Religion and Politics: Driving the U.S. Backwards

The Role of Religion in Politics

This November’s elections should be about some very important topics.  Things like the economy, health care, energy policy, foreign policy—these things and others like them should be the main issues people are thinking about when they choose their candidates—from local to President.  My concern is that these issues will be placed on the back burner.  What would replace them?  To me, they will be replaced by social agendas.  These will include subjects like same-sex marriage, women’s equality, the HHS mandate, and the role of religion in the public sphere.  These issues are important—to be sure.  This is troublesome to me for one reason.  The topics of the social agenda should not be the powerful issues they are today.  Each of them is driven to a large extent by the power and money of Christian groups in this country.  If we remove religion from each of those agendas the vitriol and controversies collapse.

I was reading the Catholic News Agency this morning and came across this article: Democrats Leave Party over Marriage, Religious Freedom Concerns.  There was no way I could bypass that article.  It is worth a read.  It more or less highlights about a dozen or so politicians in the South who switched parties in light of the Dems embracing same-sex marriage and the HHS mandate.  What the article does not discuss is this same exodus among non-politicians.  I think it fair to assume that the same is happening on that scale as well.  Religion, specifically Christianity is driving this election.  I want to look briefly at each topic above with and without religion.

Same-Sex Marriage

No one can doubt that the driving force against same-sex marriage is religious in nature.  The main objections we see are based on the bible and on the Christian concept of family.  We have assclowns such as Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association who say things like this:

“I would go so far as to say we cannot have gay marriage and the First Amendment. We can’t have homosexuality and the First Amendment. If homosexuality is embraced and normalized, that’s the end of the First Amendment. It’s gone; it’s out of here, shredded beyond recognition, a worthless piece of paper.” (Andrew Rosenthal, NY Times)

What an outrageous statement.  There are so many things wrong with those two sentences one hardly knows where to begin criticizing.  For the purpose of this blog, I do not need to do so.  Suffice it to say that Christian rhetoric is a driving force behind the anti-marriage movement.

I propose that if we removed any and all forms of religious argument from this debate, we would be left with a non-issue.  The arguments against homosexuality that do not cite religious reasons are absurd.  Most people would recognize and support same-sex marriage.  Surely, there will still be those who dissent.  However, they would then be the fringe the minority.  They would be bigots, akin to racists today.  Very few people consider the term bigot or racist to be complimentary.  Religion is a major force in the lives of many Christians.  This topic is one of the most important to Christian leaders.  It is not much of a stretch to conclude that without religion, this would be a non-issue.

Women’s Equality

The same argument we used above is applicable here.  Christianity has an atrocious record towards women.  They are, without a doubt, second class citizens.  The Catholic Church is currently in a battle with its own Nuns.  They are claiming the Nuns need to be reeled in, by men, for promoting radical feminism.  Let me clarify, the term “radical feminism” is code word for misogynists saying women’s equality.  Period.  When you get down to it, that is all that “radical feminist’s” want.

Many forms of Christianity, and certainly the most powerful (Catholics and evangelicals) believe that a woman’s primary role is to be producing children and raising them.  This is not really up for debate. If you disagree, please pull your head out of the sand.

Many Evangelical Christians and Catholics do not support women as clergy members.  They do not believe that women should be in positions of power.  Women are always subject to men I these religions.

Again, if we remove religion from the equation this issue collapses to a large extent.  To be fair, it would not cease to be an issue in the same manner that homosexuality would.  There will still be misogynists out there.  The sad reality is that we need to undo millennia of social cultures that place women as second class citizens.  Some men would continue to treat women as such.  As recent discussions in the Atheist community have highlighted, misogyny is not unique to religions.  However, there can be little this idea is driven in large part by Christianity.  If we remove Christianity from the debate, the issue shrinks considerably.

HHS Mandate/Birth Control

There really is not much to talk about here.  Without Catholicism, there is nothing to talk about.  This is an issue that is being driven to the forefront of American politics by the Catholic Church.  This makes it the easiest to critique.  If the Catholic Church drops its objection to the HHS Mandate nobody will talk about this issue.

I would like to digress for a brief moment and discuss the abhorrent nature of the Church’s position.  The Church’s refusal to recognize the importance of birth control has led to an enormous amount of suffering worldwide.  Disease and Death have spread like wildfire through third world nations because of the Catholic Church.  Poverty, through overpopulation and underemployed women, has been propagated in the third world because of the Catholic Church.  The Church’s position on this matter is not only flagrantly stupid; it is harmful to the world.  We cannot allow the Church to spread its idiocy on birth control in this country.  The effects would be devastating.

