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Righteousness and Amnesty

Monica Goodling and her story

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, May 23, 2007.

I’ve been an atheist all my adult life, and if such thinking needed any bolster it received it when I was a medical courier years ago during my probation. Yes. That pathetic job carrying biologic specimens of lord knows what. In that job I went to some medical offices that dealt with infants dying of cancer. Seeing puddle ducks in diapers, barely able to sit up and with huge, dark grey bags and circles around their eyes solidified my animosity towards anyone who demands I worship a being who’d be responsible for that.

So, it was with some anticipation of a good read that I bought God Is Not Great, by Christopher Hitchens, last week. Hitchens is the successor to Gore Vidal, Mencken, and Voltaire. He’s a right bastard to those with whom he disagrees, and he’s also blessed with that British ability to painfully slice and dice so entertainingly that his victims may not be aware for a bit that they’re not only toast, but croutons. You cannot read him without it affecting your writing. I cannot, anyway.

Hitchens does what should have been done a long time ago. He blows apart virtually all organized religion as hogwash and created by humans. His evidence is pretty damning, although as is said of the representatives of all religions, it would help if the original texts could be read by those fluent in the language. In that vein, Hitchens has a great deal of fun at the expense of Mormonism, where gold tablets with writing could only be read by Joseph Smith, and this to a partisan scribe, at which point they vanished to heaven. It’s easy to make fun of this, but as Hitchens points out, nearly all religions are based on the sure rantings of illiterates who insist they were selected by God to spread this Word, or that Message. With modern UFO abduction victims, they share many of the same delusions. It’s a most enjoyable book, and even some religious folks enjoy it because it is a solid and well-researched attack, which they can view as a test of their own faith. And, of course, he’s not demanding anyone be killed and sent to hell fire everlasting, which they mostly would if they had anyone capable of debating his points.

Contiguous to my reading of Hitchens, I’ve been following the writings of David Plotz in Slate, the webzine now owned by the Washington Post, although you would not know that by the vicious attacks on that paper by many of Slate’s writers. Plotz is Blogging the Bible, in which he started at the beginning and ruminates on each chapter as if it were a Soprano’s episode on Television without Pity. Not only extremely well written, it’s funny and informative. Many people know that there are two versions of creation, but there are two versions of the Ten Commandments, and two of Christ’s genealogy, and different takes on many events that alone wobble one’s possible belief that this is written by Moses - as the first five books are supposed - or by God’s guidance. It’s cruel to drop kick the many idiocies and contradictions, but unlike Hitchens I credit religion with providing the initial framework for ethics beyond mere common cause and desire to keep the peace.

It was the Hebrews alone, I think, who conceived or inherited the idea of that which is 'righteous', although the word as we know it was coined by William Tyndale in the early 16th century. Tyndale used it, perhaps accurately, for a Hebrew word and a Greek word, the original respective languages of the two Testaments. I prefer the Hebrew’s take, for unlike the Christian, they offer no reward other than God’s regard for being righteous. Christians get eternal life, which is a bribe. ‘What’s right is right’ seems logical enough, just like the Golden Rule, but viewed in the age of theocracies and complete despots running people’s lives, the idea there was a higher and more noble goal strikes me as brave and unique.

I was watching former Justice Department White House liaison Monica Goodling being tepidly grilled by the Senate today. She is the graduate of Pat Robertson’s fourth tier law school who somehow came into great power at a young age because of her political and strong religious positions. She’s blaming other people, and not giving terribly convincing answers as to why she previously said she would not incriminate herself and plead the Fifth Amendment, for which she was given amnesty. I look to see if this allegedly Christian woman of the Book feels the tug of Righteousness, to do what is right and tell the truth and nothing but.

The hearings drone on, the young woman does not seem motivated beyond professional survival. Ironically, Hitchens often supports Bush and his administration, but I'm done with Hitchens for today. I'm long done with his recent target.