James Rohrer: Should Liberals Attack Religion?

Roundup: Historians' Take

James Rohrer is a professor of history at University of Nebraska-Kearney.

...Over the years I have participated in many faith communities, have studied religion professionally, and have taught history and religion at several colleges and universities in the United States and abroad, some of them public and some of them religious institutions. I know that the line between good and evil does not run between religions — any more than it runs between nations or races (all three are social constructs after all); my colleagues and close friends represent many different faith traditions, and some, like my brother, embrace a wholly secular stance toward life. By choice, however, I identify myself as a Christian. After half a century, I could no more deny my religious convictions than I could deny any other part of my Self.

Lately the progressive blogosphere has been filled with pieces by humanists who apparently take for granted that religious faith is unhealthy for individuals and society, and something that the progressive community needs to combat with the same dedication it fights racial and economic inequality, militarism, and the rabid privatization of everything that even remotely smacks of a public good. Just as “liberal” and “socialist” are code words for “un-American radicals” in the weird world of Fox News, sometimes it seems that “religion” and (especially) “Christian” are code words for “twisted sociopaths” or “patriarchal fascists” in the otherwise generally saner world of progressive journalism. The problem is that in both cases the rhetoric conflicts with something that journalists of any ideological stamp should care a great deal about: truthfulness.

It is simply false that all (or even most) people of sincere faith—including those who are conservative in their religious commitments—are intrinsically irrational, anti-social, patriarchal, racist, or closed to meaningful dialogue. It is equally false that humanists necessarily see the light and embrace progressive politics. In my case, I am a Christian, a scholar, and for more than 30 years now a socialist who supports public healthcare, gender equality, separation of church and state, environmentalism, and pacifism. My humanist brother reads Ayn Rand, watches Fox News and is a dedicated member of the National Rifle Association. He opposes gun control, is a global warming skeptic and supports expanded use of fossil fuels, including fracking (he owns land in an area where you can scarcely hurl a stone without beaning one or two Chesapeake Energy employees). My brother and I do not conform to the stereotypes, and neither do countless other people....

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