I am quite sure now that often, very often, in matters concerning religion and politics a man’s reasoning powers are not above the monkey’s.

A blogger or two is venturing to suggest that this may be the end of little Ricky Santorum’s surge,

Kyle Mantyla of People for the American Way’s indispensable Right Wing Watch has come up with an audiotape of a Rick Santorum address to the students of the conservative Catholic Ave Maria University in Florida, delivered in 2008. It’s an altogether remarkable speech depicting Rick as a leader in a “spiritual war” against Satan for control of America. Much of its involves the usual right-wing stuff about the conquest of academia (outside bastions like Ave Maria) by the forces of moral relativism, but then there is this Santorum assessment of mainline Protestantism:

[O]nce the colleges fell and those who were being educated in our institutions, the next was the church. Now you’d say, ‘wait, the Catholic Church’? No. We all know that this country was founded on a Judeo-Christian ethic but the Judeo-Christian ethic was a Protestant Judeo-Christian ethic, sure the Catholics had some influence, but this was a Protestant country and the Protestant ethic, mainstream, mainline Protestantism, and of course we look at the shape of mainline Protestantism in this country and it is in shambles, it is gone from the world of Christianity as I see it.

Even though I know better I sometimes underestimate the conservative Republican ability to deflect and deny. They have political minds with a series of trap doors in which facts, spin and distortions get tossed around like an out of control pinball machine. It is not just Evangelicals, but Pentecostals, fundamentalist Baptists, regressive Mormons and assorted others who would agree with little Ricky in general, if not the specifics. Apparently the history in right-wing conservative circles is not chock full of reality – never has been. There are certainly lots of moments, events and people in U.S. history of which Americans can take pride. Yet, if we lift off that haze of nostalgia we know better. From day one we had slavery and denied women the vote. The south decided to commit treason rather than do the descent thing – citing God and the Bible as justification for slavery. As Santorum and conservative Republicans continue to invoke their twisted dogma as the road map for the U.S.A. this might be a good time to remember that one of America’s most famous traitors did the same in 1861. In his inaugural speech defending the South and its commitment to slavery Davis said,

It is joyous in the midst of perilous times to look around upon a people united in heart, where one purpose of high resolve animates and actuates the whole; where the sacrifices to be made are not weighed in the balance against honor and right and liberty and equality. Obstacles may retard, but they cannot long prevent, the progress of a movement sanctified by its justice and sustained by a virtuous people. Reverently let us invoke the God of our fathers to guide and protect us in our efforts to perpetuate the principles which by his blessing they were able to vindicate, establish, and transmit to their posterity. With the continuance of his favor ever gratefully acknowledged, we may hopefully look forward to success, to peace, and to prosperity.

Forget the Democrat and Republican labels – modern Republicans like to forget there has been a realignment of the political parties in the last 150 years – the conservative Davis sounds just like Santorum, Romney, Gingrich or any other modern conservative. They have a dystopian vision for America just as Davis did and conservatives still wrap up that dark vision in God and the flag. They should be ashamed of themselves, but one has to have a fully aware and working conscience to feel shame.

Civil rights demonstrators link hands and sing during a protest at the Dallas Country Courthouse in Selma, Alabama. Later, Sheriff Jim Clark ordered deputies to arrest the protesters.February 3, 1965. © Bettmann/CORBIS. Conservative are always echoing the deep yearning to return to some great past of America. Is this what they mean. A hundred years after the Emancipation Proclamation Americans still fighting for their right to have an equal place at the table.

Wobblies Marching in Manhattan. Women of the Industrial Workers of the World march to Madison Square Garden in support of the Patterson Silk Strike of 1913. Manhattan, New York, New York, USA  © Bettmann/CORBIS. Conservatives dream of going back to a time where women knew their place – it obviously was not in 1913. Conservatives think America is in a “shambles” because women do not stay at home, barefoot and pregnant – with no access to birth control. Not even conservative women or Catholic women believe that. The vast majority use contraception. The women in this picture were marching for something we take for granted to day – an 8 hour workday and descent working conditions. The strike was eventually busted, but their ideas, their demands lived on and became the norm. This is part of what scares conservatives – real ideas and real progress. When conservatives hate these hard fight fundamental aspects of American life they show their true fidelity – it is not to the U.S.A., the country founded on ideals, it is to a country that lives only on right-wing hate radio, in Rick Santorum’s sick concept of morality, in the conservative love of torture, crony capitalism and trumped up wars that kill our children.

Whether the guy that had plans to blow something up in Washington D.C. was the real deal or just another deadender that did not have a clue is arguable. One thing you can rely on since his last name was not Smith or Jones, is for the usual bed wetters on the Right to claim this proves all non-white non-Christian fundamentalists are evil. Fine lets play that game – Kansas Man With Truck Covered In Anti-Immigrant Stickers Arrested At State Capitol With Explosives . Which – using our patented tin-foil wrapped Conservative logic means that all ethnocentric conservative kooks are out to destroy America. This guy did not have any help from the FBI.

Bill Moyers makes a few good points in this column – Freedom of and From Religion

The president did something agile and wise the other day. And something quite important to the health of our politics. He reached up and snuffed out what some folks wanted to make into a cosmic battle between good and evil. No, said the president, we’re not going to turn the argument over contraception into Armageddon, this is an honest difference between Americans, and I’ll not see it escalated into a holy war. So instead of the government requiring Catholic hospitals and other faith-based institutions to provide employees with health coverage involving contraceptives, the insurance companies will offer that coverage, and offer it free.

The Catholic bishops had cast the president’s intended policy as an infringement on their religious freedom; they hold birth control to be a mortal sin, and were incensed that the government might coerce them to treat it otherwise. The president in effect said: No quarrel there; no one’s going to force you to violate your doctrine. But Catholics are also Americans, and if an individual Catholic worker wants coverage, she should have access to it — just like any other American citizen. Under the new plan, she will. She can go directly to the insurer, and the religious institution is off the hook.

Why aren’t conservatives happy about the way this was handled. because conservatives do not, never have believed in your right to freedom to believe as you wish in the faith of your choice. Originally James Madison had written the 1st Amendment to read freedom of conscience rather than freedom of religion. Perhaps it is too bad he rewrote that passage. Freedom of conscience more accurately portrays the average American’s thought about religion and morality. In the speech from Jefferson Davis from which I quoted, it is a fact that the Bible says slavery is OK as long as the slave does not belong to a neighboring nation. Americans overwhelmingly rejected that strict interpretation of Bible given rights and followed their conscience instead. To day we have conservatives still taking the Davis view – that government is here is shove their beliefs down everyone else’s throat and failure to do so is not a compromise they can tolerarte. They have been consistent in their hatred of freedom of religion. Believing in THEIR wacky concept of freedom of religion is a throwback to the attitudes of the corrupt Holy Roman Empire. Which is what Thomas Jefferson was referring to when he wrote, “History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government,” and, “In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.”

 

I am quite sure now that often, very often, in matters concerning religion and politics a man’s reasoning powers are not above the monkey’s. — Mark Twain in Eruption

Man is a Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion–several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn’t straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother’s path to happiness and heaven….The higher animals have no religion. And we are told that they are going to be left out in the Hereafter. I wonder why? It seems questionable taste.– Mark Twain “The Lowest Animal”

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