Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Freedom of Religion and Thought

Article I (First Amendment)

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

We have to remember that our founding fathers were reacting to England's struggles with the establishment of an 'official' religion. There was tremendous persecution done on behalf of religious differences. This was one of the main reasons that the colonists came here. This is why this issue is put first in the First Amendment. It was that important. It still is.

Let's look at what it says exactly. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..." What that means is that there will be no law that establishes a National Religion of any kind. What it does not mean is that there can't be laws that respect religious establishments. But to hear some people talk you'd think that's what they think it means. They are totally misreading it. They want to think it means that the government can't have any religious expressions. But that's NOT what it says. People who object to "In God We Trust" on our money and "Under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance and any other phrase that mentions God or any other religious concept are actually VIOLATING the First Amendment. They want to conveniently forget that "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" part. Hello? Free exercise thereof. That means that I have every right to say Christmas, and so does my kids' school and the courthouse and any other person or place that wants to. Calling a decorated tree in a government building a 'Christmas tree' is NOT establishing a religion. It is only the free exercise thereof.

I know some people will say, "Oh, but what about other religions? Why can't they have whatever to celebrate their holidays? If you have a Christmas tree then you should have a Hanukkah tree or whatever too." Well, no one is stopping someone from doing that if they really want it. If you have a town that is mostly Jewish then they would probably focus on their own traditions. If a Christian minority there felt left out then they could do something of their own. Big deal. With freedom comes the responsibility to respect other views. That's what the whole First Amendment is about anyway. And that applies equally to atheists, fundamentalists, and everyone else. If someone is offended by a Christmas tree then they need to reread their history and the Constitution.

Our founding fathers were very spiritual people. They believed in God, and they believed that Divine Providence guided them in creating our nation. People need to go back and reread the Declaration of Independence. For your convenience here are the first two and the last paragraphs:

The Declaration of Independence of the Thirteen Colonies

In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. —Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain [George III] is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.


We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

There is a lot of mention of God in there. In today's political environment if we were trying to establish our Independence from Britain it would never happen because of all the dumbasses who can't understand plain English and who refuse to try. That really scares me and bothers me.

The previous was copied from a December 2005 posting.

Today I'd like to extend the discussion a bit. In the months since that posting it seems this issue has only gotten bigger and more serious. It not only affects holiday expressions but everyday issues.

Recently I've gone 'round and 'round with some angry atheists. They insist that Religion is the source of all evil in the world. Is that not the stupidest thing you've ever heard? Of course, no one denies that wars have been fought with Religion closely related to the conflicts. But to say that Religion is evil and has done no good for humanity is just plain dumb. Many wars have been fought over other basic needs, so should we also condemn those needs as well?

Like it or not, Religion is one of the pillars of civilization. It is one of those things that truly separated/separates us from the lower primates. To call for Religion to be abolished is about as silly as calling for architecture to be abolished.

Architecture is another pillar of civilization that has separated us from lower primates. It varies by culture and location, but it is always necessary for humans to survive. Physical shelter is one of our most basic needs, and the architecture that humans have developed and evolved over our history is evidence of our creativity in fulfilling our basic needs.

Religion is a kind of shelter too. It is a shelter for humanity to help it survive the social, emotional, and spiritual hardships that life entails. Religion is involved with fulfilling the basic need for social security (not at all the same as the government program called "Social Security"). Religion has given order and purpose to our lives. It has also varied according to culture and location, and it is evolving as our human society continues to grow. Without Religion humans would still be acting like wild animals with no "higher" attributes. To deny this fact is the same as a child thinking that because a ball is out of his sight, then it must not exist anymore.

Of course, anyone is free to disagree with me, but he would be wrong. ;-) I know my history and my psychology and my sociology and all those other "inferior" aspects of existence. But without them there would be no universities for those high falutin atheists to occupy and exercise their own freedoms. It is so very disturbing to me that these same atheists who claim that Religion is evil are the first ones to turn hateful and vengeful when they are questioned or confronted. Do they really "believe" in Freedom or anything else? I think not. Or at least, I see no evidence of it.

Hey, if someone wants to be an atheist I don't give two shits about it as long as they leave me and my religion alone. Freedom of Speech does not guarantee that atheists have to right to relentlessly criticize, belittle, or otherwise verbally abuse others with whom they disagree. But even I am susceptible to returning fire when attacked. I realize that some religious people are just as guilty of condemning people with whom they disagree, and that is unfortunate and this message is intended for them too.

While Religion is an essential pillar of civilization and will continue to be even though some will always try to destroy it, we all must learn to accept differences in thought and belief if our civilization is to continue evolving in a positive direction. Destroying any of the pillars of our shelters (of whatever kind) will only weaken the entire construction of our human civilization.*

And that is this week's sermonette.

* A note about Science: I love science and generally take a 'scientific' view of the world, but I am also aware that Science cannot yet answer ALL questions and fulfill ALL needs. It could be argued that the atheists who place all of their faith and belief in Science are basically worshipping it, just like the religious people who place all of their faith and belief in God to provide the ultimate and final answers. On a certain level there is no distinction between these approaches. Science is as much a human creation as religion. Oh, I know that's really going to prickle the sensitivities of some, but if they could only remove their emotional attachments to certain thoughts then they would be able to see it that way too.


James said...

Since it seems the Koran is being interpreted in a way that compels some to try and destroy all that is not Islam, if they succeed then religion will be responsible for destroying the world, at least as we know it. How about "excessive faith in the wrong thing is evil if acted upon" as a compromise?

Rae Ann said...

Hi James, yes, that is absolutely fair. I never intended to say that all religion is benign all the time. Anything that impels people to do violence and violate others' rights is worthy of condemnation. It is unfortunate that people put their faith in "wrong" things like that, but freedom inherently comes with such risk.

I'm frequently amazed at the wisdom of the Founding Fathers and how they seemed to have such a firm grasp of this issue, and I think that's why in the Declaration of Independence they worded it as the "*pursuit* of happiness" and not the "*guarantee* of happiness." I hope you can understand the difference I mean there.

Thanks for your comment.

James said...

Ah, yes, pursuit not guarantee. Of course! Like a privilege versus a right. Very much so. With great power comes great responsibility, no?


Rae Ann said...

Yes, exactly! Though it's a pretty fine line sometimes that separates rights and privileges, but that might be the topic for another post later. Thanks again!