General Question

allengreen's avatar

Can Democracy survive in a faith based society?

Asked by allengreen (1618points) September 8th, 2008

I was taught that an educated and engaged society was indispensable to a properly functioning democracy. We obviously live in a country where ignorance is acceptable, and faith is valued above fact.

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32 Answers

sndfreQ's avatar

I think the major faux-pas we have in this country is in allowing a single “faith” determine political and social policy for the good of an entire people, when those policies don’t represent the whole of that society. Here in the U.S., I think the country was founded by deists, who specifically drafted the policies (Constitution, Bill of Rights, etc.) based on the notion that all people were created equal, and that certain unalienable rights (one’s freedom of religion, for instance) would not encroach on another person’s freedoms.

I think that our government has lost sight of this in the mire of a terrorism-influenced political agenda.

Ironically, the exact same issue that we grapple with here at home, seems to be the crux of the dilemma in the Middle East…that we are so adamant about setting up a democracy, we don’t take this question into account in applying to any faith-based society (i.e. in this case, Muslims states), and if it is appropriate to their way of life.

I think it’s an ideological question that has broad implications…great Q allengreen :)

Bri_L's avatar

If the entirety of that society is faith based, on one sole faith, maybe yes? Then they would all vote the same.

susanc's avatar

Great reframing of the original question. Two great answers. To extend what sndfreQ already said, the Bushists used “terror terror terror” to begin instituting
their own reign of terror which pits “our” faith against “their” “fanaticism”. It’s all bullshit.
We must sort it out. I think we will. Even if we elect McCain and his goofy sidekick.
I think this because I have faith (!) in our willingness to protect our constitution (not all of
us, obviously) and because if we don’t sort it out, we’re dead. Along with a lot of other people.

allengreen's avatar

So Susan, you want McCain, but you want to protect the consitution, yet you recognize the Bushist’s using terror to create thier own terror and wedge politics…I don’t understand where you stand, if you don’t mind spelling it out for us.

marinelife's avatar

Yes, it can. What is needed is what our country was founded on: the separation of church and state. We have the legal framework in place. We have to follow it.

jasonjackson's avatar

I’m pretty vocal about my disagreement with the precepts of Christianity in general, and pretty much diametrically opposed to the current administration in particular (both politically and religiously), so my gut-level response is to say “no”.

But giving it a bit more thought: I don’t really think it’s their faith, or the faith of the constituency who elected them, that’s the problem, per se. I think it’s their general closed-mindedness, and their certainty that their single point of view is the only correct one. That has led them to make policy decisions that weren’t optimal for all but a minority of Americans (including a few which aren’t directly tied to religion/faith, such as the war in Iraq).

Yes, the close-mindedness and inappropriate certainty are both connected to their religion and bolstered by it. But I’ve met Christians who maintain their faith on a personal level without trying to impose it on others, so I know it’s possible for religious folk to serve in our government without letting their faith get in the way of doing their jobs appropriately.

So ultimately, while I consider most religions incorrect, illogical, and often even silly, I honestly don’t believe they’re incompatible with democracy in and of themselves. They do pose a special challenge, but not an insurmountable one.

GAMBIT's avatar

Both should go hand in hand. A true Democracy should protect the rights of its peoples different faiths and beliefs and allow individuals to partake in their own spiritual growth. Each person should be able to worship freely any way they feel comfortable or if they are an atheist they should not be forced to participate in any activities that compromise their position. A Democracy fails when an elected government begins telling people what they should or should not believe in. Once this happens the Democracy becomes a dictatorship. Thomas Jefferson America‚Äôs third President wrote in 1819 “The constitutional freedom of religion [is] the most inalienable and sacred of all human rights.”

Bri_L's avatar

welcome to fluther gambit.

nice name.

nice point.

bodyhead's avatar

When people are conditioned to believe what you tell them based on no factional evidence, it makes them ripe for political manipulation. When you are taught to question everything, nothing is off limits.

Religion is the opiate of the masses. -Karl Marx

Life is just trials and tribulations before you receive your real reward in the afterlife. It’s not that hard to convince a people who are down and out that someone loves them and they’ll get great rewards in the afterlife. They’ve got nothing to loose.

