A CHALLENGE TO THE SECULARISTS

constitution1.pngA little over a year ago I posted a question:  IS IT A CHRISTIAN OR SECULAR CONSTITUTION? Since that time, The Daily Whackjob is no more.  So the links to it no longer work.

The post started a couple of debates.  As the debate unfolded, I decided it might be worthwhile to pose a challenge (See the end of this comment.), but I was slow in getting around to it.  Here is the challenge.

Name an important law that does not have religious significance.

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About Citizen Tom

I am just an average citizen interested in promoting informed participation in the political process.
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21 Responses to A CHALLENGE TO THE SECULARISTS

  1. The Constitution is a secular Constitution written as the framework of government for the Judeo-Christian Nation declared on July 4th, 1776. It’s a Constitution written for men, not angels.

  2. lneely says:

    What I’ve observed is that morality and religious devotion have a complex dependency upon each other, but they are not one in the same. Religious things are not always moral, and moral things are not always religious. That, to me, is the fallacy in asking one to “name a law that does not have religious significance.”

    All morality has what one might call “religious significance,” and all laws reflect the moral standards of the society. Thus, whether or not the law had any truly religious intent, it still has religious significance.

    The way I see it, your challenge is impossible by design; dare I say intentionally?

  3. Citizen Tom says:

    Ineely – Of course the challenge is intentionally impossible. :wink: I made no secret of that. Please go and look at the comment where I stated my intention to pose the challenge.

    We have people who say with a straight face that our Constitution is secular — that it has nothing to do with our Christian heritage. Yet consider what you just pointed out.

    All morality has what one might call “religious significance,” and all laws reflect the moral standards of the society. Thus, whether or not the law had any truly religious intent, it still has religious significance.

    Our laws reflects our beliefs about the purpose of life. Our laws also say much about our beliefs about each other, what is good, what is evil, what is wise, and what is foolish. And religion has much to say about such things.

  4. lneely says:

    Tom — Re-reading your comment, you were indeed perfectly clear about that. :D It does seem unavoidable that even if one believes (like I do) that there is a secular, cultural morality that defines our laws, he must admit that it is defined by our individual beliefs. On the other hand, cultural morality plays its own part in shaping what we accept in our religious beliefs. It goes both ways.

    There is no denying the Christian heritage of this country nor its influences in the Constitution, and to say that is being intellectually dishonest, I think. On the other hand, to claim that religious Christianity played any part in the structure of our government is an odious lie. That, to me, is the bait and switch tactic: “See, our founders were Christians!” Why, yes they were, you have a point! Then they go on to substitute the Enlightenment Christianity — that which was commonly held among our greatest thinkers and political figures of that era — with their own religious version of it, and that’s where I say, “Hold the phone!” Yes, Enlightenment Christianity was a religious persuasion; yes, it was “essentially” Christianity. However, by my understanding, it was not even in the same ballpark as religious Christianity.

    So… Our Constitution, religious or secular? All evidence says it’s secular. Your question is something deeper than that: was its content not influenced by the religious beliefs of its authors? Of course it was, but that doesn’t make it any less religiously neutral.

    • lneely says:

      Oh, and in the third paragraph, to avoid ambiguity, by “religious” I mean in the context of systematized, dogmatic, authoritarian religion; the kind with the preachers and the “holy men.”

  5. Religious Christianity played any part in the structure of our government – an odious lie? LOL.

    It’s informed opinion. Backed by facts.

    During the Constitutional Convention the Founding Father’s made references, as all of us do, to buttress their arguments. 40% of the references were from the King James Bible alone.

    If you look at the intellectual history of who influenced Madison in writing the Constitution, you can trace individual ideas back to the Scottish Enlightenment – through the Christian faculty at Princeton. You’ll find the agnostic David Hume as one influence. And the devoutly Christian John Locke a greater one.

    If you read more about the American Enlightenment vs the British and French (see Gertrude Himmelfarb’s book), you’ll find the tenets of their religion the same as Evangelical Christians today.

    The 1787 Constitution is a secular document that is rooted in the Enlightenment Protestant English culture of America.

    Take this point. The system of checks and balances and enumerated powers to limit the power of government came from what idea? It came from the Christian concept that all men are evil and fallen. That a government is of corruptible men, not angels. But, that there is neither Greek nor Jew before God – all men are created equal.

    Conversely, the French Revolutionaries and the intellectual descendants Communist Human Secularists, Nazi Human Secularists, and Liberal/Socialist Human Secularists believe in the perfectability of man. Government can create a new man.

    Likewise, Islamic civilizations produce governments where sharia rules and the mosque and state are cojoined. The ruler rules based on his convenient interpretations of the Koran and Haddith.

    And, Hindu and Buddhist civilizations produce governments with unconstrained powers because its the nature of man to live in castes or to suffer.

