Religion and Government - My Take


I just spent some time on the Bad Astronomy blog reading through the comments on the blog post titled "We are not a Christian nation" and I really needed a place to vent.

The gist of the article (I encourage you to read it and not trust my evaluation) is that these United States is not a Christian Nation, but rather a nation of mostly Christians. He also goes on to mention the Freedom From Religion Foundation and his firm belief in the principles it pursues. He makes several valid points and, in my opinion, he presents a rather well-reasoned position.

It's the comments that have me all bothered. There really is two sides to the comments. Either there's the idea that Christianity should be preached from the legislative floor, as our country was specifically founded on Christian tenets, or that all religion is bunk and should be rigorously removed from the curriculum. I relent that there is a minority opinion that is moderate, but the fact that they are the minority disturbs me. And thus I must speak.

Religious Right

Oh, I know that title will get lots of people angry at me. It's screamed as an epithet and primarily used for derision. Sadly, feel they earn that derision through their actions. I wish to explain why I feel such enmity with them.

Now, let me be clear. I am a religious man. My beliefs are firmly ensconced within the tenets of my faith. I have very strict principles that are defined by the church I attend. Why do I follow these principles? They grant me comfort. They explain experiences that I have had. They teach me to become a better member of the human family. I am not perfect, but when I follow these principles I feel the world is a better place.

But I am not so blind as to think that others can not believe differently from me. I would argue that even within my specific religious organization, every last follower has a slightly different view of what their faith means. Now, that's probably not nearly as significant a difference as with other faiths, of course. Ours is a rigidly held doctrine. But I am certain I will never find someone that completely agrees with me on every last point of the law. If I expected that, I would be a church of one person. Wonders of wonders, though, we still manage to get along. If someone prays with a slightly different inflection than I do, I chalk it up to better breeding on their part and continue with life. My faith is personal, and only I am responsible for my achievement (or failure to achieve) of my hoped-for divine reward.

So what about others outside my faith? Same response. If someone decides they need to pray differently than I do, then fine. How should their words affect my state-of-mind. Even better, perhaps something they say will improve my actions. I have hard proof that there are people not of my faith that live a better life than I do. I respect that, and I hope I can become better by learning from them.

The Religious Right feel that our nation is rapidly degrading because their ideals are not specifically taught in school and legislated in government. Well, there was a time (and still is, actually) when certain governments imposed a belief system onto the governed populace. Puritans were not well pleased with the state religion of England. Kurds had beef with the Sunni-controlled actions of Iraq. Most every religion in existence was rather put-off by the Communist control of Soviet Russia. Any time a government tells anyone how they should or should not believe, someone will be slighted.

Our constitution specifically tells us that the government is not in the business to either dictate a religion or eliminate a specific faith. It's not their job. Their job is to protect each of us from each other - and arguably ourselves. How can your prayer to your god harm me? It can't, and thus it should not be legislated by any governing body. Now, if your faith tells you to go out and kill my dog, then I expect the government to come in and help arbitrate the issue. Not because of your faith, but because you have done something that directly causes harm to me and mine.

Perhaps I look forward to someday hearing a tea-bagger pronounce, “In the name of God in Heaven we need to fight to allow a Muslim the chance to pray!” Like that will ever happen.

Liberal Left

Of course, another epithet, but only because it is well earned. In the comments to the above-mentioned blog post, they were the most reasoned responses, except in one particular point. They repeatedly stated that Atheism is not a religion. That simply is not true under my definition of religion. Religion to me is the belief and practice of a particular set of principles. Religion deals with the existence or non-existence of God. The simple fact is everyone believes one way or the other. This is because no one has conclusive proof that God does or does not exist. First, you can't prove he doesn't exist, simply because this is a very big universe and, so far, anything is possible. Eleven dimensions, anyone? Second, no one can prove to you that God exists, without actually bringing God directly to you for examination. And even still, physical presentation of a person does not implicitly prove that that person is God. Just isn't possible.

So, I believe in an omnipotent being that has benevolent aspirations for me. That is my religion. To an Atheist, man in general is the only acting force in the know universe, and thus an Atheist believes in the potential of man. Whether it's more concrete or not doesn't matter, the potential of man does not yet physically exist, and thus must be looked forward to with faith.

Of course, I feel pity for people that only have their fellow human to have faith in. They aren't always the most reliable things.

Now that we see that everyone has a system of belief, whether in God, gods or man, the question becomes should your specific belief be pushed onto the populous of a particular system of government? The clear answer is no. Our biggest concern seems to be with public schools. Isn't the idea of schools to present information objectively and let people decide? Why can't we teach Big Bang with it's various proofs alongside Creationism and it's proofs? Now this, of course, would depend heavily on parents to properly guide their children. It's not fair to dump conflicting information onto the indecisive minds of children and hope they will choose wisely. A guiding influence must be provided, and that is the direct responsibility of the parent. When each of my children have been taught about the origins of the universe, I have always made it a point to explain, with my spouse, my opinion on the matter. I then let my children form their own opinion, and encourage them to discuss that opinion with me. Is this so hard? Seems so.

My Take

There are so many facets to these various issues, I cannot go into every point. The simple matter is each side is attempting to impose their ideas on everyone else and eliminate any contrary point-of-view. The government should not be making our decisions for us. Neither should the government be taking our choices away, except in the case of harm to the individual. Let us stand beside the the saying of Voltaire, “Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so too.”

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