Here there be monsters (socratic) wrote,
Here there be monsters

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We asked him to help but he just turned around, he's the leader of the union now

kesmun has made the claim that those of us who believe that most so-called Christians are hypocritical assholes also believe that it's impossible for a politician to be honest and a Christian. I don't think that this is any more impossible than it is for a successful politician to be honest in general. At the local level there are a good number of hardcore Christians who try their best to be moral and good people despite their offices. On the other hand, the types of naked self-promotion, back door dealings, and graft necessary to propel someone to the top in politics necessarily implies that an individual is...prone to see Grey areas in morality if not flat out dishonest. There are some politicians who seem to manage to be merely questionable. I don't like Joe Liberman but he seems to be fairly consistent in his positions, which are all understandable even if they're bass ackwards. Jimmy Carter was not a very good president, but I wouldn't necessarily consider him a bad person, although I've seen accusations of his having done some pretty horrible stuff. Anyway, the point is that almost all politicians at a high level are crooked, and not in little ways, in big sweeping ways. Even those who propose good legislation often do so for bad or nakedly self-interested reasons. That's fine, it's kind of how our political system is supposed to work. A balance of power between the three branches leads all of them squabbling for their own power and benefits, and the result should be limited corruption for anyone one branch. If we sat around waiting for genuinely good men to lead us we'd be in pretty bad shape about 95% of the time. Washingtons, Lincolns, and Roosevelts don't come around but once every few generations. Plus being a good person doesn't always translate into being a good governor. You need a certain level of stubbornness and worldliness to deal with all the scumbags who try to manipulate government and society to their advantage (by deal with I mean in a regulatory sense, not a business sense like our current corrupt Moron in chief believes they should be dealt with. Limit their power, don't shovel money out to them from the public coffers.)

That being said, there are two specific problems we have with Christian politicians. Those are: wearing their faith on their sleeves, and what I am dubbing "Muffy told me" syndrome.

I am automatically suspicious of anyone rich or powerful who wears their faith on their sleeve, and even more so when the person is Christian. Judaism has always praised business and hard work, so it is possible for a Jew to become rich and still remain true to his faith. Christianity was a religion targeted at the poor, the meek, and the humble. It's harder to believe that someone could stick to the tenets of that religion and become wealthy or powerful. Of course that's far from impossible, and there are plenty of successful business people, entertainers, and sports stars who are legitimate believers with a lot of wealth.

What there aren't are a lot, or even any, people who got rich or powerful THROUGH Christianity without being double-talking thieves and liars. All of the rich and famous reverends are morally corrupt. Jesse Jackson had an illegitimate daughter who he paid to keep quiet. Al Sharpton...well...I mean if you can't see through his Geri-curled self-righteousness then hair gel must be to you what lead is to superman. Jerry Falwell is a hate-mongering bigot, as are a good number of the televangelists. Billy Graham is an anti-Semite. Let's not get started on Benny Hinn.

So we've got a whole bunch of Christian hypocrites in the private sphere, and the picture is just as grim in the public sphere. George Bush broadcasts his faith from every pulpit he can find and then advocates regressive tax policies and pre-emptive war. I must have missed the part of the Bible where Jesus said "And lo, you shall make sure to tax income instead of wealth, so that the poor might go hungry while the rich man can store away warehouses of bread and afford a higher class of whore." I also missed the part where he said "Shoot first and ask questions later" but maybe I just have a bad translation of the bible. Incidentally, the bible seems pretty tax-friendly to me. "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's" must have been excised from the Cliff Notes version that these guys read. Or maybe it was a slip of the tongue when Grover Norquist (a strong ally of the religious right) compared taxes to the holocaust. That must have been in one of the commandments that Moses dropped.

It isn't necessary to show the flaws and moral failings of every politician who wears his Christianity on his sleeve, and like I said I'm sure you could find honest and trustworthy Christian politicians in roughly the same proportion as you could find trustworthy politicians in general. What are really annoying are all the people who refuse to vote for a non-Christian politician or take claims of religiosity as an electoral issue. Any reasonable person who glances at a newspaper from time to time should know that claims of Christianity or endorsement by Christian media is absolutely no guarantee of honesty or competence. It should be a non-issue because there are so many charlatans that you simply can't judge a person by their claims in this arena. If you want to vote on an actual policy issue, like abortion, well that's your choice. Whether a politician supports that or not isn't necessarily a function of religion though, and shouldn't be presented as such.

