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Do Americans want more God in government?
March 4, 2003 12:18 PM   Subscribe

Governing by The Book? While reading this column from Nicholas Kristof (NY Times, reg. required), I was struck by the following quote: "President Bush has said that he doesn't believe in evolution (he thinks the jury is still out). President Ronald Reagan felt the same way, and such views are typically American." Lots more info here, including stats that 46% of Americans consider themselves "Evangelical" or "Born Again" Christians, and that more than twice as many Americans believe in a red guy with a pitchfork than natural selection. I have no doubt that me-fites will have much to gripe about here, but my question is this: Do a majority of Americans want a Christian government? How far away are they from getting it?
posted by Gilbert (54 comments total)

 
Do a majority of Americans want a Christian government?

I pray not.

How far away are they from getting it?

Already here.
posted by nofundy at 12:35 PM on March 4, 2003


I think many non-Americans (and some Americans) forget that this country started out largely as a Christian fundamentalist country, settled in part by the Puritans, who were not welcome in their country after killing their king and setting up a Puritan state. This religious conservatism, I think, has a lot to do with American culture. Attitudes toward sex are more conservative. On the good side, hard work traditionally was revered (the Puritans had a saying, Idle hands are the devil's workshop), as was cleanliness (which is next to godliness). The puritans also had a zeal for stomping on evil sinners (axis of evil, anyone?) So I think it's not surprising that religious conservatism continues to have a large influence, both positive and negative.
posted by unreason at 12:38 PM on March 4, 2003


Yes. Not very. And it's sad.
posted by owillis at 12:38 PM on March 4, 2003


Do a majority of Americans want a Christian government?

How does one answer that without research?

How far away are they from getting it?

How does one answer that without precognition?

Really, besides the passing references to George Bush, what does this article have to do with religion in government? The author seems more concerned about the alleged lack of an evangelical voice in the "major news organizations" than in anything else.
posted by moonbiter at 12:39 PM on March 4, 2003


The majority of Americans do not want a christian government. I'd say the majority of Christian Americans do not want a "Christian" government. I would concede that a vast majority of American Christian Fundamentalists would like America to be a Christian Theocracy but I'd also say that this desire is only possible because they are ignorant of the history of government and society.

I think Kristoff's motivation in writing this column is to heighten awareness of the fact that most Fundamentalists participate in elections and primaries and that non-believers often don't vote at all.
posted by chris0495 at 12:43 PM on March 4, 2003


I think many non-Americans (and some Americans) forget that this country started out largely as a Christian fundamentalist country

Inaccurate statement.
posted by nofundy at 12:44 PM on March 4, 2003


nofundy, consider the influence of puritanism, the pilgrims, etc. Note also the I am talking about the culture, not the government.
posted by unreason at 12:46 PM on March 4, 2003


That's a higher number than I've heard before. This survey from the Pew Research Center puts it at about 34%.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 12:48 PM on March 4, 2003


Moonbiter, maybe I should have made one more connection: As I understand it, "evangelical" Christians believe it is their duty to spread the gospel and convert non-Christians. Those evangelicals were instrumental in getting G.W. a near majority of the popular vote. I don't think it's a big stretch from there to wonder whether what they want next is a Christian government.
posted by Gilbert at 12:48 PM on March 4, 2003


I think it's accurate to say that this country was influenced by Christian fundamentalists. But the Puritans were only one of many strains of just the European cultures that settled here, let alone others.

It's hard to overestimate the influence the Puritans had on this country. Yet people do so all the time.
posted by argybarg at 12:49 PM on March 4, 2003


Already here? As in the United States is already a theocracy, ala Iran or Uzbekistan but Christian instead of Muslim?

Sorry. Not remotely close. Not even in the same ballpark.

But creeping into the same league, perhaps, and that is disquieting.
posted by John Smallberries at 12:51 PM on March 4, 2003


Do a majority of Americans want a Christian government? How far away are they from getting it?

~laugh~

A "Christian government"? You mean one that would adhere to those pesky commandments, including the really odd one about not killing?

