Monday, May 23, 2005

Politics and Religion

How far should politicians involve God in politics? To what extent should politicians invoke God's name in their bids for power? Should voters vote based on religion? This is the topic of this week's Balance of Power debate: Does God select an American politician or do American politicians use God's name to win the votes of the faithful?

Politicians for time unmemorable have invoked religion to gain the support of the population. To ancient Egyptians, politics and religion were one and the same as the pharaoh was both god and man. To the Romans and Greeks, their gods didn’t directly influence politics but an angry and upset deity could cause terrible things to happen, which was bad news for an aspiring politician. In modern America, there may not be a single politician that doesn’t end a debate or speech with the phrase, "God Bless." Truthfully, are all politicians honest, decent and God-fearing individuals? Considering the hypocrisy and foul play involved in the art of politics, politicians are definitely not the most religious group around. I suspect they fit into three categories: the religious, those who go to church hoping God will forgive their evil deeds and those who simply invoke God's name to win public support. The religious are those who truly believe in God and ask for his strength to navigate troubled waters. Those who go to church hoping God will forgive their sins make up the majority of so-called "moral" political leaders. Those who simply invoke God’s name have only one thing in mind: increasing their power at any cost. Which of these three seems best suited for leadership? Guess which of them usually get elected?

How far should a politician go when invoking God's name to win public support? There is a word for people who say one thing but do another: hypocrite. A politician who tries to do what is right and asks God for strength is a true servant of both God and the people; he or she is trying to balance the needs and long-term good of all with the consequences of action. The politician who uses God to promote his or her own agenda is nothing more than a hypocrite. Politicians should only invoke God's name when they need strength or when they are fighting for a good cause, not when they are promoting their agenda. There are notable examples in American politics of just the opposite. Did God tell Senator Bill Frist (R-TN) that Democrats are against God? Frist said just that in a recent taped television appearance. Did God support or bless President Bush's invasion of Iraq? Did Jesus tell Bush that he didn't mean it when he said, "all who draw the sword will die by the sword?" The answer is no. Despite this, Bush has declared constantly that it was our God-given duty to invade Iraq. Does he mean this or has he been trying to use God to gain support for his overall agenda? Considering that his justifications have evolved like a lake in the seasons, his moral reasoning is in grave doubt, making the answer to this question

Considering these facts and ideals, is it proper for a voter to vote based on religion? Because God suffers a terrible abuse at the hands of many politicians, is it safe for a voter to assume that because someone mentions God they are religious? The answer is, again, no. The Republican Party claims to be the moral party that fights for what God truly intends, but are they not merely trying to harness God's will to gain votes? Voters should not vote using only religion as a guide. They should vote on issues because a truly moral leader will lead righteously while the crooked will lead a questionable charge that fails even when God's will is invoked.

What is the conclusion? Doubtless there will be arguments on all sides to and for every possible point of view. The important thing to keep in mind is that God is what he is, pure goodness. God would never support the wicked, even if he had no other choice. While he supports those with vices, for who of humanity has no vice, he supports those who truly believe in him and who
truly seek to do good. When a politician seeks to promote their agenda, things are never what they seem and God is never at his or her side. Politics and God are not the same and rarely intersect. God does not choose a politician but does support a leader when they need his strength to do good things. Those who seek to do good deeds call upon God’s strength; those
who seek to further their power invoke his name. This is the truth, as I see it, about politics and religion.
Joseph-The New Oklahoma Democrat

--responses are listed in alphabetical order from the host.--

I think the Constitution covers it well. Congress (Federal law makers) shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion....lets stop there for a moment. Notice that it says they shall make no law. It does not say they shalt not pray in public, express their religion in public, establish monuments that honor a particular religion, etc. ....or prohibiting the free exercise this is where many Conservatives want to put the emphasis. Groups like the ACLU try to do just this....prohibit the free exercise of.
It is pretty simple to me. The place of religion is a personal thing. There is no way that anyone in public office can not be influenced to some degree by their religious beliefs. The important thing is that religion is not forced on anyone, such as a theocracy. The other thing is that it should not be is a civil right. Influence of religion in making laws is different than making a law that respects a particular religion. Not killing is a law, that perhaps was written from the moral influence of Christianity in all probability, yet it is not confined to that one religion.

