Open Thread, Faith and Politics

Happy New Year, Everyone.

The Religious Right have no monopoly on religion, faith, or spirituality, despite their self-righteous attempts to impose themselves on the rest of us and become the Religion of the Land, with (my opinion) their own version of Sharia Law.

Spiritually, I am an eclectic, and since I believe each and every one of us is God’s Child, I support open-hearted conversation that involves listening to the other person and responding to what they are actually saying. I support social and economic policies that I think are in the highest good of the most people, especially the American working classes who are currently hurting, but also the peoples of the world. I am put off by policies that honor soulless corporations over people, and am appalled that our Supreme Court seems to disagree with me on that.

I don’t want to go on about my own beliefs (see the spiritual musings page for that), but I want to see if a discussion can develop over the next few days that answers the question:

How does your spiritual outlook, religious faith, or lack thereof, inform your politics?

BTW, can someone else who uses WordPress tell me how to create a new post anywhere other than the front page of this blog?


31 thoughts on “Open Thread, Faith and Politics

  1. I am total agreement with you. My spiritual beliefs are such that embracing, assisting and uplifting the less advantaged is what life is all about. We are all connected, and what is done to the least of us is going to come back on the most advantaged of us.

    The Sioux have a saying, “All my relations” meaning that we are all <strong related. All we can hope and pray for is that the governments will realize it before it is too late.

    Wonderful blog!


    • Africans use the term ubuntu. What hurts you, hurts me, hurts everyone and this earth we share. Same concept of “Do unto others…. & No man is an island….”
      It seems most all cultures have some form of this concept.


  2. “what is done to the least of us is going to come back on the most advantaged of us.”

    If only the world could understand this Truth. Thanks, navajomouse, for your thoughts.


  3. I am UU with a pagan touch. UU’s preach no dogma. Mindfulness of the inter-connected web of all existence, service to each other and to the community are primary parts of our ethos and the manner in which we try to conduct our lives.


    • Happy New Year, Aquagranny, may it bring you peace and joy, even here in crAZyland. Thanks for sharing. I have many friends who are UU, and many great community activities occur at UU churches. I honor your true honoring of all world religions, which I share in the New Thought/Ancient Wisdom tradition, and the sense caring about all the world’s peoples.


  4. Great blog. Thanks for bringing a spiritually-based progressive voice to the conversation. I am an agnostic, but appreciate it when spiritual people are willing to lift their voices in favor of progressive politics which, as an outsider, appear to be much more in tune with the teachings of the major world religions than does conservative politics.

    As for my beliefs, I would essentially categorize myself as a secular humanist. I don’t believe in a god or a soul, but instead think that true happiness lies in helping improve society as a whole. In short, I am motivated by the belief that we are all in this together, and that working to help one another is both best for society and for individuals. This, in turn, leads me to being a progressive, as the core of progressivism is using government to tackle the problems facing society and to help those who need it most.


    • We are indeed, all in this together…just another way of saying we are all interconnected. Interesting how the paths all merge, yes?

      I like your definition of progressivism too, relating specifically to the role of government.

      Thanks so much for sharing your views.


  5. Hi all it’s me kittypat under another alias I’d forgotten about :), this is a conversation I’m really interested in revgerry. Was baptized into the Congregational church at the tender age of three months and became a non-practitioner when the story of Abraham and Isaac was told in my Sunday school class, it frightened me beyond belief. Since then have not considered myself a Christian but have closest ties spiritually with the Quakers. I share their belief in the inner light and the divine in each of us. I also share their passion for social justice and their (for the most part) lack of belief in a hell. Think they could be said to believe in heaven on earth, that is what inspires me to act politically. I am not a total pacifist so couldn’t in good conscience become a Quaker. Interesting side note, my long lost cousin and I found each other on the internet, our belief systems were almost identical, as it turns out we are descendants of a large family of Quakers.


    • Hi kittypat, sorry I was away from the computer for a while. Happy New Year. I only have to approve you once as a commenter. I hope you come back to visit.

      I share these beliefs below, except that I reject the idea of hell, because I believe that our inner Light cannot be extinguished, even if we do terrible things. I worked for many years with convicted felons, as a therapist, and it only strengthens that view.

