Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Does A Democracy Have To Be Secular To Work?

It is an interesting question, but I believe, it is a vague question.

By democracy does one mean pure democracy or representative democracy? By secular, as opposed to what? As opposed to merely acknowledging a higher power, or actual sectarianism? The word secular is also vague.

When I say secular I mean three things:

  • Having democratic values. (present day United States democratic values)
  • Looking at reality (science, politics, etc.) objectively.
  • Morality is more important than religious ritual.

Now, to venture on an answer to the question on the title of this post:

Pure democracy is unfeasible in this day and age because there's too many people for it and no one has time to be hung up on politics all day, so we have representative democracy.

Now the question becomes, does representative democracy have to be secular to work as opposed to the alternatives?

Well, in terms of Israel and the Charedim's power trip, and Iran and the desire of the clerics to stay in power, it seems pretty clear that sectarianism mixed in with government is not conductive to democracy. However in Britain, the Church in England is official and the British are democratic.

It seems pretty clear that religion in government is less likely to be democratic, but another variable in the equation is that a citizenry also has democratic values. The Islamic world has lots and lots of house cleaning to do in terms of their civil rights records and they gotta stop blaming Jews and Americans for all of their bull shit and start looking at how their dictators are all corrupt and everything.

It should be noted that while I don't see sectarianism mixed with government as a good thing, it don't mean religion being involved in a person forming a political opinion is a bad thing. I imagine religious people get their morality based on religion and that that's apart of what they vote based upon and I do not see this as a contradiction of democracy.

In the case of the United States, the oldest republic in the world, the U.S. declaration of independence says "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." These are powerful words.

I personally don't think that a God is impossible, I do think it is intellectually dishonest to claim to know for sure if God does or does not exist. However to say that God could be there is a non statement; because anything COULD be there, I feel I can only accept as true what IS there, what can be observed and measured.

That being the case, it is a good thing for the government to recognize a divine authority that's higher than humanity, where rights come from, and it seems to me to be conductive to democracy. The citizenry in my opinion should also be secular the way I defined it with the 3 aspects, that helps a lot. I can't imagine anyone objecting to objectivity and no need to bicker about a ritual - the primary focus should be being a good person.

So in conclusion, in order for democracy to work, I think the government and the citizenry should be secular the way I see secularism in order for democracy to work, and a divine power higher than mankind should be acknowledged as the source of rights. There is no contradiction in this in my opinion.

It is my sincere hope that the Islamic world stops blaming Jews and Americans for shit and that the Islamic world starts brainstorming for themselves how to repair their own living situation.



Check Out These Books

14 comments:

Garnel Ironheart said...

1) There is no true democracy in the world. All major republics except America have heads of states (presidents) that are appointed by the parliament, not the people. In America, the president is chosen by the Electoral Colleges. By convention, the college of each state must vote for the candidate that the majority of the people in that state voted for but they don't have to (there were rumours in 2004 that some colleges would vote for Kerry even though their states voted Bush, fortunately that didn't happen). So even in America the people don't pick the president.
2) Once a government is voted in, it is no longer democratic. A majority government will often gain power with a minority of the popular vote but ocne it's in it's an effective dictatorship until its term is over.
3) Secular vs religious has nothing to do with democracy. Democracy has to do with the people voting on issues. Who presents the issues, what range is allowed and the options for voting have nothing to do with it.

Ari said...

Dude, nice post.

To answer the question most literally it would seem that anything but a secular society could have a pure democracy.
Like if we had to follow strictly G-d's word, as interpreted by chazal I guess, there would be little room for a democratic government. I think.

"Morality is more important than religious ritual."

It's interesting because morality is so subjective. I can understand calling it more "important" than ritual . . . but would you also argue that secular morality is more important than religious morality.
Judging by your opinions of homosexuality (as an example), seemingly not.

A question I do ponder is whether or not democracy is really the most moral/legitimate option.
Like who are we, as Americans, to decide what is the best system for other countries. Should we really be judging Iran for not being a pure democracy.
(In the sense that they claim to be, by hosting an election, but then might not actually be, is not my point)


Garnel - "Secular vs religious has nothing to do with democracy. Democracy has to do with the people voting on issues"

I'm not really sure how you can isolate the two considering the fact that the people voting on the issues are often biased based on religious leanings.

SJ said...

Garnel parliamentary democracy is accepted as a legitimate kind of democracy. No one ever said that the United States had a direct democracy, ours is representative and yes we have an electorial college.

>> Once a government is voted in, it is no longer democratic

?????????

>>> A majority government will often gain power with a minority of the popular vote but ocne it's in it's an effective dictatorship until its term is over.

???????



