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Frank Rich’s anti-religious screed

This column by Frank Rich is absolutely dripping with hostility to religion. We live, he says, in
"a time when government, culture, science, medicine and the rule of law are all under threat from an emboldened religious minority out to remake America according to its dogma." "Our culture," he continues, "has been screaming its theocratic inclinations for months now."

Yeah, I always knew that those rap artists and Academy Award winners were theocrats.

And did you know that efforts over the weekend to have Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube reinserted were a "full-scale jihad," and that values voters are the equivalent of the judges at the Salem witch trials or the Taliban?

I can’t help thinking that if Rich had unburdened himself in this way against other minorities, he would be hooted by all right-thinking people from the pages of the New York Times. But sincere religious believers are fair game. We know they’re all bigots and zealots, after all, out to establish a theocracy.

Except for the politicians, who are just Cecil B. DeMilles out for votes.

Hat tip: The Revealer, which calls this bigoted screed "a decent beginner’s survey of this month’s God wars."

Discussions - 17 Comments

The fact that Frank Rich started out a drama critic gives you vital insight into the histrionic columns he writes now. This also provides a valuable insight into the editorial thinking at the NYT - Did Frank Rich do a good job writing up the revival of "My Fair Lady?" Great! Lets get a thousand words from him on the Iraq War! These are not serious people.

There certainly are a lot of religious people interested in Terri’s case, but how does the left assign all the uproar to religion? Do these people have polls? Do they believe religious people should be denied a voice in government because of creed? Frank’s anti-religious “talking point" is too consistent with the left: Where did this attitude originate?

The “Aca-Deaniacs” article (on this site) talked about how liberals think Americans have no right to “judge” Saddam or Osama. But these same people do not hesitate to scorn religious people in America. By the way, I thought it was interesting that the students used the word “judge” as opposed to many other words that could have been used.

Ralph Nader is now among those calling for letting Terri live and giving her case another look in the courts:

I guess he’s a right-wing religious fanatic, too, just like those well-known neo-Taliban jihadsters, Barbara Mikulski and Tom Harkin.

Judge Greer, according to one newspaper profile I saw, is a "conservative Republican" and a Baptist. The one judge on the 11th circuit who published a dissent calling for Terri’s case to get a federal hearing, Wilson, is a Clinton appointee and as such presumably a Democrat.

I have no idea what Judge Greer’s motives are, but I do think he’s presiding over a miscarriage of justice, and I’m appalled that all the other courts that might review his handiwork are washing their hands of the case. The fact that Greer is described as a "conservative Republican" makes no difference to this opinion, and in case anyone’s wondering, I’d think the same thing if Terri were black, Asian, or a native of Lapland.

"Anti-Catholicism is the anti-Semitism of the intellectuals."

I’m a conservative Republican who just can’t seem to get myself exercised over this Terri Schiavo thing, but I also think the Left is being predictably ridiculous with its cries of "theocracy." A theocracy is a government ruled by religious authority. So far, every single civil court has rejected the Schiavos appeals(including supposedly "conservative" ones like the 11th Circuit and Supreme Court)because, in each court’s view, the law requires a different outcome than that sought by the supposed dominant forces of religious extremism. If anything, doesn’t that prove just how much we aren’t a theocracy?

As an addendum to my last post mentioning how "conservative" courts are consistently rejecting Schiavos appeals, I think its important to note how this matter informs the current battle over judges. Democrat blowhards like Teddy, Leahy, and Schumer want to claim that conservative judges (and the current filibustered nominees) seek to enact an extremist right-wing agenda, including the agenda of the religious right. And yet here we have a high-profile example of conservative judges placing their conception of the law above their alleged constituency’s (and for many of them, probably their own) belief in what’s morally right. If the shoe were on the other foot--say there was a death penalty defendant who’d exhausted twenty years of appeals seeking a last-ditch, legally meritless stay of execution--I doubt that such a high percentage of liberal judges would be willing to enforce the law over their personal political preferences.

Frank Rich is really right on the money.

Chris L.,

You agree with Rich, so I’d like to ask a serious question. What exactly is the threat to America from Jewish or Christian religion?