      “I share their belief in the inner light and the divine in each of us. I also share their passion for social justice and their (for the most part) lack of belief in a hell. Think they could be said to believe in heaven on earth, that is what inspires me to act politically.”


      • I would say I reject the idea of hell as a place, but believe in self-made hells, and that our consciousness can carry unresolved issues with it into whatever sphere we travel to from here. I believe to some degree that we come back until we get it right, not perfectly right, but right enough to advance spiritually.

        Thanks for this wonderful conversation, I am not a religious person but really appreciate the opportunity to discuss my own spirituality and read about the belief systems of others. Am struck by the common thread here which boils down for me to the simple Golden Rule, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”


  6. kittypat I agree about the consciousness. In my various studies of religion, I believe that the Golden Rule is central to all religions, in one form or another.

    If you read my page about spiritual musings, you will find my story of 20 years of thinking I was an atheist, even rejected by God, only to discover I was merely mis-taught. I had no language for the spiritual/mystical experience for such a long time.


  7. Hi revgerry this is a great blog. I’ve read your posts on bpi and a few others.
    My parents were Reformed Jews. We were not very religious, although we observed the High Holidays. My Husband is Greek Orthodox. Before I got married I converted to the Orthodoxy. I don’t follow all the observances, but the church has many organizations that do wonderful work helping to raise money for charitable causes, scholarships, and celebrate the different regions culture.
    I strongly believe that we should do all that we can for the people that need it the most. That is why I remain a Democrat


  8. Welcome, sjterrid, thanks for posting. 🙂

    “I strongly believe that we should do all that we can for the people that need it the most.”

    Me too. Beyond that, “the highest good for all” is a phrase I use to describe what I want to see, because it isn’t always easy to see what people need the most.

    I look forward to getting to know you better.


  9. Hi! It’s pnh from Blackwaterdog’s site. I had to register to post and couldn’t use pnh — so I’m using my usual alternative.

    I’ve been here before — lurking. I just didn’t associate your name with this blog (memory issues). I liked what I read and had bookmarked it — meaning to come back — and forgot about it. Anyway…

    I’m not really religious — but I’m very spiritual — taking in whatever I find that seems good no matter where I find it. It just so happens that some of what I came to believe on my own is supported by Christian philosophers and the Bible. I’m sure I’m likely to find them in other religions if I dig deeply enough. I suppose there are two such things that sum up how my spirituality affects my politics — the first was the serenity pray (to accept things I can’t change, courage to change..I can, wisdom to know the difference) to which I eventually added “judge not.” Later on — it hit me that some of Jesus’ last words fit my own philosophy — that people do “evil” believing they have have good reason — “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

    So — to that end — in my personal life as well as my political life I am not at war with anybody — I do not view anybody as “evil.” I think we’re all various degrees of ignorant about ourselves and others around us and therefore — we make many mistakes. I’m Democratic because they aim to be inclusive and they aren’t as punitive. They’re not as inclusive or as non-judgmental as I’d like them to be — but — as per that serenity prayer — I accept them as likely the best I can do right now.

    My politics are essentially this — I don’t want to deprive anybody of anything and I also don’t want to be deprived. I suppose that’s all inclusive — you’re free to do and have whatever you want as long as it doesn’t come at someone else’s expense. I apply that in a very general way — to resources — to moral issues — you name it. I’m still evolving as far as what that means to specific issues. I go with what I think at the moment because I certainly can’t go with information I don’t yet have — and if I encounter something that changes my outlook — I change my position.

    I know of no concrete authority on right/wrong — so — with no authority — I do the best I can at any given moment. If I’m wrong — I certainly am not wrong on purpose — but given a choice between what I think and what somebody else thinks — I’m going with what I think. I’m the only person whose motive and intent I can be sure of. To that end — all I expect from politicians are reasonable answers — not perfect answers. They don’t have to fit perfectly with what I think — I don’t demand a specific answer — all I ask is that they be reasonable answers to the question before them.

    I can’t embrace diversity and demand freedom to be me and expect everybody else to choose and do what I would do — that’s just contradictory. To try — by force or manipulation — to impose my will on other people is also contradictory to what I believe. Agree with them or not — just as I demand to live by my own principles — I know that everybody else wants the same — so — how can we all do that without compromise? Maybe one day we will all be as one — maybe not — I don’t know — but we’re not there — yet.

