by Justin Rosario
As a militant atheist, I generally don’t keep my rock bottom opinion of religion to myself. I do, however, reserve most of my criticism for the religious right because they’re not just everything wrong with religion, they dial it up to 11. They’re so cartoonishly evil, they’re doing more damage to the reputation of conservative Christianity than 100 clones of Richard Dawkins could ever do.
If you’ll excuse the expression, thank God for that.
For the latest example of how wretched the religious right is, look no further than Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a propaganda outlet that ostensibly exists to promote “family values”. For decades, FRC has railed against the LGBT community, abortion, pornography, contraceptives, and all things they consider “immoral”. They’re very anti-liberal because liberals are godless, licentious savages that have no sense of decency. Not like the good, God fearing Christians of the conservative movement!
Perkins knows about Stormy Daniels, the porn actress who claimed, in a 2011 interview, that in 2006 she had sex with Trump four months after his wife, Melania, gave birth to their son, Barron. He knows of the reports that Daniels (real name: Stephanie Clifford) was paid off to keep the affair quiet in the waning weeks of the 2016 election. He knows about the cursing, the lewdness and the litany of questionable behavior over the past year of Trump’s life or the 70 that came before it.“
We kind of gave him—‘All right, you get a mulligan. You get a do-over here,’” Perkins told me in an interview for the latest episode of POLITICO’s Off Message podcast.
Why does Trump get a Mulligan? Because as far as Perkins and the rest of the religious right is concerned, as long as Trump gives them what they want (more power), he can do whatever the fuck he wants and they will turn a blind eye.
I am no fan of Christianity and am not one to defend it, but Christianity is not a transactional religion. Next to the Inquisition, the Crusades, and the ongoing child molestation epidemic, one of Christianity’s lowest points was when the rich were able to buy “indulgences”, literally pay money in order to commit all manner of sin. The corruption and hypocrisy were unbelievable; a blight upon the temporal world.
And here we are again. Except worse.
Today’s conservative Christians use their religion as a weapon. Even as they lie, cheat, steal, commit adultery, force their mistresses to have abortions, have gay sex, etc. they denounce their enemies for doing all of these things from on top of their pious perch. “Do as I say, not as I do” is not so much a part of their ideology as it is a central premise. When the left commits a sin, they must be punished without hesitation or mercy. When the right commits the same sin or worse? Well, God forgives, why can’t you?
But with Trump, they’re not even pretending their vaunted “family values” matter anymore. The pure racism and naked greed for power of the religious right is on display as never before.
20 years ago, conservative Christians were aghast at Bill Clinton getting a blow job. They were so offended by his extramarital activities that he just had to go. They were even more offended that Hillary Clinton refused to divorce her philandering husband. What kind of family values role model were they for the nation? Disgraceful!
These days, those very same bible-thumping, moralizing puritans are praising Jesus at the top of their lungs for a president that has 5 children with three wives, more affairs than he can remember, brags about perving out on underage girls, and that’s aside from all the criminal activity they know about. They just found out he paid a porn star hush money for an affair they had only 4 month after his latest wife gave birth and, as Tony Perkins says, they’re giving him a Mulligan. All of that moral posturing and they don’t care.
And why should they? They’re getting everything they want. Their white Christian identity agenda is being pushed at the highest levels of the government. And let’s be honest, that is what we’re talking about here when Perkins says “[Evangelical Christians] were tired of being kicked around by Barack Obama and his leftists. And I think they are finally glad that there’s somebody on the playground that is willing to punch the bully.”
The “bully” in question is diversity and secularism. The religious right, like most white people, freaked out when a black man was elected president because they understood, really understood, for the first time that their undisputed control over America was coming to an end. Yes, they were slowly losing the culture wars with the LGBT community and women steadily gaining ground but the religious right still exerted enormous influence over the Republican Party and they were able to still steal elections so how bad could it be?
But if they couldn’t stop a black man from taking the White House, then their grasp on power must be far more tenuous than they thought. And so the religious right abandoned the dog whistles and fully embraced the hate and racism of the far right and, later, Donald Trump. The problem, of course, with dropping the pretense of morality is that it makes it impossible for the people who wanted to be fooled to keep up the act and for the ones who weren’t paying close attention to continue not noticing.
That’s why an increasingly large percent of the country is turning away from organized religion:
According to the Pew Forum on Religious and Political Life, “This abuse of religion for political purposes has been tremendously damaging for American politics. But it is worth pointing out that it has been destructive of religion, too.”
America is still deeply religious but the 24/7 hate being blared out by the religious right is teaching an entire generation that maybe religion isn’t for them:
A survey by the Pew Research Center in 2015 concluded that 35% of Millennials (Americans born between 1981 and 1996) identified themselves as religious “nones” and that number appears to be growing. Young people seem to have a general resistance to organized religion or to any system that tends to be formulaic, authoritative and restrict their decisions or lifestyle.
“…formulaic, authoritative and restrict their decisions or lifestyle.” Can you think of a better description of the religious right?
The louder Tony Perkins and his ilk are about their hate and breathtaking hypocrisy, something else Millennials despise, the more people they’re going to drive away from religion. And without the Bible to hide behind, what will the right use to proclaim their moral superiority to the left? Their words and deeds? Good luck with that.
Atheists have a belief that the quickest way to make someone else an atheist is to have them read the entire Bible from cover to cover. A corollary to that is that the quickest way to have someone abandon organized religion is to have them spend a Sunday morning listening to a right wing pastor explain how Donald Trump fucking a porn star and paying her hush money is actually God’s work.
The Lord would indeed have to move in mysterious ways for that to be true.