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Friday, September 26, 2008

More Religious Right

Glenn comments on my 'Religious Right' post below and his thoughts are worth reading in full. His summary:

"It is the combination of a set of religious beliefs and social teachings, with the attempt to implement those doctrines throughout the society by political means that characterizes the religious right."

Fair enough. What I take as the key is "attempt to implement those doctrines throughout the society".

On the other hand, any law is based on the concept of right vs. wrong, and that concept must have some underlying moral belief to it. Yeah, yeah, I get the whole utilitarian thing but the fact is that "greatest good" still requires that we define "good" and there you would be right back at Hume's Fork, having to make underlying moral decisions.

I think if members of religious groups insist that everyone in society should behave just as their religion demands people behave, then that's a problem. I personally feel however that if a religious group simply tries to influence the body politic with their views of right and wrong, they are doing no more than any other group, and no more than is their right and duty as citizens.

This being the case, if a person cannot stand these people, I don't see how it can be over their interest in influencing society to their way of thinking. Everyone does that. It seems to me at bottom, saying one "cannot stand" religious people of a certain political view pushing their agenda, can fairly be translated as "cannot stand religious people of a certain political view, period."

Now, I agree everyone has the right to not be able to stand the members of a group as a result of the group's views (though scripture admonishes Christians that this is a sin and Christians themselves should not fall into it). I think it's also important however to recognize this is no more than simple disdain for the group's views, and disdain for members of that group. The group doesn't have to do anything in particular to 'earn' this disdain other than, perhaps, advocate and vote according to their principles.

1 comment:

Glenn said...

Thank you for the kind words about my comment on your earlier post, Agim. Here's an additional point, for what it's worth.

Jonathan Weisman wrote in the August 25, 2008, issue of the Washington Post, National Weekly Edition, regarding John McCain:

"Although his voting record is strictly antiabortion, McCain has never made religiosity or social issues centerpieces of his poltical persona. And his 2000 labeling of evangelists Pat Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell as 'agents of intolerance' deepened evangelical suspicions.

"'To be perceived as authentic on this issue, you need to have some grounding in it, and usually that grounding is faith,' says Douglas W. Kmiec, a Pepperdine University professor of consitutional law who opposes abortion but supports Obama."

I ran across this statement today, and it really struck me as a good example of what we've been talking about. What's up with the demand for "authenticity?" Apparently voting the right way, behaving the right way, isn't enough for (some) evangelicals - you have to think right, as well.

That kind of attitude hearkens back to the Spanish Inquisition, when it didn't matter if you went to church every Sunday, made your confession, and took the Eucharist: the church would torture you to make you confess that you weren't sincere in your actions.

It also strikes some as un-American, or at least unconstitutional. The Constitution prohibits the use of "test acts." This practice is now so far out of fashion that I feel I need to explain it. The British government, until about 1830, barred Jews, Catholics, and members of dissenting faiths from holding various public offices. In order to "test" their fidelity, all of the military and civil officers subject to the act were required to take communion in an Aglican church at least once each year. That's a test act. No candidate for office in the United States, John McCain included, can be subjected to a test of his adherence to true religion.

It seems to me that one complaint against the religious right, as I have previously defined it, is that it appears to be attempting to enforce "tests" of religiosity and even orthodoxy upon officeholders and candidates.

(By the way, at the end of Jonathan Weisman's article, he says:

"Abortion remains an important issue to a large portion of the electorate, but it is not the biggest. An early August poll for Time magazine found that one in five likely voters would not consider voting for a candidate who did not share their views on abortion.

"Twenty-six percent of Republicans saw the issue as decisive, compared with 18 percent of Democrats.")