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Thursday, July 14, 2005

Dark Thoughts on Righteous Retards

Posted by on July 14 at 9:35 AM

Yesterday Brad wrote a post about Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, charting Santorum’s blessedly embattled bid for reelection and a few of the loonier moves that have proven the conservative Catholic senator to be a righteous retard of the first order. (Among the delights: Santorum’s insistence that Boston’s civic liberalism inspired the Catholic clergy to molest children; Santorum’s enthusiasm for cuddling dead babies.)

Contemplating Santorum’s righteous retardation reminded me of the recent Saturday I spent in an auditorium packed with righteous retards, at the gay-conversion conference Love Won Out thrown by James Dobson and Focus on the Family. Sitting in the start-of-the-art Worship Hall of Bothell’s Northshore church, surrounded by Bible-thumping strangers come together to discuss how to cure the blight of homosexuality (a process supported by the same sort of self-serving tautology displayed by Santorum’s clergy abuse theories), I realized two things.

1. These people are so scared of having their belief systems revealed to be fallible, they’ll make themselves retarded with faith before they’ll take one step forward.

2. In the battle between religious fundamentalists and the rest of us (secular humanists, non-secular humanists, believers whose personal faith doesn’t obliterate the legitimacy of others’ beliefs), we will never win.

I'd love to be argued out of this position, but sitting in that auditorium, surrounded by people who'd given up their weekends to debate other people's sexual proclivities, I saw how victory would ultimately be theirs.

Why? A key component of secular humanism and non-fundamentalist faith is the type of "live and let live" attitude that effectively preempts coming together to strategize against "our enemies," or even from designating anyone to be "our enemy." Liberated from the overbearing strictures of so many strains of Christianity (which posit our earthly existences as time spent in the pre-heaven waiting room, where our main task is the restraint of any and all urges that would jeopardize our eternal reward), secular humanists/non-fundamentalists are free to enjoy the fruits of their generous faith (or lack thereof), with the vast majority choosing to spend their time doing 1,001 things other than congregating out of fear and whiling away the pre-heaven hours by warring against a common enemy. (Nothing confirms faith like shared indignation.)

The power of fundamentalists' shared idea of their forthcoming "reward" can't be underestimated. Almost any sacrifice can be rationalized if the payoff's big enough. As for the rest of us, who understand that belief systems can exist harmoniously side-by-side and foolishly strive to make our lives their own reward, will there even be something to make us as single-minded as our "enemy"? I fear not, and the best I can do is pray for another Jonestown.