Should Faith Matter When Electing Politicians?

John F. Kennedy once said, “I do not speak for my Church on public matters — and the Church does not speak for me.” That may have been true for JFK in 1960, but in recent years religion has played an increasingly larger role in American politics. With the line between private and public faith becoming increasingly blurred, how much should religion matter when electing those politicians who so directly affect our lives?

As the state with the highest importance placed on the role of religion , is it any wonder that Mississippi leads the US in rates of illiteracy and syphilis?

It’s important to note that political strategists like Karl Rove used religious fervor to their advantage in the 2000 and 2004 elections, to elect George W. Bush.

David Kuo who served as a special assistant to President George W. Bush, writes in his book “Tempting Faith: An inside story of political seduction”, that Christians were simply a means to an end that did not include them. Born again Christians were used and then despised

It’s clear that religion encourages emotional responses and discourages rationale. Religion is in the heart and not the mind. It’s too closely linked to desires and clouds judgment. After eight years of rampant deregulation leading to economic collapse, the last thing we need are voters that base their decisions on religion.

In my opinion, i would say that i would be less likely to vote for a religious candidate as i would for a more non-religious candidate. then whenever something goes wrong, the government can say, "God is telling us to bomb people, so it's OK" Whereas Like Kelly said, it would seem that aethiest candidates would be more likely to decide based on logic than on a faith.

Atheists can be just as illogical as faith goers. For example, many atheists try to disprove the existence of God through scientific evidence. This is as illogical as it gets. Saying that the theory of evolution proves the non existence of God is equally as ludicrous as saying the existence of God disproves the theory of evolution. Both arguments fallow a false dilemma. A false dilemma is where you have 2 options - X and Y - laid out before you, and you conclude that " because x is true, y is false." In order to correctly come to such a conclusion, you have to prove that only one can be correct - which, in this case, can't be done.

A belief in a supreme ruler is based on abstract concepts like faith and hope. A scientific theory is based on evidence that hasn't been disproved it yet. Science cannot disprove the existence of God, likewise, beliefs are completely unrelated to scientific evidence. It's apples and oranges my friend.

Not only that, but your comment contains a hypothetical argument for which there is no evidence. When you say "it would seem that atheist candidates would be more likely to decide based on logic than on a faith" you assume that most atheists are logical and most religious folks are not. Einstein believed in God, as did Darwin, sir Isaac Newton, and even the father of modern science himself, Galileo Galilei. Were they illogical as well?

Even more importantly than religion being unrelated to science is that neither of them have very much to do with politics. I would vote a Muslim into office if I wholeheartedly believed that s/he respected separation of church and state.

Regarding- "Not only that, but your comment contains a hypothetical argument for which there is no evidence. When you say 'it would seem that atheist candidates would be more likely to decide based on logic than on a faith' you assume that most atheists are logical and most religious folks are not."

It certainly wouldn't be fair to say that atheists as a whole are significantly more logical than theists (believers in god). If that is your point then I agree. I'm a 'bright' (a species of atheist), but I readily admit that some atheists are pretty nutty. I have known jesuits (a catholic order that encourages its members to pursue graduate degrees) who are probably as logical as anyone I know (in most regards), and I study philosophy and know a number of logic specialists.

In either population, you could probably describe the prominence of rationality (which is probably a better term to use in this context than logic, because it captures types of thinking which most people think of as logical, but which strictly speaking wouldn't qualify) within their thinking with a bell curve. There will be small minorities at both ends of the spectrum and a huge clump in the middle.

On the other hand, religious faith does require an abandonment of rationality (and logic) by its very nature. In that respect, all atheists will take at least one position which is rational where all theists will take a corresponding position that is irrational. This bumps the theist bell curve a little bit more in the direction of irrationality than the atheists'. Obviously, any particular atheist individual can still be more or less irrational than any particular theist given that you can pick individuals from anywhere on the curve.

"religious faith does require an abandonment of rationality (and logic) by its very nature."

How so?

If you believe in something because you have evidence to establish that it is true, then your belief is rational. If there isn't evidence to establish something as true, but you believe it in spite of this, then you are exhibiting faith. Faith is a rejection of rational criteria for belief.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, a study in 2005 in the worldwide percentage of adherents to religions showed that atheists barely make up 2% of the world. I understand that my argument could be construed as a bandwagon fallacy, except for the evidence that humankind has been religious in nature since the mid-paleolithic era (that would be 300 - 50 thousand years ago). Evidence also does NOT suggest that going back into history will produce a larger atheistic population.

Would you like to explain to me how almost every person born on this planet, irregardless of gender, time periods, culture, and experience, is born with an innate sense of religion? If you can, I'd be more than happy to hear it.

