“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion … ”
In my opinion those ten words and the ten Amendments to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, are responsible for creating a nation which has withstood for nearly 225 years some of the most contentious eras, divisive politics and even a Civil War. It has at times, perhaps, even in our time, teetered on the edge but standing nonetheless by our fundamental belief that there is something within worth saving and worth all the blood spent to save it.
The US supposedly sells the wares of its democracy all over the Middle East. Time after time what do people there do with the concept of democracy? They elect theocratic tyrannies. The Middle East, of course, provides us with crystal clear visionary evidence of the destructive nature of religion when made a part of the governing fabric of its ruling class. If Iraq is not enough to persuade one of the violent civil wars religious fanaticism creates, then perhaps one can look now to Egypt which has elected, by democratic majority, the Muslim Brotherhood in its president Mohamed Mursito, an advocate of state sponsored Sharia law (religious law), anti western, anti-Israel and anti women political/religious sentiment. The destabilization that began with the US invasion of Iraq spread to the revolution in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and, perhaps, beyond. A friend of mine asked “Why is it that in those extremely rare instances when the Arab world actually has a free election, they always seem to vote in dictators?” My only answer: religious toxicity.
Israel, a country I happen to love, too, has its religious fanaticism which paralyzes any progress toward a genuine peace by religious edict refusing to abdicate settlements on the West Bank which could pave that road. It is in the Bible, you know, that God ordains one people and nobody else to have that particular West Bank land. Even worse, if that were possible, recently as stated by Alex Klein in the Daily Beast a progressive blog:
… vandals scrawled Hitler-friendly hate speech across Israel’s most sacred memorial [to the Holocaust], Yad Vashem. The culprits were likely extremist Jews [from the haredim, or ultra-orthodox sect].
It was deduced that it was probably they from the error-strewn Hebrew writing usually written by an orthodox sect who speaks mainly Eastern European Yiddish and not well-versed Hebrew. The extremist orthodox Jewish sect claims Israel should not exist until the Messiah arrives. They do not say which plane he will be on or even WHY, indeed, THEY are there.
Our own democracy, which pays at least lip service, to the Founders’ separation clause, harbors our own threats of religious insanity by creating a religious party in the form of one of the two main parties, the Republican Party, whose membership requires a litmus test of an unquestioning Christian fealty in the extreme. No one could, within this Party, rise in its ranks if their belief is not deemed Christian enough. It seeks the conversion and strict adherence to its Christian religious principles (whatever those are) enmeshing it tightly within the fabric of the state.
We are close to becoming, in pertinent part, that which our Founders, men of the Enlightenment, loathed – a religious fanatical state as our country is ripped in two separating one half from the other. I pray every day that this does not happen but I fear every day that it will.