Opinion Religion And Politics

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Jan 7, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Religion and politics

Should spiritual leaders enter politics? It would be better if they didn’t, writes Deepak Chopra

I think it’s fair to say that there’s good reason to keep God out of politics.

Religion and politics are both combustible subjects, and throwing them into each other’s arms is sure to cause a fire. Civil life has very different duties from religious life. You cannot defend yourself in court for breaking a law by claiming that God told you to. For these and other reasons almost every country erects a wall to keep God out of the Constitution, yet it seems to be a leaky wall — religious belief is rarely far from sight when politics grow heated. Life isn’t compartmentalised, and issues from abortion and birth control to gay rights and stem cell research, bring up personal morality, an area where for millions of people God’s voice is louder than anyone else’s.

God On Your Side
Is it wrong — or even immoral — to trump your opponent by claiming to have God on your side? The very notion that God chooses sides is suspect. The human mind cannot conceive of being omniscient, but surely it must include seeing both sides of a question. There is no proof that God favours one combatant over the other in wartime, yet both camps declare that the Almighty is their ally. This kind of thinking is called projection by psychologists: you attribute to “the other” what you believe should be there. Thus God acquires human attributes because we project them on to him. If God doesn’t share our likes and dislikes, there would be no way to bond with the divine.

If it is impossible to relate to a totally abstract, non-human God, does that give us an excuse to take the next step and say that the divine thinks exactly the way we and our friends do, while rejecting that He thinks the way our enemies do? No. But religion is such an easy refuge for “us” versus “them” thinking that it proves inescapable.

In Times Of Crisis
The struggle to keep religion out of politics must be waged, yet with the knowledge that it will never be won. No one is free of guilt in this matter. The most liberal and secular politicians, people who never invoke God in their personal lives or even give a thought to religion, are forced in times of crisis to pray in public and seek divine compassion. “With God’s help,” falls easily from every politician’s lips, especially in times of war. Who would dare run for office saying, “I don’t care what God thinks. This is what’s right to do?”

Can’t Wish It Away
Such hypocrisy is par for the course part of the political game, and no one has been harmed by it — until it is taken seriously. If national leaders declare that only the devout are moral, that only one faith is true, that the world is divided between believers and infidels, the worst in human nature begins to unfold. No one is more dangerous than a man who knows he is right, except a man who knows that God has told him he is right. Whether such a belief rests in the heart of George Bush or a swami makes little difference.

The problem isn’t God or even the rigidity of dogma. The problem is thinking in absolutes. The irony is that spirituality, which is much broader than religion, is about the expansion of consciousness, which involves breaking down barriers. When religion enters politics, boundaries harden and awareness contracts to a very small circle: you and the faithful.

Thus religion subverts spirituality, and the claim to be near to God is made by those who couldn’t be farther from the divine. That’s the situation faced by India, the US, and any number of Muslim societies. We can’t wish the conflict away or legislate it out of existence. The struggle between God and politics is actually a struggle between human behaviour and human aspirations. We are all part of that conflict, and once we realise that fact, the crisis will begin to come to an end — for now, at least.

source: http://www.speakingtree.in/public/view-article/Religion-And-Politics_20568

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