Wednesday, April 19, 2006
by Wayne Besen
When fundamentalists are confronted with evidence that contradicts religious dogma, they like to dismiss the inconvenient facts by saying that God is testing their faith. But in the past few weeks, God has given the faithful so many tests, that President Bush ought to appoint Him to run "No Child Left Behind."
First, the right wing was presented with a crushing $2.5 million study that said the power of group prayer was ineffective and provided no benefit to patients recovering from cardiac bypass surgery. In fact, 59 percent of patients who knew they were being prayed for had complications, compared to 51 percent of the patients who did not receive prayers. A few more of these studies and patients will pray that no one is praying for them. Of course, prayer can be a positive force, but it should be a humble and reverent matter, not the showy and superstitious domain of the audacious and ostentatious.
If you think about it, this study makes a lot of sense, with prayer often leading to the law of unintended consequences. For example, in the past two decades countless teams of Neo-Puritans have prayed for homosexuals to be delivered out of "bondage." In that same time period, however, the number of gay men and women who are just plain out has increased dramatically.
In another divine test, a 375 million year old fossil was found that scientists say is a long-sought missing link in the evolution from fish to walking life forms. Before the discovery, advocates of Intelligent Design had claimed that the fact such a link was missing undermined the theory of Evolution. I guess medieval minds will go back to the drawing board to dream up their next Creationist scheme.
Meanwhile, we have learned that Judas may not have been a betrayer of Jesus, but his best friend. The Gospel of Judas is particularly devastating to fundamentalism because it shows their religion is not as absolute as they suggest. The idea of preaching God's "word" becomes questionable when we keep digging up new words.
Who is to say that we won't stumble upon a hidden text buried in a Vatican vault where Paul comes out of the closet and goes to a circuit party in Babylon? Or maybe we will come to find that Sodom was not actually destroyed, but gentrified by gays and the writers of the Old Testament were simply bitter because they were priced out of their apartments.
Neo-Puritans might want to escape the modern world by retreating to the comfortable confines of Wal-Mart. But inside the Big Box are little boxes stuffed with DVDs of Brokeback Mountain. And coming soon to the Big Screen is the Da Vinci Code, starring Tom Hanks, which will have religious conservatives reeling.
When all else fails, the right wing will return to gay bashing, which is what it intends to do as midterm elections approach. However, there is even bad news on this front. A new Pew Research Center for the People and the Press poll shows that only 51 percent of people oppose allowing gay people the freedom to marry, compared to a whopping 63 percent in 2004. At this rate, Pat Robertson will be performing gay weddings by 2010.
In search of a new scapegoat, conservatives thought they had a sure winner in Mexican-bashing. What they did not expect was that the people who cleaned their houses, would clean their clocks in the battle over public opinion. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants attended boisterous protest rallies across America, causing angst among GOP political operatives who are afraid this issue might cost the party Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada in future elections.
If this isn't bad enough, George W. Bush, the man the fundamentalists catapulted into the Oval Office as the "Chosen One" is plummeting in the polls. At the same time, key former Generals are no longer playing ball with Donald Rumsfeld, while Dick Cheney is getting rancorously booed at that great bastion of liberalism - the major league baseball park.
Finally, a new study reported in the Journal of Research Into Personality reveals that confident, resilient, self-reliant kids mostly grow up to be liberals, while whiney, habitual complainers grow up to be conservatives. The existence of Robert Novak, Bill O Reilly and Tucker Carlson seem to back the study's conclusions.
God has tested Neo-Puritans and they have received a report card pockmarked with Fs. A group that anoints itself moral and then chooses Tom DeLay as its prophet and Bush as its savior, can't be surprised when they encounter disasters of biblical proportions.