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Author Topic:   Is America a Christian Nation?
Otto Tellick
Member (Idle past 667 days)
Posts: 288
From: PA, USA
Joined: 02-17-2008


Message 32 of 206 (547055)
02-16-2010 12:27 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Percy
02-14-2010 8:15 AM


From the OP:

Percy writes:

It should come as no surprise that the same Texas Board of Education that is rewriting biology books is also rewriting American history books, and Don McLeroy is again the driving force.

Now that McLeroy has made the audacious step to inject an explicit reference to Christianity into public school policy, perhaps our best hope is that there will be a law suit to enforce the First Amendment on this travesty of a school board.

All the documentation of U.S. law and history are against McLeroy. I'd love to see him and his cronies get the same treatment as the old Dover, PA school board. It ought to be at least as easy a win for secularism. No weaseling around with all those complicated science issues; this is basic, straight-forward stuff that should be a slam dunk.


autotelic adj. (of an entity or event) having within itself the purpose of its existence or happening.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Percy, posted 02-14-2010 8:15 AM Percy has acknowledged this reply

  
Otto Tellick
Member (Idle past 667 days)
Posts: 288
From: PA, USA
Joined: 02-17-2008


Message 33 of 206 (547061)
02-16-2010 1:40 AM
Reply to: Message 11 by Buzsaw
02-14-2010 5:56 PM


Buzsaw writes:

What they established primarily was the freedom to practice religion anywhere, be it in school, government or private sector, uninhibited. ... Thus no fuss was raised about praying and Bible reading in schools or anything like that.

This is missing the point {AbE: actually, it's just wrong} in a couple of big ways. To start with, what they established primarily was that government would have no direct involvement, and take no specific position, whether positive or negative, with respect to any particular religion, where "particular" entails not just "Christian Sect X" as opposed to "Christian Sect Y", but also "Any Christian Sect" (i.e. Christianity in general) as opposed to any non-Christian religion.

Secondly, there definitely was a fuss raised to make sure that this separation of religion from government was absolute in practical terms:

(1) Government must not tax any religious organization -- not only would this raise a threat of persecution by taxation, but it would also make the government financially dependent on the dominant churches, to the detriment of minority religious groups. (Think back to the relative scale of government budgets in the first few decades after independence.)

(2) Government must likewise not fund any religious organization, for reasons that should be obvious.

(3) Laws must not be based solely on religious doctrine -- each law must have a motivation and purpose that allow it to stand on its own in the face of rational and objective scrutiny, without appeal to supernatural causation or scriptural exegesis. (Obviously, many laws have been passed whose "secular" bases would not really withstand objective scrutiny, but folks like Buz can at least point out that church/state separation tends to save churches the embarrassment of being responsible for many of those mistakes. Meanwhile, folks like me can speculate on how much worse things would have been without this separation.)

There's some interesting material on the topic at the Library of Congress web site:

http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/religion/rel05.html

I was impressed by this interesting tidbit:

quote:
Arguments used in Virginia were similar to those that had been employed in Massachusetts a few years earlier. Proponents of a general religious tax, principally Anglicans, urged that it should be supported on "Principles of Public Utility" because Christianity offered the "best means of promoting Virtue, Peace, and Prosperity." Opponents were led by Baptists, supported by Presbyterians (some of whom vacillated on the issue), and theological liberals. As in Massachusetts, they argued that government support of religion corrupted it. Virginians also made a strong libertarian case that government involvement in religion violated a people's civil and natural rights.

I really like a position that is based on documentation. You should try it sometime, Buz.

Edited by Otto Tellick, : small addition to first paragraph

Edited by Otto Tellick, : No reason given.


autotelic adj. (of an entity or event) having within itself the purpose of its existence or happening.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 11 by Buzsaw, posted 02-14-2010 5:56 PM Buzsaw has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 35 by New Cat's Eye, posted 02-16-2010 11:41 AM Otto Tellick has responded
 Message 55 by Buzsaw, posted 02-21-2010 11:07 PM Otto Tellick has responded

  
Otto Tellick
Member (Idle past 667 days)
Posts: 288
From: PA, USA
Joined: 02-17-2008


Message 34 of 206 (547067)
02-16-2010 2:27 AM
Reply to: Message 18 by joshua4missions
02-15-2010 7:58 AM


This should clear things up:

(Found at: http://zalandria.wordpress.com/2007/01/10/george-washington-v-jerry-falwell-whos-lying/)

