The recent school shootings (in Parkland, Florida; by the time you read this there may have been another one) reminded me once again that there’s something gravely amiss in the U.S.A. So many abnormal actions and reactions are taking place over there that it can no longer be considered an even remotely normal country. What went wrong? I think it’s clear what went wrong: the nation’s values got grotesquely twisted. The real question is, “Why?”
The Problems Originated With the Authoritarian Revealed Religion That Perpetuated Itself in the U.S.A. Down to Our Own Times
In the modern world where religion is losing traction dramatically in most industrial countries, why does revealed miracle religion still prevail in the United States? We can only guess, but let’s take a stab at it. I think the answer is principally historical. I think it’s relevant that the country was colonized by religious fanatics. The Pilgrims landed in the New World in 1620 and founded the Plymouth Colony. These Puritans (The name says it all.) felt persecuted in Britain and fled to North America where they could practice their reactionary, authoritarian, intolerant religion. They adopted a theocratical form of government that burned “witches,” ruled minds and left an indelible stamp on the subsequent development of the United States. Freshmen American university students still study their writings. You may remember Jonathan Edwards and his memorable sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.
Debating in the 17th Century
The hangover from the fear and confusion of 17th-century theology was such that the young country was never able to shed the belief in the revealed truth. This is a serious state of affairs, as it makes meaningful debate–an essential necessity for the functioning of an authentic democracy–impossible. No amount of reasoning can convince adversaries who already possess the absolute, God-given truth. So, when rational America, which never took the religious right very seriously, dropped its guard little by little over the past 50 years, the old-time-religion folks took complete control of the country. And they’re not about to change their minds. As you can understand, the arrival of President Donald Trump, with his skill in pandering to them, was manna from heaven for the religious right.
That said, religion in the U.S.A. is a porous and elastic smorgasborg. They take away what they want and leave the rest. Most of them retain the belief in “God’s chosen people.” That’s where their chauvinism, jingoism and, ultimately, predatory nationalism spring from. They keep the concept of “God the father.” That’s why they respond so well to paternalism, which might explain why machismo has had such a long run. They are ruled by the concept of original sin and the notion that things of this earth are not important; the only really important events occur after one dies. That’s why the U.S.A. is fertile ground for peddlers of the afterlife. None of them has figured out how to deliver it yet, but that doesn’t matter. Their clients are already unconditional believers. It’s no wonder that no candidate who has not proclaimed him or herself a Christian can ever hope to win a presidential election there.
This disdain for the things of this earth also has unsettling implications regarding the sensitivity of the nuclear button. There is a large swath of the American Evangelical Christian population that is desiring that Israel start a war with Iran in order to precipitate the Apocalypse so they can ascend directly into Heaven. That’s why President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is so ominous. In the minds of most Evangelicals it opens the door to this eventuality. A Pew Research Center study carried out during the American general election found that 80 percent of self-identified white, born-again and evangelical Christians claimed they had voted for Trump, while just 16 percent voted for Hillary Clinton.
Meanwhile, What Is Happening in the Rest of the World?
According to a BBC documentary aired on June 26, 2015, Prime Minister Cameron “leads a country where religious faith, in particular as expressed through the established Church, is in precipitous decline.” It gets better: “The Spectator recently published a cover story about what it called ‘the death rattle’ of Christianity in Britain, in which the Catholic journalist Damian Thompson speculated that ‘Anglicanism will disappear from Britain by 2033.”
A 2015 article in The Telegraph, based on a study done by the Washington-based Pew Foundation, discusses with maps and graphs the projected future of world religions in 2050. They found that a quarter of all Christians – 25.5 percent to be exact – lived in Europe in 2010. By 2050, this is set to drop to 15.6 percent and Africa is set to be the continent with the most Christians. In 2010, nearly 24 percent of the world’s Christians lived in sub-Saharan Africa, by 2050, it will be more than 38 percent, according to Pew.
For Europe, it will not just be the percentage share but the “absolute number” as well that will fall. As the authors of the Pew report explained:
Europe is the only region where the absolute number of Christians is expected to decline by 2050. Europe’s Christian population is projected to fall from 553 million in 2010 to 454 million in 2050.”
And worldwide, this means a change in the countries with the highest number of Christians.
By 2050, the list of the 10 countries with the largest Christian populations is anticipated to change considerably. The United States and Brazil are expected to remain atop the list, but Mexico is projected to fall from third to sixth and Russia is expected to drop from fourth to eighth. Germany and China are not expected to appear on the 2050 list.”
Is the United States immune to this kind of secularization? We used to think so, but the Pew survey found that the percentage of Americans who described themselves as Christian had dropped from 78.4% to 70.6% between 2007 and 2014. Even so, they have a long way to go before reaching European levels of disbelief in miracles.
Today’s Problem in the U.S.A. Is One of Fascist Priorities
The principal problem of the United States is not economic, nor is it about the mental health of (quite) a few deranged citizens. It’s fascism and cynicism mixed with denial, fascism from the top of the totem pole to the bottom, cynicism beyond the pale. The powerful interests that run the country–big oil, pharmaceutical, insurance, military interests, and politicians who want to eternalize themselves in office–aren’t really concerned about the Amerian people, particularly the underprivileged and the immigrants, nor the blacks and the browns, nor the school children nor the churchgoers.
They care about iron-clad adherence to their own diabolical agenda. They care about keeping the American people off balance, intimidated, in short, defenseless in the face of the permanent-war cult. Not only do they not bother to apologize for the gun deaths—in schools, in churches, in fast-food outlets, on the streets and all the rest. They—including the President himself—don’t even acknowledge that the gun deaths are due to guns. This isn’t because of ignorance. President Trump himself may not be a beacon of intelligence, but he’s not so stupid that he doesn’t notice that there’s an inexorable connection between guns and gun deaths. What drives him on this issue is cynicism. He’s so cynical he would rather see school kids die than step down from his pro-gun policies. For that he would have to kiss goodbye to NRA support (allegedly $30 million in the last election campaign) and a large part of his electorate. As you can understand, he’s not about to do that.
Read more rantings in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.
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