Is there a place for religion, and religious organizations, in the secular politics of the United States?
While my inclination is to say no because of my difficulties with accepting, on faith alone, things that are contrary to logic, on reconsideration I realize they cannot be excluded. Yet, we need take caution to ensure a proper check and balance.
Most Americans, although in decreasing numbers, hold some religious belief and adhere to a particular flavor of religion. While the majority are Christian, there is a representative number of all faiths and religious sects.
To say they have no place in politics is to be naive. To allow them to control politics is to court disaster.
Voters are influenced by many aspects of their lives. Religion, or the lack thereof, is just one facet. My concern arises when a religious organization implies or insists they are the arbiters of vetting a candidate’s qualifications and thus, by implication, determine who their members should cast their votes for.
I am troubled by the implicit need all politicians feel to pander to the religious regardless of their own beliefs. A candidate who dares leave out the words “God bless America” from a speech risks losing votes. Yet a candidate who invoked another deity, perhaps a Native American one, would face scorn and derision.
Invoking Allah might bring even worse.
One, like myself, who has no belief in any of the religious doctrines developed by man faces a modern day version of excommunication from society for embracing atheism. It is as if the very act of questioning religion somehow demeans it in the eyes of the faithful.
If we seek honesty and integrity in our candidates, why would we demand they pretend to believe? Why should we care what they embrace for religion? No religion has ever succeeded in encompassing all human beings.
Every sect has its adherents, no doctrine has yet answered all the questions. They all seek answers on different, yet similar, paths.
This expectation in this country of granting legitimacy to some religions while dismissing others is troubling. Religion is something best left to private consideration lest we fall into the abyss of a state sanctioned religion.
Of course, there is some commonality among the religious in their political efforts.
To use one example, the issue of abortion. The secular law is well-settled, established, and supported by both legislation and judicial decisions. Yet most, if not all, religious groups argue against it on “moral” grounds.
I’ve yet to hear one rational, secular argument against abortion. All of the arguments lay in various interpretations of ‘Holy” scripture, Divine inspiration, or some other compelling demand from an entity or philosophy based exclusively on faith.
The danger lies in which faith has the most sway. Such influence, with the potential to control the election through the threat of eternal damnation or some other dark punishment of an angry god in the hereafter, goes against the spirit of political freedom we enjoy.
What happens when the “majority” religion changes?
I see no way to bar religious groups from lobbying their members within their houses of worship. Yet I am comforted by the long-established concept of the separation doctrine which works in both directions.
Given the chance, I have no doubt the Christian majority would love to do away with this separation concept. There are many in that faith that argue since the founding fathers were predominantly Christian they never intended such a separation. Some actively seek such a fundamental change and cross the line into political lobbying.
That is of grave concern to me.
Within the laws protecting the tax-exempt status of religious organizations are provisions prohibiting lobbying on political matters. Perhaps it’s time to take a stricter approach to these provisions.
The persecution of someone based on their religion has a long and troubling history here in the US and throughout the world. Persecuting someone who holds no religious beliefs was also part of that. As the heretic part of this blog, I do not relish the idea of burning to death.
Keeping religion as a private yet influential aspect of one’s personal life seems to offer the best compromise within this country. Such an approach might well serve as a model elsewhere in countries where religion dominates the government.
I suppose the fact that we face the choice of two different ‘demons’ in this election makes it even more frightening.
Well-intentioned religious beliefs are an element of opinions and decisions. But to accept a particular religious sect, be it Christian or otherwise, as having a legitimate standing to directly influence the election process is a recipe for disaster.