Glenn Beck and the threat of theocracy
I'm a lot less worried about the threat of theocracy than I was in the late 1990s when the Christian Right had a lot more momentum and support.
Consider what's happened over the decade from 2000 to today. The percentage of fundamentalists in the population has declined and the number of non-religious people has roughly doubled. Public support for gay marriage has risen steadily and, according to one poll, recently passed the 50% mark -- something which would have seemed incredible a decade ago. The recent NOM anti-gay-marriage bus tour had pitiful turn-out for its "rallies", and supporters were outnumbered three-to-one by pro-gay counter-protesters, even in places like Iowa and Missouri, even the day after Judge Walker's ruling in California.
(I cite attitudes toward gays and gay marriage because they're a useful barometer of how strong fundamentalist ideology among the general public actually is -- more likely to be accurate than things like self-reported church attendance, which is greatly exaggerated -- actual counts show attendance much lower than what people tell pollsters.)
The increasing agitation, anger, and occasional terrorism on the religious right reflects the fact that they know they're losing the culture wars. The election of Obama was the last straw, not because he's black (I don't buy the "all teabaggers are closet racists" line), but because when the Republicans lost their control of Congress and the Presidency, it meant that power had slipped from the grasp of the fundamentalists' allies.
When an ideological movement is shrinking, it tends to become more and more shrill and extreme, because that's the kind of people who stay when others lose interest or give up. That's what's happening to the Christian Right.
As for Beck's rally specifically, he claimed he was going to get 300,000 attendees and actually got 87,000, by the only neutral estimate I've seen. Yes, he and Limbaugh and the rest of them do have an audience, but an audience of 20,000,000 can seem huge and yet still be only a tenth of the adult population.
The Republicans' prospects for large gains in Congress this year rest entirely on the fact that unemployment remains high. The nomination of extremist candidates in teabagger-dominated primaries is hurting them, not helping -- Sharron Angle, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio may well lose races that more moderate Republicans would almost certainly have won.
What can we do? Keep doing what we're doing. Keep speaking out against religion and educating people about it. Keep telling the truth about the Republicans' extremism and obstructionism (many people are genuinely not paying attention).
And don't feel disappointed if there's no visible result. I never expect that any blog post of mine is going to convert a Christian reader to atheism in one fell swoop. That's not how it works. What I hope is that my writings may move 100 people each 1% of the way towards giving up religion. Other things that those people encounter will help them a little further, and so on.
But in the long run, I feel very confident of victory.
To add your own input to the discussion, go here.
Update 1: For another view of the rally, here's a report from a blogger who was there.
Update 2: Beck's present rhetoric must be judged in the light of his record.