    The closest thing I have to political “enemies” would be anybody who believes that they are the closest thing to perfect there is and therefore we all should follow them — even if they have to force us to do it. I’m sure they believe that what they’re doing is good and right — but — I don’t — and there it is.

    And for those who prefer short comments — sorry — I’m long-winded and usually don’t bother to speak it all if I don’t have much to say about something. If I’m interested enough to comment — usually — I have a lot to say. That’s just me — I don’t know how to be anything else.


    • Pnh, when speaking from the heart, no comment is either too long or too short.
      Thank you for your thoughts because they have made me also think more and consider my own beliefs and the ways I act on them.


  10. My dear pnh, welcome. You have been speaking to my heart all day you know. I needed to write a small diary over at dk4 to learn the system, and I so I wrote about our conversation thismorning

    ummm, I am not one who prefers short comments…or long ones either , just ones from the heart.

    Ah, the Serenity Prayer…the middle part is the hard one – the only thing I can usually change (or control) is me, my thoughts, my preconceptions, my feelings, my actions… I have had to learn that through some very tough life lessons.

    And as regards not being at war with anyone, Dr.Ernest Holmes, founder of Religious Science , said these words in his farewell speech :”Find me one person who is for something and against nothing, who is redeemed enough not to condemn others out of the burden of his soul, and I will find another savior, another Jesus, and an exalted human being.”

    He goes on, it is beautiful. So are you

    Thank you for sharing with me today. Hugs


  11. I came here today because I hoped this might be an appropriate place to discuss the issue of redemption. I have been thinking on this since a diary at TPV I read yesterday that really made me question my beliefs about forgiveness, rehabilitation and redemption.

    Pnh made the comment here that she/he did did not view anyone as “evil” I will say that I can agree with that to a point. While I believe that no person is inherently evil, some people can do great evil due to a variety of life circumstances which are too complex for me to explore right now.

    I am trying to express for myself what I believe about redemption. Is redemption something that should be judged and prescribed by society or should it be in the heart of the individual? How can we ever judge any other person to be beyond redemption?
    Is redemption just a religious concept tied to Christianity because Jesus “redeemed the sinners” and forgave the so called “good thief” on the cross?

    I would appreciate any who would like to share thoughts on this.


    • Hi Aquagranny, you must be talking about the “President Kicks Puppies.” So I am thinking through my fingers.

      I don’t think redemption is tied to Christianity so much as that Christianity made redemption a central theme (though various sects believe different things about what you have to do to be redeemed, and what behavior is sinful). They all agree, I think, that humans are born sinful, and while I don’t believe that, I do know there is always that in me which needs taming or mediating through spiritual practice.

      I am not a traditional minister, as you will see when you look at my story in “spiritual musings” and I hope that someone who is a committed Christian will tell us more about redemption in the Christian sense.

      I don’t think the President is talking about that kind of redemption, but rather about attitudes about giving people another chance – that might be the 70×7 times a Christian is supposed to be willing to forgive. He was talking about second chances, and speaking to the issue of whether a criminal conviction should destroy a person’s life forever? Certainly a huge question when so many minority men are in prison, and when so many others who have done the same things not only go free, but then also don’t pay for the rest of their loves and have more normal lives as a result.

      I worked in the criminal justice system as a therapist, with men who had done very, very ugly things, and while many of them should never be released, because they are dangerous, they are still trying to figure out HOW to live a life, and IMO are not evil so much as chemically/neurologically disordered from birth or severely damaged (PTSD) by their past. Part of that damage came sometimes from being locked up from early ages and never really having another chance at a different life.

      I think also, that many things are relative and cultural. Is dog fighting worse than cock fighting or bull fighting? How about eating dogs? How about hunting, not for food but for blood sport? How about other kinds of brutality? Police brutality? Abu Grahib? Wars for profit? Slavery? Conquest? Bullying?

