Friday, November 11, 2005

Religion and Politics

On a similar subject, have a look at this short article from Beliefnet, about a liberal California church being investigated by the IRS:


The IRS notified the church of the investigation in a letter that cited an Oct. 31, 2004, sermon by Regas called “If Jesus Debated Senator Kerry and President Bush.” Church leaders say they have done nothing wrong.


And later:


Regas' sermon speculated about what Jesus would say to Bush and Democratic candidate John Kerry on subjects including poverty, violence and war.

In his introduction, Regas said he did not intend to tell people how to vote, but at one point, Regas imagined the words Jesus would have for Bush: “Mr. President, your doctrine of a pre-emptive war is a failed doctrine. Forcibly changing the regime of an enemy that posed no imminent threat has led to disaster.”


Right. The liberal church gets investigated. Over at the Washington Monthly blog, Amy Sullivan weighs in:


Today we learn that Bush's IRS is investigating a prominent liberal Episcopal church because of a sermon last fall in which the minister condemned Bush's policy in Iraq. (No word on whether the agency is also going after the Baptist church that kicked out members who voted for John Kerry. Or the churches that helped out the Bush/Cheney campaign last year by sending in their membership directories. Or the Catholic priests who told parishioners it would be a sin to vote for Kerry.)


See the original for links.

The IRS scours the Earth to find the one liberal church it can go after, while ignoring the fact that a great many churches and religious organizations serve as arms of the Republican Party. Lovely. Even worse is that your typical red state fundamentalist would not see anything hypocritical in this. Fundamentalist religion has very little to do with sincere faith, or with forging a relationship with God. It's about political power and their own perceived moral superiority.

Personally, I think it's ridiculous that religious organizations get a tax exemption to begin with. As George Carlin once put it, if they want to get involved in poitics, let them pay the entrance fee like everyone else.

5 Comments:

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At 11:25 AM, Anonymous JJ said...

You seem to have a lot of vitriol for people who are different from you. Let your nature as a scientist come through, and overrule the part of your brain that wants to start using stereotypes and jumping to conclusions.

I enjoy a good rant as well as the next guy, but if you want to be taken seriously as a scientist and supporter of science (evolution) and not some nutjob, then tone down the rhetoric.

It isn't just that your approach seems to confirm fundamentalist dogma that you can either be a scientist or believe in God. Nor is it the fact that you are coming off as frothing liberal on the left-wing bandwagon. Scientists with conspiracy theories don't appear very rational. Not all religious folks are created equal. Not all Republicans or conservatives are evil and agree with the present administration. Sweeping generalities are great, if you happen to be pushing an agenda like ID, but are not well suited to rational discourse. Making assumptions that there is a right-wing agenda causing this church to be investigated is not based on evidence. If this were a science debate you would not employ such thinking, you'd remain rational and skeptical. However, you are not behaving as a skeptic when it comes to your eagerness to trust your political bias. (Yes, it is much harder and less enjoyable to treat all discourse as if it were science, but we must extend that methodology to all discourse, not cherry-pick!)

I read your article in SI and liked it, but frustration is not enough reason to attack and make assumptions. The authors that bracketed your article, Krauss and Morrison, did a good job of explaining why we need to remain calm and rational and less confrontational when dealing with those who are not so rational and skeptical.

 
At 8:12 PM, Anonymous personal blog said...

Hi , I was just doing a search on the net for define blog and I came accross your post. Although Religion and Politics wasn't what I was interested in, it sure grabbed my attention. Now I see why I found your page when I was looking for define blog related information. Thank You-----Great Post.

 
At 2:45 PM, Blogger Jason said...

jj-

My vitriol is not aimed at people who are different from me. Rather it is aimed at people who use ignorant, dishonest arguments to attack scientific theories they don't understand.

As for the present post, when the IRS under a Republican administration ignores blatant abuses from conservative churches to attack one sermon in a liberal church, I don't think it's unreasonable to conclude that something more than prinicple is at work.

I'm glad you liked my SI article.

 
At 4:30 PM, Anonymous JJ said...

Jason,

I agree that scrutiny needs to be applied to all churches. I think open-minded people are less likely to blow the whistle, as it were. So, I guess that more progressive "church-goers" would either not want to or not feel they could report a pro-Bush/pro-War sermon. I would think that progressives would generally not attend such a church. I recall a number of IRS investigations that went nowhere during the 2004 election.

It does seem that religious fundamentalists (not just in this country) are quick to take offense at any dissenting comment as an all out attack on their faith. If a complaint comes, I think the IRS is obliged to investigate it in any case. I don't know if the bureaucrats are as obliged to the religious-right, or if in this case someone was trying for a promotion by pleasing his political superiors. I understand your frustration though. I often blog about the direction the country is going. I think it will take serious election and political reform to reduce the level of influence peddling and increase the level of ethical behavior on the part of most of our national politicians. Of all parties. (I consider myself fairly conservative, yet I cringe at the scientific ignorance and intolerance that is out there, particularly from the extreme right.)

You also seem to have had a couple spam comments posted here. ;-)

 
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