Time for religion to leave the centre stage of politics?

One option for today’s show in Florida. Several of you emailed straight after President Obama’s address on Tuesday so say how delighted you were that he had refered to ‘non-believers’. We think this is the first time this has happened.

Now, the President is a religious man and practising Christian, but would like to see his faith take a back seat when he’s deciding policy?

One Catholic organisation took out this ad in USA Today to argue there for any Christian there are five ‘non-negotiables’ (abotion and gay marriage being two) and he will ‘undermine Christian morality’ if he doesn’t direct his policies accordingly.

George Bush was open about the role his faith played in some of his decisions. Should Barack Obama follow suit?

Tell us about your leader? Does he or she give religion a role in his or her leadership? Do you want them to do that?

One foot note. An atheist campaigner tried to get a federal court to stop Barack Obama saying ‘so help me god’ at the end of his oath of office. He failed. The judge ruled that it wasn’t that the new President was obliged to say the words but that he had the freedom to do so.

is that a sensible approach? Or should religion be formally removed from political procedure?

48 Responses to “Time for religion to leave the centre stage of politics?”

  1. January 23, 2009 at 13:38

    Religion in a country as diverseas America has no place in government or schools. I am athesist and do not try and force my beliefs, but I am offended when others push their religions as the only right ones. Religious freedoms are what America was built on, so why should it be only Christian or Cathloic, what about Muslim, Budhisium, Hinduisim, Wickian, or any other religion that is here in the USA? You can not represent all if you dont recognize all.

  2. 2 Dave in Florida
    January 23, 2009 at 13:42

    The U.S. can not continue with the “Do as I say, not as I do” attitude of the Bush administration. Telling other countries not to use brutality and torture, all the while using the very practices you preach against, places Bush in the same exclusive club as Robert Mugabe and Fidel Castro.

    The U.S. can, and must, protect itself against terror; however, this can be done without lowering ourselves to the level of the same terrorists we are fighting.

    By the way, welcome to sunny Florida WHYS!

  3. January 23, 2009 at 13:46

    The problem with any discussion of religion in the American government is that, in reality, we’re talking almost exclusively about fundamentalist christians. Alas, in my opinion this group is not a benign force for good; rather it is a powerful and not always logical lobby group preaching intolerance and reactionary ideas.

    If their influence could be removed from government, THAT would be a force for good, but such is their power base that I won’t be holding my breath.

  4. 4 Dave in Florida
    January 23, 2009 at 13:54

    Unfortunately in the U.S. the Christian faith has been hijacked by the “Christian” rightwing. All anyone has to do is read the bible to see that their hate-spewed venom has nothing to do with Christianity — and in fact, is completely contrary to the teachings of Christ. Most of these “Christian Taliban” have not read the Bible, or as is typical are picking-and-choosing what they choose to believe. The Bible is NOT a buffet, you either believe — and live — it all, or you are not a Christian.

  5. 5 Steve
    January 23, 2009 at 14:15

    Obama may have mentioned “non believers” but he also had a Pastor speak at his inauguration. On his first day in office, he went to a prayer service in the Morning, and he constantly mentions “God”. Before the inauguration he was at the Anglican Church across Lafayette Square from the whitehouse.

  6. January 23, 2009 at 14:17

    compartmentalise religion and politics and then finalise policy or else clash of civilization like effect will be the order of the day .eg couple of centuries ago christian churches lead the political scenario to disastrous effect even leading christ to be nailed and presently the arab countries trying the same leading to the birth of jehadis .
    so its time for religion to leave centre stage of politics.

  7. 7 gary
    January 23, 2009 at 14:29

    Yes, absolutely! However, I do not believe it will ever leave center stage because politicians find it much too useful to blur the lines between a deity’s presumed right to perfect trust or faithfulness, and their own more meager right to such unquestioned trust. It is only natural for a politician to desire a predecessor or running mate with the best appeal at the polls. God is the most desirable and the least vocal running mate possible! Double points are awarded if the masses can be made to believe He speaks directly to his physical partner!

