Politics: Religion vs. Rationality

Jeffrey Tayler’s latest weekly essay at Salon, this past Sunday, can be keyed to my earlier posts about Ben Carson. Make them shut up about God: The right-wing’s religious delusions are killing us — and them.

It focuses on the second Republican debate, and how journalists defer to religious pieties.

Interviewers should be hounding faith-flaunting candidates with hard-hitting questions, as they would on any other subject of import. They should disregard faith-based assertions and demand justification on evidentiary grounds. Politicians should be made uncomfortable for ignoring the worldview and concerns of rationalists.

Sample questions to be put to pietistic contenders for the White House: What makes you believe in God? Do you hear voices? See visions? Do you believe God answers your prayers? If so, please provide objective evidence. Why is, say, the Bible or the Torah better than the Quran? Does not the eternal hellfire the supposedly merciful Jesus promised sinners epitomize Constitutionally prohibited cruel and unusual punishment? If you consider the Bible a reliable guide for your personal life, may I ask if would you slaughter your child on God’s command (as Abraham was prepared to do)? Would you stone your daughter to death for not being a virgin on her wedding night? If not, why not? What scriptural authority can you cite for following your “Holy Book” in some cases, but not in others?

I admire that Tayler is out there saying this, which many of us think. It’s a mark of progress that such things can be said in a public forum without the masses ganging up to torch the offices of Salon or the home of Jeffrey Tayler. (Actually, I doubt that many who would be offended are reading Salon. They are too busy reading their own websites, the ones that reinforce their own beliefs.)

*Of course* journalists defer to religious pieties, because they are held by the vast majority of their viewers. It would be pretty to think that political debates could be determined on rational grounds – but, to the extent rationality conflicts with those pieties, I don’t see it happening any time soon.

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