Sunday, January 28, 2007

Questions

Kara, from Perth, Australia asks: Why is there a war between atheists and Christians in your country? I thought America was based on freedom of religion. If there's no national church, why do you have such contention?

G'day Kara,
I don't know if you guys really say "G'day!" or if I've just been watching too many Wiggles' videos. *shrug* Anyway, thanks for your question....I'll do my best to answer it, but I may not have the whole answer. I encourage you to check the comments to this, since other American atheists might weigh in. It's an important question.
Why is there a war between atheists and Christians in your country?
I don't know if I'd call it a "war". That seems like too strong of a term. But, there is a lot of debate. My impression is that the American, Christian evangelical movement has become more vocal about their beliefs. Because they have been more vocal and more organized, they tend to band together to try and legislate their religious based version of morality. American atheists are, in my opinion, just coming into their comfort zone- in terms of speaking out. American atheists are also amongst the biggest group of people who are saying: "No. Let's base our legistlation on; emperical data, facts, reason, and logic." This flies in direct contradiction to the evangelical movement, which prefers to use emotional appeals and cherry picked passages of the Bible. The political, and social, climate in America is in a state of change. Whenever there is change, you'll find resistance.
I thought America was based on freedom of religion?
It is. But, you would be surprised at how certain Christians interpret that to mean, "I have a right to practice my faith anywhere and you should just deal with it." There's also some semantics that I've never been quite clear on: is it "freedom FROM religion" or "freedom to practice religion". I'm sure someone else can answer this better than I.
If there's no national church, why do you have such contention?
Oh man...there are a number of reasons. You're right in assuming that there is no "National Religion". However, George Bush is an outspoken Christian conservative. It's not enough for him to just practice his faith on his own time. He's proposed "faith based initiatives" which, to some (atheist and theists alike) smacks of endorsing a religion (which is forbidden in our constitution). However, Christians aren't going to look a gift horse in the mouth. It's their religion, so they don't see how such initiatives smack other Americans (atheist or non-Christians, in particular) in the face. The conservative Christians seem to use the establishment clause only when it suits them (when big bad atheists, or non-Christian religions attempt to do something) and forget it when it benefits them. Example: recently, the conservative Christians had a *fit* when a politician wanted to be sworn in using the Koran...despite the fact that the act is totally ceremonial and the politician had every right to ask for a different Bible. Their gripe was that the politician could be interpreted to be serving Islam and not America... yet, they see nothing wrong with politicians swearing on the Holy Bible. Ironic, no?

If anyone else wants to give these a shake,...go for it. :)

39 comments:

Matt D. said...

I'll try to be as brief as possible, as I think you've done a great job of getting the general point across.

The struggle has a lot to do with the boundaries of religious freedom. There are many issues (stem cell research, abortion, same-sex marriage, foreign aid, education) where vocal and organized religious groups have managed to cross the line.

We should all be free to believe and practice (or neither) as we choose. But we also live in a cooperative society where my freedom extends only to the point where yours begins.

If someone's religion is opposed to abortion, that's perfectly fine - they're free to not have one. However, some religious groups feel so strongly that abortion is murder that they want to impose their beliefs on everyone.

If we, as a society have a rational justification for outlawing abortion, so be it - but to do so based on the religious beliefs that aren't shared by everyone is wrong.

The same is true for stem cell research, same-sex marriage and many other contentious issues.

Additionally, there's a battle for the minds of the future generations. The battles over creationism in the classroom and anti-evolution rhetoric have been widely covered but that's just the tip of the iceberg.

We have people who simply can't understand why we shouldn't have 'Bible' classes in public schools. I'm a huge proponent of comparative religions courses and even courses that study the Bible as literature (though there are a number of other books that I think would be much better reading). But these folks are pushing courses which 'teach' the Bible as some sort of truth.

When they can't change the public schools, they home-school.

I watched the "Jesus Camp" DVD last night and there were a couple of statistics in the movie that I wasn't able to verify - but if these are accurate, I think the nature of the problem may be more clear:

- 25% of American Christians identify as Evangelical

- 75 % of ALL home-schooled Children in America are Evangelical

If the home-schooling we saw in that film is indicative of the quality of education that most of these kids receive - we have a huge problem.

Not only was the kid taught that the Earth was 6000 years old, he was taught that science couldn't prove anything (represented as unreliable and untrustworthy and not as a philosophical concept about epistemology), that global warming was an exaggeration that isn't really a problem and that the U.S. was founded on "Judeo-Christian" beliefs.

There's a war because, as Weinberg pointed out, we need to awaken from the nightmare of religion.

Atheist in a mini van. said...

Nice summary, Matt. :)

Sean the Blogonaut said...

We do say G'Day but only for American tourists:)

Autralians are generally laid back when it comes to anything? To Kara it probably seems as if American Atheists are taking things too seriously, but then we are not exposed to the Christian Right to the same extent as our Amrerican cousins.

