Sunday, November 16, 2008

Religion Has a Role in Politics?

The Daily Times (Salsbury, Maryland) recently published an opinion piece entitled, "Religion Has Its Role In Politics." At first glance, the article appears to reasonably address the subtleties of the First Amendment as they relate to the free practice of religion. On closer inspection, however, it goes beyond the correct notion that politics and politicians are not required to leave the influence of their religion at the door in their service to the public and tries to make the case that religion has a distinct and definable role in the political arena. This contention is erroneous and misguided.

In stating that "religion's proper role in government is to act as a personal moral compass for both leaders and constituents," the implication is made that the kind of morality the rest of us need is rightly the exclusive domain of religion. Something quite different is much more accurate: The kind of morality religious politicians utilize for guiding their own public pronouncements and policy decisions are, of course, free to be based on their own religious beliefs, but the idea that religious morality is something to be held up for the rest of us to aspire to is patently absurd and oversteps the bounds of propriety. This is a naked attempt to promote a religious god as the ultimate source and final arbiter of all morality.

This article would have been palatable if it only stated that applying a sensible - and more universal - moral code to the deliberations of politicians and to one's daily life was something to aspire to and left it at that. But it went overboard by suggesting it is the "role" of religion to administer this morality to the masses via the machinery of politics.

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