T Nation

Politics and Religion


I have a question for those who took a very strong "keep your religious beliefs out of my life" view in the context of the thread on homosexual marriage: Do you think there is ever a place for religion in politics? And, also, what do you think of the below? [I agree with Prof. Volokh generally]


[Eugene Volokh, 4/26/2004 03:16:22 PM]

"Religious Fanatics, Out To Impose Their Morals On The American Public": Clayton Cramer has the details:

Since 1983, with the formation of Eco-Justice Working Group, the National Council of Churches has been providing an opportunity for the national bodies of member Protestant and Orthodox denominations to work together to protect and restore God's Creation. A major task of our environmental ministry is to provide program ideas and resources to help congregations as they engage in environmental justice. . . .

Christian Leaders call on Bush to protect God's gift of Air

In a letter to President Bush released on Earth Day, more than 100 national and state leaders of the National Council of Churches expressed moral concern over the President's stewarship of the environment -- particularly on the Administration's "clean air" policies and its implications on public health. . . .
I rather doubt that many people who regularly criticize conservative religious groups for "mixing religion and politics" will criticize these religious groups for doing so. Most people would, I think, conclude that it's generally quite proper for religious people and organizations to seek bans on conduct that they see as immoral and harmful to people and to the Earth, just as it's proper for secular people and organizations to do the same.

 Now naturally one can still disagree with the specific agenda of the groups: One might, for instance, think that the environmentalists' claims are morally unsound, just as one can think that pro-life forces' arguments that fetuses should generally have the right not to be killed are morally unsound. And one can also believe that these sorts of religious arguments might be unpersuasive.

 But I doubt that one would say that there's something per se improper with the National Council of Churches -- as opposed to the Sierra Club -- urging that its views on the environment be implemented in government action. And if that's so, then the same would, I think, apply when churches urge that their views on fetal rights be implemented in government action.


Well, if we had more abortions the world wouldnt be a better place. I have never met any abortion fans that disagree with that statement.

I think ones religious views can and should hold sway in political decision making within the bounds of the consitution, ie, eliminating freedom of religion wouldnt be good. However, the religion known as secularism is increasingly making its job to eliminate freedom to practice someone's chosen religion because secularism is the only way.


This raises a fascinating point. The rub lies in the initial instinct to feel that it's okay for religion to get involved with clean air, because we agree with it. Then, when it's something we don't agree with, religion needs to stay out of it. Interesting conflict, so subjective...

I wonder how the feeling towards the article would change if it were a Hindu group set out to protect the Monkey Gods' clean air (for example).

I look forward to reading everyones ideas.


I am for the seperation of church and politics even if it is supporting something I agree with.

Clean air like many other issues should be supported regardless of religious classification, because no matter what religion you are, we as humans need it to survive!


If religion is someones motivation for something then go forth with the idea without mentioning the religious motivation. It has to be tied to something other than, "god told me this is right".

For example, if bush wants clean air because he thinks it is gods air, when acting as a representative of our government he should not mention the god's air part.

Likewise if his god thinks abortion is wrong, that is fine and he can think it's wrong because of that but when he tries to make a policy like "no abortion because my god thinks it is wrong" this is not acceptable. If he can find other non religious reasons for a policy to be made against it than fine let him make his case.

I have no problem with anyone in govt practicing their religion any way they wan't until that religion starts becoming the reason they make or support policy. If someone is so religious that they cannot make arguments for policy without referring to their religion then they should not be in office.


Absolutely politics and religion can go together, most people vote their pocket book or worldview.

Just as an American sees the world differently than a French person. The plus of the whole thing is that at least we are doing something.

Susan Serandin, Whoopi Goldberg, and many celebrity's make their voice heard. Whether or not you agree with them it's great that they can speak up.

Likewise, Pat Robertson or other Christian leaders need to have the same freedom to speak their views to the world as well.

Freedom of speech is a 2 way street.


