Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Invoking deities at the inauguration

I was looking forward to January 20th as a day to celebrate the end of so many unpleasant things, like everything about the Bush regime. But now I see that the inauguration is going to be stained by the presence of one right wing blowhard religionist by the name of Rick Warren.

This is the guy who is opposed to abortion rights, stem cell research, women's rights, gay marriage and yes, he voted for California's Prop 8. This is the self righteous dude who was quoted in Salon as saying he would never vote for an atheist, for the following reason:
"An atheist says, 'I don't need God,'" Warren said. "They're saying, 'I'm totally self-sufficient in myself,' and nobody's self-sufficient enough to be president -- it's too big a job."
Saying one doesn't need a god is not the same as saying one is totally self-sufficient. Who is totally self-sufficient? Nobody. We all rely upon family and community in order to survive. Is Warren saying that an atheist president would not select a cabinet and make myriad appointments because she thinks she can do it all herself? Or is Warren making a more sinister accusation -- that no one can become president unless they believe in an acceptable mythology. You know, the kind that posits there is some kind of huge power hovering over the head of state. One that must be prayed to or called upon to bless every decision. How ridiculous!

For the non-believer, this world with all its denizens -- plant, animal, human -- is more than enough to spend a life time contemplating. We don't need to invent higher beings before which we feel compelled to prostrate ourselves in submission. Personally, when I need inspiration, I turn to the arts. A painting, a piece of music, a great work of dramatic literature, a poem -- these works created by humans are enough to keep me going through the tough times and the absurd times.

But unfortunately, works of art aren't enough for a lot of people. (They somehow refuse to acknowledge that their religious books were made by humans, not gods.) They must have their belief systems that involve commandments, prayers and invocations. So why do politicians include invocations to gods in official ceremonies? What is the purpose? An invocation may be defined as a prayer that calls upon some imaginary being to do a favor, to offer protection or to actually enter the person doing the calling. This is opposite of an evocation which calls upon the spirit to actually manifest itself in a particular place. Both modes sound like a lot of humbug to me, or to be polite -- involve a lot of imagination on the part of the people doing the invoking and the evoking.

Also on Obama's inauguration agenda is a benediction to be delivered by Rev. Joe Lowry, a religionist of the leftist persuasion. A benediction is, as the Latin root hints at, an invocation asking for beneficial results. It is usually at the end of a ceremony. It is in actuality a call for good luck. I do agree we need some of that, but I am skeptical that one can command good luck to appear.

So we see that the Obama inauguration must be viewed as an act of political theatre, with the religionists at the beginning and the end appearing as symbols of Obama's wish that we all -- fundies and lefties -- get along and respect each other. Too bad Rick Warren has no respect for atheists like me. There is only one thing to do, and that is to click on the mute button when the religionists start their braying, er praying and try not to get too embarassed by all the head-bowing and holier than thou posturing.

Don't get me started on the absurdity of taking an oath of office by placing one's hand on an ancient book filled with primitive attempts to understand the natural world. One day, it may be possible that people can promise to tell the truth and to serve in office with honor and distinction -- and that will be enough. You made your promise on the record and if you break it, no bolt from Zeus will strike you, but your reputation may be lost for good.

Does this rant mean I am thoroughly disgusted with Obama? No, it simply means that I recognize that the godless are still society's lepers. The symbolic bookends of Warren and Lowry are a display of inclusiveness -- of people who believe in some sort of god or higher being. Those of us who don't believe will just have to shut up and put up as usual.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I may be naive, but I'm pretty hopeful about this. I think dealing with global warming is on Obama's secret agenda, and Rick Warren is on board with that.

Village Green said...

Hi Anon -- I don't think global warming is on a secret agenda. I think Obama has been very open about intending to do something major about it, hence the meeting with Gore and the appointment of a real scientist to head the EPA.

As for Warren, he's a hater, and I don't think we need to include haters in our celebrations.

KevinBBG said...

You can be sure that if Warren said the same things about Muslims, Jews, blacks or hispanics that he has said about gays and atheists he would NEVER have been invited to anything.

It's very disappointing that Obama can't see that. Unity is OK as a concept but bringing bigots into the fold hurts everyone. Bigots need to be ostracized to the degree that they are ashamed of showing their bigotry in public.

But it seems that bigotry is OK when wrapped in religion and against the last acceptable targets; atheists and gays.