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Paradox25's avatar

Does politics need religion?

Asked by Paradox25 (10174points) January 15th, 2013

I know that many people in the free world, including many on fluther would answer this with a resounding no. However, there are still many people who would say that politics not only needs religion, but needs more of it.

Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie states that politics needs religion for moral guidance, and that problems only arise because of politicians using religion for their own ulterior motives. Brendan Sweetman in his book titled why politics need religion Sweetman makes similar arguements to that of Yoffie. Here is chapter one of his book.

Try to read at least the brief Huffington Post article before responding if you can. Do these religionists make good points, or should religion stay out of politics?

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28 Answers

DominicX's avatar

I agree with the idea that religion shouldn’t be used the way politicans often use it—abandoning their own principles just to get votes; politicians and their relations to religion are largely meaningless. However, I don’t think we need “more religious politicians” we just need actual religious politicians to stay true to their beliefs and convictions. My greatest fear about religion in politics isn’t politicians expressing their beliefs or having it influence their ideas, but the natural desire for people to impose their own religion and religious values on a diverse society.

zenvelo's avatar

That Huff Post article is ridiculous. We need ethics and morals in the political sphere, not a divisive religious belief system.

He parses beliefs down to “just the right type of religion”, which is contrary to most religious belief systems. The problem with imposing religion on political discourse is that it sets up an agreement/opposition type duality. Keep it out of politics and we’ll all be better off.

Crashsequence2012's avatar


But all religion is politics.

jerv's avatar

Politics is all about ulterior motives.

If you want more religious guidance in politics, then abolish government and just let clergy run things. I don’t mind individual politicians being swayed by their personal religions beliefs so long as the government is as religiously diverse as the people they govern and act accordingly, but the reality is that many use their political power to try to proselytize and convert.

Those people should be removed from office and excommunicated, as they are abusing both government and religion at that point, giving both a bad rep.

augustlan's avatar

The things the HuffPo article mentions could just as easily be achieved by smart and moral politicians, which is completely independent of religion. Truthful, thoughtful, intelligent, compassionate. Anyone with those characteristics would fill the role the Rabbi is talking about.

ETpro's avatar

The essay is not up to Huffington Post’s usual high editorial standards. It makes too many generalizations and argues by assertion rather than logic. @augustlan is absolutely right to note that the values the Rabbi lists flow out of human compassion and heeding the Golden Rule. They are not unique to any particular religion. And those who crow loudest about the fervor of their faith seem to be the most morally bankrupt among the civilian population, totally devoid of anything remotely like compassion or thoughtfulness. To find a worse lot, you
d need to cull through the prison population, and you’d still not find many low enough to qualify.

In a religiously diverse nation where separation of Church and State are enshrined in the Constitution, what’s wrong with a politician saying his or her religion is a private matter? That’s exactly what it is supposed to be. The only reasons I see for doing otherwise would be to proselytize or to use “God Orders it” as a rationale for ramming something down voters throats when that’s not what they sent their elected representatives to Washington to do.

In such a religiously diverse nation, why else might a politician get into discussing the inner belief system of their particular brand of faith? Any sect they pick would turn off more voters than it would draw to them. And Lord help them if they pick one that’s not on the “approved” list of the Christian right.

glacial's avatar

Good grief, no.

@ETpro HuffPo has high editorial standards now?

ETpro's avatar

@glacial Certainly not, but that article sets a new bottom for them.

ragingloli's avatar

Uganda, Iran, Egypt, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan.
Their problem is not that “politicians use religion for their own ulterior motives”, they really believe that gays should be killed, women oppressed and religious rules enforced.
“America” is no different.

Shippy's avatar

I could be answering off the wall. But what the heck! Society needs corner stones, a goal of a political party is to create order within a society. Some corner stones could be family for example, good fiscal policy and fair judicial laws. What governs that which is right and wrong? Where does fair law come from? Morals of course can be internal constructs, but even if society offers morals, those can be a a spring board for the individual to create newer moral codes internally. This happens all the time.

Wherever the ideas of good and bad emanate from are often subjects of debate.Ultimately though they serve a regulatory purpose. But a springboard or a foundation is often needed within a society. It forms part of culture. Whether that is called religion or not is more the debate.

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SABOTEUR's avatar

Politicians are elected to office based on some kind of value system. Call it what you will but opposing value systems are bound to create conflict. You cannot remove the value system without removing the politician.

