The Importance of Not Discussing What We Have Faith In

In discussing John McCain’s outrageous statement that he won’t vote for Muslims, Atrios makes a good point:

We’re at this absurd spot in our political discourse where “faith” somehow matters but the specifics of that faith do not. And even this obscures the fact that what this really means is Christian faith matters. If religious beliefs matter, then surely it’s the substance of those beliefs which matter and not simply some meaningless nod to “the importance of faith.”

I wrote something along those lines last December:

While Bill O’Reilly celebrates and defends the secular American Christmas holiday from imagined attack, he and the evangelicals we see on Meet the Press, you know the ones, they are the folks Barack Obama is courting, NEVER actually discuss what it is they supposedly have faith in. It is relatively insignificant politically, but illuminating intellectually. The reality is the intersection of religion and the State never REALLY happens – radical social conservatives are NOT acting based on any true religious beliefs – on abortion, sexual orientation or anything else. It is a conceit that we grant extremists for no good reason frankly. But there it is.

If “faith” is going to be an issue in politics now, then let’s debate it. What is Christianity? What is Mormonism? What is Rudy’s standing in the Catholic Church? Otherwise, keep religiion and “faith” in churches, homes and in the decisions and actions of individiuals.


Skip to comment form

  1. to finally voice one of those little “foot-in-the-aisle” observations that come late in the game…

    My late mother believed in reincarnation.  When I was ready to opt out of this world for some of the crisis it brought me (e.g., this), I turned to the Christian church in which I was raised.

    I honestly wanted to opt out.  The only reason I did not opt for suicide at the time was because I believed in reincarnation, and that I would only worsen things for myself. 

    The church overall was a nightmare.  Nascent Reaganism, and contempt for the poor.  They who ironically whalloped the world over the head with the multiple entendre ‘born again’ insisted that it was satanic of me to suggest there was such a thing as reincarnation. 

    Let’s hope they haven’t done something fatal to their souls with that one.

    Long story short I wandered away.  I am infinitely more comfortable with atheists who refuse to believe in a hateful deity than those who perversely delight in, say, Hagee.

    One thing that only caught me dozens of years later.  Jesus sent out the apostles to preach the kingdom of Heaven before he was crucified.

    This gives the lie to the gospel being some “just say Jesus and do what you want” message as evidently some believe.  Or why send them out in vain?  The message was to turn from evil and do good.

    My “spiritual bet” is on those whoever follow the beatitudes, whatever they call themselves.

    The ones who labor in religion for hatred and war… well you ever hear that one, “have you ever considered that the purpose of your life might be as an object lesson to others, unfortunately for yourself?”

    • Temmoku on September 30, 2007 at 6:41 pm

    The trouble is…everyone (Politicians, pundants, preachers) wants to act like we all have a “common” faith” or belief, but when you listen to them, we really don’t. Christianity has lost something significant these last few years…maybe the “real Christianity” was kept hidden, but now I don’t recognize it. It is all right to hate certain people, to kill certain people, to demonize and insult as long as you are a true believer. Since when did some people deserve to die? Deserve to be tortured? Deserve punishment? Who are we to judge? What gives? I have “friends who think it is fine to deprive immigrants of basic rights, to deny them access to schools and medical care and food, to take away any “property” they might have accrued and send them “back”. What is it with this attitude? I don’t remember anyone ever saying this out loud before….but now they do and they truly believe in their divine right to pass judgment and to punish. It is sad, but religion needs a new “Renaissance” because it has seriously lost its way.

  2. The Faith we are supposed to all have is faith in the White Protestant Ruling Class.

    It has nothing to do with God per se….and everything to do with manifest destiny and the currently established paradigm derived from the Puritan Mythos about who WE are …and are supposed to be. But we are not that we anymore and it worries ‘them’ greatly.

    And that is precisely why “faith” is never defined.

    Organized religion has always been USED AS a tool to control populations…which is why the founders tried to limit, if not eliminate it from direct ties to the government.

    It is no surprise at all that one of the most totalitarian regimes in American History is “Faith Based.”

    • plf515 on September 30, 2007 at 7:09 pm

    A lot of people say they would vote for a Jew, a Muslim, even a Mormon, but not an atheist.

