I know I’ve written several articles, including my last, which are critical of politician’s religious views. I’ve also written, at great length, on atheist-oriented topics. When taken together, it might appear that I’m anti-religion. This isn’t necessarily the case.
I actually enjoy religion and theology – lord knows, I’ve read enough over the years to be a near-scholar on the topic. Additionally, I’ve gone out of my way to praise people of faith for their commitment in their belief despite what I would consider overwhelming facts that otherwise refute the foundations of that belief. When I speak in “negative” terms of religion it is only to highlight the rationale behind my lack of faith and belief.
I also focus more, when discussing religion, on Christianity – as it is the religion I was raised in and the one I know the most about. I’ve read the Qur’an and dabbled in Eastern religions – primarily to understand other faiths – not out of consideration of joining up.
Christianity has been the root evil of many terrible acts over the centuries (it’s a long list and you’ve got to be familiar with most by now), but it’s also responsible for many positive things and more importantly, the basis of decent behavior (for the most part) of it’s adherents.
Belief in a caring overseer that is there to comfort you in the most terrible times, with the understanding that you are protected come what may is incredibly powerful (and hard to walk away from for many I might add). Faith in god helps addicts with their dependency issues (full spectrum). Faith in god and spending an eternity in heaven by his side might even keep some people from going on mass killing sprees – for that I’m thankful!
The vast majority, I think, of Christians are wonderful people – motivated to do good for their fellow human beings and community; out of altruism, not for a promise of an everlasting eternity in heaven. Many of these same people are not caught up in the divisiveness of religio-politics that requires voicing opinions on matters of marriage equality of homosexuality, abortion, contraception, or Satan’s role in increasing the deficit. They simply live their lives, raise their children, attend church, pay their mortgage, and avoid the cultural war conflict as best as possible.
This is not to say they do not hold opinions, some possibly strong opinions, on these matters. But opinion polls on these issues suggest that many Christians hold to a live and let live view – god will sort it all out in the end. Were this not the case, the majority of Americans would not be in favor of marriage equality; an overwhelming majority would be in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade and making abortion illegal; and it is not debatable that Catholics and Protestants alike are in favor of contraception!
Unfortunately, when these issues get elevated in the “public arena” those who speak loudest are the voices heard in the media – and these voices are largely dominated by the evangelical right, whose views are so strong on these matters they are almost instantly news worthy as they are sensational and provocative.
When these issues are raised, I feel compelled to push back. When we talk of policy, foreign or domestic, through the prism of a religious ideology, it invariably involves the projection of religious belief and dogma on the issue. The fact that a candidate for the presidency can say he doesn’t “believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute” absolutely terrifies me! I realize that a good number of people share the candidate’s view, interpreting the intent of the First Amendment Establishment Clause as something other than Jefferson’s “wall of separation” that Justice Hugo Black said in 1947 must “be kept high and impregnable.”
Evangelicals, like Santorum (yes, I know he’s Catholic), treat this distinction, and in my opinion – the Constitution – with disdain. As Santorum said, the idea of keeping church and state separate makes him want to vomit.
While I do not understand Santorum’s appeal, it cannot be discounted that he represents the views of millions evidenced by the number of votes garnered in the early primaries. I’ve heard some say that supporting candidates that share their religious views and outlook is important to them and criticism of such support is unwarranted.
My response is that they couldn’t be more wrong. Simply because a candidate for office is “authentic” or holds deep religious convictions should not be a prerequisite for holding public office. One person commented on my last article: “I disagree that he [Santorum] is going to try a Theocratic move in our Govt. He would never have that power.” Yet this same person is constantly pointing out how President Obama is abusing his powers in office and deliberately attempting to destroy this country. How can one president have such power and span of control, yet another not have that power?
And there are many things a President Santorum can do to imprint his theological views. He can slash funding for science, since most scientists are nonreligious and therefore a threat to religion. Since he sees ecological conservation as a “phony theology” he can remove mandates, started in the Bush Administration, for government facility conservation practices. He can empower the role of evangelicals within the administration. He can work to re-institute the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy and direct that the military services cut back the military occupational specialties now available to women. True, a President Santorum cannot completely overturn the Constitution, but he can do his best to erode the margins.
This, more than anything else, is my “problem” with religion. Kennedy was right 52 years ago, religion has no role in the “public square.” When we bring it in, we bring it all in. When we bring it all in, we open the door for the strong potential of the tyranny of the majority. As Kennedy pointed out “today, I may be the victim, but tomorrow it may be you — until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped apart at a time of great national peril.”
Newt Gingrich said earlier this year, while still a semi-viable candidate for the presidency, “I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time they’re [his grandchildren] my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American.” What Gingrich, and the evangelical crowd (yes, I know Gingrich is now a Catholic) fail to understand is that more than anything else, secularism provides the freedom to practice faith uninhibited by government.
Why would we even consider risking this harm? To what good purpose does this lead? The “wall of separation” between church and state serves two extremely important dual purposes – not allowing the government dominion in religion and not allowing religion dominion over the government. I truly question the sanity and objectivity of anyone that doesn’t understand this. The only reason it could possibly make sense is the desire to indelibly infuse religion into politics in order to create a theocracy the Iranian mullahs would be envious of. I can’t, and won’t, idly sit by and watch my country be destroyed by god or his adherents.