Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Religion and politics (ii)

Part of the debate that has been doing the rounds on this question is whether or not is desirable that people of religious faith should be allowed to also exercise secular power.
The anxiety about this seems to come (not unexpectedly) from those who declare themselves to be not-religious.. It seems to me that this anxiety is misplaced, and comes about from a fundamental misunderstanding about religion that it is a private pursuit.
To the person of religious persuasion nothing could be further from the truth. Religion is essentially about whole-of-life, it is not a hobby or an interest, but about the way you view the world.
Now there are many things that are like this, not just religion, you education, background, ethnicity, social class...all affect the way you see and do things. We do not say that people of a certain racial background, or type of upbringing have to put that to one side...or that if you happen to have been educated at a state school, a private school or at home...then you are not allowed to bring that to bear on your political perceptions.
Why then would we say that some how you should park your religious perspectives (as if you could)?
The answer is not to some how detach ourselves from these things which colour our perceptions, but rather to declare them.
The truth is it's good that K Rudd talks about his Christian faith, or that T Abbott can tell us about why Roman Catholicism has shaped him. If we actually try to suggest that these things are some how unimportant and therefore should be set aside (and I say it if you could) then this is more disturbing in actually making a clear apologetic for your sincerely held belief.
THIS IS NOT TO SAY that religious views, or any others, should go uncritiqued.
Quite the reverse. Critics of religion are right to suggest that we should not just accept an argument "because the Bible tells me so", or because that is what my religion teaches.
The religious person should be challenged to defend their position. This, to my mind, presents no threat to organised religion. Rather it enables those of us who are religious to respond to the challenge to not only be faithful, but also to be artional, reasonable and intelligent.
Nothing less should be expected in modern society.

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