Saturday, July 4, 2015

Let Freedom Ring


This 4th of July, Christians are moaning and groaning.  "Our freedom is lost", they cry.  "The constitution has been trampled upon."  As they predict the end of the United States as we know it, and liken the current situation to the fall of Rome, they bellow out the most ominous of warnings:  "Those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it."  How dire their predictions are.  How dismal the future they foresee.

Get a grip, guys.  There is a class of people who now have the right to get married in all states, and the federal government will give full recognition to those marriages.  That's it.  I defy any of you to tell me what right has been taken away from you.  What freedom have you lost, aside from telling these people that they're not allowed to marry?  Please tell me.  I'd really like to know what all this infantile whining is about.

I have already addressed the historically ignorant comparison of modern liberalism to the forces that brought down the Roman empire.  I agree that it is worthwhile to learn history and to take lessons from it, but that doesn't imply that it should be interpreted through the myopic lens of your superstitious beliefs.  Indeed, it seems clear from history that when religion and other over-arching ideologies (including "state atheism") get out of the way, both freedom and human achievement are the beneficiaries.

The United States was established as a secular nation, no matter how much Christians insist otherwise.  Yes, there were Christians among the founders.  Yes, there were early documents, including the Declaration of Independence, that mention God or the Creator.  But put some historical perspective on it.  This creator was not the God of Christianity.  Read the works of the principal founders, such as James Madison and Thomas Jefferson.  Read The Age of Reason, by Thomas Paine, and you'll gain a better understanding of the Creator as the founders saw it - a deistic God of nature - the very same that was mentioned in the Declaration - as well as their view of the Christian God.

The constitution itself never even mentions God, except in reference to the date of its adoption, where the common phrase "Year of our Lord" was added some time after the wording had already been approved by the Continental Congress.  And why did they not mention God?  Because the United States was founded as a secular nation - the first in history.  The United States does not have a state-sponsored religion or religious institution, and the government neither mandates nor prohibits any religious beliefs.  This secular government is a core principle among our cherished freedoms.  Read about it here.  Our laws don't mandate religious practices or enforce any religious doctrines.  Does any of this mean that you can't practice your own religion?  Of course not.  That's the whole point of religious freedom.  You get to follow your own beliefs, but you don't get to impose those beliefs on others, because that would violate their freedom.  And that freedom is enshrined in our constitution.  It always has been, even if we haven't always lived up to it.

There has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth among Christians who see secularism liberalism as a degradation of American principles.  No.  What degrades American principles is the backslide to anti-secular views.  It began almost immediately, as elected representatives in congress insisted on appointing a chaplain, much to the consternation of James Madison, using as their justification the line from Article 1 of the constitution: "The House of Representatives shall choose their speaker and other officers".  It wasn't until after the Civil War that the motto "In God We Trust" was added to currency, and during the Cold War when the phrase "under God" was added to the pledge of allegiance.  Throughout the course of American history, religion flourished and prospered, unmolested by government, and sometimes found expression within the government, but our government remained basically secular.

In more recent years, those liberal policies that brought us freedom and prosperity have been systematically undermined and supplanted by right-wing politics, and the resurgence of religion in the halls of government.  This rise of conservatism has been so dramatic and so sweeping that many people now view any call to return to our liberal founding principles as a dangerous turn down the path of degradation and destruction.  They wrongly insist that that's the way it was from the beginning.  For God's sake, learn some history.  Those liberal principles are what made us different from all the other countries where people didn't enjoy the freedoms we have - the countries that so many people escaped from, in many cases so that they wouldn't have government imposing religious beliefs, standards, and practices upon them.

Since the founding of the US, many other nations have liberalized and reformed their citizens' civil liberties.  As a retired military officer (that's right), I for one, appreciate the freedoms we have.  And I don't want to see them lost because a bunch of religious people, spurred on by Fox News and a new-found political power, think their religion should take precedence over our constitution.  For those of you who insist that allowing gay people to get married is a violation of your freedom, I will offer a quote from Catholic Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the champion of conservative and religious views in government, "Get over it."  Just forget about the gays.  Don't cry in your beer.  Drink some moonshine and get wasted.  Squeeze off a few rounds at your favorite picture of Obama if you can still see the photo (*).  Fire up the barbecue.  Crank up some country tunes like It's America by Rodney Atkins.  And by all means, have a wonderful 4th of July, just the same as you did in the good old days.




