My political philosophy is centered on three principles: freedom, democracy, and tolerance. This equates roughly to the motto of the French Revolution: liberty, fraternity, equality. Since religion is dominant in my life, this also affects my politics. Religion is, for me, seeking after Truth and eradicating its opposite, Superstition. It is also applying the Sermon on the Mount to life. The Beatitudes apply to politics as follows:
Blessed are the poor in spirit: those who are spiritually humble and teachable, not claiming to know all the answers, as was the case with the Pharisees - and today with the know-it-all fundamentalists, who promote conservative political views.
Blessed are those who mourn: those who are sensitive to the hurting and the needs of their fellowmen, not like politicians who claim to be “compassionate conservatives” and who thereby admit that most of their ilk are not really generous and kind at heart.
Blessed are the meek: those who are gentle and gentlemanly, not preaching hate and causing strife - as do radical right-wing religionists around the world.
Blessed are those who hunger for righteousness: those who are not self-righteous like the Pharisees and modern religious conservatives. These are the people who have willingly burned people at the stake in the name of God. This same sort killed Jesus.
Blessed are the merciful: those who seek social justice and grant amnesty, who do not practice discrimination, torture, and cruelty - unlike right-wing radicals.
Blessed are the pure in heart: those with an open-minded childlike faith who have the right priorities in life - not going after money, pleasure, and status - in politics, not favoring the wealthy and powerful and ignoring the needs of common or lower-class men.
Blessed are the peacemakers: those who practice the Golden Rule and avoid conflict, unlike those who bully their way in the world and dominate it with a doctrine of “might makes right” or “my country, right or wrong.”
These concepts represent the heart of Jesus, and they are better exhibited by the Democratic Party. My basic viewpoint is that of a Liberal, but still, I also recognize a Conservative side to my beliefs. Both of these political standpoints are outlined as follows:
My Liberal Values:
Religious Freedom: My faith as a Christian happens to be the religion of the majority of my countrymen, but what if it were not? I would still want the liberty of believing as I please and freely expressing these beliefs to others, and so I cannot deny that basic human right to others. Tolerance, the opposite of bigotry, comes with enlightened religion, which is the opposite of fundamentalism - the chief cause of global conflict today. Religious freedom is quickly lost when there is a union of church and state - where a religious organization receives tax money or where it endorses a particular candidate or party.
Literary Freedom: The burning of books and of people has been a blight on the human record. Our country’s freedom of speech and of the press precludes the suppression of any form of expression. Censorship should be minimized lest creative genius and progressive thinking be lost to mankind. If some form of artistic expression is offensive to anyone, it can be ignored or boycotted, thus willing it to a natural death. In the formative years of the early Church, a wise Jewish man advised his nation’s supreme council that they should not oppose the new heretical movement called Christianity, lest they be opposing God. And it turns out, he was right. Works of art and literature should depict their subject matter as faithfully as possible. As Oliver Cromwell instructed his painter, he wanted his portrait to show him “warts and all.” If this realism is offensive to some, they need not patronize the display or the drama, or read the book. Realism and authenticity are two aspects of literary truth. Literary realism was lost when men played the roles of women in the ancient Greek dramas and when whites took the parts of negroes in early movies. So, today it is not proper for black actors to play white people on the stage or screen - or if they do so, at least they should wear white makeup, just as the old vaudevillians went black-face and the Greeks wore female masks.
Freedom of Public Assembly: Groups that do not advocate violence and sedition should not be molested. Invasion of the arena of one political party by another should be allowed, as long as it is orderly and restrained. This is free speech. Secret meetings (in church or state) undermine democracy, just as secret societies undermine the social order.
Human Rights: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights should be promoted by all governments, should be part of every school’s curriculum, and a copy should be provided to every citizen. Human rights should be a priority in American foreign policy, and we should always champion the downtrodden. Those countries found abusing their citizens should be ostracized by the world.
Personal Privacy: Individual behavior that harms no one and private acts between consenting adults should be free from governmental scrutiny.
