Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Religious Tolerance and Separation of Church and State.

Marv Knox at Associated Baptist Press applies a little logic and gravity to the Christian claims of religious persecution in the US:

Claims of persecution always deliver a jolt. That’s especially true when a Christian in the United States aspires to be the persecutee. In this context, “persecution” typically means one of three things: Either somebody disagreed with this particular Christian’s beliefs and said so. (What godless rudeness!) Somebody snickered at her religious behavior. (How mean!) Or someone with authority refused to allow him to exert his religious will upon others. (What’s this country coming to?)

Such protests of persecution might appear perplexing or peculiar. Primarily they’re paranoid and provincial. The latest collaborative New Voice Media feature package published today by ABP and its print-media partners presents a broader perspective on persecution. Almost 70 percent of the planet’s population live where religion is highly restricted. Shocking as it may sound, zoning ordinances in American suburbs, banned Scripture signs at public-school ballgames and store clerks who say, “Happy Holidays” don’t make the list. We’re talking about places where people are beaten, imprisoned, banned from the marketplace, denied education and even killed because of their faith. Beside them, U.S. Christians’ claims of persecution are pathetic.

As you might expect, one of the worst perpetrators is China, whose government is atheistic. Interestingly, however, the vast majority of religious persecution takes place in countries that are overtly religious. They’re all for practicing religion -- but only their religion, observed only their way. The most strident are countries politically and/or socially dominated by Islam or some strains of Orthodox Christianity.

Counterintuitively, U.S. Christians who play the persecution card often argue against the policies and principles that ensure not only their religious freedom, but the dream that their great-great grandchildren will have the opportunity to worship and live out faith as they do today.

He goes on to examine the laws that protect separation of church and state and therefore religious freedom. I can't say how refreshing it is to hear the religious left decry some of the challenges to separation and state that we've seen in the past 10 months. Just yesterday I came across about a half dozen blogs that claimed there was no separation of church and state in the constitution and shouldn't be. US law comes from God, I read again and again.

The sheer ignorance of the fact that believers are only allowed such freedoms because of separation of church and state is astounding. It's no secret that the Fundamentalist and Evangelical denominations in the country are out for theocracy. But they forget that they must be careful what they wish for. Theocracy is great so long as the theocrats belong to your denomination.

Only a willful ignorance of this country's history allows such (organized and influential groups) to deny the importance of separation of church and state to their existence. The US was a refuge to those escaping religious persecution in Europe. Our freedoms here rely on the protections established at the time. But those protections have been warped by ignorance of history and unreasonable challenges to secular governance.

As Susan Jacoby writes in The Age of American Unreason, comparing the first and second "Great Awakenings" of fundamentalist faith in the US to the current one, signaled by the rise of the Reagan administration and the claims by the Bush administration that its foreign policy was a "third [Great] Awakening:

Another critical difference between the fundamentalist revivals of the past and the present is the political engagement of modern fundamentalists on the side of one party and their belief that it is both a right and a religious duty to institutionalize their moral values. (pp. 190)

This threat is down-played by both secular and moderate Americans, seen as less of a threat than it actually is. Yet as the past few months have shown with regard to health care reform - and all that I blog about every day! - fundamentalist influence over government is at an all time high and the direct effects on general social welfare are astoundingly profound. From the woman in Kansas who can't find a doctor to perform a tubal ligation after her childbirth to the female soldier who is forced to leave her duties - and career - for an abortion, to the dying patient in Montana forced to be put on artificial nutrition and hydration to the rape victim in Ohio who is denied emergency contraception.

Discrimination is spreading and not only against patients' rights. Discrimination against science and factual analysis of the world around us is part of the Fundamentalist agenda too. History text books are written by Fundamentalists in Texas. Social services are provided by missionizing faith-based organizations which trade food for prayer. Denial of science-based facts, facts which can be proven, is made in favor of pseudoscience and junk science. Our education system places us squarely in the middle of the scale of other Westernized countries, leaving our advancement in the future in question. Our foreign policy ignores dangerous challenges in Christian countries in favor of rebuke - and invasion -of those who do not abide by Fundamental Christianity.

