Civil Religion and Oaths

July 14, 2004

I have not gotten much work done this week. I blame poor sleep and rainy weather, but it is getting frustrating. Part of the slow pace is because I am wrestling with something that I am not quite sure what it is doing in the current draft. I am very unlike, say, Heather Corinna who has been cranking out 20 to 50 pages a day for months (you GO girl!).

Basically, the section discusses civil religion in the context of social control - people are less likely to do wrong in situations where they have sworn not to do that wrong. In other words, oaths of office or oaths to tell the truth in a court of law are enforced by two means, one secular and the other eternal. In this world, we can require officials to post bonds for the performance of their office, or prosecute them for misfeasance, malfeasance, and nonfeasance, or impeach them from office. In this world we can prosecute someone for felony perjury for telling a lie under oath. But, say the folks who like civil religion, those penalties are not sufficient. People will only do the right thing and tell the truth if they believe that there will be eternal consequences for their actions here on earth, and if they swear a specific oath reminding themselves of what those consequences are.

I want to use oaths of office and oaths in court as a tie between the religious settlement - religion in the form of laws and constitutions - and civil religion as practiced every day. I am just having trouble phrasing the connection.

My common fault when I am not quite sure what to say is to say something that is almost right, then say something else almost right, and again, and again - like firing a birdshot at a hard target in the hope of getting at least one pellet where it needs to go.

And, of course, I have been sleeping poorly so I am having trouble parsing my stuff to figure out what I need to say, what is bloated verbiage, and what is a nice idea but not needed for the argument.

And back to work. With any luck this little think piece will get me over this stupid block. Otherwise, I cut the entire four page section and keep going without it.

Posted by Red Ted at July 14, 2004 10:38 AM | TrackBack