Quantcast

«

»

Jan 31 2013

Religious Belief and Public Policy

Unfortunately, we had an example last week of the Democrats doing what the Republicans have long done, using religion to support their public policy. Sen. Dianne Feinstein held a press conference to announce her gun control proposals and opened it with a prayer:

As Sen. Dianne Feinstein D-Calif. opened her press conference on gun control today, she invited Dean of the National Cathedral Rev. Canon Gary Hall to offer a prayer.

Hall spoke briefly before the prayer, calling for Washington lawmakers to stop fearing the gun lobby and fulfill their “moral duty” to restrict guns.

“Everyone in this city seems to live in terror of the gun lobby,” Hall said. “But I believe that the gun lobby is no match for the cross lobby.”

But there is no “cross lobby,” especially on this issue, where the religious right will be decidedly against gun control. And public policy should be decided on rational, not religious, grounds. But the right is doing the same thing. David French, who has done good work on free speech issues, makes the religious case against gun control in a column at the National Review.

Simply put, self defense is a biblical and natural right of man, and I fear that his words imply otherwise. There is nothing about the cross that requires me to allow someone to kill my family — or anyone else for that matter. Indeed, I have a moral imperative to come to the aid of those in distress…

First, it has always been clear that human life is precious — so precious, in fact, that throughout time God has mandated the ultimate penalty for unlawful killing. Among God’s first words to Noah after the Flood subsided was this declaration of the importance of human life and the price paid for spilling human blood: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” (Genesis 9:6) This statement is not made to a nation-state or to a police force but instead to a small band of people who are rebuilding human society from the ground up. While obviously not specifically addressing self-defense, by establishing that fundamental principle the biblical commands and examples that follow demonstrate how God expects us to protect life in the real world.

Seriously? He thinks the Bible supports the idea that “human life is precious”? How about the human lives of the Midianites? Or of all the people allegedly killed in the flood that French absurdly believes really happened? God is seriously going to drown the entire world except eight people on an ark with some animals and then talk about human life being precious? Do they not read their own Bible?

After quoting the Bible many times, he then concludes:

What does all this mean? Essentially that gun control represents not merely a limitation on a constitutional right but a limitation on a God-given right of man that has existed throughout the history of civil society. All rights — of course — are subject to some limits (the right of free speech is not unlimited, for example), and there is much room for debate on the extent of those limits, but state action against the right of self-defense is by default a violation of the natural rights of man, and the state’s political judgment about the limitations of that right should be viewed with extreme skepticism and must overcome a heavy burden of justification.

Of course it should. Every exercise of the government’s coercive power should overcome a heavy burden of justification. But that justification should be made solely on the basis of rationality, not religious duty.

13 comments

Skip to comment form

  1. 1
    Bronze Dog

    I really hope that someday we manage to take displays of religious affiliation out of mainstream US politics. Stuff like this makes me skeptical that I’ll live long enough to see that day.

  2. 2
    scienceavenger

    I wish the democrats were as anti-religion as the GOP says they are.

  3. 3
    matty1

    Every exercise of the government’s coercive power should overcome a heavy burden of justification.

    This should be the standard, instead of asking can we justify people having a right to X we should ask can we justify the government intervening to stop X. In many cases we clearly can – government coercion to stop racial discrimination by employers for instance is justified but the question should be asked the right way or we risk assuming people only have rights if they are explicit in law.

  4. 4
    The Lorax

    Gun control is about not letting the people who shouldn’t have guns obtain them. So, one might say, anyone who argues against gun control is okay with letting people who shouldn’t have guns have them, which in turn produces the need to defend ourselves with guns against guns.

    Gee, wouldn’t it be swell if there was some way to limit the number of guns going out to people who shouldn’t be allowed to have them? Then we can have guns, but we wouldn’t need to use them to defend ourselves. If only there was some way of… oh, I don’t know… controlling guns.

  5. 5
    Reginald Selkirk

    “The Cross Lobby” – I’m guessing they support torture and the death penalty; right?

  6. 6
    schmeer

    Of course self defense is biblical. Don’t you remember when the Romans came for Jesus and he told them they wouldn’t take him without a fight? What did you expect him to do? Turn the other cheek?

  7. 7
    Brandon

    Isn’t it amazing how often people’s gods tend to tell them exactly what they wanted to believe?

  8. 8
    rork

    Why be pragmatic and talk about the probable costs and benefits of possible actions? That’s so boring. Getting mired in actual details whips up no enthusiasm compared to arguments that make it seem a matter of simple principles.

    From another world (wildlife/wilderness):
    Sadly, the best method of getting your way may not be by making the best arguments. In wildlife debates, using any means to get die-hard vocal supporters (usually only works for cute species) often beats science as a way to get the legislation you want. I (following P.S. Lovejoy) usually forbid myself from using emotional arguments there, but the others that use them may be better at achieving some desired immediate goal in a democracy. I fear it’s suboptimal long term, but maybe I’m dreaming of a utopia of rational people. Some flaw, where I care more about what is correct than what is effective (perhaps cause I admit I could be wrong).

  9. 9
    lurker in a strange land

    “But that justification should be made solely on the basis of rationality, not religious doody.”

    Fixed that for you.

  10. 10
    Michael Heath

    Ed writes:

    [David French] thinks the Bible supports the idea that “human life is precious”? How about the human lives of the Midianites? Or of all the people allegedly killed in the flood that French absurdly believes really happened? God is seriously going to drown the entire world except eight people on an ark with some animals and then talk about human life being precious? Do they not read their own Bible?

    The biggest proof the biblical god sees no value in human life is the biblical promise that god will punish some/many humans for all eternity. Where a moment of such moment is described as unimaginably horrible.

  11. 11
    teawithbertrand

    “the gun lobby is no match for the cross lobby.”

    Those are two different things?

  12. 12
    Doug Little

    But I believe that the gun lobby is no match for the cross lobby

    Yeah a cross made out of an AK-47 and a pump action shotgun.

  13. 13
    nomennescio

    There is nothing about the cross that requires me to allow someone to kill my family — or anyone else for that matter.

    “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”

    Nope, nothing about it at all.

Leave a Reply

Switch to our mobile site