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Old 06-26-2017, 12:21 AM   #101
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Re: Bernie Sanders vs the Religious Christian

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I guess I don't, at least not as you understand religious extremism. You quoted the passage we've been arguing about and asked me if I really believed what I've said in this thread. Yes, I do. If you have a criticism of this view, feel free to make it.
I'm saying that Sanders' question goes to the issue of whether Vought is a religious extremist, the definition and parameters of which are debatable (as we've established here). I think there's clearly a plausible (or "colorable," to use the legalese) set of inferences from the passage you quoted to a suspicion of religious extremism. Thus, Sanders' question doesn't represent the improper imposition of a religious test for office; it's a suggestion that staunch dogmatists who might improperly inject their religious beliefs into policy-making aren't qualified for legislative office, the oath for which requires a pledge to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States," including (of course) the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause.

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Old 06-26-2017, 01:44 AM   #102
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Re: Bernie Sanders vs the Religious Christian

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I'm saying that Sanders' question goes to the issue of whether Vought is a religious extremist, the definition and parameters of which are debatable (as we've established here). I think there's clearly a plausible (or "colorable," to use the legalese) set of inferences from the passage you quoted to a suspicion of religious extremism. Thus, Sanders' question doesn't represent the improper imposition of a religious test for office; it's a suggestion that staunch dogmatists who might improperly inject their religious beliefs into policy-making aren't qualified for legislative office, the oath for which requires a pledge to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States," including (of course) the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause.
I don't object to Sanders questioning Vought about his religious beliefs. My objection is to using those religious beliefs as a reason to vote against him.

I think it is reasonable to require all nominees to not behave prejudicially towards Muslims (or Jews, blacks, Hispanics, etc). Thus, if Sanders thought Vought's writings seemed prejudiced against Muslims, then it is reasonable for him to probe Vought on those beliefs. However, Vought directly addressed this issue and said:

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Vought:
As a Christian, I believe that all individuals are made in the image of God and are worthy of dignity and respect regardless of their religious beliefs. I believe that as a Christian that’s how I should treat all individuals
Now, if you think he is lying, then you can still vote against him on these grounds and I won't object. My argument here is that the reasons given to think he is lying are improper or based on a misunderstanding of Christianity.

First, the passage itself is taken to be a token of prejudicial hate speech, and actions speak louder than words whatever he says now in the hearing. I've addressed this reason by showing that this is based on a misunderstanding of the original passage, which was about a Christian theological dispute, not about Muslims. No one's really challenged me on this, although Shuffle wasn't convinced.

Second, some seem to suggest that exclusivist Christian beliefs are inherently prejudicial against Muslims. I argued this is false because exclusivist religious beliefs are fully compatible with also holding liberal principles of freedom of religion. I'd also argue this concern is based on a misunderstanding of Christian doctrine (specifically of Original Sin).

Thus, I see no good reason to assume that he is prejudiced against Muslims merely because he is an exclusivist Christian. Assuming that he is prejudiced against Muslims for this reason would itself be prejudicial. I'm not saying that it isn't statistically more likely that he is prejudiced given his Christian beliefs. Rather I'm saying that you have to give people an out. If you directly question him and he assures you that he is not prejudiced against Muslims, and you have no other reason from his actions to think that he is, then if you still vote against him because you think he isn't telling the truth you are effectively banning people with those religious beliefs from public office. I think that would be a grave error.
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Old 06-26-2017, 01:52 AM   #103
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Re: Bernie Sanders vs the Religious Christian

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You truly don't understand why someone who believes that Christians "do not know God because there is no God" might have difficulty upholding Christian-Americans' right to the free exercise of their religion? Awkward.
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Pretty much.
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Old 06-26-2017, 07:22 AM   #104
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Re: Bernie Sanders vs the Religious Christian

I just don't understand this logic where we (or Sanders) have to take Vought at his word, where his reassurances are supposed to just end the inquiry, or where political leaders are obliged to "give people an out," especially since you concede it's "statistically more likely that he is prejudiced given his Christian beliefs."

I mean, you expect that most religious extremists would just openly confess here? Vought's reply contains a troubling insistence on his religious identity and suggests an overall doctrinaire attitude.

