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Thread: The basis for governments

  1. #1

    Default The basis for governments

    Would governments be better off being based on spiritual principles or based on secular values?

    I am not at all religious but I can appreciate the track record religion has had in creating and maintaining the worlds largest and greatest civilizations. I am aware of the carnage that has been perpetrated by religious zealots but I am concerned about the vacuum created by purging the government of all religious belief, which seems to be the trend in western civilization. I believe some kind of moral authority must be established in any large country in order to maintain unity and avoid disintegration. I believe secular values are too diverse and place too much emphasis on individual rights to be able to maintain any kind of unifying authority necessary for the survival of a country. Specifically, I think we should actively incorporate spiritual values in the framework of our governments.

  2. #2

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    In a way this has already happened. However there is just as many examples of spiritual based government is just as bad as authoritarian based government.

    Face it most of the issues in the middle east are caused by spiritual based government.

    1) Woman being executed for showing signs of independence.

    2) Teachers and schools being destroyed because they teach none government based topics.

    3) The whole reason for Christmas and Easter.

    4) Nations being killed and their land taken because they where not of a particular faith (American Indian).


    A government needs to be based on the covenants that the society agree upon (Locke and Hobbs), but it is the deciding who is going to decide what that is the big issue. We have been at it for 200+ years for this country and 500+ years for western civilization and we are still arguing over which is right.

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Drifter View Post
    Would governments be better off being based on spiritual principles or based on secular values?

    I am not at all religious but I can appreciate the track record religion has had in creating and maintaining the worlds largest and greatest civilizations. I am aware of the carnage that has been perpetrated by religious zealots but I am concerned about the vacuum created by purging the government of all religious belief, which seems to be the trend in western civilization. I believe some kind of moral authority must be established in any large country in order to maintain unity and avoid disintegration. I believe secular values are too diverse and place too much emphasis on individual rights to be able to maintain any kind of unifying authority necessary for the survival of a country. Specifically, I think we should actively incorporate spiritual values in the framework of our governments.
    You seem to be assuming that morality can only derive from religion. I don't agree with that assumption. I think one can be atheist and still be moral, and I think that a government can have a strong rule without values being determined by religious morality.

    Now, there's something of a false premise here. In most countries there is some kind of democracy. Everyone of a certain age votes. If most of those people are religious, surely the people they select to represent them will also be religious and religious values will play a role in determining the government's policy. You see that even in the USA when the president ends every speech with "god bless you" and candidates of both parties run advertisements in which they talk about religious values.

    What the separation of church and state in the American Constitution and today many other governments attempts to do is not to cut out religious values from governance. Rather, the idea of the separation of church and state is to avoid using the power of the state to dictate religions for the purpose of oppressing minorities. Much violence in history has come from a single dominant group trying to force conversions or kill minorities that don't agree with them. By ensuring that the state does not officially adopt any particular religion, the government is prevented from passing laws that attempt to harm or coerce others who don't believe the same things as they do.

    The principle that others can believe in something different yet still live together began with religion but has since extended to other things like race, ethnicity, and gender. As a person who likes to wear diapers for fun, hanging out on a forum for diaper wearers as a community, you might appreciate that you live in a world where everyone thinks that we can hold countries together while still allowing individuals to believe in and practice many different things.
    Last edited by ArchieRoni; 27-Dec-2014 at 01:10.

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by Drifter View Post
    Would governments be better off being based on spiritual principles or based on secular values?

    I am not at all religious but I can appreciate the track record religion has had in creating and maintaining the worlds largest and greatest civilizations. I am aware of the carnage that has been perpetrated by religious zealots but I am concerned about the vacuum created by purging the government of all religious belief, which seems to be the trend in western civilization. I believe some kind of moral authority must be established in any large country in order to maintain unity and avoid disintegration. I believe secular values are too diverse and place too much emphasis on individual rights to be able to maintain any kind of unifying authority necessary for the survival of a country. Specifically, I think we should actively incorporate spiritual values in the framework of our governments.
    On paper, the United States of America purged religious belief from its government well over 200 years ago with the ratification of The Constitution for the United States of America. While we've not always lived up to the ideal, we've given it a pretty fair effort over the years. Canada has no religious bent in the structure of its government. Most of western Europe is filled with nations with no religious bent in their governmental structures.

    I fail to understand what the point of your inquiry is. What is the sort of government that you are after? The Middle East gives us examples of governments founded on religious/spiritual bases, some complete messes, some reasonably functional. The UK and Norway offer us examples of governments with state sponsored religion. So what's your point? What is it you're looking for?

    "Specifically, I think we should actively incorporate spiritual values in the framework of our governments." Ok, whose spiritual values? Christian? Muslim? Jewish? Hindu? Buddhist? Conservative Christian values or liberal? Orthodox Jewish values or reformed? In what sorts of things do we integrate spiritual or religious values and which do we not? What about the gays? Do we get to marry or do we get sentenced to death? What about women? Do they get to be equal to men or do they have to have a male escort to be in public and aren't allowed to drive a car?

    Of course, that's ignoring the fact that you seem to believe that morals and values can only come from religion. That's also ignoring the fact that your statement that religion has built great civilizations is largely wrong. Religion started the Crusades. Religion destroyed the Middle East. A renewed focus on learning, science, and art (the Renaissance) drug Europe out of the Dark Ages, not religion.


    So yeah, I'm confounded by your inquiry and not at all convinced by your hypothesis.

  5. #5

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    Atheist states don't have the best track record either. USSR, Cambodia, China, North Korea, all have had major purges based solely on religious beliefs. The Fascist regimes of Germany (NAZI) Italy, Spain all of their leaders personally claimed disdain for religion but still used it as an excuse for ethnic cleansing. The way I see it if you want to say that there is no state religion fine. If the representative that the people elect to the legislature has beliefs formed from his religion then let him voice his opinions as he sees fit.

