The issue of religion as it pertains to the qualifications of presidential candidates, while sometimes amusing, is not without genuine importance. Concerns about religion in government are empirically justified. Throughout human history, religion when combined with political power has been and continues to be used as a tool of oppression, a hindrance to sensible public policy, and an obstacle to human intellectual progress.
Yet, supporters of those candidates trumpeting their religious faith say that fears of religious doctrine subverting constitutional law and dismissing science are unfounded. It is all simply secularist hysteria. “Secularist” has become a handy term to label those who do not fully subscribe to Christian doctrine, or is used as a pejorative for “scientific” — science frequently being inconvenient to theology.
But, we need only look back at our previous pious president, George W. Bush, to observe how a president’s strong religious beliefs can pollute public policy. The Bush administration’s efforts to hinder family-planning programs around the world and to interfere with stem-cell research have impaired human welfare. Undoubtedly, he believed he was doing God’s will.
Mitt Romney, Michele Bachman and Rick Perry are the current front-running Republican presidential candidates for whom religion is a strong focus. Romney does not wear his faith like a neck tattoo as do the other two, but, being a Mormon, his brand of Christianity is suspect to other Christians. Apparently a god who communicates through a hat is less credible than one who communicates through burning shrubbery.
Of the three candidates, however, Romney is probably the least religiously addled. Bachman appears to be ardently devout. If she were a Muslim, she would be wearing a burka. Bachmann relies on her faith rather than science to evaluate the cause of homosexuality, which she considers sinful behavior that can be corrected. This belief permits her to support denying equal rights to homosexuals. Undoubtedly, she believes she is doing God’s will.
Perry, on the other hand, may be more of a convenient Christian, similar to the Pharisees that Jesus Christ warned were ostentatiously devout but used their public piety for personal gain. Like Bush, Perry wants to enlist the politically active Christian right and win over the vast flock of Christian voters. His convening a Christian day of prayer and fasting to “seek God’s wisdom” in addressing America’s problems was a politically expedient public display of his piety — if not an off day for grocery stores and restaurants.
Perry as president could be another setback for rational government, for science and for confronting human causes of climate change, which Perry dismisses as unproven scientific theory. He feels the same about evolution, so under President Perry the dumbing down of America might well include teaching creationism as a valid alternative to evolution.
But, consider the evidence for either. Evolution derives from ongoing objective scientific research, while creationism is supported by the Bible, a frozen compilation of folk tales written thousands of years ago by goat-sacrificing prophets and oppressed people hoping for a messiah — not much scientific research there, ongoing or otherwise.
If Perry thinks that climate change and evolution are unproven scientific theories, what then is Christianity, or virtually any religion? The truth about all religions is that they are theories, but unlike scientific theories they never change. Evidence that threatens the theory is rejected. Logical thought that questions the theory is damned as heresy. Unlike science, which continually seeks truth, religion settles on a belief and looks no further. Who or what ever created the universe will never be found through religion.
For 2,000 years now, generations of faithful Christians have believed they were living in the “end times” when the faithful will be spirited away, while the infidels suffer tribulation after which God will renew the earth.
If the holder of the most powerful office on earth not only dismisses the science indicating the human causes of global warming, but also devoutly believes in a religion that promises a new earth ushered in by divine intervention, how motivated is he or she going to be to address any global threat of irresponsible human activity? Why worry about pollution, overpopulation, or even finding peace in the Middle East when the ultimate resolution is preordained in Holy Scripture? Everything is fixed and mankind cannot change it.
For the most important office in the world, how can we consider anyone whose capacity for logic is so short-circuited by devotion to unproven religious theory? I would rather have a rational, objective, clear-minded candidate — a secularist — living in reality than a pious pontificator dictating what science is and relying on prayer or divine intervention to solve real problems.