No Religious Test for Office

Separation of church and state is intended to keep each from interfering in the workings of the other.

Separation of church and state isn’t just ensuring that government leaves religious groups alone – but that the religious groups also do not interfere with government. No lobbying from the pulpit, no interference with voting.

In fact, any charity that receives monies or tax consideration is generally not permitted to lobby the government. It’s a conflict of interest.

In the current Republican candidate race, Mitt Romney, Mormon, raises all the specters that John F. Kennedy did when he rans for and became the first Catholic president.

It’s something that I didn’t really understand as a teen in the 1980’s and not seeing that Christians view Catholic as a separate religion.

It’s curious, since all Christian sects have basically sheared off of the Catholic Church, being the oldest and longest continuous sect. After all, isn’t one of the commandments about respecting your parents?

In any event, while the concerns and objections to JFK was that the Pope would be the de facto President; the concerns about Mitt Romney and Mormonism are entirely different.

The Catholic Church is generally characterized as an out of touch, non-relevant, corrupt and systemically abusive, it is viewed by Christians as a religion whereas the Mormon Church is usually deemed to be a cult.

As an outsider, I honestly can’t see any meaningful difference between the Catholic Church, Christians (Evangelical, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Baptist, Methodist, Anglican, etc) and Mormons.

They include the same stories, with Mormons going an extra testament, the same cast of characters and pretty much the same gender roles and behavioral norms and a lot of the same beleifs, social attitudes and bigotry.

Truly, is there really a difference if a person believes that Armageddon will happen someday vs a given particular day?

Separation of church and state isn’t just a guide for how government and religious groups interact and relate to each other – but also a guide for how citizens are meant to interact with each.

Which means, you are supposed to vote for the person or party you beleive best qualified for office – not who you’d be happiest to share your pew with.

Politicians used to shake hands and kiss babies, now they have to trot out their religious beliefs as if these are qualifications for office – which is precisely what the Founding Fathers of America sought to avoid. No religious test for office.

That doesn’t mean that a politician can’t be religious, but rather that what they do in office must arise from the law of the land – not handed down from on high.

The idea of a president who believes that they have a direct line to God and the ability to destroy the earth multiple times by launching nuclear weapons, should be terrifying to any thinking person – no matter what their religious or not beleifs are.

I worry far less about disorganized terrorist groups with nukes, bio or other mass destruction weapons – than about a government led by a religious zealot who is no different than the disenfranchised terrorist.

Nations need to be lead by facts on the ground, reality, science.

We cannot have governments who do nothing post disaster because extreme bad weather is punishment for immoral behaviour.

There is a place for religion in people’s lives and communities; humans haven’t evolved beyond religion yet, but it’s not in the highest office of the land or in the policy room. Religion, being so widely varied, is not a solid or rational basis for policy or good governance.

religionophobia

If 9/11 taught us anything, it’s that we can’t afford to pretend that religion has merit or is a force for good in the world. We must no longer be willing to coddle religious sensibilities.

Religion is about dividing people between the real true believers and everyone else who’s lesser than; and since all religions claim to be The One True One, and there’s nothing to recommend one over any other – we need to put them all aside in favour of social justice and equality. Secular law under which everyone is equally deserving and has equal access to the law.

People are afraid of Islam because of the anticipated violent response and Christians complain bitterly about their sensibilities not being catered to because we know that they don’t respond violently. It’s as if western Christians are jealous of the fear Islam is inspiring because Christians know they can’t get away with a violent response – and this suggests that if they could get away with it, that they would respond violently.

Christians live in the secular world which will not tolerate religious violent protest – while Islamics tend to live in theocratic countries where such public expression of their intolerance is acceptable, even mandatory.

But the reason that Christians don’t, is because they live in a secular society not a theocratic one. They have things to lose in a secular society that are just not considerations in theocratic ones. Christians would lose their freedom and possessions for behaving violently – they would lose their affluence and influence – which is an important distinction.

In secular society, anyone can prosper – and it’s that prosperity that makes people behave and adhere to the rule of secular law.

Christians are entirely free to behave violently, they are just unwilling to do so for fear of legal consequences – so they turn their response to censorship and shoe horning their religion into the secular law. Which, if successful, would turn the western secular society into a theocracy, in which everyone loses much, but especially non-Christians or the not righteous enough or right kind of Christians.

So, it comes down to Christians wanting to be able to live in a Christian theocratic society were they are not mocked or they are at least able to respond to the mocking with violence.

