In the Name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful
=== News Update ===
FALWELL’S LEGACY : Racialist and Islamophobic
May 16, 2007
On May 15, 2007, Jerry Falwell died. He was a fundamentalist evangelist who created the organization the “Moral Majority.” Millions flocked to him and his group. Falwell’s message was of an America that was very bigoted and insular. Anybody who disagreed was an enemy to the U.S.
The significance of Falwell’s program was that he was the most successful person to ever mix religion and the U.S. government. With his success, other politicians and preachers have succeeded him in diminishing the line between religion and government.
To be fair, not all Christians agreed with Falwell’s message. Millions decried him, but millions were converted to his relentless effort to make the U.S. a “Christian nation.”
Among the gems Falwell told the world was that homosexuals were to blame for Hurricane Katrina, the storm that leveled the city of New Orleans. Falwell said that God destroyed the city because of the acceptance of homosexuals in U.S. society.
He made few friends in the Muslim community. Falwell proclaimed that the prophet Mohammed was a terrorist.
On January 16, 2005, I gave the following speech to the Humanist Association of San Diego. It describes the assault on the U.S. society and laws by zealots like Falwell and the lack of scrutiny by the media in questioning the deep scars this could leave on the world, especially in foreign affairs.
How Have We Come to This Point?
How have we come to the point where a major news network airs a program titled, “Can Atheists Really Be Citizens?” How have we come to the point where the number of times one pledges allegiance to a piece of cloth and utters the words “under god” indicates one’s degree of patriotism? How have we come to the point where a Jewish Rabbi gives an invocation to the U.S. Congress and calls for the destruction of the “evil doctrine of atheism?” How have we come to the point where the president of the United States can tell a foreign leader that god told him to strike at Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein and not be lambasted for such remarks. And, when God’s proclamation to George Bush resulted in the deaths of more than 100,000 Iraqis as well as about 1,500 Americans, with more than 20,000 severely wounded, no U.S. media outlet calls the commander in chief to task for the religious tones his message. When Bin Laden talks like Bush, he is an insane terrorist who must be eradicated from the Earth. Bush is considered a hero. And, here is the main point, how can all these travesties occur without opposition from U.S. political leaders, both Democrat and Republican? Not one member of the U.S. Congress called Rabbi Latham’s speech bigoted. Not one member of the U.S. Congress criticized Bush for his jihad call against Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. Only one member of the U.S. congress agreed that the words “under god” should be taken out of the Pledge of Allegiance.
There are many answers to my questions, but two are paramount. First, the religious right has mounted an all-out attack on anything that smacks of secularism in the U.S., in both the public and private sectors. They are currently at the pinnacle of their influence and there does not appear to be any letup on their offensive.
The second primary reason is the acquiescence of the U.S. media to the Christian messages that are constantly bombarding us. Little or no scrutiny is given to the intrusion of religion into U.S. society.
When the Jim Bakker scandal emerged in the 1980s, I remember Ted Koppel blaming the media for the events. He said, “We are at fault. For years, if something included religion, it was automatically deemed to be good and we never checked on it. Now, we have to do our jobs and begin to look into religious activities.” Hooray, I said. It’s about time. But, Koppel’s words were hollow. Once the Bakker scandal disappeared from the public’s eye, religion was again left to ravish the country unhindered.
The media report on items and mention religion in a positive way, such as “So and so, a devout Christian, was named to the board of directors of Peter’s Prophylactic Emporium.” The term devout Christian is inferred to be a very positive accolade. When one runs for office, he/she many times receives the same treatment: ‘So and so, a regular churchgoer,” etc.
However, when a clergyman is arrested for child molestation, little is said about the religious aspect of his actions. How about Boy Scout leaders, teachers and adult supervisors of youth activities who have been found guilty of similar acts. Their neighbors and friends are shocked and mostly say, “I can’t believe it. He went to church regularly.” Or, “He is a deeply devout person.”
There is great danger in assessing someone as religious or devout always in a positive tone. One of the dangers is that one who is not devout is considered to be immoral or perverted by those who are.
The media do not have the cojones to challenge the automatic positive designation of people who are devout. A primary reason is money. Most media owners do not want to create controversy if it can be construed as costing them business. Therefore, the reporters and staff writers stay away from any kind of true investigation. Unless, of course, it is glamorous, such as the case of Bakker or other high-profile clergyman like Jimmy Swaggart. For some reason, the pious enjoy reading titillating stories.
