Sketches on Atheism

The World’s take on U.S politics, 2012.

It was busy, it was mesmerizing, it fortunately had the right outcome, I spent way too much time trolling Fox News and CNN message boards getting up to mischief, and the take-away from the year that was U.S politics, 2012, was this:

Democrats = Relatively Sane

Republicans = Categorically Batshit Crazy

Sadly for my American friends in the eyes of the civilised world it really was and is that simple, but for many of us sitting outside looking in with wild fascination we weren’t in the slightest bit surprised with that final post-election autopsy. With a staggering 46% of American adults believing in creationism (Gallup poll, June 2012) the continued rise and influence of Christian Dominionism inside conservative U.S politics meant it was only a matter of time before the Todd Atkins and Richard Mourdok’s got in front of microphones and bull-horned the ignorance of this perversely odd political strain.

The United States is though unique – dare I say it, exceptional – and nowhere did this ring more true than in the 2012 U.S. Republican Presidential primary race where three of the nine candidates confidently proclaimed that God had personally told them to run for office. One can only assume the candidates were referring to the Middle Eastern God, Yahweh, but as far as I’m aware no explanation was given as to why precisely this entity brokered in the sands of the Edomite Desert and dressed-up up with ideas fashioned in the Talysh Mountain range of modern day Iran had any interest in American politics.

If that wasn’t madness enough, seven of the eight men and the outstandingly backward freak show, Michelle Bachmann, publically declared they believed in the literal interpretation of the Old Testaments’ Book of Genesis: Creationism. Grown adults – supposedly intelligent public figures – who proclaimed with conviction that a magical sky being fashioned the heavens and the earth and all that swam and flew and walked in a mere six days then apparently waited 4.6 billion years to tell some goat herders in the desert how to behave.

Now of course, in the ‘young earth’ creationists mind the earth is in fact some 6,000 years old which presumably means geological and paleontological evidence to the contrary is nothing but the tell-tale signs of Satan’s far reaching deceptive work…. A claim championed by fellow Republican, Rep. Paul Broun ( who astonishingly holds a seat on the Congressional House Science Committee),who said in October, “All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell. You see, there are a lot of scientific data that I’ve found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth… I believe it was created in six days as we know them. That’s what the Bible says.”

It sounds outrageous but Broun was the rule, not the exception inside the modern Republican Party. Meet the other Republican members of the Congressional “Science” Committee.

Todd Akin (R-MZ): “Pregnancy from rape is really rare. If it’s legitimate rape, the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down.”

Ralph Hall (R-TX): “We have some real challenges; we have the global warming or global freezing and then we have the space, the NASA program, that’s enough for any one committee.”

Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI): “I personally believe that the solar flares are more responsible for climate cycles than anything that human beings do.”

Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA): “Is there some thought being given to the clearing of rainforests so some countries can eliminate that source of greenhouse gases?”

(Again) Paul Broun (R-GA): “Scientists all over the world say that the idea of human induced global climate change is one of the greatest hoaxes perpetrated by the scientific community. It is a hoax. There is no scientific consensus.”

Sandy Adams (R-FL): “I am encouraging us to reduce funding for climate change research, which undercuts one of NASA’s primary and most important objectives of human spaceflight.”

Mo Brooks (R-AL): “We have higher levels of carbon dioxide. That means that plant life grows better. Does that mean I want more of it? I don’t know about the adverse effects of carbon dioxide on human beings.”

It’s lunacy, sheer and utter nonsense and it bled-through into the candidates the party fielded in their run for the White House.

What we witnessed was a blatant exercise in wilful ignorance that demonstrated a level of mental and personal ineptitude that was as dazzling as it was disturbing. Here was the cream of the Republican Party – adults – proudly parading around on an anti-science, anti-logic platform and, worryingly, being cheered on by their audiences. In the minds of the candidates, or at the very least on their lips, climate change was nothing but an elaborate international conspiracy, and evolution a cunningly well thought-though hoax; absurd notions developed and promoted by well-funded public policy Conservative Think Tanks such as the Heartland Institute and the even more bizarre Discovery Institute.

These pseudo-scientific organisations have since the mid-1980s and early 1990’s sought to blur the line between American public policy, science, and religion and in the case of the Discovery Institute are financed by Christian Reconstructionist groups whose stated objectives include the establishment of the “the infallibility of scripture, and the total integration of biblical law into our [American] lives,” as their mission statement reads. Whereas the mostly oil and coal financed Heartland Institute – infamous for producing such notable studies as one which apparently proved second hand cigarette smoke wasn’t dangerous to children – seeks to discredit climate science by any means necessary the Discovery Institute actively directs its researchers efforts to disproving the Theory of Evolution: a nonsensical endeavour which amounts to little more than an ill-conceived, borderline psychotic adventure into the irrational.

Now, only a madman would say every rank and file American Conservative falls-in neatly behind this orchestrated line of wonton scientific deception and outright religious folly, but the problem exists when individuals are elected to public office who for one reason or another promote these erroneous, misguided, religiously inspired views of reality. Such public figures, public servants, are more susceptible to coercion and manipulation by preachers, preposterous biblical interpretation, and organisations such as Heartland and Discovery Institutes and therefore more readily prone to suspending reality and foregoing notions of the public good.

Case in point being President George W. Bush’s banning of Stem Cell research which put American medical science a decade behind the rest of the world for no other reason than his religion got in the way.

Unfortunately for the United States, Bush’s actions were not isolated. 2012 has been furnished by even more startling examples of religious foolishness interfering in the workings of a supposedly modern, advanced society. On the 10th of January, 2012, the Republican-led Missouri House of Representatives presented a bill (The Missouri Standard Science Act, HB 1227) that required “the equal treatment of science instruction regarding evolution and intelligent design.” In other words, the bill demanded the teaching of the Christian six-day creation myth as a viable scientific theory to school children. Also in January the Republican-led Indiana Senate introduced a bill (#89) which read: “The governing body of a school corporation may require the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life, including creation science, within the school corporation.” Again, a state legislative body demanding an Iron Age fairytale be taught as fact; a move mirrored by the New Hampshire and Oklahoma senates in February and April when they pressed forward with House Bill’s 1457 and 2341 respectively which called for creation ‘science’ and Intelligent Design to be taught as competing theory’s to evolution. In March, the Republican-led Tennessee legislator voted in favour of allowing the Ten Commandments to be displayed in any public building (HB368). A day later the states Senate passed SB 893; another ‘creationism bill’ permitting teachers to teach the Christian creation myth and Intelligent Design as an alternative to science.

It’s timely to be reminded that these cases have all unravelled in 2012, not 1212, and it is the United States I’m talking about – the land of Jefferson, Franklin, and Adams – not Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, or some other Islamist nation struggling to lift their legal codes, legislative bodies, and education systems out of the Middle Ages.

I could go on, god only knows (excuse the pun) I could go on, but I’ll leave it to the Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer, Wayne Swan, who perhaps best summed up the year that was U.S politics, 2012, when he said on the 20th of Sept: “Let’s be blunt and acknowledge the biggest threat to the world’s biggest economy are the cranks and crazies that have taken over the Republican Party.”

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