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Keith Wilson
01-08-2008, 06:11 PM
At the risk of turning into the guy with the cowbell - or worse, a Ronpaulist (apologies, Milo) - I was looking at Obama's website trying to get some answers for Chad, and I stumbled on this speech on Religion and Politics, and was amazed. The level of sincerity and intelligent thought is far beyond what one normally finds in a politician's speech, so I figured I'd post the link. I don't agree with 100% of what he says, but I really like his approach. And I think there's much there that even SamF and I could agree on. Be warned; it's pretty long.
http://www.barackobama.com/2006/06/28/call_to_renewal_keynote_address.php

I just dumped it into Word so I could print it out to show my wife. The grammar checker only flagged three or four things, and only ONE of them was actually an error - one sentence fragment in eight pages of dense text. :eek:

cs
01-08-2008, 06:17 PM
Keith I want to say thanks. I understand that you are really trying and I appreciate it. I don't want to go into this election uneducated and just voting for someone blindly.

I'm having to get ready here in a minute and go to a basketball game and will review your link later.

BTW So far I've been impressed with Obama but I still haven't learned enough to make any decission. In fact we don't even know if he will win the ticket.


Chad

If this post more than once, sorry things went crazy when I hit the enter button

Keith Wilson
01-08-2008, 06:20 PM
That's OK Chad; once you find out about Obama, you may or may not agree with him. You get all the information you need and vote for whoever you think is best. I wish more people were as thoughtful. http://www.woodenboatvb.com/vbulletin/upload/images/icons/icon14.gif

Andrew Craig-Bennett
01-08-2008, 06:33 PM
I loved this bit:

I believe in vigorous enforcement of our non-discrimination laws. But I also believe that a transformation of conscience and a genuine commitment to diversity on the part of the nation's CEOs could bring about quicker results than a battalion of lawyers. They have more lawyers than us anyway.

and this bit:

Moreover, given the increasing diversity of America's population, the dangers of sectarianism have never been greater. Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.

And even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools? Would we go with James Dobson's, or Al Sharpton's? Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is ok and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount - a passage that is so radical that it's doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application? So before we get carried away, let's read our bibles. Folks haven't been reading their bibles.

This brings me to my second point. Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God's will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.

Now this is going to be difficult for some who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, as many evangelicals do. But in a pluralistic democracy, we have no choice. Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. It involves the compromise, the art of what's possible. At some fundamental level, religion does not allow for compromise. It's the art of the impossible. If God has spoken, then followers are expected to live up to God's edicts, regardless of the consequences. To base one's life on such uncompromising commitments may be sublime, but to base our policy making on such commitments would be a dangerous thing. And if you doubt that, let me give you an example.

We all know the story of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham is ordered by God to offer up his only son, and without argument, he takes Isaac to the mountaintop, binds him to an altar, and raises his knife, prepared to act as God has commanded.

Of course, in the end God sends down an angel to intercede at the very last minute, and Abraham passes God's test of devotion.

But it's fair to say that if any of us leaving this church saw Abraham on a roof of a building raising his knife, we would, at the very least, call the police and expect the Department of Children and Family Services to take Isaac away from Abraham. We would do so because we do not hear what Abraham hears, do not see what Abraham sees, true as those experiences may be. So the best we can do is act in accordance with those things that we all see, and that we all hear, be it common laws or basic reason.

That man is really good!

skuthorp
01-08-2008, 08:31 PM
Agree ACB, that is really impressive, and in the US very brave. But I doubt whether the bible-belters and the right can see reason.

peb
01-08-2008, 08:49 PM
This brings me to my second point. Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values.

Why does democracy demand this? Why should I "translate my concerns" (whatever that means) about values that are "universal"? What do I do with my non-universal values? Not be concerned about those.

Gobblygook.

peb
01-08-2008, 08:54 PM
Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. It involves the compromise, the art of what's possible.

Politics does not depend on "common aims based on common realities". What does this have to do with compromise?

