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RANT FROM APRIL 1999
"Fundamentalists and Republicans"
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     Not long ago I finished reading a strange book -- a
scholarly study of Mithraism, the mystery religion which was
Christianity's most serious rival in the first centuries of the
current era.  It was rather esoteric stuff, but I found the
parallels between Mithraism then and fundamentalist Christianity
now quite striking.  Both displayed a sort of narrow-minded
piousness, which was called "ethics," but wasn't ethics at all. 
It was cultural arrogance and imperialism, machismo, jingoism and
xenophobia.  This, in both cases, was mixed with an other-worldly
theology, which seemed to be logically self-consistent, but which
flew in the face of common sense and scientific evidence.  For
example:  "Mithra will come again and the dead will rise and be
judged by him, and all who are different from us will be
destroyed."
     Mithraism caught on especially in the Roman army, just as
fundamentalism has in the American military in our time.  The
habit of taking orders and obeying them in mindless fashion seems
very helpful in living according to either of these other-worldly
narrow-minded doctrines.
     If Humanists in our day do not lose heart completely, we may
yet see the time when what happened to Mithraism will also happen
to doctrinaire Christianity, namely, extinction.  Scholars today
have to dig to find evidence of the existence of Mithraism, in
underground structures excavated by archaeologists.
     Right now fundamentalists are beating a retreat from the
public arena, after the failure of the effort to remove the
President of the United States from office for immorality. 
Several leaders are suggesting that the faithful retire from
public life altogether.  One stated flatly, "There is no moral
majority."  We tried to tell him that thirty years ago, but he
wouldn't listen.  Now he's convinced that the majority is
immoral, and he recommends that believers let "the public thing"
go to hell.  So, we can be hopeful.
     We can save the monuments of Christianity -- the cathedrals
and the paintings, the oratorios and all the books -- and be
thankful that only a minority are taking any of that
preposterously ego-centered doctrine literally and seriously.
     It is no accident, however, that it was the Republican Party
that the Christian fundamentalists recently tried to take over. 
That party is the party of Holdfast, in contrast to the
Democratic Party, which at least pretends to care a little about
have-nots and have-very-littles.  The Republicans have achieved
their goals of individual wealth, and have gathered together to
create laws and foster belief systems which will enable them to
keep what they have and add more to it.
     The fundamentalists have also achieved what they want --
they call it "salvation," which is some kind of inside track on
Cosmic Favor and Cosmic Power, almost a sort of secret weapon. 
They want not only to keep that, but to destroy all those who
don't have it:  unwed mothers and women in general, rebellious
students and the young in general, all failures including the
homeless, the sick and the elderly, and all thoughtful people
including Truth Tellers, Whistle Blowers, Falsehood Revealers,
Mockers and Satirists.  Starve them, imprison them, kill them --
destroy all vestiges of those godless vermin.  The Republicans
and the Fundamentalists agree on this basic plan.
     We have a remarkable local example.  Here in New Mexico we
have a governor who believes that those children with spina
bifida should get up out of those hospital beds and find jobs,
jobs that include the fringe benefit of a health-care plan that
will cover their previously-existing condition.  If they refuse,
for any reason, they should be left under the Bridge, to starve
with all those other welfare bums who refuse to work.

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Copyright © 1999 Harry Willson

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