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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Faith of our Founding Fathers

In response to several posts for and against religion in government, I thought I would reprint this article by Dean Worbis. I guess it is easy to find quotes by people long dead to support your position so here is my submission.

No one disputes the faith of our Founding Fathers. To speak of "unalienable Rights being endowed by a Creator" certainly shows a sensitivity to our non-denominational spiritual selves. What is surprising is when modern Protestants think the Founding Father's faith had anything to do with the Bible. Without exception, the faith of our Founding Fathers was Deist, not Theist. Deism is the acknowledgement and belief in a higher, Divine creative and sustaining power, apart and removed from the confines of conventional organized religions. It was best expressed earlier in the Declaration of Independence, when they spoke of "the Laws of Nature" and of "Nature's God." "God" has been used throughout the history of the English language as a noun - synonymous with "Deity" and only recently has been usurped as only implying the name of the primary Deity of the Protestant faiths.

In a sermon of October 1831, Episcopalian minister Bird Wilson said, "Among all of our Presidents, from Washington downward, not one was an adherent of religion, at least not of more than Unitarianism."

The Bible? Here is what our Founding Fathers wrote about Bible-based Christianity:

"The United States is not a Christian nation any more than it is a Jewish or a Mohammedan nation."
Article 11 states: "The Government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion."
-- Treaty of Tripoli (1797) signed by President John Adams

John Adams:
" I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of humankind has preserved - the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced!"

"Where do we find a precept in the Bible for Creeds, Confessions, Doctrines and Oaths, and whole cartloads of other trumpery that we find religion encumbered with in these days?"

"The doctrine of the divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity."

Thomas Paine:
"Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and tortuous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we call it the word of a demon than the word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize humankind."

"Any system of religion that has anything in it that shocks the mind of a child, cannot be a true system."

"Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all religions established by law."

"The Christian church has set up a religion of pomp and revenue in pretend imitation of a person, Jesus, who lived a life of poverty."

"Among the most detestable villains in history, you could not find one worse than Moses. Here is an order, attributed to 'God' to butcher the boys, to massacre the mothers, and to debauch and rape the daughters. I would not dare to so dishonor my Creator's name by attaching it to this filthy book - the Bible."

"It is the duty of every true Deist to vindicate the moral justice of God against the evils of the Bible."

"Accustom a people to believe that priests and clergy can forgive sins...and you will have sins in abundance."

Benjamin Franklin:
"When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obliged to call for help of the civil power, 'tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one."

Ulysses S. Grant:
"Leave the matter of religion to the family altar, the church, and the private schools, supported entirely by private
contributions. Keep the church and the state forever separated."
James Madison:
"During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution."

"What influence in fact have Christian ecclesiastical establishments had on civil society? In many instances they have been upholding the thrones of political tyranny. In no instance have they been seen as the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wished to subvert the public liberty have found in the clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate liberty, does not need the clergy."

Madison objected to state-supported chaplains in Congress and to the exemption of churches from taxation. He wrote: "Religion and government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together."

These Founding Fathers were a reflection of the American population. Having escaped from the state-established religions of Europe, only 7% of the people in the 13 colonies belonged to a church when the Declaration of
Independence was signed.

Among those who confuse Christianity with the founding of America, the rise of conservative Baptists is one of the more interesting developments. The Baptists believed God's authority came from the people, not the priesthood,
and they had been persecuted for this belief. It was they - the Baptists - who were instrumental in securing the separation of church and state. They knew you can not have a "one-way-wall" that lets religion into government
but that does not let it out. They knew no religion is capable of handling political power without becoming corrupted by it. And, perhaps, they knew it was Christ himself who first proposed the separation of church and state; "Give unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and unto the Lord that which is the Lord's."

In the last few years Christianity, and Baptists in particular, have been taken over by a fundamentalist faction that insists authority comes from the Bible and that the individual must accept the interpretation of the Bible from a higher authority. These usurpers of the Christian faith are those who insist they should meddle in the affairs of the government and it is they who insist the government should meddle in the affairs of individuals.

WWJD: What Would Jefferson Do?

