Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Oh God! Politics and Religion!

A question I’ve been hearing recently—at least for the last twenty years—is put very well, and clearly, and hilariously, by Jesse Kornbluth in his Swami Uptown blog:

“Why would Jesus--who embodied Love--decide to die to save only those who believed in him? Why would He condemn the majority of the Earth's population to eternal damnation? That ain't love. At all.”

George Carlin famously put it this way:

“Religion easily—has the best bullshit story of all time. Think about it. Religion has convinced people that there's an invisible man...living in the sky. Who watches everything you do every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a list of ten specific things he doesn't want you to do. And if you do any of these things, he will send you to a special place, of burning and fire and smoke and torture and anguish for you to live forever, and suffer, and burn, and scream, until the end of time. But he loves you. He loves you. He loves you and he needs money.”

Before I give you my two cents, I must insert here what seems like a non-sequitor but is actually germane. I wanted to discuss a highly intelligent, thoroughly-researched essay about the germination and execution of the legislation known as the Patriot Act, which I have mentioned before. My nephew, who attends an Ivy League University, wrote this award-winning work when he was in high school. One of the most telling sections of this great piece describes the tearing down of legal mortar built since the beginning of our republic:

“Despite the last 200 years of case precedent which expanded the interpretation of the Fourth
, the USA PATRIOT Act greatly expands the power of law enforcement and encroaches on those precedents. The act was passed through Congress with extreme haste, and debates on the act, which normally take place on the floors of the Senate and House of Representatives, proceeded behind closed doors and off the public record. The congressmen and senators were not even able to read
the text of the act before it was brought to a vote. The passage from conception to law for the USA PATRIOT act was one of the shortest ever in American history. The new powers granted by the act which violate the fourth amendment include: presidential power to confiscate any property under U.S. jurisdiction of a non-citizen who plans or carries out an attack against the U.S.; all judicial review of this evidence may be classified and be presented only to a secret
court; federal authorities may use, wire, oral, and electronic, taps and surveillance to produce evidence against those involved in plots with the threat of weapons of mass destruction or computer fraud; the government may direct or compel any person or institution to produce a person’s personal information who is subject to an investigation; greatly increased time periods on electronic
surveillance of any non-U.S. citizen; subpoenas for electronic information now include length, type, and duration of logon and service used, temporary internet connection number, and means and source of payment (credit card numbers and bank accounts); Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) can be forced to produce any information they have on a person if it is for the protection of life and limb;
the government can delay the notice to a person that they are the subject of a warranted search if disclosure of the search would have adverse effects on the investigation; the government can apply for a court order forcing businesses to produce records that are relevant to foreign intelligence and terrorism investigations; allows trap and trace devices, which track a persons electronic activity, to be used with a court order; trap and trace devices can trace all information pertaining to electronic communications except its content; all warrants issued for terrorism related activities extend nationwide; all warrants for electronic communication extend nationwide; U.S. law enforcement jurisdiction extend to any device outside the country owned or operated by a U.S. company which is used to harbor, transport, commit, or deliver a weapon that harms the U.S.; the attorney general can issue wiretaps without judicial consent; warrants, subpoenas, and court orders can be issued by a secret court which the public has no access to; the government can institute roving wiretaps where by anyone’s phone in the U.S. can be tapped.”

(Since there is no link available for this essay, anyone who would like a copy may email me and I will send it to them as an attachment.)

How this cogent argument is relevant to the ongoing questions of God and morality is, that after the argument presented above, my young relative concluded that the Patriot Act should be instituted by law, as it had been! He stated in the work that the law was temporary and up for renewal in three years—this year 2005—and, based on the need for some kind of additional protection following the terror of 9/11, he was in favor of trying it out. When I pressed personally for a further answer from his mother, my sister, she said my nephew just said one night at the dinner table, “I’d rather be bugged than bombed.” To which I refer you back to my prior discussion of the Patriot Act and my reference to what Benjamin Franklin said about a little liberty traded for a little safety: in that case you deserve neither.

Now about God. In the email I received from my nephew with his essay, which I so admire, he apologized for not writing “more I'm in the middle of a nasty complex paper on arguments for and against God's existence.” So there it is: God is directly involved in our deliberations once again. And I thought the argument over the Patriot Act was whether or not our form of government was going to continue to exist or not! I know well enough the academic brainy gesticulations college professors put on their students, so this “complex paper” of my nephew’s didn’t seem radial or out of the ordinary.
Pro and con discussions about religion are always interesting anyway, as long as they weigh more on the philosophical side than the “Jesus vs. Buddha vs. Muhammad” type of invidious assaults. Personally, I have been leaning toward a universal-tolerance vision which envelopes a single human race that is one with God. The Old Testament-New Testament ancient writings that come to us from out of the desert twenty-five hundred years ago are getting a little dusty. And that dust is piled on by the intervening meddlesome generations who have overlooked the spirit of the scripture in favor of analyzing the literalness of it.

So, to my nephew and anyone still reading, the Creator of the Universe, the definition of good, and love, would not punish, condemn, or even sit in judgment. My God would watch the children of God, and see what they were up to. Now just what are we up to if we’re going to live up to such an example of mercy and grace?

1 comment:

  1. I like your idea of a universal-tolerance religion, but I don't think it'll ever happen. Too many people have too many versions of what they're personally willing to tolerate. Check out my answer to Swami's end-of-the-world question for more: Armageddon Insurance http://sallyswift.blogspot.com

    PS You should suggest that your clearly exceptional nephew start his own blog.


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