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Sunday, August 17, 2008

A “Civil” Forum, But A “Religious Test”

It has long been a – dare I say “sacred?” – belief that there would be no “religious” test required for those who wish to hold public office. That belief was phony, of course. There have always been “religious” tests imposed on all our candidates. In a country that pretends to pride itself on separation of church and state, a nation that pretends to be civil and secular, it has rightly been said that no atheist or agnostic would ever get elected president.

But last night’s bizarre televised vetting by Pastor Rick Warren has set a new low in public discourse. And is a good indication of just how far this country has sunk in pandering to the “religious right.”

There the presidential candidates were, mouths wide open like horses waiting for the Vet to check their teeth, as Pastor Warren, before his huge audience in his huge evangelical Saddleback Church, asked them to explain how their religious faith played out in their daily lives. And instead of saying, “Sorry, Bub, but my religious life is between me and my Maker, none of your beeswax,” each candidate was falling over themselves to let the audience know that they had the “right kind” of religion (personally saved by Jesus Christ, their Lord and Savior, who washed their sins away, & etc. Thank God neither had said, “Well, Pastor Warren, I just recently became an Orthodox Jew.” The ceiling of the mega-church would have caved in, killing all contestants and audience alike.)

No, we now must make sure our presidential candidates take a public religious test to make sure they have the “right” religion because God knows the country’s still spooked by the spectre of Mit Romney becoming president, a man whom comedian Bill Mahr says “believes in magic underwear,” not to mention a man who belongs to a religious sect that is still tainted by the ghosts of anti-black religious doctrine and foundational beliefs in polygamy. Oooo, wrong sort of religion. A country filled with a good chunk of people who think Obama is a “muslim.” Oooo, wrong sort of religion. Nope, give us snake handlers every time

On the other hand, this public vetting was called a “civil forum,” and it was delightfully “civil” – no “gotcha” zingers, no yelling talking heads. Just the Pastor trying to ask open-ended questions and then letting the candidates answer how they would – Obama with his measured cadences and careful nuances; McCain with his “my friends” campaign trail sound-bites and folksy anecdotes.

Indeed, this quieter forum allowed the candidates lots of rope to go hang themselves. The result for me was a creepy revelation: That awful realization that McCain was simply a very old George Bush. It was as if Bush had been put into one of those Fast Forward Time Machines and out he stepped, twenty years later. There was the same swagger, the same false macho bravado --My friends, I’ll go to the gates of hell to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice! Shades of “We’ll smoke ‘em out! Dead or Alive!” This from a man who’d have trouble getting to the gates of JFK International, a man who’s clearly excited by war (the prospect of armed confrontation with Russia seemed to energize him into an aggressive posture, eyes blazing, talking about Georgia being a “lovely country” – a damsel in distress and in need of our armed rescue?), yet a man apparently unaware that his army, the real people who would actually be expected to go to those hellish gates, is stretched to the breaking point in a country that’s broke from warfighting. There also was the jokey, heh-heh, hail fellow, back slapping posturing and the meaningless political buzz word sound bites. Creepy.

But, the forum did allow McCain to make some of his positions absolutely clear: He is pro life, anti-choice, and he will appoint more Supreme Court members like Roberts and Scalia, men who would happily strike down Roe v Wade and didn’t think much of habeas corpus, and he would shun justices like Ginsberg and Stevens who supported the Great Writ that is enshrined in the Constitution. He would also support a constitutional ban against same-sex marriage, thinks more private school vouchers will solve the educational crisis, and doesn’t believe in raising taxes, not even on the “rich,” but offered no information as to what he’d do about our dire financial situation. Presumably the Blood of the Lamb will take care of that.

There’ll be some upcoming Obama/McCain debates, which can test the debating skill of the candidates. But this forum – a civil one – despite the clear religious context -- was most interesting for allowing the candidates to speak their minds. Let’s hope the voters are actually listening to what they SAY and then will go back to check their voting records so they can be clear as to what they actually DID and then compare the two to get an inkling as to what they are likely to DO, should they get elected, and then, most important of all, go take a factual reality check – Turn off Fox News and check out some more credible sources of information – of what’s actually happening on the ground.

