blogswarming for freedom
April 6, 2007 2:01 PM   Subscribe

Blog Against Theocracy --a blogswarm dedicated to the separation of church and state, ... Easter Weekend, April 6-8, 2007. Also see the non-profit joint venture between The Interfaith Alliance Foundation and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, First Freedom First.
posted by amberglow (51 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This will be even better than that one Christmas when we blogged against Santa Claus.
posted by Slap Factory at 2:07 PM on April 6, 2007 [2 favorites]

Oh great, another LOL BLOGGERS thread.
posted by 2sheets at 2:08 PM on April 6, 2007

Careful, this blog may upset original prats.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:12 PM on April 6, 2007

More like theocrazy, amirite!?

Sorry, the whole things seems silly, but I'm having trouble comming up with an apropriately worded snark. BLOGAGOGAGOG!
posted by delmoi at 2:14 PM on April 6, 2007

What is wrong with Theocracy?
posted by Gnostic Novelist at 2:18 PM on April 6, 2007

You'd think that encouraging respect for the separation of church and state would also involve trying to reduce the level of paranoia in the opposing camp, in this case the theocons. Somehow, doing all this over Easter weekend doesn't strike me as well thought out.
posted by hwestiii at 2:22 PM on April 6, 2007

Can we kill the person that first used the term "blogswarm"?
posted by HuronBob at 2:22 PM on April 6, 2007 [3 favorites]

This is another one of those things where I completely agree with the sentiment but I'm a little put off by the delivery. "blogswarm", indeed. Well, maybe they'll inform some people, and that'd be good.

It seems like a better time for it than Easter Weekend would have been that "National Day of Prayer" monstrosity.
posted by gurple at 2:26 PM on April 6, 2007

The first time I loaded the "First Freedom First" link, I saw there was a sidebar link to Walter Cronkite dropping knowledge. I meant to click this, but accidentally closed the tab. So I reclicked the link - sidebar loads with a different testimonial. From Judith Light. Ouch!

Seriously, though. My dread of theocracy plummeted when it hit me that the LOLXIANS can't even agree amongst themselves what should be the universal word of God that they then rigidly enforce. You can't subjugate a planet when you can't even move your troops in the same direction.

Inter-sect bickering is the built-in failsafe against theocracy. If we really want to hobble them, then the thing to do is infiltrate a few of these churches at the upper ranks and introduce ideas to splinter them even more. Let's get a man inside, say, the Anglicans to suggest that Jesus is vulnerable to Earth-2's kryptonite, but not Earth-1's. Inside ten years, a splinter group or two will have split away, holding that Christ could only be harmed by yellow kryptonite, provided that he is not beneath a yellow sun at the time.

Or, you know, update your blog a couple times. That works too.
posted by EatTheWeek at 2:27 PM on April 6, 2007

Why do they hate bunnies?
posted by jfuller at 2:41 PM on April 6, 2007

So these people will be primarily writing disapprovingly about Iran, right? Currently the largest theocracy on the planet?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 2:42 PM on April 6, 2007

Actually, the most common popular commentary I've seen on theocracy is a bumper sticker which reads "Don't like the separation of church and state? MOVE TO IRAN", so I'd suspect the answer would be yes, but perhaps not in the way you would like.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:46 PM on April 6, 2007

I love how Iran is now the benchmark for how a civilized society should conduct itself.

Way to aim high, America!
posted by bardic at 2:54 PM on April 6, 2007 [2 favorites]

"So these people will be primarily writing disapprovingly about Iran, right?"

Can you point out somewhere that your LIEbral strawmen have written approvingly about Iran?
Not "we shouldn't start a war with another country", but something that approves of their government, their policies, something of that nature?
Extra credit if it's not some op-ed in a weekly newspaper by some community college professor I've never heard of.
posted by 2sheets at 3:19 PM on April 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

Apparently these bloggers are Iranian.
posted by brundlefly at 3:23 PM on April 6, 2007

Stephen C. Den Beste Iran may be the largest theocracy in terms of population, but in terms of influence I'd argue that Saudi Arabia et al are large. I note that conservatives never talk about Saudi Arabia due to the close personal friendship between George W. Bush and the vile thugs who run the country.

