Cracks in the Wall

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A recent Pew survey shows overwhelming support among Americans for things like public posting of the Ten Commandments and (to a lesser extent) public-school prayer, prompting Matt Yglesias and Kevin Drum to contemplate standing down on some of these marginal-seeming culture war issues.

Now, I'm sympathetic to this position—while I don't think the state has any business plopping religious monuments in courthouse rotundas, there are several thousand other awful things government does that are a good deal higher on my list of concerns. But I remember an old parenting manual I flipped through many years ago, about setting boundaries. The idea was that teens are always going to push whatever limits you set as a way of asserting their autonomy, so there's something to be said for being a little stricter than you actually think is necessary—better junior be able to rebel by breaking an early curfew than by shooting heroin.

Whatever the merits of that approach as a parenting strategy, I think there's something to be said for it in this arena. I'd rather the church/state separation fights be over a creche on the lawn at city hall—a fight I could live with losing—than about something more serious. And, on a related but semi-distinct note, I think there's a value to keeping a pretty high wall even on these more trivial matters because it reinforces the idea that while our broader culture may be deeply religious in many ways, our public, political culture is not. While support for these kinds of minor religious expression may be broad, I don't think it's terribly deep in most cases. That is, I doubt Dems (or whomever) have a huge amount to gain by lying down on this one, just because I doubt very much this issue is a dealbreaker for most people who, in principle, would like to see the Commandments posted in the abstract. But the minority for whom it is a high-salience issue recognize, I think, the symbolic potency of whatever cracks they can drive in the "wall of separation." It is, as Roy Moore love to say, a question of whether we will "acknowledge God." And each apparent sanction of that sort becomes fuel for future advances of that agenda. Note how the "In God we Trust" on currency is routinely trotted out as an analogy to some further God-ification of the state sphere.

Also, on the school prayer question, while it's nice to learn that Matt "was forced to engage in sectarian Christian prayer in my (non-public) school and it was fine," I suspect that the vibe at a fairly posh-looking Manhattan school is rather different from the one kids who're members of minority religious groups encounter in many other parts of the country.

NEXT: Hager the Horrible

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  1. As you say, would ‘standing down’ actually change anyone’s minds about religion in the public square? Doubtful. As Drum says in his post on the subject, however, I think the whole Kansas evolution debate is more important, and the religious issues at the USAF Academy are also more ‘capital’ worthy.
    But one foot in is one foot in…

  2. what’s worse: having kids say the pledge of allegiance in school (though you are not forced to), or having kids say a prayer in school (though they wouldn’t be forced to either)?

    whether or not the pledge included “under God,” i’d still go with the prayer every time.

  3. Isn’t this just a variation on the “It’s a slippery slope.” idea?

  4. The interesting part comes later – once the cracks have become established and the Hindu, Buddhist, Moslem and other religions want to be recognized in school prayer as well.

    The same people who are so eager to bring the walls of jericho crashing down for chistian prayer in schools will probably have a coronary at the proposal for prayers of other religions.

  5. Metalgrid-

    And that will make for some drop-dead funny television when it gets loudly debated on the cable nooze networks.

  6. Speaking as a humanist, I’m inclined to agree with M&K; time and resources are limited and we have bigger fish to fry.

  7. Jerry Fallwell went on the record saying he didn’t mind if students of other religions got a chance to lead school prayers. I doubt he’ll feel the same once some self-styled Satanist kid demands his turn to lead the other students in a prayer to “My Lord Satan”.

  8. “And that will make for some drop-dead funny television when it gets loudly debated on the cable nooze networks.”

    “…whether you’re Christian, Jewish, or…other.”

    “There are 800,000,000 of us you know.”

    “Isn’t that wonderful.”

  9. Incidentally, wasn’t the Pew Research Center behind a massive push to get Campaign Finance Reform passed, and they used some rather underhanded techniques to do so?

    Or am I thinking of someone else?

  10. Ok, ok, I’m old, been fighting this losing battle all my life. If this is what people want, then fuck ’em, they can have it. I’ve spent an entire lifetime wondering ‘WTF?’ I’ve decided to root for the Second Coming. For the entertainment value.

    The Second Coming is never going to happen but so damn many fools think it will. But let them have their joy. How much worse than the Cold War can it be? Oh, it will be terrible, not at all like the scene in the Restauant at the End of the Universe, but it will be something to see.

    The Cromwellization of the U.S. When I was younger I was spitting mad, watching the religious right slowly taking over, but the to-hell-with-it factor is just too great to ignore. Let the time of the tormentors begin! And why do I sound like a long-winded Ruthless?

  11. Isn’t this just a variation on the “It’s a slippery slope.” idea?

    It sure is; and statements such as “we’ve won 98% of the battle, let’s give up” will haunt those whose kids get the shit beaten out of them during recess because they weren’t praying fervently enough during God-time. Come on… you guys are ideologues about everything else; why does this get a pass?!

  12. They’re called the Ten “Commandments”, not the ten good ideas or suggestions. In other words, you are are expected to obey them, not think about them. I’ll take a thinking judge any day over one who so overtly takes his marching orders from an imaginary being.

  13. I’m just hoping the Rapture comes so we don’t have to deal with these bozos anymore.

  14. Which Ten Commandments are they going to post?

    That should provide a crack in the coalition.

  15. Did anyone take the survey on the Pew site? I have a feeling that Reason posters most likely fall into 3 groups, according to Pew’s typology: Liberals, Enterprisers, and Upbeats. Though I found that typology kind of weird, because it doesn’t leave much room for libertarians…I’m supposedly an Upbeat but I agree strongly with the Liberals and Enterprisers on certain issues.

  16. How many of those people who support displaying the 10 commandments actually know what those commandments are?

  17. Did anyone take the survey on the Pew site?

    “Liberal” here. Although I don’t fit their description very well. For example, they say I am most supportive of immigration, which is true, and most supportive of labor unions, which is not at all true….


  18. Did anyone take the survey on the Pew site? I have a feeling that Reason posters most likely fall into 3 groups, according to Pew’s typology: Liberals, Enterprisers, and Upbeats. Though I found that typology kind of weird, because it doesn’t leave much room for libertarians…I’m supposedly an Upbeat but I agree strongly with the Liberals and Enterprisers on certain issues.

    Haha, I just took the survey and it lumped me in with Enterprisers.

    One of the many generalizations that gave me a good laugh:
    Enterprisers follow news about government and politics more closely than any other group, and exhibit the most knowledge about world affairs. The Fox News Channel is their primary source of news (46% cite it as a main source) followed by newspapers (42%) radio (31%) and the internet (26%).

    I haven’t watched Fox other than for Simpsons and Family Guy and don’t recall the last time I watched the ‘News’ on TV. Ahhh, I’ve finally had my Friday Funnies.

  19. Hey, I went to that “posh” Grace Church School when I lived in NYC… It’s not exactly the poshest of the posh, and it was definately no fundie school either. It was an Episcopal school that every type of religion went to because of the good education, a lot like Episcopal in Philly.

  20. I am agnostic with fairly strong atheist leanings, but I really don’t get all the hubbub. The One Public School model needs to be kept religiously neutral, but that is because of its formative role in thinking. Creationism in the default school for everyone is a bad idea.

    I don’t care about court houses with ten commandments. I don’t care about In God We Trust on money. I don’t care about oaths of office.

    The separation line is almost silly after a certain point of scrutiny. Separation means that law and regulation can’t be based solely on religious belief. The rest of it is unimportant window dressing. What is the argument here, that In God We Trust implies an economy of Christian Principles must be forthcoming? Christians have been amazingly ineffective at legislating themselves into public sphere dominance, for all that they are supposed to be so powerful.

    It just seems to me that often times there is an irrational fear of the God fearing that seeps into these discussions.

  21. I got lumped in with the “Disaffecteds.” My personal opinion, backed up by one undergraduate course on public opinion and polling, is that the typology survey’s design is awful. Making a participant choose between two sometimes equally rotten alternatives isn’t the way I was taught to do it. They should have asked about each statement separately, and let the respondent place himself on a 1-5 scale of Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree. Does that mean that some people will Stongly Agree to contradictory statements? Yes, because some people are idiots. Pairing statements the way they did artificially reduces the impact of the confused and clueless. Folks quite frequently hold to contradictory beliefs. The government should cut taxes, provide me with pork, and not borrow so much seems to be quite popular.

    Kevin

  22. I don’t care about court houses with ten commandments. I don’t care about In God We Trust on money. I don’t care about oaths of office.

    Jason, I used to feel that way, too. But after I saw the hysterical reaction to the Pledge of Allegiance flap, and heard the term “un-American” thrown around a few hundred times, I decided it was time to push back. It’s one of many reasons why I stopped automatically voting for Republicans.

  23. I got lumped with the Liberals, which is kinda right. I mean, you can’t put that corporations have too much power because of the government, they just assumed I’m a typical anti-corporatist. I’m pro-immigration, secular but anti regulation. See where that gets me. Bah!

  24. Heh, I always know religious skool would come in handy…

    The problem with posting the 10 commandments in public is that it is essentially promoting an anti-christian belief system.

    In the new testament (Mark 28-34), Jesus was asked “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” He answered “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ and “The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”

    So, by posting the original 10 commandments, instead of the ones from Christ, they are essentially offending many peoples interpretation of the bible. (not mine, but the people who raised and educated me)

    It quite literally promoting one sect of Christians against another.

    You must remember that one of the law suits/cases in Texas that helped determine our countries present attitude towards public prayer at high school football games, was not brought by an atheist but by a Catholic mother offended by the protestant prayers offered at her child’s school.

    This is not just an atheist vs. christian.

    This is indeed a case of establishing one religion over another.

