Web Extra: Ross Douthat on Religion in Politics

April 20, 2012

In this web-exclusive extension of Bill’s conversation with Ross Douthat, the conservative columnist describes what he sees as an appropriate role for religion and religious people in politics. He also argues that while President Obama is not waging a war on religion, the president is engaged in a “high stakes political fight” with Catholicism.

  • submit to reddit
  • Buggylama

    It seems to me like certain Catholic bishops have
    been engaging in a pointless attack (to the embarassment of their parishioners), where Obama was willing to accomodate them.

    I am no Obama supporter, but “high stakes political fight” my foot.

  • The Gubbler

    I am replying to myself here to protest that I chose “The Gubbler” as my username.

    Please correct this if you can.

    Thank you.

    -The Gubbler

  • Ccarnein

    It seems to me that the Catholic church (and other Christian groups) want it both ways.  They want government to subsidize their schools and hospitals, but they don’t want government “interference” in their affairs.  I don’t think we should allow them to have it both ways.  If they want to make bargains with “the devil”, then they need to accept the consequences.

  • Anonymous

    Full disclosure:  I have not yet read Mr. Douthat’s book.

    Re his basic defense of the anti-abortion stance he espouses, I was struck by his later comment about rapture theology being a late nineteenth century construct.

    I’ve always wondered about the chronology of what is today’s profound belief by pro-lifers, that a six-celled zygote is fully equal to  a live, independently breathing, human.

    When did this sort of belief get traction?  Before the rise of the Abrahamic religions?  Soon after their rise?  Late nineteenth century, as well?

    The answer would seem to either justify or raise doubt about this belief’s validity, using long-held common sense as one’s guide.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/A33UHNU2ODEJJALZDGGUAJCVYA Chad

     All grand thoughts come from the heart.

  • Dan

    Hello StrawMan,
    I can only interact with you as a Christian pro-lifer, so, from my perspective, the belief that a human has value from conception is grounded in historic Christian faith.  Consider The Didache, which was a “handbook” so-to-speak for early Christians (written in 1st or 2nd century AD).  In it, abortion and infanticide, which were commonplace in the surrounding Roman culture, are condemned.  People in that day and age, just like today, decided to end the lives of their children for various reasons: didn’t want any more children, couldn’t afford it, wanted a specific gender, didn’t want a specific abnormality, and so on.  The earliest Christians believed that every life was precious.  They believed in speaking up for those who could not speak for themselves.  They believed in moral qualities such as love, justice, and mercy.  Today’s modern scientific advances do not change those foundations.  There is potential in every human life.


  • Anonymous

     Hi Dan,

    Though our views on religion are undoubtedly poles apart, I thank you for your measured and informative post, and for adding to the discussion rather than to the bombast.

    As implied earlier, I think chronology of belief in these hotly contested matters especially pertinent.  I will look into it further.

  • Dan

    My apologies to you for those who claim to follow Jesus and have bombasted you in the past…

    If you’re interested in a good book for understanding the context of the first few centuries after Jesus and the issue of abortion in Christianity, try Abortion and the Early Church, by Michael Gorman.  He cites a number of primary sources for how early Christians viewed abortion.In regards to the issue of abortion, I think Christians would do better to stop screaming judgments upon those who think differently than them and, instead, plead out loud, “We will take the lives you do not want.  We will raise them and love them.  Please drop them at our doorsteps.”  But, alas, the majority of those who claim Christianity as their faith would think that an inconvenience and most likely drop the infant off somewhere else and think their job done.  I think that response is “Bad Religion” and certainly bad Christianity.


  • TrivialityInc

    Why was
    there no discussion regarding Christian conservative views on our several
    hugely expensive wars or about the takeover by transcorps/finance of our
    capitalist system?  These are
    central issues in our society. 
    That they were not even mentioned makes Christianity seem like thumb-twittling.


  • Private Private

    If I beat a man for information 10 times and he refuses to talk, how many more times should I beat him to get the information? 10 more times? How about 20, 30, 40 more times? Maybe 100, 200, 300 times? Will the 400th time be more effective and provide results that the first did not? Or will the 500th time be just as futile as the first?

    The issues of vice have been perpetuated by religious theocracy for thousands of years. Between harsh sermens, destructive laws and punishment, and futile consequences these vices have persisted throught human history.

    Why does anyone for what ever reason, i.e., personal, moral, religious, think that a law, government, or other form of oppression will somehow resolve what time and history could not. Abortion at one point carried the death penaly; yet it still persisted.

    Drugs, prostitution, abortion, drinking, whatever…it will continue to happen regardless of anyones effort.

    The real question is:

    Will we ever learn to accept on another regardless of our differences in life choices?

    The idea is, each individual makes the choice on these issues for themselves and supports others making similar decisions. However, when we try to force or impose our choices onto others and deny them to right to figure it out for themselves, we begin to fight a force of natural human sociology that is futile given human history.

    Let us allow all to make the coices for themselves and use encouragement as a way to influence others, and accept those who are not influenced.

    Apologies for the long post and any grammatical or typos made.