Barry Goldwater Was Right

I recall my dad’s quips about Barry Goldwater – laced with profanity and superlative, he had some pretty harsh things to say about a man he though betrayed the country. My dad wasn’t what you’d call a hardcore Republican, but he definitely sympathized with “the cause.” Which is weird because my dad was also an atheist. But I digress. Imagine my surprise as I grew into adulthood to find that although Barry wasn’t the more statesmanlike of statesmen, he had some pretty insightful things to say about the Radical Right.

A set of them comes from a speech he gave in 1981, summarized in the New York Times, September 16, 1981. In this first clip, he despairs over the Radical Right’s unwillingness to compromise. Tell me if you think this sounds familiar:

There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God’s name on one’s behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom.

In the same speech, he goes on to decry how they control the political dialog:

I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in “A,” “B,” “C” and “D.” Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me?

This is 1981, mind you; the very apex of the movement that Jerry Falwell dubbed the “Moral Majority” and that Pat Robertson tried to appropriate for his own presidential bid in 1988. Although Falwell and Robertson did not have compatible views on Christianity, they were in lock step where governance was concerned. They envisioned a CHRISTIAN United States of America. That’s probably why Goldwater rankled at the pressure he and other “old school” Republicans had to endure for political and financial support.

I’m sure that as he saw the closing years approach, Goldwater became somewhat bitter about how he was thrown aside by the Radical Right. That bitterness comes out in this well-trod, oft-cited Goldwater gem from John Dean’s book Conservatives Without Conscience (2006):

Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.

Yet, there’s a better, more prophetic view from an interview published in the Washington Post, July 29, 1994.

When you say “radical right” today, I think of these moneymaking ventures by fellows like Pat Robertson and others who are trying to take the Republican Party away from the Republican Party, and make a religious organization out of it. If that ever happens, kiss politics goodbye.

Given all of the evidence – the vitriol that has surrounded Obama since Day One of his administration, the hateful things that the Radical Right has committed against Hillary Clinton and other Democrats (and even several Republicans) that the soul of the Republican Party is no longer has the best interest of America and for Americans?

Stop Blaming “GOD” and Start Believing in Humanity

Source: Wikipedia
One of many depictions of “God.” Depending upon your influences, God is piloting a spacecraft, operating a holy button machine, or playing a cosmic organ at church.

As advanced as we pretend to be, we still have some pretty amusing superstitions. Well, actually some of them are pretty damned tragic. Like the one that says “god” will come down from heaven one day and lay waste to all people who don’t believe in her. Poppycock.

As an avowed Atheist, I do not believe that an all-powerful deity will swoop down and do anything – except maybe to stop by Area 51 and find out why the “angels” never reported back (TIC). But seriously, rain down from heaven to lay waste on the puny unbelieving humans? And yet, from altar, dias and pulpit we hear it proclaimed; idiot Chicago area Republicans declare it; citizens fear it: “god’s” punishment is ongoing in all form of murder, mayhem, and mischief.

Judeo-Christians are not alone. There are many religions that “believe” this is precisely what “God” (or “Gods”) are supposed to do; that death and mayhem on a grand scale is the purview of the great deity – a pox on you if you don’t embrace it. I’ll bet some clever shaman in the high tundra about 10,000 years ago came up with that idea first – to reign in a restless tribe. Probably the same wanton loin clothed bastard that told other men that women cannot be trusted. But I digress.

Sadly, there are ample examples of people declaring death and mayhem in the name of God (or Allah, or whaaaatever). Take a picture of that – we’re talking about men (e.g., terrorists from Chechnya and Waziristan, and gun-toting knuckle draggers from the Ozarks) driven out of their minds by what they believe to be the spoken word of their god. Personally, I have a problem with the picture of an otherwise beneficent all-powerful being really giving a rats-behind about little old me. Suffice to say, god’s wrath is a tragedy to those who are the victims and a pathetic waste to those of us who have learned control our impulses and now work toward a more sustainable solution.

Puzzling that Islam – like Christianity – truly tries to espouse peace (read both Koran and NT Bible to find appropriate passages). A vengeful god goes contrary to Christian belief that Jesus Christ was sacrificed on the cross to atone for sins for all time. So what is the problem? A root division within the faith? In Islam – you have influences of Medina and Mecca; differences in interpretation regarding the disposition of “Kafir” (non-believers). In Christianity, there’s the (in)famous division between Protestants (the Reformists) and Roman Catholics. I sat in a bible study once where Lutherans were clucking off about the “evil” of the Vatican; then (on the same day) sat through a Catholic seminar on the unsettling (and unholy) divisions created by reformists. But is that really the cause or merely a symptom?

GodI recently participated as the representative atheist in a “cross-denominational’ table talk at a local university (you know us heathens, we love universities). My assertion is that there is a root division – not within the house of “God” but within the house of humanity. Those who hold reverence to a deity commit the heresy of surrendering human rationality; of denying their human capacity to solve problems amicably without the veil of ‘belief’ to cloud choices. When we hide behind “god” we surrender “god given” freewill for mob action; we merely go with the flow regardless how we really feel. Later – when we are honest – we realize guilt, diminished individuality, foolishness; but we’re back at it again the next worship day – rattling the sabers of faith in homage to god.

The reaction from my fellow table talkers was somewhat subdued, but I took pleasure in one Catholic lady who stepped up to me and said, “You know, you are right. It is a heresy to proclaim punishment in the name of God.”

“Why do they keep doing it,” I asked.

“Because they don’t know any better.”

The absolute real solution to the problem: stop blaming god and start believing in humanity. Take personal responsibility for your actions and stop asking god for permission to do the right thing.