The politician who uses God to promote his or her own agenda may be a hypocrite, but they have the right to do so. Hopefully the voters will see through it if it is fake. Sharing their faith in the public forum is not however using God necessarily.

Is it proper for a voter to vote based on religion? Well, it is proper to vote based on your morals, which are often rooted in your religion. And I personally think one should vote based on their morals.

"God does not choose a politician but does support a leader when they need his strength to do good things. Those who seek to do good deeds call upon God's strength; those who seek to further their power invoke his name. This is the truth, as I see it, about politics and religion."

Invoking God's name does not necessarily mean they are seeking to further their power. Perhaps this is true often, but it is not an absolute. It totally depends on the context. Bush never said that "invading" Iraq was a blessing of God. He did say that he believes that freedom is a gift from God to all mankind, and that "liberating" Iraq was a good thing.

"Voters should not vote using only religion as a guide. They should vote on issues because a truly moral leader will lead righteously while the crooked will lead a questionable charge that fails even when God's will is invoked."

I agree. And the democrats as of late have shown no moral leadership at all. The republicans seem to have a better record on this. That is, if you trust the judgment of "the people".
John - Stop the ACLU

Before getting into the details of this post, allow me to establish the angle from which I approach this issue.

I am an unabashed Atheist. I do not believe in a deity in any form or fashion. At the same time, I seem to buck the trend against the views of the majority of my fellow Atheists. Why? Because I am not militantly anti-religious. I am not threatened by the fact that others believe in a god. I don't think being religious makes you stupid. Are there those who are religious simply because their parents and others told them to be, yes. If they have not come to their religious beliefs through a personal evaluation of the available information, I might think them to be sheep, but I certainly bear them no ill will.

I believe religion to be a personal thing. My 5 year old daughter (through the influence of her mother and grandparents) believes in God. Because of this, I allow her to attend church services on a regular basis. I am a single father and many would ask why I would allow this. The answer is simple, I believe that in order to make a proper decision concerning one's beliefs, it is necessary to understand as thoroughly as possible the issues involved. We openly discuss my beliefs and why I believe what I do. I feel confident that once she is older, she will come to the same conclusion that I did. If not, so be it. At least she will have been presented with all the information necessary for her to decide for herself.

I grew up in the Church (Lutheran/Methodist). When I got old enough to think for myself, I started studying the whole concept of religion and came to the religious conclusions that I felt were right. This is no different than my decision to consider myself libertarian. I was always a Republican, because my parents were Republicans. Once I examined the issues, I found that my beliefs fell more in line with those of libertarianism than with the Republican Party.

I would hope that this is how anyone would approach the issues of religion and politics.

OK so now that you understand where I am coming from, let's get to the issues presented by Joseph. My contributions for the first two topics were written without regard to what was written by the Topic Leader for the week. This week however, Joseph has asked some very specific questions, so I will attempt to address them on an individual basis.

How far should politicians involve God in politics? To what extent should politicians invoke God's name in their bids for power?

Politics and religion are both integral parts of who a person is, therefore, it is not surprising that there is a huge overlap of the two. Our founding fathers recognized this fact and sought to address it with the first sixteen words of the 1st Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

This is generally known as the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause. To me, this is a beautifully written concise limitation upon the powers of the government as concerns religion. The Establishment Clause was clearly meant to prevent the establishment of a State sponsored religion such as The Church of England (which to this day holds the British Monarch as its figurehead leader). It does not, however, establish the completely sterile secular government being pushed by my fellow Atheists under the guise of "separation of Church and State."

The Free Exercise Clause is also clear, people are free to practice their religious beliefs as they see fit. In conjunction with the Establishment Clause, it seems clear that anyone, even politicians are free to exercise their beliefs. For this reason, I have no problem with politicians citing God or even bastardizing what others believe to be his teachings for their own advancement. As the saying goes Caveat Emptor. It is the responsibility of each individual voter to determine if a politician's beliefs are sincere or a load of crap spewed solely for political gain.

