Dr. Gerry Lower, Keystone, South Dakota
Faith has re-emerged at the very forefront of American culture over the
past few decades, nourished by fear and uncertainty among the people over
the potentially violent nature of international relations during the Cold
War and by the natural and inevitable human move toward international
collaboration and globaliazation, as driven largely by western capitalism.
The term "faith" in this context is restricted to faith in the
Old Testament world of superstition and conjecture.
The religious right wing sees this return to "faith" as a good thing for America and the people and no one promotes the bottom line of faith more than the Bush administration with its "faith-based initiatives" and its unabashed reliance on religious self-righteousness and coercion in justifying pre-emptive war and political dominion. Beneath this "holier-than-thou" surface resides a neo-conservative, Old Testament world view embracing the concept of perpetual war in pursuit of apocalypse and the fulfillment of religious prophecy.
As an active advocate, the Bush administration has demonstrated its "faith" on numerous occcasions during its recent tenure. It has, for example, shown faith in fabrication and coercion as an approach to ensuring fulfillment of both its domestic and foreign policy agendas (not to mention its "spiritual" agenda). It has demonstrated its faith in the honesty and integrity of a seriously corrupt corporate America. It has demonstrated its faith in the rich and the notion of helping the people on the bottom by rewarding those at the top.
In turn, religious conservatives have shown deep and abiding faith in the Bush administration and the neoconservative regime which occupies the White House. In turn, the American people have shown deep faith in Bush's born-again religiosity and deep faith that Bush's Old Testament god will guide Bush in doing the right things to make things right in the world.
Everywhere faith abounds in a nation birthed from human values and human knowledge. The people are told that they must have faith in their leaders, faith in the economy, faith in an America that no longer honors the values of its Founders, faith in an America whose nascent values are in full check by the values of crony corporate capitalism and CEO's whose leadership is considered transcendent of America's Founders. The people are told that they must have faith in the honesty and integrity of religious leaders, faith in their ability to police their own ranks, faith in that which is unbelieveable and unsupportable in courts of American law (e.g., "Scope's Monkey Trial" of 1925).
The world of religious faith is a world of faith in faith itself, simply because so much of the religious "world view" is based on supernatural conjecture that can be "believed" (actually "accepted") only on faith. This is the world of Biblical inconsistency that Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin wanted to restrict entirely to the home front and entirely away from the political arena and the people's government. This is the "bloomin', buzzin' confusion" that William James wanted to politely restrict from the American socioeconomic world in the name of American pragmatism. How soon the American people forget, nourished to do so by a greed-driven capitalistic socioeconomic system that literally begs living in the tiny, history-free world of the "here and now."
Despite the desire of America's Founders to establish freedom of religion and enforce it with the separation of church and state, it would be terribly mistaken to assume that men like Jefferson and Franklin were men of little faith. They were, in fact, men of great faith. Following the signing of the Constitution, for example, (which Jefferson saw as an "oligarchic device for denying democracy" to the people.) both men had to have immense faith that America would survive a corporate takeover by following a Constitution too far removed from the spirit of the Declaration. In this regard, contemporary America has made Franklin into a prophet for seeing, at the onset, that America was at risk of falling back into despotism and not even knowing it. The American people have been warned of this outcome by presidents from Jefferson to Lincoln and Eisenhower.
Jefferson and Franklin, in watching the Tory right wing pervert the intent of the Declaration, had faith to spare, but it was not placed in religious superstition and supernaturalism. Rather, they maintained faith in human reason and knowledge, its abilities to contribute to human self-comprehension and its abilities to solve human problems. They maintained faith in the human nature and the people.
When we claim to have faith in a thing, we are actually claiming to have faith in our belief in that thing, faith in what we believe to be true about that thing. In other words, faith is properly a function of belief. We can only have faith in that in which we can believe. Faith in that which we cannot believe is faith in faith itself, aka blind faith, of the sort traditionally requested by the Roman church and now demanded by the Bush administration on all issues, domestic and foreign.
The Bush administration is actually asking that the people please have faith in the Bush administration (and otherwise just stay out of the political arena for any purposes other than promoting and voting neoconservative Republican). In doing so, the Bush administration is asking that the people relinquish their responsibilities as citizens and relinquish their hard won human rights in the name of "homeland security" and Bush administration dominion.
The Bush administration is asking that the people abide lies and coercion in fulfilling their proper role as obedient sheep under religious despotism and rule by the few. By politicizing every issue, the Bush administration is asking that the people relinquish their soverieign status and power in the name of crony capitalism. Whenever one sees coercion of any kind employed in a Democracy, one is actually looking directly at worldly corruption. Whenever one sees corruption, especially when justified with religious values, one is actually looking directly at spiritual psychosis.
Human faith is properly a function of human knowledge and belief. Science provides a pan-cultural knowledge base and a natural philosophy applicable to all people. Its political philosophy, Democracy, provides pan-cultural wisdom applicable to all people. Its theological base, Jefferson's nascent Christianity, provides pan-cultural enlightenment applicable to all people.
Science was correct and religion was not about the motions of the sun and the earth, wrong about the origins of the earth, wrong about the origins of life on earth, wrong about the causes of disease, wrong about political philosophy, wrong about the values of nascent Christianity and wrong about human nature in general. Science has, indeed, never lost an argument to religion, in two and a half millennia.
Science asks only that you put your faith in human knowledge and reason. Democracy asks only that you put your faith in the people and human rights. Nascent Christianity asks only that you put your faith in honesty and compassion as the proper basis for all further thought. All three only ask that you think for yourself and judge not others but judge their judgements. All three naturally-occuring belief systems are based on dialectic human values, derived in precisely the same logical human manner, i.e., by dialectic synthesis of the values of western religious systems and eastern ethical systems to reach middle human ground.
The values of Science, Democracy and nascent Christianity are uniformly grounded in empirical/logical knowledge and are uniformly scientific in derivation. Accordingly, faith in Science, Democracy and nascent Christianity is similarly grounded. American values and American faith in those values are both necessarily knowledge-based.
We must, of course, have faith, and it is traditionally American that our faith be based on something in which we can honestly believe. The Bush administration provides the people nothing resembling reason and knowledgeable leadership in government and it provides the people no reason to have faith in the unbelievable, the deceitful and the preposterous. In the final analysis, the Bush administration has no knowledge-based values and it has no faith in anything human, simply because it has no beliefs upon which human values and human faith can be intelligently based and maintained.
Dr. Gerry Lower lives in Keystone, South Dakota. His new book, "Jefferson's Eyes - Deist Views of Bush World," can be explored at www.jeffersonseyes.com and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .