Religion and State in the U.S. today


On the most universal level, energy constantly changes its form. That is the fundamental principal behind the dialectics of matter. We, humanity, are a conscious form of this- conscious enough to realise that our form of existence is temporary whether because of the eventual destruction of our tiny planet from the infinite possibilities of causes and effects throughout an infinite universe of energy or a through the irrational and unnecessary destruction of the conditions of existence for our species because of the current social system. Needless to say, we cannot control the infinite possibilities of the universe but we do have the means to shape the conditions of our existence in the universal here and now. On a philosophical level or in other words the level upon which we recognise our existence within a greater reality, fatalism (a form of determinism) is the major deterrent to realising the unique phenomenon of human energy, which is conscious of itself and other various forms. Determinism is the enemy of the potential celebration of our existence as a species within an intricate network of other life-forms for as long as it lasts. And religion is the bulwark of religious thinking, synonymous to determinism, a mentality grounded upon finitism and changelessness both of which contradict every aspect of reality.  

Determinism fools the masses from recognising the entire manner in which the economy and society are organised on the basis of private appropriation of capital and the distribution of wealth in relation to ownership (or non-ownership) of capital, rather than according to the needs of people. Determinism placates the intelligentsia by allowing them to buy into the myth of “human nature”. Its meaning is the apology for the dominant exploitative and oppressive relations as an all-powerful supernatural force to which all must submit. The belief in non-existent supernatural beings together with the social conditions and relations that provide the basis for such belief goes hand in hand with the unwillingness or inability to recognise the mainsprings of inequities. The deterministic outlook will only see the symptoms, not the fundamental causes. In fact, it leads to the covering of the causes and conciliating with those who profit and seek to perpetuate their profits.

It is not surprising that in the face of the most recent social and economic change; neo-liberalism, its effects are beginning to have the tendency towards undermining or causing upheaval within the system. It is at this point that we see the American ruling class more aggressively asserting the authority of its religious traditional morality through both of its political parties, The Republicans and The Democrats. It is the purpose of this article to give an overview of the rise of power of religious institutions and religious culture during the last decade within the “belly of the monster”, the U.S. When the irrationality of the system delivers its venom to the growing number of sick, poor and vulnerable victims, what better way for the American ‘leaders’ than to exalt the parent of the ideology of irrationality? 

In the U.S., capitalism today indeed has the effects, which tend to undermine the willingness to make personal sacrifices for “God and Country”, that is, for the interest and requirements of the imperial ruling class within the U.S. itself and in the world arena. Therefore, the Republicans together with the Christian Right are playing a decisive role to attempt to revive and impose “the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism…” (The Communist Manifesto). Though the Democrats deal with this by giving token expression to inclusiveness, diversity and multiculturalism in order to stave off the social effects of cheapened production, depressed wages, disposable labour, and the internationalisation of speculation and other parasitic activity, their enthusiasm for ‘holiness’ is equal in strength and in action to its counterpart. “The bourgeoisie, wherever it has gotten the upper hand…has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self interest…It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour…in the icy water of egotistical calculation…In a word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted, naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.” (The Communist Manifesto)

First, in order to better acquaint ourselves with where the majority of the elite’s tax deductible “charitable” investments are going to, it is important to look at the following figures. According to GIVING USA 2000/AAFRC (a trust for philanthropy) the 1999 charitable contributions totalled  $190 billion. Health received 9% of that amount, human services 9%, arts & culture 6%, environment 3%, international affairs 1%, other 15%, education 14%; and lastly religion-a whopping 43%! The most blatant example is the De Moss Foundation. It is behind the best-seller, Power For Living which is a call to Christ and has been endorsed on CNN 50 times daily for the last 6 months on their T.V. ads by famous Yankee pitchers and a former Miss America and has spent 27.8 million dollars doing so; more than any presidential media campaign. The De Moss Foundation, one of the most secretive, ranks 73rd among the thousands of U.S. foundations. Its projects include targeting abortion and a vision of a Christian America. The recipients of its grants include Bill Bright, an evangelists for the Campus Crusade for Christ, Chuck Colsun, head of Prison Fellowship International and Pat Robertson, founder of The American Centre for Law and Justice. Its family connections include Newt Gingrich, Tony Campol (Clinton’s Pastor), Jesse Helms (southern white supremacist senator), Franklin Graham and Jerry Fallwell. The Christian Conservative Movement, founded 20 years ago by Jerry Falwell, has become a political and financial giant in its own right. 

