Many times in life, when you are on road to one place, you find things to help you on other roads you have crossed, or will in the future. Such is the case for me just today.
I presently working on a project where I am reviewing several different Linux distributions. The fruits of this labor are to be seen here in some form or fashion in the near future. That project isn't as important as the small bit of information I happened upon in the midst of working on that project.
I was in the process of reviewing a Linux distribution known as Slackware. Unlike the other Linux distributions already reviewed, Slackware boots to a command prompt instead of booting directly to its graphical user interface (GUI). For some reason, when Slackware comes to the prompt, it throws little gems of intellectual prowess at you. It was one of these Slackware quotes that brought about this article.
As anyone who has read my stuff knows, I hold a rather dim view of organized religion in general, and christianity in specific. So you could say that when the following quote happened upon my screen, I was taken aback. In a simple batch of words thrown up by an open source, free, UNIX-based operating system, at last I found codification of my ideas about mainstream christianity.
During almost fifteen centuries, the legal establishment of Christianity has been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution. -James Madison
I sat there dumbfounded for quite some time. I'm not kidding. I just sat there transfixed reading that quote over and over again. I knew I was going to have to write something about this. I knew at that point that my beginning this quest into the world of open source operating systems was no freak accident or some random thing. There was indeed a political purpose that lay just below the surface. I had to go low tech for a moment and pull out pen and paper to write the quote down so I could write about it here. Now, let's take a moment to analyze the words of the fourth president of the United States.
During almost fifteen centuries, the legal establishment of Christianity has been on trial.
James Madison (1751-1836) lived fifteen centuries after the establishment of christianity . Even though he was Episcopalian, he still held this view of christianity. I suppose that lends more credence to his words. He wasn't some raving atheist, agnostic, or pagan (like yours truly). Therefore for him to critique his own religion in this way gives his words more power.
What has been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy...
Pride and indolence in the clergy. The pride part is easy, but let's consult the dictionary for a definition of indolence. Dictionary.com defines "indolent" thusly:
1. having or showing a disposition to avoid exertion; slothful: an indolent person.
2. Pathology. causing little or no pain; inactive or relatively benign: an indolent ulcer that is not painful and is slow to heal.
For the word indolence, it merely says, "the quality or state of being indolent."
So, James Madison is saying that the clergy is both prideful and slothful. Does this seem to make sense from a 21st century perspective? Well, taking a quick look at the crop of Religious Reich's best and brightest, the answer seems to be yes. While the word "indolence" may not cover everyone in the Religious Reich, prideful covers them all very well. Let's look at some clear examples.
Let's start with one of my personal favorites: Scary Jerry Falwell. Is he prideful? Yes. He has self-righteously placed himself in the role of being the conscience of America. From seeing a gay conspiracy in the Teletubbies and SpongeBob Squarepants, to doing everything in his power to destroy the separation of church and state, he's there being his prideful self.
How about indolent? Well, considering his physical look, I think that question can be answered rather well. Other than sitting on his piles of money, preaching from his pious pulpit, and finding gays under every carpet and behind every baseboard, what does he really do? Not a damned thing. He obviously can't be bothered to do any of the things his supposed savior would have him do; care for poor, the sick, or the old. No, all he can do is beg for cash, persecute homosexuals, and spew his self-righteous sh*t hither and yon.
Then there's Pat Robertson. Is he prideful? Oh yes. Always quick to blow his opinion far and wide on the Christian Broadcasting Network, he seems think he is the preeminent American. What else could explain his calling for the assassination of Hugo Chavez other than pride? Would his Savior, the man who said, "love thy neighbor as theyself," have called for the assassination of Pontious Pilate, the man who condemned him to death by crucifixion? If ever there were someone who had vested interest in an assasionation, it was the Rabbi Christ concerning Pilate.
As to indolence, other than being on camera a lot on CBN, what does he really do? About the same things that Falwell does. I'm sure Robertson thanks his "lord" daily that his natural metabolism keeps him from looking like the bloated butterball Scary Jerry Falwell.
...ignorance and servility in the laity...
Once again, is there really a question about this? I could and have written complete essays on the ignorance of the "sheep" of christianity. This is always the area in this debate where I draw the greatest amount of fire, so I'll be clear. When I say ignorance, I mean unwillingness to question the bill of goods they are sold. I mean unwillingness to think for themselves or make up their own minds about what their "good book" even says. Finally and worst of all, I mean unwillingness to even question the moral character of those who claim pious lordship over them.
In all these respects, the mainstream Religious Reich style christian is completely ignorant. What's even worse, they are seemingly proud their ignorance. The quote, "God said it, I believe it, that settles it," stands as proof of this reality. I am not the one who made this up, I am merely putting it out for the world to see. Because of their easily led nature, gays remain second class citizens, DUBYA remains office, and the rest of our federal government shakes in their piss soaked boots in fear of retribution from the political power of the Religious Reich.
On servility, let me say two words, Oral Roberts. The fact that he netted over six million dollars in short order after his crocodile tear-filled sermon where he said the "lord" was going to "call him up" if he didn't raise that much cash, can there be any question of servility? While the point could be made, and rightly so, that this incident is more proof of ignorance then servility, the fact that the money came pouring in, and the fact that he actually went over his mark by a few million proves the willing servility of the laity to send their hard-earned money to a charlatan.
Not one of those contributors questioned the fact that death is supposed to be the ultimate good thing for the christian. Going to heaven should be a reason to celebrate, not send cash to prevent from happening. They simply sent their contributions. Wow, don't I wish I could get six million bucks just by going on TV and saying I was going to be taken to heaven if I didn't get it? Yeah, I wish making money was that easy for me.
...in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.
At last, the real crux of this biscuit comes. Let's analyze each separately.
Superstition? Is it not the backbone of religion? I offer proof of this by saying one thing: "intelligent design". In the 21st century, for any group to hold on to metaphoric hyperbole as fact is nothing short of superstitious. This is even truer when almost no one in the world of science questions Darwin's Theory of Evolution. Some sciences, such as the latest and greatest science of genetic engineering are firmly built upon the Theory of Evolution. Evolution is a reality. It has been moved from theory to fact as the years have passed between Darwin's time and ours.
Numerous missing links have come into being. The rise of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection (MRSA) , the continuously mutating HIV virus, the common cold, and the yet to arrive bird flu all stand as further proof of the reality of evolution. Evolution has gone from theory to reality. Still there are states this country that force teaching of the christian-based "intelligent design". A theory that says the world is no more than five thousand years old, and dinosaurs traveled with Noah on the ark can't be anything but batch of superstitious bullshit.
Bigotry? Do I even have to qualify this? If so, let me say, "homosexuals."
Persecution? See above!
So, here we sit at the dawning of the 21st century, a time that was sold as the pinnacle of high tech society. Yet we remain burdened by the yolk of christian pridefulness, indolence, ignorance, superstition, bigotry, and persecution. We live in a world where science and learning are subverted by the ignorant whims of the Religious Reich and their rabid followers. We live in world where issues of private choice and personal pursuits of happiness are turned into moral issues, yet clearly moral issues are ignored.
Here we are, almost three hundred years since James Madison made this quote, and still, we have not learned. How many more centuries will America and the world have to suffer under the weight of christian pride, indolence, ignorance, servility, superstition, bigotry, and persecution? I shudder to think.