And, athiests are people without theism, full stop, no replacement. Some may go so far to say that there’s no god, but that’s farther than atheism is, which is to be simply without faith – people who argue that atheism is anything else is attacking strawmen.

We are all atheist to all religions except for the one any person believes in and full athiests go that one more than believers do. Believers are atheist to all religions, save the one that they were most likely raised in, perhaps one they later were drawn to, but one nonetheless, while full atheists have none and no more.

The mechanism that’s at work for people to not mock those that we can reasonable predict will respond with violence is not fear, but rather, safety and concern for life.

We in the west are not the ones who bear the burden and cost of Islamic riots – people over there pay the cost of our mockery. We do not wish to cause needless suffering, loss of life and/or damage to infrastructure.

Moreover, atheism is rejecting theism and as such, has no need for martyrs when atheism is based in reason and logic. Having no need of martyrs, means that atheism does not attract the fanatic element that is common for religion.

Another key difference between theism and non-theism. Non-theism is about living and living well – while religion is about death and the afterlife – and so martyrs are needed, even mandatory.

If people can’t see that logic and reason are the basis and means for a good life all on their own, if they cannot understand good from bad morality and resultant behaviors, if they cannot see that the quality of life matters more than quantity of life….

Then I guess the rational, free thinking, skeptical, logical people need to keep doing outreach and education – to keep fighting that best of all fights – the fight for life, for liberty and equality – must continue.

Or there’s no point to human existence, if we can’t continually improve our lots and civilizations.

 

 

The religious martyr east-west divide

If you aren’t prepared to die for what you believe in, you don’t deserve to live

In the mid 1980’s on a school field trip from Chilliwack, a rural community, to Vancouver, the comparative Big City, I saw those words were hand lettered in white on the back of a denim jacket worn by a punk rocker.

Most of the other teens – the school was primarily cliques of head bangers and goody two show kids – on the field trip, made ooo and ahhh cat calls in complete non-comprehension and likely more to do with the fact of the young man being a punk rocker than the sentiment on his back.  I sat frozen, looking at the words and absorbing them very deeply. When you’re a teenager, everything feels epic, life and death, but you don’t really have a sense of what those concepts really mean. Or what if anything, you believe in, never mind what would be worth dying for. Dying was for old people; except….. my favorite movie at that time, was TAPS, starring Tim Hutton and pre-Ridgemont High Sean Penn and introducing Tom Cruise as three military students who lead a student revolt against the closure of their school – to disastrous and predictable conclusion of romanticizing the death of youths for a cause greater than oneself.

This idea of martyrdom continues to hold sway, people who die for religion are made into saints, religions demand sacrifice of supporters and promise eternal afterlife rewards for those who die in service or at least, when taking out the enemies of religion.

In American, religious zealots are less willing to die themselves but are often fairly open to taking out those who they see as betrayers or enemies – shooting abortion doctors right inside their own community church if need be. The American zealots tend to prefer to live to kill more another day, but when they do end up dying, it’s more likely suicide by cop during a shooting event than taking their own life. Suicide being a sin for which you burn in hell, and apparently this is not balanced against the good of protecting the unborn by the murder of a medical doctor.

As if forcing a police officer into killing you is somehow different than doing it yourself….. might as well take up extreme sports as the avoid hell loophole to suicide and not traumatize another person.

Whereas, Islamic zealots are more the hands on martyrs, strapping on a bomb belt and detonating in the crowd – even though sometimes, they only manage to take out themselves – we have to give them kudos for being fully committed in a way that makes North American Zealots look like they are phoning it in.

Not that there’s anything remotely admirable about being a martyr or, for that matter a criminal. The admiration in American culture for the gunslingers, mobsters, gangsters, outlaw bikers and gangstas is on the same wavelength as admiration for saints and martyrs. They are all the same spectrum of rule breaking outsider who’s become romanticized in pulp fiction, movies and video games.

They are an archetype that fulfills the fantasy of rule breaking freedom, being the law unto yourself, to be the power or to be the one fighting the power. The reality is far short of the fantasy.

Criminals are no different than businessmen, they are in it for the prestige and the cash, the power and influence, one through force and the other through cunning. Their respective criminality and anti-social behavior is only limited by the scope of their reach – and businessmen have a far greater reach than criminals – organized or otherwise – as businessmen who put stockholders above employees, customers, financial institutions and the environment do far more damage to society than the most violent of criminals can hope to.

