Do Not Fear G-d
Admission: I voted for President Bush. (I hear the murmuring). But it was not a vote for Bush as much as it was a vote against someone else.
That someone was not John Kerry.
My vote was against the liberal establishment of the East and West Coasts that showed utter contempt for faith in G-d – my faith and the faith of millions of others.
And I believe (faith, again) that I am not alone. I submit that the election was determined by one key factor: Americans simply could not tolerate the relentless attack we have been witnessing against the faith of Mr. Bush – not because they support the President and all his policies, but because in the American consciousness there is a profound sense that faith cannot be so utterly discredited.
The icing on the cake was a New York Times Magazine cover story a few weeks ago (Without a Doubt, by Ron Suskind) depicting Mr. Bush as a man whose decisions are determined not through reason and political process, but through Divine inspiration.
He describes the support for or against Bush as a battle between modernists and fundamentalists, pragmatists and true believers, reason and religion. He quotes Bruce Bartlett, a domestic policy adviser to Ronald Reagan and a treasury official for the first President Bush: The instinct President Bush is “always talking about is this sort of weird, Messianic idea of what he thinks God has told him to do. He truly believes he’s on a mission from God. Absolute faith like that overwhelms a need for analysis. The whole thing about faith is to believe things for which there is no empirical evidence. But you can’t run the world on faith.”
Give me a break. George W. is a politician not a saint. He climbed the ladder of power through political machinations not religious ones. I’ve seen a tzaddik. Bush is no tzaddik. Yet, ironically, many in the media have turned Bush into a man of absolute faith, and Kerry into a man of reason.
Ironically, many in the media have turned Bush into a man of absolute faith, and Kerry into a man of reason.
Once the liberal press painted the picture in this radical fashion, pitting the election as one for or against G-d, the people of faith in this country came out in-masse to vote for faith.
Not that Mr. Bush is necessarily a man of G-d. Frankly, I find it quite hilarious that the left have made Bush into a Divine man. Why Bush earned that right, only G-d knows. But he has. And that is to his credit. Perhaps it is due to his faith.
But the issue here is not about President Bush. It’s about faith. This country is fundamentally built on the principle etched into our currency: In G-d we Trust. And that’s what this election was ultimately about.
I am cynical enough to not believe in the personalities and personality cults created around candidates. In this mass media, “sound-bite” era, you can only feel sad at the way politicians are marketed, how the campaigns are geared to manipulate our impressions, not much different than the marketing of, say, toothpaste. So, one can hardly expect to know what candidates truly stand for.
Americans in particular like to root for heroes – in sports, in entertainment, and why not in politics. People therefore forge personal allegiances to the candidates, projecting upon them their own lives, just as they may fantasize about movie stars. Heroes and villains are easily created, and then perpetuated. For some Bush is almost like a Nazi. For others Bush is the hero and Kerry the selfish liberal. Frankly, all marketing clichés. Don’t buy into all the messages sold to us through multi-million dollar PR campaigns.
On a serious note, however, getting beyond the cheers and the cries following the election results, I for one am not taking a stand – pro-Bush or pro-Kerry. They both have their flaws. This article is not meant to support or criticize the President. It’s meant to address a larger issue that has emerged.
What will go down in history, long after Bush and Kerry are forgotten, is the consensus. Close to 60 million people made a statement that they want G-d in their lives.
By no means does this suggest, that the other 55 million voters voted against faith and G-d; everyone has their right to believe (or not believe) as they see fit. And undoubtedly many people of faith voted against Bush for good reasons. Indeed, some may even have seen in Kerry a deeper commitment to religious freedom. A vote for Bush does not mean a vote for G-d (as Carl Rove would want us to believe). The point here is to understand what compelled so many to come out and vote for Bush, even if they disagree with him and his policies.
When America is challenged, when it is under duress and in crisis, it gravitates to its roots: That we are here because of Divine providence; that all men are created equal, which guarantees us unalienable rights. Take away G-d, and you take away the unalienable rights. Because “rights” on their own are alienable, subjective and arbitrary. And that’s what the election was ultimately about.
The attacks on Mr. Bush’s faith forced the American public to respond. It’s quite amazing to hear that a majority in the state of Ohio chose to overlook the loss of thousands of their jobs, and instead voted on the grounds of moral values and character. What does that tell you?
It will be fascinating to see how the New York Times will cover this. Don’t be at all surprised to hear how some, in their ongoing contempt, will continue to dismiss the morality issue and argue that people were basically hoodwinked; or that the war in Iraq caused people to support the incumbent; or some other excuse how the public was manipulated to elect Mr. Bush.
