Politics and Religion

This entry was posted by on Friday, 30 May, 2008 at

As I’ve said before, I have not been paying attention to, well, much of anything really of late. For whatever reason, I decided to take my head out of my butt for a little while yesterday and somehow ended up spending most of the day watching YouTube videos of interviews with various combinations of Bill O’Reilly, Stephen Colbert, David Letterman, Madonna, Hannity and Colmes, Richard Dawkins, Michael Moore, Ann Coulter and Al Franken, among others. Needless to say, by the end of the day I felt that I was far better off when not paying any attention to political matters. Of course, I then began to wonder why I should care what any one of those people has to say about anything, especially since, in retrospect, the majority of them talk more about each other than about any specific political issue.

No doubt, more than a few of my readers are wondering, “Is YouTube really the best you could do for political information?” To which I humbly reply, “At the time, yes, it was.” Which brings me to another point. Back in college I sometimes had to read certain things that I might not otherwise have had occasion to read, and I was confused and slightly alarmed by more than one indication that blogs were considered a legitimate source of news. On one occasion there was an implication that self regulation within the blogging community holds blog writers to a higher degree of journalistic integrity than the (obviously liberal biased) mainstream media. Does that sound plausible to anyone else? Because I have a blog, and I say whatever the heck I want. Occasionally I will go to the trouble of checking facts first. On a really good day, I might even proofread before posting. They probably were not talking about me though, because I am not actually a part of the so-called “blogosphere.” Firstly, because I think that word incapacitatingly silly and want nothing to do with it. Secondly, on a more technical note, my blog contains zero links to anyone else’s, and as far as I know, no one links to mine. (I do not have anything against people linking here, I am merely not aware of anyone who does.) Thusly, my blog is a completely independent entity. I also do not know or care who Cory Doctorow is, despite the fact that I see the name rather frequently in my internet travels. Ultimately, I do not take myself or any other blogger seriously as a writer, and do not understand why any one else would, especially an actual published journalist.

Anyway, I would like to comment on some of the videos I watched, however, having already declared that I do not care what they think, it seems hypocritical at this point to assume that anyone would care what I think about them.

To switch gears then, I was on the freeway last week (which is rare for me these days) where I twice saw the bumper sticker “CoeXisT,” Where the “C” is a Muslim crescent, the “X” is a Star of David, and “T” is a cross. U2 made a dramatic spectacle with this during their last tour. It did not bother me so much then but seeing it on these cars (perhaps in combination with other stickers, because in both cases it was only one of many) rubbed me the wrong way. I looked it up this morning to see if the idea originated with U2 or not and found that Bono is the spokesperson for a clothing line that (not unlike “Not Of This World”) either uses t-shirts to spread a message or uses the message to sell t-shirts. I am not really sure which. I started to read an interview with the guys who started the thing, but it made me a little sick and I had to stop. The problem I have with this, and with the idea of “religious tolerance” in general – and let’s throw in “Separation of Church and State” just for fun – is that to me they seem to be really saying that your religion, or at least specific details of your religion, are not that important, so why fight about it?
A parallel example: some people are concerned with protecting the environment while other people want to be able to produce and/or consume goods as inexpensively and efficiently as possible. These are both reasonable goals, can’t these two groups coexist and everybody gets what they want? Well, no. As it turns out, these two goals are, on a practical level, mutually exclusive.

As a side note, I find it ironic that “tolerance” is being presented as the highest virtue of the day when the word actually refers to (in the medical sense) the degree to which you can endure something that is harmful to you. “I have a high tolerance for that poison because it has just as much right to be in my body as my own blood.”

I noticed recently that one of my friends had something unusual under “Political Views” in his Facebook profile. I say “unusual” because back when I was filling out my profile, there was a menu with about five choices in the range from “Very Liberal” to “Very Conservative,” plus “Other,” which I was forced to pick because mine was not listed. I am just as turned off by one side’s arrogance as by the other side’s ignorance. And finding myself both ignorant and arrogant, I am caught in the middle and there is no political label for me. Apparently you can now write in your own answer. Actually, that was probably the best choice for me because, in reality, I try to avoid openly stating my political affiliation. But I suppose I can tell you what I don’t believe.

