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"Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by
the rulers as useful."
- Seneca the Younger, 4 bce - 65 ce.

    There is a drumbeat of whining among right-wing extremists that there is a war on Christianity, not just in the Mideast, but in the United States, as well. The Internet is abuzz with forwarded material complaining about the latest outrages: efforts to prevent the Ten Commandments to be displayed in public buildings; children not being allowed to pray in school; crèches being banned from public grounds; crosses not being allowed on federal lands; etc. A Pew Research Center poll reveals that 57% of Republicans do not believe in evolution, and, where these benighted souls reign, schools are being forced to teach the religious doctrine of “intelligent design.” Fox News complains of threats to Christianity and arouses the Tea Party masses to fury over each perceived insult to total Christian dominance of our country. These alleged secular outrages are merely the weak manifestation of the will of a small minority trying not to lose the freedom of their religion – or of their lack of religion.

       Most of those who settled in America came from European countries in which the kings owned people’s bodies and the priests owned their souls. Kings and priests were mutually supporting against the people and both derived their wealth by taxing the people. Kings ruled by force; priests ruled by fear. Both kings and priests used torture and fear of eternal damnation to keep subjects in line. To attack the king was treason; to dispute the priest was blasphemy. Both were punishable by death.  In England, lowly testicular (not divine) inspiration resulted in the establishment of the Church of England, which was supported by the state. That church brutally opposed Catholicism, and Catholics returned the favor. Wars resulted.

    In these same European countries, the Jews were first told, “You cannot live among us!” They were either put in ghettos or driven out.  When it was found that these people were energetic, intelligent, and prosperous, the Jews were told, “You cannot live among us -- as Jews!” They were forcibly converted to Christianity. When the Inquisitors suspected that the conversions were not sincere, they tortured the Jews and said, “You cannot live!” This led directly to pogroms and, finally, to the Holocaust. The latter was conducted by God-fearing Catholic and Lutheran Germans. The anti-Jewish policies built upon centuries of religious hatred. Himmler even based the organization of the SS upon the Jesuit hierarchy with which he was familiar as a devout Catholic.

    Europeans have been coming to America for centuries to get away from such church oppression. Settlers in America wanted no part of it, but they frequently started their own forms of oppression. The Salem witch trials were an example of this. Our founding fathers recognized the problem and attempted to protect everyone from religious oppression. In The First Amendment to the Constitution its framers attempted to do this. However, just as is the case with the Second Amendment, people are now trying to infringe upon it. The Constitution is our protection against tyranny of the majority. Christians are in the majority in this country. The minority can resist the efforts of the majority only by invoking the Constitution. Without the Constitutional protections, majority rule is like two wolves and a sheep voting about what is to be on the menu tonight.

        Here is what these founding fathers wrote about what they had done to protect us from oppressive religion:

“We have abundant reason to rejoice that in this land the light of truth and reason has triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition….” ~George Washington, letter to the members of the New Church in Baltimore, January 27, 1793.

“The Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.” ~1797 Treaty of Tripoli signed by John Adams.

“The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history .… It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven…. It will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.” ~John Adams, “A Defense of the Constitution of Government of the United States of America” 1787-1788.

(The Constitution, by the way, has almost no mention of God, Jesus, Christianity, the Creator, or religion, other than to state in the Bill of Rights “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” or using the convention of the time for giving a date as "in the Year of Our Lord.")

     “When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obligated to call for help of the civil power, it’s a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.” ~Benjamin Franklin, letter to Richard Price, October 9, 1780.

             “Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.” ~Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr, August 10, 1787.

“The civil government functions with complete success by the total separation of the Church from the State.” ~James Madison, 1819.

 “Because religious belief, or non-belief, is such an important part of every person’s life, freedom of religion affects every individual. State churches that use government power to support themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths undermine all our civil rights. Moreover, state support of the church tends to make the clergy unresponsive to the people and leads to corruption within religion. Erecting the ‘wall of separation between church and state,’ therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society….” ~Thomas Jefferson: in a speech to the Virginia Baptists, 1808.

