Uncommon Sense

November 28, 2019

From What Planet. . . ?

Filed under: Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 8:41 am
Tags: , ,

Diane Ravitch’s blog today shared a lecture (often called a sermon) by Rev. Dr. Charles Foster Johnson (J.M. Dawson Lecture on Religious Liberty, “Religious Liberty, the Public School, and the Soul of America,” Baylor University, October 7, 2019).

Everything was perking right along until . . .

The corollary to this God-given religious liberty is the principle of the strict separation of the church from the state. In our work in Pastors for Texas Children, we refer to religious liberty as a gift from God to all people, and note that James Madison did not make it up. God did. Madison took an eternal spiritual truth that God authored and wrote it down in an extraordinary sentence that comprises the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States: ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.’

Hit the brakes! WTF?

Religious freedom is a “gift from god?” This is yet another example of everything we label “good,” being automatically labeled as a gift from their god.

The worship of this particular god resulted in the religions that basically say “believe or be tortured forever; obey or suffer the consequences.” The Israelites were never told “you are free to worship whatever god you choose in what ever way you choose, so sayeth God.” They were told to obey Yahweh or else. The same holds true for Jesus worshipers; believe or suffer everlasting torment.

How the fuck is this “religious freedom”? How is this “the state shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Israeli was a theocracy at the time. Rulers ruled by warrant from their god, period. If a ruler had a falling out with their god or even their priests, they should pack their bags because they were toast, sometimes literally. This is the polar opposite of what religious freedom means.

The history of the various churches involved show heresy to be a crime, often to be punished by death. The church often captured citizens and tortured them, prosecuted them, and executed them, and the various “states” were fine with that. There certainly was no church-sanctioned “religious freedom,” and the United States was the first nation to be built upon this premise (amongst others). This desire was founded on wanting to avoid the religious wars of Europe, which were promulgated by state-imposed religions. Poor England was whipsawed multiple times as its monarch oscillated between Catholic and Protestant faiths; those in ascendance could be in hiding in a very short time.

Religious freedom labeled as a gift from god, my ass. If one can consider something ripped from desperate grasping hands a gift, then this might be believable.

“Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God, and serve him . . .” (Jesus, KJV)


July 5, 2019

Patriotism 101: Were the Pilgrims Seeking Religious Freedom?

As school children, we were taught that the Pilgrims came to these shores at Plymouth Rock, seeking religious freedom. Is this true? Actually, it is not true, per se. Again, this is a form of soft propaganda. Americans tend to pump the “freedom” aspect whether it is valid or not.

The Pilgrims were a persecuted religious sect in England. In fact, virtually all religious sects in England were persecuted as the kingship of that country changed based upon wars, etc. When the Kings/Queens were Catholic, the Protestants were heretics. When the King/Queen was a Protestant, the Catholics were heretics. This is what you get when the king is also the head of the state church. This is why the drafters of the constitution built a wall between church and state and built a country based upon laws and not royal whims.

Back to the Pilgrims.

Many Pilgrims fled English persecution to . . . Amsterdam. The Dutch had created a haven of religious tolerance in their country. The Pilgrims were tolerated, were not persecuted, and stayed there for some years. But then, some of these Dutch Pilgrims fled The Netherlands to America. The question is why? It wasn’t because they were fleeing religious persecution. In their own words they wanted to escape having to live and work rubbing elbows with all of the non-Pilgrims in their adopted country.

When they arrived here, what kind of society did they build? They built a theocracy that was stern and unforgiving. In other words, they became the religious persecutors. There were laws based upon theological issues. Blasphemy was punishable by death. Not going to church got you put into the stocks.

So, the Pilgrims did not come to the “New World” to acquire religious tolerance, certainly not religious freedom, unless you believe that religious freedom is the freedom of one religion to repress all of the others.

If I may quote from The Founding Myth by Andrew L. Seidel (p. 106):
“The Puritans and the Pilgrims wanted—and got—Christian nations. They established pure theocracies: strongly religious governments able to stamp out heresy, execute schismatics, and banish all but the meekest. Few settlers wanted to permanently join this harsh monoculture after experiencing it. One of the pillars of the Dutch settlement at New Amsterdam (later to become New York when the English took over SR), a young lawyer named Adriaen van der Donck, wrote about an English refugee, a clergyman, who “came to New England at the commencement of the troubles in England, in order to escape them, and found that he had got out of the frying pan and into the fire. He betook himself, in consequence, under the protection of the Netherlanders, in order that he may, according to the Dutch reformation, enjoy freedom of conscience, which he unexpectedly missed in New England.”

“The Puritans imposed the death penalty for worshipping other gods, blasphemy, homosexuality, and adultery. It is out of this society and this mindset that the terrible idea of a Christian nation founded on Christian principles lodged itself in the American psyche. And it is this intolerant legacy that must be abandoned. That is what a Christian government looks like: exclusive, exclusionary, divisive, hateful, severe, and lethal. It resembles modern theocracies in the Middle East. The insufferable Puritan theocracy declined after King Charles II revoked the colonial charter and passed the Toleration Act of 1689.”

