On The Verge Of
Becoming A Theocracy?
Stephen A. Lonsdale
Last evening I attended a lecture at Princeton given by Prof. Paul Kurtz. His talk was about secular humanism being the last repressed minority. This subject had some bearing on my private life as I have been criticised at work for being a scientific pragmatist, rationalist, secular humanist and atheist. Some people have been shocked by the books I read. Books by Wells, Mack, Pagels, Kaminer, Shermer, Dawkins, et al., can usually be found in my back pack. My co-workers find it disturbing that I read books that question the historicity of Jesus, examine the Bible in the light of literary and historical analysis and that promote scientific explanations on cosmology, biology and sociology. The latest comment was caused by someone noticing Elaine Pagels book The Origin of Satan in my pack.
It is not only the disturbing religiosity that seems so pervasive in society today, but the irrationalism which goes with it, hand in hand, that frightens me. I have had conversations with people who espouse post-modern ideas such as science being just a social construction, that science is just another version of truth. But it wasn't a "social construction" that landed humankind on the lunar surface thirty years ago. It certainly was not a "version" of truth that allowed me to watch live images from the surface of Mars at home on my computer. It is because of the men and women, now and in the past, who spend the years of their lives learning, researching and applying that knowledge, that allows the rest of us to benefit from such marvels as modern medicine, the information age and space exploration. New Age adherents promote their muddled pseudo-science and maintain the belief that any guru using the word "quantum" has science backing his/her mystical meanderings. Few of them if any, have any real idea what quantum mechanics is all about. The renowned physicist Richard Feynman was apparently heard to say, "If you think you know quantum mechanics, then you don't know quantum mechanics." The physicist Victor Stenger in his book Physics and Psychics says, " If quantum mechanics looks like magic, so do most great scientific advances when they first appear."
Most people espousing deeply held beliefs are convinced they are correct solely based upon the degree of emotion and passion they have invested in their position. It bothers them not one jot that there is no evidence to support their extraordinary claims. They don't blink an eye or miss a beat, when the contrary evidence to their position is pointed out to them.
The media feeds into all of this and rarely if ever, as Prof. Kurtz pointed out, do they publish an informed dissenting view. The airwaves are filled with shows about angels and miracles and stories relating how wishing will make it so. News stories abound with tales of miraculous healings. I live just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia and the news here has been focused upon the canonization of Katherine Drexel. The Pope apparently made her a saint because two individuals regained their hearing after praying to this dead nun. This of course came hot on the heels of the Pope's assertion that only Catholics will find salvation because only their way is the one true path to God.
All of this, combined with the frightening rhetoric from the two mainstream presidential candidates causes me to wonder if the United States is not on the verge of becoming a theocratic Christian state that would rival the fanaticism of Islamic states in places such as Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. Women, gays, non-Christians and certainly atheists and agnostics would be the first victims of such a theocratic government. Following the pattern of these theocratic countries , educators, scientists, authors and free thinkers would be at serious risk of losing rights, privileges, freedoms perhaps even their lives.
It may be said that I am oversimplifying or overstating the current trends. Perhaps I may even be considered to be paranoid. But consider the murders of licensed doctors performing legal procedures. These doctors were killed for performing legal abortions; procedures which ensure a woman's sovereignty over her own body and provide an alternative to unwanted pregnancies. Consider the bombings of the clinics where these doctors work and where women, already stressed and in turmoil, seek advice and support. Shootings, stabbings (a doctor was stabbed in the back, in my former country of Canada), bombings are all in the name of pro-life!
When I consider all of this along with the bombings of gay night clubs, the beatings and brutal murders of homosexuals and the scientific illiteracy of this country, I wonder indeed if we are not on the verge of becoming a theocracy.
Stephen A. Lonsdale
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