Theocracy in America
Democratic societies have a hard time dealing with extremists in their midst. The desire to show respect for other people’s beliefs all too easily turns into denial: nobody wants to talk about the threat posed by those whose beliefs include contempt for democracy itself.
Doesn’t it just. Which is one reason I keep nagging so relentlessly at this ‘desire to show respect for other people’s beliefs’ – asking why we have it for some kinds of beliefs and not others, and why we have it at all, and the like. I mean, seriously – one reason I don’t have desire to show respect for other people’s beliefs is because people who make a fetish of their beliefs are far more coercive and intolerant and intrusive than people who have the humility and vestige of rationality to realize that mere beliefs are just that, and don’t entitle them to shove them onto other people, or try to tell other people what to do because of them. I think it’s way past time we started telling people ‘if you want to believe in supernatural entities, okay, but you have to recognize that that’s your choice and that you can’t expect anyone else to agree with you – because that’s how it is with supernatural entities: you have no way of giving us any evidence that they exist. So keep your beliefs to yourself.’
One thing that’s going on is a climate of fear for those who try to enforce laws that religious extremists oppose. Randall Terry, a spokesman for Terri Schiavo’s parents, hasn’t killed anyone, but one of his former close associates in the anti-abortion movement is serving time for murdering a doctor. George Greer, the judge in the Schiavo case, needs armed bodyguards. Another thing that’s going on is the rise of politicians willing to violate the spirit of the law, if not yet the letter, to cater to the religious right. Everyone knows about the attempt to circumvent the courts through “Terri’s law.” But there has been little national exposure for a Miami Herald report that Jeb Bush sent state law enforcement agents to seize Terri Schiavo from the hospice – a plan called off when local police said they would enforce the judge’s order that she remain there.
Jeb Bush used his office to try to break the law. (Gee, why does that have a familiar ring to it…)
Yesterday The Washington Post reported on the growing number of pharmacists who, on religious grounds, refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control or morning-after pills. These pharmacists talk of personal belief; but the effect is to undermine laws that make these drugs available.
Welcome to God’s country. Really – it’s way, way past time to stop respecting people’s beliefs and start pushing back.