Letter: How does religion affect democracy? – Albert Lea Tribune


The Founding Fathers knew that maintaining domestic tranquility was essential for citizens to be free to exercise their rights. They also knew that the religious wars in Europe robbed many citizens of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Even on our continent, the Puritans had banished the dissidents Roger Williams and Ann Hutchinson and their followers. Reasonable men could not argue with opponents whose assertions were based on revelations. To maintain peace, the state should guarantee freedom of religion. The fathers agreed to let the religious fanatics settle their own disputes (freedom of religion), hoping to free themselves to continue the enterprise of building democracy. The problem was more complex.

Our Abrahamic religions are patriarchal and often deprive women and children of their rights. They also encourage passivity as in “Let go. May God”, “turn the other cheek” or Inshallah. While the results of the actions of social reformers may be imperfect, democratic citizens cannot ignore their responsibility to try to shape events to their liking. Religions divert the energies of reformers to charitable programs designed to alleviate human suffering rather than using that energy to address the causes of that suffering.

The Abrahamic religions are essentially incompatible and enemies of democracy. This does not prevent failing democracies from seeking political support from religious institutions or failing religious institutions from looking to the state to confirm their moral authority. If moral authority exists, it emanates from the collective human conscience often invoked as our best angels or our souls.

While capitalism brings great technological advancements, it has no answer for the collateral damage it inflicts on our planet or our souls.

John E. Gibson



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