Edited by Otto Tellick, : included actual image to supplement the link (since bare links are frowned upon)


autotelic adj. (of an entity or event) having within itself the purpose of its existence or happening.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 18 by joshua4missions, posted 02-15-2010 7:58 AM joshua4missions has not yet responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 36 by Percy, posted 02-16-2010 12:55 PM Otto Tellick has acknowledged this reply

  
Otto Tellick
Member (Idle past 667 days)
Posts: 288
From: PA, USA
Joined: 02-17-2008


Message 51 of 206 (547708)
02-21-2010 10:33 PM
Reply to: Message 35 by New Cat's Eye
02-16-2010 11:41 AM


Hi CS,

(3) Laws must not be based solely on religious doctrine -- each law must have a motivation and purpose that allow it to stand on its own in the face of rational and objective scrutiny, without appeal to supernatural causation or scriptural exegesis.

Where does that come from?

I'm grateful to misha for jumping in with a well-documented answer to your question. (I wish I could make this a reply to two or three people at once -- I appreciate Taq's vote of approval as well, and I should mention that I wasn't quoting from some other source.)

My own response to your question (now that I'm finally getting around to it) is that my point #3 follows from simple logical entailment (and I'm glad to see, thanks to misha, that there's legal precedent to back that up): if Congress were to enact a law whose motivation is based solely on the doctrine of a given religion, it would in effect be legislating belief in that religion (and the executive branch would be obliged to enforce that belief, punishing those who deny/violate it, and/or rewarding those who accept/practice it).

At the risk of derailing the topic, a couple of examples would be legislating that any abortion constitutes murder (even when it saves the life of the mother), and that stem cell research cannot use the embryos discarded by fertility labs. The objections to abortion and embryonic stem cell research are based on a religious doctrine that the individual soul of a new human being is physically present as soon as conception occurs, and should be granted all the rights and protections of a breathing human being. Needless to say, this belief is not shared by all religions, let alone by agnostics and atheists; in any case, it is a belief that each individual (most pertinently, each pregnant woman) must accept or refuse on their own, because rational, objective observation so far has no way to determine when a living organism becomes endowed with a soul. The only way to posit a firm answer to that question is to assert a religious doctrine or a personal belief.

That's not to say that we could never pass laws that limit the availability of abortion or embryonic stem cell research. It's just that doing so requires that there be a rational motivation (other than personal/religious belief), which objective minds would find not only acceptable, but preferable to the reasons for not limiting these things. Doing it just because these are sins against God (in some people's beliefs) would be doing it wrong, and the consequences would be dire.

But the main topic here relates to education, and how the role of Christian religions should be portrayed in U.S. history books. To say that Christian religions were a significant factor in the formation of our form of government is certainly true: both the distaste for "rule by Divine Right" (as mentioned by Taq), and the active conflicts among various Christian sects within the new nation (as mentioned in one of my earlier replies), led the founders and voters to choose a form of government that is purely and scrupulously secular. These things should be understood clearly by all U.S. students.

In light of the historical facts, to say that our government is founded on any form of Christian religion is demonstrably false, and it would be an offense (ethically and legally) for any school board to enforce such a view.


autotelic adj. (of an entity or event) having within itself the purpose of its existence or happening.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 35 by New Cat's Eye, posted 02-16-2010 11:41 AM New Cat's Eye has not yet responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 57 by Dr Adequate, posted 02-21-2010 11:16 PM Otto Tellick has responded

  
Otto Tellick
Member (Idle past 667 days)
Posts: 288
From: PA, USA
Joined: 02-17-2008


Message 53 of 206 (547712)
02-21-2010 10:55 PM
Reply to: Message 50 by Buzsaw
02-21-2010 10:26 PM


Re: Representative Leadership
Buzsaw writes:

But the Constitution does not call for minority rule. It calls for a representative republic wherein the majority chooses the representatives who determine policy.

Yet the Constitution does call for really important limitations on what sorts of policy those majority-elected representatives can make. If it were true that the majority shared a single, common religious belief, and this was also shared by the representatives that they elect, those representatives would still be forbidden, because of the First Amendment, to pass laws that enforce or endorse that religious belief (i.e. establish it by law), because doing so would violate the inalienable rights of the minority.

You do understand that part, don't you Buz?

Or are you stuck on the opinion that this piddly little minority should just get over whatever their problem is and adopt your beliefs? (Perhaps you'd like to see some government incentives to promote your beliefs?) If that's what you think, you're living in the wrong country. (Good luck finding one that's right for you.)


autotelic adj. (of an entity or event) having within itself the purpose of its existence or happening.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 50 by Buzsaw, posted 02-21-2010 10:26 PM Buzsaw has not yet responded

  
Otto Tellick
Member (Idle past 667 days)
Posts: 288
From: PA, USA
Joined: 02-17-2008


Message 59 of 206 (547720)
02-22-2010 12:00 AM
Reply to: Message 48 by New Cat's Eye
02-18-2010 10:21 AM


Hi again, CS. I just wanted to add something on this point:

CS writes:

Taq writes:

At the same time, this does not mean that laws derived from a theological view are wrong.

