Preface (written in 2011): I just re-read (for the first time in about 10 years) this essay/letter written shortly after the Bush-Gore presidential campaign--in early 2001. At the time, disliking both Bush and Gore, I thought Bush the lesser of two evils. Now I doubt that. In fact, I began to doubt it soon after 9-11-2001, and more strongly later when Bush decided we should re-invade Iraq. I say this here not to dive back into political arguments, but to prevent the preference expressed below from distracting from the main point of my essay, which is not pro one candidate or another, but in opposition to knee-jerk politics and the popular liberal idea that religious establishments are responsible for most crap on this planet. It was in response to a letter from a friend whose main objection to Bush was that he was popular with the religious right and therefore dangerous.
Rather Nasty Letter to a Liberal Friend
You mention being scared by monotheistic fundamentalists, their "rightness", the violence they may do, etc. Why not say you're scared by humans? The religious are "right" and scary, and so are the seculars (that is, they are full of rightness on the left). What's left (I mean, what remains)? The great slaughters of the 20th Century were mainly administered by atheists: Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot. Even where we have apparently Christian societies (as in Germany pre-WW II), the instigators of genocide were atheists who dabbled in paganism and shallow spiritualist trappings (e.g., ouija) and were very anti-Christianity and other established religions.
(For some reason, stylishly avant-garde anti-religious secularists are often enthusiastic dabblers in the "para- normal".)
(Odd, too, how the ultra-religious get called fascist, since Hitler and Musolini were both atheists, Hitler ardently so, Musolini, I think, keeping some Catholic trimmings. We forget that Musolini began as a LEFT-wing revolutionary, and was in considerable doubt until late in the game which way he wanted to go. As for Franco (an apparent exception, no atheist) – though no benevolent monarch, he was hardly the fanatical fascist he's been labeled — stayed neutral throughout WWII, hated Hitler, basically took over the anti-Revolution forces to END the bloodshed, was relatively moderate (compared to the slaughtering that went on in other totalitarian countries) thereafter [the number on the left executed after the revolution was tiny compared to the number on the left executed BY the left during it] and, essentially, non-political, just did what he needed to do to keep the country going.)
These atheists were supported -- often well beyond the point where their insanity was obvious to most observers -- by mild-mannered liberals (secular humanists) and conservatives. The liberals supported monsters generated on the left (almost all the intellectuals of the Western world supported Lenin and Stalin in the 30s, and many cheered him on through the early 50s). And conservative intellectuals (Yeats, Pound, Eliot) had their fascist leanings -- and a lean toward the secular, if only in defining religion as a need (for tradition), rather than an actuality.
Most responses in the media (and often in your letters) to anything associated with organized established religion of an observant sort (i.e., anything other than secularity with a few religious trappings, like Unitarianism) are about as logical as associating all secularity with Stalin, Mao, Hitler and Pol Pot. Not that all liberals are atheists, but most of them reject the idea that the New Testament (miracles and all) could possibly be the truth (for example) and, further, reject anything in their supposed Bibles that contradicts their current social agendas. Essentially, the "religious" beliefs of most liberals are those listed in the secular humanist manifesto (something published a few decades ago -- and often republished), which IS, indeed, secular. Most liberals I've met do not consider themselves spiritual, do not consider that they will exist after their body's death (except in others' memories for a while), and do consider in many cases that human misery is not to be dealt with by a person's own free will and decisions, but by psychiatric medication and social engineering.
There are degrees of this and all sorts of intermixtures of religious belief and secularity, of liberal and conservative, etc. My point is, that to fear the traditionally religious because extremists among them have done bad things is not nearly as logical as fearing liberals like yourself because extremists in the secular direction have done bad things. Because the extremists on the secular side have been a lot scarier than the fundamentalists in the past century.
In short, I think if you follow your own logic, you will shiver most at the mirror -- which is a pretty trendy thing to do, in theory, but really a drag.