  6. lneely says:

    Well played, James. I’ll look into it more. ;)

    • lneely says:

      My point, though, was that religious influence is not equated to religious government.

    • lneely says:

      Okay. I looked into it more… and James, I have to be honest, I take issue with pretty much everything you’ve said.

      If you read more about the American Enlightenment vs the British and French (see Gertrude Himmelfarb’s book), you’ll find the tenets of their religion the same as Evangelical Christians today.

      Bait and switch. I didn’t deny this at all. What I said was that the foundational philosophy between the two are different, and therefore, they are not equal.

      “The system of checks and balances and enumerated powers to limit the power of government came from what idea? It came from the Christian concept that all men are evil and fallen.”

      Wrong. It was a model developed and employed by the ancient Greeks and later the Roman empire, both of which predated Christianity by centuries…

      Conversely, the French Revolutionaries and the intellectual descendants Communist Human Secularists, Nazi Human Secularists, and Liberal/Socialist Human Secularists believe in the perfectability of man. Government can create a new man.

      Fallacious: you’ve established a nonexistent causal relationship between secular governance and things we often interpret as “evil” or undesirable, coupled with an appeal to emotion. That’s a despicable, dishonest tactic. I expected better of you, James.

      Likewise, Islamic civilizations produce governments where sharia rules and the mosque and state are cojoined. The ruler rules based on his convenient interpretations of the Koran and Haddith.

      That is why I find it terribly ironic when evangelical Christians say that, if only Christians ran the country and our governance aligned with “Christian values,” all our problems would be solved.

  7. lneely: I agree that our government is and should be secular. That is different from secular humanist – which is a religion.

    • lneely says:

      Okay, then we agree on that much. We probably agree on a lot more, but perhaps we’re misunderstanding each other based on assumptions? Perhaps we disagree on a fundamental level, and simply live in different moral universes?

      I promise I don’t come here to be a nuisance, and I hope that’s not what I’m doing. :/

  8. Old Fashion Liberal says:

    Ask yourself, what is the notion the JAB is trying to get across? Why does he give example from distinctly different cultures from around the world? Different cultures uphold different values based upon different religious beliefs. The multiculturalist would have us believe that all religions are equal, and that all men want the same things. Because different religions teach distinctly different beliefs, that cannot be true.

    Each religion is unique. Some we should regard as dangerous. All that hold beliefs different from our own we must regard at least as competitors.

    Secularism involves the negation of religious belief as an influence. Secularists takes two different approaches. This post addresses the multiculturalist approach that teaches the naive belief that religion is unimportant. Why do some people believe that? We live in a society that has been so predominantly Christian for so long that we ALL share similar beliefs about good and bad, wise and foolish. With respect to politics, we did not argue over religion. That is because people shared similar religious beliefs, and there was little to argue about. This absence of argument led to the foolish idea that religious belief does constitute a valid argument in political discussions.

    The second secularist approach is the direct attack of religious belief. This form of secularism is based upon the belief that religion poisons everything. Here the secularist asserts that religion is irrational superstition that has no place in a “post Christian” society.

    The first approach encourages and promotes the irrelevance of religion. As the People become more ignorant of religion, the People become more easily persuaded of the dangers of religion, even Christianity. Unless we reverse the trend towards greater ignorance of Christianity, then we will see more attacks upon religious belief and Christianity in particular.

    • lneely says:

      OFL, If I thought that was the point of the secularist / atheist “cause”, I would agree with you, but I don’t.

      “Each religion is unique. Some we should regard as dangerous”

      This is precisely the point, but nobody wants to regard their own religion as dangerous. A direct line of attack is the only option available, despite the fact that nobody wants to do it. Without bringing to light the inherent dangers of unquestionable yielding to religious authority, or simply “respecting” someone’s beliefs no matter how harmful because they’re religious, how can we possibly distinguish what beliefs are dangerous and what beliefs aren’t?

      All religious beliefs are subject to the same criticisms as every other idea. They are neither special nor privileged, and that is the only thing the “secularists” have dared to say (unless you look on the Internet, where people tend to be a lot more dogmatic about it).

      If we do not question religious beliefs, how

  9. lneely says:

    JAB, Please disregard my last comments. I’m deathly afraid that I’m arguing much of what I’ve said from a stance of ignorance, and though I should have thought of that before I posted, I didn’t. Tom, sorry. I don’t mean to be a nuisance. :/

    OFL, I stand by my point, but I think you’re right on a certain level. Many secularists have indeed taken the wrong approach in encouraging religious ignorance among themselves and their children, and then attacking it out of fear rather than criticising it from an informed perspective.

    Sorry for flooding this board so much… This will be my last comment here for now. Please don’t take offense, I just feel completely ignorant on this issue now and wish to read more about it before I say anything more to make me look like a complete fool.

  10. OFL: Thanks for the great assist.
    Lneely: No offense taken here. No prob. Just discussing ideas in the marketplace.

