Religion and politics is said to be a dangerous combination, especially at dinner parties! Perhaps that’s why I don’t get invited to many dinner parties!
Yet, for me most things are to some extent political and spiritual, even things such as the arts or literature are often drawing deeply from these wells.
The “religion” bit (although I think this is the wrong word, it is about spirituality seeking truth and meaning, what people normally mean if philosophy) is about those ‘existential’ questions:
“Who am I?” “What is the purpose of my life on this planet?”
“What is right and wrong, and why is that?” –those questions will take you to whether or not you believe in a God, and if you do what kind of God do you believe in?
Science is not at odds with the concept of a creator, science and philosophy are both ultimately about seeking after truth and answers, one philosophy asks “why” and science asks “how” and both questions are needed, as both shed light on that core question at the heart of “what does it mean to be human?”
Science, philosophy are asking A, if God exists; and B and trying to think God’s thoughts after him/her/them.
Perhaps the teachings of someone like Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed or Richard Dawkins has shaped your world-views on these issues?
Yet our thinking on these do not operate in a vacuum as they impact how we think about “doing life” and “how we manage to do life with others”; how we do life with others is the essence of politics, the ordering of society, and who gets to choose whether we just let the strongest and the wealthiest do what they want, or whether we believe that we all should get a say?
Perhaps, you are influenced by people like Plato, Soccrates, Karl Marx or other political thinkers, that might also include people like Wilberforce, Martin Luther King Jr, Desmond Tutu or Gandhi who were motivated by religious conviction too?
One of the things I am interested in (and its not very sexy) is theological method, what makes theologians think what they think –from reading many political biographies even if there is not a term for it, how many of our politicians got to where they are in their thinking is (I think) fascinating.
As a lover of history I am interested in why people do what they do, or why the don’t do something, interestingly for me history is like sociology and psychology worked out on a broad collective canvas. History is really only yesterday’s current affairs, and as John F. Kennedy warned us “those who forget the past are deemed to relive it”, that brings us back to humanity trying to make sense of the world collectively today.
In many ways that is why we need artists, and play-writes and poets, because we need languages to be able to articulate this primal need within human-being to know (to quote Freddie Mercury) “What we are living for?”
Even if we do not join in the discussion that still does not alter the great philosophical question about whether there is a universal truth, a judge of what is right and wrong other than just our own very subjective consciences. As a horrifying picture of the Gestapo at a Nazi Death camp shows “just because we might not be interested in politics does not mean that politics is not interested in us”, we can be victims of terror attacks or war, and certainly these things are done in the name of people we have elected and pay our taxes to fund, that makes us in some way complicit.
And what of God in all of this, again s/he’s existence is binary –either existing or not- and whether I believe in God’s existence or not will not change whether he does or does not exist, I am either right or wrong.
The question of “if God exists, what is God like?” is a more interesting one, as this leads us to the issue of suffering, and could God stop suffering, and to what extent has God given humanity free will and the ability to choose –and how my behaviour impacts other people; how our stewardship of our planet results in the distribution of its resources and what about sickness and disease –how and why do these occur, and is someone in some way to blame for them all? Which again brings us back to “Does a God exist, and if so what are they like?”
So, I think we need to talk more about religion and politics, because if you take these away, is there actually anything left to talk about?