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The peculiar role of religion in politics today

December 10, 2015

Predictably,  one of the arguments against having a religious test for entry into the United States is the First Amendment’s guarantee of the freedom to worship as you please.

To listen to the news, you’d think that having an overwhelming dose of religious tolerance is the sole and single test to hold the office of President of the United States today.

To many, that argument seems rooted in a long-ago and not always pure motive from the past.

Since the extremist views of some of the members one of the world’s largest religions seems to embrace mass slaughter of non-believers that seems to be a singularly timely opinion.

So, what role exactly does religion have in American politics today?

As the calendar marches inexorably toward the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses many voters are saying “Who cares?”

Iowa is widely seen as the bellwether indicator for the far right Bible-thumping conservative candidates, although it has never had a great record in picking the eventual presidential nominee, much less the actual winner.

So does Iowa still matter, and if not, why not?

Candidates who succeed in Iowa have historically been aligned with the so-called religious right wing of the GOP, but fail when exposed to the larger and more secularized general population.

As America becomes increasingly more secular, the influence of that wing of the party seems to be charting an inverse trend line.

An awful lot of people, left and right are not violently averse to excluding refugees or immigrants on the basis of their religion, if that religion represents a clear danger to us.

They point out that the first “right” our founding fathers thought was important when they declared independence from England was the right to Life. Religious freedom was only a facet of that right.

The Sharia-based treatment of women concerns them, but for many, it isn’t the overriding principle upon which they would exclude it’s members.

Several candidates are running ads exhorting us to vote for them because radical Islamic terrorists hate us for letting women drive or educating our female offspring.

Many people are reacting by saying wake up and smell the blood.

In short, they recognize that the various franchises of Islamic extremism don’t want us to stop educating girls. They want to kill us because we don’t believe in their 7th century view of the world in general. Misogyny is just a part of that.

Secularized voters on both sides of the aisle recognize that all of the world’s great religions are highly biased against females.

There has never been a female Catholic pope or even a priest.

There has never been a woman included in the Latter Day Saint (Morman) 12-member Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, much less one elected to that religion’s highest office.

There has never been a female Dalai Lama in the (Tibetan version) of Buddhism.

Many American versions of the various Protestant religions do not include women at the top of the spiritual power hierarchy, although some of the myriad divisions within the Methodist, Baptist and Lutheran faiths have begun to ordain women in what you might call middle management roles, i.e. as pastors, ministers  or deacons.

Even beyond the gender issue, organized religions tend to impress their detractors as purveyors of a sort of a man-made spiritual caste system, imparting what even believers in the Bible see as an artificial secularized selection process unrelated to the original inclusivity of the first Christians.

For those reasons, religion has less influence today than it did 50 or even 25 years ago as a voting bloc.

That’s certainly not to say it has lost all influence. Many detached observers note that as the Judeo-Christian religions as  concepts, i.e. the belief in a higher power with a master plan for the world has lessened, violence and chaos has grown.

What has all this got to do with electing a president dedicated to keeping us safe?

When candidates rely on a single strategy to bring enough voters under their ideological umbrella to win an election, they are by definition excluding everyone who questions or outright disagrees with their premise.

Religion-based candidacies simply can’t own enough of the modern electorate to win. However, there are still enough believers out there that eschewing any hint of Christian virtue or values also dooms a candidate to the status of an also-ran.

One of the biggest thumps against Hillary Clinton is that she is completely unprincipled in her quest for the nation’s highest office.

And that presents an interesting conundrum.

Having principles of any kind is peculiarly based in religion.

It is religion that teaches us that it is wrong to lie, cheat, murder and steal. It is religion that teaches that marriage brings with it a promise and an obligation to be faithful to one’s mate. It is religion that imparts the concept of good and evil.

In short, most of the good qualities we prize in people have their roots in the Judeo-Christian belief systems.

Radical Islamic terrorists want to kill us because we exist. That’s not an affront to their behavioral gender identity rules. Our existence is an affront to their quest for power, not to their basic religious teachings.

The candidate who is best at articulating that realization and can also articulate an effective way to deal with it is currently sucking up all the oxygen.

The person or persons that want to compete in that arena might want to think about that.

From → op-ed

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