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Reframing the values debate.
September 6, 2006 8:01 AM   Subscribe

Democrats of Faith. Jesse Lava, co-founder, says the site is attempting "to help reframe the values debate to be beyond wedge-issue politics, beyond fear and division and more focused on justice and the common good."
posted by footballrabi (63 comments total)

 
So the answer to too much religion in republican politics is too much religion in democratic politics?
posted by Pastabagel at 8:12 AM on September 6, 2006


To paraphrase a great speech I heard recently on the radio, "Just because you have faith doesn't mean you are qualified to pick up the trash, educate the kids or turn on the street lights" faith doesn't make you better (or worse) then anyone else, and frankly should not be an issue in American politics.
I understand why they are doing this, but it is just another example of a win in the conservative column, the debate has effectively been framed and switched.
And no, I'm not anti-faith. I'm anti-faith-in-politics.
posted by edgeways at 8:14 AM on September 6, 2006


Does seem a shame to let the evil lizardy Republicans equate being a good Christian/person with being Republican though doesn't it.
posted by zeoslap at 8:16 AM on September 6, 2006


I'm sure this makes sense is some regional political calculus somewhere, but it is so stupid, so insipid, that I want to move to London.

It's like all that treacle the news show spit out in human interest stories, sweeping generalizations, pathos, no sign of logic or reason, is how a lot of people actually think now.

"It's no wonder many of us opt to go quietly about our business, saving the religious talk for our houses of worship. And, of course, that's the problem. We've forgotten one of the first songs I learned as a child in a Baptist Sunday school: "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine."...If enough religious liberals let their lights shine, they would illuminate a world infinitely more complex and interesting than one in which religion is assumed to be the sole property of conservatives. "

There are some liberals around here. Is this what you want to hear?
posted by Pastabagel at 8:21 AM on September 6, 2006


Republicans and the media (think Wolf Blitzer joking that Paul Begala isn't a good Catholic) have pushed the view that Democrats don't like or respect religious people. Something like 90% of Americans claim to believe in God. So yes, it makes sense to combat that unwarranted view.

And it wasn't that long ago that someone like Reinhold Niebuhr could be a serious thinker, a liberal, widely read, and politically influential. The fact that Jerry Falwell and James Dobson types are the most visible political religious figures today doesn't mean that all religion-influenced politics is inherently Talibanesque.

Yeah, there may be some treacle involved in some of it, but people like Amy Sullivan have a very good point.
posted by ibmcginty at 8:29 AM on September 6, 2006


Great. More people who think the earth is 5,000 years old.
posted by johnnyblotter at 8:31 AM on September 6, 2006


Well, the problem inherent in this is the same one inherent in the question of whether one is a "Jewish-American" or "American Jew" or "American Italian" or whatever. Which modifies which? I'm all for Christians explaining to other Christians why contemporary Republicanism is fundamentally against the values they claim to espouse, I'm less interested in Christian belief becoming more of a litmus test for Democratic political office than it already is.
posted by OmieWise at 8:32 AM on September 6, 2006


Anyone, Republican or Democrat, who attempts to interject religion into American governance is missing the whole freaking point. Theocracy is theocracy, whether it's the kind we want to smother among the brown people elsewhere, or the whitebread version so many want to hug here.

Our country would be much better off if these people would put down their Bibles for a while and read the Constitution, and Bill of Rights, and Federalist Papers, and Supreme Court cases, and...
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:50 AM on September 6, 2006


...to help reframe the values debate to be beyond wedge-issue politics, beyond fear and division

Hah. The "values debate" and the "culture war" are the Republicans' answer to the Democrats' class warfare.

Both are nothing other than political strategies intended to divide the body politic and keep one side or the other in power. Once in power, values, culture, and class become irrelevant to the agenda of whatever side wins.

