The Necessity of Secularism, pg 33

Feb 2, 2016

“One of the most ridiculous claims that has gained currency among some Religious Right advocates is that the Constitution doesn’t provide for separation of church and state because the phrase “separation of church and state” is not itself in the Constitution. What these persons fails to understand is that it would have been redundant to include such a phrase in the Constitution. The document as a whole embodies the view that the government is not to meddle in religious matters. The federal government is given very specific, limited powers only over various secular matters. It has no powers relating to religion. The government is secular both in its origin (the consent of the governed) and its function. The government and religious institutions are completely separate and have nothing to do with each other. To insist that the Constitution doesn’t mandate separation of church and state because it doesn’t contain that phrase is more preposterous than a person who is not named as a beneficiary in a will insisting he has a claim on the estate because the will does not specifically exclude him by name.”

-Ron Lindsay, pg 33 of The Necessity of Secularism


Discuss!

41 comments on “The Necessity of Secularism, pg 33

  • The government is secular both in its origin (the consent of the governed) and its function.

    That rulers rule only through “the consent of the governed” is the Enlightenment view espoused by the likes of John Milton and John Locke, and the phrase is found in the Declaration of Independence. It springs from the long philosophical and political movement away from the dictatorial right to rule claimed by Kings and Queens.

    Royal rulers had long claimed their dictatorial rights were underpinned by divine right – handed to them by a god or gods and therefore not subject to review, alteration, nor even question, by other people – mere mortals. Handy.

    Basically, it’s very easy to trace this philosophy and subsequent political science developments through the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights (plus Britain’s Glorious Revolution and the French Constitution, among others).

    Indeed, it’s obvious even to those of us who are challenged in the grey-matter department, that this language is designed to resist American Politicians from claiming divine inspiration or command for their rule – because that would be a route back to hated kingship.

    How then do we square this with George Bush II – according to the Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath’s witness statement: “President Bush said … ‘I am driven with a mission from God’ “? Americans are usually not shy about using the word impeachment, I wonder why this is a special case? It’s not too late.

    In the 2016 election we also hear politicians talking about how they’re beholden to their imaginary friend for guidance. Ted Cruz has asserted that fear of God is absolutely vital, declaring that “Any president who doesn’t begin every day on his knees isn’t fit to be Commander-in-Chief of this nation.” I would like to hear from Mr Cruz on how this supports the President’s affirmation to uphold the Constitution which, in Article VI, expressly forbids a religious test for office. Until we do, it is Mr. Cruz who is not fit as he clearly has no understanding of how the constitution is actually framed.

    Cruz is not alone in being an ignorant applicant for a job that is clearly beyond his abilities.

    Government and religious institutions are completely separate and have nothing to do with each other.

    Yes, SCOTUS has made clear over and over and … that this is exactly what the 1st Amendment means.

    So why are States’ politicians engaged in attempting to ignore the 14th Amendment and drafting and passing Freedom of Religion laws?

    One might be tempted to conclude that some Americans are not happy with the law of their land. In 1816, Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of the United States, wrote: “[s]ome men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence and deem them like the Ark of the Covenant, too sacred to be touched.” The French call this phenomenon Civil Religion.

    Civil Religion has become a clear and present danger to American secularism. Americans refer to the constitution almost constantly as if it were canon law, they have created idols for worship – statues, the flag (the stars and stripes, as recently as last year, affirmed as the only sanctified version), references to a god on public displays and money … and they invoke the constitution as a religious creed every day – most notably in oaths.

    It seems to me that having a written constitution is not such a great thing. It only really works if it’s also understood by the vast majority of the citizenry. Do they? According to the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania survey of 2015 (extract):

    1 in 3 Americans believes the Bill of Rights guarantees the right to home ownership
    1 in 3 Americans (31%) could name all three branches of the U.S. government and 32% could not identify a single branch
    1 in 4 Americans (28%) believes a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling is sent back to either Congress for reconsideration or to the lower courts
    1 in 10 Americans (12%) believe the Bill of Rights guarantees the right to own a pet
    25% of respondents agreed that “it might be better to do away with the court altogether” if it started making a lot of rulings most Americans disagreed with
    26% said when Congress disagrees with the Supreme Court’s decisions, it should pass legislation saying the court can no longer rule on that issue

    Err, separation of powers?

    26% favored requiring a person to testify against himself in court

    That would be a no then.

    Talking up the secular history and constitution is all very well. But it is only the thin end of a wedge. Significant adult education is clearly missing.

    I’ve said this so many timesbut I haven’t tired yet: The people best placed to educate the public, particularly the adult public, are the media. They are clearly not only falling down on the job, a moments study reveals they’re actively undermining American Citizen’s democratic right to know. Here’s the NYT discussing the current religious test for office.

    We must hold the media, the press in particular are the most wayward, to account and we must be thinking in terms of educating people what secular really, actually, means.

    Peace.



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  • I’m very disappointed to learn that the American Constitution is secular. I’ve always believed that my faith, The Latter Day Resurrectionists of Spaghetti Monsters would have their say and day of prayer over all those other meaningless religions vying for authority and imposition of our culture. How dare they!



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  • 3
    rocket888 says:

    The federal government is given very specific, limited powers only
    over various secular matters.

    That might have been true 230 years ago, but it is far from true today. Once the fed gov gave itself the power to interpret the constitution (marbury vs. madison c. 1803) it gave itself full power to do anything it wants to do.

    Today, the only power the fed gov doesn’t have is whatever the supreme court (part of the fed gov) doesn’t currently wish to give to itself. More recently, even that is suspect as the president can make any law by decree (executive order) without the need to consult any other branch of the gov. The actual written document means next to nothing anymore.