    For a lot of people, faith in some deity seems more important than faith in any particular deity. 

    I never really wanted to run for political office; since I am an atheist, I guess that’s good.

  3. There is no real meaning to the term ‘faith,’ as used by politicos… they are speaking of religion.

    What we are supposed to do, according to culture warriors, is to bow down to those social structures that existed before us, and it doesn’t matter a damn if those structures are designed and implemented to keep people fat, dumb, and happy (or if not happy, at least not attacking those who own or control), or if they are not.

    The republicans and democrats transpose religion– a social entity, with faith, an entirely personal one.

    Let’s question faith… it seems to be important. When we find that faith emerges from early childhood teachings, that we are socialized to be ‘faithful,’ or ‘religious,’ then a real discussion can begin.

    there are beliefs that lead people to certain religious stands– otherwise there would be no need for prostelytizing.

    just my $.02…

  4. would require a measure of consistent attention to domestic and global affairs as well as to each candidate’s actions and positions with regard to them.  that’s a lot to ask.  its much easier to apply your own prejudices vis a vis the list of labels that you or your opponent can make stick, be they positively or negatively applied.  its comforting…makes you think you know the guy or gal. 

    however, it is promising to consider that the original christians were dfh radicals of their day….we should just chill for a couple thousand years…things are bound to work themselves out  😉

  5. I was disturbed and freaked out by how often people invoked faith to explain their political stance or why they won the 100 meters at the Olympics. Excepting the current PM of Canada, and even he tones it down, Canadians get itchy and sweaty when politicians mention faith or a specific religion. They tend to dart their eyes around the room and look for the nearest exit.

    I still find it completely and utterly irrelevant to the functioning of either state or national politics.

  6. American Islam.

    Seriously, belief in a special messenger from God (Prophet- Mohammed, Nephi) after the gospel of Christ.

    If you believe in that stuff at all.

    Mohammed has the benefit of being a demonstrably historical figure.  John Smith was demonstrably historical too, and he has Three Witnesses and Eight Witnesses who “hefted” the gold plates before they were raptured.

    Your judgement is your own on who has more credibility, John Smith or Mohammed.

  7. all want to have God on their side.

    • psyched on September 30, 2007 at 7:35 pm

    we are generally thinking of faith in a church or belief system, usually Christianity.

    I think we can understand this use of “faith” better if we disconnect “faith” from the particular church or belief system in question. Having faith is, IMO, adopting a way of thinking, an uncritical, unscientific way of looking at the world. Just believe what the authorities tell you and don’t question them.

    Those demanding that we have faith in the belief system they espouse are actually demanding that we not think rationally about their actions or their advice/commands. They are setting up an authoritarian relationship between them and us. They want to control us, basically as a way to control and sustain and enrich themselves. It’s not the particular religion, it’s a way of dealing with the world psychologically that they want to impose upon us.

    I used to tell my kids “You don’t have to believe anything.” If something cannot be proven to your satisfaction you should take it with a grain of salt and think about it yourself before you decide whether you want to consider it proven.

    This was not to make them cynical. Cynicism is a psychological defense mechanism used by those who feel they can’t cope with some aspects of life. Rather, I would have liked to see them accept people’s explanations of how the world works while bearing in mind that the people might be wrong, and eventually my kids would figure it out to their own satisfaction.

    This brings me to the Great Person view of the world: There exist certain heroes who are always right and can do no wrong. Mozart never wrote any bad music. John Kennedy was always as right as rain. Not. I say admire the people who are more right than wrong, but remember that no one is perfect. Judge their actions one at a time; don’t accept them just because they emanate from a Great Person.

    So in “having faith” we are closing down our natural inquisitive, fact-seeking abilities and agreeing to become unthinking followers of those who can manipulate and control us.

    Bush may or may not be a “Christian”. What he certainly is is a controller (dictator?) who uses us for his personal gain, at our expense, by demanding that we believe that everything he says and does is right, because God talks directly to him.

    • robodd on September 30, 2007 at 7:40 pm


    Well said, Armando.

