This is a tough one. We allow freedom of religion, of spirituality, freedom to worship as one chooses. But what about when it is time to vote. We want a person in office who is reasonable, intelligent, some education about government or economics or business or work or something is useful. We look to past experience of the candidates – trying to judge their qualifications to hold office. Then we vote on the best knowledge we have. And some vote based on their faith.
Religion and spirituality – some people think they are they same. We do not. Faith is an interesting word – by definition it does not require proof. If we say that we know something to be true, then we must be able to provide proof – this usually means by scientific method. If we say that we have faith that something is true – then we do not have to provide proof – we believe based on faith alone. That is the nature of faith – if it required proof we would call it knowledge.
When people speak about religion and spirituality they sometimes confuse the concepts of faith and knowledge. Sometimes the problem is in the listener – mistaking statements of faith for statements of knowledge. Thus we feel compelled to challenge the truth of the statement. And sometimes people of faith claim knowledge – but cannot offer proof beyond a spiritual experience they might have had. That does not discredit their faith – but it also does not rise to the level of knowledge.
The reality is that anyone can have any faith they want and they do not have to justify their position. They can even vote based on faith; and who knows how many do.We cannot know everything. The character and basic values of candidates becomes paramount in this case. We do not know what the answer is in Iraq. We do not know what should be done about the economy. We wish everyone had health care readily available. We wish there were no starving people. Do we know how to make these things happen? Like everyone else – we have theories.
Faith is a slippery slope. If one believes in virgin birth and bodily resurrection – the what are the boundaries of sane belief. All of us know of crazy cults that have collectively committed suicide to hop on the tail of a comet, or shared the poison Kool-Aid. We have heard stories of people putting poisonous snakes around their necks – they either have faith that the snake will not bite them, or if the snake bites God will save them from the venom. All of these people who are citizens and 21 years old have the right to vote. There are no other tests.
So what can one do? How can one know if one is iin a responsible faith or if a cult is blossoming. We have some suggestions to offer to make sure we have a valid faith – if such a thing exists. Here are a few recommendations to help validate faith:
- Use your powers of reason. People are not dumb – if something does not smell right – question it. If someone tells you not to question, that the devil or Satan wants you to question because that makes you vulnerable – run for your life.
- Read the Bible or other Faith Text yourself. Do not trust others to interpret. Discuss your interpretation with others. If the others are forceful and demanding of the righteousness of their interpretation – run for your life.
- Surround yourself with reasonable people. Find a congregation of reasonable people – test your faith stance against their judgment. Be open with them, willing to share belief systems. Trust will exist when the sharing is reciprocated. If there is no reciprocation – run for your life.
We would vote for someone who does not sacrifice powers of reason to quirky faith, who studies issues, and who surrounds themselves with reasonable people.
We have faith in the power of reason. And it follows that we have faith in people to have a responsible faith. It follows that people of faith vote responsibly.