Should voters vote based on religion?

A voter holds absolute right to vote based on any reasons that he deems germane to the decision. He can vote based on the color of the candidate's hair, the way the candidate dresses, or any of a billion other reasons. Would such triviality be prudent, of course not. Perhaps voting based on religious beliefs is not either, but it is certainly a decision to made solely by the voter in question.

Does God select an American politician or do American politicians use God's name to win the votes of the faithful?

Well since I don't believe that God exists, I am forced to go with the latter. Whether this use is based on sincere belief or is just political posturing is, as I said, up to each individual voter to determine.

I believe the right of a politician to use religion to further his political aspirations is fairly wide open, so long as he does not cross the constitutional boundaries such as this.

However, another question can be asked. Should a politician place self-imposed limits on his use of religion? A parallel example would be those who choose to serve in the military. Upon enlisting or accepting their commission, they agree to be bound by the UCMJ which places restrictions on rights they would otherwise have under the Constitution. Politicians could easily submit to more stringent guidelines concerning religion, if they so chose.

Now concerning the implication that only Republicans are hypocrites when it comes to religion, I would say that the Dems are no better. Both parties have demonstrated time and again hypocrisy on multitudes of issues, including religion. To suggest otherwise would be intellectually dishonest.
Liberty Dog - One Billion Red Chinese and a Dog Named Liberty

Religion and Politics, hmmm. Well first lets me say, Joseph you did a great job with your post, It was very well written, but I am having trouble finding what to debate with you. Does Religion have any place in politics? Well I guess that all depends on your point of view. I mean, should we live in a theocracy? Absolutely not, the only plausible Theocracy in this world is the Vatican. Should we elect or politicians solely based on their religious beliefs? Once again, absolutely not, how would we ever know if they are voting by their beliefs or by the will of the people. Should one invoke the name of God, just to get elected? Positively, No. But then yet the penalty for that is between that person and God. As long as they represent the will of the people, I personally don’t care.

Should we try to elect the best person for the job, both in qualifications and their will to serve the people? Absolutely, Yes. And that person should reflect the general morality and protect the sovereign rights of the people (as they are sworn to by the constitution). All of these things agree with your point of view, I think, but I do disagree with how you apply these thoughts.

Did God tell Senator Bill Frist (R-TN) that Democrats are against God? Frist said just that in a recent taped television appearance. Frist, I think, was referring to the actions recently of the far left, suing over public displays of the cross, or public prayer etc…

Did God support or bless President Bush's invasion of Iraq? Did Jesus tell Bush that he didn't mean it when he said, "all who draw the sword will die by the sword?" Did you mean "Those who live by the sword, will die by the sword"? I believe this passage to mean that those who rule by tyranny, or stay in power by force, will meet their downfall by the same means. Did we not unseat two tyrannical regimes by means of force? Have not countless other tyrannical rulers also been unseated by either revolution or interdiction? Don’t do what you are accusing the politicians of, do not misrepresent what a deity figure said in order to make your point.

All that aside, I think that religion in general provides morality to the public consciousness. Even those that are not religious have a general set of morals that represent self-preservation and civil accord. Religious or not, most can agree that it is a good idea not to do what you don’t want done to you. So we make laws that say, don’t murder, don’t steal, and don’t rape etc. mainly because we don’t want these things to happen to us and that without these laws our society would crumble into chaos (if you don’t believe me, think of the wild west a few hundred years or so ago). These laws can be seen as religious in nature, and I am sure many of them actually are.

Our forefathers were a highly religious bunch, but they had the foresight to disallow the creation of a national religion and/or a theocracy. They knew that the people needed to choose their own path, both religious and political. So they wrote it into the constitution. Amendment . I. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” This is plain and simple, there shall be no national religion, and there shall be no impediments to anyone’s practice of their religion. Further articles put only the limitation of damage or injury to all of the rights granted, meaning you cannot, in the practice of your religion, harm another (i.e. sacrifice can be made illegal).

