The Rabbit's Foot, Your Pocketbook, and You
Mixing Religion and Politics
Can religion and politics mix? Should they? Everett W. Gross suggests that economic justice is the best basis for government.
by Everett W. Gross
One of my friends remarked that he wished he had time to read all of the books that I read. I had to answer that I don't get to read nearly all of the books I need to read, and that I actually read little other than newspapers. Another criticized me on the ground that any book is only one person's opinion. I had to answer that it is almost always possible, and often advisable to find a book of the opposing opinion.
But even the newspaper can be read with different perspectives by different people. And those different perspectives might have been derived from a few crucial influences that operated long ago.
Much is appearing in the papers about problems of mixing religion and politics. When I was in my mid-teens, an older person asked me if I was quite religious. I replied that since one's religion is the total of one's opinions, and since I could drum up an opinion about almost anything, then l would have to be considered quite religious. This answer did not please my questioner since she had a rather different idea of the meaning of the word. She tried to guide me to something which I picture as an old man sitting on a cloud manipulating my luck according to some rituals which I might observe at the proper times of the day or week. One of the names I have for that kind of belief is "rabbit's foot religion."
I suppose most of us can look back at something we said and wish we had said it better. But that answer to her is one I still have not thought of a way to improve on.
Some people fear mixing religion with politics and warn against it, arguing that our founding fathers warned against it. I assume they are talking about using the teachings of one of the rabbit's foot religions to make arguments about selecting a candidate in an election. The founding fathers were talking about something quite different; they were simply taking the precaution of not picking out one of the established denominations to use as an Official Church, as custom has it in many countries.
Now in my old age, when someone asks me what my religion is, I consider it a hard question. I mostly have to answer that I haven't named it yet. Identifying my church is easy, but it doesn't really identify my religion. If I had to name my religion right now, I would say I am an economic pacifist, but not of the same thought package as some others who have used that name. My own meaning is that war is an economic phenomenon with economic causes. Many economic causes have their roots in customs which grow out of mass beliefs which become established in legislation.
People vote for candidates whose ideas sample mass opinion. Probably dominant in almost everyone's opinion package is some explanation he holds about why his pocketbook is hurting. I would venture to say that it is impossible to keep those mass opinions from dominating both the churches' teachings and the legislative processes.
Many of those mass opinions are nonsense, but most governments are based on them. And the economic results produce great material hardship. And war results.
War will not be abolished by changing human nature. Human nature already has every attribute needed to abolish war. Human nature is already capable of learning true rather than false causes of economic problems.
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