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[Facebook] My views on Religion and Government
Posted this to Facebook a few minutes ago. Thought I'd share the link here as well.

Please let me know if you have trouble accessing the page, and I'll copy/paste it here.
Bah. The link takes me to a log in page for FB, and I don't do FB anymore.
Ok, wasn't sure if it was going to do that. Here is the post:

My views on religion and government
by Dw Adams on Friday, August 26, 2011 at 7:22pm

To my family and friends who may be Christian. What you personally believe is your business and anything I say or post here shouldn't be considered a personal attack on your beliefs. My issue is with the organizations who try to impose their belief system into the governments of the United States (city/state/national). With one reading of the United States Constitution and knowing the history of Europe prior to the founding of our country, it's easy to see religion has no place in our government.

We are a secular nation in which all men and woman are equal, all religions are equal, all races are equal and those that don't claim a religion are just as equal to those that do, THIS is the most basic premise of the Constitution. This same document gives you the right to worship without interference, as long as it's done on your dime and not the governments. State funded education is for all citizens. Religion is for those citizens who believe. Please teach your religion in your church, and leave the secular education to those that are trained to teach it.

We are not a Christian nation, but we are a nation of Christians, and Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Buddhists, atheists, pagans and whatever else anyone is free to believe in. Your church, your rules, your home all belong to you and you alone. By trying to force others to live your religion, you're taking away their freedom to live their lives their way. When you claim that the United States is a Christian country, you mar the very rich and diverse history that has built it.

I hope I haven't made anyone angry, but as an American who does know American history, this has been bothering me for many years and I had to get it off my chest.

Well put Skeeve.

It's a very simple concept, but one so many insist on complicating and twisting into what it isn't supposed to be.
Skeeve, I would like to agree with you without equivocation but I cannot. You state that this is not a christian country but christianity is the dominant religion by a wide margin. It would be easier to be elected to a national position as a muslim than an atheist.

The dominance in numbers means most elected officials will be christian. In the case of many states very fundamentalist christians. This fact must affect the thought processes of these elected officials in subtle and sometimes obvious ways. Their actions can not be unaffected by their religion. They may get stopped by the judicial system on occasion but only when their actions are particularly egregious.

The US is not by statute or design a christian nation. I do believe however that it is a christian nation in practice.
With regard to John's comments, this highlights the difficulty of using blurry concepts like "Christian nation" as if it had a concrete, accepted meaning. It doesn't, of course, and thus it's almost impossible for people to agree on anything evoked by it unless invoked by people they already agree with, and sometimes not even then.

There are many ways in which to define and measure such concepts that could be embodied by the words "Christian nation," but here I think the relevant one is based upon the motivation the people whom Skeeve is addressing might have for talking about it at all: to draw a line between "proper" Americans and the rest of us.

It is ultimately an attempt to commit the logical fallacy of composition, in which one assumes that what is true of a thing's parts must therefore be true of the whole. Sometimes this works, such as when all the parts of birdhouse are all painted blue we can properly conclude that the birdhouse is also blue. But that only works because the facets are limited -- the only dimension we are required to measure is color -- and because the dimension of color is, under normal circumstances, unaffected by construction. If all the parts are of a given color, then the the whole thing is that color.

But this doesn't work for nations in the least! First, at no point in American history has everyone been Christian. The parts are varied and thus along the single dimension of religion the whole is therefore also varied regardless of percentages or how one chooses to define the religions or even religion itself.

Second, even if all the parts were the same along that dimension, nations are too complicated to be described along any one dimension. A "secular nation" might easily be composed entirely of Christians who are constrained by law from governing solely by or wholly enforcing Christian rules.

Third, the whole can sometimes possess properties that parts cannot and vice versa. For instance, people breathe -- nations to not.

Agreeing that we're a "Christian nation" might seem like a nice backhanded way of complaining that we, as atheists, are being systematically kept out of certain loops, but I think it gives the entire business way more credit than it deserves. Rather than accept such a hoary bit of shorthand, I think it's best to just describe the nation for what it is in the most concise manner possible, which is to lay out explicitly all facets and their measurements and then elaborate on the consequences if you wish.

