Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Religion and Politics

While I was at work one day the story about the new anti-terrorist strategy of searching MTA users in New York City came up. So this acquaintance of mine says that liberal concerns about the state searching bags is stupid and that the state should be able to do whatever it wants in the fight against terrorism. He's about my age and pretty religious.

So I pipe up and ask him whether the Constitution counts for anything and I mention that little thing called the Fourth Amendment. Y'know, the one that says something about unreasonable searches and seizures. He doesn't directly respond to that and says that it doesn't really matter in times like these and that the state should be able to search whomever, wherever and whenever they want.

I'm a little stunned that a person would actually argue for something like that and I say (in severe understatement) that "I think you're giving the state a little too much power there, eh?"

He says, "Yeah, well the state should have all the power."

And I say simply, "I prefer having the power being in the hands of the citizens."

He doesn't answer that and then the conversation goes elsewhere. A little while later he says how the American space effort is a total waste and that global warming is bull. But I won't go into those details here.

Anyway, my point in relating this story was to suggest a correlation I have found in my various unscientific conversations with all sorts of different people. The more religious people are, the more likely they are to be on the political right. The more skeptical, the more likely you'll find them on the left. Taking a more expressive but still simple four corner political graph, as found on the World's Smallest Political Quiz, I believe that if there were a full scale scientific study done on people a correlation would be found as follows:

I'd bet that Orthodox Jews would be found in the Conservative corner of the graph, Reform in the Liberal corner and Conservatives on the left side but more conservative than Reform (conservative Conservatives, whooda thunk it?).

I would also expect to find Reconstructionists and the Frum Skeptics near the Libertarian corner.

Secular Jews would likely be more of a mix, but I would still expect to find more of them in the Liberal and Libertarian corners.

You might be able to guess where I stand and so I might have some bias here, but if there are people out there who read this blog, take that quiz and report your results. How religious are you and where do you stand politically?

I'm pretty interested to see what I get.

18 comments:

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

"The more religious people are, the more likely they are to be on the political right. The more skeptical, the more likely you'll find them on the left. "

People with conservative personalities tend to be conservative whether in religion or politics. The converse is true as well.

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

I got "Liberal Libertarian".

Orthoprax said...

Mississippi Fred,

"People with conservative personalities tend to be conservative whether in religion or politics. The converse is true as well."

That may be true, but most people don't choose their religious leanings. And I think my bigger point is that just like people don't think critically about religion very much, they don't think critically about politics either.

It's not the merits of the case that convince most people, but simply into what kind of family they were born.

"I got "Liberal Libertarian"."

And you stand where on the religious spectrum?

David said...

I scored "Liberal" (80%/20%)

Orthoprax,
You're on to something but I don't think it's conservative vs. liberal. I would characterize it as outside-the-box thinking vs. conventionalist thinking.

Orthoprax said...

David,

True, but I think that the "box" is mostly conservative. Liberals are typically more willing to break from the status quo.

Though I'm thinking now that for the most part, the people who blog - and the bloggers that visit my site - aren't going to be the right wing Orthodox Jews I was writing about. If you're here at all, you're just not going to fit into that category.

So unscientific... ;-)

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

"That may be true, but most people don't choose their religious leanings."

I wasn't trying to resolve the chicken or the egg question, but to the extent that [most] people don't choose their religious leanings, their religious leanings inform their make up. Persons who are socialized in a conservative environment like New Square or Mobile, Alabama are likelier to be more conservative religiously as well as politically and the converse is true for the San Fransiscan.

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

"And you stand where on the religious spectrum?"

Hard to say. I don't call myself a "Frum skeptic", but for the sake of convenience I fit most neatly into that category as you defined them.

Ben Avuyah said...

I scored Libertarian on that quiz although I wonder if it wasn't skewed that way just a little...I think all "agree with answers" left you either liberal or libertarian. And when you ask the web page for details its most engaging presentation is for libertarians.

I took it a second time pretending to be a statist and then a centrist, both times it asked me if I wanted to learn more about being a libertarian, but that small test bias aside....

I think you will certainly continue to find this trend in your readers, we are born into skepticism by rejecting the collective knowledge of our little communities, most of us will likely view government through narrowed, suspicious eyes for the same reasons.

I never would of pegged M Fred, as a skeptic though, Fred, I think I have argued with you several times regarding the Kuzari and other facets of Judaism and you didn’t seem too skeptical at all, I thought you were a champion of convention.

