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A Religious War Out of Thin Air

Posted on Feb 14, 2012
Christopher Macsurak (CC-BY)

At ease, Christian soldiers. There is no “war on religion,” no assault on the Catholic Church. A faith that has endured for thousands of years will survive even Nicki Minaj.

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It never occurred to me to evaluate the Grammy Awards show on theological rectitude, but apparently we’re supposed to be outraged at the over-the-top “exorcism” Minaj performed Sunday night. The hip-hop diva, who writhed and cavorted amid a riot of religious iconography, is accused of anti-Catholic bigotry—and seen as an enemy combatant in an escalating “war on religion” being waged by “secular elites,” which seems to be used as a synonym for “Democrats.”

Seriously? Are we really going to pretend that Christianity is somehow under siege? That the Almighty would have been any more offended Sunday than he was, say, in 2006, when Madonna—who could sue Minaj for theft of intellectual property—performed a song during her touring act while being mock-crucified on a mirrored cross? While wearing a crown of thorns? Even at her show in Rome?

The “war on religion” alarmists are just like Minaj and Madonna in one key respect: Lacking a coherent point to make, they go for shock value.

Among the loudest voices, predictably, are those of the Republican presidential candidates. Guess who’s to blame for the attack on all God-fearing Americans who go to church every Sunday to hear sermons about the sacrifice and triumph of Jesus Christ. Hint: He got in trouble four years ago, during his presidential campaign, for going to church every Sunday to hear sermons about the sacrifice and triumph of Jesus Christ.


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President Obama is indeed waging a war on religion, Mitt Romney claimed last week at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Romney promised to rescind every “Obama regulation” that somehow “attacks our religious liberty.”

Newt Gingrich said at CPAC that Obama plans to “wage war” on the Catholic Church if he is re-elected. Those who don’t see this coming are not familiar with “who [the president] really is.” Apparently, the real Obama is about to come out of hiding, any day now.

But it is Rick Santorum who wins the award for histrionics. Progressives, he said last week in Texas, are “taking faith and crushing it.” From that ridiculous proposition, he went on in truly hallucinatory fashion:

“When you marginalize faith in America, when you remove the pillar of God-given rights, then what’s left is the French Revolution. What’s left is a government that gives you rights. What’s left are no unalienable rights. What’s left is a government that will tell you who you are, what you’ll do and when you’ll do it. What’s left in France became the guillotine. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re a long way from that, but if we follow the path of President Obama and his overt hostility to faith in America, then we are headed down that road.”


Just how has this “hostility to faith in America” manifested itself? Obama issued a rule requiring some church-owned or church-run institutions to provide health insurance that pays for contraceptives, which are outlawed by Catholic doctrine—and used by the vast majority of Catholic women. Obama subsequently altered the rule to placate Catholic bishops, who responded by declaring themselves implacable.

In his speech at the annual National Prayer Breakfast, Obama cited New Testament scripture in arguing for economic and social justice. Conservatives blasted him for, um, quoting the Bible.

This is a war? This is a march to the guillotine?

Romney and Gingrich know better; they’re just cynically pandering to religious conservatives. Santorum, at least, is sincere in his pre-Enlightenment beliefs. But rejection of the intellectual framework that produced not just the French Revolution but the American Revolution as well does not strike me as an appropriate philosophy for a U.S. presidential candidate to espouse, much less a winning platform to run on.

The Founders wisely decided to institutionalize separation of church and state. The references to God, the Creator and Divine Providence in the Declaration of Independence mask the fact that the Founders disagreed on the nature and existence of a Supreme Being. They understood the difference between faith and religiosity.

Within our secular governmental framework, religion has thrived. No other large industrialized nation has nearly so many regular churchgoers as does the United States.

And just as faith somehow survived Nicki Minaj’s burlesque at the Grammys, it will survive the attempt by Republicans to create a religious war out of thin air.

Eugene Robinson’s email address is eugenerobinson(at)
© 2012, Washington Post Writers Group

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D.R. Zing's avatar

By D.R. Zing, February 16, 2012 at 8:01 am Link to this comment

Cool article, Mr. Robinson.

Now go after the real problem:  The news media serving
as a megaphone for these absurd allegations.

