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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A timely warning, if overstated.,
He is as woolly as Rowan Williams or Prince Charles. For example, in the first chapter, "Faith", he clearly sets out the vast inconsistencies and repellent hatreds in the Bible which utterly undermine any claim to inerrancy (unless God forgot to employ an editor). But then he states that "We are saved, in the end, by faith - faith that life is not meaningless and random... acts of compassion... sustain the divine spark, which is love." Do those words have any meaning? If his faith is not in a supernatural entity, then why pretend to be a Christian at all? If it is in God, then why not say so?
Anyway, most of this is compelling stuff, full of the first-hand details which bring an immediacy to his accounts of the paranoia, arrogance and sheer lunacy which characterise the dominionists who seek to turn the U.S.A. into a theocracy like Iran. He vividly shows the closeness of these fundamentalists' beliefs and practices to those of earlier fascists by starting the book with Umberto Eco's list of fascists' typical features and then going on to let them hang themselves with their own words.
My lengthy personal experience of similar churches in the UK bears out the truth of his descriptions. And any time of the day we can look at the religious TV channels even here in the UK and see the lies, the fake promises of miracles, the appeals to the emotions which these already-rich evangelists use to enrich themselves even further.
The book includes an extensive bibliography and references to ensure accuracy.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but perhaps a bit overheated?,
But "fascists"? A word too far? Fascism (named for the fasces, the symbol of the authority of Roman magistrates) was an Italian movement, which was subsequently to inspire the Nazis in Germany, and the term later became loosely applied to any form of right-wing authoritarianism. "Loosely" being the operative word here; I've seen it applied to Barack Obama, which, to anyone who knows a bit about history, is hilarious.
However, given this loose meaning and the subject-matter of this book, it could be said to be appropriate, in that there are certainly people in the USA who would like to enforce a sort of right-wing authoritarianism in which the authority is a militant, intolerant US variety of Christianity, wrapped in the flag. The author sees the danger of the Religious Wrong seeking to make the USA a "Christian nation", by infiltrating all aspects of life, including political and military, taking it over and enforcing its particular creed. The most extreme elements of this creed would introduce as the law of the land the Mosaic Law at its most extreme - the death penalty for adultery, homosexuality, abortion and probably for boiling your goat in its mother's milk (no kidding :-) - see Ex. 23:19). Coming from Ireland, I am very conscious of the potentially explosive mixture of religion and politics - when one has both The Absolute Truth and the means of enforcing that Truth, one has a recipe for catastrophe.
However, although one must always be on guard against the rise of extremes, one should also not exaggerate. After all, all societies inevitably have weirdos at both political extremes. Germany, which gave the world Bach and Beethoven and Einstein and Schiller also gave the world Nazism and descended into the darkest pit in human history, but this was partially a result of unique historical circumstances, some (the crash of 1929), but not all (the shame of WW1), of which currently exist in the USA. So, while one should never say "never", one should not also extrapolate wildly. In a normally-functioning society, fanatical belief that brooks no doubt or rival eventually collides with reality and invariably comes off second-best. I find it hard to believe that, no matter what the Religious Wrong believes or wants, a nation so inherently robust, so polyglot, so dynamic, vibrant and creative as the USA could ever return to the Dark Ages. It seems to me that the author has the tendency to over-egg the pudding.
I found the often-strident tone somewhat off-putting, not to mention the constant insinuation that all conservative Christians are slightly bananas. I sometimes got the impression that the author doth protest too much. I note that he studied theology, that his father was a pastor and that at one point he intended to become one. Does he feel embarrassed by that now, and is he seeking redemption from his new audience by fiercely attacking his former beliefs?
