Faith And Reason

by tristero

I'm sitting here killing time in an aiport and thought I'd jot down a few thoughts on the revival of the big religion in politics discussion.

Religious practice in the United States is a complex, fascinating subject that, oddly, had never received the kind of attention it deserved until very recently. But religion isn't the real topic here. Only the role of religion in American politics is of concern, not how Americans practice their faith, or don't. And unlike the subject of religion itself, the place of religion in political discourse is so straightforward, I'm surprised at the length and prolixity of the discussion:

By conscious decision, the Founders of the United States intended that there be NO place for religious privilege or argumentation in the decision-making process of government. None. As in zero, zip, nada.

No exceptions. Ever.

That's it. Rhetoric like Lincoln's? No big deal. Office of Faith-Based Initiatives? That's an assault on America's most basic values.

I am an absolutist about this. Your identity as a Baptist, a Jew, or atheist is, according the documents penned by the (very) intelligent designers who wrote the Constitution, utterly meaningless in the American political community in its decision-making. Put another way:

The essential principle of American politics is that it insists upon the exercise of cold reason in governance; revelation can play no part, nor can any religion have any kind of privileged status. Period. The End.

It is an indication of how bizarre public discourse on politics has become that my all-American, apple-pie position is dismissed as "radical," "secularist," "anti-religious" and even "fundamentalist." Those who make such idiotic accusations, among them self-styled spokesmen for the "religious Left,*" apparently are unaware that many Americans like me have a long public record demonstrating the deepest respect for, and interest in, serious religious practice. Digby is right: this is pure counter-Enlightenment trash. But Digby is more polite than I am. It is also deeply anti-American.

*Funny, I always thought the religious Left meant people like genuine heroes like the Berrigans or perhaps Archbishop Romero, not wannabe powerbrokers within an establishment political party. Wallis as the next Berrigan? I really don't think so.