Religion and Politics Go Together if We Say They Do

Every four years, pundits lard on the commentary about how “religion” is having a “big impact” on the upcoming election. Every four years.

Each time they do it, they add on other comments about how this is “unusual” or “unprecedented,” as if religion just became a guiding force in how free people make decisions a week or two earlier.

In fact, religion has always been a matter of considerable importance in American elections. I don’t think there’s anything surprising about this. In fact, I don’t see how it could be otherwise. Are we supposed to shear ourselves loose from who we are when we are confronted with a ballot? Are we supposed to ignore our deepest values in making decisions about our country?

I think that all this talk is, at best, nonsense. Of course religious belief guides people’s decisions about how they vote. Of course it matters to people whether or not a candidate for an office shares their core values. We are talking about choosing who will run our government. Our votes place enormous governing power over the lives and welfare of millions of Americans into the hands of these candidates.

Are we supposed to elect someone who doesn’t share our values? 

Should we deliberately decide to ignore the faith that guides us and the teachings that hold our lives together when it comes to deciding who we want to make key decisions for us? Why dose anyone find it surprising that “religion” plays a part in our ballot-box decisions?

We cannot see into the hearts of the people who ask us for our votes. We have to base our decisions on what they’ve done, what they say and how they hit us. Fortunately, our Constitution does not require us to explain our votes to anyone. We do not need the approval of a committee or a commission as to how we go about picking who we will support in an election.

I can vote for a candidate because she’s a woman. You can vote for a candidate because he or she is black … or white … or maybe because they are left-handed.

And yes, we can all vote for a candidate because they espouse positions on issues that we’ve decided are important to us but which other people claim we are stupid to consider. This is usually where voting for someone because of “religious” reasons comes in. If you are a strong believer in the right of workers to engage in collective bargaining and also a strong believer in the sanctity of human life, then how do you balance these two considerations in your vote?

The answer is that every single voter gets to work out conundrums like this on their own, as they please, and without being obliged to share their thinking OR their decision with anyone else. That’s the power of the secret ballot, which may be the most wonderful political invention since the idea of the vote itself.

I make it a policy not to try to tell Public Catholic readers how to vote. I also make it a policy to talk about the good and bad of candidates on both sides of these questions. My third policy is that I won’t say how I’m going to vote. My votes as a legislator are public record — as they should be. My votes at the ballot-box are those of an ordinary citizen. I vote by secret ballot.

What I will tell you is that you should never let someone else’s values be the reason for your decisions. Don’t let pundits persuade you that there is any wrong criteria you can use as a basis for deciding how to vote. It’s YOUR vote. It belongs to YOU. You can vote how you want, for whom you want, for any reason that works for you.

Now, go out there and think it through. If you should feel like praying about your vote and asking God for guidance, that, my friend, is your right. Use it any time you want.

Content Director’s Note: This post is a part of our Election Month at Patheos feature. Patheos was designed to present the world’s most compelling conservations on life’s most important questions. Please join the Facebook following for our new News and Politics Channel — and check back throughout the month for more commentary on Election 2012. Please use hashtag #PatheosElection on Twitter.

  • Joe Stewart

    Very well said; I agree 100%. Keep up the good work in Oklahoma and around the world!

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Thank you Joe.

  • Arkenaten

    Of course one should vote for a person who shares similar values, but religion should not be the crux.
    An atheist will likely cherish most of the values a Christian will, security, peace, family, and desire similar things for his-her welfare too. health happiness and freedom to be what they want.
    As the Wiccan motto states. First, do no harm.
    Would you NOT vote for an atheist purely on the basis of his non belief in your god?
    If this is your criteria, then how would you advise a devout Muslim to vote, or Buddhist, or Jainist, Hindu, etc. ?
    You may believe you are under one god, but which one?
    The core moral value system you cherish was around before the Ten Commandments arrived on the scene.
    This is why many people are wary of those who are wont to invoke god at every turn.
    I don’t really mind what god you worship. Just don’t lay it at my door, thank you.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Douglas, I think that Wiccan motto might be a wee bit of a borrowing from Hippocrates.

      What you are referring to when you say that the core moral values of the Ten Commandments have been around for a long time is what Catholics call “Natural Law.” That refers to the fact that, as the Scriptures say, that some things are “written on men’s hearts.” What it means is that some evils are intrinsic, and for that reason, ignorance of “the law” is never an excuse for committing those intrinsic evils. Killing innocent people would be one of them, as is deliberate lying to harm people.

      No one needs a faith in God to know that these things are wrong for the simple reason that they are written in our hearts by God. They are a result of us being made in the image and likeness of God and part of the expression of the fact that we are immortal souls and not mere matter. That is why human beings can sin, whereas animals cannot.

