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Aldebaran
01-07-2004, 08:27 AM
The thread "Would you vote for an atheist" including in the OP the question if an atheist would have any change to be elected as president, brought me to the idea for this one.

After reading the answers on that thread, I posted the following question:

If a non religious presidential candidate even doesn't make any chance, how can you claim the USA is a secular nation.


And received interesting answers on which I would like to reply.
So to avoid hijacking the other thread, I shall do it in this one to start the intended discussion.
To avoid this OP becoming too long I shall make a new post for every answer I received.

Salaam. A

Aldebaran
01-07-2004, 08:29 AM
Posted by cheddarsnax
Nobody's claiming that the US of A is a secular nation (at least, they shouldn't be). Calling America secular is usually a reference to the government. While politicians do have a habit of bringing up religion, it's not like we're running a theocracy here. And the public's refusal to elect an atheist doesn't mean that the government is not, for the most part, secular.

I'm sorry, but it is not because you claim "nobody should" that it isn't been done by uncountable people.
And I don't have the impression that those who are in lead in the US right now are secular. Quite the contrary. The US president seemed to have claimed that he is even guided by God in his decision to wage war on a sovereign nation.

I can't call such president "secular" making "secular decisions" since he claims himself that his decisions are "guided by God".

That is in my opinion a very dangerous evolution and not that far away from statements made by some people in other nations that God asks them to murder innocent people.


Salaam. A

Neurotik
01-07-2004, 08:29 AM
That's silly. The US is secular because its laws are secular (for the most part).

Aldebaran
01-07-2004, 08:48 AM
posted by tomndebb
Easily. There is a difference between how laws are written and enforced and how people believe. Voting taps into people's beliefs; unless you believe that the government should (must? can?) force people to vote without allowing their beliefs to influence their personal decisions (when voting or otherwise), then your implied claim that the U.S. is not secular is without foundation.

Why should voting "tap into people's belief"?
And how do you separate writing laws and enforcing them by approving them by vote, from the belief of those who write/approve them?
You most recently had a case of an elected judge who was very vocal about his belief influencing his decisions and brought his belief even visible demonstrated into the courthouse. It is not because he was later forced to withdraw this "artwork" that he becomes all of a sudden completely secular.

As I noted, above, we have elected people with no particular religious belief. It is simply one of our idiosyncracies that we expect them to give lip service to religion--not because all citizens of the U.S. require it, but because there is a large enough minority that does.

Which implies that there is a large influence of religion(s) on the election of whatever politician and teh decisions made by such politicians who want to be re-elected.

Beyond that, secular does not require atheism, only the ability to tolerate beliefs other than one's own. Since Catholics are no longer killing Huguenots and being killed, in turn, by Puritans, (and since a person from any of those groups might be elected president), secularism has made itself felt in the U.S.--although perhaps not to the particular definition that you may wish to impose on it.

Iit "made itself felt" yet this is clearly overruled by the influence of the religion(s).
I don't "impose" anything. I pose myself questions and try to come to conlcusions.

Until 1980, no president could be elected who had been divorced, yet long before 1980, nearly half of all marriages in the U.S. ended in divorce. The choices an individual may exercise in the voting booth do not need to be rigidly equivalent to the choices one makes in one's private life.

I think I must disagree here. It is very visible that a candidate for presidency is judged on his private life, which can easily lead to attacks refering to his overall integrity.
Many people seem to tend to connect a "stable marriage-with-children" to stability in decision making.
I find this an incomprehensible reasoning. I am tempted to look for a connection with religious teachings on this behaviour.

Salaam. A

Aldebaran
01-07-2004, 08:54 AM
Posted by RDelirious

2. Extraordinarily difficult due to the degree of cultural prejudice among the "American Middle".

Yes I said cultural, not religious. Earlier on in the thread there was an impugnation of the level of real religious belief of several recent Presidents. But the thing is, a large number of Americans already have some sort of religious identification be more a cultural or ethnic thing than an element of true practice of faith. I know a bunch of people who identify as being of X organized religion yet have not been to one of its places of worship, except for weddings, since childhood and routinely break every one of its precepts. Many Americans would easily tolerate someone who declared "I believe in my own way that there is a Greater Will at work in the Universe, but while we're here we must do what's best to improve the human condition here and now", if he's NOT all New Agey about it and comes across as an otherwise down-to-earth guy, and as mentioned before does not come across as condescending(*). Oh, the fundies may freak, but if his policies are good on taxes, jobs and security, many in the so-called "Middle" would think "good enough that he believes in Something Greater".

The key is to not be "too different" culturally. And the culture is theist even if the structures of the State are secularist. Sure, being from the Judeo-Christian tradition helps, but even there you have to be wary. Say you're a Christian but attend church kind of irregularly, and when you lived in Florida you attended a Methodist Church and when in Oregon you attended a Baptist and when in DC you attended a Presbyterian because they were closest to your house... well, if you mouth the right biblical quotes when interviewed on the Christian Radio station then that's not too bad, after all we all have busy schedules. OTOH attend the same church every Sunday, pray before every meal, and be even a deacon in the congregation... that officiates gay marriages? You are a prohibitive longshot. If you're a Joe Lieberman-type Orthodox Jew, you are electable. OTOH if you go around in the broad-brimmed hat, the beard, the curly sideburns, tassels hanging from under your coat, it's uphill for you.


(*)I know, I know, demands for examples, etc. Look, politics is about perception -- and the so-called "American Middle" has an anti-intellectual tradition longer than we care to recount. Atheism, agnosticism, utilitarian ethics, heck throw in darwinism, neuropsychology, and even whole-language reading classes, they all look and sound to that "Middle" as highfalutin' talk from fancy-pants perfessers with too much book-learnin' fer their own good. When Ann Druyan writes about how wondrous and beautiful it is to behold this world and realize it's the product of countless natural processes that came together just right, what THEY feel is "hey, is that lady sayin' that believin' it came from God is simpleminded?" Again: the problem lies in being perceived as either a cultural outsider or a cultural elitist and that the American Middle would worry that it means at best you cannot truly understand their hopes and fears and at worse you dismiss their hopes and fears. Never mind that you do or not.

(Of course, the geniuses behind the doomed proposal to rename atheists as "Brights" are a beautiful example of How to Lose Friends and Alienate People.)


One semi-serious plus of an atheist/materialist Prez is that the guy with his finger on The Button has got to be a little more careful if he's NOT expecting that after the world gets toasted he gets to move in with 72 virgin playmates/meet Jesus/come back as a cow.

I find this explanation very informative and to the point.


Salaam. A

John Mace
01-07-2004, 10:47 AM
I would like to apologize to the entire SDMB community for "encouraging" Alde to open this thread. I will take into account in the future that he doesn't understand the meaning of the "rolleyes" smiley. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

Aldebaran
01-07-2004, 10:49 AM
Johm M,

I'm sorry to disappoint you so greatly, but you have no influence what so ever on whatever I choose to post on this message board.

