Thursday, October 06, 2005

Heaven Help Us All

[[R E L I G I O N]] * I agree with President Ulysses S. Grant, who once said, “Leave the matter of religion to the family altar, the church, and the private school, supported entirely by private contributions. Keep the church and the State forever separate.” I have no problem with people harboring religious beliefs, the same way as I have no problem with folks believing in ghosts or that FEMA will actually come to their rescue in a national emergency. All I ask is that they keep those convictions to themselves.

But today, thanks to the Oval Office occupancy of George W. Bush, who reportedly found God on his 40th birthday, after years of injudicious drinking and drugs-taking, and who claims the Almighty wanted him to be president (a conviction repeated by at least one U.S. general), the United States is wallowing in religious debate as well as fundamentalist intrusion in the nation’s governance. James Dobson, the conservative Christian head of a nonprofit religious organization called Focus on the Family, and host of a daily radio show of the same name, told the press this week that members of Congress have been asking his counsel on how they should vote regarding the U.S. Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Miers, a woman who supposedly experienced her own evangelical conversion after years of success in the legal profession. (For more on that subject, click here.) Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition and a former Republican presidential candidate, called in August for the assassination of Venezuela’s leftist president, Hugo Chávez. The pseudo-scientific theory of “intelligent design,” which contends that a “higher power” had some hand in directing human evolution, has provoked fervent controversies in both Kansas and Pennsylvania. A litmus test for religiosity is now applied to many political office seekers, and those whose devotion to the Bible and willingness to talk about their personal piousness is deemed suspect--such as John Kerry, a lifelong Catholic--are brutalized by narrow-minded Christian rightists. And Bush employs his faith not only to explain his absolute certainty in his actions, but to justify his opposition to same-sex marriage, abortion, and stem-cell research, and excuse his subversion of shamelessly secular icons such as the U.S. Constitution.

Now, the BBC reports that “Bush told Palestinian ministers that God had told him to invade Afghanistan and Iraq--and create a Palestinian State.” This information is featured in what the British broadcaster calls “a major three-part series” titled Elusive Peace: Israel and the Arabs, which “charts the attempts to bring peace to the Middle East, from Bill Clinton’s peace talks in 1999/2000 to Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza last August.” Elusive Peace is set to begin running in the UK on Monday, October 10.

During the series, the BBC explains in a press release, “Abu Mazen, Palestinian Prime Minister, and Nabil Shaath, his Foreign Minister, describe their first meeting with President Bush in June 2003.”
Nabil Shaath says: “President Bush said to all of us: ‘I'm driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, ‘George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.’ And I did, and then God would tell me, ‘George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq ... ‘ And I did. And now, again, I feel God’s words coming to me, ‘Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East.’ And by God I'm gonna do it.’”

Abu Mazen was at the same meeting and recounts how President Bush told him: “I have a moral and religious obligation. So I will get you a Palestinian state.”
The idea that Bush should be making decisions about international affairs based on voices in his head is more than a little frightening. Didn’t they used to call such people “delusional”?

ADDENDUM: The fact that I stand in agreement with a hard-line right-winger for the second time in as many days is rather disconcerting. But it’s hard to argue with columnist/author/firebreather Ann Coulter when she writes of Harriet Miers that “Bush has no right to say ‘Trust me.’ He was elected to represent the American people, not to be dictator for eight years. ... However nice, helpful, prompt and tidy she is, Harriet Miers isn’t qualified to play a Supreme Court justice on ‘The West Wing,’ let alone to be a real one. Both Republicans and Democrats should be alarmed that Bush seems to believe his power to appoint judges is absolute. This is what ‘advice and consent’ means.”

READ MORE:How Born-Again George Became a Man on a Mission,” by Julian Borger (The Guardian); “God Ordered Iraq War, Says Bush,” by Chris Floyd (Empire Burlesque); “Scott McClellan Calls Bush Absurd!!!” (Daily Kos); “Dodging the Lightning Bolts” (The Left Coaster); “Bush’s Satanic Verses: He Hears God--or Does He? ” by Justin Raimondo (; “Gods vs. Geeks: GOP Evangelicals Fight Intellectuals Over Harriet Miers,” by John Dickerson (Slate); “Conservatives Were Above Elitism. Then Came Miers,” by Noam Scheiber (The New Republic); “Miers, ‘Hector,’ and Rove’s Double Game” (New Donkey); “There Is No God (and You Know It),” by Sam Harris (The Huffington Post); “All I Need Is You: The Psychology of George and Harriet,” by Michael Shaw (BAGnews).

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