It’s ironic finding myself writing this article against religion in the US on an early Sunday, but perhaps there is no better time to discuss the effect religion, and especially Christianity, has on the American conscience. I generally thought religion had a positive role to play in the lives of its worshippers until recently when I ran across this survey that suggests six in ten American Protestants consider torture, an illegal activity condemned by the United States under the Reagan and Bush/Clinton administrations, often or sometimes justified! How did the religion of peace, a derisive term reserved for Islam, get to this point in a democracy which supposedly follows the rule of law? Had any other religion’s adherents so overwhelmingly advocated breaking American and international law there would be a tremendous shout to get rid of such people from the shores of America, send them back to ‘where they came from’, in whatever way necessary in order to return us to the God fearing, peace loving and law abiding nation we all know we are; yet the faith that holds the majority of followers in this country, also holds the most number of people who think torture is ok.
I don’t think religion is responsible for that fact, although one could possibly point to scripture to substantiate the assertion Christianity is a violent religion, or to historical events wherein Christian inspired leaders of this country and others were responsible for the wholesale plunder and murder of entire civilizations; Vietnam comes to mind in my lifetime. Most likely scripture and history are not things which people drew on to support their belief in the necessity for torture in modern day America, but that still does not scratch the itch I have to the question why is Christianity so wrapped up in activity that we were told was the sole endeavor of our pagan or Islamic enemy? Perhaps because like so much else that takes place on the world’s stage, the victor usually re-writes history to support negative notions of the vanquished and our modern day, 20-21st century crusade against Islam has made it possible for us to do that, starting with the conquest of Palestine and upto the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.
There is however another contributing factor to our belief and/or support for terrorism and that is our increased militarism. It appears our belief in our own military superiority makes us more susceptible to notions of torture than countries not as aggressive as we. We rank with Egypt, South Korea, Nigeria, Turkey, and India as a country that believes some degree of torture should be allowed, whereas the historical base of America, old Europe and those countries we denigrated because of their reticience to embrace our last Iraq adventure, most notably France, Spain and Britain, are less inclined to support torture. The totalitarian regimes of Russia and China have less people who support torture than America as does Iran a country under threat of military action from America or its allies. Does that mean in order to get better, i.e. eschew the idea of torture, we’ll have to get worse first and turn into repressive regimes which have no regard for human rights or the rule of law?
One could look at this in another way, absent the religious/military inference. Despite all the electronic gadgets we own, and I count myself up there among the techno geeks, and all the access we have to various information sources we still are quite backwards in our thinking, and oppressive in our policy making. The enlightenment we claim to possess, the exceptionalism we assert is ours is accepted only by third world countries which equally oppress their citizens or have in place draconian laws which are based on class and ethnicity. We are now wallowing around in the mud they have mixed with the sweat of their citizens and we are no better than they. The very reasons we have given for invading countries, their repressiveness towards their own citizens or the threat they pose to their neighbors has now become a staple which we readily accept as a part of our diet. There are no moral compasses to redirect our wayward ship from the disastrous course it has set for itself into oblivion. Instead what we have are lighthouses of mass media which are shining beacons of darkness that lead an America towards notions that are perfectly ok with torture, even among the religiously minded followers of the Prince of Peace. Perhaps instead of his followers we have become his torturers; after all he is said to have died at the hands of an over zealous state intent on destroying the message he brought. That is the greatest irony; a Christian population which has forsaken its founder and instead identified with his enemies. America, you have lost your way.