A Secular Democracy Imperiled by Creeping Talibanism

There was a great rally of infidels, atheists, freethinkers, agnostics and other non-faith guided Americans from throughout the country in Washington, D.C. on March 24th. The cheerful crowd was there to celebrate reason, a quality one organizer, Richard Dawkins, termed a crowning virtue.

Dawkins wrote an op-ed piece about the rally in the Washington Post two days before the event. It began with a rhetorical question, How have we come to the point where reason needs a rally to defend it? Well, anyone who has paid attention to the presidential primary campaign of the Republican Party knew that Dawkins was only too aware of what has brought Americans to such a point.

In my work, Reason is the R in REAL wellness. Unfortunately, reason is not an element addressed in worksite wellness educational programs. For that matter, reason is not addressed in health books, lectures or workshops, either. Instead, weight loss diets, exercise advice and stress management techniques are the focus of professionals seeking to encourage better habits for well-being. It may be time for quality of life advocates to broaden their health offerings. The fact is a near critical mass of voters do not seem to be making the connection between reason - a skill nourished by respect for science, evidence and logic, with health or wellness. That is why I rarely send the term wellness out in the world anymore unprotected by the attributive adjective acronym REAL.

But, consider this: Is there an alternative to reason? Alas, there is and it's not pretty. It can be seen in the  Republican Party's medieval approach to public policy and governance, a method Dawkins describes as a swamp of primitive superstition and supernatural gullibility.  (Source: Richard Dawkins, Who would rally against reason? Washington Post, March 21, 2012.)

Dawkins credits reason for making it possible for humans to know the age of earth and the universe (4.6 and 13.8 billion years, respectively), what we're made of (atoms), where we came from (evolved from other species), why all species are adapted to their environments (natural selection of their DNA), how to explain night and day (Earth spins on its axis) and why we have winter and summer (Earth is tilted) and so much else (see article referenced above) that liberated us from ancient fears of ghosts and devils, evil spirits...magic spells and witches’ curses. Yet, Republican politicians offer leaders such as Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum as substitutes for "educated intellectuals and élitists-politicians.

The Republicans want to restrict women's access to contraception, gut public education and shift the role of government to that of promoting big business and imposing religiously morality. They oppose universal health care, they want to eliminate Planned Parenthood and end regulations that inhibit profits. They succeed at persuading Tea Party enthusiasts and other more or less average Americans to vote against their economic self-interests because so many Americans are so reason-impaired gullible.

It's a sorry situation. We need Reason rallies in every state, every city and town in the country. We need REAL wellness in every school, workplace, home and yes, especially in every church. Of course, the latter would not exist if reason took hold.

In her weekly column in the Tampa Bay Times, Robyn Blumner summed up the case nicely for this and further reason rallies and promotions

I worry that we get the elected officials we deserve. By electing politicians who claim they can cut taxes and slash the deficit, as well as bring gas prices down to $2.50 per gallon, we get leaders without principles. Honesty is a dangerous trait in American politics. Jon Huntsman doomed his chances with the Republican primary voter by accepting the vast scientific evidence for evolution and climate change, and admitting it out loud. Our level of scientific illiteracy is  alarming, too.

All of this is freakishly concerning, and then Santorum comes along with his self-styled brand of American Talibanism that is actually gaining ground. And I think to myself, 'Now that's something to worry about.' (Robyn E. Blumner, "In fear of American Talibanism," The Tampa Bay Times, March 15, 2012.)

I have similar fears, which is why I believe the promotion of reason with REAL wellness is not only important for health and well-being but also for quality of life. The latter requires that we do all we can to discourage and reject the Republican-led drift toward creeping Talibanism that imperils our secular democracy.



Donald B. Ardell is the Well Infidel. He wrote High Level Wellness in 1976 (Rodale Press) and many other books since, including Die Healthy, 14 Days to Wellness and most recently, Aging Beyond Belief and REAL Wellness. Since 1984, Don has produced 680 editions of the Ardell Wellness Report. Don's website at SeekWellness.com/wellness is the largest repository of wellness essays. 

Don is one of ten Americans given the Healthy America Fitness Leaders Award in 1991 by the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. In 2010, he was granted the Lifetime Achievement Prize by the German Wellness Association in Dusseldorf; in July 2011, he was honored with the Halbert L. Dunn Award by the National Wellness Institute.  

Don has won many national and four world championships in triathlon and duathlon, his most recent world titles coming in 2009 in the Gold Coast of Australia and 2010 in Budapest, Hungary.

A free subscription to Don's wellness report is available on request - write Don at awr.realwellness@gmail.com