Voices From the Inside Out
Faith, politics and freedom
by Robert Taliaferro
Growing up in a certain period in U.S. history, we had--as a country--often been forced to take sides when it came to principles of faith. One cannot escape the current debate about the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance and the reasons why that phrase exists at all. It was indicative of the times and of how even concepts of faith could be politicized.
The "under God" phrase was added in order to distinguish between a capitalist society like the U.S. from a Communist society like the (then) Soviet Union. Fifty years later, debates over faith and philosophy have once again attained the status that they did during the Cold War era, and now these debates are being extended to historically secular activities.
BUSH POLITICIZES FAITH
Bush’s call for more faith-based programs is an example of how one’s faith can be politicized and how such references can be discriminatory in nature even when they are meant to be otherwise. Additionally, the faith-based initiatives currently being proposed at all levels of government stand contrary to the doctrine that is behind the principle that church and state should be separate.
One of the distinct problems of any faith-based initiative or program is whose faith should be the foundation for the concept. In the U.S. Christianity is the overwhelming doctrine of faith, and if programs are defined based on that specific faith--and in turn openly supported by government--then we have governmental infringement of the right to believe in some other philosophy that is not consistent with the government-sponsored program.
In a post-9/11 world we have found that despotic faith-initiatives can influence action and political idealism regardless of the name one gives to a god, and as such, can result in notions that are not consistent with equality or justice.
Non-secular programs, despite what supporters might think, have never been positive or truly successful simply because they often force people to choose--first a religious concept and then the program this concept supports.
Though supporters of such programs would choose to debate that opinion, we see this in many areas and are just now recognizing the impact of these new faith-based initiatives.
Such organizations as Planned Parenthood are under attack by faith-based coalitions, thus threatening to weaken or eventually overturn Roe v. Wade. Drug and alcohol centers have become more "faith"-oriented and even state-run programs in prisons are rarely without their "religious/faith" elements, which often result in prisoners refusing programs based on that premise even though they may be required if that person wishes to attain their freedom.
These initiatives are not new. Historically, faith-based initiatives funded despotic governments, supported colonialism, attempted to justify slavery and racism, and continue to be discriminatory in nature because of religious arrogance that exists with all faiths.
FREEDOM AS THE ESSENCE OF HUMANITY
Religious faith is a concept that is not a bad thing and can exist in many forms--even in Marxist-Humanism--but it should not overshadow the inherent purpose of an idea or reason for a program’s existence, and it should not conduct itself in a manner that could be considered as discriminatory, especially if it is a program that is conducted in a government facility or under government supervision. When we move towards a purely faith-based premise for every aspect of our lives, the only destination that we can arrive at will be war--either one of class, one of distinction, or one of culture--and as such one of enslavement, for faith is fickle and arbitrary. Faith, or religious doctrine, is not synonymous with right or freedom. As Karl Marx noted, freedom is so much the essence of man that even its opponents realize it: "No man fights freedom; he fights at most the freedom of others. Every kind of freedom has therefore always existed, only at one time as a special privilege, at another time as a universal right." There are certain things that should always be inherent rights and should never be governed by faith-based imperatives...freedom, equality and justice.
Published by News and Letters Committees