Tom Cordle

Tom Cordle
Beeffee, Tennessee, CSA
June 16
There is your truth ... there is my truth ... and there is everything between. That leads to the better question: Is there an Everlasting Truth? I submit there is only the Everlasting Quest for the truth. __________________________________ I believe that in essence We are God. That is to say, humankind, for all it's faults, has power over Good and Evil. As the Eden Tale intimates, humans alone, in all Creation, have "eaten" from the the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; and thus humans alone, in all Creation, have the ability and responsibility to choose between the two. Thus, each of us is in essence a god, and the Sum of us, through all generations past, present and future is God. By those choices, we are the creators of what was, what is and what will be. And by those choices, we, collectively, choose whether to exist here and now in the Kingdom of Heaven or in a Living Hell. _________________________________ "I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and incur my own abhorrence." Frederick Douglass _________________________________ "You can't pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you don't have any boots, and you can't put yourself in another's shoes -- you can't even try on their socks." Soulofhawk _________________________________ "I prefer silent vice to ostentatious virtue." Albert Einstein _________________________________ Only in silence can your hear the voice of God." Soulofhawk ____________________________________ "In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." Martin Luther King, Jr" ____________________________________ "Racists can hide in the closet, but the smell usually gives them away." Soulofhawk _________________________________ "Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it." Mark Twain ____________________________ "When we are young, Death comes as an unwelcome stranger; but as we get nearer the end of our own too-often rocky road, he comes more and more to resemble a long, lost acquaintance." Soulofhawk ____________________________________ “When monetary gain is involved, mans capacity for self-delusion is infinite.” Lord Byron _________________________________ "Where greed is good, need is great." Soulofhawk _________________________________ “And let it be noted that there is no more delicate matter to take in hand, nor more doubtful in its success, than to set up as a leader in the introduction of change. For he who innovates will have as his enemies all who are well off under the existing order of things, and only lukewarm supporters in those who might be better off under the new. This lukewarm temper arises partly from the incredulity of mankind, who will never admit the merit of anything new, until they have seen it proven by the event.” Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, Chapter VI _________________________________ "if a man falls from a pedestal, who is really to blame -- the man or those who put him up there?" Soulofhawk ____________________________________ "The history of any country, presented as the history of a family, conceals fierce conflicts of interest (sometimes exploding, most often repressed) between conquerors and conquered, masters and slaves, capitalists and workers, dominators and dominated in race and sex. And in such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people, as Albert Camus suggested, not to be on the side of the executioners." Howard Zinn _______________________________ "The worst thing to be around a bigot is right." Soulofhawk ______________________________


MARCH 11, 2012 1:23PM

The Bogeyman

Rate: 37 Flag

When I was a boy, I was fond of comics. Superheroes, of course, but I had a taste for edgier fare, too. But there was nothing comic about some of those tales.

One such comic had a story about a couple killed in a car crash, who left behind a young son and a considerable fortune. The boy’s aunt was made his guardian, and she plotted with her boyfriend to gain control over the money.

The aunt would send the boy down to the basement, where the boyfriend waited in a dark corner dressed in a bogeyman costume. Upon the boy’s arrival, the boyfriend would scare the living daylights out of the poor child.

After several such traumas, the aunt took the boy to a psychiatrist. When the boy persisted in his story about a bogeyman in the basement, the doctor had the boy committed.

When the greedy aunt went down to the basement to get rid of the evidence, she was surprised to find the boyfriend still dressed in the bogeyman costume – only it wasn’t the boyfriend; he’d already been dispatched – and it wasn’t a costume.

•           •           •

I’m reminded of that story whenever I hear alarmists on the Religious Right shouting about people out to destroy religion and naming as culprits liberals, feminists, gays, secularists, atheists, socialists and anyone else, depending on their need for a bogeyman.

I freely acknowledge that those of us who don’t share their perverse religious views – and most certainly those of us who don’t share their perverse political agenda – are indeed very vocal in criticizing the Religious Right. And no doubt, we’d like to see their political influence on the wane.

It appears that might be beginning to happen, now that religious extremists have exposed the true aim of their movement. That aim? It appears to be nothing less than Christian sharia.

Poetic justice that like the aunt in the comic book story, the Religious Right has brought this on itself. The bogeyman it conjured up may well have become real.

[Those who prefer a short – if not so sweet – post need read no further; those who prefer the dots connected, please proceed.]

•           •           •

One common charge by the Religious Right is that people want to turn America from a Christian nation into a secular nation. The first problem with that charge is this is not now, nor has it ever been, a Christian nation, and for the sake of this nation – and religion – let us hope that remains the case.

The First Amendment makes clear no religion has standing in this country. Standing is used here in the legal sense – it’s all too clear religion has standing in a political sense, as recent events too ludicrously – and in some cases, viciously – attest.

Those who would like to believe the Founders intended otherwise are advised to look to the Treaty of Tripoli, submitted by President John Adams, and unanimously approved by the Senate in 1797. That treaty contains this language:

“… the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense,  founded on the Christian religion …”

It doesn’t get any clearer than that.

•           •           •

It’s easy to understand why the Religious Right continues to insist otherwise. Since the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion, there is no requirement to base our laws or policies on Christian moral precepts.

