Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Religion and Politics (Shouldn't Mix)

Far too often, religious people seek to impose their beliefs on the populace at large. If that's what society wants, so be it, but I don't like it. I don't want my goverment governed by a majority religion (even if it's my own). However, I can think of precious few instances in world history when an entire society saw eye-to-eye on religious matters. Whether's it's Hindus in India being scandalized by Richard Gere's cheek kiss of a woman, Baptists freaking out about DisneyWorld having a gay day, or Muslims saying you can't wear your hair in a spike style, religious hegemony by way of force or demand or mob rule, is contradictory to the tenets of their own religious teachings; yes, even the Koran says it's better to persuade people to do good than to obligate them. Jesus never said, "Obey my commandments or burn in hell," (though John kinda did). He did say, on the beach, to Peter, while enjoying some fish and honeycomb, "if you love me, keep my commandments."

If you love Him, keep His commandments. That's a good rule. One that most people can parrot back to you, but very few can live. A true person of faith, doesn't seek to impose their own faith on someone else via the long arm of the law. I can --not-- like the fact that pornography and vice pervade our culture. It makes me wish that people would choose better things for themselves and for their families. But if I try and compel them, isn't that limiting their agency on spiritual choices by secular means?

There are only two paths to achieving 100% obedience to the commandments. 1) you can obligate people to obey, taking away their rights and free will, and 2) you can show them by example, by love unfeigned, how much better life can be. The first plan belongs to Beelzebub; the second to God. He is the Father of everyone, Hindus, Muslims, Atheists, Christians, Jews, Agnostics. We are all brothers and sisters. Loving God, and choosing to do his will, is the only thing we can do to show our obedience. It has to come from within. Making someone get a certain haircut, trying to burn Harry Potter books, hell, especially telling someone that they're going to hell for believing a certain way, places one squarely in the gall of bitterness and pride.

Who told you what God wanted someone else to do? The Holy Ghost could certainly tell you something that YOU should do; Jesus specifically warns us to avoid the mote in our brothers eye whilst ignoring the beam in our own. I hold very strict and specific beliefs about what constitute right living. I hate that most people ignore the commandments. I wish they would obey them. But, I know they won't, and me complaining about it and trying to take away their free will by criminalizing certain actions, is wrong.

We could all learn a thing or two from Jesus; most people need to read up a little. Christians would do well to read the teachings of Jesus Christ for what they say, and not what others have told them they say. Jesus' message was one of love and patience and understanding. I hope to understand his message better before I meet him.

1 comment:

Matt the Treehugger said...

I think I agree with you, Mac. (You sound like a true libertarian at heart.) I agree that in most cases the religious majority should not impose their collective morality on society at large. The primary exceptions that come to mind are actions that harm others such as murder, stealing, rape, etc. The morality of the few (or even the majority), however, should not be imposed on all by our government. It is also of note that I define “religion” broadly. You don’t have to go to church or synagogue to be “religious.” I have met many a tree-hugger and a few animal rights activists who ascribe to their own form of “religion.” One could even argue that atheism is a “religion.” (In the words of Neal Peart, “[i]f you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”) I note, however, that some require a belief in some “supernatural power” to qualify as religion. In my mind, religion is merely a set of beliefs that guide a person’s actions.

I can think of several instances where our government has not followed the general principal that a people’s religion or general morality should not dictate law.

Moral #1—The welfare of others: Essentially every religion says we should care for those who are downtrodden; therefore, we should take money from the rich and give it to the poor. This same principal applies to government-imposed health care plans, such as Medicare and those proposed by most presidential candidates. It also applies to America’s “progressive” tax scheme, where the more affluent pay a higher percentage of their income to the government.

Moral #2—Social Security (its name says it all): Jesus taught that we should not burry our talents, so the government is going to take away about 14% of our income and squander (er, excuse me) invest it in our future.

Moral #3—Education is good: Almost everyone agrees that people should receive an education; therefore, the government requires that we all give it large sums of money every year to finance education. The government will then take that money and educate us “properly.” (Isn’t Henry Ford the man that created our current educational system? No, wait. He invented the assembly line.)

Moral #4—The environment is pretty: Leave man to his own devices, and he will destroy the world; therefore, let’s punish those who breath too deeply, drive too much, or allow their cattle to release too much flatulence (i.e. global warming issues). While we’re at it, let’s limit the types of coal we can burn so the Statue of Liberty stops turning green. Better yet, let’s keep that oil in the ground, like Mother Nature intended.

I understand that this list is by no means exclusive, but it’s a start. One could also argue that disallowing men to marry men and women to marry women is a moral issue that a religious majority (yes, it is a majority) seeks to impose. But this argument goes both ways. It’s simply A’s morals vs. B’s morals. Further, the marriage issue is not a situation where certain parties are being denied rights. “Marriage” has always been defined as a legal union between one man and one woman. If you alter that definition, you simply alter the definition of marriage. Two homosexual men can never have the same “marriage” a man and a woman have because the newly-defined marriage becomes something different. It becomes a different and broader kind of union. Moreover, granting a person the right to “marriage” does not grant anyone any new right (other than a tax credit, which is a moral/religious-type law anyway and makes the argument a logical fallacy of some type (I was a science major and never mastered my fallacies)). It’s also a position on which my church has asked me to make a stand, so here I stand. (Isn’t it ironic that homosexual marriage advocates are utilizing the same arguments used by the LDS Church 150 years ago to support polygamy? If homosexual marriage is allowed, it’s difficult to argue against allowing polygamy.)

For all of these reasons, I, like you, support a conservative government that stays out of my business and does not force its notions of morality upon me.

Anyway, Mac, I need to stop reading your blog because it inspires me to waste far too much time. Go Phils! 14-2 and counting.