Or, better yet, get a copy of Andrew J. Bacevich’s new book, “The Limits of Power; The End of American Exceptionalism,” and or track down a transcript of his interview with Bill Moyers on Moyers’ recent PBS Journal ( www.pbs.org ). Bacevich has outlined the disease that is killing us as a country with stunning clarity and unblinking honesty. That interview was one of the most succinct, powerful things I’ve seen, ever. And naturally, will be seen by only a tiny handful when it should be mandatory viewing for the whole nation, certainly before November’s election.

Zelig Now Faces a Challenger

Months ago I snorted at the headline that our State Senator Abel Maldonado was trying to get his name listed on the Democratic ballot so he could run unopposed (except by himself) in the upcoming election since there was no Democratic challenger. The whole silly scheme reminded me of Wood Allen’s film, “Zelig,” about this time traveling character who kept appearing everywhere with everyone during every famous moment. Reminded me of Maldonado who makes sure he’s at the elbow of the powerful at every photo op. And in this case, if he had to pretend to become a democrat in order to get on the ballot twice, Oh well.

Well, pretty soon I noticed people out in front of the supermarket with petitions to get Jim Fitzgerald of Nipomo on the ballot to run against Maldonado. Fitzgerald got enough signatures and now it’ll be a horse race, sort of. The money machine always favors the incumbent so it likely won’t be much of a horse race. But at least Zelig will now have to make more of an effort than just showing up for the cameras.

Lucky Atascadero

Biz Buzz in the Tribune, Los Osos FAMOUS Sylvester’s hamburgers, is going to open shop in Atascadero. So all you north county folks are in for a yummy treat! New place will be at El Camino Real and West Mall Ave and is scheduled to open in Oct. Get ready! Bring napkins.

And Finally, A Question For CA Voters in November

Comedian/actress/talk-show-host Ellen DeGeneres is supposed to be getting married to actress Portia de Rossi this weekend. The two have been together since December 2004. The wedding is supposed to be “small, intimate ceremony with only a few close friends and family.” Said DeGeneres, “It’s something that we’ve wanted to do and we want it to be legal and we are very, very excited.”

So, here’s the question for California voters. Are you mean enough to vote for Prop 8, which would take away Ellen’s right to marry the person she loves, and force her to get un-married?

Personally, I think that would be really, really mean. But, we’ll have to see where my fellow citizens fall on the Mean-O-Meter come November.

21 comments:

Billy Dunne said...

Obama sitting in on this debate would be like John McSame sitting in on a debate hosted by the Sierra Club. If they're going to pander to the religious right, why not do so to the environmentalists? Or the ACLU? How 'bout pandering to GALA?

Obama is stuck between a rock and a hard place because of his color, his name, and the unmitigated ignorance of many, many
American people.

And speaking of pandering, look how Obvama has had to deal with Hillary, Bill and the brigade of PUMA's just itching to make a mockery of the convention. His numerous concessions are admirable, but ask yourself if the shoe was on the other foot and Hillary won, would the Clintons be so generous to Obama's demands. Not on your life.

And finally Ann, I think, yes, when it comes to "wedge" issues that mobilizes the religious right, Americans can be very, very mean.

Shark Inlet said...

Ann and Billy,

It seems that you two don't get it ... the huge news here is that Obama speaks the language of the evangelicals (like Carter, Reagan, Bill Clinton and Bush II) but McCain is uncomfortable amongst the very same (like Bush I and Hillary Clinton).

While Barack may not have opinions that are always appreciated by the religious right he most definitely is a Christian. McCain, on the other hand, might very well be a Christian but he has never seemed comfortable with any discussion of his faith. Now, however, he is trying to suck up to the religious right just to get elected.

I respect both of these men quite a bit. Only one, in my opinion, is ready to be president.

As a Christian, I appreciated the way that Warren asked questions. I think he did a great job of allowing the candidates to express their opinions on a wide variety of issues which people of faith ... and all people ... should be interested in.

To suggest that a person's faith should be orthogonal to their politics is simply silly. It cannot be unless we are to elect people who don't allow their faith to influence their beliefs and actions in any way.

Sewertoons said...

The interesting part to me of the event was the contrast between Obama listening, thinking and answering the questions asked by Pastor Warren, and McCain seeming to ignore the question and going off on a story which seemed recycled from political speeches from prior months. Maybe this illustrates what Shark says about McCain's uncomfortableness. Obama gave Pastor Warren a lot more respect by sticking to the topics.

Churadogs said...

