You’ve been there before: Family meal. Drinks have been shared. That aunt you love but who has a certain political philosophy that doesn’t exactly mesh with that of your father starts talking about the patriarchy this or gun violence that. And you see your father, polite man that he is, struggle to keep his face impassive. Eventually he can’t keep quiet anymore and rattles off a few statistics refuting your aunt.
An awkward silence falls over the table. Your mother tries to change the subject: “Wow Grandma Jane, your potatoes came out great. Aren’t the potatoes great?”
But your aunt won’t let things go. Neither will your father. And then, out of the blue, your teenage cousin, the one with the dyed purple hair and the septum ring, says she no longer believes in God.
“Religion is pointless,” she says matter-of-factly. “There’s nothing when you die, so what’s the point?”
You grimace, down the last half of your wine in one gulp, announce you’re going to get desert, and promptly drive to the nearest body of water to see how long it will take you to drown.
Religion and politics: If you want to make–and keep–friends and maintain harmonious family relationships, you don’t talk about them. According to conventional wisdom, there are some things you should just keep you yourself.
Keeping these things off-limits, wherever this idea came from, is another way to make us accept what the Powers-That-Be think should be in the zeitgeist, and to keep this zeigeist one-sided. Now, scratch your chin and wonder who gets to benefit from that . . .
That’s right! The status quo, whichever side the status quo might be on.
If we’re not discussing and thinking about these things with our families, we internally believe that this is because we don’t know enough and should therefore listen to an accept what our so-called betters have to say about things, whether the comport with our own beliefs or not. You’re smart, and can understand why this isn’t necessarily a good thing.
Religion and politics will always matter, and therefore should always be spoken about. If other people can’t discuss the topics without getting emotional or butt-hurt, that isn’t your problem. It’s theirs.
This matters because how we’re governed and what happens when we die have been vital areas of contemplation for the entirety of human history. And they always will be. Here’s why.
People either have a future orientation or they do not.
Or to put it more spiritually, people are either concerned about eternity, or all they care about is the here and now.
Regardless of what you call them, these different orientations have huge implications on politics that cut across all ideological lines. In fact, one might argue that future-orientation versus present-orientation is the dividing line among differing political philosophies. It’s not even necessarily a left-right thing.
Do you care about the posterity of your nation? Are you worried about what your grandchildren and great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren will inherit long after you die? Or are you okay with incurring massive debts to pay for things now without worry as to how the next several generations will pay for it, if they even can?
Do you care if your country will exist in a prosperous, safe, and decent states long after you die, or is that too far out, too abstract, to be bothered with?
Are you concerned about the state of the water, air, and good stewardship of natural resources? Or do you just want to grab as much cash as you can, consequences be damned?
Do you think that what you do in life reverberates throughout all eternity, or is your view of like more along the lines of “I’ve got mine so, screw you”?
Beyond the political, how about the social and personal? The internal as opposed to the external? In other words, are you the kind of person who just wants to do what feels good now? Or are you concerned that your actions will be judged? Your answer goes a long way towards determining your behavior.
Now think: What kind of society would you rather live in? What kinds of people would you rather have as your friends and neighbors and fellow countrymen?
There is great temptation to think that we are oh so modern and beyond such things. But faith is a stubborn thing, and rumors of its demise are wildly exaggerated
I’m not out to convert anybody, and if you are a non-believer reading this and your’re offended, then I guess you have a thinner skin than you let on.
But note: It is entirely possible to have a future orientation and not be a believer, the same way that some who claim to be religious or spiritual still act like nihilists.
My point is that we like to think that history or whatever has moved “beyond” questions of religion and spirituality, as if something “new” or “different than tradition” is automatically “good”; that we can completely divorce politics and governance from such moral, ethical, and spiritual concerns and make decisions based purely on fact, logic, and reason. But it’s plain to see what bitter fruits ignoring these concerns can yield.
Logically, then, you have to examine what certain faiths teach? I speak mostly about Christianity as it is the faith I believe and am most familiar with. Unfortunately, there’s another faith that it’s been in the news for a decade or two that, as currently practiced by a small but highly influential percentage, holds some viewpoints we might view as incompatible with our way of life.
These things matter! Do you really expect our lawmakers to act entirely divorced from deeply held religious beliefs? Whether it comes to abortion or war, this matters, like it or not.
And while much of the Western world is moving towards nonbelief, this doesn’t change the fact that most of the worlds 6 billion people do adhere to some kind of faith. Ignore this at your own peril, as we’ve seen with many of our supposed leaders and intellectual betters–one look at the Middle East will make my point clear.
We all want meaning in our lives, and we all want the societies in which we live to create an environment where we can live meaningful lives. The next time these topics come up at the dinner table or wherever else, don’t be afraid to talk about them.
Just don’t be a jerk about it.
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