So, America was the “Land of Opportunity” the “opportunity to do what” was left blank.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t add the following quote from that same book to address what the “bringing of Christian civilization” to the heathens in the New World looked like:
“The Puritans also waged a holy war on the Pequots, setting fire to a village on the Mystic River, killing 700 Native men, women, and children. The survivors were sold into slavery. The genocide was like something out of the Book of Joshua. And indeed, the Puritans saw it that way. They saw themselves as instruments of their god’s holy will: ‘Such a dreadful Terror did the ALMIGHTY let fall upon [the Natives’] Spirits, that they would fly from us and run into the very Flames, where many of them perished.” According to John Mason, the Puritan militia commander, his god laughed while he murdered: “But GOD was above them, who laughed his Enemies and the Enemies of his People to Scorn, making them as a fiery Oven…. Thus did the LORD judge among the Heathen, filling the Place with dead Bodies!”’

Followup–Same Point, Different Spin https://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/why-the-pilgrims-really-came-to-america-hint-it-wasn-t-religious-freedom.html

November 13, 2018

The Pox of Religious Freedom Whiners

I was reading an interesting article but was pulled up abruptly. The article is Globally and Abroad, Experts Say Religious Freedom More Than a ‘Commodity’ by Inés San Martín, Nov 12, 2018, Rome Bureau Chief for Crux magazine (“Taking the Catholic Pulse”)

Sometimes an opening paragraph is all you need, but wait … there’s more!

SOUTH BEND, Indiana – At first blush, it might seem there’s not much in common between the stark, in-your-face persecution against Christians in regions such as the Middle East, where people are being killed for their faith, and subtle persecution in other places, such as the quiet removal of crosses from the public arena.

Yet what some would say is that in both cases, religious freedom is either an absolute good, as it’s described in the American constitution and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, or it’s simply one “commodity” among many in the political marketplace.

Uh, right … WTF? What “absolute good?”

Here’s what the Constitution says:

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

This is the vaunted First Amendment to the Constitution.

Stripping out the parts that are irrelevant to this discussion gives us:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; ….

Congress and the courts also made it clear that the states are to be bound by this provision also.

So, the Constitution states that:
1. Congress will neither establish a state religion nor adopt an already existing one as a state religion, and
2. Congress will pass no laws prohibiting the free exercise of a religion.

Now, granted, this is the same government that declared Scientology to be a religion, but I think most people support this provision of the Constitution.

Now the snarky comment by the author of the piece above refers to “the quiet removal of crosses from the public arena.” Arena? WTF? What quiet removal? (Can you imagine a secretive cross removal not being whined about by local clergy?) Another trumped up persecution from the champion of persecution complexes, the Roman Catholic Church. According to the author the freedom of religion is an “absolute good” according to the Constitution. Actually the Founders were trying to create a system of government suffering neither from the whims of monarchs nor from religious wars. Europe in the previous century knew almost nothing but wars of a religious kind. If anything they were writing this so religions would not cause trouble fighting over which religion got to be the government-subsidized one, not that they were an “absolute good.” The Founders had no intention of listing any “absolute goods.” They were even leery of listing rights as they felt that anything left off of such a list would be suspect. (This was why the Bill of Rights had to be tacked on after the adoption of the Constitution, sponsored by the Founders who did favor such a list.)

So, granted that freedom of religion (as described) is a Constitutional right what are its limits? Can we erect crosses on public lands willy-nilly? The courts have said no as that would be “an establishment of (government-sponsored or government-supported) religion. Can my neighborhood church erect a cross on my front lawn and claim religious freedom? Again, the courts say no as that impinges upon my free exercise of my religion. Can I erect a cross on my own front lawn? The answer is yes.

So, what the fuck is this guy claiming? In addition, “the quiet removal of crosses from the public arena” is added to the same column as “the stark, in-your-face persecution against Christians in regions such as the Middle East, where people are being killed for their faith.” This is a common tactic of false persecution claimants: lump in ordinary business with a list of foul perpetrations. This is the same as adding the names of atheists to one headed by Hitler, Mao, and Pol Pot.

I think this guy needs to go back to childhood and re-read “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” a couple of times.

Addendum That the Founders wish to not include a list of rights was overruled by We the People when we adopted the Bill of Rights, shows the folly of using the “original intent” of the writers of the Constitution as a guide for future actions. (This is a shameful and dishonest ruse used by certain people in a base attempt to get their way.) It also speaks to the wisdom of the Founders that they provided a simple mechanism for such alterations of the Constitution and to their belief that the Constitution w as not an unchanging document.

February 12, 2017

Why Are We Still Legislating Religion?

The talking heads crowd is predicting that we will shortly see new legislation that will expand “religious freedom” in the U.S. This is shocking to say the least since we have had religious freedom for quite some time. Apparently “religious freedom” doesn’t mean what the words say. (Not quite equally shocking is that there will be legislation and not just executive orders.)