In your letter you brought this up in connection with Bush/Gore, and the danger of Bush as a Chaplain/President. I've thought from the beginning that Bush means business as usual (at worst), while Gore is insane. I voted for Bush and urged others to do so and am glad he was elected. Had he been running against someone less insane than Gore, I probably would have chosen a third party candidate -- maybe the Libertarian, Harry Browne, maybe Buchanon. Not Nader, who is certainly the most attractive superficially. Anyone who is afraid of corporations, but not more afraid of big government has got to be blind.
When I say "someone less insane than Gore", I include Clinton among the saner. If you couldn't see it in the debates, I don't know how to make it any clearer. I don't mean in WHAT he said, I mean the man himself. Bush was hardly impressive, but he wasn't scary the way Gore was. I only wish Gore were just the unprincipled opportunist he at first appears to be. I don't think he is. He has an agenda, and it won't go away easily (lots of others share it -- e.g., Domenici, Kennedy).
Since I've talked before about my concerns, for example, Gore's target of doubling the number of children "freed from stigmatization" by appropriate medication, I won't go into it here. But I don't label Gore "insane" simply because I disagree with his agenda. Maybe that agenda isn't set in stone. Maybe he is pragmatic or unprincipled (depending on your viewpoint). But he's insane. He was changing identities so quickly during those debates (turning on personality after personality, none of them his own) that his eyes reminded me of a one-arm bandit in action -- will it come up cherries? Will both eyes belong to the same personality when they pause (a jackpot!).
I don't doubt "his" intelligence -- that is, the intelligence of all the machinery we call Al Gore -- but he is not there, at least not when in operation as a politician. Bush doesn't strike me as a paragon of sanity either. He tucks a lot of himself into that furrow between his eyes. But compared to Gore, he's at least a little real. Gore makes Clinton look good. (But I think I'd pick Bush over Clinton too. Though if it had been between Bush and Clinton, I might have voted Libertarian.)
As I understand it, "Separation of church and state" is not part of our Constitution, though Jefferson later used the phrase. The Constitution (amendment 1) forbids the establishment of a national church. That would be a terrible thing. It would turn us into a nightmarish totalitarian state like...well, Great Britain.
Odd how we want to think of the Inquisition or worse, when several of our fellow democracies have had established churches for centuries -- another example is Sweden. Germany, despite a Constitution separating church and state, subsidizes three churches (Lutheran, Roman Catholic and Jewish) and, in recent years, has tried to suppress others. Legislators in France right now are trying to get a law past that will enable judges to shut down any religion they want to. It's really nightmare stuff: If there are two cases of members of a religion being convicted of felonies, judges can shut down their churches. That's the basic reality, though the law covers it up. It's a follow-up to a committee run by secularist bigots (allies of the old Cult Awareness Network in the U.S.) to come up with a way to eliminate "cults". They came up with a list of 175 or so dangerous cults -- including, besides the usual suspects (my church, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, all sorts of Evangelistic groups) some Muslim groups, the Jesuits, Baptists -- great fun!
The crux of the law being considered (protested by the major religions, though the Government wouldn't dare apply this law to the Roman Catholic Church as a whole) is that these religions are meddling with people's minds, and that should be made illegal, so if there are two or more complaints, even if the complaints are about one guy only, maybe someone on the fringe of that group, a judge can shut down the entire church and all its property and franchise in all of France.
Of course, ANY large organization could be killed off by such a law, but the legislators are trying, at once, to tailor it to apply only to smaller religious groups and to camouflage the tailoring. Recently they've tried to take away any wording associated with religion and to pass the law as an extension of laws making it illegal to take unfair advantage of widows and orphans (something like that) -- the idea being to extend those laws to include "the distressed". They explain that the people who come to these new religions are often distressed at the time, so the new religions are "taking advantage of their distress."
What a wasp's nest! Imagine what would happen to the practice of psychiatry under such a law. In this country alone, I believe something like 400 psychiatrists were jailed last year for taking advantage of their patients in some way (e.g., rape, swindling). If psychiatry were a religion (by this new French law), it could be wiped out utterly for just two such infractions. And the 400 represent only the jail sentences. There are thousands of other infractions that lead to fines. Psychiatrists, for example, rack up far more abuses of insurance, Medicare, etc., then other doctors, in terms of their relative numbers. Two priests caught fondling choir boys -- end of the Catholic Church.