    The only curb on their so-called limited powers are the fear of rebellion. Were the feds to re-institute stoning as a punishment for working on the Sabbath day, there would today probably be resistance enough to nullify such a decree.



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  • Hi rocket888,

    I’m aware that Marbury versus Madison was the first time that SCOTUS exercised judicial review.

    What has that to do with the government (executive)? Maybe I missed something?

    Today, the only power the fed gov doesn’t have is whatever the supreme court (part of the fed gov) doesn’t currently wish to give to itself

    The Supreme Court is only a part of the Federal Government in the sense that it’s legitimacy is rooted in the constitution. However, reading the constitution and the notes of the constitutional convention it’s clear that the Supreme Court is specifically designed to be a separate organization that may make independent decisions.

    It’s also clear from the few extant notes of the convention proceedings, and the context of contemporary legal proceedings and opinions that survive, that judicial review by the courts – in line with Thomas Bonham versus College of Physicians – was anticipated to be applied by all courts, ultimately with the possibility of appeal to the independent Supreme Court, by courts governed by judges with independence through tenure.

    The Convention also made the selection of partisan Justices as difficult as possible – though not impossible, as I have seen in my lifetime. Even so they clearly remain independent enough, as a court, to upset many members of Congress.

    More recently … the President can make any law by decree (executive order) without the need to consult any other branch of the gov.

    Certainly President George W. Bush was infamous for issuing executive orders that undermine laws (EO13233, EO13433, EO13292, EO13422, EO13279 … too many to count) though, to be fair, this is a long term trend.

    Is the executive power to decide how the law is applied being misused? The Supreme Court recently asked for legal arguments to be presented – thus also demonstrating their independence from the legislative. It seems to me that this remains an open question.

    The only curb on their [assumed to mean: Federal Government] so-called limited powers are the fear of rebellion

    How do you come to such a conclusion? As you have yet to supply any evidence; on what evidence do you base this opinion?

    Peace.



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  • It’s always disappointing to hear some of my fellow Americans express the viewpoint that America is a Christian nation because the founding fathers wanted it that way. They are confusing the religious fanatics that stepped off the Mayflower with the leaders of the American Revolution who went on to write the Constitution. The latter were products of the Enlightenment and not to be lumped in with the former.

    This is why our Christians are shocked and angered when presented with the view that our founding fathers were aiming at a secular country and not a Christian nation, because most of them wouldn’t qualify as Christian at all! The evidence is in black and white in their writings if they would open their eyes and take a look. But no, because then they’d have to actually accept the possibility that they are wrong and then they’d actually have to do some difficult thinking and that would be absolutely unacceptable.



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  • We are functionally, and always have been, a secular republic, whether that specific phrase appears in the Constitution or not.

    What is the separation of church and state? It is the separation of sectarian religion from governance, of theocrats-in-waiting from the levers of power, of the fasces of punishment from the hands of the godly, and of religious nuttiness from the affairs of the people. It is one of the brightest stars in the flag. The American people must keep that star brightly polished, untarnished by either neglect or the rude paws of fanatics.

    The wall the Founders erected between church and state still meets the standard of the old-time farmer’s formula for a good fence: horse-high, bull-strong and pig-tight. It is laid up of good 18th century brick, and it has been resisting the furious and unrelenting attacks of our native woodpeckers ever since.

    We enjoy every day the fruits of that separation, and we live every day in the confidence that there isn’t a blessed thing its enemies can do about it.



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  • Good discussion of subject here:

    http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2010/10/1920/

    In which, this quote:

    In a nutshell, government may neither compel nor prohibit religious
    exercise. The Establishment Clause side of the coin says that
    government may not prescribe religious exercise; the Free Exercise
    side says that government may not proscribe, disfavor or otherwise
    punish or prevent religious exercise voluntarily chosen by the people.
    But the two phrases are two sides of the same coin. It is little
    wonder, then, that the Supreme Court has abandoned entirely the
    misleading metaphor “separation of church and state.” It simply does
    not help explain the true meaning of the First Amendment.

    @OP –

    What these persons fails [sic] to understand is that it would have been redundant to include such a phrase [the metaphor] in the Constitution.

    On the other hand, maybe what they don’t fail to understand is that the phrase is based on current interpretation of the First amendment by the Supreme Court, and that interpretations can change.



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  • Hi Doug,

    The person you quote above does not appear to have studied the subject.

    Thomas Jefferson, drafter of a law on religious freedom as a Virginia legislator, who protested in writing that no Bill of Rights was included in the initial constitution, while serving as President of the United States, was approached by the Danbury Baptist Association in the state of Connecticut to help them clarify the nature of the US Government’s position on religion. The relevant extract from Jefferson’s reply (full text available from the Library of Congress), dated 1st January 1802:

    T.J.: Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship …

    From the very beginning of his reply (salutations aside) Jefferson makes clear that earthly matters and religious matters are separate, and echoes Article VI, Clause 3, which plainly states that no federal officer or employee can be required to adhere to or accept any particular religion or doctrine – highlighting the secular nature of the constitution and, thereby, the country and its government. He continues:

    T.J.: … I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

    Now, it is not the role of the President to interpret the constitution – that is the role of the Supreme Court. Nevertheless Jefferson was instrumental in the passage of the Bill of Rights, including the 1st Amendment he quoted above and his views, if the Court should find any ambiguity, would be taken into account.

    In another example (among many) of the Founding Fathers’ intentions, Jefferson wrote a strongly-worded letter to James Madison in 1787 to protest that personal freedoms had not been protected from the very beginning, thus (relevant extract):

    T.J.: I do not like … the omission of a bill of rights providing clearly and without the aid of sophisms for freedom of religion, freedom of the press … [etc.] … in all matters of fact triable by the laws of the land and not by the law of nations

    There is no room for doubt. Jefferson, the Founding Father who was the foremost champion of individual citizens’ rights, particularly religious rights, at the dawn of the new United States, was satisfied that the 1st Amendment protected religious rights by building a wall of separation between Church & State. In his mind a fully secular state [not only not connected with religious or spiritual matters, but defended and isolated from them] is the only way to ensure full protection of religious freedom.

