Freethought Today · Vol. 27 No. 7 September 2010

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Fourth place college essay

Religion, politics – a natural mix

The union of religion and politics could not be a more natural one. Since the dawn of time (around 6,000 years ago) man and God have jointly ruled the planet. However, the will of God has not always been clear. As a result, a line of communication needed to be established. For a long time, communication between the Lord and his earthly subjects was sporadic, and often open to misinterpretation, mainly due to the expensive and flashy, but ultimately ineffective methods he chose.

Those attempts ranged from kidnappings in fiery sky chariots, burning bushes, being swallowed by giant whales, devastating floods, amorphous apparitions and even to an unfortunate no-holds-barred wrestling match with Jacob. Communication was further hampered by God’s dry sense of humor. In one instance, he commanded Abraham to kill his son, but later told him he had meant it “sarcastically.”

The epitome of these miscommunications came when God sent his son to Earth, which culminated in his being nailed to a tree after a misunderstanding with local police. Only after that did God decide to communicate his desires concisely and coherently in what was to be his best-seller, the holy bible.

With the firm establishment of fan clubs dedicated to increasing the Lord’s book sales, and communication as clear as it would ever be between humans and supernatural entities, the world could again progress as intended. The merger of politics and religion began in earnest.

In the Christian world, this took shape most dramatically in the forms of churches, priests and the papacy. The centralization of papal power led the Western world into a cultural and scientific renaissance that contrasted sharply with the backward pagan lifestyle of the Romans. In terms of political life, it was a bombshell. Suddenly, rulers could legitimize their power by claiming divine appointment. If they were in a position of power, obviously it was because God had put them there. Logically, they were agents of the Lord, could do no wrong and could only be removed by God’s will — in other words, death.

Fast-forward to the modern world. The union of religion and politics is very much alive and well. Americans are so lucky to be blessed as “one nation under God.” Additionally, the mix of democracy and religion in America should not be shocking. Just as political power and religiosity go together, so do democracy and religion.

It was the collective religious identity of America that saved it from the godless communist threat.

The U.S. is a bastion of freedom and morals, and as such, it must protect the public from abominations like abortion and homosexuality. The bible explicitly states that homosexuality is forbidden, right next to the passage where it commands the execution of adulterers. Because religion is there to guide humanity with its immutable laws, any argument against it can be safely rejected. Faith is invaluable when its dictates are questioned because it gives the faithful the ability to disregard the questionable idea(s) completely.

Luckily, it often doesn’t even come to that, as religion sits outside the bounds of criticism. When joined with public policy, it is almost unstoppable, given that criticism brings on almost certain vilification. Given that much public policy is inspired by scripture and that the U.S. is blessed, you can rest easy knowing we’re on the right/righteous path.

Religion has political uses aside from being a moral compass. It is very useful when it comes to helping the masses make the right decisions, as long as the information is presented properly. Consider communism. Its economic system was dangerous because it aspired to create equality among different social classes. This is perhaps un-American (insofar as America consists of corporations) but did not initially appear to be dangerous to theists. It wasn’t until communists were portrayed as destroyers of religion that their true menace could be appreciated by the general public.

In response to this scare, Americans rationally attempted to appease God by writing “In God We Trust” on their currency. This seemed to work, and America enjoyed economic prosperity for the next 50 years. Clearly, it was the collective religious identity of America that saved it from the godless communist threat.

In a more recent example, Republicans tried to portray Barack Obama as a Muslim during the 2008 presidential elections. Understandably, many Americans were concerned (after all, he might be taking orders from Osama bin Laden himself, for all we know!). One brave soul asked opponent John McCain whether Obama really was an Arab, and presumably Muslim. Admirably, McCain didn’t go for the quick political point but clarified by saying, “No ma’am, no ma’am, he’s a decent family man,” implying that Obama was indeed not Muslim.

Religious outsiders are understandably viewed with suspicion, and it was wise of the Republican Party to use this Christian propensity to help America evaluate the credentials, background and motivations of a presidential candidate. It is this collective identity that defines America. Collective identities are sometimes looked down upon by academics in their ivory towers. But in reality, these identities make life easier.

In the example above, were I to have been that woman and Obama really were Muslim, I wouldn’t even have to think about whom I was going to vote for. It’s a matter of fact that I would distrust and never elect a Muslim. Moral certainty never felt so good.

Some people like to make ludicrous assertions about America really being a secular country, but the last time I checked, America was a democracy (some say a republic), and that means Christian. Other arguments have to do with the founders being deist or wanting the country to be secular. The purveyors of such arguments are, in actuality, morally bankrupt and academically dishonest. They know very well that the drafters of the Treaty of Tripoli were being sarcastic when they wrote, “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion. . .”

Now we know that many of the founders were members of secret societies like the Freemasons Guild. Who knows what kind of secrets they kept? Furthermore, we can’t take anything they said to heart because we all know they were slave owners, immoral a priori.

The fact is that America’s beginnings were never with a few intellectuals, out of touch with society as they are. No, the U.S. was built by the sweat and blood of her people, notably the religious communities who came to America because of persecution abroad. Populism is the heart of democracy, and there is nothing more populist than religion. From the kings of the ancient world to modern-day technocrats, the combination of politics and religion has helped create ideal societies.

One only need to look at Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan under the Taliban to foresee what the U.S. could achieve were the Word of the Lord followed absolutely. Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions.

Andrew Catalfamo, 23, graduated from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana with a degree in modern Germanic studies. He’s enrolled in a master’s program at the University of Chicago and will study modern Austrian and German history with an emphasis on the integration and identity of minorities. He received a $300 scholarship for his essay from FFRF.

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