I do hope you survive that cold shower and the related shock.

Salaam. A

Grey
01-07-2004, 10:59 AM
The fact is there is no easy way to track the answers here with the posts there. Frustrating is the nice way to describe it.

Now I know you hate all the back stage clutter threads develop but this thread itself is clutter in its own right.

jsgoddess
01-07-2004, 11:04 AM
This is simply another example of Aldebaran being unable to distinguish between governmental agencies and individual beliefs. I suspect it will follow the same path as his trainwreck of a free speech thread.

Julie

Squink
01-07-2004, 11:16 AM
You might enjoy this NY Times editorial Aldebaron:
The God Gulf (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/07/opinion/07KRIS.html)

Aldebaran
01-07-2004, 11:26 AM
Grey,

The answers there at the first question in the OP are of no relevance for - and have in my opinion no connection at all with -what is intended to be discussed here.

I quote these posts because they are answers on my OP, though made in an other thread I do not wish to disturb.

What is so extremely difficult about that?

Salaam. A

tomndebb
01-07-2004, 11:27 AM
Why should voting "tap into people's belief"? You answer your own question:It is very visible that a candidate for presidency is judged on his private life, which can easily lead to attacks refering to his overall integrity.So peope are allowed to judge a candidate, based on their beliefs, when it suits your argument, but it is not permissible for them the judge a candidate, based on their beliefs, when you need the decision to go the other way. Whether a presidential candidate is a good family man (which many divorced men are) is not really different regarding his ability to govern than whether he is a churchgoer. The distinction (without a difference) is simply one that you need to claim to make your point.
- - -
You most recently had a case of an elected judge who was very vocal about his belief influencing his decisions and brought his belief even visible demonstrated into the courthouse. It is not because he was later forced to withdraw this "artwork" that he becomes all of a sudden completely secular. He did not become secular, at all. And for that reason, he was removed from office by the secular decison of the court (a court made up of people who share many, if not all, of his religious beliefs). In other words, despite the pervasive nature of religion in the personal lives of a great many Americans, the country is able to function at a secular level. When he allowed his religious actions to interfere with his judicial office, he was removed.

You are imposing your personal understanding on the word secular. You seem to want to pretend that it means that religion cannot be seen, heard, or believed by any person connected to government. It does not. It means that the laws, themselves, are not supposed to be based in religion. You hold up Belgium as a "more secular" nation, yet the religious beliefs of the Belgian ministers of parliament prevented the legalization of abortion until 1990--years after the U.S. had legalized the procedure.

Mostly this is simply more of your inventing things to complain about regarding your misunderstanding of the way that the U.S. functions.

Aldebaran
01-07-2004, 11:33 AM
squink,

My impression is that this writer supports my views.

Salaam. A

'possum stalker
01-07-2004, 11:39 AM
If you think Al is misguided here, point out why rather than giving him the 'ol ad hominum shoutdown.

Aldebaran
01-07-2004, 12:03 PM
Tom, where do I say the following:

"peope are allowed to judge a candidate, based on their beliefs, when it suits your argument, but it is not permissible for them the judge a candidate, based on their beliefs, when you need the decision to go the other way. "


And that judge was free to let his belief directly influence his decisions during all the time he was in function.
Are all his decisions now reviewed by secular judges or are they not. If not, then his religious views still influence justice in the USA.

And no, I don't pretend that
"religion cannot be seen, heard, or believed by any person connected to government."
I say that in my opinion it influences indeed that laws risk to be based in religion.

Your example of Belgium is comparing apples with oranges (and I don't recall when that specific law was finally signed and I am too lazy to look it up, so I take it that you are correct).
It was not "religion" influencing the parliament. The opposition coming from a variety of people of different political colour is only possible in a nation with a variety of political parties. They provide for counter balance and opposites in the ranks of goverment and in the opposition.
It is not the most easy way for governing a country, and especially a rather complicated one like Belgium, but in my opinion one of the most democratic systems possible.

In a nation where only two parties have any countable effect and thus have the opportunity to deliver the Head of State, there is much more danger for religion entering the law making process if religion is part of the way electionable candidates are winning votes. Or better said: must try to win votes.

The fact that the Belgian king at the time was that much influenced by his religion that he declared himself incapable of signing this law (= making it legal by his counter signing the signature of the Prime Minister) didn't manage to prevent the law being approved and implemented. His refusal caused a crisis that was rather quickly solved by the creativeness of the Belgian politicans and their law specialists.

Salaam. A

John Mace
01-07-2004, 12:12 PM
Originally posted by 'possum stalker
If you think Al is misguided here, point out why rather than giving him the 'ol ad hominum shoutdown.
There are a few people worthy of ad hominem attacks.:) At any rate, the OP is actually a question with a factual answer (and it has been answered). That leaves a free-for-all as long as this stays in GD instead of GQ or the BBQ Pit (where it belongs).

Diogenes the Cynic
01-07-2004, 12:40 PM
Aldebaran:

Theoretically, the US government is secular in that it cannot legislate relgious doctines into law, nor can it endorse or support one religion over another. The government, theoretically cannot treat people differently based on religious beliefs. In practice this has not always been the case but our justice system has gotten better over the decades at rectifying institutional religious bigotry.

With regards to elections, there is a strong cultural prejudice in favor of candidates who seem to be religious, not because they necessarily want theocratic legislation (although some of them do) but because they perceive a person who believes in god as being inherently more ethical and trustworthy than a person who doesn't. It's about perception of moral character than it is about legislating religion.

I think it's a false presumption, and it leads to a lot of candidates who wrap themselves in religion purely for show, but such is the political climate.

the government has to be secular in its legislation but the people are allowed to vote based on any prejudice they want. You don't have to justify your vote or even tell anyone who you voted for.

Grey
01-07-2004, 12:51 PM
In short, the institutions are secular, the people need not be.

IWLN
01-07-2004, 01:20 PM
Originally posted by John Mace
I would like to apologize to the entire SDMB community for "encouraging" Alde to open this thread. I will take into account in the future that he doesn't understand the meaning of the "rolleyes" smiley. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. I have no desire to only see posts that I think are reasonable and agree with my opinion. No fun or way to learn anything from that. You are right, sarcasm doesn't seem to be a good method of communication with Aldebaran. See, you've learned something from him. :rolleyes:

tomndebb
01-07-2004, 01:24 PM
Your example of Belgium is comparing apples with oranges (and I don't recall when that specific law was finally signed and I am too lazy to look it up, so I take it that you are correct). No, my comparison is direct and equal. The reason that Belgium took until 1990 to legalize abortion is that the members of the various parties were following [u]their[u] religious beliefs through the 1970s and 1980s. What party in Belgium ever opposed abortion on non-religious grounds? (I made no reference to King Boudewijn because he was not acting in Parliament.)