There have been recent "faith based initiatives" though, that do have me worried - the funding of religious chaplains in state schools (where the only qualifications are that you have a faith,prefrably Christian)for example.

Atheist in a mini van. said...

Yeah, Sean. I figured "G'Day" was too "Outback Steakhouse" to be real. ;) I guess I've had the greeting on the brain since my trip to LA last week (they were in the midst of all of the "G'Day LA" hype).

Anyway... I can see how it's hard for those outside the U.S. to see what a big chasm this issue has become. As Matt was saying: we're just seeing legislation after legislation get shot down, or enacted, because the larger group of people believe in a magic sky pixie. The one that really chapped my hide was the stem cell resaerch initiative. It's unfathomable, to me, that our President and most of our citizens, would deny all of that knowledge and potential cure,...because they believe that 150 cells are more important than sentient, living, breathing humans. They have no problem harvesting live organs, but they balk at the biological equivalent of a boogar (sorry to be graphic). 150 cells... you kill more human cells brushing your teeth. So... I, and my fellow Americans, who suffer from chronic diseases may have just lost our chance at a cure because the religious right doesn't want to do research on 150 cells. Amazing.

Anyway... people like George Bush stand up and talk about how America needs to be able to compete, scientifically and academically, with other nations, but then they base their decision making process, which effects students and citizens, on fluff and superstition.

Yay America. The only developed nation that's going backwards. :/

Chakolate said...

I think one reason why conservative Christians are so militant in the US is actually *because* we have no national religion. If you have a national religion, the struggle is over, right? Everybody can relax, because there's no fight to be won. But here, the conservative Christians think they have to fight to bring Christianity to everyone, and every non-Christian, as well as every non-conservative Christian, is a battle ground.

I also think it needs to be said that the extreme right-wing Christians make the run-of-the-mill Christians writhe in embarrassment.

Atheist in a mini van. said...

I think one reason why conservative Christians are so militant in the US is actually *because* we have no national religion.

Hmmm...I'm not sure if I agree. I can't say exactly why I disagree, I'd have to take some more time to think about it, but my gut reaction is this: IF America had a national religion, THEN we wouldn't be America. All of the founding principles could be undone by that one, seemingly simple act. Like I said, my argument is pedestrian and I can't back it up- at this point- with comparrisons to other nations. But, it just repulses me (at first glance) to consider it. I reserve the right to amend this later.

I also think it needs to be said that the extreme right-wing Christians make the run-of-the-mill Christians writhe in embarrassment.
I have no doubt that that is a true statement.

Peter said...

As an Australian and an atheist, I get rather annoyed when I hear my fellow Aussies saying, "We don't have those problems here." It just ain't true.

See this news story from March last year, does it sound familiar to anyone in the US?
Link to news story

Also last year, a bill to remove impediments to stem cell research was finally passed after much acrimony. It required extraordinary efforts to get it through against the wishes of the leaders of both the major political parties.

Now we have an Opposition leader who is a "born-again christian".

True, the situation here is not as bad as the US but if Oz atheists don't stop burying their heads in the sand, we could get there.

Atheist in a mini van. said...

See this news story from March last year, does it sound familiar to anyone in the US?

It sounds uncanningly familiar. I'm not all that familiar with Australian government (actually, I'm not familiar at all). I know that you were once a territory of the United Kingdom and that Queen Elizabeth still has some ceremonial role in the government. I know you have a Prime Minister...so, I'm guessing it's a constitutional monarchy(?) with some parlimentary democracy aspects. Am I close? My question is: are you under the Church of England or is the government secular? I would think the ties to the British monarchy would mean there was a religious tie-in. But, I could be wrong.

Anyway... sorry, I got off topic. At the very least, as the article states, there's some recognition that giving homosexuals equal status as partners (under the state's law) is a step. It's a step that's been thwarted REPEATEDLY here in the States. At least, "down under" the very idea isn't met with the hatred and prejudice that seems to be pervasive here. Or, am I totally not getting the full picture?

When San Francisco's mayor, Gavin Newsom, allowed city hall to issue marriage licenses (and perform civil ceremonies) for homosexual couples, the state of California (and the United States) went bazerk! I had friends who went up there to stand in line for 30 hours to get married...only to have the whole thing "annuled" and rendered void when the Governor got back to office. :/ I used to think that, if anywhere, California would be the place where homosexuals would finally get the right to marry... nope! Though more liberal than other states politically, our state still has enough religious zealots to sway public opinion. All because of some ideas based on a faulty moral position.

darrell said...