The problem with arguing that science is more rational than religion (or vice versa) is that neither of them can disprove the other using their own merits.

What does it mean to have "an innate sense of religion"?

I'm not sure what this has to do with the fact that faith is opposed to rationality in any case, unless you're suggesting that if something is common enough, then it must be rational,

What I'm suggesting is that 98% of the world (well over six billion people) have faith in a God, and that's not even counting the billions and billions and billions who've come before us. So for you to say that they're ALL irrational, while you stand so incredibly enlightened, makes you sound pompous, arrogant, and condescending in the EXTREME.

"while you stand so incredibly enlightened, makes you sound pompous, arrogant, and condescending in the EXTREME."

Look- I think I made the point abundantly clear that I don't think that being religious makes a person irrational overall. I was merely pointing out that faith itself is non-rational. Why you seem to want this to be acrimonious, I don't know. Tell me- can you define 'religious faith' for me? Any accurate definition will need to include some acknowledgment that it is not rational. Call it irrational or non-rational or extra-rational- it doesn't matter. If the existence of god could be proven logically or with evidence, then it would not require faith to be religious. If you accept something as true in spite of the fact that there isn't a sufficient basis for it- then you have faith and you've accepted a conclusion which an appeal to reason would not allow.

Are you upset about the use of 'faith' here or the use or 'rational'?

I haven't made any claim that a theologian would consider controversial, so I don't see what you have to get offended about.

Oh's going to take a LOT more than that to offend me.

"If the existence of god could be proven logically or with evidence, then it would not require faith to be religious."

I guess you and I are going to have to agree to disagree.

When I said "an innate sense of religion" I meant mostly morality. You know - knowing right from wrong. It blows me away that no matter what the circumstances a child grows up in, they still understand the difference between good and bad (barring psychological disorders). If you knew anything about developmental psychology, this too would confound you to no end. And it's theorized that this virtuous nature of ours originated over 4 million years ago on the plains of Africa. No other animal does this. Sure other animals live in groups in the wild, and help each other out - but they do this for survival's sake, which happens to be their #1 priority. While it is our #1 priority as well, we are able to push that aside and put our lives on the line for other people (especially people we love). This is something that even pack animals do not do.

Also, history will attest that human beings are hardwired to believe in the supernatural. As I said, you might be one of the few "enlightened ones" but maybe you could concede (for just a second) that 2% of the global population is not an accurate representation of humankind, hmm?

You want to go ahead and explain these phenomena for me, or shall we agree to disagree?

Leave a child unattended with no parent and he's far more likely to develop what we call behavorial disorders, though it may simply be his differing morals. Children are very cruel at times, and often unable to understand why things are right or wrong.

Animals help each other all the time, much in the same fasion humans do. It is not in the best interest of an animal mother in terms of survival to share any food with her children , yet she still does.

Notice the child is far more LIKELY to develop behavorial disorders or "misbehave." It seems both our environment and our genetic makeup play large roles in the development of our individual sets of morals.

When I said "survival" I meant it individually as well as concerning the species in its entirety. The instinct to continue the species, and the instinct to survive are two sides of the same coin, therefore, a mother sacrificing herself for her child is not a selfless act, as her genes will continue to survive.

As for children knowing right from wrong - I've worked with children who have been abandoned, sexually abused, physically abused, and neglected from a very young age. Most of them have quirks from their experiences that are noticeable - but they still act with a conscience. Some of them can get highly aggressive, some become introverted, some are socially inept, some have boundary issues, etc. I've never worked with anyone (even people with mental disabilities) who didn't have some grasp on what constituted as "right" and what was "wrong." While this doesn't really prove anything scientifically, it still fascinates me.

As far as environment and genetic makeup are concerned, biologists and psychologists alike are just way too eager to push the ideas of choice and accountability aside. The choices we make accounts for a lot of the way we are - more so than any other animal. Could you imagine what life would be like if we were destined to be the products only of environment and genetics ? We would be doomed to be a certain way with no hope for change. Kind of a bleak outlook for most of us.

All that aside, I've come to the realization that scientific theory cannot prove the existence of God - nor disprove it. Therefore if you believe in God - that's your belief. If you don't - that's still a belief. An atheist who refuses to vote for a religious candidate based on the fact that s/he is religious is just as illogical as a religious person refusing to vote for an atheist based on the fact that they are an atheist. Both voters are only thinking about what they BELIEVE and ignoring the candidate's political stance. I wholeheartedly think that is not what the Founding Fathers intended when they came up with separation of church and state .

I'm in accordance with most of what you say. You demonstrate a well-balanced opinion. I, as an atheist , fully admit that I have no proof of such [if only the others would..] and thus place as much faith in my beliefs as any other faith under a God may.