        It may seem no great oppression to a fundamentalist to have a huge cross atop a mountain in a city like San Diego. What if it were a swastika? I find the cross beautiful. However, what is not beautiful is the message sent to people of other faiths when it is on government property. It says, “We dominate and rule – there is nothing that you pitiful non-believers can do about it!”

         Religious folks can display their religious symbols and biblical texts on church property, or upon private property. There is no need to place them in or on government buildings and property. Children can be taught a particular religion at home, in private schools, or in churches. There should be no need to brainwash them at public school, or to alter the texts of science books to reflect a mythical instead of a scientific view of our origins. Why does the Pledge of Allegiance still have to have the burdensome phrase “under God” in it as it has since  Knights of Columbus succeeded in having it added in 1954 to protect us from godless communism? Why, for God’s sake, does even our money, the very symbol of evil Mammon’s “treasures upon earth,” have “In God We Trust” on it? What is enough to give the majority a feeling of comfort and security that they rule the roost?

         I suspect that they are concerned that their children, upon reaching the age of reason, will believe more in science than in religion. Although they have little to fear in that regard, Newt Gingrich wails, "I have two grandchildren …I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle…, by the time they're my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American." Radical Islamist secular atheist -- what is that? The statement illustrates and uses for political purposes the angst of believers that they cannot protect their children from science, reason, and godlessness in the world. Not to fear, our education system still turns out a majority of people who seldom give serious thought to anything beyond cars, television, video games, sports, clothes, food, booze, and sex.

         Only seven percent of the members of the National Academy of Sciences (“the wise” of whom Seneca wrote) believe in God according to a Nature magazine survey. However, science can be difficult, and most of our children lack the persistence to study it. I know a woman who has been a judge and a government attorney, but she believes that the world is only 6,000 years old because she was reared in a religious home and because she once failed a college biology course.  Right-wing religious fundamentalists should take heart in the fact that no matter what advances there are in science, their children will continue to believe the medieval myths learned at mother’s knee rather than the science taught at some other joint.

         Religious people just need to understand what the founding fathers intended and to get the message: “Secular folks are not trying to destroy your religion. We just want our constitutionally guaranteed freedom from your religion, especially in our government.”

Originally posted to Skipper Al on Tue Jan 21, 2014 at 02:06 PM PST.

Also republished by Street Prophets and Progressive Atheists.

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Does this reflect and reinforce your attitude toward the separation of church and state?

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Comment Preferences

  •  Love your poll! (4+ / 0-)

    No options, and a "Vote" button that doesn't work.

    Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

    by corvo on Tue Jan 21, 2014 at 02:10:56 PM PST

  •  Constitution mentions religion (3+ / 0-)

    Article VI, Paragraph 3: " but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

    The only ever in the entire Constitution. Interestingly, this raises the question, other articles to the contrary, whether this clause can be repealed.

    •  There's also the perfunctory bit at the end... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Adam B

      ...about the "the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven." Not exactly a ringing endorsement of religion or any kind of policy statement at all, but still present nonetheless.

      "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

      by JamesGG on Tue Jan 21, 2014 at 02:31:26 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  It can (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      CA wildwoman, VClib

      The only restrictions on amendments to the Constitution are in Article V itself:

      The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.
  •  You may want to fix the formatting a little. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sfbob, CA wildwoman

    Putting quotes inside <blockquote> tags and putting an extra line break between paragraphs would do wonders for the readability of this piece on the screen.

    "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

    by JamesGG on Tue Jan 21, 2014 at 02:27:52 PM PST

  •  Minor correction (0+ / 0-)

    The quote you attribute to Seneca at the head of the diary seems to be incorrect.  It's an internet urban legend - there are various sites attributing the quote to Seneca, and occasionally Lucretius, but the correct author is Edward Gibbon.