Certainly, such precepts can be considered when making our laws and policies; but by law, the moral precepts of any other religion – or for that matter, the moral precepts of the non-religious are to be (or ought to be) given equal consideration.

While we’re on that subject, morality does not require religion, regardless of religious views to the contrary. Morality only requires a respect for justice, fairness and goodness. For proof, one need only look to the Founders.

While the Founders did claim that our inalienable rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are god-given, they made no claim for any particular religion. Indeed, many of the Founders – Franklin, Jefferson and Paine among the most obvious – were hardly what one could call religious men, and to call a Deist a Christian does justice to neither Deists nor Christians.

Furthermore, the Founders also used the word “Creator”. Employing the rationale of the Religious Right, that could be viewed as an endorsement of Native American religion.

In any case, that the Religious Right presumes ownership of the word “god” is another example of ignorance or hubris. That word has been applied to many deities throughout the ages, and capitalizing it is no more than a fig-leaf that fails to cover the naked truth.


Our individual rights may or may not be god-given; but in this country, it is the Constitution that guarantees them – or it did until we traded those rights away for the empty promise of “homeland security”. In any case, by accepting our rights as citizens, we are obligated to accept our responsibilities as citizens. Among those responsibilities is the duty not only to “provide for the common defense” but to “promote the general welfare”.

Admittedly, there are some gray areas when it comes to promoting the general welfare. But certainly that should reasonably include a provision for basic healthcare.

Unfortunately, the Religious Right refuses to acknowledge shades of gray. For them, it’s a dichotomous world, and everything in it is black and white – and white is always and absolutely right.


The principle of separation of Church and State is taught to every law student – with the possible or probable exception of graduates of law schools at Oral Roberts University or Liberty University. So when legislators – the vast majority of whom are lawyers – publicly point to their faith to justify their perfidy, it’s a safe bet they are practicing politics, not law. Or to put it more plainly, they are lying.

Legislators know – or ought to know – a law requiring contraception coverage or abortion coverage is well within their purview. It is also well-established that the law can require employers to provide such coverage. That our healthcare system is based on such an outmoded requirement is another question altogether; and in fact, that is one of the best arguments for a single-payer system.

Legislators also know – or ought to know – there is nothing in the Constitution that prevents the law from making a distinction between the religious practices of a religious institution and the business practices a religious institution chooses to involve itself in. Clearly, businesses such as hospitals and universities are only tangentially related to religion. Even more clearly, many religious institutions are involved in businesses even farther removed from religion.

If a law governing a business practice requires a religious institution to violate some moral precept it considers inviolate, that institution has another choice than refusing to obey the law; it is free to stop engaging in that business.  Indeed, it can be argued that granting exemptions from a law gives religious institutions an unfair advantage over competing non-religious businesses.

As I said, the failure of legislators to make such distinctions is all too often not based on a legal or moral judgment, but on a political one. Their opposition to a bill often has more to do with opposition in a primary. That primaries are no longer representative of the electorate is an excellent argument for a change in the primary system.


One sorry example of where this abdication of legislative responsibility can lead is the recent proposal that any employer should be allowed to deny coverage for any benefit that employer deems offends his or her moral sensibilities.  Such a foolish notion leads inevitably to an employer not being subject to any law with which he or she disagrees on moral grounds.

And why stop there? If that is the standard, then any citizen is exempt from any law or policy he or she finds morally objectionable. Assassination, rendition, torture, suspect wars – aren’t these worthy causes for moral objection ? Why aren’t those who profess to be followers of the Prophet of Peace objecting to these evils as vociferously as they do abortion and contraception?

In this instance, where to draw the line between Church and State is not nearly as difficult as some would have it. If in a democracy it is determined that women’s health and reproductive rights outweigh the moral precepts of one faith or another, followers of that faith are still free not to practice such things as contraception or abortion themselves.

But they are not free to refuse to pay for what is determined to be in the public good. That is true not only by law, but by the lights of the faith they claim. More on that in a moment.

The plain truth is that as citizens we are all required to compromise some of our most cherished values in the interest of the public good. Without compromise, there is no law and no government; there is only the jungle.


One would assume that all but the most ignorant religious leaders have been exposed to some if not all of these arguments. So the fact that those who presumably know better persist in encouraging beliefs they know to be false is, at the very least, practicing deception. Isn’t there a religious prohibition against bearing false witness?

One would also assume that in the 21st Century, most Americans would have been exposed to at least some of these ideas somewhere along the way. But the howling from the Religious Right suggests that is either a faulty assumption – or that the vast majority of the Religious Right is frighteningly ignorant about such matters. Either that or they are willfully blind to the truth.


All this begs the question, how did the Religious Right go so wrong? Let's leave aside the etheral plane of religion and stick with the much more earthy plane of politics.

It’s no coincidence the incursion into politics by the Religious Right began in earnest around the time of the Civil Rights movement. The federally mandated enforcement of individual rights for women and minorities, rights that had been denied in deference to “states rights” since this nation’s founding, led to an over-reaction by the most reactionary elements in the populace.

Perhaps it is also no coincidence that those who are the most reactionary are so often also those who claim to be the most devout.

