Monday, April 19, 2010

God in Government

Examining history, one sees that mixing religion with government has often led to nasty outcomes. You've had pharaohs declaring themselves descendant of Ra and demanding worship. You've had the Spanish Inquisition. You've had human sacrifices to the Sun God. You've had the Crusades. You've had persecution of (fill-in-blank). You've had the Dark Ages. Even recently in the U.S., Sarah Palin divines that Iraq is a holy war and G.W. Bush's "war on terror" resembles an anti-islam zionist crusade. I assume this is why founders like Jefferson argued for 'separation of church and state' and wrote the First Amendment, which clearly states:

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

Yet, every time I pull a dollar out of my wallet... there it is: "In God We Trust". Meanwhile, public school students are led reciting "...one nation, under God..." in the Pledge of Allegiance every day. Regardless of the Supreme Court's mixed bag of rulings on this, it is completely hypocritical to say one supports individual rights while at the same time advocating institutionalized monotheism on the dollar and pledge. To put this in perspective, you have to remember that there are people who believe in no god (atheists, buddhists, agnostics) and even multiple gods (shinto, pagans, etc). Why should government use the word "God" at all? Why should it institutionalize a monotheistic spirituality? I've discussed this with "christian conservatives" enough to summarize their arguments. I will do so below, and explain why they are wrong:
  • Most Americans believe in God.
    So, there should be tyranny of the majority? The founders thought democracy is mob rule, which is why we have a Constitution to protect individuals. This is the lamest argument that could be made by a so-called 'conservative'.

  • "Under God" and "In God We Trust" are time-honored traditions of our nation.
    Check your facts. So-called "conservatives" who praise the founders conveniently ignore that "God" was not once mentioned in the Constitution. It was not institutionalized onto the dollar and pledge until 1950's McCarthy anti-communist paranoia.

  • Rights derive from God. The Declaration of Independence says "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights".
    This was a eloquent letter of grievances written by Thomas Jefferson to King George. It was historical document, not a legally binding one. If you want to quote Jefferson, he also said: "Question with boldness even the existence of a god" and "it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God". Jefferson admired John Locke and "natural law". He coined the term 'separation of church and state'. The founders view on rights derived from the reason and logic of enlightenment philosophy, not spirituality. It was based on equality, individualism, and anti-statism. If individual rights require God, then how did atheist Ayn Rand become one of the greatest advocates of individualism?

  • The founders were christian.
    Even if this were so, what does it matter? They were also white. They wore powdered wigs. Should we institutionalize these characteristics as well? The truth is, many of the founders were simply "deists" (i.e. God of Nature), which would today be closer to agnostic than it would christian church-goer. Jefferson even went so far as to write his own bible, leaving out the hocus-pocus. They were thinkers who valued reason, not writing the Constitution under trance of prayer or by divine prophecy.

  • So what, "God" is just a word. It doesn't hurt anybody.
    If you make this argument, you should be okay with having "There is no god" on the dollar, or "...one nation, under the Flying Spaghetti Monster..." in the Pledge of Allegiance. It doesn't hurt you. However, many christians would scoff at this suggestion. Hypocrites.

  • Our laws and morality come from judeo-christian values, like the Ten Commandments.
    Sorry, but it's the other way around. Those values happen to overlap nicely with "natural law" in the areas of justice - like protecting property rights ('Thou shalt not steal') or preventing aggressive threats ('Thous shalt not kill'). The other rules like "no god before me", "no eating pork", etc. have no place in a courthouse... even for display purposes. As for taking oath on bibles? No thanks, I'll swear on a plate of spaghetti & meatballs.

Religious folks get riled up when anyone argues to take "God" from their dollar or pledge. They shouldn't... it's simply a stance for freedom and proper limits on government, not an anti-religious or atheist one. The religious right does more damage to the conservative base with their fear-based "Gasp, what if society loses God!" mentality. There are plenty of free-thinking independents and libertarians like myself who value rationality, agnosticism, and empiricism over spirituality and mysticism (especially in civics and politics). We are those voters who cringe at the thought of a politician using a Bible to legislate. You can pretty much find a quote from the Bible to justify anything. Keep government neutral and out of it. Let a christmas tree be put up in a public square, just not on taxpayer dime or time. While you're at it... let the Kwanzaa/Festivus/FSM display go up alongside if someone desires. Let parents make the choices for their children's education, instead of school boards. Let spirituality be a personal, private, and family matter. Let the word "marriage" be used by religious ceremonies, instead of being a word licensed by government. Keep government and God separate... period.

P.S. God is a libertarian.


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