Though many children have beliefs of what is right or wrong, I was simply commenting upon their inability to explain or understand why at times. It seems that our concepts of right and wrong at any age are greatly affected by our environment [experiences] and conscience [thoughts].

A lot of the way we are accounts for the choices we make. Life is already planned out for us. Think of existence as a giant physics/chemistry problem. All things are an inevitable production of an infinite number of antecedants. I do think that our lives are products of our environment and genetics , but that does not necessarily doom us. We do change as people, and thus it must be the plan for us. Doesn't have to be bleak..

I do find myself believing in Fate, if only from a scientific point of view. To look at our 3d-world from a 4d-perspective demonstrates my views pretty accurately. Can't change much about it, but I still take joy and sadness in the unexpected twists and turns of my predetermined life.

As an atheist, I'd personally prefer an agnostic president . I think they would be far more neutral to the politics of religion [including those of atheism].

Again, very well said =)

"Though many children have beliefs of what is right or wrong, I was simply commenting upon their inability to explain or understand why at times."
It's actually incredibly ironic that you made such a comment because when I read it, I had just finished watching "the Bad Seed" for the first time. True story.

You seem to be very balanced in your opinions yourself, especially for an atheist . I don't mean that backhandedly. I used to be an atheist, and as such, I was very angry in my opinions, not because I hadn't "found God", but because I started to see religious stupidity everywhere. Religious arguments, religious bias, which often have no reasonable basis that can be argued in a debate. I've heard (as I'm sure most people have) so many religious arguments become heated and nasty, and I couldn't help but gawk at the hypocrisy of the whole thing. Most of the atheists I've met were equally as angry with religion , but you seem to have a tempered opinion that's completely devoid on any negativity whatsoever. Cool beans :)

Your comment about looking at a 3d-world from a 4d-perspective is exactly how I feel. I honestly think that if most people read up on their physics (quantum physics especially), their chemistry, and their biology, they'd start to notice coincidences just a little too frequently. Most quantum theories could be worded differently and slapped between the pages of a theological magazine and no one would be the wiser.

The whole quest for theological truth is not silly to me. While you believe in Fate, and I believe in God, I suppose, logically, we are both grasping at straws. If there is a higher order in the universe, than I think us trying to understand it would be about as fruitful as penguins postulating on string theory. That being said, is it so wrong to believe that there is something in the universe smarter, more sophisticated than mankind? I mean, supposedly we evolved from monkeys. I sure don't see any difference.

I think you should refrain from saying "especially for an atheist ." Intentions aside, it does somewhat offend me [though sticks and stones] and I'm sure it offends those who feel the same way as I do about our beliefs.

Many atheists practice religious stupidity, akin to Richard Dawkins. I see much religious stupidity, but not always. I know many people who accept the Bible as a book of man with many words of wisdom, but not the word of God [to say such is religious stupidity]. People of any faith , be it in God or no God, are hypocrites. I used to say "stupidity is genderless and colorblind", but I suppose I must now expand it to be faithless as well ;) But don't forget that many [not saying most or all] Christians are angry towards atheism [and vice versa].

Anyone who believes in a Christian God does believe in fate. Fate would be his plan. I do believe in a higher order in the universe, I think it's silly to attribute human characteristics to it though. It's silly to personify God. Unless you're mormon =p

And for the record, no one thinks we evolved from monkeys. I think you meant "primates" or "gorillas," but in all honesty we have evolved from none of them. All life on the planet has just as much evolution behind it as we do. We simply share a common ancestor with them. It does sound strange to most, but I do consider plants to be my distant cousins.

The monkey statement was just a joke. It captures my opinion on most humans. I know a lot of people that a chimp could outsmart (ex-boyfriends come to mind..)

I thought of deleting the words "especially for an atheist " several times, but I wanted you to know that in my experience, it is very rare to find an atheist who doesn't harbor some pretty sever anger. Sorry, I shouldn't have gone there. My mistake. Christians ARE angry against atheists, but in a much more insidious way. A lot of Christians treat them as if they are inferior, and it's really such a shame that they're not enlightened, and are destined for Hell. Give me a break. It's a much more passive aggressive type of anger that is very difficult to reason with.

I actually think Richard Dawkins is a very smart man, who would be entitled to my respect if he weren't so in love with himself.

"People of any faith , be it God or no God, are hypocrites." I couldn't agree more. Any Christian who believes in the bible is told to "be ye perfect." But perfection is unattainable. Therefore it is impossible for Christians to practice what they preach. But, they can try.

"I think it's silly to attribute human characteristics to it though. It's silly to personify God. Unless you're mormon." Wow, touche. I am mormon. But your comment wasn't offensive or anything. I'm used to it. All the liberals I know think I'm a crazy, bigoted zealot, and all the conservative Christians I work with think I'm literally Satan's doorman (by the by, fuzzy boot of ANY kind will NOT be tolerated in Hell.)