      People are wary of those who want to tell them these things are wrong because we are also fallen people living in a fallen world. We are, all of us, victims of original sin that comes from this fall. That is to say, people are wary of other people who raise the fact that these things are sinful because they have claimed for themselves the right to commit them and when someone tells them they are wrong, it touches on that part of themselves that knows they are sinning, (even if they claim there is no such part of themselves, that they are merely animated matter) and it makes them uncomfortable. This discomfort translates into anger, which in turn translates into irrational behavior, such as the swarms of angry atheists who keep trying to post on this blog for the purpose of dominating the conversation and taking over the blog with their nutso agendas.

      People WANT to kill other people. They WANT to lie, cheat, steal, batter, rape and destroy. And they don’t want anyone, especially someone who is telling them the terrifying truth that they can go to hell for these things, confronting them with what they already know: This is wrong.

      I experience this every day on my job. Nothing, but nothing makes people more vicious than telling them they can’t define a group of people as less than fully human in order to do what they like to them. I think the reason it makes them so angry is that the devil has a good hard hold on them and that’s where this impulse to treat other people as less than people comes from. And yes, some of the people who do this are Christians, and some of them pull verses out of the Bible to justify themselves (at least to themselves.) But they are deep in sin and are not following Christ when they do this.

      Christians sin Douglas. You sin. We all do. That was the reason for Calvary.

      • Arkenaten

        You were correct about the Hipocratic oath. I misquoted the Wiccan Rede. It goes something like this….
        Do what you will, so long as it harms none

        • Ted Seeber

          Which is also a lie.

          • Arkenaten

            Really? Fascinaing. Then would you care to elaborate, Ted, for the benefit of those who may be unfamiliar with the Wiccan code?

      • Arkenaten

        Good heavens, you delete my reply….yet again. What on earth for this time?
        Sometimes I wonder about your sincerity and just when I am beginning to think you are winning me over with a modicum of honesty and commensense you go and do that.
        I should actually be flattered as deep down I know that a) I have hit a) nerve and b) it’s closer to the truth than you feel comfortable with.
        So go ahead. Delete away. Ban me completely if it makes you feel better about yourself.
        I have never posted anything that is not truth. It may have been a bit near the knuckle as far as good taste might be concerned but I have never written falsehood.
        And sin is a religious construct, by the way. You might consider yourself a sinner. I don’t.

        And you still shy away from the question about an atheist President. Why is that Rebecca?
        Are you afraid that an atheist just might do a damn site better job that the ‘god fearing’ lot that have held the reins so far?
        Maybe that would be too much of a bitter pill perhaps?
        Remember. 700 billion dollars on arms, Rebecca. 700billion.

        The Ark shakes his head sadly and turns away.

        • Rebecca Hamilton

          Douglas, I’ve been over and over with you that I don’t want you to insult people on this blog, including me. Every time I delete you for this, you behave as if it’s a totally new thought to you.

          • Arkenaten

            I refute in the strongest terms that I insult you, Rebecca. I Know you from a bar of soap. I object that you introduce religious or Church doctrine into a discusion in such a fashion that attempts to justisy your rationality.
            I object that this is the basis – the foundation even – that you run your political career and allow it overshadow almost every other consideration to the point that any reasonable request, such as continually not answering – no, let me rather say purposfully avoiding – a question – regarding an atheist President merely reduces the credibility of your faith by not being true to it when push come to shove. Yet, ironically it defines you more as a politician.
            By bringing the doctrine of your faith into politics , and particulary your notion of Sin and Hell you automatically alienate , condemn even, those that have no truck with this system of belief.
            The morality of good and bad is taken care of by the LAW not by the LORE.
            If YOU wish to abide by your god’s law, or condemn those around you, even your children if they don’t measure up to your notion of being saved, then do so, but don’t bring this Church doctrine to the political table. There is no place for it.

            • Rebecca Hamilton

              Douglas — I’ve asked before and you didn’t answer: How old are you? If you don’t want to answer, that is your right, but I am curious.

              • Arkenaten

                I did answer, ages ago. 54.

            • Robert King

              Arkenaten, you say:

              I object that this is the basis – the foundation even – that you run your political career and allow it overshadow almost every other consideration …


              By bringing the doctrine of your faith into politics , and particulary your notion of Sin and Hell you automatically alienate , condemn even, those that have no truck with this system of belief.
              The morality of good and bad is taken care of by the LAW not by the LORE.

              Religion is, among other things, a comprehensive worldview. It describes what is real and what is not, what is good and what is evil, what is important and what is mere distraction. Religion describes what it is to be human, and how we relate to the rest of the universe.

              This is why atheism or materialism sometimes are called “religions,” because they present just such a comprehensive worldview.

              Not every practicioner of every religion fully buys into their religion’s worldview, but every religion does present this kind of description of the way the world as a whole works.

              So if someone takes their religion seriously, of course it will impact every single decision they make. Their understanding of reality and the world as a whole will affect their assessment of practical situations, public policy, and so on.

