Damn Nation

Senator Bernie Sanders made headlines this week for challenging a statement made by cabinet nominee Russell Vought that “Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ, His Son, and they stand condemned.”

There was a swift response denouncing Sanders’ supposition that this kind of comment disqualifies a candidate for public office. Article VI of the Constitution mandates that “no religious test” shall ever be required as a requisite for a candidate’s qualification for office. Mr. Sanders’ official rebuttal was that Mr. Vought’s religious conviction is “a bigotry that runs counter to what America is about.”

Those who found Senator Sanders’ charge inflammatory shifted the meaning of his words to fan the flames of religious xenophobia. Liz Wheeler on her show Tipping Point was typical of the rhetoric that emerged: “People like you, Senator Sanders, would deny us to worship the God we choose. Who are you to sit there and tell us what to believe?” Turning up the heat, Ms. Wheeler proceeded: “That means as Christians we can’t believe what we believe. Senator Sanders you are asking us to reject Jesus Christ.”

Setting aside the politics of the debate, Bernie Sanders placed into the forefront a crucial point about religious freedom for public dialogue, and Ms. Wheeler’s rhetoric is evidence of how important it is to challenge the basis of religious dogma.

Bernie Sanders is not attacking anyone’s freedom to worship the God they choose. He is pulling the alarm on the fervency of religions that claim their way, and only their way, is truth and the rest of humanity be damned.

What Ms. Wheeler and many others of her co-religionists forget is that in prior times such attitudes led to murdering people who did not accept Jesus Christ as their savior. Sadly, we still are plagued by some humans who deem it their moral responsibility to murder in the name of their God—but even those who would not murder, cling onto the righteousness of their dogmatic, exclusionary beliefs.

The alarm Bernie Sanders is alerting us to is that beliefs, such as those articulated by Mr. Vought, matter for a humanity that strives for religious freedom. In a pluralistic society, you are granted the freedom to choose whichever God to worship. When you say that only your religion is right or true you have transformed the light and warmth of your religion and God into a fire that at best is inflammatory and at worst hellish.

E Pluribus Unum, in America, also refers to the religions or non-religions of all who attempt, however challenging, to form the one from the many. May Bernie Sanders’ words burn brightly and forge a more perfect union of religious freedom and freedom from religious dogma.


Comments 2

  1. “When you say that only your religion is right or true you have transformed the light and warmth of your religion and God into a fire that at best is inflammatory and at worst hellish.”
    True, but an equally true statement would be: “When you say that only your religion is right or true you take your faith seriously.” If you believe that salvation is only possible through believing in the human sacrifice of a rabbi some two thousand years ago, you must also believe every other religion is false, as they promise salvation through other avenues. You must also think these false preachings are evil, as they are leading people away from salvation and God’s grace.
    People who take their faith seriously say things like: ‘I will not rest until I have converted the world, so they can know God’, or ‘I will kill myself if I have to, as long as I kill as many infidels as I can as the Quran commands me to’ or ‘The Bible says we were created, therefore evolutionists are doing the work of Satan and must be silenced and kept out of schools.’ It seems the only religious people tolerated by our secular society, or by those who chose to not subscribe to dogmatic nonsense, are those who do not take their faith seriously. Are those who say things like ‘Sure, the Bible says to kill someone who wears two different types of fabrics, or someone who has lost their ‘virgin’ status before marriage, but I chose to ignore that passage, or interpret it in some way that it means something other than what it says, or invent some context that forgives the evil.’
    So here lies the problem in religion. Should we show respect to beliefs in ancient books that are filled with evil and immorality (and sure some nice passages here and there), as current social norms dictate we should? Should we extend religious freedom and tolerance to a religion that calls for the torture and murder of nonbelievers? (Something all three monotheisms do.) Mr. Sanders places his compassion above his intellectual integrity, just as Ms. Wheeler places her dogma and faith above her compassion. (It is clear she gave up her intellectual integrity long ago, after all, can a thinking person really believe a virgin can give birth?) But are either concessions forgivable?
    Should we not instead devote ourselves to secularism, and reason, and rationality, and truth, and turn away from bronze age myths that comforted people in a time when disease was ‘known’ to be caused by witchcraft (or jews) and not bacteria, and an earthquake was the result of God’s wrath and not the shifting of tectonic plates?
    Or should we continue to rpeted that the people who take their religion the least seriously are the only ones that understand the true spirit of their faith?
    Well, who cares if the world ends in a nuclear hellfire fueled by differing notions of the nonexistent, as long as we don’t hurt anyones’ feelings.

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