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oddsox's avatar

By oddsox, February 16, 2012 at 3:59 am Link to this comment

Lafayette, you rant:
“And, aside from you, who the hell gives a damn?
You keep barking up the wrong tree like a mad dog.
So you don’t like Obama. OK, now find something credible to post here.”


Well, are you asking
1) who gives a damn about the Constitution? 
2) what Obama’s exact status was teaching Constitutional Law?
3) whether he knew his Constitutional powers as President don’t allow him to rule in matters of religion?

I’m sure it’s not #1, I respect your intelligence enough to credit you that.
#2 then?  Naw, I really don’t care either, though the topic has been much discussed.
But #3 is important.  Because if Obama KNOWINGLY overstepped his Constitutional authority, and I believe he did, then Obama’s move is—at BEST— a premeditated and dangerous attempt to trump the limits of his power with his good intentions.  Again, that’s at BEST.


Lafayette, I find it most amusing that you rail against “negativism campaigning” and “Junk-Journalism,” but in your very next paragraph take time to hurl insults at Romney, Santorum and Gingrich.
And then, mimicking the MSM, you ignore Ron Paul in your name-calling.
Good comedy there.

But, back to your post:
You write I don’t like Obama.
Not so, I like him just fine, and voted for him in 2008.
(twice, if you include the primaries)
By all accounts, he’s a good father, good husband, good family man. 
And I do believe Obama when he says he wants what’s best for our country, was born in Hawaii and is not a Muslim.
Just this week I defended him from a cheap shot when that 3-year old flopped photoshopped email resurfaced—the one showing him and Michelle saluting the flag with their left hand.
But, as I posted before, his presidency has been weak. 
And Jobs and the Economy are the main issues for this election.  For most voters, even the Constitution will not eclipse that, perhaps a sad fact.


You claim I’m barking up the wrong tree.
You’ve posted elsewhere that the RIGHT tree is women’s reproductive rights, control over their own bodies. 
Robinson, EJ Dionne and others concern themselves with whether the church is aware of modern-day realities or if Catholic bishops, in their “religiosity,” are “implacable.”

But those issues are moot here.


Perhaps a baseball analogy will aptly illustrate the point, if you will permit me.

You claim Obama is safe at 2nd on Women’s Rights.
Robinson and Dionne argue Republican “histrionics” make him safe at 3rd.
But Obama’s out on the play.
Because he missed Constitutional 1st base.

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Lafayette's avatar

By Lafayette, February 16, 2012 at 1:33 am Link to this comment


OS: As a Constitutional Law Professor (or Senior Lecturer, Scholar or student of Civics 101), Obama must know this.

And, aside from you, who the hell gives a damn? You keep barking up the wrong tree like a mad dog.

So you don’t like Obama. OK, now find something credible to post here.

In an election year, with our bent for negativism campaigning, this sort of Junk-Journalism will be all over the Medias. It stinks already to high-heaven.

What is more important is the political platform we shall have to live with over the next four years, not this mindless nonsense. Pray tell, how a prime example of the One-Percenters like Romney will care about the downtrodden suffering most in America. Or a Santorum who’s pious religiosity demonstrates anti-feminist tendencies. Or Gingrich with his patent ignorance of the economic facts?

Let’s get back to basics. Where are these elements of presidential platform that matter most?:
* True Universal Health Care (the Public Option) for all and not just the benefit of HC-Practioners and Insurance Companies.
* Investments in Education such that all Americans can obtain the skills/knowhow to obtain a decent job at decent wages.
* Investment in Infrastructure Spending to put Americans back to work.
* Putting taxation on mega-incomes back to pre-Reagan levels to pay down the debt and for the above Social Objectives. The Free Ride of the Plutocrats is OVER!
* Putting teeth into the FTC’s Consumer Protection Agency to prevent the recurrence of flagrant abuse of the Truth In Lending Act of 1968 (covering mortgage transactions). Along with more pertinent regulatory oversight of key market practices, particularly in TBTF-Finance.

And I could go on - the above are just the starters of a long, long three-course meal to reform America such that our children have a decent nation within which to live. And the rest of us can hope for a reasonable retirement.

