19 July 2006

Same-Sex and Guiding Principles.

About two hundred and thirty years ago we had this thing called "The American Revolution" (or if you happen to be British you might consider it nicely as "War of American Independence" or not so nicely as "The American Insurrection"). Among the items decided in the aftermath of that war was an item concerning the establishment of an official religion:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."
In other words, the US government was to stay out of religious affairs by neither endorsing nor restricting any particular religion. I also like to think that the idea of "making no law respecting an establishment of religion" also covers the idea of basing legislation on a particular religion's dogma, since that would amount to a de facto official religion.

One of the Revolution's great guiding figures, Thomas Paine, who like many other leading Revolutionary lights was not not a Christian but rather a Deist (which is why I both laugh and smolder at the erroneous assertions of the religious right who claim our country was founded on anything resembling Christianity), fell out of favor among Americans for his treatise The Age of Reason, in which he specifically attacks Christianity:

"That which is now called natural philosophy, embracing the whole circle of science, of which astronomy occupies the chief place, is the study of the works of God, and of the power and wisdom of God in his works, and is the true theology.

As to the theology that is now studied in its place, it is the study of human opinions and of human fancies concerning God. It is not the study of God himself in the works that he has made, but in the works or writings that man has made; and it is not among the least of the mischiefs that the Christian system has done to the world, that it has abandoned the original and beautiful system of theology, like a beautiful innocent, to distress and reproach, to make room for the hag of superstition."

And so Paine, once a hero of the American people, had to remain for a time an outcast due to his attack on superstition, or what Marx would later call "the opiate of the masses."

All this prelude, of course, to say that we've come around again to the dark ages in which our laws are based not on what is just but on religious dogma. Our elected officials don't even bother anymore to pretend they are following the Constitution, but rather blatantly reject the idea that Congress should avoid legislating through religion:
"It's part of God's plan for the future of mankind," explained Rep. John Carter (R-Tex.).

Rep. Bob Beauprez (R- Colo.) also found "the very hand of God" at work. "We best not be messing with His plan."

Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) agreed that "it wasn't our idea, it was God's."

"I think God has spoken very clearly on this issue," said Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), a mustachioed gynecologist who served as one of the floor leaders yesterday. When somebody quarreled with this notion, Gingrey replied: "I refer the gentleman to the Holy Scriptures."
Wow. We are asked to refer not to the US Constitution for our laws, but to the Holy Scriptures. In Muslim countries, they call this "Sharia Law," and many of these same legislators denounce such legal systems as oppressive etc. Even more interesting is one legislator's definition of marriage, which seems to have more far-reaching effects than mere same-sex banning:
"Marriage is not about love," volunteered Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), who noted his 31 years of matrimony. "It's about a love that can bear children."
So take that, all you infertile women and sterile men. Take that all post-menopausal women. All vasectomied and tubal ligated folks out there. Rep. Akin's redefinition is a sweeping condemnation to you all.

Dana Milbank also gleans this most interesting assessment from one legislator and finishes up his article with a sly little comment:
Gingrey, the floor leader/gynecologist, posited that the debate was "about values and how this great country represents them to the world." After the vote, he elaborated: "This is probably the best message we can give to the Middle East in regards to the trouble we are having over there right now."

So that was it: The marriage debate wasn't about amending the Constitution; it was about quieting Hezbollah.
So back to this Sharia thing. Apparently, Gingrey wants to give the OK to theocratic rule, which puts him clearly in the camp of such notable friends of democracy as Iran and Saudi Arabia. Bravo, Gingrey, bravo.

I myself would prefer a world in which religions are relegated to the same field of study as astrology and alchemy, which is exactly where they belong.


Lonnie Bruner said...

"I myself would prefer a world in which religions are relegated to the same field of study as astrology and alchemy, which is exactly where they belong."

That just made my morning.

Lonnie Bruner said...

Oh damn. Cuff, I just found a group that might be able to help you in disciplining your two kids. Good luck!

Washington Cube said...

Another well written piece. Cuff? WHY must you be so predictable. Just teasing you. You know I enjoy your blog.

After reading all of the Congressional quotes (which are horrors in themselves,) I couldn't help but think "Yes, and what do you think it's like working with these men," and also what I thought while working on the Hill, "these Bozos have such power over the laws that govern us all."

I concur with Lonnie on the quote he cited, but I also guffawed at your "Gingrey, the floor leader/gynecologist."

rcr said...

Awesome post. That's all I have to add.

Momentary Academic said...

C'est magnifique.

Reya Mellicker said...

Love reading Paine's brilliant words. Yours, too - thank you.

Kate said...

Thank you, Cuff!

Other founding Deists? Thomas Jefferson and George Washington (GW was baptized as a child in the CofE, but never became a communicant in his adult life).

mysterygirl! said...

Excellent post. Our leaders referring back to scriptures rather than the Constitution is frightening.

(And I hate always being the one who focuses on the unimportant stuff, but I am still floored by the description, "mustachioed gynecologist")

cuff said...

Wow. I'm amazed to have so many comments. Let me be quick...

LB: I have inlaws who adhere to a similar idea of childraising...scary stuff.

Cube: I'd love to take credit for the floorleader/gynecologist language, but that was Dana Milbank in the Post...I just quoted him...

RCR: Thanks much.

MA: See above.

Reya: We don't delve enough into Paine anymore. He probably scared the others a little bit.

Kate: Washington is a bit of a toss-up for me. I'm not sure where he stood.

MG!: Again, Milbank's words. It's an excellent description, though.

Phil said...

Did someone say 'mustachioed gynecologist'?

Hi, everyone.

Look, the men of Washington likes their sex to be with women who have vaginas. That's all. Sometimes in the rectum...BUT STILL WITH A LADY...use of a cigar is occassionally allowed. What else can our congressional leaders say? It's only natural.

Stef said...

Great post. Thanks for sticking up for our founding Deists. I think they'd roll over in the graves if they knew how the Religious Right has commandeered their good names.