    There is no dichotomy.

    There can also be no doubt, given the evidence available and which time does not allow me to present – not least the passing of the 1st Amendment itself – that Jefferson spoke for the majority.

    When the person you quoted says:

    It is little wonder, then, that the Supreme Court has abandoned entirely the misleading metaphor ‘separation of church and state’ it simply does not help explain the true meaning of the First Amendment.

    … they are wholly wrong.

    That quote also appears to contain some weasel words, for example I know of no occasion when the Supreme Court:

    … abandoned entirely the misleading metaphor …

    But I don’t pretend to be a constitutional lawyer – and I’m always ready to learn.

    The main problem is also highlighted in the quote you provided:

    … the two phrases are two sides of the same coin [establishment versus free exercise]

    No, there is no ‘coin’. This is the false dichotomy. This is exactly the incorrect interpretation that Jefferson sought to counter. The 1st Amendment does not allow for ‘flipping the coin’, it specifies that citizens are free to believe whatever the hell they like and the government has no say and that (because citizens all have different beliefs) the government cannot, in any shape or form, countenance any form of religion within its operations. Because this secular structure is the only, and best, defence against government infringement on citizen’s religious rights.

    Please feel free to cut and paste my reply in the site you link to. Unfortunately I already have far too many accounts/subscriptions – I should be culling not adding.

    Peace.



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  • https://www.richarddawkins.net/2016/02/the-necessity-of-secularism-pg-33/#li-comment-196673

    @Stephen-of-Wimbledon,

    Thanks for doing the research I should have done (and for being clearly much better versed in American history than I am). There’s actually much in the article that agrees with you. I may have misunderstood what I (hastily) read.

    Do you agree with this paragraph?

    The correct understanding of the First Amendment is not that it forbids contact—and even voluntary cooperation—between church and state. Rather, it protects private religious liberty, but does so in two complementary ways. In a nutshell, government may neither compel nor prohibit religious exercise. The Establishment Clause side of the coin says that government may not prescribe religious exercise; the Free Exercise side says that government may not proscribe, disfavor or otherwise punish or prevent religious exercise voluntarily chosen by the people. But the two phrases are two sides of the same coin. It is little wonder, then, that the Supreme Court has abandoned entirely the misleading metaphor “separation of church and state.” It simply does not help explain the true meaning of the First Amendment. 
    

    I don’t see what’s wrong with the coin analogy.

    [Edited by moderator to correct the @ name so the right user gets the notification. Hovering over the user’s name on any comment they’ve posted will show their @ name at the end of the link that appears at the foot of the screen. You just need the bit after ‘members/’.]



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  • Hi Doug,

    Do you agree with this paragraph?

    In a nutshell: No. That statement is making the most frequent mistake that people who misinterpret the 1st Amendment make.

    I despair when I read this kind of thing; it can be impossible to divine whether the speaker is being mischievous or ignorant or both!

    … government may neither compel nor prohibit religious exercise …

    The 1st Amendment comes to us as a list of Natural Rights (see my first post on this thread for details of the development of citizens’ rights):

    Plain text: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    Ignoring the other rights listed, the two that refer to religion are:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion
    Congress shall make no law … prohibiting the free exercise [of religion]

    These two clauses are usually called the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause.

    The Establishment Clause expressly forbids legislation that establishes a religion – an established religion is one that is included in the operations of government or that is promoted or supported by government. The Establishment Clause is brief and to the point, there is no wiggle room.

    Thus, when we consider this part of the paragraph quoted:

    … the First Amendment [does] not … forbid contact … between church and state

    The situation is somewhat more strict than this statement suggests. The 1st Amendment does not say something like: ‘Look, Gov., if you’re in a bit of a bind and you think hooking up with a church to supply homeless people with soup might be a nice idea then why not go ahead – just be sure that you don’t, you know, actually support the church in the process.’

    The reality is that the 1st Amendment says, very clearly: ‘Government: Do nothing with a church until you are first satisfied that you will not (a) promote that church in any way and, (b) infringe on the church members’ rights to do whatever the religion demands in terms of worship.’

    In effect this ought to make almost any church-state co-operation next to impossible because to work with any institution as a partner is to promote it by association, and any assistance that the government gives to a church must come with the burden of any and all other relevant legislation which will, in many cases, infringe on the rights of the religious to exercise (for example) bigotry in their private lives and in their following of their creed, if for no other reasons.

    Wikipedia has good articles that focus just on these two clauses, and I recommend them. The law has had time to mature and there are many nuances. Cornell University Law School also offers a good on-line resource for understanding the 1st Amendment.

    The coin analogy is bad because it presents the idea either:

    That the two clauses are extremes and that government must either flip the ‘coin’ and decide which it is doing in each specific case, or
    It is used to present the previously noted false dichotomy of: The government must steer a middle course.

    Both of these ideas lead to false interpretations (as previously outlined). In fact, the 1st Amendment is perfectly clear; both religion clauses point in the same direction – in Jefferson’s phrase: an impenetrable wall must persist between the state and religion, in order for us to say that government pursues its ends with no hooks in religion(s) and not hooked by any religion while, on the other side of the wall, citizens pursue their religion in their private lives unencumbered by government in any form (the main limit being that they must not, in their zeal, infringe the rights of other citizens – though this is not spelled out in the constitution, presumably because the drafters thought this moral rule was obvious and universal).