But the law gives discretion. It would only be employed against groups out of favor and easy to target.
Frankly, I'd rather have an established church (as in Great Britain) along with a tradition of tolerance and respect for other religions than a Constitution calling for something like separation of state and church accompanied by huge intolerance (as in France, Germany and, often, the United States).
But I bring up the above examples mainly to suggest that when we speak of "separation of church and state", we ought to define what we mean by it, especially with regard to the 1st Amendment statement (which doesn't really call for "separation"). First of all, I see nothing in the Constitution which forbids the Government or its functionaries to be public about their religious beliefs, to encourage people who share their religious beliefs to support them or to subsidize organizations with religious associations. The last of these three seems to me the most dicey, but as long as the terms of the subsidization are clear, and it's something for which any religious or non-religious group can apply, I don't see it as the establishment of a state religion.
Also, I don't see why religious beliefs shouldn't have an effect on our legislation. Supposedly this is a representative form of government, and many citizens are religious. As far as I know, such laws as those against homicide are based on religious doctrines. I know (historically) of no instance where such laws grew from necessity from secular rationality. Of course, in recent years secular rationality has laid claim to them, but their origins were religious, just like those against adultery, abortion, etc. I'm not saying all these laws are good laws. I'm simply ridiculing the notion that religion should have nothing to do with Government. It should have to do with Government in lots of ways. In which ways should it NOT?
The most obvious way in which it should not is in having the Government make it hard for people to follow their own religious beliefs by forcing them (or strongly nudging them) to belong to a Government approved (established) church. At least, I think that's what the 1st amendment says.
But I doubt that the authors of the amendment expected this to apply to, for example, a Jew or atheist or wiccan or whatever who protests that his/her first amendment rights are being violated at high school graduation because the valedictorian's speech thanks Jesus. Here we have the age of political correctness: "Oh, please don't victimize me!" Here we have the freedom of speech of the Valedictorian being stifled because it might hurt someone's feelings, the justification being that the graduation is from a state-subsidized school.
But did the state order the valedictorian to thank Jesus? No. Did the state choose the valedictorian based on religion? No. (Or probably not.) If it had been a wiccan who made some very wiccan remark and been scolded for it, the same secularists would have attacked the Christian bigots for narrow-mindedness and lack of multi-cultural awareness.
Or a kid in 4th grade, invited to read her favorite story to the class, reads them a Bible story and gets into big trouble -- teacher shuts her up, parent protests, school board backs teacher, etc. (This one was so bad, Nat Hentoff took an editorial whack at the stupidity of it.)
These are the tip of an iceberg, are mainly ignored by mainstream press, and create concerns among religious people, and these concerns are magnified when a president gets blow jobs in the oval office, and blow jobs become a fad among teenagers. So of course campaigners against Gore are going to use that card. It keeps Gore from harping on the economy under Clinton (or IS it under Clinton, or something that began before Clinton got in office -- but the point is, it's associated with Clinton) because Gore's afraid to associate himself in any way with Clinton. Does this mean Bush is out to create a theocracy? I don't think so.
Beyond the basic desire to have us free to follow any or no religion we choose (short of child sacrifice or the like -- though that would be quite logical from a pro-choice point of view, since the right to kill young children would certainly increase a parent's range of choices, and some societies have given parents that right, a child not being "really" a person, you know), I can see that too much harping on religion can be a bore, can lead to attempts to legislate morality -- that is, pass laws that we don't like for our own good -- which doesn't work very well, is usually unenforceable, so gets enforced selectively to punish political foes, and which leads it lowered respect for the law. And I suppose there are other drawbacks.
On the other side (the anti-religious), I think the drawbacks are far MORE scary. This is where we differ. You only see the dangers of religious fanatics. What you don't see is people who are not particularly fanatical being driven towards the extremists (on the religious right -- e.g., Pat Robertson or, worse, the Christian Identity movement or other anti-semitic, anti-Catholic weirdos) by the fanatical secularist left. You don't see that other fanaticism at work, actively undermining morality, quite intentionally -- it's a left wing technique, creating instability so that the newly engineered social person can emerge. You're so used to seeing all this as beneficent (pro- choice, pro-Gay, etc.), that you don't see the destructive side or the long-term goal (which gives not a damn about, for example, Gays).
