Often people say, "What's the harm if people believe in whatever religion they want to, no matter how weird it might seem to others?"
Well, here's a good example of some harm: the June 21, 2010 cover of Newsweek. The caption under the photo of Palin with a halo and hands prayerfully folded reads:
What Palin's appeal to conservative Christian women says about feminism and the future of the religious right.
I've been told by a friend who was born in Germany, visits Europe regularly, and keeps up on European goings-on directly via reading online news sources that politicians in Europe keep religion almost completely separate from their professional lives.
She says that if someone bragged about how religious they are during a political campaign, he or she probably would lose. Whereas in the United States, it's almost imperative for anyone who aspires to a high national office to profess their faith.
I'm not disturbed about Palin's Christian religiosity. But when she makes it a central feature of her political views, and even states that she's on a "mission from God," that's dangerous.
(Which reminds me: the Vatican recently announced that "The Blues Brothers" movie, where Jake and Elwood are on a mission from God to save the orphanage they were raised in, is a Catholic classic. Good move, Vatican. We finally agree on something.)
I've argued before that religious values have no place in politics.
Reading the Newsweek cover story only strengthened my conviction that when people choose a political leader on the basis of his or her religious beliefs, we're much less likely to end up with someone competent.
Here's some quotes from the story. Part of what's so scary about them is how many American voters would find them totally acceptable as a reflection of the political process.
To millions of women, Palin's authenticity makes her a sister in arms...
To a smaller number she is a prophet, ordained by God for a special role in the cosmic battle against the forces of evil. A 2009 profile in the Christian magazine Charisma compared Palin to the Old Testament Queen Esther, who saved her people, in this case the Jews, from annihilation.
...Like many evangelicals, Garza believes a great cosmic battle is underway for the soul of America and that Palin has been singled out by God for leadership: "The annointing on her is so strong," she says. Assaults on Palin by the press only strengthen Garza's conviction, for as any Christian knows, martyrs most deserve to gain God's kingdom.
"She's just fearless," Garza says. "Jesus said, 'They persecuted me; they'll persecute you." To her Christian audiences, Palin talks about her own life in terms of mission and destiny.
She was the keynote speaker at a Women of Joy conference in April... Upon mounting the stage, Palin immediately thanked her "prayer warriors" for the "prayer shield" they built around her.
Wow. Sometimes I wish I Iived in Europe.
(If Palin ever became president of the United States, I might be seriously drawn to do that -- at least one poll early this year had her leading the Republican presidential pack for 2012.)
When lots of voters think that criticism of a candidate makes him or her more appealing, because more Christian martyr'ish, this is flat out weird. When lots of voters believe that a political leader has been annointed by God to hold high office, that's doubly weird.
Elections should be based on how well a candidate is believed to be able to solve problems and guide the ship of state, not on their "saintliness."
I doubt very much that Palin ever will become President, but if she does, this will show beyond a shadow of doubt that religion should be kept far distant from politics.
Fantastic Post Brian!
I think it's impossible for anyone to have a religious "non position". Even atheism is a "position" in the sense that it's about their ultimate beliefs.
However, those in public office have a duty to care for ALL their constituents, not just push the barrow of their own faith, imo.
You said: "when people choose a political leader on the basis of his or her religious beliefs, we're much less likely to end up with someone competent".
Totally agree. Competency should be the test, not (non)religion.
I'll be tweeting this :)
Jonathan from sprizophrenia
Posted by: Jonathan Elliot | June 25, 2010 at 10:22 PM
"Sometimes I wish I Iived in Europe."
I'm sure you'd be welcome there, and you'd be welcome down here in New Zealand, where it's similar in that respect ;)
Posted by: Jonathan Elliot | June 25, 2010 at 10:26 PM
typical inconsequential garbage regurgitated by this inconsequential web site
Posted by: haibo | June 26, 2010 at 03:51 AM
Bush & Blair - fundamentalists Christians, launch a 'crusade' against
terror & 'evil' which ends in an unjustified & illegal war in Iraq.
Posted by: here4now | June 26, 2010 at 05:24 AM
Hey haibo - existence itself is inconsequential. Grow a brain, why don't ya?
