Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Robertson Captures The Conservative Conscience (Again)

Fear and hatred. Hatred and fear. It seems to be all the conservatives can muster these days when confronted with the reality of our modern world. This includes their spiritual leaders, such as radical cleric Pat Robertson, who reminded us all again today of what a respected leader he is in the conservative Christian community.

From Americans United:

On the live version of his "700 Club" program today, Robertson charged that Islam is not a religion of peace, that Muslims are demonic and satanic and that they are trying to take over the world.

Said Robertson, "These people are crazed fanatics and I want to say it now: I believe it's motivated by demonic power, it is satanic and it's time we recognize what we're dealing with. The goal of Islam, ladies and gentlemen, whether you like it or not, is world domination." He insisted that "Islam is not a religion of peace."

I love the response of Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United:

"At a time when inter-religious tensions around the world are at an all-time high, Robertson seems determined to throw gasoline on the fire," said Lynn. "His comments are grossly irresponsible. Robertson seems to be wrestling with demons of his own, namely intolerance and bigotry. To condemn an entire religion because of the behavior of some is deplorable."

The thing that makes these rabid outbursts from Robertson so instructive is that they reveal what conservatives actually believe about Muslims, which is why conservatives tend to distance themselves from Robertson so quickly. He doesn't bother to couch his bigotry in carefully coded language, the way most conservatives do. Their opinion of Muslims and Arabs remains the same, however, and Robertson is certainly not the only conservative to say so. Don't forget:

Ann Coulter

"We know who the homicidal maniacs are. They are the ones cheering and dancing right now. We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity."

Or, more recently:

"I think our motto should be post-9-11, raghead talks tough, raghead faces consequences."

And that's only the tip of the iceberg. Robertson and Coulter are just a few of the more obvious bigots because they eschew any sense of political correctness. They take pride in their message of intolerance and their popularity with rank and file conservatives is undeniable. They speak for far too many others in the United States who are only too willing to embrace the "War on Terror" as a war between Christianity and Islam.

As a general rule, I try not to get too much into the "My God can beat up your God" argument. As an atheist, I don't believe that any religion has the market cornered on truth and enlightenment. However, in light of Robertson's remarks I have to point out once again the hypocrisy of blaming all of Islam for the actions of Al-Qaida or Islamic Jihad. It's comparable to blaming all Christians for the actions of the Ku Klux Klan or Christian Identity movement. Robertson is taking extreme examples of bad behavior, mixing in a heavy dose of his own fear and bigotry, and producing a "straw man" of Islam that doesn't really exist.

The reality is that if Robertson's opinions of Islam were correct, the "War on Terror" would already be over and we would have lost. Quickly. There are over a billion Muslims on the planet and if all were the violent stereotype conservatives fear, then the "war" would be over. Fortunately, such bigoted stereotypes are figments of the paranoid conservative imagination and nothing more.

Religions are only as peaceful or as violent as the societies they exist within. Neither Islam nor Christianity are inherently violent or inherently peaceful. Both contain teachings for war and for peace, just as human history demonstrates times of both. War and peace have many causes and there is no objective way to distill out religion, or the lack thereof, as a significant cause of either. Only steadfast commitment to the civil rights of others, whether founded in a humanist belief in equality or the "Golden Rule" of Jesus, can lead to peace. Robertson, and those who feel as he does, miss that point completely, which is why their faith is essentially meaningless.

To close, I leave you with a quote from the Q'ran, espousing the value of peace. Realize that it's the same Q'ran that both Osama bin Ladin and Yusuf Islam read, just as both Pat Robertson and Mother Theresa read the same Bible.

And the servants of the God of Mercy are they who walk upon the Earth
softly; and when the ignorant address them, they reply: "Peace!" 25:64

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