It’s a theocracy

by Yule Heibel on November 3, 2004

I know a Canadian school administrator here in Victoria, very intelligent, who has dual US-Canadian citizenship through his American mother, and who generally supports Bush. (He’s funny that way, I guess.) A few weeks ago he left me dumbstruck when he said that he thought the US was a theocracy like Iran. I’m an atheist in the sense that I’m highly critical of any man-made monotheistic and paternalistic religion. The thought of some Big Guy Creator “behind it all” just makes me laugh — or weep, but more on that in another entry. I don’t know what this man’s religious preferences are, but I’m almost certain that he’s inclined to my p.o.v. Hence I was really floored by his comment. “What do you mean?” I wanted to know. “Well,” he replied, “it’s impossible for anyone who doesn’t constantly proclaim his faith in God to get elected to anything in the US.”

I think he’s right. I can’t think of any successful candidates who tell voters that they’re atheists or don’t care about religion or think religion has absolutely nothing to do with their ability to hold office. Any candidate who does that is shooting himself in the foot. In that sense, the US is a theocracy: Christian, increasingly fundamentalist Christian, with some rigid Conservative and Orthodox Jewish elements thrown in. Judeo-Christian theocracy, in effect. You have to tell voters that there is a god in heaven who looks just like grandpa, otherwise the voters will think you’re the devil’s spawn. Nor does it matter that you don’t believe in the devil, because they do.

It’s sickening. And dangerous.

My Canadian friend with the dual citizenship from his American mother also seemed surprised when I contradicted him on his assertion that creationism is taught in all American schools. He’s a school administrator, he consults with people from all over the country and abroad, yet his perception was that evolution had been thrown out in all American schools. That’s how bad it is, that’s how America is perceived by others. When I told him that separation of church and state was still the law, he didn’t want to believe me. I told him that Brookline, Massachusetts (where I used to live) forbade the display of Christmas creches on public property, proof of separation of church and state. Alas, I have no idea what the picture looks like in other states, other jurisdictions.

And that gets us to the electoral results map (here‘s one link, although you probably have your own). A tiny universe in the Northeast, a tiny group of states around the old rust belt (with Ohio as the New Florida), and a strip of three states on the Left Coast appended by Hawaii: those’re the states that don’t support Bush. Every other state inbetween this border — which people in those other states probably wouldn’t call a border, but a fringe — every other state voted for Bush. And this time around we can’t even say that Bush didn’t really have a popular mandate. Oh no, yesterday’s voter turnout was huge, it was the biggest in memory, and Bush garnered huge popular support. To claim otherwise would be like saying that the Germans didn’t really elect Hitler. Americans have elected Bush — and no, I’m not optimistic enough to think that Ohio will at the 11th hour go to Kerry.

I lived in that tiny universe in the Northeast, I now live on the West (Left) Coast (albeit Canadian) — I have no conception of what the vast majority of Americans in all those other states is really about. I thought I had some idea, but the divide between us — the atheist and the God-fearing — is too wide. My administrator friend has a clearer idea of what America is all about: it’s a theocracy, and there really is no separation of church and state because only church-goers can get elected to state office. (“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”)

The electoral results maps tell a story of a country on its way to complete religious dementia. The lubricant between those who already live in that world and those who don’t is, as usual, money. The religious pray for more of it, but the others in those not-Bush areas are equally beholden to it. They’ll play along because who is going to put their sorry ass on the line to fight both “god” and the mighty dollar?

Jefferson, that brave atheist, must be spinning in his grave today.


The Happy Tutor November 6, 2004 at 11:52 pm

Have spent 10 years in TX, 5 in AL, 2 in GA, and it is still a foriegn land. Bush and Rove broke the silence, they have made public and acceptable a culture that has long simmered here, as the dominant one. Not just theocratic, but patriarchal, clannish, choleric, resentful, apocalyptic. Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Deliverance. I am almost “one of them,” or can pass, if I stay diffident. But to speak out here is just about unthinkable. Free speech, right. “Where you from, Boy?” “Where you go to Church”? I would say, The Peoples Temple, but they might ask for directions.

Yule Heibel November 11, 2004 at 1:49 am

Hey, Phil, it took a while, but I posted a response (of sorts) here.

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