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Austin Cline

Exploitation of Religion

By November 23, 2006

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Why do politicians exploit religion? Probably because they can. The skillful exploitation of religion can deliver large numbers of votes from very passionate people, even if they are ultimately supporting causes that are unjust an immoral. Religion has a way of eliminating guilty over bad actions because those actions are all done for a "higher" purpose.

A couple of years ago, David R. Hoffman wrote a column about his involvement in the Roy Moore Ten Commandments case:

I learned that many disagreements exist regarding the interpretation of the Ten Commandments, and that these disagreements usually revolve around different versions of Christianity. For example, the Decalogue in question in my legal case contained the commandment "Thou shalt not make any graven images," while a similar monument nine miles away omitted these words. I also discovered that the commandment "Thou shalt not kill" is interpreted by some faiths to prohibit the death penalty, while other faiths interpret it to read "Thou shalt not murder," which permits state-sponsored executions. Pacifist religions argue that "Thou shalt not kill" forbids killing even in wartime, and other faiths claim this commandment protects the sanctity of all life, not just that of humans.

As it became evident that political and governmental involvement in religion only served to demean it, I became a Plaintiff in a case involving a Ten Commandments monument. From the outset I publicly stated that I had no quarrel with or aversion to the monument's open and prominent display, nor to the principles enshrined thereupon. My sole objection (for reasons previously stated) was to the Decalogue's presence on government property. Nevertheless, efforts were still made to misstate my views. ... The New Testament is replete with criticisms of those who make ostentatious displays of their "faith comparing their hypocrisy to "dead men's tombs, pure and clean without, but full of stench and decay within."

There is a great deal of wisdom in the above words but it is very sad that many Christians simply will not heed them. First, many Christians refuse to acknowledge that their Christianity isn't the only valid form of Christianity. Thus, the fact that other religions or other Christians don't use the same version of the Ten Commandments isn't treated as a reason to avoid using the government to impose one particular version on everyone.

Second, they don't feel that their religious beliefs are being demeaned through the connection with government. For them, government must be intertwined with religion. A government that isn't directed by their religion isn't valid; their religion without political power is discriminated against. Their understanding of the world is so convoluted...


Ten Commandments:

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