Public Education: The basis of democracy is an enlightened citizenship. Any plan that takes funds from public schools and gives it to other institutions is harming the future of general education. Also, education should be standardized, so that everyone has access to the same instruction and passes the same examinations. Untried and innovative ideas should be introduced at an advanced level above that of a basic education. A well-rounded education should acquaint students with conflicting ideas, ideas that may not be acceptable to a given society. As to literature, the Great Books, the classics, should be preferred in order to pass on the wisdom of the ages. This would include the Bible, which is great literature and the foundation of Western culture. The religions of all peoples should be openly discussed. Education is a quest for truth, and this necessitates an open mind and accepting truth wherever it is found. Science and scholarship should be respected, and knowledge in all realms should be pursued. Ignorance, superstition, anti-intellectualism, narrowness, and simple-mindedness should be deplored.
Global Government: There is overwhelming evidence of the progression of civilization toward a unified world. In the natural order of human history, rulership has become more centralized, from family to clan to tribe to city-state to nation to a confederacy of nations and, eventually, to a worldwide federal government. It is impossible for mankind to exist in harmony and prosperity while society is divided into warring camps and antagonistic ethnic parties. Any world government must be democratic, empowered to enforce the rule of law, and should promote standardized laws, language, and rules of commerce, etc.
Legal Secession: An unfortunate exception to the centralizing trend in government is the case when a group of people cannot obtain freedom and justice within their existing political structure. Freedom to withdraw from unfriendly association should be a basic, legal right of a majority in any territory, as long as the new entity can be a self-sustaining society. Secession should be as legal as divorce. Cases in point: the Soviet empire’s separations, Pakistan’s partitioning from northern India, Czechoslovakia’s peaceful splitting into halves, and Yugoslavia’s tri-part division. Tibet’s desire for freedom from China should not be denied, and neither should the Kurds’ efforts to establish Kurdistan in Iraq and Turkey, and the suffering Darfur peoples’ desiring separation from despotic Sudan. Also, democratic Taiwan has rightly refused assimilation by communist China. And then, there are the Palestinians in Israel, the Basques in Spain, the Chechens in Russia, the Sikhs in India, the Greeks on Cyprus, and the Tamils in Sri Lanka. In each case, peaceful secession is to be preferred to bloody civil war. (In our nation’s history, both the American rebellion against the British crown and the Confederate rebellion against the northern states should have been viewed as legal acts of secession and warfare avoided.)
Open Borders: Looking at this globe from outer space, it is impossible to see borderlines. People should have the basic freedom to travel and to relocate anywhere on the earth. Immigrants should be treated with respect and helped to adjust to their new residence. However, those who migrate to any area should be able to quickly support themselves, or else return to their place of origin.
Charitable Capitalism: Without an element of charity, pure capitalism is a greedy, ruthless economic system. It makes for a dog-eat-dog world. Thus, there must be governmental controls on powerful cartels and corporations and some means of caring for unfortunates in the lower social strata. A Liberal is a naturally compassionate person.
Capital Punishment: If God judged the world according to its deserts, there would be nobody left alive. Thus, He sets the example in compassion for those who break the law. Let him who is without sin cast the first stone. When the state deliberately kills anyone, it participates in criminal activity. Also, innocent lives may be taken, as in the case of Jesus.
Abortion Rights: Loss of offspring is a part of nature, as a tree will drop some of its immature fruits. Still, it must be recognized that to destroy a seed is to kill a plant and, likewise, to abort a fetus is to take a human life. Nevertheless, this may sometimes be necessary, just as loss of life may be warranted when astronauts are sacrificed to the space program or when human subjects are used in medical research. Soldiers, firemen, policemen, linemen, miners, and steeplejacks may forfeit their lives at any time for the good of society. The situations where abortion rights should not be denied are few: cases of rape, incest, gross deformity, and danger to the life or sanity of the mother. The decision of the woman should not be questioned in these special instances. The general rule, however, should be that abortion is illegal. It is an unacceptable and inhumane form of birth control.