>> Judging by your opinions of homosexuality (as an example), seemingly not

I view my opinion on homosexuality to be nonreligiously based.


>> Like who are we, as Americans, to decide what is the best system for other countries.

They're doing the judging for us. Everyone wants to come to the United States.

Garnel Ironheart said...

You don't understand the term "elected dictatorship"? Quite simple, really. For example, in the British parliamentary system a party which wins a majority in an election rules uncontested until the next election or if they should happen to lose that majority. They can backtrack on every single item in the platform. They can be corrupt, lie and steal but as long as they have a majority they can push through budgets and laws whenever they want. The only opportunity to remove them from office is at the next election.

This is probably why the US instituted so many checks and balances, like impeachment, a Congress and judiciary independent of the President, etc. But think about it: let's say Obama becomes a major screw up. I mean major, like in ways that makes Clinton look good. You don't get a chance to get rid of him unless Congress decides to impeach him or the next election. Until then you're stuck. Sounds like a dictatorship to me, only in 4 years you get to choose a new one.

SJ said...

>> Sounds like a dictatorship to me, only in 4 years you get to choose a new one.

I think representative democracy entails giving the incumbent a certain amount time to lead.

The Leader, Garnel Ironheart said...

Democracy is the people making the decisions through a vote or other system of agreement. When a government which is at 8% popularity with the electorate is making decisions for that electorate, that is no longer democracy, in the purest sense of the word.
The reason pure democracy doesn't work is because people don't have the time for it. Imagine having to be educated on every issue before parliament and then expected to vote on it! So we have seconded out that task to our elected representatives. However, once they're in power they don't have to reflect our wishes. A member of parliament's riding may want their member to vote for something by a 97% margin but the member can vote against it if it he wants to.
The truth is that we choose time-limited dictatorships. An election campaign is about different parties running to be our temporary dictators. That's what we call democracy.

SJ said...

>>> The truth is that we choose time-limited dictatorships.

In the United States the president is still accountable to Congress and both branches are accountable to public opinion.

You are also able to criticize incumbents so I can't see how you can call it a time-limited dictatorship.

Ari said...

Yea, I disagree with you Garnel.

Although the actual citizens don't get a vote on every decision, and although politicians are corrupt and often just looking out for their own good, the President of the US doesn't run the country as a dictatorship.
So even though you want to keep saying that, it doesn't seem to hold all that true.

The Leader, Garnel Ironheart said...

First of all Ari, that would be like I'm disagreeing with myself!

I kid, I kid...

Anyway, what is the definition of a dictatorship? The type of country where people don't get to have a say in who runs the government. The ruler appoints himself (either through inheritance or military coup) and rules aboslutely without having to worry about elections.

Well from the time Obama is sworn in until the time he's out of office, that's pretty much what he is.

Now there are limited dictatorships where the leader, while not responsive to the electorate, is constrained by law from doing certain things. For example, the monarch in Britain is not elected, rules absolutely but has limited practical powers.

SJ is confusion freedom of speech with dictatorship. The two are not synonymous although most dictators usually forbid freedom of speech to discourage rebellion against their rule. For example, Mikhail Gorbachev was still a dictator in the USSR after he introduced freedom of speech in 1986.

Unless there's a recall mechanism, you're stuck with who you elected unless he does something really, really bad.

SJ said...

Dictatorship by definition is a stifiling of rights. Representative democracy by definition means that the people empowers elected representatives to lead.

The Leader, Garnel Ironheart said...

> Dictatorship by definition is a stifiling of rights.

The only right that must be stifled by a dictatorship is the right to free and open elections.

Free speech, free press, freedom of worship, freedom of assembly, freedom of education, all those can exist in a dictatorship. They generally don't but that's totalitarianism. Dictatorship is just a form of government.

> Representative democracy by definition means that the people empowers elected representatives to lead.

Without any binding input from the people during their term in office. In other words, a time-limited dictatorship.

SJ said...

>> Free speech, free press, freedom of worship, freedom of assembly, freedom of education, all those can exist in a dictatorship.


Umm, no they can't.

Garnel Ironheart said...

Yes they can. They generally don't, I'll agree, because the prelude to revolution against that dictatorship will be through people exercising all the freedoms I mentioned to demand a change in government. This is exactly what happened to Mikhail Gorbachev and the USSR. It would be a very stupid dictator who would allow such freedoms but he could and still be a dictator at the same time.

Johan said...

"Free speech, free press, freedom of worship, freedom of assembly, freedom of education, all those can exist in a dictatorship. "

A possible example would be England in the nineteenth century. They had these rights, at least to a large degree, yet some would call them a dictatorship.

At the very least they were not a democracy with the limited franchise (no women and no poor voters) and the power of the House of Lords and the monarch.