Nah. We're not close to getting one. From what I see, many of the "evangelical" Christians who strongly support Bush don't follow the precepts of their own faith, or even read their own scripture. So we may someday (shudder) get the horror of whatever government some of these folks really want....but it won't be a "Christian government".

And anyone who "thinks the jury is still out" on "evolution" has some serious intellectual deficits, whether from lack of exposure to the science, or from lack of rigor in thought.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 12:57 PM on March 4, 2003


Those statistics are false, or at least wildly misleading. According to a 2001 Gallup poll, the number of people praticing evangelical Christian faiths was more like 21%. People may have been misled by the question, "Do you consider yourself born again?" (assuming that's how the question was phrased). Many Christians will answer "yes" to that question even if they don't belong to an evangelical faith. What's more interesting, and more reliable, is this report by the Pew Research Center which contains more refreshing (and less scare-tactic-ey) stats such as the following:

Only 18% of Americans believe that their faith is the "one true path to eternal life."

84% of Americans believe that you can be a good American without being religious.

Most Americans are tolerant of all other religions, except Atheists, whom they appear not to trust. No group, even white evangelicals, had a majority of adherents who had an unfavorable opinion of Islam.

At the same time, almost half of Americans believe that America has special protection from God, and--to answer the question posed in the thread--67% of Americans believe that America is a Christian nation, whatever that means.

Looking at these numbers, it's clear that America is a nation made up primarily of Christians, so in that sense, America is indeed Christian. But we also have a clearly worded 1st Amendment that has kept theocracy at bay for over 200 years. So I don't think we'll be living in the world of The Handmaid's Tale anytime soon.
posted by vraxoin at 1:02 PM on March 4, 2003


We probably need to make the distinction between fundmentalism and triumphalism which foldy alludes to with:
From what I see, many of the "evangelical" Christians who strongly support Bush don't follow the precepts of their own faith, or even read their own scripture. So we may someday (shudder) get the horror of whatever government some of these folks really want....but it won't be a "Christian government".
Sad thing is these folks don't know the difference and actually believe they are "Christians" who just happen to use the Bible to beat people about the head with instead of for reading and instruction.
posted by nofundy at 1:03 PM on March 4, 2003


How does one answer that without research?

Easy, just point to an editorial in the New York Times.
posted by oissubke at 1:08 PM on March 4, 2003


More posts and links on the subject in a previous thread down at the bottom. (I got there too late again, darn it!)
posted by nofundy at 1:08 PM on March 4, 2003


"Born again Christian" does not necessarily mean evangelical, and it does not necessarily mean politically conservative. Al Gore defined himself as one, basically interpreting the phrase as someone who renews or independently affirms a faith in Christ through adulthood. By this standard, most contemporary adult Christians are "born-again", and many will use the same logic in a gallup poll. That may explain the 46%.

That being said, Kristof's fear is legitimate. I doubt that we will ever conveniently forget the scientific advances of the last 200 years. But anyone in charge of a federal education budget had better not be telling me that creationism is academically correct. I fear that the judiciary must now bear the burden of enforcing our rights, and I am happy that the 9th Circuit has made an important (though ultimately symbolic) stand. But I wouldn't forsee this moving in the right direction in the long term.
posted by PrinceValium at 1:09 PM on March 4, 2003


nofundy: thanks for pointing out that it's been an eternity (48 hours or so) since a FPP on this topic was posted.
posted by turbodog at 1:21 PM on March 4, 2003


"the Puritans had a saying...."

"Burn the witch!!!!!"

"Do a majority of Americans want a Christian government?"

Oh please. A Christian government would work the same way an Islamic government would. That is - Committing a sin would be against the law.

Take the name of the Lord thy God in vain? $100 fine.
Working on Sabbath Day? Five days in jail.
Sleeping around? Ten years.

