Have you thought about (HYTA) whether deeply religious people should be exempted from positions of power?

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          Anyone remotely affiliated with religious ideology will at least concede one point: they claim to have some form of intimate connection with God(s) which may include, though not limited to, the ability to sense his presence or hear his divine directions. Under the specter of religion, a chance meeting with an old friend becomes ‘divinely ordained fate’; personal tragedies become interpreted as ‘part of God’s greater plan for you’; or as it’s too often the case, chalked up to ‘the work of the Devil’. So let’s be clear: religion (or the supernatural) of any form is entirely invasive and like creeping vines, will find its way to parasitically coexist with the mind of its host.

          Would you hire someone who tells you he can hear voices, feel an unexplained spiritual presence or fervently believes the world will eventually come to an end? If you took religion out of the context, this person would be immediately labelled as fully dysfunctional, with a short phone call away from being housed in a mental asylum. Yet, under the wrappings of religion, what’s definitely abnormal becomes fully functional, if not acceptable. In the name of religion, it becomes possible to get away with nonsensical claims, and lousy anecdotal stories suddenly become moments of great divine revelation.

          And yet, some of the most powerful people in the world are deeply religious, almost fundamentally so. The Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, infamous for his brash trash talk,  heavy-handed vulgar language, and his horrific campaign of mass murdering drug addicts, said that he would abstain from swearing because God spoke to him and told him to clean up his language. Take a moment to think. It’s really as ridiculous as it sounds. What happens if he ‘hears’ God telling him to conquer nearby Asian countries or being reassured that murder is an acceptable form of justice? It would be but one hair trigger from an irreversible tragedy. And yet, nobody really minds that he ‘hears’ voices. It’s apparently quite normal to hear voices.

          Or what about Antonin Scalia, the American supreme court  justice – an extremely powerful position that most aspirants won’t reach, let alone dream of – who believes resolutely in the existence of the Devil? A judge who presided on issues of law, morality, and government policies, asserted in an interview that the Devil was a real person. He went as far as to say that non-believers were under demonic influence – a convenient (and faulty) way of defending religion while downplaying logic. In a system of laws where secularism speaks first, how could someone so religiously twisted be able to pass down effective judgements? Yet, in America, though not constitutionally enforced, it’s explicitly made clear that in order to hold a government position, belief in God (the Christian one) is necessary.

          It’s easy to point out that these are merely glaring missteps. But they aren’t isolated cases. For example, Pakistan was unable to ban child marriages (some as young as 6 years old) because its Council of Islamic Ideology, a bunch of genuine lunatics, decreed that it was ‘un-Islamic’ and blasphemous. A British chancellor occupying some of the highest scientific position believes in the absurdity of Astrology (not to be confused with Astronomy); climate change, evolution and right to abortion, continue to find incessant obstructions from religious groups; and of course, there’s Malaysia’s recent furor when authorities insisted that hot dogs (the food) be renamed because Islam considers dogs dirty. They also tried to ban and change the name ‘root beer’ because Islam prohibits alcohol. Root beer has no alcohol.

          Are these newsworthy stories worth kicking up a storm over? Absolutely. The front page headlines could beCrazy Philipines President claims to hear voices from the great unknown’ or ‘Supreme Justice should be fired for belief in Devil’. Yet the media response is far too often muted. It often considers religious transgressions and absurdities as social norms. It claims to respect the faith and belief of every individual while undercutting one’s capacity for deeper thought and reflection. The media, because it’s ultimately the mouthpiece of the government (it shouldn’t be), will always continue to promote its country’s main religion and blind nationalistic loyalty. Admittedly, cohesiveness of any kind is dependent on a sort of necessary blindness.

          Regardless, far too many religious people who have no business being in positions of power, are allowed to dictate laws, rules and regulations. And at a minimum, they continue to hold back, blockade and interfere with Science, logic and human rights. To be clear, with or without religion, mistakes will still be made and corruption will still seethe by the side. While religion can be a catalyst in encouraging people to abide by a certain moral code, it’s achieved with hostility towards science, towards other faiths, and a complete misrepresentation of how the world truly works. For these people, their confidence in their religious views are often such that “I could be wrong” doesn’t exist in their vocabulary. That should be enough grounds for a full disqualification.

          So have you thought about (HYTA) whether deeply religious people should hold positions of power?

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