I'll choose my own values, thank you very much, and kindly ask the goddamned government and people like the ones who run this silly website to stay the hell out of it.
posted by three blind mice at 8:51 AM on September 6, 2006


Religion is at the root of the views and value systems of many, many people in this country. Little known fact: Martin Luther King was actually a minister! And he had some political impact! So, it makes sense for Democrats to combat the unwarranted idea that Democrats don't like religious people. "Interjecting religion into American governance" and creating a "theocracy" is not the goal here-- it's articulating a rationale for sound policy that fits with the views of the vast bulk of the people who live in this country.

"Class warfare" is a content-free phrase. People like three blind mice and Bill O'Reilly throw it out there if they don't like fact you're pointing out about, say, the president's tax cuts being tilted towards the top 1% of wealthy folks. In DC today, the word "poverty" is never mentioned. So no, invoking the phrase "class warfare" is not a valid reason for a pox-on-both-houses pose.
posted by ibmcginty at 8:58 AM on September 6, 2006


I think that the average religious voter has been proven to be such a hypocrite on their so-called values that it would only backfire to embarrass them. They were only acting the part because of the curious and desperate Republican strategy to cast them in their election play, by appealing to the only vanity left to a failed white pride. They won control, but have again proven why they are incompetent and outdated. Some of them were still fighting the civil war. Religion ceases to be a reason for sacrifice when the reasoners are making record profits.
posted by Brian B. at 9:08 AM on September 6, 2006


Brian B. - "by appealing to the only vanity left to a failed white pride. They won control, but have again proven why they are incompetent and outdated. Some of them were still fighting the civil war"

Very insightful, and very well phrased. But is it necessary to appeal to this vanity to engage the south in an election? Are southerners even aware that this is the source of their "values"?
posted by Pastabagel at 9:14 AM on September 6, 2006


Yawn. People who think that it's "theocracy" to have Christians in politics -- Christians motivated by what they actually believe -- are no different than the fundies who scream that Muslim army chaplains are an implicit 'Assault On Christianity.'

The point of a functioning secular democracy is that you can bring whatever motivations to the table you want to. You can bring whatever worldview you want to. But you're not allowed to exclude people from the process based on those worldviews. In addition, when you come to that neutral forum, you have to justify your policies and your ideas to those who don't share your faith: you can't simply say, 'God says so' when explaining why murder should be illegal, or why we should have a progressive tax rate.
posted by verb at 9:16 AM on September 6, 2006


appealing to the only vanity left to a failed white pride.

Nice comment, but I think there's plenty of water left in that well. Not potable water, but...
posted by sonofsamiam at 9:18 AM on September 6, 2006


by appealing to the only vanity left to a failed white pride. They won control, but have again proven why they are incompetent and outdated.

Very insightful, and very well phrased.


And very racist.
posted by scheptech at 9:23 AM on September 6, 2006


The entire neocon platform rests on racism. Does anyone think we would be in Iraq if Americans could tell two Arabs apart? Bush reputedly didn't even know there were two antagonistic factions of Muslims.
posted by sonofsamiam at 9:26 AM on September 6, 2006


Pastabagel, I don't pretend to know how to win the South other than to appeal to their economic interests and natural dignity. That's a promise the right never even had to make by using religion (which is a great pacifier during poverty). I think that copycatting the election success of the right would backfire because it would validate their mistake and spark a dogma war--surely they calculated the left's kneejerk response to them. I would prefer to target the blatant misconceptions of liberalism which are spread by conservatives, and the biggest misconception is that the Republicans are the party of prosperity and wise spending. I've think we also need to dump the ill-conceived notion that there is a tradeoff with prosperity versus social investment. There is no tradeoff. It's the only way to succeed.
posted by Brian B. at 9:35 AM on September 6, 2006


"Interjecting religion into American governance" and creating a "theocracy" is not the goal here-- it's articulating a rationale for sound policy that fits with the views of the vast bulk of the people who live in this country.

And the goal of the war in Iraq is to end terrorism, not fan the flames. Which one, honestly, do you think is happening? Goals are irrelevant - the questions facing our system of governing are (and should be) procedural questions.

