God & Country

GeorgeCarlinReligionIt’s hard to imagine now, but when John F. Kennedy first ran for President of the United States, there was concern that his allegiance would be to the Catholic Church instead of to his Country and its Constitution. Contrast that with the current presidential campaign, in which Fox News asked – in all seriousness – if any of the Republican candidates had received some sort of communication from God regarding what they should do if elected. Yes, not only do they want to know if any of these potential leaders of the free world have been hearing voices from unseen beings, but they seemed really excited and hopeful that some of them are indeed hearing voices and planning to base their presidential decisions on them.

Jeffrey Tayler offers an overly animated take on this very subject in a recent piece for Salon. But it’s certainly a question worth considering. Take George W. Bush. It was troubling enough that he claimed that God wanted him to become president, telling a friend: “I believe that God wants me to run for President.” But then he claimed that God told him to invade Iraq, telling a Palestinian diplomat: “God would tell me ‘George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq.’ And I did.”

It’s terrifying to think that the man with the nuclear launch codes was receiving instructions from some unseen being. But it is absolutely horrifying to learn that this presumed deity actually instructed him to invade a sovereign nation, at a cost of 4,491 American lives, as many as 500,000 Iraqi lives, and an ongoing burden to the American taxpayers in excess of $2,000,000,000 (that’s two trillion dollars…or two-thousand stacks of a million dollars, for those struggling to imagine expenses of such magnitude; and this, from a man who promised to reduce government spending*).

HigherPowersIs it easier for “a man of faith” to believe what he wants to believe in spite of all the evidence to the contrary? That certainly was what Bush did in the case of Iraq. And what many of his contemporaries have been doing in the case of Climate Change. So while most see “faith” as a good thing, it clearly poses significant dangers when someone in power makes decisions based on by “faith” instead of on facts. It’s one thing to have faith in a higher power, but it’s a very risky proposition when people in power start claiming that we should have faith in their ability to interpret the wishes of that higher power.

When a presidential candidate claims to have heard the “call of God,” or received some sort of instruction from such a deity, how do we know he isn’t simply hearing voices in his head, the result of some mental illness, delusion, or deficiency? How do we know it isn’t Satan speaking to him, masquerading as God? How do we know he isn’t just lying, making this up to sucker the evangelical vote or to give credence to otherwise ludicrous policies? After all, how likely is it that God would decide to speak to – or through – a politician, the least trustworthy profession on our planet?

Should our next President have to pledge his or her allegiance to the United States and its Constitution, vowing to put it above any instructions they may (or may not) receive from some invisible entity? Sure, it’s easy to argue that it’s a non-issue, because God is inherently good. But look at what George Bush did in the name of his God. The unnecessary and unjustified deaths of hundreds of thousands of people can only be categorized as evil. Not to mention what horrors other men have done, claiming to act under orders of God.

*If God wanted Bush to invade Iraq, at a cost to the American taxpayers of more than $2 trillion and growing, then clearly God is in favor of massive government spending; and, therefore, God is certainly not a Republican.