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Archive for the ‘religion’ Category

Politics and Religion in America:
Where is This Religious Tolerance I Have Heard About?

Section 011

I have decided to post this blog this late in the term because it does not directly correlate to any of our readings, however, I do believe this is an important political issue that should be discussed.

How many senators and representatives in congress believe in some form of a God? How many do not? The 111th congress opened this year with, at most, 7 “non-believers”. Breaking that down, there were actually two Buddhists and five who declined to answer the question. This means that a confirmed 1% of congress does not believe in a God. Is this just because 1% of America does not believe in a God? Not quite, only about 80% of Americans believe in a God, leaving 20% who have declared not to be affiliated with any God religion. Thinking about this in a larger sense, how many presidents have declared to not believe in a God? Zero. So, one may be asking oneself, what’s the issue here? The issue is that those who do not believe in a God are put at a disadvantage on the political level by many of the American people and there is something seriously wrong with this.

A USA Today/Gallup poll in 2007 showed that only 45% of respondents would vote for an Atheist. So, theoretically, even if a non-believer ran for president and would clearly be the best candidate for the position, he would still not win, because of his lack of belief in a God. Does this seem right? Does this seem like it is in the best interest of the country? I do not see how the answer to this could be yes. Some may claim that because he does not believe in a God, he would be immoral and therefore advocate immoral laws. However, this attack against political atheists has relatively little ground. Just because religions with a God advocate some kind of moral position on almost everything, why is it that without a belief in God, someone cannot be moral? This is blatant prejudice thought. Also, since when did everyone who believes in a God follow all those morals anyway? (We all have at least heard one story of a politician who has been “unfaithful” to their spouse).

Maybe one could argue that, “people should have the right to vote for who they want.” This is true, but that does not make this issue any less of a problem. The issue of stereotyping race, sex, gender, etc. has come to discussion in American politics, so why not religion? Just like there is no reason not to vote for an African-American who is most suitable to be the Commander-in-Chief, there is no reason to not vote for a non-believer in the same situation. Too many voters are unfairly stereotyping those who do not believe in God and consequently voting their religion in office and not voting based on merit. Once again, this can in no way benefit America and can only hurt it.

The United States claims to have a government that is separate from religion, but the word “God” is on our national currency and is said during almost any political address. We claim to have freedom of opportunity, but the political scene looks grim for anyone who enters without a belief in God. I am not advocating “Godlessness” in America, only in American politics. We should vote for our public officials based on merit, not on religion. Government and religion need to be in two separate spheres: just as the government has no place in religion, religion has no place in American government.

Sources:

Lin, Joanna. “111th Congress reflects greater religious diversity in

the U.S. .” L.A. Times 05 Jan 2009: n. pag. Web. 13 Dec 2009.

<http://articles.latimes.com/2009/jan/05/local/me-beliefs5?pg=2&gt;.

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John Stuart Mill spent much of “The Subjection of Women” discussing the issue of marriage and its flaws. Throughout his work he is well versed and seems to consider himself an informed and knowledgeable writer on this topic. In present times, many of the issues Mill raises against marriage have already been fixed. Women are taking less subordinate and even more dominant roles in partnerships, women have the right to file for divorce, and also have legal rights to their children. What would Mill’s thoughts be on a more modernized version of this topic, gay marriage? Mill has many reasons for opposing the institution of marriage and if these causes for opposition are obliterated, it is likely that Mill will support marriage. I argue that Mill would support gay marriage as it rids of many of his causes for opposing marriage.

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“Society can and does execute its own mandates; and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practices a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself.”

– On Liberty, J.S. Mill, W p.594

In reading J.S. Mill, the idea of religious freedom has been in the minds of many of we students, both as we study his writings and in our discussion sections. Much of what Mill argues for is the ability for the individual to argue in opposition to a state’s ideals. He also warns against the “tyranny of the majority”, or allowing the majority opinion to force its ideals and beliefs on the dissenters. In modern-day America, while our country is not technically a theocracy, many nevertheless argue that our laws can and should be based upon Christian ideals, as our country’s founders are thought to have been primarily Christian (and thus the country was founded on Christian ideals), and as the majority of the citizens consider themselves Christian. Does it not follow, then, that “majority rules”?

One of the most common arguments for Christian ideals being implemented in our country’s laws is the idea that our country was founded upon Christian beliefs. The evidence drawn to support this argument is most frequently the idea that most of the founders were Christians, and that the writings of the founders, and our country’s founding documents, often reference God. However, nowhere in our country’s founding documents is it stated that the United States is a Christian nation, that it is a theocracy, or that laws should continue to be made based on Christian principles. Nevertheless, even if the country had been founded on Christian ideals, according to Mill this would still be wrong: A country’s leaders coercing its citizens into abiding by certain religious ideals simply because of its having the power to do so would be a restriction of liberty, and thus in direct opposition with both Mill’s ideals and that oft-quoted unalienable rights of man in the Declaration of Independence: those of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. While one could argue this idea for days, let us put it aside in favor of a more relevant discussion to Mill: That of whether the Christian majority makes a Christian nation.

It is frequently argued that the fact that the majority of Americans are Christians with the power to vote thus makes America a Christian nation – perhaps not officially, but at least in practice. By that logic, if the majority vote for a law that supports Christian ideals (such as Proposition 8 in California, banning gay marriage in that state), it is permissible for that law to exist based on its simply having majority support, regardless of whether the law is of a secular nature, or “right”. But is this logical, and is it fair? According to the 2001 American Religious Identification Survey, as conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, some 77% of Americans consider themselves or can be considered to be Christian. In fact, the majority of those reading this will probably be Christian as well. But if our nation is not a Christian nation, is it nevertheless allowable for the Christian ideals of the voting majority to create and uphold laws that abide by Christian morality and ideals?

If we are allowed to create and pass laws based on our own personal beliefs, and we are the majority, is this simply an example of democracy in action, or is this, as Mill says, “a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression”? Mill also says that, “Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough; there needs to be protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling, against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them”. If this “protection” against the tyranny of the majority is necessary, what lawmakers have the right to do so, and how can they rightfully go against the majority to protect the minorities being oppressed in a democracy such as ours, in which the very founding principle of government is that the people have the power?

Your own personal religious beliefs on which laws should and should not be passed aside, what do you think? Is it right that the majority should be allowed to impose its morals and ideals upon the nation as a whole in a democracy such as ours, or is this, as Mill says, just another form of tyranny and political oppression? And how, if you agree with the latter, can lawmakers logically and morally decide which laws are oppressive to the dissenting minority?

 

Source:

Barry A. Kosmin and Ariela Keysar (2009). “AMERICAN RELIGIOUS IDENTIFICATION SURVEY (ARIS) 2008” (PDF). Hartford, Connecticut, USA: Trinity College. http://b27.cc.trincoll.edu/weblogs/AmericanReligionSurvey-ARIS/reports/ARIS_Report_2008.pdf.

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This recent piece points to the conflicting ways Rousseau’s legacy is still alive in contemporary France.

France took from Rousseau the principle that no intermediate group or affiliation should stand between the citizen and the state, which represents the general interest, Mr. Bowen said. But Rousseau also championed the right to form private associations, or clubs. It was not until 1901, however, that the state allowed some unions or associations, Mr. Bowen said, and not until 1981 that foreigners could form them.

What do people think: which interpretation is more compelling? What would Rousseau have said about a burqa ban today?

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