Though I believe in my religion , I find it difficult to shake off some residual Agnostic beliefs. I feel that organized religions are made by people - and no person on this planet (not the prophet, not the pope) is infallible. If it came down to a dividing line between acting on my faith, and acting according to the dictates of my own conscience, my conscience would win every time. I honestly believe that no good decision comes from blind faith.

All that aside, faith in something that is currently unproven is a necessity from which humanity cannot escape. Think about it: if no one ever grasped around in the dark for answers, science would be nowhere near where it is today. Hypotheses would never become theories, and theories would never be tested.

Hitler was a smart man, too. For smart men, both have done some pretty stupid things.

The single worst argument I've ever heard that there is no God [the disproving of him] came from Dawkins. It basically went something like this:

Evolution has [undeniably] occured >> Creationism is disproved >> God is improbable >> There is no God.

He stretches the argument over the length of an essay, but I'm surprised someone so intelligent [which I do agree he is] could argue so fallaciously.

Sorry for the Mormon crack! But hey it's better we make mistakes and learn than not try.

I suppose Mormon beliefs are much more similar to the Christian faith than I thought, considering I haven't seen anything you've said strike me as odd and indicate your faith. I suppose my assumption made an ass out of me!

No wonder you're not an ignorant Christian!.. enemy of my enemy is my friend hahaha.

You would think, that as Christians, Mormons would get a lot less flack from the religious right, but in my experience, agnostics and atheists have always been a lot more cool with me than evangelicals. I remember when I started looking into the Mormon faith ; I was playing in a Christian band at the time, and they knew that I was Agnostic - and that was just fine. But when I started going to a Mormon church , they "asked" me to leave. That singular experience sort of paints a good picture of how Evangelical Christians feel about me. Even in my younger, angrier days as an Atheist I still didn't piss Christians off with my presence as much as I do now. Go freakin' figure.

Sort of off the topic, one of the best speeches I've ever read on religion and the nature of God comes from the master physicist himself, Albert Einstein. He said "I maintain that the cosmic religious feeling is the strongest and noblest motive for scientific research." Which about sums up my feelings on the matter. In 1954, he wrote a lecture on science and religion, which can be found at this link. #TWO

If you have the time, you should definitely give it a look. It makes my brain hurt a bit, but he has some pretty impressive thought processes.

I still think that God, as a person, is incapable of doing anything as grand as creating the universe. Is the man God [in your beliefs] simply a material manifestation of God, akin to Christ being the material manifestation of God?

"I still think that God, as a person, is incapable of doing anything as grand as creating the universe."

It's not his capability that I question, rather the likelihood that one person would want or need to create the entire universe to justify his existence . The easiest way to explain our view on the nature of God is that Mormons view life on Earth as a microcosm of the way things will be in the cosmos.

Think of it this way: when you were a small child, you were dependent upon your parents for EVERYTHING. Your food , your growth, your very existence. Just because your parents created you, raised you, and gave you everything you needed to progress into a functioning human being (assuming you had decent parents), does not mean that there are not other parents out there doing the same thing for their children . It is the same with our belief in God.

Yes, we believe in God the Father, His son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. But unlike other Christians we believe that they are entirely separate beings, and that Christ and God both have tangible bodies that look like ours. They aren't the same person, and so Christ is also not simply "the material manifestation of God." Mormons also believe that God was once like us, and that someday we will be like him, creating universes of our own. These principles are a big part of the reason other Christians point fingers at us and scream "sacrilege!", but I find it incredibly difficult to respect the idea of a god that somehow understands what we're going through even though he's never been cold, or hungry, or lonely, or sad.

This is my belief; that God is OUR Eternal Father, that He created THIS part of the universe. I also believe that God did not create the universe outside the laws of science . I cannot have faith in a God who would create the laws of science only to break them - it is an illogical thought. Above all, I still maintain that humans trying to understand God explicitly is a rather fruitless effort on our parts. It would be like the Ancient Greeks trying to figure out how to make a hadron collider.

You make a good argument. However i would also like to point out that since science has lead to the discovery of many new things it would seem as thought science would be the more credible source, as many religious beliefs incorporate unknowns into their solutions and (most probably) many such unknowns are explained on facts that were written down a long time ago.

You are correct in that my statement about faith and logical was a little offensive, although i would say that it would seem thought that die-hard religious fanatics (if elected into office) would most defiantly use such strategies when running the country. As many, many candidates have suggested, the Kings of Saudi, Stalin or Kim Jong Ill (yes it would considers Stalin and Kim Jong Ill to have religions, since they are based on a dictatorship faith.)

