Spiritual moonshine as a religious litmus test

While Catholicism, Anglicanism and Lutheranism enjoy universal respectability, even among critics who oppose their tenets, Bible Belt Believers are most often ridiculed as Halleluiah-screaming, banjo-strumming half-wits. Why is that, particularly as the actual belief systems of both groups are quite similar, to the point of being indistinguishable?

Bible Belt spirituality is by many seen as religious moonshine, a potent but raw-tasting mixture of simple superstition (sulphurous hell, pearly heaven) and popular prejudice (racism, distrust of greater society). However, Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans and Greek/Russian Orthodox believers once started out in a similar moonshine fashion, littering their blood-stained historical path with victims of witch-burning, anti-semitism and bigoted xenophobia. It is difficult to see any principal difference between recent redneck lynch-mobs and the actions of the Catholic Inquisition or the Protestant witch-hunters and Orthodox pogromists from a few centuries back.

But there is a profound difference. It is a formal difference, but an all-important one. All of the respected belief systems have enjoyed state support; some of them still do. The state propaganda machine and the strong arm of the police has the power to turn any crazy superstition into Divine Truth - or else! What has happened is that the original religious moonshine has been rolled in caskets of state oppression, until it has taken on a slightly different color. Instead of a primitive intoxicant, liable to damage your liver, it claims to have produced a refined religious whiskey for connoisseurs.

As any doctor can tell you, a refined Single Malt Whiskey has exactly the same damaging effect on your liver as moonshine. Hence state-refined superstition is likely to be as damaging to your spiritual health as Bible Belt Halleluiah-screaming, a point worth considering before dismissing the Bible Belt Beliefs as spiritual moonshine.

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