Religious faith, the source of the blind unquestioning belief in traditional gender roles and stereotypes from earlier forms of class divided society are still carried forward and exert great influence on modern society. Theocratic Christian fascists portray themselves as upholders of tradition-steeped moral certainty as opposed to moral relativism and self-indulgent degeneracy. In the article “Southern Baptists…you are right!” (USA Today Aug/98) they insist wives must “graciously submit to their husband’s sacrificial leadership…” because the family was god’s idea, not man’s and marriage is a covenant between one man and one woman for a lifetime all of which is based upon biblical truth. In truth, many but not all great patriarchs of ancient Israel had scores of wives and concubines. They reinterpret this to fit their agenda promoting monogamous family bonds which correspond to oppression in capitalist society since it would not really be politically expedient to take the bible literally, e.g. stone a woman to death for not being a virgin at the time of marriage. 

Large numbers of women must out of necessity work outside the home, which has created an explosive contradiction for traditional family values. The polarisation and bitter struggles around abortion is one of the expressions of this fact. Why the fierce opposition to the reproductive freedom for women? The patriarchal family is above all a property relation in which wife (possession of husband) is a breeder of children (males) who continue the lineage of the man (inherit his property). Throughout the Middle Ages, women accused of being witches (the herbalists and wise-women of still pagan villages throughout Europe) were hunted out, hideously tortured, and burned at the stake in uncountable numbers by the Catholic Church. Throughout history, women have been the principal victims of sex police activity of the self-proclaimed patriarchal morality judges whereas nowadays, single mothers are now being pointed out by these judges’ collective finger blaming them for the evils of society. Linda Weberauthor of best-seller, Focus on the Family, states that “many experts believe maternal dominance (single moms) has a direct and extremely influential link to sexual disorientation. The Master Designer wrote His parenting manual, the Bible…the necessity of the masculine leader to ensure the growth of a strong family.” The National Marriage Project based at Rutgers University, New Jerseygoes even further by concluding  “Co-habituating unions tend to weaken the institution of marriage and pose clear and present dangers for women and children.” The report cites studies showing that non-biblical unions have tendencies towards more domestic violence to women and physical and sexual abuse of children. TIME. FEB/99

Patriarchy, male supremacy and the subordination of women are integral to the system, however, as already mentioned, today the system is undermining the traditional family. Ralph Reed of the Christian Coalition exclaims: “Help Congress as it charts a cultural agenda to address what we believe is the most pressing issue in American politics today, and that is the fraying of the social fabric, the coarsening of the culture, the breakdown of the family structure, personal responsibility and social order.”  The cultural agenda is well embodied in one of the latest best-sellers, Left Behind of which 7 million copies have already been sold. It is a six-volume Christian fiction series with apocalyptic prose and biblical underpinnings. TIME MAY/98 It entails what for millions of women is the ideal man; a version of a romance novel fantasy- the powerful, protective, sexually aggressive Prince Charming to whom every woman would want to submit. 25 million American women (Forbes magazine) read such twenty romance novels each month and the consequences in conditioning girls to accept “their role” is anything but harmless. The place where women and children are most likely subjected to violent crime is in their home by the man of the house behind closed doors protected by the sanctity of the traditional family. Religion reinforces the tradition in which girls and women are the sexual possessions of men presented as pure virgins under the protection of their fathers until they are married and become the acquired objects of gratification and even plunder by their husbands.