              Would you really want someone who doesn’t have – or doesn’t care about having – a consistent view of reality making public policy? Wouldn’t you rather have someone who isn’t swayed simply by the wind or the waves, by polls and lobbyists and donors? For that matter, wouldn’t you want to have someone you can actually disagree and argue with – because you know what they stand for and believe?

              • Arkenaten

                @Robert King
                “So if someone takes their religion seriously, of course it will impact every single decision they make. Their understanding of reality and the world as a whole will affect their assessment of practical situations, public policy, and so on.”

                I agree wholeheartedly. Unfortunately,so did those who invoked Allah before they destroyed the Twin Towers. (Although I acknowledge that an individual’s interpretation or understanding of god will inevitably difer here).
                However, if such an action were undertaken by an atheist they would be regarded as a monster, yet when god is invoked ( albeit not YOUR god) it is regarded as Holy.
                Go figure?

            • Ted Seeber

              Atheism is as irrational as the Wiccan Rede is a lie. Those who claim to do what they want, always harm others.

              • Arkenaten

                “Atheism is as irrational as the Wiccan Rede is a lie. ”

                A statement that is erroneous and beneath contempt.

            • Rebecca Hamilton

              Douglas –
              I had surgery today, with a general anesthetic and all the grogginess that means, so apologies in advance for any typos.
              Since it appears you are a middle-aged man and not an adolescent, I’ll ask you to behave like an adult. First of all, please pack your arrogance and petulance away. I have a few points:
              1. You are not the grand inquisitor. No one who comments on this blog has any responsibility to answer questions by anyone, including you. Hectoring is NOT allowed here, which is exactly what you are doing with these demands that people answer your questions or … what Douglas?
              2. Public Catholic is not part of my job as a legislator. I feel called to do this blog in the same way I felt called to take communion to the homebound and to volunteer in a crisis pregnancy center. You keep confusing what I say here with official statements as part of my job. While it’s true that the public has a right to react to whatever I say in any context, and, as I plainly say in this post to vote for or against me for any reason, I am not passing laws here. I did not bring Church doctrine to the political table. I brought it to an answer to a comment you made.
              3. As for my right to make decisions based on my beliefs, that is absolute. Throwing verbal fits about it doesn’t change that in any way.
              4. You do not live in the district I represent, you can’t vote either for or against me. The people who do vote for and against me have been electing me for, as of next month, 17 years.
              5. You probably know very little about the way I do my job as a legislator except what I’ve shared here. These histrionic accusations you are making are the trite party line of atheists who want to demand that Christians withdraw from public life. I’ve heard them many times as have most elected officials. These accusations have no basis in anything except that the atheists in question want to silence people they don’t agree with. I am not talking about deleting rude posts on someone’s own blog. I am talking about a well-financed, organized attack on the freedom of speech and expression of a discreet group of people by way of using the courts to create law that will drive them to silence as part of a developing government oppression.
              6. I think your violent emotional reaction to words like hell and sin is an expression of unease from your own conscience. This same kind of reaction runs through the writings of many prominent atheists.
              7. Do not make my family part of a negative discussion.

              • Arkenaten

                “You are not the grand inquisitor”
                I agree wholeheartedly,I am most definitely NOT and thank your god for that small mercy. That job was the sole preserve a member of the Catholic Church. A Dominican Monk, if memory serves. Wonder if old Thomas wotsisface ever got to heaven? Job well done? What do you think , Rebecca?

                I have never demanded you or anyone else answer any question. I merely ask why you continually avoid questions that might seem uncomfortable. If you disagree with this please point to the comment where I have ‘demanded’.

                If you wish to use the term histrionics then let’s acknowledge the sword cuts both ways, shall we? Fair’s fair.

                “….are the trite party line of atheists who want to demand that Christians withdraw from public life.”
                Phew! There you go with that word ‘Demand’ once more. Not me , Rebecca. Don’t confuse issues here. Important is not the same as personal. Why would I wish you to withdraw from public life? You have to earn a living.

                6. “I think your violent emotional reaction to words like hell and sin is an expression of unease from your own conscience. This same kind of reaction runs through the writings of many prominent atheists.”
                Smile…. Yes, well, quite. I am not a “prominant atheist” for one thing. And again, you tar all us godless heathens with the same brush.
                My objection to the terms Sin and Hell have zip to do with my conscience, which, incidently, is perfectly fine, thank you. I am an atheist, I do not adhere to this morally questionable dogma. It bothers me not at all whether you believe I am a sinner and am going to roast in hell. Only Christians ( and not all of them either) worry about this polemic in any case. I object when it is espoused at those who are defenseless to understand and make an educated opinion whether to accept it or reject. First and foremost amongst these are children.
                Hope you get better soon. BTW. I take it you wouldn’t vote for an atheist President then? How about a Muslim? Not demanding, you understand, just asking.:)

                • Rebecca Hamilton

                  Douglas, I don’t answer questions about how I vote in elections. From anyone. On any issue. I vote by secret ballot.

