Sunday, August 12, 2012

Mike Lofgren on Religious Conservatism

Former Republican Congressional aid Mike Lofgren quit the party in disgust back in 2011, saying
The Congressional directory now reads like a casebook of lunacy. . . . It should have been evident to clear-eyed observers that the Republican Party is becoming less and less like a traditional political party in a representative democracy and becoming more like an apocalyptic cult, or one of the intensely ideological authoritarian parties of 20th century Europe.
Now Lofgren has written a book about the invasion (as he sees it) of fundamentalist religion into the Republican Party, titled The Party is Over.
I recall another point, in the early 1990s, when a different fundamentalist GOP staffer said that dinosaur fossils were a hoax. As a mere legislative mechanic toiling away in what I held to be a civil rather than ecclesiastical calling, I did not yet see that ideological impulses far different from mine were poised to capture the party of Lincoln.

The results of this takeover are all around us: If the American people poll more like Iranians or Nigerians than Europeans or Canadians on questions of evolution, scriptural inerrancy, the presence of angels and demons, and so forth, it is due to the rise of the religious right, its insertion into the public sphere by the Republican Party, and the consequent normalizing of formerly reactionary beliefs. All around us now is a prevailing anti-intellectualism and hostility to science. Politicized religion is the sheet anchor of the dreary forty-year-old culture wars. . . .

Politicized religion provides a substrate of beliefs that rationalizes—at least in the minds of its followers—all three of the GOP’s main tenets: wealth worship, war worship, and the permanent culture war.
Andrew Sullivan shares this belief that all the failings of the contemporary Republican Party trace back to religious fundamentalism. I wonder if, instead, both fundamentalism and that other great font on inanity, libertarianism, owe their contemporary success to the same great social forces: the decline of community, the general waning of all sorts of tradition, ever-increasing global competition, the fading of the left-wing "we're all in this together" ideology, and the ever-growing sense that we are lone agents who must forge our own paths through life, create our own brands, and network our way to success, without being able to rely on anyone or anything else.

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