The Necessity of Secularism, pgs 42-43

Jun 21, 2016

Not unexpectedly, Christian nation advocates emphasize letters or other writings that suggest Madison was a Christian. But their emphasis on Madison’s religiosity, just like the reliance they place on the religious beliefs of Madison’s contemporaries, exposes the key fallacy of the Christian nation thesis, which is that being a Christian somehow commits one to the view that the government must be based on biblical precepts. Christian nation proponents make an inference from the premise that Madison, many of the Founders, and much of the population were Christian, to the conclusion that they must have wanted the United States to be structured as a Christian nation. Uh, … no. Fortunately, the people who established the United States did not suffer from the narrow-mindedness, lack of foresight, and ethical blindness that afflicts many Christian nation advocates. There is no contradiction in being Christian and being in favor of a secular nation. Far from it. People like Madison recognize that freedom of conscience is an important value that Christians should embrace. If Madison was a Christian, he was like many other enlightened Christians of his time; they did not want people pressured, directly or indirectly, into becoming Christians. They thought people should come to Christ of their own free will. Furthermore, they recognize that a secular state, a state that does not have the authority to meddle in religious matters, is the best guarantor of religious liberty, for Christians and for everyone else. A government that believes it has the authority to regard itself as the government of an officially Christian nation, will also think it has the authority to define what beliefs and practices are truly Christian. Some day it may also believe that is has the authority to declare itself that government of an officially Islamic nation or atheist nation.

–Ronald A. Lindsay, The Necessity of Secularism pgs 42-43


28 comments on “The Necessity of Secularism, pgs 42-43

  • a secular state, a state that does not have the authority to meddle in religious matters, is the best guarantor of religious liberty, for Christians and for everyone else.

    This point is lost on those who prattle on about America being a “Christian nation”. These are often the very same people who in the next breath will go off on a rant about “big government” suffocating us all with restrictions and unnecessary laws and prohibitions that block their freedoms. They can’t seem to make the connection between oppressive state religions and loss of freedom for citizens. It appears to be a combination of lack of education (ignorance) and the effects of a severe early indoctrination that has installed a system of religious memes that include an aggressive defensive aspect.

    I will also point out that part of the lack of education I mentioned above results in many Americans confusing the over the top religiosity of the early settlers here (Mayflower passengers etc.) with the extremely moderate or nonexistent religiosity levels of the Founding Fathers. Ignorant Americans lump them all together and believe (self serving motivation) that these people that we read about in history books were all devout unconditional Jesus admirers and devoted their lives to the service of God almighty. It’s a total bullshit story. Lately it’s been shown on some public TV shows that even the Mayflower passengers weren’t all persecuted pious Puritans. About half of the boatload is believed to have been merchants, sent to arrange for business interests. Now that’s more in line with what America is really about.

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  • @ Laurie….B

    Well put, Laurie. I love your comments. They always make me laugh too.

    “…sent to arrange for business interests. Now that’s more in line with what America is really about.”
    I’ve been going through an anti-Islam phase right now. If you read any of my comments on the “Admit it” thread, chalk it up to anxiety and general disgust with religion and oppression in general. I am equally critical of Christianity at its worst. Just fixated on terrorism right now, and irritated by people who can’t rebel, can’t grow and evolve and just say “I am now an atheist and will treat people with compassion and not as my enemies or as subhuman! Yippee!”

    (I want them to do what I want them to do and now, you see, and don’t understand why they won’t! Don’t they know who I am? LOL)

    Can you believe the Republican won’t pass gun legislation? Infuriating! Alan4Discussion just posted the latest news about that.

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  • Hi Dan,

    Going through an anti-Islam phase? My anti-Islam phase has lasted for thirty years and counting. 😉 It is running concurrent with my anti-Christianity phase that has lasted for more than forty years. So joint the club. (It’s a marvelous club. The best club in the world and I’m so lucky to be a member. )

    And just to flummox certain other groups of people I will now express my great affection for my Algerian (Muslim) in-laws who always rally around me (the infidel) with ferocious support and defense when the going gets rough. I learned how to kick ass from them (along with other aspects of good leadership.)