All you have to do is read Gary Wills article, The Day the Enlightenment Went Out, in the Times of November 4th. He attributes Bush’s victory to the brilliance of Carl Rove. Rove “calculated that the religious conservatives, if they could be turned out, would be the deciding factor. Mr. Rove understands what surveys have shown, that many more Americans believe in the Virgin Birth than in Darwin’s theory of evolution.”
He goes on to explain that America, with its “fundamentalist zeal, a rage at secularity, religious intolerance, fear of and hatred for modernity” resembles Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s Sunni loyalists more than it does the European countries. And that’s why “the rest of the world thinks us so dangerous, so single-minded, so impervious to international appeals. They fear jihad, no matter whose zeal is being expressed.”
Based on this logic, of course, the majority of Americans elected Mr. Bush because they are narrow-minded fundamentalists, who have extinguished the “enlightenment.”
Some liberals will never concede the possibility that people authentically believe in G-d, and that this faith may have profound merit.
Interestingly, it’s these liberals that forced people to suddenly confront the issue of G-d – as if Bush was G-d’s representative, and the other side was not. Bigggg mistake. Had they not been so vehement and contemptuous they may have had a victory…
And what about the power of a majority – one of the cornerstones of a democracy?
I have a friend who was waxing eloquent about the beauty of democracy. Confident in Kerry’s victory, he was lauding the strength and virtue of majority rule. “It’s the people – the majority of the people – that ultimately decides. Numbers never lie.” After Kerry’s loss by close to 4 million of the popular vote, this friend tells me in a deriding tone: “What can we do about the fact that America has been taken hostage by the narrow minded “religious right,” and Bush’s campaign has brainwashed the South and the Midwest?”…
What happened to the power of majority? Is the majority only right when they agree with YOU?!
I can’t but help wonder whether the liberal movement today is just an outgrowth of the French Enlightenment’s disdain for “la canaille” [the rabble], a phrase used to denigrate the masses.
“As for the canaille,” Voltaire told d’Alembert, “I have no concern with it; it will always remain canaille.” And it would remain canaille because it was uneducable. The people would never have “the time and the capacity to instruct themselves; they will die of hunger before they become philosophers…. We have never pretended to enlighten shoemakers and servants; that is the job of the apostles.”
Close to 60 million people made a statement that they want G-d in their lives.
The thinkers of the Parisian Enlightenment felt that the people could not be educated because they could not be enlightened; and they could not be enlightened because they were incapable of the kind of reason that the philosophes took to be the essence of enlightenment. They were mired instead in the prejudices, superstitions, and irrationalities of religion. This was the great enemy – l’infâme. Religion, Voltaire wrote to Diderot, “must be destroyed among respectable people and left to the canaille large and small, for whom it was made.” Diderot agreed. The poor were “imbeciles” in matters of religion, “too idiotic – bestial – too miserable, and too busy” to enlighten themselves. They would never change: “The quantity of the canaille is just about always the same.”
Diderot made it clear that “the general mass of mankind can neither follow nor comprehend this march of the human spirit.” “We must reason about all things because man is not just an animal but an animal who reasons; … whoever refuses to search for that truth renounces the very nature of man and should be treated by the rest of his species as a wild beast; and once the truth has been discovered, whoever refuses to accept it is either insane or wicked and morally evil.” Diderot believed that we must distrust the judgment of the “multitude” in matters of reason and philosophy because “its voice is that of wickedness, stupidity, inhumanity, unreason and prejudice.” “The multitude,” he concluded, is “ignorant and stupefied.”
Is this obnoxious elitism the root of today’s liberal paternalism and the welfare state, as Gertrude Himmelfarb argues in a new book, The Roads to Modernity?
After reading and hearing the passionate arguments being made against the faith-based presidency of Mr. Bush, you wonder who is more fundamentalist: the faithful or the men of “reason”? Edward Gibbon, the 18th century British historian (far from an orthodox religious believer) jibed against those French thinkers who “preached the tenets of atheism with the bigotry of dogmatists.”
In another article (The Idea of Compassion: The British vs. the French Enlightenment) Himmelfarb quotes Tocqueville, who was speaking of the French revolutionaries – but he might have been of the philosophes – when he said that their “salient characteristic” was a loss of faith that upset their “mental equilibrium.” They adored the human intellect and had supreme confidence in its power to transform laws, institutions, and customs. But the intellect they adored was only their own. “I could mention several,” Tocqueville sardonically observed, “who despised the public almost as heartily as they despised the Deity.” This was very different, he added, from the respect shown by Englishmen and Americans for the opinions of the majority of their countrymen. “Their intellect is proud and self-reliant, but never insolent; and it has led to liberty, while ours has done little but invent new forms of servitude.”
Have some Americans regressed to the French form of so-called “enlightenment”?
