Other Religions Atheism and Agnosticism An Atheist's View of the Christian Right's Agenda and Beliefs Share Flipboard Email Print One Nation, Under God: America is a Christian Nation, You Aren't a Real American if you Don't Believe in God. Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: University of Georgia Atheism and Agnosticism Belief Systems Atheism and Agnosticism Logic Ethics Key Figures in Atheism Evolution Atheism Myths and Misconceptions By Austin Cline Atheism Expert M.A., Princeton University B.A., University of Pennsylvania Austin Cline, a former regional director for the Council for Secular Humanism, writes and lectures extensively about atheism and agnosticism. our editorial process Austin Cline Updated April 27, 2019 As outrageous as the Christian Right's overall agenda is, their specific arguments and beliefs can be worse. I have written many articles exploring the arguments and beliefs advocated the Christian Right in order to reveal just how awful, and awfully absurd, they can be. Mere words, though, cannot always convey the true absurdity of a position. Even the most carefully reasoned argument will not carry the emotional impact of the original ideas being dissected. Visual imagery, though, can often communicate ideas more quickly than words and convey emotions more immediately than any argument. For that reason I have created propaganda posters which promote some of the beliefs of the Christian Right. The intention is satirical, not sympathetic, but even so I believe that both the images and the words accurately reflect what some on the Christian Right belief and advocate. The original posters were produced as government propaganda, mostly during the first and second world wars. A basic belief for the Christian Right is that America is a 'Christian Nation.' This belief is one of the most important foundations of every other position they advocate. So long as people believe that America is a 'Christian' nation, it should be easier for them to get the government to adopt laws which are based upon or which promote specifically Christian beliefs or doctrines. Schools are an important component of their efforts to encourage this belief. Christian schools teach the doctrine outright, but secular public schools cannot -- at least, not yet. For the time being they can only promote a very vague sort of theism which the courts turn a blind eye to by pretending that it's no longer truly religious. The Pledge of Allegiance, with it's added phrase 'under God,' plays a significant role here because every day most children recite what amounts to a patriotic affirmation incorporating a religious oath. In this manner children are encouraged to see patriotism and theism as essentially linked. Since most tend to come from at least a general Christian background, the Christian god is the only sort of god they'll have in mind when they say or hear 'under God.' Even if children do not actively and consciously believe that patriotism requires theism, that America is specially blessed by God, or that Christianity is America's defining religion, the attitudes and assumptions necessary for such beliefs will be inculcated over years of repetition. When they are needed, they will be there and they will be ready to exploit. This image is based upon a World War II poster stating that 'Teaching is War-Work, Too.' I have replaced the original text with advocacy of the concept that America is a nation 'Under God' and that you can't be a real American unless you believe in God. The United States of America is Blessed by God; Americans are Chosen by God God Bless America God Bless America: The United States of America is Blessed by God; Americans are Chosen by God to Do His Will. Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: Nazi Propaganda The idea that God has "blessed" America is integral to Christian Nationalists' religious and political ideology. This concept of a blessing isn't about God generally blessing humanity, but is instead the assertion of a special relationship between God and America -- a relationship not unlike the one described in the Old Testament between God and Israel. Without this special relationship, much of Christian Nationalists' religious and political agenda would be difficult if not impossible to justify. For this reason, the belief deserves closer scrutiny and greater criticism. Christian Nationalists did not invent this. Puritans saw themselves as a "new Israel," repeating the biblical story of Exodus by establishing a "City on the Hill" in a "new Canaan" where a purer form of Christianity could develop and which would serve as a moral and religious beacon for the rest of the world. In John Winthrop's day America's mission was to Christianize the world with Puritan Christianity. In the 1800s the mission was secularized to include "civilizing" the world alongside "Christianizing" it. Today, America has the mission to "democratize" the world, spreading the values of democracy and capitalism. Words change and concepts shift, but the similarities are greater and more instructive than the differences. Framing America as a City on the Hill or "bright hope of humanity" causes it to stop being just a nation and to become, in addition, a religion. American soldiers are thus portrayed as having entered Iraq not only to liberate its people from a dictator, but also from darkness. American soldiers become missionaries for the True Faith -- the True American Faith. Instead of simply killing terrorists and insurgents, they also cast out demons. Americans themselves are not simply citizens of a nation or even of a great nation; instead, they are the "chosen people," blessed for living in the "chosen land" where a the divine project for humanity has reached its highest fulfillment. "God Bless America" signs or banners are making both a political and religious statement about America having a special relationship with God that sets it apart -- morally, religiously, and politically -- from all other nations. Not only is this arrogant, but it serves to justify outrageous actions which wouldn't be tolerated if other nations did it. This image is based upon a Nazi poster encouraging people to vote "Yes" in a 1938 referendum to legalize the Anschluss of Austria. Transforming America's Military into a Christian Military Only Christians Need Apply Only Christians Need Apply: Transforming America's Military into a Christian Military. Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: National Archives Christian Nationalists' efforts to transform American society into an expression of their own religious doctrine naturally extends to the military as well. The Air Force appears to have been their primary target, though other branches have suffered as well. In the Air Force academy, for example, Christianity has been promoted and endorsed by officers in a manner that has made non-Christians feel excluded and inferior. Some have even gone so far as to claim that one of the values of foreign military intervention is to open up new regions for Christian evangelization. This would in effect transform the military from an instrument of foreign policy and national defense into a religious sword that exists to pry open other nations for the sake of spreading the gospel. This is a dangerous and irresponsible way of looking at America's military, but it's a perspective which appears to be growing in acceptance among Christian Nationalists. It's curious that Christians would approach the military in such a manner, but this has been developing for quite some time. Far more disturbing, and far more common, is the lionization of America's military within American churches. Films demonstrating military prowess, recruiters, and American flags may share a stage with the pulpit and cross. When churches can invite weapons of such violence and destruction into their sanctuaries, it becomes a bit less surprising to see them attempting to enter and transform the military itself into an arm of their religious agenda. The militarization of Christianity and the Christianization of the military is something which should worry everyone, including moderate and Christians in America. If Christian Nationalists are able to acquire significant influence through the military, they could effectively acquire a degree of military power within the United States. There is no example of the militarization of a religion which has turned out well, nor any such example of a military coming under the sway of a particular religion. This image is based upon a World War II poster depicting a pilot telling workers back home to "Just meet those schedules, will you?" Brutal Behavior in the War on Terror Isn't Real Brutality When Christians Do It Real Christians Do No Wrong Real Christians Do No Wrong: Brutal Behavior in the War on Terror Isn't Real Brutality When Christians Do It. Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: Northwestern University Although it is technically inconsistent with Christian doctrine for a Christian to regard themselves as incapable of doing wrong, many seem to adopt this on a practical level and especially when it comes to acts designed to further a Christian religious or political agenda. An action committed by governments like those in Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, or communist North Korea will be reviled as violations of human rights, but when committed by Christian America in the War on Terror and the War on Islamofascism the same sort of action is welcomed as necessary or even as a sign that the government has our best interests at heart. Conservative evangelical Christians in America are very vocal and passionate supporters of both the Republican Party and of George W. Bush. If they think that the Bush administration has done anything "sinful" in the War on Terror, they have been fairly quiet about it. We hear loud denouncements of abortion and homosexuality on a regular basis. We do not hear such denouncements of "alternative" and aggressive interrogation methods, of secret prisons in foreign countries where prisoners can be questioned without oversight, of detaining of imprisoning American citizens without charges or trials, of domestic spying without warrants or court oversight, or of assertions of presidential authority to ignore both the courts and Congress. We can learn a lot about a person and about an ideology by looking at what sorts of actions they choose to condemn and what they choose to accept, facilitate, or even encourage. Christian Nationalists in America condemn pornography, homosexuality, and gay marriage, They accept, facilitate, or even encourage secret prisons, torture, warrantless domestic spying, imprisoning American citizens without trial, and so forth. They would condemn (and have condemned in the past) such behavior when done by other nations, but it's suddenly not so wrong when done by their Christian president. The above image was taken from a World War II poster which also stated as its headline "This is Nazi Brutality," but the text was about how Nazi troops had killed the men of Lidice, Czechoslovakia and deported all of the women to concentration camps. The image of a prisoner with a hood over his head is disturbingly close to the iconic photograph from Abu Ghraib, but that may be because brutal regimes keep repeating the same tactics generation after generation. It's Not Really Fascism When Christians Do It Christian Fascism, Theocracy in America Christian Fascism in America: If Fascism Comes to America, It Will Come Wrapped in the Flag & Carrying the Cross. Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: National Archives If Fascism Comes to America, It Will Be Wrapped in the Flag, Carrying the Cross Fascism is a term commonly used as an epithet for any ideology that a person doesn't like. Nevertheless, it is a real political phenomenon which can be defined (if with some difficulty) according to particular characteristics. When we look at what fascism really is, we discover that it is not something which must be limited to Germany and Italy of the mid-20th century. It is, instead, a phenomenon which might conceivable occur in any nation at any if the conditions are right. America is no exception. Robert O. Paxton, a professor emeritus at Columbia University, defines fascism in his book The Anatomy of Fascism as: "A form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion." It should be clear that there is nothing fascist about "Islamofascism," so that's an example of people using the fascist label as a means of attack rather than as a serious description. Fascism is more like a religion than it is like a political movement. Fascism isn't motivated by rational conclusions about economics, political philosophy, or social policy. This makes real religions like Christianity well suited for integration with a fascist movement. If fascism occurs in America, it will be Christian in nature because only Christianity has the power to motivate a mass-based movement with a passionate concern for unity, redemption, victimhood, and nationalism. Christian fascism will also be convinced of its own righteousness, moral purity, and godly intentions. This image was taken from a World War II poster of an American prisoner of war saying "Don't Let Me Down" and "You are still free to work." Americans are free to work, but how free are they to enjoy the rest of the liberties which Americans fought and died to protect in World War II? Overt repression in America hasn't started, but once a people unjustly puts others in shackles, they put on their own shackles as well. One is imprisoned by the brutality of the other; the latter is imprisoned by the need to perpetuate their own brutal methods lest the repressed rise up. Now We Can All Sleep Safely, if Lightly Vichy Democrats & God's Own Republicans have Bipartisan Torture Agreement Now We Can All Sleep Safely, if Lightly: Vichy Democrats & God's Own Republicans have Bipartisan Torture Agreement. Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: Nazi Propaganda Things have gotten pretty bad in America when it becomes unsurprising or even expected that Republicans would support authorizing the state to torture or abuse suspects detained under any circumstances. The sight of so-called "progressives" from the Democratic Party joining in, though, is enough to make even a cynical person weep with despair. When a political party stands behind the abandonment of the normal standards of morality or justice in the pursuit of political policy, then they stand behind moral evil. What does a political party stand for, though, when they are unable or unwilling to stand up against moral evil? Can they be described as standing for anything at all? Tell me again why secularists and godless liberals need to learn to be more accommodating of liberal religion and liberal Christianity? I can't begin to count how many times liberal Christians have lectured to godless liberals about how secularism and secularists harm progressive causes by making the Democratic Party look anti-religion and anti-Christian. Apparently, Democratic political fortunes would be much better if they could only appear to be more friendly towards religion -- like God's Own Republicans, for example. Is the Republican Party really a model to emulate, though? The simple and unavoidable fact of the matter is that "secular" Americans (which must include atheists and agnostics, but probably also some non-religious theists) are far less likely to support torture under any circumstances than any denomination of Christian Americans. Christians, in turn, are far more likely to say that torture is sometimes or often justified than secular Americans. I don't think that either liberal or conservative Christians have anything to teach non-religious atheists on morality; if anything, the opposite may be the case. Given these numbers, is it unreasonable to think that if the Democratic Party were more secular, then perhaps it would be less likely to join God's Own Republicans in authorizing the torture and abuse of suspects detained by our government? Liberal Christians have either failed to imbue the Democratic Party with their moral values, or those values are unable to prevent the support of torture. Either way, they might want to consider that they could achieve more by a greater secularization of the Democratic Party. This image is based on a German World War II poster depicting a soldier and a factory worker joining hands in common cause. All Hail the King: President George W. Bush God's Appointed Leader for America, Speaks and Acts for God All Hail the King: President George W. Bush, God's Appointed Leader for America, Speaks and Acts for God. Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: National Archives America is supposed to be a democratic nation founded by "we the people" and based upon the will of the people. This conception of government contrasted sharply with European traditions that rulers were essentially chosen by God and thus the decisions of rulers were effectively divine mandates. Unfortunately, more than 200 years of democratic tradition have failed to extinguish the religious impulse to attribute divine agency to democratically elected leaders. There are many who believe God is responsible for George W. Bush being president -- including, it seems, George W. Bush himself. There are reports of President Bush claiming that he was chosen by God to be president during this time in history. There are also reports of Bush claiming that he speaks to God, with God giving him instructions on foreign policy -- including the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. If Bush were alone in this it might simply be dismissed as egotistical delusions, but many of Bush's Christian supporters completely agree. They believe that Bush was placed in office by God, that Bush's authority is derived from this divine mandate, and that Bush's policies are all the Will of God. If people believe their leader is placed in charge by gods, they are less likely to question, challenge, or oppose his decisions. This is what makes such beliefs popular with authoritarian, totalitarian, theocratic, and fascist rulers; it's also what makes such beliefs inimical to democratic systems. If God, not the people, is the sovereign power responsible for Bush being president, then it means Bush is ultimately responsible to God rather than to the people. Democracy requires the principle that citizens, not gods, choose their leaders and that the government is founded on human reason rather than divine agency. This is fertile ground for Christian Nationalism and Christian Fascism because it allows for the excision of democracy, democratic elections, the separation of powers, constitutionally protected rights, and everything else which makes America a secular and free nation. People who say that Bush was placed in office by God are denying that Bush's authority and office derive from the will of the people. People who say that Bush is doing the Will of God are denying that the American people have any right to challenge or stop Bush. All of this is unequivocally anti-democratic. This image is based on a World War II recruitment poster for America's Army Air Corps. Civil Liberties Mean Nothing when our Enemies Want to Kill Us Scrap the Constitution Scrap the Constitution: Civil Liberties Mean Nothing when our Enemies Want to Kill Us. Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: National Archives One of the most important issues coming out of the international War on Terror is the domestic War on Liberty. It seems that every nation which has chosen to take part in America's Crusade against Islamofascism has discovered that they can't fight terrorism while continuing to respect traditional civil liberties. People are being told by their governments that this is a "new era" and that there are "new challenges" which require us to rethink our old commitments to liberty, freedom, and justice. Sometimes it's explicit and sometimes it's implicit, but the basic message is that we have to choose between liberty and survival. The ways in which many conservatives, now revealed as actually authoritarians in disguise all along, are seeking to limit or eliminate liberties are varied and numerous. George W. Bush is led the way by asserting unprecedented power to do whatever he wants in the name of national security: warrantless spying on Americans, military tribunals beyond any other institution's oversight, torture, secret prisons, indefinite detention without charge or trial, denying American citizens entry into the United States, and much more. Barack Obama demonstrated that he could go even further by assuming even more power, for example the power to assassinate American citizens anytime and anywhere without any independent review. Some conservatives managed to find a way to tie in the domestic "Culture Wars" with the international "War on Terrorism" by arguing that Bush was right: "they" hate us because of our "freedom," but more specifically because we "abuse" our freedom. The Islamofascists don't attack us because of our freedom of speech, but because people abuse that freedom by burning flags. They don't hate us because of our freedom of religion, but because people abuse that freedom by starting weird cults. They don't hate us because of our freedom to marry whom we want, but because we abuse that freedom by having no-fault divorce laws and gay marriage. Surveys reveal that conservatives and conservative Christians are only too happy to go along with all this. Members of the political party which has trumpeted the cause of "small government" for so many years seem willing to accept a police state in its place -- almost half of all Republicans are willing to let the government randomly search mail and more and half are OK with the government monitoring telephone conversations, random car searches, random personal searches, and more. This image was taken from a World War II poster which said "Scrap" -- it was asking that people contribute scrap metal for the war effort. Evolution & Darwinism in Schools Teaching Evolution & Darwinism Encourages Immoral, Bestial Behavior Evolution & Darwinism in Schools: Teaching Evolution & Darwinism Encourages Immoral, Bestial Behavior. Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: Library of Congress Conservative evangelical Christians believe that evolutionary theory is incompatible with morality, civilization, and of course Christianity. They have no serious scientific arguments to make against evolution, so it's most common to see them offering religious, social, and moral arguments against it. They don't seem to realize that even if all of these arguments were valid, they wouldn't constitute good reasons to pretend that evolution isn't true. One popular anti-evolution argument is a moral one. According to the Christian Right, evolution teaches that we humans are ultimately descended from animals rather than that we are special beings created in the image of God. When people believe that God created them specially and that humans are images of God, they are supposedly encouraged to behave more like God wants them. If kids believe that they are simply another form of animal life, then they are supposedly encouraged to behave like animals. If kids believe that they are not a special product of divine will, then it is claimed that they will lose hope and stop caring about either their lives or the lives of others. None of this really follows from evolutionary theory. At most, it only appears to follow because of the narrow and rigid nature of conservative evangelical Christianity. This form of Christianity justifies hope, civilization, and moral behavior on such limited and narrow terms that any deviation from the foundation leads to the collapse of the entire structure. Thus if there is a problem, it's not with evolution teaching that humans are descended from other animals, but rather than conservative Christians cannot come up with any reason for moral behavior other than the idea that humans were specially created in the image of God and separate from other animals. The above poster was created by the German government during World War I and said 'Elend und Untergang folgen der Anarchie' (Misery and Destruction follow Anarchy). Depicted is an anarchist monster carrying a knife and a gun. The original was an attempt to urge people not to give in to anarchist criticisms of the war of the German government. I have replaced the text with the standard canard about the teaching of evolution or Darwinism leading to immoral, even bestial, behavior. America's Actions are Just and Decent if Others Behave Worse It's Not Torture if No One Dies Defining Brutality Downwards: America's Actions are Just and Decent if Others Behave Worse. Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: Library of Congress Defining Brutality Downwards America's War on Terrorism has produced significant casualties -- including America's reputation for respecting human rights. Time and again stories have leaked out about Americans using torture, brutality, and questionable methods for dealing with or interrogating detainees. Awful things happen in every war, but these cases are unusually bad for two reasons. First, they appear to have been authorized from the highest levels rather than being the acts of a few overzealous or poorly trained people; second, they have been defended and justified to the hilt by religious conservatives who are more commonly seen attacking liberals for their alleged lack of morality. An important part of Christians' defense of brutality and torture is the idea that the Islamofascists are doing worse (like kidnapping people and beheading them for TV), so what America has done must be acceptable. It's as if America can do anything and remain moral, just so long as the enemy continues to do worse. That's a perfect example of relativistic morality, something which the same conservative Christians commonly attack. Moral relativism isn't so bad when it's just Muslims who are suffering. It shouldn't be a surprise that Christians could have been so violent, brutal, and cruel during eras like the Crusades and Inquisition -- values like "love your neighbor" and "turn the other cheek" simply aren't followed when it's inconvenient. Christians, and especially conservative evangelical Christians, have no special moral authority from which they can justifiably criticize others. The behavior of Christians in this War on Terror makes this particularly clear. The next time a Christian Nationalist tries to criticize any morality not based on their Bible and their god, find out what they think about American torture, brutality, and injustice in the War on Terror. If rather than denounce it they start mumbling vague excuses, don't let them get away with this -- call them on it, and denounce them for their unethical attempts to justify inhumane behavior. Point out to them that surveys show how secular, nonreligious Americas are less likely to accept torture as justified under any circumstances. If that isn't a sign of being more moral, what is? The above image is based upon an advertisement for "The High Rollers," a 19th century burlesque show. I have no idea what the people here are supposed to be doing, but I find it very disturbing. Cleansing the Community of Infection via Redemptive Violence Encouraging Christian Violence Encouraging Christian Violence: Cleansing the Community of Infection via Redemptive Violence. Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: National Archives An important component of fascism, and one which hasn't entirely developed in America even among movements which tend to appear very fascist in their approach, is the idea that violence is a redemptive act which allows a chosen few to transform society -- usually through the elimination of certain minorities. Thus for the Nazis the elimination of the Jews wasn't simply because the Jews were hated for themselves but also because violence against them allowed the German Volk to redeem themselves and show themselves worthy of the position due them. This hasn't really appeared in full force in America, but that's not to say that some haven't tried. The above image, based upon a World War II poster describing the importance of oil in the war effort, uses the words of Ann Coulter at a speech where she encouraged audience members to deal with protesters: "You're men. You're heterosexuals. Take them out." Notice the implicit taunt in which she mocks the masculinity of the men who have not yet of their own accord acted violently. This presumes that true manliness is based upon violent behavior and encourages said violence by making non-violent men feel inadequate. We should also keep in mind that the fascist gangs of brownshirts which played such a decisive role in the rise of Nazi fascism in Germany were motivated in no small way by a perceived need to both display their manliness and to ward off encroaching femininity. Weimar culture was attacked for being too weak, passive, and feminine. Even traditional Christianity was attacked for being too feminine -- many Protestant preachers advocated a more "manly" Jesus who rolled up his sleeves and engaged in violence rather then turning the other cheek. Thus, the words and ideas which Ann Coulter are using are not an aberration; they are, instead, a standard feature of the fascist perspective. We are fortunate this hasn't taken hold in America, but that's not an excuse to dismiss such incidents. People like Ann Coulter will normally try to excuse their words by saying that they are just jokes, but they aren't. Encouraging violence like this is never a joke; when it occurs in a context like this, though, it's nothing less than a appeal for the creation of fascist storm troopers. That's not joke, that's a specific threat against our democratic order. Should it gain any traction, it could provide the basis for the development of a genuinely fascist Christian movement. Christian Nationalists Assuming Control & Authority over Meaning of the Flag This Flag is Our Flag This Flag is Our Flag: Christian Nationalists Assuming Control & Authority over Meaning of the American Flag. Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: National Archives One area where Christian Nationalists have attempted to exercise more subtle control over American culture is through the American flag. Efforts to ban flag burning have a lot in common with efforts to ban gay marriage as well as a host of other hot-button conservative issues. The issue is not the issue: it's not about burning or protecting flags and it's not about protecting the sanctity of marriage. It's about retaining control over important cultural symbols upon which people base their identities. Why do so many religious and political conservatives insist that same-sex marriages "threaten" and "undermine" traditional heterosexual marriages? Marriage is not just an institution, but also a symbol of a culture's ideals about sex, sexuality, and human relationships. Such symbols are a common cultural currency which we use to help create our sense of self. Thus when the nature of marriage is challenged, so are people's basic identities. Flag burning fits in here because it's a way in which people seek to radically alter others' perceptions of the flag as not just a symbol within the culture, but as a symbol of America as a whole. Bans on flag burning and desecration are a way to avoid discussing what the flag as a symbol means and what America itself should stand for. They are saying to everyone: "This is our country. This is our flag. If you don't adopt our meanings, you don't belong." For Christian Nationalists, a ban on burning or desecrating the American flag is just the beginning: it represents a first step towards taking rights away from political minorities and establishing the power of a majority to dictate the terms of public discourse. They talk about the "right of the majority to rule," which in this case means the power of the majority to dictate to everyone how exactly the flag will be treated, what it will mean, and what sort of relationship one is allowed to have with the flag. Christian Nationalists hope that this will open the door to similar changes in other areas of law. If the majority has the power to censor certain forms of political speech, why not other speech and expression such as pornography? If the they are given the power to determine the meaning of the flag for everyone, why not also the power to determine the meaning and importance of the Ten Commandments for everyone? This image is based upon a World War I poster depicting a worker rolling up his sleeves and getting to work for the flag. Beware of Skepticism, Atheism, Secularism Faith is So Important that Skepticism, Questioning, Doubt are Intolerable Beware of Skepticism, Atheism, Secularism: Faith is So Important that Skepticism, Questioning, Doubt are Intolerable. Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: National Library of Medicine Faith is a critical pillar in the religious ideology of Christian Nationalists. Faith here is not simply a religious virtue, but also a political and social necessity. Just as one must have faith in God, one is also expected to have faith in the basic goodness and competence of political leaders who are acting as representatives of the Will of God. Without faith, the political and religious claims of Christian Nationalism crumble into the sea. For this reason, doubt and skepticism must be treated as basic enemies. This obviously includes being subjected to the critical questioning of a nonbeliever who offers good reasons to doubt the reliability of the claims being made. Such attitudes may be an important reason why atheists and skeptics tend to be so reviled by conservative evangelicals: the very existence of atheists is perceived as a threat because they demonstrate how a person can live and even thrive without faith in any gods. The denigration of doubt goes further, though, and includes for example efforts to cover up anything which would cause people to doubt religious leaders and institutions. Scandals, crimes, and hypocrisy are swept under the rug "for the sake of the community" and uncomfortable truths are suppressed as much as possible. The flip-side of this is the promotion of falsehoods which are thought to bolster faith. In the past such falsehoods were called "pious myths" and often involved someone suffering or dying for their faith as a means to encourage others to persevere in the face of great challenges. Today these myths may depict nonbelievers trying to suppress believers or believers winning amazing arguments against skeptics. No one seems to care if the stories are true or not -- they pass the tales along as if they were simply because they make believers feel better about themselves... and worse about skeptics. The above image was taken, as one might guess, from a World War II poster warning members of the armed forces about women who look "clean" but might be carrying sexually transmitted diseases. I chose this to convey the idea of warning Christians to be careful about whom they date because of the irony: a number of Christians groups encourage members to date outsider for no reason other than to gain new recruits and "save" their souls. Militarize the Homeland, the People, and the Children! Christian Nationalism & Christian Fascism Christian Nationalism & Christian Fascism: What Will it Take to Cause Christian Nationalism to Become Fully Fascist?. Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: Nazi Propaganda What Will it Take to Cause Christian Nationalism to Become Fully Fascist? Many are disturbed about far-right movements in America displaying too many characteristics of fascism. The central organizing ideology behind these groups is Christian Nationalism, the belief that America should have its cultural, legal, and political institutions organized along narrowly defined conservative, evangelical Christian lines. Christian Nationalist movements exhibit many of the basic characteristics of fascist movements except for one: organized, militant groups willing and able to use violence to achieve their goals. There have been attempts to create such militant gangs, for example the militia movement, but none have had broad success. More recently vocal representatives of Christian Nationalism have encouraged people to become more militant. Ann Coulter, for example, has asked "Where are the skinheads when you need one" in the context of driving someone out of Yale and said to a crowd "You're men. You're heterosexuals. Take 'em out." in response to critics of a speech she was giving. Especially serious are remarks from Michael Savage who said on his radio show that he wants all licensed gun owners to organize in their neighborhoods and "learn how to create a homeland defense system in this country." He also said that he wants the militarization of our children: "They're training their sons to use an AK-47, and we're teaching our sons how to swing a baseball bat. Tell me who wins that fight. ...I have nothing against baseball, but the times don't call for an obsession with sports. They call for a militarization of our children." This sounds like a call for the organization of armed gangs in our neighborhoods and the training of our children to become foot soldiers in an uncontrolled American army -- a militia answerable only to whatever leaders are able to hold their attention. This would be nothing less than an American equivalent of the SA, the brownshirts whose street battles in Weimar Germany helped the NSDAP acquire power. Rather than allowing children in America to enjoy childhood, he wants to enlist them in a war against "Islamofascism." Most look at the militarization of children in other nations with dismay; proto-fascists in America look at this as a model to emulate. This image is based upon a German post from the Nazi era. It originally said "Gerade Du," and meant something like "You, Too" or "You, More than Ever" and encouraged German children who were members of the Hitler Youth to join the Waffen SS. Control of Women's Sexuality & Reproductive Organs Men Asserting Authority Over Reproduction and Women Control of Women's Sexuality & Reproductive Organs: Men Asserting Authority Over Reproduction and Women. Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: Library of Congress It has become almost a cliche for the Christian Right to denigrate the idea that women should be able to make their own decisions about their reproductive organs, their reproductive processes, and whether they will even reproduce or not. In effect, this takes very basic decisions about a woman's body and bodily functions away from her -- but if she is not in control of them, who is? Power and authority over women's reproductive processes are placed in the hands of men: whether it's men in their lives like husbands and fathers or predominantly male institutions like churches. In the past, reproduction was controlled almost exclusively by social rather than chemical means; because women were generally denied basic rights and privileges accorded to men, this means that the social control of reproduction was almost entirely in the hands of men. Granting women equal civil rights -- like the right to vote, to choose whom to marry, and to divorce -- was the first step in changing this situation. Once women had the authority to make decisions about their own marriages, they had greater power to make decisions about whether and when they would have children. The advent of chemical birth control played an even bigger role in transferring power over reproduction to women. In the past physical birth control was the responsibility of men. Today, birth control pills allow women to take personal control over their own reproductive processes. Women, acting independently, can virtually guarantee that they will not get pregnant and this frees them up to make more decisions about when and with whom they will have sex. Most of these changes occurred or really gained force in the past half century and conservative Christianity simply has not had time to catch up -- assuming it ever will. The Christian Right relies heavily upon nostalgia for the "good old days" when women couldn't make their own, independent decisions about reproduction and sexual behavior. The corollary to this which often goes unspoken is that men would make all the decision for women. The above image was taken from a World War II poster which is disturbing close to the theme here. It's of a woman saying "I'm proud... my husband wants me to do my part." In other words, she's proud of her husband for not just grudgingly allowing her to enter the work force, but actually wanting her to do so. Of course, she certainly lost her job and was relegated to being a homemaker as soon as the war was over. Democrats Seek a Liberal Fascism in America & Christian Men Must Stand Firm Christians Standing Up to the Demofascists Christians Standing Up to the Demofascists: Democrats Seek a Liberal Fascism in America & Christians Must Stand Firm. Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: National Archives Fascism is more popular as an epithet rather than as a neutral description. People tend to label as "fascist" any ideology they don't like or which they see as threatening. Conservatives and Christian Nationalists appear to be becoming enamored of combining it with other labels as a smear against beliefs and positions they want to discredit. Thus it's not Islam or Islamic extremism, but Islamofascism -- even though Islamic extremism has no or almost no characteristics of a real fascism. We are also hearing about Demofascists as a substitute for Godless Liberals and Godless Sodomites. Is there anything genuinely fascist about the political platform of the Democratic party or about the common attitudes of liberals in America? It's true that fascism can be difficult to define because it takes on a very different guise in each culture where it develops, but there are common characteristics which have been identified and which scholars tend to focus on. None of them apply to the Democratic party specifically or liberals generally. Demofascist is thus as much of a misnomer as Islamofascist, but why is it being used? It's possible that those using these words really don't understand what fascism is and think that they are being clever for coming up with new way to smear those whom they dislike. Just as possible, and far more disturbing, is the possibility that this is a deliberate attempt to inure people to seeing the fascist label, to render the label meaningless, and/or to deflect attention from their own behavior. The sad fact of the matter is that the political movements which exhibit a significant number of genuinely fascist elements are Christian Nationalism and other far-right groups whose ideologies have had influence within the Republican Party. This is not to say that they are fascists -- there are few genuine fascists in America -- though they might fairly be described as "proto-fascists." If one is concerned, though, that the fascist label might be too true for comfort, using it to attack everyone else is one way to prevent others from realizing this and deflect attention from one's growing fascist agenda. The above image is based on a World War II poster exhorting munitions workers to "Keep Em Coming." I've used it to reference the use of Demofascists as if they were genuine fascists like in World War II, the idea that the conflict is between Christians and fascists, and the idea that violently combatting enemies is a manly task. Manly Christian Combat Against Islamofascism Christians Using War as a Sign of Virility, Manliness, Heterosexuality Manly Christian Combat Against Islamofascism: Christians Using War as a Sign of Virility, Manliness, Heterosexuality. Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: National Archives In theory, a "real Christian man" should perhaps be someone who eschews violence of all sorts, who turns the other cheek whenever they are struck, and who insists on favoring peace over war no matter what the circumstances. That's the theory, at least, but it's rarely the reality. Not only have many Christian men throughout history eagerly engaged in violent combat, but not a few have treated combat as a test of one's Christian manliness. The links between a willingness to fight in war or to violently confront one's enemies on the one hand and disdain of women and homosexuality on the other should not be underestimated. War is a task for "real men" and women are excluded from combat roles while gays are excluded from the military entirely. If women and gays were allowed to openly and equally fight alongside heterosexual men, how could combat remain a sign of heterosexual masculinity? That this is also linked with Christian Nationalism is curious. In America there have been several movements to disentangle Jesus from meek pacifism. Many conservative evangelical leaders have promoted a vision of Jesus as confrontational, assertive, aggressive, combative, and even a little violent. This "Battling Jesus" is willing to step up to take direct, even violent action in the name of a just cause. Once Jesus could be seen as a "man's man," ready and willing to let his fists do his talking rather than meekly turn the other cheek, it couldn't have been too difficult to link war and combat, manliness and heterosexuality, with Christianity and the proper social roles of Christian men. A great deal of this is probably due to the need of evangelical Christianity to conform to the social mores of the antebellum south where masculinity was commonly defined by gambling, drinking, duels, and the violent defense of personal honor. How great is the difference between engaging in duels to defend "personal honor" and going to war to defend a nation's "international credibility"? Today efforts to insist that America's fight against "Islamofascism" is a test of Christianity and of America's masculine resolve almost cries out for ridicule and satire. It's the theme of Jesus' General, which was an inspiration for the above image. The original was a World War II poster exhorting workers to "Keep 'em Fighting" because "Production Wins Wars." Is it coincidence that for an image promoting fighting, they chose a bare-chested man holding something awfully large and suggestive? Godless Sodomites are Enemies of Christianity & the Bible Christians' Religious Liberty Threatened by Godless Sodomites Godless Sodomites are Enemies of Christianity & the Bible: Christians' Religious Liberty Threatened by Godless Sodomites. Image © Austin Cline; Original Poster: Northwestern University It can be difficult for extremists on the Christian Right to convince everyone else that their desire to discriminate against gays, women, atheists, and sundry non-Christians is justified or appropriate in America. The "American Way" is supposed to be freedom and equality, not privilege and discrimination. This means that the best tactic for convincing others that discrimination and oppression are necessary is to convince them that it's somehow to preserve freedom. It's an Orwellian tactic to get people to believe that War is Peace in this manner, but it can be amazingly persuasive if framed correctly. For Christian Nationalists, the basic argument they use runs something like this: denying Christians the ability to discriminate against gays prevents them from freely "exercising" their religious beliefs that homosexuality is immoral. Therefore, denying Christians the ability to discrimination is an unconstitutional infringement on their First Amendment rights. Godless Sodomites are thus the enemy of Christianity, of biblical scriptures, and of basic religious liberties. A similar argument can be made for all the other groups Christian Nationalists would discriminate against. If you believe this, then you have been convinced that discriminating against gays and infringing on their civil liberties is necessary to protect the religious liberties of Christian extremists. A more extreme version of this argument, promulgated by even more extreme Christians, is the that gays, atheists, secularists, and others are involved in a conspiracy to destroy Christianity itself. Whether knowingly in league with Satan or merely unwitting dupes, they actively seek the elimination of Christianity and perhaps of Christians themselves. It's not Christians' religious liberties that are threatened, but the future of Christianity itself. Such paranoia feeds extremism; the belief that one is fighting for one's existence justifies abandoning normal standards of justice morality, making such arguments exceptionally dangerous. This image is based on a World War II propaganda poster depicting the same hand sticking the same knife through the Bible. The only difference is that instead of "Godless Sodomites" on the wrist, the original poster has a swastika to symbolize the threat posed by the Nazis to Christianity. Few people at the time realized, or perhaps wanted to believe, the strong connections that existed between Nazism and German Christianity. Gay Agenda vs. Civil Liberty Radical Homosexual Lobby is a Threat to Religious, Civil Liberty in America Gay Agenda vs. Civil Liberty: Radical Homosexual Lobby is a Threat to Religious, Civil Liberty in America. Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: National Archives A major subject of the ire of Christian Nationalists is homosexuality -- in particular, efforts to protect gay Americas from discrimination on the basis of their homosexuality. Conservative evangelical Christians profess to "love" gays and only "hate" their sin of homosexuality, but for some reason their "love" doesn't translate into refusing to discriminate against them or refusing to treat them as inferior, second-class citizens. Christian Nationalists claim that being prevented from discriminating against gays would infringe upon their religious and civil rights, a position beset with fatal problems. It assumes that actively discriminating against gays, rather than just expressing disapproval of homosexuality, is required by their religion. Even if this were true, they also assume that they have a religious liberty interest in discriminating against gays which is more important than gays' civil liberty interest in being treated equal under the law. Finally, it assumes that there is something about homosexuality which justifies such a position even though this argument would never even be made, much less taken seriously, if the targets of discrimination were Jews, women, or blacks. It's important to remember what the opposition to laws protecting gays from discrimination really means. These laws would prevent people from discriminating against gays when renting apartments and selling houses, so Christian Nationalists support the ability of bigots to deny gays fair housing. These laws prevent people from firing and refusing to hire, promote, or give bonuses to people just because they are gay, so Christian Nationalists support the ability of bigots to deny gays equal jobs and wages. These laws prevent people from refusing to provide medical, legal, accounting, and other basic services to gays, so Christian Nationalists support the ability of bigots to deny gays the same services everyone else takes for granted. The image above is based upon a World War II poster describing "Willful Absenteeism" as striking at our liberty. It's disturbingly similar to the "Stab in the Back" myth which helped animate support for the Nazis and other far-right nationalists in Germany. Christian Nationalists today seem to view support for the equal rights of gay Americans as a betrayal of American principles and an assault on freedom -- their freedom to discriminate. Godless Atheists Menace Western, Christian Civilization Godless Atheists & Godless Sodomites Imperil Everyone Godless Atheists Menace Western, Christian Civilization: Godless Atheists & Godless Sodomites Imperil Everyone. Image © Austin Cline; Original Poster: National Archives Given the relatively small numbers of atheists in America, it's curious that they would be portrayed as such an incredible threat. Even if we take into account the larger numbers of irreligious, secular, and atheistic people in other Western countries, they still don't seem to be big enough to constitute any sort of menace. Then there is the fact that in countries where atheists are a small minority, they are an even smaller minority in prisons; countries which are more generally irreligious and secular have lower rates of violent crime than countries with higher rates of religious theism. So what's going on? Where's the big threat being posed by irreligious atheists? There are a couple of things which Christian Nationalists have in mind. Many are worried that atheists undermine the allegedly biblical basis for American law, even though no such basis can be identified. Others worry that atheists will persecute Christians in the same way that Christian Nationalists attack non-Christians. More than a few express concern over communism -- something that might have been half-way reasonable 10 or 20 years ago, but it's persistence today reveals a lack of imagination on the part of Christians who keep bringing it up. What might be more serious is something that is generally left unsaid: atheists represent a specter of doubt, questioning, skepticism, criticism, and even blasphemy. Irreligious atheists are like metaphysical anarchists who do not submit to the authority of any religious institution, not even those of "false" religions, and thus feel free to criticize all religions. Irreligious atheists call into question the validity of religion generally just by the fact of their very existence. By living, and worse yet by living well, they demonstrate the irrelevancy of religion to having a good life. Christians Nationalists don't understand how they do it, but they know that it's intolerable. Irreligious atheists are a threat to the leaders of Christian Nationalism for the simple reason that their existence demonstrates that religious leaders just aren't needed. Worse than any criticism is to be laughed at, and worse still is to be dismissed as irrelevant, unneeded, and unimportant. At least when people are laughing at you they are taking you seriously enough to make jokes about you; when you are completely irrelevant, however, you are ignored. This image is based on a World War II poster warning people of "The Killer" called "Accidents." Submission & Obedience to Husbands Women Must Submit to Husbands in Marriage, Church in All Things Submission & Obedience to Husbands: Women Must Submit to Husbands in Marriage, Church in All Things. Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: Library of Congress Carefully structured and clearly organized hierarchies of power appear to be very important not only to Christian Nationalists, but conservative and fundamentalist religious believers of all types. This concern extends along the entire spectrum of power relationships, including most especially the power relationships within the smallest, most fundamental social unity of society: the family. According to Christian Nationalists, the role of the woman requires her to be subordinate, obedient, and helpful while the man's role requires him to take charge, lead, and make the tough decisions. Such ideas about how husbands and wives should relate were at one time uncontroversial, but today the rest of society has changed too much for such attitudes to be accepted uncritically anymore. Modern society has made great strides towards the emancipation of women, something which conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists find abhorrent. There are regular stories about conservative churches attempting to stem the tide by becoming even more reactionary and misogynistic than a strict interpretation of their doctrines requires. There is no question but that such acts merit criticism, but no criticism can be considered informed and reliable without taking into account what I described at the outset above: efforts to keep women "in their place" are merely part of a larger desire to see all power relationships be made more strict and more clear. Conservative evangelical Christians perceive a strict hierarchy between God and humans which must be replicated in the social and political spheres. Children must obey parents; wives must obey husbands; Christians must obey ministers; citizens must obey leaders. It is believed that problems in society stem from the chaos of too much freedom, too much license, and weakened expectations about one's social role. Women who voluntarily enter or remain in extremely patriarchal religious communities cite as one of their primary reasons the fact that their social and familial roles are clearly laid out, as are their expectations of husbands, children, and neighbors. Clarity of purpose, place, and direction mean a lot to some people. The above image was taken of a World War I poster depicting a woman reporting for duty to the nation to assist in the war effort and requesting donations to help the National League for Women's Service. Environmental Problems Don't Exist or are a Sign of the Apocalypse Jesus is Coming: Don't Worry, Be Happy Don't Worry, Be Happy: Environmental Problems Either Don't Exist or are a Sign of the Apocalypse, Jesus' Second Coming. Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: National Archives One thing which has confused many observers is Christian Nationalists' intransigent opposition to almost anything designed to improve or protect the environment. Their opposition to abortion and homosexuality make some sense; their opposition to lowering pollution levels and fighting global warming do not. Even if the proposed measures were flawed in some fashion, there aren't any theological principles at issue -- are there? In fact there are. Christian Nationalists oppose environmental legislation for several reasons, almost all of which are basically religious. The one possible political reason for Christian Nationalists' opposition to most environmental legislation is the fact that they are in a political alliance with business interests which oppose this legislation on financial grounds. Supporting the legislation would mean opposing their usual political allies and it makes sense that they wouldn't want to do this. On the other hand, Christian Nationalists don't normally give in when they have theological issues at stake, so it's not clear just how strong of a reason this really is. The more important reasons are religious. In the first place, many sincerely believe that because the Bible says God will provide, then this means that there are sufficient natural resources for everyone on the planet. They don't believe that there is any real crisis, so there is no reason to conserve or recycle because we won't run out. We especially don't need to limit population growth. Any effort to do such things is a sign that one doesn't really believe in God's promise that he will provide. If they aren't hypocrites, these Christians also don't save money or buy much beyond their immediate needs. God will provide, after all. A second and perhaps larger reason is the popular belief that the End Times are close. The End Times are always close and there are always signs that it is approaching; today, these signs include flood, drought, hurricanes, and other ecological problems. These Christians may not even dispute that there are severe environmental problems because they just don't care. If the disasters are a sign of the Second Coming, it doesn't make much sense to fix them. If the world will end soon, it doesn't make much sense to worry about the environment. Christian Nationalists have other concerns. This image is based on a poster that warned people to keep nature green and not start forest fires. America's Problems are Due to Godlessness and Godless Liberals Crush the Godless Liberals Crush the Godless Liberals: All of America's Problems are Due to Godlessness and Godless Liberals. Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: National Archives Political movements that are driven by fear and that promote authoritarian government typically require a scapegoat: some group upon which people's fears can be projected and against which authoritarian measures appear justified. There are several groups in America which Christian Nationalists have used as scapegoats, with gays and humanists being among the most popular. In recent years, however, all of the scapegoats have become lumped together into a single group: Godless Liberals. According to Christian Nationalists, every problem in American society (and quite a few non-problems which they have invented) are due to the unwholesome actions or policies of Godless Liberals. Godless Liberals are blamed for the increased social acceptance of homosexuality and the drive for gay marriage, for the legalization of abortion and increased used of contraceptives, for the amounts of sexual imagery in our media and the failure of teens to remain celibate until marriage, for the increasingly secular nature of public institutions and the strength of non-Christian voices in public debates. In short, everything which Christian Nationalists don't like about America today is blamed on Godless Liberals and the solution, they claim, is to give them a free hand at transforming society at will -- to remake America into their own image which they claim is how America was originally designed to be. As bad as all this sounds, we must remember that scapegoats are not treasured pets; on the contrary, scapegoats are generally meant to be eliminated from society in order to purify it. Attacks on Godless Liberals are not simple political disagreements where people have differing opinions while being able to respect the others' position. The rhetoric of Christian Nationalists tends to be violent and even eliminationist in nature. Christian Nationalists don't want an accommodation with liberals, godless or otherwise, nor are they interested in reaching some sort of political compromise. Nothing less than the elimination of godless liberalism and the carriers of this infection is their goal. Few openly advocate violence and those who do try to justify their words as mere jokes, but this isn't a laughing matter and it's something we should all be concerned with. The above image is based of a World War I poster of a British soldier standing above an injured German, exhorting people "Don't Let Up" and to "Save Food." Don't Take God Out of Schools Evil Atheists Removed God and Prayer from Public Schools, Leading to Disaster Don't Take God Out of Schools: Evil Atheists Removed God and Prayer from Public Schools, Leading to Disaster. Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: Library of Congress A popular myth for the Christian Right is the idea that atheists forced God, prayer, and Bible reading out of public schools, leading to social, moral, and educational disasters which continue to plague America. By promoting such beliefs, the Christian Right encourages people to think that atheists are a threat to religious liberty as well as social order, that America is worse off than it once was, and that proper Christianity is the solution to everything troubling us. Every aspect of this myth is wrong. First, God, prayer, and Bible reading were not removed from public schools. All three are still there, but under the auspices of the private actions of individual students. What was removed were state-written and state-mandated prayers, state-mandated reading of state-chosen Bibles, and official endorsements of particular conceptions of God. These changes were unequivocal victories for the religious liberties of children and parents. Second, atheists were not responsible -- they were involved in some of the lawsuits, but so were Christians. If the atheists' cases had never existed, the results would have been the same. Finally, the problems attributed to these changes cannot be blamed on them. There is some correlation in time between the changes and some social problems, but there were many social changes occurring at the same time. Perhaps the most important was racial integration. Not long before courts forced public schools to stop choosing and mandating prayers or Bible readings, they also forced schools to end long-standing racial segregation. Many of the people who complained loudest about the end to religious indoctrination in public schools had already been on the forefront of complaints about the end to racial segregation. The correlation between social problems and racial integration is at least as strong as that between those problems and the elimination of state-mandated prayers. Why don't conservatives blame integration and argue for a return to segregation? If they don't believe that a causal connection exists here, then they cannot claim that one exists between the religion cases and social problems. The above image was created from a World War I poster about the need to feed motherless, fatherless, and starving children in war-torn France. I have replaced the text with the claim that the destruction in the background is because of the secularist removal of God from schools and that this is something America should avoid. Christian Nationalists Believe Bush Was Chosen by God, not by the People Thank God for George W. Bush Thank God for George W. Bush: Christian Nationalists Believe Bush Was Chosen by God, not by the People. Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: Library of Congress An important facet of Christian Nationalist ideology is the principle that God selects the nation's leaders. When leaders are good, it's because God wants them to lead the nation to victory. When leaders are bad, it's because God wants them to lead the nation to defeat as punishment for its sins. The idea that a nation's leaders are divinely selected is probably as old as religion itself. It allows for tighter integration of religious and political institutions, with religious figures backing the leader's claims to divine election and the leader backing the religious figures' claims to divine authority. If people believe their leader is placed in charge by gods, they are less likely to question, challenge, or oppose his decisions. This is what makes such beliefs popular with authoritarian, totalitarian, theocratic, and fascist rulers; it's also what makes such beliefs inimical to democratic systems. Democracy requires the principle that citizens, not gods, choose their leaders and that the government is founded on human reason rather than divine agency. Both the American Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were written under a conscious rejection of Europe's long-standing belief in the Divine Right of Kings -- the idea that monarchs owe their rule to the will of God rather than the will of the people. Unfortunately, over 200 years of democratic tradition have failed to extinguish the religious impulse to attribute divine agency to democratically elected leaders. There are many who believe God is responsible for George W. Bush being president -- including, it seems, George W. Bush himself. This is a problem because if God, not the people, is the sovereign power responsible for Bush being president, then it means Bush is ultimately responsible to God rather than to the people. Bush's job becomes doing the will of God, at least as he interprets it, rather than the will of the people or to serve the interests of the people. This is fertile ground for Christian Nationalism and Christian Fascism because it allows for the excision of democracy, democratic elections, the separation of powers, constitutionally protected rights, and everything else which makes America a secular and free nation. The above image was created from a World War I poster describing how the "Victory Fund Campaign" (and presumably religious faith) "sustained him" and "supported the war-time agencies that helped him." What Would Jesus Do? Strike Down the Islamofascists! Prince of Peace as a Symbol for War on Muslims, Islamic Extremism, Islamofascism WWJD: The Prince of Peace as a Symbol for War on Muslims, Islamic Extremism, Islamofascism. Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: Library of Congress Christianity is supposed to be a religion of peace. Despite that, Christians often find themselves embroiled in violent conflicts where their religion is utilized to motivate them to kill. There are plenty of nasty examples in history and the Crusades stand out as especially strong, but Christians in modern America are not immune from the call to go out and kill despite the injunction from their Lord and Savior to not strike out against those who hit you. Today's most popular target of rhetoric encouraging violence are the "Islamofascists." Muslim extremists aren't anywhere even remotely close to fascists, but a label incorporating "fascist" helps people believe that they are in a fight for world civilization not unlike the fight against fascism and the Nazis in the mid-20th century. This is important not just because political and religious leaders evidently think that their cause is so weak that they can't advance it without associating the current enemy with a past one. It is also important because of what it says about their goals. When people fight against an enemy who is presumed to be an existential threat - a threat to one's existence and the future of civilization itself - then it is easier to justify all manner of extremist responses. Niceties like civil liberties and human rights may be appropriate for parlor-room conversations in peace time, but when locked in a violent struggle where defeat means the end of one's existence and the end of a civilization that can even conceive of civil or human rights, then it hardly seems appropriate to tie one's hands and risk losing everything. This is how the struggle against fascism and Nazism was portrayed, and there was some justification to that. Even so, standards of civil rights and human rights were generally upheld. Today the Christians associating the threat Muslim extremism with the existential threat of fascism are also those who tend to dismiss the idea that traditional standards of civil rights or human rights must be maintained. Is that What Jesus Would Do? The above poster was created from an American World War I poster encouraging people to give to the Victory Fund campaign. The original text was "Shall Chaos Triumph" and evidently meant for people to give as much as possible to advance the military campaign against the Huns - who during this era were described in terms not too different from how American Christians today describe the "Islamofascists" among Muslims. America as a Christian Nation, America as a White Nation Racism & White Supremacy in American Christianity America as a Christian Nation, America as a White Nation: Racism & White Supremacy in American Christianity. Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: National Archives Conservative, evangelical Christianity in America is not inherently or necessarily racist. However, there has been significant convergence between racism, White Supremacy, and conservative Christianity throughout American history. Not only have conservative evangelical Christians been leading defenders of slavery, racism, and segregation, but there are aspects of evangelical doctrine which encourage the continuation of racist outcomes. Evangelical Christianity's development as a defender of racist social structures wasn't inevitable from a theological standpoint, but it was necessary from a political one: itinerant evangelical preachers in the South made little headway so long as they retained their revolutionary attitudes. In order to become more accepted socially, they had find acceptance by society's leading figures: the white gentry. This led to numerous changes, including a new emphasis on the supremacy of whites over blacks, pushing women to the margins, acceptance of sinful behavior like drinking and gambling, and stronger defenses of social order. Southern evangelical churches ended up on the forefront of defending slavery against Northern abolitionist movements, also generally originating in evangelical churches. Southern churches framed the defense of slavery as a religious cause and the Civil War as a Religious War. They lost, but hateful theology never dies -- it just goes underground and waits for new opportunities. In this case, the same basic theology arose again in the fight over segregation a century later. Today few conservative evangelical Christians are openly racist, but some doctrines encourage racist outcomes. Evangelical Christianity encourages conformity and discourages efforts that "rock the boat," even if to achieve justice. Sharing the gospel takes precedence over social justice for minorities. Evangelical Christianity also generally denies the moral agency of institutions -- thus institutional racism cannot exist and so long as individuals are themselves not racist, then social outcomes must be racism-free. If it appears that blacks are failing, it must be their own fault. A few Christians do remain openly racist, and sometimes they justify their racism or White Supremacy on the basis of Christian doctrine, just as their ancestors did. Christian racism is also not limited to conservative evangelicals. We can find it across the spectrum of Christian denominations, including Catholicism. Secular Schools are Hostile to Religion You're Attacking Christianity if You're Not Actively Endorsing Christianity Secular Schools are Hostile to Religion: You're Attacking Christianity if You're Not Actively Endorsing Christianity. Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: National Archives A popular claim made by many Christian Nationalists is that the absence of any explicit endorsement of their religion by public schools - or indeed by government generally - represents an expression of hostility towards their religion. In particular, it is their position that the failure of schools to promote creationism, Bible reading, Christian prayers, and other examples of Christian beliefs means that the schools are effectively denigrating those beliefs. Thus the fact that schools don't explicitly endorse Jesus, either through images of Jesus hanging in schools or in school lessons, is treated as though schools were actually trying to take Jesus away from children. This is the example represented in the above image, taken originally from World War II poster of a girl holding a picture of her father and imploring people not to "kill her daddy with careless talk." The very idea that schools are taking Jesus away from children by not explicitly promoting Jesus to them is absurd. There are lots of things which schools do not explicitly endorse or promote, but this cannot be construed as an effort to denigrate or undermine them. Schools obviously don't promote other religions like Buddhism or Hinduism, so does this mean that they are trying to undermine those religions? Schools generally don't promote any particular liberal or conservative political doctrines, so does this mean that the schools are trying to attack those doctrines? Of course not - I don't think that there is any other segment of society where such claims are made and such beliefs promoted. There are far more things which the government and government institutions don't promote than they do promote, but no one actually believes that the government is therefore attacking all those beliefs. At worst people might despair over the neglect of their favorite causes, but that's about it. Only Christian Nationalists have gotten the idea that the absence of endorsement is the presence of hostility. Training Christian Students to Take Dominion Over America Conservative Christian Schools Conservative Christian Schools: Training Christian Students to Take Dominion Over America. Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: National Archives A basic belief of the most extreme elements of the Christian Right, and one which is gaining traction in the rest of the movement, is the idea that God has given Dominion over the planet generally and America in particular to Christians. This is as much a political as a theological doctrine and leads such Christians to the belief that they have been authorized by God to assume political control of the United States. They mean to ensure that America is a "Christian Nation" in every sense of the word -- historically, culturally, legally, and politically. Whereas the language of theocracy often seems to be more a rhetorical strategy for many on the Christian right, for Dominionists it's a deliberate expression of a conscious agenda. It is for this reason that they can accurately be labeled "Christian Nationalists," for they are Christians who seek to transform America into a nation defined exclusively along the doctrinal and theological lines of their brand of Christianity. An important component of this agenda naturally lies in the education of young people. Public schools are under constant attack for being secular, for not promoting Christianity, for having classes dealing with sexuality or evolution, and so forth. In their place, conservative evangelicals are promoting special Christian schools where ideology trumps education and reality. These schools may teach creationism over evolution, a warped view of history (especially American history), and worse. The above image was originally taken from a World War II poster which said "This is America... ...where every boy can dream of being President. Where free schools, free opportunity, free enterprise, have built the most decent nation on earth. A nation built upon the rights of all men. This is your America ...Keep it Free!" This sentiment is much the opposite of the Christian Nationalists who don't want to see anyone by Christians hold elected offices, who want to see an end to free public schools, and who don't really believe in any "rights" not constrained by Christian doctrines. Pregnancy as a Punishment for Sex? Women Should Suffer the Consequences of Sex and Sexual Activity Pregnancy as a Punishment for Sex? Women Should Suffer the Consequences of Sex and Sexual Activity. Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: Northwestern University Library Conservative evangelical objections to contraception, emergency contraception, and even abortion can often be traced at least in part to their objections to "irresponsible" sexual activity. Attempts to avoid pregnancy are thus attempts to avoid the consequences of one's "irresponsible" choices. Since avoiding the consequences of irresponsible choices is itself irresponsible as well as something which makes such choices easier, it follows that people should be forced to bear those consequences. When it comes to sexual activity, this includes women accepting pregnancy. Many will deny that they perceive pregnancy as a "punishment" or something which women must "suffer," but a close examination of common language and arguments reveals that this attitude often lurks beneath the surface. It may be an unconscious attitude, so those who deny it may be sincere and really not realize what they are doing. Hopefully, if they reflect upon it enough, they will recognize what it going on and make some changes. One of the most important developments of the "Sexual Revolution" was to transform people's expectations about sexuality and sexual behavior. Whereas before sexual intimacy was expected to be limited to marriage (though it often wasn't in practice), afterwards people began to expect such intimacy even in non-marital relationships. Sex has become an expression of physical, emotional, and psychological intimacy in a variety of relationships, not just marriage. Being able to avoid some of the consequences of sex - especially pregnancy - has been a key factor making this development possible. Making it harder for people to avoid pregnancy would make it harder for people to engage in sexual activity outside the boundaries of what the Christian Right deems morally licit. Some actually do want more women to get pregnant; most, however, seem to hope that the fear of pregnancy will induce more women to just say "no" to sex at all. In this way, pregnancy is definitely being treated like punishment not unlike fines or jail are a punishment designed to alter people's behavior. The above image was originally a World War II poster designed to encourage people to buy more war bonds. The headline said "I Gave a Man!" She has sacrificed far more than those who are only being asked to spend at least 10% of their earnings on war bonds to help fund the war effort. War on Terror vs. Geneva Conventions We can be Trusted to Abandon the Geneva Conventions in the War on Terrorism War on Terror vs. Geneva Conventions: We can be Trusted to Abandon the Geneva Conventions in the War on Terrorism. Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: Library of Congress Christian Nationalists are vocal in their advocacy of America becoming a Christian state. This may lead some to conclude that Christianity is the only basis for their ideology, but this would be a mistake. Christian Nationalism is at least as nationalistic as it is Christian and this nationalism on behalf of America is important in their policies, attitudes, and values. Whereas patriotism may simply be a positive attitude towards one's country, nationalism tends to be much more extreme in that it sees the nation as exceptional, something to be placed above all else. This helps justify policies in which traditional standards of morality or justice are abandoned. When it comes to defending the nation, everything is permitted. If Christian Nationalists were merely Christian, we might expect them to make common cause with Christians around the world -- Christianity is, after all, a universal religion. Anyone can become a Christian and all Christians are equal before God. Not everyone is an American, however, and not all nations are equal in the eyes of Christian Nationalism. Christian Nationalists frequently adopt positions at odds which Christians elsewhere in the world because those policies are designed to advance American economic, political, or military interests. Christian Nationalists also frequently adopt positions which are arguably at odds with traditional Christian moral values, but this is also because those positions advance nationalistic interests. All of this is evident in America's War on Terror. Christians elsewhere in the world, including conservative evangelicals, object to America's invasion of Iraq and as well as America's treatment of detainees. Christian Nationalists, however, don't even try to defend their positions via Christian traditions or doctrines. America's actions in the War on Terror are justified in almost Machiavellian terms in which the survival of the nation is all that matters. The actual suffering of detainees or Iraqis is less important than the theoretical suffering of Americans in the future if harsh tactics aren't adopted. The immorality visited upon detainees and the injustice of the loss of domestic civil liberties are less important than the immorality and injustice of a theoretical terrorist attack in the future if detainees aren't vigorously questioned (i.e., torture). This image is based on a World War I poster encouraging Americans to invest in the Liberty Loan (war bonds). Fear and Hatred of Godless Sodomites Gays and Atheists are Vermin or a Disease to be Eradicated Fear and Hatred of Godless Sodomites: Gays and Atheists are Vermin or a Disease to be Eradicated. Image © Austin Cline; Original Poster: National Archives Christian Nationalists sometimes can't seem to decide whom to attack most and most viciously: gays or atheists. Perhaps that's why they invented the epithet "Godless Sodomites," because it allows them to attack both groups simultaneously. It even allows them to pretend that the two groups are effectively the same: that gays are all godless atheists and that atheists are all, or at least tend to be, gay themselves. I can't begin to tell you how often I've had conservative evangelical Christians writing to me and assuming that I must be gay. As disturbing as this may be, it isn't nearly as disturbing as the language of disease which Christian Nationalists tend to use when discussing Godless Sodomites. Sometimes it's subtle and sometimes it's overt, but if you watch carefully you'll find these Christians associating Godless Sodomites with infection, disease, bacteria, and other things which typically need to be eradicated for the safety of the body or community. The more overt references occur when Godless Sodomites are themselves described as a disease which is infecting society and which needs to be eliminated. More subtle references occur when Godless Sodomites are simply associated with disease -- when, for example, they are accused of spreading disease through the community. It might be easy to dismiss this as overly zealous concern about something like AIDS, but it must be remembered that Jews were accused in the Middle Ages of spreading disease and that this was often used as an excuse for discrimination, bigotry, or even pogroms. It's not a coincidence that Jews were also accused of being a disease by the Nazis and therefore of needing to be eradicated. The language of disease is popular among those who would like to eliminate some group entirely because that is what we do with disease. A disease isn't something we compromise with or accommodate. Even in those rare cases where a disease provides some benefit (like sickle cell anemia providing some protection from malaria), we still fight it as hard as possible with the goal of eliminating it completely. People don't tolerate the presence of disease in their lives and they shouldn't tolerate the presence of disease-like groups, such as Godless Sodomites. This image is based on a World War II poster telling people to cover their mouth when sneezing or coughing because not doing this spreads disease. Suppressing Books & Ideas: Books Cannot be Killed by Fire... ...but They Can Be Kept Out of Your Hands Suppressing Books & Ideas: Books Cannot be Killed by Fire, but They Can Be Kept Out of Your Hands. Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: Library of Congress The suppression of inconvenient or unfavorable ideas is a characteristics shared by all authoritarian movements throughout history. Authoritarians among the Christian Right are certainly no exception and there seems to be no end to the sorts of ideas which they would like to suppress. America's constitutional protections for freedom of speech make it very difficult for them to achieve this on an official level and with the use of government force, however. Constitutional limitations on what the government can do are no barrier to private companies and this means that the Christian Right can accomplish a great deal by targeting those who manufacture and distribute materials which they find objectionable. Stores are pressured to stop selling books and magazines which contain ideas, images, or information which the Christian Right wants kept out of people's hands. Publishers are pressured to avoid certain topics or authors. Even libraries, which are government entities, are pressured to restrict certain materials to make them more difficult to find - especially by children. The above was originally a World War II poster which presented a quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt: "Books cannot be killed by fire. People die, but books never die. No man and no force can put thought in a concentration camp forever. No man and no force can take from the world the books that embody man's eternal fight against tyranny. In this war, we know, books are weapons." Roosevelt was right that books are weapons because books communicate ideas - ideas which might transform the world. Roosevelt was also right that books cannot ultimately be burned. Individual copies of books may be burned, but ultimately books will survive so long as human beings will survive. What Roosevelt did not realize, I suppose, is that there are many more ways to suppress ideas than by simply burning the books which contain them. Burning books is political theater and not an effective way to accomplish serious goals. Keeping books out of people's hands by ensuring that they never see and learn about them is less dramatic, but far more effective. Criticism of Religions is Not Free Speech Don't Abuse your Free Speech Rights by Offending Religious Believers Criticism of Religions is Not Free Speech: Don't Abuse your Free Speech Rights by Offending Religious Believers. Image © Austin Cline; Original Poster: University of Minnesota One of the most pernicious forms of attempted censorship of unwelcome views isn't overt repression, but rather to convince people not to express those unwelcome views in the first place. It's always much better to head off the wrong thoughts before they are expressed rather than clamp down on them after they are already out in public. Why employ the blunt instrument of state repression if people can be convinced to repress themselves? This is precisely what happens with unwelcome criticisms of religion, especially in the West where nations have little to no authority to officially censor material that is critical of religion. The most common excuse is to claim that non-adherents of a religion should not "offend" religious believers by criticizing their faith. This argument is based on the idea that criticism of a belief system is the same as a personal attack on the believers. Sometimes, and in some cases, such a connection may be valid -- but for the most part it is not. Believers insist that they and their religion should be respected and, therefore, that attacks on religion are not a valid use of one's free speech rights. However mush respect a person might deserve as a human being, though, that doesn't mean that their beliefs themselves deserve automatic respect as well. Beliefs have to earn respect; many actually earn disrespect. Beliefs which are true and valid cannot be harmed by criticism, even by unfair and incorrect criticism. Beliefs which are not true or valid will only be revealed through criticism. What this means is that if we care about the truth, we should welcome criticism of even our most treasured beliefs: if they are true then this will strengthen us; if they are wrong, then we will know and be free to follow new beliefs. Attacks on free speech have most recently come primarily from Muslims. Some threaten violence if ideas, images, or words which they find offensive are given public expression. Others deplore both threats and actual violence, but they are perfectly willing to benefit from them and are no less eager to insist that criticisms of their religion are offensive and should not be permitted under the cover of "free speech." They don't seem to realize that the free speech which protects their critics protects them as well. This image is based on a World War II poster ordering people to keep quiet in order not to reveal war secrets to possible enemy spies. Without God, All Things are Permitted Godless Atheists Promote a Valueless, Immoral World without Order or Structure Without God, All Things are Permitted: Godless Atheists Promote a Valueless, Immoral World without Order or Structure. Image © Austin Cline; Original Poster: National Archives Religious believers tend to associate their religion closely with morality. Some go so far as to think that the two are inseparable -- that without their religion, or religion generally, or at least some sort of theism, morality and moral behavior are impossible. Depending on their attitude, this can lead people to insist that unless a person is a member of their religion, or is a member of some religion, or is at least a theist, then they cannot be moral and if they are given any power then they will end up promoting immorality. These attitudes are exhibited to one degree or another by many on the Christian Right. Christian Nationalists in particular act like their religion is necessary as a moral foundation for America and, furthermore, that all of America's ills can be traced to people's failure to uphold traditional Christianity. Atheists especially are targeted for criticism -- not only do they reject Christianity and likely any religion at all, but they don't even believe in any gods. In fact, atheists are sometimes approached by apologists with the argument that atheism is incompatible with morality and, therefore, that the need for morality is a good reason to become a Christian. They don't realize that even if there were no reason to be moral in the absence of any gods, that would at most provide a prudential reason to believe in God. This cannot support the claim that some god actually does exist. If morality requires a god, and there are no gods, then we simply have to live in a universe where there are no absolute, independent moral standards and where we have to make our own way. Some on the Christian Right even take advantage of tragedies to make both of the above points. School shootings, for example, lead some to argue that the absence of morality is due to the absence of Christianity, that atheists and secularists are the cause of all this, and finally that atheists should convert to Christianity to stave off future tragedies. This image is based on a World War II poster depicting a soldier telling workers at home not to get hurt because they are needed on the job full time. It is similar to a real ad used by Answers in Genesis which depicts a child pointing out gun at the viewer. Accompanying the image are the words "If you don't matter to God, you don't matter to anyone." The implied message is that without God in our lives, nothing matters at all and this causes us all to descend into barbaric violence. Beware of Recruitment into the Homosexual Lifestyle Godless Sodomites Will Subvert Heterosexual Christian Society Beware of Recruitment into the Homosexual Lifestyle: Godless Sodomites Will Subvert Heterosexual Christian Society. Image © Austin Cline; Original Poster: National Archives A common which the Christian Right tries to make against gays and efforts to increase social acceptance of homosexuality is the idea that gays want to "recruit" others -- especially children -- into their "lifestyle." People who know gays and understand homosexuality find this position absurd, but it does seem to follow logically from the starting assumptions which the Christian Right has about homosexuality generally. Perhaps the most important assumption which serves as a foundation for all Christian Right attitudes towards homosexuality is that it is a chosen behavior rather than an innate orientation. They define homosexuality as same-sex sexual behavior, not same-sex attraction that has emotional and psychological as well as sexual components. In this manner it is treated as a sin just like theft -- however strong the desire may be, it's something a person has control over acting on. Just as a kleptomaniac's obsessive desire to steal must be punished, so must a homosexual's desire to engage in same-sex behavior be punished. This is what lies behind the entire notion of a person becoming "ex-gay." They may continue to experience attraction to members of the same sex, but so long as they don't act on their desires then they aren't really "gay" anymore. It's also what lies behind the belief that gays have to "recruit" others into their "lifestyle." Because attraction to members of the same sex is unnatural, then it must necessarily be created by others Christian Nationalists are especially concerned about children being recruited. They fear that anything which depicts homosexuality in an even neutral manner is part of an organized conspiracy to subvert Christian morality and Christian civilization. Thus the suppression of non-negative depictions of homosexuality is like suppressing non-negative depictions of stealing, assault, or even murder. It's simply not a question that requires any serious ethical debate: of course