A Vacuum Abhored: How All Beliefs are Religious

From time to time I write opposition posts to some of Al Mohler’s blog posts. This is not because I fundamentally disagree with Mohler on core doctrine, only that I think he sometimes cares more about preserving the status quo than taking the boldest steps.

You’ll get no arguments from me on his recent post “Of Babies and Beans? A Frightening Denial of Human Dignity” in which he responds to Adam Gopnik’s “Of Babies and Beans: Paul Ryan on Abortion.”

You’d do well to read both, but Mohler’s post hits the lowlights of the Gopnik piece, key of which is this statement from Gopnik:

“Paul Ryan did not say, as John Kennedy had said before him, that faith was faith and public service, public service, each to be honored and kept separate from the other. No, he said instead ‘I don’t see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or from their faith. Our faith informs us in everything we do.’ That’s a shocking answer—a mullah’s answer, what those scary Iranian “Ayatollahs” he kept referring to when talking about Iran would say as well. Ryan was rejecting secularism itself, casually insisting, as the Roman Catholic Andrew Sullivan put it, that ‘the usual necessary distinction between politics and religion, between state and church, cannot and should not exist.’”

With all due respect to Gopnik and the late president, nothing could be more intellectually dishonest than to insist that one’s religious faith cannot—and should not—inform one’s politics.

The contention that any human being can wall off ANY thoughts in such a way that they have no bearing on some other area of life is absurd. In a way, it’s the old reporter’s lie of objectivity. No journalist is objective. It is simply impossible to prevent any aspect of one’s opinion from coloring writing. As a writer, I know this.

What is even more baffling is the idea that political thought should be immune from ideological taint.  In truth, politics is nothing BUT ideological taint. Remove ideology from politics and there is nothing left. No laws, no ideas, no action. All are driven by one’s beliefs, and those beliefs must come from somewhere.

No lie has been foisted off on the American people more insidiously than the idea that religious beliefs can have no bearing on “pure” political thought.

Fact is, ALL thought can be classified under religious thought if we understand religion to be a system of thought and action that informs how we live. Nothing is more true than the reality that atheism is as much a religion as Christianity or Judaism is.

To think otherwise is the common delusion of scientists. Many who condemn religious thought themselves frame their world in the same manner that religious people do. They have chosen science as their religion.

Many Creationist vs. Scientist battles descend into this morass of battling religions. The Creationist may battle from a Judeo-Christian perspective that God is the source of life on earth, only to elicit scoffs from the scientist who instead believes that ancient astronauts from another galaxy seeded life here on earth.

Who is the religionist here? Given the pitched battle, how can anyone insist the Creationist position is solely the religious one?

And so it is with all thought. Whether it is a belief in God or a trust that gravity will keep us tethered to earth, “religion” or “science,” our beliefs inform everything we do. Whether thoughts on photosynthesis or on the nature of the Trinity of God, these thoughts are a collective philosophy that can’t be separated into components parts. To the individual, the framework is unified and must be accepted for what it is. A rational critic can make no other assertion.

But then we have the irrational shoutings of those who think that religious thought must never inform any part of life outside of a church meeting, a belief they hold with religious fervor.

No sacred/secular divide exists. To insist on one is to thrust us into denial and back to the Dark Ages.

If Paul Ryan considers abortion wrong because of God’s voice written down by the Apostle Paul, that is no less valid political thought than Adam Gopnik thinking otherwise because of Margaret Sanger’s voice written down by Gloria Steinem.

If anything, the real threat to life in America is not from those people who listen to religious voices. Rather it is from those who listen to the voices of men and then insist those voices are on par with God’s, yet all the while claiming their voice isn’t equally religious.

Someone sits on the throne of your life and mine. And honoring that someone is the essence of religion, no matter how much we may insist otherwise.

by Dan Edelen

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One Comment

  1. David
    Posted October 18, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    A fundamental error made by many is that the sole role of a politician is to do what his or her constituency demands. Thus we have politicians such as Romney and Obama who twist themselves into pretzels attempting to please at least the biggest group of voters they can. We mourn the loss of representatives who vote their values, and yet we would reject someone who actually presented his or herself as a someone who would vote as they see right, not as their constituency demands.

    That dichotomy screams for the kind of thinking that Gopnik and many espouse: The politician should be free of ideological taint, being merely a vessel representing “the voice of the people”.

    Considering the current liberal mindset, one wonders why we have States, local governments, indeed, why have a President and Congress? Why not vote on everything directly? “Government” as such, would merely be faceless people who present issues to the public for consideration, and then carry out the wishes of the people. Little thought is given to how issues are chosen to bring up for a vote. For most, “Democracy” means “I get to vote.”

    The problem is that many conservatives are like minded, sending representatives to Congress based on issues, and not the actual values and beliefs of the representative. Issues come and go, representatives are often forever.

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