Obama on Religion

Stolen from Rob:

Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion to religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I can’t simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke god’s will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.

Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. It involves compromise, the art of what’s possible and, at some fundamental level, religion doesn’t allow for compromise. It’s the art of the impossible. If god’s spoken then followers are expected to live up to god’s edicts regardless of the consequences. Now to base one’s own life on some uncompromising commitments may be sublime but to base our policy-making on such commitments would be a dangerous thing.

No matter how religious they may be or may not be, people are tired of seeing faith used as a tool of attack. They don’t want faith used to belittle or to divide because in the end that’s not how they think about faith in their own lives.

Things like this are why Obama deserves to be elected president. Please do your part this November and bring some sanity back into our government.

2 thoughts on “Obama on Religion

  1. Thanks for posting this… I found this really interesting. I’ve got some concerns about it, however. Let me point out my worries, and then I’ll point out what I really liked.

    My father is currently very involved in Reform Judaism. He has been ordained as a Rabbinic Pastor in the renewal movement (so he can perform a number of ceremonial duties but does not have full rabbi status), and he works as an interfaith hospital chaplain. My dad would say that his faith actually teaches him to be more tolerant, and it gives him a means for putting life in perspective and attaining a greater peace. Thus, I’m not sure that religion fails to allow for compromise… at least in my dad’s case, he’s better at compromise when he is comfortable with his own position. Saying that devoted religious people are more inclined to be unwilling to compromise is potentially offensive.

    Then again, I think this brings us to the “radical” people of faith, such as godhatesfags.com or the Muslims that cry out for stoning the British journalist who published a cartoon of Mohammed. I would say that those people DO in fact wish to use their faith to divide or belittle… godhatesfags.com, in particular, is pretty much entirely belittling. Now, I think this is because they are not intelligent and they are deeply insecure, but that’s besides the point. The thing is, Obama makes a distinction that I really like, which is that while people may believe what they wish to believe, that cannot make a strong effect on public policy. He actually remembers that church and state are supposed to be separate.

    To summarize, I think Obama is walking a delicate line, where he doesn’t want to offend people who genuinely find solace, peace, and tolerance from religion (and he could get pretty close to crossing that line with his Isaac story, which I imagine some people will consider sacrilegious), but yet he wants to emphasize the need for a common law. I really appreciate the care he put into this speech, and I am quite in favor of his message.

  2. obama++

    Regardless of whether or not he’s actually going to act on that, that speech said something that people have needed to hear for a long time.

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