Religion and politics don’t mix says Muslim

Firas Ahmad, deputy editor of Islamica Magazine warns of the dangers of mixing religion and politics. He recounts how  the evangelical political lobbying group Moral Majority were so concerned with the perceived immorality and secularisation of liberal America that they aligned themselves with right-wing politics and in the process founder Jerry Falwell “did more to diminish the dignity of belief than he achieved in limiting the sinfulness of modern life.”

Jerry Fallwell and Ronald ReaganWhen the previously unreligious Ronald Reagan stood against, believing evangelical Christian, Jimmy Carter in the presidential electionsm it was only when “Reagan guaranteed Falwell his full support against abortion, the future president rediscovered his religious roots and Falwell tasted the spoils of his first major political victory.”

The damage that this does to the moral voice of religion is “apparent in a poignant scene from the recent documentary, “Jesus Camp.” In it, an enthusiastic 12-year-old boy, steeped in evangelical ideology, rejects global warming as liberal nonsense. There is no reason for Christianity to take an ideological stand against protecting the environment. However, there is every reason for politicized Christianity, allied with Republican interests, to reject global warming on behalf of large oil companies. Religion is never more meaningless than when it becomes the pawn of political or economic ambition.”

“…When politicians and governments are vested with religious authority, they will in almost every case abuse that authority to the detriment of the faith. Politics is necessarily a dirty game, religion is not. But when the two interact, religion does not clean up politics, it usually gets infected by it.”

“This is not to say that there is no place for religion in the public square. Islamic civilization is instructive in this regard. Although religion has always played a vital and important role in society, the greatest Islamic scholars were the ones who refused to have their ethical and moral dispositions determined by the needs of power. Instead, they served as a sort of check and balance to the policies of government. Muslims need to recapture this tradition of the role of religious authority in the political affairs of society. If Muslims learn anything from Falwell, it should be that religion, reduced to political ideology, does little for one’s faith and even less for society.”

And perhaps Dawkins agrees

This reminds me of a recent interview with Richard Dawkins in New Humanist magazine. Laurie Taylor concludes the interview with the point that:

“But might it not be that the advance of fundamentalism, the revival of religious belief, is dependent upon another sociological development, upon globalisation, upon the spread of a materialist consumer ethic? In such circumstances religion provides a way of resistance, a way of affirming values other than those derived from capitalism and the market place. By alienating the religious we risk losing allies in that fight.”

Dawkins responds

“I hadn’t thought of that. I suppose it fits with people like EO Wilson. He’s an atheist and what you might call more of a religious appeaser than Dennett. But the reason for that is that he is terrified about the imminence of the planet’s self-destruction and wants all people of good will to join together to save the world. But I think you have made a very good point. That’s not what my book is about but perhaps it should be.”

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