One manifestation of this over-reaction was the “government is evil” mantra that has infested politics for more than three decades. That became an excuse to elect people to office who didn’t believe in government, thus rendering it a self-fulfilling prophecy.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the nominally religious incorporated the soulless tenets of jungle-ethic capitalism into their religion, selling out the “feed the poor” commandments of Jesus for the perversion known as the Prosperity Gospel. It’s no coincidence the rise of the perverted Prosperity Gospel paralleled the rise of corporatization, globalization and financialization.

It’s fair to say that nothing has been more destructive of family values than the impoverishing of families through “greed is good” socio-economic practices and policies. And those practices and policies have been aided and abetted at every turn by the soiled politics of the Religious Right.

Those who held themselves out as moral exemplars were instead perpetrators of a gigantic fraud. While shouting about family values, they were electing people who destroyed family values. In short, the Religious Right has been negotiating in bad faith, in every sense of that word.

By failing to accept the most basic tenets of our system of government and attempting to substitute what can best be described as Christian sharia law, the Religious Right has corrupted government to such an extent, it has become impossible to govern.

And by failing to live up to the most basic tenets of the Christian faith, the Religious Right has done more harm to family values – and to religion – than all the secularists and atheists put together.


Surely no reasonable person assumes they can live in a pluralistic society without compromise, and compromise, rightly viewed, is not surrender, but sacrifice for the greater good. Surely, those who claim a faith based on the martyrdom of its founder should understand something about sacrifice for the greater good.

Surely, no reasonable person expects that holding to what they perceive as a higher moral standard comes without personal sacrifice.  Those in doubt about that should ask Socrates – or Jesus.

Perhaps the overtly religious need reminding of the advice Jesus gave when faced with the dilemma of Church and State:

“Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.”

It bears noting that Jesus did not criticize Caesar or the Romans; his criticism was reserved for those of his faith, especially those who saw wealth as a measure of worth. To them he offered only condemnation.

Nor did Jesus hold with those who made an ostentatious display of religiosity.To them, he offered this advice:

“You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's.”

Jesus words offer little comfort to those who try to put the blame on the government or on their brothers. And it’s doubtful he’d have kind words for those who try to put the blame on any other bogeyman.

©2012 Tom Cordle

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..and the phrase "In Santorum We Trust" just isn't going to look good on new penny.
Can't disagree except, just to send a bug up the noses of the "Christian Right" I 'd remind them that as the story goes the sign on the cross where Jesus died read "King of the Jews."

Jesus was and always will be a Jew as was John the Baptist who cleansed Jesus of his sins in the traditional Judaic bathing ritual. Jesus was a Jew just like his probable mentor, Hillel the Elder, who replied to the Gentile's challenge to explain the Torah while standing on one foot, "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn."
Somehow I get the feeling that when the wingnuts talk about 'Merka being a Christian nation, they don't mean Episcopalian or Unitarian.
Personally, I believe there should be no separation between church and state -- the Church of Old New Lefty!
No doubt the inscription should read "insanitorium vox populi"
To me, this says it all: "Surely, those who claim a faith based on the martyrdom of its founder should understand something about sacrifice for the greater good."

My new friend jmac1949 is a wise one, isn't he?

Yes, and to compound the problem fundamentalist Christians want the Jewish temple restored so that all Jews can be condemned to Hell for eternity. Presumably, that might include John and Jesus.
Be careful with that Church of Old New Lefty -- I had a friend in Orlando who got nailed for his claim to be minister of the Church of the Everlasting Return. The IRS failed to see the humor in his pun.
L in the Southeast
Yes, jmac is wise beyond his years, and his case, that's very wise indeed.

As for the Religious Right, understanding -- in every sense of the word -- is not their strong suit.
I agree with this, Tom. But then, I'm an East Coast Liberal. (Though I'm also a capitalist pig, and think lattes are ridiculous.)
they are to a man and a woman, mean spirited, miserable bullies who are determined to push us around and then own us body and soul. but they don't want to pay the bill for such ownership. in fact, they don't care if the roads fall apart or school crumble to the ground.

they don't care if America suffers in poverty and ignorance. in fact, ignorance and poverty work just fine for them. they're aren't in the least bit interested in giving the poor a helping hand or a hand up or even teaching them how to help themselves. they don't care if our seniors eat dog food or die. they want us to do what they want us to do and not do what they don't want us to do and to shut the fuck up and do it and get out of the way while they rape the country.

they're like the worst kind of dysfunctional parents, these "less government" extremist shits.
Ah, out of the mouths of wolves -- say aren't you supposed to be on the jungle ethic side?
foolish monkey
You've really got to stop holding yourself back like that ;-)
Gee, I don't know. I like to visit the jungle, but I sure wouldn't want to live there.

I do, however, have a very becoming pair of jaguar-print briefs. Sadly, I can only find these (and some of my preferred swimwear) on commercial websites that cater to gay men. This has put me on some mistargeted and sometimes unfortunate email and snail mail distribution lists.
I ordered some pink polka briefs -- that must be why I'm getting those mailings, too.

I liked the crack some comedian made about ads for penis enlargement. He wondered why those companies didn't just hand out fliers at Hummer dealerships.
Noted. You're welcome.
Too many truths here to comment on Tom, but I must say you make me laugh and shake my head at much of it. I like the idea of taking the good things, like morality and helping the less fortunate, from religious teachings and applying them to everyday life.

