Friday, February 6, 2009

Quote of the Day

Concludes Thomas E. Reynolds, Emmanuel College of Victoria University and the Toronto School of Theology in the University of Toronto:
The test of a position—religious or irreligious—is it ability to withstand fair-minded and public consideration or debate among a variety of alternatives. So, as we test the “God issue”, may we follow the best in our varied traditions, which call us in different ways to live together in understanding and peace, even if in disagreement. After all, such diversity is the crucible in which hard work of love is fashioned.
(h/t Tripp)


Z Williams said...

Drew, buddy, have you ever read book that you couldn't read. That quote was a little rough and could've been simplified a whole lot.

Kent H said...

I do see the value in the dialogue that Mr. Reynolds is suggesting. But, as you and I have discussed many times, the issue that I feel Reynolds is missing is this: The "God issue" cannot be settled by taking a poll, seeking consensus, and coming to a happy medium of compromise.
From this plain, we cannot asses this God thing with our own meager intellectual resources. The "God issue" must be revealed and discovered in order to be enlightened. Not debated.

Darren Staley said...


I think you and I are close to agreement on this issue. I do not believe that science can prove nor disprove the existence of God. I do not believe a pluraility of believers in God makes Him real. It all rests on personal revelation and acceptance.

But the keyword is personal. What irks me is when the personal moves into the public realm. If you believe in God and I don't, that is 100% fine. I applaud you for your faith.

But when your belief starts influencing law, gay marriage, abortion, evolution in public schools, etc, that is where the debate comes in.

It is not the athiests or agnostics that provoked the debate. As someone on that side of the issue, it's fine with me that you believe. Go to church all you like. Put as many copies of the 10 Commandments on your front lawn as you like. If you want to tell your kids to ignore their science teacher when it comes to evolution, fine. If you want to tell your daughter that abortion is murder and that she should never get one or tell your gay son that he can change through prayer, fine.

The "issue" only becomes an issue when one's personal belief infringes on another's right to disbelieve. I can choose not to visit a church, same as you can choose not to visit an abortion clinic. I cannot choose, however, to limit my visits to a federal building.

This is the crux of the argument. You want, for good or ill, to legislate God into my life. I want to stop you from doing that while at the same time reserving your personal right to worship how you see fit.

If anyone tried to ban Bibles or close churches, I would stand right beside of you in protest.

We are not trying to take your God away from you. We are merely trying to prevent you from forcing your God on us.

Kent H said...

Once again Darren, you miss the point completely.
I really appreciate your attempt at civility - I really do. But God's existence does not depend on my or your acceptance. He is - and that's just the way it is. He has revealed Himself naturally (through creation) and specially (through scripture and Christ). You can ignore Him if you like, but that won't last long.
Your historical ignorance of this debate is attrocious. The fact is, there was no debate about the validity and value of faith in the public square until the 20th (count 'em - 20th) century. No federal case on public displays or public faith demonstrations appeared before the Supreme Court until the seventies. The High court was refusing your brand of separation well into the 80's (Lynch v. Donnelly, 1984) even though public school prayer was outlawed in 1962 (Engel v. Vitale).
But, Moses wasn't put on the Supreme Court building by Jerry Falwell. "In God we Trust" wasn't put on our money by Charles Stanley. Thomas Jefferson attended church services in the House Chamber. Washington hired chaplains (as has every administration since) for the military with public monies. Ben Franklin called for prayer during the Constitutional Convention
"So help me God" was Washington's idea. And it took the ACLU and modern secularism to "correct" the founders on issues of faith in the public square? What a joke.
Men and women of faith formed this land with the view (that still stands) that all people ought to be free to express their views freely. I don't appreciate any belief-tyrant (like yourself) telling me where to keep my faith. This land is great because all people of all worldviews are given space to add what they can to the public discourse and public sentiment.
This debate was started by those who are trying to make America godless. They have every right to disbelieve because people of faith have valued that right for centuries. It is the secularists who are forcing their religion of "no god" down the ninety-some percent of the rest of us who still understand that without God there can be no real government and no real America that is as strong as we once were.

Darren Staley said...

Once again we continue to talk past each other. When you argue that something is so because a 1,000+ year old book says so and a bunch (if not the majority) of people believe it, then there can be no debate.