Take away sin and most Americans would lose the will to live. If most Americans think they want a Christian government I think that says a lot about the ability for most Americans to think about anything more complicated than the channel clicker.
posted by y6y6y6 at 1:23 PM on March 4, 2003


What do you mean by a "Christian government"? Do you mean that most high-ranking government officials are Christian? If so, I'd be willing to bet that's been the case throughout American history. Or do you really mean a government which endorses Christianity as its official religion? If that's your argument, I'd say it's laughable to even suggest that the U.S. will ever take that form. Federal law prohibits religious discrimination in employment or housing. The First Amendment has been repeatedly held to prohibit official endorsement of a particular religion. In order to have the government you're talking about, both the First Amendment (in its current form) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would have to be repealed. I don't think either of those things would ever happen.

But, if your real complaint is that religion seems to be uncomfortably seeping into areas where it has no business, I agree. But to leap from that to predicting "a Christian government" is kind of like concluding that a new ice age is upon us because it's snowing.
posted by pardonyou? at 1:24 PM on March 4, 2003


"Of all the tyrannies, a tyranny sincerly exercised for the good of its victims may be the most opressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."

- C. S. Lewis
posted by Cerebus at 1:25 PM on March 4, 2003


Keep in mind also that there is no evidence that the President actually believes in evangelical theology. It's fun to paint W. as an end-times bible thumper, but given today's political climate, no one who actually believed in that stuff would have a snowball's chance in Hell at becoming President (cf. Pat Robertson). You can't say "the jury's still out" on evolution and be a disciple of Tim La Haye--that's too wishy washy. Bush parades his religion for political effect, flogging whatever "one nation under God" horse he can while carefully failing to appear like too much of a religious nut to scare moderate republicans. It's all an act, folks. All an act.
posted by vraxoin at 1:27 PM on March 4, 2003


Certainly the idea that dispensationalists in our nation's capital may be thinking that their war planning could be part of God's plan to hasten events in the Middle East to their conclusion is a scary one. That's one of the things that bothers me about religious zealots in control of our government.

This article, though, as has been pointed out, is more concerned with cultural issues. It is pretty interesting that many of us secular city types can go for years without having a conversation remotely resembling the ones all of those Christians (24% 38% 56%??) are having daily with others - and with themselves.
posted by kozad at 1:29 PM on March 4, 2003


that's a great quote cerebus! Thanks.
posted by condour75 at 1:31 PM on March 4, 2003


Mr. Kristof ends up lumping together evangelicals and fundamentalists. At this point, just about every practicing protestant christian would fall under the "evangelical" category (with the rise of megachurches and the decline of "establishment" protestantism such as the lutheran, presbyterian, and episcopalian churches).

That doesn't mean that they're automatically rabid 700-club-watching republican-voting fans of jerry falwell, however.

Do the majority of americans want some kind of Christian Government that harkens to the fringe theology of
Christian Reconstructionism
? I think not. At the same time, Americans are overwhelmingly comfortable with the role of religion in the public sphere and with public figures that are practicing Christians (or, in the case of Ronald Reagan, leaders who at least pay lip service to it). Even if millions of "evangelic" Christian americans haven't been near a church outside the last wedding or funeral, they at least feel that religious practice is a virtue they like to see in others. In this case, I'd venture to say that Americans want a president that can do their praying for them.
posted by deanc at 1:32 PM on March 4, 2003


Keep in mind also that there is no evidence that the President actually believes in evangelical theology.

Newsweek article concening the very devout nature of the Bush Whitehouse.
posted by 4easypayments at 1:34 PM on March 4, 2003


It is a common mistake to assume that our citizens have access to information simply because it is abundant in the United States.

This article says that 28% of our country believes in evolution, and we're calling people of Iraq suppressed and propagandized.

I find it akin to saying "you're the dumbest fucking dog I've ever owned" while scratching your pup behind the ears or petting him/her. You can write textbooks 'til you're blue in the face, but that doesn't mean our population is learning anything. The average US citizen gains his or her "knowledge about the world" from pictures and sounds, not written text. And even when watching TV they can't pay attention for more than 30 seconds without some death, sex, or violence to entertain them.
posted by zekinskia at 1:44 PM on March 4, 2003


PrinceValium checks off Al Gore as "born again." I think we can safely add Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton to that group as well.

