Politics, policy makers, and religion.

6 Sep
Religion vs politics. Ruth Clotworthy

Religion vs politics. Ruth Clotworthy


Last time Sheep ventured into this territory I was threatened with defamation action, however, undeterred, we’re going there again.

If you argue that a politician’s religious beliefs don’t affect his or her attitudes to policy, firstly consider this exchange between Catholic Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Qanda’s Tony Jones on refugees and immigration, back in the days when Abbott was LOTO and not too lily-livered to front up to an unpredictable live audience.

Note: It’s a measure of a leader’s failure that he becomes less available to unpredictable audiences, not more. In case you need another example of his failure but you probably don’t 

TONY ABBOTT: …Jesus didn’t say yes to everyone. I mean Jesus knew that there was a place for everything and it is not necessarily everyone’s place to come to Australia.

TONY JONES: It’s quite an interesting analogy because, as you know, and a whip was used on that occasion to drive people out of the temple. You know, if that’s the analogy you’re choosing, should we take it at face value?

TONY ABBOTT: No. No. I’m just saying that, look, Jesus was the best man who ever lived but that doesn’t mean that he said yes to everyone, that he was permissive to everything, and this idea that Jesus would say to every person who wanted to come to Australia, “Fine”, the door is open, I just don’t think is necessarily right. But let’s not verbal Jesus. I mean, he’s not here to defend himself.

Now read this piece titled “Scott Morrison and the conveniently comforting doctrine of predestination,” written when Morrison was Immigration Minister.

Briefly, the doctrine of predestination followed by Morrison’s Pentecostal faith claims that god has determined whether or not you will be saved before even you are born. Your material status in the world identifies you as chosen or rejected by God. Wealth, standing and comfort identify you as chosen. Poverty, lack of standing and misery confirm you as rejected. Therefore, the chosen do not have to feel anything other than pity and contempt for the rejected: according to the doctrine of predestination, it’s futile to attempt to improve their lot because god has already decided their fate. Indeed, attempting to improve the lives of those god has already rejected is an affront to god.

It’s impossible to argue that the religious beliefs of these two men have not affected their political judgements, not only in the matter of asylum seekers and refugees. However, asylum seeker policies illustrate with stark clarity how religious beliefs can be used as justification for barbarous practices, by Christians as well as by other religions.

At least twelve of Abbott’s cabinet of nineteen are Christians, and eight of them are Catholics. The LNP candidate for the West Australian seat of Canning, Andrew Hastie, recently blasted a journalist from Perth Now, who put to him questions about his own religious beliefs, the beliefs of his father, a Presbyterian theologian with interests in creationism, and a blog posted under the byline of Hastie’s wife Ruth, in which Christian opposition to same-sex marriage is outlined. Hastie responded emotionally and publicly to the journalist’s private email inquiry on these topics, angrily warning media they could go after him but they’d better not go after his family, and finally claiming that personal religious beliefs have no relevance to politics and he won’t answer any more questions on the topic.

I have no interest in anyone’s religious practices unless she or he is  in a position to affect and legislate public policy, and then I have a great deal of interest in the beliefs they hold.

When a religious individual in a position of influence claims their beliefs will not affect their political decisions, this indicates at the very least a disturbing capacity for duplicity: the Christian religion is a proselytising religion, its followers are exhorted to demonstrate their faith and to live out that faith in every aspect of their lives, unashamedly bearing witness. They must therefore either betray their Christian principles, or betray the secular voter, as they cannot feasibly hold faith with both.

There’s a vast chasm between the philosophies of the man Jesus, and the teachings of religions such as those followed by many of our politicians. Religions are constructed by men to further their self-interests. It ought to be a fundamental requirement of aspiring politicians and policy makers that they disclose any religious beliefs they hold. It isn’t a private matter, when you’re charged with determining the nature and course of a society.



Thanks to @davispg for links and inspiration



24 Responses to “Politics, policy makers, and religion.”

  1. TheKoneyReport September 6, 2015 at 9:01 am #

    Unfortunately the corporate sector and reglious groups drive the political policy of the current Australian Government.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Stewart Hase September 6, 2015 at 9:38 am #

    This is a stunningly good post. It should find its way onto the front page of every newspaper in the land of Oz, if not wider. So, we have religion and conservatism driving public policy. This has never been good news for the disadvantaged, the unwashed, the drug takers, the different or, for that matter, the great majority of people who are just………..’orginary’.


    Liked by 2 people

    • Jennifer Wilson September 6, 2015 at 10:14 am #

      Thank you sir.
      I’ve offended too many to ever be co-opted by the mainstream hahahahaha I’m gutted not.


  3. doug quixote September 6, 2015 at 9:46 am #

    I agree. If someone wants to stand for elected office he or she has to expect to be subject to scrutiny.

