Everybody Has Religious Beliefs, Some People Just Deny It

Everybody Has Religious Beliefs, Some People Just Deny It

When politicians argue that we should not 'legislate morality,' they are engaging in a theater of the absurd.
Stephen Roberts
By

Christians are watching with growing concern as U.S. senators increasingly employ anti-Christian litmus tests against judicial nominees and political appointees. Last year, Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein declaring to then-nominee Amy Coney Barrett that “the dogma lives loudly within you,” referring to her strong Catholic faith.

As John Daniel Davidson recently argued in the Federalist, we can surely expect the same treatment for another devout Catholic — Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Davidson and others rightly contend that such a litmus test is blatantly unconstitutional. Yet constitutional arguments do not seem to have much resonance with the American people (see how much good they did Ted Cruz in 2016). History and civics just do not seem to be our forte right now.

Perhaps we could hire some Christian bakers to make a cake in support of Kavanaugh. Ha. Ha.

In all honesty, the fight for religious liberty will be lonely and likely a losing battle, so long as it appears to serve the interests of Christians alone. Anti-discrimination (often anti-Christian) courts are firmly ensconced across much of our country. “Tolerance,” in the double-speak parlance of modern culture, has become the supreme virtue. Christians are now a cultural minority and must come to terms with their identity as social exiles.

But this does not mean the fight for religious liberty is lost. It is time for defenders of this cherished concept to stop defending themselves and critiquing anti-Christian bigotry. Instead, as cultural outsiders, we must go on the offensive. The truth is, we are all religious, and we should start owning that claim.

Every person has a deeply held belief system concerning why the world is the way it is and how we are to live in response. This belief system, or worldview, is a religion. At root, this is what gives rise to our views regarding everything including politics.

Take Feinstein, for example. She detects the power of dogma within another person’s heart, but this Jedi mind trick is only possible because she too is guided by powerful dogmas. Feinstein has a view of the world that guides her to believe that the absolute sanctity of a woman’s body is of greater importance than the sanctity of human life. This is a moral position — not scientific or sociological — rooted in a religious worldview.

It is not just views on abortion that are rooted in religion. Politicians claim to want to help the poor. Sociological analyses and economic studies may help politicians in that quest, but that quest start with claim: We ought to help the poor. This is a moral claim rooted in a view of the world — a religion.

Fiscal policy is rooted in religion. Money is a reflection of morality. Every dollar spent says something about what you value in this world. The same holds true of government. Likewise, foreign policy is a reflection of one’s view of the world, the human person, and our moral obligation to the world and our fellow person. Suffice it to say that there is not a single issue that is amoral or areligious.

This means that no one can claim the high ground of moral neutrality. Such a hollow position has been utilized for too long to pit false notions of religious liberty against the very religious adherents who need it that liberty the most. Politicians who criticize other politicians or judicial nominees for their dogmatism are either grossly ignorant of their own biases, willfully deceptive, or both.

When politicians argue that we should not “legislate morality,” they are engaging in a theater of the absurd. We do not legislate science. We do not legislate rationality. Politicians rely upon their basic religious beliefs to formulate moral claims that then must be enacted through policy. It is not possible for anyone to check their morality at the door of their decision-making, including politicians.

But doesn’t the fact that we all make decisions based on our religious beliefs mean that compromise and agreements are impossible in our pluralistic age? Tell that to our Founders, who — with a variety of religious world views — held to a common conception of human nature and constructed a government around that common conception.

The fact that we are all religious also heightens the danger posed by those who create religious litmus tests and ultimately restrict religious liberty. In true Niemoller fashion, those who restrict religious freedom will one day find that the same oppressive techniques will be wielded against them. And as speech is simply the vocalization of one’s religious beliefs, the freedom of speech will fall with its sister right in the First Amendment.

True tolerance in a pluralistic age requires us to respect a diversity of religious worldviews as they all contribute to the common purpose of governance. To suppress those worldviews that are deemed odious is not the essence of tolerance, but of tyranny.

The irony in all this is that such religious intolerance — itself rooted in a religious worldview — actually accomplishes the opposite of what it seeks. By assailing “theocrats” for attempting to impose their morality on others, this view ends up creating its own brand of theocracy. Supposedly secular saints will thrive in such a system until they too are deemed to religious by the next set of theocrats.

It is past time for our politicians to stop masquerading beliefs as facts. It is past time for them to strip off the facade of neutrality. We’ve already seen the fulfillment of Lenin’s vision of a world without religious, and it looks like the array of deadly totalitarian systems that we had once relegated to the trash heap of history.

We are all religious. Democracy dies in the darkness of those who deny this fact, and they are the ones who silence it.

Mr. Roberts is a writer and a chaplain in the U.S. Army.

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