Their Memory and Their Sense Is Gone

For reasons that are probably obvious to anyone who would read this, I have been pondering the idea of people holding beliefs that unfit them for (American) citizenship.

What would those beliefs be? I mean, seriously.

Since the Constitution is very specific about the free exercise of religion, and the illegality of the government establishing or promoting any particular religion, it can’t be that any particular religious belief is too Un-American to be borne.

And let’s be honest–you could make a laundry list of aspects of Islam that were objectionable to you, start with the status of women, say, and maybe dig for some quotes about killing unbelievers and whatnot. Add in some religiously-motivated violence. Take that list, and then take a close look at the Bible, and the history of Christianity. Which, what, eighty, ninety percent of this country is some kind of Christian?

Let’s talk the Crusades–not just the ones everyone remembers, not just Jerusalem and the Templars (though, that there? Was some serious fucked-upness in the name of religion*), but the Northern Crusades and the Albigensian Crusade.

Let’s talk not just about the treatment of women in the past of Christianity, but present attitudes in some sects even today. Let’s talk about Quiverfull, and all those folks who take II Corinthians to heart, not just “It was progressive for its time, see,” but “No, that’s how God means women’s status to be.” Let’s talk Christians who openly advocate the execution of gays and adulterers. Let’s talk “God hates fags.” Let’s talk people who blow up clinics and murder doctors.

Let’s talk about what Christian beliefs might unfit one for citizenship.

Oh, but Christianity is huge and varied, and most Christians are perfectly nice! It’s those exceptions, those people gibbering over there, they aren’t representative of Christianity!

Islam is also huge and varied. I can’t say I’ve specialized in the history of Islam, but I can tell you without looking it up that Sunni and Shiite and Sufi are different groups, and treating them like they’re all the same is like saying there’s no real difference between Catholics and Baptists.

Yeah, you’re smiling, right? Of course there’s a difference. Catholics are the Original Universal Church and Baptists are heretics. Or, wait. Baptists are Christians, and Catholics are pagan idolaters. Sell you an indulgence soon as look at you! (I met a guy once, raised Catholic, whose school friends once confronted him with the horrifying historical fact they’d learned from their Baptist preacher–that the Catholics had thrown the Christians to the lions, during the Roman Empire. I am not making that up.)

When you say “Moslems believe…” stop and think how it would sound if you said “Christians believe…” Christians believe gays should be executed? Christians believe non-Christians should die unless they convert? Christians believe women are lesser than men and shouldn’t speak in public? Christians believe Christianity should be the established religion of this nation? Not all of them, but some have, and some do.

About the only thing you can say all Christians believe would be something like “Christians believe Jesus was the Son of God who came to redeem our sins.” Maybe. More than that, you run into a zillion sects and individual, idiosyncratic readings of Scripture.

Moslems believe there is no god but God and Mohammed is his prophet. Beyond that? Well, what kind of Moslem are you talking about?

All of the big religions, the ones that have lasted a thousand years or more and have large followings, all of them are like this. The problem isn’t some particular religion, the problem isn’t that one religion is about peace and love and the others aren’t. The problem is, people are people, and some of them are gibbering fuckwits, and some of them are sociopaths who can manipulate large groups of gibbering fuckwits. All the big religions are, actually, fragmented into sects, the single category containing each one is really just a sort of generalized tag for a grab bag of variations on the basic theme.

All of them have, in scripture or tradition, stories or verses that are unpleasant, that could lead a gibbering fuckwit to do violence. And all of them, that I’ve noticed, have some version of “Look, don’t be assholes to each other, ‘kay?” as part of their beliefs. People being people, any given person or group’s success in following that guideline rather than going with the nasty bits is wildly varied. It’s not like there’s one category in particular that fails more at it than others. Not like there’s any religion of long standing that doesn’t have embarrassing corpses stashed away in its many closets.

And, truth? Most of the gibbering fuckwits, the evil, horrible people I’ve met or heard about were worshippers of Jesus. That’s because the vast majority of people surrounding me worship Jesus. Not because there’s some philosophical flaw in Jesus-worship as a whole. (Though, personally, I think there is a philosophical flaw there–which is why I don’t, myself, worship Jesus. I just don’t think that flaw is proof that Christianity is “really” evil no matter what my nice, mild-mannered church-going neighbor says.)

If anything about Islam unfits its followers for citizenship, I submit those same features should unfit Christians. Funnily enough, no one seems to think that’s the case.**

There’s no religion in particular that can unfit anyone for American citizenship. The only belief I can think of that would unfit anyone for citizenship would be a lack of belief in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. And that has fuck-all to do with who or what you pray to, or what your holy scripture is.

So, you worship a dead pigeon in your backyard, that told you to hop on one foot on Tuesdays and wear a newspaper hat on your head the rest of the week? First amendment. So long as you aren’t doing anyone any harm, you pay your taxes and whatnot, well, who cares? I hope you have a lovely Maggotmas. That there? Totally American. That there, it’s what America is about. It neither, as a famous ex-president once said, breaks my leg nor picks my pocket.

You worship a zombie Judean rabble-rouser executed by the Romans? Cool! Yes, I’d love to learn more about your beliefs and your strange rituals! But not, you know, have you try to proselytize my children. Or murder doctors. As long as we’re clear on that I’ve got no problem with you.

Or maybe you worship the Goddess, or Shiva, or the angel/peacock whose name escapes me just now, or Cthulhu…your scripture is the Vedas, the Bible, the Quran, or Robinson Crusoe. Maybe you have no scripture and worship nothing at all. In the US, none of that matters. Or it shouldn’t, anyway. And that’s by design. That bit, that wasn’t a mistake or an oversight, that’s not something susceptible to popular vote, that’s not changeable, it’s right there in black and white on parchment, on purpose. Because none of that shit breaks any legs or picks any pockets. If you’re concerned about beliefs that unfit people for citizenship, that belief right there, that the First Amendment somehow doesn’t mean religions you don’t like, well….that right there kind of counts.
*“Not only did our troops not shrink from eating dead Turks and Saracens; they also ate dogs!”

**Well, unless those Christians are Catholics. Because Catholics aren’t really Christians. You know what would happen if we elected a Catholic to the Presidency? He would totally take orders from the Pope. Catholics can’t be loyal American citizens because they’ve sworn loyalty to a foreign power. True fact!