Bruce Hooke
01-08-2008, 09:24 PM
Why does democracy demand this? Why should I "translate my concerns" (whatever that means) about values that are "universal"? What do I do with my non-universal values? Not be concerned about those.

Gobblygook.

Because for a democracy to work you need to actually try to persuade people to join with you and to do that you need to talk in a "language" that everyone can understand, not just your religious brethren. Sure you can try to just stick with those whom you share particular religious beliefs and in some cases maybe even gather up enough of them to ram something down the throats of everyone else, but this is both hard to do and unlikely to work over the long haul. It is also very bad for the long term health of a democracy if some groups consistently try to ram things down the throats of everyone else.

If you have beliefs that cannot be put in universal terms then you by no means need to ignore your own beliefs, you just do not have a basis on which to try to persuade the rest of the country to follow your particular beliefs, and you also do not have a justification for doing so.

peb
01-08-2008, 10:07 PM
Because for a democracy to work you need to actually try to persuade people to join with you and to do that you need to talk in a "language" that everyone can understand, not just your religious brethren.




e's suggesting that if we all stood, immovable and steadfast, on our specific principles, with no willingness whatsoever to compromise or reach some mutual conclusion or compromise, then we can never move forward or accomplish anything.

Sorry guy's that is not what he said. He said very precisely that in a democracy we are required (it demands) to convert (ie translate ) our religious specific values into universal values. This is simply b#$%^$%t.

Norman, it is not required to move forward and accomplish anything. If it was required, religion would probably need to be done away with.


Bruce, in no way can I parse what he said and come up with your translation.

Keith Wilson
01-08-2008, 10:18 PM
Why does democracy demand this? Why should I "translate my concerns" (whatever that means) about values that are "universal"? What do I do with my non-universal values? Not be concerned about those.

Peb, he explained precisely what he meant by this. You may certainly disagree, but it's not at all nonsense. Here's the complete quote, with the most relevant passage emphasized.
Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God's will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.

Now this is going to be difficult for some who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, as many evangelicals do. But in a pluralistic democracy, we have no choice. Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. It involves the compromise, the art of what's possible. At some fundamental level, religion does not allow for compromise. It's the art of the impossible. If God has spoken, then followers are expected to live up to God's edicts, regardless of the consequences. To base one's life on such uncompromising commitments may be sublime, but to base our policy making on such commitments would be a dangerous thing. And if you doubt that, let me give you an example.

We all know the story of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham is ordered by God to offer up his only son, and without argument, he takes Isaac to the mountaintop, binds him to an altar, and raises his knife, prepared to act as God has commanded.

Of course, in the end God sends down an angel to intercede at the very last minute, and Abraham passes God's test of devotion.

But it's fair to say that if any of us leaving this church saw Abraham on a roof of a building raising his knife, we would, at the very least, call the police and expect the Department of Children and Family Services to take Isaac away from Abraham. We would do so because we do not hear what Abraham hears, do not see what Abraham sees, true as those experiences may be. So the best we can do is act in accordance with those things that we all see, and that we all hear, be it common laws or basic reason.
In other words, "It's God's commandment" is not a sufficient argument for anything in a pluralistic democracy. If you tell me that you want to pass a law for that reason, I will very correctly say bullsh!t. He is trying to deal with the fundamental tension in a democracy between what you may see as God's law and the fact that most other folks don't see it that way, or may have a very different idea of what God's will is. Whether you agree or not, he is not taking the standard tack of the left of spouting platitudes and trying to offend as few people as possible, hoping somebody will change the subject.

peb
01-08-2008, 10:49 PM
Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God's will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.

I specifically only quoted the first sentence for a reason. The second sentence is self evident with respect to all proposals in a democracy, if the democracy is functioning at all. So it is a rather meaningless insertion diverts attention from the first sentence. Neither the second sentence nor the example have anything to do with the first sentence. In that sentence he is not using "translate" as it pertains to languages, he is specifically saying translate concerns into values. Adding in the adjectives, he is saying that democracy requires we abandon our religious specific values. Unacceptable.