What I fear is a totalitarian Brave New World in which dissenters are medicated, in which children are put on predetermined educational tracks based on early tests and (primarily) on what industry foresees needing and given no choice thereafter (Goals2000 aimed at this), in which "mental health professionals" can take your children away if you dissent or prefer to teach your children something other than what the public schools propagate, etc. (I'm talking about things that are done already, by the way.) These are just a few instances. I don't want a Brave New World ala the Secular Humanist Manifesto. I don't think "Science" (in its current directions) has all or ANY of the needed answers.
We've always had religions and abuses of religion. What we have now in this country of religious extremism is quite mild as religious extremism has gone. What we have NOT had before is such a determined effort to eliminate what has worked in the past mainly for our survival as a nation (by picking at the abuses) and replace it with a dystopia.
Furthermore, most of the situations that the new measures are supposed to cure were created by similar measures by the same people. I once wrote a little essay on a related subject. Here it is:
Tweedledee or Tweedledum? Contrariwise!
Among the mad mirrors in our culture are the two apparently opposed schools of psychotherapy. I refer not to the various approaches (talk vs. drugs, directive vs. non-directive, etc.), but to two radically opposed public personae that might be called the Dionysian and the Apollonian - the wild and the controlled.
The "controlled" are the shrinks who define sanity as the state of being controlled by socially acceptable compulsions and phobias. This is the psychiatrist who doesn't try to free people from their madnesses, but to channel the manic energy into socially acceptable madnesses, including, if necessary, the silence of catatonia or death -- that is, the socially acceptable state of being quiet and out of the way of the busy world.
The wild shrink says that people suffer from social oppression and must be wrenched from their social compulsions and phobias by being persuaded to yield to their anti-social compulsions and phobias - for example, to indulge in drug use and promiscuous sex (preferably kinky) and acts of liberating violence.
The first type publishes monographs addressed to other members of the profession, lobbies legislators, governors and judges, sits on boards of directors, administrates institutions and channels funds. The second type publishes articles in magazines for the general public and feel-good best-sellers, keeps celebrities stocked with the most fashionable medications and titillates the audiences of talk shows.
Neither of these incarnations of psychiatry believes in the possibility of sanity. The first fears that people, freed of their insanities, would be "out of control" and dangerous - as they would be to such as he. Though the second argues that people freed from their anti-social compulsions, would be boring automatons, really he fears that such people would be too strong for his manipulations and would condemn his own weird behavior - for he indulges in all the crazinesses his theories justify.
Though one stands for "control", the other for "freedom", really these cronies complement each other, each, with his work and theory, realizing the other's fears and proving the necessity of the other. Seeing the results of the second's "freedom" - for example, the proliferation of grotesque "alternate lifestyles" (drug addiction, child abuse, etc.), we turn to the first for discipline and sedative medication. Seeing the results of the first's use of shock and other "therapies" to subdue symptoms - a world of tremulous spasmed shadow-people - we turn to the second for hugs and stimulant medication.
A few practitioners aim at leading their patients to a sanity that is free of compulsion and phobia, but their practice is tainted by the "technology" of their colleagues, not only by the absence of any precise understanding of the causes of insanity and the means to handle these, but by an aversion to the notion that technology of any sort can free. After all, most of the "workable" technology in psychiatry is aimed at controlling (suppressing symptoms), not at freeing. Thus technology has a bad name among those who would free. Freeing people, they say, is an art, meaning they don't know how they do it, when and if they do - and they won't find out, since they are certain there is nothing that can be found out. The very possibility would cheapen their art.
Besides, these people are licensed by types one and two, who hold most of the powerful positions and lines of communication in psychiatry. Anyone who knew how to free people into increased responsibility would never keep a licence.
