Saturday, February 02, 2019

When is religious involvement in our political life inappropriate?

The movements supporting the rights of women, and the civil rights movements, were started within religious groups. It is not an accident that the Civil Rights movement was led by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. The Declaration says that we were endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights (so, no creator, no rights?) Are these instances of the inappropriate intrusion into our democratic life? If not, what constitutes an appropriate, as opposed to an inappropriate insinuation of religion into our political life? If religion motivates some to oppose abortion or gay marriage, people think that's inappropriate. But when Jefferson makes a religious appeal to defend inalienable rights, or when King organizes the Montgomery bus boycott, or when religious groups organize for women's suffrage at Seneca Falls, this is OK? I'll bet the segregationists wished the King would stay in his pulpit and preach Jesus instead of getting involved in a political issue like civil rights. Is religious involvement in politics bad just in case I agree with it?

11 comments:

Hugo Pelland said...

Religion is NEVER relevant. Every single thing religions teach is to be evaluated objectively, regardless of what any religion says. It's that simple.

Whem religions are right, it is a coincidence.

bmiller said...

The Declaration says that we were endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights (so, no creator, no rights?) Are these instances of the inappropriate intrusion into our democratic life?

Good point. Here is the exact wording:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,

//sarcasm on
But of course the people who thought this were ignorant 18th century hillbillys who could not envision the modern world. The Declaration of Independence should be considered a "living document" and we should interpret "Creator" as "Society" and "unalienable" as "what society thinks at this moment".
//sarcasm off

Legion of Logic said...

Religion is NEVER relevant.

Just as relevant as any other source of motivation.

Every single thing religions teach is to be evaluated objectively

I can't think of anything in politics that is evaluated objectively. Even incontrovertible facts get spun into false narratives.

Hugo Pelland said...

"Just as relevant as any other source of motivation."

Motivation, sure. What else? Not truth...

"I can't think of anything in politics that is evaluated objectively."

But we can try. Religions, oth, dont want that.

Legion of Logic said...

Motivation, sure. What else? Not truth

Truth is also not important in politics.

But we can try. Religions, oth, dont want that

Too broad a statement to be true or useful.

Starhopper said...

Hugo,

I love you, but boy oh boy, can you be rather dumb at times. Truth not relevant to religion? Christ Himself laid it on the line, saying "You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall set you free." And then "I am the Truth."

Paul said much the same thing when he wrote "And if Christ has not risen, it follows that what we preach is a delusion, and that your faith also is a delusion." So you can legitimately argue that Christianity is not true, but you cannot (honestly) claim that the Truth is not relevant.

John Moore said...

As an atheist, I think it's fine for religious people to be motivated by their religion. It couldn't be any other way.

If your preacher tells you to vote for Trump, it's up to you to obey or disobey. Maybe a lot of people just trust their preacher and do whatever he says. This is a problem, but it's also the very essence of religion to obey sacred authority. So if you want to take religion out of politics, you'll have to eradicate religion entirely.

Hugo Pelland said...

I don't think my points above were clear, as it should be obvious, for both religious and non-religious people, that religious involvement in political life is never appropriate.

First, as I had said already, motivation from religion, sure.
John Moore said...
"I think it's fine for religious people to be motivated by their religion."
No problem there. But their motivation is purely personal.

Second point, therefore, is that whatever comes out of religions need to be evaluated objectively to determine whether it is relevant/useful/true/etc, to other people who don't subscribe to that religion. Stating that "Religion A states X, therefore we should implement policy Y" is absurd in any secular political system. I.e. I am starting with the assumption that theocracy is not on the table.

Taking these 2 points together, when Starhopper said...
"Truth not relevant to religion? Christ Himself laid it on the line, saying "You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall set you free." And then "I am the Truth.""
It's not that it's not relevant; it's not relevant to "others" on its own. It really means nothing to state what Christ said. We need to assess what he said, allegedly, for any given situation we're trying to apply his words. It can be a motivation, a tool, a set of examples, but it's not truth itself, regardless of what the story wants you to believe.

To use one example from the OP:
"when religious groups organize for women's suffrage at Seneca Falls, this is OK?"
It's OK only because of what they are fighting for and the reasons they can give outside the religion itself. It's a happy consequence in that case, just like it's sometimes the complete opposite. The fact that there are good and bad examples so easily identifiable from so many different religions prove my point. Religious claims are relevant only to their believers, not to political life of our society.

Finally, just to confirm:
" So you can legitimately argue that Christianity is not true, but you cannot (honestly) claim that the Truth is not relevant."
That was not the point at all. Truth may be relevant to the followers of a religion and/or intrinsic to that religion, but unless we want to force others to adopt that religion, there is no place for it in politics. The claims can be made but will be evaluated just like any other claim relative to what is common to all; the claims of a religion are irrelevant on their own. The claims become relevant for politics only if they are assessed independently of the religion.

Legion of Logic said...

Sounds like what you are saying isnt so much that "religion" should not intersect with politics, which is impossible, but rather that being a religious belief is not sufficient justification for adopting said belief as a policy. Like any belief, religious or otherwise, it should be verified beyond the philosophical foundation behind it before being imposed on those who do not share the philosophy.

Hugo Pelland said...

Yes and no. Being a religious belief is not sufficient justification for adopting said belief as a policy; it is not a justification at all.

Yes, "Like any belief, religious or otherwise, it should be verified beyond the philosophical foundation behind it,
But,
It should never be imposed on those who do not share the philosophy, as the foundation of specific policies should be based on the relative context of the politics that being discussed. That's the foundation.

Obviously, I'm not claiming it works and it's certainly not the case in practice. As you said, there's not much truth per se in politics, but that's just cynicism. We can still make comments on how religions are irrelevant in that specific context.

Starhopper said...

In the Catholic liturgy, this Monday's Gospel reading was taken from the 6th chapter of Mark. In it, "[The Galileans] laid the sick in the market places, and besought him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment; and as many as touched it were made well." (Mark 6:56)

That passage hit me like a thunderbolt, and I've been pondering it since. In the 1st Century, the market places were the heart and soul of public life, and Jesus waded right into such places. He made His presence and power known and effective in the very fabric of civic activity.

Should we not do the same, today?