Religious “Values” in Politics

Last week, just a week before the election, two candidates for an open Utah congressional seat got into a “contest” of sorts in which each claimed to hold the most “Mormon/LDS” views, although the assertions weren’t quite that boldly stated… but enough so that the headline from the Salt Lake Tribune played it that way. The idea of claiming “values superiority” isn’t something unique to Utah, unhappily. I’ve seen more than a few elections over the years in which candidates vied to prove who held the more “Christian values.” And for that matter, isn’t the primary cause of ISIS in the Middle East to create a land governed by the most “Islamic” values? Didn’t England suffer through centuries of internal conflict over which church’s values would be predominant? Not to mention the bloody conflicts that wracked Europe immediately after the Reformation?

Just what do people really mean by such assertions? Let’s see. “Most Christian” — today is that code for right-to-life, anti-feminist, pro-gun rights, anti-minority, and thoroughly patriarchal? If it is, that’s rather at variance with the doctrines of that carpenter on whose name and deeds Christianity is theoretically based. On the other hand, Joseph Smith was a patriarchal polygamist who was definitely a right-to-life type, but is that what those two candidates meant?

Or were they just trying to claim, “I’m just like most of you.” But… if most of their constituents want a supremacy of religious values in government, where does that leave all those who don’t share those values?

Like the Founding Fathers, I’m rather skeptical of putting religious values ahead of everything because one immediate question arises – whose religious values? And the second question is of even greater concern – to what degree will a candidate or incumbent attempt to use government to strengthen or impose those values on those who do not share them? All of which brings up a third question – if a candidate doesn’t intend to strengthen or impose those religious values he or she is trumpeting, exactly why bring them up except to gain an advantage. And if that’s the case, what does that reveal about how far the politician or candidate will go to obtain or maintain power.

As for me, I tend to vote against candidates who trumpet religious values – unless their opponents have even greater flaws, which, these days, is more often the case than I can ever recall… and that’s a sad commentary as well.

8 thoughts on “Religious “Values” in Politics”

  1. Bob Vowell says:

    I think it would be nice if we could just find a way to weed out the sociopaths from the politicians. There seems to be far to many of them these days. I can’t think of any elected official touting his or her religious values who has actually managed to demonstrate them.

  2. alecia says:

    I’m with you all the way. For me, the biggest problem is the stand most of them take on voters’ rights – if we don’t agree with them, they will do everything they can to limit our right to vote. It’s sad that they don’t see the irony. The good news is that their demographic is dying out and there will be more people who don’t ‘share their values’ voting.

  3. D Archerd says:

    To Alecia: Are you kidding? Fundamentalist Christianity is increasing its hold throughout the majority of the U.S. It’s only dying out as a demographic on the coasts. I recently saw a statistic that said over 40% of the U.S. population didn’t believe in evolution.

    Abraham Lincoln, once asked why he never attended church, famously replied, “If I ever found a church who preached the Golden Rule…and actually practiced it, I would happily join that church.” It’s hard to imagine a politician today being elected with such “radical” views.

  4. Sam says:

    I’m not really an atheist but rather an agnostic/perpetual skeptic.

    So even if I met God and he/she/it performed assorted miracles I would be open to the possibility that it was God but I also would consider that it might be a hallucination, the devil or an alien being such as Q off of Star Trek.

    It occurred to me a few years back that even though I grew up in a relatively secular democracy – Australia – that the values that underpin that democracy are mostly derived from christianity – albeit far less so than in the United States. After all we recently had an elected Prime Minister who was a declared atheist, unmarried, childless and a woman to boot.

    I got to thinking Australia is a christian democracy, Israel is a Jewish democracy and Iran is a muslim democracy. Where are the atheist democracies in the world?

    I have a dream of a democratic nation completely divorced from religion as a basis for it’s laws and values. Freedom of religion, speech etc. would be allowed of course but politicians running for office would be required not to profess their faith while campaigning or in office or use it as the basis for their policies.

    If the leader of this hypothetical nation went to war with another nation they would be forbidden from saying god is on their side or words that effect. Or using words laced with religious overtones such as “evil” to describe their enemy.

  5. D Archerd says:

    I think the concept of “evil” stands on its own without necessarily implying any sort of deity or religious connotations. Killing innocent people out of racist principles or to make a publicity statement is evil in my book whether or not there’s an omnipotent God who will punish the perpetrators in an afterlife.

    One of my favorite quotes from the late, great Robert Heinlein is, “Sin consists of hurting other people unnecessarily; everything else is invented nonsense.”

    1. Sam says:

      I think when I mentioned “evil” I wasn’t just thinking about it’s religious connotations but the fact that it’s emotive.

      I don’t like the fact that emotive language is used by politicians to persuade the public to their cause.

      I don’t think emotion should be the basis for decisions of those in leadership positions.

      I also think that demonisation of the enemy is problematic for a number of reasons. Such as that not every enemy soldier/civilian/leader is “evil”. If the flames of hatred are fanned during a war by the leadership of either side but then it makes it that much harder to forge a lasting peace post-war. Perhaps also that hatred can lead to atrocities during war that are justifiable because the enemy is “evil”.

      There has been a lot of discussion in the public arena in my country over the last several months about young muslim Australian men who have gone off to fight with IS and the threat they pose to Australia particularly if they return.

      I agree that IS needs to be stopped. However I don’t neccessarily think that everyone who fights under their flag is evil. I think some are misguided or misled about who and what they are fighting for. I think the allure of IS is born out of legitimate grievances young muslim men feel in western democracies and the need to find somewhere to belong. Also perhaps not everyone/thing they are fighting for is wrong. After all IS was born in Syria in the fight against Assad who Obama himself said had to go.

      I suspect that many of the people who join IS do not appreciate what they are getting themselves into and once they are there feel trapped. I could be wrong but I suspect that not every fighter is happy with the atrocities being perpetrated by IS. That even many of those who participate in the atrocities do so because they are afraid of being shot or beheaded if they say no or refuse to participate.

      I think IS needs to be stopped but also needs to be understood rather than simply labelling every member of the organisation as “evil”.

  6. Edward L says:

    The Oatmeal had an excellent comic about this.

  7. Dave says:

    They will do whatever it takes, that they can afford, to gain or keep the power. There are precious few in the so called “Christian Nation” who even know what a religion is, or Faith. Even those who attend some sort of worship service each week do not know what religion is. They will offer you a limited list of items that describe what some religious people do, but not what it is. Their list may be positive or negative. Why expect the self-serving politician not to use vague religious propaganda to get votes? And you are so correct. We are forced into “voting against” the lesser of two evils in each election. But if we stop voting?…

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