Mostly I'd expect this to be a bunch of warnings against allowing theocracy to grow where it doesn't exist rather than a focus on theocracy where it does. After all, there isn't a whole lot a person in the US can actually directly do about Saudi Arabia and its horrors, but we can actively work to stop the crap that happens there from spreading here.

Speaking as a US citizen, as soon the my country no longer has a government approved and implemented "Jesus Day", or "In [the Christian] God We Trust" on its coins, or a flippin' witch doctor paid for by our tax dollars to do his mumbo jumbo crap every time Congress meets, et bloody cetera, then we can spend most of our time worrying about theocracy outside our own borders.

"And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?" I don't imagine you'd care about that though, the guy who said it was just some damn hippy, right?

The fact that theocracy is firmly entrenched elsewhere doesn't mean that Americans (or indeed anyone living outside a theocracy) shouldn't be very worried about its creeping growth in their own country. When it is possible for religious loons to get their mythology put into science classes, when politicians can say that atheists shouldn't be considered patriots or even citizens, we should take it seriously.
posted by sotonohito at 3:25 PM on April 6, 2007 [2 favorites]

It sounds like sotonohito could use some peeps.

I don't mean to impose my personal beliefs on you, but the purple ones taste the best.
posted by Slap Factory at 3:30 PM on April 6, 2007

remember, everyone: thinking that military action against Iran is a bad idea = YAY THEOCRACY!!!!!!11!1!1
posted by Avenger at 4:28 PM on April 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

I always wondered why everybody loves the Dalai Lama so much. He may be peaceful, but his idea of a Utopian world is every citizen on earth united under an omnipresent, if benevolent, theocracy.
posted by tehloki at 4:46 PM on April 6, 2007

do they love him so much? i thought it was the celeb/pr and political factors more than actually knowing or caring about what he believes and stands for.
posted by amberglow at 5:03 PM on April 6, 2007

Slap Factory: Heh.

Sorry, don't like peeps, so I'll pass. But I could use one of those delicious Dove chocolate eggs filled with pseudo-truffle stuff. They're tasty, or they were anyway I can't seem to find any this year.

tehloki: I can't speak for anyone else, but mostly what I like about the Dalai Lama is that he's busy fighting (in a pacifist way) against the PRC and its thuggery. And by "like" I mean "kinda vaguely like"; he isn't on my list of top really nifty people. If he had his way Tibet would be a theocracy instead of a pseudo-communist quasi-fascist client state. Not a really huge improvement from my POV.

With luck his efforts will help push the Chinese out, but a secular group will take political power.
posted by sotonohito at 5:09 PM on April 6, 2007

I like the David and Goliath aspect of the Dalai Lama's mission, but I certainly wouldn't want to live under his vision of what Tibet should be. Then again, he hasn't asked me or attempted to force me to do so.
posted by 2sheets at 5:20 PM on April 6, 2007

"And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?" I don't imagine you'd care about that though, the guy who said it was just some damn hippy, right?

Two responses:

1. The "beam" is Iran. The "mote" is American Christians.

2. I'm an atheist.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 6:03 PM on April 6, 2007

How is Israel not, in essence, a Theocracy?
posted by tkchrist at 6:13 PM on April 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

I like the David and Goliath aspect of the Dalai Lama's mission, but I certainly wouldn't want to live under his vision of what Tibet should be. Then again, he hasn't asked me or attempted to force me to do so.

You really ought to take a look at Penn&Teller's Bullshit episode on the Dalai Lama (Mother Theresa is in there too)
posted by jeblis at 6:19 PM on April 6, 2007

It seems like people can't really do any profound good without some kind of radical religious ideology. I guess religion really is useful, for political purposes.
posted by tehloki at 6:24 PM on April 6, 2007

Steven C. Den Beste: I'm an atheist too, that doesn't mean I don't like a lot of what the damn hippy in question had to say.