As to the judge in Alabama: if you can cite a previous decision that he made which he based on religious arguments, I will see whether those decisions were allowed to stand. That I am aware, his every attempt to make religious decisions was reversed by higher courts.

far_born
01-07-2004, 01:50 PM
I think what is missing from this debate are the very people here in the US who would be quite offended by the very notion that the US could be called a secular nation. I'm really surprised they haven't shown up yet.

These people are quick to point out the mention of god in the declaration of independence, and want to preserve the mention of god in the pledge of allegiance. Despite their claim to "God" not being specific, I doubt they'd be ready to switch to "In Allah We Trust" or "one nation under Vishnu" on a whim.

It seems that a false dichotomy is being drawn here between a theocracy (which the US obviously isn't and which Aldeberaan never claimed it was AFAIK) and a secular government. The US, in terms of public policy seems to me to distinguishable from a purely secular government. Certainly it is not largely concerned with religion on a day to day basis yet it remains symbolically very important.

Ultimately the electability of the president seems to be a cultural question to me. But if a culture has religious leanings, it's inevitable that it's goverment will exhibit them no matter its stated intention.

Aldebaran
01-07-2004, 02:01 PM
tomndebb,

Now I'm waiting for your proof that "members of various political parties where following their religious beliefs" all through the period between 1970 and 1980 (I was a little child then and most of the time not in Belgium, so if you are older then I am you must know all the details).
In addition to that you seem to claim that every single memeber of every single party in that period followed his/her religious beliefs when opposing to that law and that this is reflected in their public statements and the statements of their parties.
Or where else can you get your proof.

And although the king didn't act directly in the parliament, his signature was - as it still is - explicitely needed on every new law before it can be published, which needs to be done before it can be implemented.

As for the judge we are talking about.
I have seen interviews with him and in particular I recall one where he made clear statements that his "laws" were the 10 commandments and that he acted accordingly in his decisions. He even had a copy in his office of what looked exactly as what he placed in the building and pointed at it while giving that statement.

So I guess it is only reasonable to take in account that there must be a whole lot of decissions made by that man who were made based on "the law of the ten commandments".

Unless that whole interview was fake of course and they were using a double. I never trust anything if I'm not there while it happens. But allow me to have at least some reasonable doubt about this case seen the fact that in other interviews he looked the same and his statements weren't different in their tone and not even all that different in language.
And add to that that I understand Enlgish 1000 times better then I can write it and that in addition the interview I refer to was subtitled in a language I master perfectly.

Salaam. A

Aldebaran
01-07-2004, 02:13 PM
IWLN

If the remark by that other member was meant as sarcasm or not... His remark overhere was certainly not. And not seeing him face to face, I can't distinct if he meant it as a sort of joke when insinuating that he is in a position able to influence the way I decide to post here. So I take it that he was serious about that.

The only ones who are in a position to influence what I post or how and where, are the administrators and the moderators.

Salaam. A

Aldebaran
01-07-2004, 02:21 PM
far born

Yes, I do miss the contribution of those people here.

And yes, I have the idea that some of the participants try to make my OP and arguments come across as what you describe as

It seems that a false dichotomy is being drawn here between a theocracy (which the US obviously isn't and which Aldeberaan never claimed it was AFAIK) and a secular government.

and which makes it rather impossible to discuss anything.

Salaam. A

TitoBenito
01-07-2004, 02:39 PM
Originally posted by Aldebaran
I can't call such president "secular" making "secular decisions" since he claims himself that his decisions are "guided by God".


And you of all people beleive him? Sounds to me like another politician trying to justify his political goals with religion. I don't know of a religious person out there who doesn't claim to have their decisions guided by god in some respect. Isn't it funny how god always seems to agree with what choice you were going to make anyways.

Also I think it would be very possible for a non-religious person to become president. There have been non-religious presidents in the past. I just don't think there is not much chance of a atheist president in the near future.

tomndebb
01-07-2004, 03:21 PM
Now I'm waiting for your proof that "members of various political parties where following their religious beliefs" all through the period between 1970 and 1980 (I was a little child then and most of the time not in Belgium, so if you are older then I am you must know all the details). The discussions surrounding abortion always centered on the moral declarations issued by the Catholic Church and a few of the smaller Evangelische (rarely the Reform) denominations. I do not recall any opposition to abortion that was not couched in terms of moral law and Christian belief.
(If you would like a citation, I will be happy to provide it as soon as you catch up on all the citations that have been requested of you in the last few months. Fair's fair, after all.)

(Boudewijn's participation was based on his religious beliefs and I am declining to use him to bolster my case. If you want to go into the legal machinations that they had to use to get around his refusal to sign while pretending that religion has no influence on Belgian politics, go ahead, but I was going to give you a pass on that topic.) For those not familiar with the situation, the signature of the head of state was required for all Belgian laws to be enacted and no king in recent history (each recognizing his figurehead status), had ever refused to sign any law. Boudewijn, who was a deeply religious Catholic refused to sign the abortion legislation. So, for one day, the entire Parliament signed a decree that he was no longer recognized as the head of state, they then authorized the Government to be the effective Head of State and authorized the legislation. The next day, they all assembled again and signed a new document recognizing him head of state, again. Note that I have chosen NOT to include Boudewijn's actions as a "typical" entanglement of church and state in Belgium.)

Aldebaran
01-07-2004, 04:40 PM
tom,

1. Political parties in Belgium don't represent the Vatican and its doctrine nor do they give a forum at the Vatican and its doctrine.
2. What you call "Evangelische Kerk" is hardly present in Belgium, let be in any political partyprogram. The country is still dominantly Catholic even when not that much Catholics-by- conviction/education are practicing the religion openly these days. (You must have been looking at the Netherlands when you wrote that.)
3. If you can come up with a citation of a Belgian politican or a political party then I can possibly see where you come from with your assertions. If you choose not to, I don't mind.

And when coming to the case of the King and how he was declared to be in the impossibility (and not "no longer recognized") to be head of State for one day: That is part of the amusing aspects of the Belgian creativity to deal with impossible situations.
But if you need to find a way to declare the king to be in the impossibility to be king in order to stay within the limits of legality for a law to be approved, I think that says a lot about the absence of religious influence in law making.
(And I need to correct you when you talk of the Belgian king as "figurehead" because that is an unjust accusation in daily practice).

By the way: Maybe it escapes you, but I didn't post an OP that includes reference to Belgium or any other country besides the USA.

Salaam. A

tomndebb
01-07-2004, 05:33 PM
1. Political parties in the U.S. don't represent the Vatican or the Southern Baptists or the Presbyterians, etc. and their doctrines, nor do they give a forum for the Vatican or the Southern Baptists or the Presbyterians, etc. and their doctrines. By your logic on this point, you have proved that the U.S., like Belgium, is secular.
2. I did not say that the Evangelische were any sort of majority. I pointed out that there were a few references to their theology, so I am not sure what your point is supposed to be.
3. Go back and read the political statements of the debates from the late 1980s.

Bryan Ekers
01-07-2004, 05:38 PM
Originally posted by Aldebaran
By the way: Maybe it escapes you, but I didn't post an OP that includes reference to Belgium or any other country besides the USA.