That the religious left is speaking out against this marching and incremental loss of freedom is good. I wish their voices were louder.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Separation of Church and State" is nothing more than a fantasy of the left. It appears no where in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.

"Religious Tolerance" should you say Tolerance of Religion instead?

You speak about the religious left and I don't know what that means. Most people on the left that I am familiar with, have no religion. I suppose Atheism can be considered a religion.

I am guessing that you are Jewish. If so, why do so many Jews attack Christians and especially Catholics? The rights of Christians are constantly under attack by various groups on the left. One in particular is the ACLU and some Jewish groups. Most Catholics I know are very fair in their views of the Jews and of Israel. I am also. We just don't understand why so many Jews are in favor of Socialism and Communism. Some of the biggest Capitalists are Jews and yet they seem to be against our Capitalist system they have benefitted by. If any group of people went to Cuba or some other Socialist country and tried to change their government from Socialism to Capitalism, they would most likely be shot in the public square as a lesson to the others of like mind.
Please explain to me why you are so anti-Christian and anti-democracy.

January 5, 2010 at 10:16 AM  
Blogger L A Neumann said...

Woah Anonymous! Why not add some nasty, cliched anti-Semitism to your warping of US history and law?!

I'm not about to get into your racism or failure to distinguish Judaism, Jews and the state of Israel one from another. You need to do that for yourself.

The Religious Left may not be loud and noisy nor as well funded and organized as the Fundamentalist or Catholic Right but it is by no means atheist. Even 56% of Catholics think federal funding should go to abortion services. If you haven't yet encountered a Christian who believes in separation of church and state, science, and women's rights, I suggest you get out more often.

Your willingness to assume that I am Jewish says a lot about the other assumptions you make - without facts or citations. So how many Jews are Capitalists?? Who are those "some Jewish groups?" And how many US Jews are in favor of Socialism (and what kind) and Communism (though it's rather dead at the moment).

Do you realize that you are talking nonsense. And if you think you're not, give me something to go on that can be substantiated elsewhere besides with your hand-pounding, foot-stamping assertions.

The problem with Fundamentalism is that it relies not on tangible information but on belief in that which cannot be proven. Noble as far as faith goes but not so much when it comes to government policy, feeding and caring for a few hundred million people of all faiths, keeping the economy going, educating the future school teachers and scientists, and fighting global poverty and treachery. So when you start basing public policy on assertions, assumptions, and unreason, you get into a big problem for the future of a country.

The point Knox makes very well, and I recommend you just scroll up a little bit to read it, is that religious freedom is predicated on the US laws that prohibit the government from favoring any religion over others.

In other words, you're griping about the very laws that allow you to tap out your unfounded, discriminatory bias on my blog.

If you've got any love for the future of your country, I recommend you spend some time with the history. Knowledge, science, facts, history are power. And please, read more of my posts! Attacks like the mess above do nothing to resolve the challenges ahead.

And please come on back here when you've figured out what the Religious Left is all about. I'd like to hear what you think. And by the way, there's nothing the matter with relaxing your anger and self-righteousness a little bit for the sake of solving problems. Doing so is actually a virtue. Ask Jesus.

January 5, 2010 at 10:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Even 56% of Catholics think federal funding should go to abortion services."
That doesn't make it right!

"Attacks like the mess above do nothing to resolve the challenges ahead."
I didn't attack you. I merely suggested that you were Jewish which you did not answer.

"unfounded, discriminatory bias on my blog."
I did no such thing!

"religious freedom is predicated on the US laws that prohibit the government from favoring any religion over others."
That is correct but does not equal "separation of church and state as you titled your posting.