    • Metta on September 30, 2007 at 7:43 pm

    that later in the interview, McCain said, “I would vote for a Muslim if he or she was the candidate best able to lead the country and defend our political values.”

    I saw the headline on Huffpo and usually take those with a grain of salt until I read the article.  I am not defending McCain.

    I fully agree that we should continue the discussion of why faith matters if it becomes so prominent in politics .  In this country the discussion often seems to end just short of where it should begin and continue.  Maybe it would become clear that it is often an issue to appease and harvest votes if the conversation was forced.

  8. with whether I was a Christian or not because I found it hard to accept any set of principles that divided up the world between believers and non-believers and I always distrusted the idea that one faith could be inherently superior over another simply because followers stated it was so.

    I distrust a man or woman in politics who only carves out  positions strictly consistent with their version of  faith, it is like saying: I cannot think for myself and have no plans to do so.

    • documel on September 30, 2007 at 8:01 pm

    My question to those that are faithful—How do you pick and choose which abominations are still verboten?  Most of you eat pork and shell fish–big no-nos.  Why don’t all of the faithful treat aliens as they do their tribesmen–it’s also in Leviticus?

    I’d rather have an athiest in office than a God fearing bible abusing hypocrit.

    • pfiore8 on September 30, 2007 at 8:07 pm

    or even at issue

    it’s just another red herring… something to throw in the road to cause pile ups and while the real substance of the arguments go untended, we enter into illegal wars and continue to wage war on the poor, the defenseless, and creatures of this earth… all of us struggling to survive

    if this was an issue, then we would be honest about our fear of each other and how we don’t really think it’s all the same god… cause my god would not be condoning BushCo… for instance

    no, this is not about faith. it is about control. this is not about god. it is about diversion from the real and pressing issues of water, food, environment, energy… an on and on and on

  9. for Divine Truth.

      One who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor. One who follows the teachings of Christ in so far as they are not inconsistent with a life of sin.

      I dreamed I stood upon a hill, and, lo!
      The godly multitudes walked to and fro
      Beneath, in Sabbath garments fitly clad,
      With pious mien, appropriately sad,
      While all the church bells made a solemn din —
      A fire-alarm to those who lived in sin.
      Then saw I gazing thoughtfully below,
      With tranquil face, upon that holy show
      A tall, spare figure in a robe of white,
      Whose eyes diffused a melancholy light.
      “God keep you, strange,” I exclaimed.  “You are
      No doubt (your habit shows it) from afar;
      And yet I entertain the hope that you,
      Like these good people, are a Christian too.”
      He raised his eyes and with a look so stern
      It made me with a thousand blushes burn
      Replied — his manner with disdain was spiced:
      “What! I a Christian?  No, indeed!  I’m Christ.”

      – The Devil’s Dictionary

    Best,  Terry

    • Metta on September 30, 2007 at 9:28 pm

    in the belief that we can rise above exploiting people’s fears as a distraction from real problems that won’t even be discussed while we’re all arguing about who or what delivers the truth; Christ, Allah, Jehovah, Mohammed, Shiva, Thor, Buddha, the Tao, nothingness, Flying Spagetti Monster, etc.


  10. “NEVER actually discuss what it is they supposedly have faith in”

    I almost couldn’t read this diary because something kind of explodes inside me.

    You saw my previous comment; I spent years researching just what was going on in Israel around Jesus’ time, what it was they expected to happen.

    About reincarnation, whether a person wants to believe one thing or another, the orthodox among the Jewish people evidently have held to beliefs of reincarnation since Ur, when they would have been contemporaries of Zoroastrian teachers.

    I have almost categorical disinterest in what has been published about this faith since the fall of Jerusalem, particularly since the establishment of any state church, when “predestination” was first declared “satanic” and “heresy.” 

    Instead I have read the latter prophets imagining that they perhaps wrote thinking something beyond polemic screed:  they were foreseeing a future reincarnation.

    Furthermore, certain examination of Mosaic writings lead me to conclude that what the ancient Hebrews believed they were writing is a law of reincarnation… expressed in code rather than a literal law.

    Speaking as a female, once I tried to figure out if purity laws could be kept and I believe it is absolutely impossible, although some orthodox women literally leave their households for two weeks.