Too bad. If you want to create threads that contain an anti-U.S. bias, you invite other nations to be compared to see how they handle similar circumstances, because it may turn out that while the U.S. doesn't have a perfect solution, it may be less imperfect than almost anyone else's.

As to the basic question at hand, legally the process of selecting a U.S. President is completely secular. Even the oath of office each President must make contains nor formal reference to God (the "so help me God" is a tacked-on addition not required by the Constitution, as defined in Article II, Section 1.)

Now as to why citizens vote the way they do, no doubt some are influenced by their own religious beliefs. So what, though? Only a hardcore lunatic fringe suggests a President has a mandate from God, which is kind of implied in constitutional monarchies like, say, Belgium and (I'm sad to say, since I'm a republican at heart) Canada.

By the way, by "hardcore lunatic fringe", I'm not including any President who goes to church or makes occasionaly references to God and whatnot. I'll sure you'll be happy to contradict me, though.

So what's your "other" country, Aldeb? I bet we could come up with all kinds of faults with it, real or imagined.

Evil Captor
01-07-2004, 06:30 PM
I think Aldeberan raises an important and interesting point. Yes, the U.S. is a secular society in form, but is it a secular society in function? If you HAVE to believe in God to get eleced ot office in the U.S., isn't belief in God a de facto requirement for office whether or not there's a rule explicitly stating it?

And if there is a de facto requirement for a belief in god to hold public office, it's reasonable to ask to what extent religious beliefs govern our laws. I would argue that we have religious elements in our laws which have gradually been eliminated, generally with the stupidest ones being the first to go. Frex, blue laws. There simply is no equivalent of sharia in U.S. laws, though some dimwitted moral conservatives believe that the basis of all law is found in moral beliefs promulgated by religion.

far_born
01-07-2004, 07:49 PM
Originally posted by Bryan Ekers
Now as to why citizens vote the way they do, no doubt some are influenced by their own religious beliefs. So what, though? Only a hardcore lunatic fringe suggests a President has a mandate from God, which is kind of implied in constitutional monarchies like, say, Belgium and (I'm sad to say, since I'm a republican at heart) Canada. One can discuss the degree of secularism outside of assuming a divine right. There are plenty of women who are wary of the influence of the religious right on government policy. This is a real issue. We are discussing the degree of secularism in this thread. Thank you for pointing out the obvious(that we don't have a constitutional monarchy).

So what's your "other" country, Aldeb? I bet we could come up with all kinds of faults with it, real or imagined. I guess this is up to Aldebaran, but I'd prefer if you tried another thread for this discussion.

tomndebb
01-07-2004, 09:15 PM
Only a hardcore lunatic fringe suggests a President has a mandate from God, which is kind of implied in constitutional monarchies like, say, Belgium. . . . Actually, the point is that Aldebaran has repeatedly posted to the effect that the U.S. is falsely identified as a secular society or a secularly run government and has, on several occasions, pointed to Belgium as a country that is "superior" in its secularity to the U.S.

My point has been to demonstrate that he simply picks and chooses what to view when he makes his claim. Heavily Catholic Belgium waited twenty years after other European nations had legalized abortion before they did the same. There was no political party that opposed abortion as medically unnecessary or as being at odds with the Belgian constitution. Rather, just as in the U.S. where secular laws are implemented by religious people, Belgium's more or less religious population was only slowly persuaded to change their collective minds.

There is, in my view, nothing wrong with that. Each human is informed by his or her religious views or lack thereof. U.S. culture still has more religious influence at the personal level than anywhere in Europe, but that personal level is separate from the claim that Aldebaran insists on making that individual beliefs cause the U.S. to not be secular.

In contrast to Evil Captor, I would suggest that we continue to have a culture of religious tradition, but that we still have a basically secular society. Two separate trends work to that end: the general drift away from religiosity and toward secularism and the specific pluralism of society. Even with an overwhelming majority of people affirming some sort of Christianity, there are enough rifts and opposing voices to any specific denomination that no truly religious belief is enshrined in law. The (disappearing) blue laws, restrictive liquor laws, the celebration of Chrstmas as a national holiday, and even the resistance to voting for an avowed atheist are all cultural in nature. Few people could give a coherent reason defending most of those actions. They are simply part of the philosophical landscape of the country.

I would not say that the U.S. could not move back from secularism the way that Falwell and Bush would like to take us, but I do not see that they have succeeded at this time.

Aldebaran
01-08-2004, 08:05 AM
Tom,

Where is that "repeatedly posting" of mine you talk about?
I may have given some comments in that direction, but you make it sound as if I pop up on every thread here to declare that Belgium is much more secular then the USA.

It is in my opinion much more secular. And coming up with something sensitive like a debate about abortion laws isn't that good of an example to "prove" the contrary.
Does it ever occur to you that one doesn't need to be "religious" to be opposed to laws permitting something that is as drastical -and deadly for an innocent unknowing life that has nothing to say about it - as abortion?
Or do you belong to those who claim that atheists can't have any moral objections to that because in your perception they don't have morals at all.

When it comes to influence of religion on political carreers, and thus on politicians and their election, do you see any comparison with what happens in the USA and what happens in EU nations?

I mean: can you name a nation where someone "needs" to be religious, be it only in wording to please the public (I should say: mislead the voters) in order to be able to have any chance of being electable as president or prime minister?

And can you name an other nation that has currency with "In God we trust" on it and that has a pledge of allience with "one nation under God" in it, has at this very day a president who refers to God every given moment while acting in function as president and who declared that he was guided by God when invading an other nation?
Do you see in other nations politicians organising Bible studies/readings for members of their administration and eventually also other co-workers?
It seems that this indeed happens these days in the USA. And I don't think you would even in Islamic nations where Islam has an influence on every step you take in daily life, see politicians taking such initiative with Al Qur'an as study/reading object.

Is all of this pointing to a complete secular election proces and functioning of the government of a nation or is it rather pointing to religion having an influence on this.


Can we now proceed while staying on topic.
Thank you.


Salaam. A

Spectre of Pithecanthropus
01-08-2004, 08:30 AM
Originally posted by Diogenes the Cynic
Aldebaran:

With regards to elections, there is a strong cultural prejudice in favor of candidates who seem to be religious, not because they necessarily want theocratic legislation (although some of them do) but because they perceive a person who believes in god as being inherently more ethical and trustworthy than a person who doesn't. It's about perception of moral character than it is about legislating religion.


I'll add to this that our system of government gives an unfair advantage to rural states with low population. These places tend to be more religious, and despite the low population, send the same number of senators to Washington as do big states like New York and California. Being a sentator is an extremely high profile, and can result in international as well as national attention, particularly if the senator becomes a committee chairman or Speaker. Sentators often get appointed to presidential cabinets, John Ashcroft being a good example of this. So we have people like Orrin Hatch, whose rise to political prominence took place in rural, Mormon, and highly religious Utah. Missouri is not quite so small or rural a state as Utah, but still seems a likely stomping ground for the fundamentalist John Ashcroft.

