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Is Social Justice A Religious Agenda?


glintofpewter
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On Facebook a friend of a friend argues that the social justice issues liberals campaign for are religious views and are attempts to force religious views on others.

 

On the other hand:

[Catholic bishops and the Pope] have rightfully objected to the Obamacare provisions that would mandate Catholic institutions to provide sterilization and contraceptive services (including abortifacients) without any realistic religious exemption, and of the decision to deny funding to a Catholic agency that combats human trafficking simply because the Church opposes abortion. The term “freedom of worship,” which was coined to distinguish it from “freedom of religion,” expresses a highly privatized understanding of religious liberty that does not embrace the public expression of religion.

 

What do you think?

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dutch posted : and of the decision to deny funding to a Catholic agency that combats human trafficking simply because the Church opposes abortion.

 

How ironic....when pro-life intersts are demanding defunding of Planned Parenthood and other domestic and foreign agencies that are often the only source of pre-natal care, infant care, contraception, and cancer screening for poor women and children, if they also provide abortion services, even from different funding sources, using none of the public funds in question.

 

Jenell

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The Religious Right separates their religion from their politics all the time when they ignore the teachings of Jesus about giving the to the poor when they give rich people tax breaks nobody else gets while also trying to destroy social safety nets that help the poor.

Edited by Neon Genesis
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Politics are about power, and so is religion, whether exercised as self-empowerment or empowerment over or against others. So that likely also forms a bond between politics and religion, as well as the mutual common base of vales,

 

Jenell

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I think a good case can be made that social justice is intrinsically a religiously motivated agenda. Not that that's bad. Doctrines like equality, human rights and dignity, do not come from nowhere. They've been hard-won achievements that are connected to our religio-cultural history.

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As George observed the political and the religious share core values. Religion is central to the long arc in human evolution in learning how to play well in the sand box.

 

The FB FOAF feels that to campaign for social justice issues like caring for the poor or asking the rich to pay more taxes is equivalent to asking the government to carry out the wishes of a religion. The Pope and assorted Bishops feel that those who work at Catholic hospitals are being stripped of their right to freedom of religion if they are forced to provide birth control - or worse. Are both these arguments valid? Do we have to appeal to something outside of religion to answer them?

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The FB FOAF feels that to campaign for social justice issues like caring for the poor or asking the rich to pay more taxes is equivalent to asking the government to carry out the wishes of a religion. The Pope and assorted Bishops feel that those who work at Catholic hospitals are being stripped of their right to freedom of religion if they are forced to provide birth control - or worse. Are both these arguments valid? Do we have to appeal to something outside of religion to answer them?

 

These values are independent of religion. One need not be religious to care deeply about social justice. One need not be secular to not care about social justice and focus on self-interest.

 

If one has a worldview that values social justice, they will bring it to their religion and their politics. If one's worldview is focused on self interest alone, they will bring that to their religion (and focus on their salvation) and their politics and join the Tea Party. If not religious, both will bring those values to their politics alone.

 

George

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I think both stances draw from religious convictions. At the same time, there can be an appeal to something outside of religion, like scientific investigations. But science (or whatever) can only inform our values, it cannot create them. We believe in a liberal democracy here. Individual & equal rights. Human dignity and justice. I can't imagine how such notions could have developed in a vacuum, without what amounts to basic religious belief. They certainly don't appear upon a purely empirical and scientific observation of nature.

 

Peace,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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Mike wrote: We believe in a liberal democracy here. Individual & equal rights. Human dignity and justice.

 

It is disturbing to me how many Americans seem to not realize this, or what it actually means. As I think it was Republican candidate Rick Perry, in a response to a question from someone about gay rights issues quipped, America is a democracy, and that's what democacy is, majority rule.

 

I used to have a copy of an essay I'd run across, may still be in my files, but i don't know where, on the meaning and importance of having a "liberal" democracy, and the real problems, even horrors, of democracy not modified by liberalism. Many of the most horrendous atrocities of mass genocide in all past, recent and present history in the world has been the result of majority rule not modified or restrained by liberalism.

 

Without the restraint of liberalism, majority rule, whether in a formal system of democacy or not, is nothing more than "might makes right," a brutal animal existance of survival of the most powerful and most brutal.

