“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” - Lucius Annaeus Seneca- 62 A.D.
During his five-day visit to Poland last week, Pope Francis encouraged hundreds of thousands of young people gathered for World Youth Day to ignore computer screens and video games in favor of social activism and political interaction.
Both of our Republican and Democratic Conventions here in America prominently included mentions of Hillary Clinton’s Methodist upbringing, Tim Kaine’s Jesuit education, Mike Pence’s lifetime embrace of fundamentalist Christian values and Donald Trump’s unbelievably huge, bigger than anything you could ever imagine religious beliefs -- the ones that everybody’s talking about.
Alleged divine initiation and encouragement of all parties involved in virtually every war in the history of our species is a matter of established record. God, by any name or concept, always seems to be on both the winning and losing sides of every fight. Our Battle Hymn of the Republic mentions Christ by name, even as Hitler’s Germany was a Christian nation of over sixty million souls, although Adolf was never called a “Radical Christian Terrorist.”
Christianity remains by far the world’s largest religion with an estimated 2.2 billion adherents, nearly a third (31%) of all 6.9 billion people on the planet. Islam is second with 1.6 billion believers or 23% of the global population. Hinduism places third with a billion members (15%) and Buddhists come in fourth with a half-billion practitioners representing 7.1% of worshipers. Meanwhile, 1.1 billion non-affiliated folks (16.4% of earthlings) aren’t on board with anything traditional. This grouping includes atheists, agnostics and people who do not identify with any particular religion. By 2050, demographers predict that Christianity and Islam will tie for first place with a total of six billion practitioners - around three billion each.
It seems embarrassingly clichéd, if not childishly simple to suggest that we all need to get along together, but anyone who denies the absolute, immediate, critical urgency of such a notion is nothing more than a dangerous fool.
With all this in mind as our contentious election cycle spins toward incomprehensible chaos, this seems a perfect time for serious reflection.
Dr. Andrew Fiala, Ph.D. is Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Director of the Ethics Center at Fresno State University. Professor Fiala is well known to area readers for his excellent “On Ethics” column that appears every Saturday in the Insight section of our sister newspaper, The Fresno Bee.
Dr. Fiala has degrees from UCLA and Vanderbilt University and is the author or editor of a dozen books. He has published more than 50 scholarly articles and has written hundreds of op-ed essays. His scholarly research focuses on war and peace, politics, religion, and ethics.
As a member of the Executive Committee of the Oakhurst Democratic Club and moderator of our monthly meetings, I contacted Andy a while back and asked him if he would consider being a special guest speaker as we ended our summer hiatus in August – after the national conventions of both major parties concluded and things were really starting to heat up.
Dr. Fiala stated that he would be delighted to do so, but wondered what he should talk about. Flashing back on many challenging hours of Philosophy and Theology courses with those “Take No Prisoner” Jesuits at Le Moyne in Syracuse, I instantly suggested he speak on “God and Politics.” Andy enthusiastically replied, “I’ll be glad to!” And he will.
I hope you’ll join us this Saturday for our Aug. 6 meeting of the Oakhurst Democratic Club at Denny’s on Highway 41. As usual, breakfast is served at 8:30 a.m., and our program with Dr. Fiala will begin at 9:30. He’ll speak for around a half-hour, then we’ll have plenty of time left for questions and discussion.
Bring cool friends. It doesn’t cost anything. The general public is always invited, meaning you don’t have to be a Democrat to attend, but if you are and wish to join the club, please consider this a personal invitation.
Make yourself matter.
Get in the game.
Nov. 8 is less than a 100 days away.
This one’s for keeps.