Sunday, February 10, 2008

Reflection on manifest destiny

I was struck that computers should be kept out of the class room. I don’t know about the rest of you, folks but I thought that the usual freewheeling discussion fell flat because we had too many shiny machines to distract us. Anyway, I’ve been reading some of the blogs and I think it’s interesting that the main topic was the validity of the free exercise clause. From reading mike’s post it seems like Americans today still have a bad habit of thinking that their religion is beyond reproach. This is not a very good policy, because religion is not a sacred cow such as race of gender. Religion is something you actively choose and you should be damn well ready to defend yourself.

I think Kierkegaard is most relevant in this situation. He posited that religion exists outside of the rational. Kierkegaard speaks of the “teleological suspension of the ethical,” which basically means that faith exists in a realm without ethics or morals. Morals and ethics are the purview of universal values. Everyone understands them, and they can be interrogated through reason. Faith simply cannot. Faith is completely personal and thus cannot be communicated and cannot be interrogated by others. Faith is an absurd notion that only exists within your own mind.

This is important to keep in mind when we discuss American policy. US actions have consistently borrowed judeo Christian justifications for public policy. This is unequivocally wrong. Faith has no place in the public realm in any capacity. The moment you try to apply your faith to the world of the universal you become a fool. No one can rationally argue that their religious beliefs make any sod of sense. Religion isn’t based on fact, it’s based on irrational urges.

As applied to Manifest Destiny, I think the lesson is rather clear. We need to stop allowing our Jesus to infiltrate our policy. Politics and the social sciences are universalizing frames of reference. They are built on the principles of reason. To allow your faith to creep into your moral beliefs is to play a dangerous game. Jesus may have prohibited this or allowed that, but you have no proof, and so the only way to justify your public actions is through reason.


Rinske said...

I understand your general point and sympathize that policy should not be justified through specific religious incidents. But it is important to note that, especially in the brand f faith we have here, that faith is often considered to contain someones ethics and morals. These are two facets which must be considered in policy decisions, whatever they are called. It is important to keep a religious bias out of policy, but that should not be with the cost of also excluding the morality as many compartmentalize that with religion.

Chris said...

The problem that I believe Andrew was addressing is that there is a universal morality that does not coincide with religious morality. Because religious morality changes from religion to religion, we must cast it entirely aside when we discuss universal morality. Further, it would be absurd to apply religious morality to the universal because where universal morality is based on actual experiences, religious morality is based on myth that is incongruous with reality.

In practice, this separation is impossible, which is why I believe that religion must be abolished and substituted with the pursuit of reason.

It is most important to understand that morality does exist outside of religion. For more on this topic, see every Woody Allen movie, from Take the Money and Run all the way up to whatever the hell he's doing in London now.

Andrew D said...

That's the thing, faith should not, and cannot contain morals. If it does its not faith, its stupidity. Its perfectly valid to find moral lessons from religious texts. Clearly they sometimes provide good parables. However, to tell someone that your morality is based on the ten commandments because God made those commandments, well that's wrong. Your faith in God is all fine and good, but if you apply this faith to others and try to communicate it to others, you only sound like an idiot.