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Andy Walker

Religion and Politics

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In the absense of the forum this week my students came up with the following questions they would like members to consider:

"Is it better for our political leaders to believe in God than to be agnostics or atheists?"

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"Is it better for our political leaders to believe in God than to be agnostics or atheists?"

Well … there's just been a bit of research done (I don't have the source right in front of me right now) which compares all sorts of factors such as poverty and the incidence of violent crime, abortion, teenage pregnancy and sexually-transmitted diseases in a number of different developed countries. The raw data indicates that there's a strong correlation between having lots of problems and there being a lot of religion in a particular country.

Thus, the more religious countries and regions within countries have much more murder, violent crime, abortion, teenage pregnancy, sexually-transmitted disease and general unhappiness than the countries and regions which are not particularly religious.

Of course, we don't know for certain why this is, but it would seem to indicate that being agnostic or atheist is a good quality for a society.

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Andy, John and students. A daunting set of questions, I think. Some of them beg more questions. Here are some comments. There is a good article on 'vanguard' as opposed to 'pluralist' democracy here ( http://bad.eserver.org/issues/2004/70/crumpacker.html ) that I think makes a good argument for Cuba being an example of good democracy. I would consider the Swedish and the Swiss model as well.

A rather unwieldy format to those inexperienced with it worthy of consideration is consensual descicion making. Done properly it may be slow but it allows a deeper consideration of issues that may be too hastily arrived at where single individuals are overlooked by looking for a majority ruling. In one case I'm familiar with a descicion postponed allowed a minority position (of one) to be argued thoroughly and in the end it prevailed and turned out to be the correct one.

(David, I wonder if there is a correlation between being fair haired and living in peaceful prosperous nations?)

Of course religion and having a faith in god run paralell but are not necessarily the same. What came first, the problems or the religion? Many of the meaningful steps forward in social evolution have been made by those who put god first. Christ and many of his followers for example. Similarly many delays and reversals have been the result of putting religion first. The same would go for atheists and agnostics, steps forward and steps back. I wonder if Galileo was a believer in god? He probably was. It's possible that this belief or faith enabled him to endure the religious persecution he encountered when he declared the earth not be the center of the universe.

(a very readable bio on Galileo is at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/galileo/About/galileobio.html )

He persisted and even after avoiding martyrdom by renouncing Copernicus is said to have whispered 'and yet it moves'. In 1992 the church finally exonerated him. A christian might say he was exonerated by god in the beginning (by this I mean at Genesis, not in 1630).

Martin Luther declared the pope to be satan. Does this mean he didn't believe in god? Or that he didn't believe in established religion as it was presented to him?

"Should governments use military action to remove unpleasant political

leaders from power?"

No. If that was the case there wouldn't be ANY government.

but seriously... By un-pleasant I assume you mean of the evil kind. I think intense diplomacy and such things as the economic boycotts as were used to bring an end to Apartheid are good. If the country you live in has a bad leader, of course you must take care of your own people. At some point on many occasions through history, people have found it necessary to form a new government and to remove by military means the old leaders/governments.

On the domestic front one needs a strong informed citizenry, this means free education and medical care for all. Militarily one needs a strong defense to discourage any armed ventures. This means supporting weaker nations to achieve an independent defense. With the resultant level playing field maximum opportunity is presented to individual members of society to determine their own government. Hopefully then there will be no calls to interfere with nations rights of self determination as membership in the world becomes most attractive when one treats ones citizens properly and that citizenry demands it as a right.

I guess what I'm saying is 'lead by example'. 'Leading' with weapons in the hands of governments that have domestic issues themselves to deal with sends the wrong message.

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In the absence of the forum this week my students came up with the following questions they would like members to consider:

"Is it better for our political leaders to believe in God than to be agnostics or atheists?"

Of course, I would prefer everyone to come to a full knowledge of, and relationship with, Jesus Christ, but I do believe in a secular state. Therefore I am quite happy with the leaders of the 'free world' being Christians, although they should also be able to justify their actions in more than a 'well God told me to do it' kind of way. The latter is a dangerous road to go down, as it is not verifiable by a third party. Deciding policy on more objective (perhaps bibllical) grounds holds leaders to account.