    Compare and contrast Jefferson with, say, Senator Marco Rubio, Candidate for US President:

    We are clearly called, in the Bible, to adhere to our civil authorities, but that conflicts with also a requirement to adhere to God’s rules. When those two come in conflict, God’s rules always win.

    Rubio is obviously telling Americans to resist the Constitution, the highest law of the land. In effect Rubio is saying that the 1st Amendment should at least be modified (he promotes the idea of a Constitutional Convention), or the religious should revolt.

    The Founding Fathers passed the 1st Amendment as it is because they understood, from the recent (to them) history of violence engendered by established religions in Europe and elsewhere had to be resisted. 230 years later it looks like they were on to something. Americans listen to the the songs of sirens like Rubio at their peril.

    Peace.



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  • Stephen of Wimbledon
    Feb 4, 2016 at 1:13 pm

    Compare and contrast Jefferson with, say, Senator Marco Rubio, Candidate for US President:

    We are clearly called, in the Bible, to adhere to our civil authorities, but that conflicts with also a requirement to adhere to God’s rules. When those two come in conflict, God’s rules always win.

    Rubio is obviously telling Americans to resist the Constitution, the highest law of the land.

    Perhaps a slightly different viewpoint, might help lift the Xtian blinkers!

    We are clearly called, in the Quoran, to adhere to our civil authorities, but that conflicts with also a requirement to adhere to Allah’s rules (peace be upon him). When those two come in conflict, God’s Sharia Laws always win.

    In effect Rubio is saying that the 1st Amendment should at least be modified (he promotes the idea of a Constitutional Convention), or the religious should revolt.

    As ISIS and Boko Haram have done in the Middle East and Africa!



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  • 13
    maria melo says:

    “Royal rulers had long claimed their dictatorial rights were underpinned by divine right – handed to them by a god or gods and therefore not subject to review, alteration, nor even question, by other people – mere mortals.”

    Well, not quite, but I have a long scholar learning in humanities (not science), where centuries step by step and repeating the same subjects from childhood to adulthood .
    In fact, between medieval men there was something we´d like to think as a social contract even loyalty bonds, moral duties and honor, for instance, the king had the duty to treat all men as brothers, these were some duties of the king, not a dictator, and when the king didn´t accomplish his moral duties, nor were peasants obliged to obey. In fact, in those times there was no such thing a a centralized state, and the church was more eficiente than kings in the demand for taxes.
    I understand your argument however-



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  • maria melo
    Feb 4, 2016 at 6:10 pm

    In fact, between medieval men there was something we´d like to think as a social contract even loyalty bonds, moral duties and honor, for instance, the king had the duty to treat all men as brothers,

    That does not sound correct! Surely the chivalric code required kings to treat all aristocrats and knights as brothers, so if they were captured in battle they were likely to held for ransom rather than butchered as the peasants were.

    these were some duties of the king, not a dictator, and when the king didn´t accomplish his moral duties,

    “Moral duties” were largely decided by the powers of war-lords and armies, with churches playing propagandist roles.

    nor were peasants obliged to obey.

    The peasants were obliged to obey their local lords – not the king directly – (although the matter was likely to be a political football if local lords were in disputes).
    Peasants followed their feudal masters on whichever side those masters chose to fight.



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  • 15
    maria melo says:

    For instance, the king gathered with peaants to discuss common problems, and as I said, had moral duties and was himself subjected to laws, not above other common men:

    a Google translation
    Coimbra cuts 1211

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

    Were gathered by Alfonso II of Portugal (1211-1223) in the city of Coimbra, then the capital of the kingdom.

    Had the objective of strengthening the sovereignty of the Crown, them having been promulgated the first General Laws of the Kingdom, which confirmed the sovereign traditional detention of political power and the supreme jurisdiction. The sovereign impose respect for human dignity and the legal rules that he himself submitted to the prime example.

    It is possible that even then the sovereign count on the collaboration of local element, which, according to some authors, was already represented in these courts, and that would be recognized as “nation-arm” in Leiria Cortes 1254.

    https://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cortes_de_Coimbra_de_1211



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  • maria melo
    Feb 4, 2016 at 6:38 pm

    For instance, the king gathered with peaants to discuss common problems, and as I said, had moral duties and was himself subjected to laws, not above other common men:

    This may have been true of particular kings on particular occasions, but more generally throughout Europe over several centuries the situation I described applied. There were revolutions both by nobles and by peasants at various times, because of tyrannical kings!



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  • @Moderator

    [Edited by moderator to correct the @ name so the right user gets the notification. Hovering over the user’s name on any comment they’ve posted will show their @ name at the end of the link that appears at the foot of the screen. You just need the bit after ‘members/’.]

    Thanks for the assist.

    Problem #1 is I usually use an iPad (Safari), so some of that functionality is either not there or must be done in some other way that I haven’t figured out yet.

    Problem #2 is that in my case the name that appears at the top of my comments and the “member” name that shows up when I (and presumably others) do what you describe (using something other than Safari) are not even similar. I thought the Id we use when we login to the site was “private”. Can you explain?



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  • Hello @stephen-of-Wimbledon #li-comment-196721
    (Hope I got it right that time! What a PITA!)

    The coin analogy is bad because it presents the idea either:
    That the two clauses are extremes and that government must either flip the ‘coin’ and decide which it is doing in each specific case, or
    It is used to present the previously noted false dichotomy of: The government must steer a middle course.
    Both of these ideas lead to false interpretations (as previously outlined). In fact, the 1st Amendment is perfectly clear; both religion clauses point in the same direction – in Jefferson’s phrase: an impenetrable wall must persist between the state and religion, in order for us to say that government pursues its ends with no hooks in religion(s) and not hooked by any religion while, on the other side of the wall, citizens pursue their religion in their private lives unencumbered by government in any form…

    I appreciate your comments, but I don’t see how the coin analogy leads to the “false dichotomy”, the “middle course” issue you mention. In fact, it seems that your “no hooks in religion(s) and not hooked by any religion” is pretty much equivalent to “government may neither compel nor prohibit religious exercise”, as quoted above.