Too often I hear people claiming they are.

Its all those pop-neo-atheists that just despise religion...

I understand what you mean, and it is a regrettable situation. It's also regrettable that the same applies in the other direction: "{yadda yadda...} does not mean that laws derived from a scientific/secular view are wrong. Too often I hear people claiming they are. It's all those fundamentalist-literalist-Christians that just despise science..."

And since you don't see the other atheists {other Christians} all up in arms about it, then obviously they condone and support it.

You see how it is?

Obviously, most (all?) religions encompass most of what we atheists would consider mankind's core ethical/moral foundation. That is what the various religions have in common, and that (we are bound to conclude) is what they all have right. When we fail to acknowledge this, we are in error. But then, it's also an error when any one religion claims to be the sole proponent or source for this or that virtue (or all virtues generally).

We should expect a lot of overlap between views derived from religion and those derived objectively. But as we often see here at EvC, there's a tendency for atheists to dwell on those religious views -- including scriptural passages -- that defy any sort of objective sensibility, and even run counter to what we now hold as our ethical foundation. And of course, the whole reason for EvC's existence is the compulsion of some Christians to refute science when it defies their religious sensibilities.


autotelic adj. (of an entity or event) having within itself the purpose of its existence or happening.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 48 by New Cat's Eye, posted 02-18-2010 10:21 AM New Cat's Eye has not yet responded

  
Otto Tellick
Member (Idle past 667 days)
Posts: 288
From: PA, USA
Joined: 02-17-2008


Message 62 of 206 (547723)
02-22-2010 12:19 AM
Reply to: Message 55 by Buzsaw
02-21-2010 11:07 PM


Re: Establishment & Practice Not Same
(Buzsaw:) What they established primarily was the freedom to practice religion anywhere...

(Me:) ...what they established primarily was that government would have no direct involvement ... with ... any particular religion...

(Buzsaw:) You've got that wrong, Otto.

Actually, Buz, it seems that you and I are simply placing primary focus on different clauses of the First Amendment. I'm focusing on the first clause (Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, ...), while you are focusing on the second one (... or prohibiting the free exercise thereof).

Now, I realize it would be nit-picky and pedantic to point out that the first clause is in fact "primary" in at least one sense of that word (and personally, I consider that clause to be the more important one), but I have no problem with treating both clauses as equally important. Do you have a problem with that?

Edited by Otto Tellick, : (had to disable "smilies":)


autotelic adj. (of an entity or event) having within itself the purpose of its existence or happening.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 55 by Buzsaw, posted 02-21-2010 11:07 PM Buzsaw has not yet responded

  
Otto Tellick
Member (Idle past 667 days)
Posts: 288
From: PA, USA
Joined: 02-17-2008


Message 65 of 206 (547736)
02-22-2010 3:22 AM
Reply to: Message 57 by Dr Adequate
02-21-2010 11:16 PM


... The objections to abortion and embryonic stem cell research are based on a religious doctrine ...

But these would not be Establishment Clause cases as such

Thanks for the clarification. As I mentioned later in the post you quoted, laws that concur with religious doctrine could be passed, given rational motivation. But as you point out (and as demonstrated by things like "blue laws" -- no commerce/liquor sales on Sundays, etc), such laws can be passed and enforced without regard to objectivity, so long as they don't explicitly invoke or assert their religious basis, so I stand corrected.

In that circumstance, such a law can (and generally will) be repealed when a majority of voters or their representatives take action to do so (in the event that they come to see it as a bad law having no merit), or when some alternate religious group challenges it (in the event that it interferes with the practice of that other religion).

It may be that the sort of legal precedent I would hope for hasn't happened yet (but maybe some legal scholar will make my day): that laws like criminalizing abortion or halting stem cell research, if enacted, could be struck down on the grounds that they have no motivation at all outside of a specific religious doctrine, and thereby serve to establish that religion, in violation of the First Amendment.


autotelic adj. (of an entity or event) having within itself the purpose of its existence or happening.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 57 by Dr Adequate, posted 02-21-2010 11:16 PM Dr Adequate has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 69 by Dr Adequate, posted 02-22-2010 6:26 PM Otto Tellick has acknowledged this reply

  
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