A specious leftist belief that the criminal justice system is racist has undoubtedly led to more disastrous criminal justice decisions than a specious religious belief that one is in touch with one’s favored divinity. And perhaps Mike Huckabee’s high rate of sentence commutations resulted from his best efforts to empirically evaluate the evidence presented to him by parole boards, rather than, as has been speculated upon, religious inspiration. Still I am never reassured to learn that an elected representative may be praying for guidance or consulting the bible in making political decisions. Though this line is impossible to enforce and certain not to be followed, the only valid materials for political decision-making in my view are publicly-enacted laws and as much actual knowledge about the world as a politician can get his hands on. I doubt whether a Christian would take much comfort in learning that a politician with power over his life is consulting with Allah in deciding upon a public line of action, since he does not regard the Koran as a valid source of either divine revelation or political authority. Nor would the Christian be wholly confident that the Allah-inspired politician was moved by rational evidence in constructing his belief system or in reaching the conclusions that he drew from it. Though prayer may merely consolidate a leader’s existing inclinations, it could also give them a zealotry or dubious certitude that they do not deserve.
A few years ago, one of the neo-con-theo-con movement’s most revered religious figures lectured me on overincarceration, a subject he clearly knew noting about, during a black-tie dinner. It was hard to escape the suspicion that his prim self-righteousness about the prison rate was fueled in large part by his belief that he had a particular in with God, though perhaps I do him an injustice.