(*) For those of you whose Obama photos are all shot to bits, here are a few more.  Just don't forget to print the picture before you start shooting at it.

45 comments:

  1. The constitution itself never even mentions God. Not once.

    Actually, it does. One time - in the very last line:

    "Done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven and of the Independance of the United States of America the Twelfth In witness whereof We have hereunto subscribed our Names" (my emphasis)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I forgot about that. The wording has been modified accordingly.

      Delete
  2. That single mention bears a weight of significance far beyond its word count. It acknowledges that without one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven years of Christianity (anni domini, the years of Our Lord), the very concept of individual human dignity, which undergirds every clause of the preceding Constitution, would not even exist. It places the Constitution within a framework of Western, Christian Civilization that made possible such ideas as freedom from tyranny and the absolute, objective value of human life in the first place. And that civilization is itself dependent upon an understanding of an orderly, rational, and predictable universe (i.e. that has been designed) which makes possible the establishment of a society and government founded upon objective principles and not upon the caprice of its rulers (or its judges).

    It is no accident that it is present at the very interstice between the text and the signatures, signifying the binding of the written word with the people is possible only by the Grace of God, and through our acknowledgment of his Lordship.

    We forget this (indeed, we have forgotten it) at our peril. It is wonderfully apropos that you yourself "forgot" (i.e., closed your eyes and ears and shut your mind to) its presence.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What I forgot was to mention that this phrase was slipped in to the text of the constitution after the wording without any mention of God had already been approved. It was a thoroughly secular document, but as I mentioned in my article, the pressures to inject Christianity into our secular government began early.

      > It acknowledges that without one thousand seven hundred and eighty seven years of Christianity (anni domini, the years of Our Lord), the very concept of individual human dignity, which undergirds every clause of the preceding Constitution, would not even exist.
      - It does no such thing. The very idea of Christianity was abhorrent to the principal founders. I strongly urge you to read The Age of Reason. Our constitution was a rejection of the tyranny of religious rule.

      >It is no accident that it is present at the very interstice between the text and the signatures
      - That's right, but it was a nefarious act perpetrated by Christians who even then didn't understand the meaning of 'freedom'.

      Delete
    2. I can lead you to the Water of Truth, but I can't make you drink!

      Delete
    3. I can show you the truth, but I can't make you think.

      Delete
  3. I can offer you the lifeline of Christ, but if you refuse Him, you'll sink!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aww... you didn't rhyme with "ink".

      Guess you were the first to blink!

      Delete
  4. Inexorably the US is sloughing off the dead skin of Christianity from its body politic. It is following the way most if not all first world countries have travelled. It has a fair way to go but it is just a matter of time and emerging sentiment of its people to effect this change. The collective evidence shows us this change is happening.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And here you told me that you never made predictions!

      Delete
    2. "The collective evidence shows us this change is happening."

      How is the evidence of what is happening right now a prediction?

      Delete
    3. Funny thing about using your senses to observe the way things are. You end up predicting what will be. It's called inductive reasoning. And it is the mortal enemy of religious reasoning. It's not perfect, but we rely heavily upon it nevertheless. It allows us to predict with reasonable confidence that the sun will rise tomorrow.

      We observe that the world as a whole becomes less superstitious as our scientific understanding increases. We see first-world countries around the world becoming increasingly secular in their outlook. We have scientific studies that show religiosity is positively correlated with people who are not in control of their own circumstances, or whose needs are not met.

      Does any of this allow us to predict the extinction of religion? I don't think so. But we can predict with some level of confidence that some regions of the planet will continue to be superstitious due to war and poverty, or as in the case of China perhaps, due to excessively intrusive government and lack of freedom. At the same time, other parts of the world will continue their trend toward lower religiosity as people become more educated, as economic conditions improve, and as scientific achievement makes real improvements in living conditions (as opposed to the empty promise offered by religion of a better life in the next world).

