Thursday, July 21, 2005

Triumphalist hubris

I'll have more to say about this in an updated post, but let the following initial comment suffice (Should also say here that I am fortunate to be blessed with close friends of all religious traditions. The "hubris" cited below is reserved for those who think their good luck is due to "God loving them better").

One of the things you encounter in Red-State Conservative/Protestant attitudes about politics is a kind of triumphalist hubris, exemplified by the fact that 9 months later, many people still have their "Bush for President" signs up in their yards, or are sporting "W -- Still the President" bumper stickers. I think this proceeds from a conviction (arrogant, naive, and provincial though it is) that W won because he was supposed to win, by some kind of all-knowing/all-seeing Deity.

One of the problems possibly endemic to a Deistic religion is that it tends to lead people to assume that good or bad things are intended by the Deity to happen. So if someone is poor, it's because the Deity intends that. If someone wins an election, it's because the Deity intends that.

When linked to a sin/punishment/reward model--"if you do bad things, God will punish you; if you do good things, God will reward you"--these attitudes almost inevitably lead toward blaming the victim: if someone is poor, or sick, or disadvantaged, it's because God intends them to be...and God must intend that because they're being punished for doing something bad.

Lots of people are poor, sick, disadvantaged, or lose elections simply because we live in a world that contains suffering, a political system that is massively corrupt, and a society that practices a lot of injustice. Many of those people are poor, or sick, or disadvantaged, or disenfranchised, as a result of the purely human actions of others more fortunate.

What's even more revealing is when this triumphalist hubris is subverted: when someone who thinks of themselves as "good" has something bad happen, the cosmology can't explain it: "I'm a good person; why is God punishing me?" The When Bad Things Happen to Good People syndrome. No one is more arrogant than a fundamentalist (of any religion) who believes "God wants me to do this and is rewarding me for being a Good Person." No one is more disoriented--and potentially more angry and vengeful--than a fundamentalist who is being confronted with irrefutable evidence that God doesn't give s shi*t about him and may not even exist.

Removing God's judgement, rewards, and punishments from the equation puts the responsibility back on the individual: bad actions have bad long-term consequences. Good actions have good (if unforeseen or unseeable) long-term consequences. The universe is a sacred place, and positive or negative actions do have lasting consequences. But that's because all beings are interdependent, not because God is some vengeful, spiteful, favorites-playing Mean Dad.

No comments: