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Why Do Fundamentalist Nutbags Drive Huge SUVs?

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Reagan's first Secretary of the Interior, James Watt, was the first to let slip the religious fanatics' justification for anti-environmentalism, writes Glenn Scherer, in Grist magazine:

(He) told the U.S. Congress that protecting natural resources was unimportant in light of the imminent return of Jesus Christ. "God gave us these things to use. After the last tree is felled, Christ will come back," Watt said in public testimony that helped get him fired.

Today's Christian fundamentalist politicians are more politically savvy than Reagan's interior secretary was; you're unlikely to catch them overtly attributing public-policy decisions to private religious views. But their words and actions suggest that many share Watt's beliefs. Like him, many Christian fundamentalists feel that concern for the future of our planet is irrelevant, because it has no future. They believe we are living in the End Time, when the son of God will return, the righteous will enter heaven, and sinners will be condemned to eternal hellfire. They may also believe, along with millions of other Christian fundamentalists, that environmental destruction is not only to be disregarded but actually welcomed -- even hastened -- as a sign of the coming Apocalypse.

We are not talking about a handful of fringe lawmakers who hold or are beholden to these beliefs. The 231 legislators (all but five of them Republicans) who received an average 80 percent approval rating or higher from the leading religious-right organizations make up more than 40 percent of the U.S. Congress.

Yes, in the 21st Century, a bunch of people who are guided by some seriously nutty shit are making enormously important decisions about our lives and what becomes of the planet. Bill Maher sums up the mess we're in:

"It's like half this country wants to guide our ship of state by compass -- a compass, something that works by science and rationality, and empirical wisdom," quipped comedian Bill Maher on Larry King Live. "And half this country wants to kill a chicken and read the entrails like they used to do in the old Roman Empire."

What's a member of the non-chicken-entrail-reading rational minority to do? Scherer has a suggestion:

In the past, it was not deemed politically correct to ask probing questions about a lawmaker's intimate religious beliefs. But when those beliefs play a crucial role in shaping public policy, it becomes necessary for the people to know and understand them. It sounds startling, but the great unasked questions that need to be posed to the 231 U.S. legislators backed by the Christian right, and to President Bush himself, are not the kind of softballs about faith lobbed at the candidates during the recent presidential debates. They are, instead, tough, specific inquiries about the details of that faith: Do you believe we are in the End Time? Are the governmental policies you support based on your faith in the imminent Second Coming of Christ? It's not an exaggeration to say that the fate of our planet depends on our asking these questions, and on our ability to reshape environmental strategy in light of the answers.

(via Metafilter)

Posted by aalkon at October 28, 2004 10:19 AM

Comments

You keep plugging away Amy, I greatly admire your
effort in the religious arena. A few comments-
Despite your, and our, best efforts, the Christman in chief will be returned to his throne on Nov. 2.
As to Maher and the comments about half the country and the fundamentalists-it's not half the country and just the fundamentalists-it's the religious, period. What you actually have is the tacit and the overt religious. The overt(fundamentalists) lead the way, but the tacit religious(non-fundamentalsits) still march in lock step with their more vocal brothers-so it's not half the population, it's 90%.
As I've been saying for years-this battle of science vs. superstition is really thee battle. It's the battle for the future of the planet. Why? because the supernatural view colors all the decisions of the believer, from why Bush really wanted to invade Iraq, to education, business and all the rest.
And what you touch on is exactly the point. When you have any religious view(fundamentalist or non-fundamentalist) that supports the notion that this miserable life is nothing but a dress rehearsal for the real better lives to come, what does that do to this life? As I've previously stated, millions of people are on their knees as I write this, all around the world, forsaking this life to live in their various illusions, net result-look at Africa, India, large segments of Asia-so-called third worlders- held back-not because they are dumb-but because they are under the spell of religious mumbo jumbo that tells them that this life doesn't matter and even if it did-you're getting what you deserve from karma-or some other notion-so there is nothing you can do anyway-it's all ordained.
Or we look to the west- where 90% of the world's superpower are waiting for the return of of a man named Christ-who almost certainly never actually existed and is the concoction of a bunch of men who, if they existed today, would be occupying the cells of Sing Sing and Bellevue. Oy vey.

Posted by: chris volkay at October 28, 2004 8:23 AM

> In the past, it was not deemed
> politically correct to ask probing
> questions about a lawmaker's
> intimate religious beliefs.

Why are liberals fascinated with interior life?

