Sunday, April 22, 2012

Evangelical Religion’s War on Common Sense

Pat Robertson Evangelist
by Nomad

Hostility and Antipathy
During their failed runs for the Republican nomination in this year’s presidential election, GOP candidates such as Gingrich and Santorum, made the shocking claim that Obama was waging a war on religion. That sort of nonsense might play well to the average Fox News watchers who seem to be fully prepared to swallow any anti-Obama rhetoric, no matter how preposterous.

Naturally this meme was picked up by conservative religious leaders, eager to make a name for their crusade against the evils of secularism and the horrors of the separation of Church and State.
As Mother Jones reports:
Gary Marx, the executive director of Ralph Reed's Faith and Freedom Coalition, sent out a fundraising letter this month urging people to sign a petition fighting Obama's "war on religion," writing: "The Obama Administration's actions are evidence of a pattern of hostility towards religious institutions and an antipathy to uphold and protect the nation's most fundamental founding principles."
Despite showing precious little in the way of evidence of Obama's hostility, apart from not taking orders from the Church, people like Marx are allowed to promote this claim without anybody challenging them. 

Yet, looking at it from another angle, it generally seems as though the religious fanatics are waging a war on intelligence and common sense.

Need any proof? Ok. Take a look at this recent news story.

Beyond Comprehension
A local NBC-affiliate channel in Kentucky has this about a woman, Charlotte Hall, from Ezel, Kentucky who, when faced with an approaching tornado, did what any other God-fearing Christian would do. Rather than dashing into the nearest storm cellar with her family, dogs, cats, canaries, family photo albums and Bible, she stood in her backyard, with video cameras humming, and prayed to the Lord.

The dictionary defines the phrase, "common sense" as the "sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts." 

The fact that anybody would consider standing in the middle of a killer storm to be a sound and prudent act demonstrates how religion so often distorts the ability of many people to think clearly.

I do not know Ms. Hall and if she believes that she has this magic power, then who am I to disagree? I wish her well. I hope she will wear a motorcycle helmet the next time she attempts this act. Given the dangers involved, it appears to be more like an audition video for MTV's "Jackass."

Most importantly (more despicably) is the slant the local newscasters took about the story. Here are some excerpts from the coverage.
If you've ever questioned the power of prayer, watching the video of Charlotte Hall as a huge tornado begins to form over her home in Ezel, Ky. might change your mind....
But Hall's prayer could only do so much. The storm moved into nearby West Liberty, where Hall was born and raised, and marked a deadly chapter in the small town's history, killing six people.

"I had no idea it was gonna go into that town, but I've been praying for them every night," said Hall. "The loss is beyond comprehension."
I can only imagine the pain this thoughtless remark may have caused the grieving family members for the ravaged community. At least, Hall's prayer saved her own house. (I doubt whether she feels any guilt about diverting the storm toward her less divinely-defended neighbors.)
According to this twisted logic, the people who died in West Liberty didn't pray as effectively or ostentatiously as Hall. (Perhaps they were too busy trying to find their Bibles.)

Dopplers for the Devil and Meteors for Mickey
Many televangelists have implied time and time again that natural disasters and other "acts of God" are a result of not following the God's commands, or being gay or for just worshiping the wrong deity. 

Pat Robertson likes to beat this timpani drum every now and then. When it comes to disasters inside the US, he is usually more judicious about applying it. But if you are poor and you're black, when God demonstrates his wrath, it's probably your fault. 
For example, the earthquake victims of Haiti- their suffering was a result of a some kind of deal that their great grandparents made with the Devil. He likes to throw those remarks out freely.
Here's Pat Robertson's take on God and tornadoes. It's a finely-ground mix of science and religion.

He seems to be talking out of both sides of his mouth on this one. Are tornadoes acts of God or are they not? With his weatherman hat on, Pat seems to be saying they aren't. And yet, as any theologian would tell you, that puts Mr. Robertson squarely into heathen blasphemy territory.

The God of the Old Testament was always willing to conjure up a weather phenomena- like droughts and storms and floods- when vexed. Mr. Robertson surely knows this. But then Mr. Robertson does have an audience to think of.

Looking at the bald facts of this story from a religious angle, we suddenly find a few new insights. States in the Midwest spend millions of the construction and maintenance of an early warning system for severe weather. But that's all for nothing if prayer was really the answer.

According to people like Robertson, those energies would have been better spent recruiting Christian prayer groups to stand in their yards and deflect tempests.
Think of the savings. For instance, the cost of installing the Doppler radar system back in the 1990s, was around $1.5 billion. Think how many more churches might have been constructed using that money.
As research reports:
Controlling for tornado characteristics and path, these researchers found that the use of Doppler radar reduced fatalities by 45 percent and reduced injuries by 40 percent. These reductions translate into averages of 79 deaths prevented per year, and 1052 injuries prevented per year.
If prayer was the answer, all those lives that were saved would be in defiance to God's will. And Doppler is less discriminating about which lives are saved. How can we be sure only Christians lives are saved with this early warning system? (and the right kind of Christian too?) Nope, this Doppler system sound a little fishy to me. Probably a tool of Satan.
Of course, the Doppler system has, on the other hand, some good results too. It has increased the average warning time from 5.3 minutes to 9.5 minutes. This has nearly doubled the time for mass praying!

Yes. I am joking.

Robertson also put Disney on warning too. 
After Orlando, Florida, city officials voted in 1998 to fly rainbow flags from city lampposts during the annual Gay Days event at Disney World, Robertson issued the city a warning: "I don't think I'd be waving those flags in God's face if I were you. ... [A] condition like this will bring about the destruction of your nation. It'll bring about terrorist bombs, it'll bring earthquakes, tornadoes and possibly a meteor."
And Mr. Robertson isn't alone. The late Charles Colson, who served time for his role in Nixon's Watergate before turning into an evangelical Christian, saw God's plan in Hurricane Katrina. He stated:
"Did God have anything to do with Katrina?," people ask. My answer is, He allowed it and perhaps He allowed it to get our attention so that we don't delude ourselves into thinking that all we have to do is put things back the way they were and life will be normal again.
As if any of these people have a clue what normal life looks like.

From Wacky to Mainstream
Blaming ignorance only on religion is perhaps a little unfair. There are other reasons for it. As I mentioned above, the news organizations also share in the blame. Take a look at this collection of local news clips about finding the face of Jesus, literally everywhere.

Generally, a polite sense of tolerance  curtails excessive mocking and sneering at people who find the face of Jesus on an ultra-sound or on a piece of toast. (or "a bucket of filth") It's not so polite to laugh. 
At the very least, it is  an exercise of their otherwise limited imaginations.

Again, I hold the local news stations responsible for promoting this kind of superstitious malarkey. (So much for my tolerance) Please note how many of the news stations carry the Fox logo in the corners of the screen. 
These kinds of reports used to be broadcast, less seriously, at the end of the broadcast and under the category as "wacky." Now the treatment is far more credible sounding. 

Sign of Christ on dog's butt
Of course, it's fair to ask how many of these people are actually serious and how many of them have even actually read any of the Bible. Suddenly a man who sees Jesus in a frying pan is a celebrity. For a day.

There's also another problem: once you open the door to signs of Christ in everyday objects, it's awfully hard to close that door again. After all, who's to say what is and what is not divinely inspired? 

Give up? 
Your local newscaster, of course.