Posted by: Willie R. | June 26, 2010 at 07:59 AM
If Tina Fey can be lured for a moment from 30 Rock, perhaps she can help bring Sarah's image crashing down to Earth again. The degree to which people (their personas, anyway) buy into whatever story just happens along is astonishing.
Posted by: Suzanne Foxton | June 26, 2010 at 10:29 AM
The religious sects which promote conformity and obedience over independent thinking and then tack on "make lots of babies and teach them to conform and obey" are scary and gaining political strength all the time in this country. A certain percentage of intelligent offspring (when offered broad educational opportunities) overcome their upbringing and make independent political choices. But I think we'll see more political editing of the truth (like the Texas Board of Education). And since non-thinkers tend to make more babies than thinkers, block voting at the bidding of religious leaders may loom as a real part of our future. Less-intelligent elected officials are a real asset to any religious leader who pulls strings in the background. My partner and I keep an expatriation plan on the back burner at all times.
Posted by: Trish Wareing | June 26, 2010 at 11:06 AM
Education, education, education. A real Socratic education, that promotes the questioning of belief systems and structures. Ya'll can get that even in li'l ol' America!
Posted by: Suzanne Foxton | June 27, 2010 at 02:23 AM
I wrote then President Bush, the younger, complaining about his tendency to infuse the presidency with religious ideology. In fact, I told him that I am an atheist and he was supposed to represent me as well as Christian citizens. I got what was supposed to look like a personal letter from him in response. I am sure he never actually saw my letter. The letter I got from him encouraged me to stay true to the teachings of Jesus and that he and Laura would keep me in their prayers. I have always kept a "live and let live" attitude toward religion. I didn't believe, others did - no big deal. Now I find religion in our "leaders" a very scary thing, so much so that I have developed strong anti-religion opinions and feelings. I am 73 and feel sorry for my family and friends who are young still and will have to contend with this nonsense long after I am gone. Separation of church and state is a good thing. When are we going to actually have that separation?
Posted by: Barbara Newlin | June 29, 2010 at 06:40 PM
Barbara, amen! I live in the UK where not only is the separation of church and state not enshrined in the constitution, the church and state are linked inexorably through the royal arm of government. It's funny though...in practice, UK society is profoundly more secular and tolerant. The separation of church and state was absolutely necessary for America to come into being; so many of the first colonists had left because of persecution, and longed to practice their beliefs freely. Not so nice, however, to be a Muslim in current American society. It's all gone, as they say here in the UK, tits up.
Posted by: Suzanne | June 29, 2010 at 11:00 PM
Thanks for your message.
As an Atheist, are you saying,
You don't have belief in a 'non-knowable' God?
The opposite would be a believer, that is, someone that has belief in a 'non-knowable' God.
If this, as stated is correct, then the two supposed opposites are actually very similar.
Thanks again for your comment. Roger
Posted by: Roger | June 30, 2010 at 09:06 AM
All this arguing over whether or not a candidate should bring thier christianity or lack there of into their campaign is ridiculous. Religion on it's very basic foundation is of itself political. There is never a mention in our constitution that there will be a separation of church and state.
Religion makes only one direct and obvious appearance in the original Constitution that seems to point to a desire for some degree of religious freedom. That appearance is in Article 6, at the end of the third clause:
[N]o religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
All that means is that no one will have to declare their religious beliefs. It doesn't mean you can't declare your beliefs. Besides this country was founded on Christian beliefs and the right for us as Americans to celebrate those beliefs openly and without fear of repercussions. I would be far more fearful if there was a candidate who celebrated his/her atheist beliefs. I'd wonder then where they were able to draw their moral values from...assuming they had moral values.
Posted by: Jack | July 01, 2010 at 06:49 AM
How would you define Atheism? This topic, to me, is far more interesting than the politics of Sara Palin. I'm not finding fault with you.
Please explain what the Atheist does to create a 'far more fearful' experience with you. Likewise, please prepare a list of atheist beliefs, as you know them.
Thanks for a reply, Roger
Posted by: Roger | July 01, 2010 at 07:28 AM
You stated that the USA was founded on Christian beliefs. I also believed this until Blogger Brian clarified the issue a couple of years ago... Most of the Founding Fathers were NOT Christians but, rather, Deists and many had disdain for Biblical theology:
I would also raise this issue: Why is it necessary for there to be some authority for moral values in the form of a religious text or person? Who needs the Ten Commandments?