But I doubt you'd find that coastal, urban Americans are any more religious than their European counterparts.

Mehitabel
01-08-2004, 08:57 AM
Well, those nice ladies in fancy hats and suits getting off the subway in Harlem on Sunday mornings sure are going SOMEwhere...

I think that you'll find plenty of religious people all over the place including in inner cities and the near smaller communities. But speaking as an outer-boro mostly-practicing Catholic, I think many of us East Coasters are so used to being crammed together with people of different faiths that it's considered tactless and implite to talk about it much, especially in politics where anything you say about it is guaranteed to piss off large segments of the diverse populace. So while I wouldn't say we're less believing in religion than our European counterparts, probably statistically a lot more in fact, we have more of a European attitude towards it.

El_Kabong
01-08-2004, 09:46 AM
I mean: can you name a nation where someone "needs" to be religious, be it only in wording to please the public (I should say: mislead the voters) in order to be able to have any chance of being electable as president or prime minister?

After having lived in France for a ten year period, I'm trying to imagine a French Presidential candidate repeatedly reminding voters that he is an atheist, or Buddhist, or even Jewish, and successfully being elected. Sorry, but I'm having a bit of trouble summoning up that image.

The OP apparently wants to beleive that there is some sort of fundamentalist Christian cabal currently at the seat of power in the US:

And can you name an other nation that has currency with "In God we trust" on it and that has a pledge of allience with "one nation under God" in it, has at this very day a president who refers to God every given moment while acting in function as president and who declared that he was guided by God when invading an other nation?

Yeah, and according to this site (http://www.adherents.com/adh_presidents.html), the majority of our presidents have freely confessed to being members of such radical, militant sects as the Episcopalains and Presbyterians.

I mean, really, that's the evidence is not a secular society? A phrase on the currency? A completely false statement that the current President "refers to God every given moment?" Sheesh.

Yes, whether or not a US presidential candidate expresses belief in the Christian deity seems to be important to a large percentage of the population. So are a lot of other things that I, personally, don't particularly care about; I mean, so far we have not had a non-white or non-male president either. And just try to run for high office wearing anything other than a dark blue or gray suit with a white shirt and red tie, if you happen to be the already-approved white male.

Bottom line is, there is no specific, legal requirement that I know of to be a member of any specific Christian church in order to run as a candidate for political office in the US, just as (at least since the early 20th century) there is no requirement that the candidate be a white male. The US political system is secular in principle, whether or not certain segments of the population choose to apply those principles to their political choices. The OP can continue to claim otherwise all he wishes, but he is flogging a very dead horse.

Bryan Ekers
01-08-2004, 10:07 AM
Originally posted by El_Kabong
The OP apparently wants to beleive that there is some sort of fundamentalist Christian cabal currently at the seat of power in the US

I got the impression Aldeberan wants us to believe that he believes the U.S. is irreddemably evil.

Well, he succeeded, at least in my case. I believe that he believes this. I believe he doesn't believe anything else. I believe he believes we should all believe him. I believe that if I were to belive what he believes, I'd belive just about anything.

Hallelujah! He's made me a believer!

Aldebaran
01-08-2004, 10:22 AM
EK

Since you seem to have failed to notice it :
We are actually discussing the rather visible discrepancy between "principle" and "reality".

Which other members are trying to explain to me by giving examples of cause and effect of cultural/religious influences and undertones in the US society in general.

I wouldn't call that "flogging a dead horse".
It rather seems to have the effect of a horse that gets beaten to make it jump over the principle's fences.

Salaam. A

Mehitabel
01-08-2004, 10:27 AM
Our resident Saudi (all the clues fit) has another fan!

I'm also confused as to what defines a 'secular nation' too. By his definition, all the Commonwealth countries are theocracies since the Queen is their head of state and BY DEFINITION the head of the C of E and *she's on all their money*! So everytime a Canadian dollar or Jamaican one changes hands, everyone is paying tribute to the Anglican church!

El_Kabong
01-08-2004, 10:51 AM
EK

Since you seem to have failed to notice it :
We are actually discussing the rather visible discrepancy between "principle" and "reality".

Which other members are trying to explain to me by giving examples of cause and effect of cultural/religious influences and undertones in the US society in general.

AL

Since you seem to have failed to notice it :

So was I.

Cheers. E

Aldebaran
01-08-2004, 10:51 AM
Mehi, not to disturb you unnecessary, but since I am completely uninformed about what you just posted above I must hijack for a moment my own thread:

Can you be so kind to clue me in about what you mean with "all the clues fit" in order for underscribed to be "our resident Saudi"?

Not that I have something against it to be "yours" if you want to be mine. But it is just that I have no clue about your clues that seem to be necessary to fit in in your imagination.

Thank you.


Salaam. A
Always ready to make fellow posters feel happy at any given occasion

Aldebaran
01-08-2004, 10:54 AM
EK

I don't think we reason completely on the same line here, but I then that is not exactly something surprisingly new.

Salaam. A

Mehitabel
01-08-2004, 11:02 AM
If you've forgotten what you've written, I really don't see how that's my problem. Nothing wrong with being a Saudi, don't be ashamed of it.

Anyway, please deal with the assertion that you seem to think that having four little words in indecipherable engraving on the edges of coins shows that the US is a less secular nation than those that have currency dominated by the head of a woman who is the supreme head of an entire distinguished Christian sect. Thanks.

Aldebaran
01-08-2004, 11:20 AM
Mehi, excuse me for being so dumb, but where did I ever post one single letter that made reference to me being a citizen of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia? I mean: Other then in your imagination.

I find this game of yours very amusing, but it raises the question as to why you aren't you capable to give up this guessing about where I am born and live. Is it some sort of cyberspace hobby or do you expect an invitation for a visit while trying to imagine yourself where that location would be.

And like some others who contributed here, you seem to miss the point that we are discussing the situation in the USA, not the situation elswhere.
I know my writings aren't always an example of clarity for unwarned readers, but I think the title of this thread is clear enough, no?

Does it say USA and then mention also other nations or does it only mention USA. I am sure you can make that distinction even when you let your imagination influence you when reading other posts of mine.

Salaam.

El_Kabong
01-08-2004, 11:49 AM
I don't think we reason completely on the same line here, but I then that is not exactly something surprisingly new.

Maybe you haven't noticed, but very few people who have reponded to this thread appear to reason "completely on the same line" with you. That, in fact, is the foundation of debate.

You asked for an example of a country where a presidential candidate "needs" to express a specific religious belief to get elected. I suggested France might be such a country. I went on to point out, much as others have, that while there is most certainly an influence by Christian religious beliefs, in general, on US social and political life in general, that does not automatically mean that the US society as a whole is not secular. I really don't see how you can claim my responses are off-topic when I am directly addressing points you raised.

