It's all about the Moderates
Moderates seem to be all the buzz right now, so I'm going to try one more time to explain why moderates are not just facilitators, but are the cause of the fundamentalist takeover of American politics. First, so that the Brits are happy, I'm going to make sure we're all talking about the same thing.
Moderate: A Christian, or pseudo-Christian, who believes in God, and probably Jesus, and also believes in science, evolution, and logic.
Fundamentalist: A Christian who believes in the literal interpretation of the bible, and believes that America ought to be a Christian nation... literally.
Ok. This is very simple.
Moderates and Fundamentalists both believe in faith. They must. Without faith, belief in the Christian god is impossible. Let me say that again. Without the notion that "Faith is a Virtue," belief in God is impossible.
Moderates ostensibly use faith only for believing in God. If we are to believe the moderates, they apply logic to everything else. There are two very big problems with this assertion. First, it's not true. Second, even if true, it doesn't get them off the hook for validating fundamentalism.
In recent polls covering topics as far reaching as abortion, stem-cell research, prayer in schools, ID in schools, gay marriage, women's rights, and foreign policy, there is a marked tendency for all Christians to lean right on all of these issues. Are there some Moderates who lean left? Of course. But, if we compare the opinion polls to the number of moderates vs. fundies in the country, we find that a large number of moderates do lean right. The conclusion is simply unavoidable.
In thinking about each of the above issues, it's important to realize that with many of them, the only justification for a right wing stance is religious in nature. As always, there are exceptions. If you dig far enough, you can find someone who is against gay marriage for some bizarre constitutional reason, or who is against stem cell research because of some non-religious objection to the use of human tissue, but it's fair to say that virtually 100% of the arguments used by the public are religious in origin.
(For those who will nitpick over women's rights, foreign policy, and possibly abortion, don't make me bitch slap you. I realize that there are some issues within these topics that are not religious. I'm trying to write an essay, not a book. Don't go down that road. I really don't want to spend the hour and a half necessary to refute this silly objection.)
So, it's not true that moderates only apply faith to the existence of God. The fact is, moderates may not believe the bible is literally true, but they adhere to the spirit of the Bible. Most will tell you that there is something bigger than human morality. They will say that some things are "just wrong," and don't need an explanation. These views are harder to pull out of them, because they realize how untenable their postion is, but at the heart of a moderate is a person who believes in some aspects of religion simply because it feels right to them. Think about it another way. If moderates only applied faith to the existence of god, their voting patterns would be identical to non-theists in the same demographics. But they're not.
Now, why is this important, and why does it mean that moderates are responsible for the fundamentalists' success in politics? As I've written before, moderate Christianity is simply a kinder, gentler version of Fundamentalism. Moderates look at the world and see that some of the Bible is not applicable to their lives, so they discard those parts. They pick and choose what they will believe based on their own conceptions of the world and morality.
Think about Fundamentalists now. They are just like the moderates. They pick and choose the parts of the bible that reflect their view of the world. There's simply no such thing as a real fundamentalist. What we call fundies are actually people who take a harsher cherry-picking approach to the bible. They take a lot of the meanness, bigotry, and hatred, and incorporate it into their belief system. However, if you are ever brave enough to go to one of their churches, notice that the women speak, and that the men wear their hair however they want. Notice that children are not stoned for disobedience, and there are very few witch burnings these days. Fundamentalists are the same as moderates. They pick and choose what they will have faith in.
Moderates have faith that god exists. They ostensibly choose to limit faith only to the existence of god, but that is simply not an option. Faith asserts that some things are true despite all the available evidence. Moderates have good logical evidence that faith should not be applied to things like Abortion Clinic Bombings. They're right to decry the activity. But, they have no leg on which to rest their objection. The fundamentalists are correct when they say that they have faith that the moderates are wrong. Once we have admitted that some things can be true despite being logically false, we have no way of saying which things fall under that category. After all, if god is real despite being logically impossible, it makes sense that abortion clinic bombings are actually a good thing, despite being socially unacceptable and demonstrably wrong by our social standards.
If faith is necessary for anything, it can be used for everything. There is no logical way to draw a line and say "Here is where faith ends." At any point that we use logic, those of faith can simply retort that "This is not about logic. It's about faith."
So, moderates provide the groundwork for fundamentalism. Eighty five percent of Americans (or so) believe in god. That means that eighty five percent believe that faith is a virtue. Sixty percent (or so) of Americans claim to be Moderates. Now, suppose that those sixty percent rejected faith as a virtue. That would mean that seventy five percent of Americans would not give the fundamentalists the time of day because of the ridiculous nature of their beliefs -- not ridiculous because of their content, but because of their foundation! If seventy five percent of Americans simply demanded scientific evidence, there would be no fundamentalist movement. There would be no debate over ID in schools.
Might there still be a debate over abortion, gay marriage, and women's rights? Yeah. There might be. But, we'd be on a lot higher ground arguing over the facts as opposed to how many of the facts we can overlook because of faith. Each and every moderate is partially responsible for the fundamentalists precisely because he does not repudiate the very foundation of fundamentalism. Unfortunately, he cannot do that because he would be repudiating his own "Kinder Gentler" version of insanity. Kinder, gentler insanity is still insanity.
This whole discussion of moderates is not over whether their beliefs are reasonable. Most of their political views are reasonable. Most of them are good people. Most of them think that fundamentalists are crazy. They tell Ray Comfort jokes and drink a beer during the game after going to church. They are very reasonable people. Unfortunately, the very foundation of their belief is what gives permission to those who would turn America into a theocracy. Their complicity is mostly through ignorance, so it is hard to hate them for what they believe to be a perfectly innocuous existence.
Nevertheless, they are responsible.