My guess is that the “new” legislation will expand the “right” of religious people to discriminate against people who they are doing business with. The highlighted case so far that has become an iconic example is the poor baker who didn’t want to make wedding cakes for gay couples getting married.

I can understand churches refusing to host gay marriages and I respect their right to do that, but a bakery? It seems now that many “Christians” are claiming that they are running “Christian businesses.” This is a smokescreen at best. I suggest to you that all businesses are secular in nature, that they have nothing to do with religion. And in this I include stores that sell religious artifacts and books, e.g. Christian bookstores, etc. They are not religious activities, they are commercial activities. They offer goods and services for sale in simple commercial exchanges. I have gone into religious bookstores and purchased items. As an avowed atheist, shouldn’t they have refused me service? Actually, the law prevents them from even asking me if I am an atheist, ironically under the religious freedom provisions of our laws, so I suspect they are ignorant to this day that they served a raving atheist. (It is hard to tell us apart from “true Christians,” is it not? They even elected one of us President.)

Any business claiming to be a Christian business had better show me they really mean it. In their incorporation by-laws I expect to see policies like “all debts will be forgiven on New year’s day” and “if we are robbed, we will turn the other cheek,” and “when it comes to paying our business taxes, we will render unto Caesar, that which is Caesars.”

If they can show that their business is truly linked to their religion, then the laws protecting religious activities should be triggered. Otherwise they are just selling cupcakes like every other baker.

It looks, though, that the current administration is seeking to sell indulgences, in this case a get out of jail free card for denying service to customers you do not approve of religiously. This is fascinating in that one of the core causes that resulted in the Protestant Reformation (which was a precursor to the formation of Evangelical Christianity) was the abhorrence for the corruption in the Catholic Church, including the selling of indulgences. The Catholics were selling “get out of purgatory” cards and “get into heaven” cards, which makes the current suggested sale of indulgences seem almost trivial, but it does seem as if we have come full circle.


March 12, 2014

My Religious Freedom vs. Your Religious Freedom

There is a lot going on under the label of “religious freedom” currently, including what could be some landmark Supreme Court cases. But it seems to me that a great many people are trying to drag all kinds of things not really aspects of religious freedom under its banner so as to strengthen their cases. This is wrong and I hope it gets squelched.

The idea of religious freedom in this country is the ability to practice your religion without the interference of the government or, really, other religions. This is extended to include practicing no religion at all. When this country was founded, you will note that religious freedom was not in the Constitution. In fact, religion wasn’t really mentioned. It took an amendment to the Constitution to forbid the federal government from endorsing any religion by giving it special favors, etc. Also forbidden was inhibition of any religion. Originally this meant only the federal government and quite a few states had their own sponsored denominations. Over time the wisdom of this was challenged and people finally came to the point that any state-sponsorship of religion was a bad idea and all of the states complied with this idea of government non-interference and non-support. (The argument the religious bought was “sure it would be nice to have the state collect a tithe for you, but what happens if another religion becomes dominant and takes over that state sponsorship? You are then out in the cold.” Today consider about what would happen if a very small state were to have a large influx of Muslims. Would people be happy having a Muslim state? Would that mean Sharia law could be imposed? Sorry, just trolling for Fox (sic) News viewers.)

Here’s the deal. If the government(s) have a law that effects religions, they must exercise it without prejudice. So, it is entirely appropriate for the federal government to impose a tax upon religious groups. There is no basis for not taxing them that makes any sense. But they cannot tax any such religious group any differently that the others. This is what religious freedom means under the law.

Note that Utah was told it’s petition for statehood would not be accepted by the Congress unless they outlawed polygamy, something promoted by the dominant religion of the state. This was acceptable in that Utah was not yet a state in the “United States” and did not receive full consideration or application of all of the federal laws.

Clergy who commit crimes are not immune to prosecution under the banner of “religious freedom.” They do not have the equivalent of diplomatic immunity to local prosecutions.

But, because there is a culture of “hands off” with regard to religions, various people interpret that in various ways.

A current case before the Supreme Court involves whether or not an employer can be required to provide health insurance that includes contraceptive coverage if that conflicts with the religious convictions of the owners. Churches, per se, are exempted from the requirements of this law, for no good reason other than political expediency, but to exempt everyone who has a “religious conviction” will open up a legal can of worms, a very large can of worms. There is no protection for these people under current “religious freedom” legal doctrine. We’ll have to wait to see if the Supreme Court decides to invent something whacko like its “corporations are people” doctrine.

For those of you who disagree with that last statement, consider this: employers provide their employees with a voucher that enables them to purchase contraceptives, pay for abortions, solicit prostitutes, buy illegal drugs, or drink one’s self into oblivion or with any other manner of vice the employees wish. It is called a paycheck. Once the employer transfers that voucher to the employee, they lose control over what the employee does with the funds it is worth. So, a business that employs even only good Catholics can be required to provide insurance that includes hospitalization, out-patient care, and contraceptive services and not have to worry because no good Catholic would avail themselves of the contraceptive services. Because no person can impose their religious beliefs upon another and neither can the government. That’s the law.

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