Now, you have expressed your main point several times already in this thread, so it is really not necessary to restate it again. If you have nothing new to add, there is no need to bother replying, and I won't think the worse of you for it.

Mehitabel
01-08-2004, 11:50 AM
Well, I think part of the problem is that I'm unsure what you mean by 'secular'. Is it a place like the Soviet Union, where priests were driven out of their churches and the ones that weren't knocked down were taken over for museums, and official doctrine was that the old religions were to be overtaken by Marxism? Or more like Italy or France, which have one dominant church whose doctrines are largely ignored in daily life but whose architecture, history, and laws still often reflect the church?

And are you on the Gulf or Red Sea side of the country? I bet it's beautiful in the spring, but kinda bleak now.

Aldebaran
01-08-2004, 12:14 PM
Mehi, I said already that you amuse me with your vivid imagination. No need to repeat it endlessly because then it becomes boring.

To answer your on topic questions:

I refer to the obvious discrepancy between the way US'er seem to proclaim their nation "secular" and how at the same time there is such a pressure on politicians to show that they aren't "secular" at all.

You don't see in EU countries anything similar to this enormous and -as it seems- inevitable social-religious pressure on politicians in order to be electable. None at all.

There is also no reference to God, an no necessity to do that, in public speaches made by presidents or prime ministers.
If any politician, let be the prime minister, would do that in Belgium he/she would be considered to be as good as ready for the madhouse and the press would be all over it to crack him/her down and ridicule.

Add to this all the rest I described already, and which only adds to the impression that the USA can declare itself to be completely secular while in reality religion influences it from top to bottom on a daily base.
As is said by people posting on this topic, or do you have the impression the opposite is said and explained.

Salaam. A

Aldebaran
01-08-2004, 12:18 PM
EK

Where and when did you see in France a presidential candidate put in the explecit necessity to express any form of religious beliefs in order to be electable?

And I think that several posters here in one way or an other are in agreement with my observation that in the USA there is a visible discrepancy between "principle" of secularism and the situation in pracitce.

Salaam. A

asrivkin
01-08-2004, 12:32 PM
Originally posted by Aldebaran

And can you name an other nation that has currency with "In God we trust" on it and that has a pledge of allience with "one nation under God" in it,

I can find you two of those wacky European Bible-thumping countries with overt references to God in their very constitutions (bolding mine):


PREAMBLE-- The German People in the Laender of Bavaria, Berlin, Brandenburg, Bremen, Hamburg, Hesse, Lower Saxony, Mecklenburg-Western Promerania, North-Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Saar, Schleswig-Holstein, Thuringia, and Wuerttemberg-Baden, conscious of its responsibility before God and men, animated by the resolve to preserve its national and political unity and to serve the peace of the world as an equal partner in a united Europe, desiring to give a new order to political life for a transitional period, has enacted, by virtue of its constituent power, this Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany. It has also acted on behalf of those Germans to whom participation was denied. The entire German people is called on to achieve by free self-determination the unity and freedom of Germany.
...
In the name of God Almighty!
We, the Swiss People and Cantons,
Whereas we are mindful of our responsibility towards creation;
Resolving to renew our alliance to strengthen liberty and democracy, independence and peace in solidarity and openness towards the world;
Determined to live our diversity in unity respecting one another;
Conscious of our common achievements and our responsibility towards furure generations; and
Knowing that only those remain free who use their freedom, and that the strength of a people is measured by the welfare of the weakest of its members;
Therefore we adopt the following Constitution:
...

There are also those out-of-control British folk, whose leader is officially called

"Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith"

and whose subjects on this very continent from which I am writing call her
"Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom, Canada and Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith"

Do you similarly find the UK, Germany, and Switzerland to be non-secular nations?


has at this very day a president who refers to God every given moment while acting in function as president and who declared that he was guided by God when invading an other nation?


Cite? Really, I'm serious.


Do you see in other nations politicians organising Bible studies/readings for members of their administration and eventually also other co-workers?
It seems that this indeed happens these days in the USA. And I don't think you would even in Islamic nations where Islam has an influence on every step you take in daily life, see politicians taking such initiative with Al Qur'an as study/reading object.


I suspect that you would find that in Iran, at the very least. And by "suspect" I mean "would be astonished if you disagreed".

Hamlet
01-08-2004, 12:36 PM
Originally posted by Aldebaran
You don't see in EU countries anything similar to this enormous and -as it seems- inevitable social-religious pressure on politicians in order to be electable. None at all.

There is also no reference to God, an no necessity to do that, in public speaches made by presidents or prime ministers.
If any politician, let be the prime minister, would do that in Belgium he/she would be considered to be as good as ready for the madhouse and the press would be all over it to crack him/her down and ridicule.My grasp of Belgium’s political structure and the intricacies and nuances of it’s parties is not the best, so maybe you can help me out Aldebaran. What is the Christen-Democratisch & Vlaams (http://www.cdenv.be/) political party in Belgium, because this site (http://www.voyagenow.com/travel-references/en/wikipedia/c/ch/christen_democratisch_en_vlaams.html) seems to indicate it is a Christian party, and this site (http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Politics-of-Belgium) seems to indicate it is a offshoot of the old Catholic Party.

Perhaps it's just my misunderstanding, but it also seems there is a Humanist party in Belgium. With these political parties using religious names, I get a little confused when you say that religous references are unheard of in Belgium. Please help me out.

far_born
01-08-2004, 12:39 PM
Originally posted by El_Kabong
The OP apparently wants to beleive that there is some sort of fundamentalist Christian cabal currently at the seat of power in the US As a resident of the US, I would say that's only a mild exaggeration. Sure, Bush, may really just be a cold-hearted liar when he talks about religion, but the fact that he depends upon a rather large segment of the population that is affecting his policy decisions and whose beliefs are being exploited to support other policies is notable to me.

As far as militancy goes, you can't get more militant than the Bush administration. While they've hardly been "holy wars" they've certainly had their sickening appeals to God and country. Our chief warmonger, Bush, making frequent references to God and his characterization of "crusade" has hardly helped matters in the realm of world opinion.

I mean, really, that's the evidence is not a secular society? hmm I thought we were discussing the degree of secularity regarding presidential elections not trying to prove that the US is not a secular society.


Bottom line is, there is no specific, legal requirement that I know of to be a member of any specific Christian church in order to run as a candidate for political office in the US, Is this a legal debate? I don't think anyone made an allegation that the law requires a christian president.

That's not the bottom line to me.

To go back to some of the other issues you brought up such as race. In the old south, it wasn't a legal requirement that black men accused of raping white women in the south to get lynched, but it was still a problem worthy of discussion.

The culture inevitably affects the government no matter how the laws are written.

IMO, the election of the president of the US has very important religious overtones. Is gay marriage, for example, really a secular issue? People's rights and recognition are at stake, the bill of rights only goes so far against the tyranny of the majority.

