“In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.” -Douglas Adams
It is often said there are two things one should never bring up in civil conversation. Politics and Religion. Arguably the two most divisive topics one can discuss. Yet, despite the insistence these are dangerous waters to delve into, we nonetheless allow the two to intermingle throughout our lives. Be it when many of us judge candidates based on their personal religious beliefs, or when we support policies based on how well they fit in with the religious guidelines we choose to follow. Does this make us all responsible for some of the more questionable policy decisions that have resulted in recent years? Not necessarily, but it is important to recognize how our religious beliefs shape our world view, and how sometime those ideals should not be allowed to bleed into the policy making arena. With that in mind, let me list a few reasons why mixing politics and religions is not always a good idea.
Religion is an extremely personal experience. Or at least it should be. Attempting to catapult our personal beliefs, whether they involve Jesus or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, into the lawmaking arena is the equivalent of demanding everyone change their favorite ice cream to Cookies and Cream. While I find this ice cream to be most delicious, it is a personal choice, and I would never dream of voting for a candidate who supported imposing such a policy on everyone in society. Well unless it was this guy. The great thing about our religious beliefs are they belong to us and are not affected by the actions of others. Well… at least that’s the idea anyway.
Religion inspires a variety of intense emotions. So much of the political realm is already wrought with passionate disagreement. The last thing we should be doing is taking the only thing more emotionally charged than our political disagreements and throwing it in the mix. What we believe about our place in the world, origin, and purpose is caught up in this subject. Attempting to make a policy affecting a large number of people who believe many different things that is influenced heavily by any one religion is going to cause many of those people to violently resist. Even if a majority agrees, you are left with a minority that will never be able to accept the decision because it flies in the face of everything they stand for.
Separation of Church and State protects our right to religious freedom. There was a time in history when the Church and the State were hardly discernible. You know, those wonderful glory years of the Middle Ages when you were either Catholic or a heathen running the risk of excommunication and thus exile from all society. Fortunately, after many years of turmoil including everything from a guy pounding a bunch of theses on a door to a King founding his own religion in the name of divorce, a country was founded on the belief that in order to truly serve the people a government must not legislate one’s personal beliefs. Many times we forget, amidst all the back and forth over religion in the public arena, that our constitution kept the two separate for a reason: to allow every citizen the freedom to worship how and what they chose.
I understand there are many who will probably scream blasphemy at the idea that our country was not founded as Christian theocracy. Just as I’m sure there are those who will take issue with the importance I place on religious belief. Which, really just further makes the point. There will always be these disagreements. However, most of can agree we should be working to create a safe and free world for not only our generation but those who inherit it. Something far easier done when we recognize our religious differences, accept them, and then attempt to find common ground in policy in spite of them. Otherwise, we can always just settle our differences with an Order 66 type resolution. You know, like they used to.