The Role of Religion in the Public Sphere

This topic has been gaining strength for the better part of forty years.  It has rapidly picked up speed in the last decade.  Christian groups are trying desperately to run roughshod over our Constitution.  They are seeking to impose Dominionism.  There is a mass campaign to mis-educate the American citizenry regarding the foundations of our country.  There is a mass campaign to redefine the First Amendment.  We are not and have never been a Christian Nation.  Our founding fathers were largely deists and certainly not Christians.  Many of the most prominent among them Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, Adams detested Christianity.  If you disagree, start reading your history.

Religion cannot be separated from a voter’s conscience.  I understand that.  When we enter the voting booth, each of us takes all of our beliefs with us.  This does not mean that religion needs to play a large part in public life.  In many areas of the South, this is a large battle.  It should not even be an issue.  Why is it?  Because religions need to spread—all forms of Christianity have policies of evangelization.  Christian leaders need to spread the word.  It is natural that they attempt to do this publicly.  The problems arise when we see how this is manifested.  Public religious displays often come at the expense of other religions or atheism and those groups are often discriminated against in the process.  Christians are free to practice their religion; however, that freedom does not extend to imposing it on others.  It cannot be allowed to happen.  That is not what this country was founded on.

The last comment I wish to make on this topic regards the absurdity of this entire conversation.  As an atheist, I cannot fail to point out that there is zero basis for believing in any religion.  Christianity is gaining in power and influence in this country and that is sad.  While the rest of the developed world is realizing that Christianity belongs to the infancy of our species, is outdated, and is just plain nonsense, we in America are going the opposite direction.  We are allowing something as “real” as unicorns to dominate much of the political discussion.  That is nothing short of gross ignorance.

I would love to see people vote this November in a way that best serves their personal economic and health care issues.  I would love to see people vote in a manner that best serves the world when it comes to energy and foreign policies.  I would love to see people vote to support social justice and social causes because it is the right thing to do.  I am afraid that people will vote in a way that best serves what their pastors and priests tell them.  One method of voting will serve to move us forward into the 21st century.  The other will lead us backwards.  Which are you going to choose?

Thanks for Reading.  I look forward to your comments.

—-RB

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22 thoughts on “Religion and Politics: Driving the U.S. Backwards

  1. Loren Miller from Bedford, OH, United States

    Rosenthal's comment regarding the First Amendment vs. gay marriage or homosexuality was telling and for a simple reason. Religion wants the right to discriminate, based on its holy book. It points to Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 and insists that MUST be the way it is. Meanwhile, a growing part of society is slowly and surely evolving past the need to treat the GLBT community as second-class citizens. We're getting shut of that irrational prejudice in much the same fashion we did for blacks and interracial marriage. Yet there are those who cling to this one form of bigotry "because the bible sez so," while countless other portions of that same book are blatantly ignored.

    Let's state the obvious in boldface: no one – NO ONE – has the right to irrational discrimination, whether by race, gender, sexual orientation or any other superficial excuse. Such behavior demonstrates backward and fixated thinking and does not serve the public weal. If religion wants to insist on these misguided biases, there should be a price to pay, and a steep one.

    It's time that price was demanded.

    Reply
    1. Ahab from United States

      I think on some level, Religious Right people realize that their discrimination against LGBTs, women, and non-Christians has no rational basis. It can be darkly amusing to watch them scramble for hollow justifications, though.

      Reply
  2. Chuck Doswell from United States

    Religion and politics are both about power and control over people. Hence, they make common bedfellows. I believe this is why America was founded under terms of separating them. Tribalistic urges motivated by religion are extremely dangerous: when one religion is a dominant majority in a nation, persecution of minorities is a constant threat in part because religion demands obedience and conformity.

    Reply
  3. Cephus from Redlands, CA, United States

    You have to understand, this is nothing new. In fact, the core of the modern Republican party is made up of disenfranchised Southern Democrats who abandoned the party in the 60s and 70s over issues like abortion and civil rights. We don't have a conservative party in this country today, we have two liberal parties separated by religious extremism. You will continue to get the wingnut religious running over to the Republicans (and when they're not extreme enough, over to parties like the Constitution Party).

