Religion and Politics

Thursday, August 14, 2008
This Saturday, it appears the presidential candidates will be wearing their religion on their sleeves as they visit with mega-church pastor and The Purpose Driven Life author Rick Warren in California.

As an agnostic, my only concern about a candidate's religious affiliation resides in ensuring they're not freeze dried whack-a-loons who will hasten the end of the world once they get their crazy little hands on the button. Other than that, I simply don't give a shit about it. It's a private matter, and my concerns are more pragmatic - I want to ensure the candidate will address problems in this life, not in the next one. Their belief in a creator god and what happens when we die has little to do with their ability to govern now, at least from my secular point of view.

However, people of faith seem to take a keen interest in the religious life of the candidates. John McCain's desire to maintain his privacy in terms of his personal faith appears to incense the religious right. Everyone was alternately appalled and delighted with the rumor that Obama was a Muslim, in spite of his obvious willingness to share his Christian experience.

Why are religious people so interested in this matter? I could see it if you were voting for your pastor, your rabbi, your imam...but the issue at hand is who will provide our secular leadership. Issues of character? Of course. Platform positions? Absolutely. Fiduciary responsibility? You bet. But religious belief? Why does it matter, and why do you care?

I don't get it.

32 comments:

Cindi in CO said...

Well, I consider myself a woman of faith, and the fact of the matter is, I don't care. Like you, I feel it's a private issue, and has no bearing on how well a leader will perform for his/her country.

Unless, of course, they plan on solving all of the USA's woes through prayer alone. Then, no. Just no.

Random Michelle K said...

Actually, I think that to a small degree knowledge of the personal lives of politicians is useful, and that knowledge includes religious belief.

Of course my opinion of what is useful personal knowledge may be significantly different from the average American's.

Regarding boinking, what is important to me is not sex outside the bounds of marriage, but how the spouse is treated. Was the spouse aware of the boinking? No problem. End of discussion. Was the boinking a mistake that was admitted to in an open an honest discussion? No problem. End of discussion. Was the boinking secretive and recurring and hurtful to the spouse? That's a problem. Not because of the boinking per se, but because of how the partner treated the spouse and treated the contract of the marriage.

So I don't like the lying and the covering up and the disrespect of the spouse. It makes me wonder how that individual will treat their relationship with the country and their contract to follow the Constitution.

I view religious belief in a similar light. Specifically, how does their faith affect their rationality?

Do you honestly believe the earth is flat? Do you honestly believe that the earth was created in seven days and dinosaur skeletons were planted to trick us? I've got major problems with that and have concerns about the ability of such an individual to lead the country. Why? Because as Bush has shown, the ability to believe things despite all evidence to the contrary is NOT a good trait.

I want someone who can look at evidence and make an informed rational opinion. Not someone who believes something solely because they were told by a non-expert "this is what you should believe."

So yeah, I'd like to know about people's religious beliefs, because I don't want someone who is incapable of rational independent thought running the country.

Luckily, I think both McCain and Obama are okay.

Jim Wright said...

Well, hell, Michelle said exactly what I was going to say. Exactly. Except I wouldn't have used the term "boinking" ;)

Janiece Murphy said...

Michelle, I think the first issue you bring up ("boinking") falls under "issues of character," at least for me. I tend to look at it in a way similar to yours. Mostly I don't give a rat's ass, but sometimes sexual behavior is indicative of larger character issues.

In my book, people who believe in YEC and other forms of intellectual dishonesty aren't qualified to lead under any circumstances. And please note that I also include unwarranted belief in the health benefits of Açai Juice, chiropractors, and homeopathy and include that belief in their health care strategy to be intellectual dishonesty.

Or at least stupidity.

There should be a "too stupid to run" clause in the Constitution...

Jeri said...

For me, it's also a negative-indicator. I don't care so much what our secular leader believes - I'm not on board to follow him or her spiritually.

What I am concerned about is the tendency of the religious right toward theocracy, and I will do a great deal to prevent that. If a candidate shares those leanings - proposes to legislate of not only religiously-derived values, but "the Christian principles this nation was founded upon" (said with thick, dripping sarcasm) then I will work damn hard campaigning against him or her.

Sadly, that sort of candidate wouldn't be a "her", because that socio-religious group doesn't typically believe that females are supposed to be leading men.

Argh. Must. Shampoo. Brain.

Janiece Murphy said...

Jeri, feel free to help yourself to my lye.

John the Scientist said...

I can answer the question "why?": to many religious conservatives, it is impossible to be a moral actor without subscribing to their brand of religion.

These people don't even know the history of their own religion and the debates in the early Church about the place in heaven of moral pre-Christian ancients such as Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates.

That's why, like you, I get wound up about YEC, homeopathy, etc. that fact that these considerations enter into our national political debates show that stupidity is contagious.

Random Michelle K said...

Come on Jim! Expand your vocabulary! Boinking is a *great* word! It's fun to say!

Just try it!

Boink! Boink! Boink! Boink!

How can you say the word BOINK and not smile?!


And to me, all of those are issues of character. Are you a slimeball who treats other humans badly? Issue of character? Do you refuse to think for yourself? Issue of character.

John, people like that make *me* bug fuck crazy.

Especially when they claim devout belief on one hand, while illegally copying software, downloading movies/music, etc, on the other.

Grrr! Grr! Grrrr!

Janiece Murphy said...

John, I still don't get it.

And that actually makes me happy.

Janiece Murphy said...

BOINK!

Lance Weber said...

Remember when Nancy Reagan admitted to getting policy advice from her astrologist to pass on to Ronnie? And all of the OMG reactions from the Heinlein readers in the crowd who were in disbelief that the Master had nailed this prediction 100%??

That should be litmus test enough right there.