      There does seem to be a sadistic/vindictive/power-mad streak in people, and we seem to be feeding that half of our nature on America today. Look at the popularity of video game brutality and ever more gruesome “action” movies. Dr. Zimbardo’s famous Stanford prison experiment in the 60’s(and others) demonstrated there is a sadist in all of us, and that much of its release or sanction is role-related. Were Zimbardo’s “guards” like us? And how does this all relate to the political “feeding frenzy” over immigrants or Muslims or fill on the blank of the ones being scapegoated to cover up corporate crime?

      I’ll bet you didn’t count on so many more questions.

      You will be happy to know, btw, as a fellow Arizonan, that I will be publishing a piece next week at BPI Campus about the TUSD Ethnic Studies fight.



      • I am somewhat of a dumdum because the naive part of me expected probably a definitive answer to my questions but you only gave me more to consider.

        I already expressed my thoughts re: animal cruelty in TPV so won’t bother reiterating that here. Deaniac’s diary did seem to ignite a firestorm from some who felt Vick was beyond redemption and should be punished forever for his crime. Some felt that allowing him to return to, probably the only work he knows and has skills for, was wrong.

        I feel that everyone deserves at least a second chance or even more for the very young who are still in the stages of maturing and learning. None of us can ever know what is really in the heart of another. I will paraphrase here: “Judge others as you yourself would wish to be judged.”

        I completely reject the concept of “born in sin.” I believe each of us is born innocent, pure and with a clean slate. Nature vs nurture; our life experiences, perhaps our genes and our brain chemicals, our choices both good and bad, shape who we become and how we live.

        I won’t bore you with more of my thoughts and I really appreciate your answers or questions (lol) I do believe that the concept of ‘redemption’ as many view it, reeks of politics in a lot of ways. It is a redemption according to man and not according to Spirit. Spirit would forgive all of us, man picks and chooses who can be forgiven and thus redeemed.


      • Re: all human being born sinful — I think it depends on how you interpret the word sin. I’ll continue to use ideas from Christianity because it’s my “native language” and I’m not very fluent in any others. It’s not that I place a higher value on it — it’s just that I was raised Catholic and shortly after cutting that tie — I set out on my own not wanting to be overly influenced by any external “guide.” I was reading the Bible — but eventually I put it down — too. I had to — to separate myself from more established opinions about what was in it so I could go on a more free and open-minded personal journey. I read things from other religions or other established philosophies if I encounter them — but I don’t seek them out.


        Think about how the Bible describes sin. The Bible says that although the 10 commandments only require that you not commit adultery — a man commits a sin even if he looks at a woman lustfully. Can you control feeling a physical attraction to somebody? I can’t! I can’t even tell you ahead of time who and what is likely to cause that kind of reaction within me — I don’t know who I’m going to feel that way about until I see them and feel it. I can’t keep myself from feeling it — initially — all I can do is redirect my thoughts and feelings after they happen.

        The Bible says even to think mean thoughts about somebody is sinful. It’s a pretty hard trick not to ever have a mean thought. I can dismiss them — refuse to entertain them — work on changing myself such that I don’t have them as often — but I don’t know if I can absolutely stop having any.

        Selfishness is considered sinful. What is selfishness but acting on self-centered impulses or instincts with little regard for others? What if that lack of regard isn’t willful — what about when it’s only because we don’t know any better? Are we supposed to be responsible for what we could have known if only we had gone through or considered some yet to be done thing? How can we be held accountable for something we have not yet learned? To that end — I think the Bible supports the idea that sin is anything that could cause harm to yourself or somebody else — maybe the definition of sin is anything that has harmful consequences and evil is the harmful consequences.

        Now — what’s the difference between an adult who has not yet come to understand how some act is harmful and an infant who has not yet come to understand how some act is harmful? Merely being adult doesn’t necessarily mean being capable of grasping everything there is to know such that we could never do harm. So — what’s the difference between an adult acting on a selfish impulse — maybe saying something he believes it necessary to say for some good reason without realizing it’s going to hurt somebody else and an infant crying because he woke up and he’s bored — waking his exhausted mother — something with the potential to damage her health if it happens too often? The infant didn’t know any better — but neither did the adult. We assume the infant doesn’t have the capacity to know any better — but maybe sometimes we don’t have the capacity to know any better than some of the things we do.