Thus, for practical purposes, the fate of psychiatry and its patients (all of us - or so the mental health industry would like us to believe) lies in the hands and electrodes and scalpels and hypodermics of those who would shuffle us toward acceptable insanities and those who would dance us the other way into a hectic parody of freedom called irresponsibility.
The apparent opposition of these two groups dissolves like magician's smoke when one looks more closely at their activities, discovering the distinguished researcher who (like Ewing Cameron in his Montreal lab, head of the World Mental Health Organization) runs LSD research (accompanied by electroshock, drugs and attempts to implant thoughts) on his patients without their consent - financed by the CIA; meanwhile, the flamboyant rebel (like Timothy Leary, an -ologist rather than an -iatrist, but no less psycho) creates his LSD cult partly with funding from that same stodgy old establishment CIA.
The hype of the hip doesn't change the type of the trip. The basic assumptions of both groups are identical: That we are animals who cannot take responsibility for our own actions, but must be manipulated for our own good by stronger, wiser animals - themselves. Type one says we must control these dangerous animals to protect society from their bestial behavior. Type two says, hey, beasts, why don't you enjoy your bestiality, since that's all there is? Type one, selling discipline, rapes his patients. Type two, selling freedom, manipulates his patients. Type one says, "Take your medication; it will help you sleep". Type two says, "Here's a really cool trip". Type one says, put those hyperactive kids on strong addictive amphetamines (Ritalin) to keep them quiet. Type two dispenses strong addictive amphetamines (speed, etc.) to energize the tranquillized.
How well they agree, Tweedledum and Tweedledee! Poor confused Alice - crying won't make you more real, you know.
That's the two-way attack we're undergoing. The "Mr. Goodvibes" shrink teaches the teachers to teach via guided discussions that aim at, among other things, getting kids to suspect anything their parents have taught them (and this is an explicit doctrine -- the proponents of our current educational technology are as open in their articles and conferences as Hitler in Mein Kampf! They really think we can build a stronger society by alienating kids from their parents, their churches, etc.). It all sounds great -- for example, eliminate bigotry against Gays.
Let's take a closer look at that one. What could be more harmless? Well, strychnine maybe? Why? Because feeling that there's nothing wrong with homosexuality is a mistake? Maybe. Maybe there IS something wrong with homosexuality. (I don't claim to know that there is or isn't.) But that's an awfully complex issue. I'm looking at something far simpler: While there are some extreme forms of homophobia that are anti- social (that is, what most of us would call a civilized society cannot abide them -- and most Christians would agree), the basic notion that homosexuality is not OK is part of a larger fabric of moral agreements (religious and secular) that have served society for millennia and, in many ways, served it well and are, in any case, part of a working ORDER. Or they were. How do you undermine a working order? Find things in it that don't work well and harp on them and discredit the whole thing.
One could go slower, and over a period of time, gradually change views of homosexuals. But the social engineers aren't worrying about homosexuals. The goal is to destroy conventional morality, overthrow "bourgeois" morality, replace it with something else. The "Gay" issue is an entry point (one of several -- freedom to experiment with drugs is another, but the more subtle ones are things like "the need to think for yourself", where "thinking for yourself" is associated with agreeing with one's peer group in the absence of experience or reasoning) to a larger agenda called "anything goes."
And so, behind benevolent banners ("Homosexuality is an alternative lifestyle as legitimate as any form of heterosexuality") come the less benevolent ones (after all, is not adult-child "love" also an alternate lifestyle?) and, beyond that, the absence of moral order, a rise in crime (wrongly attributed to poverty, but which gets worse under liberal economic measures, to lack of gun control, though we had less crime in days when there were no gun control laws at all), etc.
And then comes the need for Ritalin (because kids don't sit still and study any more -- what changed? Their brain chemistry! Sure.) and more prisons and police and the need for ever more radical changes in our schools, made by the same people who gave us the huge downgrade of morality.
Again, I don't favor some sort of attack on Gays. I'm simply saying that Gay Rights are an example of an entry issue for attacking the entire social order. This was explicit in the 60's (down with the system!) and as stupid then as now in its blindness to the extent to which our freedoms were based in the order we were attacking.
