With this essay I hope to partially illustrate what I consider the greatest threat to freedom in America today. Presently much of this danger's nature remains a mystery to me. What I do see, however, causes me to suspect that this nation is on a short track to dictatorship.
What exact form would this hell on earth take? I don't know. But, given my present knowledge, I would tentatively characterize it as a religious democracy. Most likely it would have popular approval, and it would work tirelessly to keep anti-religion, anti-democracy opposition forces in check. To remain in power, the dictatorship of the religious majority would ultimately need to censor, tax, fine, deport, imprison, kill, or, in general, do whatever it takes to silence its most vocal and influential secular antagonists.
How, when, and why would such a horror manifest itself in America? I'm not sure. But, with this paper, I hope to begin answering those questions.
Now, there are others who have already started to paint the portrait of a possible American dictatorship. I single out Ayn Rand for her mind-opening novel Atlas Shrugged, and for her many philosophical works. I also acknowledge Dr. Leonard Peikoff for his indispensable book The Ominous Parallelsand also for his enlightening new course "The DIM Hypothesis."
Without Ayn Rand I might still believe Rush Limbaugh's claim that he is correct 97.5% of the time. And if I had never met Dr. Peikoff, I may have lived my entire life without ever shaking hands with a man who, in my opinion, actually is that accurate.
By analyzing the beliefs of Rush Limbaugh and trying to illustrate the religious threat, I hope to make the modern political situation more real to myself and others. I realize there are many who believe that Islamic totalitarianism is currently a greater crisis than the rise of religion in America. I disagree. However, my purpose here is not to argue that issue. My only hope in writing this is that I will influence people's view of the widely loved, "most listened-to" orator of the religious conservative movement.
Limbaugh and His "Dittoheads"
Each weekday Rush Limbaugh sits behind a golden microphone and conducts the most popular political radio talk show in America. His national program is carried by more than 600 stations throughout the country. An estimated twenty million attentive minds hear his eloquent monologues every week.
Limbaugh's avid listeners have been dubbed "dittoheads," because when they call the show they routinely "ditto"and in some cases "megaditto"the remarks of other callers who have lauded their radio host as the best ever. These devoted fans tune in for hours per week, receiving what Limbaugh calls "a graduate-level course in correct public-policy thinking" from "the largest free educational institution in the world." (p. 302)
Limbaugh repeatedly reminds his followers that he has "talent on loan from God." More than mere bombast, he actually believes this claim: "We are all on loan from God, you see." (p. 304) Prior to his public drug problems, he even claimed to be "the epitome of morality and virtue." (p. 301) But, most importantly, for over fifteen years now, he has almost daily impressed upon his dittoheads two very simple, political ideas: liberalism is bad and conservatism is good.
Liberalism and Secularism
To Limbaughand, thus, to his dittoheadsliberalism consists of many odious movements, such as environmentalism, animal rights activism, and feminism. But these specific causes, he says, are all tied together by three, more fundamental ideas: "anticapitalism, secular humanism, and socialism." These ideas, according to Limbaugh, comprise the essential "theme" of the villainous Left. (p. 3)
Admittedly, anticapitalists sound like very disagreeable people. As an Objectivist, I certainly wouldn't want to meet one in a dark alley. Nor would I care to have lunch with a socialist. But what exactly is Limbaugh's big problem with secular humanism?
Perhaps it has something to do with his view on separation of church and state. In a chapter called "Religion and America: They Do Go Together," he writes:
Regardless of the fact that the Supreme Court has ruled to the contrary, neither the establishment clause nor the free-exercise clause was intended to preclude all interactivity between church and state ...
Limbaugh believes that the Founders' intent was to protect us from the state, not the church. His basic issue with secularists, aside from their typical atheism, is that they don't want religion in government. (p. 285)
Is that why secularists deserve to be burned on the same stake as anticapitalists and socialists?
God and America
Why is it so important to Limbaugh that there be "interactivity" between church and state?
When you look at the documents written by the men who founded this country, you find they were devoted to their God. I am certain that they did not intend for this country to be a Godless one. (p. 283)
Is it Limbaugh's position that because the Founders believed in God and included their religious beliefs in the founding documents, that this is evidence for our government's right to mingle with churches? I hope not, because if that is his view, then shouldn't America also be a slave-owning country that denies women the right to vote? After all, these beliefs were also part of our nation's genesis.
To be fair, Limbaugh might reply that the Founders were mistaken in those two specific cases. That's fine. But notice that when it comes to God, he clearly rejects the idea that perhaps the Founders were wrong again:
[T]here is one God, and ... this country was established with that foundational belief. (p. 3)
Implicit in the religious rhetoric is this: to be against God is to be against the "foundational belief" of America. If Limbaugh and his dittoheads followed this idea to completion, they would necessarily conclude that secularists are against America.
And, in fact, that is what Limbaugh concludes:
Those who would undermine America [secularists] ... know they have to first chip away at the faith of Americans, at their very spiritual foundations. (p. 285)
Secularists, in the world of the dittoheads, are subversive anti-faith infidels who "undermine" America.
Faith vs. Science
In addition to his disdain for secularists and his great love for God, the conservative Limbaugh also admits to a belief in Creationism:
My views on the environment are rooted in my belief in Creation. I don't believe that life on earth began spontaneously or as a result of some haphazard, random selection process[.] (p. 153)
Perhaps due to holding such mystical beliefs, he feels a need to periodically remind his disciples that they should rely on their powers of faith, while remaining skeptical of science. For example, he writes:
Although some incredibly arrogant scientists believe that they are capable of scientifically unlocking every mystery of the universe and of understanding everything in purely material terms, I believe there are certain things that the mind of man simply cannot discover or ascertain. There are certain things we were not meant to understand, cannot understand, and must accept on faith. (pp. 153-4)
I'm curious: aside from God and Creation, what exactly must we accept on faith? The idea that secularists are ruining America?
Having determined that we cannot be wholesome Americans without faith in God, Limbaugh moves on to defining our national ethic:
[O]ur morality emanates from our Divine Creator, whose laws are not subject to amendment, modification, or rescission by man. (p. 3)
And in a later section of his book, Limbaugh writes:
Fundamental right and wrong, such as defined in the Ten Commandments ... is not arguable, nor should it be. (p. 280)
The Ten Commandments? Not arguable?
Does this mean that society must unquestioningly punish those who believe in other gods? Shall we imprison people for carving idols? If dittoheads were in power, would they make me pay a "sin" tax for saying "goddamnit?" After all, aren't those ideas at the very top of God's list of commandments?
A decent theist would argue that, yes, obeying God is necessary to be moral, but, no, this does not mean that we must draw our nation's laws from the Bible. Our laws should protect individual rights, not religious dictates. Limbaugh, however, does not take that line of reasoning. Instead, he writes:
Morality certainly descends from religion and is one of the main sources of our law, although some legal scholars, humanists, and atheists do their best to scramble this premise with such doublespeak that before long those who cherish morality and its roots are defending their very right to breathe, so heinous are they accused of being. (pp. 279-80)
ReligionMoralityLaw. If we deny this order, says Limbaugh, then we are strangling the life from religionists.
Limbaugh hints at other sources of law. But he clearly favors religious morality and completely lacks a reality-based reason to value individual rights and freedom. Thus, it is impossible for him to promote real, objective freedom. After all, such a thing is not listed in the Ten Commandments.
When push comes to shove, it would be a mistake to expect Limbaugh and his followers to be unserious and inconsistent in their worship of God and commitment to the Bible. To them, the Lord's ten directives are "fundamental right and wrong." Would they really and honestly tolerate those who violate the fundamental laws of morality?
[T]his whole notion that morality is not something which can be imposed on people is simply ridiculous. (p. 279)
Translation: If you don't want the Ten Commandments "imposed" on you, then you are being "ridiculous."
Anti-Human Life and Pro-Suffering
Presently, Limbaugh and friends are focused on seeing punishment delivered to those who violate the commandment: thou shalt not kill ... a fetus. In fact, Limbaugh believes this controversy threatens to become America's next "civil war." (p. 51) He is resolutely anti-abortion:
I believe that life begins at conception, and that killing that human life is justifiable only when it's necessary to save the mother's life. (p. 51)
He also believes that human life can only begin at conception (p. 56) and that killing a fetus is a "savage" act. (p. 66) He clearly favors banning abortion:
If the fetus is human life, that trumps any argument you can make about the individual freedom of the mother. (p. 56)
So much for counting on dittoheads to recognize and defend a woman's right to her own body. And so much for them caring one whit about anyone's life in this world, since Limbaugh is also anti-assisted suicidewhich means he is prepared to force Americans to suffer in both life-making and life-ending.
Why are conservative dittoheads so anti-human life and pro-suffering? Perhaps it's because, despite what they say to the contrary, they are really anti-individual, too.
Duty and Religion
Consider, for example, Limbaugh's collectivistic "duty to civilization":
... I am a human being who feels a sense of duty to civilization. I think it is incumbent upon us all to be concerned about the world we will leave behind. We also should be concerned about the values we transfer to succeeding generations. When we take actions [like abortions and assisted suicides] that cheapen life, we are contributing to an overall decline in our society's moral values. (p. 51)
What exactly does all that mean? Does it mean we should sacrifice for the sake of religious "society" and "values?"
