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God-Botherers and Other True-Believers

God-Botherers and Other True-Believers: Gandhi, Hitler, and the Religious Right

F.G. Bailey
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 244
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  • Book Info
    God-Botherers and Other True-Believers
    Book Description:

    When reason fails to guide us in our everyday lives, we turn to faith, to religion; we close our minds; we reject austere reasoning. This rejection, which is a faith-based social and intellectual malignancy, has two unfortunate consequences: it blocks the way to knowledge that might enhance the quality of life and it opens the way to charlatans who exploit the faith of others. Examining two unquestionable malignancies of "the Christian Right" in present-day politics in the United States and the "secular religion" of Hitler's National Socialism, as well as the third, more complex case of Gandhi, the author asserts that we need religion, but we also need to make sure it does no harm.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-001-2
    Subjects: Religion, Political Science, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VIII)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. IX-XII)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. XIII-XIV)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    At this time (Fall 2006) in the USA and elsewhere, faith-based malignancies appear to be contaminating civic affairs— cancers, so to speak, on the “body politic.” Such outbreaks are not, of course, unprecedented: evil things have always and everywhere been done in the name of religion.

    The present malignancies vary in the form they take. The milder kind can even be comical: the offender is “hoist on the petard” of his/her own sanctimoniousness. A self-proclaimed God-fearing Christian, cleric or politician, who lives the pure life “fellowshipping with Jesus,” is caught fellowshipping with whores in a brothel. Radio-pastors and televangelists are...

  5. Part I Faith and Politics

    • 1 Faith, Reason, and Consequences
      (pp. 15-38)

      To believe in Gods is one way to have a religion, but what Ovid says is not in line with everyday religiosity—no devotion, no adoration, only a noting of religion’s pay-off.Expedit—our “expediency”—indicates that Gods are valued not because they are Gods, intrinsically and for themselves, but instrumentally, because they are handy. This no-nonsense attitude toward religion would not endear Ovid to the devout Christians of our day (even if he was talking about pagan gods); still less would they appreciate the particular usefulness that he had in mind. Gods are convenient for would-be seducers of other...

    • 2 Religion and Persuasion in Politics
      (pp. 39-68)

      Religions take many forms and therefore shape politics in different ways. In one form, it may nullify civic concerns and therefore also politics. This effect is magnificently described in Gilbert Murray’s Five Stages of Greek Religion. The fourth stage, which emerged in the early Roman Empire, he calls “failure of nerve.”

      It is the rise of asceticism, of mysticism, in a sense, of pessimism; a loss of self-confidence, a loss of hope in this life and faith in normal human effort; a despair of patient inquiry, a cry for infallible revelation; an indifference to the welfare of the state, a...

  6. Part II Antagonistic Religions

    • 3 Desert, Marketplace, and Forum
      (pp. 71-115)

      Fundamentalist Christians, who now constitute the religious right in America, at first declared themselves to be non-political. They came front stage after the First World War and in their early days, they confined themselves to preaching, to saving souls by bringing God’s word to unbelievers, and persuading them to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior. Those goals, essentially “things of the soul,” are still on the letterhead, but over the years, the strategy has changed. They still use prayer and one-to-one persuasion through personal testimony (“witnessing”), and they sermonize not only in their churches but also over the radio and...

    • 4 The Need for Enemies
      (pp. 116-146)

      Pol Pot, leader of the Khmer Rouge, was evil, not just in his philosophy, but also in what he did. The “reform-through-labor” that he carried out after coming to power in 1976 led to the death of at least a million Cambodians, of whom more than 200,000 were executed.¹

      Pol Pot was not without persuasive charm.

      “Throughout the 1980s, [Pol Pot] conducted seminars for Khmer Rouge military leaders. He often mesmerized them with his sincerity, his low, melodious voice, and his genteel charisma. To his disciples, there seemed to be no connection between this smooth-faced teacher and the violence of...

  7. Part III A Religion of Love

    • 5 Gandhi: The Freedom Fight
      (pp. 149-159)

      Mahatma¹ Gandhi, an indefatigable sermonizer and the apotheosis of nonviolent political muscularity, was a leader who, in his own unique way, stood up to imperialists—and largely baffled them, as he sometimes baffled his own entourage.

      Gandhi was the inspirational leader of the Congress Movement in India’s “Freedom Fight” against the British. He headed the Movement (although seldom holding office and frequently at odds with other leaders over policy and strategy) from about 1919 until 1947, when India achieved her independence.² The Indian National Congress had been founded in 1885, by a group of highly educated Indians—lawyers, educators, writers,...

    • 6 Gandhi’s Charisma
      (pp. 160-177)

      The question that shaped the previous chapter calls for a more detailed answer. Does personal charisma give leaders more freedom to maneuver than cause-derived charisma? It should, because their authority does not depend on being seen to serve a cause. The instances of the murdered policemen, Gandhi’s fast in Yeravda jail, and funds handed over to Pakistan despite opposition from the heavyweight Sardar Patel are just three examples that seem to demonstrate that Gandhi’s authority was personal, not derived from the nationalist cause. Gandhi could do what his conscience told him, defying Nehru and others who saw their movement to...

    • 7 Gandhi’s Religion and Political Reality
      (pp. 178-198)

      In the perspective of history, and in the minds of most people, Hitler and Gandhi are chalk and cheese—some superficial features in common but essentially different.

      Both were heads of state, in the case of Gandhi de facto, never de jure, and often somewhat uncertainly (because he denied his eminence and because his entourage sometimes chose not to take his advice), while Hitler, after 1933, was both the actual and the formally appointed leader. Both Gandhi and Hitler died violent deaths. Both were intent on creating a new morality. Both were men of faith, had enormous confidence in what...

    • 8 The First Cause and the Last Word
      (pp. 199-216)

      So—one more time—what is religiosity? What is its essence? What forms does it take? What are its causes? What are its consequences? We also return to asking what matters more: what you believe or how you believe it. Is the content all-important and the mode of belief insignificant? True-believers think so; for them the mode of belief is, by definition, a constant and it is the content that defines True religion. I do not see things that way: both the substance and the mode of belief matter. Certainly the content is important, because it has consequences, good or...

  8. References
    (pp. 217-220)
  9. Index
    (pp. 221-230)