Monday, March 20, 2006

God and Country

Religion and government -- can they get along? Can we keep the tenets of religious faith and the duties of our elected officials separate? Should we?

I think most American's, when asked, would agree with the abstract premise that religion and government should be kept separate. After all, its enshrined in the Constitution. However, the public is somewhat schizophrenic on this issue: a large portion of the public wants our elected officials to be 'god fearing' folk. Simply believing in the good old U. S. of A. isn’t enough.

While personal faith is one thing, I believe an overt display of religious faith in an elected official is something to fear -- for many reasons – and not seek out. Let’s focus on Christianity since it’s the dominate faith. I think this applies to Muslim and Jews too, but I’m not an “ex” Muslim so I can’t speak to experience.

Electing people who have strong religious belief is simply not healthy for our form of government. It sets up an inherent conflict within the official. We’re seeing a lot of this now with everything from the presidents ‘faith based initiatives’ to his ‘stay the course’ (cuz god told me to smite the evil-doers) attitude in Iraq. (can you even believe we have a president that says “evil-doers”?)

A couple examples.

The first "Commandment" - Thou shalt have no god before me... A good Christian wants to uphold this commandment right? But what about the first "Amendment" - Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion... If you're an elected official you can practice one privately, but publicly you better "profess your faith" to the First Amendment...

How many of our god fearing officials do you currently see standing up for the First Amendment? I don’t see many. I see more Tom Delay clones barking about ‘godless judges’ and ‘removing god from our schools’ (like he was ever there to begin with) than I see officials standing up to defend the rights of protestors (even tho you may disagree with their position).

Aren’t these guys supposed to be trumpeting our rights under the Constitution as opposed to shouting about our obligations to their version of god?


"Thou shalt not take the name of the lord thy god in vain" conflicts with an elected official’s responsibility to UPHOLD the rights of people to say what they want about god – like the fact that if she exists she’s likely really pissed with the current group of pharoses running the country.

The problem with our populace is that they want their elected officials to be "godly" and lawful... Well, you know what the bible says about serving two masters... Maybe the faith based crowd should go back to doing what they do best: annoying the rest of us by shouting about god’s second coming on street corners while letting the rest of us handle the mundane, earthly things like running the country.


mrsleep said...

I'm not sure they even read the Constitution

Democracy Lover said...

As an ex-Christian also, I think you need to allow for the fact that many people who have strong Christian religious beliefs are not biblical literalists, and are strong proponents of church-state separation. (Check out the National Council of Churches, for example).

The far-right ideologues are actually engaged in a well-funded overt effort to sabotage these "liberal" congregations (see Talk 2 Action for examples).

The problem is not so much religion, per se, as the type of religion and the power-mad men who are pushing the far-right agenda into churches. They've taken over many large denominations and started lots of mega-churches and they have motivations that are a heck of a lot more political than spiritual.

Reign of Reason said...


I agree: strong belief isn't necessarily a problem, however the type of person who is willing to accept "absolute truth" without evidence is ripe for (political) manipulation.

Right-wing ideologues have high-jacked the religious message. “Belief” has allowed them to co-opt a large number of folks who believe in “revealed truth”. The problem with religion is that it programs you to believe in this rhetoric without much critical thought: as long as you make the right noises (god, jesus, judgement) you can get a lot of religious leaders (and their followers) to buy in to almost any bullshit you spew.

Take Hitler in Nazi germany in the late 30’s. The catholic church whole-heartedly endorsed that raving lunatic…. And the masses bought into it.

So in my opinion organized religion does more harm than good. It breeds sycophants who willingly turn off their gray-matter to believe outlandish bull spewed from someone who usually has a hidden agenda – control.

I find it as logical to believe in the premises of Christianity as it is to believe that Homer’s Illiad or Odyssey should be taken as “historical record”.

Possum said...

First Reign, watch those aprostrophes. There is a disease of misuse of those "thing's in America's writing's". If it ain't possesive or a contraction of "it+is" don't do it. Take it as more of a reference note than criticism as I personally can't spell worth a darn.

As for the enshrined constitution-government-religion thing: have you actually read it? Based on what I see here, your argument stemms from a second hand interpretation combined with some far fetched ideas of what you say/think/fear might happen. Your argument is that Christians would force the 10 commandments on you verbatum and that just isn't so. The founding fathers did not want an official church like England had. They also wanted everyone to have the personal choice of worship. While our laws are based on the 10 commandments they also allow for the freedom to choose sacreligous speech but still deny murder. That pretty much sums it up and removes any "contradictions" you fabricated about the commandments and individual freedoms.

I'm just curious as to what exactly the fear is of Christian leaders?

All this isn't to say the spirit of your close was totally bad. Christians should be predominantly concerned with communicating their faith to the masses and not on government. However, recent events in government arguably can be seen as against Christians. The backlash from the "religious right" is only to be expected when speech and morality are hindered or altered by government. Right now most of the religous right thinks the Government is out to stomp their first amendment rights, and that's where the fight stems from. The same one you just said should be defended.

jj said...