      Delete
  5. We see first-world countries around the world becoming increasingly secular in their outlook.

    And we see them committing national suicide by not reproducing.

    At the same time, other parts of the world will continue their trend toward lower religiosity

    While "at the same time" we observe these parts of the world disappear before our very eyes as they are replaced by immigrants from the more religious parts. Atheism is a self-correcting error, in that it does not pass itself on to the next generation. (In fact, it does everything possible to ensure that there is no next generation.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There is no greater peril to our ability to sustain life on earth, no "suicide" greater than the religious imperative to breed. And don't fool yourself into thinking that atheism is inherited, either. If that were true, then atheism would never have gained any ground in the first place. Theistic beliefs are learned. As society becomes less religious, the tendency to pass on those superstitions also declines. We only have to fight off the tendency of religious zealots to use government to foster and impose religious indoctrination.

      Delete
  6. There is no greater peril to our ability to sustain human life on earth, no "suicide" greater than the atheistic proclivity to not produce a next generation. And don't fool yourself into thinking that atheism is some sort of "default state", either. If that were true, then religion would never have gained any ground in the first place. Believers certainly would never have constituted 99.9 percent of all human beings who have ever lived. Atheistic beliefs are unnatural - the result of a failure to think clearly. If society becomes less religious, the tendency to pass on atheistic viewpoints also declines, because atheists tend not to have children at the population replacement rate (witness contemporary Europe). We only have to fight off the tendency of atheist zealots to use government to discriminate against religious belief on the spurious grounds of "bigotry", and counter all efforts to foster and impose atheistic indoctrination (e.g., inventing "constitutional rights" out of thin air, etc.).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As much as you want to remain blind to reality in the cozy little cocoon of your religious delusion, overpopulation is a serious threat to the health of every living thing. Mankind is wreaking serious damage, and the Catholic church in particular stands against all reasonable efforts to bring this dangerous situation under control.

      Delete
  7. Plank, now you're sounding like an unschooled Christian spruiker, "Oh Woe is me! We'll all be runed [sic]. Eternal hell and damnation!"

    The human instinct to survive is far more powerful than any religious impulse. Professor David Eller, renowned international anthropologist and intellectual has much to contribute to defragging the nonsense you subscribe to: "There are those who insist that atheism is negative, because it is against theism. Atheism, they say, is not for anything, just against something. If that were true, then anti-smoking campaigns are negative, because they are against smoking. But anti-smoking campaign are not just against smoking; they are in favour of health. True, if there were no smoking, there would be no anti-smoking movement. But then everyone would be a non-smoker. If there were no theism, there would be no atheism movement - but then everyone would be an atheist."

    Samuel P Putnam, American poet and former Congregationalist minister put it so adroitly and eruditely: "The last superstition of the human mind is the superstition that religion in itself is a good thing."

    Don't retreat back into the Christian void. Come out and celebrate the wonderful diversity of the world.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Plank says: "We only have to fight off the tendency of atheist zealots to use government to discriminate against religious belief on the spurious grounds of "bigotry"..."

    THIS ARTICLE quintessentially captures the current debate about why Plank's interpretation is so much on the wrong side of history.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Don't retreat back into the Christian void. Come out and celebrate the wonderful diversity of the world.

    Void? Hmm... Please tell me the names of any great atheist artists - someone who can compare with Giotto, Andrei Rublev, Michelangelo, Gerard van Honthorst, Teodor Schuez, or Matthew Caravaggo. (Crickets...) Or any great atheist authors who could hold a candle to Dante, Milton, Tolkien, Malory, Grahame Greene, T.S. Eliot, or Dostoevsky. (What? You're going to give me Ayn Rand and H.G. Wells? Gimme a break!) Or great atheist architecture to stand up against Chartres Cathedral, Al Khazneh in Petra, Kilpeck, the Hagia Sophia, Eli Cathedral, St. Basil's in Moscow, or San Xavier del Bac. (The Lenin Mausoleum, perhaps? Maybe Trump Tower?) Or atheist music that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as J.S. Bach, Hildegard of Bingen, John Rutter, Anton Bruckner, Edward Elgar, John Taverner, or Pretorius. (Bueller.. Bueller..?) And please don't get me started on great scientists who were/are Catholics.

