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King: Politicians play on our fears to drive us apart
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"Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil ..."

The 23rd Psalm is known to Christians and Jews alike. A similar passage is repeated throughout in the Holy Quran: "My guidance, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve." In other words, renouncing fear is an obligation for all people of faith.

The opposite of love is not hate; it is fear. Unfortunately, fear is an very effective attention-getter, and those who want us to do their bidding know it. Listen to any campaign speech, any TV ad, anyone trying to get a program or law passed.

We're told that our families are endangered by homosexuals, our religion is under attack by atheists, illegal aliens are taking our jobs and undermining our social structure and evil forces everywhere are plotting against us.

It's not hard to stimulate fear. Fear is a natural outgrowth of the human condition. Mankind is the only animal that is self-aware, that knows it is going to die. We know and we are afraid. Thus we turn to religion. Religion offers comfort and the promise of an afterlife, but there's a price: We must do as God commands.

Problem is, everyone seems to have a different idea of what God wants us to do, and every group of believers thinks that they, and they alone, have the right pathway. All the others are wrong. And this happens even when the groups share the same holy books and the same prophets.

Why do we focus on the differences? If we really want "peace on earth," why do we spend so much energy on what divides us and so little on what pulls us together? There are many many places where spiritual sources agree. Passages in the Quran are similar to passages in the Bible. Hindu scripture shares much with Western religion. Christianity isn't the only faith that teaches love and forgiveness.

For an individual to seek the presidency today, he or she must convince voters they are people of faith, while all too often they run a campaign designed to ignite people's fears. Have they forgotten FDR, who at the height of the Depression told Americans, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself"?

Religion is not under attack, as some would tell us. Americans can visit any house of worship they want or none at all. No one is prevented from using contraception. No one is forced to have an abortion. It is the availability of these acts that is at question. But remember, what the public can or cannot do legally does not dictate what the individual should or should not do morally.

The first decision is for the state to make; the second is for the individual. And this why in a free society, the church and the state must be kept separate. To do otherwise only opens up a can of worms and leads to endless wrangling, which is more destructive to the nation's social structure than any single act could ever be.

Marriage is not under attack from liberals, gays and lesbians. The question of who marries who is easily solved when the state issues the license to marry and the church performs the sacrament. Any two people can bond together legally. No church has to perform any ceremony that violates its beliefs.

When ambitious politicians troll for votes using fear, they are not upholding their faith. They are using the oldest ploy in the world. Even if you don't believe what they say, even if their statements can be proved false, they have created a certain level of unhealthy apprehension in the public psyche.

Polls tell us the public is fed up with overblown political fights. Now we as voters have the opportunity to turn this around by refusing to listen to any candidate who uses fear as a political tool.

Joan King is a Sautee resident. He column appears biweekly on Tuesdays and at gainesvilletimes.com/viewpoint.

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