10/23/2004

Freedom of Religion

At this point I feel I need to reiterate a few of my beliefs regarding religion, as I grow weary of being thundered over the head by bigoted Democrats.

First off let me state once again that I am an atheist. Give up your desires to pull out the "religious nut-job" stick because you couldn't miss the target by a greater margin than that.

Here then, are my beliefs in regards to separation of church and state for your edification:

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

These are my beliefs, perhaps you recognize them. Let me explain this text so that you can be absolutely clear of the meaning (for those who are a little slow on the uptake).

The text means, that congress is not allowed to pass a law that makes any religion either illegal or the official religion of the realm. Further it states that congress may not pass laws that restrict a person's ability to exercise their religion.

Now some of you Democrats are a little thin skinned. Seeing a person exercising their religion offends you. I revel in it, because it proves that we are indeed free. I would venture to guess that the reason the Democrat's feel ill at ease seeing another person enjoying their freedom of religion, is that they are not secure enough in their beliefs and seeing one act out their religion evokes a feeling of guilt or insecurity.

I am secure enough in my beliefs that I don't find their exercises of faith intimidating. In fact, I sort of enjoy being approached by those evangelizing for their religion. As you might have become aware, I enjoy a good debate and the evangelist always winds up wandering off confounded and questioning their own beliefs.

Another thing of note here. Atheism is a religion too. Perhaps not in the purest sense, but it is one possible stance out of many on the issue of deities. You have to mind the wording that is used. It is not "freedom from religion", but "freedom of religion". A policy following the phrase "freedom from religion" would institutionalize atheism, which as I mentioned is a form of religion.

What harm does it do to see another exercising their religion, by forcing them not to exercise their religion, you are indeed forcing them to follow yours; atheism. The only possible harm one could possibly propose, is that it makes you reevaluate your stance on the issue of deities. Personally, I don't find introspection to be a bad thing, but then again I am at peace with myself and my convictions.

So in short, if you are so insecure that another's exercise of their freedom of religion disturbs you, it is not they who are at fault.

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Blogger gecko said...

Great post! I agree that those who are upset at people who show their religion are in themselves not comfortable with their own beliefs. I being Catholic am obligated to let you know about my religion if you are curious, but I don't get upset that you are an atheist.

10:36 PM  
Blogger honestpartisan said...

Hey, G-Man. I'm a Kerry supporter and I don't really agree with you on a lot of these issues, but I was intrigued by your post here as I am also an atheist, and as I'm also not bothered by people exercising their religion.

A note about the First Amendment language that you quoted. At the time the Bill of Rights was written, a lot of states had official state churches. One of the purposes of the Bill of Rights was to restrict the ability of the new federal government to do anything to the states. That's why the language of the First Amendment says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion", meaning that Congress shall make no law having anything to do with an establishment of religion -- either establishing a federal religion or stopping states from establishing an official religion.

Because of this, states continued to have official, tax-supported religions well after the ratification of the Bill of Rights. In Massachusetts, for example, the Congregationalist Church was the offical religion.

It wasn't until the 14th Amendment was passed after the Civil War that the "privileges and immunities" clause was interpreted by Courts to apply that Establishment Clause of the 1st amendment onto the states.

I think that there's a consensus these days that the government, be it state, federal, or municipal, should not be supporting an individual sect or religion. But tangling out various disputes beyond that is less a matter of the text of the Constitution and more a matter of applying that principle to modern times.

I'm not bothered by the word "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, I don't care about "In God We Trust" appearing on coins, and I don't mind the fact that there is a chaplain in the Congress.

The only big church-and-state problem I have these days is Bush's faith-based intiative to the extent that it uses government money to proselytize. I read an article on this issue some time ago, but I can't remember the specifics. And I don't oppose it on constitutional grounds (which I think are too murky, as described above), but on policy grounds (not a good use of public money).

If there is information that the faith-based initiative does not use public money to proselytize, I'd be happy to see it.

11:23 AM  
Blogger The G-man said...

Wow! I appreciate your comment, candor and congeniality! It's a bit of a treat compared to most of the comments I receive from Kerry supporters.

On the issue of federal funding for "Faith based initiatives".

I happen to volunteer from time to time in a soup kitchen for the homeless that is run by a church. The only way that you know it's run by a church is the fact that the church's name is mentioned on the sign out front and the fact that there is a single crucifix on the wall in the dining area.