April 13, 2003 marked Thomas Jefferson's 260th birthday. In honor of this occasion, Americans United has pulled together some of Jefferson's best statements on church and state. Jefferson, along with James Madison, was a
key architect of the religious liberty guarantees we enjoy today. What better way to honor the memory of this visionary founder than spending a few moments reading and reflecting on his timeless wisdom? With issues such as voucher aid to religious schools and government-sponsored prayer in public schools pending in Congress and the state legislatures, Jefferson's comments are just as relevant today as they were then.

Religious Right activists claim the framers never intended to separate church and state. Christian Coalition president Pat Robertson says separation is a "lie of the left." TV preacher Jerry Falwell calls it "a modern fabrication."

Here are Jefferson's own words on the subject.

Separation of Church and State:
"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church and State."
--Letter to the Danbury (Conn.) Baptist Association, January 1, 1802

Taxation for Religion:
"To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical; that even the forcing of him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor whose morals he would
make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness....Be it therefore enacted by the General Assembly, That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess and by argument to maintain their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." -- Excerpts from Jefferson's Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, 1786

Government-Sponsored Prayer and Other Religious Worship:
"I do not believe it is for the interest of religion to invite the civil magistrate to direct its exercises, its discipline, or its doctrines; nor of the religious societies, that the General Government should be invested with the power of effecting any uniformity of time or matter among them. Fasting and prayer are religious exercises; the enjoining them an act of discipline. Every religious society has a right to determine for itself the times for these exercises, and the objects proper for them, according to their own particular tenets; and the right can never be safer than in their hands, where the Constitution has deposited it." -- Letter to Samuel Miller, January 23, 1808

Other views on the Bible and Christianity:
"Question with boldness even the existence of God; because if there be one, He must approve the homage of Reason rather than that of blindfolded Fear."

"It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are 20 gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."

"I have examined all the known superstitions of the world and I do not find in our particular superstition of Christianity one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology. Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, and imprisoned. What has been the effect of this coercion? To make one half the world fools and the other half hypocrites; to support roguery and error all over the earth."

"Christianity... has become the most perverted system that ever shone on man... Rogueries, absurdities and untruths were perpetrated upon the teachings of Jesus by a large band of dupes and imposters led by Paul, the first great corrupter of the teachings of Jesus."

"The clergy converted the simple teachings of Jesus into an engine for enslaving mankind and adulterated by artificial constructions into a contrivance to filch wealth and power to themselves...these clergy in fact, constitute the real Anti-Christ."

Jefferson's word for the Bible? "Dunghill."

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References: The writings of Thomas Jefferson exist in 25 volumes. Much of the quotes of Jefferson came from "THE MEMOIRS, CORRESPONDENCE AND MISCELLANIES FROM THE PAPERS OF THOMAS JEFFERSON," 4 volumes. Edited by Thomas Jefferson Randolph (the grandson of Thomas Jefferson).

References for this article were also found in the book, SIX HISTORIC AMERICANS, by John E. Remsburg
(who interviewed many of Lincoln's associates).


So there you go...flame away. Tell me I am going to Hell (something in which I do not believe anyway). But the words of our Forefathers can not be disputed.

My belief is simple. No matter what your religion, it DOES NOT BELONG IN GOV''T. This is a simple concept which some can not grasp for some reason. When we have religion in gov't, people get hurt and oppressed. It is an historical fact. The Christian Bible foretells this very things in Revelations, with the one world gov't and the number of the beast and so on. Subscribe to the party line, or you can not be a member of society. Our history (even recent history) is rife with abuses of power ,and subsequently of people. When religion and gov't mix we get Crusades, Inquisitions, Jihads, Fatwahs. We have a nation that is far too diverse in culture and heritage and varied religions to pick just one to be the Official Religion. So no, as I stated before. God...which ever one you choose...does not belong, nor have an Official place in goverment.

Peace and Light
Jeff

19 Comments:

At 9:19 AM, Blogger Melissa O. Markham said...

Jeff,

I have followed yours and C.T.'s posts and responses with great interest. I find it interesting that both of you can find quotes to support your arguments from the same people.