We have laws which prohibit murder, stealing, etc. Is that not enough? It is human nature, in my opinion, to cooperate because it generally works better and feels better for the majority of mentally healthy humans. By genetic encoding, if you like, we are mostly social creatures not sociopathic misfits. A paleolithic nomadic hunter, shunned and expelled by his/her tribe for bad behavior had less chance of survival and a fullfilling life. Same today by modern standards.
There will always be criminals, sociopaths, psychopaths and jerks. I do not think the Bible prevents mental abberations. In many cases, it causes them, imo. Corrupt evangelists like Jim Baker, Jimmy Swaggert, Jim Jones and the Waco crowd come to mind as examples of this.
Posted by: tucson | July 01, 2010 at 09:53 AM
Roger, you were first to respond to my post so I will do my best to answer you questions before I respond to Tucson.
By the way I think you both ask relevant questions so I will do my best to answer them with relevant and thought provoking answers.
First of all I would define Atheism as the general belief that there is no such thing as God or gods. It is basically the opposite of Theism. It is not a philosophy it is a single belief.
The comment about a candidate who celebrates their atheist belifs being more fearful for me was relating back to previous post who said, "The religious sects which promote conformity and obedience over independent thinking and then tack on "make lots of babies and teach them to conform and obey" are scary and gaining political strength all the time in this country."
All I meant was that for a society to be lawfull, unified and strong I think conformity and obedience isn't scary, but necessary. And I don't ever recall anyone telling me or anyone else to go make lots of babies...
By the way I don't think it takes religion to create conformity or obedience...but at least with religion I know something of what the person stands for morally.
Roger you also asked me to prepare a list of atheist beliefs. Since Atheism is not a religion or club or organization I assume that each person who is atheist has his or her own beliefs...that is a very broad question. The one thing I know to be true about all atheists is that they do not believe in God or gods.
Now for Tuscon...thanks for trying to rewrite history..or I suppose I should thank Blogger Brian...but I choose to believe 200+ years of history and several historians who have documentation to prove our founding fathers based this country's development on religious beliefs and the right to freedom of religious practices.
You also said, "We have laws which prohibit murder, stealing, etc. Is that not enough?" Need I remind you the 10-Commandments have been around a lot longer than any law written in this country? If people would obey the 10-Commandments we wouldn't need any other laws. But as you said there will always be criminal, sociopaths, psychopaths & jerks...so why make laws? Just inforce the commandments and hold court. If what you say is true the commandments should be the law of the land.
As for the Jimmy Swaggerts of the world...well as you said...sociopaths, psychopath, jerks...you can't blame their actions on the Bible...just blame it on the law of averages. They are just the few that used the pulpit as a mask of what they really are or were. Lacking in moral character.
Posted by: Jack | July 01, 2010 at 11:33 PM
Thanks for your reply. You stated,
"First of all I would define Atheism as the general belief that there is no such thing as God or gods. It is basically the opposite of Theism. It is not a philosophy it is a single belief."
--Focusing on atheism, what would be the source of this 'single' belief of no such thing as God or gods? In addition, are there examples, based on your knowledge, of a 'single' atheistic belief, growing into an established (BS) belief system? That is, an established institutional Atheistic belief system?
--Finally, is 'God' a conceptualization within Religion, as well as Atheism? Do both accept that God is first a conception of the Mind? If this is true, then the two supposed oppposites have something in common. Maybe, maybe not.
Again, I am not finding fault with you. I'm not for or against, just find the topic interesting. Thanks for a continued reply. Roger
Posted by: Roger | July 02, 2010 at 07:46 AM
Jack: "I would define Atheism as the general belief that there is no such thing as God or gods. It is basically the opposite of Theism. It is not a philosophy it is a single belief."
tAo: i must totally disagree. imo, your view on this is quite wrong. atheism is NOT a belief. atheism is an ABSENCE of belief (belief in god). it is NOT a "belief" that there is no god (or gods).
however, some people may and do believe that there is no god or gods, but that is not at all the same as not having any belief (in god), which is what atheism is.
thus, atheism is not a belief at all, it is an absence or lack of belief.
your idea and view about atheism is a common error among believers.
Posted by: tAo | July 02, 2010 at 02:14 PM
Jack said, "I choose to believe 200+ years of history and several historians who have documentation to prove our founding fathers based this country's development on religious beliefs and the right to freedom of religious practices."
