James Kerian: Enough With The Censoring Of Religious Motivations In Politics

“I have accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior, and I endeavor every day to follow Him in all I do and in every position I advocate.”Dr Ron Paul

“In my moments of prayer I’m reminded that faith and values play an enormous role in motivating us to solve some of our most urgent problems.”President Obama

“It [the Methodist Church] has certainly been a huge part of who I am, and how I have seen the world and what I believe in, and what I have tried to do in my life”Hillary Clinton

“Just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town.”Rev Martin Luther King Jr.

There’s an amusing little ritual that frequently happens whenever my editor here at SayAnythingBlog writes in defense of the the right to life of about-to-be-born children.  Someone new to the combox almost always dismisses the pro life movement as “religious zealots” attempting to force “religious doctrine” upon the rest of the country.  If Rob doesn’t take care of it himself one of the other commenters will quickly point out that Rob’s atheism has been extraordinarily well documented on this website over the past twelve years.

This provides us all with a little chuckle each time it happens but it should also serve to illuminate a growing bigotry in American political dialogue.  The policy positions that Rob advocates and the political arguments he puts forth would not be less worthy of respectful, reasoned response if they were coming from an Orthodox Jew, a daily communicant in the Roman Catholic Church or a devout Muslim who prayed five times a day while facing towards Mecca.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#000000″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]This, folks, isn’t separation of Church and State.  This is just plain old fashioned bigotry.[/mks_pullquote]

But if Rob fell into any of those categories it would not just be the occasional new commenter who dismissed him as a “religious zealot” or dismissed his argument as an attempt to enforce “religious doctrine.”  This, folks, isn’t separation of Church and State.  This is just plain old fashioned bigotry.  If you are treating the same position and the same argument differently depending on the religion of the individual who is offering that position/argument then you are practicing religious (or anti-religious) bigotry.

There is a value, of course, in properly understanding the separation of church and state.  I understand (and share) the frustration that everyone else feels when someone in a political debate appeals to a religious authority that is not recognized as an authority by everyone in the debate.  In a debate between individuals of varied religious views this is just a waste of everyone’s time whether it is a Christian quoting the Bible, a Muslim quoting the Quran or a Secularist quoting Oprah.

Those who will not make reasoned arguments cannot be argued with (whether they are religious or not).  Conventional combox etiquette prescribes insulting such people but I recommend just ignoring them.  There are those who will not change their mind no matter how thoroughly their position is shown to be illogical, but this is as often due to pride and stubbornness as it is due to a fundamentalist rejection of reason and so, again, it occurs both among the religious and the non-believing.  If you are in a public forum you can show everyone else that such people are being illogical.  If not, again all you can really do is insult/ignore them.

Those who hold religious convictions do not, however, lose the right to make reasoned political arguments.  Accusing someone of letting religion influence their political position does not rebut their argument or discredit their position even if the accusation is correct.  It would be impossible to genuinely hold any position on the origins of the universe (atheism, agnosticism, Christianity, Islam, etc) without that belief influencing one’s political positions.

Anti-religious bigots will accurately point out that religion has influenced the thinking of segregationists, rapists, murderers and oppressors of every sort.  Religious influence is certainly no guarantee of political wisdom.  Religion, however, has also influenced abolitionistssuffragetteshumanitarian heroes and civil rights champions.  Religious influence certainly does not preclude political wisdom.

Rather than endlessly policing each other over accusations of religious motivation in politics let’s just drop the bigotry and engage each other’s arguments in the same way regardless of the religious beliefs (or lack thereof) of the person offering them.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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