The Religion of Politics

The most significant difference between science and religion is that the former deals with empirical evidence, while the latter requires faith. (You can’t, after all, demonstrate the existence or nonexistence of God in a laboratory experiment.)

Falsification is the heart of scientific inquiry; no matter how fervently a scientist believes in a particular explanation of natural phenomena, if further experimentation disproves it, she alters that conviction. Religious beliefs by their very nature cannot be falsified.

Ideally, policy decisions, like science, are based on evidence; we try a policy approach, and if it doesn’t work, we try something else. The characterization of states as “laboratories of democracy” rests on that premise–states will try different approaches to similar problems, and others will learn from their successes and failures.

When political ideologies become religions, societies suffer. A recent post at Political Animal, made that point:

When Josh Duggar and countless similar self-righteous conservatives are exposed as cheating molesters, it doesn’t cause conservatives to question whether their belief system might be causing those problems. They just double down. When abstinence education causes more teen pregnancy than responsible sex education, conservatives double down on the slut shaming. When tax cuts on the rich and wage cuts to government workers lead to economic recession, Republicans don’t question their core economic beliefs; they just claim they weren’t allowed to go far enough.

In a way, modern conservatives are similar to the Communists of old. No matter how obvious the ideology’s failure, the response is always that the policies were not enacted in a strong and pure enough manner.

That inability to come to grips with failure and adjust course, and that insistence on doubling down in the face of adverse results, is part of why many consider modern conservatism to be an almost cultic movement. Its adherents long since stopped caring about the evidence or empirical results. It’s all about who can prove truest to the faith, and maximally annoy and rebel against the evil liberal heathens. Policies and results are really beside the point.



  1. The only solution I see is to TAX THE CHURCHES.

    Maybe those con artists will finally get shut down once and for all.

  2. Science requires education. Faith just wanting to believe.

    Science is work, Faith comfort.

    The specifics of science are established based on measurement, the specifics of faith can be manipulated to suit any occasion by skilled preachers.

    Science is aimed at a better future. Faith typically is based on past events.

    In the end science describes what is going on around us. Faith within us.

    All life obeys science. Humanity only obeys Faith.

    They are as different as night and day but people still confuse and confound them. In the end we choose our Faith but believe science.

  3. The question is can reason triumph over irrationality, given the apparent reality that half the population are born believers.

  4. Interestingly, mankind invented two process that evolved into quite similar approaches, both for use when being sure carried high stakes.

    The legal trial process and the scientific method.

    Both rely on evidence. Both on a jury of peers. Both make use of process experts to guide the production and evaluation of evidence. Both incorporate review of the process by experts if the original decision contained some element of doubt.

    Lives are often at stake in getting those decisions right. We have to be sure.

  5. You are so right about what has happened, but how do we fix it? Or can it be fixed ? One fix would continue to see the GOP go the way of the DooDoo but what replaces it? The Tea Party, Trumpism, Kochism, Foxism, Godism? Different names same core beliefs.

  6. Although it won’t resolve our problems with religious zealots, I agree with AgingLGrl – it is past time to tax churches. There are far too many that have become bastions of nothing but power to control the minds of their minions and take their money.

    This might shake out some of the profiteers of religion. However, they might also have enough money to hire skilled accountants that could find every tax code loophole that ever existed in order to avoid paying the tax they owe.

    Day after day I am just utterly shocked at how they have taken such control of people’s minds. The followers are typically the ones that aren’t intelligent enough to think deeply or ask questions – they just want someone to tell them what to do and what to think, and that is good enough for them. They will then go out and be “warriors” for their belief”.

  7. I’ll join those who believe that churches should be taxed. I would, however, extend it to include all not-for-profits. Certainly those properties owned by such entities should be paying property taxes for the services they get in the form of police and fire protections, for the maintenance of the streets, for the local government and all of the services it provides. I believe that if you could see a map of Marion County with all of the parcels marked that do pay property taxes compared to the ones not paying taxes you would quickly see the problem.

  8. I’m joining AgingLGrl, Nancy and Theresa; it is long past time to tax churches who benefit from our infrastructure and the protection of police and fire departments. The voucher system adds public education tax dollars to religion based schools which comprise the majority of “private” schools. It seems that churches aiding needy in their neighborhoods is not longer part of their religious belief. The smaller, poorer churches have not lost this humanitarian belief but they struggle in their efforts to aid their surrounding areas.

    Those with the most give the least; not understanding need. Those with the least give the most while struggling with their own needy circumstances. I have faith that there is a “higher power” simply because I don’t believe life forms are an accident. But I put my trust in science to continue seeking evidence of the source of life and to seek solutions/cures to remedy the ills that plague all humanity.

  9. We have some politicians, perhaps many at this point that use ideology as the glittering object. The marketing is all important and one word or slogans become code words for the ideology, such as Nixon’s Law and Order, onerous regulations, makers and takers, Liberal, femi-nazis, eco-terrorists, entitlements, right sized, lean and mean, God works in mysterious ways, etc. The people reach for the glittering object expecting a diamond and find they have rhinestone.

    I worked for large multinational corporations all my life. We would receive some marching orders from on high. Those of us in the trenches knew the new plan would either fail, or not be as successful as the high command envisioned it would be. The blame for failure rested with worker bees, we did not execute the plan properly.

    Organized Religion takes the same tact with code words and a hierarchy. We have suffering in the world because we have universal sin, failure is attributed to lack of faith. Never asked is what kind of all powerful God visits upon humanity the most inhumane suffering. We are simply told we have failed and must double down. This could take the form of destroying the ancient city of Palmyra as part of the purification.

  10. In order to tax the church, and I would agree with that, we would need to somehow skirt that part of the 2nd Amendment that deals with separation of church and state .

  11. It is the 1st Amendment, irvin, which states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;…” No mention of taxation there.

    XVI Amendment states, “The Congress shall have powers to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.” No mention of exempting churches here.

    Can someone (Sheila?) tell us when, where and why non-taxation of churches began? Politicians probably believed it was the “Christian” thing to do?

  12. Nancy: I think the problems with churches is not that have so much power over people, it’s the amount of money they take in and how they spend it. The most palatable approach toward taxing churches is by making it clear that they are using their money (I know, “free speech”) for things that have little to do with their function as a center of religious faith and worship. That’s where the taxes should be levied.

  13. The tax exemption status is for “property used exclusively for religious, educational or charitable purposes.” What I see today does not fit that definition. Political action groups meeting in the church basement, voting guides distributed at churches on Sundays before election day, sermons not about the Bible but about political policy, deceiving parishioners into giving “love offerings” they cannot afford in the hope of getting richer, using the church bus to ferry parishioners to government meetings to protest this or that bill, a church set up to allow its members to break the law by using illegal drugs. What I see is a religious industry that has used the tax exempt laws to further political power for itself and enrich its leaders. What I see is hypocrisy at an ungodly level.

  14. My faith is in science, not in some mythical fictional being.
    Look at how the gods of ancient Greece and Rome have been relegated to virtual oblivion.
    Science and math are forever.

  15. I agree they should be exempt. They should be exempt just like we are exempt. At the end of the year, they should fine with documentation of the monies they have expended on social causes. IRS could reimburse them like they do us.

    We could hire an army of ‘revenuwers’ to check them out.

    Good for everybody.

    Plus, I’ve got this bridge I’m trying to unload.

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