The question this "forum" raised (and the one I raised here) has to do with the notion of NO religious tests being required to hold office. This was a "religious "test." It's the same sort of religious vetting given to JFK, and remember all the cows people were having over Mit Romney -- unless you have the "right" religion in this coutnry, you're political toast. So much for the "separation of church and state." On the other hand, if people had watched the PBS Moyers interview with Andrew Bacevich, they would have a far, far better idea of what faces this country, and it doesn't have anything to do with acceping Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.

Bacevich, not the soft and fuzzy Pastor Warren, would have been the one to have a sit down with these two. HIS questions are what this country needs to be asking itself, not whether you support gay marriage or not. HIS questions would have blown both these guys out of the water. Only Jesus could have saved them then.

If you did not see the Bacevich interview, I suggest you go onto PBS.com and get a copy of the transcript. Or maybe you can watch it on line. It's a doozy.

And, Yes, Americans can be very, very mean, all while clinging to a profession of Christian Chairity and Love (Gimme the lynching noose, Maudie, there's the Lord's work ta be done!) Our hypocrisy as a nation would be genuinely hilarious were it not so dangerous and destructive.

Shark Inlet said...

Ann,

Not only is there no ban on individual voters or even groups voting based on a candidate's expressed beliefs, this forum was not a religious test by any stretch.

Certainly there are some who would not vote for a candidate if they weren't a Christian (and such a strident position would be wrong), but that doesn't make this forum a religious test.


The interview you refer to is at http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/08152008/watch.html. It is a good one. On the other hand, I don't know that Bracevich would have been a better interviewer. His focus in the Moyers interview didn't allow us to know whether he would have asked good questions on other topics. I'm also pretty sure that Bracevich would support Obama over McCain. Obama's discussion Saturday night of John Roberts and the fact that more power is being given to the Presidency lets us know where he stands.


Ann, your tone seems to be somewhat antithetic towards Christianity while still unaware of some key differences between those who would call themselves evangelicals.

You might want to look at what Jim Wallis' book "God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It" to get a better understanding of where about a fourth of evangelicals are coming from.

Many evangelicals see the Bush II Whitehouse, along with the general "Religious Right" movement as misguided and playing right into the hands of the Big Business Right. Sure, there may be an agreement on some issues between liberal evangelicals and those on the right, but far less than you would imagine. Even in areas where there is agreement, you would probably like the liberal left's take on the issue, even if you disagreed with their fundamental belief in Jesus as the only savior.

Realistic1 said...

With regard to the gay marriage initiative:

I don't think the voters will approve it. This state may be getting "redder" all the time - but the citizens of this state have always made it clear that "to each his own" is the rule of the day.

I'm more concerned about Bush's attempt to classify all forms of birth control as "abortion" - including birth control pills and IUCs. We're not just talking the "morning after" pill - we're talking the daily pill most women under 35 take to prevent unplanned pregnancy.

If this sounds impossible, check out the article in the Boston Globe on July 30th titled "A new Attack on Birth Control".

Will the assault on a woman's reproductive rights ever end?

Churadogs said...

Inlet, The Saddleback Church forum was, by any stretch of the imagination, a "religious" test in a "religious" context and setting and went for some of the key "religious/culture wars" hot button issues, like abortion and gay marriage. Now, in contrast, please consider what the difference would have been if the issues Bacevich raised in his book, (and on Moyers show) had been the key questions -- the growing imperial presidency, the "security state," the growing debt/consumer culture, the military/industrial complex, the abrogation of congresional responsibility & etc. All of those (secular, not a peep about What Would Jesus do regarding the Imperial Presidency or the growing rise of the Security State apparatus,) issues are and will have profound impact on Americans -- not gay marriage or abortion. In short, this country has waaaayyyyy more serious problems than learning which presidential candidate has been "saved."

My tone being antihetical towards "Christianity" is because I am highly suspect towards ALL organized religions -- as opposed to our human, hardwired propensity towards the spiritual -- because human nature, being what it is, always -- ALWAYS -- leads us down the delusional path and into awful mischief against our fellow men and the planet itself. Always. (It's the nature of the human ego and human heart and is inherently built into ANY religion that's what I call the My Way Or The Highway Religions. Dangerous combo -- God used as a back up, go-to-guy to justify human ego and desires.) Therefore any "religion" needs to be watched carefully and never, EVER joined to the power of the state. That's something our founders understood well and we forget, at our peril.

