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Religion and Logic in Politics

Posted by Rick · May 2nd, 2005 · 2 Comments

Studying for finals has essentially necessitated neglecting the blog. I still get emails, though, and I realized that my response to one today would substitute quite nicely for a blog article. It would also allow the possibility for others to join in the debate instead of keeping all the fun between myself and my friend, Bob Marcotte.

A double plus on this is that when I first read the article which Bob wrote me about — before Bob sent it — I thought about blogging it, but decided blogging had to wait until after finals. Then Bob sent me the link to the article and the exact same excerpt with which I had originally intended to lead off my blog article.

Hmmm…perhaps it’s a sign! 😉

The role religious faith should play in political life is not a settled one. Some argue religion is a private matter and does not have equal standing in political debate with, say, economics, or historical precedent, or simple logic. Others, including me, argue religion animates people’s actions and should play a part in the public arena, along with one’s race, gender, economic situation; whatever one wants to bring to the table. — Brian Healy, Cheapening Faith (April 29, 2005) CBS News.

If the quoted section of Healy’s article is intended to mean that religious arguments are okay in politics, that’s fine by me so long as:

  1. The religious arguments are not made by politicians who, under the Constitution, have no right making them in support of their projects.
  2. Any ordinary citizen making them realizes that a perfectly proper counter-argument to them is either silence, noting that the arguments are bullshit unworthy of a response, or calling the person making such arguments an idiot for making them.

As to the first item, the minute a politician makes a religious argument for a particular piece of legislation — whether it’s abortion or anything else — he or she has indicated that religion plays an important part in support of that legislation. It’s at least important enough to count as a reason for passing the legislation being discussed. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution then requires that if challenged in court, the court must strike it down. (And the Supreme Court has actually done exactly that in a few cases where congressional representatives posited religious arguments for a particular law and it was subsequently challenged.) You simply cannot say, “And here’s one reason we should support this legislation! [Now supply some religious argument]” without it being an establishment of that religious belief when the legislation is enacted partly because of the success of that argument.

As to the second point, non-religious logical arguments attacked in the way I suggested would be unwounded. A proper retort to anyone attacking them thusly would be to point out that they have failed to meet the argument; they have committed a logical fallacy. But a religious argument favoring legislation in a nation where the law forbids the establishment of religion is ipso facto contrary to the systemic bases of non-theocratic law. At their very best, religious arguments favoring passage of legislation under such systems are irrelevant; at their worst, they’re destructive of the system in which they have no legitimate place.

And efforts to change this to the contrary notwithstanding, it is at least the case right now that the United States is not officially a Theocracy.

Furthermore, since religion is essentially an unsubstantiated belief — and not just unsubstantiated, but incapable of substantiation — it’s no more valid than arguing that the legislation should be passed because the tarot cards “require” it. In fact, it’s exactly the same kind of argument. And I’m fairly certain there would be an uproar in the United States if so-called “mainstream” Christian religions learned that Congress passed a law because of a tarot card reading, or after consulting a oujia board.

But then, “religious freedom” in the United States is intended only for Christians.

While it’s true that here at Unspun™ we sometimes make religious arguments — heavy emphasis on various (mostly Christian or Jewish) scriptures and all — we don’t make such arguments in favor of laws. And we never would.

Ironically, one unintended consequence of such religious arguments as we’ve made at Unspun™ is to show, in fact, what I essentially said above: Religious arguments are bullshit. If they were not, then the use of scripture and religious arguments to explain why what Bob refers to as “little-c” christians — which I refer to usually as neo-Pharisees — need to transform themselves into “Big-C” Christians, would have some impact. But the way 99.99% of the United States citizens who call themselves “Christian” live is a disgrace, considered in light of the principles outlined in the Christian Bible. Anyone reading that Bible would recognize this; any arguments based on that Bible highlight this. And yet the United States continues to be plagued by the unchanged 99.99%.

Hmmm…maybe that explains a lot: Ninety-nine percent of the people who claim to follow Christianity do not. Yet there’s a book which actually tells you how to live and they nevertheless continue to live contrary to Christian principles. It’s no surprise, then, those same people are incapable of reading the Constitution of the United States and recognizing that the First Amendment eschews Theocracy.

Special thanks to Bob Marcotte for delivering the Sign that forced today’s blog entry.

Categories: Religion


2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Gweny // May 3, 2005 at 10:37 pm

    Can I get an Amen? No? Ok then.

    I’m still working on that start-my-own-country thing. Religion will be banished to private life. And just for you, Rick, clothing will be optional 😉

    Unfortunately, the people who usually want to go nude are the same people that make the rest of us really want to wear clothes.

  • 2 Rick Horowitz // May 4, 2005 at 2:36 am

    Are you trying to tell me something? 😉

    Now maybe you know why you ended up at the 8th level on the Dante’s Inferno Test!

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