    From a person who is not a “christian” but who nonetheless strongly respects the rabbinical and historical tradition of the galilean named Jesus, I think this is why so many christians reject their messiahs base teaching, insisting on an eye for an eye instead of the love he demanded they show.

    Sorry about that, I know, I am so full of s**t. Jus’ practicin’.

  25. This is tough. On the one hand, if you “acknowledge” religion in the governmental “public” sphere, you can’t do it fairly without either acknowledging every possible religion (including the Church of Satan and the Church of the Church I Just Made Up This Morning), or giving the goverment the power to “draw the line” by deciding what’s “really” a legit religion and what isn’t.

    As a kinda religious person, I think that’s bad. I don’t want government regulating religion.

    On the other hand, religion is pretty well entrenched into our broader culture, deeply and widely. That being so, I think it’s just about impossible to eradicate religion fully from the governmental “public” sphere. Politics is just one part of the broader culture, not vice versa. You can’t take the whole out of the part.

    If you try to totally eradicate religion from government, it’s impossible not to do things which at least appear to be attempts to eradicate religion from the broader culture. That’s what sets off the “they’re persecuting Christians!” reaction.

    I think that’s bad too. I don’t want gov’t either actively pruning back religion or being totally arbitrary about the boundaries.

    Really, the whole problem in the first place is the concept of a “public” (government) sphere that is theoretically owned by everybody and that represents everybody. Supposedly, it exists to advance the interests and represent the values of everyone without acknowledging that advancing the interests and values of Person A might irreconcialably conflict with the interests and values of Person B.

    Or to put it another way: Supposedly what is “public” is owned by everyone. But if everyone is forced to participate in this “ownership,” there’s no way to give real “ownership” rights to everyone who supposedly owns it. I can’t even sell out my share of the county courthouse to people who want to post the 10 Commandments there, if they agree to pay for the upkeep from now on.

    The only solution is to abolish the “public” (government) sector. That’s one reason I have to be an anarcho-capitalist.

  26. What name shall I give them? I am what I am,
    You bring up a good point. Most people do not know, or forget, that most seperation of church state court cases were brough by Catholics, Jehova’s Witnesses and other minority Christian sects, not by those damned atheists.

  27. Pragmatically, if you allow one group to put its blatantly religious display in the courthouse then you have to be fair and allow everybody else as well. The number of different Christian sects alone would be daunting, not to mention the more established non-Christian religions, the sort of fringe religions (usually based on some sort of “new age” thing), and of course the local D&D players who want to erect their shrine to Thor on the courthouse grounds (and the other gamers who declare that “Jedi” is their religion and want a statue of Yoda on the courthouse grounds).

    At some place the rotunda will become cluttered, so you do the pragmatic thing and put up a display that includes several historically significant legal codes, including the 10 Commandments, the Code of Hammurabi, the Magna Carta, and a picture of Judge Judy ;), make sure it’s in a non-sectarian context, and toss out the various shrines and light sabers cluttering the rotunda.

    But alone the way you get the religious right fired up. Great.

    Ain’t it a shame that something that should be nice and simple, like putting up a tribute to famous legal codes through the ages, turns into a pitched battle between knee-jerk fundies and knee-jerk secularists?

  28. poo:

    Here’s my gripe. So conservatives have a hysterical reaction and fling around ‘unamerican’ over something like the pledge. That is not reasonable, but it is part of the discourse. They are really exerting social pressure more than anything else with that rhetoric. What I find a bit odd is the willingness for libertarians to employ regulatory measures over relatively trivial matters. Why can’t society sort these things out in a diffuse way? Everyone has hyperbole and tries to control the argument in oversimplified terms. All I care about is the degree to which actual law gets influenced by overtly religious concerns, and that doesn’t seem to happen very much these days. I don’t buy abortion or stem cells as arguments here because they both rest on a notion of personhood that could as easily come from anywhere.

  29. I’m disaffected…which is probably fairly accurate.

  30. something that should be nice and simple

    As an agnostic, putting God on the money or on the courthouse lawn doesn’t really bother me.

    But again, the question is, who’s version?

    Maybe the Supremes will take a stab. But I notice that in both cases before them, it’s the Protestant version on display.

  31. I Demand that those philistines stop oppressing us and post these in every couthouse immediately. Or not.

    I – There is no Goddess but Goddess and She is Your Goddess. There is no Erisian Movement but The Erisian Movement and it is The Erisian Movement. And every Golden Apple Corps is the beloved home of a Golden Worm.

    II – A Discordian Shall Always use the Official Discordian Document Numbering System.

    III – A Discordian is Required during his early Illumination to Go Off Alone & Partake Joyously of a Hot Dog on a Friday; this Devotive Ceremony to Remonstrate against the popular Paganisms of the Day: of Catholic Christendom (no meat on Friday), of Judaism (no meat of Pork), of Hindic Peoples (no meat of Beef), of Buddhists (no meat of animal), and of Discordians (no Hot Dog Buns).

    IV – A Discordian shall Partake of No Hot Dog Buns, for Such was the Solace of Our Goddess when She was Confronted with The Original Snub.

    V – A Discordian is Prohibited of Believing what he reads.

    IT IS SO WRITTEN! SO BE IT. HAIL DISCORDIA!

  32. Hmmm… I see nothing wrong with saying the Pledge of Allegiance every morning, complete with “under God,” singing a rousing round of “The Star Spangled Banner,” “America The Beautiful,” and “God Bless America.” But then I’m an agnostic at best, who honestly believes that his religious upbringing did him more good than harm and that reciting the Pledge and singing those songs isn’t going to hurt ANYONE.

    But here’s the thing… Teaching children the 3 R’s, basic civic virtues, critical thinking skills and how to think for themselves, should be the basis of any education system (public or private).

    If the public education system did those things, I might be inclined to support it. Since it instead teaches kids that “There are RULES, and they MUST be followed!” I’m a huge proponent of dismantling the whole system. (There are enough bureaucratic appartchiks occuring in nature without training people to be that way.)

    If it accomplished the things I’ve mentioned, I’d even be willing to have them also teach a course on “Religions Of The World” and offer any specific religious elective course the school offers that the kid cares to take.

    But without the ability to handle the critical and independent thinking necessary, kids are very easily sucked into believing whatever religious or political tomfoolery is tainting the curriculum. So either teach them the right things or dismantle public education in favor of a system that lets people send their kid to whatever school they hope has the best chance of instilling the values they hold important.

  33. thoreau,

    Easier said then done. You might be right, but as long as we have guys like Scalia, who think the commandments show government derive from God, which A: Is actually against the rest of the scriptures, Kings being a punishment that the big cheese gave to the jews ’cause they wouldn’t stop asking for one, even after he told them to bugger off.
    and B: Disagrees with the formation of this country, as the declaration states that “the creator” made us free, and governments derive their authority from us.

    I was pretty much ok with most public displays until he started talking the other day.

  34. Skeptikos – Got a transcript of any of those statements? I’m a little leery of believing he said exactly that and in so many words. He doesn’t strike me as being a guy who is completely off his rocker… Unless I’m misinterpreting what you’re saying he said, that is.

  35. rob,

    No “transcript” but couple of decent articles on Slate, here they are: One from Dahlia Lithwick (I like her SC coverage in general), Take Two Tablets, and one from Michael McGough We’re on a Mission From God Is the Ten Commandments case turning Scalia into a devotee of natural law?

  36. “When Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott defended a display of the Decalogue on the grounds of the state capitol arguing that it was, unlike a crucifix, a “historically recognized symbol of law,” Scalia protested, “It’s not a secular message. I mean, if you’re watering it down to say that the only reason it’s OK is it sends nothing but a secular message, I can’t agree with you. I think the message it sends is that law is?and our institutions come from God. And if you don’t think it conveys that message, I just think you’re kidding yourself.'”

  37. Like I said, I disagree with Scalia about that, but I don’t believe in his little desert god, and I don’t believe these comandments were written by that “god”. Which is why until he spoke, I came down on the side of allowing them in about 1/2 to 3/4 of the cases.

  38. Kebko,

    I think that the point is that it isn’t all that slippery a slope. So what if the 10 commandments are displayed on a public square? Or even in a courtroom? If a judge were to sentance an athiest prostitute to 10 years while “letting off” a christian postitute in the same situation he’d be in hot water, and the athiest prostitute would probably get an appeal on a mistrial.
    That being said I look forward to the day when people won’t be so ignorant with respect to intolerance and religion.
    Today’s christians are christians in name only. Christians in the media these days are exactly the type of people that Christ was warning about.

    “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:1-5)

  39. Here’s a blog article with a link to the transcript of Scalia’s commentary.

    Skeptikos found what I think is the second-most-offensive quote from the transcript. The first-most-offensive is the subject of the blog post itself:
    “And when somebody goes by that monument, I don’t think they’re studying each one of the commandments. It’s a symbol of the fact that government comes – derives its authority from God. And that is, it seems to me, an appropriate symbol to be on State grounds.”

    …I found it a little bit scary.

  40. I believe that as the country crosses completely from liberal activist government to a conservative activist one certain fundamental truths of power and politics will begin to be seen.

    1. Often noticed on these boards… Federalism is a belief held by the minority party.

    2. A new one… Originalists are beginning to show that they have only been wearing the costume to hide a desire for moralist activism. Expect to start seeing liberals argue for originalist interpretation against moralist activism in the judiciary.

  41. What name shall I give them? I am what I am…

    …And that’s all what I yam…

    …I likes me Spinach martini, and I loves to eat me Olive, arkarkarkarkark…

    Sorry, it’s Friday, and I’m a little punchy…

  42. Hey Y’all Skeptikos congrats on that Discordian bit… I’m interning at a congressman’s office and I just had to send out a letter that said “I believe that you can legislate morality…” Anyways, I’m a big fan of RAW any way you cut it, so I’ll eat or not eat a hot dog on Friday from now on. Danke Shoen!

