Blasphemy for the Day: 2012 – Year of the Bible

A new feature in response to the BBC’s Thought for the Day, for that blessed day of rest, Sunday. You don’t have to be a believer to enjoy a day of rest.

Perhaps you’ve heard of First Amendment of the US Constitution. It goes like this:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

In complete disregard of the first clause, Pennsylvania recently passed what they call a “Noncontroversial Resolution” (HR 535) establishing 2012 as the Year of the Bible. In a stunning piece of virtuoso disingenuousness, one of the sponsors, Jerry Stern, opines that “Our Constitution (Pennsylvania) does not mention a separation principle.” So that’s all right then.

Interestingly, some members felt they were duped, because the resolution came in a stack that was passed in a single vote, ignoring the fact that the title was on the top of the front page. In other words, they didn’t read the legislation. Pathetic. Here is the text and a TV news clip.

American Atheists have responded with a billboard campaign in Harrisburg, the state capital, using this poster.

It’s not quite as genteel or good-humoured as the UK atheist bus campaign slogan – There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life. But religion is so much more toxic in America, with a stranglehold on political life. I don’t know if HR 535 is unconstitutional. The really worrying thing is that such a blatant attack on the ethos of what purports to be a secular democracy should be greeted with so little outrage. It’s just a petty gesture when compared with attacks by the GOP, in an unholy alliance with the Catholic Church, on  the right of every woman to have contraceptive coverage in their health insurance. But one that reveals the extent to which US politicians are in thrall to religious corporations, as much as to their business counterparts.

I think the Christian Taliban are a greater threat to American secular values than Islam could ever be. And while the US is still a world power, that’s bad news for the rest of us.

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