As it often happens, especially around xmas time, I get into discussion whether the US is a Christian country. [discussed here in an earlier post] I'm sure you've heard complaints about the attacks on xmas, and what a ..blasphemy it is to say, "happy holidays" instead of "merry Christmas." I thought we are a multi-cultural/religious country whose religious tolerance and separation of church-state are embedded in our constitution.
Early on, it was understood that religious conformity--having an official religion--was a bad thing for a civil society. Why? Well, because it fueled serious conflict. I'd add, if you believe that there's only one absolute truth (often privately revealed) and you identify it with the power of the state, then what prevents you from enforcing it on everybody? Totalitarian regimes are based on such ideologies of the absolute truth; and if you don't "get it," then there's something wrong with you! Do we really want people to be sent to the Ministry of Love and Room 101?
I have to ask, why do the presidential candidates speak so much about their faith? I assume it must be an advantage to do so, right? Of course, it is! In total reversal of European views (which include those who are faithful), an atheist is the least acceptable person to be in public government. Richard Dawkins thinks that it's based on a misunderstanding of what atheists like him stand for.
In the US we ask ridiculous questions of our candidates for public office. For me, the more devout a person is, the more he/she accepts scripture without error, the less likely it is that I'll vote for him/her. I do have a problem with people who:
- Claim the absolute truth
- Want to establish a theocracy
- Believe in the literal reading of any "holy" book
- Claim private knowledge as revealed to them by gods
- Think that their god is the only true moral authority
- Are intolerant of other people's right to worship, hold contrary beliefs including non-belief
- Want to use the power of our government to push one brand of religion
But, here are some more important and appropriate questions we should ask:
- Does your faith prevent you from serving on the Sabbath?
- Does your religion make you a pacifist? [therefore, can't be the Commander-in-Chief]
- Are you for separation of church and state?
- Do you accept science & the scientific method? Should the religious view of cosmology be taught as science in public schools? [Intelligent Design, Creationism, etc]
- Do other faiths and non-believers have a place in your government, in our country?
Ted Haggard, former pastor of New Life Community Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and former head of the National Association of Evangelicals. He's been one of the many fallen Christian leaders in recent history.
Obviously, many good things have been done by religious people. There are several people I admire that are religious. I judge them not by their rhetoric and their unproven claims of their version of the supernatural, but I judge them by their character as it relates to me and their actions in this world. The key, I think, is that their faith does not prevent them from seeing reality. Sadly, too many people of too much faith don't see reality! And, the problem is that they want to impose their views on us. I agree with Hitchens on this one, that they won't leave us alone; they're intend upon ..saving us by coercion if necessary!
When humans invented religion their priority was not to appeal to utility & reason, so fear was an absolute necessity. Lords and kings, and rulers of all stripes and denominations have seen the need for the element of fear: it makes easier for people to obey and be controlled.
Fear of punishment maybe still necessary in a civil society, but don't you think most of us should declare that the devil does not exist? Let's take responsibility for our own actions!
Update 12/18/07: My goodness. Ron Paul must have read this post. He just came out with his own attack against Mike Huckabee using the similar phraseology, and quoting Sinclair Lewis who said "when fascism comes, it'll be wrapped in the flag, carrying a cross"!