I think it's also important to point out that the "war" is mostly perceived as such by the theist "side." Sure as atheists a lot of us think religion is dangerous and wish it would go away, but it tends to be the religious individuals who paint this ideological conflict as some sort of all-out war (the "War on Christmas" is a great example). Perhaps this is due to the historic need to feel like the underdog that is now coded into Judeo-Christian religion (martyrdom, persecution, etc), or perhaps (for the evangelicals specifically) it's all that militaristic rhetoric in their end-times bed time stories. However, the plain truth of the matter is that Christians are a majority in the United States and a few loud-mouthed atheists aren't going to cause them any real harm. The "war" is mostly imagined by the religious and it is invoked only when they feel like their rights are being trampled (which usually means other people's rights are being restored). They sure don't call the profiling and occasional indefinite wrongful inprisonment of Muslims in the post-9/11 US a "War on Islam." The theists invoke the "war" to fulfil their own need for attention.

Anonymous said...

I found this blog linked from FSTDT, and I just wanted to drop a quickie and say that I'm glad I found it! My daughter is just 4 months old, but I feel like I should raise her the way that your children are - to think critically and choose her own path. I'm an atheist, my wife one liberal deist (she believes in a "higher power", but that's about it). I would love it if my daugher were critical enough to see through the unreasonable dogma of contemporary Christianity, but with a born-again grandmother and me living in a bonafide Red State, that may prove hard to do.

Anyways, my point that I wanted to throw in is that maybe we should let the Christians have their way. Seriously. Let's tax the hell out of the churches, let's let the state be able to legislate how the Christians worship, let's let the state choose which sect of Christianity is the state church, etc! We'll see how it goes over. Plus, the Church of England has led a great majority of that country to abandon religion all together.

So while there certainly are horrendous consequences to be had with a state religion, maybe we should let them have a dose of their own medicine! :P

Peter said...

My question is: are you under the Church of England or is the government secular?

We are a secular constitutional monarchy, very similar to Canada.

There is a church/state separation provision in the Constitution, virtually identical in wording to your First Amendment.

Anonymous said...

There is a war. Religion must be stampped out before it kills us all. Christians, Muslims, Jews need to see that their belief in the Supernatural dooms us all.

Only through rational, naturalistic thought can people live together in peace.

Religion can make good people do horrible things. It should be stopped now.

Ghost said...

Another Australian atheist here. From my point of view it seems that religion has only come to the forefront in Australian politics relatively recently - unfortunately mirroring the US.

It seems that in the past religion in the US has not been related to forign policy so where it has come up has been a bit of a joke for the rest of the world (eg: The Monkey Trial aka The Scopes Trial).

Now that the 'War on Terror' is morphing (or has morphed) into the 'War on Islam' religion is something that both sides are using as a casus belli.

What I do not understand is the lack of a live and let live attitude. Legalising gay marriage or stem cell research has little to no effect on the beliefs or behaviour of the religious person objecting to it. Allowing gay marriage does not force everyone to marry a person of the same sex, legalising stem cell research does not force everyone to donate stem cells to that research. Where is the problem?

The most common answer I get from religious people is that 'God says you can't'. Given that I don't believe in that particular (or any) god and (depending on the religion) I'm probably going to go to hell anyway how does that possibly effect them?

I think the biggest problem (if it is a problem) is that most atheists do operate on a live and let live basis - there is no drive to actually 'convert' people. Richard Dawkins covers this fairly well in 'The God Delusion' and a number of online essays. I'm not sure if I agree with the idea of promoting an 'evangalical' atheism however - it seems to be turning atheism into yet another religion (in the sense of 'I beleive this therefore you must as well').

Please excuse spelling errors - I was in a rush

Chris said...

I think it's also a huge after-effect of 9/11. The rise of radical Islam has had a dramatic effect on domestic Christian Zealotry, and other religious viewpoints are often looked down upon a more people think that their Christianity makes them more righteous than others. Living in Virginia this is more than apparent to me. I hear quite often from locals about the "persecution" of the faithful here. That's the problem, they think they are downtrodden and must overcome other philosophies. 70% of the population, most of the money and seats in the government, and they're downtrodden. go fig.

rafuzo said...

But, you would be surprised at how certain Christians interpret that to mean, "I have a right to practice my faith anywhere and you should just deal with it." There's also some semantics that I've never been quite clear on: is it "freedom FROM religion" or "freedom to practice religion". I'm sure someone else can answer this better than I.

Indeed someone can answer it better. Because your canonical evangelical Christian is right - he has a right to practice his faith anywhere, at least as far as anyone is allowed to do any particular thing within the bounds of law and consent of the owner(s) of property involved.

First off, let me say that I too am an atheist, but I respect the US Constitution as a guide for our legal system above and beyond my own personal point of view on godhead and the supernatural. I too believe we ought to base our rule of law on facts, logic - but more importantly, for this republic anyway, the Constitution is the big arbiter of what's allowed and what isn't. And here's exactly what the Constitution says:

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

"Establishment Clause" - Amendment I, Clause I.

What this essentially says is that there is no national religion, and Congress cannot abridge the right of anyone to the free exercise of any particular one. So the evangelical Christian, again subject to laws saying he can't sacrifice children or build a nativity on someone else's property without their consent, can indeed practice whereever he damn well pleases, just as anyone can carry picket signs saying "Bush is a terrorist" within similar bounds.