:plane Doug

PS I know people will say biblical principles are subjective within a multi-faith society and open to interpretation but they can be a useful guide...

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"Is it better for our political leaders to believe in God than to be agnostics or atheists?"

Well … there's just been a bit of research done (I don't have the source right in front of me right now) which compares all sorts of factors such as poverty and the incidence of violent crime, abortion, teenage pregnancy and sexually-transmitted diseases in a number of different developed countries. The raw data indicates that there's a strong correlation between having lots of problems and there being a lot of religion in a particular country.

Thus, the more religious countries and regions within countries have much more murder, violent crime, abortion, teenage pregnancy, sexually-transmitted disease and general unhappiness than the countries and regions which are not particularly religious.

Of course, we don't know for certain why this is, but it would seem to indicate that being agnostic or atheist is a good quality for a society.

This research was carried out by Gregory Paul for the current edition of the “Journal of Religion and Society”. Paul compared data from 18 developed democracies. He concluded:

“In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult morality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion.”

Paul discovered that the United States was very different from other advanced countries. As a result: “None of the strongly secularised, pro-evolution democracies is experiencing high levels of measurable dysfunction.”

Paul discovered that this pattern could be observed within nations. For example, he took a close look at the United States:

“The anti-evolution south and Midwest have markedly worse homicide, morality, STD, youth pregnancy, marital and related problems than the north-east where secularisation, and evolution approach European norms.”

United States is not alone who has a country governed by people who appear to be influenced by religious writings. A large number of underdeveloped nations try to govern in this way. This is especially true of Muslim states.

It seems to me that virtually every developed country has attempted to run a democratic system that takes account of the latest scientific and sociological evidence available. However, in a large percentage of underdeveloped countries, attempts have been made to run the government on the teachings of its religious leaders. This has resulted in women and homosexuals being denied their full human rights. It is also a factor in the rise of Muslim terrorism.

The United States provides a unique example in the developed world of a country that has important political leaders who have decided to ignore the latest scientific and sociological evidence available. The problem with this is that it ignores the physical and emotional needs of its citizens. It is the contraction between the ideology and the reality that has resulted in such high-rates of sexually transmitted disease, teenage pregnancy, abortions, etc. It is noticeable that it is those states that have bad records for educational spending that seem to have the highest rates of illegitimate children, etc.

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In the absense of the forum this week my students came up with the following questions they would like members to consider:

"Is it better for our political leaders to believe in God than to be agnostics or atheists?"

I think that the primary question is whether a political leader should require their beliefs to determine their actions. It is recorded in the prophet Micah, "He has shown you what is good: what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy and walk humbly with your God." If this is used as a yardstick, then I think the question would be answered yes, it's better to have political leaders that believe in God, and who act on their beliefs.

Unfortunately, history tells an entirely different story. Most of the evil in the world is a result of battles over religion and political ideology. I personally believe that faith can't be used as a political yardstick; and that government cannot legislate faith. I also believe that a life of faith cannot justify terrorism as a revenge against terrorism. I have a very hard time justifying warfare with a life of faith. Yet, it's been done for millennia.

The ancient Hebrew people asked God for a king, so that they could be a people like everyone else; they couldn't handle the notion of acting purely out of faith. Scriptures also explain that they were warned about the results of such a request; and that they wouldn't like the results. They were given a king, and he wasn't much better than all of the other kings. The best of their kings were still full of human weaknesses.

I turned my life over to God thirty years ago; I was doing a pretty lousy job of running my life. I'm not a saint, I still screw things up and God does not respond positively to many of my prayers. Yet, I can no more NOT believe in God than I can NOT breathe. The life I see around me does not determine my beliefs; my beliefs are based on what I've experienced since I asked God to take charge of my life.

I usually find out that living life by a set of principles that have been around for a few thousand years works better than living life based on television, movies and the media-- the only real alternative that is offered to us in western culture. That lifestyle pretty well explains why the world sucks. A life of faith often involves not giving in to my impulses and whims; and making uncomfortable choices. I just finished watching 'Vanilla Sky'-- an effective proverb without a coherent meaning for the individul watching the movie-- beyond the notion that life isn't made up of what one has; instead it's made up of what one is. If one judges their place in the universe based strictly on externals, then there is little in human behavior that can't be explained.