Hitler, too, had positive issues. For example, like Marx, he spoke of the way money corrupts a culture. (Ergo, kill Jews.) He had to destroy (or continue the destruction of) a fairly sturdy moral order to get the results he wanted.
The Marxists were pious as hell. And still are. Oh the wonderful causes for which all those millions of people were slaughtered!
My little model above (the two kinds of shrinks) shows you why these liberal "reform" ventures are always supported by the most elite (and presumably capitalist) of the establishment (Rockefellers, etc.) in the guise of philanthropy. The same huge foundations (Carnegie, Rockefeller, Robert Wood Johnson, etc.), in league with Government agencies, push all these programs destructive of the social order, then "cure" them with increasingly totalitarian "solutions".
In the Soviet Union, dissenters were sent to insane asylums, medicated, shocked, imprisoned. U.S. shrinks visited, condemned this or said it looked humane to them. But that's how asylums have been used traditionally in the West as well, though most often in family matters: If a wealthy husband found his wife inconvenient and unwilling to divorce or go along, he had her committed. (Far more often than we think.) And there have been political prisoners in asylums, but not (yet) to the degree this was done in Russia.
Right now, parents who refuse to put their kids on psych. medication when so ordered by a teacher and principle, in many states, have their kids taken away from them. (Recent testimony before a congressional committee on this. I saw some of it.)
Right now, in most states, anyone can be committed to a mental institution indefinitely if a couple officials (e.g., cops) say he's a possible danger to himself or others. The guy gets no right to council, no hearing -- at least not for many hours. I think it's 72 hours or more in most states. (Details differ from place to place.) In most cases, eventually, he gets some sort of hearing. BUT in the interim, he can be drugged, electroshocked, etc. He has no say in the matter, nor do his relatives. That's why his stay can be made indefinite, since the shrinks have it in their power to render him incompetent before any hearing.
Is this done? Yes. Often? I don't know. I know of cases, but not many, not like in the Soviet Union. But the laws are in place. All we need is a sufficiently sheepish society.
I don't fear Bush's appeals to "faith". I fear his appointment to head of OMB (ex chief financial officer for Lilly -- of Prozac notoriety). I fear his business as usual, his probable support (his family having ties to Lilly -- I think his Dad was on the board at one time, and his Dad's VP, Quayle, has a long-time relationship with Lilly) with the psycho-pharmaceutical industry; I fear his connection to the CIA (which his Dad once ran). At least he's not a poster boy for the glorification of victims and the drugging of children (like Gore -- and good ol' Tipper even more). And at least there's someone there (unlike Gore).
Please, please read The Cloning of the American Mind by B. K. Eakman. Please do this one thing. You may not agree with everything she says, and you may find her view of what's moral simplistic (and mine as well), but at least she shows clearly the agendas at play here in the words of the people who created the agendas. It's a paperback available from Barnes & Noble and others. You could probably get it online from Amazon. It's the best-documented and argued view of what's going on in American education I've ever seen.
What's going on isn't just in education, of course. It's in the law courts, the churches, etc. One thing that's driven a lot of Christians towards Fundamentalism is the absence of an alternative, when the more "moderate" churches have betrayed them, dropped morality for psychobabble, essentially been infiltrated. This isn't paranoia. Way back in the 70's (and increasingly since) there has been pressure on government to illegalize religious counseling unless the clergyman has a degree in psychology or psychiatry. Maybe you remember the attack on Grace Lutheran Church (in Calif.) back in the early 80's? Minister sued because kid he was counseling kills himself. (The Church won after a long, expensive trial. For one thing, the minister didn't keep the kid from seeing a shrink. The kid didn't want to. He wanted to see his minister. One of the things that drove him nuts was his parents' insistence that he see a shrink. For another, though this may not have been admitted into the trial, the number of people who commit suicide while or just after seeing shrinks is huge.)
You don't have to be a fanatic to want a church that believes in right and wrong and that certain actions are sinful, etc. I'm not saying that everything a Christian calls sinful should be called sinful. I'm saying that the idea of bringing kids up in an agreed-upon order, a stable set of givens (he can change his mind later, when he's had some experience, but he's given a certain stable set of values early on, values that have proven of some worth in the past) is not in itself fanatic.
