Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Religion and Democracy.

Ali from "Iraq The Model" fame blogged on the compatibility between religion and democracy.

In it Ali (on his new independent blog) states
The American society is a slightly different case and the American readers of this blog can argue in this better than I can, but I think it's reasonable to say that Americans are generally more religious or has allowed religion some invisible role in politics because they didn't have to go through a bitter struggle against it to gain their freedom as the Europeans. Still, I doubt that anyone can really say that the American society is a Christian one, as it's obviously not!

Ali makes some points that are worth talking about here. First his coment about American not being a Christian society. I have to disagree. It is. Its founding was inspired and based on Christianity. The separation of church and state is widely misunderstood even in our own society and Ali falls into that same trap.

The first Amendment is first and foremost about no official federally mandated church along the lines of "The Church of England" or what other European nations have. In fact, many of the states had their own state churches but that eventually was broken up. You see, the original colonists were those from unofficial faiths and as such found life in Europe very hard. They fled Europe so they would be able to practice their faith without fear of harrasment or persecution. Some of those states did what too many of the persecuted do when the tables are turned other states learned their lesson. In fact we have bouts of this same thing in the settlement of the land, for instance the Mormons went to Utah to escape similar persecution.

When Ali states "...or has allowed religion some invisible role in politics..." well, Michael Newdow (to most people's chagrin) refutes that point loudly. After all, Mr. Newdow seems to spend his entire time working to sue religion out of our public square. However when one believes in religion and considers the eseence of religion, how can one not be motivated by it?

The Bible the great book of Western Civilization early on asks "Am I my brother's keeper". The Bible does not just say yes, it shouts it. The Bible if one reads for instance The Book of Proverbs or the Eclisiastucus (IIRC Protestant Bibles typically drop that one, get a Catholic one and some happy pills, Eclisiastucus has good advice but the price is reading thoughts of someone with a depressing outlook on life) those two books offer sound advice on normal affairs. Anyway that is besides the point. The point of the Bible is to try to instruct us on how to act justly.

So if a nation acts unjustly in some area of life it is the duty of the Christian leader to steer the people to act with justice. How does a leader steer people to justice? Two ways via the bullet or by the book. A Christian leader attempts to convince people on their views of just action, if the people fail to heed that call then what? This is where separation of church and state comes to the fore.

If I understand the Islamic model correclty the Ulama (the body of Islamic scholars) would advise the ruler of this and the ruler would issue an edict on the matter and it is done. In Europe of the Middle Ages the Church reigned supreme and it was done. The reason why this does not work anymore is because of diversity.

The diversity factor (aka globalization) and consent of the governed means we have to factor out the uncommon and govern society by the common. Most groups of people agree theft is bad we can keep it in. However diverse groups of people do not agree on the suitability of eating pork, so that one goes out. The core beleifs of all religions are recognized in the laws of most nations. For instance it is generally considered bad to willy-nilly kill your neighbor no matter the circumstances. It is generally considered bad to steal his property. It is not generally considered bad to drink Sierra Nevada Pale Ale in my neck of the woods, but in a land I used to live I had to be licensed to do so in my home (supposedly you were required to be a member of the "club" in the hotels that had bars, but green, purple, and red pieces of paper about 2x6 inches was all one needed as proof of membership)! So in a diverse society it is impossible to govern by one religion without resorting to violence. Violence is generally one of the things religions try to limit so the religious tyrant eventually loses touch with his faith and becomes a hated hypocrite.

Now back to one last important aspect of the just religious leader in a diverse society. They see themselves on a mission from God (I just saw the Blues Brother the other night, when I type that phrase I hear Dan Akroyd in my head) and why must they remain silence because they are motivated by religion? In fact, IMO most of the (American) left is for cloning for one reason only, the religious in this nation oppose it. To make it more plain, if a religious leader were running away from a cliff the (American) left would not follow but instead choose to go "full speed ahead, damn the torpedos" over the cliff. Michael Newdow no doubt would be in court trying to get that leader to reverse course and so on and so forth.

Yes, my religion has a big role in shaping my morals and my political beliefs. No, what Father John tells me on Sunday has little bearing on those beliefs. So too should it be for the Iraqi voter. It is vitally important for your vote to be informed by your religion, but it should not be dictated by it. After all many very positive movements in America were intitiated by those driven by the Holy Spirit, does that fact make the abolition movement bad? How about the movement to destroy segregation?