As an agnostic I had little to offer as a political leader-- some ideas learned from my parents, school and television. Some nonsense I was being taught in college. As an atheist, I would be offering antagonism toward religious belief; plus that other stuff. The instructor who was the most antagonistic toward faith was the one that taught the Old Testament as history. As a Christian I would be offering a total revolution of our political and economic system; consequently I'd never be elected, even if I had the slightest desire to do so. I can't justify the vast majority of American governmental policies from a position of faith.

So, regardless of the claims made by various political leaders as to their belief in God, most of their actions are based on a secular belief system. Whatever that means. If God told George to fight terrorists in Iraq, He didn't mention it to me. And I have trouble believing that God wanted noncombatants to be destroyed in the process; as with all wars. The Bible records wars mandated by God; I can't explain that; and I don't use it as a justification for our wars. History is usually written by the winning side. I cannot celebrate the winning of a war by the vaporizing of two cities, preceded by the fire bombing of another. As a person of faith I cannot justify napalm and projectiles made from depleted uranium.

In college I lived down the hall from a current US Senator. He had aspirations of being President. While I didn't know him well, I knew him well enough to be disinclined to ever vote for him. Ironically, he's been doing some good things for the country in spite of his idiosyncracies. Perhaps religion and politics don't mix well.

Belief in God is often used as an excuse for inexcusable actions. Frequently God is given 'credit' for abominable actions. If I have to make a choice between having a President who believes in God and one who doesn't, I'm inclined to vote for the one who isn't inclined to overthrow foreign nations on trumped up excuses supposedly relating to national security. One who doesn't rape the wilderness because he's fond of the oil industry and its beneficiaries. One who is supposedly 'at war' with families he allowed to escape the country on 9/11.

The only answer I have is the one offered in Micah.

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I don't know about the other findings Paul made, but when it comes to STDs, abortion and teenage pregnancy, I'm fairly certain that the correlation isn't between fair hair and low levels of problems, but between people who believe that it's worth trying to improve the world we live in … and low levels of problems.

In other words, the fact that contraception is freely available in Sweden, and that Swedish young people get very clear and accurate information about sexuality does seem to result in low levels of teenage pregnancy, STDs, etc.

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In the absense of the forum this week my students came up with the following questions they would like members to consider:

"Is it better for our political leaders to believe in God than to be agnostics or atheists?"

There should be no political leaders, people do not need managers.

Anyone over the age of 8 who still believes in a God should be given medicine anyway.

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In the absense of the forum this week my students came up with the following questions they would like members to consider:

"Is it better for our political leaders to believe in God than to be agnostics or atheists?"

There should be no political leaders, people do not need managers.

Anyone over the age of 8 who still believes in a God should be given medicine anyway.

:rolleyes: You'll have to let me know when your stage show is, it's a must :plane

To attempt an answer to the question (whilst trying to readjust my laughed-off socks)...

Evidence is conflicting. Perhaps the worst individuals to have led countries (Hitler, Stalin) had very odd religious histories, and are seen as atheists. In the modern era (New World Order?) most openly religious leaders are the pits, man (to quote McEnroe, J P) for example Bush, Sharon, Blair (but that doesn't really let 'leaderless' fundamental muslims 'off the hook'). Then of course there's Mugabe, allegedly a Roman Catholic.

Again historically, you don't have to look far to see that there has been a lot of turmoil in the name of religion - Crusades, English Civil War, Oppression of Ireland, countless other European wars.

So perhaps where this is going as an answer is to say that, whilst we might hope that someone who was religious (if we take it as the Christian western dominant ideological version ie god-fearing, neighbour-loving, commandment-observing, never-lying, good-doing [Pepsi]) would make a good 'leader' - such as the people might want or need one (to echo Dafydd) - the experience of it is rather different. This then begs a rather different question: What type of person is it who grow up to be a leader? I think there's far more commonality here. Perhaps for the political discussion in the future we could set something like: Are Hitler, Stalin, Blair, Bush (add a mix of a half a dozen others) more alike than their religion/cultural backround/biographers would suggest? Or What are the quintessential ingredients of becoming a leader?