It would however make me more comfortable in the electoral sense to know that would be little chance of an change into religious fanatics was improbable.
Those people were logical, however i would think that Galileo's faith would've wavered when the "speaker" for his god, persecuted HIS beliefs as the ones that were sacrilegious and offered death if he did not submit to what God wanted.

Actually, Galileo is a perfect example of why separation of church and state are necessary. Even though he was persecuted his entire career by a church that he loved and respected, he never lost his undying faith in scripture or his god. But his faith in God didn't detract from his research in the sciences. Research that was so sophisticated for his time that we've dubbed him the father of modern science.

But the fact is, Galileo was so faithful in his life, that no matter what scientific theories he came up with, I think if he ran for president in this day and age, he would very likely be shunned.

What I'm trying to get at here is that a human's spiritual beliefs should not keep them from becoming great. When we judge someone to be unfit for office BASED on the fact that they believe in God, or a different God than we do, we are merely sabotaging ourselves with irrationality.

You're right, a religious fanatic is not a person who should be in office - but only because they would not respect the boundaries between separation of church and state.

Wasn't there some speculation that as Galileo was leaving the courtroom of the church he mutter4ed under his breath, "nevertheless it moves?' it would seem to me, that he may have lost his respect for the church, but perhaps not in his understanding of God.

I totally agree with you in that people's beliefs should not prohibit them from becoming great. I'm saying that when it comes to the responsibility of being the leader or representative of people, that religion might be taken into account in the way so as to predict the behavior or possible decisions of the representatives.

It's correct that it might be irrational in the fact that people might be evaluated on their "beliefs" perhaps to see to which degree they practice a religion. That would ensure that if a person WAS a fanatic it would stop them from getting office, but a person who honored the separation of church and state, would be more likely to actually get into office. Do you agree that this might be a compromise that might work?

We shouldn't consider religion any more than we should consider race or gender. We should consider the effects that religion has on their choices and ideas, but please remember that it's all about the issues, not if they believe in the same god that you do.

It is irrational to suggest that you can consider the impact of a religion on a persons choices, ideas and positions on issues, but not actually consider the religion and level of belief. Anything that has an impact on how a person will react to a scenario is fair game. This includes all life experiences.

Religious faith is the basis for many people's world view. Others who hold to no religious faith nevertheless still hold a world view. For either, the world view they hold may or may not be well thought out but the decisions they make on a daily basis will, in large measure, be influenced by their world view.

Often people claim a world view but their decisions do not reflect that world view. That indicates that there is a real world view that leads to decisions and a stated world view that does not.

I see no reason at all to select one particular world view, one based on a belief in God, for discrimination in the political arena while all other world views are acceptable. There is no rational basis for such thinking. Each of us will make our voting decisions based on what we know about the candidates, including their religious beliefs, at least as stated. As one commenter below stated, religious affiliation is a negative for them. That's fine. At least they have the information to make the assessment.

I do consider faith, but in the negative. I would be instantly more inclined to vote for an atheist than a religious candidate. It is an instant signal of a clear and non-superstitious thinker.

The trouble is, however, in this country a religious film actor can get elected whereas an atheist rocket scientist could not, and that is pathetic.

I do see how one can see faith as an issue, especially when the person with the faith has quite a large amount of power. However, I think that you are viewing faith a little to literally and strict. Many Americans describe themselves as religious, yet very few interpret the Bible literally. Many simply approve of what the church is promoting (unity, kindness, generosity..). If you are arguing against a fundamentalist, then this is an argument that ends here (as I would argue too), but to proclaim that all people of faith should not be elected into office is just ignorant.

As for the accusation of "The trouble is, however, in this country a religious film actor can get elected whereas an atheist rocket scientist could not", it is just a poor scapegoat. Look at the character, the beliefs, the mind set of the individuals, not their religion.

There is no arguing this. There is no need for faith to believe in unity, kindness, generosity, etc. There is a difference between culturally religious and strongly held religious faith. Herritage is one thing, but actual faith takes it to another level. People who like to think there is a God who looks out for people generally just use this a crutch to get through difficult times. People with faith use it to determine right from wrong even to the point of ignoring solid evidence and rational analysis. They often support this through ignorance (creation v. evolution ). Faith takes rational thought out of the decision making process. This is what is scary to atheists and the moderately religious.

This happens in many religions not just christianity.

Now, did I ever once say in my comment my personal beliefs? You are assuming that I am a person of faith, and even further, christian. Also, you fail to keep in mind that some of our best presidents had a LARGE amount of faith (FDR, Lincoln, Washington..). You cannot simply look at the extremes and think that anybody who owns a Bible, Koran, Torah.. will begin screaming of a rapture or coming over national television. To think that is plain ignorant (the exact opposite of what you are preaching). Try to look at the whole picture, such as how a faith can provide people with a sense of community, with an idea of being kind to others, with generosity. Don't look at solely the outliers, and don't be ignorant.

