Well, all this is interesting to me, anyway, and that's what matters here. The Internet is a terrible thing for someone like me, who finds almost everything interesting.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
A Christian Nation?
This is typical of Fox "News," don't you think? It's obvious that they're arguing a particular point of view, and also that they're woefully uninformed about American history. Note the scroll along the bottom: Preying on Prayer? But no one, absolutely no one, is telling people that they can't pray - or even urging them not to pray. That would also be unconstitutional.
If you're a believer, do you really need the government to tell you to pray? You can't pray without the government's involvement, then? Tell me, how would you feel about the government telling you to praise Allah? Would you also have no problem with government-organized covens? What about our government proclaiming a day of non-prayer, just one special day to support atheism and humanism by urging people to give up their prayer to imaginary supernatural beings? Still no problem with government involvement in religion?
This anchor mistakenly calls Dan Barker's organization the Freedom for Religion Foundation - and the scroll repeats that error - instead of the Freedom from Religion Foundation. And like Sarah Palin, he confuses the Declaration of Independence with our Constitution. (Frankly, that happens so regularly with these people that I'm sure it's not really an accident. They are simply... lying.)
For the record, our Constitution is a secular document, and deliberately so. Our Founding Fathers recognized the perils of religious strife and were intelligent enough to let people make their own decisions about such things. Our government was designed to stay completely neutral. (They didn't even have organized prayers at the Constitutional Convention.)
And as Dan Barker points out, this was confirmed in 1797, when the U.S. Senate unanimously (one of their relatively few unanimous votes) passed the Treaty of Tripoli. Signed by John Adams, the treaty states, in part, "the government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion." No one knew better than our Founding Fathers that America's new government was strictly secular, by their deliberate intent.
"In God We Trust" was not the motto of our new nation. (It was E Pluribus Unum - "Out of many, one.") That "In God We Trust" phrase was adopted by Congress during the notorious McCarthy era in the 1950's, when godless Communist hysteria was at its height. They also made the phrase mandatory on all U.S. currency (it had been on some money since the Civil War era, but not at our founding), and added "Under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance (which had gotten along very well for many years without it).
Our founders would have understood that none of these things are constitutional. But politicians are nothing if not cowardly. And supporting the majority religion in any country is always a popular thing to do. You certainly wouldn't expect McCarthy era politicians to stand up for American principles, any more than you can expect that today, right? Well, most of them, anyway. It's just a shame that we Americans are so ignorant about our own history.
Incidentally, the above image might not be entirely accurate. Thomas Jefferson was more of a deist than a complete non-believer. Certainly, he wasn't a Christian. In fact, he made his own Bible of sorts by tearing out all of the supernatural stuff in the New Testament - and skipping the Old Testament entirely. (Is it any wonder the Texas Board of Education is trying to remove him from American history books?)
But his personal religious views are beside the point, anyway. Our Founding Fathers were diverse in their beliefs. And even those who were Christian were determined to keep religion separate from our secular government, since that was best for our country and best for religion, too. That was perhaps their most important contribution to the world, the complete separation of church and state. In America, your religious beliefs, or lack thereof, were your own business, not the government's.
The right-wing has been fighting against our Founding Fathers ever since.
