The church triumphantly crucified Lady Justice last Tuesday. Proponents of equality were quick to point the finger, while good-intentioned Christians, regardless of which way they voted, suffered a storm of atheism-fueled enmity.
But when thinking of the threats religion may pose to society, it’s important to remember to hate the game, not the player. Billions have been born into the faith — they had no choice. It takes great effort to drag them into the light of reason. Our republic was founded on such rational principles, yet most of its population learns biblical laws before those of their nation. I find this paradox at the root of every issue, from abortion to evolution.
Many of the Founding Fathers and the Enlightenment philosophers who inspired them were Deists. They viewed God as the creator but of no further influence. For the most part, these men held a purely scientific view of the universe. They forbade the establishment of a state religion, assuring that no religious law would corrupt the principles of the Constitution. But they didn’t foresee the wave of zealotry that would wash over the country: first with the Evangelical movement and later with the influx of Catholic immigrants in the 19th century.
Demographically speaking, this is a Christian nation. Religion influences people’s moral judgment, which in turn influences their political thought. Believers won’t simply disregard their beliefs because they’re voting on a legal issue. Asking religious people to ignore their faith at the ballot box is to make them hypocrites, living in two different worlds. In the same way non-religious people do, believers shape policy according to their will.
The effect of referenda is the majority opinion ruling as a state religion, like letting the pope enact a secular law. This works when a monarch is head of both church and state, like Xerxes or Henry VIII. But when the two institutions are separate, you don’t want a tyrannical mob voting to join them back together. The main reason people didn’t vote for Obama was his alleged atheism. Never mind his stance on issues having nothing to do with God, like health care and the economy. Religion has no business with government, yet everything to do with most of the governed.
This paradox has two solutions, both of which are extremely offensive to either side. We could stop kidding ourselves and adopt a state religion so that legislation and the beliefs of the people are consistent. History has proven this method to be successful, if you don’t mind burning a few million heretics. Or we could eradicate religion entirely. But this parasite cannot be destroyed without losing the host — another cure worse than the symptom. All we can do is cope with the sacred-secular divide that tears apart the psychological and social fabric of Americans who hesitate to choose between God and their fellow human beings.
Plenty of God-fearing Christians voted no on Question 1 but they consciously chose to contradict their own holy text and step into an objective realm where one can more clearly see justice unviolated by medieval bigotry. They distanced themselves from extremists and I applaud them. Their concessions and compromises are loosening the grip of religion on our lives in favor of a clear conscience.
Perhaps religion will one day evolve into a benign appendage of the body politic. Belief may continue, but the doctrines of archaic institutions would crumble into dust.
The gay marriage controversy is merely a skirmish in Christianity’s losing battle against a secularizing society — a war that began when popes and emperors fought for control of Europe in the Middle Ages. Then came the Renaissance — the rebirth of the pre-Christian world. In its wake, the Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment dethroned the divine and founded a new Roman Republic across the Atlantic. Once again a mighty empire, overwhelmed by Christianity, is showing signs of decline.
Jeremy Swist is a junior history and Latin student.