So if your church starts going "all is relative in this multicultural world" (so we can't teach, for example, that it's wrong to kill babies, because the Chinese often expose their girl infants?), you, of course, head for a more traditional church, even if you do have to accept a lot of fire-and-brimstone rant that isn't to your taste as part of the package.
The fact is, however you raise a kid, you're imparting some values. The psych. methods impart various values, as doubtful as any from the churches, value systems (mostly fascist or communist -- the psychiatric line derives mainly from fascist eugenicism, the psychological line of intellectual descent is mainly Marxist) such as B. F. Skinner's Beyond Freedom and Dignity (what's beyond them is instrumental conditioning) or Leary's "Tune in, Turn on, Drop out" or (as I mentioned above) "there's no right or wrong; do whatever feels good." (Thank you, Dr. Manson. And Dr. Ernest Hemingway -- if you do it with grace under pressure.)
The Judao-Christian value system under attack in this country is not just Judao-Christian. It's also Protestant Ethic, American Deist, American sense of opportunity and pride in ingenuity, etc. For example, one of the things the psychs want to purge from the system is "hierarchy", anyone being better than anyone else, and hence competition must go. Kids must play games where no one wins/everyone wins. Nobody gets low grades, because that impairs self-esteem. Feminism is good because it undermines the "hierarchical, paternalistic, aggressive, competitive" establishment.
Of course, some of that is old hat now, and the lyrics have been changed, though the tune is the same. For example, people objected to "everybody wins, no one gets a low grade" and demanded results, so the social engineers came out with OBE (Outcome-Based Education), which SOUNDS like an insistence on results (e.g., skills learned and applied), but is actually quite something else: It's flunking a kid until he has the correct viewpoints (e.g., agrees that it's fine to have abortions, that one should try out new things and "think things out for oneself" rather than pay attention to what one's parents think, and all that). The outcome is a good citizen for the new globalist world order.
One of the things I like about Bush is that he claims he wants to let local communities determine more about their schools -- and he actually did this in Texas and has appointed a man to head the Dept. of Education who actually did improve student performance in some Texas schools.
One of the scariest things about the programmatic liberals (e.g., Gore) is the centralization that eliminates the possibility, under even a very oppressive regime in education, of many localities escaping the taint, just from the richness and diversity of approaches. Government should be an ombudsman that eliminates some of the most corrupt approaches (e.g., a school system that refuses to teach Afro-Americans anything beyond trade school), not the formulator and dictator of methods and programs as it has been, directly or indirectly, increasingly since the early 60's.
The point is, I don't think the guys pushing these liberal programs have a better value system to offer than do, say, most Christians. I think values like man is made in God's image, don't murder, don't steal, work hard, earn your way, try to leave the world a better place than you found it, reward production, love your neighbor as yourself, respect your elders, etc. -- I think that whole corny, mixed up package (even if it DOES include the idea that homosexuality is perverse, and maybe that abortion is a sin, etc.) is a far saner and kinder and better tested package than what's being pushed in our schools now.
And the bigger point is, kids need a sense of order to survive. That's what families are for. The psychs have done their best to undermine families (for example, by recommending promiscuity to their patients and poopooing monogamy and faithfulness in their books) -- how else to undermine the system. And now, says Hillary, it takes a village to raise a child. Of course, if both parents work, and both parents are medicated, and neither really believes that the role of parent (especially mother) is an important role. But still families stagger on. Schools try to undermine this in all sorts of ways.
But even a fundamentalist upbringing is better than destabilization, absence of order. It's possible to be so awful (in imposing order) that there is no order -- overwhelming tyranny. But short of that, a kid (or an adult) flourishes where there are definite rules he can understand, a degree of predictability.
It's easier to work under a harsh, but consistent manager than under a lovey-dovey gentle kind manager who wavers. I'm sure at some point in your life you've experienced this. Our favorite teachers usually were relatively tough. Not necessarily unloving, but tough.