The problem in millenia past was not that it was politically incorrect, the problem was that it was crass and inane. Pop psychology has convinced people that you can appraise virtue by studying thoughts in an interior frame of mind. Meanwhile, law, science and the better sorts of art are built on what people actually DO.

Posted by: Cridland at October 28, 2004 10:07 AM

Crid
absolutely inane
the interior lives of people are of great concern because those people then act upon their interior idiocy and imperil the rest of the world with it. it's not left wing or right wing it's simply a matter of finding out what kinds of idiotic, dangerous delusions fill one's pathetic little head. Get it-people act upon their idiocy and infect and imperil those around them with the idiocy stored in their savage simple minds-clear enough

Posted by: chris volkay at October 28, 2004 10:19 AM

"Pop psychology has convinced people that you can appraise virtue by studying thoughts in an interior frame of mind. Meanwhile, law, science and the better sorts of art are built on what people actually DO."

Cridster, you're sounding rather "pop" there yourself. Law is focused not only on behavior but on intention. Scientists are also often interested in how behavior is determined by all sorts of "internal" constructs (personality, neurology, class-based preferences, etc). I don't know what you mean by "the better sorts of art," but it seems that a good deal of it is produced to create an aesthetic experience (which sounds pretty internal) not behavioral change.

Posted by: "Pop" goes Lena's weener! at October 28, 2004 11:37 AM

Ah, Chris Volkay, you've gone a little overboard there. I know plenty of religious people who aren't marching lockstep with the nuts. The thing which I think you've overlooked is that there is no one view on the world, and that not all religions approach life with the same goal or the same mores. That might be why there are so many different religions. ;)

Some, for example, might approach it from the point of view that what you do in this life affects what will happen to you in the next. Others might think that the planet is sacred (Mother Earth: Not Just For Hippies). Others might believe that they are in this life for a reason, and that just hurrying through it with all the waste they can possibly create defeats that reason. Etcetera. Yes, I realize it's terribly fashionable to blame religious people for all the idiocy in the world, but please at least make sure you're pinning the tail on the right horse of a different color. ;)

Posted by: Lea at October 28, 2004 1:26 PM

I have a friend who holds this conservative Christian belief. When she went back to college to finish her degree, she had to take a writing proficiency, and the topic was to write about the saying, "We have not inherited the earth from our parents; we have borrowed it from our children." She wrote an essay disagreeing with this premise. (I was flabberghasted.) She failed the writing proficiency, and she appealed to the dean on the grounds that the grading committee was biased against her answer because of its Christian belief. They let her slide by because she made such a stink. (Wussies.) The premise is "we" cannot question anyone's beliefs because that entails discrimination, even if those beliefs are not communicated in formal academic English. Ergo, we get George Bush as President.

Posted by: Frances Whitney at October 28, 2004 4:07 PM

Yes dumbo-lena
I'm not trying to judge someones virtue
I'm judging their actions and whether or not they will get me and others killed, That's not pop psychology-it's good old assessment of someone's words and then actions. Which is the way sane people(sane is in the dictionary) make decsions in their lives.
to the other person-that of course isn't what I said. Of course all religious nuts and religions have different aims and beliefs-but whatever they are it's all teh same anti-humanist, anti-humanity, anti-this life, praise the next life garbage.

Posted by: chris volkay at October 28, 2004 5:18 PM

Religious people are prone to doing whatever they feel is the right thing. Non-religious people, of which I am one, have other motives such as selfishness, vanity, and in John Kerry's case, naked opportunism.

I would prefer a president with religious values over one with no values, but that's just me.

And just for the record, Frequent Fliers to France are in no position to sneer at SUV's. This posturing is funny, but only in an ironic sense.

Posted by: Richard at October 28, 2004 6:01 PM

Volkay -- That's Thumba-Lena, not dumbo-Lena.

Posted by: Lena, tiny dancer at October 28, 2004 6:02 PM

there once was entity called lena
who's legs had nothing in betweena
she thought she had smarts
because of her epidemioligist charts
but her head was a one big freakin ravina

Posted by: chris volkay at October 28, 2004 6:21 PM

Religious people are prone to doing whatever they feel is the right thing. Non-religious people, of which I am one, have other motives such as selfishness, vanity, and in John Kerry's case, naked opportunism.

I would prefer a president with religious values over one with no values, but that's just me.

