As most readers of this blog probably already know, I'm best known online as an atheist who thinks the world would be a much better place without any theism or religion in it.
That's merely a small part of who I am, however.
Long before I decided to focus on religion, I was a rationalist who thought that the world would be a much better place without any meanness or stupidity in it. It wasn't until fairly recent times that I decided to focus on theism and religion in the belief that they act as the most potent conveyors and intensifiers of meanness and stupidity that I know of.
As I attempt to broaden my focus with this blog, it seems both natural and right that I address some of the other potent conveyors and intensifiers of meanness and stupidity that I've been neglecting in the recent past.
And of all the things here that I've been neglecting, perhaps the worst is politics.
Specifically, conservative politics.
The absurdities and hypocrisy and greed associated with conservative politics seems to often rival that of almost any religion one may care to name.
Is it a coincidence that conservative politics and religion often overlap? I don't think so.
And one of the big problems with both is that they don't merely hurt the people who embrace them but society as a whole.
I became acutely aware of the poisonous nature of religion when I started encountering people who were attempting to force their religious views on me in wildly inappropriate areas of life. I'd walk into an optician's office and the person on duty would start talking to me about Jesus. Or I'd go to the dentist and find Biblical quotes posted in places I couldn't avoid looking at while the dentist had me trapped in his chair. Or I'd be going down the road and a "Christian Plumbers" truck would pull up beside me. Madness was spreading, and virtually no one was objecting, let alone attempting to cure the afflicted.
The same sort of thing has been happening in recent years with conservative politics.
When my central air conditioning went bad about two years ago and had to be replaced, the companies I asked to come out and give me a quote almost all warned me how expensive it was going to be because of The Damned Government's demand that old style Freon be phased out.
When I've recently been out shopping for carpet, a new patio door, and other things, the clerks have warned me repeatedly about a new EPA requirement that all homes built before 1978 must have their paint checked for lead before any work is done. There's a $20 fee - oh horrors! Can you believe it?
When I've recently thought about replacing a garage door and asked a clerk about my options, the clerk snidely asked if the old door already had an electric eye as mandated by our nanny government. "Oh how did we ever get along before?!" (Insert Clerk Smirk here.)
When I recently had to consult my lawyer about an issue, he gratuitously said that the government almost never passes good laws - that it only mucks things up. He named one exception - which was something that allowed the rich to keep more of their riches.
At some point a tipping point was reached and I realized that I was dealing with a quasi-religious set of opinions that simply assumed everyone agreed and no one felt had to be proved.
The Government was the enemy, just like Satan was the enemy. To disagree was to risk being cast out as a heretic - or possibly as a demon.
At some point recently, all this went from being being amusing to being frightening....
First of all, The Government isn't some bloodless, mindless robot invader from Planet 9 and it isn't something that's been imposed on us by some invading army. WE are The Government. It is run by people who have been elected by us, and it is staffed by our neighbors and our relatives and our friends.
Second, these elected officials and staffers aren't evil beings out to make our lives as difficult as possible. The policies that are being formulated and put into practice are there for good reasons. Freon is bad for the environment. Old-style garage doors had a nasty tendency to crush children. Lead paint is bad and should be dealt with before another kid ends up with permanent brain damage just because we were too lazy or cheap to deal with it. If you think a society of laws is bad, try living in a society without laws!
Third, many of those who are now habitually attacking The Government day after day after day seem oddly selective and near-sighted in their attacks. They were oddly silent when Bush trashed Clinton's well-thought-out anti-terrorism plans and left us more vulnerable to a 9/11-style attack. They were oddly silent when Bush mismanaged two wars, leaving thousands dead and many more permanently disabled. They were oddly silent when Bush & Co. allowed Iraq's museums full of priceless ancient artifacts to be looted. And they were oddly silent when Bush cut taxes for the wealthy during wartime and the deficit exploded. (And of course they were oddly silent when just 5 members of the Supreme Court awarded Bush the presidency even though a clear majority of voters had preferred his opponent.)
Fourth, so much of conservative politics obviously revolves around selfishness and self-centeredness. The Government is Bad! But don't cut my Social Security check. The Government is Bad! But my son in the military needs to be paid more by it. The Government is Bad! But it ought to have the power to ban what I don't like, and listen in on the private conversations of those I fear, and prevent Those People from marrying, and deport those nasty foreigners. I could go on and on.
Fifth, there's a terrible blindness about the dangers of less government. Have people really forgotten what things were like when unelected robber barons had unchallenged power? When the meat plants were never inspected? When Dow Chemical could dump whatever it felt like dumping in the rivers and lakes we all drink from? When the quality of your retirement essentially depended on how wealthy your children turned out to be? Does anyone really want the insurance companies to decide the treatment we receive in the emergency room or the doctor's office? Does anyone really want to trust their lives to the accountants at Ford? Does anyone truly believe that Wall Street operates best when it self-regulates?
Sixth, so many of the spouters of harsh conservative anti-government rhetoric seem to have no realization that they're being played for fools by The Powers That Be - that their "grass roots" campaigns are being secretly funded by some of the richest people and corporations in the country for their own selfish reasons. These people and corporations do NOT have the best interests of society in mind when they pump millions into the campaigns of those who promise to slash their taxes and then look the other way while they further abuse their customers and others.
I have sometimes tried to imagine the discomfort the most devout evangelicals would experience were they to actually come face-to-face with the Jesus they say they believe in.
I hope I live long enough to witness the discomfort of those poor Tea Party conservatives when they finally have to live under the type of government they insist is the best.