It’s Sunday and the airwaves are positively crackling with overmodulated, firebreathin’ preacher-men poundin’ the pul-pits and spreadin’ the good word. AM radio in particular is an interesting place to dial in some of the more colorful characters preachin’, witnessin’, and evangelizin’ the Gospel. 

Around these parts we have an AM station that specializes in the Messianic message that broadcasts on a low power transmitter over what they call the American Freedom Network.

Between phone-linked sermons (homilies for the survivalist, really) you’ll hear infomercials hawking colloidal silver cure-alls, dubious gold investments, nutriceuticals, and other market flotsam. For a time there was a fellow who was reading off seismic data and coordinates for earthquake enthusiasts. It appeals to that quiet voice in the back of your consciousness that urges you to move into a small cabin and become a hermit. I’m afraid that one day while driving I’ll have a deer crash through my windshield because I was distracted by this stuff.

When I hear these people talking about getting religion back into the public arena, or “bringing God back” into public life, I’m mystified.  Many of the religious talking heads are striking back at the recent popularity of skeptics like Dawkins, Shermer, or Harris. These fellows have made a cogent and thoughtful appeal to the use of analysis and reason. I doubt there are more atheists per capita today than before. But it is evident that atheists and agnostics are a bit more vocal in public today.

Despite their popularity, they represent a minority view of the physical reality of religious concepts.  Their ideas will certainly never catch hold in the USA as a majority view because our very brain architecture predisposes us to adopt a belief in the supernatural. Only a few people seem to be able to break away from this notion. They (we) will always be in a minority.

But I can’t help but conclude that when the call is made to “bring religion back” to public discourse, the intent of those making the call is perhaps not what the rest of us might conclude from their words.

Bringing back religion to the public arena is not meant to imply that we will openly examine religion. It is not a call for analysis. It is a call for devotion.  In my experience, the evangelical elite tend not to examine their belief system scientifically or analytically. Rather, they tend to approach it devotionally. This is the big difference between those who dwell under the religious magisterium and those who do not.

The call for public implementation of American-style religiosity through the framework of the public commons of the government does not simply mean that we would suddenly be free to pray in the post office. We already have that. You can stand in the post office and make a silent prayer anytime and anywhere you want. I have prayed to any supernatural being who would listen that my tax return would arrive on time. There is no consequence for uttering a tackful plea to the prime mover. Only the most clumsy, clueless authority would attempt to subdue an individual who was quietly praying.  Of course, if one were to handle serpents or chant in tongues, the constable may be summoned to quiet the commotion of those frightened by the spectacle.

What I think the evangelical impresarios really want is to hold services in the pubic commons. They want to make a show of their humility. They want expressions of devotion and ultimately alignment to their way of thinking. They want to see a universal protestant Jesus haunting that pervades every aspect of our lives. Preferably with a Southern Baptist twang.

Rendering the commons religious in some way is only a blueprint for social upheaval. It is worth recalling that the Puritans did not come to the new world for freedom of religion. They came for freedom from other peoples religion.

What could people mean when they suggest that we govern according to Gods law? If this picture looks like Deuteronomy, I’m moving to Canada.  What does Gods law say about the uniform building code or municipal zoning or the transport of hazardous goods or ten thousand other ordinances and statutes that have the most real impact on our lives?

I’m pretty sure that the bible is silent on most of the code that affects our daily lives. But you can bet that people will line up to tell us what the Almighty has to say about it.

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