Bruce Hooke
01-08-2008, 11:06 PM
The second sentence is an expansion of the idea in the first sentence. You say that the second sentence is "self evident with respect to all proposals in a democracy, if the democracy is functioning at all." If that is the case, then I don't see how you can claim to achieve the end laid out in the second and subsequent sentences without translating your statements into language the works for people of all religions and people of no religious beliefs. Otherwise you are just talking to your brethren.

If you want to convince me, as someone who is not a member of your religion, to join with you in passing a law, then you need to use terms that works for both of us, which means not using language that is specific to your religion. Tell me you want to pass a law because God commands it to be thus and I am going to say "so what if your God says that, my God says something different." At that point we are at an impasse. No discussion is possible. To have a discussion we have to base our claims in something other than what each of us thinks God is telling us.

It is very true that if the only justification you can come up with for passing a law is because you believe your God commands it to be thus, then such a law does not have a place in a democracy, or at least a democracy where there is not a state religion. You may see this as having to abandon your religious specific values. I would say that it is simply requiring you to apply your religious specific values to your own life and your religious brethren, rather than to the nation as a whole, which is only fair given that others in the nation do not share your religion.

You are welcome to ignore what he is saying, but I think the end result is likely to be that you will have much less influence over the direction our country takes in the future. You can try to cram your religious beliefs down my throat by controlling the legislative process, but since no religious block can claim a solid majority in this country, you are not likely to achieve many of your goals over the long haul, because you are not likely to be able to hang onto power on your own over the long haul.

peb
01-08-2008, 11:23 PM
I think you are misreading him. The second sentence is an expansion of the idea in the first sentence.
.

If that is all he is saying, whats the point. As a said before, the second sentence is an obvious about every proposal, not just religiously motivated, put forth in a functioning democracy. The second sentence says proposals need to be "subject to argument, and amenable to reason". Wow, stop the presses. You guys think that is some big insight?

Keith Wilson
01-08-2008, 11:24 PM
Peb, you sure are tying awfully hard to find something to disagree with. First, truly religion-specific values - go to church, don't eat pork, burn incense at the family altar, women wear hijab, don't eat meat on Friday - have no place in the laws of a pluralistic secular democracy. However, there are many things in every religion which are of universal application and that one can reasonably make a case should be reflected in law and policy. But claiming that "it must be made law because God says so" at best will result in a fruitless argument, and at worst in a war. Catholics don't tend to make such arguments because reason is normally held in high regard, and the official teaching is that faith and reason don't conflict. This is probably why it seems so obvious to you. Protestant Fundamentalists, OTOH, often do. Biblical literalism and reason coexist uneasily, if at all. Obama is NOT, absolutely NOT saying you have to abandon anything (read the rest of the speech, he makes that very clear) but that in democratic political discourse, you have to explain why the rest of us should support your idea in terms intelligible to the rest of us, whether or not we believe in your idea of God.

peb
01-08-2008, 11:35 PM
Peb, you sure are tying awfully hard to find something to disagree with.
No Keith, I read the C&P and ACB and the two sentences I quoted jumped out at me and I pointed them out. The consensus seems to be I misinterpretted them, and they are quite uneventful, obvious statements : "must be amenable to reason...".



But claiming that "it must be made law because God says so" at best will result in a fruitless argument, and at worst in a war.
Yea, thats quite obvious also.
Which leads to the next question: why do you think Obama has some great insight in pointing it out such obvious points? You would vote for him for saying that legal proposals need to be amenable to reason?

Bruce Hooke
01-08-2008, 11:38 PM
I'd encourage you to re-read what I wrote in my previous post because I tweaked and refined it a good bit.

Bruce Hooke
01-08-2008, 11:40 PM
Yea, thats quite obvious also.
Which leads to the next question: why do you think Obama has some great insight in pointing it out such obvious points? You would vote for him for saying that legal proposals need to be amenable to reason?

