Those words end a column by Charles M. Blow titled Indoctrinating Religious Warriors. He uses the data from the recent Pew Poll on Public views on Evolution that shows increasing numbers of Republicans rejecting evolution while increasing numbers of Democrats accept it.
Blow quotes Gregory Paul from a piece in Evolutionary Psychology as writing
“The level of relative and absolute societal pathology in the United States is often so severe that it is repeatedly an outlier that strongly reinforces the correlation between high levels of poor societal conditions and popular religiosity.”Certainly we can note the simultaneous increase in economic inequality, the increasing tilt of the Republican party towards White Evangelical Christians (only 27% of whom believe in evolution), the rise of the Tea Party influence within the Republican party, and the rejection of said party of anything resembling a social safety net.
Blow puts it bluntly:
But I believe that something else is also at play here, something more cynical. I believe this is a natural result of a long-running ploy by Republican party leaders to play on the most base convictions of conservative voters in order to solidify their support. Convince people that they’re fighting a religious war for religious freedom, a war in which passion and devotion are one’s weapons against doubt and confusion, and you make loyal soldiers.Please keep reading.
There is nothing new in the powerful manipulating the less powerful in order to maintain or increase their own power. We saw it in the South for years when the powerful were Democrats, of pitting poor Whites against Blacks, painting the latter as threats while simultaneously inferior, in order to maintain the votes of poorer whites. We also saw it used as a rationalization for so-called "right to work" laws as tools of the "reds" as a means of preventing ordinary working people from organizing and bargaining collectively.
The Pew Data, to which Blow refers quite a bit in the column, describes those who take exteremely conservative positions on a wide range of issues -
on the size and role of government, on economics, foreign policy, social issues and moral concerns- as "staunch conservatives" who will likely agree with the Tea Party (including on Barack Obama) and rely upon Fox News as their primary source of information on politics, government and society. And as Blow reminds us,
Fox has helped to ingrain the idea that Republicanism and religiosity are embattled and oppressed, fighting for survival against the forces of secular extremists.This includes the non-existent "war on Christmas" so beloved by Bill O'Reilly. It includes the notion that Christians in the United States are somehow persecuted (while ignoring things like anti-Muslim bias and even hate crimes perpetuate by some in the name of Christianity).
Near the end of the piece, Blow reminds us of Newt Gingrich responding in one debate to a question on bigotry by pivoting and attaching "secular" bigotry:
“The bigotry question goes both ways, and there’s a lot more anti-Christian bigotry today than there is concern on the other side, and none of it gets covered by the news media.”Here I want to pause for a moment.
This website, despite the existence of many of faiths that span the range of religions and spiritualities in this society, harbors a fair number of people who on a regular basis "diss" all religion and demean those who follow religions as believing in fairy tales, or worse. While those of us participating here understand that this site includes a wide range of opinions on many subjects, those expressions can be and are cited as "proof" that people on the left are hostile to religion. I am NOT suggesting that such expressions are improper, although I might point out that they can be counterproductive in a political context.
While in recent years there has been only one avowed atheist in the US Congress (Pete Stark), and while there are Democrats of some visibility who are clearly very religious, some on the political right will cite the most extreme examples they can find to try to make their point. Tim Kaine took time off from his studies to be a Catholic missionary in Honduras. Catholic doctrine opposes capital punishment - which if you consider it, makes sense, because an execution seems to deny the possibility that condemned could reform and be saved by the power of crucifixion and resurrection. Kaine's Republican opponent in his gubernatorial race, Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, tried to attack Kaine as therefore being unwilling to carry out a capital sentence, using this obnoxious ad:
While unlike the famous Willie Horton ad, the murder was not shown as part of the television ad, take a guess as to the race of the murderer, whom you can see here
Kaine pushed back and the Kilgore ad backfired.
Lest you have any doubt, the issue of capital punishment plays as a way to protect against "those" people who are not "like us"- in other words,those viewed as "other" who can be painted as a threat and used as a mean of manipulating people through fear.
The same can be done with science, particularly if the scientists can be portrayed as atheists.
Blow provides a link to this, put out by the Liberty Institute and the Family Research Council, which begins with an open letter to the American people stating
Your most basic rights are being gravely threatened. This threat is coming in the form of a tidal wave of government-driven hostility to religious liberty in America. Such hostility is a tsunami which—if it reaches shore—will sweep away all your other liberties.Take time to look through the piece, starting with the complete opening letter.
Know that the two organization also maintain this web site, which continues to fan the flame of supposed suppression of Christian liberty by an oppressive government (led of course by THAT man, with his strange name and . . . . although they don't come out and say it).
I will suggest that when Blow provides a link, it is usually worth following. It very much is in this case, because after all, you should always know your enemy. And whether or not you view those on the political right, especially those doing this kind of manipulation, as other than misguided or even as the crassest of political opponents, but not as someone to be opposed as sworn enemies, take them at their words - they view you as an enemy to be crushed. They have sworn to do all in their power to achieve their aims.
Which leads to Blow's final paragraph, from which I obtained my title:
This is a tactic to keep the Republican rank-and-file riled up, to divert their attention from areas of common sense and the common good. After all, infidels are deserving of your enmity, not your empathy.Whether or not we are personally hostile to organized religion as a whole, or to particular expressions of religion, it does not matter to these people. Yes, there are those who are being manipulated through fear. Some of those doing the manipulation are cynical - people like the Koch brothers using religion to foment opposition to science that might minimize their profits. Others truly believe in what they espouse and are willing to urge the use of force if necessary to impose their particular viewpoint. That they turn to those like David Barton who have no understanding of what the Founders actually believed in order to claim "history" for their interpretations of our founding documents is another part of what confronts us.
Simply remember, that to many of those, either those being manipulated through fear, and to too many involved in doing the manipulation, we are "infidels" and as Blow tells us
infidels are deserving of your enmity, not your empathy