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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Feeling vs. Thinking: Does Faith Cloud Reason in Political Debate?

One of my friends among the loyal opposition made a statement that:

“Indeed, but the religious right is failing to be (respectful of other religions or philosophies), in that they simply will not accept non-religious-based social policy. And in so doing, they've dragged the Republican party out of the mainstream.”

In response another friend made the statement that "when logic and reason has slipped … people start thinking that somehow God has a hand in everything..."

The argument continued in this vein with another poster making the tacit assumption that “Believing in a Creator, a God, a higher power as one being, thinking that God controls the universe and our lives is based on your faith and not on logic. This is not insulting. It is a fact. Just like being in love with someone is not based on logic, it based on emotions and feelings.”

Okay, let me see if I’ve got this right. Apparently, there are those on the left that believe that the only way for people to think God has a hand in everything, there has to be a slippage of logic and reason – that persons of faith have to be a little whacko?

The logical followup thought is that if persons of faith are basing their political decision making on emotion rather than reason, then their views cannot be relied upon to make sense.

Okay, let me make one thing clear. I believe God is everywhere present and that all things work together for good for his people. That doesn't mean I believe an airplane disaster, or a bloody genocide or Adolph Hitler is His will. I simply believe that, for his children, God makes sure that whatever happens in this world will work together to insure that his children get home safely.

Most people see a life as only that bit of existence between birth and death; even some Christians have difficulty seeing anything beyond death as connected with that which goes before. As a Christian I choose to see a bit farther than the threescore and ten allotted to us on this Earth. Scripture says that God grants eternal life to those who choose to follow him – not later or only after death. They receive it NOW. So, I believe we Christians are already living forever.

Yeah, some object, but you guys still die like everyone else. That’s true, but irrelevant. Death ain't death if you wake up - it's just a nap. That’s what Christ called it.

My friend protests, “…good grief...what people like this have is's not based on logic or reason or science...that is why it is called faith...and that is fine...but once someone believes that God has a plan for you or that God controls your destiny then what is the point of you ever exercising your brain and using it since no matter what you do, it will fail cause God has other plans for you. Believing in a Creator , A God, a higher power is one being, thinking that God controls the universe and our lives is based on your faith and not on logic. This is not insulting. It is a fact. Just like being in love with someone is not based on logic, it based on emotions and feelings.”

I disagree with my friend. Belief that God controls my destiny is a belief based not based on feelings, but on sound reason and experience. I suspect that is so for all Christians who have actually met God somewhere in their life and made a commitment to follow him. When I became a Christian it was with a lot of questions that needed answering - some of them the same ones my friends outside the faith ask.

I’ve always needed logical, reasonable answers to my questions. I'm not a feeling driven person by nature, though I tend to be emotional. My belief in God's intervention in my life is based on study, the interpretation of the events of my life through logic and reasoned thought. In this way, my emotions support what my mind has reasoned rather than driving my beliefs and opinions. Through a life of study and experimentation, I have come to a conclusion that makes sense to me; namely that God knows what He is doing, that what he allows or causes is best for me and for the universe at large. I may not understand it all now, but I’ve understood enough to have evidence that I can trust Him with the tiller of my personal ship!

Because of that carefully considered belief system, I also can judge whether a socialist system, centralized human planning and the consolidation of power in the hands of a powerful central government is a good idea or not. It is also my Faith, which is the result of a lifetime of reason and study, that helps me understand that, conversely, if you wed church and state it’s also a bad idea. My Christian beliefs predispose me to distrust any too powerful centralized human power. God told the children of Israel that if they chose a King, they’d be taxed, drafted and have their daughters swiped. They did and so did the Kings. Human government is always a compromise between our liberty and the governments need for money, power and control. I firmly believe in separation of church and state.

That does not mean however that we should act as though there has been a brutal divorce between church and state. The two are not enemies. Perhaps we should view them simply as devoted friends – at least in America – to be included in the round table discussion that is the American Experience.

Historically, you will find that government (or whoever wields royal or dictatorial power) often co-opts religion as a tool to achieve it's goals. In the absence of a suitable religion, it will create a pseudo-religion such as nationalism or environmentalism or socialism which wear all the trappings of religion needed to create a community of faithful - unquestioning adherents without the name of religion.

