Separation anxiety

Religious right is religious wrong

JEFFREY TANGNEY | Staff Writer
I will keep this simple: Religious beliefs should not have any influence on political decisions in a democracy. There are two things to know about me before I continue. One, I am agnostic and lack any religious beliefs. This is not to be confused with atheism, which is the denial of any religious beliefs. Two, I am perfectly fine with people practicing whatever religion they choose.
Religious beliefs have been ingrained in our democratic system for so long it seems unlikely that they will ever be two separate entities. This has become an ever-increasing way of life in Washington, and I feel this is a sad commentary on our current leaders. People are free to choose their own religion and adhere to those religious beliefs as they see fit. However, the duly elected representatives of our country have a higher duty to the will of their citizens, one that should be considered above their own personal religious beliefs. To ignore the will of the people in favor of one’s personal beliefs is contrary to the entire system and represents a serious flaw in the governing of our country. I’m not saying that all religious beliefs do not represent the will of the people; I’m only saying that religious beliefs should not be the underlying reason a congressman votes a certain way.
An example is gay marriage. Most of the opposition to gay marriage stems from religious arguments, something that I find appalling. To deny a good minority of Americans a right others enjoy because of a religious belief is stubborn, inflexible and undemocratic.
Another reason that religion should not be mixed with politics is the judgment, sometimes negative, that Americans hold toward certain religions. For example, I never understood why some people were angry because they thought President Barack Obama was a Muslim. What difference does that make in his leadership abilities? Does being a Muslim mean you are not capable of running a country? Does it mean you are a bad person? Does it mean you shouldn’t be given equal rights? The answer to all of these questions is none/no. Candidates’ religion should not be used when determining whom to vote for. Representatives should be chosen based on their views on different political laws, issues and policies, not because they are a certain religion. The problem is not entirely the fault of the citizens nor is it entirely the fault of the politicians. The fault lies with those people of each group who feel religious beliefs have a place in a governmental system other than a theocracy or a dictatorship.
To allow a group of people to use their religious beliefs to influence laws and political decisions is akin to allowing a corporate dictator to rule a country. The religious views of the majority are the dictator and the citizens who do not share those views are the ones who suffer. Yes, this is a country where the majority rules, but should that really be extended to the point where they can essentially give themselves more rights than those who are not in the majority? This is an abuse of the system and while there is a solution, it will not come easy.
We must, as a country, decide to bar candidates and office holders from sharing personal religious views with anyone but their own house of worship. We must ban any citizen from using religious texts as a basis for implementing a law, amendment or bill because we must save the political system and make it stronger.
This may seem extreme, but I believe this will benefit Americans. First, it will force Americans to think about why they believe something and allow them to critically think about what they believe. Critical thinking has been stressed throughout my years in college as necessary for the real world, yet I find the current system undermines the need for it. Second, it will allow for greater equality of citizens, because we will not have one religious group denying rights to another based on their own beliefs. Third, this will force citizens to learn about candidates’ political views, which would allow for more accurate representation in Congress. And last, this will remove any bias against certain candidates who have religious beliefs that most people don’t hold.
Freedom of religion is important, but it applies to individuals. When you allow a group of individuals to use their religious beliefs to deny rights to other citizens, or you elect a politician based on his or her religious views, you are also undermining the very system you enjoy and benefit from.
To continue as we are will only prolong the sham of a democracy we currently see. To change our ways for the better will allow the country to move forward, with a more educated population and better representation of the views of the American people.

Religion gives a solid base in politics

AARON HEIDEBRECHT | Guest Columnist
Ever since our country was formed, we have been in a constant struggle over how much religion is too much religion. It has been a point of contention since President Jefferson, who pushed for the separation of church and state, all the way to presidential nominee Mitt Romney who has been criticized for being a Mormon.
I do not agree with this contention at all. I feel that we should “open” our political doors to the ideas of different beliefs and faiths. I understand that we don’t want to offend people who have different beliefs or people who have none at all, but there is so much more to religion than believing in the god or gods of your choice. It is about the morals and principles that they can instill in a person. If we have leaders who have the conviction to follow their own faith, then we have leaders who possess a strong set of beliefs. These beliefs could allow them to make the best decisions possible for the country. Leaders who have a strong belief system are able to look past most of their selfish desires, and look at the bigger picture of what would benefit the country the most.
However, our current political system is based on pleasing the person with the most money. Instead of doing what is best for the country, the leaders do what is best for the highest bidder. I believe this is why our faith in Congress and the other branches of the government is at an all-time low. Corruption within our political system has spiraled out of control, and one unpopular, and unnecessary, decision after another is made, to the point of insanity. The only way that we will get past the corruption is by bringing in someone who has the beliefs and morals to say “no” to the money.
Our country was founded on the principle of freedom of religion, and that means we need to allow people to practice their religion, even in government offices, as long as it does not infringe on the rights of others. If our political system allows the Phelps family to do what they do, then our political system can allow a man or woman of faith to say and do what they feel is right. I know that some people are concerned with the possibility of radicals coming to power and destroying everything that our country stands for, but the system of checks and balances would prevent such an occurrence.
That is why I believe we should bring religion back into politics. I am not asking for a theocracy because it would not help anything and it is the very thing we sought to escape all those years ago. What I am asking for, is an end to corruption and allowing people to use their faith to help run the country, as best as they can.

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