"I suggest you get out more often."
If anyone has gotten out, I have. I don't pretend to know all but I am much older than you and have much experience in the different cultures and world views.

"your hand-pounding, foot-stamping assertions."
I am doing no such thing. This is your assertion.

"So how many Jews are Capitalists?? Who are those "some Jewish groups?" And how many US Jews are in favor of Socialism (and what kind) and Communism (though it's rather dead at the moment)."
I would guess at 60 to 75%. Communism is not dead!

I have the feeling that you are a hate monger of conservatives and Christian principled people and nothing I can say will change your New York style liberalism and what you believe to be ok simply because you say so.

You failed to answer the first time, so please explain to me why you are so anti-Christian and anti-democracy.
I can only pray for you. G_D may be a figment of your imagination but He is real.

January 5, 2010 at 12:57 PM  
Blogger L A Neumann said...

1. I guess your interpretation of your God makes you right? Over everyone else? Nice myopia.

2. I am not Jewish.

3. Disparaging Jews or any "other" group for that matter is discrimination. Using cliches and prejudice to do so is discriminatory. And, by the way, unfounded means not based in fact.

4. Look at constitutional law for a clearer understanding of what is meant by "separation of church and state." And think: theocracy is no way to live. That's why half of our forefathers came here. It forces all to abide by one faith. Is that what you're advocating?

5. You can try to trump me in age and experience all you want if it makes you feel authoritative. I was using "out more" as a euphemism for learning about the other Christians who make up your brand of faith. There are religious groups in the US that don't believe in literal interpretation of the bible, the invalidity of science, the corrupting powers of modernity. But you knew that. You were just being a smart ass.

6. I meant that you say a lot of things, none of which are based in fact nor can be substantiated. That's not posing an argument (conversation), that's unreasoned stamping.

7. Your guess is not good enough to go on, even if you are old and experienced. My point is that you have no facts on which to hang your point; you have no point. And communism is for the most part dead. Some countries continue to cling to communist types of government but they have failed to offer equality, dignity, freedom, and liberty to their citizens. They failed. But I suspect your fear of communism is a left-over reaction from the cold war. Communism, like "trickle down" economics was a bad idea. But the term has been used to mean a lot of things, from Marxism to Stalinism to Socialism. If you want to talk Communism, you must be specific about what you mean or be taken for uninformed or biased.

8. I don't monger. I don't fear knowledge. I am politically liberal because I see the horror of entrenched, unquestioned ideas (which has little to do with NY). You can get all anti-intellectual and "common man" with me all you want. I find the approach to political engagement that you have taken in this comment to be absurd and unfounded.

Your assumptions about me are tedious and irrelevant. If you're lonely, go find a chat room. If you want to address the post, please do so with substance.

Oh, and my faith is none of your fucking business. Just as yours is not mine. Go get off on your self-righteousness somewhere else because I don't have the patience to explain that demanding religious tolerance is not anti-Christian nor anti-democracy.

Except, however, on that last point: Democracy is great when it works, isn't clogged up with rampant capitalism, and isn't expected to protect the civil rights of minorities.

But there I entertained one of your unfounded assumptions.

The next time you feel like cramming my blog with junk comments, pray for me instead, would ya?

January 5, 2010 at 6:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The next time you feel like cramming my blog with junk comments, pray for me instead, would ya?
How should I start?

January 5, 2010 at 8:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have only succeeded in confirming my suspicions of many on the far left as being classless, ill-mannered, foul mouthed, arrogant, self loving persons who think they know how the rest of us should live. One who is a Socialist, Fascist, Communist or believes in some other type of repressive government is not a patriot. They may be US citizens but not patriots. You obviously love our present Socialist oppressive government more than you love the majority of the people who disagree with your assertions. You are what you have learned and that can be unlearned with God's help. I pray that He will help you get a grip on yourself. You won't destroy freedom as long as there are people like me still around. You will only destroy yourself.

January 6, 2010 at 8:51 AM  
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