        So — we’re born self-centered and selfish creatures — born unintentionally doing things that harm others. And — to the best of my knowledge — while we might learn quite a bit as we grow — we die still ignorant — just maybe not as ignorant as we were. So — it can’t be said that the infant never caused any harm — it’s just that we know the infant wasn’t doing any of his potentially harmful stuff to people on purpose.

        I realize that what I just said is going to be a little much for people who have strong beliefs and accompanying emotions about “sin” and “evil” — not comfortable with the idea of innocent acts and their consequences being sinful or evil. But — as I said — I’m influenced by things like consideration of the lustful eye thing. I in no way caused myself to be attracted to anybody and I did not ask for or do anything to nurture my sexual drive. How can I be guilty of the feelings caused by something I had nothing to do with? I can only be guilty of willfully entertaining potentially harmful desires or acting on impulses that I’m aware may lead to harm. So — to that end — I don’t think the Biblical definition of sin is necessarily confined to deliberate wrongdoing.

        So — when considered that way — to me — that concept of being born sinful makes sense.

        My 2 wooden cents — only useful if you can find a use for them.


    • I’ve found my home! These kinds of discussions are what I live for (well I live for other things, too — LOL)!

      I should have qualified my remarks about the concept of people being “evil.” Sadly — sometimes some of us do become psychologically ill or even have mental illnesses/conditions that cause us to lose control. Such people may not act with any belief that they are acting for good — but they’re not necessarily acting with willful intent — especially somebody who is seriously ill.

      I don’t think we can judge who is actually redeemed — or even define redemption — that’s something that only they and some omniscient could know. To that end — I think “judge not” applies — afterall — declaring somebody either good or evil is a judgment. I believe the only question before me as far as somebody else’s character goes is whether or not they pose a danger to others around them — something that we certainly can’t really absolutely know but I think reasonable to decide based on the information we have.

      I think that for many people — “redemption” is nothing more than an expression of their emotions about a person. Trying to decide who has redeemed themselves and whether or not they deserve any particular thing is all about wanting to satisfy their emotions about that person. Should anybody be penalized for the remainder of their lives for wrongdoing? Who among us is qualified to judge which people should be treated as though the past is behind them and which should be forced to be reminded of it everyday for the rest of their lives?

      Think about a rapist. That rapist may have been acting out on some personal pain — heal — and go on to be one of the most wonderful and loving people on the planet — with all of his associates believing him deserving of everything wonderful the earth and “heaven” could bestow upon him. Meanwhile — his victim — if he or she can’t heal and is suffering may resent that rapist having a good life while he or she suffers and therefore would want to see that rapist pay for what he did until he or she finally heals — until death if the victim never heals.

      Even punishment is often nothing more than emotional gratification for people who need it. It’s a symbolic thing — something that serves to satisfy our desire that the culprit suffered for his actions — that he didn’t get away with them. The punishments we impose might really have little to no effect on that person’s character — may even make them worse depending on the circumstances. That person could be as sorry and “redeemed” as he’ll ever be 5 minutes after he did something or could spend 10 years in prison and walk out feeling the same way about whatever he did as he felt when he was doing the criminal act. That sorrowful and “redeemed” person could be a less charismatic individual who people never really feel good about and the unrepentant culprit could be a gifted manipulator who easily convinces some people around him that he’s a truly changed and newly wonderful human being.

      So — redemption is in the eye of the beholder. As far as society goes — it’s little more than a game with popularity as the prize — meaningful only if you value it.

      “Father forgive them for they know what they do” referred to people who were in the middle of committing the act. I think it says something that he didn’t say “father forgive them because they’ll eventually regret this and redeem themselves” or something to that effect. And well — when talking about this in the context of Christianity — the Bible says whoever we are — “redemption” is a gift of God by grace and not from ourselves because we’re incapable of redeeming ourselves. And well — that makes sense to me because you can’t undo the wrong you do. Even if it’s stealing and you give whatever it is back — you can’t undo the violation of trust or the harm to somebody’s sense of well-being no matter how much good you go on to do. When you harm somebody — you can’t make it as it was — make it as though it never happened. We may get past it — go on as though it never happened — put it out of mind — but we can’t put it out of existence and we can’t keep it from ever coming to mind.