Realistic 1 asks, will the assault on woman's reproductive rights ever end? Unlikely. It's too tied up with human nature, male ego and fear (hard wired issues regarding offspring and reproductive strategies), money, power, property, control & etc. A dangerous and heady mix that will only change when women make it change. Which will not be easy since that too often runs counter to the cultural/religious "message" women are fed with their mother's milk.

Shark Inlet said...

I get it, Ann. Myself, I am highly suspicious of all belief systems ... just like the Apostle Paul in Galations. Of course he and I both have a belief system ... but so do you and so does everyone. That most forms of Christianity are "organized" is far less of a problem than people not being willing to cut each other slack and being gracious towards each other's quirks.

That being said ... that a person has a religious (or nonreligious) belief system doesn't make them necessarily wrong.

The way Obama expressed his personal faith reassured me. He emphasized the point that if he is not consistently humble and willing to reconsider his own preconceptions, he is likely to fall into error. This is exactly the same kind of Christianity I follow. While I believe my own understanding of various issues to be solid, I should never presume that I am always right or that my understanding is so solid that it won't become nuanced ... or completely changed when I get new information.

For one to presume that one's understanding on any given issue is so in line with God's that one doesn't need to reconsider questions is essentially putting ones self at the same level as God. Such hubris is the highest form of sin. It is what is most clearly denounced by Jesus and Paul and the Old Testament prophets.

Boy, it would be nice if there were additional forums where the candidates had the opportunity to answer well posed questions from a wide variety of individuals, including Bacevich and Moyers (one of my favorite journalists ever). The debates are far too restricted by both campaigns that the don't give us much more than pre-rehearsed answers to questions already posted by folks earlier in the campaign.

I liked Obama's willingness to openly engage with Warren and I really disliked McCain's tendency to slip into campaign mode. I also feel that McCain is trying to walk a fine line. He wants to appeal to the middle of the road folks, but realizes he cannot do that without offending his base. Hard to do without a smarmy "under the table" shadow campaign.

I respect both men quite a bit. I even thought we got about the best candidate from each party (for the first time since perhaps Truman and Dewey).

At most a fourth of the questions were essentially "religious" at all and being that this was an event hosted by a church and considering that no one else has been able to get both candidates to anything similar ... I would say that you shouldn't be out off by the questions about their faith. Even those who are opposed to organized religion in general and Christianity in particular are still better off now because of Warren's event.

Churadogs said...

My larger point is that there are certain religions whose core beliefs -- central, defining belief -- is My Way or the Highway -- Only through acceptance of Jesus Christ as your savior will you be "saved" --only by professing There Is No God but God and Muhammed is his Prophet, do you cease being an infidel -- in short, you're either one of us or you're one of THEM, and God doesn't like one of "THEM." Them go to the Hell fires, Them get reduced to second class citizens or blown up, Them get sent to death camps, Them are beyond the pale -- God said so. Check the Bible, for example. It's right there, there is no way to the father except through me, I am the way and the light, All others need not apply.

Oooo, dangerous credo, given human nature.

Shark Inlet said...

Ann,

That is a good point. The problem is that I view all belief systems as "my way or the highway" belief systems to some extent.

For example, you are telling us that you believe you view Islam and Christianity as unnecessarily exclusive. You would rather those two groups not adopt the point of view they have because you feel that their viewpoint itself sets up unnecessary conflict.

The problem is that this viewpoint you've adopted is essentially telling us that you believe those two groups to be wrong. Sure, you're not threatening anyone with hell when you say that Christianity and Islam are wrong, but you're still telling us that the core beliefs of these two groups are errant. [On a side note, whether Christianity really threatens people with hell is a good discussion for another time, as is a discussion of whether any belief system which asks humankind to aspire to an unattainable goal is any different than Christianity in some key respects.]

In short (and overstated for dramatic impact), people telling me that Christianity is wrong because they don't like Christianity's exclusive (Jesus or Hell) nature are not using a logical approach to determining truth even though they may view their conclusion as reasonable ... it is only reasonable if one presumes that truth cannot have exclusive statement (which itself is an exclusive statement, ironically). Furthermore, those who would say that I am wrong for believing an exclusive are being just as offensive as they claim I am being.

What's the solution to everyone being so touchy? If possible, so far as it depends on you, live in peace with all people. To put some feet on this concept, perhaps we ought to all start by asking ourselves how we can help make another's life better today. Perhaps if we haven't yet adopted a cause that is "bigger than ourselves", we should look for something we believe in that we can work towards. Something that is more than just self-centered or will help just our friends and family. Something with lasting value.