              • Arkenaten

                Okay, so would you secretly vote for an atheist or Muslim or would this be regarded as a sin if you did?
                I promise I won’t tell. Honest.

                I mean, I would vote for an atheisit if his manifesto agreed with my (supposedly dubious) morals. Maybe even a gay atheist?
                I would not vote for likely a Muslim. If push came to shove there might well be a conflict of interest.

                How you feeling?

    • Ted Seeber

      I find that the Wiccan Motto, is largely a lie. Most Wiccans do great harm, they just don’t realize it.

      • Arkenaten

        I think Ted Seeber is probably not real, and he doesn’t realise it either.

  • JessicaHof

    Thank you Rebecca. You are right, we all vote according to a variety of things, and the idea that those of us with Faith should somehow leave it at the door when we vote is as odd as the belief that those who favour such and such a policy should leave that at the door. So often it is a matter of the lesser of two evils, anyhow.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Well said, Jessica.

  • Peg

    One must consider how the aethiest candidates conscience is formed. The 1st amendment guarantees them a voice in the public square as much as a catholic or buddhist. It does not allow an aethestic belief system sole dominance. Rebecca can no more leave her conscience at the door when voting as she can her gender. Our consciences are formed by our belief systems, reason and experience, etc. Faith and reason operate together not in separate silos. I am not a catholic on Sunday and a secular humanist on Monday. For over 2,000 years the Catholic church has offered an abundance of truth, scholarsip,evidence and love and has produced some of the worlds greatest thinkers, scientists, leaders, problem solvers, caretakers and artists. If I could see that kind of accomplishment and service and truth in atheism perhaps I could consider that candidate. Rebecca brings both reason and care and commitment to the serious nature of her job and works with steady conviction. I would be wary of any candidate who says “I am personally opposed but…”. How she we fill that in? “I am personally opposed to slavery but if thats what folks want…”. W e will never all agree on everything but all voices have a place at the political table. God, sin, heaven and hell either exist or they don’t. Their existence is not contingent on whether we believe in them or not. It is most worthwhile to find out and form our consciences on all that is true and good sooner rather than later. Hopefully we can all find peace along the way.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Excellent answer Peg. Thank you.

  • Arkenaten

    “It does not allow an aethestic belief system sole dominance”
    I agree. And the same MUST apply to those with religious convictions. This is what democracy is all about. Freedom. But what people are wont to forget is that freedom comes with consequences. And it these consequences thatpeople are often unwilling to accept.
    The abortion issue for instance. Are those in favour of pro life guided by their conscience? Of course. But what is the basis of this thinking?
    For those who consider themselves religious and especially in this case, Catholioc, then Church Doctrine is what is behind this conscience.
    This is where the lines begin to smudge and hypocrisy creeps in.
    Even the Catholic Church is,has been divided over this issue for centuries and there is nothing specific in biblical texts either.
    Thomas Aquinas: I would hazard the average Catholic hasn’t the foggiest idea what he said about it. And remember what he said about how females were formed! Again, who has the time to read such religious tomes
    The Church has altered its approach on such issues often. What’s to say they wont change again? Then how does a Christians conscience sit?
    There has to be a better alternative.

    • Ted Seeber

      I find those who cry out the most for freedom- are often dictators, censors, and fools.

      • Arkenaten

        I find those who cry out the most for freedom- are often dictators, censors, and fools.””
        Such as those who fought for the abolition of slavery, Ted?
        Or the end to racial segregation.
        People like Mandela and Ghandi.
        Or those who fought for America’s independance from England?
        How about all the American soldiers who fought and died in so many wars in the name of freedom,Ted? Were they all fools?
        Even Jesus died for freedom.
        Careful what you say, Ted. Such blanket statements undermine the lifelong work of some of the most genuine and revered people who ever lived. Many of whom were Christian.
        Your comment might suggest a lot of pent up and unresolved anger issues.

        • Rebecca Hamilton

          Mandela, Martin Luther King, Wilberforce were all informed by their Christian beliefs. I believe that this is why they were able to resolve what seemed to be impossible violations of human rights and denial of the humanity of whole groups of people in such noble ways.

          • Arkenaten

            Quite possibly and of course the rather twisted somewhat sick irony is those who responsible for their incarceration and or murder would have sworn on any bible you cared produce they were Christian and carrying out God’s will.
            Most certainly those that jailed Nelson Mandela.
            For the record, some of apartheid’s and Mandela’s greatest champions were atheists and communists while those in power were deemed devout Christians.
            Oh, how I laugh! Har…har.
            And Ghandi was about as Christian as I am. Although it is falsely attributed to him, the famous quote, “I like your Christ but not your Christians” is probably one of the truer statements uttered.

            • Rebecca Hamilton

              I am certain that many people said they were Christian and then did all manner of evil throughout history. But they are not following Christ when they do this. Jesus Himself said “not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord is my follower.” he makes it quite clear that on the Day of Judgement, those who are indifferent (not note those who actively harm others, but those who are indifferent) to the suffering of others will hear from Him, “Depart from me, I never knew you.” as I said earlier, without genuine repentance and change from the heart these people will go to eternal hell.

