TEXAS FAITH 62: Is there too much "God talk" in politics?

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Dallas Morning News,

Each week we will post a question to a panel of about two dozen clergy, laity and theologians, all of whom are based in Texas or are from Texas. They will chime in with their responses to the question of the week. And you, readers, will be able to respond to their answers through the comment box.

Two weeks ago, Wayne Slater posed a question about how much of a candidate's religious views the public is entitled to know. This week, let's take a different look at this issue.

A new Pew Forum in Religion & Public Life survey shows that voters across the political spectrum are growing tired of hearing politicians talk so much about religion. The survey shows that almost 40 percent of the respondents are weary of hearing so much talk about faith. That figure represents a turn-around from recent years, including only two years ago, when polling data showed that voters thought candidates talked too little about their faith.

Not now. Democrats, Republicans and independents all show a growing distaste for so much talk about religion. Democrats scored the highest, followed by independents and then Republicans.

There are exceptions. White and black evangelicals are more comfortable with religion being a big part of the political debate than most other traditions.

But this data represents a serious shift from the past. In 2001, for example, only 14 percent of independents thought there was too much talk about religion. Today, that number is 42 percent. (You can read more about historic trends in this link.)

So, here's the question for this week, and it is a two-part one:


Why do you think Americans are expressing a rising discomfort with the role of religion in national affairs?

Do you consider this a dangerous trend?

NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, minister of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Dallas 

"Religion without philosophy is sentiment, or sometimes fanaticism, while philosophy without religion is mental speculation."-A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

It is possible that such a trend away from religious dialogues in all spheres may be due to the increasing materialism which results in atheism. However the people in general may be dissatisfied with the quality of religious discussions that are present in the political fields and are therefore not attracted to such dialogues.

 

A small debate came about in the Newspaper’s comment section. Here is it below.
Egrampa Why is NITYANANDRA CHANDRA DAS obsessed with atheism? This is the second post in a row in which he uses the topic of the week as a springboard to diss atheism. His rants seem to have no bearing on the topic at hand, and no evidence to support his claims.

Mr. Das, what's going on with you and atheism? What are you afraid of?

8 replies

Nityananda Chandra Das

There are different views as to what separation of church and state means. My stance is that secular government is to provide freedom of religion rather than to prohibit it.

For example a friend of my has a classical Indian kirtan band but he has in the past been refused performances at various venues because they had a no religion policy. He was informed that he could sing about everything under the sun, except for God. Such prohibition I would say is an influence of atheism. Atheism flourishes in materialism.

The question was in regards to prohibition of the speech of religious leaders on certain topics. So similarly I would say that such prohibition is of the same character. It not to exemplify freedom of religion but limit religious discussion and expression.

B.Godfrey

I believe the Constitution and Supreme Court agree that the separation of church and state includes not only freedom 'of' religion, but also freedom 'from' religion.

It's not just atheists that want separation, it's Baptists in Utah, Mormons in Alabama, and minority religions just about everywhere. I'm sure the Christians in Iran would like more separation of church and state.

Egrampa

Mr. Das, you doth protest too much, methinks. To say that separation of church and state, or the rise of "materialism," for that matter, means that atheism is "flourishing," is to take, pardon the expression, a leap of faith.

In addition to the apt comments by B. Godfrey, polls show that the U.S. consistently has among the lowest percent of atheists year after year, currently around 4%.

How many atheist friends do you have? How many do you know? Meeting your "friendly neighborhood atheist" might do wonders for what I'm perceiving as "atheistphobia."

Nityananda Chandra Das

atheism is also in religious groups. To wear the badge of religiosity and behave as if there is no God is also a form of atheism. I do know several atheist. I know many who accepted theism as well due to compassionate teaching.

This badge wearing is similar to as a couple who may be may be legally married but still they may not have any relationship, they may live separate, they may not even talk to each other.