    That being said I will paraphrase Goldman when I say that Government is designed around the protection of and advancement of property.

  6. #6

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    ^^^ It's always very hard to separate fact from propaganda, especially when it's the United States doing the propagandizing.



    Quote Originally Posted by 1977 Constitution of the USSR, Chapter 7, Article 52
    Citizens of the USSR are guaranteed freedom of conscience, that is, the right to profess or not to profess any religion, and to conduct religious worship or atheistic propaganda. Incitement of hostility or hatred on religious grounds is prohibited.

    In the USSR, the church is separated from the state, and the school from the church.
    I wasn't there, so I don't know what did or did not happen. At least on paper, though, the Soviet Union's citizens had freedom of religion.


    Also, Adolph Hitler was a Catholic and referenced the "Almighty Creator" in his speeches. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religio...f_Adolf_Hitler

  7. #7

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    To the OP:
    I have directed a significant amount of dedicated study and time towards questions of religion, morality, and politics. This does not necessarily make my opinion carry any more worth, but you asked so I'll give an answer...of sorts.
    I would ask that the OP perform some level of introspection... what IS religion, and what IS politics? Your question carries with it the assumption that we can define these concepts. I would argue that this is an overly reductionist way of understand the complexity of human society. Perhaps more critically, your question carries with it your own bias, as well as the biases created from the conditions within the societies under which we live in, of what is and is not religion.
    Politics and religion are conceptually fragmented, overlapping, and contain interpretations that have transformed over centuries of defining human knowledge. There have been many times in history where what we now traditionally define as "religion" and "politics" are under one central entity. The early Caliphates of the Middle East, Renaissance Catholic Papacy, and even the biblical figure of King David all attest to this.
    Blood is on the hands of many different historical figures of many different beliefs. Stalin's atheist regime was responsible for the deaths of millions. The Crusades involved the needless sacrifice of both Christian and Muslim peoples in a war.

    I would argue, therefore, that because defining such concepts is such an intricate and ofttimes nebulous effort, it is rather impossible to adequately answer the question if which values system is better. For me, it is a constant struggle between viewpoints. Personally, I question any attempt by the state to define moral character regardless of the system it uses. But I realize at the same point I also ask for particular models of the state which require its intervention... I am caught in the same bind everyone is.

    Generally, I like to think of that government should be a never-ending negotiation, ideally one that attempts to show the greatest compassion to those it claims to represent. How to most productively achieve such a situation, however, is a question that perhaps can never be fully answered.

  8. #8

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    Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony. You can't expect to wield supreme power just 'cause some watery tart threw a sword at you! I mean, if I went around saying I was an emperor just because some moistened bint had lobbed a scimitar at me, they'd put me away!

  9. #9

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    It's easy to ridicule religion in today's world now that we are aware of the blatant contradictions religion, as a whole, encompasses. The moral standards of the Baptists are certainly different from those of the Jihadists, and both are a far cry from the ancient Mayans or Egyptians. I'm not an expert on religion but I assume there is hardly any disagreement on these points. You would think all these various and weird religious beliefs would seriously interfere with the development of a nation, but it seems that what has occurred has been just the opposite. The powerful nations and empires of the past can be pretty much defined by their religious beliefs.

    I'm not interested in making a judgement here as to whether or not any nation was morally right or wrong. My entirely biased perspective on this is that religious beliefs in themselves are not particularly important, but it is important to have faith in a greater good in order to unite people into a powerful nation. This is what I fear we are losing in our emphasis on individual rights and separation of church and state.

    I admit I have no solution to this perceived problem. This is why I bring it up here, and I appreciate the serious and thoughtful responses. I may be projecting my own beliefs but I sense that most people believe there is more to moral values than any written commandments or laws can convey. Fear and greed are great motivators but it is this sense of something bigger that leads to a willingness to endure hardships and self sacrifice. This faith in a greater good is what I mean by spiritual values, and I'm not convinced a purely secular culture can maintain this faith. We are not yet at the point of being purely secular but we are moving in that direction.

  10. #10

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    Sorry, but your suggestion to have a government based on religion is a horrible idea. I am a STRONG believer in the separation of church and state, and feel we need to enforce it and protect it. We are a diverse country with many different beliefs, forcing our laws to match that of one particular set of beliefs is wrong and unfair. For instance, if our laws were based off of Jewish law and all food was legally required to follow Kosher laws, that would not be fair to the Christians, Atheists, Hindus, Buddhists, anyone else who can eat those foods, but would have to resort to a Bacon Black Market due to these laws. And this isn't even taking into consideration all the effort that would now be placed on the government to arrest people for doing stuff that doesn't harm anyone else.

    Even if you pick a certain religion, Christian Law. Is it Catholic Christian Law, Baptist Christian Law, Lutheran Christian Law? If its based of Islam, is it Shiite Law, Sunni Law? And even if you can pick a certain branch of a certain religion, there's still great range of different sets of morality within that branch. And this isn't even mentioning all progress within the religion would be halted as anything outside the norm could be considered heresy and punished as such.

    As a secular atheist, my morality comes purely from empathy and the Golden Rule. You don't murder, rape, steal, act like an asshole to other people, etc. because you can put yourself on the other position and see the consequences of that. Everyone in society agrees that these things are bad, and they become rules and laws. The few people who break these rules and are unable to put themselves in that other position are shunned by society and frowned upon, and if the violation is serious enough that it violates a law, they are taken out of society and isolated until they can be reformed, see themselves in the other position, and can follow the societal contract known as the law. I don't feel like moving in a religious direction is the right way to go nor is being completely secular a bad thing for society.

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