Three governmental branches, a bicameral legislature, an independent judiciary, a system of checks and balances, enumerated rights, The Establishment Clause - these are all procedures to guarantee, not that the "views of the bulk of the people" are protected, but that differing viewpoints can be debated freely and on as level a playing field as possible.

In fact, one of the main ideas behind our system is to protect the voices of people who don't side with "the views of the bulk of the people". You might want to look up the "tyranny of the majority" when you get a chance.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 9:35 AM on September 6, 2006


The entire neocon platform rests on racism.

Uh huh, so to win elections the left needs it's own form or racism to replace the neocon form of racism? Yeah, that'd defnitely be better that than it's own form of religion...
posted by scheptech at 9:40 AM on September 6, 2006


There is zero in the linked site that suggests any hostility, whatsoever, to the idea that "differing viewpoints can be debated freely and on as level a playing field as possible," or to any of the structures of American governance you listed.

verb is right: "People who think that it's "theocracy" to have Christians in politics -- Christians motivated by what they actually believe -- are no different than the fundies who scream that Muslim army chaplains are an implicit 'Assault On Christianity.'"
posted by ibmcginty at 9:41 AM on September 6, 2006


Uh huh, so to win elections the left needs it's own form or racism to replace the neocon form of racism? Yeah, that'd defnitely be better that than it's own form of religion...

Pointing out racism is not racism. A lot of Japanese hate Koreans. Am I a racist for saying so?

I fail to see what you find controversial about the idea that Republicans played to white folks' prejudices. It seems plain as day to me: people I talk to seem to conflate all current issues into some fuzzily defined "our culture" issue: immigration, GW Ownz Terror, evolution.

Republicans have cultivated this base and purposefully tied these issues together.
posted by sonofsamiam at 9:47 AM on September 6, 2006


: So the answer to too much religion in republican politics is too much religion in democratic politics?

A substantial portion of the American people use judeo-christian faith as a marker of morality and trustworthiness. The same portion tend to see the lack of a declared affiliation with religious doctrine as atheism, and atheism worries them because there is no pre-set standard of morality. This means that American candidates may struggle with character strength definition when they apply "separation of church and state" to political battles.

Religion is a part of American life, and the political atmosphere is changing to reflect that across parties, like it or not. The real problem lies in using religion as a template for legislation. That's the line that needs to be drawn and bitterly defended.
posted by zennie at 9:48 AM on September 6, 2006 [1 favorite]


The race to be holier than the competition will probably end with human sacrifice on the steps of the Capitol.

On the plus side even the losers can enjoy some of the BBQ from the leftovers.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:55 AM on September 6, 2006



The race to be holier than the competition will probably end with human sacrifice on the steps of the Capitol.


so, how's life out there on the fringe?
posted by pyramid termite at 9:57 AM on September 6, 2006 [1 favorite]


Race to the bottom folks... if we start now we can catch up to the Republicans by 2012.
posted by wfrgms at 10:00 AM on September 6, 2006


"People who think that it's "theocracy" to have Christians in politics -- Christians motivated by what they actually believe -- are no different than the fundies who scream that Muslim army chaplains are an implicit 'Assault On Christianity.'"

I didn't say, nor would I ever say, that Christian politicians constitute a theocracy. I couldn't give a rat's ass what religious affiliation a politician has as long as he or she respects the system as set forth by our founding documents.

When religion is used to subvert our secular and supposedly inclusive culture, then I think "theocracy" is the correct term. When lawmakers can force schools to teach Creationism in science class, I think "theocracy" fits. When gays can be denied equal economic benefits or stem cell research can't be explored because "God disapproves", I think "theocracy" fits. When the government can keep terminally ill people alive against their and their family's wishes, I think "theocracy" fits.