    I am also frustrated, as you are, over these American brainwashed Christians and their relentless drive to send us back to the dark ages. The stakes are so high but I know they will tell us that they feel the same thing. The stakes are high and we have a plan to save us from disaster! How is this to end?

    With the Orlando disaster monopolizing the news cycle now, you see, attention is off the Christian zombies and their dark agenda. If I was a fan of conspiracy theories I’d be suspecting an alliance between the clergy at the top of both Islam and Christianity right now. -“ok first we’ll do this and then you do that…keep fear alive so the secular humanists and atheists can’t get a word in edgewise”. ~evil cackling~

    I’m thinking about the ignorance of the concept of secularism here and how absolutely important that was for the American revolutionaries who framed our Constitution. WHY are people here so ignorant about it? How can this be corrected? We need to educate Americans through the most effective media that puts it right in front of their faces. I can’t trust them to pick up books and articles that explain this in detail. Maybe we need more low brow entertainment with a high brow message. Go ahead and call me an elitist. My kids love to catch me up in this. 😀

    TV show idea:

    Secularist Central is the name of it.

    A middle class neighborhood in the American suburban intellectual wastelands. Every family of a different religion and ethnic background. Every week a new show on how one or the other family comes into conflict over their different religious ideology and the cultural baggage all around them. But they work it out (in the one hour show) and in the end realize how it important it is that in terms of religion and culture they are all on equal ground legally here. Cut in with flashbacks to the “old country” where the official state religious police come around and beat the crap out of the minority religious family, even if they were on the right side of the issue morally. And some flashbacks with Jefferson and co. ranting about the Pope, Archbishops of Canterbury and co. and every other oppressive religious leader who wreaked havoc on their people every chance they got.

    Dan, got any connections in high places in Hollywood? (This has nothing whatsoever to do with your being of Jewish background. I’m sure there are plenty of WASPs in high places there too.) -kidding!

    We’ve got here a soap opera that will challenge the shitty pious zeitgeist that is driving us both crazy. If you help me I’ll cut you in for a percentage of course. 😀

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  • Laurie

    Maybe we need more low brow entertainment with a high brow message.

    Don’t go there Laurie…

    We’ve got here a soap opera that will challenge the shitty pious zeitgeist


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  • low brow entertainment with a high brow message

    Wasn’t that the original driving force behind The Archers (UK radio soap of long standing) – sugar coated farming information, a tasty blend of education and entertainment.

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  • But Phil !!!!


    When I said this on another thread I think you agreed with me! :
    The ability of books and other media to influence us to bring forth our “better angels” is exactly what I’m counting on to bring about positive social change in the developing countries and I’m really thinking about Muslim majority countries right now. The internet is going to create a social revolution there as well as satellite TV access with soap operas that demonstrate humanitarian values to the whole family on prime time TV. This is all underway and the kids, teens and 20 somethings that are being brought up on Western media material are taking it all in.
    Look at the effect it had in this part of the world: (Peruvian telenovela)

    So where did I go wrong with Secularist Central ??

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  • I was only trying to protect our mutual friend, Dan, who is a little allergic to the format, after my Dickens faux pas.

    I had a TV series in concept of my own with soap like stories running at different timescales promoting anti-idealist politics and what that would look like.

    I think perhaps crisper…Secular Central. Love the idea.

    Muslim soap.

    Dan wasn’t impressed….

    I thought it exactly what was needed to introduce challenging role models and alternative life choices to a youmger Muslim audience.

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  • I was only trying to protect our mutual friend, Dan,

    Ohhhh, ok then. I confess straightaway that I was baiting him. Yes indeed. I confess and beg for mercy. I’ve been following that other thread. 😉

    Don’t worry about New Yorkers. They’re very resilient people.