  8. 8 Steve
    January 23, 2009 at 14:31

    @ Dave

    “Most of these “Christian Taliban” have not read the Bible, or as is typical are picking-and-choosing what they choose to believe. The Bible is NOT a buffet, you either believe — and live — it all, or you are not a Christian.”

    The bible says homosexuality is an abomination and lists several offenses that require stoning people to death for. Like you said, it’s not a buffet, you believe it, and live it all, or you are not a christian. So, do you believe it all, including the parts about stoning adulterers?

  9. 9 Ibrahim in UK
    January 23, 2009 at 14:51

    Religion affects the morality of a person and hence the choices he makes. So if you remove Christian morality from the President and politics, what is the morality of the nation going to based on? The majority of Americans are Christians, so they would probably expect their elected leader and representatives to reflect their morality in his decisions.
    In the end, the elected leader has to answer to the electorate and they will judge him on the decisions he makes. Some decisions will be easy to judge against their own morality (e.g. on abortion and gay marriage), some will be harder (e.g. on the economy).

  10. 10 archibald in oregon
    January 23, 2009 at 16:50

    Immediately would not be soon enough!!!

  11. 11 Lei
    January 23, 2009 at 16:53

    I think the Bible makes it quite clear that the “rules” within it are to be done out of love for God – i.e. voluntarily. To enforce them on non-believers is like putting the horse before the cart.

  12. January 23, 2009 at 17:20

    President Obama mentioned Hippies too. (When the word hippie was first used in the media it was usually “dirty hippie” or “Godless Hippie.” ]Quite a first. Certainly a nod to the counterculture and the renewed exploration of spiritual belief which we represented at one time.

    Part of Hippie was taking responsibility for your own soul and not handing it off to an authority figure. It was the hippie picnic known as the ‘love-in’ that was the most naturally integrated event in a segregated society during the 1960’s. Sunday Christian services, on the other hand, are still the most segregated hour of the week.

    Hippies grew up on John F Kennedy, our first Catholic President. Protestants waged a huge fear campaign against him and he responded by crafting amazing speeches about the separation of church and state.

    Hippie dialectics: some things never change, somethings change all the time.

  13. 13 steve/oregon
    January 23, 2009 at 18:10

    Finally it is good to have a leader who does not force religion into politics. We are not a christian country. We are a country that says seperation of church and state but does not follow it.

  14. 14 Cliff
    January 23, 2009 at 18:16

    If we continue to embrace our past we will never grow as a nation and a people!
    witch burning and genocide were part of our past should we embrace that as well?
    those who wish to limit our country to a secular one are those same people who would commit crimes sanctioned by said religion.
    it wont work you cant hold the rest of the world hostage any more !!!

  15. 15 jd
    January 23, 2009 at 18:17

    I’m an American.

    I’m not a Christian, nor do I subscribe to any other organized religion. That doesn’t mean I am an amoral person. I have never understood the why people seem to believe that all morality must necessarily come from one of peculiar collections of fables.

    There is no need for any moral guidance other than the golden rule: “Do as you would be done to”. One can easily define for one’s self a complete, civilized and tolerant morality with no more basis than that.

  16. January 23, 2009 at 18:28

    Obama was right, we need to grow up. This talk of whether you should say happy holidays or merry x-mas falls on deaf ears to we the Native Americans who were slaughtered by extremists that continued this genocide for centuries and built this country on the blood of natives and the backs of slaves.

  17. 17 Jini
    January 23, 2009 at 18:35

    I think that the separation of church and state is not practiced in this country, and this is a problem. The bible or any religious text should not be used to take an oath, because it violates this rule.

  18. 18 Sabastion
    January 23, 2009 at 18:36

    I do without being asked, what others do only out of fear of law or damnation. This is the core of true morality; this is what it means to be moral.

    Separation of church and state is a requirement of continued peace and harmony. Religion is not license for action but rather a basses from which to strive for a personal connection with that which is greater than all of us, by whatever name. Give unto Caesar that which is Caesar and give unto god that which is gods.