I think you'll see that, when you actually read source material, semantics issues like that tend to sort themselves out. Please do us all a favor and actually read the Constitution before you purport to answer questions about it.

TU said...

Very good commentary. I especially like the "cherry picking" Bible scripture quote. As a Christian, I've argued with other Christians about various topics (drinking, homosexuality, evolution) who like to translate The Bible in their own way. Religion can make good people do horrible things because they get bogged down by rules. I always try to tell them "Just picture God as the nicest most understanding guy you've ever met, forget the Bible, now what do you think this he feels about (blank) topic?"

As far as the "war" mentality, I feel it exists and it's really painful, especially when you are 9/10 of the time on side with the non-"Christian Right" (an oxymoron if there ever was one).

Perhaps by biggest frustration with "fundamentalist" Christians (yet another oxymoron, as a Christian who truly believes in the fundamentals you'd think would be interested mostly in what Jesus had to say, not what Focus on the Family, or some guilt-mongering televangelist has to say) is that they combat opposition to their beliefs by assuming a position of martyrdom instead of considering other points of view.

Anyway, Rock on, AIAMV

Aerik said...

I see you're yet another person who is confused on whether or not the Constitution provides freedom of religion or freedom from religion.

The way I was taught, and I still think this is right, is that it is both. The concept of the wall of separation of church and state and the 1st amendment combine to provide both. You are free to exercise your religion however you want; however, everybody has a right to not be forced or coerced into bowing to your religion - they have freedom from your religion while you have freedom of your religion.

It is only when a government is completely secular and has nothing to say on religion that a person's religious freedom can even say to really exist. Government endorsement of religion simultaneously bolsters one religion and oppresses all others. Religion in general cannot be said to be free unless the government does not endorse any one religion or religion over non-religion.

It's always seemed simple to me, but others clearly have a problem understanding it.

No, Chakolate, "the struggle" is not over once there is a national religion, for the very reasons I just stated: endorsement of any one religion or even a religious branch simultaneously oppresses all others. Even if they are treated exactly the same, if they follow all the same rules and get all the same benefits, taxation, restrictions and freedoms, the endorsed religion is still bolstered while the others oppressed.

While religion is clearly mutable and race is not, I can't help but use the 'separate but equal' bullshit we did to black people as a comparison. As Brown Vs. BOE Topeka showed, it really doesn't matter if you treat people the same after endorsing one -- you are still restricting freedom and oppressing the un-endorsed. Like all the little girls who pick the white dolls over the black ones, if we had a national religion, everybody would be taught from childhood that the endorsed religion is the good one and the others are bad, no matter how they are treated otherwise.

So of course Evangelical Christians in America think they have to force everybody else to be Evangelicals. That is the natural conclusion of a religion that believes it is or should be the official national religion. Every single time. In spite of how they think America is a Christian nation, the fact that the 'pilgrims' escaped England for the exact same national dominionism bullshit they're pulling shows that they have anything but American ideals in mind. Hell, they even cite pilgrims and shit, but anybody with half a brain and a study of American history knows that the founding of the colonies and the emergence of the United States are two very different things.

R Nicolas said...

One of the largest reasons that people have problems with the seperation clause in the First Ammendment is that the ammendment was written by people who had intimate knowledge of the source material, and therefore knew what they meant to say, whereas today most people have no clue where the clause comes from.

As for the rest of the answer you, in my humble opinion, did an excellent job of answering the question.

Atheist in a mini van. said...

I have read the Constitution and all other pertinent histrical documents, thankyouverymuch.

Please do us all a favor and actually read the Constitution before you purport to answer questions about it.

Excuse me, but I believe I was quite up front, at midnight, when I wrote this answer and said "someone else will probably answer this better." My word isn't the final word,...get over yourself. But, if going around acting like a jerk is what rocks your socks... please, continue.

There are a great many Christians who read the constitution and still manage to misinterpret the way that the constitution is meant to be applied. What I meant when I said, "But, you would be surprised at how certain Christians interpret that to mean, "I have a right to practice my faith anywhere and you should just deal with it." There's also some semantics that I've never been quite clear on: is it "freedom FROM religion" or "freedom to practice religion". I'm sure someone else can answer this better than I.", I was trying to show this as part of the problem. NOT MY SOLUTION to the problem.

Yes. The establishment clause is clear to me. But, that doesn't matter much if a majority of people in my community take it to mean: "I can practice my religion in a public school classroom and take up twenty minutes of the class' academic instruction time, because the constitution says I can." Or, "Abortion should be illegal because the government is interfering with my right to protect life, as mandated by my God."

Aerik said...

Thanks, R. Nicolas!