I don't like the idea of religious zealots interpreting the Bible to fit their political needs and then claim that they are speaking for "God" or that God talks to them. The Bachmanns and Santorums have no place in politics because they claim that "God told me this and God told me that." Thankfully, most of America knows this. GWBush claimed that God also spoke to him and I don't recall that ending well.
The Tea Party and the Religious Right continue to drag the GOP further to the right of the average American and they can only suffer for the folly. Fortunately, I believe average Americans have begun to educated themselves and are more politcally savvy than in years past.

The backlash for the recent Limbaugh debacle is a good example. Limbaugh has been spewing lies and hatred for years and getting away with it. I doubt he can comprehend the quick and fierce opposition mounted against him because of his Sandra Fluke rhetoric. Maybe we are finally waking up as a nation and learning that you get what you vote for and voting without vetting has serious consequences.
Good to see you, my friend, and I certainly hope you're right about people finally waking up.
On a Sunday, good day for this. I like to think of Jesus as an atheist, having had the brains to recognize that religion was created by man for man. That gave him the confidence to say things like "The Sabbath was made for man, and NOT man for the Sabbath". He was an intuitive game theorist, and all his teachings effectively boil down to trying to persuade people to improve society by engaging in non-zero positive sum cooperative games.

But enough of that. A fundamental mistake that Christians make is to treat secularism as a threat to religion. Secularism protects religion; and it protects those who are not religious. Secularism is a framework for fairness and equality.

For example in today's world every piece of US currency is stamped with the phrase "In God We Trust". Who is we? It doesn't include me, and this presumption is offensive to millions of American citizens. This is the equivalent of an atheist majority imposing by law the requirement that all US currency state explicitly that 'God Does Not Exist".

What Christian would prefer a mob of atheists out for blood stamping anti-God slogans on government buildings and other property? No, you should thank your God for the neutral protections of secularism, which will protect you after the atheist majority has risen.

The true secular solution would be to not put any reference to God, whether positive or negative, on our money, which is nothing but filthy lucre and evil Mamon anyway. Jesus said that man cannot serve two masters, both Mamon and God. He will always love the one and hate the other.

So the irony of fear of secularism and the presumption of stamping money with God phrases is too poignant for any Christian with a brain to ignore.
Tom, this is a well thought out piece, and thank you. I'll agree with a few here in say this was my favorite phrase, which seems to encapsulate the general brilliance of your essay:

"Surely, those who claim a faith based on the martyrdom of its founder should understand something about sacrifice for the greater good."

As I remember well from my days of going to church, Sunday School, and Vacation Bible School in my youth, the overwhelming theme drilled constantly into our little heads was Christ's concern for the poor and destitute; those without hope, with little or no advantage. This included the wicked, who's still retained the right to be loved. Christ sat with sinners, Publicans, worshipers of other religions and he broke bread with them reminding all those he came in contact with that unconditional love had limitless power. He took into his circle a woman who had been with men, loving her without condition as he loved his family and immediate circle.

I always felt the scene of Christ in the Temple was an important parable for the need to cleanse religious institutions of the inevitable corruption that takes hold under the control of entrenched ideologies. It seems plausible he would enter any one of a number of churches today and throw the same tantrum, sweeping out the grit and rancid policies of hatred and persecution...thanks Tom
Another of your masterful essays Tom. I agree with all the main points but one I'm less clear on is the dynamic between the rise of the religious right and laissez-faire capitalism. I suspect that each movement found common cause with the other. The religionists saw they had a better chance of preserving and expanding their program while the new capitalists saw an easily exploitable voting base.

I'm surprised you haven't yet attracted any comments from the handful here who contend that since the founders were Christian, ispo facto the U.S. is as well; being founded under Christian principles or something like that.

Jeff J
Your points are all well-taken. As to worshiping a graven image -- after all, that's what money is -- you might appreciate my post on another sort of religious "ism":

Thanks for your kind words. I, too, was raised the same way, and like you, I haven't forgotten the teachings of my youth. How sad that so many of those who so loudly proclaim his name do seem to have forgotten those teachings.

I agree that Jesus would incensed at the Lattes for the Lord and Jets for Jesus crowd. I'm also equally certain that if he came back today, the New Pharisees would have him eliminated one way or another -- can't have anyone interfering with the business of Big-Time Religion.
Foolish Monkey said it better than I ever could.
It's ironic that one of the things that made me question religion at a very early age were the gruesome Christian "comic books" (what we would now call graphic novels) that detailed the persecution of Christians by "other religions" -- who presumably also believed in God, just a different one. Holy crap. I can't be the only one who wondered that if their God can lead them astray, why couldn't mine?
I think there really is a contingent of right-wing Christians who truly see free-markets as part of God's natural law. They confuse the invisible hand with the hand of God. Just google "Free Market Jesus".
Thanks for reading what is for this forum a rather lengthy piece. Unfortunately, having already far exceeded the unwritten rules for length, I wasn't able to go into as much detail as I would have like about most of the points I raise, including being more clear about what you rightly called "the dynamic between the rise of the religious right and laissez-faire capitalism".

To my mind, the evidence is quite clear that putative economic conservatives (rapists is a better word as far as I'm concerned) used social issues to manipulate the Religious Right into working against the economic interests of most of that flock. Two prominent officials Bush appointed to the euphemistically labeled Faith Based Initiative figured that scam out, the first very quickly and the second eventually.