Criminals, be they in legitimate or underground business, are related to the zealot martyrs, in that they often feel entitled by a higher call or by some quirk of birth or force of personality, to be above or beyond the rules that apply to mortal and lesser men. To be rule makers unto themselves.

Hmmm, putting it that way – the dictator/politicians, criminal/business, outlaws and zealots are really the same spectrum of anti-social disorders. Especially with the recent revelation that many if not most American Republicans believe that they are called by god to run for office and that dictators assure their populaces that they are themselves divine – but never in a fun campy way, always the creepy religious way.

To some degree, the mentality of “live fast, die young” explains the willingness of criminals to accept life as brutal and short, to live and die in service of the gang or larger community, is no different than a person who is a religious martyr, who either dies as part of an assault on their religious foes or in self-sacrifice in self-immolation as a form of protest.

Western secular zealots are less self-sacrificing than their eastern counterparts generally, again, preferring to not be caught or to be killed by police or by the state after a media saturated trial. The most horrifying fate for the western murderous zealot would be to be caught and endure life in obscurity and prison; without even a made for TV movie to explain their crusade.

Perhaps if we could understand the nuance between a zealot willing to self-sacrifice and one who is only willing to sacrifice others, we could identify the thought process that allows a person to sacrifice life in the name of ideology.

The willingness to die for causes has traditionally been thought linked to the degree of economic participation and freedoms one had in their respective society.

For bigoted reasons, the 9/11 hijackers changed this idea – suicide bombers where thought of as disaffected, disengaged young men – but the 9/11 hijackers were middle aged, married and many with children and professional career credentials. Most of them were engineers by training and trade. The increase in female suicide bombers also flies in the face of convention.

I say for bigoted reasons, because Timothy McVeigh was middle class and employed and he looked and could have been anyone. Homespun terrorists hit too close to home to analyze perhaps, much easier to hand wring and wonder about the truth when we don’t have to examine ourselves too closely.

People are something in between herd and pack animals – we like just enough structure to provide a consistent and stable framework, but we also like our individuality and some freedom from restrictive social roles (gender or socio-economic). Collectively, anyway, some people reveal in anarchy and others rejoice in rigidity. To each their own comfort level, but most of us in the middle spectrum like these two extremes in some balance or variability – it maintains our illusion of not only freedom, but free will.

Aside: Here’s a terrible thought, what if the only true expression of free will is choosing to die?

It all comes down to what do you value, or, as the punk rocker wrote, what you believe in.

Do you believe in yourself or do you only credit you with value when you are in service or attached to something bigger?

I think that if you are not enough to assign value to, you have no option but to glom onto something bigger, be it religion, politics, sub-culture, anti-culture or social movement. But, by casting yourself in a supporting role, you become vulnerable to exploitation by people who have no problem with their own self worth and often will fall prey to people with the opposite problem – those who value themselves as better than everyone else.

Leaders of movements have dupes, pawns, toadies, hangers on, minions and disaffected fanatics to do the sacrificing.

It’s never the leaders of any movement who self-immolate or strap on a bomb belt – when the leaders of a movement die, it’s usually a result of either their own over-indulgence with drugs/alcohol or in a doomsday cult mass murder/suicide when the legal authorities come knocking and blaring music and blazing gunfire.

It doesn’t matter how much education or professional accreditation or career accomplishments or families one has, without self-worth, there can be no value or worth inherent in these accomplishments and connections. Without valuing yourself, you have no value to transfer or put into accomplishments or connections; and instead, seek external validation to convey worth and value to your person.

It seems to me, that in addition to fluoride to compensate for the state of dental hygiene, that the government may wish to add anti-depressants to the water. Except that governments of any kind prefer a compliant and only marginally disaffected population who feels bad enough to console themselves through shopping therapy, but not bad enough to get out and vote or revolt.

We find meaning and purpose when we are connected to other people, to the community and we can economically participate and contribute to the world. But this cannot be our only source of value – we have to value ourselves in order for other people to value our contributions and to value ourselves.

Individuals are the basic part that make up the larger blocks of family, friends, colleagues (packs), demographic groups (herds), and segments of society (hives). We are the parts that form the sum, and must in turn, be enhanced as a part by the resultant sum. It is not enough that we contribute, but our contribution must be honored and recognized uniquely.

By us being a part and merely feeding the machine without recognition and enhancement, without that feedback  balance, it is little wonder then, that maladaptive and anti-social behaviours emerge, and eventually, bites the hand that has stopped feeding them.