Good Cop, Bad Cop 1 on Religion in American Politics


*Conducted December 31, 2019.*

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen and Rick Rosner

Rick Rosner: Right now, religion is most prevalent in America where it is being abused. Where Evangelicals largely support Trump because they support his agenda, I don’t know if it mostly revolves around getting rid of Roe v Wade, which would make abortion illegal throughout the United States. That is the most prevalent issue. 

If you look at the history of abortion, then it didn’t become a moral issue. Until, it was harnessed to become a political issue. For most of the 19th century, it was largely accepted. It wasn’t a moral issue, as long as you did it before quickening, which is when you can feel the fetus moving around. The issue in the 19th century was not a moral one, but many of the ways that induced abortion killed the mom.

So, when abortion started getting outlawed, it was to try and stop people from dying from trying to get an abortion. It wasn’t because people had moral objections. Even the Catholic Church tacitly accepted abortions with the belief being that the ensoulment of the fetus didn’t happen until many weeks after conception, so, it is not like there’s always been a feeling among Christians or aborting a fetus is killing a human being with a soul.

That is a fairly recent development. It was a belief that came to the fore after 1880, which speaks to it being a political thing. It is not like we became more moral about this issue in 1880. It is something tangled up with getting people riled up to vote Republican. There are plenty of other things that religion does in the United States that aren’t cynical and are helpful.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Some of the worst aspects of American freedom comes in the form of abusing sincere religious belief for discriminatory policies. Arrogant, simple-minded sloganeering intended to manipulate real sensibilities and feelings in ordinary believers. The overt extension of this is the Christian Right in the United States. Looking South across the border, we have some of the issues in Canada. But it’s just not the same in extent or kind. American fundamentalist is another beast. It is primarily political and secondarily spiritual (moral lessons and ritualism).

Rosner: I would guess that, demographically, the U.S. is more Christian, probably has a higher percentage of the population calling themselves Christians, than any other demographic of the country. Certainly, in terms of raw numbers, you have more people calling themselves Christians than about anybody else. That means Christians are demographically exploitable through appeals to their Christianity.

It also means that terrible forms of manipulation can be successfully done in super Christian parts of the country, like science denial. The more scientifically literate and oriented a population is; the less cynical politicians can get away with manipulating people with ridiculous arguments. One argument that popped up, the ridiculous argument that popped up, throughout 2018 and 2019 was that democrats, liberals, want abortion to be legal and at will. All the way to birth and even after birth.

Jacobsen: [Laughing].

Rosner: It was a setup. Republicans would present legislation that forced Democrats to veto or not support it, because it prohibited children born with devastating and fatal congenital and genetic defects. That they had to be given all the lifesaving procedures that a kid with a reasonable expectation of living a normal life would be given. In other words, the Democrats didn’t want to pass legislation or support legislation that would force doctors to keep a baby born without a brain on life support indefinitely. 

Maybe, 1/10th of 1% of kids are born with anencephaly. They lack a brain. They have enough of the brainstem to keep them breathing, sometimes, for a variety of reasons. In that case and other similar catastrophic cases of birth defects, the most compassionate and the least wasteful of medical resources is to let babies, who will die in a couple of days anyway, live out their limited 1 or 2 day or couple hour lifespans without putting them on respirators

Obviously, in the case of kids born without brains, you would want to do whatever it takes, e.g., CT scans, ultrasounds, etc., to confirm that these are babies without brains. Once that is confirmed, often, babies born like this look normal. Even behave somewhat normally, in that, babies don’t have large behavioural repertoires anyway. You would want the parents to have the chance to hold the baby.

You do not want to limit doctors in what they can do with babies who won’t make it. Republicans have been construing this as simply letting people abort babies, even after birth, because the babies are inconvenient. This is super stupid and has been promulgated by Republicans. It is believed by a significant segment of Republican voters. 

Scientific ignorance makes voters manipulatable by stupid arguments.

Jacobsen: And what about the infusion of Evangelical Christianity as a political force in America. Your current president was impeached, President Trump, or has been but is in the processing stage of it. His Vice President is Mike Pence, who has spoken out against abortion and evolution. He wants Creationism all throughout the education system and abortion banned outright. These are coming from a concerted effort of mostly white Evangelical Christians to impose their religious values on the secular state. I find this boorish and against the whole tradition of American admirable secularism and science education.

Rosner: For instance, it is in several states, including California, that have made it illegal to practice conversion therapy – ‘pray away the gay.’ Therapists who promote the idea that you can take somebody who is gay and turn them not gay via psychological therapy, which leads to all sorts of misery. Republicans argue a) that you can do that, where people don’t have to be gay and b) that legislation around priests and rabbis, or anyone who people talk to about being gay, might be subject to being arrested, which is horse shit.

If somebody is 11, or 14, or 25, or 40, and wants to speak to a clergyperson, saying, “I think I’m gay.” They are wondering how to proceed with their life. Of course, you would want to talk to someone who’s job it is to help people guide and make decisions with their lives. That is not praying away the gay. That is simply talking about being gay or the aspect of this person as gay.

