Friday, August 22, 2008

Pew Study on Religion and Politics

Is the pendulum starting to swing? In an article entitled More Americans Question Religion's Role in Politics, we learn that people are having second thoughts.
A new survey finds a narrow majority of the public saying that churches and other houses of worship should keep out of political matters and not express their views on day-to-day social and political matters.
Now I wasn't surprised about this, because the progressive side has long been upset by the air of theocracy underlying the vicious politics in the unholy alliance between neo-cons and religious fundamentalists. But knock me over with a feather:
The new national survey by the Pew Research Center reveals that most of the reconsideration of the desirability of religious involvement in politics has occurred among conservatives. Four years ago, just 30% of conservatives believed that churches and other houses of worship should stay out of politics. Today, 50% of conservatives express this view.
. So, are the conservatives "catching on" to the American Dream? Are they realizing that our robust secular state requires us to tolerate each other, and not impose our religious values on those who do not share them? Not so much:
...the change of mind about the role of religious institutions in politics is most apparent among people who are most concerned about the very issues that churches and other houses of worship have focused on, and among those who fault the parties for their friendliness toward religion.....
That is, the study found that the less educated, more fundamentalist someone is, the more that it is that they think social issues are the defining political questions of our time, and the more likely they are disillusioned with the political system. Because George Bush did not succeed in outlawing abortion, or sending all us gay folks off to prison, apparently.


Of course, this is a good jumping off point for a vigorous discussion. At what point is it appropriate that your faith values direct your voting habits? at what point can it go too far by impinging on the rights of those who do not share your faith values?



Scott Hankins said...

Off-topic alert with my apologies for that:

CANA Council 2008 is meeting now in Akron and they are voting some very interesting resolutions that I think you will want to know about.

I've listed them at my blog, most recent entry.

Again, sorry for the interruption.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

Jesus said "feed the hungry, clothe the naked, tend the sick, and visit those in prison."

He did NOT say "put a camera in people's bedrooms" or "teach creationism in science class."

My faith values demand that I vote for people who will do the former---and that I vote against people who will do the latter.

In this context, my faith values will impinge on your (collective "you") right to keep all your money for yourself, because I believe it is the responsibility of all of us (through the government), to meet people's needs to be fed, housed, and provided with good medical care and education. That means taxes.

If all Americans, regardless of race, creed, or orientation, can get their basic needs met, I can live with that particular infringement on our rights. Because I'm not asking anyone else to pay a price I'm not willing to pay myself---and I'm not asking anyone to sign a statement of belief in order to be helped.


rick allen said...

"At what point is it appropriate that your faith values direct your voting habits?"

At what pont is it appropriate that they not do so? What is a "faith value"? How is it different from any other? Is there some requirement that my voting be directed by, say, utilitarianism, or selfishness? I'd be very hard pressed to find a single vote I've ever cast not affected in any way by the values of my faith--that includes municiple bonds for zoos.

"At what point can it go too far by impinging on the rights of those who do not share your faith values?"

My own values include accommodating the beliefs or non-beliefs of others. So, internally, that's a consideration. But all elections are matters of weighing policies and values, and I know of no reason why policies and values having their root in religious conviction should not be wieghed equally with those having their origin elsewhere.

IT said...

Yes, it's a hard question, isn't it? because our values (whether religiously derived or otherwise) are very much part of us. But at what point does voting according to those values impose them on people who do not share them? I don't think there is a bright line, but I have a few examples for discussion.

Example 1: let's think of dietary restrictions. Say your state has a majority of Jews who ban the sale of all pork products. (Could by Muslims, if you prefer, or Hindus and beef). No pork may be sold or eaten in your state. You are not a co-religionist, and you like pork chops. Yet you are forced to live by the dietary laws of a faith you do not share. Your rights are impinged by others. Your eating of pork sausage has no effect on them, but their restriction of your meal choice affects you quite a lot.