However, the book does have one thing in common with the Religious Wrong. It is a call to arms - man your battle stations! lock and load! - against those who would enforce on the USA a conformity wrapped in a bogus Christianity and the American flag. However, it seems to me that this is exaggerated. The USA is currently undergoing a bout of nuttiness, born, it seems to me, of a sense of frustration of the USA reaching its limits, of its position as top dog under threat and of the effrontery of a black man in a White House. There have been such periods of nuttiness before (the McCarthy witch hunts), but the USA recovered. I believe the USA will again right (in the, er, right sense) itself - but one should indeed always be on one's guard against the loonies.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fusilade against shearing Christian sheep,
This review is from: American Fascists: The Christian right and the war on America (Paperback)We might assume that the right-wing Christian nationalist dream is waning in America, but Chris Hedges does not. Touring around the country he finds an undimminished movement for a full-blown theocratic state. As he quotes James Kennedy,
"Our job is to reclaim America for Christ, whatever the cost. As vice-regents of God, we are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government, our literature and arts, our sports areanas, our entertainment media, our scientific endeavors -- in short, over every aspect and institution of human society." (p. 58)
Hedges travels widely to hear great speakers, attend seminars and visit with radical fundamentalists. He offers some understanding, or perhaps pity, towards these people's needs for order, direction, certitude and righteousness in a chaotic society. But his sympathy is limited by a conviction that these people are pushing his country towards totalitarian fascism. He notes that the Dominionist agenda calls for a restoration of harsh ancient laws from before the time of Jesus or of modern Judaism: the death penalty for adultery, homosexuality, blasphemy, incest, striking a parent, incorrigible juvenile delinquency, and, in the case of women, unchastity before marriage. Beyond this, Hedges sees a regressive agenda to make Christianity more supportive of powerful economic interests:
"... When it is faith alone that will determine your wellbeing, when faith alone cures illness, overcomes emotional distress, and ensures financial and physical security, there is no need for outside, secular institutions, for social service and regulatory agencies to exist. ... To put trust in secular institutions is to lack faith, to give up on God's magic and miracles. The message being preached is one that dovetails with the message of neoconservatives who want to gut and destroy federal programs, free themselves from government regulations and taxes and break the back of all organizations, such a labor unions, that seek to impede maximum profit." (p. 179)
Naturally, in attacking the intollerance of particular people Hedges seems to accuse all serious Christians of harboring fascist tendencies. But while sometimes scattering his shots widely, he usually tries to distinguish among different kinds of Christians, and he affirms those who respect religious freedom:
"While traditional fundamentalism shares many of the darker traits of the new movement -- such as blind obedience to a male hierarchy that often claims to speak for God, intolerance towards non-believers, and disdain for rational, intellectual inquiry -- it has never attempted to impose its' belief system on the rest of the nation. And it has not tried to transform government, as well as all other secular institutions, into and extension of the church." (p.13)
Most interestingly, Hedges seems to dismiss liberal Christians as ineffectual in the fight to preserve freedom. He looks instead to Christians of a more traditional nature, such as evangelicals the likes of Billy Graham, who value compassion, mercy, and personal faith over self-righteous intolerance:
"The most potent opposition to the movement may come from within the evangelical tradition. The radical fundamentalist movement must fear these Christians, who have remained loyal to the core values of the Gospel, who delineate between right and wrong, who are willing to be vilified and attacked in the name of a higher good and who have the courage to fight back. Most liberals, the movement has figured out, will stand complacently to be sheared like sheep, attempting to open dialogue and reaching out to those who spit venom in their faces." (p.34-35)
--author of Correcting Jesus: 2000 Years of Changing the Story
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb. Sounds a much needed warning without attacking religion itself,
Unlike many books about fundamentalist Christians, American Fascists is not an attack on religion itself, and doesn't seek to mock or condescend - indeed, the author lays out his own faith from the start. It is, however, a stark warning about the ongoing misuse of religion by powerful fundamentalists, and how we can ALL be taken in.
If you believe in God or if you are an atheist, read this book.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting look at politics and religion,
This review is from: American Fascists: The Christian right and the war on America (Paperback)All in all, this book will especially appeal to three groups of reader: atheists who are in agreement with Dawkins that religion is dangerous, especially when it cross pollinates with politics. Secondly, this will appeal to "liberal" Christians, and finally, to those who are researching the relationship between politics and religion. A useful companion to this book is "Sacred Causes" by Michael Burleigh, which also explores the similarities between religion and political cults.