That's not to say that religious leaders like slimy Ralph Reed weren't well aware of what was really going on from the outset, but cared not as long as it feathered their own nest. If there is a Hell, I expect I'll meet Reed and his cohorts there. That would make the trip almost worth it.
hey, don't hold back, it bears repeating

Jeff J
Thanks for the links. I'll report back after viewing
Mike Pence, current Representative and potential Governor for the State of Indiana, heaven help us all, introduced legislation which would have been a foundation for Christian Sharia law. Of course, I can't find it now online, but I remember my horror when I heard of it. He tried to defund abortions, also, but I think this was a different piece. It's only a matter of time, especially if they win anything this fall in the elections.

I pray to whomever is listening that Pence not get elected Gov., unless it's with a strong Democratic state legislature to keep him in line. Indiana can't do recall elections or get initiatives on the ballot so we're stuck with what gets elected.
Sorry, I got you out of line. Your "conversion" at an early age was not unique. Here's the confession of Ricky Gervais:

Mom Lied
I'm afraid you should begin to prepare yourself for the election of Pope Pence. I don't see how he can lose unless he's caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy -- tho the latter wouldn't surprise me.
It was Jesus, as Rousseau notes. who was the first man to call for a separation of church and state. Few things are more ironic than Christians rejecting Jesus' claim.
Man did you hit this one out of the park!

1. Superheroes. I love it.

2. Christian sharia law is a brilliant talking point. Makes me wish I actually KNEW Axelrod in real life so I could pass it along.

3. I see the "church" (the one you are talking about. Not those of us who attempt to follow Jesus) as trying to get the government to do their job. No one is buying what the zealot church is selling anymore. They are at a desperation point. So the extremity---which you describe much better than I could--is at a high.
I could add no more to this. Rated.
They'll either beat themselves or we're dead meat. Not much we can do about it either way.
Wasn't aware of the Rousseau observation, thanks for that, I'll definitely file that away for later. I've often pointed out that Jesus may have been the first to express non-zero-sum economics, a point Jeff J also observed in his comment.
Thanks for the praise. I must say, tho, if I were Axelrod, I don't think I be using the term Christian sharia, especially not with all the wingnut blather about Obama being a Muslim
Thanks for visiting

Chicken Maaan
Here's hoping they beat themselves to death, politically at least. Meantime, the rest of us should be speaking up and refusing to cede them the moral high ground -- they don't own it, and they certainly don't deserve to occupy it.
Powerful truths here, Tom. If only those who needed to hear them could understand. I am not hopeful.

"Why should I have to _________ (fill in the blank)?" is what I'm hearing from that crowd. Vindictive, judgmental, spiteful. It's where we're headed with that mindset.
Let's start calling them the Religious Wrong.
Good point. I'm beginning to see WHY Axelrod doesn't return my calls. . .(or wouldn't if I knew his phone number)
Thanks, and I'm afraid you're right -- the willfully blind are also willfully deaf
Actually, I have been calling them the Religious Wrong, but I thought I'd ease up on the invective for this post
Don't feel too bad, I'm not sure Axelrod's returning anyone's phone calls but Obama's these days
I read this yesterday Tom and just when I went to comment and rate it my computer became an instrument of the Right when it froze in time!
I've only been in the Supreme Court once (not to argue, just a spectator) and loved the irony of the ACLU arguing against a Christmas creche on town property while overhead is the mural of Moses the Lawgiver with the ten commandments and the clerk opens the proceedings with "God save this honorable court!"

Sort of like the Celtics playing the Lakers at the Staples Center.
I've often wondered at the rationale that designates a certain period where human progress is supposed to have reached its apex, and any further progress is deemed unacceptable. The Amish, for all their qualities, are an example of this; why remain frozen in the 1800's? Why not return to the Dark Ages? It's a dynamic I find puzzling, because it doesn't stand the simplest test of logic.
Good point; and as Jeff J points out, there are many other examples of trampling the First Amendment, including adorning the de facto god in America -- money. That god, like the deity, has been considerably devalued thanks to the mad rush to crapitalism, so devalued that even the old crack isn't so funny:

In God we trust; all others pay cash.
"Christian Sharia" says it all, Tom. They want to return us to the Dark Ages, which are looking brighter to me every day. The hypocrisy of those who would be king reeks to high heaven.
Erica K
Yes, it becomes more and more obvious that the real enemy if fundamentalism, in whatever guise
I agree with everything you say here. And we both know "religion" has very little to do with the "Religious Right." If I could change just one thing about politics there'd be an immediate across the board ban on any mention of religion, spiritual belief or the word "Christian". One under the breath mutter of "Jesus" and you're out. But here's the bigger issue with the RR- they've got supporters. They'd be nowhere without them and if the voters don't see them for what they are and what they're trying to do, how do you argue with that? What's far more maddening and frightening to me than the vanguards of the RR is their flock. If ordinary people refuse to see or think or question and just blindly follow then we're really SOL. No amount of logic or pointing out the hypocrisy and danger of their politics and policies is going make a difference. Do you ever worry that maybe the pendulum has to swing way way to the extreme right before people wake up and see what they've allowed to happen? Don't you feel like Cassandra sometimes?
I wish it were only leaders leading the flock astray; there might be some of curing that. The problem is there is an entire sub-culture, a massive one, in this country that is racist and anti-science (almost anti-education). They're everywhere, but they control certain parts of the country, and I don't think it's necessary for me to point out where -- they do a very good job of that themselves. Hint: Polls say only 14% of voters in tomorrows AL and MS are convinced President Obama is not a Muslim.