My history is a bit rusty but I do remember that people fled Englad due to religious persecution. They didn't want to be forced to practice the religion the way the King said they had to. But pretty much everyone that moved to this great country believed in the Christian God. Their differences came in how strictly they interpreted the bible and how they performed ceremonies in church. Today we still have this from Catholics down to Baptists. I personally don't agree with the different denominations, Jesus said nothing about us following him in this way. But I respect people to have different ways they want to worship God.

As a Christian, I am tired of being discriminated against and I found your remark 'I don't have to have a Hebrew Sky God tell me what is right or wrong' (paraphrasing), to be offensive. For someone who talks about live and let live, the sarcasm and the fact that your comment would have offended millions of Christians and Jewish people does not make it seem like you are the tolerant person you claim to be.

I am not going to tell you that you are going to hell. I work very hard not to judge people and I know that I in no way have the power of God to see into your heart and know what kind of person you are or what your future will hold. To me, Hell is not a flaming place with a sinister devil, to me, Hell is simply absence from God and we can experience that on Earth as well as in the next life.

You and Renee have both pointed out that we don't truly follow the bible anymore...we don't stone people, women are allowed important roles in church, we definitely don't follow the hundreds of rules listed in the Old Testament...goodness, can you imagine what the world would be like if women had to be separated out for the period of and surrounding menstruation. I do look at those rules as good guidelines at the time. If there were blood carrying disease, by separating out these women, it helped to keep them from spreading, by making someone go through a period of cleansing after touching a dead body...gee that makes sense too and in a time well before people knew that germs even existed. God protected them in the ways they could understand.

Anyway, I stray, which is why I have tried to stay out of all of this because I tend to live my life by my heart and my faith. I don't have millions of quotes or facts to back up my arguments one way or another. I know that religion has always been important to our country. We have some old radio shows we listen to in the car and at the end the commentator reminds the audience the family that prays together stays together. That was about 70 years ago more or less.

I would never go to an Islamic person or a Buddhist or a Shintoist or a Wiccan and make fun of their faith or beliefs. I encourage my children to know what other beliefs are around the world and to make note of the similarities of stories from around the world from different cultures. I don't presume to know the mysteries of mankind, our creation or God's plan for all of us.

However, I do believe that Jesus was sent by God to show us a better path. His commandments to supercede all others was for us to love God and to love one another. By loving a being higher than ourselves, it lifts us up, it gives us hope during the bleaker moments of life, it takes us away from our own petty human motives. By loving one another, we are commanded to take our love of God and share it with others, all others. Jesus hung out with thieves and prostitutes. He didn't condone what they did, but he loved them for who they were and told them that no matter what mistakes they had made God loved them to, all they had to do was believe and try to follow a life that God would be proud of. Jesus and Christianity is about love.

No arguing that that has become twisted in years past by people who wanted to use religion to promote their own ends. Even in Islam this happens. People can twist anything to make it say what they want it to say.

There are things I believe are wrong or improper. I believe this based on my understanding of the bible and my gut instinct. I feel, rightly or wrongly, that you would tell me I am wrong to feel that way. For instance, I have known homosexuals and was once offended when a very fundamentalist friend of mine attacked some at a group in college based on things from the bible. I believe that people who are homosexual probably have a genetic malfunction in their system and they are coping with it as best they can (I think the same about alcoholics). However, I do not want to watch movies about homosexuals, nor would I be comfortable with homosexuals openly displaying their love around my children or myself. I wouldn't want heterosexuals doing that either for that matter. Does this make me wrong, bigoted, unenlightened? Or does it mean I have a belief and I am allowed to have that belief? I would like to think you would uphold my right to my feelings, but I don't think in your heart of hearts you do.

I wonder if you would march with a group of people fighting to be maintain their right to be Christian? Surely a person as open-minded and moral as you are would fight to uphold my rights? Or do you just fight to uphold the rights of people that you agree with?

My meanderings in response to the posts of recent days. I am sure you are shaking your head, because I have no doubt gone on quite a rabbit trail here. As always, I appreciate this blog and the fact that people can express their beliefs and opinions and that I have to opportunity to learn from others who do not believe as I do and maybe to share my beliefs with others as well.

God bless!

 
At 9:27 AM, Blogger Melissa O. Markham said...