It's about power, not faith when religion becomes a tool to rob men of their liberties. Religion, however, is not the sole tool available for that purpose. You need only talk to a convinced socialist to hear statements that are as much the result of an emotional “faith” as you are likely to hear from a Kentucky Snake Handler or “Holiness” preacher.

Yes, my faith makes me suspicious of certain ideas about what government should do & the power it should have.

Two ideas I’ve heard lately, not just from the left, but from our President disturb me:

  1. The people should not expect the state to serve them, rather people must serve the State.

Whether you ask people to serve the church, state or party, this calls for a willing surrender of your liberty and independence to something larger than yourself. That’s instinctive in people, but the target of your devotion in these cases are man-made institutions which should serve the people and not vice-versa. The only one to whom a person should surrender his or her will is God – because God will give your freedom right back to you. Governments, churches and parties don’t like to give anything back once they’ve got it.

  1. And this: You must surrender your will and your liberty to the church / state / party etc. to be saved.

    Whether it’s a church or political institution, to surrender your will and your liberty blindly to any human created institution is to voluntarily don the chains of slavery. Fear is often the tool used to induce people to give up their most precious possession. The Saracens are coming. The Mongols are going to destroy our world. You’re going to hell if you don’t join up! The negroes will steal our rape our women and kill our children! We must save the Planet! We must save the economy! Fear is the tool used by every dictator, king and church grandee in history to convince people to surrender their liberty and grant such authorities power to control their lives.

People on the right and left agree more than they disagree. A solid majority of Christians and non-Christians believe that no religion should hold governmental power (except maybe their own). The abuse of religion has resulted in some awful things - crusades, holy wars, genocide, the Inquisition and jihad. In each case religion was merely the tool of those who would force their will on others. Those same people will use any tool they can whether it's religion or as we’re seeing lately - anti-religion.

It is why the socialist policies and programs discussed in the thread I was reading earlier are frightening to me - not because they are against my religion, but because the arguments in favor of those programs and policies sound so much like a religious debate!

Using fear tactics like global warming and economic collapse, the social engineers of today are assembling true-believers to their cause as surely as any jihadist or crusader ever did. Watch the arguments in favor of these policies and see how many of them sound exactly like the arguments you’d hear from radio preachers or Sunday School teachers.

I keep hearing people say that this or that program will succeed because the party or my leader says it will and we must do what he says! Everybody knows that we need change. Everybody knows that if we don’t do something quickly, the Earth will be destroyed.

Sounds like religion to me. I would agree with my friends above that religion, unsupported by an actual faith in God, does generate belief systems based on feeling rather than faith. The trouble is you have religious true believers debating with anti-religious true believers and both of them are basing their arguments on emotion rather than information and good sense.

True faith does not blind you. God will not allow his children to be blind. Often it’s uncomfortable to see so well. The irrationality of some on the left is not only painfully obvious, but so is the irrationality of some on the right. Both are a bit embarrassing to watch.

Religion and faith are two quite distinct things. One serves a cause, the other serves a loving God. Religion, by itself, can lead to intolerance and violence and a loss of liberty. Those who surrender their will to a mere religion remain in chains. Faith, however, surrenders the will to God who promptly sets you free; in fact, frees you even from the bondage you come into the relationship already bearing. Faith in God leads to tolerance, peace and freedom.

The trick to telling the difference between Faith and Religion is that one leads to clear thought and beliefs based on reason, the other leads to blind passion and beliefs based on emotion. Even agnostics, atheists and environmentalists can allow their beliefs to become a species of religion, when they start refusing to look at anything that challenges that belief system. Persons of Faith are not afraid of facts; your beliefs do not threaten their beliefs. They have no reason to do you harm simply because you disagree with them.

Religious fanatics, on the other hand, are terrified of anything that challenges their cherished beliefs and it is that terror that causes churches and states to murder their fellow humans by the millions without compassion or mercy and to feel totally justified in so doing.

Powerful preachers have arisen here at the end of time and great multitudes of true believers are massing to their banners. For what new war are troops being gathered, though? We should listen very closely to Rev. Gore and Bishop Obama, the high priests of the new religion. They are telling us what is coming. You need only read their words or listen to them when the cameras are turned off or in the rare unguarded moment when they slip and tell us something we weren’t meant to know.

I’m just sayin’

Tom King

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