Even within religious institutions themselves there has been a reawakening to “almighty determinism”. The Vatican has started vigorous campaigns to stamp out dissent on new approaches in its doctrine relating to science, women priests, abortion and euthanasia to name a few. The Pope’s view is that modern rationalism has spawned nihilism. Rome’s policy silences any discussion on these issues and has taken to the banning of books. One example is that of Archbishop Weakland who in 1994 induced Catholic bishops to write a pastoral letter calling American poverty and women’s second class citizenry in the Church a ‘moral scandal’. In response to that action, the Vatican vetoed his honorary degree in Switzerland. TIME. MAY/98

A stark example of religion’s revitalised onslaught on science would be the Shroud of Turin, which the Church claims was Christ’s burial sheet. Despite 1988 radio carbon-dating test proving the Shroud of Turin to date no earlier than the late Middle Ages, three million people, including the Pope, lined up to see it in an 8 week display in May 2000. This happened despite the fact that nuclear physicist Harry Gove who helped develop the radio carbon-dating process said the odds were one in one thousand trillion against it “being woven in the time of Jesus”. In 1998, the Church recalled all the threads and samples and said it would disown any testing on unreturned remnants. As St. Paul instructed in the New Testament; “Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth”. TIME APR. /00  It is interesting to note that the 60 million U.S. Catholics replaced Latin with English prayer in 1960. Since 1990, 70% have gone back to Latin. 

Old religious rituals are being embraced anew by many boards of education. The Rebirth of America yet another best-seller of millions of copies sold, in essence, condemns secular education. Though the Supreme Court had issued a ruling that bans compulsory prayer in public schools in 1963, the Alabama State Senate passed a bill mandating a daily holy moment of silence in response to a 1997 federal ruling voiding an earlier state pro-school prayer law. In addition, high schools are responding by public prayer before football games by using the radio waves rather than the stadium’s public address system. This is the latest in a series of new constitutional manoeuvres to circumvent laws considered to be secular oppression. Already the religious are organizing into a successful Christian resistance movement of man’s law vs. god’s law. After an Alabama judge was sued for refusing to remove the Ten Commandments from his courtroom, they now hang next to The Declaration of Independence in dozens of schools and public buildings. Furthermore, the U.S. Supreme Court in 1990 upheld a law effectively allowing prayer crowds to meet on public school property providing they did so outside of school hours and without any adult supervision. Since then thousands of prayer clubs have been established. Prayer clubs now exist in 4 out of every 15 public schools in the U.S. In 1995 Clintonhad the Department of Education issue a memo to public schools to include public address announcements of religious gatherings. The 1990’s, in fact, have been a decade of extraordinary growth for Christian youth groups in middle and high schools. After Columbine’s slaughter, teen Christian groups gathered spontaneously on their campuses. Mainline Protestantism does not make much of martyrdom but the more emotional Evangelical variety honours it. At the funeral where 73 thousand attended, the pastor compared one slain girl to early female saints. TIME. MAY/99

In the creationists’ sweeping jihad against Darwin, the Kansas Board of Education voted 6 to 4 to remove the study of evolution from the State science curriculum. This marks a long struggle by religious fundamentalists and their allies to restrict or eliminate the teaching of evolution in public schools. The major argument is its dubiousness because the process of evolution has not been directly observed. Evolution, in fact, is the central organizaing principal of all biological science. TIME AUG./99 Religious fervour and its accompanying characteristic of exclusivity has extended to universities as well where at the Bob Jones University in South Carolina, known as a Republican supporter with Reagan as a special friend, a ban on interracial dating has recently been imposed. Another friend, Bush, believes that churches should be prominent distributors of government money.TIME. MARCH/00

It seems that in “the land of the free”, as long as religious culture is on the rise, it will be endorsed by the ruling class in one way or another with or without Christianity as its anchor. “Everyone thinks that scientists invent independently when in fact their inspiration is manipulated by the aliens. They look human but have noses made out of bone…the aliens arrived around 1900 and they intend to replace all humans with clones. In terms of culture and spirit, they already control me.” These words were spoken by Li Honzhi, the religious leader of the Falun Gong, which has millions of followers. In 1992, China, experiencing a vacuum of hope and values, had 60 million followers; four million more members than the Chinese Communist Party. He blames aliens for many of humanity’s problems. In 1996, in recognition of his numerous American followers, the mayor of Houston Texas proclaimed an official ‘Li Honzi Day’. Falun Gong has chapters in eight countries and 21 American states. “I want to teach people to be good, not to be involved in politics” TIME. MAY/99

Another North American religious fad is Buddhism popularised by Hollywood’s rich and famous whose ultimate guru is the Dalai Lama of Tibet. As an interesting historical aside, the Dalai Lama issued a statement on Oct./98 that in the 1960s, the CIA gave $millions to arm, train and pay his contra forces during which time the Dalai Lama himself was a well-paid CIA agent. A decade later the project was called off from lack of popular support following Mao’s land reforms. This latest confession has by no means reduced his popularity. 

