Texas has recently done a monumental disservice to their youth by choosing to rewrite the history of this country, and their hegemonic rumblings touch on the larger issue of religious fundamentalism and its creeping influence in our country. As a red-blooded and loud-mouthed American, I feel the need to throw my hat into the ring.
Before I address the religious issue I’d like to talk briefly about gun control, since the Texas School board feels the need to highlight the importance of the Second Amendment, which strikes me as the least important part of our Constitution.
I have no interest in arguing the history or intent of the Second Amendment. A great deal of legal and historical scholarship has done a much better job of researching and enumerating those issues, and I won’t be able to change your mind about the mythos of the armed militiaman, whichever way you believe.
My point is a simpler one: a proper democratic government has inbuilt revolutionary principles. Voting replaces the need to violently overthrow governance in order to change policy. You can’t outgun the army; if they ever decide to take your vote away, your assault rifle won’t do much against their drones. So we need to work from the idea that our vote is safe, insomuch as we will continue being allowed to vote.
That being said, the only way a representational or democratic system can excel is with an educated and informed populous. If the people are the arbiters of decision-making, they must have the tools to make the right decisions. And don’t tell me the people are powerless to influence politicians, the recent SOPA/PIPA defeat is evidence enough that an informed populous can successfully take democratic action.
What Texas is doing is ensuring that its populous does not have the tools they need to make our system succeed. Just ask Gabrielle Giffords how well ill-informed insurrectionists are able to participate in our national discourse.
Now then, on to religion.
The Texas board decided to erase Thomas Jefferson (yes, the Thomas Jefferson) from their history books, the man who originated the term “separation of church and state.” They also, ”rejected an amendment to ensure that children learn how the United States was founded on the principle of religious freedom and refused to require that ‘students learn that the Constitution prevents the U.S. government from promoting one religion over all others.’”
This move is part of what I can only think of as a looming religious war in our country. And it is not, as some would have it, a war begun by atheists and heathens on good Christians. It is in fact a war initiated by fundamentalist Christians on progress and reason. They believe scientists and sociologists and artists and all the rest are out to get them, to sweep them aside and do away with their beliefs. In truth, these agents of progress did not set out to undermine religion, no more than a freight train sets out to crush a fly that wanders into its path.
Progress simply is. Those who choose to interpret a two thousand year old mythology as literal truth are inherently threatened by the advancement of knowledge because it understands their literal truth as a mythology – one of many. As progress brings education in science and history to more and more people, this understanding spreads, and the fundamentalists see their influence waning.
So they strike back, they attempt to pass laws and regulations that govern sexuality, women’s bodies, and children’s minds. They do everything they can to undermine progress. They mimic the information-control techniques of totalitarian regimes they claim to despise. They decry Sharia law while attempting to impose laws of the same type and intent. This is not a war on religion, it is a religious war on reason, and it is a conflict that must come to a head.
They say that atheists are without faith. As an atheist, I reject this idea. I have faith in humanity and human potential. In particular, I have faith in humanity’s potential to attain both greatness and goodness free from both the guidance and restriction of religion.
At its best, religion is about being a better human being, and there is nothing good in this war on reason.