I rarely speak about religion. In my mind, faith and religion are such private subjects that somehow blogging about it seems very silly.
So let me try to make this quick. I can’t say I am deeply religious but I what I can definitely say is that I am pro-religion. The biggest two reasons you and me are here comfortably reading this post instead of fighting with tigers and lions for food are religion and government. In that order.
Every time I see an atheist trying to debate religion based on faith (oh, so you believe in an invisible white-bearded man!) I just shake my head and walk away. This is the equivalent of trying to discuss the merits/problems of marriage by trying to disprove love. I don’t discuss love, and I don’t discuss faith.
The reason I respect and accommodate much more for religion when compared to government can be summarized in one word: free will (or agency as called by many Christians). You see, I don’t have a lot of choice about government. I can move to a different country, state, I can elect a certain party, but the fact of the matter is that to support what we call civilization we need to pay and obey. It is a loaded gun against our head that will never go away.
Religion on the other hand is completely optional. Except under some extreme circumstances, nowadays one can join a variety of religions and be involved in many levels. Or you can simply stay out of it completely (even though atheists do tend to channel their religious energies into very religion-like activities in the end). Not surprisingly, religion continues to be a much more popular choice than militant atheism.
Just like governments, not all religions are created equal. And just like I try to judge a government or culture by the citizens it produces, I do the same with religion. All things considered, Christians produced the societies they did for a good reason.
The reason I see for Christianity’s advantage is that it found ways to address some of the toughest social issues we have in our societies: the eternal circle of violence and the lack of natural group cooperation required for big social projects. Besides that, it provides a framework for ‘self-help’ (for the lack of a better term) that is really genius. The whole idea of offering a ‘new beginning’ by the sacrifice of a superior being is the biggest reason why people are willing to join and repent (i.e., improve themselves).
The kicker here is that after we moved away from monarchy and other authoritarian systems, governments decided that they didn’t need their sister institution anymore. Why ask for churches to offer soup lines or education if you can tax the rich and provide that yourself? (And reap all the benefits – i.e., votes)
So, in that context, when I said that “a lot of the Christian’s belief system sounds like a Democratic welfare program” what I really meant was that welfare programs were created with the goal of duplicating religion (at least in part). After all, why would you follow all the difficult social rules set by your church if you can get the humanitarian benefit from the nice people from Washington? Now, many believe that religious people should not consider this to be government ‘competition’ but only cooperation. And that is why some religious people do become Democrats.
So I hope this clarify things.