    And FYI Morality is defined as a code of conduct which is held to be authoritative in matters of right and wrong. Morals are created by and define society, philosophy, religion, or individual conscience. An example of the descriptive usage could be “common conceptions of morality have changed significantly over time. – Wikipedia

  19. January 23, 2009 at 18:36

    I think we are attaching too much significance to the bible that President Obama used for his oath of office.

    I think the fact that the bible belonged to Abraham Lincoln was as relevant, if not more than the fact that it happened to be the bible.

  20. 20 Corine in Oregon
    January 23, 2009 at 18:36

    The comment that Merry Christmas didn’t apply to a jew summed up my whole feeling about religion…it doesn’t matter if you say Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukka or Allah Akbahr…you graciously accept the well wishes and return your own! Leave religion out among the people where it belongs…not in the government!

  21. 21 Justin
    January 23, 2009 at 18:37

    Morality predates any organized religion and stems from thousands of years of group evolution. Religion is a device for codifying our moral convictions. A more important question for us as Americans is: Are we a MORAL nation?

  22. 22 Eric Conklin
    January 23, 2009 at 18:43

    As a Christian myself I think its laughable to say that the US is a Christian nation, considering our consumers’ unflinching support for multinational corporate villains. If you could tell me that Jesus would recognize his own commands and behaviors in our government mandated foreign trade and labor policy today, then you might convince me…

  23. 23 Jini
    January 23, 2009 at 18:44

    We are a nation of MANY religions, and a nation of non-believers. It is our personal right to believe anything we want. The United States is a representative democracy, not a theocracy. The best thing about this world is the fact that there is more than one religion.

  24. 24 Amanjo
    January 23, 2009 at 18:51

    What is the definition of God?
    is religion is the process of beleving in that definition?

    Every so ofen human race takes an evulutionary leap. Having a common defintion for god instead of any religion will mark start of such an event.

  25. 25 Jini
    January 23, 2009 at 18:52

    I would hope that the American people would base the President’s ability to lead on his actions in office and not on whether he did or did not take his oath on a bible.

  26. 26 Peter
    January 23, 2009 at 18:55

    Before men has the book men used to survive by the laws of the jungle.The morality practise is learned from the book. No world leaders feel uncomfortable meeting the head of states of the vatican or saudi arabia.

  27. 27 Mary Wardell
    January 23, 2009 at 18:58

    Why does everyone keep acting as though Christians are one big bloc? There are as many diverse groups and points of view in Christianity as there are in every other general group.

  28. 28 Euphorbia
    January 23, 2009 at 19:04

    The Scientific Theory of Evolution proves with testable scientic evidence that there was NO Adam, No Eve, NO first man and No first woman, therefore NO Original Sin, No Fall and NO need for God to send his only begotten son to save a redeem the world.

    Game over! The Religions based on the bible are based on a myth and this can be proved.

    What the world needs is a secular education and a firm grasp of reality.

  29. 29 Jonathan (sunny San Francisco)
    January 23, 2009 at 19:24

    I wonder who that Catholic organization imagines itself to be “negotiating” with. Certainly it is not the American government; the law is quite clear on this. Mingling church and state debases both. Those people should confine their delusions to their church, which is, after all, in that business, and leave the rest of us alone.

    Non-negotiable indeed. How hilarious and pathetic–mostly hilarious.

  30. January 23, 2009 at 19:29

    My answer is short.


    It’s actually way overdue. Keep it in churches, please. That’s where it belongs.
    You never see a politician preaching in church, so why the opposite? Separate the US conjoined twins…NOW!

    Thanks, Obama!! I love you even more.