      As to the Michael Vick story — some people are likely thinking of it as I don’t want my kids watching and cheering and seeing people watching and cheering for a man who did a horrible thing. Some people think that if kids see somebody who did something horrible prospering — they’ll have less incentive to try to “be good.” How much the consequences play into anybody’s actions is an individual thing with potential consequences a deterrent for some but not for others. The thing is — fear of consequences is not about good character — that’s about fear — so — it’s not exactly character building to try to teach people to fear doing wrong — anyway. However — if fear is all somebody has — then certainly they would know that they take their chances — that they might not have the same outcome as Michael Vick.

      Personally — I’d rather my children see a model that says no matter how far you fall short — it’s not the end of the world and you can pick yourself up and go on to have a wonderful life. People don’t realize that the downside of teaching your children that wrongdoing has and should have harsh and permanent consequences is that should your child adopt that belief — when you do wrong he’s going to have a hard time forgiving you and moving forward and when he does wrong he’ll have a hard time forgiving himself and moving forward. Guilt as a temporary emotion as a means of correcting ourselves is good. Guilt as a permanent emotion is paralyzing and crippling and creates more negativity — causing us and others around us even more harm. There’s nothing positive to be gained from forever guilt or forever punishment. Wanting to see somebody else looking remorseful or suffering forever is not about satisfying ourselves that they regret what they did and won’t do it again — that’s about satisfying our resentment toward them — satisfying a vengeful drive within ourselves.

      Now — I realize that for whatever reason — I tend to come across as though I’m preaching to people — that I’m trying to tell them what is right or wrong. That’s not the case. I haven’t figured out — yet — how to make it clear that I only mean to express my opinion. I guess I don’t say “I believe” enough or something. This is just my very humble opinion at the moment. I think it’s a solid opinion — but you never know. I may see something or think of something next year, next month or in the next 5 minutes that changes everything and results in an entirely different answer the next time I speak on this topic. I don’t do this disclaimer every time I speak — just every now and again because — again — for whatever reason — I’m often told that I come across as arrogant and self-righteous when I might sometimes be a little arrogant — but self-righteous? — HA! — I guess — but it seems rather odd to call somebody “self-righteous” when as it applies to questions of right/wrong — my stance can be summed up as “I don’t know.” And then — maybe that fits because — yeah — I’m pretty sure I can state with authority that I don’t know a da**** thing! The thing is — I accept ignorance as the state of mankind in general and I can do is try to learn more — I can’t not be ignorant — so — why feel bad about it? And on a tangent — I also get no pleasure from the idea of more or less ignorant — it’s still ignorant — and when you’re ignorant — how do you know what’s really more or less ignorant — anyway? I don’t aspire to perfect knowledge — I aspire to love myself and my neighbor as myself with all my heart. I fall short — sometimes willingly and even willfully far off the mark — but I’m a work in progress — always.


      • Pnh you are just amazing!

        I love your posts and don’t see them at all “preachy” You are sharing your thoughts and beliefs which I so appreciate. I really wanted to read the ideas of others on the concept of redemption and you have given me so much more to consider. Thank you and please keep on commenting here.


  12. PS: To revgerry, thanks for leaving your diaries up long enough for me to think more. Often I read things that get the old brain juices flowing for days and then diaries go off in some other direction and I shelve my thoughts and move on to something else.


    • You’re welcome. I debated about it, but I really want us to explore these issues, and I do write about other things elsewhere (and will here too, but the conversation is just getting better each day.). Race and religion are taboo subjects, both affect us deeply, and both are used as weapons by the RW.


      • next PS:

        Race and religion are the very topics that we should be discussing with open minds, compassionate and loving hearts, imho. We can’t heal some of the primary things that divide us if we aren’t willing to listen to each other with empathy and understanding.


  13. Another PS:

    revgrerry about the ethnic studies issue, I will be looking for that diary. The way that whole issue has been spun by the pols and the media makes my blood just boil. Why can’t our children know their heritage? Our State history is being rewritten and generations of our population are being excluded for the ‘Anglos come lately’ who wish ALL Latinos here, citizen or otherwise, to be deported back to Mexico. Sorry, this is an emotional topic for me and I do get angry.


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