    “The family” has usually been seen as off-limits, but if it can be established that his entire family is dedicated to some strange sect, his own private views are therefore suspect.

    The death cults that are the outdated and outmoded religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam are the real anathema to the modern world. There is no room for that world view in the 21st century and the sooner their adherents realise that the better for everyone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson September 6, 2015 at 10:15 am #

      They don’t give up their precious beliefs. Without them they are just hollow men


  4. Trevor September 6, 2015 at 11:21 am #

    It is scary that so many who believe in fairy tales find their way into public lives, when all they deserve for their beliefs is ridicule and ostracism.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Michaela Tschudi September 6, 2015 at 12:23 pm #

    Bravo. Since politicians have to disclose their financials, they should also disclose their religious affiliations. Not so hard. People in public office make decisions every day that affect our lives. Let’s make them more accountable.


  6. flrpwll September 6, 2015 at 9:10 pm #

    It drives me bananas.

    If Jesus had been real, he would have been utterly disgusted with the carryings-on of his most mouthy “following”.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. hudsongodfrey September 6, 2015 at 10:20 pm #

    “When a religious individual in a position of influence claims their beliefs will not affect their political decisions, this indicates at the very least a disturbing capacity for duplicity…”

    If they followed their religion’s teachings as they’re exhorted to by their current Pope then they’d act quite differently, and we’d probably like them better for it. Clearly they’re not, and that marks them as duplicitous in how they follow their religion to begin with. To say they’re hypocritical beyond that is almost redundant.

    After all the schisms, inquisitions, the founding of a State religion on the family values of Henry VIII etc now we have the social and political banner of “Christianity” the lobby group. Especially in the US where even the Mormon’s have hitched their wagon to the umbrella term, it could mean anything from happy clappy proselytizing to a sick death cult that tells you you’re created evil and orders you to be good on pain of eternal damnation…..

    Nobody seems to know quite what it means, in which case we may, perish the thought, have to use reason to discern divine intent in an otherwise godless universe.

    There is no god, or at least no sign of the interventionist deity featured in scripture. Yet we presume, correct me if I’m wrong, to reason with the forces of religion by pointing out the odd moral shortcoming or error in their logic. Am I surprised we’re not getting anywhere I hear you ask?

    In modern political terms I think it comes down to something Doug touches upon in calling for accountability. What we need is representative government, governing for and by all Australians not a just bunch of overly entitled individuals who believe their office vests authority in the elected person. They’re supposed to be running an instrument of the secular state for the people not a fiefdom for whichever political party manages to con us into another three years of their lies, damned lies and non-core promises.

    If I were the governor general I’d be tempted to declare them AWOL at turf them out forthwith. After Gough we swore off that kind of thing, seeing it for the slippery slope it clearly is. The very best we can hope for is a decent OPPOSITION, TION, Tion, tion (echoes)….., for a fighting change this’ll be a one term government.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jennifer Wilson September 7, 2015 at 6:59 pm #

      DQ has faith in the opposition. I’m not so sure, they’re infiltrated by the right wing religious tho not to the same extent as LNP.

      The GG is Tony’s man, no hope of relief from that quarter.

      Perhaps everyone who elected the Abbott in reaction to the ALP will now do an about turn and behave just as reactively in electing the ALP.
      Just about anything could happen, really. But whatever it is, I bet it will still a hung parliament or close to.


      • hudsongodfrey September 8, 2015 at 12:10 am #

        Everyone has to have faith in something. Living an examined life, knowledge itself and your ability to accumulate some of it all has to start somewhere. Its how that process spears off in so many disparate directions that’s apt to surprise, fascinate and occasionally scare the living crap out of us.

        Take the question you raise about politicians for example; of the religious friends and family members whose politics I have any real sense of few if any are nearly as right leaning as our political classes tend to be. In fact if I had to guess as to what’s going on with that I’d say that our woes owe more to the corrosive influences of capitalism upon democracy than to religion per se. It’s hardly a new theory to ponder people who get into politics sharing a common interest in the exercise of power such that the time honoured techniques of using spooky language to control people who’re susceptible to religion’s odd mix of cultural anchors and good old fashioned superstition will be almost irresistible.

        It puts the boot squarely on the other foot to say it, but beware any politician claiming something resembling divine imprimatur for his own calumny. He’s probably just a being bastard on his own undertaking!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Jennifer Wilson September 8, 2015 at 5:39 am #

          When I have more time, I’ll discuss your premise the everyone has to have faith in something!

          But now I’m delightfully distracted by my brand new granddaughter.

          Actually, if I was to have faith in anything, it would be in little children. But first we have to establish what is faith and what is it good for!


          • hudsongodfrey September 8, 2015 at 11:50 am #

            Enjoy you granddaughter completely and immensely as I’m sure you will. There’s no hurry to discuss the meaning of whether faith exists in anything less important the the potential within her new life.

