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November 15, 2017

Religion should not be ruling politics

(Jackson Cote/ Daily Collegian)

Religion has long been a way for humans to provide answers for what cannot be understood. These practices alleviate a fear of the unknown, a tendency so intrinsic to our nature. The United States is home to a diverse array of religions and belief systems, that have shaped the country into the multi-faceted, multi-cultural society it is today. Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and any other faith is an accepting, welcoming community composed of open-minded individuals.

However, many religions, especially Christianity and Islam, are highly politicized in the U.S. today through media coverage of extremist fringe groups. Yet, the publicization of extremist sects can often detract from the benefits of those belief systems on the individual. However, one must recognize that it is because of their manipulation of religious doctrine to support their respective aggressive ideologies, the Ku Klux Klan and the Islamic State have harmed the respectability of the religions they respectively affiliate with. Despite the detriments of this radical fringe, there are vast benefits that religion can provide, including a sense of community and comfort that our world often lacks. They can provide answers on one’s path to constructing their personal truth.

Yet, now more people find their personal truths outside of religion. The country is becoming more nonreligious as “atheists, agnostics and people who said both that they didn’t belong to a religion and that religion wasn’t important to them…made up 15.8 percent of the United States population in 2014, up from 10.3 percent only seven years earlier,” according to a Pew Poll referenced in the NY Times. This number is bound to rise, as “a remarkable 25 percent of Americans born after 1980, the group often known as millennials, are not religious, compared with 11 percent of baby boomers and seven percent of the generation born between 1928 and 1945.” Michael Hout, a sociology professor at New York University, remarks that the reason for this cultural shift is “many Millennials… [think] that it’s important to think for themselves – that they find their own moral compass.” He continues on to state that this self-discovery has been expressed through the rejection of “the idea that a good kid is an obedient kid,” which is  “at odds with organizations, like churches, that have a long tradition of official teaching and obedience.” While there are certainly other factors that may be contributing to the decline of religion all over the world, such as the growth of the Internet, they are outside the scope of this article.

As an atheist, I do not see the value in organized religion. I was raised in a Catholic household; my Irish-Italian family emphasized Christian thought and tradition. However, during and after the traumatic experience in poverty and homelessness, I questioned my indoctrinated belief system. If there were a god, why would they allow such pain and tragedy in the world? A common rebuke to this statement is that the experience is a test; to me, this response not only trivializes the problem, but also is a self-serving, faux justification. Thus, I began anew. As a believer in science, I chose to follow secularism. While I want to believe that there is a reason for our existence, it is my opinion that neither science nor religion is capable of providing that answer. Whether or not the birth of our reality was the result of simple chance, the concepts surrounding it are outside of our current range of knowledge. For all these reasons, I have strayed away from the religious doctrine that many adopt to be at peace and have written the narrative of my own truth.

Despite the increasing number of persons who have come to a similar conclusion as myself, we remain a largely unrecognized and subconsciously demonized demographic by the religious majority. In one study, it was noted that, “The notion that religion is a precondition for morality is widespread and deeply ingrained,” with “more than half of Americans” sharing the belief that “morality is impossible without belief in God.” Moreover, the study stated that within American society, there is “implicit associations of atheists with immorality.” This insight shows the tendency of people to define their sense of morality on their membership in a religious organization, rather than on a personal moral compass rooted in individualism.

A symptom of the social superiority of religion is the high prevalence of religious rhetoric within the American political system, as well as the need for political candidates to qualify themselves as a member of – typically Christian – religious organizations in order to win over the voting populace. Although there is, as a Huffington Post article mentions, a “constitutional firewall between church and state, national politicians hardly ever give a major speech without invoking religion.” It is typical for even the president to be “forever asking God to bless America, sending his prayers to victims of disasters, hosting religious leaders, and extolling religious values.” Another concrete example of this is the tradition of the president to be sworn in on the bible– an exemplification of religious overstep.

I find this gross hypocrisy in the political system to be particularly foreboding. By pushing the idea that religious doctrine is the only suitable justification of morality, a subversive, ideological groupthink is upheld and perpetuated. In a country founded on the separation of church and state, there needs to a more clear line between the two entities. This idea of freedom of religion should be synonymous to freedom from religion; we are a country of both creed and secular thought. While I recognize the benefits and beauty in certain religious thought, their doctrines do not speak to me. I no longer want to be forced to live in a world that pushes a masked Christian worldview, amidst increasing opposition and diverse thought. I solemnly refuse, given my truth, to “pledge allegiance to the flag,” as a member of  “one nation under God,” because it is certainly far from reality.

Timothy Scalona is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at tscalona@umass.edu.

Comments
2 Responses to “Religion should not be ruling politics”
  1. NITZAKHON says:

    And what about the Green religion of “global warming”?

  2. Arafat says:

    Jesus said, “Render unto Caesar that….and unto God that which is God’s.” Thus setting the stage for the separation of church and state.

    In sharp contrast Mohammed was a complete megalomaniac. He ruled over all walks of life. Sharia law, Allah’s law, is inseparable from Islam. Political independence is hearsay in Islam.

    Your suggesting Islam and Christianity are similar only serves to show how little you know on this topic.

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