So, what is the place of religion in politics? While it should not be the law of the land, politicians should use their moral judgment, which often ties to their religion, in everything they do. It is our job to elect those that have proven by their actions to have the moral character that we wish to represent us. Any overly religious, or corrupt leaders we may have, we are responsible for. We elected them. If they disappoint us then maybe we should have paid more attention before we voted for them. If every voter did this, we would have a lot less complaints of religious zealot etc. in public office, and our politicians would represent the will of the people.
Zaphriel - Birth of a Neocon

Great post (as usual), Joseph.

I was going to try to come up with something really deep and provoking on this subject but the more I try to, the more I just keep coming up with the same thing....

I *do* want a Congress run by God, I really *do*. This country would be so much more awesome, and so much better off... if the Holy One Himself actually DID run this country.

But since God seems to be kind of busy at the moment (I'm sure that helping 180 OTHER countries run themselves is quite time consuming after all), I'm just NOT going to assume that EVERY politician who drops to his knees, or pounds a Bible, has actually been ANOINTED by God to run our country. Yup, I'm saying these actions will NOT lead to an "autovote" by the GTL. Nor will the absence of them.

"WWJD"? Well, for one, I'm not sure He'd part his hair on the side and use hair spray, but that's just ME. I wonder if He'd even clip His eyebrows. One thing's for SURE - He ate with dirty hands and many right wingers would have had Him kicked out of their churches for that transgression if He were to stroll in and sit down next to them in their gold-inlaid pews while He nibbled on a corncob with dirt under His fingernails.

But many folks are totally CONVINCED Jesus was some sort of a hard-core, extremist "right winger" for some reason. Even though He told a crowd of bullies to stop picking on the hooker. Even though He admonished us to pay our taxes and stop bitching about it (paraphrased, of course). Even though He got so PISSED off at a bunch of greedy capitalists trying to make a buck at the church steps that he went the heck OFF and flipped their tables over as their change clattered all over the concrete...

... somehow, some of us missed His message. Some it seems, think what Jesus was REALLY trying to do was convince us that far, right-winged politics was "the sh#%$". So then they stepped up to become our nation's leaders, based upon this fallacy that Jesus was REALLY trying to somehow, admonish the poor and the downtrodden and elevate those who were of the "for every man himself" ideology.



Was Pope Jean Paul II a conservative? Was Mother Theresa? Were they far left "Michael Moore" types? I think NOT.

As you can see Joseph, I largely agree with you. I am not a "religious" person, however; I am a "spiritual" person who has a very personal relationship with God. I rely on that relationship to help guide my votes. I am not a "straight D ticket" kind of guy. If somebody is evoking God's Name, regardless of the party affiliation, I lean forward and search for the Truth... "Are they just SAYING this to earn a vote or is this person Truly a person of God?" is what I ask myself. To me, the only thing worse than a far right religious whacko in power is a phony Christian politician, be he or she a Republican, Democrat, or whatever. Unfortunately, we have way too many of both, in my not so humble opinion.

The last issue I'll bring up is the war in Iraq. We MUST accept the cold hard fact of it - our nation's leaders, be they Republicans OR Democrats, voted UNANIMOUSLY to go into Iraq. While I do feel it is unfair to lay the blame for the reason, the WMD's - upon the lap of one single person, I'm glad we're there and I hope we WIN DECISIVELY. In fact, I feel like one lonely liberal on this issue. I feel it is our duty as Christian citizens of this world to liberate the horribly oppressed.

So why then are we not in Sudan? Why are we not putting SERIOUS (perhaps, even MILITARY) pressure upon ALL brutal regimes to topple them? To me, this is good enough reason alone to lift the sword and charge forward.

I bet you're thinking I don't sound like a liberal when I say this but ask yourself where the word "liberate" derives from. I am seriously STUNNED that my fellow liberals aren't swamping our military recruiters to go roll up their shirtsleeves and help out in Iraq, much less bombarding their elected representatives to help liberate our other oppressed brothers and sisters around the world with anything, including UP TO military might.

But in closing, I'm with you (overall) on this issue, Joseph. When a politician evokes God's Name, I take a hard look at their lifetime works and will judge them on a different scale than those who don't. I take Jesus' advice and I look for the "fruit on the tree" and how it was acquired.

