"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign 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 & State." -Thomas Jefferson
I'm always intrigued when discussing religion in America. Reading about religion; its rules, mysticisms and derivations always come as inspiring to me. These things are a pinnacle of human creation and imagination. I will always see religion as a man made tool, complete with man made rules.
Thankfully, and according to our First Constitutional Amendment, saying things like I just did are free for me to do. I don't have to worry here in my Westchester bedroom, watching for assassination attempts from true believers. Easily I can sit here and talk about how I think the entire establishment of religion is bullshit. Each derivation of it, monotheistic and polytheistic; these "theories" of how the world is, was, and will be, were deduced to help answer questions that a typical human could not. Religion gives guidance to the weak, and it gives pillars for those who need them, to lean on.
My personal philosophy: nothing and no one is dogmatic. It's impossible to know everything or have the answer to every question or be correct all of the time. Even mathematically speaking, the probability of such a person or a faith existing is astronomical. To therefore, believe in a religion is to believe in a philosophy that, over time, has called ITSELF dogmatic. You are acknowledging that someone else has called themselves a demigod, which in turn, challenges your own credibility or intelligence.
In Judaism, Jonah was swallowed by a whale, lit a fire in his belly, and was coughed out. Christians believe that after God took one of Man's ribs to create Eve, a talking snake warned them of what not to eat. Muslims believe that death in the name of Allah, brings you 72 virgins. As adults, I hope we can all laugh at these stories as others often sadly take them at face value.
Again, I believe religion, all religion, is to be ridiculous, pious, self-loathing, and a tool that attempts to possibly bring stability to what is the chaotic nature of Man. I'm comfortable saying that as my own set of beliefs. Others, of course, not only like to respect their religious traditions, but they lean on it as part of a daily routine. In all honestly, I have no issue with that. Having your own personal and private faith is completely fine, and even if I disagreed with it (I think its sad and foolish), a habit like that is protected under our same Constitution. I would never argue that one shouldn't be allowed to pray in their own personal way or nature.
Today, that's not my issue. My issue has to do with the first paragraph and the top of the page; Separation of Church and State. Now, we know that there is no talk of that in the Constitution, however it was a direct quote from one of our Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson. He used the 1st Amendment to justify it, and believed it to be a key in keeping our nation together. The reason I agree with him, simply put, is due to our nature as Americans. Being an American doesn't mean eating Apple Pie and watching fireworks, or waving an American Flag after exiting your 2008 Cadillac Escalade (with, naturally, would be bigger and better than your neighbors, who you are in a strict competition with for the biggest and fastest vehicle), no, being an American means coming from a different background from everyone else, and been allowed to come to a new land to find a hybridization between that "old" culture from your homeland, and the melting pot, tossed salad type culture that exists here. Everyone of us, aside from the few Native Americans that still are alive today, are a product of this hybridization, and it is the glue that binds us together. Naturally then, for all the things we have in common, systemically, we must have many things about us that are all different. That first thing, is religion.
This is the point of my conversation with you. We are not a homogeneous country in terms of religion; we can't be. I am Jewish. Many of my friends are Christians. My best friend is Protestant. My girlfriend is Catholic. I have worked with Muslims. I have partied with Pagans.
Here, in America, we are not from the same place, and do not have the same theories on life. That is why I believe in a separation of Church and State, just like Thomas Jefferson did; how can we force everyone to unite under 1 of these specific religious banners, when so many of us do not believe in it to begin with? In this country, without question, we are a majority of Christians. Should everyone have to believe in Christianity however? For Protestants, should they have to believe as Catholics do? Should all Jews pray in the same manner? Should Sunni and Shiite Muslims worship in the same mosque? The answer is absolutely not. Common-sense wise, knowing that there are so many different branches of faith (and the lack of faith) in this country, doesn't it make sense to keep religion out of the government? How could EVERYONE be represented at once? Thinking about ridiculous claims like Virgin Birth and the conversation between God and Muhammad in Mecca, can't we realize that faith truly has nothing to do with man's intelligence, but has everything to do with Man's emotion and timid, frightened nature? Shouldn't faith be left for our places of worship, and intellect be left for the election of our governing leaders?
When discussing religion and politics together, religion truly blinds us from the all of the truth that's involved. I believe that religion acts as the shepherd to the truly weak sheep that live among us. Government leaders would love us to act in that similar type fashion when discussing their policies; unquestioning, forever loyal, and willing to give and do whatever is asked. This is why in the last 20 years in American politics, religion all of a sudden has come out of the private homes of millions of Americans, and landed on the ballot. Starting with Ronald Reagan and Jerry Falwell; they ushered in this new age of religion affecting politics. Could you imagine an Atheist candidate today? They'd be laughed at. One of the first questions any politician today must answer, is "Are you a man of faith?" Can you think of one candidate that hasn't been "in touch with their own personal faith" from the past two decades?
This, my friends (quoting John McCain's introduction to ANY speech), is where it hurts me the most. Reading about how Barack Obama and John McCain had a "debate" in a Megachurch just turns my stomach in a multitude of ways. To begin with, how is a Church a reasonable place for a political debate? Again, if I was to talk about intelligent dialog, the LAST place I'd think that would occur is a place that believes in the Earth and Universe forming in 7 simple days (or that humans lived among the dinosaurs, when there are hundreds of years of archaeological evidence that contradicts it). On top of that, isn't it sad to see "the best" candidates we could find both pandering to the Evangelical right? Politicians cannot get their mouth off the dick which is the radical Christian conservatives. What upsets me the most, again as a member of a minority religion, who also has Atheist views, is that if these two puppets can speak to a Reverend in a Megachurch, aren't they going to be visiting Mosques? Or Synagogues? Will they even been going to other Churches from different derivations of Christianity? Probably not, and the reason for that is for the amount of money Evangelicals have invested in our government for again, the past 20 years. Bluntly speaking, if you are going to represent "faith" in this conglomerate of cultures that we are, then you better represent each and every one of them. If not, THEN DON'T PANDER TO ANY OF THEM. Favoritism will come back to haunt you, that I can guarantee.
Truly, I just don't understand what questions like "When do you believe life begins in a baby," has any relevance in the political landscape. Even if a president wanted to overturn Roe v. Wade, they couldn't. Yes, who they vote in as a potential Supreme Court Justice is important, but doesn't that never ending agenda overshadow other, more important things going on today? Yes, abortion isn't a great thing to do, but what about the killing of Iraqi's and Americans in Baghdad? How about the murder and raping of millions of Africans throughout the entire continent? The totalitarian rule of Communist China? Even discussing the sad superficial society we've become would be an improvement. Answering questions about one's own "faith" takes time away from true issues that exist, like current murder, genocide and war that is occurring while these ridiculous religious topics are being discussed.
I truly wish that more people, even ones of faith, realize that not all of us have that faith. Thankfully, in America, citizens do not have to. Our governing bodies shouldn't have to worry about that then either. Leaders shouldn't be judged on their religion; they should be judged solely on their policies. Maybe it's a pipe dream to hope that our leaders will stop making policy based off of religion, just to make a voting bloc happy. Maybe then, that's something I might have to strengthen my faith in. Until I SEE any reason to, I do believe I'll remain completely and utterly devoid of any of it.