              • Arkenaten

                “I am certain that many people said they were Christian and then did all manner of evil throughout history.”
                Yes, like the Grand Inquisitor, for one.
                Oh,and Ghandi too. Terrible man he was, right?
                Sigh….Christians…You confuse yourselves sometimes.

                I would take Ghandi’s morality over most people I can think of.

                Fortunately I don’t ever wish to or need to hide behind religious hypocrisy. If I’m naughty I take my medecine.
                And if ever I need to ask forgiveness I certainly won’t look towards a god to help me out.

                • Rebecca Hamilton

                  Douglas, you keep trying to personalize what I say and claim that I am condemning you. I said you are a sinner, but that is not based (as you well know) on any specific knowledge of you. It is based on the fact that you are human, and all of us are sinners.

              • Arkenaten

                “….as I said earlier, without genuine repentance and change from the heart these people will go to eternal hell.”
                Crumbs, you really are hammering the Hell and Sin thing at the moment, aren’t you?

                I’ll be having nightmares soon….

                • Rebecca Hamilton

                  I’m not trying to give you nightmares. I am saying that these people you keep trying to judge God by are not following Him and will face a just punishment for their misdeeds if they do not repent. I wasn’t talking about you Douglas. I was talking about those who did terrible things in Apartheid and at other times and places in history, yet claim they are following Christ.

              • Arkenaten

                Oh, I acknowledge. But I believe it is only fair to start with the self’-proclaimed guardians of Christianity, don’t you think?
                After all, they are the ones who have been wont to judge and condemn the rest of us mere mortals. The ones who bask in the ‘protection’ of the Church and other religious entities.
                How far back should we go? Pick an era….The Borgias? The Inquisition?
                Sigh…I believe we would very quickly exhaust a fair few exercise books with names before we got to non churchy types and we would still not resolve anything.

                I do not acknowledge the doctrine of sin. It is a religious concept.
                Being naughty is human. Or, if you prefer, it is human to err.

                Cast the mote and all that, right?
                Let’s be perfectly honest,what can religion offer that is beneficial to me or anyone that non-belief cannot?
                Nothing, I’m afraid. Not a single solitary thing.
                Yet although it might provide solace for some the downside is not worth it.
                Religion imposes guilt, fear and threats of eternal damnation.
                It condemns. Its doctrine allows crimes to be committed by fanatics in the name of one god or another and the interpretation of supposed holy books will justify this.
                It is divisive and in the case of Christianity down right confusing.
                You may believe you need it. But in truth….well. Who knows, right?
                Oh, I don’t really believe you will give me nightmares. Rail me wih all the fire and brimstone you want, Rebecca. :)
                If I want real nightmares all I have to do is read about Moses, and some of things he did. How about those Midianites, eh? But then i have to remind myself he wasn’t real anyhow, so it doesn’t matter.


                • Rebecca Hamilton

                  You’re so sad Douglas. And deluded. But I find myself liking you because I genuinely feel that there is a good human being on the other side of this computer.

                  It isn’t a question of what religion can “offer” you. That’s like asking what gravity can “offer” you. Jesus is real and what He gives freely is the meaning, purpose, love and a deep, deep peace. I know these things because I’ve lived them myself. I spent a good bit of my adult life at war with God. I wasn’t an atheist, although I pretty much passed as one. But I always knew the God I was angry with was real. So, I’ve seen what life is like without God and what it is like with Him. There is no comparison.

                  As for constantly worrying about things that happened hundreds and even thousands of years ago, take a look at the bloodbath of the 20th Century. You don’t have to go on about the Midianites. In all your many criticisms of faith, I don’t believe I have yet heard anything that came from you, directly from you. All these things you keep bringing up seem like a pose. I honestly don’t think you are an atheist. You are far too angry with God and God obsessed.

                  After all, if none of it’s true, why bother? I imagine you’ll come back with some story about the “horrors” religion have wreaked on the world with no mention of the much good Christianity has done and is doing and even less mention of the horrors of every atheist government. But those things aren’t reasons. They are so unbalanced that they are inaccurate.

                  Atheism even now as a movement (as opposed to individuals) is working to limit freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, etc. There’s virtually no form of organized killing the modern-day atheist leaders don’t advocate, from abortion (again, I’m not talking about you) to euthanasia, to embryonic stem cell research. Leaders of modern day atheism are at the forefront of pushing for things like egg harvesting and using women’s bodies as surrogates to be bought and sold like commodities. They are supporters of the sex industry which reduces women to chattel and every social agenda they promote, including same-sex marriage always seems to become a new reason to impose on individual human beings right to conscience.

                  Atheism is what has nothing to offer Douglas. The current socio-political movement of aggressive atheism offers nothing but nihilism, death and license. It attacks personal freedom to think and let think at every turn.