We also are witness to more faith healing congregations whose pastors instruct their flock to avoid doctors and hospitals. Many states such as Oregon have a statute that exempts faith-healing parents from manslaughter charges. Between 1975-1995, 140 avoidable child deaths were attributed to 23 religious denominations in 34 states. TIME. AUG./98

Politicians now compete in their pursuit of pretentious posturing against the sinful and damned. Pat Robertson, one of the US’s biggest Christian heavyweights who has been treated as a legitimate candidate in the political process, writes in his best-seller, “Answers To 200 of Life’s Most Probing Questions” that Satan is responsible for most of the world’s suffering and much disease is caused by sin. He also notes that Karl Marx was a “satanic priest”.  Another one of his gems is: “It is possible that a demon prince is in charge of New York, Detroit, St. Louie, or any other city.”  There is a fairly broad consensus among the ruling class that the social and political programs of fundamentalist reactionaries is now an important element. Beyond the fundamentalist forces, powerful groupings share the view that circumstances could arise which might call for the implementation of a fundamentalist program on a more sweeping basis than now. Fundamentalist reactionaries occupy a prominent place in the armed forces as well, particularly among the higher level officers. Two Marine officers who authored “Making the Corps” write: “…cultural radicals are people who hate our Judaeo-Christian culture…whose agenda has slowly codified into a new ideology usually known as multiculturalism or political correctness. …The next real war we fight is likely to be on American soil.” 

In an opium fog, religion illuminates the decrepit divisions between rich and poor, princes and commoners, men and women etc. as natural and inevitable whereas they are really historically and socially conditioned. Religion fights against the abolition of all class divisions, against the abolition of all relations of production on which these class divisions rest, against the abolition of all social relations that correspond to these relations of production and lastly, against the revolutionising of all ideas that result from these social relations. And the pious words “personal responsibility” pronounced by the executioners are used as an ideological weapon to blame the people for the failure of capitalist society to live up to the principles and promises it proclaims and, in particular, to blame those in the inner cities for the impoverished and oppressed conditions into which they have been cast and confined. It seeks to locate the cause of this situation and the actions of people forcibly maintained in these conditions on some alleged moral deficiencies on the part of the people themselves, and to deny and obscure the real cause: the system itself and the policies of those in power. 

Within this context, the masses in the inner cities are now facing a growing repressive social and political agenda. “In ancient Israel…through capital punishment, society was rid of that offence, and the land was cleansed of evil” pronounces Senator Jesse Helms, the aforementioned southern white supremacist. The reality of white supremacy (fascism dressed in religious robes and tailored to contemporary U.S. society) and its atrocities throughout U.S. history is continued through state-sponsored executions of Blacks and Latinos. Fundamentalist morality is becoming the basis for law. However, religion and state are meeting at more than one crossroad in order to further cast the masses of people who cannot be profitably exploited through the regular structure of waged slavery into criminals where once in prison, they are either exploited or executed. Despite the fervent condemnations of ‘Big Government’, the ruling class’s program involves a broad extension of ‘Big Brother’ intrusions into people’s lives and a battering police state smashing down supposed constitution rights and protections. This is justified and sanctified through a highly orchestrated crusade for traditional values and a professed moral righteousness represented by old time religion. 