            My own use of the word “faith” was to mirror yours earlier, wherein what seems like it could almost be two meanings conflated puts a different spin on the kind of blind faith as a form of weakness we despise by reducing it to a single possibility via an atheistic perspective. There’s wishful thinking in the religious leap of faith that is absent in the projection of reason. The two are similar, but not the same, and recommending the later in no way endorses the former. I merely intended to point out that the presence of religious conviction is no substitute for reason. Nor does it in my experience function as such.

            What religion does establish are certain ideals that in being transcendent sit apart from reality so as to almost immediately embark upon double standards. It may in that sense be an example of leaned hypocrisy that we’re right to be critical of. Whether that has much to do with actual faith I rather doubt, unless there’s some vague psychological permission to keep one’s fingers crossed while turning a blind eye to all manner of god’s work you disapprove of etc….

            Frankly I think there’s another kind of psychological question to be raised as to whether anyone clearly capable of reason is quite as apt to suspend it as some people seem to think or to claim religious people do. I have my doubts about that, and the feel like the same doubts that steered me away from religion in the first place.
            Dawkins seemed to think they were all deluded, perhaps he would forgive me for pointing out he’s a biologist trying to fill a psychologist’s or neurologist’s shoes?


          • Michaela Tschudi September 10, 2015 at 8:49 am #

            Faith, what is it good for? Sounds like tbe title of a new post by you.

            My grandfather, a theologian who taught Anglican priests in his early life and later converted to Catholicism, was probably one of the most difficult, bigoted people on earth. He turned me off institutionalised religion, but I retain a kind of “faith” in truth, and the existence of what Jung called “the collective unconscious”.


            • hudsongodfrey September 10, 2015 at 9:10 pm #

              It seems to me that to make sense of anything we have to accept certain basic things. Otherwise we will indeed wind up entangled in all kinds of philosophical and theological pitfalls.

              The precepts of which I speak might be something like saying that reality exists, we can know something about it, and knowledge that leads to repeatable outcomes has a certain amount of utility.

              Not much to ask you might’ve hoped, but can a person assume as much without being accused of placing “faith” in those assumptions?

              Anyway that’s just where the problems start, we always kind of knew that some religious people weren’t operating within a reality based worldview, but occasionally they’ll actually argue against reason when it comes to defending their faith. If ever you find yourself reasoning with somebody who thinks that reason doesn’t exist, with any luck you’ll spot the problem and quit while you’ve still got your sanity…..

              That’s why I tend to look at the terms faith and belief askance and consider placing them on a continuum from the kinds of things we can only believe if we take a leap of faith to the stuff we’ve compelling evidence for. The arc of human history forms one long trend toward the latter,. and that’s pretty much it really.

              Liked by 1 person

      • doug quixote September 9, 2015 at 2:03 pm #

        Faith!! Never any such thing!

        But they are a better fit philosophically and in terms of social responsibility than the Looters Party.

        That’s as high as I want to put it.


  8. Debra Duncan September 7, 2015 at 2:24 pm #

    Personally I don’t want lawmakers who, because of their religion, refuse to accept scientific FACTS. It doesn’t bode well for their approach to environmental issues like climate change. If Hastie holds the same beliefs as his father, he wouldn’t accept the mountains of evidence for evolution, and what is even more ridiculous, he would believe the Earth is 6 to 10 thousand years old (!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson September 7, 2015 at 6:54 pm #

      Conservatives once used to be interested in facts. But since the religious right took them over, religion replaces facts it seems.


  9. just_plain_lulu September 7, 2015 at 3:53 pm #

    I guess Abbott wasn’t paying too much attention during his seminary days to Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, as written in Matthew 7:7-11, Luke 11:9-13: “Ask, and it shall be given to you…seek and you shall find…knock, and it shall be opened to you….” especially with reference to asylum seekers. There is this added admonition too: “which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?”
    I am not overly religious, and do not approve of religious orthodoxy dictating government decisions and policies. But if Abbott and his Coalition ministers are to quote Jesus and the Bible as basis for the ‘moral’ principles behind their decisions, they should be able to either follow Jesus’s ‘Love thy neighbour as thyself” basic tenet.

    Excellent post – Every point you made I wholly agree with.
    I hope you don’t mind if I reblog.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. just_plain_lulu September 7, 2015 at 3:53 pm #

    Reblogged this on My Daily Read.


  11. Diane Pearton September 7, 2015 at 9:36 pm #

    Brilliant and succinct! I agree so totally. If religion does not influence your behaviour, what is the point of it??

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Michaela Tschudi September 10, 2015 at 11:22 pm #

    Jennifer, this article might be of some interest: http://theaimn.com/religion-good/


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