     The various modes of worship which prevailed in the Roman world were all considered by the people as equally true; by the philosopher as equally false; and by the magistrate as equally useful.

    Decline and Fall, vol 1, ch 2

  •  No one is better at denigrating their deity (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Santa Susanna Kid

    than a Christian.  The insistence on using the government to proselytize has caused Christians (and this includes all stripes of Christians) to accept the watering down of the stature of their god and the symbol of their faith.  For example, placing god's name on money, or on a license plate just about an exhaust pipe of a car... how is that glorifying the sacredness of god's name?  Or allowing Sandra Day O'Connor's idea of "ceremonial deism" be the arguement for "under God" to be in the pledge of allegiance?  Then there is the symbol of the cross.  In order to argue that it's OK to be posted on public land, Christians kept mum when Justice Scalia declare that the cross was merely a secular grave marker, so that makes it all OK.  Or, in the case in Utah of putting latin crosses by the side of the road when a Utah state policeman died on that spot, the Christian based legal group argued that the cross is simply a roadside safety marker.  

    When I was a Christian, I was taught that God's name and the symbol of the cross were sacred. Apparently most Christians don't see it that way.   Now that I'm an atheist, I find it facinating how Christians are their own faith's worst enemies.

    •  San Diego's Mt. Soldad Cross (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      CA wildwoman, Fishtroller01

      The original cross was put there in 1913. Recently, supporters have clamed that it is a war memorial. What war were they memorializing in 1913? The Spanish-American War? The Philippine Insurection? Give me a break! There is no record of it being a war memorial until it was challenged in court by an atheist. Now, the Jewish War Veterans are suing to have it removed. It was on city property, but the California Constitution prohibits such support for religion, so conservative congressmen had the federal government take it over. A federal judge has ruled that action illegal, so the fight will go to the Supreme Court.

      •  Seeing crosses everywhere sets my teeth on edge. (0+ / 0-)

        I know it's supposed to be a symbol of love, but it was originally an instrument of abuse & torture.

        Too many present day Christians still use it for abuse & torture.

        The flaming sword 'crosses' are esp. loathsome & troubling - no teaching of Jesus I know of would be represented by that symbol.

        I like your comparison to a huge swastika on a hill - powerful imagery.

        Something that doesn't make good sense, makes bad sense. That means someone is being deliberately hurtful & selfish. Look for motives behind actions & words.

        by CA wildwoman on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 02:08:45 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  The day after King Day, somewhat ironic. (0+ / 0-)

    There has been a terrorist war, including assasinations and church bombings. The attack on mainstream religion has removed it from providing a moral conscience, the impact was to withdraw the rogue US from the list of reliaby Christian nations. Founded by highy educated Puritans, the nation is now against education, against peace, no city on a hill. As Catholic activist Jim Douglass has written, this was no accident.  

    •  Christian Nation? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      CA wildwoman, Sura 109

      The United States was never a Christian nation. John Adams signed a document to that effect, as quoted in my essay. The Constitution protects us from dominance by any religion. It is certainly true that the religion from which we most need protection is Christianity. The Muslims engage in terrorist attacks from time to time, but the Christians steal our liberty from us every day.

      •  The first great awakening was (0+ / 0-)

        before the revolution. second related to abolition and civil war, third social gospel progressivism. Cultural driver of history as in WNY's burnt over district.  Read Charles Sumner's True Grandeur of Nations speech setting peace and disarmament in Judeo-Christian Western civilization context. SNCC, SCLC. The importance of New England as cultural source for the North and education, since Winthrop. Jefferson and Madison came from a different Vurginia-based culture, no public education, evolved proslavery, now right wing churches. Perhaps explains why MLK, Jr. has so little impact, people don't take theologians seriously anymore.  Correlated to there is no leadership for a peace movement. People may be horrified that Obama uses drones to kill families. but they don't draw a moral line that such is wrong and a stain on the nation, as the rest of the world does. Quaker tradition, Unitarians, Dorothy Day, Father Groppi, William Sloan Coffin, liberal church tradiition gone. As bad as church censorship was as with Hollywood 1934 Code it also was applied by liberals against moral evils hence progressivism, as today with gay rights movement inside liberal churches. It's where people live, dealing with capitalism. Read some Jim Douglass. It would seem that Hollywood won the culture war promoting war and violence as the national values. Or maybe pandering to Christian Zionist values in the South.