Homosexual Rights: Homosexual people are human beings and merit treatment as such. They are not normal, however, and just as cripples and blind or deaf people are not to be ridiculed, so are these sexually-confused persons not to feel public censure or shame for what they cannot help. If one considers the thought, “There but for the grace of God go I,” an attitude of kindness and consideration should prevail. This does not mean that society must accept the false notion that the lifestyles of these unfortunate people should be generally acceptable behavior, any more than wishing everyone to be blind or lame. The Bible plainly precludes sanctioning homosexual cohabitation, so no church can in good faith bless any union of these persons or allow such a one to occupy the pulpit. This is not to say that civil unions could not be contracted, if such were necessary for legal reasons, such as inheritance, insurance, joint ownership, etc.
Flag-Waving Militancy: “My country, right or wrong,” is the super-patriot’s creed, and it leads to war. Reliance upon armed forces to further national goals is a primitive motivation. Diplomacy should replace military conflict, and an occasion of having to deploy troops as a last resort should be a sorrowful event. The counterpart of democracy is a volunteer army. And policing the world should be left to world government with its multi-national troops.
Environmental Stewardship: Every generation should be committed to passing on a clean earth with plentiful natural resources to its offspring. We condemn the slaughtering of buffalo by a previous generation, and what will people of the future think of us?
Our Immoral Presidency: Every political issue is a moral issue. The facts show that George W. Bush is immoral. He started an unsanctioned, illegal war. (This involves the sins of warmongering belligerence and high-handed pride.) Without hard evidence, he presented as fact the enemy’s possession of weapons of mass destruction. (This manifests the sins of falsehood and hypocrisy.) Striking the first blow was a repeat of what Japan did at Pearl Harbor. (This immoral act was a rejection of the high ideals of Christianity upon which this nation was founded. The Sermon on the Mount gave advice on how to react when an enemy struck the first blow and obviously never meant for the initial strike to come from a righteous nation.) He has driven this nation deep into debt. (This exhibits the sin of greed and the worship of mammon: materialism). His tax structure benefits the rich at the expense of the needy. (This commits the sins of showing “respect of persons” [preferential treatment of the wealthy] and of theft [robbing those who are already poor]. Taking bread out of the mouths of the poor has brought the curse of God upon unrighteous people in the past.) This President’s policies cause the depletion of natural resources and the degradation of the environment. (These are the sins of bad stewardship, materialism, and waste.) He undermines the world forum and refuses to sit at the table of peaceful negotiation. (These are the sins of evil counsel and arrogance.) He refuses to endorse a worldwide criminal court. (These are the sins of lawlessness and injustice [protecting criminals].) He withdraws from treaties and refuses to cooperate with most nations in global agreements. (This exhibits the sins of self-centered conceit, unbrotherly conduct, and broken faith.) The fact that this man with his evil record was elected to office shows a grave moral deficiency in this nation. We are now a nation of hard-hearted militants.
My Conservative Values:
Majority Rule: Since most Americans are Christian, that Faith should naturally be exhibited in public life without any censure or apology, while at the same time leaving room for other religious expressions. The citizens of this country speak English, and so those who live among us must be able to communicate, to vote, and to work by means of that language. Our laws, customs, and traditions derive mostly from western Europe, or are unique to these shores, and they have made us the great nation we are. Everyone who lives in this society should respect and value these standards of living or else go back to where they will feel more at home.
Historical Accuracy: The expression of bias or the restriction of “political correctness” should have no place in a historical account. What is wanted here is the unvarnished truth about all factors involved, including religion, race, gender, ethics, culture, economics, etc. To take religion out of a history text is to distort the annals of the human race. For example, the motivation of the Pilgrim Fathers to come to this country was primarily religious, and that fact and all of its ramifications should be emphasized. If some group of people is offended by an account that puts them in a bad light, they need to develop a tougher skin. So, American history should portray the Mormon Church as it was, with its polygamy, wife-stealing, printing-press destruction, secret ceremonies, and vigilante violence - such as the infamous Mountain Meadows massacre. Also, Muslims should be confronted with the evils perpetrated by their belief system upon mankind in general, so that they can take steps to amend their ways. Otherwise, history will keep repeating itself. History should not be rewritten to give an inflated value to the contributions of any ethnic group to human civilization. For example, claiming that Cleopatra and Hannibal were black is outright falsehood and nothing but racist propaganda.
