Religion in politics

“Today, millions of Americans are saddened by the death of Terri Schiavo. The essence of civilization is that the strong have a duty to protect the weak. In cases where there are serious doubts and questions, the presumption should be in favour of life.” – President George W Bush.

Fine words coming from a man who, as Governor of Texas, executed more people that any other State Governor in the history of the United States. Under his watch Texas ranked last in virtually every aspect of social service provision, including those for the mentally ill, yet first in executions.

Only an individual with an overly pious religious belief would fail to see any kind of connection.

My starting point isn’t so much about the absurdity of capital punishment, rather the intensely religious drivers that always accompany such state sponsored death.

And we are dealing with life and death here, it’s okay to laugh off harmless Church of England fetes and coffee mornings, but when religious belief intervenes on matters of war, economy and law – things have definitely taken a turn for the worse.

Religious beliefs blatantly ignore ideas based on common sense in the same way that an over enthusiastic union official will throw the rule book at an employer. It’s that all or nothing approach that is so damaging to societies the world over, whether it be Sudan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, China or the USA.

We may take the piss out of the C of E, with its laughable carry on morals and vague implementation, but in reality it is an incredibly tolerant church. Fundamentalists like Bush and Bin Laden the world over could do a lot for freedom and humanity in taking a leaf out of their book.

The most dangerous aspect of this phenomenon is belief itself, the idea that handing ones life over to religion and living by it’s requirements absolves the individual of social responsibility, or any effort involved with the thought process.

In this respect religion is the easy way out, decisions based on faith require no justification purely because a God is involved and that should be the last word. In my opinion the ability to believe, which is not to be confused with trust, is one of the big let downs of the human race.

It is the sincere belief of being right above all practical evidence that makes religion within politics unacceptable in a modern society. For the leader of any nation, let alone a superpower, to believe that divine intervention will prevail over matters of moral or economic policy is as ridiculous as it is terrifying.

The ultimate example of this is of course George W Bush, a man elected for his religious beliefs over intellectual or moral capacity. A man who honestly believes that he has been anointed by God, and can’t see that his success is courtesy of the surge rightwards in the form of conservative christianity in the U.S.

Blair is another example, he has gone on record as quoting the importance of keeping politics and religion separate, however is that really possible when you are so committed to a faith that forms a large part of your life? What is surprising here is that he is obviously a fairly bright bloke, but again we can see a pattern of inability to consider that he may be personally at fault, even in the face of physical evidence. When compared to John Major we can see that this is some of the reason for his success, but I believe that ultimately it will also form part of his downfall.

We have to remember also that a religion is almost always conservative, this occurrence presents an unfair disadvantage to non believers like myself who live in a democratic country. We have seen a Labour party steered to a right wing path by a leader who has distinct religious beliefs, the connection is definitely arguable.

Surely as a leader one should be free form religious persuasion and concerned with the practical, if boring tasks of fiscal and political administration. The whole concept of using that platform to dispense moral guidance driven through spiritual belief, which in this context must be treated as fictional, is basically unacceptable.

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