That is one of the reason I like Rick Warren's church (even though I have never been and even though it is waaaaaay to big for my taste) ... they have been working for social justice just as actively as they've done the more traditional evangelical thing.

Churadogs said...

Inlet sez:"That is a good point. The problem is that I view all belief systems as "my way or the highway" belief systems to some extent."

No, all belief systems aren't "my way or the highway." There are belief systems that basically declare, Find the path right for YOU, don't worry about the other guy, worry about YOU, his path is for him, yours is for you, and good luck to both of you.

You mentioned in an earlier post the sin of pride in people who presume to talk for God.That's the problem with MWOTH religions. And pride goeth beforeth a fall. Which is why I say MWOTH religions always run into trouble.

Inlet also sez:"people telling me that Christianity is wrong because they don't like Christianity's exclusive (Jesus or Hell) nature are not using a logical approach to determining truth even though they may view their conclusion as reasonable"

But I didn't say Christianity is "wrong." I said MWOTH religions always get into trouble because they are MWOTH -- it's simply human nature (hubris, pride, our little monkey brains, etc.) And it always spells bad news. It's simply the nature of the beast.

On the other hand, if you take the "All Roads Lead To Rome" approach, there is nothing inherent in the belief system or credo that demands or requires that I worry about YOUR spiritual salvation. You're free to look out for that yourself. There's no need for me to "save" you. Indeed, thinking that I have to "save" you, or that I have the answer for what's right for you would be the height of egotistical, delusional folly.

Huge difference in outlook and end results.

Inlet also sez:"If possible, so far as it depends on you, live in peace with all people. To put some feet on this concept, perhaps we ought to all start by asking ourselves how we can help make another's life better today."

Interestingly, you don't have to have a religion or believe in some religious concept to do that. Atheists and agnostics and humanists and ethicists are perfectly capable of doing all kinds of good works even though they may not believe in some "higher power." The two are not mutually exclusive. Yet Rick Warren was asked if he would ever vote for a person for President who was an atheist or agnostic and his reply was NO, he thought it was not possible for anyone to be president who didn't believe in a higher power/ God/ Whatever.

On the other hand, comdeian Bill Mahr says he'd have trouble voting for someone for president who believes in "magic underwear" or who believes in talking snakes (Genesis) & etc. And I am always concerned when people governing a country truly believe and long for Armageddon, the Coming of the Anti-Christ, the Rapture and the (gleeful) death and destruction of all the "unbelievers," and etc. I'm worried that unconsciously (or not) they'll work to bring about their longing -- despite the fact that the vast majority of the world isn't longing for the "end times" and has no interest in doing things to bring it about, whether it's provoking WWIII or environmental destruction (why worry about the planet when you long for it to end?) and etc.

Shark Inlet said...

So Ann,

Are you telling us that you believe that some variant of the "All Roads" approach is necessarily right and the belief systems that say that there is only one way are necessarily wrong? Somehow I doubt you are telling us this. Even so, Christianity and Islam cannot both be right ... Jesus cannot be the savior according to Islam and Muhammad cannot be God's messenger according to Christianity. At least one of these two classics belief systems must be wrong.

You are definitely right that hubris leads to bad news. The apostle Paul argues this himself over and over and over again. His most famous disagreements in the Bible are all about individuals who insisted on Jesus and ....

You might view Paul's insistence on Jesus as the only way as an example of hubris. I don't. His writings drip with flexibility and compassion and a willingness to let people believe as they want to ... as long as they don't reject Jesus out of their lack of understanding about the Gospel message.


You've hit on a pet peeve of mine. Close-minded Christians. While I am sympathetic to Warren's point of view (after all, I am a believer), I would not refuse to vote for an athiest or a Muslim. (Note: there are some belief systems, like Scientology, that are so "out there" by comparison to what I believe that I would vote against them even if their opponent were a yellow dog simply because those become Scientologists are showing a lack of wisdom. ... this is not too much different than what Mahr and Warren are saying, but I have a wider net of acceptability than they've told us.

If Barack Obama were a Muslim but otherwise was about the same as he is today was running against Pat Robertson ... I would quickly vote for the Muslim over the person who shares my faith. I suspect that most believers are the same ... we'll choose competence over commonness of belief.