Is this appropriate in a secular society? That a simple majority can force you to live albeit unwillingly as an observant Jew regardless of your actual faith?

Example 2 obviously is gay marriage. Conservative Christians believe gays are the most awful thing on earth (or it would appear so since they obsess about us so much) and the thought that we might legally marry drives them up the Z-axis.

Thus, by voting their "faith values" they impose their religious faith on me, who does not share it, which is at very considerable cost to me. My marriage costs them nothing; their abolition of my marriage benefits them not at all but costs me a lot. Why should I have to live my life by their faith which I do not share?

(My new bumper sticker slogan: Gay marriage = Civil rites . What do you think?)


rick allen said...

"Is this appropriate in a secular society? That a simple majority can force you to live albeit unwillingly as an observant Jew regardless of your actual faith?"

Well, I doubt not being able to eat pork, alone, makes me an observant Jew.

But, why not? If a majority of people in a country think a food is unclean, why not ban it? We ban marijuana, and are banning transfats, and have all sorts of unspoken food taboos (try asking your local butcher for dog steak).

If my religion requires me to eat pork, it's an imposition. But it doesn't. I don't know anybody's which does.

(Not that it's a particularly realistic scenario--after all, the pork industry is huge in Israel, where one of the few things Jews and Moslems are supposed to agree on is the uncleanliness of the pig.)

As a Catholic I don't eat meat on Friday in Lent (well, I shouldn't). Would I vote to ban the sale of meat on those days? No. Do I think that would be silly? Yes. Would I be imposing my religion on anyone else by doing such a silly thing? No. But I doubt that it would much increase interfaith good will, and that obviously has some value.

But a more realistic scenario: The issue of whether to make vegetarian meals available to students on Fridays in Lent is before the voters. Sure, I'll vote for it. It's a religious accommodation that makes sense. How about banning pork from all school meals because of the needs of Moslem students? I've got no problem with that; we can eat bacon and pork chops at home. I have no problem voting to accommodate the religious requirements of my own co-religionists or of those of a different religion. Why not? Why should I be expected to vote as if religion was not a reality in most people's lives?

IT said...

I have no problem voting to accommodate the religious requirements of my own co-religionists or of those of a different religion.

Great. IF that's the case, there is no justification for banning gay marriage -- which is approved of by many religions, and by many with no religion at all.

It is a civil accommodation of a secular state that has no negative effect on those who disapprove.

I do have issues with civil rights and personal freedoms being up to "majority rule". If majority rule held, then the schools would never have desegregated in the south. Jim Crow would be alive and well. Anti-miscegenation laws would never have been overturned. The rights of bigots to their bigotry would have been upheld regardless of the rights of their victims.

They can still be bigoted, of course. They just can't have the state approve it.

Majority rule is two wolves and one sheep voting on the dinner menu.


Wormwood's Doxy said...

You will pry my pork BBQ from my cold, dead hands... ;-)

Rick--there's no need to ban pork from school meals, as long as you can offer an alternative for those who can't eat it. (The bigger issue for me, as the mother of a child with a severe nut allergy, is whether you can/should ban something that could kill my child. But that's not based on religion...)

(My new bumper sticker slogan: Gay marriage = Civil rites. What do you think?)


But I'm still holding out for religious rites for those who want them. I don't think the government should mandate those rites, BTW---as long as everyone can have the economic and legal benefits of marriage, I'll be minimally satisfied.

But, despite my own marital failings, I still see marriage as something more than a legal contract---and I want my church to bless and support the loving, committed relationships of all who ask for that blessing.


rick allen said...

"I have no problem voting to accommodate the religious requirements of my own co-religionists or of those of a different religion."

"Great. IF that's the case, there is no justification for banning gay marriage."

Unless, of course, we reach a limit to accommodation.

Please forgive me, but I prefer not to put it in terms of gay marriage (though I suppose that is what it's always all about).

What do I mean to a limit to accommodation? The Qur'an says that a Moslem can have up to four wives. If my Moslem neighbor has four, I'm not going to turn him in for bigamy. I'm not even going to complain to his mosque if he has five.

