Sunday, August 17, 2008

Do We Need This?

Image credit: Composite by Cujo359

One of the questions that occurs to me after sifting through the "real-time" transcripts of the Saddleback Civil Forum that was held yesterday is: Why do we need this?

For some inexplicable reason, religion, Christianity in particular, is seen as the arbiter of morality in this country. It's certainly demonstrated no expertise in that area. Any time that religions are in charge of a government things seem to get more amoral, not less. Yet we're expected to believe that they're the experts. Where are the philosophy professors? How about a few people who have had a lot of interesting experiences and have had to deal with real life-or-death ethical issues, like war correspondents, police officers, or doctors?

In fairness, the SCF does not seem to be focused completely on a Christian version of morality. As their press release for this event concludes:

After both candidates had departed the stage, Warren concluded the evening by reminding the live, television, radio and Internet audiences that, “one of the greatest freedoms we have here in America is the freedom of speech -- even the freedom to protest this meeting. That’s a good thing, but we have to learn how to have civility in our civilization -- how to stop being rude; how to stop demonizing each other; and how to have a discussion and a debate -- because we all want America to be a greater place.”

The Saddleback Civil Forum was established to promote civil discourse and the common good of all. The first forum, held during Passover week this year, featured five Jewish World War II Holocaust survivors sharing their stories. The next Saddleback Civil Forum in September will feature former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The Saddleback Civil Forum Changes The Face Of American Politics

Nevertheless, I think there's an unstated presumption. I don't protest this meeting, by the way. I think that both candidates should chase votes where they can find them. What I am protesting is the exclusivity this forum, which to some extent is at the expense of other, more necessary, debates on public policy.

Even if one accepts that religion is somehow the only means to moral judgment, there's another question. Why is this the only "special interest" forum of Presidential debate? Why aren't they debating Constitutional law and the status of the courts in front of a forum of lawyers? Why aren't they discussing energy policy, ecology, or space exploration in front of a group of scientists?

If you're looking for more proof of that this truly is what Susan Jacoby coined the American Age of Unreason, you don't need to look much farther than our choices of Presidential debate venues.


Dana Hunter said...

Fah. I feel the same way about this: far too much religion has entered our politics, and the country's the worse for it.

Felt that way even before I became an atheist. Feel it intensely now.

The special-interest debates you brought up would have been so much more useful for this country. I'm sick of people being so God-blind they ignore the more pressing issues. Like, for instance, our survival as a species and the survival of our Constitution.

Instead, we get religious pablum.


Cujo359 said...

It's not just our own species. If we finally make this planet uninhabitable, we'll be taking quite a few others with us.

I can't fathom why religion is playing such a prominent role in things lately. If anything, it should be the opposite as our knowledge of the world expands. Yet here we are, watching candidates quote biblical passages at each other.

Maybe the world got too complicated for some people.