Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Is America becoming a theocracy?

A friend of mine recently forwarded the following email to me.

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This is by a daughter of a murdered couple in Raytown who had a Bible and Bookstore on 63rd street.

When I had to testify at the murder trial of my parents a weekago, I was asked to raise my right hand. The bailiff started out "Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?" I stood there and waited but she said nothing. She said, "Do you?" I was so stunned, I blurted out "What happened to 'so help me God'?" She came back with, "Do you?" I replied yes, but I was perplexed. Then the judge said ... "You can say that if you want to." I stopped, raised my right hand, and finished with "So help me God!" I told my son and daughter that when it came time for them to testify, they should do the same.

It's no wonder we have so many problems in this country. If I'd had my wits about me I'd have told them that taking God out of the courtroom is only going to result in more criminals and murderers. I don't know what can be done about it, but it's time
for us to step up and DO something.

NBC this morning had a poll on this question. They had the highest number of responses that they have ever had for one of their polls, and the percentage was the same as this: 86% to keep the words, 14% against. That is a pretty 'commanding' public response.

I was asked to send this on if I agreed or delete if I didn't. Now it is your turn.. It is said that 86% of Americans believe in God. Therefore, I have a very hard time understanding why there is such a mess about having "In God We Trust" on our money and having God in the Pledge of Allegiance. Why is the world catering to this 14%?

If you agree, pass this on, if not, simply delete....

In God We Trust
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Needless to say, I deleted the email. This is typical of the disinformation campaign by radical Christians who are trying to turn the United States into a theocracy. Set up a straw man and then knock it down. A careful reading of the email shows that the woman already had the right to refer to god in her oath but was not required to do so. Why was she complaining? It is obvious that the author of the email prefers that the rest of us be forced to swear by a deity even if we don't believe.

The author wonders why the country should cater to the 14% who don't want to say 'so help me god'. Because the Constitution says we should, that's why. Apparently the author has no problem living in a country based on a 'tyranny of the majority'. There are reasons why the founding fathers created a political system that included the separation of church and state and protection for the rights of political and religious minorities. They had seen how a state religion undermines freedom and wanted to create a political system that insured that a state religion would not develop in the United States. I think the political system that has served us so well for over 200 years in under a coordinated attack by religious fundamentalists.

A third statement in the email illustrates another straw man. The author states that taking god out of the courtroom will result in more criminals and murderers. This is based on the patently false assumption that only religious people, particularly christians, are moral. In fact, many ethical guidelines and systems were developed independently of religion and then later adopted by religion. For example, the principle of 'treating others as you would like to be treated' is not unique to any one religion. It has been codified in many different religions and non-religious philosophical systems and can be derived from observation and logic. As a non-religious person, I resent the implication that I must not be a moral person because I do not believe in one of the superstitious mythical systems that we call religion.

I also sent the following reply to the friend who had forwarded the email to me. I will be very interested to receive his reaction.

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I am very concerned about the campaign by Christian conservatives to force Christian symbols and rituals into the public sphere. It is obvious that they will not be happy until this country is a theocracy. There is a reason why the founders of this country made the separation of church and state an integral part of our political framework. They had seen what kind of damage a state religion can do to the freedom of citizens. And we can see the same kind of damage that religion does in places like Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Northern Ireland. By the way, phrases like 'so help me god' in the courtroom and and 'under god' in the pledge of allegiance are relatively recent additions to our public rituals. They were not invented by the founding fatheres but were added to the public lexicon within the last century by religious fanatics. Also, this country was not founded on religion but on religious freedom - a very different thing. In fact, many of the signers of the constitution were not religious in the usual sense. Thomas Jefferson was an avowed Freethinker and Deist, not a Christian. Benjamin Franklin also was a Deist, not a Christian. Although both
admired many Christian principles, they both were strong believers in the separation of church and state. It's unfortunate, but typical, that the Christian right is trying to rewrite our history to satisfy their narrow ideological agenda. And it's also unfortunate that so many intelligent people fall in line with their subversive goals.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are some interesting side notes to the religious freedom bit of American history. There's quite a rich background to the whole thing really. Before the formal colonies we think of there were the early puritan and quaker/shaker settlements (both of whom were seen in England as being radical and potentially dangerous - though not nearly so as Catholics, vis-a-vie the 100 years war, etc.) which is why they were sent - er left england - to the New World. Consequently our founding fathers were quite aware of the concept of religious freedom as well as the need for government to be free of religion - as that was the cause of innumurable wars, deaths and plagues. They did not see religion itself as being patently dangerous, just in its association with 'legal authority'. If a Diety were to arrive on earth and establish its own government that would be one thing (most certainly if that being were omnipotent - at least compared to us). That would probably be that (no point fighting the wind). Human beings however have at large have tended to show less than enviable wisdom or balance when applying religion in a legal fashion. This has brought pain, struggle, broken families (along lines of belief) and all manner of misery. On the bright side history shows that society swings like a pendulum back and forth again from one extreme to another. There is a brief stay in the middle followed by a shift to the next side. So whatever your preference may be, wait a generation or two and the 'weather' will change (unfortunately we proabably won't be there, but those are the breaks). In fact, by some measures the US seems to have come out of just such a mid-point and appears to be swinging to the conservative. However, it appears the swing is faster (which implies a faster return - and greater distubance in the process). It would appear we truly are living 'in interesting times'. These are the times the stories of history are made. The price is the drama of the present - which will become the stuff of future history. --Publius

9:02 PM  

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