    Nah.. I'll keep my "void". It appears to be fuller (and far more beautiful) than your "world".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. All great men, no argument there. However, for them, being a christian as it has always been was an accident of birth and history. One couldn't be anything but with life so dominated by the hegemony of christian thought. They observed the salutary lesson of history that should they try to cash out their beliefs they would have been summarily dealt with. Christian history is filled with the murder of people who believed the wrong belief, or who didn't propitiate to the 'right' god. They were murdered for thought crimes.

      Thankfully today, the joy of the maturing community is becoming less obsessed with perpetuation of supernatural superstition as a model for living and are far more concerned with vigorously and properly protecting civil and human rights and the true and inalienable freedoms around which they are founded. Bigotry, discrimination and anti-social behaviour dressed as religious freedom is no longer tolerated.

      We are, now, truly tasting what freedom means. We are, now, at last, able to let freedom ring.

      Delete
    2. Way many more were than are. In your list, you might notice that the majority are from before the 20th century. Compare that to a list of atheists from a variety of arts and professions (and this list is by no means comprehensive). The majority of them are from the past century. There are reasons for that. Until the 19th century, the scientific evidence wasn't so conclusive, so there were very few atheists. It's not surprising, then, that most scientists were theists. Many of them, had they lived in more recent times, would surely have been atheists. Also, for the majority of history, it would have been a death sentence (or at least the end of one's professional life) to publicly state that you were atheist. I'd be willing to bet that some of the people on your list were not so devout in their religious belief.

      Delete
  10. Many of them, had they lived in more recent times, would surely have been atheists.

    Must be nice to be able to make up your own reality when actual facts are inconvenient. How about if someone said this 300 years from now? "Many 21st Century scientists, had they lived our modern, enlightened world where atheism has long been thoroughly discredited, would surely have been devout Catholics."

    See how easy that is?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If three centuries from now the evidence shows that Catholicism is more correct that atheism, I will concede that that would be the correct thing to believe. But the fact of the matter is that science has already moved us away from the ancient superstitions.

      Delete
    2. Plank says: "Must be nice to be able to make up your own reality when actual facts are inconvenient."

      The facts are by no means inconvenient. It is how they are acknowledged and used that is paramount. It is christian apologetics that is irreconcilably problematic; it is a fundamentally flawed historical process through which the actual facts are defiled and corrupted. Christianity is little more than a hackneyed, weary and overworked Game of Thrones that far fewer today are buying into anymore, preferring rightly for a much brighter and more imaginative proxy for their daily fill of entertainment.

      Delete
  11. The facts are by no means inconvenient.

    But to im-skeptical, they are - very much so. He doesn't care for the fact that so many prominent scientists were theists, even Christians, even (gasp) Catholics... often members of the clergy! So he makes up a convenient fantasy about how "if they were alive today" they wouldn't be. See? That's what I meant by "making up your own reality." Don't care for what's plainly on the record? Substitute your imagination.

    How convenient.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As Papalinton said, the facts are not inconvenient. As I explained, it is by no means surprising that in an an era when there were virtually no atheists, there would be no atheist scientists. The church has been a patron of science, it is true, but only to the extent that it doesn't conflict with their dogma. In the dark ages, they sponsored astronomy, not to learn the secrets of the cosmos, but to be able to calculate the date of Easter. Galileo's work was not well received, until the church eventually found it impossible to deny the science, and they modified their dogma accordingly. The same is true of Darwin. After fighting it, they were forced eventually to grudgingly accept the fact of evolution, and change their dogma accordingly. If you listen to them today, you'd think they have always been champions of science. But the reality is that they still oppose scientific research when it conflicts with their dogma. This is the inconvenient truth that you are loath to admit.

