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article imageOp-Ed: Religion has no place in politics

By Fortunesfool     Dec 6, 2007 in Politics
On Thursday morning, Mitt Romney, bidding to be the first Mormon President, will tell Americans that he shares the same 'moral convictions' as other people of faith but will go onto to question religions role in government.
In excerpts of his speech published on CNN he says: "No candidate should become the spokesman for his faith. For if he becomes president, he will need the prayers of the people of all faiths."
Noble sentiments although he should perhaps also mention that he will have to preside over those with no faith at all. This speech cuts to the heart of the contradiction of the role of religion in government. Religious faith, or lack of it, is a matter of personal conviction but the business of government is to govern an entire society comprised of different levels and types of individual belief.
Modern, democratic states must be secular (not atheist) in nature. This is especially true in the age of the 'war on terror' when fundamentalist ideologues try and portray secularism is merely a covert tool of Christian domination. No doubt they are given extensive amounts of ammunition by the rhetoric of George W. Bush and latterly Tony Blair.
Secularism, however, is a cornerstone of democracy, it is a founding principle of democratic nations and direct and principled break from a past in which rulers claimed legitimacy from divine inheritance.
Secularism is more than just a fancy word, it must be at the cornerstone of democracy because it is the principle of the predominance of the peoples will over patronage allegedly handed on down from the heavens.
Ideally, the President, as the figurehead of a nation, should have no religious faith at all, even that of the majority faith as that can only lead to mistrust in government being fostered among minorities.
The alienation of British Muslim's from Blair's Labour is no doubt partially a result of the fact that he was so vocal in his Christian beliefs and how they led him into a war which cost so many Muslim lives.
If they are of faith then that is a private and personal matter and they must erect that barrier between how they govern and their personal religiosity in their own minds. However, there is no doubt that the Presidential method of government makes this a harder separation to achieve in practice.
Although religious belief is much more deeply held and widespread in America that does not excuse bringing it into the public sphere - especially with America so keen to play a leading role in the world.
It is not essential to have religious faith to share a set of moral values or indeed to 'belong', it is easier and far more healthy to unite around human centred values in beliefs. Belief in the innate capacity of humanity to better itself and in it's 'good' as it were.
More often than not, religion does more to divide than unite in any case as we are seeing day-after-day in the world at large.
If America's next President is to be the leader America and indeed the world needs then they will have to commit to a vision of humanity far beyond religious boundaries and removes religion from the political sphere.
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This article received an award from Digital Journal's Editorial Board for outstanding citizen journalism. Every Friday, Digital Journal profiles the top news stories from around the world.
For more details on this award and to find other top-rated articles, check out DigitalJournal.com's TopFinds report.
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