“Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The First Amendment of the US Constitution
“no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.” Thomas Jefferson in the 1779 Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom
Those that read this site and have gotten to know me through it over the past few years know that I am passionately devoted to religious liberty. I find it throughout the writings of our founders and and have written about it before numerous times and the comment was in regard to this article The Gift of Religious Liberty and the Real Dangers to It https://padresteve.com/2011/05/10/the-gift-of-religious-liberty-and-the-real-dangers-to-it/
That is why I tend to get spun up about the way that some people use their religion as a weapon in public life and politics. This happens around the world and frankly there is nothing good in it regardless of who is doing it or what religion they are using to subjugate or attempt to subjugate others, particularly religious minorities.
In fact it was on this day, October 14th 1656 the Massachusetts Bay Colony, where church and state were one enacted the first punitive laws against the Quakers, who they believed to spiritually apostate and subversive. The interesting thing is that the political and theological descendants of the Puritans who enacted those laws held a major political conference this weekend, they called it the Value Voter’s Summit. While religious liberty was a major theme of that conference it was not the religious liberty of all, simply theirs which they believe is superior to others and should be the established state religion.
Since I have written numerous other articles about the dangers that I see in what they term the Dominionist or Reconstructionist movement and the Seven Mountains theology I will not dwell on that here. Instead I will share some insights I have based on my interaction with individuals who believe that no religious rights except for their understanding of Christianity should be legal in the United States.
I do want to say up front that this article is in no way a denigration of those that believe, especially in this case since my critic claims to be a Christian a criticism of other Christians that are committed to their faith but also respect the religious liberties of others and that give God and his grace a little bit of credit to work in the lives of others that are different from them.
After I wrote an article about two years ago I received a comment on that post that I quote in part:
“I have a serious problem with anyone who calls themselves a Christian supporting the religious liberty of all those who are not Christians because by doing so you condone their worship of false gods which is idolatry. I would rather see all religious worship outlawed than to allow worshippers of false gods allowed to spew their demon inspired idolatrous lies in public.” (pingecho728 Jonathan)
I found it amazing to see such words voiced over a subject that is so much a part of the fabric of our country. Unfortunately with all the poisonous division in the country that religious liberty is in peril in some cases from left wing fanatics that despise all religion but is becoming more pronounced on the fanatical right particularly in the views of some parts of American Evangelical and Conservative Catholic Christianity.
But with that said this commentator was obviously a very angry person. So I decided to search Facebook and Google search and in about 5 minutes I found more than I wanted to know about this man. He is a fanatic who has flip-flopped in his passionate beliefs, responding to an atheist on another website in December 2010 regarding the irrationality of Biblical faith.
“PingEcho728 Dec 1, 2010 01:55 PM
I love what you wrote and agree wholeheartedly. Ironically I used to be once upon a time one of those religionist who was content with the “God did it” answer..if the Bible said it I believed it a hundred percent but once I opened my eyes and actually examined everything I had once easily believed to see why I had believed those things I found I had no good rational answer or evidence for believing those things. So I did the only thing a rational freethinking person could do, I abandoned beliefs for which I had no reason or evidence to support it.”
When I responded to the man and noted that everyone was someone else’s heretic and that even Conservative Christians might find his views heretical he responded: “There are certainly no Christians more conservative than me nor would any true Christian call me a heretic.”
Talk about flip-flopping, but this is typical among fanatics of every variety. They easily change sides because they need a cause bigger then them to provide meaning to their lives. This man blasted the Founders in their views of religious liberty on a Tea Party blog: “I trust in the founders no more than I trust in any fallible man. The freedom to disagree is one thing to allow false religions to flourish in America is one that will undoubtedly lead to the destruction of America and the rise of the antichrist.”
Anglican Persecution of Virginia Baptists
Philosopher Eric Hoffer wrote in his book The True Believer about mass movements and their fanatical followers. He did not see the followers of the different causes be they religious, secular, atheist, Fascist or Communist to be that different from each other. He saw them as brothers in a sense and their real opponent is the moderate, not the opposing extremist. Hoffer saw that the “true believers” were far easier to convert to an opposing view than you would think and he noted how fanatical Germans and Japanese often were converted to Communism while in captivity after the war. It was their devotion to the cause not the cause that they became devoted to serving that was what gave meaning to their life.