First, your suggestion that I am ignorant is insulting. There was nothing in my post that a reasonable person would regard as ignorant.

I addressed the non extreme individuals. I have no issue with them. You seem to have ignored this and made accusations because I disagree with you. Not every religious person is truly a person of fatih. My complaint is specifically about people at that extreme end of the spectrum. I made no assumptions about you, comments about your faith, or about anyone who owns a religious text (I own several). You made assumptions about me.

Anyway this discussion has to be focused on the outliers. Moderates are not really that interesting in this conversation, specifically because their faith or lack of it is unlikely to affect their decision making process.

Maybe I should simplify my point. Decisions based on faith are irrational. If I think that someone would choose the irrational over rational, it would make me less likely to voter for them. However, I have voted for many people that would be correctly labeled as very religious. I chose my candidates based on their positions on policy. If there are multiple that I consider reasonable, only then with the faith level come into play.

Additionally, I know that you don't always have enough information to make a purely rational decision. Sometimes you have to go with your gut. Many religious teachings will lead to decisions that I like. Some will not. If the person is religious, their religious experience is one piece of information that gives an idea of how they might make a decision. For the atheist, I would want to know about their philosophy etc. The higher the office, the more information should be on the table. Anything that can give insight into how a candidate will decide an issue should be fair game.

Lastly I will say that the further back in history we go, the less applicable an individual's level of faith is to today. The level of scientific knowledge that we have today is significantly greater than it was in the time of Washington or Lincoln.

When you say that "Decisions based on faith are irrational." You DO mean based "only" on "religious" faith right? I ask for two reasons.

First of all "faith" as a concept is a belief that something will happen based on action or inaction.For example I have faith that eating a dozen donuts everyday will cause health problems. The distinction of "religious" faith is faith in a supreme being or a set of values based on a religious text or words of religious leaders. Now you say you say you vote for some people who are "correctly labled as very religious." and that decision is based on "their positions on policy." But if they're "very religious" then their policy decisions will be based on their religious faith. (In part anyway) Which is the second reason why I ask if you meant based "only" on faith.

Just a curiosity about your linguistic semantics.

First, as far as this topic is concerned, I am using and thought it was obvious that everyone should be using "belief and trust in and loyalty to God" or "belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion " or "firm belief in something for which there is no proof." I think the last one is the best since there is no proof of God or religion.

Therefore any other use of faith for this discussion should use these definitions, otherwise we get your alternate use of "strongly held belief" definition thrown in and everything gets confused. You have evidence for your "faith" that eating a dozen donuts everyday will cause health problems. In my mind, I think it is a poor use of the word, and I am convinced that, within the framework of this topic, it is an incorrect use of the word.

No point in discussing this point further, if you don't like my semantics, we just disagree.

Second, I can vote for "very religious" individuals because some policies that I agree with do not disagree with their religious faith. Therefore I am not worried that their faith will result in poor policy decisions in certain areas. However, I have to have a reasonable idea of their faith experience to be able to make this judgement. It is entirely possible that I will like the positions and policies of a religious candidate more than an atheist candidate. I think people commonly make the mistake that people who have the same religious or lack of religious beliefs will agree on politics . Atheists disagree all the time. People in the same church often disagree.

I hope I answered your questions clearly.

So based on your definition of faith theoretical physicists have faith in string theory?

Thanks again

While I am far from an expert on theoretical physics, from what I have read, even calling string theory a theory is a stretch. It is more of a group of similar hypotheses; far from theory status.

I am unaware of any scientific evidence supporting it, so anyone who has a strong belief in it would have faith by my definition. However, those who merely consider it plausible, worth researching, etc. would not.

You did. Thanks very much.

First off, I apologize. I had taken your first comment in an aggressive manner (which I now know to be incorrect), and therefore saw fit to respond to it with hostility. I now see that there may be some rationality to what yu say, however, I still greatly disagree.

You say look at the extremes, let's. Say that a canidate attends a church and holds a faith that demands the death of all non-believers, homosexuals, etc. Is that right?

I understand. You don't want to read my first draft response to your post.

That get's into the basis for right and wrong. What is morally right in one person's mind does not necessarily match up with what is legal.

Your example is an excellent scenario.

I think anyone advocating the death of non-believers, homosexuals skinny blondes should not be voted into office because the beliefs they put forward are not just illegal, but inherently unconstitutional.

However, what do you do if the candidate attends a church where it is preached, but says that he doesn't hold those views. While I don't believe in guilt by association on the criminal side of things, but I do for someone running for office. But how close does the association need to be?

