanded wars. (Well, maybe a snowball fight or two.) Best of all, he’s a stuffed tiger so he can just as easily be Hobbesette. Could you think of a better God than that? There is no God but Hobbes and Calvin is his prophet.
Screw you, Pat Robertson.
I have watched a trend towards atheism in the United States. I think this is definitely a step in the right direction. The world has been run by imaginary friends for way too long. Just picture two little kids talking together. One kid says to the other kid, “this is my invisible friend, Mikey. He sees everything and he knows everything. If you’re bad he’ll blast you with lightning.” Soon all the kids on the playground are afraid of Mikey. They do everything that the teachers say, because they don’t want Mikey to be pissed off at them. Of course the kid who created Mikey is going to be the teacher’s pet. They are going to give him special treats and extra breaks, because Mikey is such a big help. What would they do without him?
For time out of mind, being a holy man meant that you never had to find honest work. Buddhist priests went around with their begging bowls and were fed through the largess of the villagers. The funny thing is that the villagers never stopped to think that if they didn’t feed the priests they would go away. The Hindus and the Chinese had huge temples that were funded by offerings. Nobody stopped to think that they could starve those parasites out and use the money for more useful things. That would piss off the make believe friends. If you read Leviticus in the Old Testament, those Levites lived the life. The Hebrews had no end to the sins that had to be washed clean through blood sacrifice. The Levites got to eat all the best parts of the sheep and bulls that were slaughtered.
Where would government be today without religion? How would the Chinese emperors have faired without Confucian temples? Where would European Royalty be without Popes Doubtless they would have been forced to survive by their wits alone. They would have survived by listening to their subjects and promising them anything as long as they kept their jobs and positions. When you stop and think of it, European royalty would have had to behave like American Congressmen. So then why are we in our present straits today? Why do we have American jobs in the mysterious east? Why is our economy sinking faster than the Titanic? We can blame everything on God.
Even in the computer age, politicians still have God to fall back on. God can always be depended on to support the powers that be. James Dobson tells his brain washed minions that national health will fund abortions, and the brain washed minions will vote against national health. All Ron Paul has to do is tell his crowd that Tom Jefferson was against national health and the libertarian crowd will vote against national health, because Jefferson has replaced Jesus in their hearts.
The idea that there has to be some invisible force manipulating the world seems to be an essential part of the American culture. Perhaps it’s because the United States was founded by a bunch of religious crackpots who wanted to be isolated from liberal influences. Even otherwise intelligent people who have rejected religion fall for conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theories state that invisible forces are manipulating the world for their own benefit. That certainly fits into anybody’s rational definition of God. Quite often, such modern religions as neo-Paganism will fall into conspiracy theories in order to have a Satan to believe in. After all, America was founded by Christianoid lunatics. You have to have a Satan in order to be an American religion.
I doubt that we will ever have a free society until we get rid of the need for invisible friends. Someday people will realize that God is an idealization of their present leaders. Someday people will realize that conspiracy theories fill the void that is left when Americans stop believing in Satan. When libertarians realize they are deifying Jefferson, we will have a truly free society. Politicians will no longer have an invisible friend to hide behind, and this is Bill holding his breath.
There are few things that threaten corporate profits more than human rights. Laws that protect the rights and dignity of humans beings also protect human beings from corporate exploitation. Human rights include the right to housing, the right to medical care, the right to a living wage, and the right to legal protections from abuse. Each of these rights limit corporate profits. All fascist movements exists to destroy all laws that limit corporations. That is why eliminating human rights is amongst the Libertarian Party’s highest priorities.
Disdain for human rights goes along with the rampant nationalism. In Germany the Nazis had their myths of genetic superiority. Nationalism was equated with Aryan purity. If you were pure Aryan, you were superior to non-Aryans, and that gave you more rights than everyone else. So the rest of the population had to identify with Aryan superiority or be treated as a lesser person with fewer rights. Sympathy and compassion towards the genetically inferior people (Slavs and Jews) was seen as inferiority by the master race. This perceived inferiority became a reason for arrests and imprisonment in work camps.
