call to fight religious fundamentalism

Why I Will Continue To Fight

After the election results were final, I, like many Americans, felt a
profound sense of despair and hopelessness. How could this have happened?
This was not about fighting some evil cabal in the White House. It was not
about Bush/Cheney/Rove. It was about the American people choosing to leave
power with a clearly corrupt government, in spite of the debacle of the last
four years.

And then I saw the exit polls: the two top reasons people voted for Bush
were terrorism and “moral values.” It became clear to me that a significant
reason for Bush’s victory was the rise of fundamentalist religions in this

At first I didn’t know how to respond ­ if so many in this country are
casting their vote based on what I consider to be primitive belief systems,
maybe it was time for me to move elsewhere. Many friends echoed that
feeling. Part of me felt like throwing in the towel: "You made your bed,
America, now sleep in it."

But then I thought that perhaps this election was a wake-up call. It
suddenly became clear to me that battle lines had been drawn. Those of us
who feel that government, (indeed, people in general), should make decisions
based on reason and enlightenment are being challenged by those who think
decisions should be based almost entirely on religious beliefs.

And it goes beyond that. I also believe that fundamentalist belief systems
are inherently damaging to the individual and to society. I know this
because I once was a born-again Christian (I even prayed in tongues). I
know that when you lead your life based on a rigid set of beliefs that allow
for no questioning or individual thought, things become “clear” in dangerous
ways ­ it’s one of the reasons Islamic fundamentalists have been able to
recruit terrorists to do the horrible things they’ve done. And make no
mistake: fundamentalists in America are enacting their own form of
terrorism, albeit without physical violence.

We all know that the fundamentalist movement is growing in America: we’ve
seen creationism being debated again, after it was consigned to the ash heap
decades ago; powerful political organizations being formed by the likes of
Pat Robertson; media “watchdog” groups like Focus on the Family having a
huge impact on what we are allowed to see on TV; Halloween “Hell Houses”
around the country that use high-tech theater to scare teens into thinking
that homosexuality and abortion rights lead to eternal hellfire; the list
goes on and on.

A 1997 poll found that 43% of Americans who believe in heaven also believe
there are harps in heaven:

The possibility that those people are taking over our country is
frightening. If this movement continues to snowball, it could throw us back
into another Dark Ages. The Age of Reason could be coming to an end,
replaced by an Age of “Faith” ­ rigid, uncompromising, intolerant faith that
leaves no room for enlightened debate or discussion.

So what do we do?

I know what I’ve decided. From this day forward, a major portion of my
activism will be dedicated toward stopping the march of fundamentalism in
this country, because that movement affects all the activism we work on:
AIDS, abortion rights, women’s rights, anti-war movements, homophobia,
racism, etc.

Those of us in the other half of the country need to realize that this is
war. They’ve known it for years and have even said as much. But we’ve been
too timid to call it as we see it, for fear of sounding elitist and
trampling on people’s right to their beliefs.

But I’m saying it now: fundamentalism, whether Christian, Jewish or Muslim,
is dangerous and wrong. It prevents people from doing what we are all here
to do: to learn, to grow, to become more enlightened. Rigid, confining,
strict belief systems are strangling individuals and this country. We have
to fight back.

And while I have no desire to outlaw or suppress any religion, I have a deep
desire to promote clear thinking and reason, and I now dedicate myself to
fighting any belief system that prevents the human race from moving forward.
Anything less, and we risk a return to the Dark Ages, when superstition
and magic prevailed over science and reasoning.

This is not a call for a war on spirituality or organized religion. It is a
call to stop the kind of fundamentalism that reduces people to sins rather
than seeing them as human beings. It is a call to arms against the same
kind of "moralism" that used the bible to support slavery and the oppression
of women.

Where do we start? I don't know. But we have to start talking about it,
even though we know the response will be swift and strong. If you agree
with me, please forward this email to friends and email lists - add your
comments at the beginning if you like.

Let’s start the discussion - maybe we can turn this increasingly
"faith-based" country back into a reality-based one.

thank you to Mark Milano for this essay

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