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  • Phil, Laurie, others,

    I don’t get this soap thing. Maybe soaps have a different meaning in Britain and elsewhere. As far as I am concerned, they are part of the experience of nothingness. They say nothing, do nothing, affect nothing; they merely give people an opportunity to waste their time. You are talking about advertisements, not the art of the people, and therefore they can never inspire or make people really think or feel. They foster vegetative, lazy, complacency, and above all, they have a product that they are selling.
    They may depict women as empowered, as, say, business women or whatever; but that’s only if there is already an audience for that, and the show has been approved by the tyrants who decide these things; TV tells us what we want to hear; they lie essentially, and are not designed to shake up the status quo; it is market driven. You are deluding yourself if you think that soap operas, or anything short of the art of the people, something truly controversial and revolutionary, political theater, or anything short of mass action, can produce the kind of incremental changes that you would like to see brought about.
    If a young girl in (you name the place) were to truly seek to defy the laws of the land, as a result of watching some fourth-rate show, the show would be taken off the air and the girl would face dire consequences.
    The commodification of dissent and progressivism merely perpetuates the illusion that the cultures that produce these shows are making progress. It’s about public relations, profit.
    Or it’s like being allowed to watch Papillon or The Great Escape from a prison cell.
    Only when something is already permitted would a show be allowed to depict such permissible things.
    Then again, if you have thought of a way to make money, that’s another matter and we can discuss it on those terms. I’m willing to. (Yes, Laurie, I have one or two connections.)
    But don’t kid yourselves. Secular Central? We’ve had All in the Family, and look who’s running for president now in 2016 – and doing quite well.
    (Perhaps you’re just joking. I think Phil is serious about this “soap” business.)

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  • Addendum to # 10

    It is possible that information via the internet, which is public, and plays and novels, to the extent that they are available, will continue to awaken the minds of the oppressed. Information and real art can have influence. But TV, even at its best, has always been, for the most part, about preserving the status quo and about advertising.

    On this more positive note, Daniel (nice name) Dennett said this:

    “In the March issue of Scientific American, Deb Roy and I compare this to the Cambrian Explosion. The Cambrian Explosion happened 540 million years ago, when there was a sudden, very dramatic explosion of different life forms in response to some new change in the world. Oxford zoologist Andrew Parker argues that the increased transparency of the ocean made eyesight possible, and this changed everything: now predators could see prey, and prey could see predators, and this set off an arms race of interactions. Well, we think something similar is happening in human culture. Institutions—not just religions but also universities, armies, corporations—are now faced with how to change their fundamental structure and methods to deal with the fact that everybody’s living in a glass house now.

    “Protecting your inner workings is becoming very difficult; it’s very hard to keep secrets. Religions have thrived in part because they were able to keep secrets. They were able to keep secrets about other religions from their parishioners, who were largely ignorant of what other people in the world believed, and also keep secrets about their own inner workings and their own histories, so that it was easy to have a sort of controlled message that went out to people. Those days are over. You can go on the Internet and access to all kinds of information. This is going to change everything.”

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  • Dan

    I’m thinking about your reaction to the word “soaps” that we’ve been tossing around here and there. Could it be that we are using it in a more general way than you are? I realized that you may be thinking about our daytime soap operas as the model and if that is the case then I agree that there is nothing but useless stupidity and wasting of time for those who spend hours watching these. So I’m not advocating the international dissemination of this load of crap. I’m not going to use the word soap opera after this. What description is accurate for what I’m recommending? Serial drama/comedy ? A prime time show.

    They may depict women as empowered, as, say, business women or whatever; but that’s only if there is already an audience for that

    I can tell you for sure, based on my observations from living amongst them, Muslim women who live in Muslim majority countries don’t know how good the women in the West have it! They have a sense of the injustice they experience every day but they don’t know what to ask for. When I explain to them the basics of American divorce law and child custody law and the degree of freedom that the average girl and woman has here they are visibly astonished. That when I turned 18 I gained all of the legal rights of any American man is unimaginable to them. That my worldly goods are mine to dispose of as I see fit is something they can’t understand. I said to my sister-in-law that the demands of the Koran about her brothers money and possessions are of no interest to me because I have the right to control every penny of his estate when he dies and that my daughters and sons will inherit as I see fit. These ideas (and many more!) are completely revolutionary to these women. They stand there in a state of mental paralysis when I say things like this. I’m not saying that they go on to turn an aircraft carrier on a dime after that but I’ve seen them add these ideas to their psychological repertoire and if they need it, if they have the guts to think outside the box just a little bit, then the idea is stored away for future use.