Speaking for myself I do not fear christian leaders. I fear any religious fundamentalist leader. Very little in the world is as black and white as a fundamentalist sees it.

Possum says The backlash from the "religious right" is only to be expected when speech and morality are hindered or altered by government. Right now most of the religious right thinks the Government is out to stomp their first amendment rights

Are you serious? When is speech hindered for the religious right?

Do you really want the government to legislate morality? Who's morality? Who's religion?

U.S. Consitution

Reign of Reason said...

Possum… Thanks for the comments regarding the apostrophes… I usually type these thoughts up while at work so they are done rather hastily.

Well, running down your comments:

The premise that government and religion should be separate is “enshrined” in amendment # 1 (as I’m sure you know): Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion… Government has “broken that one” many times… For instance, churches currently enjoy a multitude of special government “laws”: tax exemption is one that particularly sticks in my craw.

(If I was to start a group of folks who believe that Homer’s Titan’s should be worshiped do you think the government would give our group tax free status?)

Continuing –

You know the words to the pledge right? Why do I have to acknowledge that this is a nation “under god” … I do not wish too, but it is forced upon me by the military and in the schools.

Similarly, why do my tax dollars fund pastors for congress and the military? If soldiers and sailors want to pray, they can get together and do so – I don’t want to pay someone’s salary to perpetuate myth as truth. Ditto for Congress…

As Jefferson said, "it is sinful and tyrannical to compel a man to furnish money for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves in."

These are only a couple examples: Christianity has infiltrated government to a very high degree… and I personally find it offensive that these beliefs are propagated with my money and in my name…


Our laws are NOT based on the ten commandments.. They are based on British common law – which in turn is based on pre-Roman fifth century British law. Jefferson went to great lengths to show that neither the Ten Commandments nor other parts of Christianity were ever incorporated into British law(Jefferson's letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, from Monticello, February 10, 1814).

I'll leave the rest for later -- its meeting time!

Reign of Reason said...

And what about this:

"Under the auspices of its religion-based initiatives and other federal programs, the administration has funneled at least $157 million in grants to organizations run by political and ideological allies, according to federal grant documents and interviews. ...

"Among other new beneficiaries of federal funding during the Bush years are groups run by Christian conservatives, including those in the African American and Hispanic communities. Many of the leaders have been active Republicans and of Bush's presidential campaigns.

Programs such as the Compassion Capital Fund, under the Health and Human Services, are designed to support religion-based social services, a goal that inevitably funnels money to organizations run by people who share Bush's conservative cultural agenda. ...

and are RELIGIOUS.

Stop spending my money on people who spread a bunch of mythological hooey!

Intellectual Insurgent said...

Any advocate of "limited government" cannot support a government that promotes religion. That is the inherent contradiction in the stance of the "religious right."

There is no bigger government than one that involves itself with morality and one need only look at Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan for that.

Possum - quit it with the Christian persecution mantra. It's nonsense. You have your loony president, a pro-God Supreme Court, and a Congress that no longer represents the "people." Sorry - that's not persecution.

Reign of Reason said...

II - concise, correct and on point... as usual.

I actually got into a debate at work with a "conservative" about 6 months ago. We got into it over the economy, jobs, etc... Then religion worked its way into the conversation. So he tries to tell me how he is persecuted in our society -- because he's Catholic.

I actually started to laugh.

Try being an atheist or agnostic as getting elected to ANY office in this country... Somehow believe in superstition qualifies you to represent people. Funny, I kind of look for a rational mind as a big qualifier.

Shows how out-of-touch-with-reality some people are.

Democracy Lover said...

This is a great discussion thread!

I think there is a direct link between believing in things that defy logic and the laws of physics and believing hokum spread by greedy corporations and lying politicians. People should be free to believe whatever they want, but if they believe utter claptrap it's not persecution to call them on it.

Part of the problem in this country is that we are way too fearful of upsetting the religious folks and our children graduate from high school without learning that the 6-day creation story is a myth, that virgin birth is impossible, and that the bible is a contradictory, non-historical amalgamation of poorly translated stories from multiple sources. Any teacher who gave that lesson in our "public" schools would be fired in short order. That's persecution for telling the truth.

Reign of Reason said...

DL- I couldn't agree more.

If you call someone on the utter ridiculousness of their beliefs you are 'persecuting' them.

I don't think so... As you say, people are free to believe what they want, but if they want to bring their ideas into the public forum they should be prepared to defend them... and reason and rationality are the tools you use to defend a supposition.

Of course, reason fails utterly when trying to defend the supernatural hokus-pokus and myths these folks are pushing on us.

This wouldn't be an issue except that these folks are trying to empower this rubbish with the force of law.