I like to pretend that I’m an informed citizen, so I decided to watch the Vice Presidential debate on October 11th. During the candidates’ marathon attempt to avoid giving remotely relevant answers, one of the debate questions struck me as somewhat ridiculous: What role does your Catholic faith play in your views on abortion?
I counter this question with one of my own: Why should I care about the candidates’ religion? The issue the question confronts is abortion, not Catholicism, so it seems unnecessary to add another controversial dimension to an already controversial issue. The United States supposedly has a barrier between government and religion, so why does religion have so much influence in our nation’s politics? Sure, half of America identifies itself as Protestant—but one-fifth has no religious affiliation. The U.S. theoretically supports religious freedom for all, yet promotes Christianity above all others. Christianity is often used as a weapon or a shield in political debates, particularly in those focused on ethical judgments, like abortion or gay marriage. I’m not Christian and I can pretty much guarantee that I’ll never join a church, so if you use the Bible as the core of your argument, in my eyes, you’ve just lost that debate.
I understand religion is a source of values for many people, but you shouldn’t credit those values to your faith alone. Hopefully, you do not accept the beliefs of a religion as unquestionably true; hopefully, you reflect on them and attempt to objectively examine opposing arguments. That’s what you should do with any source of values or beliefs, whether it is your religion, your parents, the media…. You should never blindly accept anything.
In my opinion, people tend to use religion as an end-all, some supreme justification for an argument rather than the argument itself, and should be left out of debates. You can acquire beliefs from countless sources, and there’s no reason that religion is a more or less reliable source than any other, yet those who use it in debates treat it like it is. The United States is a country based on the principle of equality, and all religions are equal—to each other as well as to alternative belief sources.