At one time I naïvely thought fundamentalists were just a bunch of backwoods yokels and that humanism was steadily advancing and would ultimately prevail. Then there was the 1966 Time magazine cover asking, “Is God Dead?” An autopsy turned out to be premature, as I and others were caught off guard by the rise of the religious right. I went to a fundraiser for Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority and I walked away incredibly impressed by his savvy political prowess, his oratory skill, and brilliant intelligence that overcame any prejudices I had as to fundamentalist leaders’ abilities. It was an epiphany for me as a young man, as I realized religion can bend the minds of intelligent people. I wished then we had a few more in our movement with Falwell’s talent.
Today we celebrate the upward secular trends that many seem to think will continue, but trends are only trends until they’re not. Fundamentalists in all religions are doubling down in their intensity worldwide as they blame modernity and secular humanism for all their problems.
One group I’ve been interested in is the religious right within the Tea Party. I joined a local Tea Party group in order to learn about them and estimate around 40 percent of the people were serious paranoids talking about black helicopters and the like. (Someone asked me why I went to these meetings and I told them it was the best free show in town.) There is an acknowledged bifurcation of the Ayn Rand Objectivists/Libertarian types and the religious right wing, but it’s obvious that the latter dominates, differing only in that it feels the destruction of government and civic duty is part of God’s plan to put a theocracy in place.
Enter the Dominionist movement, which is beginning to dominate the religious right with its intent to tear down government. One of the movement’s figureheads, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), is an ideological bulldog and, like Falwell, is not to be underestimated.
Cruz graduated cum laude from Princeton University. In 1992 he was named U.S. National Speaker of the Year, graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, and was a primary editor of the Harvard Law Review. He is dedicated, bright, and I think will be around for a while, determined not to make government work, but to eliminate it. Why? He follows his father, Rafael Cruz, who is reportedly a pastor with Dominionist Purifying Fire Ministries and has preached how Christians should “take dominion” over the earth: “Dominion is over every area—society, education, government, economics…”
The Democratic Party is certainly not immune to this sort of demagoguery, as my district’s congressman, Mike McIntyre (D-NC), scores 8 percent on Americans United for Separation of Church and State’s ratings for upholding secularism. “We know that the true source of power cannot be found here in the halls of Congress or in the Oval Office in the West Wing or in the chambers of the Supreme Court,” McIntyre told his fellow lawmakers, “but only on our knees before the one who is the true source of power!”
As humanists, we’ve always focused on building the good life in the here and now, realizing we are social animals embedded in society. Humanism isn’t political, but our hopes for a better world rely on the ability to work with those with differing views. We are now faced with a religious zealotry targeted squarely at us and the greater social contract. Do not misunderstand their motivations. They are domestic terrorists who have infiltrated the government in order to destroy it. They lie about their desire to improve the standard of living of everyday Americans, when they actually just want to destroy government and secular thought. (My own brother-in-law once sent me Dominionist literature calling for concentration camps for atheists and gays.)
The Dominionists have talented, dedicated, patient, and, in many cases, intelligent ideologues committed for the decades ahead. The religious right sees this as a long-term war for the heart and soul of America. Do we?