What business of mine is it? Not much.

But of course those marriages are not really recognized as real marriages under the law of any American state. So my devout Muslim neighbor wants to change the law, to reflect the indulgence of the Qur'an toward polygamy. I'm an accommodating sort, aren't I?

In that case I'm not so accommodating. Why not? Hard to say exactly. It's not that that many Muslims are polygamists where it's legal. But I would vote "no" on polygamy, yes, partially for religious reasons, because religion supplies a large part of what I mean by a marriage.

Is that a violation of the separation of church and state? I don't think so. I think we tend to fall into a fallacy that just because our government is to be neutral, we are supposed to be neutral, and that we somehow have this secular part that can participate in civic events, as opposed to the religious part that keeps to a narrower sphere. But most of us are in fact one person.

IT said...

Interesting, Doxy. I agree: provide the option for those who need it, but do not remove the alternative for those who prefer it.

My beloved is (like Rick) a Catholic (aside: so I eat fish on Fridays during Lent too! ;-) and is trying to find a balance for her co-religionists to persuade them not to vote to invalidate our marriage. "It's civil marriage", BP points out, "not Holy Matrimony" at which one younger friend (YF) became irate.

"It SHOULD be holy!" said YF, who is a great gay marriage supporter. "You and IT love each other and it IS holy!" YF is also cross because she was the one pursued across the church parking lot by people demanding she sign a pro-prop8 petition.

It will be very interesting to see ho the people who know my BP react when they realize she's marrying a lesbian.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

Rick--do you realize how twisty you have to get to make that argument? It doesn't wash logically and I daresay it shows a real lack of intellectual integrity.

IT--I agree with YF. What you have with BP *is* holy.

But how does an atheist characterize something that I would call "holy"? Serious question--because inquiring minds want to know!


rick allen said...

"Rick--do you realize how twisty you have to get to make that argument?"

Which argument? That we needn't accommodate our Moslem friends' conception of marriage? Or that we aren't composed of separate civil and religious selves?

IT said...

(Aside: Funny how they always have to resort to discussing polygamy rather than the case in hand.)

I agree iwth Doxy, that's a lot of twisting, RickAllen! Seems you aren't so accommodating when the issue isn't pork. You would vote to force me to live under your religious concepts of marriage in a secular state. It's no different than barring the eating of pork.

Since I'm not forcing you to marry a homo, nor your church to bless us, I still don't get why you care what sort of contract the state let's ME engage in and why it makes any sense to you that you should render my family at risk, deny me health benefits and hospital visits, prevent my partner from inheriting our house, etc etc.

Civil marriage is (frankly) NOT holy matrimony. It's a civil contract. I don't understand how people are unable to understand the difference between a secular and a religious contract.

So if Prop8 DOES pass, I hope they outlaw all marriages. Give everyone in CA a civil contract. That would make the point.

Another bumpersticker idea:
Who voted on YOUR wedding?

IT said...

Doxy, I have great respect for my beloved's faith. I told her, by all means put God on the guest list for our wedding!

Now, "holy". I don't know that I have a concept for that as an atheist but as one who has lived amongst the faithful my whole life (remember I was raised RC) I can recognize that to say something is "Holy" is to invoke a deep sense of spiritual rightness.

Well, I certain feel a deep sense of rightness in our love and our pending marriage.

If I were a believer frankly I'd be on my knees every day thanking God for the amazing gift that is my beloved. But since I'm not, I think of myself simply as an extraordinarily fortunate person with a sense of wonder at the beauty of it.

You have to remember that one doesn't need to believe in God to believe in wonder, and recognize good fortune.

Even to feel blessed, in a way. I think one can feel blessed without actually believing someone (thing) has actively blessed one.


James said...

"Who voted on YOUR marriage" I like that; I like it a lot!

Accomodation is the wrong term, I think; we should say "acceptance". Accomodation and toleration imply somethign is wrong but we will put up with it.

