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The bogus narrative of the Religious Right -- that there is a humanist or secular humanist or secularist "religion" bent on taking over America has already been one of the features of this election season.  We have heard about it from Rick Santorum and from Mitt Romney.  We have written extensively about this bogus narrative and its variants at Talk to Action over the years, including a discussion of Mitt Romney's recent declaration:  "I think there is in this country a war on religion. I think there is a desire to establish a religion in America known as secularism."

Happily, historian Rick Perlstein, writing in Rolling Stone, has an excellent take on the matter.  

Note the careful language:  Democrats want "to establish a religion" — a precise quotation of the First Amendment's' Establishment Clause banning same.  And the claim that "they gave it a lot of thought" insinuates a deliberate conspiracy.  But conservatives would not fall for it, the stalwart Romney announced:  "Those of us who are people of faith recognize [what] this is—an attack on one religion is an attack on all religion."

A marker has been laid down.  Heed it well.  Universal healthcare is the Trojan Horse in Obama's radical religious crusade to undo orthodox religion. Could a notion so crazy possibly have legs?  Crazier things have penetrated the fog before — and this one has the advantage of tickling the most abiding anxiety of conservative-minded citizens:  that liberalism is contributing to the sexual dissolution of their very own homes and hearths.  Romney's recycling of the smear may already have helped him assuage the doubts of the religious right that he is one of them.

And Democrats losing their nerve, backing away from defending desperately needed reform out of fear stepping on mysterious "deeply held" beliefs that are actually the invention of hucksters with right-wing agendas? Well, that's happened before, too.

Don't let it happen again.

Originally posted to Frederick Clarkson on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 04:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Street Prophets .

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Comment Preferences

  •  Shows that meaningful discussion (6+ / 0-)

    isn't possible unless people define their terms. They like to throw these terms around, making them mean what they want them to mean. Without a common understanding definitions of terms, or at least an understanding of what is meant, people will only talk at cross purposes.

    Such is the case here with defining secularism as a "religion" that some want to "impose" on everyone else. Right at the outset the Religious Right shows no intention of discussing this honestly, with the purpose of inflaming the base. They're not interested in getting at the truth.

    liberal bias = failure to validate or sufficiently flatter the conservative narrative on any given subject

    by RockyMtnLib on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 04:07:52 PM PDT

    •  Religion is all about defining terms. (11+ / 0-)

      All crimes are "hate" crimes.
      Evolution and Creationism are both "theories".
      "Believing" in science is a religion.
      They call themselves "pro-life" while being pro-war and pro-death penalty.
      They consider themselves "anti-abortion" while opposing the only things that reduce the abortion rate: contraception and age-appropriate comprehensive sex education.

      They are as selective about their use of language as they are about which scriptures are valid.

      (That sound you are hearing is a paradigm being shifted at Warp Factor Infinity using no clutch.)

      by homogenius on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 04:13:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  There IS No Discussion. There is Propaganda (10+ / 0-)

      and there is the sensible middle compromise between the propaganda and the truth.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 04:39:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  100% agreement, Gooserock (5+ / 0-)

        It makes me understand why Satan was called 'the father of lies."  Unless you are sociopathic or utterly narcissistic, lies enable you to do all sorts of evil things and not think about it.  That's what I think happens with the Ayn Rand crowd.  They buy her sociopathic philosophy and then its a short walk to grabbing all the money and resources for themselves and letting everyone else go to hell.

        Its really, really important for our side to learn how to identify the lies of propaganda and to find a way to bring the public's attention to those lies and then to dismantle those lies.

        Not an easy task, given that propaganda is brain-washing, leaving no cognitive brain cells left!

        I belong to the “US” of America, not the “ME,$,ME,$,ME,$,ME,$” of America!

        by SeaTurtle on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 04:52:43 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  by the way, I really wonder about Frank Luntz (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          G2geek, devtob, Lonely Texan


          At first, I just thought that he was a brilliant psycholinguist who knows how to manipulate language, doing what he does just for the money and prestige.  Having listened to him on some clips, I am beginning to wonder if he really understands the evil that he is doing and choosing to do it.

          His reframings of phrases that he has given to the Repubs have been responsible for much human suffering in this country since the reframings have enabled the radical Repubs to support very punitive legislation taking away a lot from the 99%.

          I wonder if he is a Randian?

          I belong to the “US” of America, not the “ME,$,ME,$,ME,$,ME,$” of America!

          by SeaTurtle on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 05:01:59 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  whoa there!, you missed something! (5+ / 0-)

      "...meaningful discussion isn't possible unless people define their terms."

      You really need to understand this:

      For the majority of humans, emotional narratives are the key to decisions, opinions, and attitudes.

      It has NOTHING to do with reason, definitions of terms, facts, or anything else.  It's all about the FEELINGS.  

