I’m completely in favor of the separation of Church and State. My idea is that these two institutions screw us up enough on their own, so both of them together is certain death. George Carlin
I agree with George. The separation of church and state is extremely important. At its heart, it’s about preserving religious freedom. Freedom in itself is worthy, but in this case it serves a far larger purpose; diversity. Freedom is only freedom if its freedom for all. America has greater religious freedom than many countries, but still has a way to go. When the first Jewish President is sworn in, the first Muslim President, the first Atheist President etc we can celebrate further steps towards religious freedom. There’s only been one Catholic President in total, which means that America has a long line of Protestant Presidents. This doesn’t accurately reflect the melting pot that is American society.
Growing up in Australia, it never seemed to be a huge deal to have atheist and agnostic Prime Ministers. They were judged on their merits as leaders and not on their faith. The current Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, was asked in an interview if she believes in God. She said no and that while she respects other peoples’ religious beliefs, she feels no reason to pretend she believes in God to attract religious voters. What is more important to her is the welfare of the Australian people – regardless of their religious convictions. I’m proud to come from a country that elects an atheist as leader. I experienced the same thing, living in New Zealand where PM Helen Clark was agnostic.
America has a way to go before attaining the same level of religious freedom as Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Europe. The faith or non faith of leaders in those places is generally a non issue, which is the way it should be. My sense is that America is ready to take a major leap forward. Polls show that 54% of Americans are ready to vote for an atheist. In 1958, only 18% of Americans said they would vote for an atheist. I see this as major progress, not because I’m an evangelist for atheism but because it shows that the faith of leaders is not as important to a growing number of people as their integrity and effectiveness as a leader.
I’m sure that many evangelical Christians will disagree with me. Leading up to the November 6 US election hundreds of conservative pastors around America will direct their congregations to vote for Romney as if it’s their Christian duty. The Catholic Archbishop of Newark, John J. Myers, sent a pastoral letter encouraging Catholics to vote to defend Catholic marriage, family and sexual values. He went so far as to suggest that Catholics who don’t share his views should probably not receive Holy Communion.
Is this a betrayal of the separation between church and state? On the one hand, yes. Church leaders shouldn’t manipulate elections just as government shouldn’t manipulate the worship experience. On the other hand, how can you separate beliefs from politics? The great Indian activist Mahatma Gandhi said,
Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion is.
Everyone has a worldview, and some peoples’ worldviews are guided by their religious tradition more than others. The key distinction is between a belief and a value. Values are guided by common sense, history, science, compassion and community. Beliefs are often guided by the will of God, tradition and sacred texts, which trump common sense, history, science, compassion and community, close down conversation and often remove personal responsibility.
Values are qualities such as compassion, integrity, honesty and justice. Beliefs are ideas about the afterlife, divine intervention and prayer. Values are not only appropriate in politics. They are essential. Beliefs should be kept out of politics.
Think of some recent examples. These are all from Republican leaders or candidates in recent months. Most of them apologized or recanted in some form, but not before their true thoughts were revealed.
Todd Akin said, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
Steve King said he had never heard of a girl becoming pregnant from rape.
Roger Rivard said, “Some girls rape so easy.”
Richard Mourdoch said that pregnancy from rape is God’s will.
Todd Akin sits on the House Committee for Science, Space and Technology. Even though his comment showed a complete misunderstanding of biology, he remains on the Committee. The chairman of this committee, Ralph Hall, is a climate change denier. He said, “We can’t control what God controls.”
John Sununu accused Colin Powell of endorsing Obama because both men are black. Laurence Wilkerson, a Colonel and former chief of Staff to Powell made this revealing statement about current Republicans-
Let me just be candid: My party is full of racists. The real reason a considerable portion of my party wants President Obama out of the White House has nothing to do with the content of his character, nothing to do with his competence as commander in chief and president, and everything to do with the color of his skin. And that’s despicable.
It IS despicable, and speaking of despicable, conservative commentator Ann Coulter called Obama a retard.
This is a sample of statements that are offensive to a progressive worldview; ignorant in relation to science, bereft of compassion and squash religious freedom by allowing beliefs to enter the public debate.
I have no problem with any person holding any religious belief that makes sense to the individual…in the privacy of your own mind and home. But religious beliefs have no place in public discourse. Bring your values to the public table. Leave your beliefs behind.
I have no intention of telling anyone how to vote. You can work that out for yourself. But this is how I would vote, if I could vote (as I’m not a citizen). I would vote for President Obama in a heartbeat, without even a moment’s hesitation. For me, it’s a no brainer.
It’s not that Obama’s been perfect. Is anyone perfect? He’s been courageous in many instances, and helped to heal America’s reputation around the world. Most importantly, the alternative is a complete offense to my values.
Romney himself is one thing. It’s hard to get a handle on what he believes about most things. I’m more concerned about who has him in their pocket. As Bill Maher said, “You elect Romney, you elect every right wing nut he’s pandered to in the last ten years.”
I’m relatively new to this country, and have no loyalty to the Democratic Party. I would rather see myself as an independent. But in the system as it is now, as a progressive who values things like equality, fairness, sustainability, compassion and religious freedom, the current choice is clear.
The lead up to the election is a time to recommit to your values. In the words of Thoreau, “cast your whole vote, not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence.” Vote, for sure. But do more than that. Live your vote. Live your values, and respect the right of others to live their values whether they are based in religious beliefs or not.