If someone was to think that it’s God’s will that things are the way they are, it opens up politicians to do whatever they want. I would be pretty pissed off if my preacher brought up upcoming elections in his weekly sermons, yet it happens all over middle America time after time.

Convincing people that all you get is this life is pretty hard when you go up against the concept of heaven. Why would someone believe you rot in a box when you’re dead when they can believe in an everlasting fairytale-esk existence.

It’s basically about the difference in philosophy between the believer and the non-believer. When things break down on the rawest level with Christianity, you’ll find that God exists, he created everything, and that’s just the way it is. You really need no greater explanation then to look around you. Politicians use this same argument. Their policy doesn’t have to make sense. It’s just the way it is. This is easier for some to swallow then others.

If you’re forwarding around your hate messages for the opposing political party, I bet you’re doing so with people who either go to your church, or at least have the same faith as you. It’s easy to deceive you when politicians ride the coattails of religion.

Every dollar I hand anyone says, In God we trust That’s not exactly separation of church and state.

I think it would be easy to survive as a democracy without the religious but there would probably be more turmoil. Without the aid of unquestioning belief, there would be more personal responsibility and differing viewpoints in congress. No one would be telling people what they need to believe once a week. They would have to make their own choices.

I just realized I didn’t really answer the original question. I think it can survive but some wouldn’t call it much of an existence.

Bri_L's avatar

At some point I believe Politics becomes some peoples religion.

aidje's avatar

Very good point Bri_L.

cwilbur's avatar

Certainly. Democracy means government by the people; faith-based means that the people use their religious faith to determine how to vote.

Now, what you might want to ask is, will the rights of people who do not share the dominant faith be respected in a faith-based society? Look around you, and see: probably not.

susanc's avatar

@allen, no, I don’t want “McCain and his goofy sidekick” (quoting myself here). I want
Obama and his complex, seasoned sidekick. But I also think that
we could get McCain/Palin the same way we got Bush/Cheney, and can still survive, and here is why: as a wise friend
of mine always used to say, it has to get really bad before it gets better when the community is this big, because it takes a long time to turn a train around. It’s taken too long for my taste already, but if McCain wins, I’m not giving up.

XrayGirl's avatar

Can Democracy survive in a faith based society?

Yes, it is the ONLY way of survival…. having faith does not mean:

not being productive,
not being proactive
not wanting the best for all
Having faith allows us to trust in God with the things we have no power or control over.

We all are powerless over something and someone.

Once again, I will say, there has never and will never be a perferct leader of any country in the world, right? God is not going to RUN this country….He gave it to us to run and if we mess it up, He is not going to swoop down and pick up all the piecees, like a “mommy” does for her “2 year old who just fell down and scraped his knee”. We must learn to work together and learn to have large and cast differences, yet live in harmony always with our neighbor in higher regard than ourselves….Have I personally perfected this? NO WAY, but it is my goal to achieve it as long as I am alive.

sndfreQ's avatar

@XrayGirl: point taken, but what we need right now is someone who has faith in people, and one who has the ability to trust the people. We don’t need another autocrat with a vision to help some of the people. Call that what you like, but one of the hallmarks of a Democracy is the empowerment of its citizens…a police state seems antithetical to those ideals.

When a country is so divided on issues, the measure of quality should be that a leader should not be afraid to ask tough questions, think unconventially, and work to uphold the Constitution- this is what we should expect of a president.

allengreen's avatar

Elect McCain and the Supreme Court will set the country back 100 yrs—that is something you can have faith in.

XrayGirl's avatar

from sndfreQ: @XrayGirl: point taken, but what we need right now is someone who has faith in people, and one who has the ability to trust the people.