        •  Theologians? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Musial

          It is good that people do not take theologians seriously. They are like a man looking for a black cat in a dark room with no light. Their problem is that there is no cat in that room.

          That fact does not prevent them from pontificating on behavior and morality, neither of which should be based upon religion. Morality is doing what is right regardless of what you are told; religion is doing what you are told regardless of what is right.

          •  what's your plan for world peace? (0+ / 0-)

            assuming your point that US religious history has no further role and my point that the US has no moral compass, self- exempted from international law. The question King raised, in his capacity as a minister, mentioned three days ago. I'm assuming that global moral appeal will be insufficient to prevent the US from using its first strike capability when it confronts China, now an option post -Obama. Or first strike against Iran, popular with politicians, moral outrage a tiny minority within the US, a supermajority outside the US.

  •  I can't entirely fault Henry VIII (0+ / 0-)

    It wasn't entirely male pride that led him to want a son.  A son would have undisputed right of succession, and Henry VIII must have known what had happened the last time a king of England had tried to pass his throne to a daughter.  That king had been Henry I, and civil war had been the result.

    I can fault the sexism of the nobility (the peasantry of course had no say), and I can fault the whole concept of hereditary rule, but I can't fault Henry VIII for playing the hand that he had been dealt.

    Bello ne credite, Americani; quidquid id est, timeo Republicanos et securitatem ferentes.

    by Sura 109 on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 04:13:19 AM PST

  •  It is silly to believe this is only right wing ... (0+ / 0-)

    ...Christians who are behaving in such a manner.  In fact, there are many, many left wing Christians right here under your nose at DK who want exactly that - to use government to institute their personal religious beliefs.

    Here's a hint, they often will post or diary in criticism of a specific religion (the one that does not agree with their dogma).  So next time, ask them if what they believe is about all religion or just the one they call out (often dishonestly). PS take a look at their behavior outside of DK - often you will develop a whole new perspective for these individuals.  Sheep in wolves clothing indeed...

    When the daughter of a Pentecostal minister, a self professed Pentecostal herself continues to disparage a particular belief system over and again, on many differing forums, it is beyond negligent to blindly believe and agree without out first looking into this individual's true purpose.  This happens here frequently and is not a new tactic by any means.  You should feel used.

  •  One more thing... (0+ / 0-)

    It should be noted that John Adams who did believe in separation of church and state (as do most thinking people) was a monotheist, a non-Trinitarian - Unitarian.  Not to be confused with UU... and certainly not an atheist.

    As I was going to St Ives, I met a man with seven wives. The seven wives had seven sacks, the seven sacks had seven cats, the seven cats had seven kits. Kits, cats, sacks and wives... how many were going to St Ives...?

    by AsIwasgoingtosaintIves on Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 11:23:28 AM PST

    •  Also... (0+ / 0-)

      Thomas Jefferson was also in fact a monotheist.  The founding fathers often described as "not Christians" were in fact against the church of England and it's scriptural inaccuracies and lies.  More often than not they were monotheists and not (as suggested) atheists.  Just look at the many comment on DK (and everywhere else) about people today who do not adhere to the doctrine of the trinity...  The accusations against them "not being Christians" are countless.

      They (the FF) did not want a state church, as they witnessed first hand the destruction of freedom that could result from such.

      As I was going to St Ives, I met a man with seven wives. The seven wives had seven sacks, the seven sacks had seven cats, the seven cats had seven kits. Kits, cats, sacks and wives... how many were going to St Ives...?

      by AsIwasgoingtosaintIves on Sat Jan 25, 2014 at 12:14:51 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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