#MAGA = Misguided Appallingly Gullible Americans


I was doing my dead-level best to be non-confrontational when I replied to the poster of this image earlier today on Facebook. I was attempting to not be the freethinker that I am, but instead be an unbiased observer answering the question presented.

You can see it, right? The problem in the sign? In the question? You can’t? Please allow me to spell it out for you then.

Let’s assume that there is nothing wrong with putting god first. It’s a big assumption, but play along with me for a few minutes. Whose god shall we put first?  There are thousands of gods created by man down through history. Thor? Isis? Jupiter? Allah?

I know, I’m just teasing you.  Obviously it is the christian god that the sign wants us to put first. This is America, home of the Bible thumpers. Obviously the meme creator means the christian god. But there still is a question that needs answering, even then. Are we talking about the magic underpants Mormon god, or perhaps the Calvinist predestination god? Are we talking about the Catholic god or the Protestant god? Which one of the thousands of flavors of christian god gets to be the God that goes first before all things?

The problem is that Americans, specifically European Americas, largely immigrated to the Americas to escape religious persecution (this is the comment that got me blocked by the family member who posted the image) I could produce any number of references backing up this historical truth.  The one I picked today was this one.

The religious persecution that drove settlers from Europe to the British North American colonies sprang from the conviction, held by Protestants and Catholics alike, that uniformity of religion must exist in any given society. This conviction rested on the belief that there was one true religion and that it was the duty of the civil authorities to impose it, forcibly if necessary, in the interest of saving the souls of all citizens. Nonconformists could expect no mercy and might be executed as heretics. The dominance of the concept, denounced by Roger Williams as “inforced uniformity of religion,” meant majority religious groups who controlled political power punished dissenters in their midst. In some areas Catholics persecuted Protestants, in others Protestants persecuted Catholics, and in still others Catholics and Protestants persecuted wayward coreligionists. Although England renounced religious persecution in 1689, it persisted on the European continent. Religious persecution, as observers in every century have commented, is often bloody and implacable and is remembered and resented for generations.

The Library of Congress

 It was this experience that lead the framers of the constitution to explicitly leave all references to religion out of the founding documents for the United States of America. It is why the first amendment to the constitution, the first right in the bill of rights, is freedom of religion. The freedom to have any religion or no religion at all. That is what freedom of conscience means; the right to choose your own path based on your own private council.

The inherent mistake in the image is the shallow belief that your god must be affirmed in order for America to return to greatness, when in actuality no one follows your god except you. This understanding is built right into most flavors of the protestant christian religion. It was necessary for the protestants to be able to talk to god directly and not have to go through the intercessor of the Pope and his priests. To not have to ask any authority except your own conscience for forgiveness. To do away with the bureaucracy of religious authority and rely on the individual’s personal relationship with their own god to show the right and wrong of their own behavior.

Catholics risk going to hell for transgressing the Pope’s edicts. They alone of all christians have an authority that talks to god for them and lets them know whether their behavior is good or bad. The 90% of Catholic women who use contraception are breaking the rules of their church as defined by the Pope, but you don’t see too many of them worried about this sin that they engage in on a daily basis. Why? Probably because they don’t put god first. Who can blame them when the cost of raising a child tops a million dollars these days? If men could give birth, contraception would be a mandate funded by the federal government.

However, the Catholic god is the only christian god that can be mandated and have a code of ethics attached to it by right of the Pope’s edicts. All the other christian gods are held within the individual consciences of each person who calls themselves a christian, and mandating those gods be put first is simply a affirmation of one person one vote as the basis for the organization of government. Liberal democracy is the basis for empowering all protestant religions large or small.

American greatness, liberal democracy in general, resides in the right of the people to follow their own individual paths to greatness. The individual freedom to keep your own council, to act according to one’s own conscience, makes America as a whole greater than the sum of its separate parts. We forget this fact at our peril.

What has to come first, before god, before religion, is something that was created with the United States itself; the notion of the supremacy of secular civil society. While individually our consciences must be acknowledged as our guides, what must guide our government is consensus, not any one person’s god or conception of god.

America is already great, and the saddest fact of all is that a wide swath of Americans don’t know this. They have fallen victim to a charlatan’s flim-flam act. A snake-oil salesman who hopes to cash-in on the lies told to the people of the United States for decades now.  He claims he can Make America Great Again, as if American greatness is something that can be given to us by an authority figure.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

American greatness is found when Americans realize we don’t need authority figures to tell us what to do. American greatness is based in all of us acting on the council of our own consciences. Providing food and shelter to the homeless. Comfort for the bereft. A ear for those who just want to be listened to. The answer is not to ask a leader “what should I do?” but to ask yourself that question in the light of your most fervently held beliefs, and then act on that advice in the best, most humane way possible. In the end, we will come to a better answer than any authority with a lifetime of knowledge can get to on his own. This is known as The Wisdom of the Crowd, and it is true whether you believe it or not.