You're right, as well. Pretty much all of the writing in the Constitution and Bill of Rights, as they are, came loaded with knowledge of source materials that the ratifying representatives had the luxury of having. The Constitution is not a teaching document, not a textbook, despite how much we can learn from it. At least the Ninth Amendment - Unenumerated Rights - attempts to cover for it: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

The context of the amendment culminating in this simplified explanation: Just because a right written explicitly in the Constitution does not mean the government has a right to trample all over what is held to be a universal human right or universal American right, and nor does the fact that a restriction is not explicitly written in the Constitution mean that the government can extend its powers into areas where it infringes upon rights retained by the people.

This should most obviously apply to religion and many other polarizing issues. Everybody believes in the freedom to practice their religion, and everybody believes in their right to not be a victim of somebody else's religion. The government cannot and should not go against this obvious right, especially by endorsing a religion, and especially by endorsing religion over non-religion.

Altogether the Constitution and it's Bill of Rights are a wonderful working establishment of liberty. Yet but only if we care to study and uphold it, which it seems religionists tend not to bother.

Anonymous said...

It also depends on where you live in America. I was born and raised up north and everyone tended to keep to themselves about religion. I had friends who were agnostic, Methodist, and Jehova's Whitnesses. The topic of religion never came up, except in passing.

For the past 10 years I have lived in the south-eastern US in an area referred to as the "bible-belt". Often times when you meet new people one of the first questions they ask is "Where do you go to church?". I also get stopped a few times each year in public by some stranger who wants to talk to me about God or invite me to a Bible study.

Most people are reasonable. I don't care what religion anybody is as long as they don't start spreading hate or harming people. And don't try and recruit me.

Most people are reasonable. The polemics are just the most visible.

Anonymous said...

Found your blog by accident and think it's great.

I'd like to point out that, like other posters have said here, there is a war going on in the hearts and minds of many evangelicals. It's a war that involves demons and Satan against Jesus and his fundy band.

They believe that they are to "occupy until He [Jesus] comes". That means they want control of all human institutions and they will do almost anything to reach this goal.

Thank Zeus for "Spare Tire Christians"! (This is a term that I've coined to explain many Christians out there. To them Jesus is like a spare tire. They only need him in an emergency. Otherwise he stays locked away in the trunk.)

Spare Tire Christians may agree with some or all of the Evangelical agenda, but they would rather spend time on the golf course than protesting at an abortion clinic. They wouldn't be caught dead passing out religious literature, and the one thought on their minds half way through the sermon on Sunday is "man, is that pot roast gonna taste good!".

If the fundies lose their "war" it'll be because of the Spare Tire brigade.

FadeSeven said...

your explanation misses the entire causality of the situation, and hence explains very little. you are just affirming that there is a war, not saying why or how besides "these christians are doing their best to seem like real fucking bastards". i'm frequently put off by how little real discussion there is on the topic, and i think the situation would change drastically if there was some substantial content at the core of the discussion.

simply put, it all comes down to the City of God. after rome decided to stop respecting individuals beliefs and impose a religion on their massive massive empire, some people got a little riled up and went over and sacked the shit out of rome. in response, some random hojo by the name of Augustine went out and wrote a book describing how the ascendant and virtuous City of God would would be victorious over the City of Man -- those who had strayed from the City of God. ironically, through this declaration, the call for the ascendancy of Christianity and a spiritual man of Heaven became equated with christian success at quelling the heathens and the seemingly infinite forms of satan they represented.

the problem with The City of God is that it only extends the original travesty, declaring not only the absolute ascendancy of their one true god, but also the need for the children of heaven to lord over the nonbelieving children of earth, engaged in active conflict with all things not-themself. from a very early period, the christians have relied on this harsh dichotomy to justify the slow progressive creation of their own City of God, at the expense of everyone else. its a group whose only binding tenant is faith in their own superiority, and its really hard to argue with knuckleheads like that.

Book 19 of City of God
"and as the celestial city, on the other hand, knew that one God only was to be worshipped, and that to Him alone was due that service which the Greeks call latreia, and which can be given only to a god, it has come to pass that the two cities could not have common laws of religion, and that the heavenly city has been compelled in this matter to dissent, and to become obnoxious to those who think differently, and to stand the brunt of their anger and hatred and persecutions, except in so far as the minds of their enemies have been alarmed by the multitude of the Christians and quelled by the manifest protection of God accorded to them."

the grueling indoctrination the evangelicals perform on their poor children is why these jackoffs can continue spreading such egomanical extremist garbage but ultimately it does little to explain the origins of their mistaken condescension. rather than following God and travel through to heaven, The City of God has become a worldly affair concerned with the battle they wage against the City of Man.

i've been musing this pretty heavily the past two-three months and wanted to start writing something on it. eventually i'll get around into turning it into an argument and a position, rather than just bile, but thank you for letting me excrete some brain droppings in your info space.

Sean the Blogonaut said...

To Peter...