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By MARGARET CURREY, February 15, 2012 at 4:05 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

When I was younger my husband’s insurance policy covered birth control pills when they started failing and I feared pregnancy I got my tubes tied and I did that because I was 33 years of age and did not want any problem pregnancys.  Also as a person from a large family I knew what is was like to go hungry because my father did not work steady and my mother was not able to work.

Just because a person is raised catholic does not mean that catholic woman want to be a baby factory.  Those catholic women in Brazil say the pope does not care about the health of woman and women can produce a thousand eggs from overies in a lifetime but that does not mean that she will have a thousand babies.

Those priests like litle boys and some girls but then they have the nerve to tell women what to do.  And while they were having sex with little children did not they tell do not tell your mother?.

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oddsox's avatar

By oddsox, February 15, 2012 at 1:41 pm Link to this comment

Robinson writes:
“Obama issued a rule requiring some church-owned or church-run institutions to…”

...and stop right there.

Under the Constitution, President Obama hasn’t the power to issue any such rule.

As a Constitutional Law Professor (or Senior Lecturer, Scholar or student of Civics 101), Obama must know this.

So when called on his Constitutional overstep, our President quickly “compromised” to require insurance companies to pay the tab when religious entities opt out from paying for contraception. 
Ok, and the insurance companies won’t be passing these costs along, then?? 
Yeah, right. 
You think there’s gonna be a free lunch here??

Stick to being Commander in Chief, Mr. President.
You know, like dismantling our nukes.
You can’t be Pope, too.
Nor Santa Claus.

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By Textynn, February 15, 2012 at 12:27 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If hundreds of thousands of counts of pedophilia throughout the globe hasn’t brought an end to the CC, not to mention their history of genocide and torture, nothing will.

The CC worked very hard for centuries culling the human genome of free thinkers and brave people that will stand up for their rights. This culling has absolutely changed humanity on all sides. Physically eradicating creative and different kinds of tendencies in humanity at large (as much as they possibly could), forcing generations to live without benefit of known science or to advance science in a timely manner, teaching the world complete and total subservience to authority no matter how barbaric, ridiculous, and unsavory…. for starters.

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By ACT I, February 15, 2012 at 9:57 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The Letter from James is believed to be the oldest book in the “New Testament,” and likely was written by Jesus’s brother (NOT half-brother) James.  At 1:27 one finds this:  “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”  Given this one may ask the embarrassing question:  Which—if any!—of the churches calling themselves “Christian” are devoted to religion, as defined by James?—who, as Jesus’s brother, must have known how Jesus would have defined “religion”!

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By litlpeep, February 15, 2012 at 9:20 am Link to this comment

Okay, yes, we do need to have some serious discussion of what happened to Christianity.  From my perspective, the assault against Jesus’ core teachings began with Paul.  The fundamentalists are perhaps more Pauline than they are followers of Jesus.

Jesus taught “The Kingdom of God is in you.”  Paul taught that Paul was the way to God.  Jesus taught us “love the lord thy God with all thy heart, all thy soul, and all thy mind.”  Paul taught his followers to follow Paul.  Jesus taught us “love thy neighbor as thyself.” Paul taught that neighbors, beginning with women, are not to be trusted, but to be shut up.

The contrasts are numerous, treacherous, and wretched.  The churches teach Paul, because Paul is who the Priests & Preachers want the “flock” to follow.  This keeps the priests and preachers in power.  It leaves those in the flock powerless.

Who do you believe: Jesus or the preachers & priests following Paul?

Remember, Weber warned us that the Spirit of Capitalism is found in the “christian” churches.  Wall Street follows Paul (with a few added feel-good obfuscations).

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prisnersdilema's avatar

By prisnersdilema, February 15, 2012 at 9:14 am Link to this comment

Yet, this country has waged war in the middle east, primarily against Islam. Is there any
concern about that? Very little if any. The true religion of Washington is greed, money,
power. With that comes a certain belief that killing can be easily justified if it is for one of
those three things. I don’t care what they read from the bible. The words are lost on
them. Because they no longer have access to their conscience…Sure we will justify it
with high sounding words, all murderers justify their crimes this way.