On the founders, I doubt any serious historian would count Washington, Franklin, and certainly not Jefferson as Christian in its modern and fundamentalist form.

They did see faith as generally good for a democratic society. Most of the early Americans could not even imagine a world (or country) without God.

The founders sought a way to keep worship accessible without mandating it. Did Washington come up with "so help me God," sure. But it was not Constitutionally mandated.

But I am digressing from the point I am trying to make. There must be a point where your faith ends and my freedom from it begins as well as a point where my disbelief ends and your freedom to express belief begins.

This argument that I am telling you where to keep your faith doesn't hold water. Allow me to give an example for you to disagree with:

Let's say I hate yard signs. Can't stand them.

Let's say that I am your neighbor and you love yard signs. You blanket your yard with them. You walk around with your sign-loving friends and tell every one you know that yard signs are great and that everyone should have one.

That's all fine, until you walk onto my property and plant a yard sign there without my permission. Do I not have the right to tell you to keep your signs off my lawn?

Your argument would be "well, the founders of this country loved yard signs and had them on their lawns, and back in the first century a really famous and influential person said that yard signs were essential to life and salvation."

And of course I should add that as a taxpayer, a federal buidling, school, military base, etc is indeed my property, as well as yours.

This country, like it or not, was designed to be of laws and freedom first, God and men are secondary. When God or man reaches to far or being left behind, there is a mechanism to right the ship.

That's my two cents. And even though I may have started it with the name calling, before you throw around the "igorant" term, I have a Bachelor's degree from St. John's University (not exactly a bastion of liberalism) in Criminal Justice with a minor in Government and Politics. I have taken several courses on Constitutional Law,a graduate course on the Federalist Papers, and over twenty credit hours of Theology and Philosophy.

Not to mention, I spent every Wednesday night and Sunday morning of my life from the ages of 5-15 in a Baptist church.

80-90% of my family are fundamentalist Christians. I have never mocked their faith (aside from their beliefs on evolution and gay marriage) and would never attempt to take God out of their lives or anyone elses. At their house, they can pray all they like. When they come to my house, I ask them to leave it at the door.

Kent H said...

You almost made my point for me. If federal buildings, schools, etc. are both our "property." Then who says what signs (if any) we post? Oh, I know, NO SIGNS. Because Darren says so.
Your right to disbelief is not even in question. Again, the foundations of our great republic our grounded in the Judeo/ Christian notion that all men are free to express, live, pursue, etc. in a fashion that does not infringe on another's right to the same.
My point with the founding father's issue is this: If they created the kind of republic you only wish they did (i.e. that all faith is kept private), why didn't someone straighten them out when such OBVIOUS infractions against justice were committed? They weren't "corrected" because your secular view of America is not the view of the founders, and I just wish one secularist would acknowledge that. You guys want a different America than the founders did and made into a ONCE great nation.
That is all.

Darren Staley said...

It's not a question my faith or lack thereof. The deal is, because we all own the property together, we should all be in agreement before placing a sign on it.

Why not have the Satanic Commandments there? Or a passage from the Koran? Or, since you mentioned the Judeo that preceded the Christian, why not a Star of David?

It's about taking a hot-button issue off the table. I don't want to stick Darwin's Origin of Species or a book by Dawkins or Hitchens there. Not no signs because I said so, no signs because somebody is going to make a fuss and claim their sign is better or yours doesn't belong. Plus it is meaningless. Is one person going to doubt their faith because the 10 Commandments isn't on the courthouse lawn?

Sure, I have shifted my argument a bit here, so I will leave you with some thoughts from the Judeo-Christian founders:

"Our particular principles of religion are a subject of accountability to God alone. I inquire after no man's, and trouble none with mine."

"No religious reading, instruction or exercise, shall be prescribed or practiced [in the elementary schools] inconsistent with the tenets of any religious sect or denomination."

"I am for freedom of religion, and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendency of one sect over another."

"As to Jesus of Nazareth, my Opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the System of Morals and his Religion, as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupt changes, and I have, with most of the present Dissenters in England, some Doubts as to his divinity; tho' it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and I think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an Opportunity of knowing the Truth with less Trouble."

"The Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount contain my religion."

“I have attended public worship in all countries and with all sects and believe them all much better than no religion, though I have not thought myself obliged to believe all I heard.”

"God is an essence that we know nothing of. Until this awful blasphemy is got rid of, there never will be any liberal science in the world."