OOPS...sorry for the typos, but also, I mentioned about stoning and what not and then didn't follow through with that thought. Circumstances have change. Jesus never promoted stoning of people, that was the way of the time and more than one Christian was stoned or fed to the lions for their beliefs. As we have matured as a civilization, we see these things as barbaric and have changed them.

The same for the status women have today. Christianity began in countries where today there are still no rights for women, but as it spread there were people in other countries who saw things differently and things changed. I do not believe if Christ had come in 2000 years ago and tried to change everything that anyone would have been able to accept it. Instead he planted a seed. A seed of love that has been growing for 2000 years and continues to grow. Not without storms that rattle it and cut off branches, but it does grow.

 
At 10:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seed of Love? A seed that apparently doesn't grow for homosexuals or any other group that doesn't fit "the mold." After reading your post I felt physically sick. You don't want your children to be around two men or women who are showing love for one another? Where do you draw the line? A hug? A kiss? ... or how about at the words "I love you." Go ahead... teach your boys that showing affection to another man is wrong. Because that's the really scary part. Little girls can hold hands and hug each other all day long... but little boys... well, that's different. Way to spread that "seed of love" that Jesus planted.

I happen to think that Jesus's message was profound. Its his followers that I have a problem with.

 
At 10:41 AM, Blogger DAN said...

Hi Guys:

I also didn't want any part of this conversation -- quite frankly because there are so many stupid things said on both sides of it. This post, however, has so many errors that I feel compelled to write. I love politics and have spent some time reading up on political thought and our political history. I don't know a lot, but I'm willing to share what I know.

First, the statement "our founding fathers were deists" is so wrong as to be pathetic. This canard is drug up so much it needs to be killed once and for all. A couple were deists, most notable Jefferson (who edited his own version of the bible, BTW). The vast majority were protestants, episocpalians in particular.

"...The signers of the Declaration of Independence were a profoundly intelligent, religious and ethically-minded group. Four of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were current or former full-time preachers, and many more were the sons of clergymen. Other professions held by signers include lawyers, merchants, doctors and educators. These individuals, too, were for the most part active churchgoers and many contributed significantly to their churches both with contributions as well as their service as lay leaders. The signers were members of religious denominations at a rate that was significantly higher than average for the American Colonies during the late 1700s..."

Having said that, people need to understand that the FF and indeed entire country was much LESS religious then than it is now. Something people on the other side frequently get wrong.

As to "natural law" and "natural god". Jiminy Crickets, guys. These concepts refer to philosophies of scientific investigation and political thought, not religious affilliation. Look up John Locke and Natural Law, for instance. The moral and ethical considerations of Natural Law were put directly into the Declaration of Independence by old TJ. The "God Of Nature" is a philosophical construct used to advance social and political thought, not some form of religious affiliation. The same can be said of the word "deist" as it was understood at the time (NOT as it is understood today).

I'm not playing duelling quotes either. It's quite frankly a dumb game when, if you are really interested, you should study up more. The episcopalian minister saying none of the presidents were religious? Very funny.

Here's some information on Washington. Washington was a mainstream Christian of his day, which meant he didn't go to church a lot. Niether was he very pious. But he believed in Christianity and absolutely in the role relgiion played in society. To describe him as a deist confuses our current definitions of what is religion with what was practiced at the time. It muddles the term.

This country was founded by people fleeing religious persecution and framed up by people soaked in the protestant religion. It's okay. That's just history. But it is also part of our culture too. Don't throw it all away because you don't like Pat Robertson or something. The protestants were firm believers in non-establishment of government religion, which they wrote into the constituion. Very wise of them.

Freedom of religion does not mean freedom FROM religion. Non establishment of state religion does not mean the establishment of atheistic beliefs in government. This used to not be a problem, but now with government involved in all aspects of our lives, we're getting back to where the FF started out. My kid can't pray to Allah in the school because we've decided that the schools are to be federally and state funded, and therefore part of our government. Little Sue can't express her Primitive Baptist beliefs in college because colleges are also becoming part of our governmental system. 'Non establishment' is changing meanings because of definition of how much government control we want in our lives is changing meanings as well.

Just a couple things to consider.

 
At 10:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Anon:

You do realize that by generalizing all of Jesus followers into one category, you are being bigoted, don't you? Bigotry isn't just about things you disagree with. Suprisingly, most bigots believe that they are correct and all members of that "group" are dumb, mean, evil, etc. Perhaps one day we can get away from sticking all our enemies in one big sack and then kicking at it.

