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Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Christians with a pagan outlook

The President underlined his pagan beliefs in this Washington Times interview I found through Echidne today.

"I think people attack me because they are fearful that I will then say that you're not equally as patriotic if you're not a religious person," Mr. Bush said. "I've never said that. I've never acted like that. I think that's just the way it is."

Besides having to puzzle out why the President thinks that it's just fine to secretly believe that you can't be a Christian and a patriot at the same time as long as he hides that belief, I think we have an interesting insight into the way that wingnuts combine love of country and belief in God. It's downright pagan is what it is.

Well, it's pagan in the ancient, poly-theist way where each nation had its own god or gods looking out for them right next door to another nation that had its own god or gods. Being religious and being a patriot were one and the same if you were an ancient Greek, Egyptian, or Jew. The advantage of this is if you go to war with someone and pray to your god for help, you can be sure that he has no divided loyalties, since your enemy is praying to an entirely separate god. One of the pleasures of reading Homer is how he imagines the gods taking sides--Greeks or Trojans?

When you are a poly-theist and your neighbors have gods, you are likely to accept those gods' existence as well, even if you do not bother to worship them. All through ancient Greece, each little town had its own set of local gods, and I doubt anyone wasted time saying that their wood nymph was real but their neighbors were worshipping a false wood nymph. The Romans allowed a certain amount of religious freedom to their conquered people as long as those people paid tribute to their gods, which apparently was no big deal to poly-theists due to the "always room for more" mentality.

It's inevitable that with monotheism there is going to be a break between nationalism and religion. This too makes sense. There is only one god, but there are many nations. You go to war, you're both praying to the same god. Under monotheism, separation of church and state is the only way to keep the peace amongst various people who have different religious views. If one monotheistic religion tries to force its practices on another, well the other is going to react strongly against worshipping a false god, or at least doing it the wrong way.

Under monotheism, patriotism and religion must be kept separate. If your nation is going against your god, you have to side with god. Again, not a problem with polytheist patriots who just side with the god that's currently siding with their nation.

Bush and many on the Christian right are thinking paganistically. God, it seems is an American and belief in Jesus is the same as belief in America. One and the same. To fix the cognitive dissonance in their heads that comes from knowing that the Muslim enemies (and make no mistake, this is a religious war to many of them) are praying to very same god, they just deny it outright. Allah is a false god.

I think that it's extremely relevant that fundie Christianity has a good deal of emphasis on the prevalance of actual demons. Demons have always been the way that monotheists have their cake and eat it too--there is one god on our side and everything else is a demon. Not other gods with different, understandable priorities. Just demons working for pure evil.

I'm not trying to romanticize poly-theism by any means. Obviously, it doesn't do much to make people more tolerant or slower to dehumanize their enemies or anything like that. But it did cut back significantly on people coming up with ways to justify their ludicrious belief that there is one god and he must be on our side.

Combining love of god and love of country is pagan at its core.


Blogger heydt said...

It's a little closer to henotheism, which is what the various Jewish tribes were once. The best examples of this are the 1st Commandment (thou shalt have no other gods before me... tends to imply there are other gods running about, doesn't it?) and the story of Jael in Judges. Each of the little semitic tribes had their own personal "one true god" but they didn't deny the existance of the other tribes gods, just their validity. They way some christian commentators have referred to "our god being stronger than their god" seems more henotheistic to me than monotheistic. If they were true monotheists they wouldn't admit the existence of other gods at all.

But no, not very christian, is it? Shouldn't we be loving and forgiving our neighbors?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course, even if they're the same religion, it helps if your enemy is a different denomination, because then you can claim that they're trying to twist the religion into something it's not (I'm thinking of the Spanish Armada and the rest of the Protestant vs. Roman Catholic troubles).
Of course I'm also thinking of Jack "The Catholic Church was founded by Satan" Chick.



Blogger Elayne said...

I always thought it was just called tribalism.


Blogger Joel said...

Interesting. Puts new light on the distinction that Jesus made in the Tribute Money incident. "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, render unto God what is God's." Clear separation of church and state. I've often noted on my own blog that Christ supported this separation.

George W. Bush has also attempted to combine conscience with pragmatism -- where you are guided on the first hand by principles and on the second by what gets you what you want.


Blogger lawrence krubner said...

I'm reminded of a Texan car mechanic back in 1992 who was supporting Ross Perot for President. Apparently a reporter asked him why he was supporting Perot, and the fellow responded by citing the nation's problem with illegal immigration. He followed with the remark "If English was good enough for Jesus then why isn't it good enough for these people?"


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