Of Religious Intolerance, House Music and Jobs to Kentucky

A few days ago, I was driving a friend and myself to see "Martha Marcy May Marlene" (it's a downer, btw) at a theatre in Pasadena. As we drove down Colorado Boulevard, the following song was blasting from my iPod:

I apologize for not being able to locate the entire song but I think from the little bit you hear, you can tell it's a song of a fairly Christian nature. Despite the fact that I'm a non-believer I enjoy listening to it and suggested to my friend that there were several reasons I could enjoy it despite being atheist:

a) because the music is damned good-upbeat house with a solid melody and

b) because, despite the religious nature of the song, it has an uplifting positive message that, regardless of my non-believer nature, makes me feel good to hear.

"doesn't matter if you're gay, straight, young old ANY color of the rainbow He will ALWAYS be there for you!"

My friend agreed and we had a little chat about how unfortunate it was for people to deny themselves the ability to appreciate different belief systems and other ways of viewing the world.

Now, you may ask where I'm going with this. Just what does this have to do with the gubernatorial election in Kentucky?

Recently, a company manufacturing packaging film, Flex Films, decided to open a branch of operations in Elizabethtown, KY. Flex Films promised to invest around $180 million and that the plant would contribute about 250 jobs to the area.

The catch? It's run by Hindus.

Kentucky Governor, Steve Beshear, recently attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the new plant and his Republican opponent in the election, Kentucky Senate President David Williams, has his knickers in a knot over this:


You see, Governor Beshear had the temerity to attempt a lotus position and break bread with the Flex Films people in a traditional Hindu ceremony.

As reported in Kentucky.com:

"He's there participating with Hindu priests, participating in a religious ceremony," Williams said during a campaign stop in Shelbyville. "He's sitting down there with his legs crossed, participating in Hindu prayers with a dot on his forehead with incense burning around him. I don't know what the man was thinking."

Apparently, participating in a non-Christian ceremony contaminates-I never knew. Oh horror of horrors! Whatever will the citizens of Kentucky think?

Williams goes further:

"If I'm a Christian, I don't participate in Jewish prayers. I'm glad they do that. I don't participate in Hindu prayers. I don't participate in Muslim prayers. I don't do that," Williams later told reporters. "To get down and get involved and participate in prayers to these polytheistic situations, where you have these Hindu gods that they are praying to, doesn't appear to me to be in line with what a governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky ought to be doing."

I guess paying respect to a company that's bringing money and jobs into a state where money and jobs are deeply needed is going just a little too far for some folks. From my point of view, however, it's a deeply misguided hail Mary pass for a desperate candidate who, in a poll conducted in early October, was 31 points behind. It's a typical republican ploy to tip the boat because, like so many other republicans, Williams has nothing. Nothing to offer in terms of policy, nothing to offer in terms of his own past record in the Senate and nothing of any substance with which he can hurt his opponent's chances at re-election.

So he takes the low road and attacks Governor Beshear for participating in a Hindu ceremony.

Beshear was doing his job by sitting with the folks at Flex Films. David Williams has merely demonstrated that he has a lot of growing up to do. To loop back into that conversation I had with my friend the other day, I suggested that one of the hallmarks of atheism is that we can appreciate and even participate in a religious ceremony without having to worry about whether or not our non-believer status will be contaminated or not. If the message is a positive one, I don't have any problem with it.

If I were to restrict my habits to avoid anything of a religious nature, then how would I ever be able to enjoy Bach's "St. Matthew's Passion" or melt to the beauty of the words in the Song of Songs?

I find it easy to ridicule Senate President Williams over this but I find it even simpler to pity the man and his closed-mindedness. There is so much richness in this world of which he's depriving himself.

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