Another reason is laziness. Let me give you an example. In 1992, I was the editor of the East County Weekly Newspaper in Alpine. At the time, the county supervisor for District Two was George Bailey. Occasionally, he would offer a press release bringing the people up to date on pertinent items. Most editors published them word for word without scrutinizing. I always read them, however. One day, I received a press realease and as I was reading, it stated, “Californians are in jeopardy of losing their right to worship.” He snuck this in because he wanted to keep two illegal Christian crosses, paid for by public taxpayer money, in place in San Diego County. But, opposing an illegal cross is something entirely different from taking away one’s right to worship.
I called his office. His secretary told me he would not be back for a couple of hours. She then asked what I wanted to talk about and maybe she could help me. I read her the quote and said, “This is incredible. Please let me know of more information. I may be up for a Pulitzer Prize if Supervisor Bailey gives me some information and I write about Californians losing their right to worship.” She told me she would check it out and get back to me. About one hour later, she called and said that Supervisor Bailey misspoke and he did not mean what he said. I thanked her and told her that I could not run the press release, even without the statement, because Supervisor Bailey may have misspoke at other points and I did not want our paper to be sued. She got the message. He tried to sneak in his own religious beliefs and I called him on it. Unfortunately, every newspaper in San Diego County ran the press released word-for-word.
At that time, Dianne Jacob was Bailey’s assistant and was running for his seat, as he had announced his retirement at the end of his term. I covered the race that was neck and neck with then Santee Mayor Jack Doyle. Jacob is an ultraconservative Republican and campaigned to make drastic cuts in social services. Then, one day, out of nowhere, she announced that she was forming a group called “Women in Politics” that would encourage women to run for office. I smelt a rat. I called her and asked her to explain the program. She said she would be getting members at $50 a head and that they would be encouraged to vote for females running for office. In the area, only two women were visible candidates, her and Janet Gastel, the most left-wing candidate who had run in the district for decades. Gastel was challenging Duncan Hunter for the 52nd Congressional seat. “Oh, I see,” I said to Jacob, “You will be supporting Gastel then. By the way, have you invited her to your inaugural meeting?” Silence. “Um, I don’t believe I did invite her and I am not endorsing her.” I told her that I found it odd that she would not invite the most visible female candidate in the county to be a part of a group whose main goal was to help elect females. By the way, I knew Gastel was not invited because I had previously called her and asked. She laughed and said, “I doubt Jacob would want to be in the same room as I.” Then came the hard question: “This is a fine example of a sorely needed organization. Regardless if you are elected or not, will you keep it going after the elections?” Again, silence. “Uh, uhmm, gee I can’t answer that.” A short phone call exposed Jacob’s falsity in forming a group that she only used as a front to accumulate money for her campaign. More than 100 people (mostly East San Diego County business owners) paid 50 bucks each, giving Jacob more than 5,000 extra dollars for her campaign. Again, I was the only journalist who took the time to expose the issue. She won the election and never again held a meeting for the “Women in Politics” group.
By the way, Jacob will not answer any phone calls from me today. After she was elected, I wrote an article in which I maintained that she was worse than the Nazis of the 1930s in her attitude toward the mentally retarded.
Let’s look at another person who is “God fearing and devout:” Sgt. Charles Graner, who recently was convicted of torturing Iraqi prisoners, of whom about 90% were innocent civilians plucked from their houses in raids by the U.S. military. Graner is the fellow with the horn-rimmed glasses whom we saw in photos after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke. By the way, for his trial he had a new set of less threatening type eyeglasses. When he was interviewed by a superior officer months ago about his actions, he said, “The Christian in me said it was wrong, but the law enforcement person in me said I love to see a grown man piss himself.” In his backyard in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, he has a large stone engraved with a biblical quote. At his trial he was portrayed as a God-fearing patriot.
If we use false logic, as do the religionists, we could assume that all Christians act like Graner. I have yet to read one U.S. account that depicts the contradictions of his religiosity and his actions. Many foreign writers have written of this, however. The U.S. press won’t touch it.
The logic of association used by many Christians is ludicrous. For instance, when trying to tie Bin Laden to Saddam Hussein, the Christian thought process went something like this: Bin Laden is a Muslim. Saddam is a Muslim. Bin laden was instrumental in the destruction of the World Trade Center. Therefore, Saddam Hussein was behind the blowing up of the twin towers. Many of our politicians used this same argument to gain support for war. The mindless majority of the Christian cauldron quickly agreed. But, how many U.S. journalists wrote of the absurdity of such an analogy? Only those like me whose readership is in the thousands, not millions. And, our readers are already of a mindset to want to know the truth.