We, as a country, have become more and more comfortable with this kind of decision-making by our leaders. It's dangerous, it's short-sighted, and it's un-American. We are (supposed to be) a secular country of reason and laws that respects all men and all religions.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 10:10 AM on September 6, 2006


As a 'godless' left/socialist I am constantly sickened by the gap between the works and the words of the 'holy' Right. Looks like I know volumes more about their faith and the implicit ethics of Christianity than the born again president does. For one: killing innocents is pretty clearly in the wrong no matter what the reason. For another: sticking it to the poor here at home is ungodly in pretty much any context as well. For all the fundamentalist bullshit rhetoric stating that there is no ambiguity in the Word you'd think that someone on that side would be able to connect the dots and realize that our current President and his party are about the most unchristian set of folks that anyone could ask for.... economically, domesticaly, in their wars, work and rhetoric.
posted by n9 at 10:25 AM on September 6, 2006


Talking about faith explicitly, publicly and in a political context is off-putting to me, whether Democrat or Republican. To me, a person lives their faith through their actions, and (if in a non-religious space) only if pressed about motivations might allow, "Well, I was raised in a faith/tradition that taught me to take care of other people," or whatever. To me, talking about the underlying value is a place to build common ground, while talking about the faith part is divisive and usually an effort to use religion in and of itself as a sign of legitimacy. Then again, perhaps this is just my own New England background of keeping private matters private.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:27 AM on September 6, 2006


I am interviewing Jesse Lava this afternoon for my radio show airing this weekend. It will be available as a podcast. We plan to cover a lot of ground, particularly: if this is a Christian-centered org, where to faithful Dems of other backgrounds go? I would appreciate your questions I can put to him.Check out more about Interfaith Voices Radio.
posted by parmanparman at 10:36 AM on September 6, 2006


Benny, you listed laws requiring teaching of Creationism in science classes, denying ights to gays, curtailing stem cell research, and preventing terminally ill people from taking medicine to diminish pain and hasten death.

I have good news for you! The linked site is designed to build support for politicians who agree with you on some or all issues! Yay!

What's more, they believe these things in part because of their religious beliefs.

Claudia, I too have that New England reticence about talking about private stuff, but the fact is, most people in this country don't share that view.
posted by ibmcginty at 10:37 AM on September 6, 2006


Awesome, parmanparman. I get your show on WVGN St. Thomas. Thanks for your good work.

To me, the biggest question is, how can this kind of movement get legs, generate real grassroots support? Is it helpful to work with people like Richard Czik (sp?), the National Association of Evangelicals guy who's talking more about poverty & environmentalism than GOP-leaning religious leaders have in the past?

Also, why is there this unwarranted view that Dems don't like religious people-- what has any Dem leader ever said that has furthered that impression?
posted by ibmcginty at 10:41 AM on September 6, 2006


Also, why is there this unwarranted view that Dems don't like religious people-- what has any Dem leader ever said that has furthered that impression?

Maybe that intelligent design has no place in our public schools? Or that the ten commandments don't belong in a courtroom. As long as separation of church and state is rsomehow seen as hostile to religion, Democrats will further that impression every time they try to defend our right to a secular government.
posted by SBMike at 11:15 AM on September 6, 2006


I fail to see what you find controversial

This: appealing to the only vanity left to a failed white pride

What is 'white' if not a racial classification and what is this sentiment about if not a sneering characterisation of said race. It's casting a political group as a racial group and saying that group has a race-based characteristic.

It's a way of looking at things and it's racist, and I find racism controversial.

A lot of Japanese hate Koreans. Am I a racist for saying so?


No because of your careful phrasing but Japanese can mean either nationality or race anyway whereas 'white' is clearly racial in this context.
posted by scheptech at 11:16 AM on September 6, 2006


> why is there this unwarranted view that Dems don't like religious people

Right here in this very thread, honey chile. Why not read it?


> As long as separation of church and state is rsomehow seen as hostile to religion,
> Democrats will further that impression every time they try to defend our right to a
> secular government.