    This is probably so far outside the scope of a reasonable comment I have no business writing here… but the “world” they expected to be destroyed (kosmos) was the order of things, in particular the government and in very particular Rome – whom very many believed to be the reincarnation of ancient Neo-Babylon of Nebuchadnezzar’s time, who also took the Jews captive.  “Ge” the earth was not what was supposed to be destroyed.

    In other words, the messiah was supposed to rescue them FROM an invasive gummnt (hint, hint).

    It was believed and written, well, I’ll let them speak for themselves:

    And He will judge between the nations, And will render decisions for many peoples; And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they learn war.
    Come, house of Jacob, and let us walk in the light of the LORD.

    ~ Isaiah 2:4,5

    They looked forward to a kingdom of peace and righteousness – on earth.  Earth gone through a lot of “earth changes,” but the goal was never a “faith” (whew) in destroying the planet.

    There was much written about a lot of people who would “rise up” to defile their very beliefs (I really should diary this):

    18 Woe to those who drag iniquity with the cords of falsehood, And sin as if with cart ropes;

    19 Who say, “Let Him make speed, let Him hasten His work, that we may see it; And let the purpose of the Holy One of Israel draw near And come to pass, that we may know it!”

    20 Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

    21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes And clever in their own sight!

    22 Woe to those who are heroes in drinking wine And valiant men in mixing strong drink,

    23 Who justify the wicked for a bribe, And take away the rights of the ones who are in the right!

    24 Therefore, as a tongue of fire consumes stubble And dry grass collapses into the flame, So their root will become like rot and their blossom blow away as dust; For they have rejected the law of the LORD of hosts And despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.

    To Habakkuk, the people who would “rise up” would appear like this:

    3 “For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail.  Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay.

    4 “Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith.

    5 “Furthermore, wine betrays the haughty man, So that he does not stay at home. He enlarges his appetite like Sheol, And he is like death, never satisfied. He also gathers to himself all nations And collects to himself all peoples.

    6 “Will not all of these take up a taunt-song against him, Even mockery {and} insinuations against him And say, ‘ Woe to him who increases what is not his– For how long– And makes himself rich with loans?’

    7 “Will not your creditors rise up suddenly, And those who collect from you awaken? Indeed, you will become plunder for them.

    8 “Because you have looted many nations, All the remainder of the peoples will loot you– Because of human bloodshed and violence done to the land, To the town and all its inhabitants.

    9 “Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house To put his nest on high, To be delivered from the hand of calamity! 10 “You have devised a shameful thing for your house By cutting off many peoples; So you are sinning against yourself.

    11 “Surely the stone will cry out from the wall, And the rafter will answer it from the framework.

    12 “Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed And founds a town with violence!
    16 …The cup in the LORD’S right hand will come around to you, And utter disgrace {will come} upon your glory.

    17 “For the violence done to Lebanon will overwhelm you, And the devastation of {its} beasts by which you terrified them, Because of human bloodshed and violence done to the land, To the town and all its inhabitants.

    Another vignette of this “problem people” who would “rise up” during the appointed time:

    Psalms 50:16-23
    16 But to the wicked God says, “What right have you to tell of My statutes And to take My covenant in your mouth?

    17 “For you hate discipline, And you cast My words behind you.

    18 “When you see a thief, you are pleased with him, And you associate with adulterers.

    19 “You let your mouth loose in evil And your tongue frames deceit.

    20 “You sit and speak against your brother; You slander your own mother’s son.

    21 “These things you have done and I kept silence; You thought that I was just like you; I will reprove you and state the case in order before your eyes.

    22 “Now consider this, you who forget God, Or I will tear you in pieces, and there will be none to deliver.

    23 “He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me; And to him who orders his way aright I shall show the salvation of God.”

    An image from the Revelation which stands in interesting contrast to the Tim LaHaye crowd is this one:

    The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come…  for destroying those who destroy the earth.”

    ~ Rev 11:18

    And here is the end picture of the “problem people” in Isaiah:

    “And they will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.”

    ~ IS 66:24

    In any case, whether for literary reasons or deeper ones, so much for the culture of war as religion.

Comments have been disabled.