By Peter Fredson
Fundamentalist imposition of the 10 Commandments on the state of Alabama has led to much acrimonious controversy, including an apology by a native Alabamian who felt embarrassed for the entire state. I want to state my personal views on this matter.
First, Alabama IS a beautiful state. Its landscape, woods, rivers, skies, and shores should not enter into any religious criticism or reflect undue environmental determinism on the people of Alabama. Second, there is nothing wrong with the people. Taken as a genetic pool they have individual characteristics reflecting the many different waves of influx: Indian, Spanish, French, English, African, Mexican, etc. As with any large population it has geniuses and morons with the vast majority reflecting enormous human potential. Third, the cultural influences of economy, politics, education, and religion have made a mixture of mores, patterns, beliefs, systems and emotions as unique as in any other part of the world.
The old cultural habits of slavery, social relationships, taboos, mythology, mores, the agricultural system, and many other factors of discrimination, corruption, and intolerance die hard. The Civil War, for instance, still rankles divisive emotions in the state.
If one can speak of the hodge-podge of their educational devices as an “educational system” one can partially understand the heterogeneous and deleterious effects on people of Alabama. Any type of education for Indians and blacks met with determined opposition thru the centuries, with enormous foot-dragging and discrimination. Some people were deliberately kept uneducated and in poverty for political-economic reasons. They were roughly defined as “barely human.” Raising plantation crops only required cheap labor, accompanied by pitiful housing, food, medical services and clothing barely sufficient to keep workers alive. This mentality dies hard despite many humanitarian efforts. Attempts at “separate but equal” schooling often resulted in much more separation than equality.
Religious influence on education has been the most deleterious in conserving the medieval aspects of obscurantism, mysticism, superstition, intolerance, bigotry, and racism. People of Alabama served as sheep to be sheared by church professionals. They were taught church dogma from childhood and were incessantly “sermonized” by Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian evangelicals, teaching hell-fire, being reborn, getting sprinkled, sin, Satan, Baby Jesus, forgiveness, cruci-fiction, Apocalypse, inferiority of women, blasphemy, prayer, in a dizzying whirl of revival. foot-stomping yahoo hoopla, with no latitude for unbelief. The Ku Klux Klan found fertile ground in Alabama for their white Christian supremacist rhetoric. Black evangelicals have proven to be as dogmatically conservative as the most vociferous whites.
In the last 25 years Christian pressure groups, coalitions, conferences, and conventions have stormed into political life, insisting that their beliefs be translated into law. They forged legal myths regarding beliefs, prayer, icons, symbols, commandments and other evidences of the superiority of their religion. It is almost impossible to escape the insidious influence of Christianity on Alabama law and education as it is deliberately all-pervasive.
Missionizing and proselytizing in the state have been aggressively pursued, especially during early education. It is no accident that even a State Supreme Court Judge would declare that the commandments of his religion had to be publicly and universally acknowledged. His pronouncements were not original. It was planned that way by the top constructors of religious activity. They instigated True Believers, including school children, to demonstrate their affection for Christianity by public display of Christian artifacts and pronouncements of fidelity to Christian dogma. They intend to institute a theocracy, with True Believer Presidents, Governors and Senators leading the way with a cross in one hand and their Bible in the other.
Let me reiterate. It was planned that way. It is not accidental. Christian leaders have conspired for years since Ronald Reagan, and worked hard to bring the present results of dominance. Just ask Ralph, and Jerry and Paul and Pat and Jimmy and George and any of the other top leaders of Christian religio-political strategy.
There is nothing wrong with the people of Alabama. It is the pervasive aggressive religiosity in which they were indoctrinated for the past 300 years that has warped their judgment, ruined their potential, substituted myth for logic, bliss in heaven for a decent life on earth, and has augmented intolerance, racism and hatred toward non-believers. Pity!