A few years back there was a proposition on the ballot that would somehow effect the way elections work. All five political parties in California (did you even know there were five political parties in California?) opposed it. So I voted “Yes.” F*** ’em. In college, I gave a speech (some might say a sermon) where I went item by item through the official Republican Party platform and explained how each one went against applicable Biblical principles. My point was to criticize Christians for blindly voting Republican, but I never once even suggested that there were any better options to vote for. (I don’t believe that there were any other Christians in the class anyway.)

So what are my political views? It so happens that I am a registered Republican, but it actually has nothing to do with either my political or my religious beliefs. As you may or may not know, you are required to re-register to vote every time you move. In 2002, a friend and I were leaving the grocery store when we were accosted by a fellow who claimed that whoever he was working for would make a donation to a certain charity for every Republican voter he registered that day. I am really not sure if this was A) true or B) legal, but I had recently returned from Arizona and needed a good re-registering anyway, and my friend was not registered at all, so we both did it. I figured that at the least, I would have the satisfaction of voting against Bush in the 2004 primary. Incidentally, Bush ran unopposed in the primary, so when the day came around, I had to write in a candidate. I really did not know many Republican politicians, but while I was living in Arizona, I had once heard a radio interview with one of their Senators, who had impressed me as a guy who knew what he was talking about. Therefore, I wrote in John McCain. Funny old world isn’t it?

One Response to “Politics and Religion”

  1. Anonymous

    You’re wrong.

    1) There are lots of blogs that hold themselves to higher standards than “Saying whatever they want.” Some blur the line between traditional media and blogs. eg, talkingpointsmemo.com. The advantage of blogs is not just that there is a “community” (theres one of those for print journalists as well, plus market incentives from paying consumers), but that its sometimes seen as a relief that blogs (usually) write in the first person which tips you off to be a little skeptical and take their content for what they’re worth, while mainstream media seems to hide its biases with glossiness. When it comes to politics and other value-laden subjects, I prefer blogs.

    2) My goodness, Separation of Church and State is NOT about saying “your religion is not important.” Thats absurd. Folks have always debated about the proper justification of the idea, but a common one goes like this: Letting the state affect or endorse religion makes a mess of both church and state. It messes with the state because it undermines the legitimacy of the government to those with different religions. And it messes with religion, because religion is a matter of personal conscience, and no state compulsion can make a man believe in something. Seriously, why would you (of all people) want the state to influence your religious choices?

    3) Your thin depiction of “religious tolerance” baffles me. You seem to think it means saying “who cares who is right?”. But thats not at all what it means.
    There are lots of debates about the proper justification of tolerance as well, but the simplest is: we have to live together. It sounds like you’re advocating all out moral war on one another. To understate the historical record: these wars have never gone well.
    Tolerance is about respecting people even though you disagree with them. This respect doesn’t mean you don’t disagree with them, and it doesn’t mean your own beliefs are in any way less. As I see it, respecting someone comes cheap, and has a lot of rewards. There are plenty of tolerant ways to express your beliefs and evangelize or whatnot– speech classes, for example. But what is the problem with tolerating others to have their beliefs, as you have yours?
    Seriously, what is your beef with the Bono bumper sticker? You don’t think learning to coexist is a worthy goal? What sort of intolerant actions are you recommending?

    And tolerance as a political or social idea is clearly different than the medical meaning. I find your suggestion of ideas you disagree with as a “poison” frightening. Ideological purity is not a plausible (or respectable) goal. Even if the words do have a common root, the implication is this: that religious disagreement is NOT harmful, so long as we tolerate it. Its not poisonous if you tolerate it, but (history has proven) it can be quite dangerous if you don’t.

    4) Your parallel with the environment fails. Environmentalists argue not that “we must stop people from producing”, but that “producing creates costs which are not being born by anyone”. Environmental regulations attempt to create conditions where it will be rational to consider costs on the environment when making decisions to produce (such as by requiring purchase of permits for CO2 emissions), not to ban production. These choices are not mutually exclusive.
    In any case, what’s the point of the parallel? All you’ve described is disagreement. Its true that when there’s disagreement we won’t all “get everything we want”. This is not news to anyone. But surely this does not give us reason to not be tolerant?

    4) You’re on facebook?!


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