I'm a skeptic. I think it makes sense to have reasons for what I believe, so I apportion my belief to the evidence. You're welcome to disagree. Please, tell me I'm wrong. I probably don't agree with anyone about everything. Why should disagreement be a problem? Check the Pages section below for series posts and links to book reviews and game posts, as well as contact info. I have varied interests, so there's a little bit of everything here. I encourage you to look around. - Bill
We've all heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually reproduce the entire works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true. - Robert Wilensky
It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter how smart you are. If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong - Richard Feynman
The general root of superstition is that men observe when things hit, and not when they miss, and commit to memory the one, and pass over the other. - Sir Francis Bacon
When a whole nation is roaring Patriotism at the top of its voice, I am fain to explore the cleanness of its hands and purity of its heart. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
No matter how many times a theory meets its tests successfully, there can be no certainty that it will not be overthrown by the next observation. This, then, is a cornerstone of modern natural philosophy. It makes no claim of attaining ultimate truth. In fact, the phrase "ultimate truth" becomes meaningless, because there is no way in which enough observations can be made to make truth certain and, therefore, "ultimate". - Isaac Asimov
The government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion. - Treaty of Tripoli, passed unanimously by the U.S. Senate and signed by President John Adams (1797)
I don't doubt the sincerity of dowsers, but even after we've demonstrated that they can't produce results that are any better than chance they'll still go away believing in their abilities... It is like the mother whose son is caught shoplifting on tape. She wonders why someone would want to frame her child by producing a fake video. - James Randi
During many ages there were witches. The Bible said so. The Bible commanded that they should not be allowed to live. Therefore the Church ... imprisoned, tortured, hanged, and burned whole hordes and armies of witches, and washed the Christian world clean with their foul blood. Then it was discovered that there was no such thing as witches, and never had been. One does not know whether to laugh or to cry. - Mark Twain
Aristotle maintained that women have fewer teeth than men; although he was twice married, it never occurred to him to verify this statement by examining his wives' mouths. - Bertrand Russell
A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything. - Friedrich Nietzsche
I have been thinking that I would make a proposition to my Republican friends... that if they will stop telling lies about the Democrats, we will stop telling the truth about them. - Adlai E. Stevenson, Jr.
This is not about proof. Science does not use proof. We favor evidence, and the work consists largely of the slow accumulation of evidence in support of ideas, not magically potent proofs that establish an idea as unassailable. - PZ Myers
No, people don't expect government to solve all their problems. But they sense, deep in their bones, that with just a slight change in priorities, we can make sure that every child in America has a decent shot at life, and that the doors of opportunity remain open to all. - President Barack Obama
The formula was very simple: build this really flexible, really open economy, tolerate creative destruction so dead capital is quickly redeployed to better ideas and companies, pour into it the most diverse, smart and energetic immigrants from every corner of the world and then stir and repeat, stir and repeat, stir and repeat, stir and repeat. - Shekhar Gupta
We are prodding, challenging, seeking contradictions or small, persistent residual errors, proposing alternative explanations, encouraging heresy. We give our highest rewards to those who convincingly disprove established beliefs. - Carl Sagan
We are all atheists about most of the gods that societies have ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further. - Richard Dawkins
120 million of us place the big bang 2,500 years after the Babylonians and Sumerians learned to brew beer. - Sam Harris
To kill a man is not to defend a doctrine, but to kill a man. - Michael Servetus, burned at the stake in 1553
Democracy is not about majority rule; it is about minority rights. If there is no culture of not simply tolerating minorities, but actually treating them with equal rights, real democracy can't take root. - Thomas L. Friedman
We cannot absolutely prove that those are in error who tell us that society has reached a turning point, that we have seen our best days. But so said all who came before us and with just as much apparent reason. - Thomas Macauley, 1830
It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can stop him from lynching me, and I think that's pretty important. - Martin Luther King, Jr.
We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven into an age of unreason if we dig deep into our history and remember we are not descended from fearful men. - Edward R. Murrow
The deepest sin against the human mind is to believe things without evidence. Science is simply common sense at its best - that is, rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy in logic. - Thomas Huxley
There is no absurdity so obvious that it cannot be firmly planted in the human head if you only begin to impose it before the age of five, by constantly repeating it with an air of great solemnity. - Arthur Schopenhauer
Because religious belief, or non-belief, is such an important part of every person's life, freedom of religion affects every individual. ... Erecting the "wall of separation between church and state," therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society. - President Thomas Jefferson
To be elected in America, no matter from what party, the candidates have no choice but to year after year pledge to lower taxes further and further. We have become the nation of Ken and Barbie, looking good but very poor at the math. - Rack Jite
Invisible Pink Unicorns are beings of great spiritual power. We know this because they are capable of being invisible and pink at the same time. Like all religions, the Faith of the Invisible Pink Unicorns is based upon both logic and faith. We have faith that they are pink; we logically know that they are invisible because we can't see them. - Steve Eley
We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics. - President Franklin D. Roosevelt
I have been attacked by Rush Limbaugh on the air, an experience somewhat akin to being gummed by a newt. It doesn't actually hurt, but it leaves you with slimy stuff on your ankle. - Molly Ivins
In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican. - H. L. Mencken
Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. - Winston Churchill