“The fanatic is perpetually incomplete and insecure. He cannot generate self assurance out of his individual resources-out of his rejected self-but finds it only by clinging to whatever cause he happens to embrace. This passionate attachment is the source of his blind devotion and religiosity, and he sees in it the source of all virtue and strength. Through his single minded dedication is a holding on for dear life , he easily sees himself as the supporter and defender of the holy cause to which he clings….Still his sense of security is derived from his passionate attachment and not from the excellence of his cause. The fanatic is not really a stickler to principle. He embraces a cause not because of its justness and holiness but because of his desperate need for something to hold on to. Often, indeed, it is his need for passionate attachment which turns every cause he embraces into a holy cause. The fanatic cannot be weened away from his cause by an appeal to reason or moral sense. He fears compromise and cannot be persuaded to qualify the certitude of his holy cause. But he finds no difficulty in swinging suddenly and wildly from one holy cause to another. He cannot be convinced but only converted. His passionate attachment is more vital than the cause to which he is attached.”
Unfortunately there are many people on the extremes of the political spectrum that are like this. They can be found in the factions of the Tea Party and likewise some on the political left as well as other more extreme hate groups. They are the kind of people that in the social, economic and political turmoil of the 1920s and 1930s were sucked into the great radical movements Communism, Fascism and Naziism. In fact this has little to do with Christianity itself, even the most conservative expressions of it. It is a matter that fanatics would rather destroy freedom for everyone than to give it to anyone that they disagree.
The real thing that sets our nation apart from others is the fact that when it came to religious liberty that the Founders were quite clear that religious liberty was the property of every individual. It was not to be forced by the state or by religious bodies acting on behalf of the state. We are not Iran, Saudi Arabia or even Israel. Our founders knew the dangers of fanatical religion having seen the effect of it during the brutal religious wars in England which pitted Anglicans against Separatists and Roman Catholics in the 17th Century. They harbored no illusions about the danger posed by well meaning “true believers” who would use the powers of the state to enforce their religious beliefs on others as well as those that would seek to obliterate religion from public life as happened during the French Revolution.
I will gladly take criticism from people that believe that I am not a Christian because I defend the religious liberties of others. I am a Christian and make no apology but I figure that this liberty is too precious to so despised by those that most depend on it. Religion can and has often been abused and used as a dictatorial bludgeon. Those who now advocate so stridently for their faith to be made the law of the land should well remember the words of James Madison:
“Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other sects?”
I wish that they would consider this before they attempt to destroy the country in order to save it.
2 responses to “Religious Fanaticism and Politics: The Danger of the “True” Believers”
Good insight. Perhaps we will enter a time in this nation where moderate views prevail. Or, do you think it will sing from one side to the other with only a passing glance in the middle?
Reblogged this on Padre Steve's World…Musings of a Passionately Progressive Moderate and commented:
Friends of Padre Steve’s World. It has been a busy day trying to get a lot done at work going into the Labor Day weekend, and to help my wife in making some wonderful Jalapeño Cheddar Beer Bread to give to friends this evening. I didn’t sleep much last night, yet another Iraq nightmare that woke me up about 2 AM followed by my oldest dog whacking me and telling me that she needed to go crap at 4:15. I guess that is better than her crapping in the bed so nothing ventured nothing gained. I met with my new shrink this morning for my PTSD symptoms, which my regular readers know have been kicking my ass the past couple of months. She seems like she will be a good therapist for me and is getting me into a provider to manage my meds. My experience at the local Navy Branch Clinic for the Very Very Nervous was much better than at the main Mental Health department at the Naval Medical Center, so this should be good all the way around. It also means that I don’t have to fight the traffic through the Downtown Tunnel to get to my appointments. Anyway, I digress…
A couple of notes, I found a new TV who that I like, “The Blacklist” starring David Spader. Very well written and suspenseful.
Finally, with all the people out there championing their religious rights above other people’s right to believe in a different God or no God at all, I figured that I would share something I wrote last October. I just figure that anyone with half a brain would look at what is going on Iraq and Syria right now and realize the dangers of any particular group having the exclusive franchise to belief is not a good thing. And please don’t tell me that ISIS is any different than Christian groups throughout history that forced conversions, exterminated opponents and put heretics to death, because unfortunately there are some Christians in the United States right now who would use the police power of the state to persecute and even kill those that they deem unbelievers or heretics. All you do is have to look at the rantings of Gary Fischer of the American Family Association who says that the Constitution only guarantees religious liberty for Christians; David Barton, the fake historian who loves to justify the extermination of Native Americans because they “rejected the Gospel;” “Pastor” Scott Lively who takes his “let’s persecute and kill the gays” campaign to African countries where he receives a better welcome than in the United States and a host of others including big name politicians, pundits and preachers. These guys would have been the fringe at one time, but they have become part of the Evangelical Christian mainstream. Frankly that is dangerous for all of us. That is why I am doing this re-run today.
Have a great Labor Day Weekend,