It may seem obvious to you, but in a country where a lot of people seem to want to impose their religious views on the rest of the country and often don't seem to do a very good job of explaining why without resorting to explicitly religious texts, it apparently is not an obvious statement to a lot of people.

Keith Wilson
01-08-2008, 11:43 PM
I suggest you read the rest of the speech. The fact that you would find that statement mind-numbingly obvious (and I agree, it is pretty obvious to me) is partly a measure of the difference between Roman Catholicism and many types of Protestant Literalist Fundamentalism, and partly because you're mostly a pretty reasonable fellow.

I think the exceptional thing is that Obama is trying to actually talk with the religious right, and partly on their own ground, rather than ignoring them or patronizing. No the speech isn't sufficient, but it's one more thing that has given me a positive impression of his intelligence and sincerity.

peb
01-08-2008, 11:58 PM
I suggest you read the rest of the speech. The fact that you would find that statement mind-numbingly obvious (and I agree, it is pretty obvious to me) is partly a measure of the difference between Roman Catholicism and many types of Protestant Literalist Fundamentalism, and partly because you're mostly a pretty reasonable fellow.

I think the exceptional thing is that Obama is trying to actually talk with the religious right, and partly on their own ground, rather than ignoring them or patronizing. No the speech isn't sufficient, but it's one more thing that has given me a positive impression of his intelligence and sincerity.


Fair enough. I will read it.

But I am kind of skeptical about your (and Bruce's) statement that Protestant Literalist Fundamentalism, whom I don't always agree with, often try to impose religious motivated laws simply because "because God says so". I honestly do not see that very often. They may say that when talking to their own flock, which according to your logic should be ok, but not when they are debating in the wider public sphere. Pat Robertson would be a good example. All the big criticisms of him come from what he says on his 700 club, but he is talking to his own flock in that setting. When he ran for president, he did not "resort to religious texts" to present his arguments.

Keith Wilson
01-09-2008, 09:17 AM
Well, the "700 Club" is pretty public, although the intended audience is certainly those who share Mr. Robertson's convictions. However, this is now getting down to the difference between "often" and "sometimes." Are you satisfied that Obama is not asking you to give up your religious convictions in the public arena? Since that contradicts most of what he says in the rest of the speech (and even in that expert) it seems an unlikely interpretation at best. The point is not a brilliant new insight, but it's nonetheless true.

peb
01-09-2008, 12:31 PM
W Are you satisfied that Obama is not asking you to give up your religious convictions in the public arena? Since that contradicts most of what he says in the rest of the speech (and even in that expert) it seems an unlikely interpretation at best. The point is not a brilliant new insight, but it's nonetheless true.

I have not read the whole speech yet. I will try to read it this evening. For now, I am you guys have convinced me that my interpretation was wrong. But I am very sensitive to this point. The "don't push your religious morality on me"/"you can't legislate morality" mindset is often expressed as precisely that type of request. The idea that political positions should not be based on one's religious point of view is wide spread among the left. It is a big problem with the with liberal politics in this country.


I will read his speech.

Keith Wilson
01-09-2008, 12:50 PM
Peb, I have to agree with you. Every one of us bases our political positions on what we think is important, what we think is desirable, what we think is right and just. Politically, it should make absolutely no difference whether a citizen's opinions come from reading Locke and the Federalist Papers, reading the morning newspaper, reading the Bible, or some combination. It's very unfortunate that some folks on the left have confused government neutrality on religious matters with exclusion of religion from political discourse. At best, that's sloppy thinking. At worst - well, I can see why you get so upset about it. Obama does not do that at all; it was one reason I was so impressed with his speech. It's a pretty clear-headed examination of the tensions around the role of religion in politics in a pluralistic democracy.

peb
01-09-2008, 01:23 PM
Peb, I have to agree with you. Every one of us bases our political positions on what we think is important, what we think is desirable, what we think is right and just. Politically, it should make absolutely no difference whether a citizen's opinions come come from reading Locke and the Federalist Papers, reading the morning newspaper, reading the Bible, or some combination. It's very unfortunate that some folks on the left have confused government neutrality on religious matters with exclusion of religion from political discourse. At best, that's sloppy thinking. At worst - well, I can see why you get so upset about it. Obama does not do that at all; it was one reason I was so impressed with his speech. It's a pretty clear-headed examination of the tensions around the role of religion in politics in a pluralistic democracy.

