There’s more to life than voting

To finally respond to the substance of Dan’s comment, here he is asking how voters should think about politicians who believe in creationism:

If my congressional representative believed in creationism, then fine. But if my congressional representative believed in creationism as part of a strong belief that there should be more, say, explicit Christian teachings in public school, then that goes against the principles which I believe. Is it possible to separate those two situations in the eyes of the voter?

For someone who once lived and breathed politics, I shockingly don’t have a strong opinion on this. I’ve consciously disconnected from such questions over the past two years. I am now much less interested in “the voter.” But since Dan asked…I’d first try to particularize the question. Some voters care a lot about this issue while others don’t. Certain politicians may infuse their governance with faith and other’s will keep it private. The specific blending of faith and politics can be vastly different and matters greatly. If you consider yourself a one-issue voter and this is your one issue, then go ahead and vote your heart away. It would be presumptuous of me to tell you otherwise.

I would only ask us to honestly acknowledge empirical uncertainty where it exists. If your argument (as I’ve often heard) is that creationist politicians will act because of their belief in creationism…are you really sure the evidence warrants drawing this link? Are you really sure that said politicians are imposing their views rather than representing constituent views? And if it’s the latter, aren’t they supposed to be doing that to a certain extent?

I try to avoid politics partly because it tends to monopolize these debates and crowd out all other questions. Electoral politics is important, but it’s not everything. We interact with one another not only as voters, but as neighbors. In the upwardly-mobile, educated circles I roll in, religious Christians are routinely mocked and ridiculed. Even worse, we often use the type of sloppy, unsupported arguments we criticize elsewhere. Much of my writing here aims to illuminate this hypocrisy. Especially since there is no persuasive evidence that creationists cause us any harm, we should treat them with respect and dignity. We should do so even if we personally disapprove of their beliefs. Tolerance and fairness are intrinsically good whether or not they affect our voting patterns. Before we worry about changing our government, we should try to change ourselves.

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