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The Church of Politics: America’s Most Dangerous New Religion

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I often wonder to myself how people can be so tremendously stupid. Indeed, with open marriage requester Newt Gingrich rebounding in popularity amongst social rightists, Barack Obama’s unique brand of haplessness applauded by the mainstream left, and untold millions believing that the world will end this year, something is very wrong in contemporary America. It is not just one thing, actually, but a plethora of them expanding at a rate too quick to keep up with. Nonetheless, I believe that the lion’s share of our nation’s sociopolitical problems can be boiled down to a single issue: the tendency to treat every debate, discussion, or forum in an absolutist, black-or-white manner.

This is done by those on both sides of the political spectrum, especially during recent years, far more often than not. There can be no middle ground, no room for equal consideration. Either something is right according to a specific set of moral codes, or it is wrong. An individual’s perception of objective truth becomes the ultimate truth for everyone, regardless of their respective personal beliefs. The indisputably present grey area between the extremes of black and white becomes a domain beholden to unthinkable, let alone unmentionable, heresy. Any person daring to go there is not only an apostate, but a heathen deserving of severe punishment.

Hard as this is is to admit, American politics has become a religious entity, though thankfully not yet of a supernaturalistic nature. However, it most certainly is one with strong salvationist overtones. A surprising number of pundits and voters alike expect mere politicians to mend the country’s tearing fabric without ever, under any circumstances, compromising. Considering that politics itself is the art of compromise, this is insanity defined. Insanity is no vice, though, when mass movements, such as the Tea Party and Occupy protests, apply ample doses of emotionalist ointment to the harsh, but necessary burns of reason. The burdensome, but valuable presence of facts is traded for the addictive fool’s gold of populism.

Like other salvationist fundamentalists, the Church of Politics’ members advocate positions that hold no water upon rational consideration. Glaring realities matter not a whit to them, in my opinion, as the inevitable abdication of reason resulting from collectivist psychology renders human intelligence by and large obsolete. When it comes down to it, the path of a follower, a sheep, or a true believer is easy in comparison to the long and rocky, but ultimately far more rewarding, one trudged down by intellectuals and individualists. Hardline religionists of any denomination never know what it is like to truly think for themselves, so how on earth could they be expected to formulate the opinions necessary for positive societal contributions?

Any man or woman who is beholden to an ideology of natural or supernatural forms has a comparative amount of freedom to the typical inmate at Leavenworth. If personal freedom cannot be achieved, then liberty, its political arm, cannot be either. The only way that humanity can actualize its full potential is in an environment dominated by freethinkers who not only champion, but reside and thrive in the grey area of politics. Left and right are only labels; we should learn to judge one another on the basis of his or her actions, not opportunistic rhetoric. We should also wise up about the Church of Politics and the destructive dogma that it has unleashed on America’s public discourse. Combating it will never be so simple as Democratic vs. Republican, or other such nonsense.

To get a solid start, we should look inside ourselves and ask if we, perhaps unknowingly, are dues-paying clergy members. If we are, will any changes be made? Or are we happy functioning as simple pawns on the complex chess board of life?

Whatever it might be, the answer lies within each of us.

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About Joseph F. Cotto

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Joseph –

    But even in the days of the Founding Fathers, wasn’t politics every bit as contentious, even to the point of outright physical assaults in Congress?

    But there is a point in history that led to the Great Dogmatic Divide we see now – the Civil Rights Act. Before the CRA, while Republicans and Dems fought each other endlessly for power, there were liberals on each side and conservatives on each side, as was demonstrated by some fairly liberal Republicans in the Northeast and the wholly-conservative and almost totally-segregationist Democratic politicians of the South. On a side note, there were Republicans who celebrated JFK’s assassination.

    But after the passage of the CRA, just as Nixon’s staff predicted, the segregationist South switched over en masse from a Dem stronghold to a GOP bastion. That, I feel, is the moment when party dogma of both sides really began to take hold, for today, while there are some conservatives still in the Dem party, their numbers are relatively few and decreasing – whereas there’s maybe three somewhat moderate GOP congresspersons (two from Maine and one from MA) who are often vilified by the rest of the party for their moderate views.

    I don’t know how we’ll get back from this Great Dogmatic Divide, because what really gets me is how if one side agrees with the position of the other side, the other side will drop that position like a rock and forswear it for all time e.g. Cap-and-Trade, Individual Mandate, etc.

  • Igor

    Good article Cotto. Valid points well made.

  • jamminsue

    Thank you, Joseph, for pointing out how “free” people who “believe” are.

  • Glenn,

    There has always been a dogmatic divide in this country, to be sure. However, it has become more politicized than ever before due to acts of ruthless, and shameless, pandering by both major parties. This was done in search of a more sizable, sustainable voting base, and it was indeed found, though all of us in the center are now paying the price.


    Thank you very much.


    Thanks to you as well. If nothing else, freedom could be well described as elusive, especially for those who place padlocks on their minds.

  • Cannonshop

    I find apostasy (as a state of being) to be rather invigorating, and being a heretic to be kind of fun. Fact being I rather enjoy being an obnoxious infidel, at least for the time being.

    Why? because I can Like Maria Cantwell (D-Wa) and dislike Rick Larsen (D-Wa 2nd District), I’m allowed to think Ron Paul’s got “SOME” good ideas without being married to the idea of him as POTUS, admit Barak Obama’s got charisma and style while disliking his politics and standing in awe of how little he accomplished prior to running for office.

    as Heretics, we can measure things by what they do-not what they claim (or the Party claims) they WILL do, under Ideal circumstances governed by luck and blind chance.

    as a Heretic, I can favour civil rights for all Americans, yet I can also distinguish between “rights” and “Privelages”. “Rights” are what you’re supposed to have by default-Privelages are things that are granted by government-and can be taken away. Free speech is a Right, a driver’s license is a Privelage.

    as a Heretic, I can favour Free Markets while opposing Monopolies/Duopoly and Oligopoly models-because a non-competitive market is not free, see?

    “the Faithful” in both parties share a common trait-they fear freedom, they confuse “Rights” for “Privelages” (or vice-versa), both are in love with the idea that the government is the fount of all prosperity-how it works is the only variance between them, and, they’re both wrong.

    And I have a hypothesis as to why-they’re both largely composed of people who are, put bluntly, intellectually lazy and looking for the easy-way-out, rather than accepting that Responsibility is the key to freedom, prosperity, and all the good things they desire for themselves and their progeny.

    The GOP tries to shove God into politics, the Democrats try making a god OF politics. Neither approach works, both result in failure.