Thanks, you have captured my thoughts very well. Although, to be complete and fair, I need to expand on them a little more before we reach total agreement. I did not take my point of view to its logical conclusion, which would require quite a bit more discourse.

I promise I will read the speech and provide a more thought-out response than just reading the blurb ACB C&P.

Kaa
01-09-2008, 01:26 PM
When it comes to ANY issue, if the candidate bases a stand on his religious principles, explicitly, without looking to engage the broad support of the electorate on a basis which does not depend on a religious view, then I'm going to be opposed.

That's a rather strange point of view.

For example, consider a guy who says: "Because of my personal religious principles, I am opposed to capital punishment. If the electorate doesn't like it, it can elect somebody else, but I, personally, will stand opposed to capital punishment regardless of political considerations".

That sounds like a reasonable position to take, and yet you'd seem to strongly against this kind of thing..?

Kaa

Keith Wilson
01-09-2008, 01:30 PM
. . . before we reach total agreement. I don't think we need to worry much about that. ;) I think you'll find that Obama demonstrates little or none of the thoughtless anti-religious attitudes sometimes found on the left (and he's not very far left, a fairly moderate fellow generally). Anyway, I'll be interested in hearing what you think.

peb
01-09-2008, 01:54 PM
However, it's a bad example... especially because I'm opposed to capital punsihment on non-religious grounds.


No, Kaa picked a perfect example in order to clarify your position. You said you would be opposed to any issue that if a candidate:


When it comes to ANY issue, if the candidate bases a stand on his religious principles, explicitly, without looking to engage the broad support of the electorate on a basis which does not depend on a religious view, then I'm going to be opposed.


This seems to imply you would end your opposition to capital punishment solely because a candidate, even though he agreed with you, chose a political stupid way of presenting his ideas.


And this clarification then leads to even more questions:


Any CANDIDATE who freely admits that his personal religious views would be the guiding star of his behaviors and actions in office would, by definition, NOT be a guy I'd vote for. If a candidate simply expressed a strong religious belief, but it was clear that he wouldn't base his behaviors and policies exclusively on those views, I'd have no problem with that.

There is absolutely nothing wrong a candidate with letting his religious views be a guiding star of his behaviors and actions in office. This is actually desirable. So I must strongly disagree with your first sentence. I will even say, this sentence does EXACTLY what I was taking exception with above, namely asking me to put my religious views aside in the public forum. A fundamental part of my religion is that it should be a "guiding star" for all of my actions in life.

Your second sentence confuses me a great deal about your point of view on this subject. Your insertion of the word "exclusively" in that sentence seems to be you have a more moderate stance that what you expressed in the first sentence.

Which is it,
a) A candidate cannot let his religion be a guiding star towards all his actions
or
b) a candidate cannot let base his views and policies exclusively on his religious views.
???

I think I have no problem with option b). Option a) is totally unacceptable.

Osborne Russell
01-09-2008, 02:02 PM
How about an uncompromising compromise: he translates his exclusive views into non-exclusive views, and makes that the guiding star?

Osborne Russell
01-09-2008, 02:03 PM
the dangers of sectarianism have never been greater

Is is sectarianism or secularism? They sound so much alike.