    You are right about the heritage of government including the Greeks and the Romans. When I write that the culture was Englightenment Protestant English – I assume that that heritage is included in the word English. England as branch of Western Civilization draws from the heritage of Greece and Rome of course.

    But, rational empiricism was celebrated by the American and British Christians (during the Enlightentment) specifically because their Christian world view described a created universe that had secrets that could be discovered through the scientific method.

    And, when the Founders tried to figure out what is right or wrong, they looked to the Bible – as well as other sources.

    I don’t think America’s problems would go away if Christians ran the country with Christian values. I think every individual in the world would have more wisdom if they read the Bible. Every individual will have the peace beyond understanding and the joy that knows no bounds – no matter what – if they follow the wisdom of the Bible and the teachings of Jesus – including being saved by Grace.

  11. Old Fashion Liberal says:

    Ineely – When we know what we do not know, we have made a great discovery.

    Christians do allow the questioning of Christian beliefs. Without such questioning, we cannot know what we do not know. And we must learn. The Bible teaches that we each have to accept salvation. None can force salvation upon anyone else.

    Organized or disorganized religions are made up of people. A church is the people, not the building or some great man. People are often ignorant of the tenets of their faith, but during the Reformation, something profound happened. Many people started reading the Bible, and they started teaching each other, helping each other to understand.

    The Good Book was translated and printed. Then instead of relying upon a few learned men to teach them, people started reading the Bible for themselves. Over time that improved the church immensely. Christians had the opportunity to understand for themselves what God wanted from them.

    One thing the Bible teaches is that all the Founders save Jesus were fallible men. The Bible paints no pretty pictures of prophets or the the apostles. Abraham and Sara seem rather ordinary. We know David as as repentant murderer whom God loved. Little is said about someone like Enoch, who ascended straight into heaven. All we know is that Enoch walked with God.

    What we learn from the Bible is that we should each offer our lives to God. We exist to serve God by serving each other. Yet we know we are inherently weak. And such knowledge shaped the formation of our government so that it was created unlike any other.

  12. kgotthardt says:

    Ineely, as much as I respect Tom’s blog, the people who post here and “Tom” himself, I am not sure why you are being so apologetic. You make some great points.

    I agree that while our country was created by “white Christian men” (no offense meant…it’s just a descriptive), our country has changed. In the past, we had Native Americans who were called savages and heathens. Most of us no longer believe that. With the influx of so many people holding different beliefs, the way we interact with others must also change.

    So how can we change so that most people feel they live in a safe place, that they will not be persecuted for their religious beliefs, that they are free to exercise their beliefs and that they will be respected as human beings?

    Some religions encourage this, but some don’t. This is where the Constitution must prevail.

    No one has the right to try to force his/her religion or philosophical beliefs on ANYONE, either physically or psychologically. When we do this, it’s called intimidation.

  13. kgotthardt says:

    “Name an important law that does not have religious significance.”

    You may not discriminate against people of different race, color, creed or anything else in the workplace.

    As I said before, not all religions promote this.

    Therefore, the Constitution must prevail.

    • The U.S. Constitution doesn’t address this. The 14th Amendment as written says – privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property – without due process.

      The issue of workplace discrimination is a state issue – even though the Feds have moved in.

      The idea of non-discrimination is a Judeo-Christian concept. It is uniquely so – although the Buddhists might try to lay claim too, even if civilizations based on their culture didn’t practice it.

      The laws come from the culture. The culture is based on consensus understanding of basic religiouse tenets – and many other factors (with their own histories).

      As to your post above – the majority rules. The majority has forced their beliefs through law since the GA first met in 1619.

      Minorities are safe in America precisely because it is a Judeo-Christian country. No change needed. See Rabbi Levin’s book on the 30-year War.

    • Citizen Tom says:

      JAB makes excellent points. Let me just add one of my own.

      Remember the controversy over cartoons depicting Mohamed in Denmark (see here). The greatest threat to religious freedom in Western Europe is the arrival of so many Muslims. Unless the followers of Islam can be persuaded that religious freedom is worthwhile, then religious freedom may very well be lost in those European nations where Muslims achieve sufficient clout.

  14. kgotthardt says:

    JAB, you do make some interesting points. I think we live in very different worlds, but that’s not a bad thing. What I like about coming here is that I get to read different perspectives from people who aren’t….jerks! LOL!!!!

    Seriously, though. Respect for different opinions sets this blog apart from others.

    That said, Tom, the Muslims I have met don’t endorse war or persecution of other religious communities. I’m not sure there is a statistic out there that backs up the notion that Muslims don’t appreciate religious freedom. Certainly, terrorists and radicals don’t, but that can be said for any group that has terrorists and radicals.

    It’s late, though, and the last thing I should be doing right now is blogging.

    Peace, Gentlemen! And good night.

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