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In the name of the holy spirit...
World politics and religion are as intertwined as Barack Obama to his advertent (?) omissions; a brief phenomonological debate

Religious-political lobbying is not a new phenomenon, be it from the time of the crusaders, holy wars, World Wars or the latest war on terrorism; every time the world took momentous political decisions, lobbyists were actively present to influence governments in the name of their fathers, the sons and all the holy spirits available. Closer in time, if the current US President, Barack Obama, in his most historical inaugural address talked about secularism and specifically orated, “We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus – and non-believers,” it will take an extremely blind (or forgiving) phenomenologist to ignore the deliberate skipping by Obama of Buddhists (listed by CIA as being more in the US – 0.7% of US population – than Muslims, 0.6%), Unitarian Universalists (listed by US Census as being almost equal to the number of Hindus; 0.3% versus 0.4% respectively) and of many other registered religions. On the side of Martin Heidegger’s caution, if Obama’s considerate renunciation of all ‘other’ religions to the ‘non-believer’ category is only to be considered an expansive mistake, one believes it was quite a deliberately appropriate time to make it, given the global audience that was lapping it all up.

Freedom of religion in the US is considered to go hand in hand with Thomas Jefferson’s concept of separation of church and the State, which he enshrined in The First Amendment, which states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” and that neither can it prohibit the practise of any religion. But the honeymoon of religion and politics seems to never get over as many of America’s leaders have almost conspiratorially nurtured the same completely against The First Amendment.

The question is, if Jefferson’s clear ‘Wall’ between the State and the church was supposed to have been maintained very clearly and publicly, then where does one draw the line when US leaders naughtily flirt around with paradoxical religio-political issues? The previous President George W Bush, in his State of the Union address, not only renewed a call for Congress to materialise his “faith-based proposals” that would allow religious organisations to compete for more government contracts without strict conditions, but also attended a papal funeral. What’s so strange in that? In US history, he was the first sitting US president to do so (for example, even Pope John Paul I’s funeral was attended by Carter’s mother, not James Carter). Bush even met John Paul II to insist the Pope persuade US bishops to criticise Kerry’s policies on various Catholic-sensitive social issues.
Critically, even US electoral behaviour is influenced by a candidate’s stance on religion. Because of his neutral stand on Catholicism, Democratic presidential candidate and non-Catholic Al Smith suffered electorally; while at the same time, John F. Kennedy was elected president because of huge Catholic votes. Anything out of the ordinary? JFK was the first Catholic US President.

But why blame Obama or other US presidents when the world smells of the same ‘fragrance’. The North Korean government has disseminated Juche quite strongly as the nationalist doctrine is against the spread of Christianity. China dramatically has officially even banned the Roman Catholic religion. In Iran, Ahmadinejad devices Iran’s foreign policy focussing on relations with the Muslim world. Iran doesn’t recognise the nation’s largest non-Muslim religion, the Bahá’í Faith, and persecutes them (Iran also punishes apostasy by a Muslim by death). Germany, Italy and Sweden have seen strong influence of Christian political parties for decades. Even African politics observes a very high religious influence. Take for instance, Sudan where the Umma party’s election manifesto was titled Nahj al-Sahwa, or manifesto of Islamic reawakening. In EU, there are 60 religious missions ‘influencing’ their ‘behind-door’ policies (the ‘non-Christian’ Turkey’s non-inclusion into the EU a crying example). In 2006, due to pressure from Catholic churches, Tony Blair’s government withdrew its proposal to introduce a mandatory requirement of reservation of 25% seats for pupils from non-religious backgrounds in faith-schools.

Jefferson be damned, the reality is that religious congregations have influenced US policy making on various issues too strongly, be it the Catholic church’s view on abortion or the black churches on US assistance for Africa or Southern Baptists’ on gay rights or Lutheran’s on physician-assisted suicide. Iran’s Ahmadinejad, in an open letter to ex-President George Bush, had written, “Whether we like it or not... the world is gravitating towards faith in the Almighty... the will of God will prevail over all things.” Poor man’s barking up the wrong tree. Gallup shows in its amazing 2008 US survey that since 2000 till 2008, the overall belief in God has dropped from 86% to 78% (in fact, close to 40% living in the western part of the US now do not believe in God). Chauvinistically, wine, women, wealth were the traditional destroyers of mankind. Religion is the newest addition. And Obama, well, he’s worried only about four of them, and yes, about non-believers too...

By:- Sray Agarwal

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