Let’s get to foreign journalists. They are not as lazy nor are they as beholden to the dollar as their U.S. brothers in ink. The now accepted thought process of linking religion and government in the U.S. has foreign writers working overtime. They see the actuality of our demise in this country and write prolifically about it. They probably would be assassinated or imprisoned if they wrote such stuff in the U.S. and if any U.S. publication had the nerve to publish it. Let’s look at a few examples. What I am about to show you came from a quick random search of British papers on Thursday, January 13 of this year.
Now, there are U.S. writers who bring up such points, brilliant writers such as Gary Leeup of Tufts University. Just yesterday, he wrote a lengthy column about how U.S. Christianity and fascism are almost one and the same today. He used logic and correct analogies. However, his column is on the Internet and is read by possibly a few thousand people, about 99% of whom agree with him already. And, he uses too many big words for the average U.S. citizen to comprehend. Then, there’s Ted Rall, another online writer with a brilliant website. Rall is one of the country’s leading political cartoonists. But, again he only reaches the converted. And, neither Rall nor Leeup would last one day with a mainstream publication.
About 35% of my every-other-day columns are about secularism and religion. I have about a few thousand readers from about 25 countries. Rarely do I receive criticism. My readers enjoy reading about secularism and many tell me I am brave for writing about this. They say it’s too bad that the “normal” person does not read my column. I disagree with some of their assessments. I am no braver than a Ted Rall or a Gary Leeup. If I did not write what I considered the truth, I would not be worthy of reading. Again, those who agree with me are my readers. Actually, one of my best fans is a Christian from Tennessee. When I first went online, he wrote to me saying, “Great article. Keep up the good work. I agree with everything you say.” Then, one day I received a lengthy e-mail message from him. He told me that he was a Bible-thumping conservative from Tennessee who used the Bible to live by. But, he opposed the war against Iraq because he saw through the deceit. He went on to say that he never thought he would be assembling with people such as liberals and homosexuals at protests. He added that he lost all of his so-called friends because of his anti-war views. Then, he said he had to have a rethink about the U.S. and its culture. He still was a committed Christian, but he saw that many Christians were not Christians because of their hypocrisy. Once, I wrote an article about nudism called “Is Skin Obscene?” My following article was about Iraq. Sure enough, I received a message from my friend in Tennessee. It said, “I know you’re a nekkid, liberal atheist, but I agree with everything you said in today’s article.
People are now so brainwashed in the U.S. about the goodness of religion, it will take a long time to reverse the trend. For instance, there is actually a debate about evolution in schools. Thirty years ago, those who thought the earth is about 6,000 years old were considered wackos by most Christians. Today, they are in the majority. And, only foreign writers publicize how ludicrous this is. American journalists actually have begun to write about the validity of the creationist view of the universe. How we have slipped backward.
And with the new FCC commissioner, Michael Powell, the “moral values” of the U.S. are being pushed to the point of insanity. Powell is offended by the “f” word and he is now administering fines daily to the media. Even the Saturday night Britcoms are being pulled from broadcasting by PBS because they are afraid they will be considered pornographic by Powell and company. Take Mrs. Slocum of the show “Are You Being Served?” This comedy ran from 1973 to 1982 in Britain. At least once an episode, she talked about her cat and its always being lost. She would say, “I asked my neighbors, ‘Has anybody seen my pussy?’” That double-entendre got many laughs from fans on both sides of the Atlantic. Powell has now stopped such programs from being aired.
To me, last year’s Superbowl was a defining moment in U.S. history. Janet Jackson exposed part of her right breast of which the nipple was covered. Powell led a national outcry and vowed to stop all smut from TV. He even outdid comedian George Carlin who in the early 1970s coined the seven dirty words you can’t say on TV. Powell came up with a list of eight words.
But, Powell never complained aobut the real violence our TV industry depicts daily. He never complained when dead Iraqi bodies were piled up by the roadside with flies hovering over them. He never complained when TV networks showed the dead bodies of Uday and Qusay Hussein. He never complained when the networks showed Iraqi buildings being blown up. This is good old-fashioned Americana. I will end with a quote of mine from my 2004 Secular Archives collecton: “When a national outrage stems from an accidental partial breast-showing, our priorities seem to be askew. I will take the tit shot any day over the blood.”
BECAUSE YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO KNOW