      Think of song lyrics:  words that if written in sentences would very often be complete gibberish or at least bland truisms or not particularly interesting observations.  But when they're sung with FEELING, they become meaningful.  

      This I know from first-hand experience in music production, hearing fans of a particular band infer "words" in a song where the vocalist was using nonverbal vocalization (no actual words!) in live performances.  Very often his technique for songwriting would be to seek out vocal sounds that were musically consistent with the melody, rhythm, and sounds of the instruments, and then over time craft those sounds into his choices of words (something at which he was incredibly talented, so this was not a mere convenience: it was part of his method).

      (I told those kids what the vocalist was doing, and that the words they were hearing, which weren't being sung, demonstrated their own creativity and their own capacity for having a good sense of what a song represented or the story it told.  Putting it that way empowered the kids by showing them their own creative abilities.  Very often they were amazed at themselves, which is what we intended the result to be: encourage more kids to get creative, start bands, write, do whatever, but in any case discover their own talents.)

      The SAME thing happens with the Sunday sermons of the religious right, and with the utterances of political candidates.  They use "words" as the "carrier" for vocal intonations and rhythms that convey FEELINGS.  But very often they do it in a deliberately manipulative way: not to inspire an audience or entertain or encourage reflection, but to get votes from people who in the final analysis they look down upon as means to other ends.  The meanings of their words are whatever they want them to be that goes along with an attribution of feelings.  "Feel good about us, feel bad about the other guy!" and "words that have good feelings are about us, words that have bad feelings are about the other guy!"  

      Advertising writers are grand masters of the technique of emotional narrative.  For every well-crafted ad you see on TV, there is an emotional story.  Next time you're watching TV, take a moment after you see an ad, to quickly write down:

      What's the back-story behind the characters?  Who are they?

      What are they doing in the ad?  What are the feelings?

      What happens next?  How would you feel about being in their place?

      You'll be amazed at the stories that are being told, the feelings that are being conveyed, and the ways they are associated with brands and products.  

      It's the FEELINGS that count.  Every time.  

      This is a lesson we need to learn and apply.

      "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

      by G2geek on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 06:35:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I know it's not funny at all, but I do chuckle (11+ / 0-)

    I hear secularism being referred to as a religion.

    One trip to an on-line dictionary to look up secularism (or religion, for that matter) should take care of the problem.

    But no. Oh. No.


    202-224-3121 to Congress in D.C. USE it! You can tell how big a person is by what it takes to discourage them. "We're not perfect, but they're nuts."--Barney Frank 01/02/2012

    by cany on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 04:08:12 PM PDT

  •  Another of the fundamentalist/Bircher (8+ / 0-)

    memes promoted strongly in the 70's, most often in relation to education and especially book banning, textbook
    censorship.  Back with a vengeance and "new and improved" scope and degree of destructiveness and with unlimited funds to sell their tonic.

    99%er. 100% opposed to fundamentalist/neoconservative/neoliberal oligarchs.

    by blueoasis on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 04:40:46 PM PDT

    •  the John Birch Society revival. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      antirove, devtob, blueoasis, joe wobblie

      Old Man Koch was a big-wig in the Birchers.  

      No coincidence that Bircher memes are coming back via the Kochroaches today.  

      "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

      by G2geek on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 06:37:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Do not underestimate the Bradley Foundation's role (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        joe wobblie, blueoasis, G2geek

        role, compliments of another mega-rich, founding member, deceased John Bircher.

        "I'm frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in 'A,' 'B,' 'C,' and 'D.' Just who do they think they are?" Barry Goldwater

        by ranton on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 07:31:53 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  thanks for bringing this to us, FR (6+ / 0-)

    sometimes I get the feeling that the 'religious reich' is being run by some big secret Public Relations and Media firm in Manhattan.....  The puppetmasters call up the PR firm and tell them the objective they want achieved, and then the 'spin doctors' get to work to create something that the public will gullibly buy, (as if they were creating a new commercial,)..... they test market their product, they push all the 'right dog whistle buttons' and inoculate it from challenges with 'antibodies' such as 'the libruls all tell lies, etc., you can't believe what they say when they deny what we are saying.'  But they create a well rounded 'P. R. product' and pass it on in the form of talking points, which get repeated by all the paid shills the next morning in unison like a choir.

    The meme they create is so well crafted from so many points of view, not the least of which is the numbing repetition of all their mouthpieces and Fox, et al, that an alternate reality is created.  Lies become facts and become impregnable to defense or documentation or analysis.  The lies they tell become the TRUTH because Fox, etc. says it is the truth.  Period.

    The more we can uncover what they are planning and maneuvering with their 'advertising campaigns,' the more we can bring to public awareness (to those who will listen,) what is really going on, just as we have been able to do with  ALEC.