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Old 06-26-2017, 07:36 AM   #105
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Re: Bernie Sanders vs the Religious Christian

The reason this guys fundamental Christianity is a problem is not because it makes him prejudiced against Muslims. Its because once he can have such a stupid belief it could carry over to other things. He likely has that exact thought about religious Muslims in government. And that would be one case where he is right.
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Old 06-27-2017, 07:19 AM   #106
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Re: Bernie Sanders vs the Religious Christian

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I just don't understand this logic where we (or Sanders) have to take Vought at his word, where his reassurances are supposed to just end the inquiry, or where political leaders are obliged to "give people an out," especially since you concede it's "statistically more likely that he is prejudiced given his Christian beliefs."
If I'm hiring for a job that requires a lot of heavy lifting, I'll recognize that men are statistically more likely to be qualified for the job. However, if a woman can do the job, then I should hire her. If I get a female applicant who she says she can perform the job and I tell her I don't believe her and give her no opportunity to prove she can, then I'm effectively barring any woman from that job. That would be a clear case of sex-based discrimination imo. I think this is parallel to my argument about Vought.

More philosophically, I think the requirements of public reason don't allow this kind of reason for rejecting a nominee, regardless of our personal views about Christian evangelicals. One some level, Senator Sanders is acting as an agent of the people. As such, he should lay aside his own prejudices and private interests when making decisions on our behalf. I'm sure a significant percentage of his constituents hold the same religious beliefs as Vought. These people would rightfully be troubled to discover their Senator doesn't think says people with their religious beliefs have no place in running this country.

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I mean, you expect that most religious extremists would just openly confess here? Vought's reply contains a troubling insistence on his religious identity and suggests an overall doctrinaire attitude.
Yes, of course Vought might be lying. But then Muslims who serve in government might be lying about having Islamist beliefs as well. And leftists about being communists. And conservatives about being racist. And Catholics about their allegiance to the Pope. Lots of ideologies have adjacent political beliefs or attitudes many of us would find unacceptable in a nominee. The point is that we should treat them all the same, give each of them an opportunity to show they don't have those other beliefs or attitudes if we are concerned that they do. This should include exclusivist Christians.

Last edited by Original Position; 06-27-2017 at 07:22 AM. Reason: accuracy
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Old 06-27-2017, 09:33 AM   #107
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Re: Bernie Sanders vs the Religious Christian

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If I'm hiring for a job that requires a lot of heavy lifting, I'll recognize that men are statistically more likely to be qualified for the job. However, if a woman can do the job, then I should hire her. If I get a female applicant who she says she can perform the job and I tell her I don't believe her and give her no opportunity to prove she can, then I'm effectively barring any woman from that job. That would be a clear case of sex-based discrimination imo. I think this is parallel to my argument about Vought.
It's not for the obvious reason that one of these is an executive office within the federal government and the other is private employment.

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Yes, of course Vought might be lying. But then Muslims who serve in government might be lying about having Islamist beliefs as well. And leftists about being communists. And conservatives about being racist. And Catholics about their allegiance to the Pope. Lots of ideologies have adjacent political beliefs or attitudes many of us would find unacceptable in a nominee. The point is that we should treat them all the same, give each of them an opportunity to show they don't have those other beliefs or attitudes if we are concerned that they do. This should include exclusivist Christians.
I'm glad you're ready to sing kumbaya with dogmatists, but suspicion doesn't amount to imposing a religious test for office. I'm certain there are Christians--maybe even some less dogmatic exclusivists(?)--that Sanders would endorse for OMB.

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Old 06-27-2017, 09:44 AM   #108
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Re: Bernie Sanders vs the Religious Christian

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Dude, what? This has no bearing on the topic we're discussing.

I'm literally questioning whether Original Position understands what religious extremism is and why it's a dangerous ideological force in a government that claims to uphold the right to free exercise of all religions.
The view that certain religious beliefs make you unsuitable to hold public office is a much greater danger to free exercise than the view that certain religious beliefs make you unsuitable to go to heaven.
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Old 06-27-2017, 09:55 AM   #109
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Re: Bernie Sanders vs the Religious Christian

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The view that certain religious beliefs make you unsuitable to hold public office is a much greater danger to free exercise than the view that certain religious beliefs make you unsuitable to go to heaven.
How is Vought's right to the free exercise of his religion being infringed here? He can still go to church every Sunday. And certain religious beliefs do make you unsuitable to hold certain public offices. For example, we might reasonably question the wisdom of appointing an absolute pacifist Buddhist to be Secretary of Defense in wartime.
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Old 06-27-2017, 10:31 AM   #110
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Re: Bernie Sanders vs the Religious Christian

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How is Vought's right to the free exercise of his religion being infringed here? He can still go to church every Sunday.
This is a mischaracterization of what I said. I did not claim that his free exercise rights were being infringed. You were actually the one who claimed that Vought's beliefs were a "dangerous ideological force" in a government that supports free exercise, even though I don't believe you felt obligated to explain how he was going to use his role at OMB to keep people from going to church or mosque or synagogue.

