Saturday, January 21, 2017

Is religion sacred?

When I was watching the Presidential inauguration yesterday, I was struck by the sheer amount of times I head God (and Jesus) mentioned. Besides alienating groups of people not represented in or affirmed by the inauguration ceremony--Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists--I just didn't see why religion has any role in politics.

As a firm believer in the separation of church of state, I started thinking about why religion holds such an elevated status for people. I consider myself a reasonable person; I don't subscribe to views that empirical evidence or science cannot avouch. If I held a belief that was rationally untenable--like there were 10,000 Buddhas dancing on the tip of a needle--then I would re-assess my belief.
Religion should not be exempt from reason and logic. That's why I appreciate Buddhism so much; the Buddha encouraged thoughtful, skeptical inquiry. 
Yet, religious view, no matter how preposterous, are considered sacrosanct. Why? Religion does not exists in its own unassailable sphere.

For instance, why are religious organization tax exempt? While this runs counter to the notion that most Americans have about religion--that it's somehow sacred in a way that playing tennis or playing
guitar aren't--I think that it's an important question that we need to ask, especially now that the religious right controls both the congressional and executive branches of our government.

In America, religion intrudes into politics all of the time, and it is considered perfectly acceptable, so much so that during the presidential debates, both candidates were asked how their faith influences their lives. Both Clinton and Trump gave the same stock reply, neither of which was acceptable in my opinion. I want a candidate who says, "My religion, or lack of religion, will have no influence on the laws I pass." I don't want my elected representatives' religious views meddling into policy.

Still, we see religion insinuating itself into conversations about marriage equality, birth control, and even sex ed. While the Constitution protects Americans' right to practice religion, I don't think that it should allow religion to intrude into the common public sphere. Treat religion like any other facet of society.

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