Those Unstable, Superstitious Christians

David Limbaugh
Friday, Apr. 23, 2004

Why does it make so many on the Left uncomfortable that President Bush openly professes his reliance on God in performing his official duties?

Actor Richard Gere has joined in the chorus led by Ralph Nader and others condemning President Bush for mixing his faith with his governance. "One thing I've learned in my life is never to trust anyone who thinks that he exclusively has God on his side," said Gere to a crowd of like-minded Hollywooders.

Gere's brilliant insight followed a recent statement by perennial presidential aspirant and equal opportunity nuisance Ralph Nader lambasting Bush for not divorcing his faith from his public service. Nader was apparently disturbed by a passage in Bob Woodward's new book.

Woodward reports that when Bush was in the process of deciding to attack Iraq he prayed "for the strength to do the Lord's will." This "revelation" reportedly prompted Nader to tell the Christian Science Monitor, "We are dealing here with a basically unstable president ? a messianic militarist.

A messianic militarist, under our constitutional structure, is an unstable office-holder. Talk about separation of church and state: It is not separated at all in Bush's brain, and this is extremely disturbing."

Hold on a second there, Ralph. One with a messianic complex would regard himself as a savior or liberator, according to dictionaries I've consulted. In the statements Nader is referring to, President Bush is doing just the opposite. He is asking God to give him the strength to do God's will. Nothing could be more humble; nothing could be less egotistical. Nothing could be less "messianic."

That's one of the ironic things about Bush's secular critics. They see him as a man literally eaten up with macho-pride and cowboy swagger, yet at his core, he is a man of extraordinary humility, a person who understands this historic moment is not about him, but about the causes, people, and most of all, God he serves.

And while Bush quietly admits that he cherishes his personal relationship with God, he doesn't claim his relationship is exclusive or that he's receiving direct orders from God, especially as to generalship of the war.

David Aikman, author of the new book "A Man of Faith: The Spiritual Journey of George W. Bush," says that Bush is not unduly conspicuous about his faith. "He's never said God told us to go to war, never said God told me to do anything ? He's been very careful," said Aikman.

So why do liberal elitists recoil like snakes when Bush makes references to his faith? Why do they act like it's newsworthy when the highest officeholder in the land admits to being a practicing Christian in a nation where most citizens claim to be Christians?

Well, one possible reason is that they believe in a pure separation of church and state, at least as it applies to the Christian church. Some adhere it to such an extreme degree -- as evidenced by Ralph Nader's ludicrous quote above -- that they insist it requires a Christian to separate his faith from his governance.

As if it's possible (or desirable) to create an internal Chinese firewall in someone's brain or his personality to cordon off his worldview from his decisions in office. As if Christians should not only keep their opinions to themselves, but from themselves.

How would Ralph like it if we told him he should not allow his moral judgments about corporate greed to affect his political advocacy or inform his candidacy?

Isn't the double standard painfully obvious? It's not the secularists' allegiance to church-state separation that drives them, but an abiding distrust of and hostility toward Christianity, which many of them see as a dangerous superstition.

A perfect illustration of this is an e-mail I received in response to my last column on the book "I Don't Have Enough Faith To Be an Atheist." My correspondent wrote, "when grown men and women believe Noah and his brood incestuously repopulated the whole planet, I am a bit dismayed that people can be so stupid."

There you have it. Christians are unstable, science-averse simpletons so weak they have to rely on a fictitious savior, so unsophisticated they believe in the forces of good and evil, and so reckless that they will fight wars to protect their national security even if many of America's traditional allies don't have the courage or rectitude to join them.

Oh, how far we've come in this nation since it was considered unquestionably noble to place our "firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence."



Just curious, how would you feel if the president was basing his decisions on Muslim beliefs or Hari Krishna beliefs.

Would you still be so quick to be supportive?

An excellent movie that illustrates the dangers of the mix of power and religion is the Crucible with Daniel Day Lewis.It is about the witch hunts in the late 1600's. Man that stuff makes my blood boil!


A little bit of hijacking is about to take place... brace yourself.

If you want to get rid of my religion when it comes to politics, and schools and any other public place.... fine, I can deal with that.... but turn about is fair play.

Stop teaching evolution, that is every bit as much a religion as Christianity and there has been no actual proof of it...ever.



Absolutely not.

Although; I respect them, they are just not in line with my opinions and beliefs.



If you want to talk about religion in politics, why not just discuss the Bush administration? They are all bible-thumping simpletons. Basing policy on the expectation of Armageddon probably isn't going to be terribly progressive.

If you want to stop seeing the government involved in issues it has no business being involved with vote libertarian. Start with your local treasurers and representatives.


Bush is not the first president to make his religious beliefs known. He probably won't be the last. It amazes me how the Left and Hollywood constantly attack him for this.



Re: Secular reasoning in arguments; Libertarians

I'll once again resort to Professor Volokh as authority:


Forcing their religious opinions on us: I must have blogged about this a while ago, but this trope keeps bugging me. "Those fundamentalist Christians are trying to force their religious opinions on us," the argument goes. But that's what most lawmaking is -- trying to turn one's opinions on moral or pragmatic subjects into law.

Gay rights activists are trying to force their opinions on us by making employers not discriminate based on sexual orientation, or by making taxpayers pay for various marriage-related benefits for same-sex couples as well as heterosexual couples. Civil rights activists forced their opinions about race and sex discrimination on private employers, landlords, and business owners.

Nor are libertarians immune, unless they're anarchists (though even the anarchists are willing to force their opinions through the use of deadly force, even if not through legislation). After all, laws against breach of contract, theft, rape, murder, and the like also involve the defenders of those laws forcing their opinions on the rest of us.

Ah, the argument goes, but those laws are backed by secular arguments, not religious ones. Well, as it happens, many laws -- civil rights laws, for instance -- were motivated by religious opinions (it's the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., you might recall). But more importantly, all of our opinions are ultimately based on unproven and unprovable moral premises. For some of us, the moral premises are secular; for others, they're religious; I don't see why the former are somehow more acceptable than the latter. And the slogan "separation of church and state" hardly resolves anything here: Churches may have no legal role in our government, but religious believers are just as entitled to vote their views into law as are atheists or agnostics.

Of course, it's perfectly sound to disagree with people's views on the merits: If I don't agree with the substance of someone's proposal, whether it's religious or secular, I'll certainly criticize the substance. And naturally people will often find others' religious arguments unpersuasive -- "ban this because God said so" isn't going to persuade someone who doesn't believe in God, or who has a different view of God's will. (Likewise, many devout Christians may find unpersuasive arguments that completely fail to engage devout Christians' religious beliefs.) But there's nothing at all illegitimate about people making up their own minds about which laws to enact based on their own unprovable religious moral beliefs, or on their own unprovable secular moral beliefs.


Oh no, we have the musclebound discussing politics and religion now. This is a recipe for trouble.

I think that people need to understand that freedom of religion does not mean the freedom to impose one set of beliefs on everybody.

Your religion calls for clean air while my religion calls for dirty air. Why is yours better than mine? It is for reasons other than religion I hope. So, what are those other reasons?

Whenever something is being promoted for religious reasons we should just assume that there is an opposing religion that negates it. Therefore, additional reasons must be found to support or refute the promoted cause.

Religion has such lofty goals and ideals, but in practice has been the cause of more misery, death and destruction than can be comprehended. I for one think it should be removed entirely from any and all official government functions.

One does not need religion to act properly or to hold community values in high regard. There is absolutely no need for it to be institutionalized as we can all choose a religion on our own if we see fit to do so.

However, religion does have the effect of limiting ones options or limiting ones thoughts. Once you are convinced that god is on your side, or that you are representing the will of god, then what choice do you have? You now have something making up your mind with respect to the actions you should take.