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And certain religious beliefs do make you unsuitable to hold certain public offices. For example, we might reasonably question the wisdom of appointing an absolute pacifist Buddhist to be Secretary of Defense in wartime.
I disagree with this as well. It would be bad to appoint a SecDef who is unwilling or unable to defend the country. However, it is quite unreasonable to try and suss out a candidate's suitability for the role by asking him questions about the dharma or the requirements for achieving enlightenment. It would be much more appropriate to ask him about policy, to talk to people who've worked with him, examine his past career record, etc. Simply assuming that someone is unfit because of their religion is wrong.
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Old 06-27-2017, 12:05 PM   #111
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Re: Bernie Sanders vs the Religious Christian

I want to confess some confusion that may have muddled my arguments earlier in the thread: (1) I thought OMB was a congressional, not executive position; (2) I thought Vought was already a congressman. Nevertheless, I think the basic thrust stands.

bobman,

I think our disagreement here comes back to the question of whether we're obliged to trust that someone's religious views won't bleed into their decision-making on matters of policy. If you think the answer to that question is "yes, we are obliged to trust," then sure, I DUCY you'd want to confine the inquiry to non-theological concerns. I think it's clear, however, how budgetary decisions might affect religious liberty, especially in light of Trinity Lutheran v. Comer.

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Old 06-27-2017, 01:01 PM   #112
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Re: Bernie Sanders vs the Religious Christian

I truly do not understand how you can have a system of religious toleration if you believe that someone holding a supposedly tolerated theological belief calls their fitness for holding public office into question. It's not a matter of "trusting" that their religion has no effect on their policy views (it surely does), it's that the structure of political liberalism requires you to object to the policy views themselves, not to the content of their religious beliefs.
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Old 06-27-2017, 04:58 PM   #113
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Re: Bernie Sanders vs the Religious Christian

Sure, the thing I object to is the potential cited by Sanders that such a person might enact Islamophobic policies. I'm just saying I think Sanders' questions have a reasonable basis in his obligations as a Senator; it's not like this is some anti-Christian "witch hunt," ahem-hem.
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Old 06-27-2017, 05:26 PM   #114
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Re: Bernie Sanders vs the Religious Christian

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The reason this guys fundamental Christianity is a problem is not because it makes him prejudiced against Muslims. Its because once he can have such a stupid belief it could carry over to other things. He likely has that exact thought about religious Muslims in government. And that would be one case where he is right.
If you want some minimum IQ level for nominees to be confirmed, then it would be far better to require that explicitly than to instead discriminate by correlates like religion. There are a lot of fundamentalist Christians in the US; I'm sure there are many smart ones.
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Old 06-27-2017, 07:52 PM   #115
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Re: Bernie Sanders vs the Religious Christian

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It's not for the obvious reason that one of these is an executive office within the federal government and the other is private employment.
So your view is that it is not objectionable religion-based discrimination because it is for an executive-level position in public office? I don't understand the reasoning - I would think we have even more reason to not discriminate for those type of positions.

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I'm glad you're ready to sing kumbaya with dogmatists, but suspicion doesn't amount to imposing a religious test for office. I'm certain there are Christians--maybe even some less dogmatic exclusivists(?)--that Sanders would endorse for OMB.
You are focused on the wrong thing here. You are saying, Sanders isn't really imposing a religious test for office as I'm sure he would let in other exclusivist Christians. I agree. I'm not really trying to criticize Sanders' vote or views, but rather the reason he offered for his vote. I actually don't think Sanders on reflection would agree with that reason. Nonetheless, it was the reason he offered on record and so worthy of discussion.

And fwiw, I'm 100% ready to sing kumbaya with dogmatists. Singing some stupid song together (metaphorically) is greatly to be preferred to dogmatists who believe they aren't welcome as part of society. This is something like the core insight of political liberalism, that we should mutually extend to each other political rights of participation and freedom in a common government as a way to limit each group's attempts to control others. We should expect that if we stop extending this to a specific group, they'll try to do likewise. Christian evangelicals are too large and powerful a group for me to be willing to chance that.
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Old 06-27-2017, 10:11 PM   #116
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Re: Bernie Sanders vs the Religious Christian

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How is Vought's right to the free exercise of his religion being infringed here? He can still go to church every Sunday. And certain religious beliefs do make you unsuitable to hold certain public offices. For example, we might reasonably question the wisdom of appointing an absolute pacifist Buddhist to be Secretary of Defense in wartime.
His Buddhism in that case would be both a religious and secular belief system. Vought is saying you don't go to The Good Place if you don't have The Secret Decoder Ring and X-Ray Specs. There's no secular equivalent that would affect his duties in public office (in theory!).
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Old 06-28-2017, 10:50 AM   #117
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Re: Bernie Sanders vs the Religious Christian

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So your view is that it is not objectionable religion-based discrimination because it is for an executive-level position in public office? I don't understand the reasoning - I would think we have even more reason to not discriminate for those type of positions.
That's because you (evidently) don't understand the differences in the laws that apply to these different cases. Religion-based discrimination against a prospective employee is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. A nominee to an executive position, such as deputy director of the OMB, isn't covered.