Doing that, I think you'll find that Skeeve and John really do agree after all, and that the people with whom Skeeve is in disagreement are simply making unsupported and unsupportable statements, sabotaged by vague and self-serving way they've chosen to construct them.
Both Cynic and John have some good points. The concept of a 'Christian Nation' that is anything other than a theocracy is pretty fuzzy. The other side of the argument though is that Britain's policy of shipping religious malcontents here as well as Spain and Mexico's ongoing Inquisition efforts did create a sort of militant Christianity in this country. In fact the tension between various Christian factions was a major reason for a need to include freedom of religion in the Constitution.

I personally think that a lot of the political drama that is going on right now is because of greed more than religion but the use of terms like 'Christian Nation' and other buzzwords is a great way to motivate people to overlook their real interests in order to protect a false set of 'spiritual' interests.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
Bob of QF
Well stated, Skeeve.

I have no additional comments to say.
Quantum Junction: Use both lanes

Reality is that which is left, after you stop believing.
I still like this. Wink
"The world is my country, and do good is my religion." - Thomas Paine
I'm not so reticent about making Christians angry at this point... it is clear that in contemporary Republican politics Christians have no reservations about ramming their nonsensical dogma and religious moral judgements down our proverbial throats. I think what is really different about the current political climate is that Christians are no longer coy or politically correct about ramming said dogma down everyone's throats... they do so openly and with great sense of entitlement. Christians now mock anyone that dares to defy their moral edicts and social activism.

I think it has gone so far now that "moderate" Christians can no longer claim to be bystanders since very, very few have spoken against the new American Taliban party (GOP of course) and in fact many are emboldened to inject their religious beliefs into mainstream politics. For this reason we now have an open religious test for practically any American political office and good luck trying to get any votes if you're not white, right, and Christian. America is becoming a theocracy, if it already isn't one.

I do understand why you may not want to piss-off Christians you personally know though! Smile
I'm not so sure about that IA. The current political nonsense was always driven by a relatively small faction of the Republican Party. Watching the current GOP race I think we are beginning to see a real divide between the extremist factions of the GOP and their more mainstream leadership.

They've been pandering to religious extremists and now those extremists are forcing the GOP into a position where their candidates are unelectable outside of the South. Maybe not this time around but I think that we are going to slowly see Republicans forced to moderate their social conservatism.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
I wonder how much this is being driven by the aging baby boomer generation. They're more likely to be Republicans and to paraphrase Bill Cosby, they're "old and trying to get into Heaven now."

I'm not necessarily naive enough to suggest that the nation as a whole will lean progressively ever more left as older generations die off (much as physics advances by funerals), but the Republican party might in the short term for this reason alone.

IA (welcome back!) is right about the litmus test, however. Getting elected to the presidency while openly admitting to being an atheist isn't any more likely now than any other time. There are theocracies and there are theocracies and to paraphrase Forest Gump (since I'm doing that today), "government is as government does." While legally the US "is" becoming less of a theocracy with each new overturned ruling that relates to religion, politicians beholden to an increasingly insistent demographic that insists on theocratic policies have been increasing the "does" part of the Gump Theory.

Being given to my patented Boa Constrictor theory of right-infringing group death rattles, I feel compelled to suggest that the cycle mentioned above is vicious: the more politicians feel compelled to propose religion-based legislation, the more cases go to trial, the less theocratic we come on paper, the more riled up the base gets, the more pressure they put on the politicians, etc...

As Seeker says, it's gotten to the point were the GOP is going to have to start ignoring them if they want to remain viable. As the trend is for younger generations to be less religious, this will improve anyway. My theory is that things have gotten as painful as they are at present because the baby boomers is a large and particularly angry demographic.
Cynic wrote:[/url]

I wonder how much this is being driven by the aging baby boomer generation. They're more likely to be Republicans and to paraphrase Bill Cosby, they're "old and trying to get into Heaven now."

