Sunday, October 14, 2007

Quote of the Day

"This would be the best of all possible worlds if there were no religion in it." - John Adams

So much for the idea that our country's founders intended this to be a Christian Nation. The men who wrote our constitution were men of the Enlightenment period. Recently, I read the book,Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism . The author really shatters the myths propagated by the religious right that this nation's birth was guided by Christianity. The biggest clue this was not true is that no where in our Constitution does it mention God, or "divine power". It was the first "godless constitution" which was a amazing in a world where there was still a divine right of kings or of government. Another innovation and clue to our secular founding is that the constitution spelled out quite plainly that there would be no religious tests to hold public office.

At the time of the drafting of our constitution, each state had its own laws regarding who could hold office based on religious affiliation. Some would allow Jews to hold office, but no Catholics, some were vice versa. Yet, the constitutional authors based their document on the state constitution of Virginia, which allowed rights for all beliefs and even those without belief.

One thing that informs secularism of that time was the history of religion and government in Britain and Europe. Princes of Europe would hold one sect as official and demand fidelity by force only to switch religious alliances to make former adherants into heretics. Much of the instability of government ruled by Churches and religion drove our ancestors to the New World. Religious and non-religious alike wanted to be left alone.

The key to freedom of belief and conscience is having a secular government which doesn't choose sides and treats all of its citizens equally despite what they believe. An American citizen needs to walk into a courtroom, city hall, or the halls of the legislature believing that they are represented and accepted regardless of their religion. Christians would feel out of place if there were Quotes from Allah in Arabic inscribed in stone as the walk through a courtroom, city hall, or the legislature, wouldn't they? The same holds true when citizen non-Christan citizens are confronted with Christian inscriptions or a post of the 10 Commandments.

I am currently reading The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason , it brutally argues that religion is failing to be a positive influence in the world. He argues that supporting moderates in religion do not help matters because moderates are just unfaithful to the original texts of their religions. In other words, moderate or progressive Catholics are bad Catholics because they ignore many of the brutal and backward parts of the bible and reject some of the dogma of their church. To truly believe in a religion, you must accept the notion that people who believe differently are condemned as the texts of each religion preach. The moderates and progressives among us are enabling those who interpret their texts literally and see us as misguided, unfaithful, and even condemned to be punished by their god. This book forces one to question whether religion is worth it for our world given that it causes so much conflict and violence. I have yet to finish this book, but it doesn't look good for religion.

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