Take it one more level. What happens if they were raised in that church, they no longer go there, but their family still does. I don't have a definite answer for this one, but I would tend to err on the side of caution.

I am afraid to say that I now percieve no difference (other than the tone) in your statements. You seem to be denouncing the idea of church for any religion, simply because it entitles God. What you are failing to see is that MOST (I will give you that not all do) churched promote positive things (generosity, kindness..). Many choose to argue that that does not mean that the individual will hold these values, or appreciate them. Again, this is not the case. If the individual enjoys the stimuli (promotion of values, idea of community..) they will continue to do the actions that will submerge them in in an environment where these stimuli are present (going to the church). /

Furthermore, you seem to perseve every believer of a God as being an irrational person. Blaise Pascal, one of the most prized philosophers, mathematicians, and reformers had once argued for there to be a divine being in order for there to be reason within life. Note that he did not argue for God because he was dying, because he needed money, or some "crutch", but because that is how he saw that it needed to be.

I grant you that some people who believe in God can take their scriptures, teachings, what-have-you to an extreme, but that is not the case for MOST individuals. Can't a church simply be seen as a school as well? Though it may not teach evolution (which many churches are accepting, such as the "Old Earth Theory"), or math, it does teach values that are generally looked upon as good and positive things. If another canidate has no faith but shows these values, great. However, behaviorism tells me, as it should to you, that a church is more likely to instill these values.

There was not supposed to be any difference in the statements, just an increase in clarity and hopefully a more reasonable tone. It appears that I failed in the former effort. I am not sure exactly what point you are arguing against though. So if my response here is way off, feel free to set me straight.

Your question was about a church that taught that non-believers, homosexuals, etc. This seems extreme to me and if they were to try to act on it is without question against the law and could not in any way be brought in line with the constitution. I was speaking specifically against this type of church.

I grew up in an evangelical church. I accept that the vast majority of the teachings promote positive things. I also believe that most churches' success comes more from the community and positive teachings they provide than the doctrine. Church makes people feel good. Again, a church that advocates the death of non-believers is not providing these things.

This topic is "should faith be considered in elections." This seems to be closer to the validity of religion. I am an atheist, so I think all religion is wrong. However, I don't mean to suggest that all people who are religious are irrational, but that they hold some irrational beliefs. By definition faith is a strong belief without evidence. Faith is irrational. However in another post I stated that most of the research that I have read suggests that humans are "wired" to hold irrational beliefs. The theory is that questioning authority wasn't very helpful in establishing tribes and therefore humans selected toward people believing what they were told. The strength of community was stronger than the negative from the irrational beliefs. Very smart people are capable of holding very irrational beliefs. Most people don’t even know that they hold irrational beliefs because they have been engrained in them over time or by authority and therefore they never explore them.

Some people try to reconcile their faith with the reason they use in the rest of their life. I used to do this. The most detailed are the apologetics that have been written by the likes of Pascal or St. Thomas Aquinas. But it still comes down to faith.

I also don't hold that religious people are deficient. However, a more religious individual is more likely to use their faith as a basis for making a decision. Often I would agree with the decision based on faith, sometimes I wouldn't (i.e. teaching of creation in science classes). This is why I think a person’s faith experience is fair game when they are running for office.

I agree that it could be difficult to instill certain values without a church. That is one reason that I believe that there aren't more atheists because they haven't replaced the beneficial parts of religion (community, fellowship, etc.) when they got rid of the bad (irrational teachings, intolerance, etc). They threw out the baby with the baths water. It is also entirely possible that we could not have gotten where we are today without religion. I think it was probably a necessary part of human development. That doesn't mean that our culture can't evolve to no longer need it.

I hope this is a more complete explanation.

I do very clearly see what it is that you are saying, and in most cases I would agree. However, you must keep in mind the ORIGINAL comment that had drawn me into this.

"Coming at it from the other sideI do consider faith, but in the negative. I would be instantly more inclined to vote for an atheist than a religious candidate. It is an instant signal of a clear and non-superstitious thinker.

The trouble is, however, in this country a religious film actor can get elected whereas an atheist rocket scientist could not, and that is pathetic."
- Kelly August 6, 2008 11:35PM

It was this illogical thinking that caused me to try and show both sides. Granted that there were and probably still are many beliefs that the church incorrectly holds, as is the case with you as an individual.
I am an agnostic when it comes to faith (though I lean more towards atheism). I am also (I hope) aware of my own ignorance, and therefore I know that not everything I may "know" is "true". This is much like the idea of a limit. We are continually getting closer of what we believe to be the truth, but we may never be fully sure if what we believe is true, but this leads to a totally different discussion.