Hedges argues that certain aspects of the Christian Right movement in America shares psychological and tactical characteristics with fascism. For example, he argues that the Christian right claim that society is morally decaying is an echo of the Nazi claims about "decadent" art forms. He particularly focuses on the cult of masculinity, which he say appeals to a modern generation of men, who find post-modern gender role confusion frustrating, and seek to assert tradition as a means of coping.
The book is not without its weaknesses. Firstly, Hedges uses a very small sample group, namely, small and medium sized churches he visits during his research, and then bases conclusions of national significance on what he hears. Also, his claims that all members of the Christian right are Himmlers in waiting is rather uncharitable, and Hedges' writing style at times betrays a paranoia he accuses his opponents of exhibiting. Nevertheless, I found this book a very interesting read, and as an evangelical Christian on the political "right", still found myself absorbed in many of his ideas, although I respectfully disagree with some of them.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We should consider incitement to intolerance as criminal (K.R. Popper),
The movement has very wealthy backers for two main reasons, politically, the assault on democracy and economically, the promotion of unfettered capitalism.
Assault on democracy
The Christian Right calls for the destruction of an open and pluralist society with its civil-rights laws, trade unions and public schools teaching secular humanism.
Education and welfare should be handed over to the churches. `Tithes' should be paid by the population.
The movement is anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-liberal, anti-immigrants, anti-Hindu, anti-Muslim and for severe sexual repression.
Chris Hedges accuses one of its members as being the mastermind of vote counts manipulation in recent elections.
Unfettered capitalism (the gospel of prosperity)
Unfettered capitalism allows the exploitation of human workers by paying less than living wages, thereby generating billions of dollars of profits for the corporatocracy.
The Christian Right controls a big part of the Republican Party. Its organizations received billions of dollars under the Bush II administrations.
It has representatives in the Supreme Court, in the Senate and the House of Representatives.
It can spread its message through its own TV channels, radio stations and newspapers.
The Christian Right tries to create a political mass movement with people, who are, in fact, victims of this unfettered capitalism (see also, T. Frank: What's the Matter with Kansas.)
On the other hand, it is a money machine for its preachers (`Let me be very clear. I want your money. I deserve it.').
Its belief system and its handbook (the Bible) are the basis for understanding the world. Facts are treated as opinions (`Why condoms aren't safe').
It believes in and supports the anti-Darwinian gospel of creationism (Intelligent Design).
Chris Hedges's crystal clear book shows ominously the dangers of the Christian Right for democracy.
His book is a must read for all those who want to understand the world we live in.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A powerful attack against the Christian Right but at times repetitive and sensationalist,
As the blurb of the book says, it is at times a very anthropological study on the Religious Right in America. Hedges often quotes from, and devotes a fair amount of space to, the numerous Baptist Ministers, followers, TV Evangelists which he has spent time interviewing and observing. While it serves its purpose well in demonstrating their `extreme' opinions, it can be immensely boring. Many say the same thing and as a result Hedges has the tendency to repeat himself and his argument, albeit slightly differently, over and over again; they hate gays, they hate liberals, they hate Muslims, they hate liberal-Christians, they hate the Democrats. We get the picture, they hate. It got to the point that I had to force myself to finish the last two/three chapters as Hedges was just repeating himself.