Keith Wilson
01-09-2008, 02:04 PM
Any CANDIDATE who freely admits that his personal religious views would be the guiding star of his behaviors and actions in office would, by definition, NOT be a guy I'd vote for. If a candidate simply expressed a strong religious belief, but it was clear that he wouldn't base his behaviors and policies exclusively on those views, I'd have no problem with that.Well, you are certainly entitled to vote for whoever you like. However I don't think this makes rational sense. How does somebody in public office decide what to do - i.e.: what is right? There are always political considerations, of course, and practical calculation - if we want A, we have to do B and C and D. But at bottom, where do we get our ideas about what is right and just? A variety of sources, obviously, but should those that come from a person's religion be considered any differently than those that come from philosophy, or the study of history, or introspection, or life experience, or any other source? Of course there are constitutional guarantees - "no law respecting an establishment of religion", the Lemon test, all that - and one certainly must expect any elected official to follow those laws. However, treating religious ideas of right and wrong, religious ideas of what one should do, differently in politics from any other ideas, seems to me to be a very bad idea - in fact contrary to freedom of religion.

Osborne Russell
01-09-2008, 02:10 PM
Any candidate who would, in my opinion, overrule the laws of this country in deference to his religious convictions is someone I won't vote for.

Federal officials give their oath before God not to do so but break it gently to the Republicans.

Pierce Nichols
01-09-2008, 02:44 PM
Fair enough. I will read it.

But I am kind of skeptical about your (and Bruce's) statement that Protestant Literalist Fundamentalism, whom I don't always agree with, often try to impose religious motivated laws simply because "because God says so". I honestly do not see that very often.

Then here's a challenge -- construct a purely secular argument against gay marriage, or for criminal prohibitions against homosexual sex (both darling causes of those Protestant Literalists).

peb
01-09-2008, 03:03 PM
Then here's a challenge -- construct a purely secular argument against gay marriage, or for criminal prohibitions against homosexual sex (both darling causes of those Protestant Literalists).

But for my argument to hold true, I do not need a purely secular argument. Not that a secular argument does not need to be made. It is simply that combining the religious argument with the secular argument in the public square is perfectly proper, and I submit, even desirable. If for no other reason, it is always useful to know the complete backdrop behind someone's views. But a much better reason is that it allows for a full and complete debate. So simply shouting something down, because the person included religious backup does not seem to serve either side of an argument very well.

As for your two issues, I have not heard much said recently about laws against homosexual behavior so I will not address that. But as for gay marriage, it is quite easy to construct a secular argument for it. As soon as I do so, even if I sincerely fell like the argument is purely secular, you will say I am bringing my religion into it. Which would serve to illustrate my whole point.

Kaa
01-09-2008, 03:15 PM
It seems to me that Norm wants to take a scalpel (or maybe a chainsaw) and cut people into chunks -- in this case, a religious chunk and a secular chunk. And if you're a public official you are supposed to pretend that the religious chunk does not exist -- oh, you're allowed to keep it home in the box and maybe even take it out and gasp! do something with it in the deep privacy of your own home -- but not in the public square. Only the secular chunk is legitimate and could be source for stands, points of view, and arguments, while the religious chunk would be tolerated only as long as it is, essentially, an eccentric private hobby.

As I said, a rather strange position to take.

Kaa

Keith Wilson
01-09-2008, 03:40 PM
Norm brings up examples of an elected official doing something that is unconstitutional or against the law because of his religious convictions. Religious ideas of right behavior are no different in this respect from other ideas. If a public official breaks the law because of his secular philosophy, because of greed, or desire for power, or politica advantage, or any other reason. why is it different from doing it for religious reasons? They're just as guilty, and the prison sentence should be just as long. No one argues that a public official can claim to be a conscientious objector to the Constitution and stay in office.

Peter Malcolm Jardine
01-09-2008, 03:47 PM
I listened to Obama give his concession speech last night. This is a very bright, very well spoken, compassionate politician. He has all the right ingredients necessary for an assassination.

Peter Malcolm Jardine
01-09-2008, 03:49 PM
As for your two issues, I have not heard much said recently about laws against homosexual behavior so I will not address that. But as for gay marriage, it is quite easy to construct a secular argument for it. .[/QUOTE]

More reason to separate church and state.