Despite all this it is almost impossible for a politician to get elected to national office, or any office in hick states, without claiming Judeo-Christian faith. That's incredibly enraging because it corrupts the debate and helps inspire deceit among decent people who are atheists or agnostics but can't admit it publicly because myopic and usually hypocritical Christians can't see past a fucking label to vote as informed citizens should. The politicians who press the Christian issue are responsible for this corruption of the process. They could respect separation of Church and State, look around at the hypocrisy of other so-called Christian candidates, and focus on offering moral and rational policies rather than pulpit pounding. They could then go off and worship in their spare time. I understand that Christianity is an evangelical religion that has the (obnoxious) practice of trying to convert sinners into saved by yammering at them about hellfire and paradise and all that stuff. On the other hand we get back to "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's" and we see, I believe, support for separation of Church and State in the bible itself. Some may claim that Paul was just trying to avoid the wrath of the Romans, but if we start talking about the political rationale behind the bible then the whole Jesus myth is apt to unravel.

That's enough of that aspect of why evangelical politicians rub us the wrong way, now let's talk about Muffy. Muffy is a pretty pink unicorn who comes into my house while I'm asleep and whispers to me what I should do the next day. Muffy told me to write this, and Muffy is all knowing because Unicorns are magical.

That last paragraph has about as much meaning to me as "God/Jesus told me so" I give a little more credit to "In accordance with Christian principals." It has the same weight as "According to Hindu principals" or "According to Aristotelian principals." Okay maybe a little less than the last one. I think Aristotle was smarter than Jesus.

Our president, and he's not the only one, claims to be on a mission sanctioned by God. So, the fuck, what? To those of us who don't believe in Jesus as the son of God, and we are a majority in the world, this is no more convincing than the claim that a Unicorn, or a Shinto spirit, or a Ghost, or anything else that DOESN'T EXIST, told you to do something. It shouldn't enter into any argument at all.

If you want to believe in God and Jesus, fine, that's your business. It's a relatively harmless foible, on par in believing in Ghosts or Unicorns or whatever. Personally I believe that anyone who chooses to try and view the world rationally, relying on his or her own perceptions and cognitions, will come to the conclusion that there is no god. There are many more plausible explanations for the existence of the world and the Christian religion then that some magical omnipotent force created them. You can analyze Christian texts, including the gospels, and figure out why the writers made the choices they did about as easily as you can analyze any good writing. I'm not singling out Christians here, Jewish texts, Hindu texts, Muslim texts, they're all pretty much the same (actually Muslim texts are a bit harder because Mohammed seems like he might have been doped up while writing that crap down and a lot of it is contradictory and just plain odd, but that could just be a cultural difference.) The fact that there are so many different religions is a clue that they're all probably wrong, and they were all created for similar purposes. Christianity is one of the better ones in terms of what it tells its followers to do, which is generally to act like socially responsible and decent people, but it has been manipulated for evil purposes at least as often and easily as other religions.

So when a politician claims that GOD told him that a certain choice was the right one, I think he's either lying or deranged. With Bush it's pretty clear he's a liar, since he knows about as much about the bible as he does about ethics, but it's still very disturbing to hear that claim made. People who say that the founding fathers of this country were Christian and relied on Christianity to make their decisions are vastly over-exagerating. Most of our major founders were not very religious at all, though they did believe in God, or at least claimed to publicly. They also kept God out of the policy sphere. Sure they said that the nation was blessed by God and that all men are CREATED equal (although Darwin hadn't made his voyage yet so it's not clear what else they could have said) but when it came to policy they relied on reason to make it and reason to justify it. This is how it should be today as well. God has no place in making American policy. When people claim that excluding God leads to immoral policy they make the utterly false claim that it is impossible to be moral without being religious. I won't even justify that with a response.

So when atheists and agnostics (I'm not going to use the term 'Brights' because it's fruitier than Riverdance, and I'm talking about unbelievers, not ass-pirates) are uneasy about Christian politicians it's not because we are bigoted against Christians. It's for logical reasons that have to do with how religion interacts with the public sphere. I wouldn't avoid voting for a politician if I found out he went to church any more than I'd avoid voting for a politician who believed in Unicorns or Ghosts. There are many worst foibles a person can have. But when someone drags religion out to the forefront of a campaign I start getting uneasy. What's he trying to hide? Why does he feel the need to broadcast this? And most importantly, what horrible policies is he going to try to rationalize with an argument that equates to "Muffy told me so."
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