After watching a clip from The Rachel Maddow show discussing faith and politics, and having watched Real Time with Bill Maher last night, it inspired me to think about the topic myself. This has been an issue that I have thought about on many occasions, that I’ve discussed with friends and family before, and my stance is still the same. Religion has absolutely no place in politics, none whatsoever. Mind you, I am using the term “Religion” here and not faith as I see there being a distinct difference. One can have faith without having religion, and one can have faith in things larger than oneself which are not religious in nature (such as faith in humanity) that give one hope. My focus is on the use and abuse of the construct of religion in politics.
One of the most recent examples of a politician using God as his own personal scapegoat to escape responsibility is Texas Governor Rick Perry with his ridiculous prayer mega-meeting. Instead of coming up with real solutions to real problems both for his own state and for the nation is that he figures that if enough people pray to fix the financial crisis then it will just magically happen. I have never seen such a blatant example of complete and total governing ineptitude. Really? Really?! You’re just going to “pray away” the debt crisis? Such idiocy never ceases to both amaze and deeply frustrate me. Such an obvious lack of interest in solving very serious problems should be very telling to the voters in his state that the man they have entrusted to govern them is a completely incompetent buffoon and should be a very loud warning siren to the rest of the nation as a whole. Under his governance, a number of children in Texas are now going to have to pay to ride the public school bus (I can’t remember if it’s state-wide or not). Regardless, the simple fact that his incompetence has now placed yet another financial burden on already struggling families is shameful. But not to worry Texas, Rick Perry’s plan of prayer will surely take care of everything…
Additionally, religion should not be used to impose the morals and beliefs of certain sects and groups on the nation as a whole, or create laws which do the same. The spiritual belief systems that people hold have no place in the world of law and political policy because religion does not concern itself with physical reality. One could argue that religious texts give direction and order from which people can draw to direct their daily lives, and so it does have bearing in the way people conduct themselves. However, the point of this conduct is to help the person develop spiritually, not to simply get them re-elected or force everyone to behave the same. Religious texts are there to help believers advance along their spiritual journey. They do not exist to justify one’s immorality, prejudices, greed, or any other negative or hateful self-serving thoughts and behaviors. But of course, people do that constantly. The use of religion to both excuse and justify abhorrent behavior has always been one of my biggest pet peeves, which seems almost a trivial way to label something which angers and upsets me so much. I think that when people take something like faith and religious practice that is fully capable of doing so much good and giving so much hope, then pervert and bastardize it to fuel their own hate-filled agendas, it’s an absolute travesty and betrayal to the very core of what they claim their own belief system to be. Anybody who USES religion to benefit them in a way which is purely self-serving and to the detriment of others, in my opinion, is not a person who truly holds those beliefs in a sincere and honest way. But I digress.
The problem that arises from mixing religion and politics is that it takes the beliefs of some and assumes that because they work for some then they should be the beliefs of all. If something works so wonderfully for some, why wouldn’t everyone else want to be so enlightened, righteous and happy? But there’s the problem. An individual’s path to God, the Divine, to spiritual enlightenment is deeply personal. Not everyone gets the same results doing the same thing. Not everyone feels the light and love of God through Christianity or Islam or any other one specific spiritual philosophy or religion. I find it incredibly presumptuous and narrow-minded to assume that what works for you will work for me. That’s just not reality. I can understand the desire to share that thing which you have discovered that makes you happy and gives you a sense of joy, and there is no problem with sharing your beliefs and discoveries with others. The problems arise when sharing ends and an individual then moves towards the forceful assertion of those beliefs on others.
Your perception and idea of morality is not necessarily the same as mine. There are very few things which humanity in general can agree upon that are uniformly either right or wrong, and even on those issues (such as murder) there can still be shades of gray. To use the example of murder, unless you are mentally unwell, everyone can agree it’s the wrong thing to do. The Bible simply says, “Thou shalt not kill.” But what of war? Self-defense? Hunting? If humanity is simply directed to “not kill” that leaves a lot open to discussion and debate. Abortion is a major example of where the arguing over semantics both generally and religiously has mixed in rather terrifying ways. Just recently a bill was made law in North Carolina where a woman who seeks a FEDERALLY PROTECTED AND LEGAL medical procedure will now be made to endure an ultrasound before she can go through with her decision to terminate her pregnancy. Why? The woman is already aware of her condition and has already made her decision. This law serves no other purpose than to scare and guilt women into making the “moral” decision as seen by one group of people, and certainly makes what can already be a traumatic and difficult experience even moreso. This certain kind of morality is one that is based on some peoples’ interpretation of their own religious texts. How then is it right or just to impose that on others? How do attempts at shaming and traumatizing others make you a more upright individual in the eyes of God? Religion and faith are things which should be constantly evolving and working towards creating the best people and world possible, but NOT in the political realm. When you are a completely transformed spiritual individual I believe that you lose the desire to exert your will onto others. Maybe if our politicians and government officials began to focus more on what they need to change for the better about themselves, maybe if they got a little more in touch with their own Gods, maybe then they would have the knowledge and compassion to better lead this country WITHOUT feeling the need to be so concerned about everyone else’s spiritual and personal lives. You can can be a person of faith and not impose your beliefs on an entire country.
In my opinion, the imposition of a religious-based morality often leads to a lack of morality in that it often creates a moral and legal rigidity that leaves no leeway. The Bible was used to justify slavery and for the oppression of women by cherry-picking passages and quotes that could show these actions as not only justified but good in the eyes of God. It is still being done today to deny rights to the GLBT community. I find it frustrating and mystifying to me that people who claim we should all take the Bible literally only do so when it comes to passages which support their own spiritual, political, and moral beliefs. It’s like finding the right App for your phone. If homosexuality makes you uncomfortable, there’s a quote for that. If you think women should not hold jobs or positions of authority, there’s a quote for that. If you think that our planet is a really big toy made by God, there’s a quote for that too. If there is something you want to justify, you can find a quote for it in the Bible. This kind of manipulation of holy texts turns into a way for people and political figures to play on the emotions of their constituents and the public in general. If you can make your crusade against gay marriage, abortion rights, environmental or even fiscal policy Biblically based, then how could you be wrong? Wouldn’t that make God wrong? And again, that’s the problem – the hijacking of God to make you also appear infallible.
I wish to end this with stating that I believe in God and that I am a spiritual person. I have faith both spiritually speaking and in the belief that humanity is capable of accomplishing and doing great things. I do not hate Christianity, Christians, or any religion nor do I blame it for the great travesties of history. PEOPLE are responsible for their own acts of evil, bigotry and violence. It is the actions of man that are responsible for creating our world’s problems and for committing the greatest of sins. Religion is simply the vehicle they use to carry out their will. Religion does not make anyone do anything they don’t already want to do, it only gives them a means of not accepting the responsibility of their own actions by placing the blame on something which cannot disagree or argue with them. Religion is capable of inspiring both great good and compassion in this world and the few who use it for evil should not tarnish that.
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