Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Whose truth?

Via a sidebar (furling) of Medley, this fascinating article about the assault of Christian fundamentalists on the neutrality of the state with regard to religion, and about what that means about their ultimate goals and approach to truth. The entire thing is great, so it's tough to pick pull-quotes, but here are a few:
America, which separated church and state precisely to protect the private right to worship, has long had its share of religious absolutists who have wanted to harness the power of the state to their own view of revealed truth. But never before in our history has the government deliberately and cynically intervened on the side of the zealots.
. . .
The philosophers of the Enlightenment were men of science who understood that faith could not be disputed but that reason could be subjected to the test of logic and evidence. The American Revolution was a triple triumph -- for political democracy, religious tolerance, and for the free inquiry demanded by the scientific method.

shredding the flagToday's religious extremists are not only trying to use the state, with all its power, as religious proselytizer. They oppose science when it happens to conflict with their version of revealed truth. They twist history to claim that the Republic's freethinking Founders, like Jefferson, Adams, and Madison, were really theocrats like themselves. They long for the predemocratic world of absolutes circa 1500.
And, perhaps to sum it all up,
I never thought I'd live to see a time when the Enlightenment -- the Enlightenment! -- was politically controversial. Democracy, like science, depends on debate, tolerance, and evidence. And in a democracy, nothing is scarier than a political force convinced it is getting irrefutable truth directly from God.
Too, too true.

Aside: Not to make light of the above (go! read it!), but I was reminded of this painful quip from some time back:
At lunch today, a colleague sat down at the table, opened the NY Times, sighed, and remarked: "19th century economic policy, 16th century domestic policy, and 11th century foreign policy -— that’s the Bush administration."

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