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Contemporary American Religio-Fascism vs. Science: What Can we Do to Win?

By       Message Kari Ann Owen     Permalink
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Fascism, like any sickness, has distinct symptoms which we ignore at our own peril and possibly the world's peril. A current combination of Edenism and suspicion of reason is one of them.

One symptom of this sickness is Edenic fantasy in which scapegoats are banished. Hitler reveled in this fantasy of a Judenfrei world, as if destruction of a people would have soothed his particular psychopathology. Feminist fanatics I had the misfortune to meet as a graduate student and young playwright had similar fantasies of women's kingdoms that never existed but which were, of course, free of men, all of whom were considered potential rapists in the same way the all Jews were considered potential rapists of the body politic according to Nazi ideology. Living in the Berkeley area while those beliefs circulated was like living in a mental hospital and paying rent for the privilege.

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Another symptom is rejection of logic, of reason, of demonstrable evidence: if global warming is a fantasy, what is a 175 mile an hour hurricane doing in the middle of an American city? Why are polar bears drowning? Why are glaciers melting like ice pies in a bath?

And why do the religious right and its followers deny science as a possible key to understanding and healing parts of our world while at the same time pretending there is an Eden somewhere to which intellectual stupidity can help gain entrance? The Rapture fantasies make me sea sick, picturing human beings sucked through some type of straw.

If these are the alarming symptoms, what is the cure?

George Orwell believed that freedom to say two plus two is four is the most important of all beginnings: "Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows."

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Attempting to rid the religious right of its fears is like trying to calm a terrified child in the dark after he or she thinks they have seen the Boogeyman under the bed. Unfortunately, the religious right are cynical politicians who probably don't believe their own words and are restating Nazi-like superstitions within the draping of red, white and blue; they don't have the child's ability to be soothed or calmed, as a child at least has the emotional honesty to know that at some point, his or her feelings are heartfelt, yes, but their Boogeyman is not real and they are capable of finally recognizing that. Oh, sleepy parents and brothers and sisters, how grateful you must be!

What would lessen the feverish politicization of superstition, of anti-intellectual fear?

The religious right seems to regard science itself as a Satanic tool, probably because they failed in their initial studies as children or because they absorbed a dangerous anti-intellectualism that set them in early conflict with their parents and church communities. This fear was almost certainly more dominant than anything they were learning in school about plants or stars or uncertainty as perhaps the largest truth they will encounter most often, and these then-children felt they had to choose between loyalty to their parents and loyalty to truth. What a horrible choice at such a young age.

And how pathetically similar to my own experience. My father once told me I had been "difficult to control as a child, because of (my) intelligence." So my father's threatened narcissism became violent and incestuous, and in a pathetic family alignment was accompanied by the similar violence of my sister and the complicity of my mother. Science saved me from total psychosis for years by presenting a world my father could not touch, that was not random, that was in some degree understandable and even inspiring in its beauty. A science teacher at a summer camp nurtured my spiritual contemplation of this world with his affection and his treatment of me as a beloved human person and not an anomaly of any kind. Children model themselves on highly proximate adults intellectually and spiritually, not only emotionally, and the most influential and profound teaching combines all three of these elements. So I felt G-d's presence in His created universe and never imagined any contradiction between science and spirituality, believing Ray Bradbury who stated that science is simply an explanation of a miracle. As a little girl I wanted to be an astronomer and explore the miracle further. My mother took me many times to the Haydn Planetarium, although she never talked to me. My uncle bought me a telescope, and I lectured on science to my schoolmates. How immensely important it was to begin knowing a world which my father could not alter to his terrors or his need for constant and absolute attention, like Hitler demanding to be saluted with words and a gesture in every situation, at every moment.

The religious right seems to demand that its god be saluted the same way. Why? Is their collective narcissism as great as my father's? By what or by whom are they so threatened? What will break the spell of their fear and the force of their quest for power?

Can someone reveal the beauty of Intricate and Infinite Creation to Rick Perry and Sarah Palin and their media mouths, while exploring what their true objectives are? What kind of political world do they want, and why does science stand in their way, as if The Theory of Relativity or how the human body is designed can be altered by fantasy? A classroom should be free of everything that might impede discovery, especially prejudice allowing certainty about the identity of the First Creator, which every religion says is different and about which no two people can agree, since there are no living witnesses? And how does the intricacy of our bodies, of the universe's body contradict any concept of G-d, whom Native Americans call the Creator, whom some Jews call Master of the Universe, whom infinite religions call by infinite names? Does awe at the infinite profundity of the night sky change if the observer believes in Christ, Allah, the One Without End or no first cause at all?

I lost interest in science and math at age eleven, when my father came very close to murdering me. The precipitating factor was a math grade given on a curve, where my grade was the second highest in the class. The highest grades were procured by Howard and Christine, our handsomest and most beautiful classmatesl. Howard had seen Christine and me walking together, and remarked, "Beauty and the Beast."

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I then became desperately suicidal, needing to restrain myself from opening my wrists in the bathtub. I asked our local druggist for poison, and dropped the subject after lying about my purpose.

It took a few more years of comprehensive degradation before I became too fragile to be certain of my own existence, much less anything else's. The beauty of intellectual curiosity and the joy of discovery became closed to me, as I could not longer concentrate on anything except music and writing, and a massive weight gain in my teens due to psychotropic drugs made me an object of ridicule in the streets, far exceeding Howard's verbal murder.

Whatever peace I have found has been through friendships with teachers and classmates in two graduate programs, in my marriage to Silas S. Warner, and in the agnostic but faith-centered programs aiding my search for physical health. Even in those programs, I had to stay away from self-worshiping religious and political fanatics, driving one hour one way to go to meetings in sane environments, and after losing too many friends to violence, my husband and I considered moving outside the Bay Area, which has a very poor record of challenging its own fanatics before they disburse their weapons of choice, Kool Aid and the more prosaic firearms. When my husband, a statewide public transit advocate, wanted to run for our transit system's board of directors, I would not allow it out of fear of his assassination due to his huge size, more immense intellect and at times poor social skills due to his father's cruelty and Silas' occasional impatience with persons and feelings. I was always able to forgive his lapses, knowing their causes, but did not trust other people to do so.

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I am a produced playwright,published essayist and doctoral level scholar in religion and literature, living in the San Francisco Bay Area. I am also the widow of Silas S. Warner, creator of the original "Castle Wolfenstein".

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