Yes, this bodes extremely ill for America, but I'll let you fulfill the role of Cassandra; I'll take on the Jeremiah role.
I'm a choir member, Tom, as I would venture is everybody who's commented on this resonant post, and you're one of my favorite preachers. Speaking up and articulating our reasoning here is somewhat cloistered, and I doubt anybody who might stumble upon this who buys the RR line would suffer the slightest tinge of buyer's remorse no matter how eloquently we preach and sing.

I still believe the RR will go down in flames come November, and it won't be a religious vote - unless we come back to lucre being in fact the real deity. If so, it will be the god Lucre that buries the Puritans. The same Lucre that beat Poppy Bush. Clinton was correct to recognize economics as the real concern of voters. What makes that dynamic even more dangerous today for the Cotton Mather crowd is the Occupy Movement that sprang up everywhere, crossing party and ideology lines like no other issue in my memory since the anti-Vietnam War movement. The Right Rev. Mather may have the hysteria vote where the candidates are playing those cards right now, in the primaries, but once the parochial venues have had their say and the campaign comes down to the two armies gathered in the field, the one that can manipulate money matters best will win. The only question for me is if Obama has the nerve and the savvy to keep the recovery from backsliding. The snail pace it's going at now is better than hollow words by a plastic Romulan.

Please forgive any obvious typos or syntax slips. I'm too tired to go back up and proof this. Thanks.
Thanks for taking a solo. You're guess is as good as mine as to what will happen in November, and I'm guessing our guess is about as good as any of the experts -- at least at this point.

It's guaranteed at least 40% of the vote will automatically go to whoever the R's finally cough-up, and I'd put my money on Mitt to win the nomination. In truth, I'd prefer to see Santorum get the nod because I think the country needs the debate between the Sharia's and the rest of us. That won't happen with Mitt in the general; he'll be dog-paddling toward the center as fast as his flip-flopping lips will allow.

I fear this election hangs in the balance only because so many on the Left will foolishly sit this one out, or vote third-party, ostensibly because Obama couldn't undo forty years of corporatocracy in four years (tho I think Leftist laziness might be just as big a cause).

Even if he had wanted to run the risk of trying, Obama wouldn't have had a chance with the "we're against our own policies if he's for them" Repugnants. Never has as a President been so burdened with such big problems and so little help; for that alone, he gets my vote.
Tom, I see you more as Joshua. Do you by chance play the trumpet?
Tuning in late. [As usual? ... I'm thinking of changing my screen name to "The Late Ms. Podunk" (or TLMP, for short).] First, Tom, multi multi thankyous for this So Good post -- as clearly indicated by all the activity here! I was having a kind of lowkey rotten day today and it cheered me vastly to find such good long serious discussions ... especially because it's not just in mainstream media that I find extravagances, distortions or just plain bad temper but -- alas, might I dass say ... um ... occasionally even on Open Salon? So it was a relief and comfort for me personally to have this good long discussion available to read just now. Will be looking forward to its continuance, with gratitude. [And Margaret, thanks for your remark! I feel for both the Jeremiah (jeremiad) and the Joshua trumpets. I kind of feel Tom is trying to give us some of each, don't you s'pose?

P.S. As long as I'm being so longwinded (after the many appreciative hours I spent with this thread earlier today) ... a small or maybe-not-so-small, wistful? note I made on the beginning of Tom's post: The reference to "the treaty of Tripoli, submitted by President John Adams, and unaminously approved by the Senate [in 1797]". Boy. That one really "gave me pause". In today's scenario, how many of us would ever dream of imagining a president submitting a bill to the Senate and having it "unanimously approved". [? :-o ;-)]
Sorry, I don't play trumpet, but my guitar kills fascists
Never has as a President been so burdened with such big problems and so little help; for that alone, he gets my vote.

Makes him the more Lincolnesque.
podunkmarte aka TLMP
Thank you for such praise, I'm flattered. As for the Treaty of Tripoli, not only would in not pass in these times, it wouldn't even be proposed. Such is the descent into madness that always occurs whenever and wherever Church presumes to rule over State
Chicken Maaan
Lincolnesque indeed, right down to being from Illinois. We're taught that Lincoln freed the slaves, but 150 years later, Obama both proves and disproves that claim. In much of the South, he's still not considered an American, let alone President.

It really is all too sad for all of us -- even for those who can't get past the hate. Sometimes I wonder if it isn't a tragic case of projection, a self-loathing so awful that it must be displaced elsewhere.
Thank you, Tom, for this.
You're welcome, and thank you for that
Tom - I find it interesting that you quote Adams as if ti is Gospel. He is one person that said something. Good for Adams. How did he become the definitive authority. Not that I think religion has a role in gov. I just find it interesting you can take one quote as unmistakable authority on the subject.

Also I think you really misrepresent the quote,

“Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.”