                  I probably need to stop now. This is turning into a post instead of a comment. I’m very — VERY — drunk on pain meds or I probably wouldn’t have talked so much.

                  I don’t know anything about you Douglas, but in an odd sort of way, I care about you. I hate to see you throw away so much energy and time on a bogus, hopeless philosophy which, judging by the posts I see here and the things I encounter on my job, leads people to bitterness and angry, ugly intolerance such as no religious faith ever could.

              • Arkenaten

                First let me state categorically, I am generally quite happy.and content and hardly ever sad.
                I live in a great country with brilliant weather on a super property overlooking a golf course set in a jacaranda filled valley, with a beautiful wife and a marvelous family.
                We have a better constitution than the States and are quite probably the most religiously stable and tolerant nation. I am in pretty good nick healthwise and I have every season of the Big Bang Theory on my hard drive. So what on earth have I got to be sad about?
                Also I am not deluded. I might occasionally wear my underpants on my head and cheer Liverpool Football club but this is not classified as delusion, merely stupidity. Or senility. Believing they might win the Premiership this year (or any year in the near future) would definitely count as delusion and be cause for serious concern.

                The extreme views and actions of some atheists are as objectionable as those of their religious counterparts. And I remind you once again, there are a good many Christians who believe the Pope is the anti Christ and Catholics are not Christians. At least atheists don’t see you in this light, now do we?
                As I stated, irrespective of what good religion might offer, the flip side is not worth the price.
                By ignoring the history of religion we risk allowing the more grubby parts of it to repeat itself.
                I can honestly say without fear of contradiction that I have never thought,
                “Oooh, I need Jesus. I am a sinner. Best I sort myself out before it’s too late.” or any variation on a similar theme.

                I won’t respond to your entire post….you know my feelings.

                To close….
                “You are far too angry with God and God obsessed.”
                LOL! Even in your drug induced stupor you manage to make me laugh. Bless you (sic)
                I am an atheist. I do not believe in gods. Yours or any other.
                Oh, and I am really not bitter. My general feeling about religion is it is just so much twaddle.
                I don’t really worry either way. As Jimi Hendrix once sang…”Fall mountains, just don’t fall on me.”

                PS always remember this is cyberspace… isn’t real, Rebecca. There is a life beyond the computer.
                The Ten point five Commandment. Thou art allowed to be silly on occasion, drink the odd glass of wine and not take life too seriously.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Douglas, the Didache of the Twelve Apostles, goes back to 40-60 AD, and is considered to be the oldest written Catechism. It states:
      ” … The Second Commandment: Grave Sin Forbidden. And the second commandment of the Teaching; You shall not commit murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not commit pederasty, you shall not commit fornication, you shall not steal, you shall not practice magic, you shall not practice witchcraft, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER A CHILD BY ABORTION NOR KILL THAT WHICH IS BORN …”

      The teaching against abortion goes back 2,000 years and is, in the Church’s parlance, “constant” which means it has always been a Church teaching. Thomas Aquinas’ writings are not dogma, by the way. The Catholic Church has a rich history with many scholars with varying ideas. There is a lot of freedom in the Church to think and let think about all sorts of things. But the resulting ideas are not dogma.

      America has NEVER forced anyone to follow any faith. For the first two centuries of its existence, people have come here from all over the world seeking the freedom to worship — or not — as they please. The first real change in that has been the concerted attacks on religious freedom and freedom of speech by atheists and secularists who are trying to use the courts to coerce Christians in particular to be silent. I believe that demands of this type, especially when they are made against elected officials like me, are direct attempts to dictate to other people how they should vote and what they should do. These attacks on me because I follow my faith in my actions are not explicable with any other explanations.

      • Arkenaten

        “Douglas, the Didache of the Twelve Apostles, goes back to 40-60 AD, and is considered to be the oldest written Catechism. It states:”

        Firstly it is an anonymous work. It was never accepted into the canon, being regarded as spurious by some.
        Your early date is rejected by the majority of biblical scholars. Although this os not relevatent the point, I supppose.

        The way you load your responses (I especially appreciate the CAPITALS,btw, saves me squinting) might give the unwary reader the impression that because I am an atheists I am demanding abortion be allowed. Which,of course, is not the case.
        To use one of your own terms, why the histrionics?

        The word dogma (Gr. dogma from dokein) signifies, in the writings of the ancient classical authors, sometimes, an opinion or that which seems true to a person; sometimes, the philosophical doctrines or tenets, and especially the distinctive philosophical doctrines, of a particular school of philosophers (cf. Cic. Ac., ii, 9), and sometimes, a public decree or ordinance, as dogma poieisthai.

        As an example. I open his book, Suma Theologica,at random . pg.202, Article 4: Whether a good or wicked angel can sin venially?
        I reckon Aquinas fits the bill here. Certainly reads like dogma.

