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View Diary: The encroachment of religion on our secular government (242 comments)

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    •  Well stated... (12+ / 0-)

      Got to hand it to Santorum.  He makes his argument clearly, and he has an actual argument, a thoughtful, philosophical argument about America and the first amendment.  Unlike Romney, he is articulating a multi-part thought, with complexity.   I think he's wrong about his argument, but there is logic and coherence to it.

      I do think it's a fair point (always have thought so) to note that Kennedy's exclusion of his Catholicism from public policy influence raises the question of whether he adhered to Catholic values in any meaningful sense.   The reality is that Kennedy was only Catholic in an inherited and accidental sense.  He was a secular Machievelli, like most politicians, like Romney, like Obama, who had a religion, and that religion (like Obama's, like Romney's!) was a bit of an embarrassment for him, so he distanced himself.  That's what I'd like my politicians to do.  Make arguments based on reason, and wall off religion into a little box of "private faith" that makes religious people feel comfortable with them, but doesn't threaten to shape their policy decisions, which should be based on reason.

      But hear Santorum out.   He's calling the question.  He's talking about how to be an American politician who really does believe in his religion.  He's saying, how about having one of those to lead us.   (ug!)   He's calling the question, and in the socially conservative wing of the Republican party that's an attractive proposition.  

      But even to me, a quasireligious Jewish democratic socialist, the logic of what he is saying is blindingly obvious.   If your religion matters to you, if it's more than a checkbox on your resume, if you live your life in an awareness of God, the idea of promising not to let that influence you is silly and dishonest, particularly if you plan to have it influence you.

      Personally, I think religious people who are deeply immersed in their particular religious community,  people like Santorum, people like Joe Lieberman, (hell... people like me?!) are not fit to be  national political leaders, particularly not to be President, because a President must govern based on reason and national first principles, and on universal, not culturally specific, principles.  Religious people must give evidence that they have transcended their religion, that they are bigger than their religion, in order to be President.

      We do have a religious test for office and it has to do with the American civic religion... a polite nod to faith and belief and religious diversity, and a firm commitment to act beyond the boundaries of any one faith.  Almost every President has embodied that.  Perhaps Carter was an exception.

      The Presidency is its own ecumenical religious office, its own walled off high priesthood, whose rules are found in American jurisprudence and political history.   Way back at the beginning there were some serious Christians and Deists (was their Deism every really very serious?), but in almost all cases, except maybe Carter, men in this office have been Presidents first, and religious men second.  They have been culturally Christian, but spiritually?  They have been pursuers of power - amoral politicians, seeking agendas and advantages.

      We (who? most of us, I think) do expect Presidents to abandon their faith at the Oval Office door.   Or perhaps say we expect them to transcend their faith - to have it AND ignore it.  We seek evidence that they have the capacity to move outside the bounds of their faith, in a larger more universal cultural context, that of the leader of a nation of many faiths.  

      What Santorum is saying is that he'd bring that faith right into the oval office.  When he would nod to religion, it wouldn't be just for politeness' sake.   It's an interesting argument.  I hope he wins it in the primaries, because I have to believe that Obama's historically mainstream ecumenicism is sure to defeat it in the general.  

      •  I disagree with this... (6+ / 0-)
        I do think it's a fair point (always have thought so) to note that Kennedy's exclusion of his Catholicism from public policy influence raises the question of whether he adhered to Catholic values in any meaningful sense.
        It is entirely possible to hold religious belief and separate it entirely from secular law. I do it all the time, yet my OWN PERSONAL moral code is very akin to that of my church and of course I am one that is a direct offshoot of the RCC.

        If one CANNOT entirely separate themselves from their beliefs, they have no business being in the big chair.

        202-224-3121 to Congress in D.C. USE it! You can tell how big a person is by what it takes to discourage them. "We're not perfect, but they're nuts."--Barney Frank 01/02/2012

        by cany on Sun Feb 26, 2012 at 10:30:22 AM PST

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        •  I think you are agreeing with me (1+ / 0-)
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          It's just that the logical conclusion of your statement (and mine) is that Kennedy was not in any meaningful sense a Catholic at all.    That's very different from Santorum, who promises to be a Catholic, to think like a Catholic and to govern as a Catholic.

          •  No, I don't think we DO agree. I believe he was (1+ / 0-)
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            RC, meaningfully. I think we was able to separate himself from his belief as am I.

            Some can do it, obviously Santorum can't and clearly doesn't WANT to. In fact, he doesn't believe one should.

            That final point is the most troubling.