    I’m in the business of planting seeds. Not all of the seeds will live. Maybe most will die. I just need a few good strong resilient ones to grab hold and multiply.

    When I get discouraged I remember that cool scene from V for Vendetta where V says, “Ideas are bulletproof”. I love V.

    the girl would face dire consequences.

    Dan, you have hit on something that is a very real fear of mine. This all came out in a thread we had here some time ago on the subject of Amina of Tunisia. She took an awesomely brazen action in protest of oppression of Muslim women. I agreed 100% with her statement but then was frozen in fear for her safety. I can’t handle the thoughts of what could have happened to her. On that thread emotions ran high. It really prompted me to think about important ideas of strategy and tactics in social change. This is when I finally got a clue about the gulf between the second and third wave feminists. It was a disappointment for me. My conclusion is that some prices are too high to pay and consistent with the second wave perspective, I want the most change I can get with the minimum of harm. It does us no good to sacrifice lives if nothing good comes of it. Of course there will inevitably be gray areas where I won’t know what the hell is the right thing to do. Mistakes will happen.

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  • We’ve had All in the Family,

    That show was important to me! My father *was an Archie Bunker clone and I was meathead! I watched them coexist and watched their ideas and beliefs and world views collide and ricochet off each other. My takeaway every time I watched it was – I’m not the only one struggling with a homegrown culture clash. This guy is aggravated on a daily basis and he’s holding his own. I can do it too!

    it’s very hard to keep secrets

    I read this quote from Dennett a while back and it was a balm to my injured soul. (excuse the melodrama). This is another inspirational source of hope that I fall back on in times of trouble. There really is nowhere to hide! Young people in the developing countries are online. They are making observations about how other young people live. This is all being stored in their memory banks for future use. I’ve said it here before, between the internet and satellite TV all beaming straight into the third world, there is a massive propaganda dump happening now that is a tremendously hopeful process. Granted the forces of darkness are trying to do the same thing but now they’ve really met their match.

    The only thing left for us to do (pie in the sky optimism), to seal the deal, to grab hold of the big win, is for the American government to take Israel by the throat, solve the Palestinian problem and take the biggest source of jihadi recruitment off the table. The seeds of social change are planted but without radical political action, it will be much less effective than we hope for.

    I spent last weekend in conversation with an Algerian freethinker intellectual, a guest of mine from Paris, and I came out of it with an overwhelming sense of doom and a very small glimmer of hope.

    I wonder if Nawaz is in communication with the North African intellectuals who are holed up in Paris ?? I hope so. These are the refuges and exiles of the Algerian civil war against the fundamentalists and these refuges exist as a large and effective resource against fundamentalism. They have the potential to shoot progressive ideas back into their own societies with a native voice of authority. It’s a mistake to underutilize them.

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  • Laurie


    I still don’t see how we can influence people in the Muslim majority countries even through good television. Isn’t there censorship over there? (What am I not getting?) “Over there.” I betray myself. Not nearly as knowledgeable as you and others.

    I’m in the business of planting seeds.

    Very inspiring thought. (Really.) I’ve heard it expressed before, but this time it resonated.

    jihadi recruitment

    I hope you’re right, because if the Palestinian problem is in fact the the biggest source, then a solution is possible. I fear, however, that ISIS’ recruitment is similar to the recruitment of the Brown Shirts. They were lost souls, losers, thugs, disenfranchised, idiots. They were not politicized and didn’t give a shit about the “Jewish problem”, one way or the other. They just wanted to belong to something powerful and have pride and a sense of power. (I can relate to that feeling at times. I think we all can at times.) Are you sure these kids getting recruited really care that much about that issue, about the Palestinian problem?

