Religion & Politics

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Re: Religion & Politics

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Sun Mar 08, 2015 12:39 pm

James wrote:The later, though (once again if I read it correctly), I'm not so sure of. Even the people in the United States who claim as core to their beliefs that the state should be out of their lives, or that special authority should exist as you tier down the government (e.g. state's rights), turn around and enthusiastically violate those principles when it suits their interests. You can have a politician swear up and down that the state needs to keep out of our lives but they'll oppose gay marriage, oppose abortion, support state legislation telling counties/cities what to do where those counties/cities deviate from their political dogma, defend subsidization for the oil industry while opposing subsidization for clean energy, talk about the need of taking care of our veterans while opposing a social welfare program designed to help the poor. Of course a wide range of people fall on assorted spectrum and there are true adherents to such principles (e.g. true Libertarians to practice what they preach) but by large much of what we think the state should or shouldn't do in our lives reflects our personal beliefs.


Oh, absolutely I agree with this. Modern American politics is completely inconsistent when it comes to applying principle to individual policies.

To a certain extent, I sometimes feel it should be this way, though.

Like I said before, I'm philosophically, theologically and politically opposed to libertarianism - almost diametrically. I utterly reject the libertarian attitude and relation to not only government but social and family authority. Yet on an increasing range of issues - civil liberties, data protection and digital privacy, drone strikes, military spending, corporate capture of regulatory agencies, Fed policy, big banks and so on - I find myself increasingly sympathetic to the actual policy stances of actual, consistent libertarians. I'd have no objection to politically allying with libertarians if these were the issues at stake.

James wrote:This is one example which does strike me as fair. And this probably was the basis for this decision (although I'd have to research it—lobbying, or the interests of the lawmaker in question, are always suspect as well). That said, the law as practiced is more complicated than the memorable line in the constitution upon which this principle is founded. We do not always allow people a religious exception to endanger the life of another. We typically do not even when we have in this case.

That said, this also ties in to what protects religion in many ways. It's a complicated issue which has been sculpted by a wide range of sophisticated legislation which I'd have to be a properly trained lawyer to due proper justice to.


That's fair enough. And to a degree that's a testament to the durability of the idea of the common good in common law, even when there's no real religious backing to it. Again, though, I think what we're seeing now is the unravelling of that durability. It would be good to have a secular notion of the common good that isn't rooted in some sort of highly destructive, exclusive and imperialistic civil-religious tradition. I know some people personally who have staked their academic careers on exploring such ideas. But at the moment, I'm really just not seeing it.

James wrote:Well... Scientology may well be a product of our nation's acceptance and tolerance of religion. But what is the alternative? A religious government which does not tolerate other religious view? I absolutely do not want that, and it would do far more harm.


There are far worse things than a religious establishment. In my opinion, it does far less harm integrated over the long run, than does a secular government which is convinced of its own superiority.

I've been a convinced establishmentarian ever since my Episcopalian days. (One is kind of forced to be an establishmentarian if, as a good High Church Anglo-Catholic, one venerates the Martyr-King Charles as a saint, and looks favourably on the career of his martyred Archbishop, William Laud!) But as for alternatives to secularism, there are three:

- Papocaesarism or theocracy, in which supreme political power is invested in the religious authorities; this position has been favoured by the Papal States historically, and in modern times by Iran
- Caesaropapism, in which the head of the government determines, and rules over, a particular favoured public religious expression; this position was favoured most by the Byzantine Empire and various German states historically; and in modern times by the United Kingdom, Norway and Denmark
- Symphoneia, in which the Church and the State complement and support each other, but each recognises each other's proper limits and doesn't try to control the other; this position was favoured by several Byzantine monarchs including Emperor Saint Constantine and Emperor Saint Justinian I, and is currently being explored by Russia (still officially secular)

James wrote:Religion is not necessary for morality. We know what is good and bad. Some structure is a good thing for morality, but that can come from non-religious forms. Even atheism can serve as a suitable vessel for morality (e.g. some of those studies we were discussing earlier on the subject of non-biological children have found great success in terms of morality and principle in atheist families, but I readily admit there are surely multiple factors at play sabotaging correlation).


This I dispute - but as my father says, people these days so completely misunderstand what is meant by both 'religion' and 'morality' that very few sensible conversations on the topic are even so much as possible. Even classical theism is so badly misunderstood that it's been successfully rendered into a caricature by people who haven't so much as laid a finger on anything written by CS Lewis (let alone S. (Pseudo-)Dionysius, S. John Damascene or Thomas Aquinas)!

What passes for moral thinking amongst so many atheists and 'nones' nowadays, I tend to attribute simply to intellectual laziness. Or, as David Bentley Hart puts it, a mixture of 'the mechanistic metaphysics inherited from the seventeenth century, the banal voluntarism that is the inevitable concomitant of late capitalist consumerism, and the quiet fascism of Western cultural supremacism'. That's not to say that mainstream American Christianity is any better, or even that different from the smug sneering of a Bill Maher.

And I think the fact that thoughtful leftists and conservatives both question all three of materialist metaphysics, voluntarism and Western cultural imperialism, rather puts the lie to a claim that 'we know what is good and bad'. If recent history is any indication, we've been far too lazy for far too long about putting any good moral instincts we might have had to any right and constructive use!

James wrote:Yeah, probably not worth getting into that one right now. I am vehemently opposed to the notion that the government could force a woman to go through the process of pregnancy and childbirth, though of course circumstance and timing matter. And this is a position taken outside my personal beliefs on the subject—my beliefs come second to the notion that the government should draw upon beliefs such as mine to force a woman to do this with her body.