Osborne Russell
01-09-2008, 03:59 PM
It is simply that combining the religious argument with the secular argument in the public square is perfectly proper, and I submit, even desirable.

It's not per se undesirable. But that policy is best which reflects the will of the most, within the limits of the constitution. The will of the most is not necessarily secular but is likely to be un-sectarian. The broadest possible base of support.

If an argument is religiously motivated, it's good to say so, out of decency. But I wonder how it makes the argument more persuasive.
That comes down to, I suppose, how dependable the religious motivation will turn out to be. For example, if adherents of the Christian Coalition at one point advocate stringent measures against illegal immigration, because illegal immigration threatens the character of America as a Christian nation, and a year later calls for leniency based on Christian charity, their persuasiveness is suffers, the next time they advocate anything.

If, in the meantime, the Moral Majority takes the same positions, but in the reverse order, people outside both organizations may wonder just what it does mean to say that a particular position is called for by Christianity. They would also be justified in being cautious, before giving such arguments even provisional credence, that they weren't simply sectarian partisanship, i.e. an attempt to pervert the state into a weapon for one sect to use against another.


If religion only related to the individual, and was a question between God and the conscience, it would not be wise, nor in my opinion equitable, for human authority to step in. But when religion is embodied into faction, and factions have objects to pursue, it will and must, more or less, become a question of power between them.

--- Edmund Burke, Speech on the Relief of the Protestant Dissenters


At some point an "evangelical conservative" must realize the term is something of a malapropism if not an oxymoron. An American conservative wants a secular state for various practical reasons, e.g., because it promotes stability and freedom. An evangelical must decide, after careful consideration, whether the values of conservatism conflict with the values of evangelicalism, and choose one or the other.

Or they can hash it all together, like the Bush League, crossing their fingers and hoping for one more day the contradictions won't explode.

peb
01-09-2008, 05:09 PM
It's not per se undesirable. But that policy is best which reflects the will of the most, within the limits of the constitution. The will of the most is not necessarily secular but is likely to be un-sectarian. The broadest possible base of support.

I am not for sure you understand what I am saying. And there is absolutely no evidence that the "policy is the best which reflects the will of the most". Democracy works because, taken as a whole, the policies supported by the most tend to be better than policies developed by other forms of government. But that is a different issue.

What I am trying to say is that if someone advocates a policy in the public square, it is better for all concerned that he gives a complete argument, which would include all motivations and all reasons for supporting it, not just those that fit in the secular sphere.


If an argument is religiously motivated, it's good to say so, out of decency. But I wonder how it makes the argument more persuasive.


It may or may not make the argument more persuasive. That probably depends on a lot of factors which would vary with every policy, every advocate, and every listener. But to say including a religious argument for a policy makes it less persuasive, or should even cause the advocacy to be discarded for that single fact, is simply stupid. But the latter is exactly the stance taken by many of the left in todays public square.

Keith Wilson
01-09-2008, 06:01 PM
What I am trying to say is that if someone advocates a policy in the public square, it is better for all concerned that he gives a complete argument, which would include all motivations and all reasons for supporting it, not just those that fit in the secular sphere. Seems only reasonable. The fact that someone is advancing an idea for religious reasons, (or partly for religious reasons) is neither an argument for or against it, if I don't subscribe to the same religion. Rejecting an idea just because it coincides with somebody else's religious belief is silly. OTOH, it's hard to convince others who don't share the same religious convictions unless there are other good reasons.

Osborne Russell
01-09-2008, 06:39 PM
But to say including a religious argument for a policy makes it less persuasive, or should even cause the advocacy to be discarded for that single fact, is simply stupid. But the latter is exactly the stance taken by many of the left in todays public square.