    Algerian freethinker

    Is he able to speak freely in public, or merely think freely in public? Just asking.

    You’re awesome.

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  • Dan

    Isn’t there censorship over there?

    For many years and possibly to the present the Algerian government had heavy censorship. That has become irrelevant. Now almost every apartment building and many houses have a satellite dish on the roof. In the apts it’s usually one of the families who invests in the dish and then strings cables to the other apartments and charges a fee. Instantaneously, modernity beams into the domain of several families at a time. They watch all the European material and plenty of American content as well. They finally have access to news of the world. This had the effect of also delivering every harm and insult that was landing on the Palestinians. They can presently and for the past few years watch Palestinian families being forcibly removed from their homes and their possessions being deposited on the sidewalk with the old grandparents all the way to little children wailing and crying in desperation. The massive injustice they see is driving their hatred. I won’t say there is any shortage of losers, thugs and disenfranchised idiots. No shortage of those anywhere. I also won’t diminish the catastrophic effect of Islamic indoctrination. I see these as two massive problems that have come together in a perfect storm that makes me want to lay down and go to sleep from exhaustion.

    Is he able to speak freely in public, or merely think freely in public? Just asking.

    Very risky even when in Paris. Definitely not possible in Algeria, it’s a death sentence. Look what happened to Ayaan Hirsi Ali in Netherlands. And even here in liberal Boston I assume she still needs guards 24/7.

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  • Laurie

    Yes, you’re probably right. The Palestinian problem is the elephant in the room, or one of them.

    I suppose I can look this up myself, but is this satellite situation that they have in Algeria available in other places, like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan? If that’s the case then that’s a very good sign.

    I wonder what the Algerians think of The Honeymooners. “That guy Kramden treats Alice like a man should. Admonish her…Oh wait, she’s getting the last word…again!” And that show’s from the fifties!

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  • Dan
    I have always hated the Honeymooners. One of those shows where a bunch of people are sitting around cracking up laughing over bullies yelling and demeaning everyone. I despise Ralph Kramden. I fantasize about Alice hauling off and punching him right in the face and screaming, “Fuck you Ralph!! Lard Ass!!”

    Ok, enough of that sad disclosure of violent fantasies. (Even though I read somewhere that all humans have fantasies of murdering rivals. Pinker perhaps?) Truth is important. Even ugly truth. 🙁

    So I just asked my husband about the Pakistan and S.Arabia satellite situation and he doesn’t know about Pakistan but he strongly suspects that SArabia has an internet blockade. We hope that the young people can find their way around this.

    Then he said how effective it was in his youth that the Algerian gov. blocked and controlled all information that went out to the public. There was just one television station and it was completely state controlled. That’s the one I saw there until the satellites showed up in the nineties. He said that until the day he left the country for the first time he really believed that Algeria was the best country in the world. The best top of the line country. Then, after he got his scholarship to study engineering abroad, he landed in Switzerland, on the way to the States. It was nighttime and after checking into the hotel he went out for a walk. He came upon a storefront window lit up with a display of jeans. He was shocked to see jeans so readily available. After that the massive discrepancy over the perfection of Algeria (not) and the actual perfection of Europe and the States was a shock to him.

    He says that these control freak dictators and regimes have no choice but to block info from the outside world. When young people get ahold of truth coming from outside, the dictators will lose control of the situation very quickly. He also said that in Algeria in those days they also controlled the newspapers that came in from France. Some days Le Monde would be missing from all of the Algerian newsstands because the French had the audacity to print something unattractive about the Algerian “President” or their policies.

    You know, I’m just remembering that M. Namazie is beaming an info show straight into Iran, right? This stuff is fantastic. We hear about some Saudi guys ranting about the archaic rules of ordinary life there. They rant to us and other secularists and moderates but we can’t get a sense of how wide spread this is. It’s the nature of a closed society I suppose. But there is aggravation there. Oh yes. This is a set up for a real ripper that will appear to come out of nowhere.

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  • Laurie

    Thank you. That was quite interesting. Thanks for inquiring.