But religion (or value systems) don’t appear to be the true reason for ineffective government. I would submit that career politicians stagnate government. These people work for the interests of whoever lines their pockets with cash. Give these people a fixed minimum salary for temporary service to the public.

Then create a show called American Politician that allows the public to vote their asses out on a quarterly basis if they can’t demonstrate they’ve done the work they were elected for. Maybe, award them bonuses if they survive their entire temporary period of office.

Millionaire status for exemplary service.

Jail time for anyone caught cheating.

(Let Donald Trump’s sorry ass be the host.)

I don’t care what religion they are…I bet they’ll work to serve the public instead of corporate interests then.

syz's avatar

The supposition that an individual or a society requires religion in order to be moral is bullshit and hugely offensive.

For example

tom_g's avatar

As an atheist (or non-theist, or whatever term I’m supposed to use), I obviously of the opinion that we need less people in power who hold unjustified belief (in anything). Religion is just the big one.

But every Christian I have met who states that we need more religion in politics doesn’t mean that we need religion in politics. They want more of their religion in politics. All it would take would be a demographic shift in the US for the “more religion” people to rediscover the importance of church-state separation.

JLeslie's avatar

No. Let’s just use logic, common sense, and the idea of treating each other fairly. Religion usually means one or a few people deciding what is right and others following along blindly. The blindly part is the scariest part of that equation.

fremen_warrior's avatar

A resounding “no”.

LostInParadise's avatar

What we need is more discussion of values. We can do this perfectly well without religious mythology or supposed commandments from God.

In talking about abortion, we should be discussing what we mean by human life and what criteria we should use to determine when a fetus becomes human. In talking about gay marriage, we should be asking what a marriage is and what purpose it serves. These questions will never have definitive answers, but at least we will be discussing something substantive. Religion only gets in the way.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

As a non-theist, my answer is a firm and resounding “no.”

It may be true that some politicians need religion for moral guidance, but that’s a far cry from mixing religion into politics.

dabbler's avatar

Politics might need ‘moral guidance’, values, but individuals decide for themselves whether their moral guidance comes from a ‘religion’.
For a lot of people the answer is no, religion is not necessary for moral guidance.
Who-am-I provides guidance.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

I would like someone to tell me why anyone in any context needs religion. Politics should be kept separate from religion as one of the highest priorities of the state, since politics has a tendency to be corrupted by anything that brings people under control, rather than keeping the government under the control of the people.

cazzie's avatar

To me, this debate sounds very much like ‘Does a shattered window need a dance written about it?’ A very broken system is not going to be fixed because someone is in the corner wringing their hands over it.

Paradox25's avatar

I’ve always felt that common sense should be able to tell most people (including politicians) what is morally sound and what isn’t. Mixing religion with politics is asking for trouble in my opinion, though I have no problem with a politician’s faith on a personal level. I’m a theist myself, but I’m not a supporter of any of the major religions.

Different religious philosophies may vary on what is considered moral or not too. Also, many religious people put too much emphasis on faith being important, and as we’ve clearly seen already this faith factor tends to be used as a weapon of sorts against secularists. Religious dogma gets used to push political agendas as well, and remember this when you consider how Jesus became a neoliberal and a conservative.

ETpro's avatar

@PaulSadieMartin Strange, isn’t it, that the most amoral among our politicians are those who bray the loudest in the public square about how Christian they are. Same goes for Islam and Judaism. The fruit, apparently, doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Paradox25's avatar

@ETpro This is because we all fall short of the glory of God, no matter how morally sound we are. They are ‘saved’ by their faith alone, not works in their minds, which doesn’t necessarily create the greatest incentive to be good in my opinion. Personally I feel that we would be better served as a whole if our leaders were Wiccans, Buddhists, Spiritualists, etc since these beliefs state that our actions on earth determine the type of afterlife we’ll receive.

ETpro's avatar

@Paradox25 Belief in salvation by faith alone only applies to some sects of Christianity. The majority of Christians seem to think both works and faith are needed. And both Orthodox Judaism and Islam most definitely focus on works.

I’d go for some leaders who don’t need fairy tales and myths to get them through the scarey night, or use such tripe to manipulate those they lead to ill effect.

mattbrowne's avatar

Politics needs compassion. Whatever helps inspire politicians to become more compassionate is fine with me. It should be an individual choice.

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