 

One doesn't need religion to come to liberalism and concern for matters of social justice. I do not accept that the only source of concience and morality in humanity and human society is fear of a demanding God that will punish us if we treat others badly. Most people, religious or not, do not refrain from going out and robbing raping and murdering out either a fear of a punishing God, or even a punishing human legal system. I think simple human capacity for reasoning, common sense, and inate capacity for human compassion and caring are enough to support the emergence and maintenance of just and moral behavior, and social systems to support that.

 

Jenell

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I agree with you Jenell on liberal democracy.

 

One doesn't need religion to come to liberalism and concern for matters of social justice. I do not accept that the only source of concience and morality in humanity and human society is fear of a demanding God that will punish us if we treat others badly. Most people, religious or not, do not refrain from going out and robbing raping and murdering out either a fear of a punishing God, or even a punishing human legal system. I think simple human capacity for reasoning, common sense, and inate capacity for human compassion and caring are enough to support the emergence and maintenance of just and moral behavior, and social systems to support that.

 

However, I'm a bit skeptical of this. Equal rights, human rights and dignity, liberalism, and justice are not obvious givens. Some of the ancient Greek city states were democracies -- and they were also one of the birthplaces of rationalism and philosophy in the sense that we would recognize. But they were yet a far cry from our present social values. I think our values have been the product of an evolution of ideas rooted in some basic beliefs indistinguishable from religious beliefs. So, while I certainly agree that any society is going to try to abolish murder and thievery (at least internally), I can't agree that any society is going to arrive at where we are presently with the aforementioned doctrines.

 

Peace,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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I think both stances draw from religious convictions. At the same time, there can be an appeal to something outside of religion, like scientific investigations. But science (or whatever) can only inform our values, it cannot create them. We believe in a liberal democracy here. Individual & equal rights. Human dignity and justice. I can't imagine how such notions could have developed in a vacuum, without what amounts to basic religious belief. They certainly don't appear upon a purely empirical and scientific observation of nature.

 

Peace,

Mike

Actually according to studies done by Gregory Paul, out of all the developed nations in the world, the U.S., which is the most religious of the developed nations, is also the most corrupt whereas the more secular developed nations like the UK and Sweden tend to have less violent crime, better education, and overall better health care. The rise of liberal social justice values owes as much to the Enlightment era and secular philosophers like Thoma Paine as much as it does liberal religion and you have to majorly cherry pick the bible to claim with a straight face that religion is the only source of social justice.
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Actually, Mike, you reference to early Greek democracy, is a good example of the problems of democracy without moderation through liberalism.

 

and, as Neon points out, the ideas of liberalism as they have developed in western society, the United States in particular, owe far more to the inlfuence of the enlightment and secular philosophy than it does to religion. The streuggle toward enlightenment and liberalism in Western culture has largly been a struggle AGAINST oppressive and often brutally authoritarian Christian religion.

 

Actually, reason, through social contract concept, is a very valid ground out of which equal rights and justice for all and to which the entire of society is conditioned and persuaded to embrace might arise.

 

Jenell

Edited by JenellYB
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Actually according to studies done by Gregory Paul, out of all the developed nations in the world, the U.S., which is the most religious of the developed nations, is also the most corrupt whereas the more secular developed nations like the UK and Sweden tend to have less violent crime, better education, and overall better health care. The rise of liberal social justice values owes as much to the Enlightment era and secular philosophers like Thoma Paine as much as it does liberal religion and you have to majorly cherry pick the bible to claim with a straight face that religion is the only source of social justice.

 

Why is "the bible" equated to "religious belief" in general? It is the ethos and narrative that matters most, and this is not dependent on any particular text. Secular nations are not disconnected from their cultural heritage. Long ago Nietzsche pointed out the secularization of religious values. But I'm not sure where else one is going to derive the aforementioned categories from if not religio-metaphysical considerations. What is a human right? Where does it come from? Why should we treat all people equally and as having inherent dignity and worth? Did the Enlightenment emerge from a metaphysical vacuum?

 

Peace,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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Actually, reason, through social contract concept, is a very valid ground out of which equal rights and justice for all and to which the entire of society is conditioned and persuaded to embrace might arise.