"The anti-indecency campaign, already a roaring success, has just yielded a new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Kevin J. Martin, who had been endorsed by the Parents Television Council and other avatars of the religious right...That bullying, stoked by politicians in power, has become omnipresent, leading television stations to practice self-censorship and high school teachers to avoid mentioning "the E word," evolution, in their classrooms, lest they arouse fundamentalist rancor. The president is on record as saying that the jury is still out on evolution, so perhaps it’s no surprise that The Los Angeles Times has uncovered a three-year-old "religious rights" unit in the Justice Department that investigated a biology professor at Texas Tech because he refused to write letters of recommendation for students who do not accept evolution as "the central, unifying principle of biology." Cornelia Dean of The New York Times broke the story last weekend that some Imax theaters, even those in science centers, are now refusing to show documentaries like "Galápagos" or "Volcanoes of the Deep Sea" because their references to Darwin and the Big Bang theory might antagonize some audiences. Soon such films will disappear along with biology textbooks that don’t give equal time to creationism...James Cameron, producer of "Volcanoes" (and, more famously, the director of "Titanic"), called this development "obviously symptomatic of our shift away from empiricism in science to faith-based science." Faith-based science has in turn begat faith-based medicine that impedes stem-cell research, not to mention faith-based abstinence-only health policy that impedes the prevention of unwanted pregnancies and diseases like AIDS..."

The real threat to America from the christian religion is that it may hasten or bring about a shift away from empiricism in science. The addoption of a religious framework is anti-intellectual, in that it proceeds from faith rather than thought. A nation consumed with religious fevor is more easily lead astray by opportunists and more prone to engage in culture wars...

The opposite of the religious fanatic is not the fanatical atheist but the gentle cynic who cares not whether there is a god or not.
- Eric Hoffer

Mr. Rich seems to fit that category.

What do you suggest be done about gentle cynics such as Mr. Rich?

Perhaps he should be required to participate in something like this. Maybe THEN he’d start to care, eh?

John Lewis,

Thank you for your post. Ihope you will take the time to answer more questions for me. Can you remember when you first began to understand Christianity as a threat to science? How old were you? Did you reach this conclusion on your own? Have you studied Christianity long?


Mr. Maddox - if THIS is how Christians treat one of their own who does not conform to their beliefs, I’ll leave it to you to decide just how unscathed non-Christians can expect to be if the U.S. continues on the path which Mr. Rich perceptively outlined.

Chris L,

Are all teachers, scientists, lawyers, farmers, waitresses or bricklayers equal in intelligence, experience and understanding? Do they all practice their craft alike? If not, why would you think all Christians are the same? There are educated, published, practicing scientists (many that are non-Christian) that study and believe in intelligent design: If I use your method of analysis I would look at them and say “therefore all scientists must believe in intelligent design.

There is a fundamental flaw in many of religion’s critics. It is simple laziness. Research is hard work that many people attempt to escape by trusting someone else’s conclusions. Trusting without testing is more like religion than the science many of these critics claim to value.

Research for the purpose of gaining a clear and accurate understanding of reality (knowledge) requires the relinquishing of fear, prejudice, faith, emotion, desires and just about everything “human”. And yet it is difficult, because we must employ the human quality of introspection. Introspection is required because we cannot trust ourselves to abandon our humanity. We must be creative so that we are able to devise checks and balances (experiment and research) to catch our prejudices before they interfere with acquiring knowledge. And we must value knowledge above our own ego. John Locke said, “. . . since I impartially search after truth, I shall not be sorry to be convinced that I have been too fond of my own notions . . .”

Research is not done to “find” the truth; it is used to validate recognition of truth. Truth never hides. It is as plain and clear as the sun and the moon. It is as obvious and patient as the paths they move in. Atoms and stars wait until we have the ability to see them, but they do not hide nor are they lost. Truth does not need to be found; it only waits to be recognized. With experimentation and evidence we test the clarity of our recognition rather than the validity of truth.

The path that Mr. Rich “perceptively” outlined is sensationalist, political propaganda. His “research” consists of collecting data that fits his opinion. He is a fearful, emotional prophet of his own religion and doesn’t deserve your consideration unless you wish to be just like him. Be better than Mr. Rich; research.


Mr. Maddox and chris please check out Mark Steyn’s column in today’s NLT.

"the assurance given to Islamist "martyrs" that 72 virgins were standing by to pleasure them for eternity. The notion that the after-life is a well-appointed brothel is a perplexing one to the Judaeo-Christian world, and I suggested that Americans would be sceptical if heaven were framed purely in terms of boundless earthly pleasures.

But, on reflection, if the Islamists are banal in portraying the next world purely in terms of sensual self-gratification, we’re just as reductive in measuring this one the same way. America this Holy Week is following the frenzied efforts to halt the court-enforced starvation of a brain-damaged woman for no reason other than that her continued existence is an inconvenience to her husband. In Britain, two doctors escape prosecution for aborting an otherwise healthy baby with a treatable cleft palate because the authorities are satisfied they acted "in good faith". You can read similar stories in almost any corner of the developed world, except perhaps the Netherlands, where discretionary euthanasia is so advanced it’s news if the kid makes it out of the maternity ward. As the New York Times reported the other day: "Babies born into what is certain to be a brief life of grievous suffering should have their lives ended by physicians under strict guidelines, according to two doctors in the Netherlands.