  31. 31 Umit
    January 24, 2009 at 01:19

    I belive everybody (Including USA) should practise what they preach. Thant includes Gitmo’s going

  32. 32 Umit
    January 24, 2009 at 01:30

    Conflicting interrest is the base of LAW. A judge can not look at the case if he is related to conflicting sides. America inside or outside of it’s borders can not lead the world and have trust & credibility if it can not show himself as neutral. Religion is a personal belief and should remain as such.
    Religiously sided politicians can not be trusted by others from diffrent religions.
    Right and wrong changes according to diffrent religions therfore can not take the place of law. Poletics is the same and if it gets in to politics it becomes prejudist which excludes other people’s trust in that goverment.
    Politics should not need religion to base rights or wrongs as they shoud have enough consionce within themselves for it, insted of putting responsibility to God.

  33. 33 Virginia
    January 24, 2009 at 02:04

    America is NOT a Christian Nation.

    It is forbidden by the US Constitution. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Bill of Rights, Amendment I.

    To claim to be a Christian Nation is in direct violation of this precious document. Does anyone pay attention to it anymore?

    End of discussion.

  34. 34 MAWARDI-Indonesia
    January 24, 2009 at 04:33

    Islam rules every aspect of Moslem live, including politic. There is some wise word said (I don’t know who word is?): If you not go in to the politic, other site will do that to you. Means, other people will rule on you and doesn’t want you to do your religions must do. Sorry, if my English is not good enought!

  35. 35 David Waln
    January 24, 2009 at 06:27

    Gary, above, encapsulated perfectly the reasons religion will always be co-opted by politicians, (and any other person wanting to have the power to lead people around). [This leading can be for both good or bad reasons.]

    We will always be stuck sorting it out. Some non-believing leaders will use harmony producing parts of religion for good reasons, and some non-believing leaders will use self-serving parts of a religion for bad reasons. Some believing leaders will just believe in the parts of a religious tradition that seems to promote peace among people. And some believing leaders will – by checking their brains in at the door – believe all of the contradictory and conflict producing parts of a religious tradition.

    Belief, EVEN IF IT IS NOT RELIGIOUS, is here to stay. So is identity. The best we can hope for is a competition in ‘good works’ between groups of believers.

    Just imagine such a competition between an Atheist coalition and say, Southern Baptists. Why not? Lets see who can feed the most hungry, or teach the most kids to read. What ever we can agree on that is universally good. Let us compete there.

  36. 36 Dennis
    January 24, 2009 at 09:48

    In my opinion, the President has taken office to run a ‘country’ , not a church.
    Religeon should have no part of how the job is performed.
    I’m an atheist, Christians don’t want to hear from me, (anymore than to try to convert me).
    Religeon can stay in the church, those who want to hear about it can gather and listen to it.
    Even Christians can’t decide who is right on their beliefs.
    Is it Jehova, God, Allah, they haven’t a clue….
    I’d like more certainty on how the country’s going to go forward.
    I do have to say, as for Change……No one in the elections specified it would be a GOOD change, just a change.

  37. 37 Shakhoor Rehman
    January 24, 2009 at 11:56

    As long as you have spin and advertising gimmicks in politics there is a place for any other type of furniture too.

  38. 38 Cherri
    January 25, 2009 at 05:16

    I thought America is not a nation where people are ridiculed or attacked for their religious belief and practise?

  39. 39 David C
    January 25, 2009 at 08:59

    Yes, its definitely time for religion to leave the centre of politics!

    I wish that Christians would do what they are called to do and preach the good news to people rather than impose their morality and tradition and guilt onto them.

    Jesus didn’t come into the planet demanding it to conform to a theocratic form of government with morals and traditions to impose on atheists. He came to call people to follow him, willing to die to share not how governments change lives, not how Christian lobby groups change lives, not even how religion changes lives, but how GOD does.

  40. January 26, 2009 at 01:00

    I think that in reality in the U.S.A. religion should leave the centre stage of politics and…For politicians and government programme(s) to run without the religious parties running the show like in previous administrations….

    ~Dennis Junior~

  41. 41 Alan Blak from Australia
    January 26, 2009 at 03:59

    I believe that religion of any type should not be involved in any politics; through history, nearly all wars were fighting over religion, back to the Crusades the Christians fighting Arabs, in Ireland Catholics and the Protestants. Even in India its Hindus against Muslims.