As for hastening Armageddon in the Middle East, it would be a poor reading of the Bible (even Revelations) that indicated that mere mortals had any say in when the end game was upon us. When I was growing up evangelical in the 70s, all the Armageddon-guessing centered around godless Russia and godful America (though the Middle East would be the trigger, as always) fighting the final fight. Later on, Clinton was the Antichrist, supplanting Carter.

The United Nations was always evil, though.
posted by hackly_fracture at 1:50 PM on March 4, 2003


It is a common mistake to assume that our citizens have access to information simply because it is abundant in the United States.


No, it is a common mistake to assume that our citizens will USE the information available to them. There is an abundant amount of information available, and the citizens do have access to it.
posted by bradth27 at 1:51 PM on March 4, 2003


Do a majority of Americans want a Christian government? How far away are they from getting it?

No, and to back that up over 50% of Americans (including me) voted against Bush. Not likely, see here for more on my views.

Attitudes toward sex are more conservative.

More so than who? From anecdotal experience (I lived in Italy for a while), I'd say that American's (and their government's) views towards gays, the reconsideration of the "traditional roles" of woman and men, acceptance of abortion and acceptance of no fault divorce is much more progressive (not to mention the legality of abortion and divorce) than Italy. Of course that's only by relative comparison, America and the rest of the world can always do a lot better.

You may not find naked woman on ads in the U.S., but I find that discussion about sex and other related topics in the U.S. is more open, more in the public and more forgiving than anything I experienced living in Rome. Have any other Americans or non-Americans had similar or different experiences?
posted by Bag Man at 1:51 PM on March 4, 2003


"No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God."

--George H. W. Bush (the father, not the son nor the holy ghost)
posted by Ryvar at 1:52 PM on March 4, 2003


It might also be pertinent to point out that the term "Evangelical Christian" refers to any Protestant denomination influenced by Luther's teachings. Unless the Methodists, Baptists, Lutherans and Calvinists (to name only four major denominations) are being lumped together, claiming that "Evangelicals" want this or that is a misnomer.

Likewise, the idea that "fundamentalist" Christians want one coherent set of goals is silly. Pentecosts, Orthodox Calvinists, and Opus Dei all hate one another theologically but are "fundamentalist". Fundamentalism is not actually either right-wing _or_ left-wing intrinsically (or even predominantly), as any survey of the thousands of fundamentalist sects ought to show. Fundamentalism is a stance against modernist interpretations of the Bible. It's as silly as attacking Derridean deconstruction for causing political correctness.

When people say "fundamentalist" or "evangelical" in regards to politics, most of the time what they really mean are two specific groups: The "Moral Majority", a loose collection of right-wing sects espousing millenarian views which oscillate between being marginalised and being marginalised but loud; and the Southern Baptist congregation (of which both Bush and Gore belong to, for example), which wields a great deal of political influence and is one of the largest congregations in the US. The only other religious group to have any real influence is the RCC, and they show it mostly in local elections.

So, if you disagree with Bush's view, be honest and attack the Southern Baptists' and their values, don't punch at the straw-man of "fundamentalism" and claim to've struck a blow for religious freedom.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 1:53 PM on March 4, 2003


re: the born again thing. Every true Christian is "born again" in the Scriptural sense. It's actually a requirement of the faith: "unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3). The confusion comes because some evangelicals have co-opted the term to refer to a specific type of conversion experience. It actually wouldn't surprise me if many mainline Christians would actually deny that they were "born again" simply because of the meaning that the term has taken on in our culture. If someone asked me if I would describe myself as "born again" I would say yes but if someone asked if I would describe myself as "evangelical or born again" I might say no, inferring that the questioner was using the term to refer to the popular understanding of the term rather than the Biblical understanding.

at this point, just about every practicing protestant christian would fall under the "evangelical" category

This is simply not true. All my life I have attended traditional mainline Protestant (Lutheran actually) churches that were full of active and devout members. They were not megachurches nor would they be considered evangelical in the way I assume you are using the term. Its true enough that membership in these churches are slowly declining, but they are far from dead and indeed, there are many individual churches that are growing.