 
At 10:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps I am a bigot, but living as a pagan in 'bible country' I have found the number of His 'followers' who actually follow his teachings to be few and far between.

 
At 10:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps I am a bigot, but as a Pagan living in "bible country" for the last 20 years, I have found the "followers" of Jesus who actually follow his teachings to be refreshing, but few in number.

 
At 11:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah but the Christians figured it out first -- love the sinner and hate the sin. No matter what your opinion or religion, this idea rocks! Didn't they also have something to do with abolishing slavery, civil rights, starting the USA and stuff like that? The people may sometimes suck, but sometimes they do pretty good too. I guess like the rest of us?

 
At 11:03 AM, Blogger Melissa O. Markham said...

I am sorry that I made Anonymous feel sick. I am also sorry that my stating my uncomfortableness with having my children exposed to a homosexual life style is upsetting to you. I also don't like to watch movies where people tear people limb from limb or that involve other amounts of violence. Am I wrong to have these feelings or to express them, not at all. I have a right to my feelings. Do I have a right to go out and get in a homosexuals face and tell them I think they are morally wrong and say other ugly things to them, no I do not. But I most certainly do have the right to decide what my children are exposed to and what I wish to expose myself to. I wish you would respect that.

 
At 11:29 AM, Blogger D L Ennis said...

Jeff said: "So no, as I stated before. God...which ever one you choose...does not belong, nor have an Official place in government."

I agree with Jeff…

All bickering aside…The bottom line is the separation of church and state. Keep God out of our Government!

DL

 
At 2:01 PM, Blogger B O B said...

I have been reading both the posts from C.T. and Jeff with great interest. It is much like a sparing contest and I hope all can keep their tips on their epees and not draw blood.

I also encourage both sides to follow the a protocol of no hitting below the belt, and use this opportunity to learn from each other.

It is through open understanding that is the best forum to learn from each other, and I have learned much from some of the many comments others have placed on these posts.

While both sides may be entrenched in their ideas, opinions, and beliefs: I applaud their right to speak their views on these pages.

 
At 2:09 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

Well, I certainly have created a tempest in a teapot.

Melissa - The comment about a Hebrew Sky God was in direct response to CT implying that with out Christianity, there is no moral compass. I was not being sarcastic in my statement. In early Hebrew history, YHWH was one of a number of gods worshipped by what one called call proto-Hebrews. In some Bibles you can still see references to the Elohim,. This is often referring to God, however Elohim is plural. As for overt sexual behavior in public, I understand where you are coming from there. And yes, I would side with someone marching to be able to practice their religion, as long as they are not trying to have their religion recognized as better than or more valid than mine. I do not think think homosexuality is a genetic defect, any more than left-handedness is, or any other non-debilitating difference.


As far all the other comments...y'all be nice please. This is a touchy subject and I was not trying to start a war, simply present another point of view. One may agree or not with the history presented. As Thomas Jefferson said, "It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are 20 gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."



Point is, there are varying beliefs and practices and we need to keep them all in mind. I still stand by my statement that religion and government DO NOT MIX.

 
At 2:40 PM, Blogger Melissa O. Markham said...

Jeff,

I do agree with you that religion and government don't mix. I don't want the government telling me how I can worship and how I can't worship. I also don't want my preacher running the government. Do I want people in office who have the same beliefs as me (Christian, pro life, people's rights to bear arms, ice cream for all people on Sunday), sure. That's why I get to vote. Will I always get what I want, heck no.

So, on that issue, we are in agreement. But on the issue that religion didn't play any role in America's founding, that I do not agree with.

I appreciate your clarifying your remark about the Hebrew Sky God. I reread it this morning before posting about it and it still struck me as an unpleasant thing to say, but hey, if you say you didn't mean it that way, I'll believe you. I have known you for awhile and find you to be a pleasant, kind and tolerant person. I am glad to hear that should I have to fight for my rights to practice my religion that you will support me. I really was feeling like you wouldn't.

