Twenty-first century politics has a Book of Genesis that the Councils of Nicaea failed to discuss, let alone enumerate. As the Age of Empire was collapsing before the superpowers were ready to cede their crowns, a new political Bible was being written. Several books were being written simultaneously.
Unlike the religious text that caused untold horrors for centuries, the political one would not have a civil council that would deliberate on a mutually acceptable version.
The victor -- the last crumbling superpower left standing amidst the ruins of all those that continued their cycles of sin for which they never repent in order to force the world to accept their relevance -- would write the definitive book that the paupers of the world, coffers bared by pillaging knights templar, would have to obey.
The divine word, thus, comes from the iron-handed spiritual leader, enforced by its law enforcement forces. Regrettably, the rules of despotic engagement specify in no uncertain terms that no one polices the police. In a world where the police have been the US since the end of the Cold War, this becomes increasingly problematic when moral values rooted in religion, which use zero-sum calculations, are used by the authorities to gain and strengthen self-appointed power.
The system is devoid of any means of oversight that can guarantee stemming the flow of religious fundamentalism, or, indeed, religious exploitation. The US has sought to control the world rather than make it in its image. That has not kept the whips and shackles of its foreign policy and international machinations from having the same essence as its partisan domestic politics.
Similar to Bangladesh, the US had a constitution that respected personal freedoms of religion, thought and conscience. Bangladesh had the principle of secularism -- variously absent, diluted, or convoluted -- ensuring this was not abused for political gains; the US had the flimsy principle of separation of church and state. The white horse whose rider is the politicisation of religion, with religious extremism following closely behind it, cannot, however, be deterred.
The American Civil War ushered in fundamentalism, as did the series of coups that blighted Bangladesh in its first half-decade of existence. The Bible was cited to endorse and reinforce slavery. Had the South won, all people would not be equal because scripture said so. The majority of the world would be equated to animals by divine power. Evidently, scripture also says all people do not deserve to live, and murder is not only justifiable, but a noble duty.
The 14th Amendment, one of three initiated during the post-Civil War reconstruction, secured protection from all forms of discrimination. It is the foundation of liberal and humane values in the US. Bangladesh awaits this watershed moment. Religious rhetoric became obscure after the Civil War, but the remorse of its use to justify the unjustifiable did not extend to religiosity being linked to morality in the political arena. The representation of the World Wars as humanitarian successes shaped by this morality, based on Christian values, blew the lid off Pandora’s jar.
The second half of the 20th century saw religious fundamentalism become institutionalised in politics. The romanticised perceptions of moral authority, divine duty, and chivalry were employed by groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, as they were by the South in relation to the Civil War. Christian superiority over paganism, tribal religion et al, Christian goodness against the coloured devil and proselytisation became the potent notions that had willing and zealous converts. Some states enforced a ruling that belief in God or a Supreme Being was a pre-requisite to hold office.
Hope of a bulwark against radicalisation came in the shape of Roe v Wade and the legalisation of abortion in 1973, although this continues to be undermined, especially in the Southern states. The pro-life campaign remains a lesson in effective branding that the religious right has perfected over the years. Ronald Reagan, whose administration continues to determine American politics and foreign policy, solidified the spread of fundamentalism.
The staunch Presbyterian -- perceived as a strict branch of Christianity -- tacitly and overtly supported right-wing religious ideology and the growth of groups that prescribed to this within politics. It is worth noting that Reagan was the first president to provide support to individuals like Osama Bin Laden in order to tackle growing Soviet influence, whose atheist left was deemed to be inferior to religion in general, and Christianity in particular.
Bush Senior and Junior, the Tea Party, the current Republican Party lunatics who preach from the anti-science gospel in one of the most advanced nations in the world, have expanded on the teachings of Saint Reagan. The only thing surprising about the spread of radicalisation and extremism in volatile parts of the world where the US has meddled is how unsurprising it is, given America’s own relationship with religion in politics dating back to the mid-1800s. Those in Bangladesh who seek to emulate the land of the free have been warned. To date, they have blissfully ignored these warnings. Continuing on this path will fail to produce even a gold-plated Bengal.