I was unsure if your comments-

As an Australian and an atheist, I get rather annoyed when I hear my fellow Aussies saying, "We don't have those problems here." It just ain't true.

and

True, the situation here is not as bad as the US but if Oz atheists don't stop burying their heads in the sand, we could get there.

were directed at my post. Perhaps I was not clear enough. In Australia we do have a Christian Right, it is not as vocal as that in America (perhaps this makes it more dangerous). Australians are naturally apathetic which is another potential Danger.

Do we have "problems"?
Yes just not on the same scale seen in the states?

If left unchecked is there potential for the situation to worsen?

Yes. This is one thing that has prompted me to be more open about my Atheism.

So I agree with what you have said.

Peter said...

Sean,
My post was more prompted by your post than directed at it.

I have noted in the last few years, an increased tendency in our politicians to wave religion around.

However, to give people across the world an idea of just how accepting we are, can you imagine this event being held in your city?

Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras

This is a massive event that attracts large scale corporate support.

Anonymous said...

The original question included: "I thought America was based on freedom of religon."

That's not really a fair characterization. The U.S. was founded based on a wide variety of principles and ideals -- freedom of religon being part of it, of course, but not as its basis for existence.

In 1776, the U.S. was just a loose association of colonies, then later formed a much stronger federal alliance. Many were opposed to this as the record shows. It wasn't until 1789 that the constitution was ratified. And remember that the bill of rights were amendments to that constitution. They weren't originally planned to be in there. From my understanding, amending the constitution was a compromise maneuver in order to get the states to ratify.

That doesn't mean it's not law, of course, but freedom of religon -- or all of the rights in those first ten amendments were either not important to the framers or it "just went without saying."

Another important thing to realize is that in the U.S., states function in many ways as their own feifdoms. For example, many issues (abortion comes to mind), aren't decided on whether something should be legal or illegal in the United States, but whether an individual state could ban it.

For example, even if the Roe v. Wade abortion decision had been decided the other way, there could still be states that ban the practice and those where it is legal.

I can't think of very many countries where the law can be so variable.

Sorry for long history lesson.

Russ said...

One factor contributing to the religious stridency in the US that has been skirted here, but not addressed head-on, is the fact that religion in the US is a free-market free-for-all. Churches have always been adjusting their plans - and the claimed plans of their God's as well - to enhance their effectiveness at establishing and building religious markets - missionaries, for instance, are full-fledged sales reps of the religion industry - as well as penetrating existing markets - enter modern mass evangelism. In modern mass(mega, really) evangelism, yesteryear's penny-ante tent revivals, pamphlets and radio, merely set the stage for the multi-billion dollar per annum religious advertising industry of today. Contemporary full-spectrum force-feeding of religious pabulum to a credulous public deploys every soldier in the regiment to achieve its aim: smarmy televangelists, mega churches - having gyms, arcades, stores, recording studios, broadcasting facilities, and styling salons, as lures - billboard and mobile billboard campaigns, pre-feature advertising in theatres, its own film industry, direct mail advertising, religious rock music, cable access channel proselytizing shows, books and video games, cable networks, holy books in hotels, the internet, toys, games, and the religio-political K street influence peddlers, among many others. Religion in the US survives because so many are making big money selling it, no different than remedies for erectile dysfunction or hemorrhoids.

Beyond promotions proper, are the billions more being paid to settle lawsuits against pedophile priests and the tens of millions more for public relations firms to perform damage control - put sunglasses on those shiners - and, especially, assuage congregant's fears to restore cash flow to its former glory.

Speaking broadly, all of the aforementioned actions would be considered part of a comprehensive marketing plan for religious products and services.

Through marketing, the religious chimera suckles long and deep from the teat of gullibility. That same chimera could be rendered quite impotent if the cash flow simply stopped.

Graeme said...

America got the Puritans, Australia got the poachers

Atheist in a mini van. said...

Through marketing, the religious chimera suckles long and deep from the teat of gullibility. That same chimera could be rendered quite impotent if the cash flow simply stopped.


Can I just say that these two sentences made me say an audible "A-farking-men!"? Kudos!

I find it odd that Christians never stop to consider the huge amount of money that is tied up in their faith. They talk of "doing unto others" and "acts of charity",... but apparently those acts of charity don't include taking all of the money spent on videos and televangelists and other sundry things. Just think how all of that money could be donated to organizations that actually helped THE NEEDY.

I'm reminded of something my neighbor said a few weeks ago: she was going on-and-on about the two million dollars that her church had raised for a new gym and multi-purpose center. What does God have to do with Volleyball or Basketball? Furthermore, we live in California...it's not like there's snow on the ground to make those sports unplayable in the winter. Couldn't that two million have been better spent, oh...I don't know...feeding the hungry or paying rent for a few families?

rafuzo said...

Excuse me, but I believe I was quite up front, at midnight, when I wrote this answer and said "someone else will probably answer this better." My word isn't the final word,...get over yourself. But, if going around acting like a jerk is what rocks your socks... please, continue.

