April 25, 2005
Mixing the Faith (edited)
When one's religion becomes one's politics, a dangerous line is crossed. A great deal of choice is given up because to question a political leader who shares your faith becomes a question of the faith itself. To doubt any policy based on a belief is to doubt the belief itself. Machiavelli understood this when he said, "That the show of religion was helpful to the politician, but the reality of it hurtful and pernicious." Politicians want the unquestioned power of faith behind their pronouncements, but they often don't want to follow the more demanding tenets of that faith.
I won't bore you with the lessons from history, like Salem or the Inquisition, but ask yourself how free you feel to question a minister in front of others whenever they say something that you oppose. The good people of Salem allowed 17 innocent people to hang because they were afraid to confront the political forces steered by religious fervor, and tens of thousands of women, Jews, and other marginalized people in Europe were executed by Catholics who felt they were doing God's work. Most people knew it was wrong, but felt compelled by their trust in the church to go along.
The sublimity and dignity of religion is tainted when mixed with the banality and rhetoric of politics. Religion is supposed to be an inclusive experience of our common humanity, while politics is by definition an exclusive exercise of power. And, when faith is used as political justification, the path is open to question that faith as rhetoric, with condemnation the only retort available to those using faith as vindication for their actions. Don't like my reasoning? You're an infidel!
The only thing we all have in common is our reasoning ability. Is it too much to ask that our political decisions be based on this? Convince me, within the bounds of rationality and without the realm of superstition, that I should adhere to a political policy and I will follow. That's a democracy. Threaten me with eternal punishment if I don't think your way, and I'll resist until they start burning people at the stakes again. That's a theocracy.Posted by tat at April 25, 2005 07:26 AM