Would I vote for a Presbyterian over a Mormon? If all other things were equal, as the Economists say, yes. A Presbyterian believes something far closer to what I believe, and so, I believe they are a wiser choice.

It is in-between these two somewhat extreme cases where different reasonable people would disagree.

We all do the same thing. Assessing the religious beliefs of the various candidates is a part of how we evaluate them. There is nothing wrong at all, in my point of view, in asking them questions about their beliefs.

Churadogs said...

Inlet sez:"Are you telling us that you believe that some variant of the "All Roads" approach is necessarily right and the belief systems that say that there is only one way are necessarily wrong? Somehow I doubt you are telling us this."

Inlet, please read the following -- again -- carefully. Very carefully.

"But I didn't say Christianity is "wrong." I said MWOTH religions always get into trouble because they are MWOTH -- it's simply human nature (hubris, pride, our little monkey brains, etc.) And it always spells bad news. It's simply the nature of the beast."

Let me repeat that: MWOTH religions always get into trouble. Always. It's human nature. Has nothing to do with right or wrong, it's they always get into trouble.

Inlet sez:"Even so, Christianity and Islam cannot both be right ... Jesus cannot be the savior according to Islam and Muhammad cannot be God's messenger according to Christianity. At least one of these two classics belief systems must be wrong."

You've forgotten a third possibility: They're both "wrong."



Inlet sez:"a willingness to let people believe as they want to ... as long as they don't reject Jesus out of their lack of understanding about the Gospel message"

Perfect example of MWOTH. You can do anything you like AS LONG AS YOU DON'T REJECT JESUS. That's MWOTH.and it has nothing to do with "lack of understanding the Gospel message." You may understand the Gospel message perfectly but decide that your path is different. In your definition, however, you're not allowed that -- as long as you don't reject Jesus -- MWOTH.

Inlet sez:"Note: there are some belief systems, like Scientology, that are so "out there" by comparison to what I believe that I would vote against them "

Pretend, for a moment, that you are a Martian, new to earth. 'Splain all the complex ins and outs of Christian belief and traditon. Let me know if he/she/it doesn't say to you, "Holy Cow, Surely you just. I mean, that stuff is really out there!"

And: "simply because those become Scientologists are showing a lack of wisdom. ..."

Lack of wisdom? Why, Inlet, that sounds like judgemental Hubris to me.

Why not say, Scientology doesn't work for ME, but if it works for the Other Guy, well, good luck to him. I think his beliefs are nuts and likely he thinks mine are nuts, so good luck to both of us.

Shark Inlet said...

Ann,

Point by point ...

When you originally wrote

"But I didn't say Christianity is "wrong." I said MWOTH religions always get into trouble because they are MWOTH -- it's simply human nature (hubris, pride, our little monkey brains, etc.) And it always spells bad news. It's simply the nature of the beast."

I didn't think that you were saying Christianity was wrong ... but you were saying that MWOTH religions had a natural tendency to cause people to view themselves as right and others as wrong. This raises a good question ... a question I asked ... and a question you didn't answer. Let me ask again. Do you see MWOTH religions as necessarily wrong?

On the question of Islam and Christianity being incompatible ... I didn't forget that both could be incorrect as you write. Let me repeat myself so that you can read the following -- again -- carefully. Very carefully.

"At least one of these two classics belief systems must be wrong."


You also put words in my mouth when I write about Paul. I never and Paul never said that a person "can do anything you like AS LONG AS YOU DON'T REJECT JESUS." As you write yourself, a person may have full understanding of the Gospel and choose otherwise ... that is just fine. What I am saying is when people have a misunderstanding of the Gospel ... like if they think that Christianity is a religion of "dos and don'ts" ... that there is the opportunity for a person to gain knowledge and make life decisions based on more complete information.

On your what if you were an alien? hypothetical ... you are showing far more insight than 95% of American's who claim the Christian tradition as their own. The Christian story is rather off the wall ... maybe even as much as the Scientology story. For many people, familiarity causes them to think of the story as less than fantastical.

On my comment on not wanting to vote for a Scientologist ... you suggest that such a comment is judgmental hubris. Lemmie ask you whether you would tend to vote for or against a candidates who views the war in Iraq as a good use of our tax dollars ... if you think that voting on a person's beliefs is wrong, you should say that a coin flip is the best way to vote for President. Similarly, if you were given the choice by the two parties a candidate who was part of a MWOTH religion and a candidate who was ... say ... a Tibetan Buddhist but who were otherwise about the same ... would you have a preference?

