Sunday, June 24, 2007
Barack Obama recently made the following short statement while on the campaign trail. I find it well worth exploring.
"Somehow, somewhere along the way, faith stopped being used to bring us together and faith started being used to drive us apart," the Democratic presidential candidate said in a 30-minute speech before the national meeting of the United Church of Christ.I congratulate Obama for calling into question the moral authority of the religious right to defend capitalism in just three words. His point, of course, is that what is left of the pro-capitalist sentiment among the Republicans is, as I have noted here numerous times, inconsistent with the altruistic moral code of Christianity.
"Faith got hijacked, partly because of the so-called leaders of the Christian Right, all too eager to exploit what divides us," the Illinois senator said.
"There was even a time when the Christian Coalition determined that its number one legislative priority was tax cuts for the rich," Obama said. "I don't know what Bible they're reading, but it doesn't jibe with my version." [bold added]
This is why I think it foolhardy for pro-capitalists to ally themselves with Christians who wish to inject their religion into politics. This is an error fatal to the cause of freedom on many levels, among them being (1) the fact that such Christians will gut freedom any time it conflicts with religion; (2) that freedom, whose value to men lies in allowing us to use our independent, rational judgement unfettered, is, by its nature, doomed to conflict with a belief system based on religious authority at the expense of any contrary evidence or logic; and (3) that doing so incorrectly and immorally concedes that capitalism is a necessary evil at worst and amoral at best, when in fact, it is the only moral political system in history. At least Obama, being a leftist, is an open enemy of freedom, unlike those on the religious right, who pose as advocates of capitalism. So, yes. I agree. Faith isn't compatible with economic freedom or individual rights. Thank you for making that clear, Mr. Obama!
However, having just identified Barack Obama as correct on one level, this pro-reason, pro-individual rights, hawkish, capitalist atheist feels the need to note that Obama is completely wrong on another level! Since even Obama would have to concede that words mean things, it might be useful to consider what "faith" and "hijack" mean.
Obama uses the word "faith" to describe how Christians claim to know what God wants everyone to do. And he uses "hijack" in the same sense that Moslems used passenger airplanes to commit atrocities (that, incidentally, faith "informed" them would please God). Thus, I think it fair to use the following definitions, as those most closely matched to the words that the Democratic Senator used in his sound byte:
- faith -- Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.
- hijack -- To seize control of (a moving vehicle) by use of force, especially in order to reach an alternate destination.
This is a fascinating statement. Why? Because if man, the rational animal, survives through the use of his intellect -- which means, by carefully gathering evidence from the world around him and applying logic -- of what use period can a belief not based on the raw materials of knowledge possibly have? Such beliefs are useless at best, and can be lethal whenever they lead men to act in ways contrary to what facts and evidence would lead them to do.
So if there is no proper use for faith, how on earth can one even conceive of it being "hijacked"? To answer that question, we must ask, "Of what use can faith be, and to whom?"
The answer is simple. Someone who does not wish to live through his own judgement and effort can get others to do the dirty work of facing reality for him if he can convince them to take supposedly divine orders on faith. In other words, the only man who has use for faith -- as a tool for manipulating others -- is a parasite.
This is the underlying motive of the politicians of the religious right, who want to use the state to force everyone to live in accordance with their religion, and of Obama, whose policies might look different at first glance, but are fundamentally the same. It makes not one jot or tittle of difference to me if the government "feeds the poor" (and the egos of those in power) with money distributed through "faith-based" charities or government welfare programs if, in the end, my money has been stolen from me by the government in order to do so.
So the only sense in which one can even imagine that faith -- the means of getting others to do one's bidding -- has been "hijacked" is in the sense that other people are not doing one's own bidding. Barack Obama may have accidentally identified the truth about the relationship between Christianity and capitalism, but in doing so, he has also invited us to examine the meanings of the words he used to do so and, in the process, to learn that he is not essentially any different from the parasites of the religious right, who also hate freedom.
Any politician who regards it as proper to mix faith and political power admits, in doing so, that he is unfit to govern. This is what Obama did when he opined that something so harmful to man was being misused.