Three Ways to Beat Religious Political Extremists

By Porteous, Skipp | Free Inquiry, Winter 1996 | Go to article overview
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Three Ways to Beat Religious Political Extremists

Porteous, Skipp, Free Inquiry

Many mistakenly think that if we could just catch Pat Robertson in bed with a cohost of the "700 Club" - either Ben or Terri - the religious right would self-destruct. Some think the Christian Coalition would sink if the Internal Revenue Service could nail it on tax violations or illegal political activity.

However, the radical religious right is a movement, not an organization. It's a movement that's been a long time in the making, that learns from its mistakes, and that keeps coming back. If one group within the movement fails, another rises to fill the gap.

There are three things we can do to counter the radical religious right. They include short-term and long-term initiatives and offer short-term and long-term results. The three strategies are: expose, oppose, and superimpose. We must continue to do what we have been doing, and that is to expose the agenda, the methods, and the effects of the actions of the religious right. This involves researching, working with the media, speaking out at public meetings, writing letters to editors, calling radio talkshows, publishing newsletters, and networking with other groups.

We oppose the radical religious right by organizing coalitions, registering and educating voters, working with the media, initiating legal action when appropriate, and organizing social action committees in churches, temples, mosques, and cultural groups.

Our immediate objective is to expose and oppose religious political extremists. But we must initiate a movement to effect permanent change. We need to superimpose greater ideals than those offered by the radical religious right. To superimpose means to lay a grid over an existing pattern - to lay down our system of ethics and encourage people to live by them.

Our unwillingness to take a moral stand is based on several objections:

* We don't want to appear intolerant. To take a moral stand would imitate our adversaries who like to tell us what's right and what's wrong.

* We don't want to sound pious. Who are we to tell other people how to conduct their lives?

* We want to leave God or religion out of our activism. After all, we believe in the separation between church and state.

* And, if we took a moral stand, upon whose beliefs would we base our moral stand?

In my opinion, we've got to take the higher ground. We've allowed the radical religious right to gain the upper hand by default. If we correctly identify the problems facing us as a nation, and are willing to lead, we will win this battle against religious political extremists.

Why has the book The Celestine Prophecy been on the New York Times best-seller list for over two years? As a novel it's second-rate at best.

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