  43. Oh yeah ps. I’m pretty goddamn wasted, so curb my enthusiasm.

  44. (We shall see if your site lets me post. It has been refusing me lately.)

    Did anyone take the survey on the Pew site?

    Their survey is about as reliable as this one. Although this one is amazingly accurate. (I have a 46% chance of going to hell, and I’m going to “die of a yet to be discovered STD.”)

    Anyway, I ranked as an “upbeat”. The “defining values” they attribute to me are almost entirely contrary to my moral code.

    re the subject… There is government, and then there is government.

    The Federal government should be completely walled off from religion, imo.

    The state governments should be completely walled off from religion, too.

    Town governments are a different matter. If everybody in a town wants to use some of his tax dollars to pay for a creche, then where’s the harm?

    I’d go so far as to say that if every parent in a school disctrict wants prayer in his kid’s school, then what’s the harm?

    Constitutional guarantees are nice. However, I think we tend to take some of them too far. So long as they do not violate fundamental human rights, it seems to me that local communities can organize themselves as they wish. And so, despite the 2nd amendment, if all the citizens of a village decide that they don’t want guns floating around, then they should be able to ban guns.

    Of course, people should also be able to opt out of paying taxes for programmes which they find repugnant. (I envision a series of check-boxes on the tax form for that.) So if a community wants to hand out free condoms, say, and I’m morally opposed to birth control, I should be in a position to refuse to have any of my labour used to pay for the service.

    After all, the basic unit of government is “me”. And the Constitution doesn’t/can’t forbid _me_ from putting up the ten commandments.

    (I bet this won’t post.)

  45. Raymond,
    I only have a 43% chance of going to hell according to your survey. I don’t know how that can be. I scored higher on the wrath than the lust part.

  46. I only have a 43% chance of going to hell according to your survey. I don’t know how that can be. I scored higher on the wrath than the lust part.

    That’s not surprising, because:

    The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD is avenging and wrathful; the LORD takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. (Nahum 1:2)

    You and He are almost two peas in a pod.

    Lust, on the other hand… Well, any righteous Christian knows lust is a deal-breaker.

    (ps – I scored 100% in the lust department. I’m quite pleased.)

  47. I consider modern environmentalism effectively a religion and yet it is taught with great enthusiasm in public schools. I daresay the “deep green” philosophy is not the only faith worshipped in public schools. Libertarians don’t have a problem powdering the rhetorical musket at the first blush of “God” but “Gaia” gets a pass. Mention even the historical Jesus in a public school and a swat team of ACLU attorneys will drop into your classroom. On the other hand, you can teach global warming and the evils of DDT, logging and consumerism as an immutable facts.

    I have never received a religious tract from local government asking me to pray… just those asking me to recycle.

  48. “I have never received a religious tract from local government asking me to pray… just those asking me to recycle”

    Amen.

    I guess that is another reason why the government should be ignoring prayer in public school, not forbidding it. Because otherwise the government is forced to define religion. I think someone in one of those secular public schools should sue the school for teaching the environmental religion.

    Still I doubt common sense would arise out of that law suit either.

  49. Raymond,

    “You and He are almost two peas in a pod”

    I think when Jesus comes back and does war on all you heathens (and shows me the error of my hedonistic and blasphemous ways) he will enlist the help of the genetically perfect fighting machine that I am.

    I am hoping that he lets me have a little wrath on some of the people that have really pissed me off along the way too.

    I like all you people at Reason, even Joe and the multi personality French guy (and specially Jen and agent Smacky). So you all will be good to go.

    Hey, I wonder, if that whole wrath idea is a fantasy of mine, does that count as lust too?

    Am I going to have to atone for that?

  50. Howdy there, Kwais. Good to see you back. I take it they found your laptop in Baghdad?

  51. kwais,

    I like you…But…you do know that it is already the law of the land that students are allowed to pray on their own time don’t you? That the government must “ignore them”. The ACLU doesn’t know that sure…but…that’s not even remotely what is up with the present SC cases. But cool posts anyway.

    Jose,

    Could you tell me which school is teaching Gaiain Mythology as fact? I must admit, that’s a new one on me. I really like comparing recycling to religon, do they make you recycle in your town, maybe humiliate you in public with a big letter R on your chest when you don’t?

  52. The separation of church and state is meant to separate the organization of church from the state, not to prevent religiously-based policies. The people are free to enact whatever policies they deem appropriate, for whatever reason, so long as they don’t contravene the constitutional rights of others.

    After all, why should non-religious ideologies (environmentalism, animal rights, etc) be allowed to influence the political debate, while religion is shut out of it?

  53. Jen,
    My laptop has been found, shipped to Reno, and is now being shipped back to me here. So I don’t have it yet, I am hogging a laptop for general use, to type this stuff.

  54. I am agnostic with fairly strong atheist leanings, but I really don’t get all the hubbub. The One Public School model needs to be kept religiously neutral, but that is because of its formative role in thinking. Creationism in the default school for everyone is a bad idea.

    Scratch one layer deeper for the answer: If it hasn’t already, Libertarianism should adopt a policy of no government schools. Why? Not because it lowers tax rolls, but because statist schooling is itself a religion, that of secular humanism. Government schooling violates the Constitution.

    Don’t buy the religion angle? Try philosophically then. Statism is as much a philosophy as any, and today’s statist philosophy that all other philosophies are equal, can coexist, and serve purposes only when they’re separated by law from the school is itself a faulty philosophy.

    Semantics aside, state schooling always violates foundational principles. Of course, statists (government) don’t care about the points of constitutionalism, they only care that we don’t care enough to take them to task and end this debacle once and for all.

  55. Skepticos,
    The law of the land shouldn’t be that kids are allowed to pray. If the school in a comunity doesn’t want to have kids pray. Also if a school in a comunity wants to make prayer mandatory, what right does the government have in forbidding it? Doesn’t that interfere with the religion/government clause thing?

    I don’t really know what the law of the land is in that regard, only what I hear from the debates. I know that Christians get upset as because they say that they are not allowed to have their kids taught religion in the schools that their kids go to. If that is true, then they are right to be pissed.

    Also, I don’t get what point you were trying to get across with your answer to Jose.

  56. Thanks for the survey Raymond. Turns out I only have a 30% chance of going to hell. Apparently I’m to lazy to even be a good sinner.

  57. “Granting the caveat that the justices’ questions at oral arguments can be exploratory, playful, or irrelevant to the disposition of the case, Scalia’s gloss on the reason for the Ten Commandments displays is surprising from several standpoints.”

    and

    “Does Scalia believe that? One can read his comments from the bench about God-given law?which, to be fair, he attributed to the sponsors of the Ten Commandments display?as a reflection not of his jurisprudence but of his religious values. (Hey, it’s only an oral argument.) H. Jefferson Powell, a professor of law and divinity at Duke University and a guru of mine on both subjects, describes Scalia in general as a “hard positivist” whose view is that “law is simply whatever the sovereign has ordained, with a little waffle room for tradition.” Powell notes that this posture means Scalia, whatever his religious objections to abortion, “would be obliged to uphold an abortion-on-demand law against a pro-life challenge.”

    Apparently Skeptikos believes that he does believe that. But the article isn’t so certain.

    “That might be one way to interpret his aggressive unmasking of the “secular” rationale for displaying the commandments and his repeated references during oral arguments to the notion that laws come from God. Perhaps on this one issue he was offering a judicially significant nod to the natural-law lobby. Or maybe he was just venting the religious views that, however regretfully, he can’t allow into the positivist cathedral of his legal method.”

    (From the Slate article.)

    To me it just sounds like Scalia is dismissing the argument that the 10 Commandments are a secular symbol rather than a religious one. Which makes sense to me despite the “its part of legal history” argument that is clearly a back-door argument for keeping religious symbols in the halls of justice and gov’t.

    If Scalia is just saying that he ascribes to the natural rights theory, and that seems a good thing to me. As long as he ascribes to the idea that people have natural rights, whether endowed by God, as the Declaration of Independence states or simply due to our human nature, doesn’t matter much to me.

    Kind of like if a guy who’s a religious zealot does the right thing, it doesn’t matter to me that he ascribes his motivation as obeying God’s law or to his own human nature. (And vice versa if he’s doing the wrong thing…)

    Basically, I don’t want religious symbols being legitimated with gov’t power. But on the other hand, I find myself nodding in agreement with crimethink, Jose and kwais. I think I’m going to just take up the position that it’s not too late to take “In God We Trust” off our currency and eliminate religious displays if the gov’t is conveying legitimacy on them.

  58. I know that Christians get upset as because they say that they are not allowed to have their kids taught religion in the schools that their kids go to. If that is true, then they are right to be pissed.

    If pissed Christians want to get unpissed, they should immediately demand that government end schooling. That would be their constitutional obligation, an obligation they willfully fail at decade after decade.

    Railing at a “free” government system because it, naturally and by design, doesn’t cotton to personal belief must take a back seat to getting the system abolished because its mere existence violates foundational American principles.

  59. 6gun
    I am totally with you that public school should end. That the state should get out of the buisness of schooling. But how is public school unconstitutional?

    Cut and pasted the response from an answer that a liberal send me in response to my claim that the government should not do public school:

    Section. 8.
    Clause 1: The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

  60. Public schools are local. Why shouldn’t communities be able to set up public schools if they wish?

  61. Even worse, Skepticos, they make me pay for recycling. Quite frankly, I would prefer to wear the letter “R.”

    Even though your reply doesn’t warrant a serious reply, I will provide one anyway. Public schools teach environmental theories like global warming as immutable facts. At the elementary school level, environmental education is little more than indoctrination. Oh, I could make the same point about the teaching of politically correct history.