Separation of Church and State is indeed hostile to religion when the State continually obtrudes into more and more areas of life, and then expects religion to withdraw from all those areas. Just you boys restrict your State to those areas of life that were within its purview at the time the Constitution was being written, and keep it within those bounds, and we have no problem. But when an expansionary State brings ever more of our daily lives under its control--as has certainly happened--areas (education, to mention one example) which were previously filled with religious teaching and religious ritual, then the State may not require religion to withdraw. That is obvious tyranny toward religious citizens (obvious to anyone except cluelessly self-blinded secularists, anyway) and it will be resisted, successfully. If the Constitution appears to permit such tyranny then the Constitution is a living document, heh heh, and it will have to grow in a new direction, either by less-tendentious interpretation (hello, Justice Roberts) or by out-and-out amendment.
posted by jfuller at 11:53 AM on September 6, 2006


What is 'white' if not a racial classification and what is this sentiment about if not a sneering characterisation of said race. It's casting a political group as a racial group and saying that group has a race-based characteristic.

It's a way of looking at things and it's racist, and I find racism controversial.


This is what you have to understand: the political group was consciously formed along racial lines, on purpose. That is why most Republicans are white. It is not some accident of history. It is because political strategists have groomed a particular segment of white America to be a reliable (i.e. predictable) political base.

No because of your careful phrasing but Japanese can mean either nationality or race anyway whereas 'white' is clearly racial in this context.

Oh good grief. Most racially Japanese people are also nationally Japanese, you know. 'White' is racial, not racist.
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:10 PM on September 6, 2006


That is obvious tyranny toward religious citizens

It's worthless responding to you, but being denied opportunities to impose your beliefs upon others oppresses you in no form or fashion.
posted by furiousthought at 12:12 PM on September 6, 2006


jfuller, I'm confused. In what ways has secular government intruded into your life? What areas of life are you talking about? You mention education as being previously filled with religious teaching and religious ritual, but this seems farfetched to me. If it was in fact present previously, this was a mistake that was thankfully corrected. Religious ritual? I can understand teaching about religion as a force of history and culture, but can you honestly defend religious ritual in a public school? The government will allow you to waive your children's right to public education and enroll them in religious schools if you think ritual and religion is an essential part of their education. As far as I know, no "secularists" are arguing for closing off this option.

There are no police keeping you from entering your church. Nobody censoring bibles. Separation of church and state is in no way whatsoever hostile to religion. In fact, it's the only thing that protects religious freedom (for every other religion except the majority religion). No matter how much yelling Republicans do, the US is not and never was a Christian country.
posted by SBMike at 12:12 PM on September 6, 2006


wait, did I miss some sarcasm?
posted by SBMike at 12:15 PM on September 6, 2006


sonofsamiam - what do believe this entity 'white pride' to be, if not a racist (race-based) concept? Parse this out reasonably if you can: the only vanity left to a failed white pride

Meanwhile, this church and state thing... started as, and only until very recently and in America specfically, meant protecting church from state, not the other way around.

From wikipedia:

In ancient times, before the advent of Christianity, there was no separation between "church" and state. Religion was generally considered as one of many functions of the community. In monarchies, the ruler was usually also the highest religious leader and sometimes considered divine.... This was challenged by Christians who acknowledged the Emperor's political authority but refused to participate in the state's religion or to recognize the emperor's divinity...The teachings of Jesus himself are sometimes cited as providing a basis for the separation of church and state, (e.g. Mark 12: 17: "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.")

Historically the state controls the military, the police, the economy, and in most times and places communications and the media.

Given this, is it easier to understand the utter lack of concern on the part of some (most?) Christians over protecting the state from the chuch?
posted by scheptech at 12:42 PM on September 6, 2006


what do believe this entity 'white pride' to be, if not a racist (race-based) concept?

Please differentiate between 'racial' and 'racist'.

Are you objecting to my belief that there is something that could reasonably called 'white pride' or to that thing itself?

'White pride' is racist. That's the point. If I say that Joe Blow does something because he is a racist who is worried about 'white pride', does that make me a racist?

Either way, the neocon program is deeply dependent on a racist populace and I don't give a fuck who is offended by that (demonstrable, imo) fact.
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:47 PM on September 6, 2006


There are some liberals around here. Is this what you want to hear?