Essentially, Hedges' argument is that the success of the Religious Right is down to a lack of sustainable and universal quality of living, which breeds uncertainty, a loss of identity and purpose. Many Americans are fearful of the future and the Religious Right has been able to profit from this. It is no small coincidence that the Religious Right has only come into its own as a large scale political and social movement in the past forty years (i.e. with the development of globalisation). The out sourcing of many manufacturing jobs to countries with cheaper wage labour has dealt a significant blow to many working class Americans, while the back drop of social and economic decay all help to reinforce this sense of desperation and uncertainty. As a result, many Americans (Hedges cites many ex-manufacturing workers in Ohio as an example) who are, and who were, working in this area of the economy (there are other areas as well) are increasingly apprehensive about their futures and are turning to fundamentalist Christianity as an antidote. The movement offers community, purpose, direction and above all certainty. The Religious Rights' solution is an extremely powerful and intoxicating escapism which absolves its members of having to make decisions or to plan for the future. The obvious question is then, why do people choose such extremes over more `liberal' churches who still offer them the same solution? This is where the Religious Right and it's particularly intense and insidious (or as Hedges would claim `fascist') methods of conversion come in use. They rely on their converts being fearful of the future, (I won't go into great detail, read the book), and they reinforce this by incessantly bombarding them with apocalyptic prophecies while dividing society into those who are `saved' and `unsaved' with total submission to the Gospel and God as the only means of salvation. The reduction of a person to such a fearful and isolated state strips the individual of their rational senses and thus they can be reconstructed, fully indoctrinated, into a world totally cut off from reality and rationality. Economic crises, 9/11 and the paranoia surrounding terrorism only help to reinforce and confirm people's worst fears.
However, their ultimate aim, and this is what makes them distinctly fascist, is their inherent desire for power. The movements is unambiguously political, with clear goals and policies, they have strong ties to the political elite, especially those in the Republican Party, and large corporations. Ultimately, the Religious Right is attempting a coup, to overthrow American democracy and replace it with a Fundamentalist Christian theocracy.
However, there is a tendency for Hedges to lapse into some fairly paranoid and sensationalist claims himself and given his powerful and impassioned argument it's easy to get swept along by the tide. Another criticism was his lack of counter argument. In the chapter `The War on Truth' (where he examines the pseudo-science that the Religious Right use to validate, explain and justify their arguments on matters of science such as creation, Dinosaurs, Adam and Eve and so on) he repeatedly says that they are wrong, which may well be entirely true, but he gives no evidence as to how or why they are wrong. He simply states they are wrong. I accept that Hedges is not a man of Science, and maybe this part is best left to Dawkins, but I am sure he could have got someone at Princeton to help...
As an interesting comparison to Hedges claims of the Religious Right's hard line stances on issues such as abortion and homosexuality, I attended a talk given by Dr Cynthia Burack of Ohio State University, who has written about, and is currently writing a new book on, the Religious Right in America and Sexuality. Dr Burack's argument was interesting to juxtapose against Hedges, since she is arguing that the Religious Right is maturing in America and is developing a greater sense of `compassion' in its social conservatism(more hate the Sin love the Sinner type stuff). That is not to say that it is becoming more moderate, but that its tactics have evolved to include a greater sense of compassion for the sinner. For example, while they still denounce abortion just as much as before, believe that it is murder and lobby strongly against it, they are now calling for what they call `post-abortive' (instead of child killer) women to come and repent their sins and that their son or daughter is waiting for them in heaven (Hedges identifies this himself and even cites the same example). From this perspective it appears that the Religious Right is changing its attitude towards such issues and I'd be intrigued to know what Hedges' thoughts are on this new development of the Religious Right.
5.0 out of 5 stars dang scary,
5.0 out of 5 stars The Book everyone who values freedom should read.,
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This review is from: American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America (MP3 CD)Democracy is something you either participate in, value and defend, or you will find one day that you don't have it anymore. This book provides a comprehensive description and insight into the organisations presently active in the determined attempts to obliterate the Democracy you take for granted.
This is a war that the Christian Fundamentalists are hoping to win by stealth. In this war the application of knowledge is power and they are depending on your ignorance that their ultimate objective that one day you will wake up and find that you are in a totalitarian state governed under the rule of a book of magic.
4.0 out of 5 stars American Fascists.,
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American Fascists: The Christian right and the war on America by Chris Hedges (Paperback - 1 Feb 2007)
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