--This country was not founded on any "religious" belief even though choice of religion is one of this country's freedoms.
Making the Ten Commandments the law of the land would be asinine, imo. For example take "honor thy father and thy mother". What if I choose not to honor them? Maybe they were abusive, cruel and neglectful? Or maybe I am just not the honoring type. Should I receive a prison sentence, or misdemeanor citation for this, assuming I have not abused them in return?
Posted by: tucson | July 04, 2010 at 02:27 PM
this guy jack is totally wrong. he has his head stuck up inside his religious ass.
the founding fathers where Deists, NOT christians. this country was NOT fouinded upon religion, but rather upon FREEDOM of, and from, religion.
people like jack don't know that they are talking about. they have a biased agenda, a RELIGIOUS agenda. so don't waste your time on this ignorant jerk.
Posted by: tAo | July 04, 2010 at 03:15 PM
Not referring to Atheism, however, what would be the name or category of person or group that does have a single 'belief' in the non-existence of God? Does such exist?
This may explain the confusion in definition. If there is such a group, then what would be the source or foundation of such a belief? A person? A text? A unique teaching?
As usual, none of this is a big deal. Just some interesting conversation.
By the way, how is the yacht and motorbike doing?
Posted by: Roger | July 05, 2010 at 09:20 AM
I must have struck a nerve with you. I made no disparaging remarks about you and I will continue to refrain. But I will say in all my years of living in this World of change there has always been one constant and that is: Those who cast the first disparaging remark are too weak minded to retort with an intelligent response.
Perhaps I am wrong this time, but history and experience tells me I am right.
This will be my last post and my last time reading this page...Roger I appreciate the spirited conversation. I will say and you can probably surmise my dealings and information on Atheism are limited. I have read some background about Atheism because I was curious when a friend of mine confided in me that even though she was raised a Catholic she is Atheist. I didn't want to pass judgement on her so I looked up some info on the subject matter on the internet and that is where I got what limited information I have. It was by the way and Atheist webesite. So I do not profess to know much about the subject.
However I do profess to believe that despite what tAo says...Atheism is a belief...whether it is a absence of belief in God...by most standards that is a disbelief which gets us back to belief. I understand what tAo is trying to say...but its all semantics.
All I know for sure is there is a God...I choose to believe because I've seen him work in my life and there is no agenda here...Everyone is free to choose what they believe and I hold nothing against those who don't.
Good luck to all and I hope you all meet your goals in life. Take Care.
Posted by: Jack | July 07, 2010 at 03:22 PM
Jack, before yoiu go, please read this:
Jack, you're wrong again. you just can't seem to get it right. you think you know stuff that you don't know. well thats lame imo.
also, you didn't "strike a nerve". you simply said things that are basically incorrect, and i pointed that out. if you are going to things that are not factual, then you just may get that thrown back at you.
and it was not you, but what you had said that i was disparaging. and i gave you an "intelligent response". and so did tucson, i think.
i don't have to pussy-foot around with you. you said some things that were blatantly incorrect, and i said that you more or less have your head up your ass about that. and you do, or yoiu did. you need go go study the history of the founding fathers, because they were deists, not christians.
and btw, again, athesism is NOT a "belief". period. it is an absence of belief (in God). "a" means "no", and "theism" means "belief in god". so "a-theism" simply means "no belief in god". and thats a fact, no matter what kind of nonsense you come up with.
Brian has already explained this fact(about atheism) numerous times. and its not just sematics. so you are apparently quite mis-informed and in denial. therefore, you are the one who is weak-minded here, not me.
even you yourself have said: "I looked up some info on the subject matter on the internet and that is where I got what limited information I have. It was by the way and Atheist webesite. So I do not profess to know much about the subject."
just because some website says that atheism is a belief, does not make it a belief. many people are mis-informed. just read what Brian *the author of this blog) has said, or ask him to explain atheism to you. it isn't what you think
also, this isn't a religious blog Jack, but your belief in God is not a problem. i have nothing against you believing in God. i accept your right to your beliefs=. that was not my arguement. so no hard feelings there. i hope that was not your last post here, or your last time reading this blog.
Posted by: tAo | July 07, 2010 at 08:32 PM