 

In my view social contract theory is a little too abstract to replace the actual content of moral vision. If we're going to argue for the actual reality of human rights and moral imperative for justice, I think the concept of social contract becomes stretched a little thin. Unless one brings distinctly religious metaphysics into it. When the divine right of kings went out the window -- the divine right of the human being became paramount. Both found their final rationale or source as derived from the divine in some way.

Edited by Mike
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The rise of liberal social justice values owes as much to the Enlightment era and secular philosophers like Thoma Paine as much as it does liberal religion and you have to majorly cherry pick the bible to claim with a straight face that religion is the only source of social justice.
One doesn't need religion to come to liberalism and concern for matters of social justice. I do not accept that the only source of concience and morality in humanity and human society is fear of a demanding God that will punish us if we treat others badly.

 

Sarah Blaffer Hrdy says that humans were emotionally modern before they were physically modern. Her view is that shared rearing of children was the context for shared intersubjectivity which is perhaps the crucible for the evolution of social justice values.

 

I think that we must take this long view, a big history as some say. The evolution of social justice values is at least 200,000 years old. If you buy me a beer I will argue that it is 4 billion years old. While these values were not born in religion, religious stories are a a way in which we carry and maintain them. Religion is also a place where we have conversations about these issues and arrive at new conclusions. I know there is a dark side but Jesus did arise out of such a context.

 

The Ten Commandments, Jesus' Two Commandments, the Westminster Confession, and the Constitution of the United States are four of the many gatherings up of our best understandings in the very recent evolution of our ideas of social justice. They are part of the same arc. I don't think there would be an Enlightenment or Thomas Paine without this evolution.

 

Take Care

 

Dutch

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The vast majority of the Ten Commandments are mostly religious rituals like make sure not to pick up sticks on Saturday and never make an engraved image. The rest of the ones that do focus on morality are either simplistic rules like honor your father and mother (what if you have absuvie parents?) or they treat women like chattel. The U.S. constitution is a secular document which has nothing to do with God or Jesus. The Founding Fathers were fairly anti-religious deists. Thomas Jefferson even wrote a version of the gospels where he removed all the miracles of Jesus and just cherry picked the parts of the bible he liked and threw out all the rest and George Washington was only nominally religious at best. Thomas Paine and the Enlightmennt arose in reaction to what they saw as corruption within the church as they tried to free morality and the state from the control of religious institutions. This is not to say liberal religion played no role in social justice movements as they did play important roles in the ablionist movement and I have a great deal of respect for liberation theology but the rise of social justice owes as much to the rise of secularism and the separation of church and state as it does to liberal religion and one must have an incredibly dim view of humanity to say we're too corrupt to have come up with social justice values on our own if it wasn't for religion. To quote the late Christopher Hitchens, show me a single moral action that only a religious person can do that an atheist wouldn't be just as capable of doing without God.

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I don't think social contract theory is as at all too abstract to have been a signficant part of the development of social justice and morality within human society. Social values and rules had to have developed quite early in human history if even just for the possiblit of family and tribe. A bunch of people living together or in close promixity to one another wouldn't have much trouble figuring out life is a lot better if we all try to get along, and set some mutually agreed ground rules for how we will treat each ther. I don't like you doing this to me, and you don't like me doing it to you, so why don't we just agree we won't do it to each other, and then we can spend less time fighting and guarding our camp and our women and our possessions and more time rustling up food and making babies. No doubt in early stages, it took a while for humans to realize this same concept was a good idea with more distant neighbors, at least most the time. And I think if you look at human history as we know it, you see the progression of that very thing as humanity moved toward our present state of globalism.

 

Was it social contract alone? Of course not. There are a lot of other things involved in social relationship than that. But it had to play a big part when how we treat others extended beyond those with which we had personal and emotional bonds.

 

And certainly anything involved did get incorporated into and carried onward through religion, a lot of things humans learned, even about how certain foods might be dangerous becasue some people that ate them got sick or died, or that wool and linen fibers shrink and wear at different rates, and if you weave them together in one fabric you're going to have a mis-shapen messs after a couple of launderings. But that doesn't mean it originated in religion, and could only originate in reilgion now.

