Religion is like cosmetic surgery--it's elective. You don't really NEED it, but it makes some people feel better. Cosmetic surgery doesn't change anything substantial in and of itself--whether you live longer or have better health--and neither does religion. But it DOES give some people confidence, and that, indirectly, CAN change things. If you have a giant wart on your face, you go up to a beautiful woman to ask for a date with the demeanor of Oliver Twist asking for another bowl of gruel. Get the wart cut off, you feel better about yourself and you go up to the same woman with more confidence in the outcome of your request. You get better results because you BELIEVE in a positive outcome.

I understand why some folks believe in God, Heaven, Hell and the rest of the story. If you're in prison, in a foxhole, or you or a loved one is terminally ill, I get it. You need to believe that no matter what happens, a higher power will see that it turns out OK. That's why so many people are "born again" in those or similarly stressful situations. It's the equivalent of being the guy on the Learning Channel with a 40 pound tumor on his face--it may be cosmetic surgery, but it's pretty fucking necessary at that point to give you the will to go on. Just as you steel yourself to endure the pain and discomfort of the operation, you overlook whatever preposterous backstory that particular faith requires you to believe in order to cope with the prognosis or problem. These folks, I get.

Some people's problems aren't that extreme--they just need a tummy tuck, a little liposuction, a boob job or facelift--and they'd feel right as rain. They go through the pain and discomfort to get a mental boost. Similarly, some people have a good job, a nice home, a cool spouse, but they still need that something extra mentally that believing in scenarios that are patently unbelievable can bring. That's their right--you can believe whatever you want to believe, for whatever reason you want to believe it, as long as it doesn't infringe on someone else's right and opportunity to live THEIR life as they see fit. I don't personally understand this group, but they don't particularly bother me, either. Some people probably don't understand why I like to eat double cheeseburgers if I'm depressed or pissed off, but it's the same principle--it has no more effect on MY real life problems than religion does on THEIRS, but it's my right and it makes me feel better.

However, there's a third group--past those who HAVE to have that surgery, and those who just WANT to have it, there are those who think YOU should have it too--and more and more of them are seeking public office to make sure you get it whether you want it or not.

Despite the alleged requirement for separation of church and state, the gerrymandering of districts that has led to the election of the Tea Party whackjobs to the House of Representatives has also led to the placement of a number of really, REALLY religious people in position to make public policy. These people want to hold you down, slice the warts off your soul, suck the fat out of your heart and replace it, whether you want them to or not, with the word of God. These people are dangerous, and we need to recognize that fact sooner than later, or we're in for more trouble than a shutdown of the government or even an economic catastrophe.

The story behind every religion on Earth is so ridiculous that, in my mind, no rational human could believe it, but many people I like and even respect do, and that's their right, even if I don't get it. I've learned to just overlook it because examing it too closely would drive me insane. But like a mirror image, the religious politicians can't fathom why someone like me CAN'T believe in this stuff, and they're determined to make sure I have no choice, because unlike me, THEY are invested with the power to dictate laws and make public policy.

They exhibit that arrogant, TV evangelist-like pomposity that indicates they know something you don't know, and talk to you like you're someone who just wandered off from a state home as they explain to you how there can't possibly be any other belief, despite all evidence to the contrary. They attempt to make laws that force their right to believe into your right to DISbelieve like an intentional sideswipe on the interstate, to force you off the highway to Hell and into the comforting ditch of the Lord. They campaign to make laws based on the word of God instead of the realities of life and Man, and the fact that they are sometimes successful scares the shit out of me.

Just one example out of way too many? Congressman Paul Broun of Georgia's 10th district, a medical doctor who spent 10 years doing "house calls" because he's licensed to practice medicine in exactly ZERO hospitals in Georgia. An NRA member and 2nd amendment fanboy who genuinely believes Barack Obama is a socialist, he believes in God and family values--he should, he's been married four times--and he has some interesting beliefs about science as well. He thinks global warming is a "hoax"--that the Earth was created in "six days as we know them" and is "about 9,000 years old"--and that the theory of evolution and the Big Bang are "lies straight from the pit of Hell". Compounding these troubling statements is the fact that somehow, Paul Broun has been appointed Chairman of the Investigations and Oversight Committee of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee!! His ludicrous public statements led to over 4,000 write-in votes for Charles Darwin in his last election. And he wants to run for the Senate in 2014! Despite the calls and cries of many in the educational and scientific communities, even Bill Nye the Science Guy, that Broun has "no business making any decisions related to science or technology", he's still there, folks. And he's just one of them.

We're poisoning the Earth and changing the climate, but Broun and others like him don't believe it, because in one Christian conservative's words, the planet will survive forever because "God promised Noah after the flood he would never destroy the Earth again". In 50 years, when Boston and Miami are under water, these geniuses will say it was "God's will" and someone will blame it on gay marriage.

They talk about the American people's rights and freedoms, but don't want anyone outside their group to have any--the right to marry who you love, the right of a woman to use birth control or choose whether she has children, the right to health care or any progressive policy put forth by the Democrats--but for some reason almost all of them believe you should have the right to own as many guns as you have the money to buy and the room to store. That's probably because lots of them are also preparing for an armed citizenry to take over the country from the evil Muslim President and return us all to God.

It's no coincidence that every holy war or religious crusade in human history has directly preceded a dark age, a witch burning, the destruction of accumulated scientific knowledge or the persecution and even extermination of a particular group or race--once you get control, it's human nature to want to keep it, and an enlightened citizenry is dangerous to all religious leaders.

You may think things like this just can't happen any more--it's the 21st century, after all, an age of knowledge and science and technology. Just tell that to some of our elected officials, who don't even believe in the facts that have been taught in grade schools for over a hundred years. As Bill Maher has said, "I don't hate religious PEOPLE, I hate religious BELIEFS, because they're going to get us all killed!" The definition of faith is a willing suspension of critical thinking, and it seems like there's a lot of that going around in politics these days. What can we do about it? Voting and campaigning against these nutcases is a good start--bring to light every stupid thing they say and every damaging vote they cast--but be aware there are still a lot of people in this country that believe as they do and whose vote will cancel yours out. But we can't stop trying. There are people who believe the answer to every problem is to have faith in God--and there's nothing more dangerous than a human being with all the answers.