Santorum, Religion, and Politics – US vs. Europe

One of the themes in this GOP primary season is the fracturing of the party into the traditional, social, and libertarian wings, represented by Romney, Santorum, and Paul respectively.  Gingrich exists as his own manifestation.

Santorum has a strong focus on social issues but has been hurt in the campaign over his ties to union support, spending, and big government initiatives like No Child Left Behind.  A similar thing happened to the socially-focused Mike Huckabee, with Thompson and McCain attacking him for not being a true conservative.

The uneasy alliance formed under Reagan between fiscal and social conservatives appears to be withering and maybe for good reason.  Deeply religious candidates like Santorum and Huckabee also carry a strong tradition of community and charity which often pushes them away from the more strict-free marketeering of the old guard.  Instead, the Goddess of the traditional GOP, Ayn Rand, was an atheist, and accused of creating a Godless system in Atlas Shrugged.  And there’s the tension, but in Europe it’s quite the opposite.

More religious Europeans align much more with socialist parties, as they have since their inception.  Meanwhile more conservative parties are often popular with atheists, like Geert Wilders in The Netherlands.

Religion preaches messages of community and togetherness and it seems only natural that these in turn would lead to more socialistic thinking.  Atheism, on the other hand, is prone to see society as Darwinistic, as survival of the fittest, as capitalistic.

The past 30 years has seen a terribly tense imposition of free-market dogma upon religion in the US.  The noted sociologist Max Weber explained a similar trend nearly a century ago with The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.  What has emerged recently is something altogether different, not simply a co-evolution of religion and ideology, but now using one to legitimize the other and attempting to re-write the teachings of Jesus.  Sometimes it’s just impossible though and you end up with deeply religious candidates holding more socialistic views.

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