California’s Slight of Hand

Originally published 10/20/2003.

By now the story about teaching Islam in California’s government schools should be pretty well known. Most conservative organizations and authors lament the fact that no other religion is taught in those schools, as well as the fact that the negative aspects of Islam are often glossed over or ignored. These conservatives are, however, seriously missing the point.

The problem is not whether the State is advocating Islam as a religion of worship, as it appears many of these critics fear. Nor is it an issue of deliberately creating a lopsided portrayal of Islam by ignoring issues such as slavery, which still exists to this day in places like the Sudan.

The true issue, as discussed earlier in a previous essay, is that the State of California is attempting to teach the children of the state that the only true religion is that the State is the only thing worth worshipping.

The act of making the decision about which religions to teach and which to avoid, and then further subdividing those decisions into selective facts places the State in a position of religious authority. The State knows full well that American students are not only disinclined to seek out additional information on their own but are even dissuaded from doing so.

If this sounds familiar, this is precisely what happened with the Roman Catholic Church up until the 16th Century. The Church in Europe had, at the time, attempted to maintain control over the population by mandating what could and could not be taught to the congregations. Up until the advent of the printing press in 1450, the Church was able to maintain that iron grip over the information that got to the populace.

However, the printing press brought with it not only the ability for the Bible to be published en masse, so that everyone could have their own copy, but also the ability for the masses to learn how to read. It took less than a hundred years after the invention of the printing press for the Roman Catholic Church to not only lose its grip on the population of Europe, but to fracture and schism completely.

Having an informed and inquisitive citizenry is simply a hassle.

There are some remarkable similarities in this case between the Church and the State.

First, both seek to create a dependency. The citizens of the Church were dependent for news, information, guidance about the future, who to marry, how to raise a family, and – this is the key point here – how much money to tithe. Replace “Church” in the previous sentence with “State” and see how eerily similar they really are.

Second, both proclaimed themselves to be the holder of all knowledge and the future. For the Church, it was life after death. For the State, it is life right now. Both, however, managed to sell the idea as well as salvation for a price. The Church had their indulgences, the State has other people’s taxes.

Today, however, the state of California has some distinct advantages that the Roman Catholic Church did not.

For one thing, the Church did not have control over the printing presses (though they tried). The State of California, however, absolutely does. They deliberately choose texts, for instance, that mislead students through selective interpretation of the facts (the slavery issue, for instance, comes to mind).

For another, the Church had to contend with a citizenry and population that was aching for distraction, thirsty for knowledge and determined to know the answers. The State, by contrast, has no such incentive to contend with. In essence, the American people are fat, lazy, and stupid, but would rather revolt against being called fat, lazy and stupid than actually do something to rectify the situation. If there was any question that the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis cannot be taken to its logical conclusion, this is it. You simply cannot make someone not-fat, not-lazy, and not-stupid merely because you’ve chosen a different description.

Which brings us to the other advantage that the State has over the Church. One of the Church’s greatest weapons throughout the ages has been the ability to shame its congregation into acquiescence. The State, on the other hand, has no such need. All the State has to do is mandate that shame is illegal (which it has done with some of the ludicrous speech codes that exist around the country) In fact, by outlawing shame, the State creates the most fertile environment for harvesting unquestioning myrmidons from its field of fat, lazy, and stupid acolytes. By telling them that they can be happy and “ok” with who they are as they are, the State virtually ensures itself dominance without threat.

“Come to me, and I will protect you. Follow me, and I will never allow anyone to call you names. Obey me, and you will be okay.”

Ultimately, it took 200 years after the invention of the printing press to spawn the scientific revolution. Once it did, the Church’s days as a political powerhouse and substitute for God were numbered.In this accelerated world, however, there’s no telling how long it will take – or even if it will ever happen – for the population to unshackle its self-imposed fetters of dependency on the State. Until then, keep on the lookout for state-sponsored, sugar-coated communion Prozac.

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