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JEWS, CHRISTIANS, ATHEISTS AND POLICY

June 27, 2015

JEWS, CHRISTIANS, ATHEISTS AND POLICY

Save for a few holdouts, everyone agrees that we in this country are products of what we call the Judeo-Christian culture. We are not necessarily members of such religions (atheists have none) but we are still members of the culture spawned by their fusion with the canonization of scripture at the two Councils of Nicea in 325 and 381 A.D. as Rome Christianized and its bishop later assumed the title of pope.

Our adopted culture is broad enough to contain doctrinal dogmas in theology which purport to believe in a risen messiah and those which do not, and both hold relatively common views as expressed by the Law of Moses, the Beatitudes and other commonly held views of right and wrong, good and evil etc. which help form culture. This is not surprising since Judaism and Christianity have identical prophets.

Jesus himself freely quotes from the past with his “it is written” homilies and parables and other than a few doctrinal disagreements and the divisions that have since accrued as a result it is our interpretation of what such prophets wrote and Jesus said and their applicability to the religious side of our lives that is at issue, and we now know that many of such views we now hold whether Jew or Gentile may have been themselves picked out of Late Bronze Age ruins of Nineveh from far earlier prophets long before Jew-Gentile designations. Old ideas may have thus sprung from yet earlier and older predecessors.

In all events, that was then and this is now, so how are we doing in living up to the precepts of dos and  don’ts of our Judeo-Christian culture? I fear we now live in a culture of avarice and greed, and even rhapsodize that “Greed is good.” Great wealth symbolizes success; poor people are lazy and immoral.

Of course, greed and avarice were not unknown before and certainly since the fusion of culture with its mores and folkways in this country. Jewish prophets and Jesus with his eye of the needle and camel story were constantly railing against the rich and greedy. Virtually everyone is acquainted with the biblical proscription that the love of money is the root of all evil (though Henry VIII apparently substituted women for money and started a new church to flesh out his view while ex- priest Luther married his ex-nun Katie in an in-your-face double-dare rebuke of  papal authority).

However, though none of us was on the scene who are alive today, we are called upon to compare the avarice and greed of today with that of history as we understand it, and I think it is no contest. At least the rich of that day showed more contriteness with their wealth (as fortified by Aesop, King Midas etc.) and made no pretense that its acquisition was moral and that failure to acquire it was immoral in a turnabout of Aristotelian logic. Presumably such deadbeats as Jesus Christ, Mother Teresa and other such penniless but renowned people would be somehow exempted from the 47 percent today.

We have certainly breached a cultural divide when we allow the avaricious and greedy few to enlist the power of government to assist them in their “moral” crusade to acquire more and more of the assets available for the taking at the expense of the great multitude of the rest of us. That situation would have been condemned by the prophets and Jesus and even latter day Deists like Jefferson as antithetical to the public good irrespective of one’s religious views or lack of them. It is as wrong for atheists as it is for monks in a prayer cell, and as I often write, an unmitigated disaster for ordinary Americans trying to survive in this economy owned and operated by the few via their political toadies in government.

My followers know that I eschew religious discussions in my blogs in favor of decidedly irreligious commentary on how 90 percent of America is managing at the intersection of economics and government. I was moved to write this piece because a friend sent me a letter to the editor he had cut out from his local press, from which, since it is not copyrighted, I will quote freely in the following.

The writer is a lawyer and presumably a Christian. He quotes from Matthew 25 that “Whatever you do unto the least of these you do also unto me,” a red-letter quote. He writes: “I have been thinking about this passage in the Bible as I have watched recent events unfold. It seems to me that there is a lot of hatred for the poor. The rhetoric is harsh and unkindly to what must be described as the least of these. . . . I understand the rationale for the rhetoric. Why should we feed and house those who are addicted to drugs or alcohol, and those who seem fit to work? Some abuse the social services and are hopelessly stuck in the cycle of poverty. I understand the frustration.  . . . Yet I also understand the perspective of the impoverished. There is little incentive to work when wages are ridiculously low and they have no skills. Childcare and transportation are huge issues. If you work 40 hours a week at minimum wage, you are still poor. Former Vice President Cheney ridiculed the President last week and said that the President cares more about food stamps than he does the military, only to discover that 900,000 military families are using food stamps. . . . Cheney’s comment is typical of the harsh rhetoric. . . . So the politicians yield to the harsh words and cut food stamps and nutritional programs. They refuse to establish Medicaid programs, so the poor are denied basic health services. They refuse to fund early childhood education programs, which have proven to be critical to breaking the cycle of poverty. They refuse to fund public education under a formula for funding they have created. Social service programs have become public enemy No. 1. And at the same time they want to cut the taxes of those who do not need tax cuts in the quest for trickle own economics that have failed us miserably. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer and we don’t care. . . . We continue to elect the same people who lust after special interest political contributions. And the courts used to protect us, but now they hand down ridiculous decisions that declare that corporations have First Amendment rights so they can fund political campaigns and buy politicians like they are some priceless jewels. Thomas Jefferson must be spinning in his grave at such absurdity. . . . I am not Catholic but I adore the new Pope. He is saddened by the lack of justice in the world. . . . The justice he speaks of is not handed out in the courts of our nation, but in the soup kitchens, the prisons, the homeless shelters and those few churches who love all of their neighbors.”

Amen, brother, whoever you are! I could not have written it better. What we are doing and allowing to be done in our name (and even encouraging it!) will not be looked kindly upon by history, either religious or secular (which I write about). Making the rich richer and the poor poorer as a matter of public policy is clearly a gross violation of our pretended cultural Judeo-Christian norm and I can say without reservation that such policies if continued will also lead us to Third World (banana republic) status as we choose to invest in Swiss banks accounts and Chinese factories and Rolls Royces and yachts over investment in the education of our people and their ability to participate as robust consumers in our domestic economy with the end of income inequality and their subsidies for the rich.

Our greatest resource is our people and our greatest asset is our democracy, so why don’t we adopt policies that reflect those truisms? Another yacht for a member of the rich and corporate class will not educate a child or excise a cancer, so just what cultural values are we in fact espousing today? GERALD E

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