One Canadian journalist appeals to his readers to pray together with him so that “The current revival of religion in our political life may be just an aberration, a temporary infection from the United States (Peter Desbarats, London Free Press Sept./2000). Unfortunately, what he cannot see though the stained-glass nature of his plea is that moral-religious (ir)rationalisations are needed more and more in order to meet the requirements of global capital to exploit in an unrestrained, mobile fashion within U.S. society. This is manifested in the slashing of major social programs (social spending is now decried as “unproductive cost burdens” and as an aid to those who would escape “personal responsibility”), the heightening of government repressive powers and the fostering of a repressive social atmosphere. Senator Henry Hyde’s amendment deprived all poor women of Medicaid abortions and in reward for his crusade to criminalise abortions, he received The Knight of the Church Honour from the Catholic Hierarchy. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist, another darling of the religious right, was responsible for federal laws supporting wire-tapping, surveillance without a court order, no-knock entry by the police, preventive detention and in addition, he believes that the States are not actually required to comply with the Bill of Rights. His career is marked by the determined search for ways to legally uphold segregation. He is an enthusiastic promoter of government executions and opposes all death row appeals. Senate Majority Leader, Senator Trent Lott is known to have consorted with extreme white supremacists of the Council of Conservative Citizens together with Congressmen Robert Barr of the House Judiciary Committee. Senator Robert Byrd had early membership in the KKK as his first political involvement. Senate President Strom Thurmond fought against the Civil Rights Act of 1957 that made it illegal to threaten black people registering to vote. William Kristol, editor for “The Weekly Standard” magazine founded by media monopolizer Rupert Murdock proclaims that: “None pro-creative trends among white Europeans is leading to a race death.” Randall Terry who ran for Congress, and is the founder of Operation Rescue, an anti- abortion organisation,  explains that biblical personal responsibility makes Medicare anti-Christ since people can’t honour their parents by taking care of them in their old age. Their slogans repeatedly echo that it’s god’s punishment for individual moral failing, not the system or the policies of the power holders that are at fault and that the poor, pregnant and jailed have only themselves to blame. R W. SEPT.98

All social and natural sciences are under a renewed attack of religious-based determinism and not just by the Catholic Church. For exampleresearchers are now pioneering ‘the science of redemption’ (Temptleton Foundation Campaign For Forgiveness Research) to prove that forgiveness can be good for one’s health. They claim it can be used in a number of anger-related ills in order to dissipate anger, mend marriages and banish depression. They also studied forgiveness among chimpanzees and the physiological differences between the forgiving and unforgiving states among these primates. Forgiveness has even wider social applications. A coalition of liberal lawyers and religious thinkers have pioneered something called The Restorative Justice Movement. At present, there are 300 such programs in prisons including a religion-based juvenile justice initiative in Florida. In fact, forgiveness is pitiless; it forgets the victims, blurs over suffering and death, and drowns out the real causes. In short, yet another diversion from the truth.

Molecular biology is also falling victim to an atmosphere that is racist, pseudo-scientific and vicious as witnessed in Psychology Scientific Journals and the book “Living With Our Genes” which shows that people have as much choice in aspects of their personality as in the size of their feet. Behavioural genetics link, for example, homosexuality and crime with a gene on chromosome 11 to a trait called adventurism. Many promoting this nascent form of eugenics say that criminality is a trait that people are born with. In 1911, the then prominent scientist Cesare Lombroso stated; “You could actually identify them by their physical feature. There exists a group of criminals born for evil against who all social cures breaks as against a rock, a fact which compels us to eliminate them completely, even by death.” TIME. April /00

Today, more and more scientists are publishing papers on criminal genes; politicians scream about super-predators and some of the worst theories are getting new credence. Despite this most recent popular wave in biological determinism, the fact remains that complex organisms are not the sum of their genes. Most genes influence several aspects of the anatomy and behaviour as they operate through complex interactions with other genes and their products, and with environmental factors both within and outside the developing organism. The entire organism cannot be regarded as a simple summation of relevant building codes and their function. 

Technology and social production have essentially eliminated the need for scarcity where only the fittest (most privileged) survive. Even with the changes in the social mode of production, human nature is, nevertheless, viewed the same because of the catastrophic negative social effects of an imposed artificial scarcity imposed by a ruling elite within a class divided society. Psychologist Andrew Whiten, University of St. Andrews, Scotland has resigned his studies of the human psyche to concluding what, in effect, is the biological determinism of human selfishness and immorality: “A sad fact of life is that it’s easier to spot evidence of intelligence in devious behaviour than in acts of co-operation and love. Sophisticated acts of deception involve the conscious planting of false beliefs in others, which in turn implies awareness that others have mental states that can be manipulated.”  Mr. Whiten’s view of himself and others is confined to a very limited and limiting system based upon anti-social means and ends. Ian Tattersall, curator of The Historical Museums, U.S. adds, “We will forever remain the wilful, capricious, appalling creatures that we have been ever since our species emerged during the late ice ages.” TIME APR. //00  Bourgeois society marked by the restless and relentless drive for the acquisition of more material wealth at the cost of the greatest human suffering accounts for the justification of the pessimistic view of “human nature” that religion has bestowed upon us and continues to prove its ‘scientific’ validity through numerous anthropological and psychological studies.