Steven Pinker‘s book The Better Angels of Our Nature puts the lie to the notion that we are in a moral decline without god, and there are countless other resources which document through scientific inquiry the improving quality of life in the modern age. If you want to know why you are dissatisfied with your lot in life, you need look no farther than the contents of your own mind. Be the change you want to see in the world, and the world will look better to you because of it.  Not because of god, or of any other authority you might appeal to.

Or as I would say to the person who posted the image if I was still speaking to her, don’t ask questions you don’t want to hear answers to. It will save all of us a lot of time. 

FFrF Radio: Fourth Week of March

Podcast Link.

March 22, 2008Guest: Harvard Prof. Steven Pinker

As a salute to the Easter Holiday (which roughly equates to the Vernal Equinox) Dan discusses the origin of the word Easter, which is a corruption of the name for the goddess Ishtar-Astarte who later became more widely known as the Greek goddess Aphrodite. The Vernal Equinox heralds the return of spring, so the festivals of Spring naturally include fertility gods and symbols of fertility (like eggs and rabbits) since Spring represents the re-birth of the world from the death of Winter (at least in the far northern climates) The translator of the King James version of the bible substituted the word Easter for the word passover, and so popular celebrations of the day, which were pagan in nature, entered into the bible as a christian holiday.

Theocracy Alert contrasts the posturing of Obama’s pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright with the fundamentalist pastor, John C. Hagee, who endorsed John McCain. In that light, it’s pretty hard to figure out what all the fuss is about. Why don’t politicians’ keep their religious lives personal, here’s a good reason to stop wearing religion on their sleeves; a sentiment voiced by Annie Laurie Gaylor.

Freethinkers Almanac features a tribute to Arthur C. Clarke, who died this week. The end of another SF era is upon us. So long, Arthur.

Steven Pinker has been on the show previously. The Stuff of Thought is his latest book. His interviews are always thought provoking.

As an authority whose testimony has been requested by the Council on Bioethics, Steven Pinker has a personal insight into the problems with the anti-science views of the Bush White House. Most troubling is the trumping of rights with the concept of dignity; as in the dignity of human stem cells, trumping the rights of scientists to explore the possibility for cures held within these special types of cells, and the rights of patients to receive treatments involving stem cells or transplantation.

The report Human Dignity and Bioethics produced by the council is especially problematic, producing what can only be seen as a religious test when it comes to perceptions of dignity.

Nothing with gods, nothing with fate; weighty affairs will just have to wait.

Stephen Sondheim, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

2007 Archive episode.

March 24, 2007Priest Abuse of Children

Every copy of Freethought Today, the newspaper of FFrF, features a blotter sheet on Black collar crime, which frequently involves children. Annie Laurie Gaylor was one of the first publishers in the modern age to bring attention to the crimes of men of the cloth (although in previous generations freethought publications were known for this) because, as the leader of FFrF, she received letters from individuals who were suffering at the hands of their religious leaders. After she realized how many such stories she had in her files, she decided that it was necessary for someone to publish these stories.

Joe McGee was the guest. His chronicle, No longer Catholic, No longer Quiet was published in the March 2006 edition of Freethought Today. If you want to know the details of what Joe went through at the hands of his priest (and also his family. His father was a devout Catholic who denied his family basic needs in order to be able to tithe larger amounts to the church) you’ll have to read the article or listen to the podcast. I’m not going to paraphrase any of it here. This was a hard episode to listen to. As the father of two children myself, the stories of child abuse were almost more than I could stomach.

Mercifully, the episode ends with one of Dan’s pagan pulpits. Dan fillet’s Paul Campos’ article Why there are almost no genuine atheists, starting with the observation that he might have been more enlightened on the subject of atheism if he had bothered to talk to one before writing his article. It almost gets the bad air of priest abuse of children out of the ears. Almost.

Philip Appleman reads Exegesis as the show ends. Definitely apropos.

FFrF Radio: Secular Songs

Something that I’ve actually enjoyed while listening to the program. Not so much Dan Barker’s singing, but the other artists who are free thinkers whose works get mentioned and played makes a list too long to get into here.

Podcast link

Amongst the regular recurring songs (Ain’t it the Truth, It Ain’t Necessarily So, etc.) were several other songs I’d never heard before, including one by John Lennon (Found Out) and one by XTC (Dear God) I’m going to have to pick up an XTC album.

2006 Archive episode.

December 30, 2006 – Steven Pinker – Ghost in the machine? He doesn’t think so. The staggering complexity of the neural network in the brain is enough to explain consciousness. I don’t know that I agree with his argument, but he makes a pretty good case.

Several songs featured in this episode as well. Dan Barker’s rendition of Die Gedanken sind frei most prominently. Also a tribute to Auld Lang Syne composer Robert Burns at the end of Freethinkers Almanac.