    …citizens pursue their religion in their private lives…

    By “private lives”, I assume you mean in their non-governmental lives (which still might be “public”). If not, please explain.



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  • 19
    fadeordraw says:

    As a US outsider, what I find “ridiculous” and “preposterous” is a discussion of the separation of church and state focused on the US constitution as if it were a Bible and that the proponents involved in the discussion sound like participants in a medieval, theological disputation. On the ground, the very RD Foundation newsletter sites the practice of government $ supporting the teaching of Christian creationism and sites a Pew survey showing most US citizens would not vote for a non-believer presidential candidate. Evidently, religiosity is in bed with the State, whether or not the State, constitutionally, is “allowed” to be in bed with religion. As has been observed, in no other western country is religion so much involved in politics and governance. And it is that very constitution that is religiously referenced with respect to guns, and no other western country have the guns that the US has. So, from my perspective, the paragraph and the ensuring discussion are more reflective of how the US constitution is approached as sacred, when the evidence shows otherwise. In saying that, it is appreciated that what might be being brought into question is how we approach all our constitutions, many of which were chiselled in stone long ago.



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  • Thank you Stephen of Wimbledon. For a Womble, you are well versed on this subject and I am much the wiser for it.

    @FadeorDraw (Is that a random thing like most golfers. The quantum effect off the tee)

    Evidently, religiosity is in bed with the State, whether or not the State, constitutionally, is “allowed” to be in bed with religion. As has been observed, in no other western country is religion so much involved in politics and governance.

    I find a touch of hypocrisy in America’s condemnation of the Theocracy of Iran, Sharia Law and the Rule of the Mullah’s, when the very same thing is advocated by many of the Republican presidential candidates. Rubio’s quote above on obeying god’s law ahead of constitutional law creates the United Theocracy of American if not in law, but by action.

    I know Neodarwinian is going to give me another flogging, but the US is out of step with the progress of what is considered the civilized norm in modern western democracies. Religion in politics should not even be seen, let alone heard.



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  • Responding to: Feb 4, 2016 at 6:10 pm

    Hi Maria,

> … between medieval men there was something we´d like to think [of] as a social contract even loyalty bonds, moral duties and honor, for instance, the king had the duty to treat all men as brothers, these were some duties of the king, not a dictator, and when the king didn´t accomplish his moral duties, nor were peasants obliged to obey

    It is true that, in some countries, the rights of kings were made less arbitrary over time. It is particularly true of Britain and before that England. My point was not that The Builders of the American State were reacting solely to the rights of kings, but that they were the beneficiaries of the Enlightenment.

    New ways of thinking brought down the French monarchy and aristocracy just as much as their tyranny forced the people to rebel. Ideas can be dangerous things. A similar, idea-driven revolution happened in Russia, but at a much later date. For the Builders then, the World presented them with a hodge-podge of models of government. Their language identifies the Builders as children of the Enlightenment who were, despite the theological bent of many of them, persuaded that our natural rights trump divine rights – at least, during our time on Earth.

    For the Builders, indeed for the colonists as a whole, the times of religiously-inspired political blood-letting were recent history. Cromwell’s comprehensive victories at Drogheda, Ireland (1649), Dunbar, Scotland (1650) and Worcester, England (1651) are a little over a century before 1776. Just as we consider the geopolitical lessons of WW1 today, so too did the colonists worry about religious influences in public life.

    Determined to learn from these and other lessons (Queen Mary’s attempt to reverse England’s religious conversion to Protestantism in bloody and murderous style seems a likely candidate) secularism and natural rights offered hope far beyond anything that springs from faith.

    These are the lessons, this is the legacy, here is the placing of power into hands that wish they were more bloody, that modern constitution deniers give every appearance of desiring. This is a dangerous idea indeed.

    Peace.






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  • Doug:

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2016/02/the-necessity-of-secularism-pg-33/#li-comment-196777

    On the iPad front, don’t worry too much. The changes are still a work in progress and the technical developer is looking into ways of providing a simpler way of identifying the comment being replied to.

    On the @name front, its purpose is to uniquely identify the user concerned and, at present, only the user name you select on signing up is guaranteed to be unique. Display names are not. Making display names unique as well is already on our list of requests to the developer, and if he is able to do this, then presumably the @name function could then reference the display name rather than the user name. We’ll let him know about the privacy concern you’ve raised.

    The mods



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  • [Responding to: Feb 4, 2016 at 10:30 pm]

    Hi fadeordraw,

    [What a] preposterous … discussion … on the US constitution as if it were a Bible and … [those] involved in the discussion sound like participants in a medieval, theological disputation.

    True. That seems to be an unfortunate side-effect of having a written constitution as the foundation stone of the state.

    Evidently, religiosity is in bed with the State, whether or not the State, constitutionally, is “allowed” to be in bed with religion.

    That Americans have not heeded Jefferson’s advice, and have allowed the wall of separation to become more like a colander, also true.

    Religious people are convinced that they’re right – and Americans are noticeably ignorant of their country’s civic structure (as I noted above). They therefore set aside the wisdom of the Founders and Builders of the United States. You raise an interesting question: Given that the people no longer follow the constitution, the majority not even knowing what the constitution is, is the constitution even relevant? Perhaps Rubio is more in tune with Americans than we realize?

    … it is that very constitution that is religiously referenced with respect to guns, and no other western country have the guns that the US has.

    Yes again, the constitution has become the touchstone of a new Civil Religion. Jefferson was aware that this process started almost from the moment the constitution was a ratified.