I accept my friends who eat meat on Friday (I don't eat mean on any Friday except during Eastertide). It doesn't lessen who I am one bit that others eat meat Fridays.

It doesn't lessen who I am that opposite-gender marraiges are legal.

Jesus accepted everyone just as they are; he didn't tolerate or accomodate--he accepted them.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

(Aside: Funny how they always have to resort to discussing polygamy rather than the case in hand.)

That's the twisty part. They want to deflect the discussion away from gay marriage because they realize how utterly illogical the arguments are---so they head for the "slippery slope" of polygamy and hope that people will be thrown off track.

Unfortunately, they are often successful---which speaks volumes about the crappy state of education in this country.

IT---I knew you FEEL the same type of thing I was describing---that is perfectly clear from the way you talk about your love for BP. I was just wondering if you had a different way of describing it. :-)

If I were a believer frankly I'd be on my knees every day thanking God for the amazing gift that is my beloved.

I'm right there with you, sister!

I don't get why the Ricks of the world are so threatened by that kind of love. I have been a terrible Christian witness to marriage---but you don't see those folks trying to outlaw divorce and/or remarriage for people like me...which, if they were really consistent, they would.

No---they will just bang on about polygamy and the "sacredness of the marriage between a man and a woman," while half of them will get divorced and and most will take full advantage of the economic and legal benefits they want to deny you.

And somehow, they will convince themselves that they are fair, honorable, and "holy" people--to those who "deserve" it.



Wormwood's Doxy said...

You are going to win this one, IT. Know how I know?

Yesterday, Hallmark introduced same-sex marriage cards.


rick allen said...

"They want to deflect the discussion away from gay marriage."

Yes. That's what I said. I wanted to try to talk about something else for a change, the topic raised here, the extent to which religious conviction should effect one's vote in a religiously neutral democracy. I tried to suggest how a Christian's religious convictions might legitimately be determinative in looking at a public issue involving a religious minority.

But we get no discussion, since I'm obviously attacking gay marriage (which of course I said up front I didn't even want to go into, for reasons that I hope seem now justified).

Fred Schwartz said...

There should be no consideration one way or the other for religion in a democaracy (republic if you will). The neutrality of the democracy assures that each religion is treated equally while the consideration of any religion impinges on the rights and privleges of all the other religions.

OT - Is this the same study we dicussed a few months ago or has Pew updated the survey again?

IT said...

It's a new study, Fred.

Rick Allen, you said a Christian's religious convictions might legitimately be determinative in looking at a public issue involving a religious minority.
. yes, but you pick and choose too much. You are inconsistant. It comes down to whether YOU approve. It shows no respect for others who hold equally fervant beliefs in the other dirction.

Fred rightly points out that neutrality of the democracy assures that each religion is treated equally while the consideration of any religion impinges on the rights and privleges of all the other religions.

But you Rick Allen are saying, your religion trumps my rights. You are shoving your religion down my throat and forcing ME to live by YOUR precepts. It's like forcing the Jew to eat pork because you believe in it and it is wrong. You are de facto establishing your religion.

James, my 3rd prospective bumper sticker:
Prop 8 attacks families.

RudigerVT said...

Rick, if you're really interested in discussing the place of plural marriage in a Christian denomination, then go searching for some LDS-related blogs. I'm sure they're there (the blogs and the discussion).

If you want to discuss what's really happening in TEC, then this would be the place. But your attempt to refashion your argument(s) in plural-marriage terms is basically a red herring.


Anonymous said...

I for one am seriously concerned about the manipulation of voters by religious leaders. I vote civic values, not "religious" values, since I wish to have a country that honors First Amendment values of freedom of speech, press, religion/conscience. The moment that a religious group imposes its religiously defended will on all citizens,without fact-driven secular reasons that describe secular benefits accruing to all, is the time when I consider them fair targets for political attack. I want policies that work, not "faith-based" incompetence. And I take real offense when the religious group's will is interpreted as the obligatory one held by all religious people.