That's, um, kind of contradictory.

Whether or not 'the government should draw upon beliefs such as mine to force a woman to do this with her body', is a belief of yours. Whether you acknowledge it or not. What role the government has to play in questions concerning parenting is a very contentious issue indeed, and I won't pretend for one moment that I have all the answers to that. But here there are two people involved - the woman and the baby. This is a discussion for another thread, but my position is that it's not just the woman's body at stake.

James wrote:As for other countries, I'm pretty leery of trying to disprove a thing by citing specific examples, especially insofar as some brief internet research can support.


I'm just saying that the creationism issue is fairly culturally-specific to the US. It might be brought up for question once in awhile, but doesn't really have a broader implication for church-state relations elsewhere in the world. No other country in the world went through a Scopes Monkey trial, so the cultural currency doesn't really retain its value.

James wrote:I would be amazed if you could... he's a special gem of the United States.


I realise that it's kind of un-PC to say, but, yeah - particular emphasis on the 'special'.

~~~

Now, from the other thread...

James wrote:My point is that the fact these problems exist does not correlate at all to the need or ability of society to address other problems. Society can and should work to address all such problems. That the NSA is a thing and that they have done some terrible stuff is totally irrelevant to concerns of church and state. For example, someone defending/attacking the NSA has no more basis to lean on church and state examples than someone defending/attacking church and state has basis to lean on the NSA.


Okay. I really don't want to come off as an intellectual snob / jackass / know-it-all here.

Let's just say there's a difference in the way I think about these issues.

I can't separate these issues from the question of religion as easily as you can, and I'd be lying if I said it wasn't because of the reading I've done on the subject. When I see an agency like the NSA literally playing God with people's data and online lives at the behest of an Imperial executive office, my mind instantly goes for the theological critique. Who the hell are we to grasp for digital omniscience and universal surveillance? Do we even want that kind of power? Should we, or any agency, be trusted with such power? These are religious questions. And not just from a personal perspective. When the United States was founded, some of the Founders (including John Adams) wanted to deliberately invest the office of the Presidency with a religious significance.

Ironically, that seems to be what ended up happening anyway. So I don't think these issues can or should be neatly separated - they'll always rely on some kind of assumption about the proper values the government ought to serve, including religious ones.

James wrote:In the United States it is only forms of Christianity that hold generally great influence in the government (branching out into Judaism). Good luck becoming the president if you're not a married Christian. Good luck representing a number of districts in the country if you're not a Christian. Good luck getting any of your religious beliefs integrated into the state if they are not Christian. But if you are Christian, well, you've got quite a bit of opportunity.


Sorry, this is a bogus argument. Christianity did not have as much influence at all in the government historically - and even arguably into modern days - as heretical and non-Trinitarian derivations like Deism. Even the Christianity of several presidents formally affiliated with a Christian church was fairly nominal - and quite a number were not affiliated with any church at all!

John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Millard Fillmore and William Howard Taft were Arians (Unitarian Universalists). Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe were all Deists. Possibly Abraham Lincoln also.

Mitt Romney was almost elected president, and he wasn't Christian either - he was a Mormon. I don't think his religious views affected that much the success of his campaign, so much as the fact that he came off as an insincere jerk.

James wrote:The way in which the United States would adhere to a state religion would not be comparable to these other countries, in good ways and bad. For example, as long as religious tolerance isn't scrapped with other parts of the constitution we should still have some extra support for religious tolerance, but at the same time, in a country where separation of church and state is a part of the constitution, with so many religions and views involved, with heated debate on the subject and stronger opinions (than might exist in a country where the debate does not take place), you'll receive a very different product.

Maybe you have a personal fear that somehow these relatively small changes in the United States will produce great changes relative to the continued rejection or better enforcement of state religion, but that's all it is, really.


It's a fear that's becoming better- and better-substantiated, particularly with regard to American foreign policy in the Middle East, in Eastern Europe, in Central Asia and in Africa. In the other thread I gave the examples of Ted Cruz's public insult of Middle Eastern Christians for the benefit of the Israel lobby. And Obama's high-profile denial of foreign aid to Nigeria, including against Boko Haram, unless Nigerian Christians publicly conform to his social agenda.

James wrote:To say nothing of the 'War on Christmas' and the fighting over how educational subjects like evolution or abstinence are handled. I don't trust the people falling on various ends of this spectrum to solve these problems just because their faith receives official endorsement.


Neither do I, but then the 'War on Christmas' isn't even a real problem.

Unless we are referring to its cooptation by a run-amok capitalist agenda / coordinated advertising campaign designed to get us to pay for massive quantities of the latest consumer durables produced in Chinese SEZ sweatshops. I'm fairly sure that wasn't exactly what the Biblical Magi had in mind when they gave their gifts to Christ and to the Holy Theotokos.

James wrote:I can agree that state religion can create more solidarity, but it is specifically around that religion. The same people discriminating against members of other religions in the United States, or against people who disagree with their interoperation of their religion's beliefs—they'll only be all the more empowered once their religion becomes the state religion.


No arguments from me regarding what might happen in the US. Of course the actual content of the religious views being made into official policy matters. I wouldn't support a fundamentalist Protestant America any more than I would support a fundamentalist Islamic one or an atheist one.

James wrote:That if they even remotely consider it it would completely discredit any moral high ground they could claim.

And that goes the same for the United States.

Or for even implying their use.


I generally think Russia has the moral high ground here anyway. At least they removed the nukes from our borders a long time ago. The same simply cannot be said for us - Turkey is still hosting our missiles under a NATO aegis, and the remilitarisation of the Baltic states and Poland under Obama is a growing cause for alarm.
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