Some may dismiss the "under god" reference as meangingless, but I didn't fail to notice that house of representatives voted 401-5 in favor and the senate voted 99-0 in favor of reaffirming its presence. Something with that much overwhelming support can hardly be seen as meaningless. I think in many districts, it could definitely affect electability.

While currently I would say that secular attitudes are becoming more prevalent, that doesn't mean the struggle is over by any means. Prayer in schools, creation science, censorship, are examples to me of the religious right's very current, persistent and noticeable influence in our society.

The issue has obvious significance in the US and it seems to me people are trying to downplay the issue, either out of wishful thinking or because they have problems with Aldeberan's purported motivations.

Mehitabel
01-08-2004, 12:43 PM
You're not under the impression that these Bible-study meetings are mandatory at all, are you?

And thanks, asrivkin, for the cites. Most modern nations seem to be very comfortable with both a secular and religious identity, which intertwine in different spheres at different times, interpreted by each citizen as their own consciences dictate, something our friend doesn't seem to grasp, as his nation is organized in very different lines.

Aldebaran
01-08-2004, 12:46 PM
Asrivkin

The quesiton about the examples you bring up should be then first of all: Do those nations oficially declare themselves to be secular or not.

And the question here is that the USA declares itself to be secular.
Or does the USA declares itself to be non-secular? In this case we don't need to discuss what we are discussing.

As for Iran: I would be indeed surprised if you could bring even there example of politicians who have the habit of organising themselves reading/study of Al Qur'an for their administration and eventual other co-workers, as part of the job's requirements so to speak.

And sorry, but I don't do "cites" as seems to be understood on this message board as forming a "trustworthy source of information" = place a link to websites of whatever type that may be.


Salaam. A

Aldebaran
01-08-2004, 12:51 PM
Mehi,
No, they are not mandatory, but it seems that htere is a lot of "social pressure" on people to show up even if they aren't religious at all.
One doesn't always need to explicitely make something a command to be obeyed. Suggestion can have similar or even greater effect in dozens of cases.

Salaam. A

Mehitabel
01-08-2004, 01:00 PM
No, they are not mandatory, but it seems that htere is a lot of "social pressure" on people to show up even if they aren't religious at all.

Damn, I was gonna ask for a cite for that, but...*

Neither Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, or Condie Rice attend these prayer sessions, yet they still seem to have the President's ear. Funny that. And I think if there was evidence that the President was having guards frog-marching Jews and Quakers and Catholics into his office to pray weird Methodist prayers, it just might have leaked out by now, the press being a curious little beast.

* And maybe if you don't like to do cites you shouldn't start threads in GD?

Lemur866
01-08-2004, 01:01 PM
Here's a recent Reason article that seems helpful:

http://www.reason.com/links/links010704.shtml

Perhaps we see religion as an answer to one of the oldest political problems. If we prefer the rule of law to the rule of men, we must ask, with the Roman satirist Juvenal, quis custodiet ipsos custodies? Who watches the watchmen? In other words, when we cede power to political authorities to protect us, who will ensure that they don't use that power to serve their own interests at our expense? Democracy itself provides one check, but a highly imperfect one.

The answer religion provides is that perhaps nobody needs to be actually watching the watchmen, so long as they believe that they are always being watched—and being held accountable—by a power more informed and perceptive than even the electorate.

John Mace
01-08-2004, 01:42 PM
Alde wrote:
And the question here is that the USA declares itself to be secular.
You are the only one who says the US declares itself to be secular. Look, the Constitution is the basis for the US gov't. Can you show any of us where it says the US is "secular"? There are precisely two sections that are relevant to religion:

Article VI: "The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States. " [my bolding]

and

Amendment 1: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."

There is a constant debate in the US about what the true scope of the 1st Amendment is, but that's it.

Where do you get this "the US claims to be secular" from? No such claim exists. The Constitution makes an effort to draw the demarkation between the gov't and religion. In a free and open society, it should be expected that there would be tension and debate about exactly where to draw that line. Big freakin' deal.

asrivkin
01-08-2004, 01:58 PM
Originally posted by Aldebaran
The quesiton about the examples you bring up should be then first of all: Do those nations oficially declare themselves to be secular or not.


Well, I'd hate to come across as rude, but given this:


And sorry, but I don't do "cites" as seems to be understood on this message board as forming a "trustworthy source of information" = place a link to websites of whatever type that may be.


If you're so curious, look it up yourself.



And the question here is that the USA declares itself to be secular.
Or does the USA declares itself to be non-secular? In this case we don't need to discuss what we are discussing.


No, that was not the question. You asked if there was another nation with "In God We Trust" or a pledge of allegiance including God. I responded with something that can be seen as a functional equivalent from three European countries, two of them in the EU.

As far as I know, and I am discinclined to look further, the only "official" statement on religion in the USA is in the Constitution where the government cannot establish a state religion or interfere with an individual's freedom to worship or not worship. Religious figures are free to take part in politics, as people as distinguished as Dr. Martin Luther King (PBUH) did. Though he did not run for office, others have. In some cases, I personally believe being too associated with religion doomed some presidential campaigns, like Pat Robertson's.

We are a secular country in that we are not a theocracy. And even if Pat Robertson were to become president with 100% of the vote, as long as he did not attempt to establish a theocracy, we would remain secular in that sense.



As for Iran: I would be indeed surprised if you could bring even there example of politicians who have the habit of organising themselves reading/study of Al Qur'an for their administration and eventual other co-workers, as part of the job's requirements so to speak.


The supreme leader of Iran is an ayatollah. Thus, he is a politician. Are you really telling me that you don't think he attends prayers in an offical capacity? Are you really telling me that a non-religious person can hold a high office in Iran?

I won't bother asking for a cite.

El_Kabong
01-08-2004, 02:16 PM
hmm I thought we were discussing the degree of secularity regarding presidential elections not trying to prove that the US is not a secular society.

So did I, but the OP seems intent on drawing wider conclusions which, IMO, are not necessarily warranted. See, read this line from his last post:

And the question here is that the USA declares itself to be secular. Or does the USA declares itself to be non-secular? In this case we don't need to discuss what we are discussing.

Well, being as "the USA", as an official entity, does not post here, the question is unanswerable in any way that would satisfy the OP.

As for this:

The issue has obvious significance in the US and it seems to me people are trying to downplay the issue, either out of wishful thinking or because they have problems with Aldeberan's purported motivations.

Or maybe because some may object to the degree of hyperbole with which he tries to hype his conclusions, or his instant dismissal of any reasoned rebuttal as off-topic. In any event, I for one have no vested interest in "downplaying the issue".

Also, I see no reason why the OP's motivations should not be subject to consideration, given that they seem to so brightly color the subjects of most of the threads to which he contributes.

Me, I'm done here. Carry on.

Aldebaran
01-08-2004, 03:45 PM
From the link in English:



From the creation of the Belgian state in 1830 and throughout most of the 19th century, two political parties dominated Belgian politics:
the Catholic Party (Church-oriented and conservative)
and the Liberal Party (anti-clerical and progressive).
In the late 19th century the Socialist Party arose to represent the emerging industrial working class.

