Religious extremists all over the world, and in the United States – as well as religious figures who would never consider themselves extreme – are currently demonstrating the dangers when religious true believers hold power and government. In the Middle East ISIS is busy exterminating anyone who doesn’t hew to their extremist views. Iraq is being torn apart over religious differences. Religious differences accounted for the civil war in Sudan, one of the bloodiest and possibly the longest civil war in Africa, which lasted fifty years by some accounts, and now a prominent radical Islamic cleric is declaring that women and children of faiths other than Islam are no different from soldiers and can be killed according to the words of Muhammad. Mass killings for religious reasons are now endemic in Nigeria, where the Islamic Boko Haram movement has slaughtered thousands and kidnapped and possibly killed hundreds if girls and young women. In Myanmar [Burma] Islamic/Buddhist strife is rising. Religious killings continue to rise in Pakistan.
Whether believers in any faith want to acknowledge the role religion plays, it’s rather obvious to me that the vast majority of believers are totally convinced that their beliefs and ways are the only “right” way to live, and far too many of those believers feel that any ends justify the means in giving their faith the power to compel others to follow those “right” beliefs. The religious “moderates” differ from the extremists in this only in the degree of compulsion they believe is permissible. Thus, in the United States, evangelical Christians trumpet “religious freedom” and attempt to use the laws, rather than bullets and blades, to impose their beliefs on others who do not share their views. This is more civilized than slaughtering those who oppose you, but the principle is still the same – using a form of power to force compliance with a religious belief.
This is, of course, more obvious where I live in Utah, the all-but-in-name theocracy of Deseret, where sixty percent of the population is LDS and ninety percent of the state legislators are LDS, and where nothing of significance opposed by the LDS Church can be enacted, where the wage differential between men and women is among the highest of any state, if not the highest, reflecting the very obvious, but always denied, patriarchal dominance of the culture.It’s also the state where Cliven Bundy, the rancher who provoked an armed-standoff with the BLM and who owes millions in unpaid gazing fees addressed a meeting of the American Independent Party last week, declaring that his armed resistance to the BLM was inspired by God and that, in effect, he was only supporting the Constitution, Jesus Christ, and the LDS faith. While several prominent LDS individuals claimed Bundy did not represent the LDS Church, officially the Church has not taken a stand. It’s rather interesting that Kate Kelley can be excommunicated for advocating that women be allowed into the LDS priesthood, while Cliven Bundy can offer armed resistance to the federal government after failing to pay grazing fees and claim God was behind him… and remain in good standing with his church.
But that exemplifies the underlying problem with religion – for true believers, adherence to belief trumps everything… and that’s exactly why the Founding Fathers didn’t want government making any laws that amounted to establishing a religion – a principle that the Roberts Supreme Court seems to avoid considering.