I do not recall ever seeing god on the ballot. If god wanted to run the USA or any other country, I'm sure god could decide to run for office. As it is, we are left to do these things ourselves, so I'm guessing that we should.

Keep your religion to yourself. It is a private issue and half the world is pretty much guaranteed to believe differently anyway.


"Stop teaching evolution, that is every bit as much a religion as Christianity and there has been no actual proof of it...ever.

-Dave "

You do realize the difference between science and religion right? Evolution is not a religion, it is a comprehensive theory that has evidence, not proof, but a fair amount of evidence that leads to it. Microevolution can be seen pretty simply, as can Natural selection. Religion on the other hand is merely faith. How do you compare them? Also, the pope has said that evolution of physiology is compatible with the bible...


Sack: I realize the difference between religion and science, but evolution is still a belief based system once you take it down to the basics. I agree there is evidence that SUGGESTS that evolution happened... but without proof it still takes belief.

And the pope is just a guy in a hat. his opinion means nothing to me.


Sack: If it were supported by proof, the theory of evolution would not be a theory. It would be a law. Evolution is a theory that has yet to be proven.



Just a guy in a hat?

That is absolutely preposterous! You need to do a little more research on one of the most influential figures in the last 100 years. If you only had a clue, you'd realize that he is a wonderful SERVANT. You don't need to be Catholic to appreciate who the Pope is and what work he has done to make the world a more humane place. He has lived his ENTIRE life in service to mankind, not just the Catholic church. Believe me, he's done a lot to change YOUR life. Don't believe me? Do some deep research on the end of the Cold War. Pope John Paul II worked side by side with Ronald Reagan to crush the very essence of the Cold War. Want proof? Do the research.

"Just a guy in a hat." That's funny.


Dave, what are we supposed to teach kids about our history then? should we be teaching them that god made the world in seven days? That fact can be quite easily refuted now, they have pretty much seen how planets are formed and kinda know exactly when and how our planet was as well. You may not like it but in todays world scientists are not criticized and threatened by the church like they once were. They are free to make discoveries and draw theories that go against and old book or two. And by the way evolution is not something that happened in the past it is an ongoing process, and can be quite easily documented in other species. Take the iguanas on the galapagos islands, They have been genetically traced to a line of iguanas back on mainland asia but have evolved seperately and have different abilities for them to survive.

This brings us to another conundrum, if humans did evolve from primates, when did we get a spirit? Hmmmm, To me I would have to say that we always had one, we just gained the self awareness to realize it. I think that everything has a spirit, living or nonliving, it is after all our way of communicating with god, so why would god create something that he does not wish to communicate with? Did god make the other eight planets in our solar system by mistake? Why would he make balls of gas and rock out in space with no use for them? Anyways, as you can see there are loons like me out here who do not want any member of government doing something on my behalf because "His God" thinks it is right. That is why the founders had seperation of church and state.

That is another problem with religion in general, it does not allow one to simply believe it, one is compelled to act upon it if they truly believe. Why can't the president simply keep his religion a private matter? do not mention it when acting under the authority of the president.


Vegita, you're wrong.

Anytime religion is mentioned within the confines of government today people cry, "Separation of Church and State". Many people think this statement appears in the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution and therefore must be strictly enforced. However, the words: "separation", "church", and "state" do not even appear in the first amendment. The first amendment reads, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." The statement about a wall of separation between church and state was made in a letter on January 1, 1802, by Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut. The congregation heard a widespread rumor that the Congregationalists, another denomination, were to become the national religion. This was very alarming to people who knew about religious persecution in England by the state established church. Jefferson made it clear in his letter to the Danbury Congregation that the separation was to be that government would not establish a national religion or dictate to men how to worship God. Jefferson's letter from which the phrase "separation of church and state" was taken affirmed first amendment rights. Jefferson wrote:

I contemplate with solemn reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.  (1)

Continued at...... http://www.noapathy.org/tracts/mythofseparation.html