Friday, August 19, 2005

Would you mind keeping your religion out of my parliament?

It is often said that people ought to keep their religious beliefs separate from their politics. And, while I find the thought that there are politicians who are looking forward to helping bring about Armageddon frightening as anything, the idea of people keeping their religious beliefs separate from their politics is a cop out. If someone is serious about their religion they can not keep it separate from their politics. Only someone for whom religion is just a sense of belonging, a collection of traditions and a set of dimly remembered feel-good Sunday School lessons – i.e. most people – can keep their religion out of their politics. They keep it out because, quite simply, their religion is not that important to them. For someone for whom religion IS important it guides their life and, in so far as they are involved in politics, it must guide their politics. Which just means that if we are to keep religion out of politics we should simply strive to keep religious politicians out of power.

However, I am not convinced that it is that simple. The problem is that I would actually be willing to vote for some profoundly religious people even though I know that they would act on their beliefs once in power. Sure, it would be good to have all of those who determine national policy be working with a straight-up naturalist world view but there are many other things to consider when choosing representatives. By deciding to never vote for a religious politician one would be saying that this one characteristic is all important – I know I’d much rather vote for a liberal Christian than for a neo-con atheist. So, for what it’s worth I will try to make sure that I do not vote for religious politicians, just as I will try not to vote to corrupt ones or right-wing ones or populist ones or ones with only a feeble grasp of reality.

Which I guess kind of means that W doesn’t have much of a chance with me.


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