    If a society is going to make education compulsory, a society should focus on teaching children how to think rather than what to think. If one teaches a child how think critically, he or she can form his own conclusions about religion and environmental science.

    Of course, this would require public school teachers to know how to think….

  62. I’m with Jason Ligon: Fear of religious people makes secularists at least as goofy as fundies.

    raymond: Yes. Perhaps the Scalians might emphasize the federal nature of the original constitution. Congress may not make several laws, since it was formed for limited purposes, but States could define themselves more religiously. The people of all States are still guaranteed essential rights, even if The Alabama Theocracy thinks some are goin’ to hell, and posts reminders of such around its property.

  63. 6gun sez:

    The Ten are a distillation of what had already been shown to work for centuries and what will undoubtedly continue to describe parameters for human nature for the indefinite future. You know, not killing and robbing and such. They’re religion neutral.

    Whew, that’s a relief. I thought it had instructions in there about only worshiping the hebrew god, and not making idols, and not working on the sabbath, and not swearing or cursing.

    I’m glad to know it’s religion neutral.

  64. For those of you that don’t actually know what the ten commandments are, here they are as found in the NIV:

    [1] You shall have no other gods before me

    [2] You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.

    [3] You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

    [4] Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God.

    [5] Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

    [6] You shall not murder.

    [7] You shall not commit adultery.

    [8] You shall not steal.

    [9] You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

    [10] You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

    Notice the thought crime in there of “coveting.” Not actions, mind you, but mere thoughts. Is this the basis for US and western law? I hope to yahweh fucking asherah not. (There, let the wrath of God begin.)

  65. George Carlin has the definitive take on the Ten Commandments – it’s on his website.

  66. kmw is right about the TC. I always thought those admonitions to “have no strange gods before me” and to “keep holy the lord’s day” were essentially religious.

    6Gun is on the right track about the “general welfare” and “necessary and proper” clauses in the Federal Constitution. James Madison, the fellow who wrote most of the thing, agreed with him.

    To refer the power in question to the clause “to provide for common defense and general welfare” would be contrary to the established and consistent rules of interpretation, as rendering the special and careful enumeration of powers which follow the clause nugatory and improper. Such a view of the Constitution would have the effect of giving to Congress a general power of legislation instead of the defined and limited one hitherto understood to belong to them, the terms “common defense and general welfare” embracing every object and act within the purview of a legislative trust. It would have the effect of subjecting both the Constitution and laws of the several States in all cases not specifically exempted to be superseded by laws of Congress, it being expressly declared “that the Constitution of the United States and laws made in pursuance thereof shall be the supreme law of the land, and the judges of every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.” Such a view of the Constitution, finally, would have the effect of excluding the judicial authority of the United States from its participation in guarding the boundary between the legislative powers of the General and the State Governments, inasmuch as questions relating to the general welfare, being questions of policy and expediency, are unsusceptible of judicial cognizance and decision.

    Veto of federal public works bill, March 3, 1817

    Unfortunately, in later years, especially since the New Deal, the Hamiltonian view that the Federal govt. held more extensive, even plenary power has taken firm root.

    It is tempting to declare that any state education is unconstitutional. There is Pierce v. Society of Sisters, which proclaimed The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the state to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. The child is not the mere creature of the state; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.

    The various state constitutions do contain boilerplate as to how “every child is guaranteed a free education, blah, blah”. I’d like to argue that, since I have to pay for them, these educations aren’t really free. 🙂 Until the day that the duty to finance a child’s education can be changed from one borne by the state to one borne by a kid’s parents, the least we can do is privatize the schools themselves, if not their funding. Vouchers/school choice seem like the proper transitional tool, to me.

    Kevin

  67. After reading this discussion and the original post, I now see why religious types feel cornered. The almost uniform opinion around here seems to be one of condescension and hard line opposition. It’s perfect that the original article compares religious types to both children and a hateful bigots. Bravo.

  68. “When I was younger I was spitting mad, watching the religious right slowly taking over, but the to-hell-with-it factor is just too great to ignore. Let the time of the tormentors begin! And why do I sound like a long-winded Ruthless?”

    saw-whet,
    You are a gentleman and a scholar.

    As memes, government and religion have always co-evolved. They are two hands climbing the ladders up the Tower of Babel.

    I happened to just recently watch a segment on the mite that’s killing the honeybee.
    We here wish we could be deadly mites on the government/religion meme, but we are but fleas on an elephant’s butt.

    (Pretty good “b” alliteration, eh? For a geezer in my “condition.”)

  69. >”…to contemplate standing down on some of these marginal-seeming culture war issues.”

    This is O.T. but I was thinking about the expression “stand down”. Of course it means to capitulate, but stand down is an unusual and paradoxical conjunction. Stand up and sit down are much more widely used together. I think that the implication might be that even though one has capitulated, they still are acknowledged respect or honor.

  70. “It’s perfect that the original article compares religious types to both children and a hateful bigots. Bravo.”

    Just calling a spade a spade.

  71. Finally sober again, and ready to make a worthwhile post…. The point of Christianity (which is often overlooked by Christians, especially fundie types) is that the old law has been thrown out the window because it is an unattainable standard. This is especially true of the “thou shall not covet” commandment and the quote by Jesus to the effect of “if you think of killing a man, you have killed him.” Christianity is about being able to say I’m sorry for my mistakes, and actually not be held accountable because a dude who happened to be the son of god took all our faults on himself abour 2000 years ago. It may be irrational, but if someone actually believes it, it seems pretty liberating.

  72. Randolf,
    Did your ancestor have anything to do with impregnating Sally H.?
    Did Sally belittle his instrument?
    Or are you the Carter Randolf of G.Washington look-alike, Louis Ruikayser’s “Wall Street Week “?

    Whichever. Go to bed or have another.
    We’re all in this together. I’m pullin’ for you.

    Two words: Julius Lester. Read one of his books. On the terlit, I’m reading “The Autobiography of God.”

  73. The Ten are a distillation of what had already been shown to work for centuries and what will undoubtedly continue to describe parameters for human nature for the indefinite future. You know, not killing and robbing and such. They’re religion neutral.

    Which is why the first four are, um, purely religious in nature…

  74. Julian remains my pick as the Prominent Reason Staffer Least Likely to Still Self-Identify As Libertarian Ten Years From Now.

    Hell, five years from now.

  75. s.m.-

    Does that speak well of Julian or poorly, in your opinion?

  76. Julian’s so into the philosophy that he’ll claim the mantel until he’s dead or frozen. Of course, by that time he will have explored who knows how many facets of libertarianism.

  77. “Julian remains my pick as the Prominent Reason Staffer Least Likely to Still Self-Identify As Libertarian Ten Years From Now.”

    “Hell, five years from now.”

    Pffft… He’s bordering on becoming an Irving Kristol clone right now. I wouldn’t give a fundie the time of day, much less a monument to the Ten Commandments, at least not without a fight.

  78. thoreau,

    Well, I’m pretty sure that s.m. doesn’t self-identify as a libertarian.

  79. He’s bordering on becoming an Irving Kristol clone right now.

    No he’s not. BTW, better Irving than Bill.

  80. I wonder if man needs religion. I mean, not you atheists individually, you don’t need it.

    But in general, to for there to be some absoluts. I wonder if we didn’t have to have religion we would need to invent one. Maybe that explains people coming up with karma, and all other kinds of crap when Christianity was becoming less believable.

    Without religion the only law that I really need to obey is what is good for me. If I can get away with it, I can murder rob and rape and whatnot to get ahead. It might be wrong to you, but why would I care. I don’t think much a society would arize out of that. I mean we can have laws, by why follow the law if you can get away with breaking it? And most people can mostly get away with breaking a law. Why follow a law, you didn’t make that law.

    So you have a God that made you, that can see all and do all. That if you do break some laws, even if you can get away with it, you will ultimately pay the price. You need a God that can give authrority to a law. And you need to have the God say that all other Gods are fake, or else you could just go pick a God that better soot your needs and there would still be no absoluts.

    So you have a God that is right and is all powerfull, and if you question the God you are wrong. And you then have laws that everyone must follow. Every human knows he is going to die, and most humans think about it a lot, and they want to continue existing afterwards, so the belief never really gets old.

    There you have the foundation of civilization today.

    And just incase people get too much into new ideas and the future and stuff (like is happening today with the whole “it doesn’t seem wrong to me, so it probably isn’t wrong”) Just to keep a few people grounded in the old absolute rules, you have the old “Hey guys he’s coming back, so quit fucking around.”

  81. Here is where I am with the whole Abrahamic religion thing.

    After having done the math myself, I don’t see how God could not exist. I couldn’t tell you the nature of God. But the same token, pre-destination is also inevitable.

    How could a heaven and hell be justified, given that free will is an illusion? How can God punish Hitler, or Stalin, when God made them?

    Maybe the answer to that is in the time Moses asked God to show himself, and God showed himself to the mountain, and it became dust.

    Maybe it is like “you want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!”

  82. “is rather different from the one kids who’re members of minority religious groups encounter in many other parts of the country.”

    And I can attest to that fact, from a time 30 years ago in the lovely, always polite midwest. Silently not uttering the words “under God”, and being stared at. Yes, I was the token “non Christian”, and the adults didn’t much care how that felt. I was never told it was “okay”. Tolerance? Try blithly ignoring. You just don’t belong, somehow, but you won’t be told why.

    I think they likely care less now. How it was that one little girl was a threat to the very idea of God? I had no idea then, and less now.

    The bible is in, and the Golden Rule is out.

