Consider what Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, told the U.N. Security Council April 29, and still tell me that religion doesn’t pose an existential threat to secular democracies like America.
“This is our deed to our land. … the Bible is our mandate … it is well-documented throughout the Old Testament and beyond,” Danon told the council, at one point holding up and reciting from a volume of the Good Book.
How is it a modern, intellectually advanced country in the 21st century, roughly four centuries after the advent of the Enlightenment, still feels comfortable evoking superstitions to defend its dubious claims to lawful national sovereignty?
And, of course, this mindset isn’t new for Israel, an officially Jewish-majority apartheid state that discriminates against its non-Jewish citizens and residents to maintain that majority. Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely echoed Danon when she once said,
“This land is ours. All of it is ours. We did not come here to apologize for that,” she told Israeli’s parliament, the Knesset, several years ago, denunciating Palestinians as “thieves of history” for taking biblically promised Jewish territory.
Remember ‘Manifest Destiny’?
Such faith- rather than reason-based ideology is not unique to Israel. It’s also embedded in American history, including, for example, the concept of Manifest Destiny. The website History.com succinctly summarizes what that ideology meant to our then-young nation at the time:
“Manifest Destiny, a phrase coined in 1845, expressed the philosophy that drove 19th-century U.S. territorial expansion. Manifest Destiny held that the United States was destined—by God, its advocates believed—to expand its dominion and spread democracy and capitalism across the entire North American continent.” (Highlight mine, for emphasis)
America’s so-called “exceptionalism” over centuries has been rooted in Christianity and the sense that divine favor shines directly and disproportionately on the United States over that of other nations. Indeed, when the first Puritans arrived on America’s New World shores, their seminal first leader, Rev. John Winthrop, imagined the new country metaphorically as “a shining city on a hill” — with the glow purportedly coming from God and attracting faithful new Americans from around the world.
It’s no wonder the United States has not evolved into more of a theocracy than a more perfect secular union, considering how our political leaders thought in the past, such as frequently lionized President Ronald Reagan, who said in 1984 at an ecumenical prayer breakfast in Dallas:
“Politics and morality are inseparable. And as morality’s foundation is religion, religion and politics are necessarily related. We need religion as a guide. We need it because we are imperfect, and our government needs the church, because only those humble enough to admit they’re sinners can bring to democracy the tolerance it requires in order to survive.”
Divine authorization?In other words, we supposedly cannot solve our own problems with our own minds without resorting to religious superstition. At least a quarter of the U.S. population — those without religious affiliations, including atheists — think such ideas are nonsense. And they also don’t believe American imperialist impulses in the past and possibly in the future somehow have received divine authorization.
So, an ancient book written by fallible and biased humans is not a valid deed to territory in the here and now, and also is certainly not an authorization to brutalize people already living on that land. It was also not a divine authorization for mostly European immigrants to conquer and brutalize indigenous Americans after they arrived and then claim ownership of their land.
Right not might
Of course, in the old days — as in the new — might is automatically considered right by authoritarians and theocratic aggressors. But cruelty, injustice and theft is always wrong, especially when self-acquitted by religion.
Therefore, whenever a sovereign state or an individual politician claims a real-world benefit based on a holy book whose supernatural ideas are marooned in human minds, we should speak up. Nothing supernatural that is arbitrarily, falsely, linked to the real world, should ever be given the time of day in government affairs. Human beings should be governed by reason not fantasy.
As fantasy didn’t get us to the moon and Mars, it won’t guarantee global peace and prosperity, either. Only realistic political policies effectively executed will. Therefore, peace will only be accessible in the so-called Holy Land when Israel stops unreasonably insisting that the Bible is its eternal deed to unjustly occupying Palestinian territory. (See my 2018 post on this topic here.)
And the perpetual religious tension in American local, state and federal government will only dissipate when faith is formally banished altogether from our state affairs.