These people provide the only such service in this city. Those who eat there are not forced to listen to a sermon in order to receive their food. Why should this organization that provides a truly utilitarian benefit for our community not receive government funds to help them feed more people (so they don't have to turn people away which does occur)?

I have no problem with stipulating in the law that provides it, that recipients can not be force to submit to evangelistic efforts in order to recieve the benefit from these public funds.

But no, this is controvesial so government money should not go toward it, but government money (our money), should go toward abortions which are also controversial... How's that fair? I'm afraid its a case of goose and gander.

12:02 PM  
Blogger gblagg said...

I am not an athiest, but if I was I would wonder why, if government can not make laws to establish religions, that religions are not taxed? Why religions, that to the government should be like any other business, are protected from the tax roles?

5:29 PM  
Blogger honestpartisan said...

Not to get too stroke-y here, but I commend you for volunteering at a homeless shelter, first off.

I don't oppose faith-based initiatives because they're "controversial", like Medicaid-funded abortion. I don't think it's a good use of government money.

I'll explain by example. I work with religious organizations that provide a variety of services and get a lot of government assistance to do so: Catholic Charities, Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, the Jewish Board of Family Services (covering the bases, no?) These agencies have provided help to my clients, among others, without any regard for the religion of the people they are helping; they just provide the help that is needed, which seems like a proper use of government money to me. To take that government money meant to help people and devote (at least some portion) of it to proselytizing seems to me to be an inefficient use of that money.

This is distinct from the issue of Medicaid funding for abortions, which is banned right now (through the Hyde Amendment) precisely because of "controversy": sensitivity to people who don't want their taxes to pay for abortions. I think it's inevitable that taxes are going to pay for something you disagree with, so I support Medicaid funding for abortions as I am pro-choice and I think that poor women should not have to have unwanted kids if they don't want to.

And in response to the last poster, I would favor the repeal of tax-exempt status for churches unless they are genuine non-profits, 501(c)(3) groups, like the charities I referred to earlier.

6:39 PM  
Blogger The G-man said...

These agencies have provided help to my clients, among others, without any regard for the religion of the people they are helping; they just provide the help that is needed, which seems like a proper use of government money to me. To take that government money meant to help people and devote (at least some portion) of it to proselytizing seems to me to be an inefficient use of that money.

That was exactly my point behind saying that I would support the "faith based" funding as long as the legislation contained a contraint that ensured that the funds went only toward the work (i.e. feeding the homeless) and not to evangelism (which is another word for proselytizing).

I think it's inevitable that taxes are going to pay for something you disagree with,

But taxes should never pay for something that a significant number of people disagree with!

so I support Medicaid funding for abortions as I am pro-choice and I think that poor women should not have to have unwanted kids if they don't want to.

Considering the fact that there's a much cheeper alternative (namely free) I'm going to have to say, "seems to me to be an inefficient use of that money".

But federal tax dollars still do go to support abortion in other areas (although not outright paying for them).

You see this is what us conservatives mean by personal responsibility. If I know that I am not in a position to afford or desire a child, I should simply, not expose myself to the risk of creating one. I should employ methods to inhibit pregnancy (which still bears some chances that I must be willing to accept) or simply not have sex (which has no chances of a child being created).

I mean we're supposedly intelligent creatures. Human reporduction is not driven by instinct like say a dog or cat's. I'm sorry, we can control our carnal urges and because someone hasn't the self-control to not take risks they are not prepared to accept the result of, does not mean that they are entitled to a red cent of my money.

I'm sorry, but I have to stand by my belief that first off abortions of convenience should never be paid for by tax dollars. Further I find them personally to be abhorent! I find it to be a convenient way to avoid personal responsibility.

Abortions due to medical necessity are however, an animal of a different color.

7:07 PM  
Blogger gecko said...

This is a great rare oportunity to be included in an intelligent and barely partisan discussion. Bravo to all. I am in 100% agreement with G-Man. Unfortunately, because I can claim to be religious and have the same view on abortion for the same reason as he, it is assumed it's only because I am Catholic. The only basis for the abortion argument which stems from my religion is the basis of when life begins; the rest is common sense to me.

But we are discussing the Faith Based Initiative. I have seen no evidence that the following does not apply: Bush's rules prohibit federal money from being used in "inherently religious activities" such as worship or proselytizing. It only makes common sense to me to use established, organized welfare providers to further extend the safety net for Americans down on their luck.

10:16 PM  

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