Egrampa

Mr. Das, I'm happy to hear that you have atheist friends. Many of the problems some people have with atheists, gays or even liberals is that they don't really know any.

But I have to ask one more time: what is the problem with atheism? You do seem to fear it and seem to think it's a "movement" of some type that threatens you. Nothing could be further from the truth. Atheism, by definition, is a "non-movement" of people who are simply not religious, have no faith, or are otherwise just not interested in the supernatural. Atheists, in general, do not "flock." They are few in number and generally have no "agenda" other than asking those of faith to keep their distance and obey the constitution (in the U.S.). There are no atheists creeping under your bed at night out to "get you."

What's wrong with that?

Nityananda Chandra Das

Atheism plagues religious and the non religious. As I stated, to wave the banner of religiosity and act as if there is no God is also a form of atheism. It is not limited to what answers that people give on surveys. I also know scientist and atheist who are as evangelical about their beliefs as any religious zealot.

What does atheism entail, well for starters no solid philosophical moral system. There is no karma or reactions to ones deeds. If no one really sees, then whats the harm?

Materialism is also another form of atheism, do you deny that we live in a materialistic society? Why is it atheism? Because materialism is the idea that materials, comforts, will actually satisfy you. However just as watering the leaves, rather than the roots, does little to help the leaves, and feeding the hands, rather than the stomach, does little for the hands. But if you water the root then it is actually beneficial for the leaves, or if the hands feed the stomach they the hand benefits by nutrition. So similarly just trying to serve body and mind through comforts, wealth, fame, power, distinction, adoration, prestige such endeavors will prove unsatisfactory. But by yoga, union with God through service, one will factually get satisfied. The real issue is that the conscious entity, the soul, is different from the body and therefore simply polishing the vehicle, pleasing the body, will not satisfy us, the soul. Because materialism is an out right denial of such a need, a proclamation that material arrangements and comforts alone will satisfy ourselves, it is also atheism.

On a side note regards to atheists have no agenda, why is it that most religious forums on the internet are mostly full of cynical atheists?

Egrampa

Mr. Das, I can't agree with you. I think you've made a number of unwarranted assumptions, as follows:

1. You've equated materialism with atheism. There's no evidence to support this. There's no proven relationship between believers who are materialistic and atheists who are materialistic, and vice versa.

2. You keep talking about atheism as if it were a kind of religion. While there may be some atheists who feel that way, it seems more logical, as I said before, to describe atheism as an absence of belief. I'm an atheist myself and I know many atheist friends and relatives. None of us have much interest in joining any atheist "church" or any atheist organization, simply because we're not interested.

3. You assume that atheists cannot have any philosophical or moral system. This is an unwarranted assumption. I consider myself (and my theist friends and relatives agree) to be a very moral person. It's clear that we're conditioned by evolution to be so. Again, so are my atheist friends and relatives. Show me some eivdence to support the notion that atheists are less moral or philisophical than believers.

4. Your characterization of atheism as a "plague" is insulting and uncalled-for. How would you feel if I said that about your belief system?

5. You wrote: "why is it that most religious forums on the internet are mostly full of cynical atheists?" Hmmm. good question. Maybe there are more of us than I thought! And, by the way, what's wrong with being cynical?

Nityananda Chandra Das

1. Materialism is the idea that I can find happiness through the body and mind by material arrangement. Spiritualism is the rejection of that notion, that there is a need to connect to God.

Atheism rejects the idea that there is a need for God and thus atheist believe that happiness can be found through the body and mind by material arrangement.

2? What is the question?

3. I never said less moral, tell me what is the rationale of the their morality? Why not harm others for one's own gain? Why not kill animals? Or why is it moral to kill them?

4. What is the harm of my belief system? If there is some merit to saying that following Bhagavad Gita is plague then how does it matter how I feel.

5. The overly cynical cannot properly investigate anything because they are already fixed in their opinions.

a similar and more extensive debate in regards to secular morality was started on my Facebook page.  The discussion can be seen here.