    You know what the idiots never stop to consider? They never wonder what it means if they’re wrong. The huge consequences of their actions if they’re wrong. About the war, about marriage, about abortion, about so many things; there is no seeing it from the other point of view. There is no allowing those with differing opinions their own lifestyle. There is no spoon.

    They never stop to consider if they’re wrong. And they never stop to consider how they would be treated themselves, if they’re ever in that position themselves.

    They never see the gun being pointed at them. But, looking at the company they keep, they should. They really should. Sad. “They” will never see it coming.

    I wonder if I’ll be able to feel sorry for them.

  83. If continuely tell people who vote and win elections that none of their polices can be implimented, that are eventually going to tune out of the democratic process and turn to other means or more radical means within the democratc process. We are getting to the point in this country where we may loose the independent judiciary over gay marriage. Seventy percent of the people in Nebraska voted not to have gay marriage only to see it shoved down their throats by a federal judge. People are not going to take that in the long term. The judiciary cannot stand forever against the overwelming will of the populace. The art of the judiciary is to restrain the populace but understand when and where to get out of the way. For example, Lockner may have been a legally correct decision but the people of the United States were not going to stand for six old men on the Supreme Court preventing the New Deal in the middle of a depression. In that sense Roosevelt was exactly right to try to pack the Court and the Court was exactly right to get the message and overturn Lockner. It truely was the change in time that saved the nine. People were not going to put up with the Court stopping the new deal. Unfortuneately, I am starting to think that the liberal memebers of the judiciary are so narrow minded and pig headed that they will create a real crisis, when the whole thing could be avoided by backing off on things like gay marriage and the ten commandments.

  84. Whatever: First, your continual use of the paranoid “they” is telling. Second, I find it interesting that the worst retaliation you experienced because of your refusal to utter “under god” was being “stared at”. Third, your statement that the bible is in and the golden rule is out indicates that you don’t understand either religion or the golden rule. Fourth, if the “idiots” are “wrong”, I assume by this you mean there is no god, then what does anything matter, especially your opinion about issues like marriage, the war, abortion etc.? As every serious atheist understands, and there is nothing in your statements that indicates you are serious about anything, it is very difficult to establish QUALITATIVE JUDGMENTS in the absence of god. In other words, if there is no god, why should I care what you think about anything and why shouldn’t I steal your possessions and sell you into slavery? Fifth, and finally, religious people are a lot of things, but stupid is not one of them. Unless disagreement with your carefully thought out opinions is by definition stupidity.

    P.S. As I understand it, the articles position is that school prayer, the posting of the Ten Commandments etc. would not hurt society or be unconstitutional but that we need to use the courts to frustrate the majorities will on this isue. However, the article never says why that has to be done. I understand that most around here hold the need for opposition to these things as articles of faith, but why do the more thoughtful types feel this way?

  85. Seventy percent of the people in Nebraska voted not to have gay marriage only to see it shoved down their throats by a federal judge. People are not going to take that in the long term.

    Spoken like a true theocrat. How many more ad populum fallacies can you cram into a post to defend Christian mob rule?

    I don’t care what 70% of the bigoted hayseeds who went to the polls Nebraska want. They are wrong. Gay marriage should be allowed in this country, and I’m glad that a “liberal” judge came along to shove it down the throat of the fucking bible-beaters. The object of the game is FREEDOM, and I’ll take a victory any way I can.

    Unfortuneately, I am starting to think that the liberal memebers of the judiciary are so narrow minded and pig headed that they will create a real crisis, when the whole thing could be avoided by backing off on things like gay marriage and the ten commandments.

    Pot… kettle… black.

  86. Akira,
    “Pot… kettle… black.”

    Really? Are they wrong? According to what infallible authority?

    I am not saying that they are not wrong, I am just saying you might be in thinking that you have the final answer.

    I mean, I don’t think that gay people should get married, but I don’t really care. I do care that the government is recognizing marriage at all. I don’t think it should.

    I don’t think it should matter to the government whether someone is “living in sin” with their partner or not. I don’t think that someone with a steady person to sleep with should get different tax treatment than me. Whether or not they have a cetificate that validates their choice.

    I really don’t like mob rule either. I am on the wrong side of that one with my gun rights, and ignorant people thinking that they can be safer by pushing regulation of my guns onto me.

    On the other hand, 70% of the population is wrong on that one and you and the judge are right? I have an amendment of the constitution backing me up. What do you have?

    I mean you probably could make some tortured constitutional argument. But really!

  87. maybe there’s something to this keeping the unroolies appeased thing. especially if we’re really on the verge of some christofascist revolution, as some (on both aisles) imply.

    on the other hand, it’s rather gross. and patronizing. and maybe they deserve it for being so freakishly obsessed with the personal arrangements of others.

    social ordering is weird like that. sadly, if this kansas trend continues, we may never build that idiot supercollider we so desperately need.

  88. Maybe it would be best to say that if judges are going to go against majority will they should make sure that the Constitutional issues involved are unambiguous.

    Whatever you might think about gay marriage, I think we could all agree that the US Constitution’s take on it is, at best, ambiguous. (For all I know some state constitutions may be different, but I’m talking about the recent federal court ruling.) On the other hand, the US Constitution’s protection of free speech is pretty explicit.

    So, it would be perfectly appropriate (indeed, mandatory) for a judge to flout the fundies and overturn laws against porn (freedom of the press and all). But on gay marriage, where the US Constitution is, at best, ambiguous, the rationale for a ruling is at best ambiguous.

    This isn’t even about respect for majority will. It’s about carefully exercising power only within clear lines.

    For the record, I support the right of gays (or straights, for that matter) to make any legal arrangements that they want to run their own lives, but unless the Constitutional issues involved are explicit the remedy should come from the legislature, not the judiciary. A judicial ruling on a controversial matter without unambiguous Constitutional language is:

    1) A bad ruling on its own merits.
    2) An invitation for a massive backlash.

  89. kwais, when a hysterical religion hater caps a rant with “fucking bible beaters” you know that, um, reason has ensued and nothing more need be said. It has been spoken…just with different colored fire and brimstone.

    “Theocrats.” Protecting the Constitution’s essential prohibition against prohibiting homosexuality from endulging in the same welfare graft as the rest of the country (I know it’s in there somewhere.) “Ad populumism” threatening imperialist, legally-immune bench legislators. Holy indignation against hayseeds who vote. Shoving stuff down throats, Godammit!

    Come on. It’s this kind of sophistication that keeps American government objective, principled, and off our backs, man! If we let the fucking Christians fucking vote in fucking secular Washington, we’ll flip the boat. Didn’t Falwell and Dobson lunch in Maryland last week? I mean, shit.

  90. Oh, and to further set the record straight, in 2000 I voted against the California ballot measure that made gay marriage illegal. A damn shame that it passed. While I’m sympathetic to the argument that such laws are unconstitutional, given the controversy I think judges should be careful to avoid striking it down unless the Constitutional issues are unambiguous and explicit.

  91. “A judicial ruling on a controversial matter without unambiguous Constitutional language is:
    1) A bad ruling on its own merits.
    2) An invitation for a massive backlash.”

    thoreau – We’re totally on the same page on that. Too bad that only means two votes in the current election environment…

  92. Frankly, I haven’t seen any reasoning in this thread from supporters of the original post other than: “We’re in the minority on this, moreover a significant number of our positions are based solely on the slippery slope argument and do not have sufficient rational or constitutional basis. Therefore, since we can’t articulate an adequate reason as to why people who feel as we do should become the majority, let’s use the courts to enforce our minority position.” Am I missing something? Finally, as 6Gun implied, the degree to which you hate or disdain religious types should not be mistaken for the righteousness of your cause.

  93. So, it would be perfectly appropriate (indeed, mandatory) for a judge to flout the fundies and overturn laws against porn (freedom of the press and all). But on gay marriage, where the US Constitution is, at best, ambiguous, the rationale for a ruling is at best ambiguous.

    Somewhat off the point, as functioning principles, the Constitution is itself ambiguous. For two examples, “public welfare” and the “child’s best interest” utterly trump constitutional theory (the latter being the universal, irretractable, federalized rule of bench in family court.) The Constitution never left the gates.

    (As a parallel, no one should say, as I did, that the 10 Commandments are religion-neutral. In conjuring straw masses of Christian skinheads overthrowing a benevolent Washington, nobody remembered that none of the Old Testament God stuff had been translated into modern secular law, nor could it be. The disconnect between principle [or tradition] and reality is so complete as to be laughable.)

    We’d all agree that the same disconnect plagues constitutional theory and practice. The gap between any theoretical principle at the federal level and state-leval law and legal habit is insurmountable. Spend a week in any statehouse to witness a universal, overt sellout.

    The strengths of a case brought on constitutional grounds at the federal level won’t therefore matter unless there’s a special interest financially endowed to the point to actually make their whim into law.

    Christians — even lumped together from every moonbat stereotype — haven’t the will to dominate Washington. This simply isn’t their game.

    Unless you can drape it over your war chest, the Constitution is dead.

  94. kwais said:
    “Without religion the only law that I really need to obey is what is good for me. If I can get away with it, I can murder rob and rape and whatnot to get ahead.”

    Government, religion and law have each affected the others evolution for thousands of years, so I can understand the confusion, but you are wrong to assume that religion is the basis of morality.

  95. “As every serious atheist understands, and there is nothing in your statements that indicates you are serious about anything, it is very difficult to establish QUALITATIVE JUDGMENTS in the absence of god.”

    I’m a believer, not a serious atheist; but I don’t understand why it’s so difficult to establish qualitative judgments in the absence of god. I’ve talked to some serious atheists in this forum and elsewhere, and it isn’t clear to me that serious atheists understand this.

    …Maybe you can help me and any serious atheists who may be reading this thread understand why it’s so hard to establish qualitative judgments in the absence of god?

