Friday, August 27, 2010

Craziest Republican of the Day: John Fleming

Yes, let's give the award today to the congressman from Louisiana, for taking us right back to the Crusades:

We are either going to go down the socialist road and become like western Europe and create, I guess really a godless society, an atheist society. Or we're going to continue down the other pathway where we believe in freedom of speech, individual liberties and that we remain a Christian nation. So we're going to have to win that battle, we're going to have to solve that argument before we can once again reach across and work together on things.

Where -- oh where -- to begin? Well, let's just make a few points, however obvious: 

1) Western Europe is more "socialist" than the U.S., yes, but much of it, these days, is run by conservatives: Cameron in the U.K., Merkel in Germany, Sarkozy in France. Last time I checked, Europe is still capitalist, with major corporations that dominate the world and a dynamic continental economy that is doing better the U.S.

2) Western Europe may be less religious than the U.S., but it's hardly atheist. Last time I checked, countries like Italy and Spain are deeply Christian.

3) Obviously, Fleming is expressing a black-white worldview that is wholly without nuance (and wrong). But, even if he's right that the two options are Christianity and atheism -- they're not, but let's play along -- how is it that Christianity promotes freedom and liberty while atheism does not? If anything, the reverse is true. While this is a generalization, I admit, Christianity has long been the enemy of freedom and liberty, as is it today with the theocratic fundamentalist Christianity that is so politically powerful in the U.S. If you really want to be free, do away with Christianity (and religion generally). Actually, just oppose the sort of Christianity Fleming seems to want to govern American society, a Christianity that seeks to impose a moral code that is decidedly against freedom, including the freedom not to be that sort of Christian and to believe in other gods, or none at all. The alternative to such Christianity is not necessarily atheism, which can, I admit, be absolutist, but the removal of religion from the public sphere and the freedom to believe what we want to believe in private.

4) Like so many on the right, Fleming doesn't know the Constitution, or what America is all about, or at least distorts it to suit his theocratic agenda. Is America a Christian nation? In terms of sheer numbers, Christianity may be the largest religion in the U.S., but no, it isn't. Last time I checked, the Constitution, that document of which conservatives are supposedly so enamored, what with all their high-falutin' talk about the original intent of the Framers, does not establish a state religion and does not endorse one religion over any other. Isn't that supposedly what America is all about, founded in direct contrast to Europe, the Old World, where countries, as well as sub-national states, imposed state religions on oppressed peoples, usually some form of Christianity or other, and a long and bloody history driven largely by religious belief and religious hatred had dominated the entire continent, pushing so many to find freedom in the New World across the ocean?

5) It is not just incredibly ignorant but disturbingly dangerous to paint American politics as the battlefield of a civilizational clash, whether between Christians and Muslims or between Christians and atheists. It is a gross misrepresentation, of course, but also an invitation to extremism and possibly violence. We have seen, many times, how the far-right fringe, now increasingly the conservative mainstream, responds when incited like this, and it can get ugly. Those like Fleming who push this sort of propaganda are largely responsible for it -- and must be held accountable.

6) John Fleming is an idiot. And, clearly, a worthy CRD.

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