Political Correctness: Honest speech is no longer valued, because it may be offensive to someone. Humor, without ethnic jokes and making fun of strange customs and outlandish behavior, is dry and drab. Sad to say, the humor of Mark Twain would be offensive to sensitive ears in these tepid times. Plain, ordinary English is corrupted by people such as feminists, who resist the use of generic masculine pronouns, even tampering with the Bible’s original wording. By their rules one cannot use a time-honored term like “forefathers.” Nowadays, old songs of the South cannot mention slavery terms, and confusion reigns as to what name is acceptable to describe the race of people from sub-saharan Africa - negro, colored, black, etc. Everyone would do well to remember that the terms “Baptist,” “Quaker,” and “Methodist” started out as slurs and now are borne with pride. As for me, I readily accept the following epithets of derision. I am a “cracker” (Florida-born), a “nerd” (an engineer), a “WASP,” (white, Baptist), a “rebel” (proud of Robert E. Lee), a “half-breed” (with Cherokee blood), an “egghead” (a book lover), a “libertine” (against censorship), a “liberal” (an advocate for the downtrodden), a “yellow-dog Democrat” (nearly always in that camp), a “one-worlder” (anti-isolationist), a “bleeding heart” (against capital punishment), and a “high brow” (believing that good music was killed by Elvis). Call me any of these things, and I won’t be offended or back down from who I am and where I stand.
Theistic Evolution: The natural law of the evolution of all living things from simple to complex forms has been proven to the satisfaction of all but the most obtuse and prejudiced individuals. What has not been proven are the ultimate origins of things. Who or What got it all started? Thus there must be a place for God in the equation to make it work. He did it, and He did it in the progressive fashion called theistic evolution. A scientific textbook should not mention God, but it should admit that ultimate origins and ultimate destinies are unknown. Also, if the creation story of one religion is allowed, then all must get equal treatment, and, meanwhile, science goes out the window.
Sexual Diversity: The class of animals called mammals, including human beings, has males and females that differ in size, activity, and capability. This diversity should be recognized, and advancement in human society should be on the basis of merit, not gender preference, as long as the playing field is level and there is equal opportunity for all. Radical feminists would deny these differences and demand that an artificial advantage be given to women. No one can deny the importance of women in society and human advancement, but the fact remains that the major accomplishments of the human race have been made by men. Echoing Saul Bellow, who asked, “Who is the Tolstoy of the Zulus? the Proust of the Papuans?” I will venture to inquire, “Where is the female Shakespeare, the female Beethoven, the female Einstein, the female Moses?”
Corporal Punishment: Spanking is not child abuse. Discipline and respect for authority should be a part of education. One form of child abuse is the over-indulgence of children, which creates monsters and misfits.
Richard L. Atkins
February 15, 2005
Tammy L. Carter, Columnist
The Orlando Sentinel
633 N. Orange Avenue
Orlando, FL 32801
Dear Ms. Carter:
I enjoyed your column of January 20 in which you spoke of your friend, Candy. I especially liked the place of origin of your friendship, a church choir. My best friends have been those I made at church, and I too sing in my choir at the College Park Baptist Church.
Some things that we have in common are a love for writing, reading, and movies. Also, I am a morning person, and I like to delve into philosophy. I could wish that there was more room given in the newspaper to religious and philosophical issues. About twenty years ago the Sentinel used to provide a weekly religion section called “Pathways.” I contributed a few articles to that feature, and I miss it. Too much space is given to sports, when you consider that more people go to church on any given week than attend athletic events.
Anyway, we have several things in common, but here are some of my personal characteristics. I am older then you - seventy years of age - and white. My wife and I have been married for forty-eight years, and we have five fine children and twelve grandchildren. I am a Bible teacher, a retired aeronautical engineer, and the former president of the United Nations Association, Orlando Chapter. I have written three books, self-published.
After the last election, I felt the need to write out my political philosophy, and a copy of this is enclosed. I guess that there is something in it to offend everyone. I hope you will find it of interest and be able to find some common ground that we share.
With best regards,
Richard L. Atkins
1981 Blue Ridge Road
Winter Park, FL 32789