According to Glenn Reynolds: "Liberty Dog is a minarchist libertarian with Objectivist tendencies, but I can't even get my dog to crap outside."

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Monday, May 23, 2005

Politics and Religion

This week's post at The Balance of Power is up. As usual, here is my contribution:

Before getting into the details of this post, allow me to establish the angle from which I approach this issue.

I am an unabashed Atheist. I do not believe in a deity in any form or fashion. At the same time, I seem to buck the trend against the views of the majority of my fellow Atheists. Why? Because I am not militantly anti-religious. I am not threatened by the fact that others believe in a god. I don't think being religious makes you stupid. Are there those who are religious simply because their parents and others told them to be, yes. If they have not come to their religious beliefs through a personal evaluation of the available information, I might think them to be sheep, but I certainly bear them no ill will.

I believe religion to be a personal thing. My 5 year old daughter (through the influence of her mother and grandparents) believes in God. Because of this, I allow her to attend church services on a regular basis. I am a single father and many would ask why I would allow this. The answer is simple, I believe that in order to make a proper decision concerning one's beliefs, it is necessary to understand as thoroughly as possible the issues involved. We openly discuss my beliefs and why I believe what I do. I feel confident that once she is older, she will come to the same conclusion that I did. If not, so be it. At least she will have been presented with all the information necessary for her to decide for herself.

I grew up in the Church (Lutheran/Methodist). When I got old enough to think for myself, I started studying the whole concept of religion and came to the religious conclusions that I felt were right. This is no different than my decision to consider myself libertarian. I was always a Republican, because my parents were Republicans. Once I examined the issues, I found that my beliefs fell more in line with those of libertarianism than with the Republican Party.

I would hope that this is how anyone would approach the issues of religion and politics.

OK so now that you understand where I am coming from, let's get to the issues presented by Joseph. My contributions for the first two topics were written without regard to what was written by the Topic Leader for the week. This week however, Joseph has asked some very specific questions, so I will attempt to address them on an individual basis.

How far should politicians involve God in politics? To what extent should politicians invoke God's name in their bids for power?

Politics and religion are both integral parts of who a person is, therefore, it is not surprising that there is a huge overlap of the two. Our founding fathers recognized this fact and sought to address it with the first sixteen words of the 1st Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

This is generally known as the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause. To me, this is a beautifully written concise limitation upon the powers of the government as concerns religion. The Establishment Clause was clearly meant to prevent the establishment of a State sponsored religion such as The Church of England (which to this day holds the British Monarch as its figurehead leader). It does not, however, establish the completely sterile secular government being pushed by my fellow Atheists under the guise of "separattion of Church and State."

The Free Exercise Clause is also clear, people are free to practice their religious beliefs as they see fit. In conjunction with the Establishment Clause, it seems clear that anyone, even politicians are free to exercise their beliefs. For this reason, I have no problem with politicians citing God or even bastardizing what others believe to be his teachings for their own advancement. As the saying goes Caveat Emptor. It is the responsibility of each individual voter to determine if a politician's beliefs are sincere or a load of crap spewed solely for political gain.

Should voters vote based on religion?

A voter holds absolute right to vote based on any reasons that he deems germane to the decision. He can vote based on the color of the candidate's hair, the way the candidate dresses, or any of a billion other reasons. Would such triviality be prudent, of course not. Perhaps voting based on religious beliefs is not either, but it is certainly a decision to made solely by the voter in question.

Does God select an American politician or do American politicians use God's name to win the votes of the faithful?

Well since I don't believe that God exists, I am forced to go with the latter. Whether this use is based on sincere belief or is just political posturing is, as I said, up to each individual voter to determine.

I believe the right of a politician to use religion to further his political aspirations is fairly wide open, so long as he does not cross the constitutional boundaries such as this.

However, another question can be asked. Should a politician place self-imposed limits on his use of religion? A parallel example would be those who choose to serve in the military. Upon enlisting or accepting their commission, they agree to be bound by the UCMJ which places restrictions on rights they would otherwise have under the Constitution. Politicians could easily submit to more stringent guidelines concerning religion, if they so chose.

Now concerning the implication that only Republicans are hypocrites when it comes to religion, I would say that the Dems are no better. Both parties have demonstrated time and again hypocrisy on multitudes of issues, including religion. To suggest otherwise would be intellectually dishonest.

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