Janiece Murphy said...

Damn straight, Lance.

Lance Weber said...

Threadjack*:

I saw this come across my feedreader and read it as UCF...


* Feel free to move, delete, etc.

Janiece Murphy said...

Lance, hijacking is a time-honored hobby of the UCF.

Hee! The UCF = Ultimate Champion Fighting!

I want to see a cage match between Carol Elaine and Jim!

vince said...

These people don't even know the history of their own religion and the debates in the early Church about the place in heaven of moral pre-Christian ancients such as Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates.

Know history? You must be kidding? These people epitomize the "head in the sand" syndrome. Their motto - never let the facts deter you in the face of a higher truth. Even if those facts come from a book they purport to accept as definitive for behavior.

Religious beliefs may or may not be indicative of character. They also may or may not be indicative of how a candidate might try to govern. But they usually are. But more important is how are those beliefs going to impact decisions the candidate would make.

Bush, for example, plays "pick and choose" with his Christian religion. In his book, it's not okay to kill unborn people, but once they're born, they're welcome to starve to death or die due to lack of health insurance.

For me, religious belief is an issue to the extent that it is likely to reflect on what laws you will champion or attempt to prevent.

As far as boinking (I'm with Michelle, I love that word), for me it's a judgment issue. When Clinton had his interlude with the intern, my problems with it was that it showed piss poor judgment. He knew there were people looking to nail his ass, and that if he was discovered (and common, he was going to be discovered), it was going to give them ammunition. And then when caught, he gave excuses my daughter wouldn't have come up with when she was three, giving his opponents even more ammunition.

Yes, the impeachment crap was just that - crap. But he damn well should have known that could happen. Bad judgment on the intern, bad judgment to the nth degree on the lying.

I want to see a cage match between Carol Elaine and Jim!

Let's get ready to rummmmble!

Random Michelle K said...

I want to see a cage match between Carol Elaine and Jim!

Are you kidding?

I want a cage match between you and Jim.

And I'd bet on you.

Janiece Murphy said...

But if Jim hurt me, I'd have to cry like a girl, and that's not consistent with my public persona.

Cindi in CO said...

J., if Jim hurt you, he'd have to hurt me too.

You know, the whole tormenter/protector dichotomy.

:)

Lance Weber said...

I think the UCF needs to answer some of the questions from the column (minor edits for context):

Q: Do you believe that old maxim that “women weaken legs?”

Q: What advice might you give a young man, perhaps your son if you’re a family man, who is thinking of entering the UCF?

Q: What is the prevalence of steroids in fandom and the U.C.F. in particular?

Q: What kind of non-critical pain actually bothers you? Papercuts? Headaches? Biting the inside of your cheek?

Random Michelle K said...

Q: What is the prevalence of steroids in fandom and the U.C.F. in particular?

None. Many of us are geeks. So whatever the opposite of steroids is? We're on that.

Lance Weber said...

I should have changed that to caffeine, sugar and alcohol

Janiece Murphy said...

Q: Do you believe that old maxim that “women weaken legs?”

I believe in the old maxim, "Women have legs."

Random Michelle K said...

I believe in the old maxim, "Women have legs."

So says "Legs Murphy"

Janiece Murphy said...

Damn skippy, Michelle.

John the Scientist said...

As the UCF member who was actually once a semi-pro kickboxer, here's my answers:

Q: Do you believe that old maxim that “women weaken legs?”

Yes, but it's not women per se, if your tastes don't run in that direction: no boinking 2 weeks before a match.

Q: What advice might you give a young man, perhaps your son if you’re a family man, who is thinking of entering the UCF?

My son probably will enter the UCF when he's old enough. The real question is, will I let my daughter date one of the UCF? Answer: - Not one of this generation of UCF. Maybe their kids. First guy who's more than 15 years her senior who tries to date my daughter (until she's out of college) gets his 'nads shot off. By my wife.

Q: What is the prevalence of steroids in fandom and the U.C.F. in particular?

Steroids - I'm a middleweight. No steroids for me, I want to be fighting when I'm 50.

Q: What kind of non-critical pain actually bothers you? Papercuts? Headaches? Biting the inside of your cheek?

When your kid is about 40 inches tall and you are 5'7", when you pick them up by the armpits, their shoes are right at 'nad height. Those kids shoes hurt. But as Dad, you can never let them see you flinch.

Random Michelle K said...

you are 5'7"

You're 5'7"? Really?

I'm 5'7.5"! I'm taller than someone!

HA! HA! HA!

John the Scientist said...

Notice I don't make short jokes.

A whole lotta people have found out the hard way, the taller they are, the harder they fall...

Cindi in CO said...

Michelle, I don't see how you can consider yourself short at 5'71/2" tall.

Stand next to my sister sometime.

::ducks the flying missles J. is lobbing my way::

Janiece Murphy said...

Cindi, she will stand next to me. In September, for the next UCF Meet-up.

::does the cabbage patch::

Jeri said...

In a small voice, I admit to steroid use. Fluticasone, to be specific, for allergies in June and July. So sorry to ruin it all, it may cost me my Hugo someday.

And of course women weaken legs. Why the heck do you think we put out the night before we bring up our plan to buy a new car?

And on the UCF? My sons think we're way too geeky for words. But my youngest and his buddies ARE going to start up playing D&D, in addition to their LAN, Wii and XBox parties. D&D is such a girl repellent, they'll never get a date at this point. The UCF is sort of superfluous at this point.

John the Scientist said...

Jeri - anabolic steroids, not corticos. :p

Random Michelle K said...

Cindi,

My brother is 6'5". My male cousins are all above 6'. My Dad is about 6'. My aunt is 5'10".

In my family, I'm short.

And they don't let me forget it. :)