"As the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen [Muslims] ... it is declared ... that no pretext arising from religious opinion shall ever product an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries....
"The United States is not a Christian nation any more than it is a Jewish or a Mohammedan nation."

Washtington (via Jefferson):
"Dr. Rush tells me that he had it from Asa Green that when the clergy addressed Genl. Washington on his departure from the govmt, it was observed in their consultation that he had never on any occasion said a word to the public which showed a belief in the Xn religion and they thot they should so pen their address as to force him at length to declare publicly whether he was a Christian or not. They did so. However he observed the old fox was too cunning for them. He answered every article of their address particularly except that, which he passed over without notice. Rush observes he never did say a word on the subject in any of his public papers except in his valedictory letter to the Governors of the states when he resigned his commission in the army, wherein he speaks of the benign influence of the Christian religion.

I know that Gouverneur Morris, who pretended to be in his secrets & believed himself to be so, has often told me that Genl. Washington believed no more of that system than he himself did."

"Mysterious indeed! But mysteries belong to religion, not to government; to the ways of the Almighty, not to the works of man. And in religion itself there is nothing mysterious to its author; the mystery lies in the dimness of the human sight. So in the institutions of man let there be no mystery, unless for those inferior beings endowed with a ray perhaps of the twilight vouchsafed to the first order of terrestrial creation. "

"All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit. "

"My mind is my own church."

Now, I will give you John Jay and maybe Hamilton, although the latter is arguable.

My point is not to call the founders athiests. But the majority of the key players would be defined more as agnostic than Christian and they professed their doubt adamantly in some cases.

Worship all you like. Hand out leaflets. Wear John 3:16 t-shirts. Build as many churches as you like. Nobody is trying to infringe on religion, only to keep religion from infringing on us.

Kent H said...

Simply, your right to disbelief is never infringed on in any way in this country. But your right to dictate the public discourse does stop at your own private property. Lynch v. Donnelly (1984) before the supreme court found that a public display of a creche alongside other religious displays on public property does NOT establish or support "one sect over another."
I do understand that most of the founders were not conservative Christian churchmen (except John Jay, G. Morris, P. Henry to name a few), but the fact remains that most of the founders did depend on their faith in private and in public.
To quote Adams' peace treaty with Tripoli (a Muslim country) is extremely disingenuous. Every historian understands the political nature of his wording there. There are a multitude of quotes we can both regurgitate on this thread.

Washington called for prayers to "that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect" in his 1st inaugural.

Adams was actually considered the most "overtly Christian from his bully pulpit" of the early presidents. He asked for God's "infinite grace, through the Redeemer of the world, freely remit all our offenses, and to incline us by His Holy Spirit to that sincere repentance and reformation" in a public Thanksgiving proclamation.

Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence that called on the justice of the "laws of nature and of nature's God."

Each of the founders had a religious journey and NONE of them would have claimed agnosticism except Paine. Some (Franklin, Jefferson) were more deist certainly. They did give their thoughts throughout their lives on the subject and those thoughts evolved.
But that is part of my point. The founders did bring these issues to bear on the public discourse. Washington often publicly called on the help of God to win the war of Independence. (Read "Washington's God" by M. Novak, "Founding Faith" by Steven Waldman).
The fact is, the only mandate for the federal government - established in the first amendment - is that no particular sect of religion is to be preferred above another. Just because you or I pay taxes does not give us the right to have every federal building decorated to our taste or the right to not be "offended" when we walk in. A minority ruling over the wishes of a majority is called oligarchy.
The men who gave us our government gave us a system where all people were free to believe or disbelieve as they wished and no man/woman could be compelled either way. But we don't have the right to establish one state belief - sacred or secular. Recent Supreme Court decisions have focused on the equality in the public square of belief with nonbelief, Christian and secular, etc. But your version of separation gives the minority of unbelievers their say over the majority of believers who want simply to acknowledge a sacred trust in our public discourse. Thankfully, your brand of America has been rejected thus far.

Kent H said...

Darren, The foundations of our legal and political systems are grounded in the law of Moses and Scripture. So an "origin of species" or "god delusion" on the court house wall makes no sense. The public acknowledges the place that the Judeo/Christian faith has on the foundations of our nation - check out the federal buildings in D.C. ALL OVER D.C.