Quite another can of worms…...WHO and HOW do we trust people? Which people? God is the only “people” Who does not have an agenda, Who is not greedy, Who is not selfish, Who wants the best for EVERYONE, Who never, NEVER lies or makes mistakes of any size or type, Who never gives up, Who never gets tired or confused, Who is never moody or sick or upset or manipulated, or hoodwinked or WRONG. That is where faith comes into play. If we leave everything totally up to imperfect humans, (who by the way is the reason for all the problems we have right now anyway….God didn’t do it ) with no dependence on ’‘Someone bigger, better smarter and stronger ” than us, we will DEFINATELY destroy everything we have, not only here in the USA but all over the world.

jasonjackson's avatar

@XrayGirl: Agreed, people are imperfect. Some more than others. :)

The original question could be restated like so: in a democracy, is it possible to keep people who believe they understand god’s “perfect will” from causing too much trouble for the rest of us? If so, how?

Any suggestions?

Bri_L's avatar

you know the root strip it down basic no frills no flash no bling drop the extras baais for almost every religion and following is, going way back befor we all started ” helping” to ” interpret” was love do onto others as you would have them do onto you.

Wouldn’t it be cool if that still applied?

sndfreQ's avatar

@XrayGirl: isn’t it ironic that faith-based politics is guiding our country’s leadership and political agenda in the middle east in the effort to democratize other faith-based nations with exactly the same principle you describe-the difference being that it’s not your god, just calling their god by another name and living by the same assumptions? It’s interesting when our imperialism is masked by a subversive and disingenuous agenda, (control over the region and oil).

bodyhead's avatar

@sndfreQ, the real irony is when we tell Russia that they can’t invade, take over Georgia and replace the government with one that Russia constructed…. awkward.

sndfreQ's avatar

preach on bodyhead! Or funding mlilitias like OBL in the 80s to take on a so-called enemy encroaching in Afghanistan, guerilla troops in Honduras, puppet dictators in Panama…oh I should stop now…

allengreen's avatar

or funding the Sunni’s in Iraq—the same Sunni’s that were killing our soldiers, are now getting paid BY YOUR TAX DOLLARS.

Conservatives do you hear that? Bush is Paying Sunni insurgents to NOT kill GI’s—OH YEAH BABY, THAT SURGE IS WORKING GREAT.

A Surge in tax payer’s funding, paying for peace while the War Criminal GW Bush gets his ass out of office and the whole shit hole explodes…Great job?

bodyhead's avatar

I know this is way off topic now but the messed up part is that I’m willing to bet more of our soliders get shot by American guns then by any other.

allengreen's avatar

Friendly fire? Or insurgents armed by US?

bodyhead's avatar

Insurgents armed by the US. We ship tons of guns to our ‘allies’. We ship tons of money in ‘federal aid’. I’m sure a lot of this money is used to establish and maintain power. This means buying weapons.

We shipped weapons to our allies in Afghanistan when they were fighting the Russians. Some rumors say that the CIA equipped and trained Osama Bin Laden but the only thing we know for sure is that the Bin Laden family has far too close a ties with the Bush family

allengreen's avatar

Bush and Bin Ladin are almost like brother’s. They grew up together.

sndfreQ's avatar

What I can’t seem to wrap my brain around is conservatives bitching about tax cuts costing America money in terms of lost revenue and raising the deficit- how about comparing that to the $4 TRILLION (that’s four thousand billion) dollars spent by the current administration on a war that has done little-to-nothing to counter terrorism at it’s core? What about WMD’s-the ENTIRE premise behind invading Iraq in the first place? I wonder how other countries view our ridiculous behavior in this whole thing…

aidje's avatar

There are conservatives who are very unhappy about the amount of money being wasted on the war (and who would be unhappy about the war even if it weren’t for the money being wasted).

allengreen's avatar

Repubs will spend trillions of dollars bailing out defunct banks, but try to buy a little black kid a breakfast before school, and they start screaming about “welfare queen” this and that. But the 18 Billion dollars in tax breaks given to Exxon—OH, THAT IS GOD’S MONEY!

sndfreQ's avatar

@aidje: to be fair, yes, in the true sense of the word, there are conservatives who believe in just that-conservation. The distinction should be made-NeoCons.

@allengreen: or charge sexual assault (rape) victims for their own rape kits!

(I think this was already mentioned in another disc thread)

aidje's avatar

yep. Neo-cons. Thanks; I’ll stop complaining now. :-)

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