children shouldn't be given the impression that such sinful behavior is even remotely acceptable. If they start believing this, then they might start engaging in this behavior themselves. This image is based on a World War II poster encouraging soldiers to "Keep Clean" and "Take a bath every day you can." I've only changed the text -- the expressions and positions of the men are precisely as they are in the original. The homoerotic overtones are unmistakable and quite curious. Boy Scouts Must Be Prepared to Fight Godless Atheism Bigotry & Discrimination are Needed for Christian Society Boy Scouts Must Be Prepared to Fight Godless Atheism: Bigotry & Discrimination are Needed for Christian Society. Image © Austin Cline; Original Poster: Library of Congress Official, institutional bigotry and discrimination against atheists used to be much more prevalent in America. There was a time when the testimony of atheists would not be accepted in courts of law. Several states technically bar atheists from elected office right in their constitutions, though these provisions are no longer enforceable. Atheists today continue to encounter personal bigotry and resulting discrimination, but not so much in the context of social institutions enforcing official policies. The biggest exception to this shift away from bigotry and towards equal treatment has been the Boy Scouts of America. Although the Boy Scouts' discrimination against gays appears to be most widely known, they discriminate against atheists on basically the same basis. According to the Boy Scouts, atheists cannot be morally straight or the best kinds of citizens; therefore, they have no place in the organization either as scouts or as adult leaders. People who admit to being atheists are kicked out regardless of their past accomplishments -- in other words, the amount of good a person has done either in their lives or in the Boy Scouts is less important than simply not believing in any gods. It's disturbing that the media has focused on discrimination against gays, ignoring discrimination against atheists. Many of the court cases challenging Boy Scouts' discrimination have been brought by atheists. It was just such a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court and established that the Boy Scouts are technically a private organization which has a right to discriminate against anyone they want and for any reason they want. The fallout from that decision is still developing: as a private organization that discriminates, they have no moral or legal claim to public assistance, support, or endorsement. This outrages conservatives who want it both ways: they want the Boy Scouts to be private so they can in bigoted discrimination, but they want them to be public in order to obtain lucrative benefits and government support. In effect, they want the Boy Scouts' discrimination to come without social consequences. Their arguments end up trying to make the case that discrimination against gays and atheists is a positive public good which deserves public support. This image is based on a World War I poster depicting a Boy Scout handing to Lady Liberty a sword inscribed with "Be Prepared" and encouraged people to contribute to the Third Liberty Loan. Protecting their Daughter's Precious Sexual Purity Placing Responsibility for Women's Virginity with Fathers, Husbands Protecting their Daughter's Precious Sexual Purity: Placing Responsibility for Women's Virginity with Fathers, Husbands. Image © Austin Cline; Original Poster: Library of Congress Religious conservatives are pushing to have fathers take charge of their daughters' sexuality and 'sexual purity.' In the past, men effectively owned their kids and controlled daughters' sexuality. This changed as women gained the right to act as autonomous human beings; religious conservatives want to roll that back. One example of this is the 'Purity Ball,' an annual event sponsored by the Generations of Light Ministries in which fathers and daughters pledge to work together to preserve her sexual purity. Girls pledge: "I pledge to remain sexually pure... until the day I give myself as a wedding gift to my husband. ...I know that God requires this of me... that he loves me and that he will reward me for my faithfulness." According to religious conservatives, girls must be virgins to enter marriage "as pure, whole persons." This is where the fathers come in, the designated protectors of their daughters' virginity. Fathers pledge: "I, (daughter's name)'s father, choose before God to cover my daughter as her authority and protection in the area of purity. I will be pure in my own life as a man, husband and father. I will be a man of integrity and accountability as I lead, guide and pray over my daughter and as the high priest in my home. This covering will be used by God to influence generations to come." Note that as "high priest," fathers are given the authority to decide what is and is not religiously orthodox in their homes -- wives and daughters are not allowed to challenge this and make their own religious decisions. Instead of trying to raise their daughters to be independent and autonomous human beings whom they can trust to make good choices, fathers want to raise their daughters to value virginity in a ritualistic manner and to need others' protection. They are assuming authority over their daughters' sexuality as if it were a fetish -- as if that sexuality belonged to them, not to their daughters. The fact that the same isn't being expected of sons demonstrates that the program is misogynistic: it's not about reigning in premarital sex generally but about controlling the choices of women. Women's sexuality needs to be controlled because women need to be controlled. This image is based on a World War I poster of Uncle Sam exhorting men to "protect the nation's honor," where the nation is depicted as a vulnerable woman. Even symbolically, the "honor" of women is something which men are expected to protect and preserve. Teaching the Controversy Public School Children Must Learn Both Sides of Any Controversial Issue Teaching the Controversy: Public School Children Must Always Learn Both Sides of Any Controversial Issue. Image © Austin Cline; Original Poster: Library of Congress Conservative Christians haven't had any luck getting public schools to teach creationism under any of its many guises, including the most recent incarnation known as "Intelligent Design." Perhaps realizing that teaching creationism directly is a lost cause, at least for the time being, many have turned to a different tactic: "Teach the Controversy." According to this principle, students in public schools should not be taught evolution as "dogma." Instead, they should learn all of the scientific controversies and problems surrounding evolutionary theory. The problems with this proposal are legion. For one thing, there is no serious scientific controversy with evolution. The only "controversy" is that created by the creationists themselves. Thus instead of being an objective, academic proposal, the idea of teaching the controversy is really just a self-serving effort to get schools to teach the trumped up charges which the creationists keep repeating. Another problem is the fact that students cannot really be taught any controversies in subject until they have a thorough grounding in what is already known. This means that the place for teaching any debates about evolution can't come until very late in high school -- or possibly not until college. Perhaps the most basic problem with the whole "Teach the Controversy" movement is how dishonestly hypocritical it is. Even if we ignore all the rest, we can't ignore the fact that these same people don't advocate teaching similar trumped-up controversies in other subjects. Do we teach the "debates" about whether the Holocaust occurred, whether slavery in America was really benevolent, whether the Civil War was justified, or whether astrology is genuine? Of course not. Anyone who suggested such a thing would be laughed at -- or worse. The reason why schools shouldn't teach creationist complaints about evolution as if they were part of a legitimate debate is much the same as why schools shouldn't teach complaints about the Holocaust or the Civil War as if they were also part of a legitimate debate. The simple fact is, they aren't part of a legitimate debate because there is no disagreement about scholars in the respective fields about the truth of these things. This image is based on a World War II poster encouraging children to keep buying war savings stamps. Using War to Promote Peace & Democracy We Bring the Values of Civilization to People by Invading and Bombing Them Using War to Promote Peace & Democracy: We Bring the Values of Civilization to People by Invading and Bombing Them. Image © Austin Cline; Original Poster: National Archives Can peace be achieved through war? Of course it can. Every war has been followed by a peace of some sort. It's not that unusual for aggressors to be defeated through war, thus ushering in a new era of peace and freedom -- or at least relatively more peace and freedom than before. At the same time, though, it's also not that unusual for wars to lead to eras of greater repression and brutality. Perhaps the more relevant question is whether peace can be imposed through war -- whether war can be used as an effective means for imposing peace, democracy, justice, etc. That's the question which faces America today because the Bush administration has chosen to try to impose democracy in the Middle East through force of arms. Muslims who try to achieve their goals through killing and brutality are chastised as barbaric. Those goals include the "true" freedom under Islam and Islamic government. America's efforts to achieve its goals through killing and actions which the victims regard as "brutal" is only acting out of an altruistic desire to spread freedom. The parallels between the two are not exact, but they are striking. Both regard the other as using violence to impose repression and immorality; both see themselves as the bearers of civilization, freedom, and order which justifies the need to use a bit of violence to promote. It's hard for Americans to see this because Americans tend to have a naive sense of innocence about themselves -- they feel that they are only ever acting for the sake of helping others, never out of self-interest, and this leads to very strong negative reactions when those actions aren't received (or perceived) in just that manner. Even if it could be demonstrated that Americans were absolutely correct and just, it would help if they could see themselves as others see them and their international policies. It might instill a bit of humility, something that goes well even with the pursuit of truth. Of course, in cases where America is wrong, that humility would be even more important. This image is based on a World War II poster saying that "It Can Happen Here," so people need to keep producing war materiel in the factories in order to keep it from happening. God is a Republican & Conservative If You Love God, You Must Be Conservative and Vote Republican, God's Own Party God is a Republican & Conservative: If You Love God, You Must Be Conservative and Vote Republican, God's Own Party. Image © Austin Cline; Original Poster: Nazi Propaganda It's interesting, and more than a little bit disturbing, just how often conseravtives and Republicans claim that God is on their side politically -- that their policies, their politics, their agenda, and even their political party are specifically favored by God. Many people recognize it as a sign of extreme arrogance and hubris to imagine that God is taking one's side in the political realm. This tactic is much more, and much worse, than mere hubris though. It is also an attempt to undermine the democratic process itself. Democratic politics involves different people with different interests, ideas, and even values reaching common ground on how to govern a community. The process of democratic governance must be human-oriented because it's a process of creating human compromises in the service of human interests. People may bring values and ideas derived from religious belief systems to the table, but the decisions cannot be religious in nature and still remain truly democratic. Claiming that one is acting on behalf of God, and that God specifically favors one's policies, circumvents all this. The implicit assumption is always that God's wishes and agenda cannot be compromised on. They cannot be the subject of debate, disagreement, or dissent. They cannot be set aside in favor of some other policy. To claim that God favors just one side is, then, the rejection of the democratic political process by which laws and policies are normally formed. It's not just a rejection of any possible compromises for the sake of others who have different interests, but also a rejection of the possibility that an entirely different policy might be preferable. There is no need for any investigations into the consequences of the policy or whether the policy will actually achieve the stated objectives. There is no need to look at whether some other policy would do a better job. Once God has spoken, all debate must end. When someone says that God is a Republican, they are denying legitimacy to any non-Republican positions. When someone says that God favors a particular Republican policy proposal, they are denying legitimacy to any democratic process of debate and compromise over the issue. They are thus seeking to have the policy imposed in an anti-democratic manner. They are seeking the power to rule over others without having to be answerable in a democratic manner. This image is based on a Nazi propaganda poster.