"The doctors, Eduard Verhagen and Pieter J. J. Sauer of the University Medical Center in Groningen, in an essay in today’s New England Journal of Medicine, said they had developed guidelines, known as the Groningen protocol."

Ah, the protocols of the elders of science. Odd the way scientists have such little regard for scientific progress. It’s highly likely that many birth defects - not just the bilateral cleft lips - will be treatable and correctible in the next decade or two. But once you start weighing the relative values of individual lives, there’s no end to it. Much of that derives from the way abortion has redefined life - as a "choice", an option.

In practice, a culture that thinks Terri Schiavo’s life in Florida or the cleft-lipped baby’s in Herefordshire has no value winds up ascribing no value to life in general. Hence, the shrivelled fertility rates in Europe and in blue-state America: John Kerry won the 16 states with the lowest birth rates; George W Bush took 25 of the 26 states with the highest."

Are we headed the "Dutch Way"?

George Maddox - that was quite a lecture. Do I really need to point out that I don’t think ALL "Christians are the same"? My wife is a devout, churchgoing Catholic. My sister is a "born-again," non-denominational Christian (both of them, by the way, are pretty disgusted by the way in which Republicans have opportunistically exploited the Schiavo case for an ill-advised stab at some political gain) I’ve had as many friends who are Christian, or otherwise religious, as I have had agnostic friends (only a couple out-and-out atheists). I’m well aware of the incredibly diverse and multifaceted nature of religions generally, not just Christianity. I simply stated that I agreed with Mr. Rich’s views, and then I later noted a news article which I thought demonstrated certain dangers from the "emboldened religious minority" (note, even Mr. Rich said "minority," NOT "all") of which Mr. Rich wrote. I posted comments to a blog-post regarding an opinion column (that is relegated to the "arts" section of the NYTimes, which certainly must help those who disagree with Mr. Rich in dismissing his views as unserious). Neither I, nor Mr. Rich, were involved in writing a doctoral dissertation, or a modern history of the religious right and its relationships with the government. Such is the inherently limited (or fatally flawed) nature of blogs and opinion forums - soundbites rule. Likewise, I think the same likely holds true for any of your favorite columnists. It’s a rare op-ed column indeed that emerges from weeks (or even days!) of rigorous research and is meticulously sourced and footnoted.

You said, "The path that Mr. Rich “perceptively” outlined is sensationalist, political propaganda. His “research” consists of collecting data that fits his opinion. He is a fearful, emotional prophet of his own religion and doesn’t deserve your consideration unless you wish to be just like him." This reminded me of a comment that Dr. Schramm posted a few months back, flatly denying that he or his NoLeftTurns colleagues were at all ideological. Sorry, I don’t buy the view that only the right-wing (or one particular branch of it) has some monopoly on research-derived Truth, and that only those to the left of center can possibly be ideological. I think that this blog often cranks out "sensationalist, political propaganda" of its own, and that conservative columnists and pundits are at least as guilty of only collecting and using data that fit their predetermined opinions as Mr. Rich may or may not be. Krauthammer, George Will (his latest column, about Yucca Mtn. in Nevada, is RIDDLED with poor analysis and cheap, one-sided "research" to ensure that he ends up taking the standard conservative position on the issue), Friedman, Steyn, they all could just as (or more) easily be found guilty of the crimes which you accuse Frank Rich. Yes, Mr. Rich is emotional. Is that a problem? Have we not seen plenty of emotion from the "Save Terri Schiavo" camp? People consider things and take their positions (one way or the other) because they CARE about the issues. The Founders were great and wise thinkers, but they were not devoid of emotion. I’m not sure why you called Rich "fearful." Is he generally a "fearful" person? I don’t know. I guess he’s fearful of what the "emboldened religious minority" that he wrote about might be capable of achieving. I don’t know Mr. Rich very well, except for a handful of his columns that I’ve read, so I don’t "wish to be like him," but I see little harm in reading what he has to say about current affairs, much like I do not feel particularly endangered by reading this blog, however appalled I might be by some (NOT ALL) of the reactionary viewpoints expressed. Your pontification that "Truth does not need to be found; it only waits to be recognized." might appear, on the surface, to be something sagacious, but you’ve merely said the same thing in two different ways. Similarly, lost hikers in the mountains do not need to be found; they only wait to be recognized.

Chris L wrote:" . . . I agreed with Mr. Rich’s views, and then I later noted a news article which I thought demonstrated certain dangers from the "emboldened religious minority" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Chris L, The people you refer to do not represent a minority. They are individuals making bad choices. Assigning them representational status is sensationalist. . . . . . . . . . .

And if those hikers recognize where they are in relation to reality, they won’t be lost.

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