In the case of the Libertarian movement, disdain for human rights is presented as a religious principle. (We’ll go into the confusion between government and religion in the appropriate place.) The American myths taught in the school rooms take on a religious aura. The westward expansion stops being the story of blatant imperialism and becomes a myth equal to Moses leading the Children of Abraham into the promised land. Native Americans cease to be the victims of Imperialism and become “The Enemy”. Minorities who have been exploited by Corporate America become naturally inferior to those Americans who have embraced the values of our pioneer ancestors. African Americans, Gays, and Hispanics who have been historically oppressed by American Society, are seen as weak and inferior for demanding their Constitutional rights through the courts rather than embracing the Social Darwinist principle of survival of the fittest
The myth of individualism and dog-eat-dog Capitalism extends to the Libertarian’s own rights as workers and members of society. This is shown by the heavy influence that the Protestant Work Ethic has on the Libertarian movement. The original Protestant Work Ethic of the Puritans stated that wealth was a sign that you were going to heaven. Poverty was God’s way of telling the world that you were damned. Amongst Libertarians wealth is seen as a sign of superiority and poverty a sign of inferiority. Therefor, impoverished African Americans are impoverished due to their inferiority, not because of prejudice. Their inability to find work is not due to the fact that American jobs are being outsourced but through some imagined inferiority. Like all other movements where religion gets confused with politics, Libertarians see no need to be logical.
Our Puritan forefathers also believed that illness and tragedy were signs of God’s displeasure. If you were wealthy and died of pneumonia, it was a sign that God wanted you in heaven early. If you were not so wealthy and died leaving a small estate or no estate, it was a sign that you were screaming in hell and that your wife and children would soon be screaming with you. So in the Libertarian mind set, getting a fatal disease or suffering a disabling accident is a sign of inferiority. Only the inferior demand a national health plan because true Americans can pay their own way. If a True American gets sick or injured he has the insurance or the Capital to pay outrageous medical bills. If he is too sick to work and the medical bills are too much for him, then he is inferior and he can beg pennies in the streets or die in the gutter.
Any one of us can find ourselves in financial trouble through no fault of our own. As one speaker I heard stated it, “we are all one paycheck away from homelessness”. Tragedy can hit any one of us at any time, and it is not a sign from a non-existent God nor is it a sign of inferiority. The only people who benefit from the Libertarian movement are the corporations. As corporations have the most money, they are perceived as being superior and having more rights than the rest of us. Collective bargaining, employment laws, and nondiscrimination laws are seen as weaknesses. Therefor corporations can under pay their workers, can have dangerous work environments, and discriminate without restraint. Corporations can also hire goons to break strikes, refuse medical treatment to the terminally ill or indigent, and evict poor people from their homes. According to the Libertarian movement It is the fault of the victims for not being “American” enough.
The myth of the individual is simply a divide and conquer tactic designed to prevent Americans from working together. If we work together for common goals, such as human rights for everybody and not just the wealthy, we are a threat to corporate profits. We will look at this in more detail in my next post, which will concern the Minute Men.
There are times when I feel as if I am living in a dream. I start thinking that I got really toasted at a frat party and crashed in the back room. Any minute now I am going to be woken up by a horny coed and discover that the last 30 years never happened. Ol’ Rotten Ronnie Rayguns had never been elected president. The American public laughed him out of politics as they reelected Carter in a landslide victory. In the next election Walter Mondale and his running mate, Jessie Jackson will lead America into a golden age where American jobs were never outsourced and unions continued keeping America working. The War on Poverty ended by us kicking poverty in the ass instead of poverty kicking ours. Hybrid cars were introduced in 1985, and subsidized by a tax on the petroleum industry. Global Warming was not stopped, but it was kept in check through careful management of our precious and irreplaceable planet. That’s the reality I wish I could wake up to.
I simply have to accept the fact that I am awake and living in the Red King’s dream. The world is a waking nightmare where the poor are blamed for their own plight as their jobs are shipped off to the mysterious east. One of cable T.V.’s top shows is about a woman who has to sell pot in order to maintain a middle class lifestyle, and nobody sees this as strange. There was a time when I thought the world could not become as surreal as the New Age of the Reagan Administration. Can anything be more ridiculous than grown-ups gazing into crystals while their fellow citizens are being reduced to homelessness, and then blaming the homeless for not being spiritual enough? Holy Protestant Work Ethic, Batman!