    That said though, I agree entirely that religion has taken over the public political sphere and that must be stopped. What imaginary friend you have should not be part of our national political identity. I'm just hoping someday, we'll grow up before we turn into a third-world nation of warring religious tribal factions.

    Reply
  4. @TexasAtheist from San Antonio, TX, United States

    I think it was 60 Minutes when Clarence Thomas said (in my words from memory but the message is accurate) that it's ridiculous that every member of the Supreme Court is there due to their beliefs on abortion and that there were far more pressing issues to be concerned with than fetuses. I was surprised to hear that from him, but it is definitely the climate of the times where religion is injecting it's influence to the point that we have a hard time getting past all of these non-issues to debate truly important and more pressing matters. Well written and received, thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    1. reasonbeing from Rochester, MN, United States Post author

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I greatly appreciate it. The Supreme Court is a mess right now in my opinion. It seems to me that legal matters are completely secondary to political and religious views. It has always been that way to some extent, but not this grossly in my opinion.

      Reply
  5. Humanist Tweeter from Cardiff, Cardiff, United Kingdom

    I've a huge issue with the following:

    'Let me clarify, the term “radical feminism” is code word for misogynists saying women’s equality. Period. When you get down to it, that is all that “radical feminist’s” want.'

    I'm quite appalled that a blog written by a freethinker and skeptic would write such a thing. 'Radical feminist' is not a slur. It's usually used as a self-identifier by… radical feminists. Radical feminism is something that every feminist or humanist I know makes pains to avoid being associated with. It is misandrist, misogynistic and divisive – which is exactly why the radical feminist movement aligns so well with the fundamental religious viewpoint on so many issues. The 'radical feminist' movement want to introduce law proven to harm sex workers, are frequently and openly hateful toward transsexual people (despite scientific evidence proving the fallacy of gender construction theory), and advocate that all women should 'choose' to have romantic and sexual relationships with other women (thereby pushing the idea that one's sexuality is a choice that can be made). And of course, any woman who disagrees is simply labouring under a false consciousness, too 'blinded' to accept the dogma they put forward. And anyone, male or female, who refuses to accept said dogma is the enemy.

    Familiar?

    Radical feminism is a subset of feminism which, quite frankly, has a cheek to call itself feminist at all. And 'women's equality' is the very last thing they want.

    Please – read on these issues before you write on them.

    Reply
    1. reasonbeing from Rochester, MN, United States Post author

      You are correct that there is an extreme branch of feminism that defines itself as radical feminists. However, no one, and I mean no one is talking about them in either my blog or Rome. You are delusional if you do not think the term "radical feminist" is used as a slur. What you are saying is the equivalent to: "Racist is not a slur. Didn't you know that it is a self-identifier by a group of white people who call themselves the KKK?…" Your argument is foolish. Millions of women who just want equality are labeled as "radical feminists" every day—because the tern is so extremist and misandrist sounding, divisive, and dissmissive. Your comment makes you part of the problem and not part of the solution—Humanist or not, do not get bogged down in labels and semantics and read the substance of the issue. So here is my challenge to you, this is the second poorly thought out comment you have left at my blog. Think before you write, do not write with emotion, and thirdly, have a clue before you insult me for a third time.

      Reply
      1. @HumanistTweeter from Dublin, County Dublin, Ireland

        Apologies for the late reply, I have been away from home.

        While I understand your desire to see these 'radical feminist' descriptors as 'slurs', the women covered by the situation you mentioned identify as radical feminists for the most part, and failing that endorse radical feminist dogma to the point that labeling them so is nothing but reasonable.

        I'm sorry that you think I'm delusional for holding a different opinion on this matter. That really is a crying shame, as is your stating that I have previously left 'poorly thought out' comments before, after stating at the time that comments I have made were 'well thought out' and 'thought provoking'.

        I do wish you the best with your blog, but since my preference is for reasonable debate without pointless chastisement for the slightest of disagreements, I'll leave you to it.

        Peace.

        Reply
          1. @HumanistTweeter from Dublin, County Dublin, Ireland

            An expression of distaste that such ill-founded statements would be put forth on a blog I otherwise enjoy, by a person whose opinions I have read and respected, does not an insult make. I would posit that your accusation of me writing with emotion applies in reverse.

            If the 'insults' that you mention are those I levy at the radical feminist movement, I'm afraid that those stand and are warranted. As a woman interested in equality I feel that opposing radical feminist dogma is my duty.

