Secular Crossroads

Humanism imparts a once radical world view that human reason and morality alone can foster an ethical society. Traditionally, discussions around ethics have been framed by appeals to religious doctrines. Philosophers have even gone as far as debating whether moral principles can exist without the authority of an omnipotent deity. Perhaps this close tie between morality and religion is why individuals in North American society have been so cautious about overtly professing to atheism. An article found in The Washington Post (http://wapo.st/1wxQmnf) looks at how this guarded approach to publically expressing nonbelief is especially magnified in the field of politics

The article examines how the association of morality with faith has caused problems for irreligious politicians being elected into office. It further explores the consequences that arise from the American idea of being a state both chosen under and protected by God. Because of this notion, when a candidate publically rejects religion they chance seeming unpatriotic. Not surprisingly then, an atheist has never been elected to presidency. A recent survey substantiated this dissonance as they found that over 50% of the American people admit that they would be less likely to vote for a candidate that did not believe in God. So even though the state has been secularised, there is still hesitancy towards accommodating humanism.

In contrast, civic identity in Britain is no longer adjoined to religion. There is now even a growing sense that politicians should refrain from voicing any religious beliefs. Even though Britain is officially religious and has an established church, the subject makes people uncomfortable. What is of interest here is how two similar societies have approached religion and politics from such different angles. It is seen how each attitude is being framed by a socially constructed perspective. Individual opinions are being highly influence by the surrounding cultures dominant viewpoint. This only goes to highlight the ambiguous nature of ideological beliefs, both in their formation and the manner in which they should be governed within society.

While there are several different judgments that can be made of this issue, I believe that the article emphasizes how religion is associated with subscribing to a particular worldview. There is a perception that if one is religious they are interpreting and interacting with the world through a lens coloured by their convictions. Society is presupposing that belief influences political decision making, and so created a norm for behavior that it was respectively comfortable with. I believe that this article is an example of the depth of impact that religion is attributed with having, even on people’s construction of everyday secular things, like politics.

DS, #349

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