    … [this] … discussion [is] more reflective of how the US constitution is approached as sacred, when the evidence shows otherwise. In saying that, it is appreciated that what might be being brought into question is how we approach all our constitutions, many of which were chiselled in stone long ago.

    Just like a supernatural religion, civil religion is prone to schism. Christians and Muslims and Hindus and Jews refer to their differing interpretations of scripture. Civil religionists do the same.

    The difference is supposed to be that the US Constitution has a device, called the Supreme Court, that decides and dispenses the true doctrine. Just as Protestants split from the Catholic doctrine disseminated from Rome, so too are Americans increasingly questioning the judgements of the Supreme Court. The domestic terrorism currently unfolding in Oregon is the ultimate fate of a country that treats its constitution as a holy text.

    I first became interested in Jefferson when I discovered that our old friend Christopher Hitchens called his on-line site Build Up That Wall. Note the implicit call to action. Defending secularism, resisting re-interpretation of the constitution, strengthening the wall of separation, these are things that are in our power to do now, today and every day. Education, one-on-one, works. It worked for the Greens, and for revolutionaries everywhere.

    Yes, the media appear determined to work against us, but that cannot be an excuse. We need to speak up. The law of the land must receive our loud, enthusiastic and energetic support.

    “Preposterous” or not, the alternative is lawless.

    Peace.



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  • [Responding to: Feb 4, 2016 at 8:59 pm]

    Hi Doug,

    Doug: I appreciate your comments, but I don’t see how the coin analogy leads to the “false dichotomy”, the “middle course” issue you mention

    Sorry Doug, but my teaching skills are probably going to fall short. If the following doesn’t work for you I’ll have to concede that I’m a poor communicator.

    The person you quoted is doing what all people who don’t like a rule do: Wheedling, moaning and griping.

    Think of a six-year-old, told that they can’t have another biscuit. They seek weaknesses in the way the rule is presented, they flatter, they ask closed questions, they seek apparent unfairness (‘but SHE had another one!’), the look for special cases (‘but it’s Saturday’), the appeal to, or quote, other authorities (‘Grandma said I could have one’) … and so on.

    The rule is clear, and no matter how hard it may sound that’s what makes it fair and good.

    The 1st Amendment says that the government can’t work with religions – until, that is, the government has clearly and fully demonstrated that it does not establish or inhibit those religions affected.

    Your commentator is therefore wrong.

    Yes G. W. Bush did indeed break this rule, and he got away with it. As David R Allen correctly points out [above: Feb 4, 2016 at 11:58 pm]:

    DRW: … many of the Republican presidential candidates [see Rubio quote above on obeying god’s law ahead of constitutional law] creates the United Theocracy of American if not in law … by action

    Moving on.

    Doug: By “private lives”, I assume you mean in their non-governmental lives (which still might be “public”)

    Yes, that is exactly what I mean. The constitution does not demand that any citizen involved in government should set aside their religion in terms of their thoughts, ethics, philosophy and so on – how could it. Citizens are free to exercise their religion, and therefore to be guided by it in office. The constitution does say that the citizen involved in government should not present their work in terms of their religion, or make any rules based explicitly on their religious dogma, doctrine or creed.

    I will pre-empt you here: Yes, that rule is being broken many, many times a day as we speak. A million flies doesn’t mean it’s safe to eat at Joe’s Diner. If even every citizen in the US involved in government was invoking ‘The Lord’ in a decision today, they would still all be wrong. This was spelled out by the Rowan County Clerk case.

    To be clear; tub-thumping politicians on the stump are not working for the government – they can invoke religion as much as they like because the constitution protects their ‘free exercise’.

    Peace.



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  • 28
    fadeordraw says:

    Hi Stephen of Wimbledon

    “Preposterous” or not, the alternative is lawless. Peace.

    I think that instinctively, with our wiring for survival, we frame issues in life or death/triumph or disaster alternatives/dichotomies; sort of Hollywood movie-like with distinct good vs bad scenarios. In reality, dealing with religiosity in US politics is likely far more nuanced than ditching or adhering to the US constitution or adherence vs anarchy.



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  • 29
    fadeordraw says:

    Hi David R Allen

    @FadeorDraw (Is that a random thing like most golfers. The quantum effect off the tee)

    Actually David, with any shot you have a choice: a shot from left to right or right to left; whether or not it works is a different matter. For me, hitting straight is usually a random occurrence.



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  • 30
    Stardusty Psyche says:

    Stephen of Wimbledon

    fadeordraw

    fadeordraw – ” [What a] preposterous … discussion … on the US constitution as if it were a Bible and … [those] involved in the discussion sound like participants in a medieval, theological disputation. ”

    SoW – “True. That seems to be an unfortunate side-effect of having a written constitution as the foundation stone of the state.”

    Our constitution is the ultimate measure of legality. It is our supreme law. It has been amended 27 times, and much of its wording is intentionally broad so that its application has adjusted with changing times over more than 2 centuries.

    SoW – “Given that the people no longer follow the constitution, the majority not even knowing what the constitution is, is the constitution even relevant?”

    I have no idea where you are getting all of that from. You seem to be unaware of the enormous edifice of Constitutional Law upon which our vast legal system is based.

    You can start with google images on “Constitutional Law Chart”, then do some actual study on the subject. Anybody who asks of America “is the constitution even relevant?” is obviously very lacking in basic legal knowledge.

    fadeordraw – “… it is that very constitution that is religiously referenced with respect to guns, and no other western country have the guns that the US has. ”

    You sound a very great deal like a creationist claiming the fact of evolution is a “religion”. We Americans have rights, a great many rights, in fact the 9th and 10th amendments were put in place so that nobody would get the idea that the constitution is a comprehensive listing of rights, it isn’t. We the people retain all rights not explicitly restricted by our constitution. The enumeration of certain rights in our constitution is simply a clarification and emphasis on some of the most important rights we the people have.