I think you overstate the virulence of the "one-Godders" or the many-godders (e.g., Hindhu). But that's a relatively minor difference between us. The main one is that you either cannot see the far greater virulence of the secular "mainstream" (it makes itself appear to be mainstream), or you see the virulence, but don't connect it up with anything.
I often find that you and other liberals do see some of the virulence -- see the downgrading of morality as harmful, see that drugs and psych. medications are over-used, see that literacy keeps going down, crime tends to go up (went up hugely from 50's through 90's), see that some things in our society are tending toward a kind of plastic totalitarianism, see that political correctness, extreme feminism and other offshoots of liberalism can be fanatic and stupid -- but you don't put it all together. You don't see the program (or "conspiracy" if you want to ridicule it), you don't even DARE look behind the more attractive features (How could an anti-homophobic program be sinister? How could it be bad to make kids less aggressive?). (See Clockwork Orange for one answer to that.) You've got a big double-think going. You see it and you don't. And you make NO connection between what's been done to morality in this country and the increase in Christian "virulence". You just aren't making the connections. You flit about the surface of it. "Only connect." (E. M. Forester, who, though gay, would probably agree with much I've said.)
I don't know how to determine what a politician is going to do. I don't know who has Bush's ear or his wallet. I don't know how tough he is or how honest or how smart. I know he's a lot smarter than liberals have been making out. So was Eisenhower. So was Reagan.
And, by the way, one of the biggest advantages conservatives have over liberals is that liberals always seem to assume that their opponents are far stupider than they are. Probably what made Gingrich such an irritating gadfly to liberals was that he usurped their prerogative by being bright and smug. The conservatives don't seem to make that mistake as often. I'm sure, for example, that Bush knows Gore probably has a few IQ points on him, and that Clinton is a far more dazzling thinker.
Eisenhower played on that sort of liberal misconception: He used it. Stevenson went down as "egghead". Eisenhower, while in office, got a huge amount done (much of it -- e.g., the interstate system -- generally considered beneficial) by working long hours and doing things mostly behind the scenes while intentionally playing to the press image of himself as a lazy guy who spent all his time golfing. He worked a very long day and managed to fit a little golf into it and make sure the press knew about it. Apparently his productivity had a lot to do with his appearing to all but those who needed to know better that he was a smiling non-entity or at best an administrator. I love watching the press these days trying to "explain" how it is that this idiot Dubya (so portrayed throughout the election) seems to be doing everything well.
And Reagan used it too. "There you go again", says Ronald (don't-worry-be-happy) Reagan as bright-as-a-tack Jimmy goes off intellectualizing about all the dangers ahead. Reagan got an immense amount done because his enemies decided he was a fool.
When you have a working system, you don't tear it down. There are ways to find its faults and gradually improve things. Or you can dismiss all of its virtues, call it "Capitalism", call it an ultimate evil (because some are left out), ignore the fact that the other systems leave out even more, and decide to destroy the system. Our entire educational system (and many of our other systems) has, since the 60's, been permeated with programs aimed at destroying the system.
Personally, I find that individuals, one by one, can be made considerably saner than they are, at which time they become more ethical, more able, happier, more loving, etc. I think that's the way to go, and that's best achieved under a degree of stability in the social order -- as is anything constructive. If you don't like "virulent" religions and groups, don't support movements and politicians who work to undermine traditional morality, glorify victims, attack producers (I'm speaking of the Gore approach -- since whenever he wants to take from the rich to give to the poor, he fails to distinguish between those who are rich because they have produced a great deal for others and those who are simply rich; and that's destructive -- to fail to reward production and to reward, instead, non-production) and if I were Clinton I'd have two or three more things in this series, but I'm not, so I'll end it.
My own beliefs, I think you know are neither Christian nor Jewish (my upbringing). I come at these matters from a point that's really not the Bush viewpoint (in so far as I know what that is) or any conservative viewpoint. From what I've read of libertarian thought, I'm not coming from there either. I'm conservative to the extent that I recognize that some value in an established order, almost ANY order, but that's no absolute. It's just a factor that ought to be given more consideration than it's been getting for the past 40 years.