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EmileZ's avatar

By EmileZ, February 15, 2012 at 8:06 am Link to this comment

The U.S. government did wage a particularly gruesome war against Liberation Theology in the 80’s.

Then again, the Vatican always despised Liberation Theology.

Yet another example of the Catholic Church waging war on itself.

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RayLan's avatar

By RayLan, February 15, 2012 at 5:43 am Link to this comment

There isn’t a huge difference between Christian and anti-Catholic - (see Luther and the Reformation)
That being said - most Catholics vote Democrat - their ranks being poor working class.

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By bpawk, February 15, 2012 at 5:35 am Link to this comment

Religion is dying out among the upper class and educated but increasing among the poor and uneducated. That says it all.

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EmileZ's avatar

By EmileZ, February 15, 2012 at 4:21 am Link to this comment

The Catholic church appears to be waging a war on itself.

“Columbian priests hired hitmen to kill themselves”

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By Michael Murry, February 15, 2012 at 2:28 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I remember years ago meeting a lady nurse from Oklahoma at a seminar for Buddhism in Los Angeles. When I asked her why she did not subscribe to the Bible Belt Christianism that infests her part of the country, she replied: “What does it say about a people when their chief religious symbol is a dead body hanging from a pole”? Good question, sensibly asked.

Or, about that ritual cannibalism thing the Catholic Christianists practice. You know, the drinking of the blood and the eating of the flesh of a two-thousand year old Jewish corpse. How does that primitive savagery work? Do any of these people even stop for one minute to ask themselves what the fuck they think this necrophiliac nonsense looks like to those sentient carbon-based life forms who can actually think for themselves?

And the pedophilia rampant among those old male priestsswearing dresses who claim that “not having sex doesn’t make you sick.” Ugh.

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By Stan Chaz, February 15, 2012 at 1:25 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

One of the legitimate functions of government is to promote equality and
fairness for ALL, to have everyone play by the same rules. No one is
coming into our Churches and trying to tell parishioners what to believe.
BUT If the Bishops want to start businesses that employ millions of
people of varying faiths -or no “faith” at all- THEN they must play by the
rules…ESPECIALLY if they use our tax dollars in the process.  Just
because a religious group in America claims to believe something, we
cannot excuse them from obeying the law in the PUBLIC arena, based on
that belief. They can legally attempt to change the law, not to deny it
outright. And if they want to plunge overtly into politics from the pulpit,
then they should give up their tax-exempt status. Did I miss something,
or when it comes to the “sanctity of life”, is every single righteous
Catholic still a card carrying conscientious objector, still refusing to take
up arms,  still totally against the death penalty, and still against
contraception and birth-control in all its forms? Oh well, hypocrisy is at
the heart of politics, and politics masquerading as religion even more so.
This country is an invigorating mixture of all the diversity that life has to
offer, drawing its strength FROM that diversity. We need to work together
to preserve, enrich, and strengthen this unique experiment – NOT to tear
it down with poisonous, paralyzing, and un-Christian demonization of
each other.

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Lafayette's avatar

By Lafayette, February 15, 2012 at 1:11 am Link to this comment


Obama subsequently altered the rule to placate Catholic bishops, who responded by declaring themselves implacable.

They would do better, the Catholic bishops, to be concerned about paedophilia in the ranks of their priests than either contraceptives or abortion.

Have these guys got it all wrong. And perhaps the fact that they are not married and thus neither have they much of an appreciation for women’s rights?

Which is aberrant and may have something to do with their cockamamie notions regarding contraception and abortion.

What if Catholics had a Great Debate about celibacy and how otherworldly such a silly notion may be? Celibacy should be a personal decision and not a requirement of priesthood. And why not female priests? Because Christ was a male? Would he give a damn? (Doubtfully.)

Enough of the nonsense from our own brand of Taliban fundamentalism.


A religion is not democratic. It is not run by the faithful. It is run by the clergy that myopically focuses on internal operations and hopes that its faithful will follow blindly.

Any movement, religious or otherwise, that does not have means for external input to advise and counsel its management is doomed to dogma. That is, making its beliefs dogmatic and promising everlasting damnation if not followed to the letter.

In our day and age, those precepts are tantamount to consummate idiocy.

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