Wednesday, August 10, 2005

'Good' religion, 'bad' religion

Express Staff Writer

So what do you suppose is the latest diplomatic hand-wringer in Iraq?

The White House is uneasy that religion could become overbearing in Iraq's new government, and wants U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad to express concerns to Iraqi leaders.

More than a few Letters to the Editor in U.S. newspapers have mockingly noted the irony of the faith-based Bush administration fretting about religion's undue political power in Iraq even as President Bush panders to American religious fundamentalists, and encourages them to shape U.S. policy with hand-picked judges and politicians approved by evangelicals.

Naturally, American religious hard-liners will claim a noble distinction: Christian religion is good for U.S. government; Islamic religion is bad for Iraq.

Extremists go to bizarre lengths to inflict their ecclesiastical dogma on Americans. TV evangelist Pat Robertson lapsed into solemn prayer on camera last week, asking God to create "more vacancies" on the Supreme Court. Was he wishing death or retirement on justices?

Then there's Dr. James Dobson, the influential psychologist-turned-preacher-turned-multimillionaire-turned-powerbroker, who threatened President Bush he'd have hell to pay if he doesn't deliver on the fundamentalists' theocratic agenda. Dobson's figurative fist-shaking at Bush is the equivalent of a Muslim imam issuing a fatwa to keep Muslims in line.

Even the new effort to criminalize abuse of the U.S. flag has a stealth religious meaning: Former Nixon speech writer and recently retired New York Times conservative political columnist William Safire writes that the word "desecration" in the constitutional ban has powerful religious connotations—"An act of disrespect or impiety toward something regarded as sacred." Old Glory now ranks alongside the Bible?

Opposition to stem-cell research and demands to teach "intelligent design" (creationism) in public schools are grounded in religious doctrine, not science.

As if rebuking his boss in the Oval Office, the White House's director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, John H. Marburger III, told the National Conference of Science Writers that "intelligent design is not a scientific theory."

From the Deep South, where backwoods roads still feature billboards proclaiming "Jesus Is Coming," a new national hero for hard-line Christians has emerged: Former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore is crusading to install large depictions of the Ten Commandments in public buildings as well as possibly becoming Alabama governor.

"God has chosen this time and this place so we can save our country and save our courts for our children."

Judge Moore apparently hasn't checked with James Dobson about whom God has picked to save Americans.

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