Gimme that nickled and dimed religion

November 29, 2006

An idle thought.

Among first world nations, the USA stands out as being, by far, the most religious; and as having, by far, the lousiest set of welfare state bennies, which has by design been getting steadily lousier for the last thirty years. Could the first be a consequence of the second?

Imagine, if you will, a state whose populace is subjected to perpetual and rising free-floating anxiety, due to the knowledge that John or Jane QP and the family of JOJ QP are one serious illness or one pink slip away from living out of a shopping cart. Imagine that in this same state, every adult in the household has to work fifty plus hours a week just to keep marginally ahead of the loan sharks who happen to own Congress, leaving no time to cultivate any interdependent social network, or the sort of thing their foreparents knew under the now-quaint term “friends”.

How is such a free-floating anxiety to be assuaged? One avenue might be to throw yourself into political activism, to try to alter the economic conditions that created the anxiety in the first place. But that takes time, up-front sacrifice, as well as information not easily found. A second avenue is to seek assurances that someone is already taking care of you. Just as there’s a Big Daddy in Washington who is keeping you safe from those perpetual and (if Big Daddy has anything to say about it) perpetually rising anxieties about chemical attacks and bioweaponry and mushroom clouds, there is a Big Daddy in the clouds who will ensure that your home will always be encompassed by four walls rather than four wheels. And there’s also a ready-made social network down at the church house, which won’t except in some rare best cases lift a finger if that year of chemo or that lateral transfer to the unemployment office come along, but which can sure make you feel less alone up until then.

There is a lot more to genuine religion than a prosperity gospel, of course, or the comfort of familiar faces in the pews. But just because the USA has a lot more religion than its peers doesn’t mean it has any more genuine religion at all, does it?

If I’ve fingered a real connection here, the synergy of the GOP strategy becomes clear: the more they demolish the social safety net, the more they swell the ranks of their fundamentalist base. The good news is, that anything which serves to rebuild the safety net will build synergy in the opposite direction.


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