It's time we ... returned religion to its honored place in the life of this nation. (p. 286)
And who will be sacrificed in order to achieve this noble goal?
[I]n their desire to promote their secular humanist philosophy using the power of government, many liberals today want to alter America's heritage and remove religion from its history. (p. 285)
Oh, right, the secular liberalswho "undermine America" and "cheapen life."
The Religious Blitz
So how the hell is religion going to take over America?
Well, the answer is somewhat elusive, but Limbaugh does provide clues to his strategy. Most importantly, he sees the issue of creating a vacuum in the ranks of the intellectual enemy. He understands that secularists are out to destroy faith in order to create a "void" in which their own non-religious views may flourish. (p. 285) Because Limbaugh understands this, it would be no great leap for him to also realize that punching wide holes into his enemy, secularism, would allow his own shock troop dittoheads to rush in and fill the gap with religion.
Apparently, this is something that Limbaugh does realize. Consider the fact that he spends the majority of his on-air life bashing liberals, while he devotes very little, if any, of his daily show to discussing his own religious beliefswhich are there for his more ardent followers to read in his books. And also consider the fact that Limbaugh, himself, summed up his purpose in this way: "to engage and demolish liberals and others who disagree with me." (p. 305)
It would seem that, for the religious conservative movement, it is very important that Limbaugh continues smashing liberal arguments while maintaining the appearance of "just a harmless little fuzzball." (p. 302) If people generally started seeing him as a religious nut, bent on fusing America and religion, then the entire movement would be set back. For, many regular folk still cringe at the idea of a religious state, and Limbaugh is the best at not making them cringe, while simultaneously opening corridors for the stealth-like religious blitzkrieg in his wake.
The Threat of Religious Dictatorship
The painting of religious dictatorship in America is still far from complete. There are many unanswered political questions. For example: how exactly would such a dictatorship arise? And what would it look like?
As I previously indicated, I think that an American religious dictatorship would be a popular movement. Under the influence of religious ideas, the majority would slowly vote away individual rights and blindly crawl into the pit of religion-based democracy. The Constitution would be rationalized into meaninglessness, as has been done to so many areas already, such as the commerce clause and also the establishment and free-exercise clauses, which are currently under attack by Limbaugh and the religious conservatives. Our founding document would be manipulated and twisted every which way so that it fit nicely with whatever religious ideas were popular among the majority. The democratizing government would gain gradual support over time, and once the dictatorship of the religious masses becomes obvious for all to see, I doubt there would be much of a revoltunless, of course, the typically pacifistic forces of secularism were willing to and capable of mounting a military offensive. More likely, the various religions would eventually go to war over political power, after which a true theocracy would arise. The immediate threat, however, is an empowered democracy.
If there is to be freedom without bloodshed, I believe it will be due to the spread and influence of Objectivism and any other truly reason-based movements that can successfully outthink, outspeak and outmaneuver the religious powers that be.
How much time do we have before a religious dictatorship takes hold? I don't know. How many freedoms must be voted away by the majority before a nation can rightly be called a democracy rather than a constitutional republic? Exactly how many faith-based initiatives must be in place before our government is mostly religious?
If you ask the average dittohead on the street what kind of government we have, what do you think his answer would be? What percentage of this nation already believes that we are a democracy? And what percentage believes that this country is essentially religious? How close are they to the truth?
Consider the fact that among the people "democracy" is becoming more and more a buzzword for freedom. Look at our never-ending domestic struggles over issues of religion. Observe our foreign policy, which aims to sacrifice the lives of Americans for the sake of building foreign democracies, while tolerating enemy religious dictatorships like Iran.
Consider also the level of trust that Limbaugh, the most successful voice of the religious Right, has in the public's whim:
Rather than having abortion declared legal by the decision of nine guys in black robes back in 1973, I think it should be a moral choice, decided by the people in a democratic fashion. (p. 57)
If the self-titled "Dr. of Democracy" (p. 312) has no problem letting Americans vote on killingin his viewan innocent human being, then how much respect could he possibly have for individual rights? To Limbaugh, a fetus is a human life. Why then would he be willing to sacrifice that life to the democracy? Why is he willing to subjugate God's commandment (thou shalt not kill) to the people's will?
Rights are either God-given or evolve out of the democratic process. (p. 104)
Perhaps Limbaugh believes that most Americans will not tolerate a theocracy which bases its laws on the Bibleat least not yet. Perhaps he realizes that his best chance of uniting religion and America is through the use of democracya form of dictatorship already in demand.
Or perhaps Limbaugh has absolutely no dreams of theocracy and truly believes in letting the people vote on the fundamental laws of the land. And that is exactly the problem. For, any way you slice it, a democracy is still the tyranny of the majority. And, in America, the majority is religious.