That's exactly what I want to hear. I'm not against religion as a personal matter & I don't care what someone believes. However, I don't want it to be part of public policy and I don't want to be told to live my life according to someone else's beliefs.
posted by mike3k at 12:55 PM on September 6, 2006


jfuller wrote: "Right here in this very thread".

It's far from clear that you're capable of engaging in rational, fact-based discussion, but here's your chance.

I submit that the discussion in this thread has zero impact on perceptions that the Dems are hostile towards religious people.

These impressions, one would imagine, would have to come from things that Democratic politicians have said and done.

But there aren't really any examples of that, so far as I can tell. The one example I got last time I asked this question was, "Gov. Casey wasn't allowed to speak at the 1992 Dem Convention." Really, that's it. And saying that pro-choice = anti-religion is every bit as smart as saying anti-affirmative action = racist.

Rather, this impression exists, I think, because Republicans spread the false impression intentionally. I don't think that any Democratic official of any influence whatsoever thinks that religious people should all just take a hike and get their ignorant bums back to the farm. But that's the view that Republicans and the media have spread, successfully.
posted by ibmcginty at 12:59 PM on September 6, 2006


Kinda riffing on some ideas that n9 brought up above, one major change I would like to see is in people's understanding of their own religion.

I can not, for the life of me, understand how people can go to church, claim to follow the teachings of Jesus, and still subscribe to any ideology that uses exclusionary practices.

Also, why are Christians, again the ones who love Jesus, constantly citing the old testament? The whole point of Jesus' ministry was that he was creating a new covenant.

As a dear friend of mine said: If you spend all your time quoting the Old testament, you are not a Christian, you're a Jew. (As she is self described: 'Jewliscious' and has a degree in Hebrew studies, I'll defer to her expertise)

I am but a godless atheist, but even I am familiar enough with the bible to see that the vast majority of the vocal, government affecting Christians are anything but following the teachings of Christ. And I'll not even begin to discuss the idolatry of flag and/ or Ten Commandment statue worship
posted by quin at 1:01 PM on September 6, 2006


Meanwhile, this church and state thing... started as, and only until very recently and in America specfically, meant protecting church from state, not the other way around.

Same difference, is it not?
posted by zennie at 1:17 PM on September 6, 2006


Meanwhile, this church and state thing... started as, and only until very recently and in America specfically, meant protecting church from state, not the other way around.
Not quite. It meant protecting smaller churches from bigger churches who could more effectively leverage the state. Think about that for a few moments.
posted by verb at 1:22 PM on September 6, 2006


This clinches it. Let's forget about democracy all together. It isn't working. Theocracy will be much better. Then we can have those fun wars over how many angels dance on the head of a pin.

ideology that uses exclusionary practices.

Ultimately every religion uses exclusionary practices. Right?
posted by tkchrist at 1:23 PM on September 6, 2006


Not universalist religions, by definition.
posted by sonofsamiam at 1:28 PM on September 6, 2006


Ultimately every religion uses exclusionary practices. Right?
I guess it depends on how you define it. If a religion is defined as, 'people who believe X,' then by definition people who do not believe X are excluded. That's no more menacing IMO than the 'exclusionary practices' of physical locations, or fan clubs.

The danger comes when they decide they want to use that exclusive belief set as the basis for excluding individuals from other matters. Government positions, public events, civil decision-making processes, etc...
posted by verb at 1:54 PM on September 6, 2006


As an atheist, I get annoyed any time I hear politicians talk so self-aggrandizingly about their "faith" (think Holy Joe Lieberman telling us about what he and Haddassa did last Friday night). Then again, I get annoyed when they run around kissing babies and going to Chamber of Commerce pancake breakfasts too.

Americans tend to be very tied to their religion. Politicians who I think are worth electing will either have no problem with this, or they'll have to jump through a few extra hoops in order to fit the bill. But take a step back and realize that this is only one among many things a person has to do in order to be deemed acceptable for national office (being straight, white, male, and married being a few other notable traits, with notable exceptions of course, but really not that many if you think about it).