Re: Beams and motes, I won't argue that Iran and that other nation you won't mention (hint: Its Saudi Arabia) are more thocratic than the Jerry Fallwell has wet dreams about being, the beam and mote comment was perhaps mischosen. I wasn't trying to say that we're worse, but that we need to clean up our own act (and keep the wannabe theocrats out of power) before we can seriously talk about stopping theocracy abroad.

Incidentally, I'll argue that the biggest weapon we have against Islamic theocracy (or any other type of theocracy really, but you want to focus on Islam so I'll play) is Hollywood, one of the big bugaboos of the right in general, whether that right is located in Tehran, or living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

jeblis: Haven't seen any of the P&T stuff, but as I mentioned earlier, I'm not a Dalai Lama fan. The problem is that if it weren't for him no one would particularly even remember that Tibet once existed, and is currently being oppressed by the Butchers of Beijing.
posted by sotonohito at 6:25 PM on April 6, 2007

I would say that Indonesia is probably the largest and most powerful theocracy.

And further, isn't the British head of state also the head of the (established) Anglican church? Wouldn't that make the U.K. the most powerful theocracy?

So these people will be primarily writing disapprovingly about Iran, right? Currently the largest theocracy on the planet?

But realistically, don't you think they would be more worried about the countries they live in?

Oh wait, forgot. You're one of them internet conservatives. World renown for being impervious to logic!
posted by delmoi at 6:29 PM on April 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

jeblis: Haven't seen any of the P&T stuff, but as I mentioned earlier, I'm not a Dalai Lama fan. The problem is that if it weren't for him no one would particularly even remember that Tibet once existed, and is currently being oppressed by the Butchers of Beijing.

Well, actually most Chinese people consider the regime of Dalai Lama's regime to be a lot worse. Are the people of tibet really worse off under the Chinese (especially today, compared to the 20th century)?
posted by delmoi at 6:31 PM on April 6, 2007

sotonohito I just pointed it out since it's not the mainstream view of either person and you might be interested to see what they say. (for that matter all of their episodes are great. I particularly like the one on recycling)
posted by jeblis at 6:43 PM on April 6, 2007

delmoi: Technically I supose that England could be considered a theocracy, but I think its a stretch. The Queen has no actual governmental power. I know nothing about the organization and management of the Anglican church, but I'll bet that the Queen doesn't actually have any power in C of E affairs either.

Not, mind you, that I wouldn't applaud of England disestablished the C of E (or, for that matter, the monarchy I loathe monarchies). But in terms of actual power I don't think that it can be argued that the C of E is much of a threat.

Re: the Dalai Lama. No Chinese people lived under his regime, but a lot of Tibettans did.

As for China today, I wouldn't want to live under the rule of the Chinese oligarchs, so why would I wish that on anyone else? Its true that today's China is more of a Fascism than a true Communism, but how's that an improvement? The secret police still dissapear people who criticise the government.

There's no arguing that Tibet under the Dalai Lamas wasn't a particularly nice place. That doesn't make the conquest and subsiquent rule of the PRC particularly pleasant though.

jeblis: I may watch them, after this school year ends and I have time to watch TV again. But as I mentioned, I'm already not particularly a fan of either the Dalai Lama or Mother Theresa, and I'll bet that I've heard (and likely agreed with) all the criticism already.

That said, I think the PRC constitutes a greater threat to freedom than the Dalai Lama does. Even if we agreed that he *desires* to be a greater theat, he doesn't have any power to speak of, and if the PRC cut Tibet loose tomorrow I'd imagine that he'd be unable to reimpliment the serfdom, near slavery, and other nastyness of pre-PRC Tibet. Among other things he'd lose all the funding from the liberal types who've come to believe his PR....
posted by sotonohito at 6:54 PM on April 6, 2007

Supporting the lesser evil never really did us any good in the long run. Remember when Saddam was our friend? Killin' commies with U.S. arms?
posted by tehloki at 6:56 PM on April 6, 2007

tehloki: there's a lot to that, and I'm definately one of the people who gets annoyed when people say "realpolitik" when they mean "I like to play with dictators".