I thought the article itself was quite good, as is usually the case with Kristof. I especially liked:

But liberal critiques sometimes seem not just filled with outrage at evangelical-backed policies, which is fair, but also to have a sneering tone about conservative Christianity itself. Such mockery of religious faith is inexcusable. ... Both sides need to reach out, drop the contempt and display some of the inclusive wisdom of Einstein, who wrote in his memoir: "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."
posted by boltman at 1:57 PM on March 4, 2003


a theocracy, ala Iran or Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan? Even Iran is not technically a theocracy but a state in which religious leaders have way too much power, but Uzbekistan, whatever its other problems, is the farthest thing imaginable from a theocracy: it's a secular state beset by an Islamist rebellion. Here, read all about it.
posted by languagehat at 1:58 PM on March 4, 2003


...I'd say it's laughable to even suggest that the U.S. will ever take that form. Federal law prohibits religious discrimination in employment or housing.

Oh THE LAW says it's so? Well then everyone is safe. Of course, the law used to protect people against being held without legal council nor criminal charges being laid in a given period of time, but it was decided that the law was wrong to offer such frivolous protection. The point of all the sarcasm is that the law does fuck all to protect you when those who make the law couldn't give a rat's ass about you, or worse, decide to make you their bitch. Such faith can only be blind.
posted by holycola at 2:14 PM on March 4, 2003


The new emphasis on faith-based whatever is a strong tilt in the direction of theocracy.

It is sickening to think that Bush's selective beliefs can't admit the fact of evolution, but embrace other by-products of the scientific method, like electronic surveillance, chem-bio warfare, and corporate modification of human and other genomes.
posted by skimble at 2:27 PM on March 4, 2003


Newsweek article concening the very devout nature of the Bush Whitehouse.

Aw, come on, 4easypayments. That Newsweek article is pure fluff; hell, it was probably written by Karl Rove.
posted by vraxoin at 2:34 PM on March 4, 2003


Do a majority of Americans want a Christian government?

More importantly, do they want a government blessed with supernatural powers?
posted by homunculus at 2:38 PM on March 4, 2003


...I'd say it's laughable to even suggest that the U.S. will ever take that form. Federal law prohibits religious discrimination in employment or housing.

That depends upon what side of the fence you are from.

Article 1, section 4 of the Texas Constitution-


No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being.
posted by bradth27 at 2:43 PM on March 4, 2003


How can a christian man order the death of thousands? Christ would be killed before raising a hand to kill. Mr . Bush is not a Christ-like man, he is a member of a very political sect of people who feel or say that they are Christians.

When I think of fundementalist Christianity I think of a sect that tried to pack my hometown's schoolboard. They wanted to install textbooks that taught that a woman's place was in the home and that evolution was a myth, they wanted to ban all sex ed (including disallowing any mention of HIV) and they wanted all they gay teachers to be 'found out' and fired. All because of a shortlist of verbatum quotes from the bible. They didn't seem to care about people or Christ's teachings at all.

My experience in the work it took to defeat these people politically was long and difficult. I am very specifically afraid of Mr. Bush's ideology because of this experience. It seems that he doesn't care about any fact or opinion that crosses his own moral agenda. What passes for morality for Mr. Bush is a mystery to me, though.
posted by n9 at 2:55 PM on March 4, 2003


The new emphasis on faith-based whatever is a strong tilt in the direction of theocracy.

Hardly. As much as I oppose the F-BI, this is perhaps the overstatement of the day. It's a program to gut social services to the inner-city (you know take tax money away from minorities and give back it to middleclass whites) not a replacement of secular government. You have a point, but it’s a bit overstated.

Oh THE LAW says it's so? Well then everyone is safe.

Given the trend of a long line of Federal cases, including the 9th Circuit's recent striking down of "Under God" and a long line of anti-moment of silence cases, I'd say that the Federal Judiciary has done a good job of addressing issues of religious freedom. The scary thing is if the Religious-Right gets enough power to amend the Federal Constitution. However, that is unlikely at this point.