    We have the 2nd amendment, that is a fact, not a religious assertion. “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

    To understand the legal meaning of those words requires a study of the context in which they were written, and the long history of related legal arguments and rulings. The short form version is that individual Americans have the personal right to both own and carry firearms, but the state may place limited restrictions on owning and bearing firearms such that they are well regulated.

    Yet, in all this highly detailed and carefully reasoned argumentation based on legal facts you find religiosity.



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  • 31
    fadeordraw says:

    Hay SP, do:
    – “Our constitution is the ultimate measure of legality. It is our supreme law. It has been amended 27 times, and much of its wording is intentionally broad so that its application has adjusted with changing times over more than 2 centuries.”
    – “You seem to be unaware of the enormous edifice of Constitutional Law upon which our vast legal system is based.”
    – “Anybody who asks of America “is the constitution even relevant?” is obviously very lacking in basic legal knowledge.”
    – “We Americans have rights, a great many rights, in fact the 9th and 10th amendments were put in place so that nobody would get the idea that the constitution is a comprehensive listing of rights, it isn’t. We the people retain all rights not explicitly restricted by our constitution. The enumeration of certain rights in our constitution is simply a clarification and emphasis on some of the most important rights we the people have.”
    – “We have the 2nd amendment, that is a fact, not a religious assertion. “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
    – To understand the legal meaning of those words requires a study of the context in which they were written, and the long history of related legal arguments and rulings. The short form version is that individual Americans have the personal right to both own and carry firearms, but the state may place limited restrictions on owning and bearing firearms such that they are well regulated. Yet, in all this highly detailed and carefully reasoned argumentation based on legal facts…”

    sound familiar? Sort of theological disputation like. Let’s see. We have a supreme law, an enormous edifice, requirement for basic legal knowledge as well as, to understand the legal (more than basic) meaning, study of context and history, etc. Maybe only the initiated should comment or otherwise those who have been guided by constitutional lawyers.
    Irrespective of your fine evolving constitutional institution, and its adamants, you’ve got religion is bed with the state and more guns floating around them people. These are big problems that, I am suggesting, will not likely be addressed by further discussion of The Constitution and the accompanying Legal Rulings. Likely, a bottom-up, evolutionary approach is required.



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  • 32
    maria melo says:

    I don´t see any button to reply Stephen of Wimbleon, so here’s my separate reply.

    I see John Locke had influence against the divine right of the kings (or in fact the abusive way kings might use political power.
    In fact kings were king by the grace of God” and were vicars in medieval age, not absolute rulers, of course, unless in the case of abuse of political power).

    As Montesquieu´s ideas of separation of powers has influenced constituional law , and both men were influential with their philosophical political ideas on the american revolution and am aware both men were not necessarly godless.
    Resuming in a simply way, the separation of religious matters and absolute political power must be so important to religion (and this was a warraty demand in Magna Carta), as far as is separation between political power and religion may be important for lay people as me, and even for religious freedom, of course (TGD mentions this necessity of secularism I remember well).
    Simplyfing agian, the wole point of a Constitution is itself the prevetion from a tiranic form of governing, as was for John Locke or Montesquieu, as was Aristotle´s reflection o bestn political forms of governing to prevent tyrany the begining of “political science” or political thinking I guess (democracy was the best political form of governing to prevent tirany Aristotle thought, nevertheless he thought that there can be a mix of more than one form simoultaneously) ……, so does the first known law codice in history refers to injustice and abuse of power concerns,…
    I recognize that although some kings were not tiranic, they had the duty to protect religion too, and, sometimes, even if the king would like to conceive religious freedom, for jews for instance, he would be obliged to retrit from his ideas because of his duty to protect religion.
    Simplifying even much more, it must be natural that we´d like to feel treaten in a fair way, with dignity and equity (not only humans).



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  • The constitution does not say that Christians are specially protected from government interference. It is covered by other language. Ditto for separation of church and state.



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  • 34
    maria melo says:

    From Politics, Aristotle book

    It´s not old at all, it seems quite modern as a matter of fact, that´s why it´s so amazing.

    (Well, my work is kind of write typing, and I keep this book with na amount of real love -it was edited by a professor of mine who died last august, but here´s another Google translation after my typewriting work of quoting part of one title)

    The objections to the absolute monarchy.

    It is now to discuss the case with the king that everything proceeds according to his will, as we will examine. A royalty acts according to the law, as already noted, is not in itself a specific regime (indeed, in any form arrangements can be a lifelong military command, whether in a democracy, is an aristocracy, many cities put one individual at the head of administration, there is a judiciary of its kind in Epidamo and another in Oponto, albeit with more limited powers).
    About the regime of absolute in royalty, the king of all offers according to their own will, some think it is inconsistent with the nature that one man is the absolute master of all citizens when the city made up of similar individuals is that those that are similar in nature should have the same rights and the same dignity and due to their very nature; and is harmful to the body attributed to unequal members of the same food or clothing, the same applies to the distribution of honors; and even inequality among equals. The conclusion to be drawn is that rule is no more fair than to be governed by that imposes alternation in power. But this is already a law, because the order is a law.
    Therefore, it is preferable that the law is the rule and not one of it´s citizens . Accordingly to the same principle, although it was better than many indiviuals had the authority they should be made guardians or ministers of the law; being necessary that judiciary is not fair to be exercised by one man, at least when all citizens are equal, as is often said.
    In fact, all that the law seems unable to solve, can not be known by a single individual. The law properly trained judges, instructs them to decide and resolve “the fairest possible way” the remaining questões. Further on this, grants them the right to correct that, as a result of experience, it seems to them to be improvable with respect to written laws. Thus, demand that the law has authority is no more than require that God and reason prevail, but rather require the predominance of men, is to add an animal element; the blind desire is similar to an animal and the predominance of passion upsets occupying the judiciary, even if they are the best of men. The law is therefore the reason freed from desire.
    (…)



