Sunday, November 7, 2010

Some thoughts on religion and government

In Response to:

Regardless am I hearing that you actually are okay with Oklahoma banning Sharia law after all? By banning a Law that is based on a particular religion from getting a foothold in their state isn't Oklahoma simply putting into law what you support? I am curious, don't you think that those who don't trust in a god have a tendency to trust in man? And then man puts together a government in a position to actually act like a god, thus doing exactly what you don't like about gods? As Bob Dillon said, it's impossible not to serve somebody...

I would suggest to you that the majority of the founding fathers were deists at best.  Thomas Paine, Jefferson, Franklin and Adams definitely were eyeballs deep in the enlightenment.  There were serious fights as the states were ratifying the Constitution because it didn't base anything on religion.  The founders where quite aware of the history of persecution/war based on sect of Christianity and chose to avoid that.  Besides, you can't enact the ten commandments without running afoul of the 1st amendment, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;..."  So government enshrining the 10 commandments as law is establishing the government as Abrahamic, just as the government can't prevent you from practicing your religion.  Where people get confused is when they claim that America is a Judeo Christian nation and therefore have to base things on Christian rules.  (BTW, prior to the Holocaust, it was just Christian nation, then they saw what that fervor could do.  Go read Mein Kampf and look at how religion was used to justify what Hitler was doing).  The government can't prevent you from practicing, but you can't use the government to make your religion dominant.

I think that Oklahoma banning Sharia law is ridiculous since Sharia has no basis in American Jurisprudence, specifically because of how the Constitution is laid out.  There are cases of societies within a country applying it within their group, just as their are of Orthodox Judaism or Orthodox Christianity or Amish, etc.  Neither is the law of the land and outside of contractually arranged arbitration, has no basis.  The people involved, unless otherwise intimidated, can always appeal to federal, state, or local law.  The ban has no more standing or reason for existence than any other religious issue.

In Israel, they have a "small" problem with Zionism and fundamentalist Islam providing cover to other issues, namely property rights (and I mean that sarcastically) Is fundamentalist Islam aggressive, you betcha, but that's because they won't allow any critical analysis/reformation of the Koran, etc.  I work with many moderate Muslims and they of course scorn the craziness that you get from just about any fundamentalist, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu or Buddhist.  Would I want to live in the middle east, nope, because I like good beer.  But the Islamic republics show you what you end up with when you base all of your government on a particular reading of a holy book.  As for the problems in Europe, it is because of the people "taking the law into their own hands" rather than going to civil courts.  It's really no different than the Amish or the Mennonites, trying to live separately in the modern world rather than integrate.  Is it right, hell no, but it's no better than the Catholic church trying to handle the child abuse scandal internally. 

As for you questions on trust in God vs. Man:
If you can't trust your fellow man, how do you get anything done? Are you saying that people are more moral because they fear reprisal from a deity?  At the end of the day, you're dealing with people, individuals that have the freedom to do whatever they want.  I contend that all morality that has been derived from holy books is based on the simple "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" which is found in some form in all the texts.  It is also an evolutionary advantage, for survival of the group.  Those that fail to realize the golden rule, hopefully won't act on their baser impulses.  Of course many people, religious or not, still do.  (I would argue that there are far more self-professed believers in any deity in jail than humanists.  I'd also argue that what religion you are depends on who your parents are and where you were born.) So yeah, I trust man.

q: And then man puts together a government in a position to actually act like a god, thus doing exactly what you don't like about gods?
I would also argue that any act done by God, or his representatives here on earth are no different than any politician, they just wear a funny suit, tongue depressor collar, or a funny hat. (BTW, I went to a Jesuit high school, and have a fondness for the Jesuits.  They encouraged me to really think about what I believe and why, I just don't think they didn't expect lots of us not to follow the faith.) Should the acts done by government representatives be minimized,  yep, and that's why I favor term limits, but more on the 20 year time line.  I also favor closing the revolving door that leads to lobbying.  On the other hand, there is a legitimate role for the government to try to improve the quality of life for the majority of society. 

As for government based on trust in man, that's where you live now. Is the current government tyrannical?  Hardly, but it's pushing the edge with the Patriot act and the permanent security/warfare state.  I think you are confusing our government with the former and re-emerging Soviets and current China, Myanmar and North Korea.  Those are governments based on the belief in the ultimate power of the state, not the people in them.  The state is what becomes the religion indoctrinated into the kids at an early age as Uncle Joe Stalin, or dear leader Kim Jong Ill. Our government can't act like a god because you've got an active electorate that has a few choices, as you've seen in the latest election, although the electorate tends to be fickle.

The legitimate role for Government is to keep others from abusing their position/power/status (and it's own) to take advantage of those with less power. Just because someone is wealthy, or white, or straight, you have no more rights to anything than anyone else. (tyranny of the majority is to be avoided, and that is why we have that third branch of government called the Supreme Court)  (And I really disagree with the idea that corporations are people, since there is really no one that can be jailed, and very few shareholders have any power within the corporation.  But then again, I'd say both parties are corporatists, looking out for their donors more than for the little guy.  If they weren't they would be all for a jobs bill.)  If you really want a good understanding of my position, go read Hayek's "Why I am not a conservative" He lay's out the political landscape as a triangle with Socialist, Conservatives, and Liberals at three corners.  I'm more on the liberal conservative axis.  I believe in maximum civil liberty, as enshrined in the 10 amendments.  Freedom of speech, yep, you can go say stupid shite all you want, I don't have to listen to it, but you can say it. Guns, go crazy, but having to wait for a background check isn't a violation.  (Banning handguns in a city is practical, but illegal as has finally been determined)  Freedom of Religion, sure, believe whatever you want, but try to enshrine it in law and I'll exercise my right to protest loudly.  As for the 9th and 10th amendment, the federal government has a right to ensure equal treatment under the law, and thus can overrule state law or functions that the state should have been doing but didn't.  (cf. the civil war and the civil rights movement)

Anyway, I could go on, but it's Sunday and I'm baking beer bread and it's ready.  Time to go eat.

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