Dog Days for God (religious violence,
stem cell decision)
(Top Posts - Social/Legal - 082201)

"It’s been a rough summer, taking the blame for
senseless limits on stem cell research and killings
on both sides in the Middle East."

http://www.salon.com/news/col/scheer/2001/08/22/god/index.html

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[ aside - editorial insert]

This article offers perspectives worthy of consid-
eration by ...

... supporters of embryological stem cell research
and advocates of a slowed/hindered approach
restricted solely to *previously developed* (pre-
vious to Aug. 9, 2001) stem cell lines and outright
opponents of any stem cell research ...

... supporters of therapeutic human cloning and
opposers of same ...

... folks of non-faiths, distance from faiths, and faiths ...

Please reflect on the risks entailed in combining non-
secular considerations with secular matters, matters
of the daily lives of all sentient beings --- humans of
all non-faiths, distance from faiths, and faiths --- all
with human rights to live and max out the common
experience that all birthed and sentient humans share,
on this earth, at this time, in this life ...

[disclaimer] if mention of the word god in a post
in a less-than-worshipful manner offends you,
do read the following post and try not to be
offended - if mention of the words god and
violence offend you, do read the following post
and try not to be offended ... in other words, try
to -think- as if you were a free and sentient being
living in a natural world of mystery and wonder
when you read the following post, if you can
find it within yourself to do so ...

[ end aside - editorial insert]

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Entire article, 'Dog Days for God', 8/22/01, by
Robert Scheer ...

"This has not been a good season for God. From
the blowing up of innocents in a Jerusalem pizzeria
to the limiting of stem cell research in the United States,
the moral authority of the deity has been invoked to
support actions that are at best contradictory and at
worst murderous.

It is the norm among politicians and pundits alike to
treat religion as an unmitigated blessing and to dismiss
its most simplistic and even destructive outcroppings
as the zealous perversion of the true faith.

In unstable societies, there is an expanded capacity of
traditional religion to go dangerously wrong. But even
in stable societies, such as our own, what should be
rational scientific and medical debates on subjects like
stem cell research are bombarded by religious slogan-
eering.

We, of course, resist any comparison with religious
extremism abroad. In the Middle East, where no fewer
than three conceptions of the one true God are in play,
it's all too easy to brand the followers of the Koran's
interpretation as the nutty villains.

Obviously, most Muslims do not justify terrorism, and
one easily can find leading practitioners of the religion
to roundly condemn such tactics, although it is disheart-
ening when moderate Muslims such as Yasser Arafat
exploit religious hatred.

Fairness also dictates that we acknowledge that the Mid-
east's other major religions have had a turn at their disci-
ples' descent into madness. There are Jews today who
justify the killing of Palestinians, including children, by
saying they are merely abiding by the instructions of the
Old, and the only, Testament of God. One such believer
took the life of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin,
branding the courageous peacemaker an infidel.

Christians also cannot claim moral superiority in the
religious violence count, and one need not go back to
the Crusades for comparable examples of barbarism
vindicated by Scripture. More recent reference to the
endless "troubles" in Northern Ireland, where Catholics
and Protestants define their religious identity by inflict-
ing mayhem, will suffice.

Then there are those Christians in our own country who
in the name of God killed doctors in order, they claim,
to protect life. The charge of "murderer" is spit at preg-
nant women who believe they should have the say in the
decision to create life.

On a nonviolent level, there is the mischief of those who
play at religion for more transparent political ends, such
as our president, who cut off funding for international
birth control education as punishment for groups, such
as Planned Parenthood, that disagree with Bush on
abortion.

Bush recently acted again on his religious convictions.
One can assume he once again asked himself, "what
would Jesus do?" in deciding the issue of embryonic
stem cell research to the satisfaction of key Christian
rightists, the consternation of scientists and the acclaim
of political pundits and pollsters.

Such is the convenience of the president's religious con-
science that research on 60 stem cell lines already drawn
from embryos destroyed is just dandy, but using more
of the thousands of fertilized eggs that will be discarded
anyway is wrong.

This stance dismisses the lives of people with dreadful
illnesses, possibly to be saved by an unfettered research
program, as already expendable. Or at least until after the
next presidential election, when, Bush's advisors suggest,
public pressure for scientific progress and the absence
of a need to placate Christian right voters might compel
Bush to broaden his ethical horizons.

How odd that the authorities in Britain, with a much more
established history of inspiration by Jesus, have decided
that no such limit of cell lines is required, freeing their
scientists to press ahead to do what others cite as God's
work in finding treatments for those with debilitating ill-
nesses.

The maturing of Christianity in England, the seat of many
past horrors in the name of Jesus, gives hope that the
insights of religion can come to be used as a gentle, in-
forming source of wisdom. No one can doubt that much
that is decent in the human experience is owed to the
restraint of contemplation within a received religious
framework.

That just the opposite may occur, that religion has an en-
during capacity to stoke the most primitive and destruc-
tive parts of our nature, is also obvious. The pretense
that religion is inevitably an ennobling experience stands
in absurd denial of a harsh reality reported in daily head-
lines. A dangerous pretense, but one that politicians find
all too useful."

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