I don't think Jesus was making a statement of practicality or taking a stand on taxes and gov. It is clear he was saying the things that Caesar demands are not what God demands.
Simply, not to mistake rendering to Caesar with your duty to God. In other words, giving to Caesar is not enough or even relevant.

The statement was not so much what one does or does not do in relation to Caesar, but what he does do in relation to God.
It was not a statement that was saying to people to just go along with anything the gov demands. It was a statement that was all but ignoring the gov in any spiritual consideration. It was even sarcastic toward Caesar.
Interesting you would take the Bible literally word for word.
My guess is you don't, but this quote fits your purpose, so take it that Jesus was actually supporting gov.

If that were the case then you and I would have no reason to complain about anything you don't like in our gov. We should both just live or lives as taught by great philosophers and pay no attention to politics.

Oh, but there was this one guy many look to for his philosophy. And he did not render unto the British.
You know the guy I am sure.

Unless you intend to spend your life meditating in a temple, you have to deal with life. Nothing in that quote says to me that everyone should just accept all dictates of Ceasar.

You did not like rendering unto Bush I am sure. I don't like rendering to anyone. I prefer charity.

The deeper meaning is this. If you render to Caesar just because it it demanded under rule of law, you have really done nothing in a spiteful sense. Neither has the law that

Giving by choice is the only spiritual action. The insistence of paying taxes against a persons will is not a spiritual action.
When did Jesus tell the suffering to demand relief? He told them where their wold come from and it was not from Caesar.

You see the whole point of that quote is to say, if you won't give from your heart, you have learned nothing. If you give by force of law, you have earned nothing.

The true evolution is when people take care of their bother without any force of law. And as long as the gov keeps demanding, people never learn to give of their free will.

People have to grow and learn. Force of law stunts that growth. No one truly learns when forced.

The truly spiritual position is one free will and what you do with it.
You speak as though this was one man's (President John Adams) mere opinion. Apparently you don't understand that when a treaty is ratified, it has the force of law. And it wasn't just Adams -- this treaty was approved unanimously by the Senate. Granted, I can't imagine today's gutless Senators having that kind of courage.

You and others are free to vainly attempt to prove that the United States was established as a Christian nation, but to do so based on some nonsensical belief that the Founders were all Christians is a fool's errand. Having witnessed the religious wars of Europe up close and personal, they knew better. Too bad so many of today's "leaders" don't.

As for the rest of your nonsense, yes, we know -- you don't want to live up to your responsibilities as a citizen; you only want to profit from the system, not support it.
Tom - I am not trying to prove anything about religion and the founding of the4 country. The founders ere people that had many beliefs.

I am not the best writer and I don't go back and edit much. But my guess is that you know that "nonsense" I wrote about the Jesus quote makes sense. Probably to you.
It was not a statement supporting gov and you know it.
I may have not written it perfectly but you know what I meant. You would not have quoted Jesus if you have never contemplated his teachings.
You cannot ever simply acknowledge a point I make even it it does make sense to you.

I am interested in people finding their way to be what my friend calls himself; a "humanist". You are interested in forcing "humanism" from someone that is not. It will get you a band aid in the short term, but it will never get what, in my opinion, is the real goal. The end of necessity of gov to impose that " general welfare" clause. You think providing for the GW is to be done by force of law. I think it is to be done by education, example, encouragement and promotion for people to come to that enlightenment on their own.
In fact I just used the word "promote" accidentally".
Yes, it says "promote the general welfare". Not require it.
there are many ways to promote without force of law. But 51% and law is your religion.
How is it useful when 49% never see the light but render to Caesar by force?
One purpose of a democracy IS to force people to do what they would not willingly do, even for their own good. That's called leadership. Unfortunately, we are tragically lacking in leaders, especially of the quality of John Adams.

As for "enlightenment", I fear you're engaging in big-time wishful thinking. Look around you -- how many of the people around you do you imagine can be convinced to willingly step into the light? Read the quote from Machiavelli in my bio, and understand that most people have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the light.

Again, that's called leadership. And I don't mean by tyrants, who try to take the very short-cuts you describe. See Dick Cheney for example.

Say what you will about Obama, but of all the candidates running for President, he is the ONLY one among them who understands the notion of consensus. And in the long run, that is the only kind of leadership that works in a democracy.

Nice job of laying out tension between a religious sensibility and a modern, liberal and -- yes, let us not be afraid to use the word -- secular one, upon which democracy rests.

Conservatives are a bundle of contradictions. On the one hand they say that liberals are being intolerant when they cite the "separation between church and state" as the reason liberals (falsely) won't allow conservatives to bring their religious beliefs into the "Public Square" to be part of the political debate. But then they show why liberals might have been leery of letting conservatives in when conservatives begin demanding that religious beliefs trump all other kinds by giving the devout absolute veto power -- because their beliefs are based on religion -- over important matters of "public" policy, such as the health needs of women.

On the one hand conservatives say they understand that democracy is an extension of culture, that there must be certain social prerequisites before popular government can take root, such as the respect for political adversaries, the willingness to abide by the results of elections peacefully and without slaughtering the opposition, and to let the winning side govern until the next election. And this is why, say conservatives, that democracy is unlikely to take root in a place like Iraq where there are religious animosities dating back hundreds of years that keep people apart and make it unlikely they will ever be able to come together peacefully to legislate for the common good. And then in the very next breath, conservatives want to inject religious sectarianism right into the heart of the American democratic process, thus guaranteeing political polarization and dysfunction as factions dig their trenches and line them with barbed wire.