If someone correcting your factual errors is "acting like a jerk" in your eyes, well, I can see I'm not missing much in the rest of your blog. As someone who purports to value empirical evidence and logic over emotional attachment to a particular point of view, I'd think you'd be a little more receptive to someone else correcting the errors in your empirical data. Guess not.

Russ said...

Tailor-made for those of you who enjoy exercising your gag reflex, this Benny-Hinn-the-faith-healing-emetic video will have you projectile vomiting in no time at all.

http://richarddawkins.net/article,586,Benny-Hinn-examined,CBC

If the above long line is truncated the full reference follows on two lines:
http://richarddawkins.net/article,
586,Benny-Hinn-examined,CBC

Under the guise of religion, every fraud, every deceit, every vulgar act of immorality and inhumanity, finds safe harbor. The cruel convention of affording religions blamelessness - even as we observe them perpetrating acts which would be statutory crimes in non-religious contexts - leaves society face-down drowning in a puddle of irony. Essentially all societies almost inaudibly whisper the following dark message: citizens will be defended against all enemies, foreign or domestic, unless that enemy comes in the name of religion.

Atheist in a mini van. said...

If someone correcting your factual errors is "acting like a jerk" in your eyes, well, I can see I'm not missing much in the rest of your blog. As someone who purports to value empirical evidence and logic over emotional attachment to a particular point of view, I'd think you'd be a little more receptive to someone else correcting the errors in your empirical data. Guess not.


I don't find your corrections to be rude. I found this comment:
I think you'll see that, when you actually read source material, semantics issues like that tend to sort themselves out. Please do us all a favor and actually read the Constitution before you purport to answer questions about it.

... to be unnecessary and rude.
You presumed I hadn't read the pertinent documents, when in fact I had. You presumed that I was pretending as if I had the complete, and perfect, answer, when I admitted that I did not. But, instead of giving your first few paragraphs (which were great) and adding to the discusion, you had to give a personal evaluation of my response and lace it with derogatory remarks.

I think people have the wrong impression of what this blog is and is not. This was, until recently, a very personal blog wherein I dicussed my journey from believer to atheist and shared a bit about raising kids in a freethinking environment. This was NOT created to be a debate center- there are many other, better sites for that.

Russ said...

Possummomma,

Thank you for the much appreciated kudos.

If you have the chance to think about something for a bit I'd really like to hear your take on an important concern. Some of the voices on this "Questions" thread are screaming for an answer to a crucial question: when we communicate with words only(emoticons and funky punctuation, being only a crude shorthand, add little), how do we best strive to understand and be understood?

In this thread's context, I'm thinking specifically of rafuzo's reaction to your response to the comment,

I thought America was based on freedom of religion?

Your reply was,

It is. But, you would be surprised at how certain Christians interpret that to mean, "I have a right to practice my faith anywhere and you should just deal with it." There's also some semantics that I've never been quite clear on: is it "freedom FROM religion" or "freedom to practice religion". I'm sure someone else can answer this better than I.


From rafuzo's belittling of you, he clearly saw something light years removed from what I saw. While he felt it deserving of a demeaning, wrathful response, I thought it simply stated an intellectually honest stance. When you said, "...I've never been quite clear on: ... ," I read this as meaning that from sometime in the past until the present, you have, at least occasionally, considered distinct interpretations of the idea of freedom of religion, and, to date, you have arrived at no carved-in-stone conclusion.

Mine, of course, is not the last word on much of anything, but from the venom rafuzo unleashed, he no doubt thought you were stating a much stronger position than I thought you were.

My concern is not so much specific to rafuzo - though if I had so radically misinterpreted such a short text, morally, I would be shamefacedly apologetic - but to written, largely non-face-to-face, communication in general. Is understanding the written word becoming a lost skill in the US? When we communicate in snippet-speak on blogs, what is your take on how best to assure our communication is effective in both directions?

I know that good Possummommas everywhere are lovingly preoccupied by all those wonderful Possum X's, but if you feel inclined, I'd like to know how you see it.

Thanks,
Russ

Atheist in a mini van. said...

@#&!)(@*&#(&
I had a long answer typed out... and then blogger ate my question. FARK!

Let's try this again, in an abridged form:
Is understanding the written word becoming a lost skill in the US? When we communicate in snippet-speak on blogs, what is your take on how best to assure our communication is effective in both directions?


No. I don't think people are losing the ability to understand the written word. I think the internet has added a new dimension to the process of reading.

When you write a letter, you know who your audience is. That person also knows you. There's an intimacy and understanding.

When you write a book, you go through numerous edits and redrafts. You put alot of thought into your book. During that process, you have the opportunity to refine your points and/or plot. The person reading the book can assume that you, the author, have given the subject a great deal of consideration.

With the advent of the internet, that intimacy is lost. Your audience may end up being someone you never intended to speak to. Your audience may not know you...and, therefore, you lose that touch point of personality and common ground.

