Theories abound that the decline of Christianity may be behind the increase in political extremism in America, but they vary as to why. It is obvious that modern politics has about it some of the trappings of a religion! For example, America’s current President has by objective measures had one of the most successful starts to his first term in our history, but still his opponents view him pretty much the way Christians view the Antichrist. They are so certain that in opposing this President they are fighting evil that they believe they are working in the service of truth when they use against him emotional language based on bits taken out of context, and pictures of alarming events that happened before his administration began. In the Kavanaugh hearings, and no matter what your own position on the nominee might have been, you were watching centuries of this nation’s protections of fundamental rights being destroyed in the service of political beliefs. For an august publication like the Wall Street Journal, the morphing of American politics into a religion is so obvious that the newspaper actually refers to one political thinker as a “prophet.”
All of this might seem curious and alarming to those who recall when political ideas had to be expressed with at least some color of facts-based argument behind them, but it is wonderfully clarifying now. We can ever more clearly see that what lies at the root of the righteous indignation that is tearing America apart is the very vice – having faith without facts – that we always have thought of as a virtue!
Humankind has been trained for millennia to espouse beliefs that cannot be supported by facts. Without our ease with having faith alone, no religion on earth could have survived for long! But our recent divorcing of politics, too, from any need to rely on facts is alarming. The only way to solve any real-world problem is to carefully study all the facts, and then to devise a set of solutions that are tailored precisely to address those facts. If we espouse a purely beliefs-based politics, it will be impossible for this nation ever again to accomplish much of anything.
Our system of political decision-making always has been clumsy. As I have studied the history of race in America, I have come to see that all of our present racial problems can be traced to specific facts-free and entirely beliefs-based political decisions! If we had insisted from our nation’s founding that every political decision must be carefully researched and based in all the facts, it is likely that none of our present racial problems even would have gotten started. Political parties in America always have used minimal facts as window-dressing as they proposed what were purely beliefs-based solutions that often made our problems worse! So now we add righteous indignation to fire up what has always been a dysfunctional political system, and our nation slides into chaos.
I have written about the abundant evidence that Christianity is wrong but Jesus is right, so we won’t rehash that here. Traditional Christianity is in rapid decline, and wonderfully now a movement that is based on the genuine teachings of Jesus is beginning to take its place. I will be using Christianity to illustrate the insidious influence of faith-based thinking, but Christianity’s habit of building its worldview around strictly enforced but unsupported beliefs is consistent across all religions.
If you hold to the hope that religious practice has to be on balance a good thing, then reading the list below might pain you. But if loving God means anything, it means being true to the genuine God and refusing to settle for lies and pap! As Jesus said, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits” (MT 7:15-20). And what are the fruits of modern Christianity?
You will notice that this list of poisonous fruit applies just as well to our political parties. They also are beliefs-based, facts-free, aggressively tribal, grimly self-righteous, and mostly devoid of the ability to produce whatever might be useful to humankind. That American politics has devolved into a beliefs-based system almost devoid of facts is incontrovertible. And knowing that is so liberating!
It is time for all Americans of good will to abandon not only traditional religions, but also traditional politics. Assume that whatever the political leaders are saying on both sides is empty dogmas, and begin to insist that in every case their proposals must be supported by facts. And not just window-dressing facts being used as political parties always have used a few well-chosen facts, but thorough and well-supported facts from which has been developed what can be demonstrated will be the best way to solve the problem at hand. For all of us to insist on, support, and police one unbiased source of information would be a wonderful first step!
I wish I could tell you there has been a time when American politics was sufficiently facts-based to be of any positive use. Sadly, though, what we see in modern politics is just a logical endpoint of the slow devolution over centuries of a dysfunctional and almost entirely faith-based system. Rather than being able to return to a better form of government, our insisting that governmental decisions now be based on facts will require that we invent something new. And thanks to the resilient framework of our precious Constitution, we can do exactly that!
America’s primary religion is dying just as its political process rots away. It is time now for us to say good riddance to institutions that never worked very well, and for all Americans of good will to create together a happier, stronger, more equal, and much more productive future….