While I don't REQUIRE a person to be "Godly" before I cast a vote in favor of him, or her - I *do* require their works to be "Godly". If a man or woman is an atheist, FINE with ME, as long as their life's works have largely been devoted to attempting to make this country and this world a better place for their fellow man to live in.

And with that, I shall close by saying may God continue to richly Bless this country, this world, and all of its inhabitants in Jesus' Holy Name, AMEN!
Carl - The Gun-Toting Liberal

It's comment time!!! Let us know what you think, are we full of it? Tell us. Do you totally agree with one (or all) of us? Tell us. We want to know.
If you like
"The Balance of Power"
Keep us running
Please make a donation



This Blog was created for two reasons:

1. To speak out against Extremism in politics.

2. To discuss contemporary political topics in a balanced manner within a neutral forum.

Our contributors are from all sides of the spectrum:
and Conservative

We will strive to bring you all sides of an issue and we welcome civil comments that further our discussions in an intelligent manner.
While we understand that political issues can be emotional, we respectfully request that you keep the conversation polite. All profanity and meanspirited language (i.e. personnal threats) will be deleted at our discretion.

Carl's (GTL) Blogroll

Liberty Dog's Blogroll

A Western Heart
An Inclination to Critcize
Anger Management
Ashish's Niti
Birth of a Neocon
Bourgeois Philistines of Minnesota
Election Projection
Gay Orbit
GM's Corner
Liberty for Sale
Miss Apropos
New Blog Showcase
Old Whig's Brain Dump
Powers Not Delegated
Propaganda Machine
Ramblings' Journal
Simon's World
Social Sense
Somewhere over the Rainbough
Stop the ACLU
The Balance of Power
The Gun-Toting Liberal
The New American Revolutionist
The New Oklahoma Democrat
The Nomad Tavern
The Truth About York
The Volokh Conspiracy
the will to exist
The Zoo
Truck Spy
Where HipHop and Libertarianism Meet
Zero Base Thinking


Jason's Blogroll

The Agitator
Atomic Poet
The Audient Files
The Balance of Power
Ban the Ban
Blawg Republic
Blogosphere of the Libertarian Left
Boing Boing
Brewed Fresh Daily
Callahan's Cleveland Diary
Codependent Collegian
The Comics Curmudgeon
The Commons
Crime and Federalism
Crooks and Liars
The D'Alliance
Decline and Fall of Western Civilization
Democracy Guy
DARE Generation Diary
Drug WarRant
DUI Blog
Russ Feingold for President
Flex Your Rights
Foreign Dispatches
Franklin County Young Democrats
Freedom Democrats
Freeman, Libertarian Critter
The Free Liberal
Gravity Lens
Grow Ohio
The Gun-Toting Liberal
Happy Furry Puppy Story Time with Norbizness
The Has Been
HistoryMike's Musings
Hit and Run
Hooah Wife
Improbable Research
Independent Country
Gary Johnson for President
Land of the Free, Home of the Brave
Left in the West
Liberal Common Sense
Liberty Belles
Liberty Just in Case
Martini Republic
Meet the Bloggers
The Mockingbird
The Mommy Blawg
Mutualist Blog
Mystery Pollster
National Nitwit
New Donkey
Notes from the Lounge
Objective Justice
Ohio 2nd
The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
Political Animal
Chris Redfern Weblog
Reform the Patriot Act
Schweitzer for President
Setting the Pace
Springer on the Radio
A Stitch in Haste
Szollosi Toledo
Talking Points Memo
TPM Cafe
Talk Left
Tavern Wench
Thoughts from a Wondering Soul
Toledo Tales
To the People
Unbeknownst to Me
Vice Squad
Vodkapundit and the Weblog of Tomorrow
The Volokh Conspiracy
Waiter Rant
The War on Guns
Matt Welch
Western Democrat
The Whistleblower
Who Hijacked our Country
The Wine Commonsewer
World of the Future
The Y Files
Matthew Yglesias
Jeremy Zawodny's Blog