  42. 42 sandy
    January 26, 2009 at 11:29

    The world is run for those who have power and/or wealth. Its wars are fought on the same premise. If religion can be used as part of shepherding the sheep into accepting it then it will be. Of course religion should be separate from politics for the simple reason it is a complete diversion from seeing the world as it is – god is man made (not the other way round) which is why the ‘words’ of god(s) just sound like the confused ramblings of men, they are!

  43. 43 Don W. Lax Michigan, USA
    January 26, 2009 at 12:31

    Atheists and other bitter hopelessly confused people should by all means be allowed to hold whatsoever relativistic beliefs they may desire and to bend like reeds in whatever direction prevailing hot air may be blowing at any instant. The governance of a nation hoping to achieve or maintain relevance must be based on a stable groundwork of unchanging values. Humanism has far too often demonstrated itself to be far too vacillating to fill that bill.

  44. 44 David Waln
    January 28, 2009 at 00:36

    Don W., Perhaps there is plenty of common ground if we just list those unchanging values.

    My experience is that the (tribal?) need to identify with a group that is definable as a separate and distinct unit, preclude anyone from admitting that they actually share the most important values. The focus, instead, always seems to shift too the areas where they can easily demonstrate a difference. This is self-serving in the identity sense.

    As near as I can tell there are only 3 sins that can be expressed in 5 areas of our lives. They are: Selfishness, Laziness, and Cowardice. The 5 areas are: Physical, Mental, Social, Psychological, & Ideological.

    To make a list of Values turn the ‘Sins’ into their opposites.

    The golden rule, has to be on the top of anyone’s list of values. [And is.]
    It also takes care of 6 of the ten commandments i.e., the ones relating to how we treat other people.

    [The other 4 have to do with mellowing once a week, not giving in to rage, and not behaving like nobody is watching.] Most people, religious or not, would not quibble. Still, hardly values worth trashing the ‘golden rule’ for.

  45. 45 Sabastion
    January 28, 2009 at 01:58

    Civilization only exists because we believe it dose, and are willing to act accordingly. The U.S.A. doesn’t need religion to set it groundwork of unchanging values. It already has some, in the form of the declaration of independence, and the bill of rights. A state religion is in direct violation of the groundwork and stability of values that have guided and nourished the United States for more than 200 years, which by the way are based on bedrock principle dating back more than 3000 years, consecrated in the blood, sweat, and tears, of countless millions, spanning, and in some cases outliving, multiple religions and religious reformations. And I am neither an Atheist nor confused. I seek the truth, and God willing, someday I may find it.

  46. 46 Don W. Lax Michigan, USA
    January 28, 2009 at 13:33

    The summary of the “Ten Commandments” provided by Christ is in fundamental disagreement with the statement that the so-called “Golden Rule” is the most important one. It may be to atheistic humanists but it is listed by the Son of the Almighty God as being only second in importance:

    1) Love God above all else and (secondly)
    2) Love your neighbor as yourself.

    It is there that the fundamental and irreconcilable chasm between those who deny the moral authority (and indeed the very existence) of the Creator and those who affirm it as the only basis for
    the establishment of UNCHANGING vaules as opposed to merely culturally relativistic ones (which means whatever happens to seem facile and conveneint to the immediate moment) is most clearly and forcefully delineated.

  47. 47 Ana Maria
    January 28, 2009 at 16:55

    In recorded history, how many atrocities have been committed in the name of or under the guise of religion? The inquisition, the crusades, to name a couple. I am an American; I am a catholic but I firmly believe that the question of my faith is a private issue between me and my God.
    I do not favor abortion. I wouldn’t do it; however, I recognize and respect any other woman’s decision to opt for an abortion if she feels that is what she needs.
    It doesn’t matter whether you are Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, etc., if we all respect each other and not try to impose our beliefs (and beat our chests) on others, we should be able to live in peace.
    This should not be a matter for governments to decide.

  48. 48 Zainab from Iraq
    January 31, 2009 at 11:31

    Well waht about:
    It’s time for Politics to leave the center stage of Religion!!

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