Everything I Am

A Little Room of My Own. A Place for Me to Create.

Critical Reader I am September 17, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — hilaryemma @ 2:37 pm

I don’t belong to a book club (but I desperately want to, any takers out there?) so I’ve decided that I’m going to use this blog to occasionally comment on what I am reading.  I’ve found that as a stay at home mom I am continually seeking new ways to expand my knowledge.  The best, and easiest, way to do this is to be constantly reading.  I love it.  When I read I feel like my mind isn’t turning into mush (sometimes I can just see it morphing into a jello like substance).  So in an effort to discuss this reading, I submit my thoughts to you, dear blogging world.

Awhile ago I finished The Audacity of Hope, by Barack Obama. I want to comment about a point he makes  regarding religion and public policy, because I’ve been thinking about a particular point he makes and was not in agreement with it. I didn’t know how to state my disagreement until I was given an excellent article by Dallin H. Oaks entitled Religious Values and Public Policy.”

Obama states:

“If I am opposed to abortion for religious reasons and seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or invoke God’s will and expect that argument to carry the day.  If I want others to listen to me, then I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all” (Obama, 219).

I can see where Obama is coming from with this argument, but I do not agree.  When discussing something like abortion I think it is impossible to take faith out of the argument, which is what you would have to do if you were to explain your argument to someone with, as he states those with, “no faith at all.” I just couldn’t accept this reasoning, but had a hard time putting into words the problem I had with it.  Elder Oaks says it perfectly in his article (which I encourage you to read) here are a few excerts.

Elder Oaks:

“To avoid any suggestion of adopting or contradicting any particular religious absolute, some secularist argue that our laws must be entirely neutral, with no discernable realation to any particular religious tradition.  Such proposed neutrality is unrealistic, unless we are willing to cut away the entire idea that there are moral absolutes…religious values are just as legitimate as those based on any other comprehensive set of beliefs.”

Elder Oaks argues that religion should not have to be buried in public life, and individuals should not have to argue from a secular point of view when putting forth their own ideas of public policy.

I love the quote he uses from Richard John Heuhaus, it states:

“In a democracy that is free and robust, an opinion is no more disqualified for being ‘religious’ than for being atheistic, or psychoanalystic, or Marxist, or just plain dumb. There is no legal or constitutional question about the admision of religion to the public square; there is only a question about the free and equal participation of citizens in our public business,  Religion is not a reified ‘thing’ that threatens to intrude upon our common life.  Religion in public is but the public opinion of those citizens who are religious. As with individual citizens, so also with the associations that citizens form to advance their opinion.  Religious institutions may understand themselves to be brought into being by God, but for the purposes of this deomoctatic polity they are free associations of citizens.  As such, they are guaranteed the same access to the public square as are the citizens who comprise them.”

So thank you Barack, but I will argue from my own religious standpoint, and from a moral point of view, about abortion, and gay marriage, because religion does NOT have to be buried in public policy debates.

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4 Responses to “Critical Reader I am”

  1. Jodi Says:

    Amen. This is something I have always been frustrated about, and I have just accepted the fact that I will never “win” because my argument is always religious and that just isn’t enough for people. Great article too, don’t they always have the perfect things to say concerning EVERYTHING? I too have been itching for a book club (since the only one I know of is the old ladies at church) I’d certainly do one till January…
    by the way, I like your blog superwoman.

  2. Sarah Says:

    This is a neat blog. I don’t disagree at all that faith has a place in public policy and that religious arguments should be discounted because they are religious and non-religious ones should be accepted because they are not. I’m curious about why you feel that your religious belief should influence policy over those who do not share that belief, including those whose religious beliefs are different (meaning that they follow a religious that advocates for choice and gay marriage).

  3. Christie Says:

    I would totally do a book club. I’ve been thinking of reading Barack’s book, but I also want to the read a counter book “The Case Against Barack Obama.” But I hate to spring the cash for a hard copy book. Lame, I know. But yes, I think that is a great Oaks quote! Well said. Side note: you would think Mozilla would have added both “Barack” and “Obama” to their dictionary by now, but no. It thinks both are wrong.

  4. hilaryemma Says:

    Sara, thanks for your comment. I simply believe that I can influence public policy simply through my beliefs, and there doesn’t have to be another reason for my support. This would mean that I completely agree, and would encourage, others to do the same thing. If someone with a different belief than I were trying to influence public policy because of that belief, of course I would support that (but not necessarily support their belief). And I would hope others would do the same.


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