And just for the record, Frequent Fliers to France are in no position to sneer at SUV's. This posturing is funny, but only in an ironic sense.
Posted by Richard at October 28, 2004 06:01 PM

Richard,

You're such a tool. Consider the SUV. It often, most often, carries one person. Consider the jet to Europe, which carries numerous passengers.

While you're considering please look up the meaning of irony. Flying to France while bashing SUV driving lunatics isn't ironic.

Referring to John Kerry's motives as naked opportunism while supporting George Bush and his cronies, now that's ironic.

Posted by: Sheryl at October 28, 2004 6:41 PM

Not to disagree with the carnage and inhumanity attributable to various religious movements, but can anyone weigh in on the carnage and inhumanity attributable to those who could be classified as religiously neutral or atheistic, e.g., Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin? Could it possibly be that being inhumane is not invoked by religion or non-religion, but rather by inhumane people using religion or whatever as their basis for their carnage?

Posted by: allan at October 28, 2004 7:31 PM

That was great, Chris. I'm going to set it to music and spin around on my beige formica coffee table right now. Having just returned from the pharmacy, I'm happy to report that I'll be a well-medicated ravina-Lena tonight.

Allan -- Great post. I too generally believe that "being inhumane is not invoked by religion or non-religion, but rather by inhumane people using religion or whatever as their basis for their carnage." This doesn't apply only to the bloody carnage of fundamentalist militancy. For example, there are actually some Irish Catholic kids who grow up with a health sense of sexuality, even though their parents are ridiculously devout. And then there are leather-clad Irish Catholics like me who spend their lives suffering the consequences of botched sex-change operations.

Posted by: Lena's Angry Inch at October 28, 2004 7:52 PM

"please look up the meaning of irony"

I grew up in NYC. "Irony" is what the pretentious shits on the Upper West Side would call sarcasm.

Posted by: Lena at October 28, 2004 8:52 PM

Ahh, but that is what you said, Chris Volkay. You're saying that their different aims and beliefs lead to the same result. You're also saying that /all/ religions have certain qualities in common. I'm disagreeing with you. The belief that there is a next life does not automatically translate to the belief that this life is garbage, or that it has no worth in itself. It obviously /does/ translate to that in some religions (or in some sects of some religions); I'll agree with you there. I simply think you're over-generalizing.

Would you care to clarify what you mean by 'humanist'? Are you referring to secular humanist philosophy, or to the quality of giving a damn about human beings? :)

Posted by: Lea at October 28, 2004 9:33 PM

Okay we disagree
no I really don't care to define what i mean
as i've written before, one simply gets tired of it all-explaining why religion is all garbage is something akin to explaining why I don't think werewolves exist. That it even needs any explanation is simply beyond my scope of understanding. Richard Dawkins has written that he will no longer debate religionists, not because he's afraid of their feeble arguments, but simply because when dealing with people who openly boast about believing in all manner of fantastical delusions and specious canards, one simply tends to lose their lunch.

Posted by: chris volkay at October 28, 2004 11:20 PM

There are numerous fuel-efficient ways to get around your neighborhood that are more efficient and less dangerous to others than a gigantic SUV. People who have kids and drive SUVs should be arrested for child abuse. You shoudn't have to die because your parent is a trendy moron. SUVs might LOOK safer, but the AAA accident adjuster for the state of California told me, the safest car on the road, if you have kids is a Volvo Stn. wagon...as of a couple years ago when I wrote my SUV piece for New Times. Regarding my trips to France that the snide (jealous, dear?) person remarked on above -- if you know of a way that's more fuel efficient for international travel than a passenger plane (and not a sailboat, thanks), I'd love to take it. I'm not suggesting people stop living, flying, or driving; merely that we all do all we can not to treat the planet like an endless resource. If there's no other way to pick up your underparented brat at rehab than a Hummer, by all means, drive one. As far as I can see, there are a lot of car lots out there...filled with Jetta station wagons and more fuel efficient ways to get around.

Regarding this remark:
Some, for example, might approach it from the point of view that what you do in this life affects what will happen to you in the next.

Anybody who thinks this, based on zero evidence, is a moron.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 28, 2004 11:30 PM

PS to the person who'd rather have some irrational religious fanatic as president, making decisions based on the likes of chicken entrails, please don't vote.

PPS What do you wanna bet Christopher Reeve didn't agree with you.

PPPS It's the 21st century. Isn't it about time eveyrbody put away the bibles and voodoo dolls?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 28, 2004 11:35 PM

Chris mentioned:

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Posted by: RKN at October 29, 2004 9:07 AM