page updated 2013-02-02
The Religious Mindset
First, some context:
- I'm using "religious" in the sense of those whose religion is a central and controlling force in their lives. They attend church/synagogue/mosque/temple regularly, and their politics are strongly influenced by their religion. They believe in an omnipotent, omniscient deity and an afterlife.
- All the people I personally know that I consider "religious" are good people. They mean well, and except for what I consider to be the negative effects of their religion on society, they are a societal plus.
- I used to be religious. I'm what fundamentalist Christians call a "backslider", though I view myself as a forward-climber. Some would call me an agnostic, others an atheist. My wife refers to me as a secular humanist.
I'm trying to understand the forces that have brought the world in general and the United States in particular to this point in human political history, and this idea that I'm grappling with keeps running through my head. I'm unsure of whether I have the communication skills to adequately explain it, but here goes.
It seems to me that it's self-evident that any political policy, any law, any regulation should be judged by the tangible effects it produces. However, I see policies, laws, and regulations all around me that do not produce positive tangible effects. Yet, the religious by and large want to continue these policies. I'm trying to understand why.
My theory is that the religious mind accepts the mere act of opposing or advocating a policy as a result. In other words, it's not necessary that the policy produce a positive tangible result, holding to the policy itself is a sufficient outcome.
For example, let's take a "sin", and here I'm using the context of Christianity since that's what I'm most familiar with. The Christian believes that sin cannot be completely overcome in this world, but that God's forgiveness will enable the sinner to reach heaven in spite of their sin. Therefore they are accepting a policy, their faith, as valid because it will result in their going to heaven, even though it does not overcome sin in this present life. Their belief will gain them heaven even though their belief does not eliminate sin in their present life.
Translate this to the real world. The religious mind can be for policies that are not producing desired results. This is not a problem for them because it is sufficient simply to hold to the policy, even though the policy has not produced a tangible net good in society.
There are many practical examples. The US drug war is perhaps the most egregious. Almost every religious individual I talk with is very much against the legalization of the currently illicit recreational drugs even though it can be factually demonstrated that the drug war has done great harm without solving the problem it was supposed to.
Now, I realize I may not have done a good job of refining my thinking or the explanation of it, but I'm going to keep working on it. This present life is what I have, and it's my responsibility as a human being to work toward making it as good as possible for every other human being on the face of the earth with political policies that produce desired positive tangible results.
Can you help me out in better understanding the religious mind? Better yet, can you tell me how to persuade the religious mind to evaluate political policy on the basis of positive tangible effects in this present life? If you can, drop me an email at: