Sunday, May 01, 2005

interesting disagreements

so there i was the other day, maybe yesterday, reading what pz myers was up to over at pharyngula. he posted a recommendation to read an interview with noted atheist biologist richard dawkins at salon. of course there were comments. so i read them. my, my. almost every one of the commenters self-identified as an atheist, and yet some got quite testy with each other. what's up with that, you may ask. i won't try to describe the various positions. go read them.

i mention this minor contretemps (hoping i'm not offering insult to any of the participants with that descriptor) because i was a bit surprised at the back and forth between people who were really on the same side of the bigger picture. so if those who do not accept on faith the existence of a deity, who see no evidence of such, can disagree so much about the politics of their non-belief it is no wonder to me that believers can have even more widely divergent views of what it is that they believe in. of course, from my point of view that there is no evidence for the existence of a personal deity it seems obvious that every believer necessarily has a unique, subjective notion of god.

fundamentalists in any religion think that their notion of what god wants us to do is the only correct version and should be imposed on everyone. there is variance in the method of imposition and the violence allowed, or required, to bring about such rule, but the rest of us had better obey one way or another. so it behooves the rest of us, believers or not, to watch out for our freedom. digby over at hullabaloo has some chilling words by Fritz Stern about the misuse of christianity by the nazis in pre-wwII in germany. here is a bit of his acceptance speech upon receiving the Leo Baeck Medal.

Twenty years ago, I wrote about “National Socialism as Temptation,” about what it was that induced so many Germans to embrace the terrifying specter. There were many reasons, but at the top ranks Hitler himself, a brilliant populist manipulator who insisted and probably believed that Providence had chosen him as Germany’s savior, that he was the instrument of Providence, a leader who was charged with executing a divine mission. God had been drafted into national politics before, but Hitler’s success in fusing racial dogma with a Germanic Christianity was an immensely powerful element in his electoral campaigns. Some people recognized the moral perils of mixing religion and politics, but many more were seduced by it. It was the pseudo-religious transfiguration of politics that largely ensured his success, notably in Protestant areas.

German moderates and German elites underestimated Hitler, assuming that most people would not succumb to his Manichean unreason; they didn’t think that his hatred and mendacity could be taken seriously. They were proven wrong. People were enthralled by the Nazis’ cunning transposition of politics into carefully staged pageantry, into flag-waving martial mass. At solemn moments, the National Socialists would shift from the pseudo-religious invocation of Providence to traditional Christian forms: In his first radio address to the German people, twenty-four hours after coming to power, Hitler declared, “The National Government will preserve and defend those basic principles on which our nation has been built up. They regard Christianity as the foundation of our national morality and the family as the basis of national life.”

does that last sentence sound familiar?