Monday, April 8, 2013

Religion and Politics

OK, you can just say, "I hate Steve," now and get it over with. I have friends who have the good sense to say, "Never discuss religion or politics," and this is good advice, too. So, I'm not going to follow that good advice.

It all started when the Pope resigned and they named a replacement Pope. I'm not Catholic, so I don't have a dog in this fight. But I am a Christian, so am not completely disinterested. Whenever anything like that happens I hear stupid things said about Catholicism.

To hear some people talk about Catholics the only things Catholics do is cover-up pedophile priests, discriminate against women, and oppose birth control. Funny how a major world religion should be built upon such narrow interests.

The stupid things I hear said about Catholicism are usually in the form of questions, "Will the new Pope allow female priests (priestesses)? Will the new Pope come out in favor of gay marriage? Will the new Pope declare Zeus the king of the gods? Will the new Pope tell everyone to worship Caesar?"

I knew these were stupid things, but a caller on a radio show said something that crystallized my thinking on the subject: Politics and Religion are opposites.

The laws of a country should follow from the desires and values of that country's citizens. The will of the people can change and that changing will engages politics to change a nation's laws. Is it illegal to marry your same-sex lover? That law is a reflection of the political consensus of a nation at the point of that law being enacted. Should the political consensus change, then the law can be changed to reflect the changing consensus.

For instance, amphetamines were dispensed over-the-counter at the time that Have Spacesuit Will Travel was written. But the consensus of their legality changed by the time Breaking Bad was written. Apparently, the consensus is moving the other way with marijuana legalization.

People should be free to choose their legislators who'll enact laws that reflect the people's will. This is politics.

Religion is the opposite. Religion is what humans do about God. Jews, Christians, and Moslems teach that God dispenses moral laws. These laws reflect each religion's God-concept.

I can speak best for Christianity. Christianity teaches that God does not change. Human understanding of God may change, but the essential deity disclosed by General and Special Revelation does not change. And the essential moral character of deity does not change. What must change is me. I must accommodate my internal moral compass to what has been disclosed to me by Christianity.

There's an old joke about Moses coming down from the Mount saying, "The good news is that I got him down to Ten Commandments, but the bad news is Seven is still in there." The joke works because we all have times when we wish some part or another of the moral law weren't there. But we must accommodate ourselves to it. It does not go the other way. I cannot accommodate the moral law to my preferences.

And you cannot impose your preferences upon any religion's moral law.

I happen to think it abhorrent that people expect to be rewarded for murder with virgins in Paradise. Therefore, I don't belong to any religion that thinks so.

You may have similar notions about one thing or another that the Pope or Catholics believe. If so, you shouldn't belong to a Catholic church.

It's OK to find another church whose beliefs are not abhorrent to you, but it is not OK to try to change that church to make it after your own image. That's how people make Golden Calves.

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