Monday, July 13, 2009

The Root of the Ensign Problem

Nevada Senator John Ensign "admitted" to an affair with his aide Cynthia Hampton after he was caught red handed. Can one admit to something after one is caught in the act? In any case, remember that Ensign was vocal in demanding that President Clinton step down from office for his sexual indiscretions. This moral stance did not prevent Ensign from pursuing some side nookie himself, however. He now feels remorse that he "violated the vows" of marriage in diddling someone other than his wife. Do ya think? Even creepier, if that is possible, his lover's husband was a top aide in Ensign's office in the Senate. Ignoring his own advice to Clinton, Ensign does not plan to resign.

In addressing the real ugliness behind "Ensign-gate" at HuffPo today, Jeff Schweitzer hit the nail on the head.

Only when we remove the false certainly that comes with claiming god is on our side can we truly confront the moral issues and ethical dilemmas that we face in our society. This epidemic of moral failure in the Republican Party is a clear symptom of the disease of intolerance; and such intolerance is an inevitable consequence of an appeal to divine insight. Why compromise when god says you're right?

We cure this disease by adopting a moral code completely divorced from religion. That task is easier than it would first appear. Religious morality has a poor track record; we can do better. The bar has been set fairly low.

Traits that we view as moral are deeply embedded in the human psyche. Honesty, fidelity, trustworthiness, kindness to others, and reciprocity are primeval characteristics that helped our ancestors survive. In a world of dangerous predators, we can speculate that early man could thrive only in cooperative groups. Good behavior likely strengthened the tribal bonds that were essential to survival. What we now call morality is really a suite of behaviors favored by natural selection in an animal weak alone but strong in numbers. We need to re-discover and appeal to this inner good derived from our biology and evolutionary history rather than to the myth of an invisible man in the sky with magical powers as a sound basis for our moral guidance.

This is how I've explained to friends and family how I, and many others who are atheist, address moral issues. It's not necessarily about which god(s) we want to believe in, but about what kind of people we want to be. We don't need Bible-bashing (or any other type of religious fantacism) to make ourselves better people.

Now don't get me wrong, I am not anti-religion. If a religion helps someone in his/her life journey, then how can I deny that to someone? It's just that religious beliefs alone don't automatically make someone a better person.

And obviously in John Ensign's case, it didn't help that the bizarre and secretive "C Street" radical right Christianist gang that he was a part of encouraged him to disregard whatever concerns he might have had over his moral hypocrisy. Instead, they just reassured him that "he was chosen by God to be great". Now talk about delusions of grandeur!

So I guess this is the frightening drama I see behind the pure comedy of Republican/religious right hypocrisy that John Ensign has taken to new levels. Once again we see how the religious right thinks they can have as many moral failings as they want, but just so long as they force us all to accept their version of "Jeezis" as our angry, belligerent "savior". Obviously, their view of "salvation" shouldn't equate to our society standard of morals.

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