I can't say, off the top of my head, why I don't put cooperation with the Dalai Lama into the same category as cooperation with Saddam Hussain. I'd like to say that I've got a real reason, but I'll have to think it over.
posted by sotonohito at 7:08 PM on April 6, 2007

Isolationism never looked so attractive.
posted by tehloki at 11:44 PM on April 6, 2007

tkchrist said: How is Israel not, in essence, a Theocracy?

Although Judaism is Israel's most prominent faith, it is not a state-sponsored religion. From the United Jewish Communites article Should Israel Be a Jewish State?:
"Israel is a theocracy and should not be a Jewish State."

It often makes people uncomfortable to refer to Israel as "the Jewish State" because it suggests a theocracy and, therefore, the demise of Israel as a Jewish state is viewed by some people (even in Israel) as a positive development. Israel is not a theocracy; however, it is governed by the rule of law as drafted by a democratically elected parliament. It is informed by Jewish values and adheres to many Jewish religious customs (such as holidays), but this is similar to the United States and other nations that are shaped by the Judeo-Christian heritage and also have expressly religious elements (e.g., church-state separation in the U.S. does not preclude the recognition of Christmas as a holiday).
Some orthodox Jews are not Zionists, and regard Zionism and the modern state of Israel as heretical.
posted by cenoxo at 11:46 PM on April 6, 2007

cenoxo: I just had a longish argument on the subject of Israel and theocracy, and I'll say right now that I think the United Jewish Communites is being disenginuous at best.

While it is true that Israel is not *yet* a full blown theocracy, its well on the way and seems to be accelerating in that direction. It already has many theocratic aspects.

Take marriage, for example. In most of the world marriage is a secular affair, though many people chose to have a religious ceremony as well. Even the USA practices secular marriage, everyone here, whether religious or not, gets married by getting a 100% secular marriage certificate from the government.

Not so in Israel. If you aren't Jewish, you simply can't get married. Worse, just being generically Jewish isn't enough, you must qualify for an Orthodox marriage even if you're a Reform Jew. Now, if you're rich, Israel offers an out: it recognizes marriages performed in foreign countries, so Reform Jews, Muslims, Christians, atheists, etc can spend a fortune to fly to a non-theocratic nation and get married there before flying back to wonderful Israel.

Israel takes tax dollars and funds sexually segregated bus lines for the benefit of the Haradi. Not satisfied with this, the Haradi thugs are busy taking over other bus lines and beating women who won't obey their religious dictates. Have any of them been charged? No, of course not, that'd be far too non-theocratic for Israel.

Want to move to Israel? Its a snap, just convert to one of the more virulantly Orthodox brands of Judaism and *poof* you've got an instant ticket to citizenship, and (of course) bus lines where you can beat the crap out of uppity women and never face any legal consiquences. People of the wrong religion need not apply.

The cooperation of the at least a couple of the religious parties is necessary for any party that wants to form a coalition, so regardless of whether or not the majority of the population wants all that pre-theocratic stuff, it gets put in because otherwise the religious parties won't play. Every time a critical vote comes up the religious parties say "That's a nice vote you've got there bub, be a shame if something were to happen to it, give us more theocracy and we'll see that nothing bad happens to your vote." And the ruling coalition does, because they want to remain the ruling coalition.

Worse, Israel has no basic guarantee of rights that takes a supermajority to overturn. There is no constitution or constitution-equivilant in Israel, therefore if a law can get a simple majority in the Knesset it passes and that's that. There's nice feelgood type human rights language in the Basic Laws, but so what? A simple majority in the Knesset and they're overturned.

Israel isn't, yet, in the same condition as Iran, or Saudi Arabia, etc, but it seems to be doing its best to catch up. Why anyone would want to live in Israel is a complete mystery to me.
posted by sotonohito at 4:46 AM on April 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

Interesting Dalai Lama tangent this discussion has headed into.

Although I'm not personally involved in the Blog against Theocracy, one of the feelows who runs it is a good friend of mine. And I can vouchsafe the following three things:

1. This is not some "LOLXIANS" laugh-and-point exercise. Liberal Christians are involved in organising it, and the aim has been to be inclusive, pointing to the fact that everyone loses in a theocratic trend, not just the non-religious.