I do fully recognize that SOME church-goers, people of faith, etc. do have irrational thoughts, do believe what we believe to be irrational, but not ALL, not the VAST MAJORITY. Therefore, with the support of my previous arguments, I do choose to look at faith in elections, and particularly what sort of faith the individual holds. Because of the values that are promoted through the church, because of the (usually) good, kind hearted people that surround the individual in this institution, I tend to have more of a favoring outlook on the "church goer" then that of the atheist. Mind you that that does not mean that I am fully shut out from the issues and details and broad pictures, but that I have acknowledged this individual's perceptions. Again, I will also take into consideration the extremes. My whole argument was directed at the ORIGINAL comment.

Yes, only in so far as I wish to know all I'm able to discover about the character of a candidate before I choose them as a public leader.

Should religious faith be a prerequisite for leadership?


I agree with you when you say that religious faith should not be a pre-requisite for leadership. I strongly disagree with your point though, that knowing a person's faith tells you something about their character. Have you forgotten about the numerous elected officials who profess strong religious beliefs only to - how can I put this politely - only to have had major lapses in character and judgment in their private lives?

By saying I wish to know whether or not a candidate is a member of one religion or another, I mean it quite literally. I am, as some say, atheistic in my beliefs. I happen to know a great deal about most human religions. Which religion a candidate belongs to speaks much to their character, experiences, culture, etc. I take as a given that no candidate is perfect in their adherence to the philosophy and practices of their chosen religion. In fact, I'm counting on it. Their failure to follow a certain set of values speaks volumes to which values they may or may not fail outside of that religion. Can they be consistent in their beliefs? Do their chosen beliefs harmonize with my own?

As I said in my first comment - I wish to know all there is to know about a candidate so I can determine what their character has been in the past and what it is presently to make certain assumptions about their character in the future. If they are members of a certain faith, I want to know that. It has profound implications. Nevertheless, I do not suggest a candidate must have any religion at all if that's their choice. That too says much about them. That they reject superstitions ranks them highly in my book but, of course, not being superstitious and rejecting the major religions is only a first indication. The question then becomes, what ARE their chosen values? I want to know that before I am able to see if they hold to those values consistently.

Perhaps we agree more than we disagree. Perhaps it is the other way around. Again, I agree that in order to make a proper assessment of a candidate based on what we know about her/him, we need to have as much information about this person as possible. However, where we disagree, is knowing the person's religion or lack thereof. I think certain things about a candidate tell us nothing as to how this candidate will perform in office. For example, taste in music, art, sports, hobbies or even religion. For me, the most important criteria for voting for a particular candidate, particularly a President, is feeling that this is a person who is smarter than I am, who has a good grasp of world issues, who can be cool and clear-thinking under pressure, who thinks before he speaks regarding pressing international issues. It is not necessary for me to know whether or not he believes in any particular religion or no religion at all.

A candidate's chosen religion or abstinence from such is irrelevant in your decision making. All I'm suggesting is that, perhaps, it ought to be relevant. An individual's position on religion in general or specifically is usually one of those essential indicators of character. It is a major issue in all of our lives which religion or no religion we grew up with and which or none we choose as adults. Among many others, the issue of religion is at the core of how and why people relate to one another - i.e. politics. I only say this because, for most human beings, the closest they come to conscious thought regarding philosophy is through their religion or reaction to it. As philosophy is at the root of all we do in our lives - whether one acknowledges such or not - a candidate's personal philosophy is central to how they will serve in public office.

I'm suggesting that ignoring a candidate's position on religion is ignoring a substantial portion of their personal philosophy which is the root of their political behavior. I also suggest that, even those behaviors we take as trivial - taste in music, art, sports, hobbies, mates, etc. can be very relevant indicators of one's core character. Most won't take the time to examine those behaviors, however, perhaps taking the time to view the whole person as much as is practical makes for a better decision in support or in opposition of the individual candidate. This person is going to become a person of power potentially over your life. It's responsible citizenship to want to know as much about them as is possible to know what you're getting yourself into.

It is not that a candidate’s chosen (or born into) religion is irrelevant in my decision making, it is that I feel there is a major difference between religion being an indicator of a person’s moral character and also an indicator of the candidate’s future decision-making. As I said previously, candidates’ religions do not seem to have stopped them from making terrible moral choices. In my opinion, some terrible economic and foreign policy decisions have been made by officials who profess to be quite religious. Perhaps the only instance in which religion comes into play would be if the individual seemed to me to be a religious fanatic of some sort. In that case I would not vote for that person. By the time we actually place our vote for a candidate, we should have heard from them and read as much as we can from people whose opinions we value, which can help us clarify our views. It makes absolutely no difference in my choice for a particular candidate whether he/she is a Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Atheist or any other religion.