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  • 36
    maria melo says:

    I´ve made na unnecessary work, atleast hope that the translation is much better than a Google one

    Part XVI

    At this place in the discussion there impends the inquiry respecting the king who acts solely according to his own will he has now to be considered. The so-called limited monarchy, or kingship according to law, as I have already remarked, is not a distinct form of government, for under all governments, as, for example, in a democracy or aristocracy, there may be a general holding office for life, and one person is often made supreme over the administration of a state. A magistracy of this kind exists at Epidamnus, and also at Opus, but in the latter city has a more limited power. Now, absolute monarchy, or the arbitrary rule of a sovereign over an the citizens, in a city which consists of equals, is thought by some to be quite contrary to nature; it is argued that those who are by nature equals must have the same natural right and worth, and that for unequals to have an equal share, or for equals to have an uneven share, in the offices of state, is as bad as for different bodily constitutions to have the same food and clothing. Wherefore it is thought to be just that among equals every one be ruled as well as rule, and therefore that an should have their turn. We thus arrive at law; for an order of succession implies law. And the rule of the law, it is argued, is preferable to that of any individual. On the same principle, even if it be better for certain individuals to govern, they should be made only guardians and ministers of the law. For magistrates there must be- this is admitted; but then men say that to give authority to any one man when all are equal is unjust. Nay, there may indeed be cases which the law seems unable to determine, but in such cases can a man? Nay, it will be replied, the law trains officers for this express purpose, and appoints them to determine matters which are left undecided by it, to the best of their judgment. Further, it permits them to make any amendment of the existing laws which experience suggests. Therefore he who bids the law rule may be deemed to bid God and Reason alone rule, but he who bids man rule adds an element of the beast; for desire is a wild beast, and passion perverts the minds of rulers, even when they are the best of men. The law is reason unaffected by desire. We are told that a patient should call in a physician; he will not get better if he is doctored out of a book. But the parallel of the arts is clearly not in point; for the physician does nothing contrary to rule from motives of friendship; he only cures a patient and takes a fee; whereas magistrates do many things from spite and partiality. And, indeed, if a man suspected the physician of being in league with his enemies to destroy him for a bribe, he would rather have recourse to the book. But certainly physicians, when they are sick, call in other physicians, and training-masters, when they are in training, other training-masters, as if they could not judge judge truly about their own case and might be influenced by their feelings. Hence it is evident that in seeking for justice men seek for the mean or neutral, for the law is the mean. Again, customary laws have more weight, and relate to more important matters, than written laws, and a man may be a safer ruler than the written law, but not safer than the customary law.

    Again, it is by no means easy for one man to superintend many things; he will have to appoint a number of subordinates, and what difference does it make whether these subordinates always existed or were appointed by him because he needed theme If, as I said before, the good man has a right to rule because he is better, still two good men are better than one: this is the old saying, two going together, and the prayer of Agamemnon,

    “Would that I had ten such councillors! ”

    And at this day there are magistrates, for example judges, who have authority to decide some matters which the law is unable to determine, since no one doubts that the law would command and decide in the best manner whatever it could. But some things can, and other things cannot, be comprehended under the law, and this is the origin of the nexted question whether the best law or the best man should rule. For matters of detail about which men deliberate cannot be included in legislation. Nor does any one deny that the decision of such matters must be left to man, but it is argued that there should be many judges, and not one only. For every ruler who has been trained by the law judges well; and it would surely seem strange that a person should see better with two eyes, or hear better with two ears, or act better with two hands or feet, than many with many; indeed, it is already the practice of kings to make to themselves many eyes and ears and hands and feet. For they make colleagues of those who are the friends of themselves and their governments. They must be friends of the monarch and of his government; if not his friends, they will not do what he wants; but friendship implies likeness and equality; and, therefore, if he thinks that his friends ought to rule, he must think that those who are equal to himself and like himself ought to rule equally with himself. These are the principal controversies relating to monarchy.



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  • 37
    maria melo says:

    “Therefore he who bids the law rule may be deemed to bid God and Reason alone rule, but he who bids man rule adds an element of the beast; for desire is a wild beast, and passion perverts the minds of rulers, even when they are the best of men. The law is reason unaffected by desire”

    I´ve found an interesting paper on the internet that quote this paragraph, and as a matter of fact it seems important to understand secularism it seems

    The desacralization of law in Athens: The passage from thesmós to nómos between the 6th and 4th centuries B.C. http://www.egov.ufsc.br/portal/sites/default/files/a_dessacralizacao_da_lei_em_atenas.pdf



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  • The federal government is given very specific, limited powers only
    over various secular matters. It has no powers relating to religion.

    We should add to the constitution FREEDOM FROM RELIGION! That may be related to religion, but it is an essential addition to our constitution.



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  • cbrown

    I’m sure that someone will come along and tell me that this is a bad idea, but with all the problems going on here that are the direct result of Christian fundamentalism, I can’t help but wish that the constitution had been a little more direct and precise in it’s wording that supports church/state separation.



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  • PeacePecan
    Feb 6, 2016 at 5:11 pm

    We should add to the constitution FREEDOM FROM RELIGION!

    That would be oppression.

    Why would clarifying the right (for those who want it), to have FREEDOM FROM RELIGION, added to the text stating the existing right to FREEDOM OF RELIGION, oppress anyone???
    It is simply treating those with religions, and those without religions, equally!



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