2. It's not "Blame America first". Those bloggers who are involved have their eyes wide open to other theocracies and places of rising religious intolerance - Iran being the most obvious, but there are theocratic tendencies in many places elsewhere, such as Poland.

3. I like having the opportunity to use the word "vouchsafe". Vouchsafe.

As I say, I'm not personally involved, but I'll happily speak up for the intentions of those that are.
posted by WPW at 9:21 AM on April 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

Could you provide some links about what you're saying? I'm not saying you're wrong, it's just that what you wrote is so stunning. Is there really literally a law that says non-Orthodox Jews can't get married? Could you link to it? And the bus beatings, could you provide some news stories about them? It sounds like a similar situation to the old South, where a black being beaten would be overlooked, but I'd like to see stories about it. Because what you're saying about the beatings doesn't seem to add up. From your post it seems that much of what you term pro-theocratic agitation comes from a relatively small ultra-religious minority, so it's hard to imagine that if there were published accounts of women being beaten on buses, the general populace wouldn't demand justice.
posted by Sangermaine at 2:05 PM on April 7, 2007

Sangermaine: Most people really don't know much about Israel and how it is run. Since we keep being told that Israel is the only democracy in the Mid-East (which, to be fair, it is), we tend to think of it as being run along similar lines to the democracies we're familiar with, and it isn't. As I said, it isn't really a theocracy, but I see it headed that direction.

Marriage in Israel There's also a good article on the Wikipedia.
Attack on a woman on a bus for the Haradi The story got a lot of play in Israel, not so much here in the US. Most people here never even heard of it.

I don't have any links, off the top of my head, for the political situation, and the power that the religious parties can exert on coalitions seeking a majority. Again, the Wikipedia article is pretty good, and if you google around you can doubtless find editorials in various Israeli newspapers on the subject.

Isreali media is *vastly* more critical of Israel than the US media is.

There's a nasty strain of mysogany and wannabe theocracy in many of the Haradi groups. The traditional morning prayer said by Jewish men includes the line "Blessed are You, O Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, Who did not make me a woman." Yup they really do that. The "really" link is to a site that tries to explain how it isn't really mysognystic for men to think their god for not making them women.

I'll leave theology to theologists, but the fact is that many of the Haradi groups are objectively anti-female, and do engage in violence against women who don't submit to their demands.
posted by sotonohito at 3:04 PM on April 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

digby's contribution to the blogswarm has been a close reading of a really scary book--With Liberty & Justice for All: Christian Politics Made Simple by Morecraft -- ... In short, Morecraft’s “minimal state” theocracy has only a superficial appeal to small-government conservatives, Stripped of his self-serving interpretations and distortions of the Bible’s words, Morecraft is calling for the establishment of a totalitarian American state disguised as an American Christian Church with unlimited power. Morecraft’s Church/State will be administered by a group of men with an unrestricted license to coerce, torture, and murder any and all who oppose them.

Provided, of course, that the Bible says they can.

posted by amberglow at 10:17 AM on April 8, 2007

tehloki After a bit of thought, I've concluded that I think there really are differences between supporting the Dalai Lama against China and supporting Hussain against Iran.

The first and most obvious is that those supporting the Dalai Lama aren't doing so in a military sense, no weapons, etc.

Additionally, while there can be no denying that Tibet prior to the Chinese invasion had very nasty aspects (the serfdom, etc), these were inherited from its past rather than implemented by the current Dalai Lama. Its certainly true that he was guilty of failing to correct existing problems, but that's substantially different from actively running a truly repressive regime.

On those lines, while it is pretty well established that from the beginning Hussain was a thug who used intimidation tactics, torture, a secret police, etc there is no evidence of such a system being enacted or supported by the 14th Dalai Lama. Again, he continued a system of serfdom and (in some cases) near slavery, but I think it was more a conservative, passive, continuance rather than the sort of active thing seen under Hussain.

There's also the post-support phase to consider. Hussain was a thug, and there was no reason at all to suspect that he'd change after the "crisis" which was used as a pretext for US aid to his cause passed. The entire situation was largely caused by US action in Iran (ie: toppling a democratically elected government and emplacing the Shah).