I'm not necessarily naive enough to suggest that the nation as a whole will lean progressively ever more left as older generations die off (much as physics advances by funerals), but the Republican party might in the short term for this reason alone...

I think a lot of it is the baby boomer generation. WWII led the US to a sort of global prominence that it never had before. The generation born just after it grew up with a lot of idealism.

I've always considered a lot of the subsequent civil rights movement to be fueled by that idealism. People felt that WWII made the US the 'righter of wrongs' and that every wrong could be addressed. I think that the whole Reagan era was the conservative pushback as that idealism gave way to cynicism. Now its just the old guard clinging to power.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
seeker, you are absolutely correct, especially concerning the civil rights movement. I have been quite disappointed in the younger generations and their relative conservatism since I was young, particularly what I regard as the pernicious influence of Reagan and the 'me generation' which came about around that time. It was suddenly in vogue to be proud of being selfish. I'm still trying to figure out how it all went wrong.
"If I owned both Hell and Texas, I'd live in Hell and rent out Texas." - General Sheridan
catman - My theory is that The US got out of the Great Depression and WWII by becoming extremely liberal and that led to the conservative pushback. The question is are we at the end of the conservative pushback or is the pendulum still swinging to the right.

Personally I'm very encouraged by the reactions to the Republican run to social conservatism. These are Republican tactics that worked for them in previous elections but they don't seem to be working now.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
I think part of the reason for the conservative swing after WW2 was fear of the USSR and the branding of so many as Communists by J. McCarthy, as well as reaction to FDR's liberal policies.

I hope the pendulum is swinging back. It is encouraging that Santorum has made so many enemies with his reactionary statements, and that Romney has been criticized roundly for not being a True Conservative. Many evangelicals are not pleased with his religion either.
"If I owned both Hell and Texas, I'd live in Hell and rent out Texas." - General Sheridan
I was doing some reading tonight for an art history class, specifically discussing the swing to liberalism in the Weimar Republic after the fall of the German monarchy after WWI that enabled newer forms of art to be practiced in the light. That got me thinking about the subsequent conservative backlash that led to Hitler. Then this thread got me thinking about backlashes in general.

It's possible that the general format is to cycle between conservatism and liberalism though mechanisms such as "get back to ye olden, golden days" and "whatever we're doing now must be wrong" (see also, "familiarity breeds contempt"). But of course concrete circumstances modulate the cycle.

Rather than suggesting that this or that circumstance caused a swing, I'd suggest that this or that circumstance informed a swing that was largely inevitable anyway. Of course, this dynamic applies more particularly to relatively free societies.

Tonight's reading also got me wondering if the American drive toward conservatism after WWII wasn't so much out of fear as it was a classic case of first becoming the "monster" (of Germany and Japan at that time) and then the equally classic response of taking on the opposite stance of whoever we regard as the enemy (Cold War Communist USSR).

Not that those impulses are necessarily mutually exclusive...After so many years of post-9/11 derangement, the US seems to have taken on the tendency to attempt to define itself as the opposite of the Middle East while simultaneously slipping down the slope of becoming just like them in an effort to preserve that.

Or maybe trying to wrap my head around early 1900s Supremacist and art-constructivist art (trying to get past my initial "it's silly crap!" reflex still) is just making me cynical and flippant. Won't know until Tuesday, I suspect...
Russian Suprematism is really a great example though. Russians saw themselves as having solved all of their problems by becoming communist (the fact that they never actually became communist just shows how deluded everybody was). The art they produced was entirely idealistic.

Malevich's whole notion was that of purity. His work contained no references to the real world, no tricks of perspective or shadow. Everything was simple geometric shapes, pure forms. The great irony is that Stalin didn't like it, perhaps because he was too pragmatic to ever accept ideological purity as realistic just as he never allowed communist ideals to get in the way of his need for power.

I think that the whole Middle East conflict has really been unique in that it polarizes us militarily and religiously. The US has always seen itself as a sort of modern day Israel with manifest destiny as a substitute for the Covenant. Our country's slavish devotion to recreating Israel and propping it up created a sort of religious polarization well before the current conflicts.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
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