These three groups still dominate Belgian politics, but they have evolved substantially in character.

After World War II, the Catholic (now Christian Democratic) Party severed its formal ties with the Church. It became a mass party of the center, somewhat like a political party in the United States.

In 1968, the Christian Democratic Party, responding to linguistic tensions in the country, divided into two independent parties:
the Parti Social Chrétien (PSC) in French-speaking Belgium
and the Christelijke Volkspartij (CVP) in Flanders.
The two parties pursue the same basic policies but maintain separate organizations. The CVP is the larger of the two, getting more than twice as many votes as the PSC....

.. Following the 1999 general elections, the CVP and PSC were ousted from office, bringing an end to a 40-year term on the government benches.
In 2001, the CVP changed its name to CD&V (Christen-Democratisch en Vlaams).
In 2002, the PSC also changed its name to cdH(Centre démocrate humaniste).

The modern Belgian Socialist parties have lost much of their early Marxist trappings. They are now primarily labor-based parties similar to the German Social Democratic Party and the French Socialist Party.
The Socialists have been part of several postwar governments and have produced some of the country's most distinguished statesmen.
The Socialists also split along linguistic lines in 1978. Steve Stevaert is head of the Flemish Socialist Party and Elio Di Rupo is president of the Francophone Socialists .
In general, the Walloon Socialists tend to concentrate on domestic issues....
....The francophone Socialists are mainly based in the industrial cities of Wallonia (Liège, Charleroi, and Mons).
The Flemish Socialists' support is less regionally concentrated. The Flemish Socialists changed their party's name to SP.a (Socialistische Partij anders) in 2002.

The Liberal Parties chiefly appeal to businesspeople, property owners, shopkeepers, and the self-employed, in general. In American terms the Liberals' positions would be considered to reflect an economically conservative ideology.
There are two Liberal parties, formed along linguistic lines:
The Flemish Liberals and Democrats (VLD, Vlaamse Liberalen en Democraten) who opened up their ranks to Volksunie defectors some years ago, are the largest political force in Belgium. The VLD is headed by Karel De Gucht, member of the Flemish regional parliament.
The Party of Reform and Liberty (PRL) on the francophone side is headed by Antoine Duquesne, although Louis Michel, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, is generally considered to be the strong man. The PRL has formed an alliance with the christian-democratic split-off MCC. Brussels-based FDF and is particularly strong in Brussels. This alliance has taken the name 'Reformist Movement', Mouvement Réformateur.

A postwar phenomenon in Belgium was the emergence of one-issue parties whose only reason for existence was the defense of the cultural, political, and economic interests of one of the linguistic groups or regions of Belgian society.

The most militant Flemish regional party in Parliament in the 1950s and 1960s, the Volksunie (VU), once drew nearly one-quarter of Belgium's Dutch-speaking electorate away from the traditional parties. The Volksunie was in the forefront of a successful campaign by the country's Flemish population for cultural and political parity with the nation's long dominant French-speaking population. However, in recent elections the party has suffered severe setbacks. In October 2001 the party disintegrated. The left-liberal wing founded Spirit, while the more traditional Flemish nationalist wing continued under the banner Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie (NV-A). A year later, a number of prominent Spirit politicians left the party to join the VLD.

Another special-interest party is the Front Democratique des Bruxellois Francophones (FDF).

The Flemish (Agalev) and francophone (Ecolo) Ecologist parties made their Parliamentary breakthrough in 1981. They focus heavily on environmental issues and are the most consistent critics of U.S. policy. Following significant gains made in the 1999 general elections, the two green parties joined a federal coalition cabinet for the first time in their history, but were ousted after the next elections.

Another one-issue party is the far right Vlaams Blok (VB--Flemish Block) which broke away from the Volksunie in 1976.
Originally a mainly Flemish regionalist and republican party, it has developed into the Flemish equivalent of the French National Front, concentrating on immigration positions, often tinged with xenophobia and racism.
Many studies shows that a major party (if not a majority) of the party's electorate oppose its separatist and republican standpoints.
Long dismissed as a "fringe" party by mainstream politicians, the VB shocked observers when in the 1991 elections it posted respectable scores in much of Flanders, but especially in Antwerp, and in the following elections it scores even better.
Party President is Euro-MP Frank Vanhecke, but Filip Dewinter is said by many to be the party's real leader.

Equally opposed to the presence of immigrants is the Front National. Officially, it's a bilingual party, but in reality, it's a purely French-speaking group.

The German speaking parties do not play an important role on federal level. The main German speaking parties are the CSP (christian-democratic), the PFF (liberal), the SP (social-democratic) and PJUPDB (regionalist).


Voilà.

And where did say that no nome of a political party refers to its original religious root?

I said that a politician, talking/acting in his function as politician, shall not refer to religion in public speeches.

There is one party with a historical Catholic background. It is not an off-shoot, it is how the party presents itself now. This party is splitted in French and Flemish section (now in the opposition role)

The existence of this party with roots in Catholicism however doesn't mean that they only have voters who are Catholic/Christian. Nor does it mean that Catholics don't vote for other parties.
There was a time that such was the case, especially in rural aerea's but that time is long gone.

The political landscape in a country like Belgium is very diverse and the programs of the parties accordingly. Results of elections has little to do with the name of the parties and depends on how parties profile themselves and in how much their program makes appeal to the public.

There are a lot of smaller political parties that are not mentioned in that report, yet have a role to play, especially in local politics.

By the way, since when is "humanism" a religion?

And by the way: the description of the Liberal parties is incorrect when labelling them as "conservatist". They are Liberal which is the opposite of conservative.

If you want to debate Belgian politics, may I suggest you to open an other topic for those interested in the issue.
Thank you.

Salaam. A

Aldebaran
01-08-2004, 03:50 PM
If other members want to take this thread for starting debates on politics in other nations then refered to in the OP, may I ask you also to your own thread about it.
Thank you.

Salaam. A

Mehitabel
01-08-2004, 04:00 PM
Hope it's warmer in Riyadh than it is here. Brrrr!

Anyway, asrivkin wrote in his wonderful post:

...the only "official" statement on religion in the USA is in the Constitution where the government cannot establish a state religion or interfere with an individual's freedom to worship or not worship. Religious figures are free to take part in politics, as people as distinguished as Dr. Martin Luther King (PBUH) did. Though he did not run for office, others have. In some cases, I personally believe being too associated with religion doomed some presidential campaigns, like Pat Robertson's.

We are a secular country in that we are not a theocracy. And even if Pat Robertson were to become president with 100% of the vote, as long as he did not attempt to establish a theocracy, we would remain secular in that sense.

Perfect. Your questions is answered. Unless you wish again to discount the information provided by people who live in a country that you admit you have never been to and whose language you understand rather imperfectly. Since you have failed to give us an example of what you mean by a secular state, I don't see what else we can do besides bring on examples of other countries to compare the US too.

I'm done too.