There's also the double edged sword of "instant feedback". The writer can write and be "published" in minutes. The thoughts may be incomplete or faulty. There's no time to reflect on emotions or "cool off" before your words become public. Same with responders.

Ok...I had more, but I need to go help the possums with homework and chores.

Atheist in a mini van. said...

what is your take on how best to assure our communication is effective in both directions?

Ok. I have a few moments. I'll try to tackle the second half of this question.

I don't know that I have a solution for the communication issues. I have had another blog, on livejournal, for six years. There's few misunderstandings there. However, I've spent six years cultivating friendships and letting people in on glimpses of my life. They *know* me. And, vise-versa. I guess, the best answer I can think of is: we need to give people the benefit of the doubt, when we read their words, and ask them to clarify that which isn't automatically understandable.

K- Possums #3 and #4 are having a smackdown over a biscuit (or, at least, it's sounds like a smackdown)... *runs off to call a time out*

Joe said...

One of the Anon posters makes a good point. Our country as we know it was formed not in 1776, or 1781, but with the Constitution of 1787. It is the Constitution that binds us together. It is the Constitution that allows us to be Atheist/Agnostic and participate on this blog without armed agents of the State knocking on our door.
I believe that "Freedom of Religion" also means "Freedom FROM Religion."
As to the OP, we have strife in this country becasue there are groups in this country that want us to have a "de facto" National Religion. They're not content in following the teachings of Jesus, its all about "Command and Control." They think thier God is the right and only God and thier way to worship is the only truth.
If the Founding Fathers would have wanted a national religion, they would have put one in. That is so hard for some to see.

Sean the Blogonaut said...

I guess, the best answer I can think of is: we need to give people the benefit of the doubt, when we read their words, and ask them to clarify that which isn't automatically understandable.

Check out my response to Peter (tootin' my own trumpet).

There is no real consequence for not being polite over the internet. It does take skill and practise to communicate well in a succinct written form.

And I did tell a tiny white lie about the G'day thing, I do sometimes use it but I don't sound like Steve Irwin - Crikey!

Nance said...

I watched the "Jesus Camp" DVD last night and there were a couple of statistics in the movie that I wasn't able to verify - but if these are accurate, I think the nature of the problem may be more clear:

- 25% of American Christians identify as Evangelical

- 75 % of ALL home-schooled Children in America are Evangelical

If the home-schooling we saw in that film is indicative of the quality of education that most of these kids receive - we have a huge problem.
**************
Rest assured, Matt. Not only is this film not indicative of anything going on in the homes of many hsers but nobody, including me, can tell you with any sort of accuracy how many hsers there are or how many of us are of what religion.

We can guess. We can extrapolate. But we really don't know.

The fact that this film states these stats as facts should go a long way toward telling us about its creators.

OTOH, none of us should really rest assured about the whole issue of religion and science education in this country.

I am always amazed at the concern of strangers when they look at some of the kookier hsers when it is the vast majority of kids we should be concerned about.

Most children (about 85% I think) attend public school. And yet, even after passing through some sort of science instruction, they cling to their beliefs in supernatural beings. Polls show the disturbing numbers --

Are believers declining?

Three years ago, in an identical survey, 79 percent of adults said they believed in God and 66 percent said they were absolutely certain that there is a God. In this new survey, those numbers have declined to 73 percent and 58 percent respectively.

http://www.harrisinteractive.com/harris_poll/index.asp?PID=707

A 6% improvement over 3 years. I'll take it :) but still. . .

My concern is more about the inability of any sort of schooling to trump what Mom and Dad and family and church are teaching for all those hours 85% of the kiddos aren't in public school, rather than the (maybe) 2% who are hsed.

Nance

Russ said...

Possummomma,

I hope your biscuit smackdown intervention had a favorable outcome.

Thank you for the thoughtful responses to my questions.

You make good points about audience, the influence of intimacy and shared experience, respect - that's how I read your "we need to give people the benefit of the doubt, when we read their words," and how that respect is abused when emotions kick aside cooled-off levelheadedness.

Here's something about my post that's worth a chuckle or two, while being one of those "teaching moments."

As I wrote the post posing the questions about effective communication, I drafted the original, and then proceeded through several iterations of proofread-edit. At no time in any of the proofreadings, did I read my own thought, "Is understanding the written word becoming a lost skill in the US?," as anything but rhetorical, but that's not what I had written. Clearly, I had, indeed, asked a question, your answer to which you used as an effective lead-in to the rest of your response. So, I had to laugh at how while asking about reducing miscommunication, I magnificently miscommunicated while actually trying to avoid miscommunication.

Now, forced to personally examine the idea, "We need to give people the benefit of the doubt, when we read their words," I'm humbled by the lesson I've learned: I must always try to give people the benefit of the doubt, since, even when I make every reasonable effort to be clear, I don't always say what I mean. Or, taking one directly from my proofreading gaffe: I shouldn't expect to always accurately read others writing when I know I don't always accurately read my own.