            202-224-3121 to Congress in D.C. USE it! You can tell how big a person is by what it takes to discourage them. "We're not perfect, but they're nuts."--Barney Frank 01/02/2012

            by cany on Sun Feb 26, 2012 at 11:08:29 AM PST

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          •  While Kennedy might have been motivated in part (2+ / 0-)
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            DaddyO, Ahianne

            by his Catholicism, he didn't try to enforce Canon law through secular law.

            In contrast Santorum wants to treat some citizens as second class citizens simply because they don't follow the tenets of his faith.

      •  Ha (4+ / 0-)
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        Vita Brevis, bdop4, eps62, skrekk

        I str0ongly disagree as I state in my post.

        Your lauding of Santorum is rather laughable to me.

      •  This is almost as absurd as McConnell's analysis (2+ / 0-)
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        eps62, skrekk

        My response to McConnell was that he is either disingenuous or a liar (in the sense of flagrantly misrepresenting). From the fact that a person's moral beliefs inform their choices it does not follow that if religion informs his/her moral beliefs then he/she should or would push (or is pushing) his/her religion in the public sphere.

        Our public square is open to religious/non-religious beliefs of all sorts, but it does not follow from that that our public square should accept a leader leading through his/her religion rather than his/her moral beliefs. Santorum, McConnell, and you are just dead wrong on this.

        And I wish Armando had hedged less in attributing to Kennedy this spirit because it is pretty clearly exactly what he meant. People who want more religion in the public square are on the road to Taliban-style governance.

        "Repeatedly he [Voltaire] dwelt on the folly and credulousness of the masses and the selfishness and unscrupulousness of the ruling few." 'nuff said.

        by caseynm on Sun Feb 26, 2012 at 11:45:29 AM PST

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      •  How can anyone ever judge another (0+ / 0-)

        believer's meaningful adherence to his own religious values? A true believer believes. And no non-believer's arguments could change that.

        I do think it's a fair point (always have thought so) to note that Kennedy's exclusion of his Catholicism from public policy influence raises the question of whether he adhered to Catholic values in any meaningful sense.
        So, who is going to make the deicison that one person is a true meaningful believer in a religious value system and the next person is not?
        •  All of us decide (0+ / 0-)

          Since Kennedy denied the influence, why not taken him at his word?   But, no matter what he claimed, we can all look at the totality of his life experiences and writing and easily come to the conclusion that this was not a man who turned on a daily basis to his religion to formulate policy.  

          My instinct is that this is also true of Romney and Obama.  

          But Santorum?  Now, I would not be surprised if he thinks daily about religion, and specifically about Catholicism, and seeks to connect his political actions to his religious beliefs.   We don't know him well, but based on what he says, does it seem implausible?  I don't think so.

          So we all make judgments, based on the available evidence.

      •  Why are you exempting Santorum from the catechism (2+ / 0-)
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        skrekk, Ahianne

        but not JFK?

        You are, of course, aware that Santorum's positions on immigration, the environment, torture, capital punishment, etc., all diverge wildly from those of the Catholic church, right?  And yet somehow Santorum is an "authentic" Catholic while Kennedy is just "accidentally" Catholic.

        The truth is, neither man's political ideology tracked the teachings of the Catholic church 100%.  The only difference is JFK had to defend himself at the time for being Catholic, and now apparently has to posthumously defend himself from charges of not being Catholic enough.  Meanwhile, Santorum gets a complete pass.

        •  I think that it's pretty clear (0+ / 0-)

          Who seriously thinks that JFK thought about religion very much?  Who seriously doubts that Santorum is a religious enthusiast?  

          •  "Religious enthusiast?" (0+ / 0-)

            I suppose so, depending on how you define the term.  Santorum certainly talks about religion a lot,* and claims to be very enthusiastic about his faith.  But he's bailed on wide swaths of the catechism he professes.  Given this departure from the tenets of his faith, what gives him the right to pass judgment on the "authenticity" of any other Catholic's faith?

            *note that Santorum's very public prayerful persona is itself against the Bible's teachings:

            Matthew 6:5-6
            And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
    •  this was simply astonishing--the doublespeak to (5+ / 0-)
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      msmacgyver, eXtina, eps62, mightymouse, skrekk

      support his double standards are laughable, if they weren't so damn spooky.

      I contend the same thing that's happened to Romney will happen to Sanctotum over time--the more he's allowed to talk, the less people will like him.  He's one heck of a nutjob.

      His silence says everything we need to know.

      by livjack on Sun Feb 26, 2012 at 10:12:19 AM PST

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