Dancing around religion


Over the last two weeks, the odd debate about Stephen Harper’s religion has wandered off in various directions.

Chris Selley.

Mr. Martin worries that faith is supplanting “reason.” I think “reason” is too far down the list of important policy-drivers in Ottawa to care very much. Politicians believe all sorts of stupid things for all sorts of stupid reasons. In the end, I fail to see the point of all this speculation … well, unless it’s to bash conservatives and evangelicals for sport. Democracy provides us with a wonderful opportunity, every four years or so at the most, to judge politicians for what they do. What does it matter why they do it?

Paul Adams.

As someone who supports rational, scientific, evidence-based policy making – at least as an ideal – I see a government which often chooses a different path for what often seem inscrutable reasons, or at least unspoken ones. If the Harper government has a better explanation than it has adduced for ignoring the climate science, it should offer it up. In the meantime, there is nothing wrong with posing sensible questions about what those reasons may be.

Gerry Nicholls.

Harper does indeed make his decisions based on what might be called a religion. But it’s not Christianity, or Judaism, or paganism. Rather, it’s the one true faith for politicians world-wide; I call it The Holy Church of Winning Political Power.

Paul Rowe, Don Lenihan and Michael Behiels take the opportunity to debate the separation of church and state.

All of this from the idle speculation of one writer (Andrew Nikiforuk) that the Harper government’s environmental policy is inspired by an evangelical rejection of climate science. Is it reasonable to probe the Prime Minister’s religious beliefs? Sure. Is is possible that his religious beliefs in some way inform his political actions? Sure. But is there any evidence that Mr. Harper’s environmental policy has been so influenced? No.

For that matter, is there a pattern of formulating policy according to religious doctrine that could lead one to believe his environmental policy was so influenced? I don’t think so. Has he previously acknowledged the science of climate change? Yes. Is there another, entirely plausible explanation—that the government’s environmental policies are in line with the wishes of an electorally significant plurality of voters—for the government’s actions? I’d suggest so.


Dancing around religion

  1. I’d say it’s more in line with a significant segment of their voting base along with a signigicant segment of the financial base.

  2. I think you explained this quite nicely Wherry (Did the LPC give you vacation also? :) It’s when people describe the government as “ignoring the climate science” is where I typically stop paying attention, because clearly the government does not ignore climate science. It might not go as far as some people would like, but that’s governing (limited resources to be split amongst almost limitless priorities). When it comes up in the context of Harper’s religion, it’s even funnier because typically the writer is full believer in the religion of Global Warming who worships Mother Nature.

    • So Harpers faith is science based is it? Amazing what you can learn on these blogs from knowledgeable chaps like you.

      • Maybe he’s a Scientologist.

    • How can you stop paying something you’ve never been paying in the first place?

  3. About 95% of Canadian political reporting is liberal journos writing about how retarded right wing people are. Maybe Harper doesn’t believe global warming is occurring because the earth isn’t warming – people who actually believe in science are still waiting for scientists to prove global warming is happening.
    Jonah Goldberg ~ Republicans have bad brains?

    “They do that because they were born that way.”

    If you say that about homosexuals, you are tolerant and realistic. If you say it about blacks, you are racist (unless you’re black yourself). If you say it about women, you may or may not be sexist, depending on who is manning (er, womanning) the feminist battle stations. If you say it about men, you just might be a writer for Esquire. But if you say it about conservatives, you’re a scientist.

    Over the past decade, a new fad has taken hold among academics and liberal journalists: call it the new science of conservative phrenology. No, it doesn’t actually involve using calipers to determine intelligence based on the size and shape of people’s heads. The measuring devices are better — MRIs and gene sequencers — but the conclusions are worse. The gist is this: Conservatives and liberals don’t just have different world views or ideas, they have different brains; the right and left are just hard-wired to think differently.

    Author Chris Mooney compiles much of this research for his new book The Republican Brain, which purports to show that conservatives are, literally by nature, more closed-minded and resistant to change and facts. His evidence includes the fact that conservatives are less likely to buy into global warming, allegedly proving they are not only “anti-science” but innately anti-fact, as well. “Politicized wrongness today,” he writes “is clustered among Republicans, conservatives and especially Tea Partiers.”

    • You gotta lay off the Jonah Goldberg, jolyon. That sh*t is rotting your brain.

    • Maybe Harper doesn’t believe global warming is occurring because the earth isn’t warming – people who actually believe in science are still waiting for scientists to prove global warming is happening.

      Except, the Prime Minister DOES believe in climate change. He’s said so over and over again. He’s called it the greatest threat facing humanity.

      I don’t think that people who think that the PM doesn’t believe in climate change should be focusing on just why he supposedly doesn’t. If the PM really doesn’t believe in it, shouldn’t we be focused on discovering why he keeps lying to Canadians over and over again and saying that he does?

  4. tony you state: ” Maybe Harper doesn’t believe global warming is occurring because the earth isn’t warming – people who actually believe in science are still waiting for scientists to prove global warming is happening.”

    In an interview with George Strombo (one of those left-leaning quacks who like to bash conservatives – my guess at your feelings about this CBC host) Michael Mann (one of the worlds foremost climate scientist) explains that the science surrounding climate change is sound, the consensus is solid (science works on consensus) and that the carbon (in CO2) can be traced to human activity using isotope identification (real science too)
    Of course PM Harper is not ignoring the science. He is trying to have it expunged from the debate. Relaxing of environmental policies in favour of expediting planned projects, dismanteling of canadian research foundations and grants, and muzzling the scientists themselves. Scienctists, like journalists need the freedom to do there jobs properly. These are tactics of someone who is afraid to lose, and will do anything to make sure he doesn’t.
    If that is not closemindeness, and/or Anti-Science I do not know what is? And yes it does seem like most of the policies of the “Right” are wrong. Maybe a study of PM Harpers brain could lead to some new understanding to the right-winged politician’s brain, but the information would never get to the public. Maybe we’re better of that way…what we don’t know can’t hurt us right?