            Again, I wish you the best! (and will continue to until the end of this discussion lol)

          2. reasonbeing from Rochester, MN, United States Post author

            I have no ill will towards you. In fact, I do appreciate your comments, just not your insults of "please read on issues before you write on them" and I forget exactly what you said on my other post, but there was another snarky comment there as well.

            I called your comment poorly thought out because I was not writing about radical feminism, but about nuns and Rome's views on the behavior of said nuns. The actions of the nuns is not radical feminism, it is pure feminism, Nuns not pushing the birth control or abortion issue is simply women's rights, not radical feminism—the nuns seem to be interested in what most feminists want. When Rome use the words "radical feminism" they are using it as a slur towards the nuns and misrepresenting their views. This is what many misogynists do and is often how the term "radical feminist" is used. They take and apply that term to all feminists in a way meant to be derogatory and discrediting.

            I appreciate your comments and readership but not the snark because we disagree. You are correct that I wrote that response while emotional. I will agree that I should not have done so.

          3. @HumanistTweeter from Dublin, County Dublin, Ireland

            I knew you weren't writing about radical feminism. My issue is that you seem to have the wrong end of the stick regarding what actually happened. The Vatican report said a few things. It said that The Leadership Conference of Women Religious had been silent on the right to life – it had, it said that the conference had failed to make the *biblical* view of family life and human sexuality central to its agenda – it had, and it said that they were promoting certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith – they were.

            Nuns have, by and large, supported the introduction of Nordic law regarding sex work – law that has been proven to be damaging to women in the sex industry and in opposition of harm reduction. This is fundamentally a radical feminist theme. Catholic nuns and radical feminist ideology are so compatible in many respects, that the Irish charity Ruhama – claiming to work for sex workers – was set up and is still run by two orders of nuns that also ran the reprehensible Magdalene laundries. They even have the cheek to cite a "long history of involvement with marginalised women" on their 'about' page. I won't go on about it, but you get the idea.

            Now, look at what the report said – it didn't 'accuse' the nuns of being radical feminists – it stated, correctly, that they had been promoting certain themes of radical feminism. The press and different bloggers then took this up and ran with it as part of the recent 'war on women' part-propaganda-part-truth that's been storming columns. So now it has become the hyperbolic 'accusation of radical feminism'.

            Ordinarily I wouldn't have a problem with this, but it's almost as though we're supposed to see these nuns as victims of an evil, patriarchal institution, as though they had no idea what they were getting into. They had every idea, and still do. They knew exactly what the church was about when they went in, they knew it was patriarchal bullshit (okay, maybe they didn't know it was bullshit, but they knew the men called the shots and that that was an integral part of the faith they were buying into). And hey, if they don't like it, they can leave. The door is wide open, their skills in various areas, paid for by congregations full of gullible-yet- charitable sheeple, will see them alright out in the real world. They're not poor little wimmin victims. They're grown ups who can make choices, and if they want to battle internally over whose version of the fairy tale is better than whose, when each version has its own long list of cons, they can go right ahead.

            My issue, fundamentally, is that you're a respected blogger with a decent following, whose information is generally correct. So people might be inclined to believe what you write without double-checking. When I then see a statement like:

            "Let me clarify, the term “radical feminism” is code word for misogynists saying women’s equality. Period. When you get down to it, that is all that “radical feminist’s” want."

            …it makes me twitchy. Equality is not all that radical feminists want. That's my point. And my only point, with the whole article, really.

            I hope that clarifies it a little better!

        1. Strephon Savoyard from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

          The term "Radical Feminist" has two meanings, depending on who uses it. When a woman uses it the meaning may be "Radical change" or "Change by radical means" "Feminism as espoused by radicals." The point is that it's intended to have some meaning, with a definition that can be traced to other meaningful words.

          For someone in the Religious Right or the Republican Right "Radical Feminist" is a pejorative someone whose goal is to change the role of women. Almost any change will do. One change might be the attainment of equality for women. For many men the Religious Right, the subordination was ordained by God and so is the natural order of things. To change it is to defy God, the most radical thing one can do.

          Reply
  6. rblevy from Philippines

    I shake my head in sorrowful awe that the above issues in America have even become issues, let alone dragged into the presidential election. The enlightened countries of the world are probably laughing at us.

    Reply

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