And lastly...I am a bit confused, here you said you don't think homosexuality was a genetic defect, but the other day you said you didn't know any homosexual person who chose to be that way. Perhaps defect was the wrong word on my part, but are we agreed that it is a genetic predisposition that leads to people being homosexual (or left handed or alcholics or whatever). Just want to make sure we are on the same page here. I used the word defect since people and animals are meant to procreate and since that is one thing two men or two women cannot do without some sort of intervention, then people who are homosexual deviate from the way animals and people were designed, right?

 
At 3:17 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

What I meant by that statement is that the people I know would not have chosen to be born facing the kind of prejudice and bigotry and hatred that being gay oftens brings. I myself would not have chosen to be born with the genes that make me fat from looking at food. I would have chosen to have been born with ripped abs and big bicep genes. That does not mean that I have genetic defects, simply because I am predisposed to be heavy. And there are examples of of homosexuality in the animal kingdom as well. Just watched a show on The Discovery Channel about a week ago.
Besides, who are we to judge whether or not homosexuality is natural or not. I grew up hearing the old saying "God works in mysterious ways, his wonders to unfold." Indicating to me that we as fallible humans can not know the mind of Deity and that if we believe there is a plan...we have to accept that,
like many of the current military operations, there things in which we have a need to know status, and maybe in this case, we have no need to know.

Of course there is the old "Judge not, lest ye be judged..."

 
At 3:36 PM, Anonymous Sharon said...

Melissa,

I'd affirm your right to believe whatever you like about homosexuality as long as it doesn't involve violence or descrimination on your part. Personally, I don't particularly wish to see anyone getting "physical" in public so I think you are entitled to your viewpoint. Where it get's tricky is that you might not want you children exposed to people aho are homosexual, so does that mean they can't shouldn't be hired to be doctors, teachers, etc?

Also, just from the standpoint of biological accuracy, homosexuality does exist in nature. There are many different species that engage in homosexual behaivor including other primates. Biologists haven't figured out what purpose this serves yet, but it is thought it might sometimes be a natural response to over-population.

Now, back to religion. Should I protect others right to practice their religion? Most of the time I'd say yes; however, what if part of their religion involved suppressing others rights to practice theirs? Should I be tolerant of intolerance itself? I'm certainly not accusing you of being intolerant, but hopefully you get my point.

In several counties in the area children are taken from school in the middle of the school day for Weekday Bible Religious Education classes. Parents see this as their right. On the other side, children who don't participate often have to sit silently or wash blackboards (in worse situations, they are directly harrassed by teachers and students for not participating). This is a problem where one group's right to practice their religion is trampling anothers.

On the same note, another person put forward the notion that schools currently wouldn't allow a Muslim to pray, just as they don't allow Christians. Actually neither is true. Any student can pray in school (to any god they wish) - it just cannot be led by faculty or staff. The courts have repeatedly upheld this. What hasn't been upheld is to have teacher led prayers before class, prayers over the loudspeaker, or other situations which give the impression of endorsement by the school of a particular faith or denomination.

I think alot of these battles of church and state are really about one group who feels their right to practice their religion is being curtailed by secularism, partially because part of their belief is the need to prostlytize in public forums which isn't always appropriate in a multicultural society. I don't know that there is a real solution to this. I'd prefer more spaces that were pluralistic than secular, but one group always seems to use these opportunities to force their beliefs on others... so we become more secular.

 
At 4:21 PM, Blogger Melissa O. Markham said...

Jeff,

Thanks for clarifying what you meant because I definitely misunderstood.

And remember that 'Judge Not, Less you Be Judged' words both ways. I was very careful in my original post to say I work very hard not to judge people. I am not wise enough. But I do have a responsibility to make decisions in my life as to what I choose to be exposed to and to what I choose to have my children exposed to when.

I do however, in retrospect, see a big hole in what I have been saying. When I think of homosexuality, my mind and emotions are focusing on the sexual act which is a small part of the whole picture. So, I have lifted my veil a bit today to let a little more light in and become aware that I need to step back a little. I would have no problem with a homosexual physician, teacher, etc, as long as they weren't promoting their practices in the class room, but I also wouldn't want the heterosexuals promoting what they did with their sex life.

