J. Daniel Watkins, Columnist

As the GOP debates continue in full force, an NPR article on Sunday asked the title question, “Has Obama Waged a War on Religion?” alongside the accusations coming from candidates. Seemingly, if there was one thing the candidates agree on, it’s the conceived notion of conflict between the religious and otherwise.

Rick Perry made the boldest claim, saying the war on religion not only exists, but also belongs to President Barack Obama. Rick Santorum comes in second by saying we’re coming to a conflict between “man’s laws and God’s laws.” And how does that conflict come to be? According to Perry, such a conflict spawns from allowing gays to serve openly in the military. Any reasonable observer might then ask, “How does that affect those candidates?”

While the article examines the different positions on which both sides feel they are playing a zero sum game, it ends on the most important question. What ever happened to live and let live? The opposite side of live and let live is nothing new to political tirades, yet remains something everyone should question. Instead of focusing so much on whether or not someone should be allowed to do something, instead ask what it matters that they can. The decision should come down on the side of what concretely stems from a person’s actions.

Consider this: a couple wishes to get married to express their love for one another, and they do so by participating in the commonly occurring religious ceremony that is marriage. They state their love for one another, and remain faithful. Now, should they be allowed to do this? Well, according to the First Amendment, this is guaranteed. This marriage has zero bearing on the lives of other people, unless the offended party is intruding upon the privacy of others. By the way, that couple is same sex. The situation has come full circle. It seems Perry and Santorum are personally waging a war on religion by “prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

I am uninterested in debating the religion of those preaching it to the world, but I wonder about the environment that creates them. The word ‘bigot’ gets thrown around, I’d wager, as much as any other when describing conservatives.

A bigot is to be understood as someone intolerant of other creeds or beliefs. It isn’t limited to those who are religious, just those who are so sure someone else is wrong, that they must not be tolerated. I’d double down on my wager at this point, and say it includes most of the people using it. I have seen so few arguments about conservatives being wrong on the matter, because people skip so quickly into playground name calling, which begs the question if there is even time for them to make such an argument.

Of course, there are those who do legitimately defend the points, yet the political climate continues to ignore this by building itself off the condescending stances that someone is wrong or stupid by virtue of their distance to the right or left. Whether the person is the bigot, or being called it, the two are cut from the same cloth. People are entirely too focused on other people and how they live their lives. The desire to eliminate plurality is apparent as soon as the presentation boils down to furor in place of argument.

Taking the optimistic stance might look like this: while so many of these people rear ugly heads in public, they are merely examples of misguided attempts at achieving good actions; actions that might create a higher caliber citizen. But how can good be forged in a storm of so much negativity? Why is it that politics and religion are to be avoided at family dinners? People feel cornered, and being wrong scares them. Maybe that’s because instead of the idea that being wrong today means being right tomorrow, being wrong today makes tomorrow full of shame and humiliation.

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