Friday, December 9, 2011

Jesus is a Republican

If we are to take the apparent religious zeal of the Republican candidates for President seriously, then it would be fair to assume that Jesus is a Republican. If we are to believe what Rick Perry says in his latest campaign video, Jesus would surely be against gays serving in the military and enforcing the First Amendment (in fact, what Perry says about students not being able to celebrate Christmas and pray in school in completely untrue).

In what seems to be a contest in making statements that fall just below the threshold of religious extremism in order to win over the Bible belt but not alienate too many moderates, the candidates love throwing out spiteful statements against perceived enemies of Christianity. These include Herman Cain (who has thankfully dropped out) declaring homosexuality to be "a choice", Michele Bachmann branding it as "bondage", and Newt Gingrich stating religion (of whatever stripe) to be essential in making political judgements.

As an atheist, I of course find these statements to be ridiculous and dangerous (although they often make me laugh). But as someone who also has a libertarian leaning, I am pleased to see Ron Paul doing so well. This is despite the fact I am in two minds about him.

There is no doubt that Ron Paul is a man of faith, and some of his remarks on the matter I simply find to be ridiculous. I am fresh from reading his latest book Liberty Defined, and although I agree with about 90% of what he has to say, some of his arguments concerning religion and science are just laughable. For example, on the current battle between evolution and creationism, he says "There is one argument against evolution that deserves consideration. If man is evolving and progressing, why is man’s involvement in mass killings of one another getting worse and the struggle for peace more difficult? Government wars and exterminations in the twentieth century reached 262 million people killed by their own governments and 44 million people killed in wars. I fear that doesn't say much for the evolutionary process."

This statement is more than likely related to his opposition to pre-emptive war and would also be suggesting a hidden militancy in the current secular movement, but I also think he sees it as a genuine argument against the scientific consensus of evolution being nothing short of a fact. This is because Ron Paul has actually denied evolution, saying it is merely a theory with no scientific confirmation. Unfortunately, the libertarian movement in America that owes much to the atheistic Ayn Rand has been tainted by the rise of Fundamentalist Christianity.

Nevertheless, I still believe Ron Paul is a breath of fresh air for American politics. Putting aside his irrational views, Dr Paul is is a man who believes in keeping religion private. In Liberty Defined, his views on the issue of marriage demonstrate how ones personal views do not have to dictate ones stance on public policy. This is because a stance defined by ones personal values will more often than not impinge on the individual rights of others. His personal values lead him to believe that marriage is “The social institution under which a man and woman establish their decision to live together as husband and wife by legal commitments or religious ceremony”, but he also believes others have the right to define marriage as they see it, so long as they "do not impose their standards on anyone else".

This is the key difference between Ron Paul and the other candidates. Although Dr Paul may be just as religious as the others, he recognises that religious freedom does not mean government imposition of religious values; it means the right to practice religion privately. This seems to be a message that too many Americans have forgotten; but who could blame them given the current crop of theocrats?  Hopefully the resent surge in popularity for the libertarian crusader can remind Americans that they can be as religious as they like but they should not push their dogma on others and they certainly should not expect the government to remove the wall separating church and state.