On preview: bradth27, that's freaking scary. But, I'd reserve judgment until that issue has been litigated. Are there any cases to your knowledge in which that section has been evoked to prevent anyone from holding a state job? Sounds like the court could strike it down on a 14th Amendment Equal Protection Clause argument (thus avoiding the religious issue), which Federal Courts are highly like to do. But it needs to be challenged first in an actual case or controversy.
posted by Bag Man at 2:56 PM on March 4, 2003


"It's all an act, folks. All an act."

Until he appointed John "nipple fear" Ashcroft maybe. After that we move beyond marketing spin.
posted by y6y6y6 at 3:17 PM on March 4, 2003


There is much noblilty in the historical Jesus Christ. As well as, there are many noble Christians. The fundamentalists and especially those fundamentalists in power are not in the religion biz for edification. Rather, it is pointedly obvious, religion to them is used as a form of intellectual oppression on the masses. They supplant true faith in a personal Christ with moralistic knee-jerk propaganda campaigns that only suffice to divide the people of this country, thus keeping us interminably at each other's throats. And it's bullshit.

As I wrote to a friend last night discussing this article:

What I'm saying is you can't speak sense to people who have made up their
minds despite their knowledge of the reality of their own fragile existence. From the point
that the mind has been made up till the end of their days, rationality and
clarity of the uncertainty of existence are concepts to be steered well clear
from. And since there're so many of them they ever so easily nestle into the
herd's warmth of never being alone. Loners of the social kind as well as of
the intellectual, if not promptly assimillated young, will become the hated
and the demonized, even though all they speak of is kindness and reason in an
uncertain reality. I mean, they've hijacked Jesus. Look at how Karl Rove
has used a concept that I know as much about as George W. Bush and bent it to
accentuate his authority. God is a moot point. It only becomes non-moot
when fascist totalitarian corporatists (language not allowed on mefi I know) who control the strings of truth in
our mass media decide it's time to separate the wheat from the chaff. Which
of course HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH God or Christianity. They'll use a penis of
a president if the need suits.

If only this could be understood by a great many:

"THEY HAVE TURNED YOUR GOD INTO A PENIS!!!"

If only. . .

J
posted by crasspastor at 3:35 PM on March 4, 2003


Moonbiter, maybe I should have made one more connection [...]

You're right, it's not much of a stretch, but it is still mostly speculation. Since the thread has been an interesting read, however, I say good post.

"No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God."

Yet for all that, atheists like myself are still free to do whatever a Christian can do in the US. I'm not saying that citizens shouldn't be vigilant on this issue, but as others have noted the US isn't anywhere near becoming a nation that outlaws heathens and pagans.
posted by moonbiter at 4:57 PM on March 4, 2003


I love that CS Lewis quote because it showed at least one Christian who "got" it.

I'd pray for the rest of 'em, but I'm an atheist.
posted by Cerebus at 5:11 PM on March 4, 2003


> twice as many Americans believe in a red guy with a pitchfork than natural selection

Hardly! I'd classify myself as both "born again" and "Evangelical" and don't believe in "a red guy with a pitchfork" and don't refute natural selection. A being without corporal form doesn't have color, and a belief in natural selection does not indicate belief in classical evolution.

And if christians in government start to fine people based off of their morality... they forgot to read the book. (Judge not, lest you be judged? They shall know you by how much you love?)
posted by woil at 5:12 PM on March 4, 2003


I think its safe to say that most people would want a government based on christian principles which has very little to do with being a christian (in name only). Those principles overlap with most other religions, islam, budhism, etc. It's the value and sanctity of life that they proclaim, and there's still room for disagreement on everything else.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:38 PM on March 4, 2003


Hardly! I'd classify myself as both "born again" and "Evangelical" and don't believe in "a red guy with a pitchfork" and don't refute natural selection. A being without corporal form doesn't have color, and a belief in natural selection does not indicate belief in classical evolution.

I thought it was obvious that he was speaking figuratively. But the latter does not make sense to me. If one accepts that natural selection is the process by which life came to exist in its current form, then evolution logically follows.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:51 PM on March 4, 2003


Do a majority of Americans want a Christian government?

Disclaimer: I'm "religious," if sometimes uncertain about how everything works.