But as powerful a force as religion is in American public life, it's also been pretty thoroughly co-opted by capitalism, to the extent that it's as easy to do a "let's talk about my faith" photo/video-op as it is to put an American flag lapel pin on.

Shorter: It's politics son, and for religious folks not to realize how they're poisoning their own well by cozying up to politicians and lobbyists is the height of ignorance. I expect a Democratic majority in the House will have a lot to do with this come November, when government is no longer a "friend" to the religious right, but like those Halcyon Clinton daze, the enemy yet again, Waco and Ruby Ridge and black helicopters oh my.
posted by bardic at 1:55 PM on September 6, 2006


It's politics son, and for religious folks not to realize how they're poisoning their own well by cozying up to politicians and lobbyists is the height of ignorance.
Well put. Francis Schaeffer, while annoyingly cozy with the folks who foisted the 'Christian Nation' pap on us, noted that a legitimate religious belief system would rarely align perfectly with any given political party, and that it probably should not.
posted by verb at 2:07 PM on September 6, 2006


SBMike:

> You mention education as being previously filled with religious teaching
> and religious ritual, but this seems farfetched to me.

I specifically pointed to areas of life that were outside of the government's purview at the time the Constitution was created. Here's a plate from the very famous New England Primer, a core volume in the history of American education and one that can very fairly stand as typical of all education in revolutionary-era America. The image is clickable, I've made it a link to the full text. See if you can find the religion. (hint: "A. In ADAM'S fall/we sinned all.")




> The government will allow you to waive your children's right to public education and enroll them in religious schools

Oh, cool. Will they also excuse me from paying the taxes that support the secular education I do not use? If I'm allowed to bow out of the system entirely (don't use it, and don't pay for what I don't use) then we can talk. If not then, like those conscientious objectors who find they have to pay the taxes that support the war machine anyway, I'm not much impressed by the State's sensitive consideration of my personal autonomy here.

As for the nonstop expansion of government power, intruding into more and more areas of my and your previously private lives--you can't have not noticed this. If you really haven't, go google Patriot Act.


furiousthought:

> being denied opportunities to impose your beliefs upon others oppresses you in no form or fashion.

As long as you grasp that, just because a religious person expressed a belief you do not share in a public place where you can hear it (as for instance by praying aloud in the school, or the football stadium, or the Senate), that does not impose the belief on you in any form or fashion. If you do, clever boy! That's an I.Q. test that pretty much all secularists flunk.


Benny Andajetz:

> When religion is used to subvert our secular and supposedly inclusive culture, then I
> think "theocracy" is the correct term.

Sigh. It can't be inclusive if it's exclusively secular. Choose one: secular, or inclusive. Can't have both, they're mutually contradictory. Another I.Q. test, and you're not doing well at all. Maybe you should go work on your moves.
posted by jfuller at 2:39 PM on September 6, 2006


Secular is all inclusive. All religion is allowed by not being specifically excluded by sponsoring any one of them, because each religion is exclusionarly to the others. The founders debated this very point. Freedom of religion means no religion in government.
posted by Brian B. at 2:54 PM on September 6, 2006


"Secularists" like Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin?
posted by bardic at 3:11 PM on September 6, 2006


Will they also excuse me from paying the taxes that support the secular education I do not use? If I'm allowed to bow out of the system entirely (don't use it, and don't pay for what I don't use) then we can talk.

Well, having no children, I don't get excused from paying taxes that pay for either public education or vouchers. I don't see this as encroachment on my atheistic, non-breeding belief system. And I don't think it fair for me to opt out. Taxes don't exist to service my wants directly, they are to service society's representative desires as expressed through government.
posted by effwerd at 3:18 PM on September 6, 2006


And what Brian B. said. Jfuller, you're trying to formulate a contradiction that doesn't exist. Certainly there are some gray areas, but the SCOTUS has generally said that you can express your exclusionary belief in Baal in public all you want, but you can't expect the (usually local) government to pay for it or spend a lot of money amplifying your message.

