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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Extremists & Believers

Why assorted "believers" and extremists bother me.

Political "Believers"
Whether they be died in the wool "I will never vote for a Republican because they want dirty air and polluted water" Democrats or "Liberals are evil Socialists bent on destroying America" Republican types, I really have no time for individuals who simply spew what their particular party tells them to spew.

  • Obama didn't take oath of office while holding a copy of the Koran and he was born in Hawaii, not Kenya.
  • The EPA was created by a Republican...Richard Nixon to be precise (don't believe me?).
The world simply isn't that black-n-white.  It isn't.  Period.  Some folks need to simply stop believing what the just want to hear and open their minds just a bit.

Religious Extremists (and non-religious extremists)
Along with political believers, I have a hard time with religious believers when they take their views to an extreme and try to ram them down everyone else's collective throats.  Note that I'm going to include atheism as simply another belief system...more precisely one that doesn't have any supernatural beliefs.

Yes, I get it that some folks believe that they have an obligation to spread their belief systems to others, but can we all agree that everyone has a right to simply say "I disagree" and not be demonized for the effort?  I am sometimes shocked at how much in common the extreme fringes of they Christian or Muslim (for example)...have in common when it comes to their histories and methods.  Yes I get it that, for example, it was Muslim extremists that flew planes into the World Trade Center buildings.  But I also get it that entire wars throughout history have been fought...wars that killed far more than the number of victims of 9/11...out of misconstrued Christian values.  This isn't just historical stuff, as to this very day there is still sectarian violence in Northern Ireland (see some of the data HERE).

Not to be outdone, there are some who are intent on taking any and every mention of religion and belief out of our culture.  The simple fact of the matter is this:  this nation was founded in part by people who sought religious freedom.  Religious expression was and is an important part of the American experience.  Some point the the first amendment of the Constitution as a indication that the founding fathers sought to exclude religion from society.  I take a different tact:  this is the FIST amendment.  Securing the right of individuals to worship as they please without interference was so important to the founding of our nation that it was listed first in the Bill of Rights.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;"

Read these words!  They don't mean that we have a secular society.  They mean that we have a society where everyone can worship (or not worship) as they please.  If the intent of our founders was to have a society devoid of religious references, they would have said so in this first phrase of the first amendment.

Finally, to those "America is a Christian nation" types I say again:  read the amendment.  If the intent of our founders was to have a Christian nation they would have said as much.  The First Amendment would have been written as...

"As a Christian nation, Congress shall make no law respecting..."

But this isn't what was written. In fact, you will not find the word "Christian" anywhere in the United States Constitution.

In the end, I firmly believe that few things are as they seem, and what I consider to be a truth you may consider to be a falsehood.  So be it.  It isn't the fact that we have differences though that should matter, it's that we learn to respect those differences that really matters in the grand scheme of it all.  Tolerance isn't a bad word.


Justin Vacula said...


The establishment clause does not entail, simply as it were written, that we are a secular society, but rather the words and intent of the founding fathers say this... from my 9/11 speech:

"Another issue that is important for many atheists, although it should be important for every American citizen, is the separation of church and state. Many have false impressions of what this phrase, tracing back to Thomas Jefferson in his address to the Danbury Baptists, actually means. Separation of church and state does not only mean, in legal terms, that the government is barred from declaring an official state religion, but rather means that the government should be completely neutral in matters of religion; government should not favor religion over non-religion or favor one religion over another religion. Separation of church and state is important because, in the eyes of the government, all religious beliefs or lack thereof are viewed as equal.
Some Muslims and Christians, and perhaps others, unjustly believe that the United States is a 'Christian nation.' The unsubstantiated belief of the United States as a Christian nation fuels the myth of the 'war with Islam' and it would not be much of a stretch to say that this belief is a threat to national security.
While the majority of people in the United States may be Christians, this does make the United States a 'Christian nation' any more than a majority of Caucasians would make the United States a 'white nation.' One simply needs to read the Treaty of Tripoli, a document unanimously ratified by the United States Congress and signed by president John Adams, to realize that the United States, as the document itself says, “is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”
Separation of church and state, whether people realize it or not, is what guarantees freedom of and freedom from religion – and this falsifies the notion that the United States is a 'Christian nation' that is at war with Islam. We best not fan the flames of what are seen to be religious wars, misrepresent the secular character of our nation, or distort history.
It is also the case, because of the idea of the United States as a 'Christian nation,' that non-Christians are viewed as somehow being un-American or even worse, enemies of America trying to destroy the foundations of the county which some believe to be “Christian principles.” The United States, as the Treaty of Tripoli suggests, is not founded on the Christian religion. America, rather, was founded on principles of freedom, liberty, and Enlightenment values.
Further, the 'creator' mentioned in the Declaration of Independence -- which is not a founding document such as the United States Constitution and has no legal standing -- is properly understood as a deistic god, one which created the universe but has no concerned for human affairs. Mentions of 'natural rights' in the documents of the founding fathers are not, as some religious individuals think, references to a Christian or any specific god. Many of our founding fathers were either deistic or non-religious.
John Adams, in “A Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America” wrote that the original states were “founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretense of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in the favor of the rights of mankind.”
No matter what the founding fathers believed, their intentions was clear; they wanted a separation of church and state and made sure to make no references to God in the United States Constitution, but rather references to religion in the constitution -- that there should be no religious test for public office and that no law should be made respecting an establishment of religion -- separate religion from the government."

Justin Vacula said...


I'm not sure what you mean when you note "atheism as another belief system" because, as you note, there are no supernatural beliefs. Atheism, properly defined, means lack of belief in any gods. Anyway...

I'm not sure what "non-religious extremists" are either. This idea of "people who are intent on taking any mention of religion and belief out of our culture" appears to be a strawman of the popular position which I and most atheists advocate
called secularism in which we want religion to be kept separate from the government, not to have "any mention" removed. There is a crucial difference here.

The founding fathers didn't want religion removed from society, but rather removed from government. The constitution is quite clear, as you mention, to not note that we are a Christian nation. The constitution's mentions of religion are noting that it be kept separate, too.

You note: " If the intent of our founders was to have a society devoid of religious references, they would have said so in this first phrase of the first amendment." This isn't necessarily the case (and, again, they didn't want a society devoid of religious references) because there are many things they did not want that were not mentioned in certain places are anywhere.

Stephen Albert said...

Justin...response(s) forthcoming, over the weekend. Thanks (as usual) for commenting.

D.B. Echo said...

Totally off-topic...but at tonight's Bloggers Roundtable (LIES ALL LIES! there was no table!) atthe Vintage Theater, your blog was accidentally rechristened "Nazis From Exploration." We corrected the verbal slip immediately! That would certainly be an interesting blog...

WVW: usheezes. What a Jawa says when he's had one too many mugs of fermented Bantha milk.

Stephen Albert said...

"NAZIs from Exploration"...damn, now I should have thought of that myself!!

Thanks for sharing!!