  96. I always find the “moral argument” for believing in god weak.

    So the propenents of it argue that: without a god a person can not prove that anything is objectively right or wrong. Well suppose I accept this for the sake of argument. They still can not prove the existence of a god from whom their religious based morality derives. And so their moral code is ultimately unprovable as well. They have merely added a layer of complication. It’s similar to the “who created the creator?” problem.

    Add to this the experience-based observation that religious people can’t even agree on what is right and wrong (so much for thier “objective” God derived morality). The Catholic church and the pope may say birth control, or the war in Iraq, or eating meat on Friday is wrong. But other Christian sects don’t agree on this. Oh dear, whom to believe? Add to this the observation that christian morality has changed over time. If this country was founded by Christians (as they continuosly tell us it was) they must have been Christians that had little problem with slavery, eh? Wouldn’t you say? Well actually I don’t believe this country was founded primarily by Christians but I do believe Christian attitudes on many things have changed over time including slavery, divorce, etc.. But their morality is eternal, absolute, and god derived … uh huh. The things that religious people can generally reach a consensus in universally morally condemning (murder, theft etc.) are those most secularist would also agree were wrong, so I’m not going to give them many extra brownie points for it.

    But then I think the “moral argument” for religion is not really based on it being able to prove a certain moral code any more than a secularist can. In this it fails. It’s fundementally about social control. It’s stating that religion provides a better means of social control than many other things might and this is an argument I may agree with. Religion appeals very deeply to the human psyche in ways that have nothing to do with evidence. But this truth won’t easily “convert” a passionate atheist into a believer either.

  97. The religion meme got its start because the mind of man was weak. Religion is a robust meme because the majority of humans still do not have the courage to ponder for any length of time the possibly unknowable.
    Today, many intelligent and courageous thinkers believe in God, but they shouldn’t.

  98. Ken: Just so we are clear, in my mind a “serious” atheist is one who has spent time reflecting on the ramifications of their belief in the absence of god and an “unserious” atheist is one that has not. I don’t think this is an unfair or irrational understanding. I also think your request that I explain the difficulty in establishing qualitative judgments without a deity is disingenuous and that you know very well that humanity has struggled for centuries to ground morality in something other than a supreme being. Therefore, I ask you this: as an atheist and international criminal mastermind, why should I not go to your house and take all your possessions?

  99. Maybe you can help me and any serious atheists who may be reading this thread understand why it’s so hard to establish qualitative judgments in the absence of god

    It’s not at all difficult to determine what is good and what is not in “the absence of god”. If you do something to hurt me, it’s bad. If you don’t, that’s good.

    why should I not go to your house and take all your possessions?

    Because it’s in your best interest not to hurt me. Why? Well, we make this sort of compact or “social contract” which says, basically: You leave me alone, I leave you alone. Both of us, then, have one less obstacle to happiness.

    There are, of course, other, equally valid ways of looking at morality. Law-of-the-jungle. Ten Commandments. Manusmrti. But the one I like, the one I try to get others to agree to, is: Don’t Tread on Me.

    It works for me.

    And… God is about as relevant to human morality as I am to an ant’s.

  100. herefore, I ask you this: as an atheist and international criminal mastermind, why should I not go to your house and take all your possessions?

    Two reasons:

    1) I don’t go to your house and take your possessions. (Why the do I need a “God” to tell me that is wrong? It seems I’m perfectly capable of figuring that out my own.)

    2) A Springfield Armory XD-40 and no compunction against using it.

  101. I guess I wasn’t clear. Assume I am an atheist and so highly skilled as a criminal that I can enter your house and remove everything of value and not only avoid capture but effectively conceal the fact that I was the perpetrator. Why should I not do so? Why should the fact that you are too afraid or too clumsy to do the same to me have any bearing on the issue since no one will ever know I was the one who committed the crime?

    A related question: Why should I not engage in bestiality? Who’s really hurt?

  102. I am not trying to convince anyone to become religious or to believe in God or a god. I simply think it interesting that the people on this thread who have spewed the most bile toward the religious minded repeatedly calling them stupid and idiots have apparently spent little to no time considering the validity, quality or ramifications of their own belief system.

  103. pepys said:
    “Why should I not do so?”

    Because there are lower-risk, lower-stress ways to make a comfortable living. Has nothing to do with religion.

    And if you wish to engage in bestiality, be my guest. I might even be willing to pay up to a buck to watch.

  104. I consider myself a fairly serious athiest who contemplated religion and really tried to believe. My philosophy is pretty simple. If it brings harm to someone, I generally try not to do it. I try to be happy, (not hedonistically, not all the time) and try to keep those around me happy as well. I ignore the “sins” only affect me, because I feel those are just people’s personal hangups than have become doctrine. Mostly I look at the Bible as Philosophy, because for me, an idea needn’t have divinity attached to it to still be a good idea.

    I tend to believe that basic religion (before it gets bogged down with the pet peeves of clerics) is based on logic and backed up with an unchallengable authority. For example, apart from the first few (establishing a deity) the rest of the list prohibits behavior that creates vendettas. Stealing, killing, lying to cause trouble, sleeping with someone’s spouse. Each of these brings with it need for payback for the wronged party. Left unchecked, these vendettas wouldn’t allow much chance for people to survive. I also think that most people wouldn’t take it seriously if it came from mere Moses, so he added God.

  105. Dude, aren’t you paying attention? I’m an international criminal mastermind for crying out loud! Robbing any of you stiffs blind is the definition of low-stress and low-risk. Even if it was high-risk, I get off on that kind of thing and since I won’t get caught, what the hell.

  106. “I also think your request that I explain the difficulty in establishing qualitative judgments without a deity is disingenuous and that you know very well that humanity has struggled for centuries to ground morality in something other than a supreme being.”

    I have a lot more to learn from the commenters in this forum than I have to teach. I admit to having asked my question knowing that some of the people in this thread have thought long and hard about the implications of their atheism, and have, in the past, explained to me their answers to the same questions you’re asking.

    …I’ve learned a lot about atheism and agnosticism from them–not enough to make me abandon my faith. But I learned all of it by respectfully asking questions much like the one I put to you. …and just because I’ve heard their answers before doesn’t mean that you don’t have something to add that I haven’t heard before. So I asked.

    …That’s not disingenuous.

    P.S. What of Buddhism?

    “Therefore, I ask you this: as an atheist and international criminal mastermind, why should I not go to your house and take all your possessions?”

    Isn’t this elementary social contract theory? This is straight Hobbes, isn’t it?

    On the flip side of every right, there’s the responsibility to respect the rights of others. If one wants their rights respected…

    …This, of course, ignores the possibility that an international criminal mastermind might end up in jail should he rob me, etc.

    P.S. You’re not suggesting that atheists are more likely to be criminals, are you?

  107. David,
    Think of it this way:
    Looking out for Number 1 is the Newtonian theory of how society evolves in a progressive way.
    Taking cooperation into consideration is the Quantum theory for the same.
    We live in exciting times when we, as a society, are taking the Quantum Leap, as it were.
    I’ve said this before, but the Santa Fe Institute is on the cutting edge of what I’m saying. Even though many of them there could be unaware–they being nerds and all.

  108. “Why should I not engage in bestiality? Who’s really hurt?”

    No one. Animals are non-sentient creatures and are therefore property, they have no “rights” no matter what PeTA tells you. If you want to risk getting a disease or having an annoyed animal turn on you, go right ahead.

    What gross-out argument are you going to use next to challenge our “empty” atheist morality?

    Polyamory? Hell, I’d go as far as to say it’s superior to monogamy. (Not to mention the fact that monogamy is a biological myth.) With multiple spouse you have a larger income base to draw on and still have a parent or two around to watch the kids. The offspring will not be overly disadvantaged if one parent dies. Let’s not forget having multiple spouses allows for more variety in our sex lives. I can’t blame people for being adulterous when our current “one-husband-one-wife” family structure only allow us fuck the same person for the rest of our lives. (If you want your S.O. to stick around, maybe it’s a good idea to let him/her play around a little bit. You might have a little fun too.)

    Pedophilia? Children are human. They are sentient creatures However, since they aren’t adults and don’t have the knowledge to understand sex (or much else), so they can’t legally consent to it. They only thing that separates a child from an animal is that through education and socialization, they can have the ability to eventually consent. So you don’t want to treat them as sex objects until they are ready to understand just what they are getting into. The only trouble is, that the standard is not absolute. A 40-year-old molesting a 6-year-old is always wrong, but a 40-year-old having sex with a 16 year old might not really be immoral at all. (Let’s not forget it wasn’t too long ago where we let teens get married. Why the change? It was surely OK then, but why is it considered a perversion now?)

    Necrophilia. As sick as it sounds, I’d have to go with the same argument as bestiality. Dead people can’t really consent, but like animals they don’t have ability to do so anyway; they’re dead. For all intents and purposes, a corpse is just a pile of rotting meat. Of course, the question of who actually owns said pile of meat is an interesting question.

  109. “P.S. You’re not suggesting that atheists are more likely to be criminals, are you?”

    I think that’s more or less what he is implying. That, and sexual deviants too.

  110. I’m an international criminal mastermind for crying out loud! Robbing any of you stiffs blind is the definition of low-stress and low-risk.

    Well, instead of robbing my house it might make more sense to construct a giant “laser” and threaten to destroy the world unless we all pony up…. ONE BILLION DOLLARS!!!

    Morally it’s the same, but it’s more cost-effective.

  111. And don’t forget the sharks with laser beams on their foreheads.

  112. Moonbase. You gotta have a moonbase.

    …or a base in a volcano.

  113. “Well, instead of robbing my house it might make more sense to construct a giant “laser” and threaten to destroy the world unless we all pony up…. ONE BILLION DOLLARS!!!”