Pence was Governor of Indiana. Indiana passed one of the statutes that got North Carolina in all sorts of trouble, saying that people did not have to perform services for gay people if doing so went against their religious beliefs. With the standard example being, under statutes like this, bakeries do not have to bake cakes for gay weddings. In the case of Indiana, the statute pissed off enough people and was threatening to fuck up business enough in the state that they fairly quickly rescinded it.

Pence, also, presided over a resurgence in people being infected by HIV in Indiana. I don’t know all the details. It was related to, maybe, getting rid of a needle exchange program and rooted in his disapproval of gayness. Pence’s wife teaches at a school that doesn’t let gay people on the staff and may not allow gay people in the student body. It is the stuff that smaller, more advanced countries; I tend to go to the Nordic countries.

They tend to be models of people believing reasonably. Countries that would say this stuff is bullshit.

You go!

Jacobsen: You mentioned poor countries. In poor countries, this happens a lot more. There are studies looking at the positive relationship between the more religiosity and the more poverty, and the reverse for less religiosity and wealth, at a national level. It is more of a ritual rather than a need for social services in different contexts.

Rosner: What science does is provide on Earth, things that we hope God would provide: health, longer lives, etc. Science takes over for God whose action tends to be random and unevenly distributed, whose benefits tend to be unevenly distributed, and not provably linked to prayer.

Jacobsen: That’s one issue. It will poorer countries, so localized generally. In richer countries, the trade will be linked up. So, okay, we have to deal with the most powerful country in the history of the world with an ignoramus in charge and a religious fundamentalist base who believe in this as a flawed and bad person who God is working through, nonetheless. This is magical thinking. And it’s tens of millions of Americans. It is giving justification around the world for ignorant charlatans and political strongmen to re-affirm and re-entrench themselves. It’s being used to restrict women’s bodily autonomy, harm LGBTI persons, and encourage a rhetoric and a culture of hate and discrimination. What is the way forward, Rick?

Rosner: American religion has changed from the 1940s until now from the benign belief to the strident un-Christian Christianity. Evangelical Christianity has been tethered to political activity. But there are other forms of American Christianity that are more spiritual, more mystical, and are more linked to a feeling or a Golden Rule. Unitarianism or Reform Judaism, where the spiritual dictates or the rules of the religion are relaxed [Ed. Rick follows Reform Judaism], I grew up under Reform Judaism in Colorado. 

There is not as strong a Jewish culture as in the big cities, as in America’s big cities. [Ed. as he has noted before, Reform Jews do not know specifically what they are supposed to believe in any specific context] Although, there are Reform Jews who know their dogma. Most do not. Non-Evangelicals in America are linked with a loathing of Trump and a loathing of what Evangelicals have become.

So, it will take a long time for people to become, if Christianity is ever cleaned up and becomes less corrupt, less corrupt. It will take time, even if this happens, for non-Evangelicals to trust them. Republicans have been engaging in anti-democratic practices, scheming to hold political advantage. Although, on issues not supported by a majority of Americans, that’s what I got on religion and America.

*High range testing (HRT) should be taken with honest skepticism grounded in the limited empirical development of the field at present, even in spite of honest and sincere efforts. If a higher general intelligence score, then the greater the variability in, and margin of error in, the general intelligence scores because of the greater rarity in the population.*

Rick Rosner: “According to some semi-reputable sources gathered in a listing hereRick G. Rosner may have among America’s, North America’s, and the world’s highest measured IQs at or above 190 (S.D. 15)/196 (S.D. 16) based on several high range test performances created by Christopher HardingJason BettsPaul Cooijmans, and Ronald Hoeflin. He earned 12 years of college credit in less than a year and graduated with the equivalent of 8 majors. He has received 8 Writers Guild Awards and Emmy nominations, and was titled 2013 North American Genius of the Year by The World Genius Directory with the main “Genius” listing here.

He has written for Remote ControlCrank YankersThe Man ShowThe EmmysThe Grammys, and Jimmy Kimmel Live!. He worked as a bouncer, a nude art model, a roller-skating waiter, and a stripper. In a television commercialDomino’s Pizza named him the “World’s Smartest Man.” The commercial was taken off the air after Subway sandwiches issued a cease-and-desist. He was named “Best Bouncer” in the Denver Area, Colorado, by Westwood Magazine.

Rosner spent much of the late Disco Era as an undercover high school student. In addition, he spent 25 years as a bar bouncer and American fake ID-catcher, and 25+ years as a stripper, and nearly 30 years as a writer for more than 2,500 hours of network television. Errol Morris featured Rosner in the interview series entitled First Person, where some of this history was covered by Morris. He came in second, or lost, on Jeopardy!, sued Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? over a flawed question and lost the lawsuit. He won one game and lost one game on Are You Smarter Than a Drunk Person? (He was drunk). Finally, he spent 37+ years working on a time-invariant variation of the Big Bang Theory.

Currently, Rosner sits tweeting in a bathrobe (winter) or a towel (summer). He lives in Los AngelesCalifornia with his wife, dog, and goldfish. He and his wife have a daughter. You can send him money or questions at LanceVersusRick@Gmail.Com, or a direct message via Twitter, or find him on LinkedIn, or see him on YouTube.”

Photo by Matthias Kinsella on Unsplash

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