Thanks for your e-mail entitled "Something to Think About", the script of a commentary made by Ben Stein on how he and other believers in God are tired of being "pushed around". In effect, it did make me think, and what I think is that most of the premises he bases his hypotheses on are completely skewed.
Since Mr. Stein associates his central false premises with concerns many of us can agree with, this creates more confusion. (Two examples: the criticism of Americans worshiping celebrities, which, in my opinion, more than being comparable to worshiping God, is better compared to the Brits' obsession with their royals. But in any case, that's another matter. And second: that violence levels in the U.S. are a matter of grave concern for everyone.)
1) First premise: that somehow Christians, Jews and all believers in the U.S. have been "pushed around" because God and prayer have been taken out of schools (some states' schools, at least): after 8 years of increasing legislation in accordance with fundamentalist Christian beliefs spearheaded by George Bush, Jr., it is surprising (if not laughable) that anyone can think believers are being "pushed around." The inroads they made into women's rights alone are remarkable, imposing their morality on the rest of us through the power of the state.
Of course, since so many people do feel they have been pushed around (and rightly so: just look a what has happened to people's jobs, pensions, educational opportunities...need I say more?), why not try to rally them around religious thinking and get them to think that's what is making them feel so bad? It's certainly nothing new, and the religious right has used it extremely successfully for years.
2) Second premise: That taking God and prayer out of schools means the United States has explicitly declared itself athiest. This person does not recognize the difference between atheist and secular. The purpose of taking prayer out of schools is so that NO ONE's religion is imposed on anybody else, including people who have no religion (not the same as atheists, either. Atheists are people who believe there is no god. Many people have no religion but are not atheists.) This is called having a secular state, where religion and state are separate. In the case of the U.S., formally at least, the right to believe in WHATEVER religion anybody wants (including none) is guaranteed by the Constitution. It's called freedom of religion.
3) Third premise: Taking God and prayer out of schools means taking all morality out of teaching. This implies that the only morality that exists on the planet is religious morality. There are many other forms of morality that include the premises the writer talks about: being against killing, theft, and for caring for others. Obviously, in the West, most of these moral premises have been based in Judeo-Christian morality, no doubt about it. But that doesn't mean they cannot be separated from the religious aspects or that some of these tenets are not found in the ethics of most peoples in the world (sometimes reflected in their religions and sometimes not).
All the work done over the last 50 years or so regarding human rights, for example, have not been based on explicitly religious premises, but have a strong ethical backing that is perfectly susceptible to being taught in public schools without imposing anybody's religion on anybody else..
Finally, Mr. Stein's admiring description of Anne Graham's response about Katrina is not only confusing; I find it extremely offensive. She has taken a perfectly respectable question that people have been asking for CENTURIES, not just recently, about why (the Christian) God, if he is all-knowing and all-powerful, allows tragedies to happen, and makes a cheap, facile response that feeds her political agenda. Once again, after Katrina, people have asked, like they did about the Holocaust, or about slavery in the U.S., or about the slaughter of the Cossacks by the Tsars, or about the millions of people (mostly women) burned at the stake in the name of God during the Inquisition, or about the dozens of cases of hundreds of thousands who have died in China's earthquakes over the centuries, or about any number of accidental or man-made deaths, why a supposedly loving god has allowed these things to happen. The usual answer is that there is free will and (in the case of man-made slaughter) it's somebody's wrong choice that is at fault. Frankly, I don't know what the usual answer is for natural disasters. But what does this woman do? She conveniently forgets that this question is an age-old one, and makes believe that it's only now that someone has come up with such a reasonable query, and fits her insulting (to the dead in New Orleans), flip answer into her current political agenda: getting prayer back into the schools and blaming the country's ills on godlessness.
Unfortunately, Mr. Stein buys into this.
What's happening here is that the religious fundamentalists are feeling threatened. What they have gained over the last 8 years in U.S. government and legislation is in danger. The country is reacting against them, and they have to fight back. Given how terrible the economy is looking, people are feeling more scared than ever. And, so, they're trying to play on that to show the way to supposed security through organized religion and, if possible, through THEIR version.
I never answer these things. But, frankly, this Mr. Stein should not get any more airtime than he already has on CBS without an answer.
If you're at all interested, please send this response to your friends who got the original script. I'm sending it to mine.
You take care.
jueves, 23 de abril de 2009
To a friend: about the religious far right wing