I have always considered myself more of a conservative than a liberal when it comes to political topics.  I used to joke with my wife that we got along so well because she was a conservative-liberal and I was a liberal-conservative.  This allowed us to disagree about some topics, but we had a good solid footing of common ground between us.  It seems to me lately that there is less middle-ground between the parties these last couple of years.  Being a centrist tends to get you labeled as a traitor to your party and those moderate voices that kept the extreme on both sides of the aisle in check, have given way to partisanship and pandering.

I just cannot bring myself to go wholeheartedly towards either side, quite frankly I think they both suck.  The left is so out of touch with the real meaning of the American dream, they just cannot help giving away what you, me and the rest of our hardworking brothers and sister make to those who think it is their right to receive it and we should smile and think it a privilege to give it to them.  The right is so fanatically intertwining religious views into policy and agenda that I can barely listen to the drivel and proposals that they want to ram down our throats.  Unfortunately, for us as Americans, we cannot expel one side without expelling the other.  The rebound effect would be completely devastating as it was when the House swung from one majority to another.  There is no equilibrium and there is no third party capable of creating the competitiveness required to make a standing and gain recognition as a contender.

So what does all this have to do with the title of the post?  I have to take some serious issue with the rhetoric coming from the Republican chase for the presidential nomination, specifically that of Rick Santorum and his self-professed disgust at America as a secular nation of laws.

I have never been a religious person, it just never took with me.  I do not need nor have I ever felt the need to congregate in groups, confess my sins, either real or imaginary, nor have I ever needed a church leader to guide me on the path of right and wrong.  I have been able to exercise my free will throughout my life and I have made some really bad choices, some really good choices, and hit just about every other varying degree that exists in between.  I had good role models growing up,  my parents were awesome, even if I can only recognize that in retrospect for some periods of my “all knowing” adolescence.  I had a decent size family that was generally close with a gathering of some sort for each and every major holiday on a rotational basis.  Yet somewhere at some time, despite the examples put in front of me, I still chose at times to willingly do the wrong thing.

Santorum recently talked about his disgust with JFK’s remarks regarding the Catholic church and his belief structure when it came time for him to be nominated for the Democratic slot for the Presidency.  You see Kennedy was the first Catholic president of America and much to the delight of his voting block determined   “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute—where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote—where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference—and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him”.

These were pretty big words for 1960 and for a man who would become the countries first Catholic president.  He took a gamble in making this statement; the country was at the very height of the Cold War with Russia and we were still recovering from Senator Joe McCarthy’s Red Scare, which resulted in both “In God We Trust” being printed on our paper money and “One Nation Under God” being added to the Pledge of Allegiance.  You see, neither of these existed prior to the 1950’s.

Santorum and others of his ilk would have you believe that the official religion of the United States is Christianity, when in point of fact there is no official religion.  As far as Christianity goes, which belief structure would that be?  Catholic? Protestant? Lutheran? Baptist?  None of these branches can agree on a universal dogma for what a good christian consists of let alone how would/should you treat someone who does not prescribe to your belief structure.  The intended requirement of women to have a vaginal probe ultrasound before having an abortion does not seem to me to be a very “christian” requirement, yet it is the so-called “moral majority” on the religious right who propose such a law.

I am non-religious, so I am not a christian, but nor do I consider myself an atheist.  The only titles I have ever been comfortable with are those of the rank I have achieved in the Army.  I worked for them, I applied ethical decision making (for the most part anyhow) in what I did to achieve those ranks, I espoused a morality that is cohesive to America and our way of life and I made sure my soldiers demonstrated those same ideals.  Those who did not follow the required legal, moral and ethical guidelines required of all service members paid the consequences for their actions.  I did these things and passed on the hard learned lessons not because of religious requirements or beliefs, not even because that is what the Army told me I need to do as a leader, but because as a leader it is incumbent upon me to help develop and train subordinates and act as a backstop for peers and seniors.  It is my duty and the duty of all leaders.  We call it “taking the hard right over the easy wrong”.

I believe in spirit, to me it is part of the human condition.  It is not something you can measure, yet I can see it.  I see it when an underdog can rise above their perceived weakness and perform at a level in which they become recognized.  I see it in valorous action that allow someone to go beyond the fear and put themselves in harms way in order to save others.  It is in the eyes of a child on Christmas morning as they act out the same ritual as millions of other homes around the world.

I also believe in the soul.  I see it a bit different than the normal religious definition though.  I see it when I look at my children and know they will make good decisions in their lives.  It is the sparkle in their eyes.  It is that little piece of each and every one of us that we pass on to our children.  Your soul lives on, not in some mystical way for me, but rather as the living embodiment of your own innate goodness from one generation to the next.  It is not strictly limited by DNA either.  The homosexual couple who kindly opens their home and helps a child get a chance at life by adopting them.  They pass their soul on through them.  The same-sex couple who demonstrates their love for one another combine their individual lights, no differently than a man and woman do when they marry.  Couples of mixed ethnic heritage and millions of other examples help spread that soul, spirit and sparkle. It is not a mystical phenomenon, it is simply chemistry and maintaining the clarity of vision to see it.

These example happen despite the bigotry and attempts to stop them from happening.  I do believe it is bigotry and prejudice.  I  have my prejudices just like everyone and they tend to come out at the most inopportune times.  I am not prejudiced against people of faith though.  I respect their beliefs, as I would hope they do mine.  Make no mistake to the fact that I have no religion, I still have beliefs.  They may just be different than yours are.  We are a free and democratic society.  I think the 10 commandments are a pretty good start on some common sense rules to which to live by.  I think they could have had their place in any society throughout time and more than likely did, but I think they came about more from the efforts of someone trying to help his people become a sustainable population with some rule of law rather than divine inspiration, but who knows.

So as I look into my daughters eyes and speak with my son after he gets home from volunteering for the animal shelter today, i will look for signs of that sparkle that I know is there.  I will be thankful that is there through the efforts of my wife an me to raise good children, not through regulation and someone who is on his moral high-horse trying to tell me how to live my life.  America was founded in order to break away from a king who believed his rule was divine providence, thereby placing him as the hand of god on earth for the country of England, not to be a nation ruled by fear mongering “patriots” who espouse violations of our Bill of Rights to anyone who does not agree with them, while trampling upon those same rights in the process.

Think for yourself, educate yourself and make your own decisions.

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