I was just remembering a conversation I had with a guy back in college (who now holds a political office) that chilled me. The conversation started when he happened to remark to me that he could not trust any politician that did not believe in god (he was not specific whether he considered a belief in god to extend to any religion beyond his own). Religion-biased as that seemed to me, and as unfair as that seemed to me, I probed further. I asked him why.
He informed me that he did not believe that anyone without a belief in god could be moral. This puzzled me. I have known people I believed to be moral who did not believe in god as well as people who seemed immoral that claimed to believe in god. I inquired further and he said that he didn’t think anyone who did not believe they had a god to be accountable to had any reason they had to be moral and thus could not be trusted to be moral.
Seeing what I perceived to be a hole in his logic, I asked if he thought that morality was the same thing as fear of punishment. Did he believe that it was better to behave in a certain fashion out of a fear of eventual possible punishment by a deity whom could not be escaped, regardless of any personal feelings as to whether that behavior should be performed, was better than behaving that way because of a feeling that people should just do what is right? Did he prefer a sneak who didn’t act on what they truly wanted to do because of a fear of inescapable punishment over an honest person who acted in accordance with what they felt was right?
He said that he did. He didn’t even hesitate. He saw no problem with the scenario at all. This left me cold.
It left me cold, and it felt shallow. Admittedly, I knew that religion was important to him. However, by his own words he would put the unjust into power over the just as long as the unjust feared to act on their unjust nature due to fear of punishment and the just had no fear of being punished to enforce their actions. It is true that he would have no way of knowing that the just would be true to their just natures, or even who the just were, but he also had no way of knowing who the truly god-fearing were. Anyone can say they believe in god. Anyone can and still act in an immoral fashion, hoping for forgiveness later or thinking that their other acts will outweigh their sins.
Frankly, his logic seemed shallow and reactionary to me. Claim to believe in god and you get his vote. Don’t and you won’t. Simple as that without any other consideration required, regardless how good and just an atheist might be.
I worried about the results that could come from voting based on this kind of reasoning. How far off could establishing his religion as state sanctioned (or even mandatory) be? Even if they couldn’t mandate faith, couldn’t adherence to the rules of his faith be mandated by law?
I became even more concerned when I saw him elected to political office. Not just once, but several times. And he has advanced to higher offices than when he started. I believe he has a career in politics ahead of him. There seems to be a career in politics ahead of him and there is this potential streak of rot that could contaminate what he does. It chilled me when he and I had this conversation…and it chills me now.