I’m not sure if you noticed or not, but a number of political contests were held across the United States recently. Whether the candidates were talking about their own religious beliefs or condemning the beliefs of others, religion seemed to be a bit of a hot topic.
In fact, I’m finding that religion is more of a prevalent topic in recent years. I haven’t done any sort of scientific study, but I’m willing to bet that religion has been “in fashion” since the 9/11 attacks. This, of course, is because the 9/11 terrorists were Muslim, which, as we all know, is a very evil religion made up of zealots and crazy people. Obviously if you’re Muslim, you’re a terrorist. Right?
Well, maybe not. It’s interesting that the mentality that equated Muslims with violence completely ignores the fact that there are many examples of Christian violence. How about the crusades? That was a massive example of violence. Or, bring it into the present and look at the anti-abortion movement. Much of that movement is predicated by religion, specifically the Christian religion.
Most religions have violence somewhere in their history. It stands to reason that larger religions (Christian, Jewish, Muslim) will have more examples of violence specifically because there are so many practitioners. Just as we have differing customs, languages, etc., practitioners of religions differ across the country. The larger the number of believers, the higher the chance that some of those believers will have some extreme views.
But does religion belong in the realm of politics? The problem I have here is that if you have a view, be it religious, political, or whatever, that view will influence what you do. So to say that religion doesn’t belong in politics is nothing more than a pipe dream. Of course, if you’re running for public office, you’re supposed to be serving the people, not making decisions based on your own beliefs. Of course, that’s not happening either, though.
What really got me thinking about this was a recent quote from Sarah Palin. She visited a christian school in Pennsylvania recently and had this to say:
You must continue to build upon our Judeo-Christian heritage, and it is nothing to apologize for… That means faith must be welcome in the public square.
I agree with some of what she’s saying here. It seems obvious that if you’re a religious person, you’ll continue to act based on your religious beliefs. And I agree that you shouldn’t have to apologize for that. Just as I don’t have to apologize for not having the same beliefs. And I would argue that faith is more than welcome in the public square, but you cannot expect that expressing your faith is going to gain you anything.
Unfortunately this country has very strong Christian roots. There’s nothing wrong with Christianity, per se, but it does mean that we tend to be intolerant of other religions. Politics is a great example of this. You saw how long it took to get a non-white official elected to the office of President, what about a non-Christian? I haven’t done any deep research on this, but I doubt there have been any non-Christian presidents. Perhaps an atheistic or agnostic president, but I don’t believe even that has been publicly disclosed.
I think the big push regarding religion in politics recently has a lot to do with 9/11, though. There is this belief that a non-christian elected official is, in fact, an undercover agent for “the enemy.” This is very much reminiscent of the anti-communism movement and McCarthyism. Let’s use some common sense, though. If you wanted to infiltrate a foreign organization, wouldn’t you do everything you could to fit in? You wouldn’t profess a different religion or political view. You would ensure that everything you do fits in with the organization you’re infiltrating. So merely going after those that are “different” from the “norm” isn’t going to get you very far.
Professing a religious belief shouldn’t necessarily result in ridicule, nor should it mean that you are above reproach. In fact, my preference is that if religion is a big part of your thought process, please disclose it so those of us with a vested interest can act accordingly. If your ideas and beliefs are in line with mine, then your choice of religion won’t mean much to me. Of course, if your ideas and beliefs are a radical departure from your professed religion, I might just mark you as a liar.