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Austin Cline

Religious Extremism

By May 3, 2005

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Devotion to religion is not like devotion to other ideologies or philosophies. Religion can make absolute demands on people that other belief systems don't. Religion allows people to believe that they are acting on behalf of God and that God is on their side - with that, there is no more reason to even consider compromise with others who disagree.

Barry Goldwater once said:

However, on religious issues there can be little or no compromise. There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God's name on one's behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom

They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both. I'm frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in 'A,' 'B,' 'C,' and 'D.' Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of 'conservatism.'

This is why it's so dangerous to mix religion and politics. Religion frequently excludes the possibility of compromise which is, after all, one of the most basic features of politics. You can't do politics in a democracy without intending to work with others who disagree and compromise on important issues. Insofar as religion excludes the possibility of compromise with those who oppose what you believe to be the Will of God, that religion is incompatible with democratic politics.

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