    RIPOFF!

  114. Very well, where do I begin?

    My father was a relentlessly self-improving boulangerie owner from Belgium with low grade narcolepsy and a penchant for buggery. My mother was a fifteen year old French prostitute named Chloe with webbed feet. My father would womanize, he would drink. He would make outrageous claims like he invented the question mark. Sometimes he would accuse chestnuts of being lazy. The sort of general malaise that only the genius possess and the insane lament. My childhood was typical. Summers in Rangoon, luge lessons. In the spring we’d make meat helmets. When I was insolent I was placed in a burlap bag and beaten with reeds- pretty standard really. At the age of twelve I received my first scribe. At the age of fourteen a Zoroastrian named Vilma ritualistically shaved my testicles. There really is nothing like a shorn scrotum… it’s breathtaking- I highly suggest you try it.

  115. Arguments against a god-based morality appear to blend opposing extremes: To an atheist, God (capital G, Christian variety) is cumbersome and messy…but always literal, which in narrow, post-modern science-based culture is impossible, so case closed.

    But the atheist also says God is a human invention, which I take as meaning that moral relativity (choice and location on a scale of decency that ranges from sociopathic to saintly) may be very real but God is just the literalist’s figurative means to identify such a range of experience.

    Fine, but wouldn’t an atheistic critique of God in modern culture be a lot more palatable if it allowed that Christians (Fundies, what have you) were using literal terms to describe what atheists agree is a universal moral creed that did indeed need definition?

    Like light and darkness, cold vs hot, and other phenomenon in a single-ended medium with a zero threshold but no upper limit, I think moral decency rises to some level above Nihilism, but that Nihilism, like gravity, exerts a constant negative pull. The two are therefore not equivalent as opposing poles on a linear, level continuum, which the morally-relative status quo obviously hates.

    To the point, a zero-philosophy statist educational system is a bad idea. Depriving everything but philosophical neutrality of air in government schools compromises the entire school population, to say nothing of government’s questionable right to create such an unavoidable environment in the first place.

    It would be helpful if atheists and a functionally atheistic school system recognized that their lack of a literal originating God doesn’t invalidate anybody else’s terms with which to at least put human performance into perspective.

  116. trying to teach a functional philosophy course in a public school would be like trying to teach a realistic, science-based sexual education course.

    unless you’re saying something else, in which case i can offer you nothing but coffee.

  117. …nobody remembered that none of the Old Testament God stuff had been translated into modern secular law, nor could it be. – 6Gun

    Sure, they have, and could be again. As of 1997, 7 state constitutions still prohibited non-believers from holding public office, many states still have “blue laws” enforcing Sabbath-keeping, and we still have state-sponsored expressions of religious faith, on everything from the currency, to state-paid chaplains for the Congress and the military*, and rituals like opening every session of SCOTUS with “God save this honorable court.”

    BTW, atheists don’t “believe in the absence of god”, we just don’t have a belief in a god. Remember, you can’t prove a negative, and he who asserts must prove. So all y’all theists have the burden of proof, and if and when you make it over my threshold of skepticism, then and only then will I consider believing.

    A good thought experiment is to replace “god” with “aliens from space” in every statement asserting a deity’s existence. Many folks claim to have seen LGMs, been abducted, had diseases healed by them, written “first-person” accounts about them, too.

    Kevin

    *I would not ban chaplains from the military. I would defund them, and allow each denomination to raise funds to support them. Same thing for Congress, or any other public institution.

  118. “BTW, atheists don’t “believe in the absence of god”, we just don’t have a belief in a god. Remember, you can’t prove a negative, and he who asserts must prove. So all y’all theists have the burden of proof, and if and when you make it over my threshold of skepticism, then and only then will I consider believing.”

    Carl Sagan said it best: “Extraordinary claims recquire extraordinary evidence.” “God” is the most extraordinary claim in human history, and what evidence do the the theists provide?

    Do we know everything? No, but the notion that a lack of information means that there is room for a supreme being that takes an interest on this one little planet and what the creature who live on it do with their lives. (i.e. the so-called “God In The Gaps”) Teller, of Penn & Teller fame, had another great quote: ” Atheists do look for answers to existence itself. They just don’t make them up.”

    (On the flip side, St. Augustine was once asked what God was doing before he created the world. He responded “He was creating Hell to put the people who ask those sort of questions.” That speaks volumes about religion, and Christianity in particular. Don’t question, don’t doubt… OR ELSE!)

    We atheists want to KNOW, we don’t want to guess. The claim that “there is no way man could truly know that there is a God” only makes the claim of God even more suspect. “Faith” is not enough either. You can believe all day and night that dogs will talk or that the Man In The Moon will have ask to use your bathroom, but I guarentee that it will not happen no matter what you believe. Why is something as equally absurd as “God” different because someone claims to have “faith?” In the final analysis, faith is completely worthless.

    There either IS a God, or thier ISN’T a God. There is no inbetween. I see no evidence that there is a God, ergo, I don’t believe such a being exists. Until someone provides me with 100% testable, provable, unbiased, evidence that God exists, then I side with my fellow atheists.

  119. St. Augustine was once asked what God was doing before he created the world. He responded “He was creating Hell to put the people who ask those sort of questions.”

    Augie never actually said that (though no doubt many Christians would and have); what he said was that it was a meaningless question since it had no bearing on the world as it exists.

  120. I want to make a few things clear. First, I have no opinion as to the relative criminality of atheists. For all I know, they may have a significantly lesser incidence of crime than the religious minded. Second, I do not think that government necessarily rests on religion (See the USSR, China, Japan, Nazi Germany etc.). Therefore, reponses about social contracts and Hobbes are not responsive to the problematic nature of making qualitiative judgments without a deity. I agree that Leviathan can impose behavior on a populace. However, I disagree that Leviathan has the ability to make this or that act “good” or “bad” by saying it is a crime and I’ll hurt you if you do it. Calling something “good” or “bad” is making a qualitative judgment. I think such a statement requires something more than Leviathan’s word. That is the difficult question I was trying to get at with my obviously poor examples. If I have the ability to avoid detection and capture, the fact that Leviathan has made an act a crime does not provide me the answer as to why I should not do it. That seems to me to have to come from somewhere else. Religious people say it comes from God. The atheist I agree with the most, Nietzsche, understood this issue and called one of his great works Beyond Good and Evil for that reason. After the death of God, Good and Evil are outmoded and innaplicable ideas. Because Nietzsche was “serious” he was terrified by the ramifications of this. How does one live without the ideas of Good and Evil? His answer, and the best yet to my mind, was physiology. That is why the answer to his question of “Why I am so Wise” was that he took walks and didn’t drink anything stronger than weak tea. He called anything that was contrary to physiology “bad” and that which was in harmony with it “good”. Finally, I still maintain that no one on this board has addressed this question at all, let alone with that kind of “seriousness”. To ask again: On what basis do you, as an atheist, ascribe “good” or “bad” to this or that action or thing?

    P.S. I think the problem was mine. My poor examples were meant to take Leviathan out of the fact pattern and bring the issue of “why” to the fore. I was trying to make the point that in such situations it is difficult to say “why” someone should not commit a crime if he won’t be caught without saying “because it is bad to do it” and that is difficult to say without God. Note: I do not think it impossible, just very hard.

  121. “Augie never actually said that…”

    I got the ancedote from a lecture given by Simon Singh, who wrote “The Big Bang,” that was televised on C-Span. Take it up with him.

  122. It was a joke for crying out loud. He was acknowledging the seriousness of the question. Remember, this was the guy who asked God to save him “but not yet” as there were some sins he wanted to try out or repeat. Augustine was not a harsh or cruel man and was quite brilliant.

  123. Kevrob,

    “A good thought experiment is to replace “god” with “aliens from space””

    Little green men, are just somebody elses explanation for a gap in knowledge.

    As a better thought experiment, replace the word God with “Existence”. So you take “God help us”, “One nation under God”, “In God we trust” ect, ect. And you are attributing all of that to the laws of nature and physics and stuff that we don’t know yet (which really is a whole lot). Whatever created the world and made our existence inevitable, and every that is going to happen.

    Existence, exists, and “what if” doesn’t and never was going to.

    Compare the Abahamic religions claim that God is all powerfull and that God is in everything. Moses, Abraham, and maybe Jesus and Mohammed, seemed to have a handle on some stuff that the rest of humanity didn’t and probably still doesn’t. And they were trying to break it down to their followers the best they could.

    Maybe when those guys talked to God, they were talking to a big human voice from the sky, coming from a big white man in the clouds. Or maybe when the talked to God they were really talking to God.

    You replace the word God with Existence, and God must exist. Only the nature of God is uncertain.

    Does God want us to pray? Does God get angry? How can the all powerfull anything want anything, how can the all powerfull get angry?

    Maybe when it is said that God says wrath is mine, that in fact what is being said is that “don’t sweat these guys getting out of control, people are going to be stupid, and they are going to get their come uppance”.

  124. Akira,

    “So all y’all theists have the burden of proof, and if and when you make it over my threshold of skepticism, then and only then will I consider believing.”

    Akira, all you wanted was proof? Will a picture do?

    I do have a picture of God for you, I am trying to send it to you, it is taking forever to download.

  125. The Republicans have a word for this argument when it’s used by Democrats: INCREMENTALISM. Just goes to show how important couching your argument in the proper words is in modern America, and how unimportant the content of your argument is.

  126. How does a Christian define actions as good or evil? A Muslim? A Jew? A Buddhist? A Hindu? A Sikh?

    They all have different or slightly different deities, and according to their beliefs the gods of the other faiths are false. Do people of differing faiths suffer from the same lack of moral center that you ascribe to atheists? In most cases they have similar ideas about what is right and what is wrong, but their gods are mutually exclusive. Since only one can be the true god, doesn’t that demonstrate man’s capacity to arrive at moral judgements on his own.

    To carry the agrument a little further, how do different sects within a major religion identify seemingly contradictory ideas as good, evil, or nuetral? They all attribute their laws to the same god, yet there can be some striking differences between the practices and beliefs of Shi’ite/Sunni, Catholic/Baptist, etc.

    My guess would be a combination of knowledge and experience guides people when deciding right and wrong. I would guess that it works this way for athiests as well. At least it works for me.

  127. “To ask again: On what basis do you, as an atheist, ascribe “good” or “bad” to this or that action or thing?”

    It ain’t easy. What I have come to as an agnostic is this:

    Authoritarianism seems to be an entirely inappropriate method for determining proper behavior. To adopt a system of ethics based an authoritarian dictates would require that I suspend my skepticism of authoritarian claims in this one very important area, and I would only be doing so to make the problem easier. Any ethical system derived from an authority can only carry the same weight as the demands of the parent telling a child to clean up his room “Because I said so.” So, I CAN’T ascribe labels of good or bad based on what is in some book alone.

    What is left to me is a difficult analysis of consequences vs. violation of values. In general, X is good if it is that which would result in broadly positive outcomes if everyone engaged in X. This is just a poorly stated verison of Kant’s categorical imperative.

    Unlike some, I have to admit that Kant is not the end of the story for me. On a more basic level, I can see tension between Kant and what I believe to be more gut level ethics. I think we all have a heirarchy of values, and the categorical imperative can actually be different for each of us based on our ranking of desirable outcomes. If one person believes that absolute equality is of utmost importance, and such a person acts to bring about an end result that maximizes this value, I can’t honestly see how Kant is being violated. Nonetheless, I am perfectly comfortable calling such outcomes ‘bad’.

    So, here is where I am. A good action is that which, if practiced by everyone, would result in outcomes that are broadly positive when viewed from my value heirarchy.

    Sad to say that in 32 years of life, that is the best I can come up with. It is a difficult problem that can only be made easier by the (to me) artificial imposition of authoritarian dictates.

  128. As of 1997, 7 state constitutions still prohibited non-believers from holding public office, many states still have “blue laws” enforcing Sabbath-keeping, and we still have state-sponsored expressions of religious faith, on everything from the currency, to state-paid chaplains for the Congress and the military*, and rituals like opening every session of SCOTUS with “God save this honorable court.”

    Sure, and the state’s lawbooks collectively have thousands of obscure, odd, ignored and unenforcable laws on them. The question goes entirely to practical influence.

    And as far as God on currency and in Courts, so what. Currency never evangalized anybody and given the epidemic of perjury in Courts these days (by the way, that would be Alan Dershowicz reporting that, not Pat Robertson) meaningless 5-word formalities including God there are just another tempest in a teapot.

    By Mike Nedow’s logic, we’d better bulldoze Washington; it’s festooned with acres of traditional religious inscriptions and other references to God.

    Hysteria about fundy revolution is still hysteria when the effective religion of state is secular humanism and it does indeed carry the weight of law. This isn’t mincing words; it’s a question of perspective and whose ox is being gored — a majority secular nation naturally protects its status and will invent phantoms on the other extreme, namely fundies.

    Perspective: In a nation built on escaping statist religious tyranny, the free speech clause now probably protects more pornographers than it does churches.

    Does our publicly acknowledging hints of God in government come from a genuine awe at our vast responsibility, or from a subversive attitude looking to actively indoctrinate others? Seems to me if it were the latter we’d have found a much, much better way to do it by now…

    BTW, atheists don’t “believe in the absence of god”, we just don’t have a belief in a god. Remember, you can’t prove a negative, and he who asserts must prove.A good thought experiment is to replace “god” with “aliens from space”

    Aliens from physical space made physical space?

    God allows us to ascribe unexplainable natural phenomenon to the supernatural, and to establish that such an entity has the characteristics of love, justice and perfection in a chaotic, Nihilistic world.

    Proofs of God might fall into the same column as proofs of existence and/or origin in what we insist is a closed system.

  129. 6Gun, the aliens comment was obviously intended as an analogy, not as a competing theory for the origin of the universe.

  130. “Perspective: In a nation built on escaping statist religious tyranny, the free speech clause now probably protects more pornographers than it does churches.”

    are you sure about that? think about the legions of sects, christian and otherwise.

    a big part of all of this is the need to be the victim, either by the religionists or the secularists. the victim is a position of tremendous rhetorical power for some very, very strange reasons…it’s easier to understand coming from christians, due to the legacy of martyrdom…not so applicable to secularists, however.

  131. 6gun:

    I agree with many of your comments here, especially the part about the hysteria. However, the secular humanist line is a bit loosely argued. What often happens when this argument is employed is to suggest that any non theistic perspective is equally religious with a theistic perspective. There are all sorts of other things at play that make that not the case. Skepticism and empiricism strike me as two isms that might lead one to non religious perspectives and which would be inaccurately characterized as ‘secular humanism’.

    Not to say that secular humanism doesn’t exist, but its influence is often overrated by those seeking to make a point.

  132. Moving this back to Julian’s original point, I’d have to say that Yglesias and Drum are searching their souls because they’re more interested in Democratic power than policy points.

    A concern I do not share.

    I don’t vote Democrat, but giving up on something I believe in isn’t going to make it more likely that I will. And I doubt any true believers are going to vote Dem just because they back off on the Ten Commandments.

    If Dem partisans are trying to see how many people they can piss off before they become a completely irrelevant party, they’re doing a bang-up job. Nominate Hillary, and you can put a cap on it.

  133. I mean to propose that secular humanism is the effective religion of state, not of its subjects. dhex correctly points out that legions of sects, christian and otherwise, outnumber pornographers operating under free speech guarantees, but this does not imply that majority, religious private sector behavior migrates upwards to form day to day social government action. Today’s social climate, interpretation of the Constitution, and massive special interests prevent that.

    I further propose that the current climate of effective secular humanism in government, seen by many as somehow religion- or philosophy-neutral, is itself a type of religion. IOW, just as attempted non-philosophy is a philosophy, when government enters the private sector as thoroughly and permanently and intracticably as it has ours, it does so in violation of all reason preventing it from establishing a “religion.”

    To do this does government formally represent a collective of religionists? Does government outnumber a collective of religionists in the private sector? Of course not, yet it’s position, backed by law, causes an infinite number of violations of the principles and religious standings of its subjects once it behaves socially. American government may be the single most influential force now acting upon society. That it may do so without repercussions to the spiritual indivudual is impossible.

    This is stating the obvious, but among Libertarians, it seems to me that the rational atheists would be among the first to protest any oppression of the fundamental religionists by an increasingly authoritarian government…a government by and for secularism and the special interest and not the people.

    Further, when government, being a secularist force, lobbies itself, as is commonplace today, then we know we have a problem protecting free speech and religious expression for any non-secularist.

    I propose merely that government has a long row to hoe before it can, if ever, establish it’s legitimacy acting in society. Seems to me that it doing so is grossly irrational to the Constitution.

  134. Oooh! Oooh! Oooh! Oooh!

    Hey, I thought of a possible way out of the “use of public property for displays that do not reflect the religious views of all constituents” dilemma. It might even be brilliant. Although it may not pass the libertarian purity test.

    Want to put up a religious display at the state courthouse? Or the lawn of your local city hall? Or the National Mall in Washington, DC?

    Simply have the appropriate hold a lottery. Tickets are $1. Anyone can buy as many as they want. The prize: You can put up any “religious” display you want for one week. (We’ll hold a lottery for each of the 52 weeks in a year, one week at a time, maybe one month in advance.) Winners will be chosen at random.

    Organized churches can pull their funds to buy multiple tickets to improve their changes of winnning.

    Advantages:

    – It brings in revenue! Lottery proceeds can help provide funds for various government expenditures, like maybe Social Security. Or some welfare/charity program that should be carried out by private religious groups anyway.

    – It’s volunarist! You don’t have to buy a lottery ticket if you don’t want to! It’s better than taxes! And nobody can complain about “tax money being used to promote religion,” either.

    – It’s democratic! Chances are, by odds and sheer numbers, most of the time the lotteries will be won by persons or churches representing the most popular religious views of the country. More often than not, “the Christian majority” will get to put up what they want.

    – It still gives minorities a shot! Even minority religious views like Zoroastrianists, evangelical atheists and “I want to smear poop on a picture of the Virgin Mary” types will have a non-zero chance of winning and getting their way. That’s more than you can say for minority parties in ordinary democratic elections!

    Of course, if the Church of Satan or a secular humanist club or whatever wins once in a while, it will piss off some people, but you can’t say it wasn’t fair. And statistically, this shouldn’t happen very often. It’s the price you pay for religious freedom.

    Too bad nobody will ever read this post, but maybe I’ll recycle it if this topic ever comes up again.

  135. “Simply have the appropriate hold a lottery” should be “Simply have the appropriate level of governmental body hold a lottery.”

  136. Stevo, I like your idea, and I hope you mention it when this topic (inevitably) comes up again.

    How many tickets will the Puppy Pope buy?

  137. Organized churches can pull their funds . . .

    Hey, it works as written and as intended!

    I can think of at least one other meaning, too.

    Comedy gold, Stevo!

  138. I’m actually kind of serious about the lottery solution. I mean, if I had the opportunity to suggest it as a serious solution in the appropriate forum, I would do so. (As long as it didn’t inolve real work on my part. Like, I could do a letter to the editor, if I get around to it. Maybe this coming Christmas season … I might float it at my next family gathering, to see what kind of reaction it gets.)

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