      Delete
  12. I oppose the research you linked to as well. It does not conflict with any "dogma" - it is simply objectively evil, and should not be pursued.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's what they said about Galileo and Darwin.

      Delete
    2. Please identify which dogma(s) stem cell research is supposed to be in conflict with.

      Delete
    3. Wasn't it you proclaiming how evil it is to engage in research that might eventually save millions of lives? You tell me why it is so evil.

      Delete
  13. By the way, here is an excellent article about the recent supreme court decision which gives nine reasons for hope in the face of this disaster. Knowing in advance you won't do so, I nevertheless highly recommend that you read it slowly and carefully. There is much wisdom here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, they hope more people will be filling their collection plates.

      Delete
  14. Oh, no. You can't answer a question by asking different question, and thus sidetracking the conversation to a different issue. You first. I was curious as to which church dogma stem cell research is supposed to be in conflict with, as you claimed it to be. I can't think of any. Do you even know what the word "dogma" means?

    I'll even make it easy for you. For Catholics, Church dogma is succinctly summarized in the Nicene Creed. Everything the Church has ever taught can be found in its lines, either explicitly or by inference. In fact, The Catechism of the Catholic Church is actually structured along the lines of the Creed, with various sub-headings attached to each clause. With which clause of the Nicene Creed is stem cell research in conflict?

    I promise you, once you answer my question, I'll answer yours.

    ReplyDelete
  15. You know, I'm in a good mood this morning, so I'll make it even easier for you, and answer both my question and yours simultaneously.

    Murder and theft are declared to be sinful by the Church. But it is in accordance with dogma that they are. So murder is not somehow "in conflict" with dogma, but its condemnation is rather a consequence of dogma. Same deal with theft, or adultery, or idolatry, or lying, or dishonoring one's parents... or engaging in stem cell research.

    Why the last item on the list? Because the Church affirms the humanity and personhood of all human life, from conception to death. She therefore adamantly opposes all infanticide, murder, abortion, capital punishment, and euthanasia. Stem cell research is predicated upon the destruction of viable human embryos, which are living human beings, and is therefore murder. As the US Conference of Catholic Bishops stated (referring to stem cell research), "Once we cross the fundamental moral line that prevents us from treating any fellow human being as a mere object of research, there is no stopping point. The only moral stance that affirms the human dignity of all of us is to reject the first step down this path." "Doctor" Mengele would have loved to conduct such research.

    So, see? No conflict with dogma. None whatsoever.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Right. Your church dogma places higher value on formless flesh than on living, breathing people.

      Delete
  16. Just curious - when do you say that human life begins?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Life is a continuum. It has no beginning point. The fertilization of an egg is simply one milestone in the development of life, but it is neither a necessary nor sufficient step in the making of a human being.

      Personhood is a different question. Certainly a living thing that has no consciousness cannot be said to be a person. US law has always defined personhood as beginning at the time of birth. The bible doesn't count infants as persons until a few months after birth. Before birth, the fetus is a growth of the body of the mother that can potentially become a separate person, but it is not separate as long as it remains attached to the mother.

      Delete
  17. The bible doesn't count infants as persons until a few months after birth.

    You need to actually read your Bible before making stupid statements like that - specifically Luke 1:39-44.

    In those days [i.e., immediately after the Annunciation, so she is only a few days pregnant at most] Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy.

    Leaped for joy? At only three months in the womb? Well, that places personhood in the Bible to at least the first trimester. But wait, why did John leap for joy? Because he sensed the presence of Jesus in Mary's womb - who is at most one week into her own pregnancy!

    So no, contrary to your ridiculous statement, the Bible acknowledges the humanity of a fetus at the very earliest stages of pregnancy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. But Jesus was always a person, according to your dogma. He didn't have to wait for a fetus to be delivered.

      Exodus says that the punishment for murder is death, but there is a lesser punishment for destroying a fetus (21-22).

      Numbers 3:15 is an example of not counting newborn infants as part of the population.

