Sunday, December 16, 2007

Ed's Sunday Sermon: Religionism vs. Deism (Part 2)

I apologize for it taking almost a month to get around to part 2 of "Religionism vs. Deism":

Within the realm of theism, where resides the religionists and the deists, there is a great divide in political beliefs.

For religionists, there is a sub-division created by the multiple religions and multitude of religious texts. For example, Islamic texts are quite explicit about what a muslim's political beliefs should be, proclaiming that Sharia Law should be the law of the land. On the other hand, the Bible does not even consider political beliefs, going so far as to reject them.

Before I get stampeded by a bunch of angry Christians, allow me to explain. It is a misconception that the Bible has ANYTHING to do with politics, in spite of the fact many Christians seem to think it does. How many times does the Bible say there is only one king, and He is in Heaven? (see Matthew 23 for a few examples) Christ even said, "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's." (Matthew 22:21) Christ also said, "My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence." (John 18:36)

One problem for Christians is the Old Testament. Even though Christians don't follow all the laws of the Old Testament (had some ham lately?), they still retain the Jewish justification for incorporating religious law into political law, even though that justification is based on an agreement between God and "the children of Israel" (Leviticus 26:46).

Another problem for Christians is representative government. When the Bible was written, the only representative governments had been in Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, and both of these had failed. But in modern times, we are faced with governments where "every man is king". How does one "render unto Caesar" when one IS Caesar? (You have to wonder if Christ had this in mind when he said in Matthew 23:11, "But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.")

Yet Christians still manage to happily mix their religion with their politics. Considering how many people have died in wars over religious differences, why would anyone seek justification to incorporate their religion into their government? Further, to use the power you hold under your representative government in order to force your neighbor to live under your own religious laws, is this not going against Christ's second commandment, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."? (Matthew 22:39)

Christians are just one example of how religionists are totally consumed by their beliefs, in every aspect of their lives. Religionists will force their "square peg" beliefs into "round hole" areas where they don't belong, since religion must consume all areas of life. If I am going to Heaven because of my religious beliefs, why shouldn't I force the rest of the world to believe the same thing? More importantly, why shouldn't I force them to live under the same moral laws I live under?

The great irony is that Christ was right, but Christians don't "get it".

As for deists, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution sums up their political beliefs:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."

However, the deist would also extend freedom of religion to include freedom FROM religion within our legal codes. Specifically, enacting laws whose basis is a religious text, or an interpretation of a religious text, without a greater moral basis, is wrong.

Consider murder. For most religionists (ignoring Islam for obvious reasons here), their religious texts strictly forbid murder. Deists would agree: without the right to live, society would be unable to function properly. If murder were legal, no one would hesitate (except for moral reasons) from killing anyone else for even the most minor perceived slights. There is a greater moral basis present to allow for outlawing murder.

Consider abortion. If you agree with the religionist interpretation of their texts (which usually do not explicitly say abortion is wrong, or even that it should be banned), then abortion must be considered on the same level as murder. For deists, abortion might be undesirable. But within the greater consideration of society as a whole, a deist would see that abortion as a practice does not hurt society. In some cases, abortion can even be seen as a positive (i.e. rape, incest, or saving the life of the mother).

On what basis do I draw this conclusion about deists? The Founding Fathers of the United States, who were arguably the ultimate deists. As stated in the Declaration of Independence:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Simply put, any government has two responsibilities to it's people: "their Safety and Happiness". Since abortion does NOT affect the safety of people, then the only consideration is happiness. At what point does offending religionists supercede an individual's "unalienable Rights"? It doesn't, and that is why deists would say that abortion must remain legal. (There are subtleties to the abortion argument which I am not going to cover here, such as viability of the fetus. The purpose of this post is not about abortion per se.)

There is another aspect which religionists ignore in their quest to turn society into a reflection of their own religious beliefs: How does government enforce law? Ultimately, through the use of deadly force. Are religionists willing to literally kill someone for performing an abortion? There are some zealots who would, as evidenced by abortion clinic bombings and other violence.

If a man performs an abortion, and then resists arrest, is a religionist willing to kill him for it? One can argue that resisting arrest is reason enough, but it is the act of performing the abortion that led to it. By banning abortion, the religionist creates the situation where deadly force is authorized in apprehending the criminal. In a land where every man is king, are you, the king, willing to authorize this action? Many religionists would say yes, justifiably so because they consider abortion murder. Most deists would consider it excessive.

But abortion is a harshly divided issue. How about an issue such as government altruism? People from theists to atheists would support government altruism. Our society as a whole values altruism.

The problem here is that most religions support INDIVIDUAL altruism. So in a land where every man is king, it would only seem logical for government to be altruistic, under the religionist view. The religionists fail to recognize HOW government gets money.

The religionist happily "renders unto Caesar", especially knowing their government will be altruistic. Unfortunately, they also apply the deadly force of government to rob their neighbors to pay for their own altruism. Are you ultimately willing to apply deadly force to get the money for government to be altruistic, when you could just as easily be charitable with your own money?

When it comes to altruism, religionists are passing the buck when they promote government altruism. They are passing their own responsibility onto government, thereby requiring it of everyone, much like they do when they try to legislate their own morality.

On the other hand, deists recognize that "robbing Peter to pay Paul" is no way to run a government, just as you cannot expect everyone to live by the same morality you do.

Thomas Jefferson defined the deist view perfectly:
"That government which governs least, governs best."


Rodak said...

In a representative government, every man is not a king. Every man is equal under the law, meaning that no man is king. That's the whole point. Every man is not really even a king in his own house, since the government can obtain a warrant and enter his house on behalf of society, with just cause to do so.
I do agree with you, however, that religion should be kept completely discrete from government under our system.

EdMcGon said...

In a representative government, who decides the representatives? That would be "every man". Hence the cliche "every man is king".

If the government does something which is overwhelmingly unpopular, they won't stay in power for long.

Rodak said...

Here's the source of your "cliche'".

William R. Barker said...

"In a representative government, who decides the representatives?"

A MAJORITY of voters who choose to vote.

Ed. My friend. I could get "deep" and drone on and on about parlimentary systems vs. federal systems vs....

(See...??? Boring already!) (*WINK*)

Basically, cutting thru the academic crap... we live under what is called a "winner take all" system of representative government, not a proportional (see... I'm trying to stay away from technical jargon but it's hard) electorial system.

Anyway... just throwing in my two cents worth. Continue! (*WINK*)


EdMcGon said...

That still doesn't change the point I am making. Politicians derive their power from the people, in effect making every man a king.

My point is from an individual perspective more than a political perspective. It is more about how YOU as an individual vote, and the reasoning YOU use as a voter. I am NOT talking about the end effect of what happens after millions of voters have voted.

Rodak said...

Can't you see that if every man is a "king" then no man is a king? What meaning does the word "king" have, when no "king" has more power than the next "king"?
Huey Long was a moron, Ed.

William R. Barker said...

"Huey Long was a moron, Ed."

And a southerner, Ed!



EdMcGon said...

If you truly believe that "no man is king", then why do you vote?

Louisiana is one of those southern states, to use the old Perot saying, which is like the crazy aunt we keep up in the attic that no one likes to talk about. ;)

Rodak said...

Under our system the rule of law is king. I bother to vote in hopes of electing legislators who will enact laws that I approve of.
I do this knowing that I will have to live according to laws that I don't necessarily approve of, if that's what happens. It's called the social contract, and our revolution was fought to do away with kings. This is a republic, made up not of kings, but of free citizens, equal under the law.