        • Rebecca Hamilton

          It is not scripture. That’s what canon means. regarded as the earliest catechism, which means teaching there are several different ideas about dates. The one I chose is only 7 years after the resurrection, which is early, even though it is from a reputable scholar. ALL of the dates I’ve seen are early enough to make my point that this is a constant teaching.

          • Arkenaten

            the didache doesn’t specify what constitutes a child.
            And without modern medical procedures one wonders how they knew enough to identify a fetus as a child?
            Aquinas’ view of when a fetus was a child differed from your current interpretation, did it not?

            • Rebecca Hamilton

              I don’t see your point. The Didache wasn’t a medical book; it was the earliest catechism. I think everyone at the time knew that it meant a child before birth, just as they do now. They were probably much closer to these things than we are, living in an agrarian society.

              As for Aquinas, your understanding of dogma is different that what the Church means by it. Dogma in the Church is part of the revealed truth which must be believed. Aquinas is an influential thinker, a “father” of the Church, which means his thinking is useful for teaching. But it is not considered revealed truth and it is not part of the Church dogma. What you’re doing is a little like trying to supplant the Constitution of the United States with the Gettysburg Address. The Gettysburg address is beautiful and laden with great truths, but it is not the governing instrument of this country.

              • Arkenaten

                “Dogma in the Church is part of the revealed truth which must be believed. ”
                Really? Oh dear.
                How about the penitentials?
                “Starting in the 7th century CE, a series of penitentials were written in the West. These listed an array of sins, with the penance that a person must observe as punishment for the sin. Certain “sins” which prevented conception had particularly heavy penalties.
                Abortion, on the other hand, required a less serious penance. Theodore, who organized the English church, assembled a penitential about 700 CE. Oral intercourse required from 7 years to a lifetime of penance; an abortion required only 120 days.”

                See, I am not making this stuff up, but using your own church doctrine.

                And one must consider this a revealed ‘truth’ that must be observed?
                No, this is dogma. Plain and simple. Man made.

  • Peg

    I totally agree that freedom comes with responsibility and these dys many don’ want to accept the consequences. On abortion my faith informs my conscience that all life is sacred and deserves respect and protection. Science tells me that life begins at conception and the constitution that all are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That’s really the key to participating in the other rights. One of the best prolife arguments that I’ve heard came from a micro biologist. Google SLED and you will find the logic of this position. Biden and Ryan are both Catholics but I find their positions wanting in the full spectrum of prolife. The Catholic church is not out to control the issues but rather to offer a full view of life issues. They are not pushing that all people forsake artificial birth control. They do offer a more reasoned natural and safer way to plan families while respecting marriage bonds and life. These are food arguments to consider regardless of faith. If we block them entirely in the public square we will deprive peope of all the information. How many know that the pill is a group one carcinogen so ranked by the World Health Organization. Or that the estrogen in the pill is in our water supply because it doesn’ t break down. That’s now an environmental issue reported best by NPR. Or how much money ha e these drug companies contributed to have their product now a federal mandate? The Church is not trying to get rid of birth control for all they just don’t want thengo remnant to define religion nor for e their institutions to provide a product that kills rather than protects life.

    I would disagree that the churches doctrine has changed. I am not a scholar but have studied this over the years. Th Catholic Church has not changed it’s doctrine over the years. As a living church she has come to understand things more deeply. Certain practices have and can change. This consistency has only to do within Divine Revelation and protection. I know u don’t believe that but no human institution or ingenuity could have survived all the attacks from within and without o er the years and still survive. Perhaps she’s the fittest as Darwin might say. She stands from with and by Christ and that’s why she can be trusted to teach if not always praciice the fullness of truth and love.

    I haven’t read all of Aquinas but wish more would read his just war theory today. I’m with Augustine in that I would not accept the Gospel were it not for the authority of the catholic church. We’re not that organized for world domination but we do offer well reasoned ideas and answers for the deepest longings of the human mind body and heart to live in freedom with responsibility.

  • Arkenaten

    In my discussions on this forum I have never ever stated I am pro abortion, merely that this has been around since women fell pregnant and the method that pro lifers are going about having it banned is self defeating. I have stated on many occasions the key is prevention. If so much money can be spent on arms for instance (700 billion in the States) then an alternative to abortion can be found, and one that doesn’t involve damaging and detrimental chemicals.

    “Science tells me that life begins at conception”
    Really? And there is consensus on this highly emotive subject is there? Doesn’t seem so, I’m afraid. Not by a long chalk.
    And what of those that believe any form of contraception is a sin? That preventing procreation in any manner is also considered a form of abortion?
    Now we enter the realms of philosophy and there will never likely be consensus.