Yeah, it's a kind of real cut-rate cheapskate anti-religionism, like Maoists are notorious for. And more times, I bet, it's just ignorance. I remember a small town festival where a girl's dance group was excluded because of their T-Shirts, which said "Bouncing Born Again Baptists" or something. Apparently phones started to ring, and the Director of Parks, an ignorant douche bag (but good friend of the mayor), told the police to keep them out of the parade; seemingly, simply on the basis of how many calls were pro, and how many con.

I agree, I think, with everything you say, which might be summed up as: other things being equal, it's better to include the arguments from religion. When it comes to whether the policy with the broadest support is best, remember the qualification, "within the limits of the constitution."

And yes I do mean "best, regardless of content" because that is conservatism, man. Other things again being equal, broad support means respect for law and rights generally, which is a greater benefit to more people than an arguably "better" policy might be. The alternative is only better after being discounted for the costs of its narrower support.

Keith Wilson
01-10-2008, 09:17 AM
Here's a quote for you, Peb, addressing exactly the problem you brought up (emphasis added):
For some time now, there has been plenty of talk among pundits and pollsters that the political divide in this country has fallen sharply along religious lines. Indeed, the single biggest "gap" in party affiliation among white Americans today is not between men and women, or those who reside in so-called Red States and those who reside in Blue, but between those who attend church regularly and those who don't.

Conservative leaders have been all too happy to exploit this gap, consistently reminding evangelical Christians that Democrats disrespect their values and dislike their Church, while suggesting to the rest of the country that religious Americans care only about issues like abortion and gay marriage; school prayer and intelligent design.

Democrats, for the most part, have taken the bait. At best, we may try to avoid the conversation about religious values altogether, fearful of offending anyone and claiming that - regardless of our personal beliefs - constitutional principles tie our hands. At worst, there are some liberals who dismiss religion in the public square as inherently irrational or intolerant, insisting on a caricature of religious Americans that paints them as fanatical, or thinking that the very word "Christian" describes one's political opponents, not people of faith.

Kaa
01-10-2008, 10:58 AM
Secular folks like me are interested in the 'net effect'. I oppose capital punishment on non-religious grounds, and perhaps you oppose it on religious grounds.... makes no difference to me what your reasons are if we agree on the net effect.


The point where I DO object is when, for a politican making policy, the policy he promotes is exclusively based on his faith.

Norman, I think you contain multitudes :D

Kaa

Keith Wilson
01-10-2008, 12:11 PM
. . . the policy he promotes is exclusively based on his faith.A little abstract for me. Examples please? I can't think of any from real life. Objecting to abortion is not exclusively religious; whatever one's opinion or religion, there are arguments from universal principles on both sides. Perhaps something like requiring stores to close on Sunday? One can make a reasonable non-religious argument for that as well. Although there are some gray areas, I can't think of any exclusively religious law or policy that wouldn't be unconstitutional. One of the elements of the "Lemon test" is that a law has to have a legitimate secular purpose. Requiring women to wear head scarves would be exclusively religious, but unconstitutional.

And I think an officeholder's motivations are his business; we can only judge actions. Deciding who to vote for is another matter.

SamSam
01-10-2008, 06:13 PM
You can't stop religion from influencing decisions, but law has priority over religion in this democracy.

"Whatever one's religion in his private life may be, for the officeholder, nothing takes precedence over his oath to uphold the Constitution and all its parts -- including the First Amendment and the strict separation of church and state." -- JFK Interview, Look, 3 March 1959

Keith Wilson
01-11-2008, 10:14 AM
Peb, I'm most of the way through The Audacity of Hope, and the speech I referenced is a much-condensed version of a chapter in the book. It preserves the essential points, but simplifies considerably. He says many of the same things we've discussed here about the tendency of the left to argue that religiously-based ideas have no place in political discussions. You might be interested in reading the full version. The book itself is a bit uneven; most parts are excellent; some parts are too much a laundry list of ideas and proposals (Al Gore syndrome). He does have an excellent discussion of how being in Washington and being in power can change one's perspective, often without one even noticing. That's perhaps the flip side of the "inexperience" argument; he hasn't been in the Senate long enough to be totally removed from the real world.