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Many Americans strive to bring religion into the forefront of life. Since it makes so many people happy, I won't squelch their zeal to erect faith as the most important fixture for their own lives. However, I will not stay quiet when a preacher gets on his soapbox and tries to persuade us to buy what clearly amounts to simple gaudery.
When you keep your faith tucked neatly away (along with the other family jewels: "Out of sight, out of mind"), then I'll have nothing to say about it. Mormon? Muslim? Mennonite? Materialist? Moonie? Fine! Leave it at that ("Just the facts, Ma'am!"), and I promise I won't inquire any further: it's name is more than I need to know.
If you expect us to go along with your religious views, we'll naturally submit them to scrutiny. And if you haul them into the political process, then it's "open season" on your faith. You cannot have it both ways. Either it's sacred (that is, private) or else it becomes just another hot-button political issue, opening itself up to the mudslinging typical of the political process. Immunity from public opinion, quips H. L. Mencken, "is not religious freedom," but "the most ... outrageous variety of religious despotism."
But that's the whole point (it seems, at times): market the product without having to meet what regular businesses would say are consumer protection guidelines. If they can bluff people into thinking that it's rude (or taboo) to question religious claims -- to be anything but politely quiet in the face of whatever the religious leaders tell us to think -- then they escape the very scrutiny unto which the rest of us proudly submit.
Religion is a powerful indoctrinating tool, brandished masterfully by groups and individuals whose systems of checks and balances are no less illusory than the tales they tell and the products they sell. The people you'd expect to cast doubt seem reluctant to take religion to task. It's as if we've been fully trained by this powerful taboo against crossing a religious leader.
Those seeking answers cannot get a fair shake at a balanced perspective unless we stand up to the polished presentations of the evangelists and the bald assertions of a blindly persistent grassroots movement.
What if the clue that helped you solve The Big Riddle was held back out of fear?
All benefits that religion claims to offer are available without the religion. Doing it without dogma often works better. What is unique about religion is the religion itself. Ah, but the barkers of today beg to differ. They hawk faith: a wonder drug, of sorts, fulfilling worldly needs like nothing else can.
In publicized appeals, the religion itself takes the back seat. (You'd think faith was the main attraction, if not the only point!) Nowhere is this more evident than in the move to pass Bush's "Charitable Choice" plan. Religion, any more, is not about faith, but about providing social services.
At least that's what we've been hearing from their Public Relations Department!
Religious groups fall all over themselves to secure the honor of making such a huge sacrifice, giving so much of themselves in addition to the formidable job of plugging their religious ideology.
Or do they profit from the charity work just to finance the propaganda machine?
Copyright ©2001 Cliff Walker; Portland, Oregon