Truth be told, I have both a skeptic and believer inside of me. But just as I don’t allow the believer to silence the skeptic, I also don’t allow the skeptic to invalidate the believer. That would be driven neither by reason, skepticism or faith; it would be plain dishonest.
One can fully understand the paranoia and fear of a religious right taking control and dogmatically imposing their religious positions. After all, over the last two millennia hundreds of thousands of people were slaughtered in the name of religion. The intolerance, tyranny and oppression of the church, ruling with absolute authority had created a “religious fatigue,” which, coupled with the advancements in open-minded reason and science, finally came to a climax with the “enlightenment” and the powerful rebellion against religion and religious authority (at least in its formal form).
And today we don’t need any historical reminders of the destruction wreaked in the name of religion. Fundamentalist Muslims have waged bloody war against the infidels of the West – essentially a replay of the Christian Crusades of the first millennium.
In light of all this, the resistance to religious control by government is quite understandable. Indeed, the powerful fear is in direct proportion to the intensity of church control and the millions of gallons of blood shed in the name of religion for so many years. After being so severely burned by corruption and abuse, there exists, for good reason, a deep embedded suspicion of any governmental authority advocating religious beliefs.
Thus, the severe reaction to President Bush and his faith based initiatives.
However, we must never allow our own fears (even legitimate ones) to cloud our vision. Abuse has the power to cause us to “throw out the baby with the bathwater,” and run away even from healthy experiences. How many people avoid committed relationships because they have been hurt by loved ones?
The true challenge is to know how to embrace the power of faith – even after we experienced its abuse – and distinguish between healthy faith and unhealthy faith.
The Founding Fathers were all too aware of religious abuse. Hence, the separation of Church and State. Yet, their brilliance was the realization that they cannot allow years of abuse to distort mans’ healthy beliefs. Thus, the same framers of the constitutional separation between religion and government, also began the Declaration of Independence with the words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The nation’s founders understood that without a Creator who created us all equally, “unalienable rights” are no guarantee. Many monrachs, for instance, believed that they were chosen by G-d and were superior to the common man. Ironically, so did the elitist French Enlightenment.
Another reason many fear faith and G-d – in addition to centuries of religious tyranny – is due to a lack of understanding what true and healthy faith is all about (and this too, is a result of the distortions created by centuries of faith abuse). True faith is not merely the absence of reason. It is an inherent human faculty, part of the “Divine Image” in which we were all created, that complements reason, and allows us to reach places that we could never reach with pure logic alone. Faith is what gives humans: the courage and the commitment to love (something reason alone could never sanction); the power to discover; the ability to hope; the capacity to overcome impossible odds; the belief in yourself and in others.
I submit that this is what Americans voted for on Election Day 2004: A vote for G-d in our lives. A G-d that we no longer have to fear. After years of religious exploitation, we have matured to the point where we can embrace the virtues and beauties of the sacred, and integrate it into secular life.
This may the challenge of our times: To revisit faith after its misuse and abuse for so long, and reclaim it as a critical and most powerful tool in our lives.
G-d works in strange ways. Not the people of faith but those that fear faith were the ones that made faith such an issue in America today. With the intention of mocking President Bush’s “simplistic faith” they inadvertently deified him and turned him into a (false) saint. In effect, unwittingly they crystallized an issue that otherwise would perhaps not been quite noticed, and provoked million of people of faith to come out and cast a vote against the bigotry and dogma of non-believers.
Americans are a very tolerant people. They will tolerate flag-burners and atheists. They believe in freedom of religion, that every individual can choose to worship or not worship any deity one wishes. Separation of church and state – a wall between organized religion and political authority – is a must. No organized religion can rule the country. But Americans will not tolerate intolerant skeptics: Freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. “In G-d we Trust” – a non-denominational universal G-d – is the driving force behind all our freedoms and liberties.
Ironically, faith in a Creator and in the edict that “all men [perhaps it should be amended to “humans”] are created equal” with “unalienable rights” is the reason that we must respect the choice of a non-believer. I wonder if the French Enlightenment would have returned us that favor with equal passion? Would they have honored the right and dignity of each individual to choose faith, even if it seemed to them as inferior canaille?
Be careful what you don’t believe in. Your passion against faith may end up stoking its flames. Your vehement doubts may give birth to the deepest faith of all.
Which atheist was it that said: “I hate you G-d, just as if you had existed.”
A take off on Voltaire: If G-d existed, you would need people who denied His existence. That denial can be as strong as faith itself, and perhaps it is just another manifestation of faith.
So, democrats and republicans, skeptics and believers, secularists and the religious, Europeans and Asians, Christians and Muslims: Whether you like it or not – America has spoken:
Faith, moral values and G-d are the most important priorities in our lives.
This is President Bush’s mandate.
Now let us work on integrating faith and reason.