 

Jenell

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The vast majority of the Ten Commandments are mostly religious rituals like make sure not to pick up sticks on Saturday and never make an engraved image. The rest of the ones that do focus on morality are either simplistic rules like honor your father and mother (what if you have absuvie parents?) or they treat women like chattel. The U.S. constitution is a secular document which has nothing to do with God or Jesus.

I think there are only Ten Ten Commandments so I am not sure what a vast majority is. If you see the Ten Commandments as the end of a conversation then, yes, they are simplistic. But I see them as the beginning of a conversation as did the writer(s) of the Larger Catechism of the Westminster Confession.

 

See questions 122-148 http://www.opc.org/lc.html

 

For example: How many ways are there to kill someone? What if there is systemic discrimination which denies one the ability to earn a living and feed a family. Doesn't that hinder the oppressed from sustaining life? Is that not killing? The Larger Catechism uses "honor your father and mother" as entry into a discussion about relationship between superiors and inferiors and amongst peers. Nothing simplistic here.

 

The religion of the writers of the US Constitution is irrelevant to my argument. They knew the Bible as literature at minimum. One Presbyterian signed the Declaration of Independence. The Constitution stands on the shoulders of the Mayflower Compact, the English Bill of Rights (motivated in part for a demand for freedom of religion), the Magna Carta, the evolution of democracy in Greece, the values of Christianity at its best, and on and on back in time for at least 200,000 years. The Constitution could not have been written without this evolution and religious stories allowed us to hold on to these truths over the centuries. Without the evolution of religion the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights could not have been written.

 

Here is a fragment of what the "fathers" of this country were reading:

 

Classical Literature Having Significant Influence Upon the American Colonists

Classic Philosophers and Poets, Most of the founding fathers in America were thorougly familiar with these Greco-Roman authors: e.g., Aristotle, Plato, Cicero, Virgil.

Ancient and Medieval Classics,

The Latin Library, (Cicero, Livy, Horace, etc.) Ability to read these sources extemporaneously was an entrance requirement at colonial schools such as Harvard.

VULGATE, The Holy Bible In Latin Language

Old/New Testament Greek

Old Testament Hebrew

http://www.constitut...arysources.html

 

Take Care

 

Dutch

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And the Declaration was written by the anti-Christian, Thomas Jefferson, who also coined the phrase the separation of church and state. But one whole Christian signs it and suddenly this makes the constitution a religious document? The only immoral actions condemned in the Ten Commandments that you could point to as also being banned in the constitution are the ones regarding killing and stealing and there's nothing inherently religious about those unless you're suggesting atheists are incapable of understanding it's wrong to muder and steal. Again, point to me where in the constitution it says anything about the bible or Jesus and again, show me a moral action that only a religious believer could do that an atheist couldn't do just as well without God.

Edited by Neon Genesis
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My argument is perhaps one of context. The US Constitution exists in context and we cannot pretend that the context does not exist. There is a thread of evolution that runs from the first bacteria 4 billion years ago to the US Constitution. It is not a whimsical impulse that I include bacateria. Bacteria use chemical signals to make us vs.them identifications and they use these signals to designate places to gather. They are in relationship. they are the begining of organic life learning how to play together in sandbox. We cannot clip this thread at some intermediate point say that what went before does not matter. We cannot clip the thread in 1787 when the writing began, we cannot clip the thread at the publishing of Newton's Principia Mathematica in 1688 or in 1215 at signing of the Magna Carta. And various Religious traditions are part of that thread.

 

My argument has little or nothing to with the religious beliefs of the Framers or with whether atheists can be moral. France is a secular state but the US is not. The US is also not a Christian or religious state. But it was created in a context which uses God language. This language doesn't demand any particular religious identity from those who used it. The use of God language doesn't even insist that the writers believe in God. The point is that the writers of the Declaration of Independence thought it meant something to use the following phrases:

  • the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them,
  • that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,
  • with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence

Again - this language does not define the writers so much as point to the context in which they found themselves. The event cannot be separated from the context and the US Constitution cannot be separated from four billion year old bacteria or anything in between, whether it is the evolution of democracy in Greece or the theological conversations in the Hebrew Bible or the New Testament.

 

Take Care

 

Dutch

Edited by glintofpewter
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