Honestly, get over yourself. Christianity is the most commonplace of in American life. While I'm sure it happens, I can't imagine many people are denied a job based on their faith in Jesus. Start telling people you're an atheist, on the other hand. . . . Anecdotal, I realize, but please provide examples of big bad secular society blocking the doors to the church. Because it doesn't, and probably never will happen here.
posted by bardic at 3:20 PM on September 6, 2006


*commonplace of beliefs*
posted by bardic at 3:21 PM on September 6, 2006


American Educational History Timeline

Ok, to be sure, public education in America does have some religious roots. From the timeline:

1787 - The Northwest Ordinance is enacted by the Confederation Congress. It provides a plan for western expansion and bans slavery in new states. Specifically recognizing the importance of education, Act 3 of the document begins, "Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged." Perhaps of more practical importance, it stipulates that a section of land in every township of each new state be reserved for the support of education.

However, 1777 was a long time ago, and our society has benefitted tremendously from changing our educational values since then. If we return to the 1777 model of education (which you astonishingly seem to advocate), I hope you will enjoy watching China and Inida ascend to global dominance while America stops producing productive educated citizens, in favor of pew-stuffers. Already our economy is in great danger. We need more science and math education, not more prayers.
posted by SBMike at 3:33 PM on September 6, 2006


jfuller: As long as you grasp that, just because a religious person expressed a belief you do not share in a public place where you can hear it (as for instance by praying aloud in the school, or the football stadium, or the Senate), that does not impose the belief on you in any form or fashion. If you do, clever boy! That's an I.Q. test that pretty much all secularists flunk.

People can pray all they want in public, in school, or in a football stadium as long as it is not distruptive to the purpose of that gathering.

What is explicitly forbidden is asking teachers as employees of the government to become liturgists for 5 minutes every day.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:43 PM on September 6, 2006


Choose one: secular, or inclusive. Can't have both, they're mutually contradictory.

Funny, all these years I've thought the opposite of secular is religious. American Heritage Dictionary defines secular as "worldly rather than spirtual ". Secularism would, almost by definition, be much more inclusive than most religions.

The founders, as Brian B.pointed out, addressed this issue in great detail. The Establishment Clause is inclusionary, not exclusionary. It gives all religions equal footing.

From Thomas Jefferson's Letter to the Danbury Baptists (1802):
Believing that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, 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 and State.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 4:13 PM on September 6, 2006


And it must be noted that many of the most important objections to prayer in school and the Pledge to the Flag are raised by people of Christian faith who know their history well enough to recognize the role such policies played in the battles of the reformation and counter-reformation (which wasn't just a matter of Protestant vs. Catholic, but also involved struggles between Protestant churches as well.) Not to mention Jews who know how often such public displays of religiosity tend to be followed by pogroms.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:39 PM on September 6, 2006


I have good news for you! The linked site is designed to build support for politicians who agree with you on some or all issues! Yay!

What's more, they believe these things in part because of their religious beliefs.


Well that's all that matters then.

In my case, my tongues-speaking-hamster helps to guide my moral outlook, and you'll be pleased to know both that we agree on many of these issues and that I'm running for office next year. I look forward to representing you soon as a man of faith and principle.
posted by dreamsign at 6:07 AM on September 7, 2006


dreamsign: When 80% plus of the voting public identifies their tongues-speaking-hamsters as a main factor in their moral and political outlook, it will be just as important for major political parties not to be perceived as anti-Hamsterism as it is now for them not to be perceived as anti-religious.
posted by ibmcginty at 7:12 AM on September 7, 2006


Yes, burning bush instead, far more respectable. Wait, burning... bush... ah, nevermind.

And don't knock the hamster. If you knew the hamster's powers firsthand, it wouldn't be faith, after all.
posted by dreamsign at 7:36 AM on September 7, 2006


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