I don't think I want a religious government so much as I want a government that has high respect for individual religious choices, including areligious choices, and with an accompanying measure of respect for religious/areligious societies that grow out of it.

It's fortunate that I get this, for the most part. Oddly enough, I seem to get it because of a phrase that says that congress isn't supposed to make laws "respecting" religion (I've often wondered if most people, by the way, read that as "respect for religion" or just "regarding religion" in general and further wondered how those versed in the arts/history of jurisprudence read it).

I'm not really bothered by the concept of having the state cooperate with faith-based organizations, if it's set up in a way where they're competing with organizations that provide similar services based on results rather than particular flavor of belief.

However: I really am uncomfortable sometimes with candidates who wear their faith on their sleeve as a reason for election, and even more uncomfortable with friends I know who've come home from a politcal speech and decided to vote for a particular candidate because "he's a man of God."
posted by namespan at 5:53 PM on March 4, 2003


We're currently in the middle of religious upsurge, but I am not worried about a religious government. The pendulum swings back and forth, but over any significant length of time the strength of the church has decreased over all.

People continue to describe themselves as "spiritual", but go to church less and less. To me, this indicates that while the basic human drive to anthropomorphize the universe remains, organized religion as we understand it in the modern world is becoming more and more quaint and anachronistic. Even fundamentalist states feel the constant pull of secularization, and that vacuum force is ultimately (I believe) indefatiguable.
posted by Hildago at 6:41 PM on March 4, 2003


How can a christian man order the death of thousands?

n9: I think that's actually a very interesting question. Because if you say the answer is that being a Christian is inconsistent with taking action that is sure to result in other people's death (which I think is a defensible position to hold) then it would be impossible for a Christian president (or any president with absolutist moral views) to be both true to his religious/moral beliefs and a halfway decent president. It's really easy to imagine a situation where the president's duty as leader of the country would require him to make utilitarian calculations that would be reprehensible under Christianity's more deontological moral code. There are plenty of foreign policy circumstances in which "turning the other cheek" would be a spectacularly bad idea. Breaking promises or even outright lying are a necessary part of the job on occasion. "Thou shalt not kill" is arguably broken every time the President authorizes a spending reduction to a program that prevents death (say a health insurance program or a worker safety program) even if the cost reductions are justifiable on policy grounds. So he must choose to either be a bad president or a bad Christian. It's quite the dilemma, really.

namespan: it's actually the "...or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" part that really protects the rights you're talking about. The "...respecting the establishment of religion" part is aimed more at preventing government from endorsing one religion over another. Still, I agree completely with your sentiments.
posted by boltman at 6:46 PM on March 4, 2003


I agree, KirkJobSluder - belief in natural selection, but not evolution, is only possible if you decide that a mechanism for character trait inheritance (ie. genes) doesn't exist. I would have thought genetics was the most obvious and easily acceptable part of the whole equation!

Mind you, I understand the Christian Scientist Church's view on evolution is based on this presumption - Mary Baker Eddie wrote her book refuting evolution after Darwin's "Origin of the Species", but before Mendel's ideas on inheritance were accepted. She proposed evolution was impossible as no mechanism for passing on traits had been identified - of course it was identified, but the impact still lives on.
posted by Jimbob at 7:52 PM on March 4, 2003


I am a devout freethinker, but I have to point out that this country has always had a (nominally) Christian government in the executive, judcial, and legislative branches. I have always gotten a kick out of the fact that Nixon was a Quaker.
posted by TedW at 10:30 PM on March 4, 2003


I'm not really bothered by the concept of having the state cooperate with faith-based organizations, if it's set up in a way where they're competing with organizations that provide similar services based on results rather than particular flavor of belief

Namespan, I agree in most part with what you said, except for the above. F-BI is start of a dangerous slippery slope, however; I mostly opposed to these kinds of things because they are intended to gut government agencies and redirect funds away from the people who need them the most, they operate much like "block grants." In my book are to code for taking money away from "entitlement programs," which plays very well with Bush's constituency.

And what boltman said.
posted by Bag Man at 9:52 AM on March 5, 2003


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