      Delete
  18. But Jesus was always a person, according to your dogma.

    Correct, He is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. But... and this gets to my question about when does human life begin, He wasn't a human being until the Annunciation. And your objection doesn't even mention John, who in that passage is most definitely a person in the third month of pregnancy. (A "growth of the body of the mother" cannot experience joy - only a living person can.)

    Your other two points say nothing about whether a fetus is a human life or not. Heck, throughout history, there have been differing penalties for killing even adults under differing circumstances, let alone preborn people. And as for census data, once again, that's a matter of who you're trying to count. In David's census of Israel in the Book of Samuel, they only counted military age males. ("In Israel there were eight hundred thousand valiant men who drew the sword, and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand." (2 Samuel 24:9)) That doesn't mean that David thought 60 year old grandfathers or 10 year old girls weren't human beings. They just weren't people he was interesting in counting.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Your worming and squirming doesn't avoid the fact that a fetus is not a person.

    A three-month fetus is not a person, regardless of your superstitious beliefs. No three-month fetus experiences joy, no matter what your book of superstitious nonsense says.

    And it wasn't different times and places where they had different penalties for killing - I told you about one single time and place where they had different penalties for killing a person and killing a fetus. And don't even try to conflate a count of population with a count of fighting men. It was the population count where they excluded newborn infants. That's because many of them were not expected to survive.

    ReplyDelete
  20. no matter what your book of superstitious nonsense says

    But that's exactly what we're discussing here. You made the claim that "The [B]ible doesn't count infants as persons until a few months after birth." Since we're now talking about what The Bible actually does have to say on the subject, it is necessary for me to refer to actual scripture. You may not care what it has to say or agree with it, but you have no right to say The Bible says something that it clearly does not.

    That's because many of them were not expected to survive.

    And just what does that have to do with whether a newborn is a person or not? I can make a count of death row inmates, none of whom are expected to long survive, or of a hospice center, where the same statistic applies. Does that mean these people are not persons?

    worming and squirming

    ???????

    I'm not "worming and squirming" in the least. I am confidently and boldly declaring my beliefs. Rest assured that nothing I've written here has caused me the smallest bit of discomfort. The only squirming I can see in this specific conversation is all on your side, in your attempts to change the subject, toss out red herrings right and left, and close down dialog with loaded language ("superstitious"). You started this whole thread out with the false claim that the US Constitution did not mention God, then you moved on to inventing alternate histories out of thin air ("if past generations of Catholic scientists were alive today, they'd all be atheists"), and now you've decided to tell a person who spends a minimum of an hour a day reading The Bible what it supposedly says!

    As Papalinton would say, "Sheesh!"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I made a mistake. Nowhere in the original constitution, as approved by the congress, was there any mention of God. That's the point I was making. It was a thoroughly secular document. It was the fanaticism of religious people that began the slide down that slippery slope toward institutionalizing religious beliefs in government. That was exactly what the founders meant to avoid. That was one of the biggest types of oppression in the governments of Europe that we were trying to get away from. Freedom of religion requires that we not impose any religious standards. This is what people like you don't seem to understand.

      As for changing the topic, it was you who led us off into a series of sideline discussions. You never even tried to answer the central question that I posed: What freedom have you lost due to this decision? What can you not do today that you could a month ago? Instead of answering, you post links to articles that may be interesting, but don't specifically address the topic at hand. Or you pose questions of your own, out of the blue. And then when I try to respond to those things, you tell me I'm changing the subject ??? Sheesh!.

      The fact of the matter is that you don't ever directly answer my questions. What does the bible count as people? I gave you clear evidence that they didn't count fetuses or newborns (OK- it's one month), and your reply is 1) a fetus can jump for joy inside the womb, and 2) counts of fighting men didn't include newborns either. A three-month fetus can't possibly jump for joy. Even if it had consciousness (which it doesn't) it doesn't have the physical development to jump around at that early stage. And a count of warriors is not the same as a count of population. So, I'd say you are groping for some counter-argument, but failing to provide adequate answers.

      Delete