In the Tibet/China instance we saw an aggressive power (China) conquering a relatively harmless power (Tibet), and spread its undeniably brutal regime to its conquered territories. While the ending of official serfdom in Tibet is a positive development, the fact is that most people under the rule of the PRC live in conditions which, while not offically called serfdom, might as well be. People are bound to the land, in the sense that they are forbidden to travel without government sanction, have few if any rights, etc.

Further, the Dalai Lama and the entireity of the government in exhile has published a series of guidelines for post-China Tibet centered around the UN declaration of human rights, and which specifically states that post-China Tibet will practice equality of all citizens before the law and so on.

Naturally such guidelines are no guarantee that they will be followed, but it seems quite unlikely that the Dalai Lama would be able to reconstitute Tibet without aid from the West, and that such aid would not be forthcoming if freedom and democracy aren't actually implemented.

You may disagree, and as I said earlier I don't particularly trust the Dalai Lama, or any other religious leader for that matter. But it seems to me that we won't see him take the path Hussain took.
posted by sotonohito at 10:18 AM on April 8, 2007

Part 3 of it is really good too--... Civil authority must practice God's law which are laid out in the Bible, and the state has no right to add to or deviate from it. He claims that the primary function of a civil government is extremely limited. Its primary purpose is to punish and "terrorize" those who fail to follow the laws of God. He blames the miseries of a state - both manmade and natural- on the absence of theocracy. ...
posted by amberglow at 10:21 AM on April 8, 2007

... Again, he continued a system of serfdom and (in some cases) near slavery, but I think it was more a conservative, passive, continuance rather than the sort of active thing seen under Hussain. ...

We actively and materially and financially supported Saddam in all of his thuggery and bad deeds.

And is passively continuing a system which crushes and oppresses like in Tibet really better? Especially if it supposedly has some sort of religious or divine justifications?
posted by amberglow at 10:24 AM on April 8, 2007

Pandagon's participating too: ...Secular arguments never exclude the faithful, who are as free as anyone else to take or reject a secular argument on its merits. However, any argument resorting to religious faith by definition excludes those who don’t share that faith. ...
posted by amberglow at 10:46 AM on April 8, 2007

Justice's Holy Hires
posted by homunculus at 1:27 PM on April 8, 2007

Slate gave that same story a much more apt headline-- Who's the Boss? How Pat Robertson's law school is changing America.
posted by amberglow at 2:19 PM on April 8, 2007

Well, I'm glad I was able to start a debate which I am not smart enough to continue myself :P
posted by tehloki at 2:28 PM on April 8, 2007

Respect for All Families -- Including Mine , at Pam's House Blend--
...If the people who want to make America a "Christian" nation had their way, how would my life change? Well, for starters, men like Roy Moore would be in a position to actually use that "power of the sword" that he wants to hang over the heads of gay people. My brother, my brother-in-law, my nephew, and his boyfriend would all be considered threats to my children. We wouldn't have fun mornings, hanging out and laughing. More likely, our house would be a stop on the Underground Railroad for gays and lesbians trying to get out of the country.

You think it can't happen? Only if we refuse to let it. Those same people who want to make their interpretation of Christianity the official faith of the United States have been using gays and lesbians as scapegoats and fundraising tools for years. They've fomented hatred and violence against those who are different. It's the fear of the "other" that is essential to authoritarian faith and government. ...

posted by amberglow at 2:40 PM on April 8, 2007

more on that Lathwick story: Of State…And Church-- ...But simply slapping a "Christian" label on yourself is not an excuse for grasping, greedy behavior because you have some back-of-your-mind understanding that you can ask forgiveness for your piss poor behavior later. That's a post hoc ergo propter hoc justification, and it doesn't fly. God has not rewarded you with the promotion — you earned it all on your own by stabbing a whole lot of people in the back and, thereby, appealing to the crowd of malignant political minions who were looking for just such a self-serving, grasping person to stab a few more people in the back. Congratulations, Monica, you've lived up to the very low standard of Karl Rove. ...
posted by amberglow at 2:52 PM on April 8, 2007

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