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Volume 77, Number 20 | October 17 – 23, 2007

Talking Point

It’s Fascism Lite in America: Playing the God card 

By Daniel Meltzer 

Conservative chatterbox and hate hustler Anne Coulter told a CNBC interviewer last week, as reported by Mediabistro, that the U.S. would be a better country without Jews, who should indeed “perfect” themselves and become Christians. Earlier this month, Republican Senator and presidential hopeful John McCain told an audience at a campaign appearance that the United States is, in reality, a Christian country.

Like neither of these pious political promoters of preposterous poppycock, and like many not-unpatriotic Americans, I am an agnostic. This means I am convinced neither that God exists nor that he, or she, doesn’t, never did or maybe did at one time but got bored or fed up with the lot of us when someone discovered fire or that a wooly mammoth’s thigh bone to the head could quickly end a quarrel.

I’m not an atheist because I am not smart enough or brave enough to claim to know for sure there is no God. Our family motto was: “You never know.” Nor am I what they call today a “person of faith” who believes in virgins having babies, or live men walking on water — or through it, by parting it like your hair — or dead men walking period. I am also a U.S. citizen, and as such, not quite sure how I feel about being told I have to buy all or some of this to be considered a good or even acceptable one.

Nature can be astonishingly beautiful or unconscionably cruel. The colors and scents of flowers, graceful or awesome landscapes, the sounds of larks or waterfalls, thrill me beyond words. Sunrises are magical and uplifting; sunsets profound, sometimes heartbreaking.

Volcanoes and storms are majestic to behold, yet pitiless in their obliterative power. All in all, more good and beauty and malice and cruelty surround me than I feel I deserve.

The genius and dedication of scientists and engineers have given us gadgets and gizmos that light the night, take us anywhere over land, water or through the sky, answer virtually any question at the tap of a key. We can see something in our homes at the moment it happens halfway around the globe.

Skilled surgeons can take the heart out of someone who has just died and stitch it into the chest of another whose own is about to fail. Someone smears colored chemicals across a stretched rectangle of canvas and it brings inexplicable joy and wonder to our beings.

Yet, in my own lifetime, 6 million of my own kinsmen and women were murdered for not practicing their elected leader’s favored religion. Hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in major cities in Europe and Asia were incinerated in two wars “to save lives.” My own countrymen for centuries condoned the buying and selling of fellow humans as free labor. We kill unthreatening animals and then wear their skins for show.

Wealthy citizens in my home city who frolic and amass fortunes reside within feet of sad, ailing, impoverished people who have no health insurance. Good people die young of illness, preventable accidents and the desperate or reckless behavior of others while their neighbors purchase every manner of medical miracle to extend their flamboyant lives to the limit, then lament the lack of closet space for all their “stuff.”

This question persists: If God exists, then why do bad things happen to good people? And for that matter, why do so many good things happen to bad people? “It’s in His grand design,” we are told, or “God loved her so much, He sent for her early.” “People of faith” believe all this. People of good faith still have questions. 

I don’t know what, if anything, exists beyond the visible universe. The mysteries of its origin and expanse perplex me no end. Believing Christians trust in answers written in a book centuries ago, authors unknown. Jews will spin your head and keep you up forever with a million unanswerable questions. I am an American. My president and his ilk think Darwin got it wrong about the survival of the fittest. And yet that very same thinking is the rock upon which their political and economic policies for our country and the world are built.

A little less praying and a little more paying attention to what we are doing to, and not doing for, each other, might be more helpful. I have heard agnostics like me defined as cowardly atheists. We’re not going to fight it.