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Two different views on religion and politics


Fri, Dec 3rd, 2004
Posted in Commentary

It appears that the readers and the contributors and writers on the opinion pages of this newspaper generally fall into roughly two broad religious/political groups.

First, there are those who live in an imaginary world that consists of a celestial, otherworldly human-like, white-bearded god (or as the German philosopher G.W. Hegel cynically put it, “a gaseous vertebrate”), angels (or homo sapiens with wings), and devils and demons flitting in and out of our lives.

Their god “hates” a lot of things, like homosexuals, stem-cell researchers, those with other religious perspectives, and uppity women who want equal status with men. These people live fearful lives and see dangers and threats to their way of thinking around every corner.

Their enemies are legion. Their god warns them that if they tolerate such things as same-sex marriage, liberals, abortion rights, or anyone with a contrary religious belief, they will be damned.

These “believers” anxiously parse ancient scrolls and holy books to find passages to support their own “hates,” imagining theirs are the same as their god’s. They delude themselves into thinking they have the only version of the “truth.” They are paranoid and fearful but comfort themselves by believing that eventually the laws of gravity will be suspended, and they will be levitated skyward when the great “rapture” arrives, leaving behind all of us poor souls in Fillmore County and elsewhere who do not accept their “truth.”

Because of their simplistic, unrealistic worldview, they easily identify with Bush and the neocons, who group whole nations, and by implication religions and ethnicities, as either good or evil—no gray areas allowed.

But thankfully there are other more tolerant and realistic readers of this newspaper. They live in a 21st century world, a world that requires tolerance and respect for all people, philosophies, and religious beliefs. They do not automatically dismiss out-of-hand other cultures, customs, countries, and political systems that do not conform to ours.

They realize that strict adherence to a Bronze Age tribal sacred text will only encourage intolerance, tensions, and war. Their concept of the sacred or God allows for respect and tolerance for all and encourages them to work for social and political justice and fairness, such as the equitable distribution of wealth and accessible, afford able health care for all. Their global world is nuanced and complex. They realize there are no easy answers and solutions to the world’s problems.

Since the above two worldviews often expressed in this newspaper are probably indicative of America in general, it seems appropriate to ask which view will in the end win out?

I believe it will eventually be the latter but perhaps sadly not before the other brings us to the brink of a failed democracy.

Herb Panko lives in Chatfield

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