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Evidence is conflicting. Perhaps the worst individuals to have led countries (Hitler, Stalin) had very odd religious histories, and are seen as atheists.

I'll leave aside your CIA-propagand opinion for a moment, and kindly inform you that Cde JV Stalin was not the 'leader' of a country, but the embodiment of the Will of the People.

Cheers!

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I'll leave aside your CIA-propagand opinion for a moment, and kindly inform you that Cde JV Stalin was not the 'leader' of a country, but the embodiment of the Will of the People.

Cheers!

I sit corrected! Would you be willing to discuss a possible refinement - "the embodiment of the Will of the People-who-survived-the-purges"? :lol: I'd be whole-heartedly with you/him on the purging from USSR the Romanovs.

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I'll leave aside your CIA-propagand opinion for a moment, and kindly inform you that Cde JV Stalin was not the 'leader' of a country, but the embodiment of the Will of the People.

Cheers!

I sit corrected! Would you be willing to discuss a possible refinement - "the embodiment of the Will of the People-who-survived-the-purges"? :lol: I'd be whole-heartedly with you/him on the purging from USSR the Romanovs.

830,000 were offed in the Yezhovschina, between 1937 and 1939. Judging by the amount of Trotsky-Fascists hawking their 'Social Worker's outside Tesco's on a Saturday, too many deviants slipped through the net!!! :huh:

Edited by Dafydd Humphreys

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I sit corrected! Would you be willing to discuss a possible refinement - "the embodiment of the Will of the People-who-survived-the-purges"? :lol: I'd be whole-heartedly with you/him on the purging from USSR the Romanovs.

830,000 were offed in the Yezhovschina, between 1937 and 1939. Judging by the amount of Trotsky-Fascists hawking their 'Social Worker's outside Tesco's on a Saturday, too many deviants slipped through the net!!! :huh:

I take it that's a "no" to the discussion, then! And it's spelled "Socialist Worker" (although pron = So'shlist Whirr'ka).. but the thoughts of people selling social workers outside Tescos could have a political-satirical humour somewhere in it... Presumably for all the basket cases....

yours,

an escapee (retired)

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I sit corrected! Would you be willing to discuss a possible refinement - "the embodiment of the Will of the People-who-survived-the-purges"? :plane I'd be whole-heartedly with you/him on the purging from USSR the Romanovs.

830,000 were offed in the Yezhovschina, between 1937 and 1939. Judging by the amount of Trotsky-Fascists hawking their 'Social Worker's outside Tesco's on a Saturday, too many deviants slipped through the net!!! :angry:

I take it that's a "no" to the discussion, then! And it's spelled "Socialist Worker" (although pron = So'shlist Whirr'ka).. but the thoughts of people selling social workers outside Tescos could have a political-satirical humour somewhere in it... Presumably for all the basket cases....

yours,

an escapee (retired)

Having once been a victim of the Trotsky-Moonie cult and a seller of the said rag, I can vouch it is definitely called 'Social Worker'.

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It is an unfortunate aspect of democracy that sometimes people with views one doesn't share manage to get elected. Who was the American politician who said "the People have spoken, damn them!"?

Again, it's a bit difficult, sometimes, to tell whether the religious beliefs claimed by politicians are genuine or simply adopted for electoral gain.

It is undoubtedly true that religious zealots can make awful political leaders. European History is strewn with examples from Savonarola onwards.

On the other hand, as Ed pointed out, you could just as easily find examples of awful political leaders who had no or negligible religious views, or who actively opposed religion. Despite Daffyd's views, Stalin is an excellent example of this sort of leader. Other examples would include Hitler, Mussolini, Mao and some of the bloodier leaders of the French Revolution ("The world will be happy when the last priest is strangled in the guts of the last aristocrat" Jacques Roux)

I suppose Doug would suggest that this all says something about some sort of inherent "badness" in Mankind. I would say that the fact that these people tend to be horrible exceptions and that they don't last long suggests the opposite.

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