In the field of physics, world-renowned scientists have recently conjured up theories of reality through quantum mechanics and the theory of relativity in the hope of stumbling across a consistent unified theory of gravitation and all other forces. They speak of the Big Bang (the supposed beginning of the universe), the Big Crunch (the supposed end of the cosmos) or the many worlds interpretation (whereby each particle in the cosmos produces new universes each instant and the next instant fragments these new universes again), however, the beginning of the universe is never questioned. This keeps in rhythm to the creationists’ dance of their creator where without an ‘almighty’, the whole subject of a beginning or end of existence (the universe) would be questioned. By the majority of physicists, it is not. Marxism recognises that all existence consists of nothing but matter in motion, which can exist in an infinite variety. Matter has no beginning or end but exists infinitely, although it is constantly undergoing transformation and particular kinds of matter in motion are continuously coming into and going out of existence. Nevertheless, nowadays we have enamoured bedfellows of the religious and scientific blind in numerous endeavours to prove that finity in matter exists and that energy may be added or subtracted despite the continuous proof of the exact opposite. In addition, discoveries are consistently being made of yet another tinier sub-atomic particle, nevertheless, the mainstream scientific community is convinced that given more advanced technology, they will eventually find the smallest in existence which in effect is the same as believing the universe has a border between itself and nothingness. As Steven Weinberg, Nobel physicist proclaims; “It seems likely that the next major theory that we settle on will be so simple that no further simplification would be possible. We have pretty good confidence to trace the universe back to about a billionth of a second after its start.” Paul Hoffman, another renowned physicist concludes emphatically; “Science will reach its limits. We can’t keep discovering profound new truths about reality forever, the process is finite.” TIME. April /00

Up to this point in human development, the general consensus among most people everywhere (99% according to the latest UN survey) is that supernatural forces or god(s)  exist, however, this is neither proof of its existence nor is it proof of an inner human need to believe. Religion’s foundation is based upon philosophical idealism, that in the relation between ideas and matter, ideas, not matter are decisive and determining. This represents an inversion of the actual relationship between matter and ideas and involves a basic distortion and obscuring of the real motive forces in people, society and nature and in the relation between them. It is rather a manifestation of the fact that up until now human society has not reached a point where the social conditions make it possible for the masses to learn the viewpoint and methodology that provides a systematic and comprehensive scientific approach to understanding the motive forces in nature, society and humans. That methodology is Marxism. As Engels explained, the fundamental point of Marxist materialism is the relation between matter and ideas. The material world (universe) is the only source and basis for the verification of all ideas and, in fact, the mind itself and its thought processes are particular forms of matter in motion (chemical and electrical processes in the brain). Religion requires and demands people to believe that its fantastic representations of beings, things, events and forces really exist when, in fact, they do not. 

We are in a time of transition that is bound up with the heightened internationalisation of capital and the automation of production in which whole communities and sectors are now being excluded and whole populations are now simply defined as being outside of the economic mainstream. The new federal laws supporting wire-tapping, surveillance without a court order, no-knock entry by the police and preventive detention are examples of the dismantlement of civil rights that Americans once enjoyed. Religious ideology is needed now more than ever by the bourgeoisie in order to present the fundamental cause of the present global crisis as a spiritual and moral one and the need for government crackdown is portrayed as a biblically directed ‘tough love’ crime deterrence agenda. As Lenin said, people will continue to be deceived until they learn to respond to all major social questions and world events from a class-conscious proletarian viewpoint. When the point is reached that communism is humanity’s social system, when the material and ideological conditions exist for humanity to voluntarily and consciously change itself and the world, the need or basis for a belief in god, sin and human nature will exist no longer.

Winter 2001

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