November 11, 2013

Religion & Politics: Volatile Mix or Perfect Partnership?

by Tom Gourlay

In polite conversation there are two topics, they say, that one should never bring up. One is religion, the other is Politics.

In public debate, and no more so than in the political arena, it is often argued that somehow a ‘secular’, atheistic or non-religious viewpoint is a neutral one. In contemporary Australian society we see our very own Prime Minister Tony Abbot claiming that his religious views are privately held and do not influence his political policies or decisions. And while this seems to be an effort to placate those who display certain anti-religious sentiments, it does little to convince them, and it is often met with dismay by those who share his faith.

politics-religion

The idea that one can separate the natural sphere from the supernatural or religious one has deep philosophical roots, but it is ultimately a separation that does an injustice to both the faith and the believer.

Humans are political creatures, so says the philosopher, and yet we are also worshipping beings. It seems simple to say it, but it ultimately holds true that whatever becomes the focus of our worship inevitably influences the entirety of our life, including our political decisions. Faith which is open to reason is not something that should close down debate and discussion in the public square, but rather something that will open up channels of communication and enable various interlocutors to find common ground on issues that are contentious.

Ultimately, whether acknowledged or not, decisions are made with presupposed assumptions concerning human nature and the ultimate end of the human person. If such positions are part of a strictly defined and consistently help philosophical system one can only think that this would enlighten discussion and debate on the issues – rather than attempting to dialogue with one who identities with little other than  a chameleon-like secular humanism which can change with the wind or even or over a cup of coffee.

Ultimately, whether acknowledged or not, decisions are made with presupposed assumptions concerning human nature and the ultimate end of the human person. If such positions are part of a strictly defined and consistently help philosophical system one can only think that this would enlighten discussion and debate on the issues – rather than attempting to dialogue with one who identities with little other than  a chameleon-like secular humanism which can change with the wind or even or over a cup of coffee.

Reasoned argument should be able to employ a variety of data to help make its point. Scientific and sociological research, traditional understandings, religious faith and philosophical demonstrations all make valid contributions to open discussion.

An individual persons’ faith should influence their political decisions, and they should be forthcoming about that. Atheism or secularism does not provide a discussion with ‘neutral’ ground in debates concerning the many contentious contemporary issues. In a certain sense, we can see that claims to the contrary in fact negate entire areas of human knowledge and endeavour and alienate significant portions of the community by dogmatically ignoring the voice of faith, and religious experience and tradition.

The voice of faith is in fact the voice of people of faith, and such people have a right to be heard in the public square. The continued presence of this voice in the public square as such only serves to enrich the society in which we live.