    Strombo interviews Michael mann- climate scientist:http://youtu.be/p1reIk4qWtw

  5. I don’t recall this kind of religious conversation about any other govt in our history…..and when it’s so obvious that people notice and discuss it……

    Religion should play no part in our public policies….notably climate
    science and foreign policy at the moment. Yet they do….and it’s no use
    pretending they don’t.

    • On climate change, I find it hard to believe that “religion” is steering the government’s policies. The PM has claimed, over and over again, to believe in the science of climate change. He’s called it the greatest threat facing humanity. Maybe he’s repeatedly lying to us about his opinion on that file, but I find it hard to believe that someone who had a strong religious conviction on such a topic would lie about it so openly.

      I find it much more plausible to take the PM at his word (climate change is happening, we’re causing it, or at least contributing to it, and it’s a big problem) and to chalk up his government’s inaction on that file to a policy victory of economics over the environment, not religion over the environment. I’m not so sure that the PM thinks that God will save us from environmental disaster, so much as that he thinks that prosperity and economic success should be a higher priority for Canadians than the sustainability of our environment. And that sort of reasoning doesn’t conform to the philosophies of many religions that I know of (particularly Christian denominations, as I’ve always personally thought of Jesus as more of a “save the planet” type of figure, as opposed to an adherent of the “drill baby, drill” philosophy). It seems to me that our inaction on climate change generally results from the influence of corporations, not churches. If there’s truly any sort of (barely) hidden government agenda on climate change, I’d say that it would more logically be coming from the boardroom, not the pulpit.

      • Most Canadians , including the media unfortunately, know very little about religion. They remember it as some harmless thing little old ladies practiced, back when they were kids.

        So they are unaware of the Dominionists, Sovereign Citizens, and other dangerous rightwing ‘domestic terrorists’ in the US. The kind that kill doctors and gays….. and stick strictly to worse-than-old-testament-rules [which is going some]

        They forget Jonestown, and koolaid suicide….or Ruby Ridge and Branch Davidians and McVeigh….

        I don’t know of anyone who actually IS a christian….I know of lots of people who have made up their own brand of christianity……and none of them are in any way connected to what Jesus said. They range from mild variations to insane and violent ones.

        One of the minor variations is known as ‘Lying for the Lord’. If you think that the end result of your lie will be good for the Lord….and the Lord’s business….then lying is not a sin but a requirement. Cons do this one a lot.

        Evangelicals also practice a ‘prosperity gospel’…..which is definitely a major variation from what Jesus preached about poverty and sharing and caring God is looking after the earth, so they don’t have to…..they can forget stewardship altogether, and just be prosperous…..Jesus will take care of any problems.

        So if you need to say you care about the environment in order to be elected….then you do. If later you need to makes excuses while you do nothing for the environment…….or convert a C02 problem in the atmosphere into dredging some local creek…..then you do.

        The US has many of these variation types…..but Canada has them too…..they aren’t as blatant or as violent about it ….yet….but they’re here.

  6. And we will continue, apparently, to ‘dance around the topic’ because Canadians are either too polite or too ignorant to discuss it.

  7. Mr. Martin worries that faith is supplanting “reason.” I think “reason” is too far down the list of important policy-drivers in Ottawa to care very much


    It’s a good point.

    To a large extent, who cares WHY the government apparently prefers to ignore reason and evidence on so many files? Is there a hypothetical GOOD rationale for chucking reason and evidence aside? Frankly, so long as the government appears so willing to chuck reason and evidence in the trash heap, the notion that they’re doing so out of some sort of religious conviction / faith is one of the LEAST objectionable possible rationales for doing so, imho.

    I don’t personally believe that there’s any hidden religious agenda driving the government (though I’m certain many religious conservatives wish there was). I’m always more inclined to attribute the inexplicable to ignorance and incompetence rather than to religiosity and conspiracy. I’d say there’s heaps more evidence that the government (as a whole) just isn’t bright enough rather than that they’re too religious. I don’t think they ignore empirical evidence because they have faith that some higher power who isn’t bound by reality will enable their gut-based policies to trump the brain-based policies of other parties (not that all of the policies of the other parties are “brain-based” either, lol). It’s much easier for me to accept that they just don’t understand the importance of empirical evidence than to accept that they understand it but choose to ignore it out of a sense that God and faith trumps science and reason (though certainly some small portion of the Tory caucus does believe that, I just don’t think they have much power).

    I don’t get the sense from our government that they cast aside reason because “God is great”, I think they do it because they’re annoyed by people who “know stuff”. The Tories aren’t running towards “God”, imho, they’re running away from “fancy book-learnin'”.

  8. Sigh.

    The only reason anyone still mentions religion and Harper in the same sentence is that no-one at journalism central has bothered to erase that item from the master list of narratives that must be brought out when talking about conservatives.

    I mean seriously…we’re 6 years into Harper’s tenure as PM, including over a year as a majority PM. Other than fulfilling the campaign promise of a free vote to revisit same sex marriage, has he done even one thing that suggests religion plays in any way into his decision making?

    Is it safe to finally erase that narrative from the whiteboard yet?

    • I take it you know nothing about religion?

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