At this point, I have to assume that the Red King is peaking on whatever drug he’s tripping on, because now Nancy Pelosi has adopted Paris Hilton’s energy policy. I want some of whatever the Red King’s tripping on! Maybe then I can see something good about off shore drilling and nuclear reactors. Forget about off shore drilling. The difficulty and expense of extracting the oil, combined with the expense and difficulty of refining the crude into petroleum, will not reverse rising gas prices. All it will accomplish is assuring oil company profits. Nuclear reactors are an even more idiotic idea. Reactor grade uranium is amongst the most dangerous substances in the world, and what do they do with it? They use it to boil water for a giant steam engine! If that steam engine runs out of water, the uranium will melt down to the center of the earth and poisons us all. Aside from the peril, reactor grade uranium is even rarer than oil, and will run out in under 20 years of steady use. Besides, the only thing that anyone has thought to do with the waste is use it for tank and bullet casings or to irradiate food. The entire Middle East is going to become an unlivable nuclear wasteland in a matter of years due to depleted uranium, and god alone knows what irradiated food will do to us. Once again, the only thing that nuclear reactors are good for is creating corporate profits.
I think that the Red King is tripping on petrochemicals and we are all sharing his hallucinations. Economists and geologists have been warning us that the oil is running out since I was a young teenager. There is no source of oil as cheap and easy to refine as Middle Eastern oil. We had a taste of things to come back in 1973 and 1979 when OPEC flexed its muscles and embargoed oil to the U.S . We had rationing and rising gas prices then, but all the Red King did was what he needed to do to assure himself a steady supply of candy. Then he went right back to dreaming up idiocies like SUVs and Hummers. What do you think the Red King is going to do when the Middle Eastern oil is really runs out? Other sources of oil are simply not as easy to extract nor as cheap to refine. Oil prices are going to continue to rise until the Red King won’t be able to afford his addiction any more.
Like all addicts, the Red King makes up excuses for his actions. For instance, Intelligent Design is one of those lies. Intelligent Design denies that oil is millions of years old and constitutes the remains of dinosaurs. I.T also implies that God will simply add in more dinosaur juice while we’re not looking. Face it fundies, God is not adding more oil while we are not looking. Maybe in another billion years we’ll be the dinosaur juice that the cockroaches will be using to fill their gas tanks. Until then we are going to have to get ready for when the Red King starts going cold turkey after he can no longer afford the gasoline that powers his delusions.
Right now the Red King is panicking because his candy supply is running short. Like any other junkie, he’s using more of his drug of choice as the panic sets in. Just as a junkie will mug somebody in the street in order to feed his habit, the Red King sent troops into Iraq to make sure he has what he needs to feel good. Rather than rationing himself and making what he has last, the Red King is snorting up the oil like it’s going out of style. Still, the Red King is denying that he has a problem. Everything is somebody else’s fault and never his. The Red King will blame Middle Eastern terrorists for hating America. The Red King will blame OPEC and Hugo Chavez for wanting to make a fair profit on their resources. The Red King will even blame the very geologists and ecologists who have been warning him of his addiction. Everyone gets blamed except the Red King himself.
So where does that leave the multinational oil companies who have been the Red King’s pushers? As oil becomes scarce and prices rise, they are running around like ants trying to keep the Red King calm. They are promising him things they cannot deliver. They are promising to do something about the price of gasoline in defiance of the laws of supply and demand. Other sources of oil are too hard to extract and too wasteful to refine to be cheap and profitable. Yet the oil corporations are telling the Red King that exploiting our Alaskan wilderness and ruining our beaches with off shore drilling will bring back cheap gas. McCain, Obama, and Clinton are proposing energy policies that could have worked in 1979, but the Red King didn’t want to cut his Oil Consumption back then. He was busy denying that he was an addict and claiming that he could stop anytime he wanted. Today it is too late. They are crushing oil out of shale in Saudi Arabia, and the Iraqi oil fields are on fire. The Red King is starting withdrawal right in the face and he’s panicking so badly he’s ready to send out the troops to mug Iran.
So what are the multinationals going to do when the Red King starts going into withdrawal after over 100 years of petrochemical addiction? They are going to do what any pusher will do when they are about to get caught; they are going to run away. They are going to pack up all their oil profits and disappear. When the tweaked out Red King comes looking for them, all the Red King is going to find is Barack Obama in the White House. That’s right people, America’s oil pushers are going to leave the Black Guy holding the bag while the Red King tweaks.