The relevant question is whether Sanders' violated Article VI of the U.S. Constitution: “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” I've been arguing that the answer to that question is "No."
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Old 06-28-2017, 11:17 AM   #118
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Re: Bernie Sanders vs the Religious Christian

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That's because you (evidently) don't understand the differences in the laws that apply to these different cases. Religion-based discrimination against a prospective employee is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. A nominee to an executive position, such as deputy director of the OMB, isn't covered.
I'm making a normative claim, not a legal one.

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The relevant question is whether Sanders' violated Article VI of the U.S. Constitution: “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” I've been arguing that the answer to that question is "No."
Okay. I guess we don't disagree then, as I've already acknowledged that Sanders didn't violate Article VI.
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Old 06-28-2017, 02:41 PM   #119
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Re: Bernie Sanders vs the Religious Christian

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The reason this guys fundamental Christianity is a problem is not because it makes him prejudiced against Muslims. Its because once he can have such a stupid belief it could carry over to other things. He likely has that exact thought about religious Muslims in government. And that would be one case where he is right.
Except he'd be right by accident. His problem with religious Muslims in government isn't that being religious, by virtue of being evidence of being stupid, is evidence of a lack of qualification to govern, rather it is that, from his point of view, they have the wrong religion.
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Old 06-28-2017, 03:08 PM   #120
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Re: Bernie Sanders vs the Religious Christian

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Sure, the thing I object to is the potential cited by Sanders that such a person might enact Islamophobic policies. I'm just saying I think Sanders' questions have a reasonable basis in his obligations as a Senator; it's not like this is some anti-Christian "witch hunt," ahem-hem.
But assuming that a person might enact Islamophobic policies because they believe that a person needs to accept Jesus to be saved is exactly congruent to saying that a devout Muslim might try to enact shariah-inspired laws because they believe that Mohammed is the only prophet of God and that the Quran was handed down to him by an angel. Maybe there's some statistical validity to the inference, but it's hard to run a religiously pluralistic society if you make those kind of inferences.

Let me ask you this. Assume that it is orthodoxy in the Southern Baptist church that no one who has not accepted Jesus can be saved. (I think this is basically true.) Is it your view that all Southern Baptists who haven't renounced this tenet of their church need to be kept out of public office?
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Old 06-30-2017, 04:34 PM   #121
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Re: Bernie Sanders vs the Religious Christian

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I'm making a normative claim, not a legal one.
Okay? You're saying it's morally bad to be skeptical of an exclusivist Christian's fitness for office in a nation that upholds free exercise of religion, even when said exclusivist has expressly stated that he believes all Muslims "stand condemned" before God?

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But assuming that a person might enact Islamophobic policies because they believe that a person needs to accept Jesus to be saved is exactly congruent to saying that a devout Muslim might try to enact shariah-inspired laws because they believe that Mohammed is the only prophet of God and that the Quran was handed down to him by an angel. Maybe there's some statistical validity to the inference, but it's hard to run a religiously pluralistic society if you make those kind of inferences.
A government where all representatives were weak agnostics would probably do a good job preserving neutrality with respect to religions while allowing all to practice their faiths. As you acknowledge, it's very difficult to put faith aside. It's not that such a person can never have a role in a secular government, especially as a democratically elected representative, but I think fairness in adjudicating among faiths is easiest when you have no prior commitment to any. (I think this answers your Southern Baptist hypothetical--I'd be skeptical of most if not all.)
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Old 06-30-2017, 08:55 PM   #122
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Re: Bernie Sanders vs the Religious Christian

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Okay? You're saying it's morally bad to be skeptical of an exclusivist Christian's fitness for office in a nation that upholds free exercise of religion, even when said exclusivist has expressly stated that he believes all Muslims "stand condemned" before God?
No, that's not what I mean. Let me try again.