    I feel somewhat encouraged. So long as people have nothing to contrast their experience with there is no way that there will be change. But it sounds like it’s only a matter of time before the whole region gets a hold of truth, as you say, or a different way to live.

    It occurs to me that the control of people’s minds through censorship is not unique to Islamic fascist dictators, if I may call them that. It’s a continuum. We do that here too. We have a lot of freedom, but a lot is suppressed too. Noam Chomsky is never, ever on TV. (Gore Vidal was banned from the Times.) Chomsky is all over the internet, yes; but they won’t let him on TV, even PBS. Too truthful. The most outspoken and important critic of the US has not been seen on television for many years. Not his choice. That’s just one example. Apples and oranges perhaps, but the ruling class over here has a few things in common with the control freak dictators over there.

    The Honeymooners. Laurie, I am shocked. Gleason!? Gleason!? How could you not like Gleason? Well, Phil’s
    not crazy about Dickens. What can I do?

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  • We do that here too.

    Oh jeezis. Don’t even get me started on that one. I’m disgusted with the useless “news” media here. It’s for complete morons. No kidding Chomsky isn’t on TV. He’d blow their minds if he spoke about what this country is really up to. Control freaks is right.

    I have two pictures that I love. One is of me with RD himself when he signed a book for me and the other is of me with Chomsky when he signed one of his books for me too. Love these pics and imagine my great grandchildren of the future saying – shit! look at that! She met Chomsky and Dawkins, wow!!!

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  • 21
    Cairsley says:

    To David R Allen #20

    Hi Allen. Are you misremembering the sign over the gates at the Auschwitz concentration camp, which reads “Arbeit macht frei” (Work makes you free)? I can only marvel in horror at the cynical evil of that sign. But perhaps you have in mind another reference unknown to me.

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  • Dan

    So long as people have nothing to contrast their experience with there is no way that there will be change.

    Yes! This is why Phil and I are going on about the use of soaps or whatever we can call them. Let’s show people and families and societies living secular lives with religion pushed to the back burner and the increase in personal freedom and human (and other) rights that flourish when this happens.

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  • Here is the BBC’s ouput to mark over a four year period the centenary of the four years of WW1.

    In there is a soap, Home Front (about 300 episodes in so far) presenting ordinary lives, their trials and tribulations. It allows you to live through other lives and see the moral dilemmas…trilemmas, the quite unexpected harms, reviled groups, the unexpected decencies of the hated, the hatefulness of your own.

    Understanding the other, bequeathes you with more choices in your life, and that only ever helps.

    It is also a great litmus test for change. The gay kiss in 2004 on R4 The Archers ruffled so few feathers, it signalled a necessary change was complete. The latest DV story line (superbly written and unfurled in realtime over half a year) on the other hand generated news and spin off items bringing utterly new understandings to a mass audience how slowly abusive behaviours build and how they are shielded from others, even near family, thus incapacitating the abused…. a mass audience.

    US TV and Radio of old is mostly cowardly crap. The new direct sell producers, HBO and the like are consistently world class. Thank you, thank you.

    Perhaps they need a high spec. soap…Secular Central.

    Long running moral debating programs like the Simpsons or South Park, in order to meet advertiser need for utter consistency of product can never have their characters grow and change. Change is fatuous and for the episode only, too often turning upon a one line argument or the same old same old understanding that deep down he loves you.

    Its time for the genius of a new Dickens.

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  • Laurie, Phil

    Let’s show people and families and societies living secular lives.

    I will get started on a pilot. And I have connections galore. We will change the world. Phil, you can be my official proof-reader.

    Laurie, we’ll find something for you to do.

    Tentative title of new series: Days of Our Secular Lives

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  • It is true that being a christian nation is the same as being a muslim nation. Both religions have the same roots and are monotheistic. Government that tends to be a christian government is a very dangerous government since it limits itself to one strict belief system and limits the freedom of expression of other belief systems. Secularist governments are the best option as they do not interfere in any belief. But it is sad to see that prime ministers and presidents of secularist governments attend religious ceremonies, prayers, masses as official representatives of a government.

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