It seems to me that you cannot criticize others for being judgmental without being judgmental yourself. That I find interesting. Rather than saying that one shouldn't judge and then judging people who do, it would seem better to me to recognize that all of our opinions are judgments and there is nothing wrong in assessing how well the beliefs of another match your own beliefs.

Churadogs said...

Inlet sez:"but you were saying that MWOTH religions had a natural tendency to cause people to view themselves as right and others as wrong. This raises a good question ... a question I asked ... and a question you didn't answer. Let me ask again. Do you see MWOTH religions as necessarily wrong?"

I view MWOTH religions (in the real world) as historically always getting into trouble and causing much mischief indeed -- in the real world -- due to human nature which is hard wired to divide people into sheep and goats and then kill the goats and blame it on "god" (Very funny book you'd enjoy, "Aristotle and an Aardvark Go to Washington" by Thomas Cathcart & Daniel Klein:

"I am the Flail of God. If you had not committed great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you" --Genghis Kahn."

Continue the authors: "it's kind of refreshing to hear an honest politican speak his mind, isn't it? You could always count on G. Kahn to tell it the way he saw it. But Gengis is doing way more than that in this statement. He is addressing the age old theological conumdrum of how a good and just God could possibly allow so much dreadfulness to happen on his grand creation, His answer: "God knows if you've been bad or good , so if you haven't been good, for goodness' sake, he (and I) are simply going to make you pay for it, big-time. This is the way the Lord keeps Good in the driver's seat. it works for him, not to mention me, the Flail of God..

"Implicit in Genghis's line of thinking is that he has the inside track to God's thinking and motives and he is God's personal henchman -- in short, Deus est auriga meus ("God is my charioteer") Needless to mention, the Khan was and is not alone in this belief: God under various monikers still speaks directly to world figures, often advising them to commit murder in his name." That's the problem with MWOTH religions.

Inlet sez:"like if they think that Christianity is a religion of "dos and don'ts" ..."

Uh, are those called The Ten Suggestions, then? One of the problems you're running into here is you use the word "Christianity." That has almost no meaning since there are SO MANY formal groups, all processing a wide variety of beliefs. Like when people say, "it's in the Bible," and I have to say, "Which one? There've been so many versions. Not to mention the canon itself was severely "edited" shal we say way back when and Lord knows how many "gospels" went, uh, "missing."

Inlet sez"It seems to me that you cannot criticize others for being judgmental without being judgmental yourself. That I find interesting. Rather than saying that one shouldn't judge and then judging people who do, it would seem better to me to recognize that all of our opinions are judgments and there is nothing wrong in assessing how well the beliefs of another match your own beliefs."

The issue really isn't about belief per se or even "right" or "wrong." It's about how those beliefs play out in the real world with real people in real time. See above, The Flail of God. THAT's where the trouble starts.

You can feel free to vote for a politician who believes in magic underware, for example, but don't start boo=-hooding when he decides to base his domestic policy on passing a law that will force everyone to wear magic underwear and if you don't, you'll get a little visit from The Flail of God, since you are, indeed, an unrepentant sinner and deserve the punishment God has decreed for failing to wear magic underwear.

Shark Inlet said...

Ann,

As you didn't tell us you view MWOTH religions as wrong by definition, you believe that one of them could be right ... even if you might doubt it ... you don't reject them as necessarily false.

About the Ten Suggestions ... they are exactly that! If you want me to tell you the form of Christianity particular to this discussion, I would toss Presbyterian or Baptist out there ... but I've met Catholics, Greek Orthodox and Nazarene people who would agree with what I am saying. I am not talking about an offshoot group here, but an understanding of the Gospel that was promoted by Paul, Augustine, Aquines, Luther, C.S. Lewis and John Stott. One key belief of the faith is that believers are under no obligation to follow any of the "Old Testament" rules ... essentially they are only suggestions ... there is only one "rule" and that is that to be a Christian one must believe that Jesus was willing to pay the price for your sins and you must be willing to let him.

As for whether a belief system is right or wrong. You are right that largely the political question at hand is how they work out their faith in the public arena. (Although, you've got to admit that people who do adopt a belief system quite often do care about whether their system is right.) So, getting back to the original issue you raised about whether Warren's church sponsoring this forum was a religious test from a MWOTH group ... doesn't it matter more how the candidates answered than the motivation of Warren?