Imagine that Bernie Sanders had said, "Vought, I see you're a Yankees fan. I hate the Yankees and don't think they're what our country is about, so I'm going to vote no." Now, I don't think it is particularly immoral to hate the Yankees. I don't think it is illegal or unconstitutional for a US Senator to use their hatred of the Yankees as the reason for rejecting a nominee for office. But I also don't think that is the kind of reason a US Senator should use to decide whether to vote for a nominee. The reasons why this is the wrong kind of reason can vary. For instance, there are a lot of Yankee fans out there - shouldn't they have a part in running the country as much as anyone else? Or, being a Yankees fan doesn't have anything to do with the position. Or, Senators should abstract from their own private allegiances and interests when making decisions on behalf of their state.

In a similar fashion, I am arguing that Vought being an exclusivist Christian is not the kind of reason Senators should use to vote no on a nominee. The general principle I'm appealing to is that we should not use a religious test for public office and I'm arguing that this reason is in effect a religious test. This is true regardless of Bernie Sander's motivations or beliefs in putting forward this reason. It is the reason itself on which I am focused.

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A government where all representatives were weak agnostics would probably do a good job preserving neutrality with respect to religions while allowing all to practice their faiths. As you acknowledge, it's very difficult to put faith aside. It's not that such a person can never have a role in a secular government, especially as a democratically elected representative, but I think fairness in adjudicating among faiths is easiest when you have no prior commitment to any. (I think this answers your Southern Baptist hypothetical--I'd be skeptical of most if not all.)
I don't agree. In my experience weak agnostics often exhibit the same lack of neutrality you seem to exhibit here: a suspicion of especially dogmatic or devout religious people and a bias towards casual or more liberal (in the religious sense) religious people. I would instead prefer a government with religious diversity, so that each faith or lack of faith has a voice in setting policy.

EDIT: To clarify, by "faith or lack faith has a voice" I mean people of those faiths, not the institutions of the religions themselves.

Last edited by Original Position; 06-30-2017 at 09:10 PM. Reason: added text
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Old 07-01-2017, 12:50 PM   #123
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Okay? You're saying it's morally bad to be skeptical of an exclusivist Christian's fitness for office in a nation that upholds free exercise of religion, even when said exclusivist has expressly stated that he believes all Muslims "stand condemned" before God?
Okay? You're saying it's morally bad to be skeptical of an exclusivist atheist's fitness for office in a nation that upholds free exercise of religion, even when said exclusivist has expressly stated that he believes all Muslims and Christians "stand condemned" to be wrong about God?

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A government where all representatives were weak agnostics would probably do a good job preserving neutrality with respect to religions while allowing all to practice their faiths. As you acknowledge, it's very difficult to put faith aside. It's not that such a person can never have a role in a secular government, especially as a democratically elected representative, but I think fairness in adjudicating among faiths is easiest when you have no prior commitment to any. (I think this answers your Southern Baptist hypothetical--I'd be skeptical of most if not all.)
So you'd be skeptical of any strong atheist being fit for office, and think it would be okay for a Senator to question them harshly about their atheist beliefs and imply disqualification because of it?
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Old 07-01-2017, 02:01 PM   #124
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Re: Bernie Sanders vs the Religious Christian

I think there's an obvious difference in the content of an atheist's beliefs. Condemnation and damnation to eternal punishment isn't part of atheist thought. That said, some atheists might be poor choices for office, e.g. Sam Harris-style anti-Islam.
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Old 07-01-2017, 02:48 PM   #125
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Re: Bernie Sanders vs the Religious Christian

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I think there's an obvious difference in the content of an atheist's beliefs. Condemnation and damnation to eternal punishment isn't part of atheist thought. That said, some atheists might be poor choices for office, e.g. Sam Harris-style anti-Islam.
Actually, this is only somewhat accurate. Some contemporary evangelical Christians (including prominent evangelical theologian John Stott) believe that the condemnation is not damnation to eternal punishment, but rather is an annihilation of the soul. The story goes that if you are born again as a Christian then you gain immortality in the afterlife, but that if you are not, after death you are condemned by God to destruction, i.e. your soul is annihilated. This is quite similar to the common atheist belief that after death your body decomposes and you as a person no longer exist. In practical terms, the difference here is just that this atheistic view provides no hope for an afterlife to anyone, whereas Christian annihilationism provides hope for an afterlife to Christians.

But isn't this kind of absurd? Do we really want Senators to be judging people's fitness for office on the basis of the specific theological interpretation of the afterlife they accept? "Sorry, i see you are a post-millenial Christian, we only allow pre-millenials to hold public office." Wouldn't that have nasty trickle-down effects, where it becomes much more important to voters that their Senators also have the correct religious views? What would I say to a young evangelical who doesn't like the racism and sexism she sees in the GOP, but also cares about her faith? Too bad, you're not welcome here?

Last edited by Original Position; 07-01-2017 at 02:56 PM. Reason: accuracy
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