Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Religion in Politics

All this discussion about Santorum's religious beliefs reminded me of a remark in a famous speech on existentialism by the German-American philosopher Walter Kaufmann back in 1960. In "Kierkegaard and the Crisis in Religion" he makes this point (around 51:00):
[People today think] that one ought to have some faith in some organized religion, but let me be blunt, not take it seriously......I don't think the people of the United States today would stand for a Presidential candidate who would not be affiliated with some kind of religion...but if Mr. Kennedy said, I take my Roman Catholicism seriously, he would be through, and if Mr. Nixon were really a Quaker, he'd be through...what they want is a Quaker who is no Quaker and a Roman Catholic who is no Roman Catholic.

So, while we act like the body politic is changing all the time, really not much has changed over the past 50 years in that dimension. The masses love hypocrites more than anyone who flat-out states they are atheists or actually believe in some organized religion.


eigenrobot said...

hypothesis--people like someone they can identify with. also an actually-religious candidate would make them feel guilty and judged, a frank atheist would make them feel bad about not believing in their religion themselves. etc

scharfy said...

We want a non-believer to act like he believes -to sell the faith to our kids.

Not totally illogical. I can't stand catholicism but my kids go to catholic school. I like the sportcoats.

Good find

zby said...

My private theory is that religion is about establishing social rules - i.e. about conformism. In a paradoxical way true believers are suspicious - because for them their beliefs are more important then the society and its rules - they are not conformists. True believers are accepted only after they are dead.

Mercury said...

Probably not a bad rule of thumb in a pluralistic society. What we have now is a president who really is a true believer in a rigid and doctrinaire faith. Ouch.

B. A. said...

I am an unenthusiastic atheist myself, but guess I would rather vote for a candidate with moderate religious views than for an outspoken atheist :)

Anonymous said...

Atheists on average are great, but outspoken atheists tend to be annoying. It's a bit mean for atheists to bash religion, since religion and spirituality are so meaningful for so many people (only a few of whom are devout or doctrinaire).