    “I would disagree that the churches doctrine has changed.”
    “Th Catholic Church has not changed it’s doctrine over the years.”
    Wrong, I’m afraid. It most certainly has changed its doctrine. On numerous issues, and not just on contraception and abortion.
    Surely you are aware of the Galileo story as a glaring example? (off topic but still relevent to illustrate the point)
    I am not a scholar either but if you research Papal statements (look on Wiki) regarding contraception you will see there has not been consensus.
    I have already mentioned the Catholic Bishops of Canada refused to acknowledge a Papal directive regarding contraception and assured their flock that it was not evil and they would not be regarded as sinners. One can;t help but shakes ones head ruefully at this type of nonsense.

    “I’m with Augustine in that I would not accept the Gospel were it not for the authority of the catholic church.”
    What authority? Eusebius? As most Christians have very little idea about the Bible, its history or composition it is no wonder religious institutions appear to prefer their followers for the most part to remain blissfully ignorant.
    Be that as it may.
    To reiterate, allowing one’s conscience to be guided by religious doctrine is a tricky business, especially where several doctrines or religiions may come into play over the same issue.
    Even Christianity cannot agree.
    Because of the sensitivity of this particular issue the best remedy is to ditch the dogma and find a remedy that prevents the need for abortion.
    It isn’t difficult , and then all issues of conscience will be cleared.

    • Ted Seeber

      Your prevention is equivalent to abortion, and is a violation of your Wiccan Rede.

      • Arkenaten

        I am not a Wiccan. Do not make assumptions.
        You have no idea what ‘my’ prevention entails as nothing has been discussed.
        I have no interest in debating philosophy with one such as yourself whose
        interpretation of religous based polemic is anathema and flies in the face of respecting the sanctity of life.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Actually, I think there is absolute consensus that a unique human life begins at conception. That is a basic scientific fact. The controversy comes from the question of what legal protections we will afford to this life.

      • Arkenaten

        This particular site is one of the most tolerant and balanced I have come across. It also discusses the notion of human life from all sides and notes the general lack of consensus.
        I recommend it. Maybe you will think so too?

        I referenced the paragraph below as it echoes what I have been trying to get across since I was tacitly invited to visit your blog. Although every time I raise this topic I am either insulted (thank you Ted, Peter. ) or ignored. So be it.
        If you believe the view expressed below still ranckles with the somewhat inflexible religous stance then I am afraid you will likely see out the end of your political career without finding a win win solution to this very emotive and sensitive issue.

        “Many pro-choicers would also like to reduce the number of abortions. They note that about half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended, and that about half of all intended pregnancies are terminated by abortion. They reason that an effective method of reducing the number of abortions is to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies through better sex-education, greater awareness and use of contraceptives, including emergency contraception, etc. More information”


        • Rebecca Hamilton

          I agree with the idea that PRO CHOICE people wouldn’t mind if the number of abortions dropped. However, I think the people who are driving the argument from that side are actually pushing abortion. I base that on many things I don’t want to go into while tapping on my cell phone. (Whew!)
          I will say that they are using abortion as birth control. I can’t check the exact number now, but I think over 40% of the pregnancies in NYC end in abortion, which is an outrage.
          One reason you get the reaction you do about this is the bland assumption that any unplanned pregnancy is a scourge and that a child conceived this way should automatically be murdered in abortion. I don’t think that’s what you believe, but that’s how the argument is afvanced by abortion’s promoters.
          The question of prevention gets tangled with questions of government funding. This whole notion of prevention is put out there as a marketing ploy by planned parenthood to swell their already huge govt appropriations.
          It also leads to terrible things like pushing iuds, depo prevara and the morning after pill on young girls. The morning after pill does cause abortions.
          All these so-called preventions are harmful to young girls and none of them even address responsibility on the part of boys.

          • Arkenaten

            “One reason you get the reaction you do about this is the bland assumption that any unplanned pregnancy is a scourge and that a child conceived this way should automatically be murdered in abortion. I don’t think that’s what you believe, but that’s how the argument is afvanced by abortion’s promoters.”

            You are right. I don’t believe this.

            Even though Mr. Spock informed James Kirk, “It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it.”
            let us, for the sake of argument, agree that life begins at the moment of fertilisation, okay?
            Now, how would your conscience sit if, in the years to come science developed a way to prevent this fertilisation that was proven not to be harmful, had no negative side effects etc like the pill, was not intrusive in the sense of an IUD and could be reversed or halted at any time? Maybe something taken by either party that rendered spermatozoa unviable?

  • Peg

    Well said Rebecca. I have newly discovered these blogs and they are such a positive and hopeful response to the times we live in! It’s hard for many of us to realize there is not a major party to represent us all nor major news media outlets covering the serious issues with fairness and respect if at all. With a guiding faith based on a fullness of truth and love we can work, serve, sacrifice, defend, learn, grow everyday. Thanks for all you do. Wish I could vote for you from the Show Me state.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      That’s the point exactly! Thank you Peg.

      “It’s hard for many of us to realize there is not a major party to represent us all nor major news media outlets covering the serious issues with fairness and respect if at all. With a guiding faith based on a fullness of truth and love we can work, serve, sacrifice, defend, learn, grow everyday.”