God Doesn't Care About Smoking in Casinos

Iowa Senate ChamberIowa Senate ChamberIowa State Legislature class of '09 opened, as it does every year, with prayers by local religious leaders. It almost sounds like the start of a bad joke, "A priest, a rabbi, and an imam were invited to speak the the Iowa Legislature..." But there is no punchline.

While I could make a case that state-sanctioned prayer at the Legislature's opening ceremonies, regardless of how many different religions are represented, violates a couple of the most important amendments to our Constitution, I won't. Instead I will discuss my problems with legislative prayer from a more pragmatic standpoint.

First and foremost, it is ridiculous and grandiose to think, as across the world people die from starvation, children work their fingers to a bloody pulp sewing shoes, and entire towns are eradicated by disease, that any God would spend its time helping the Iowa Legislature debate the finer points of the state gas tax. Any God that would devote time to helping the Iowa Legislature over any number of more pressing world problems doesn't deserve our praise or respect.

Here are some things the Iowa Legislature should confront in the next session that I don't believe that anyone's God gives a crap about:

  • Whether Iowa's gas tax is $.21 or $.26 per gallon (my vote is for $.26, but more on that in another post)
  • Whether we should be allowed to smoke in a casino or restaurant
  • Whether two men or two women who love each other should be granted the same civil right to marry as a heterosexual couple

Second, it is dangerous for a legislator to believe that his or her choices are guided by a god or gods. This is important for three reasons:

  1. A duly elected public servant's first responsibility in the discharge of his or her public duties is to the people, not to a god.
  2. People who believe their decisions are guided by an omniscient deity are more likely to defend their decisions based on ideology rather than measurable data. It would also be much more difficult to change a position, even in the face of hard evidence to the contrary, if one believes that he or she is implementing the will of God.
  3. Decisions founded in religion are much more likely to be based on human interpretation of religious text rather than direct communication with a supernatural being. They are therefore subject to error in interpretation or even (God forbid) complete misinterpretation.

In short, no elected official could possibly be stopped from believing their decisions are influenced by a god (though I challenge anyone to name an elected official that has not made some bad decisions). State-sanctioned prayer to the gods for assistance in legislation at all levels should be stopped. It debases both religion and politics.

Let's start making decisions based on duly documented experience, data, and reasoned debate rather than divine inspiration.

Comments

Kudos to you, my friend. Well argued.

| Jan 13th, 2009 at 7:09 pm

Amen, I mean, right on! I couldn't agree more. Also, as a side note, nice op-ed peice in the DMR today.

Charles

| Jan 15th, 2009 at 10:27 am

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