But the best shell game of all is when conservatives try to turn "secularism" into a competing "religion" that liberals are somehow trying to "ram" down the throats of religious conservatives.

Conservatives know they are a disadvantage if people think that secularism means state neutrality regarding religion so that everyone can worship as they choose in peace. That definition makes the Religious Right out to be the aggressor as they seek to turn America into a "Christian Nation." And so after dialing up Frank Luntz, conservatives decided to turn the table by insisting there is no such thing as "neutrality" when it comes to religion and any claim that such a open-minded belief system exists is just another "anti-faith" or "anti-God" religion that liberals are trying to "impose" on everyone else in the name of "tolerance."

That's right, we liberals are being "intolerant" when we try to prevent religious conservatives from imposing their religious beliefs on us. If their religion requires that they convert the rest of us to it, or exile as heretics and blasphemers those they cannot convert, then to stand in their way is to deny them their constitutionally-protected right of religious worship. That's really how they think.
Thanks for visiting. Your points are well-taken. I am sometimes criticized for bringing up religion in these discussions, but unfortunately the Religious Right has left me no choice. Regardless of my personal views on religion, I see no reason to cede these people the high moral ground -- they simply don't deserve it.

In the first place, they neither comprehend or practice the religion they claim. To twist Jesus' pacifism into Onward Christian Soldiers and his communalism (since one isn't permitted to speak that other word in the presence of conservatives) into the Prosperity Gospel is to create a different faith altogether and misappropriate the name of Jesus for it. If there is a Hell, I would think that a burning offense for certain.

When these people want to excuse their worst behavior, they invariably turn to the Old Testament. That's understandable, since it is filled with every conceivable perfidy -- murder, rape, incest, lies, double-dealings -- and here I speak of the patriarchs of the faith, not the villains. The morality of these gross paternalists is a disgusting -- and sometimes degenerate -- example of do as I say, not as I do.
well said, well said indeed!
Thanks for the encouragement -- with clowns like Joseph being rude and nettlesome, I can use it
Women have just been compared to cows and pigs. It doesn't get any clearer than that. Religion is being used as a cudgel to dominate and hurt women. It is not Constitutional. It is actually, I would argue, evil.

It is evil to subjugate other people. Furthermore, be aware that it never works in the end. In the entire recorded history, very few dictatorships, especially religious ones, stand for a long time. In fact, in recent history, only Fidel has made it to nearly the end of his life without being drug through the streets, his head on a stick.

It is evil to subjugate other people, to make them practice your religion and not freely practice their own. It is evil to force other people to live in manner not consistent with liberty. It is evil to force women to have a long, large electronic dildo up their vaginas, to try to frighten and intimidate them into compliance with your religious beliefs. It is evil to force other people, with other religious beliefs, to agree with you about when life begins, about who is officially a person. (Apparently, according to "God," corporations are people--He did some more creating there! Who knew?!?)

It is evil to force one gender to stay at home, to have children without reasonable, available birth control. It is evil to compare them to farm animals, ones eaten in this country in large portions. It is not Christian to any of these things, but just as importantly, it is NOT AMERICAN. It is not part of the American or Constitutional experience.

If you believe that your religion comes before the rights of other human beings, then you are not following either your religion or the American experiment. You want totalitarian rule. You want a religious dictatorship. You want thousands dead in a religious war. Children lying in the streets, bloated and smelly, while a few rich, white men sit in smoky rooms, laughing around fat cigars. You want suffering in the millions, poverty-stricken people living in the streets. You want women covered in veils, the very thing you all pretended was so terrible only a few short years ago, and forced into marriage, prostitution, and slavery, to your religion.

And I'm here to tell you: We will fight you. I don't know who will win. But, we will fight you. We will fight you for our liberty. We will fight you for our freedom. We will fight you for our freedom of religion. We will gather the fortitude of our ancestors, who came here in search of religious freedom, and we will fight.
Sounds very much like a conversation I had with my wife earlier today, only in that instance, I was the one doing the shouting about evil people wanting to force Christian sharia down the throats of supposedly free Americans. When the fighting starts, I got your back.
"If that is the standard, then any citizen is exempt from any law or policy he or she finds morally objectionable. Assassination, rendition, torture, suspect wars – aren’t these worthy causes for moral objection ?"

Tom, you make many good points. Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's. The religious right is creating a new theology out of disparate parts. Wait until they have a falling out, that should be interesting.

If God has created us in His image, we have more than returned the compliment. ~Voltaire
Black Bart
Yes, with at least 1700 denominations in the US alone, it would be interesting to see how long it took an American theocracy to fall apart at the seams and start feeding on itself. We tsk tsk at Sunni v Shia, but the Catholic v Protestant could easily return to its awful ways, and Saint Rick would be just the man to make it happen.

Then there's the Baptists v Everybody -- the Baptists being the tribe that originally pleaded for separation of Church and State -- not that many of their number know the first damned thing about history.

Frankly, America's religious wars would make the Irish troubles look like a walk in the park.
Let's see...ethnic cleansing, genocide, slavery, apartheid, eugenics, racism...nice Christian nation.
Jesus wept ... and wept ... and wept