Monday, April 19, 2004

Freedom from Religion

Freedom of religion is a fine thing. Freedom from other people's religion would be equally wonderful, but I don't know any country in this world that constitutionally guarantees this important right. Even the Christians who were eaten by the lions in the Roman amphitheater would agree with me on this one. So would anyone who has had a Jehova's witness tell her that she is a whore because all women are (this happened to me) or a Christian children's book seller tell him that his children are going to hell if he won't dole out some cash for the books (this happened to a friend of mine), or anyone who works with one of those religious missionaries, always trying to convert anything that moves (this happens to everybody).

More importantly, many if not most world religions have unfriendly words to say on the topic of women, and fundamentalists who take the two-thousand old writings as literal divine truth can really make women's lives horrible, whether these women belong to the same religion or not. We all know what went on in Afghanistan, and there's probably a plan for a 'kinder, gentler' Taliban somewhere in John Ashcroft's private papers. He'll get to it some time in the next four years if he's not stopped. His right to be a Pentecostal is guaranteed in this country, but my right not to be treated like his religion believes women should be treated is not. A big problem.

Here, my dear reader, you might wonder why I'm worried about all this, given that I'm a goddess myself, and can easily smite anyone who irritates me. The answer is that I'm a Fair and Righteous Goddess, and I do not like injustice. Besides, I'm half a woman and half a snake, and you can guess what Ashcroft would think of this. So I want to stop him.

I'd also like to stop all the other religious fanatics who want to wage war and kill people through vile and despicable acts of terrorism and state terrorism. Most real people are inbetween these terrible armies, and it's these real people that largely get killed in this religious war. Because of someone else's religion or someone else's interpretation of religion. What would Jesus say about this? God? Allah? Unfortunately, the ancient texts contain whatever you're looking for in them, having been compiled over periods of some hundreds of years by people with varying political opinions. We need a revelation, desperately. If none of the Big Guys speak up soon, I need to organize something that might look like a real revelation.

In the meantime, I worry. See what president Bush just contributed towards the idea of a holy war:

Yet Bush, by embracing Sharon's own unilateralism, was in effect throwing sand in Muslim faces worldwide. Other than the invasion of Iraq, there's hardly anything Bush could have done to muster even greater support for the worldwide jihad.

What is Bush thinking? There are clues in statements from his press conference. "Now is the time, and Iraq is the place, in which the enemies of the civilized world are testing the will of the civilized world. We must not waver," the president said. Later, he added, "I also have this belief, strong belief, that freedom is not this country's gift to the world. Freedom is the Almighty's gift to every man and woman in this world. And as the greatest power on the face of the earth, we have an obligation to help the spread of freedom."
Bush came pretty close to proclaiming the fight against radical Islam the divine mission of the United States. He may not have meant that, but you can rest assured that is just how much of the Islamic world will view his comments, especially in light of his actions the next day on behalf of Israel. You can also bet it will be read that way by the American religious right, which sees in defending Israel a way to bring about Armageddon and the second coming of Christ.
We can't know Bush's motives, but it's not difficult to read the effects, and they risk being catastrophic. There are pragmatic reasons why some of what Bush gave Israel Tuesday will be part of a final agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. But it should have come about through negotiations. The way Bush has chosen to do it is essentially saying, again, to radical Islam, "Bring it on."

Reassuring? Not really, unless you belong to one of the two armies who claim to fight for God. If you don't, you better start lobbying for the right of freedom from religion. Other people's religion, that is.