    And hopefully finding out the truth and repeating it will make a difference.

    I belong to the “US” of America, not the “ME,$,ME,$,ME,$,ME,$” of America!

    by SeaTurtle on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 04:47:48 PM PDT

  •  how to access Rolling Stone articles: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    devtob, quill

    Their website has a truly obnoxious "feature" that doesn't display the full column-width of articles unless you expand the browser window to take up your entire screen.

    However you can defeat that by turning off Java Script in your browser before you click the link.  That will get the full column width in a browser window without trying to capture your whole screen.  

    Then once you've opened it and also opened as many other pages of it as exist (in additional tabs in that window), you can turn Java Script back on and comment here.

    "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

    by G2geek on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 05:49:42 PM PDT

  •  When I go to church (4+ / 0-)

    and find chains on the doors or paddy wagons waiting to cart us all off to hard labor or the arena, then I'll know that religion is threatened.  In the meantime, I'll keep living my faith and not forcing it on anyone else or whining to all and sundry that I am persecuted.  (The only persecution I feel right now is from my church, not from my nation.)

    -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

    by luckylizard on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 05:54:08 PM PDT

  •  It's not a religion (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    to believe that the Constitution means what it says -- no religious tests for public offices and no government establishment of religion.

    Way back in 1963, the Supreme Court, by 8-1 in Abington v. Schrempp, decided that a Pennsylvania law requiring Bible reading/study in public schools was unconstitutional.

    The organized Religious Right was born in fury then, and has grown in political power to the point that the current Supreme Court, if given the opportunity, would certainly overturn Abington by 5-4.

    A public option for health insurance is a national priority.

    by devtob on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 06:00:05 PM PDT

  •  This narrative (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassandra Waites, SeaTurtle

    is one of the most important things to understand about the Religious Right.

    How to respond to it is one of the most important things political people need to be able to do in our time.

    And as anyone who has been reading me for any length of time probably knows, I do not say this lightly; nor do I say for short term electoral advantages -- although anyone interested in short term electoral matters would certainly benefit from getting their minds around this as well.

  •  The most important fact about the Religious Right (0+ / 0-)

    is that it is, by its own account, fairly steadily losing members, as described in The Incredible Shrinking Church, by a past President of the Southern Baptist Convention. It is not only his churches:

    An ABC News/Beliefnet poll found that 60% of Americans 65 and older are regular churchgoers, compared with 28% for those 18 to 30.
    That is a loss of roughly 1% annually.

    The "faithful remnant" is trying to make up the difference by well-worn methods of Cognitive Dissonance, in this case by getting louder and nastier (toward Blacks, women, immigrants, scientists, young people, other religions...), and by purging its ranks of any who show the slightest sense or backbone.

    This of course increases the rate at which the RR is losing members.

    The Republican Party has recently all-but-jettisoned the Gay Marriage issue, where we now have majority public support nationwide. Nate Silver has predicted roughly when we will have majority support state by state, ending with Mississippi and Alabama some time around 2024. Racism is in decline among the true Silent Majority. Since racism is the principal motivation for Creationism (You can't tell a White Supremacist that he is descended from Black Africans, that is, in the Dog Whistle code, "monkeys"), we can expect progress there as well over a span of decades. We have clear majorities on women's issues, and on many other essential issues. The slowest progress is on abortion, where I have not seen any useful data to make meaningful predictions.

    Busting the Dog Whistle code.

    by Mokurai on Thu Apr 26, 2012 at 05:48:39 AM PDT

    •  I question this (0+ / 0-)

      The data from SBC churches has always been not measured but based on self-reporting. In other words, the SBC numbers have always been inflated, unlike the mainline churches which have clear, hard to inflate criteria.  That said, while church membership overall is declining, (whether liberal or conservative) while the Religious Right is not declining as a major factor in our national discourse.  

      This may be explained in large part because the religious right as a political movement is not based on church membership per se, and never has been.

      Additionally, the culture-wide openness toward marriage equality, has also not meant that the Religious Right is on the decline. Only that the battlegrounds shift over time.

  •  The Only Thing We Have to Fear is Ourselves (0+ / 0-)
    And Democrats losing their nerve, backing away from defending desperately needed reform out of fear stepping on mysterious "deeply held" beliefs that are actually the invention of hucksters with right-wing agendas? Well, that's happened before, too.
    Unfortunately, the prime directive for every politician is to do whatever it takes to get re-elected, including not "offending" anyone who may, in a rare moment of lucidity, vote for a Democrat.  That's why nothing of substance gets accomplished during an election year.

    "Facts are meaningless. You could use facts to prove anything even remotely true." -- H. Simpson

    by midnight lurker on Thu Apr 26, 2012 at 09:55:13 AM PDT

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