05 September 2010

How to Lose Your Religion

You know what the best thing about freedom of religion is? It's how you can just make one up pretty much any time you want and nobody gets to stop you, even though they probably ought to. What's really difficult is getting anywhere from 87,000 to 600,000 people to join up when, in the name of freedom of religion, you abolish all religion in favor of establishing a deus ex civitas.

But on 28 August, 2010, one man did that very thing, and that man is the always-flappable, the spurious, the highly-indigestible Glenn Beck. What a guy. Anyway, I'm all about new religions, especially dangerous ones. So, Mr. Beck: Congratulations on being the new owner of the most insidious form of nihilism present in the United States today!

Listen, I know you are all wondering where you can get some nihilism of your very own. It's like I've always said, "Once one megalomaniac gets just a little nihilism, everyone is going to want some." Well chill out, hosses and hossettes, because I'm about to tell you.

Here's what you do:
  1. Gather 240 or so religious leaders of various faiths. You don't have to say which faiths, though. Only, no Muslims. Catholics are a bad choice, too. I have no idea how an atheist would have a religious representative, but in case they somehow do, skip them as well.
  2. Give that group a badass sounding name that actually carries highly ironic connections to a prior movement known not for its ardent patriotism but for its fervent anti-nationalism.
  3. Insist that the intent of this group is to promote your specific ideas about faith, hope and charity as more important than their own religious agendas, thereby undermining the freedom of religion by making free religious expression subservient to the requirement of allegiance to a destructive form of nationalism.
Not too bad, right? If you can manage to do all this in the same location and on the anniversary of an event of tremendous cultural and sentimental importance while insisting without irony against someone else's right to do exactly the same thing, that's a huge bonus. Let me see if I can put more plainly why Glenn Beck is a nihilist. I'll try to make it fit easily onto a gimmicky chalkboard.
  • An individual practices any given religion (or practices none at all— hereafter I will include atheism under the umbrella of religion in the sense that one is free to have no religion) for a variety of stated reasons. Regardless of those reasons, this religion provides a sense of meaning and a sense of morality to that individual.
  • Supplanting an individual's right to freely choose their religion with the requirement to be patriotic and nationalistic in a very narrowly defined way moves the sense of meaning away from religion and onto that same narrowly defined nationalism.
  • The movement of meaning away from religion and onto nationalism does not have a corresponding movement of morality. Nationalism defines values, but fails to adequately define morality.
  • Lacking meaning, religion no longer has sufficient authority to prescribe morality. Morality is therefore destroyed and replaced not by a new morality, but by obedience to the charismatic leader of said nationalistic movement.
In this scenario, God, or all gods but the State, are soon to be quite dead. And that is why Glenn Beck is a nihilist, even though he talks all sorts of talk about faith and religion and God. What he really wants is power, and that makes Lincoln's lap the altar and religion the sacrificial lamb.

But look, you can do whatever you want, because you've got the right to choose. You want to worship deus ex civitas at the cost of all other gods, that's your thing. But don't blame me if those gods get a bit pissed off at you trying to kill them and everything. And certainly don't be surprised if for some odd reason it turns out that not everybody wants to suddenly become a nihilist.

Watch a state religion being born (just like watching a person being born, only more disgusting, and you don't get any drugs to make it easier): Glenn Beck's Restoring Honor Rally

Catch up on a few of your actual rights, in case you were interested: The Bill of Rights