Secular government is better - Joel Hall

One of the more interesting movies that I have seen in the last few years is "V for Vendetta."

Directed by James McTiegue, who worked behind the scenes on such movies as "The Matrix" series and "Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones," the movie describes a post-apocalyptic society in which many of the world's major governments (particularly the United States of America) have collapsed.

In this movie, the one bastion of civility left in the world is the United Kingdom, which is ruled by a theo-fascist dictatorship that enforces curfews, controls the media, and polices morality.

Interestingly, though, the oppressive ideology in the film is not Shari'a (Islamic Law) or Communism, but rather Christianity.

In the movie, a strict interpretation of Christianity is forced down the throats of the masses, so much so, that the main character, V, resorts to terrorist tactics to bring down the system.

Watching the movie, I wondered what kind of people would want to force one religious ideology on such a religiously diverse society.

Then I started paying attention to buzz around the 2008 United States presidential election, and realized that there are many candidates who want to do just that.

It is important to note before I continue that I am a Christian with moderate political beliefs, and that, while I lean to the left on some things, I definitely lean to the right on others. While I follow the majority of Christian principals, as an American, I embrace the rights of those who do not share my views to live and worship according to the manner that they see fit.

I can't help but notice that, in this election, there are individuals who would like to see all Americans follow the same Christian view, even though this country has always been a place for people of many religions, or of no religion at all.

In the last several years, there has been a rise in the emergence of "values" candidates, running campaigns based on the religious dogma of their voter base, more so than what they actually plan to do to make America a better place for everybody.

In 2000, while running for office, President George W. Bush, when asked in a debate who the greatest philosopher and thinker in history was, said Jesus Christ. At the time, it seemed quite an odd thing to say, but nowadays, candidates have started to express much bolder visions of a Christian America.

Arizona senator and presidential candidate, John McCain, is currently embroiled in controversy over a remark that America is a country founded on Christian principles, and that he wouldn't vote for a candidate who wasn't a Christian. Another candidate, Fred Thompson, remains in the spotlight for his negative views on gay marriages.

Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, who recently withdrew from the presidential race, raised several eyebrows over his insistence on teaching Intelligent Design in schools, and his rigid views on abortion.

Through these and others, one can see that many candidates have shifted from promoting pragmatic solutions to America's problems, to promoting what makes Christians feel better. The trouble in that is that America is a country filled with Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Atheists, and Agnostics -- many of whom have different sexual orientations and follow their faiths with varying levels of enthusiasm.

America is now facing the same choice that Islamic counties have been facing for centuries: to have a secular government, or one based on strict religious principles.

Emory Law professor and Islamic scholar, Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im, argues that for democracy to exist, it must be secular and that non-secular governments actually cheapen religion by forcing people to follow it against their own free will.

An-Na'im says that governments can be both religious and secular. For America to continue to be a democracy, its leaders will need to create legislation that considers the needs of all of its citizens, not just the ones who go to church.

Joel Hall covers government and politics for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached via e-mail at jhall@news-daily.com.