The more unusual the questions and the less media-flak-like the questioner, the more we tend to learn about the candidates. I was glad that someone asked the candidates about human rights issues like slavery and about their greatest personal failures.

On these issues, Obama was quite clearly working out his salvation with fear and trembling (as it were) but McCain seemed as if he was uncomfortable and willing to go through this exercise just to avoid angering the evangelicals.

Churadogs said...

Inlet sez:"As you didn't tell us you view MWOTH religions as wrong by definition, you believe that one of them could be right ... even if you might doubt it ... you don't reject them as necessarily false"

Need to back up here. I see where the problem is: In what way are you using the words "wrong" and "right?" -- moral/ethical/judgmental or factual/scientific?, as "2+2= 5" is "wrong." or "We could steal the money, but it would be "wrong."

Shark Inlet said...

I'll work with the word "true" (2+2=4) here rather than "factual" (or "scientific") because "factual" suggests that some unknowns cannot yet be considered facts ... because they are not yet known ... even if they are true.

That being said, if a belief system is "true" it would seem that morally and ethically right would follow.

If a belief system is untrue, there must be some flaw somewhere in the system which would produce an immorality. For example, if Islam is true, those of us who adopt other belief systems would be somehow morally inferior just because we don't bow toward Mecca five times per day to repeat that there is no God but Allah.

I suspect that both you and I would still view ourselves as moral, but if we would be in violation of the rules of Islam, by definition we would be immoral even if we kept the remainder of their set of rules.

Pretty much when writing above, I've meant "true" when I've imprecisely written "right". I apologize for any lack of clarity.

Churadogs said...

Inlet sez:"That being said, if a belief system is "true" it would seem that morally and ethically right would follow."

To my knowledge, there is no way to test (in the real world) whether a belief system is "true." Or even factually correct. We don't know, for a fact, that Jesus even lived and we certainly can only guess that what comes down to us in the Gospels were actually spoken by a person calling himself Jesus. We have good historical support for the existence of Mohammed, but he never claimed to be God or the son of God, just this messenger and we also don't know how much of the original Koran is actually his (and if we weren't in the cave with him, how do we know he actually wrote it himself? & etc.and the Hadith has been added to over the centuries until it's quite a mish-mash of parts, like the Bible.) And, of course, there is no way to confirm or deny that Mohammed's message is "true" or false. He claimed that he was the last prophet to be sent by God, but since we cannot prove or disprove the existence of God and we don't know yet what will or will not unfold in the future, we can't prove or disprove that claim either. So those claims and tht belief system cannot be judged "true" or "untrue"

Inlet sez:"That being said, if a belief system is "true" it would seem that morally and ethically right would follow."

Not necessarily. And since nobody can confirm whether any belief system is "true" or even "scientifically correct" (and it is the nature of our existence that there are always going to be "facts" unknown to us. Jesus didn't discuss quarks in his parables. I dare say he and other humans living in Judea at the time had no idea of what a quark was. so even "scientific "truth" is always missing things yet undiscovered.) that is where belief systems get into trouble -- defining themselves as "true" and hence "moral" and hence the only "correct" belief and if you don't believe that then you're immoral and incorrect and Bingo! you get to be The Flail of God, like good old G. Kahn and starting killing the untrue incorrect people.That's the problem.

Shark Inlet said...

Um ... that's why they call it "faith".

In any case, I know that this is a sticky issue ... but I think it is better that we be open and honest about it and that we respect each other's beliefs. At least when you compare with the alternative of pretending that we're all the same generic people who are such delicate flowers that we can't handle differences or opinions.

I would also suggest that while you say we don't know that "Jesus" even lived, there is far more written information about Jesus than there is about most any other person or event at that time period ... so anyone who doubts the existence of Jesus should also have doubts about Caesar.


On the matter of whether true implies moral or ethical, you didn't explain how a belief system could be true yet still unethical or immoral. I still believe that true would imply ethical and you've offered no suggestion that any other belief is reasonable ... other than saying we can't know what system is true ... which is a side issue to the more general question.

franc4 said...

Thank you both for a most interesting and thought provoking discussion, proving there is never a "winner" when debating religion (or politics).

As for the thing being a "test of their religion"....of course it was and both candidates knew it going in.

If, as Ann suggested, the interview would have been held by Bacevich, then it would have been a test of "policy", wouldn't it?