Role of Religion and Politics Thesis

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Religion and Politics

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TOPIC: Thesis on Role of Religion and Politics Assignment

President Barack Obama's inclusion of atheists in his inaugural address spiked discussion, blogs, and even a lengthy talk on NPR. Some were thrilled with the development, while others were shocked and found his acknowledgement of the group offensive. The range of opinions regarding the acknowledgement exemplifies the large range of religious ideas in the United States. Many representatives of a host of faiths call this country home, while still others find themselves believers more in philosophy and ideas than faiths. Some believe in nothing spiritual; others simply don't know. Such is the makeup of the United States, a country whose Bill of Rights respects the freedom of religion. Because of the freedom of religion permitted in the United States, a separation of church and state has long been observed. That is, in addition to having no established religion, the country has, for the most part, instituted a taboo on the intertwining of religion and politics. In fact, upon hearing his address to atheists, the atheist organization American Atheists stated: "We look forward to working with a president who understands that true religious freedom relies on true separation of religion and government" (American Atheists 2009). But while religion and government may be viewed as separate, religion and politics certainly are not. All 42 presidents have been or have professed to be Christians, and the Bible is traditionally used to swear in a president, and many other high-ranking officials. On the campaign trail, candidates constantly reference God, the Christian God, while remaining tolerant and accepting of other faiths. Still, Christianity has infused American politics. It has been established by many studies that candidates practice in religious activities influences their attractiveness. But is it right for candidates to campaign on their religious preferences? Or is it simply another immoral trick of politics? In this essay, I will the issue of the Christian religion in American politics, discussing whether or not it is acceptable for candidates to cite their religious preferences on the campaign trail.

II. Literature

When candidates campaign for office, they often cite their religious preference, along with other personal information. Personal information has long been known to lead to a candidate's success or failure. For instance, the one-time Democratic nominee for president John Edwards dropped out after his sex scandal was exposed. On the other hand, celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sonny Bono were able to attain office, most likely in part because of their personal careers. Candidates reveal personal information on the campaign trail to connect with their audiences. For instance, in the 2008 election, John McCain gave persona information about his military service in order to connect with other military people and patriots. His running mate Sarah Pain's family, another personal subject, was also almost always up for grabs. The electorate often believes that knowing personal information about a candidate makes them feel closer to him or her or understand him or her better. But should be religion be among those personal characteristics that a candidate shares?

Some argue that it is only right for a candidate to share his or her personal religious beliefs. These people suggest that forcing candidates to remain silent about their religious preference would be doing a disservice to both them and the people. Citizens make decisions regarding candidates on both their personal integrity and professional or political stance. Those who think that candidates should campaign using their personal religious preference believe it gives the public a better view of the candidate. These people often think that hearing that a candidate has religious views helps the public determine whether or not he or she will be a reliable candidate who has personal integrity. Chaava states that a nation that removed religion from the political campaign trails "would be in danger of sacrificing its ethos with catastrophic consequences in the long run" (2002-2009, para. 1). Chaava goes on to argue that keeping religion in the process of choosing a candidate for office ensures that that the person winning the election "is a person of integrity, transparency, and upright" (2002-2009, para. 1). Many others agree with Chaava. For example, the BBC tool conflicting statements from voting Americans, many of which stated that they believe a candidate's statement of religion was the most important or one of the most important statements that he or she could make during his or her presidential campaign. Some stated that religious beliefs, or convictions, were an important quality in the person that they would vote for. Others stated that they just liked to hear religion and God referenced, implying that it connected with their own views or at least was comfortable for them. Still others stated that religion, or prayer, was the way through which they decided to vote for a candidate, showing that religion has a place, for some, on both sides of the election -- the candidate and the electorate (Greene 2004, paras. 7-11). Finally, some believe religion is a necessary component of political campaigns because a person's religious beliefs hint at some of the policies they may choose to support when elected into office.

On the other side, there are some who believe that a candidate's religious views should not play a part in the electoral process. Many of these suggest that this information just isn't relevant. Furthermore, because Christianity is the religion that many polls have shown is favored in elections, candidates can use Christian jargon and make Christian-sounding promises even if they are not believing Christians themselves. In short, the use of personal religion on the campaign trail becomes just another way that candidates can deceive the public. According to the BBC, some see that religion on the campaign trail is a highlight of things to come. These people are wary of politics and religion being combined at all, for fear that policy will be made according to one's religious belief instead of the laws of the land and what is necessary for the country to succeed (Greene 2004, paras. 12-15). If a politician is elected based on her religious beliefs, then may feel necessary to make decisions based on these beliefs because she thinks that is what her constituents want. The Bush administration has furthered this argument. Some, even those who share his faith, greatly disapprove of the former president's actions. Bush ran as the evangelical Christian candidate, and tried to support that image in the white house. When he traveled to New Life Church, the First Congregational Church in Colorado Springs, Greene (2004) found many who thought that it was great that he was a Christian, but who heartily disagreed with his politics and the way he used religion to defend them. In a series called "Your faith, Your Vote," the church invited members of both parties to discuss faith and politics (paras. 30-41). The emphasis was on the fact that it was up for the voter to synthesize politics and religion on the campaign trail, not the candidate.

III. Methodology

Many statistics argue that campaigning on one's personal religion is not only rampant, it's beneficial. In fact, 72% of Americans think that "the president should have strong religious beliefs," and 41% argue that "there is too little expression of faith and prayer by political leaders" (Greene 2004, graphics box). Montanaro, however, found that this attitude toward faith and politics was split between the two parties. Three-fourths of democrats think that candidates should not use their personal religion to gain support. While a majority of republicans, 58%, also make this statement, three-tenths of Republicans also "strongly disagree" with it. Most Republicans also stated that religious leaders should have influence on a person's votes, while democrats did not agree. This may be because the same study found that more Republicans are religious themselves, or at least attend… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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