Strict separation of church and state is good for both entities.

By the way, my favorite factoid is that fundamentalists , despite their self-image, are as poorly educated about the Bible and about religious history as are the rest-of-public.

Anonymous said...

Our legal system is set up for monogamy. It is also set up on the premise that all people are equal before the law. Therefore, I don't see that the US will set up state or federal laws enabling religious groups to apply their own family or criminal law in lieu of the state law. Individuals in those religious groups do and should have the same rights of petition to the federal and state law that all of the rest of the Americans have. Specifically, I denounce any attempt to have sharia, Orthodox Jewish, Hindu, etc law replace family law and inheritance rights. If the religious person volunteers to follow the sectarian requirements, and all parties agree, it's none of my business as long as it doesn't contradict secular law. A person cannot sign away basic rights, and if the man gets secular divorce from a woman, that man cannot prevent the woman from remarrying in secular law, even though he may hold the power to prevent her from access to sectarian ritual of marriage. He also cannot enforce division of property according to religious law - the secular courts have jurisdiction, and if the divorced wife wishes to contest, she has the right. She might be ostracized from the religious community, and that's the community's right.

Everywhere sectarian family/inheritance law has replaced secular law in a multireligious society, there has been chaos. There has also been tyranny over women and children.

If the religious Muslims wish to set up legal polygamy and sharia inheritance law, they have to work to change the secular law of the land concerning divorce and probate as well as marriage and consequent rights. Ain't gonna happen here.

In a polygamous marriage, who has the right to bring in another partner or divorce the partner? Is the consent of all of the existing members required? Do all members have legal obligation to support all other members? When one person dies, how is inheritance handled? Does a dead wife's share go to her children alone, split between all children of the marriage, split between husbands and co-wives on an equal basis, go only to husband to redistribute? Can a dead husband cut a wife from the inheritance? Give unequal amounts to different wives? If the husband runs up bills and comes up against creditors, are all wives' share in community property up for repo? Must all members of the marriage agree on serious medical decision affecting incompetent spouse (eg, level of support decisions in critically ill patient)? Must an employer provide all wives and all wives' children with medical coverage at their "family" rate, or can the employer charge X additional per wife? Are wives legally entitled to child support from a divorcing co-wife? Even though I am not a lawyer, I can see that there are loads of complications.


rick allen said...

N.B. The following comment is not intended to come within ten miles of the subjects of homosexuality or marriage of any sort. I'm not saying that I'm "taking the pledge." But surely it is possible to discuss something without it suddenly being about gay marriage.

Anonymous said, "I vote civic values, not "religious" values."

Can you give an example of an issue up for voting on which your religious values impelled you to vote one way and your civic values required a different vote?

rick allen said...

Or can anyone? Is this a real dilemma?

Anonymous said...

My bad, hit Send before checking for my signature. Anon 3 posts up is NancyP.

"Civic" means "secular" to me.
1. Basic civil rights should not be infringed by any religious group toward another religious group or toward "none of the above"/atheists. I'd err toward accommodation. For instance, kippah on uniformed services individual ought to be OK.
2. Other citizens don't give a rat's ass about the details of my belief, and I don't care about theirs. I believe that it is inappropriate to enact a law by arguments based on ritual or doctrinal considerations that do not apply to non-adherents. There have to be secular reasons and secular benefits to the people at large, not just to adherents. I am all for keeping Jerusalem syndrome out of politics.
3. Some things may be mandated by religion but also be well supported by secular argument. I might want to see poor people housed, fed, medical needs met. Religion isn't necessary for a person to desire a society where a basic level of dignity applies to all people. There are plenty of pragmatic arguments available to use for people who are focused on their personal tax rates - more equitable societies tend to have less corruption, fewer threats to national stability, better long-range economic future through an adequately educated populace, lower crime rates, lower risk of infectious disease epidemics, and so on.