From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The faculty of reason, rationality, or the faculty of discursive reason (in opposition to "intuitive reason") is a mental ability found in human beings and normally considered to be a definitive characteristic of human nature. It is closely associated with such human activities as language, science, art, mathematics and philosophy.

Reason, like habit or intuition, is a means by which thinking comes from one idea to a related idea. But more specifically, it is the way rational beings propose and consider explanations concerning cause and effect, true and false, and what is good or bad. In contrast to reason as an abstract noun, a reason is a consideration which explains or justifies some event, phenomenon or behavior. The ways in which human beings reason through an argument are the subject of inquiries in the field of logic.

Reason is closely identified with the ability to self-consciously change beliefs, attitudes, traditions, and institutions, and therefore with the capacity for freedom and self-determination.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Faith is the confident belief or trust in the truth or trustworthiness of a person, concept or thing, or a belief that is not based on proof. Faith is in general the persuasion of the mind that a certain statement is true, belief in and assent to the truth of what is declared by another, based on his or her supposed authority and truthfulness.

Religious faith in a theological context is a confident belief in a transcendent reality, a religious teacher, a set of teachings or a Supreme Being. Thus, religious faith disqualifies reasoning in favor of "transcendent reality". However, atheists and agnostics generally consider religious faith to be simply superstition.

Since faith implies a trusting reliance upon future events or outcomes, it is often taken by some people as inevitably synonymous with a belief "not resting on logical proof or material evidence."

I wanted to start this post out with these definitions from Wiki, for the plainly-put comparison of the two types of thinking. Now I will offer my statement:

The United States of America is a sham democracy that doesn’t back up its own Constitution and principles because our government is fatally-infected with faith-fueled theocrats.

How ‘bout them apples? Quite, quite sour, I think.

My statement, I realize, is also rather plainly-put. It’s not meant to provoke or offend, although it surely shall. What I do want to shine a light on is our nation’s utter failure to uphold the separation of church and state, why that tenet is so important, and why I ultimately believe  that strong leaders of faith as well as agnostics/atheists must stand up to the religious agendas that have been cancerous to true democracy in our government.

Let’s begin at the beginning, with another statement that I think everyone can agree with: life is often difficult and disheartening, confusing and complex. We humans are smart enough to know that we will die, but not smart enough to figure out a way to stop time or thwart biology. At times, we are faced with cold facts and little comfort. Our knowledge of ourselves and our world will forever be incomplete. This all sits very poorly with the human brain and spirit, and it’s why we have religion and the concept of faith. People have a lot of trouble coping without it, so much so that they will convince themselves with complete certainty that there is a Supreme Being. But God doesn’t go on Oprah; he just shows up in convenient karma-related weather events, football touchdowns, foxholes, deathbeds, and divine images seared into toast slices. Yet, even faced with the heavy burdens of common sense and reason and unacceptable answers to their questions, belief persists. It is a measure of how much people suffer in the world, and how badly they need to feel part of something bigger. It’s here to stay, concurs this newly-completed study from Oxford University.

Unfortunately, when people stray from reason and common sense, they are vulnerable to exploitation. It isn’t just from the phony mansion-dwelling TV preachers. Those people who wish to gain the most power in this world understand well that if you gather up “faithers” and tell them, “You are right, and the rest of the world is wrong! We must save the world from ignorance and threats against OUR GOD and OUR way of life!” you’ll go far. Faith does not allow for non-believers, after all, or for substantially different concepts of god. To introduce the idea of, “you know, you might not be right here,” is to destroy the whole machine. You are either in or you’re out, and those who are “out” mess with your mind. They become a threat, and blamed for all that is wrong in the world. You see where this is going? It can’t go any other way. There is too much to lose for believers on a personal level, and for the power barons.

Enter America. We actually wrote it up in the 1st Amendment in the Establishment Clause that religious freedom, which includes the right not to believe, is a necessary function of a truly free society. To be able to believe and think as you wish, and not how your government tells you to, is a right that should be afforded to all humanity. We set reasonable limitations – don’t use your beliefs to harm others – and we promise that no church and no religion shall dictate how all citizens should live or impinge upon their civil rights.

"Practical distinction between Religion and Civil Government is essential to the purity of both, and as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States." -- James Madison,  in a letter to Baptist Churches, 1811

Oh, America. You lied to me. You put into power lots and lots of people who are, for lack of a better phrase, hell-bent on taking the beliefs of the ultra-conservative religious-right and turning them into monumentally-restrictive laws that affect us all. The checks and balances are all gone. Your democracy is “OUR majority rules,” and it doesn’t matter what it is that is being ruled upon. There will be no disagreement. There will be no gray areas. There will be no doubt or differences. Freedom, in your house, is freedom to believe as you do.

How frightened you must be, how unsure, to destroy the noble ideals of the United States with repressive law after repressive law. How desperate to nearly shut down the Federal government over the paltry budget afforded to Planned Parenthood. How short-sighted, cruel, and non-Jesus-like to target women, the poor, and immigrants.

Faithers, take a moment, just a moment, to mentally substitute all the U.S. far-right lawmakers in this country with fundamentalist Islamists, or Scientologists, or whatever you might find religiously-upsetting. Now imagine that there are so many of them that no other lawmakers’ votes count. They are passing bill after bill, paying off judges, taking money from big corporations and nations to do their bidding, and buying their ways into heaven like a runaway freight train. ("Biblical Capitalism," anyone?) Your rights are getting eroded day after day and you can’t do a thing about it, because almost everyone who voted them in thinks like they do, that they are “cleaning up the nation.” When you try to say, “Now, wait a minute! America is a free country! You can’t do this and get away with it! This is unconstitutional!” you go unheard. There are too many of them, placed too high. You now live in a functional theocracy, not a democracy.

Imagine this, and you can begin to understand how the rest of us feel. Does your religion allow for that?

Stable, strong religious leaders aren’t threatened by human differences, and don’t require power to validate their beliefs. They might pray for the others, but they aren’t going to use government to control them. They know that the beauty in their faith cannot be legislated. They choose to follow their religion’s messages of tolerance and compassion, interpreting that to mean “for all” instead of just “for us.” Infusing any government with a single set of religious beliefs thinly disguised as patriotic common sense values effectively forces all members of a nation to live as members of that sect. American government is not enforcing its own rules, and that’s a pretty scary thing.

I’d say that I have faith that we’ll work it out someday…but reason tells me otherwise.

"Our Country," from Democracy Series: Let's Take Turns (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1945), by Lois G. Nemec, State Supervisor of Elementary Schools, Madison, Wisconsin; illustrated by Kate Seredy.