So you see, this long conversation has produced some fruit. I will look more closely at the big picture instead of focusing on the little slices, lest I become like the blind men who were trying to figure out what the elephant was, but not one of them could.

 
At 4:29 PM, Blogger Melissa O. Markham said...

Sharon,

I have enjoyed both of your posts and appreciate your insights and food for thought. If you have read my last post to Jeff, that was partially in response to your question about the teacher, doctor, etc.

I was unaware that there were schools offering bible studies to children and that other children were being left to sit and wash blackboards and be singled out. I do not agree with that type behavior.

Again, that is why I homeschool. And in my homeschool group, there are Jewish people, atheists, Pagans, Christians, Quakers, and those are just the ones I know. We are a very open group and want to know about the beliefs and practices of others. At Christmas, we have a party that celebrates all the beliefs anyone chooses to share and feel our children are stronger for that.

I personally believe that it is not up to me to decide which religion is right for all people. I know which one is right for me. But I am not smart enough to know that Buddha, Allah, the Great Spirit, Zeus, etc aren't all one and the same. I think it highly possible that the Creator presented himself to different people in different ways based on what they could handle or what their culture needed. The thing that backs me up with that is when you go back to reading different mythologies, the similarity of the flood story and the resurrection story and other things that I used to think were uniquely Christian. One day, I hope to have answers to my many questions. Thanks again.

 
At 4:59 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

Melissa, your last paragrapgh was very interesting. I have long held the belief that Deity shows itself to people in the way they need to see it. I have often used the example of Deity being rather like a large multi-faceted jewel. Most people see only one facet and believe that that one facet IS the jewel in its entirety. Others are able to recognize that there are various facets to be seen, but are unable to grasp that all those facets are connected to the same jewel. Then there are those who are pretty sure there all the facets are connected, and may even be able to see several at a time, but can't quite see the entire jewel. Finally, there are those who know that all the facets are but parts of the whole. I count myself in this group. I may prefer certain facets over others, simply because I recognize and align with those facets more keenly than others. An example of this would be the preference I have for Deities of the Celtic nature because of my heritage.

My problem is NOT with Deity, or its many facets. My problems arise when dealing adherants of the various facets. I have often said that I have absolutely no issue with Christians, it is the Christian Chrurch with which I take issue. And of course with those who claim to be Christian and then do terrible things in God's name. Of course I also have an issue with people that claim to be Wiccan and then are found with a bloody cat head in their hand.

Very often when speaking of issues of faith and belief, people will get their hackels up because they believe themselves to have been attacked. This is not the case in this instance, so for anyone feeling attacked, drop your deflector shields, take your phasers off-line and relax. I do so love a good religious discussion; what I do not like is a religious fight.

Peace and Light
Jeff

 
At 6:58 PM, Blogger C.T. said...

Hi Jeff,

I just wanted to clear up some things regarding my position on this matter. Maybe I haven't made myself very clear. First of all, My use of quotes was not intended to make a blanket statement about the founding father's personal faith. The purpose was to show how publically the christian God was invoked historically in american government..

Anyhow, the following is NOT what I'm saying:

1. That the United States is or ever has been a distictly christian nation
2. That all the framers of the Constitution or every public figure of that time period was a
devoted, orthodox christian
3. That there is no separation of church and state whatsoever
4. That our nation should be a church-state

This IS what I'm saying:

1. That the pilgrims and puritans DID found the american colonies as a distincly christian civilization (a city on a hill)
2. That our government has historically acknowledged the christian God as the source of law
3. That there is no separation of church and state as is commonly, and modernly understood. The concept doesn't imply that the two entities are opposed to each other. On the contrary, it means they function with different (not exclusive) jurisdictions
4. That this modern conception of separation of church and state is not even hinted at in the 1st ammendment. The first ammendment simply says that the federal government doesn't have the power to make LAWS telling us who we must worship, or make LAWS prohibiting us to worship who we want.
5. That the federal government (including court orders) has no business or power to impose their religious views upon the states or individuals. This is what happened to Roy Moore.

The purpose of the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights is to protect the people from the government. Now days, we seem to think the opposite - that those things are supposed to protect the government from the people. This is a plain misconception, and a misconception which is damaging our religious freedom, Roy Moore's religious freedom, and the religious freedom of Alabama.

 

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