Anyway, you don’t have to ask my religious standing, Orthoprax, my name is my address, so to speak…

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

If you read my blog you would see that I'm hardly "a champion of convention". I don't really peg myself as a skeptic, since that's just the wrong word to use. But I'm neither religously liberal nor conservative.

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

As for the Kitab al Khazar, if I remember correctly our debate was about whether it was a useful argument in its time and place, not the argument itself, which is obviously lacking.

Ben Avuyah said...

Fair enough, M. Fred, I will check out your blog, and am looking forward to it.
As for the Kuzari, I don't want to reopen old wounds, but my main problem with him is not utility; I agree his argument may have been useful to achieve his goals, it is the intellectual dishonesty inherent within it...he was well aware that there is no unbroken chain from days of antiquity to rely on. Kings 2 and chronicles 2 leave no room for doubt.

Orthoprax said...

Ben,

"I scored Libertarian on that quiz although I wonder if it wasn't skewed that way just a little...I think all "agree with answers" left you either liberal or libertarian."

It's true that that quiz may be biased in some way, but I have taken many online political quizes made by different organizations and I always get in generally the same place, left-leaning moderate libertarian.

I've even shown the quiz to a number of people who I know are conservative and it does test true for them.

So, no, if you're looking for a broad spectrum in-depth political analysis, you won't find it here. But as a basic understanding of where a person stands on a number of important issues, this is a useful guide, IMO.

I certainly would recommend that you look around for more of these other online quizes (though they are often much longer, naturally) and see how you stack up compared to this one. And if quizes aren't your thing, just review the issues and see how you stand by them and by which political view it is most similar too.

Foxtrot said...

My first time reading your blog--interesting post.

Belief in the importance of limiting the power of government is an element/strand of conservative thought (esp. classical liberalism, the philosophy of the founding fathers, etc.). I would be hard pressed to identify any contemporary liberal thinkers who believe in keeping power it the hands of the people rather than the government to be an intrinsically good thing.

I think that your conversation with your friend illustrates two points: A) He is either rather dim or has not thought seriously about the issue(s) and B) most people--Orthodox, Reform, etc. do not have a well articilated and internally consistent political philosophy, and as a consequence, tend to have lots of silly opinions.

Also, in the US today liberal and conservative are used as synonyms for Democrat and Republican. Since each refers to several distinct philosophies, it is analytically harmful to conflate said philosphies under a single rubric.

Orthoprax said...

Fox,

"I would be hard pressed to identify any contemporary liberal thinkers who believe in keeping power it the hands of the people rather than the government to be an intrinsically good thing."

I know it can sometimes be misleading to speak of "right" and "left" or "liberal" and "conservative" in politics, which is why I referred to the four corner graph which you can see in the link I provided.

Conservatives like state power in terms of personal freedoms. Liberals want state power in economics. Libertarians want neither and Statists want both.

Generally though, for things like our Bill of Rights, most people would prefer keeping those rights in the hands of the people and not the state. Not all, naturally, though.

Anonymous said...

I don't need no stinkin test. I am a libertarian/anarchist

~B. Spinoza

Anonymous said...

good post... thanks.

Jon
my site: stanford binet iq test

Anonymous said...

Political Liberal, Religious Orthodox person here.

I think that the Orthodox = Conservative, Reform = Liberal idea, while taken by more and more people as an assumption, is not necesarily true.

The liberal/conservative political spectrum in America developed in a mostly Christian/secular country with very different values than Judaism does.

Many older folks from the very right side of the religious spectrum still vote Democratic, because to them, the Democrats stood for social welfare and equal opportunity and concern for the poor. (all Jewish values).

Many of the ideals of the conservatives, on the other hand, contradict many Jewish values - less regulation of business, for instance, more Christianity, less concern for mitsvot like Bal Tashchit, Tsaar Baalei Chayim, etc. Also abortion is sometimes mandated by Halacha - Christian anti-abortion activists want to outlaw it *always*, even when the life of the mother is at stake.

More to talk about, but it's only in recent years, with the decreasing emphasis on Mitsvot ben Adam leChavero and the more comfortable position of Jews in America's economy that some Orthodox Jews have seen fellows among the christian fundamentalists and decided to follow their political views too.
-Alan Scott

Orthoprax said...

Alan,

The correlation I proposed is hardly an absolute, but taking from my own experience, I find it a rather reliable standard. There are definitely going to be exceptions, and I think you're one of them.

But from your own experience, would you find my proposal valid?