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Archive for the ‘4th of July’ Category

This blog has been lurking around in the corners of my mind for quite a while now, ever since July 1, 2016 when I passed a church bulletin calling for all to come to its celebration of God and America. This sign bothered me for several reasons.  Of course, me being an atheist will probably cause most to figure out some of the reasons it bothered me. But only some. As for the rest, well, the rest I thought would be surprising and I hope interesting.

It bothered me because not only is such a mingling of church and state bad for the state, but it is just as bad for the church.

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Let me first say that this church, and the many others that I saw with a similar message, have every right to do so.  However, not everything that is legal and that people have a right to do is also wise. And in this blog I plan to discuss why it is not wise for a religion, in this case Christianity, to mix religion and nationalism. To do so, I will speak as if I were a much younger me, young enough to still be a Christian.

Let’s start with a question – what is the purpose of the Church?

Answer, to spread the good news of the Gospels, the news about Jesus and his redemptive death and resurrection.  The church was also meant to provide support and teaching to fellow Christians, and to those who come to its doors seeking. And the church was also meant to serve as a moral guide and conscience of people, of societies, of nations, of the world.

While spreading the news of the Gospels might be easier done when part of a government, as part of the inside group, it does so at the expense of corrupting the church, and of causing great pain and suffering to others outside of that church.

A church is not the state.  Nor is it meant to be.  It is not meant to be a supporter of the state, an auxiliary of the state, a co-ruler with the state.

A church is meant to be an outsider in regards to government.

Christianity was born an outsider.

Jesus was born an outsider with Mary being pregnant before being married

Jesus was born into and preached to a people who were outsiders, the Jews.

Jesus served the outsiders among the Jews; tax collectors, the lepers, the unclean, the sinners.

An outsider preaching to a people of outsiders, that is part of what gave Jesus’ message its power.   His message was not to the rich and powerful, although it was theirs for the taking should they choose to listen.  His message was to the poor and powerless.

His message was not how to create a civil society, how to govern a country or state or city.  His message was about God’s love for humanity and how best to receive and spread that love.  It was a message of hope, not political positions.

Jesus, as the outsider, accepted all, but did not change his message, his standards, nor himself for any.

Jesus changed the world.

From its birth to its early years, Christianity was a religion off outsiders looking in.  Often ridiculed, sometimes persecuted, they nonetheless still for the most part, held firm to their standards and beliefs.  And they grew.

And then came the great split. No, not the Catholic and the Protestant split. Nor the disagreements among Christians, which had been present since the beginning as can be seen in the arguments about the nature of Jesus and his relation to God.

No, the great split I am referring to concerns the split from being outsiders to becoming insiders. The conversion of Emperor Constantine transformed Christianity from being a religion of outsiders to being a religion of the insiders, of those with power and money. Or rather, one particular set of Christians became insiders.  As part of the bargain, with Constantine, they had to have a uniform set of beliefs.  So, one set modified some of their beliefs and won, the others became persecuted and died, along with the pagans.

As Paul Johnson wrote in his A History of Christianity:

How could the Christian Church, apparently quite willingly, accommodate this weird megalomaniac in its theocratic system? Was there a conscious bargain? Which side benefited most from this unseemly marriage between Church and State? Or, to put it another way, did the empire surrender to Christianity, or did Christianity prostitute itself to the empire?”

Now, instead of criticizing the government and society, Christianity and the government tyndale-martyrdom-resized-600were one, and actions against the government were also actions against Christianity, and actions against Christianity were also actions against the government.  Given this, how could most Christians criticize any government action, no matter how bad or how flawed?  How could any government allow any deviation from the established religion, no matter how well argued and supported?

They couldn’t

An attack on the religion supported by the state was an attack on the state, and an attack vc006367on the state was an attack on the religion.  Such was the root cause of most of the religious violence and persecution throughout the years; the Inquisition, the forced conversion and persecution of the Jews, Catholics vs. Protestants, Protestants vs. Puritans, Puritans vs. Quakers, and on and on and on.

In addition to the violence against people, was the violence done to beliefs and morals as Churches assumed stately power. Compromises with principles and beliefs were common, as were the flat out ignoring of such principles and beliefs.

This violence against people and against the teachings of Jesus and of God is probably why the first person to propose an absolute and total separation of church and state was a Puritan theologian and the founder of the Baptist Church in America – Roger Williams. And he lived up to that ideal when he founded the state of Rhode Island.

The United States was the first secular government in the world. Something that the writers of the Constitution did intentionally, and with great forethought.

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Their foresight and awareness of history is something lacking today by too many Americans, and is evidenced by so much more than just the signs I saw that inspired this blog.  This lack of forethought and awareness is seen whenever anyone:

  • Claims that the United States is a Christian country. And then advocates for laws to make it so – prayer in the schools, recognition of the Bible as the state book, etc.
  • Work to limit or take away the rights of those who are not the right sort of Christian or believer.
  • Tells Muslims to go home, even those who were born in the United States. And then tries to make it so.
  • Whenever permits are denied to religious groups due to their beliefs.
  • When President H. Bush commented that atheist could not be patriots due to not believing in God.
  • When Trump sends out a White House bulletin in which he states “America is a Nation of believers. As long as we have faith in each other, and trust in God, we will succeed!”

We, as a nation, as a people, have never been very good at remembering. But, today, that

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lack of memory, of awareness, seems stronger than ever.  The evangelical support forTrump shows how far too many Christians and Christian organizations, are willing to go in dealing with the devil in order to gain political power.  And how many of their values and morals, and how much of the teachings of Jesus they are willing to ignore or give up in their quest for political power.

 

I think that they need to go back and read the history of religion, and of what happens when it becomes part of the state.  Some Madison, or Jefferson, or several others would be good.  But, perhaps, it would be best if they rediscovered the writings and thought of Roger Williams.  Before they manage to harm not just people, but the Constitution that will allow such harm to, eventually, be redressed.

 

 

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One of the first items that crossed my mind on hearing of the stabbings at a Murrysville Pennsylvania high school was, thank goodness it was not a gun. Given that I am for strict gun control, my thoughts eventually did lead to the puzzling problems so many have with any sort of gun control; especially after I heard a conservative talk show host rhetorically asking if the gun control crowd was now going to outlaw knives. Given this, I thought it might be fun to blog about gun control and the various arguments given against it.

1)      Guns do not kill people, people do. 

That is true enough. However, humans are tool using animals, and the more effective and powerful the tool, the more effective and powerful the human using it. What this means is that a person with a gun can do a whole lot more killing and wounding than someone without a gun. Please note that no one in the Murrysville stabbings is going to die. In other words, they all survived. Had this teen had a gun or two, the odds greatly favor several people dying.

2)      People kill using different items all the time – knives for instance.

This is closely related to number 1 above. In addition to noting the differences in the number of deaths and wounded between a knife attack and a gun attack, let me also point out that a person with a knife is much easier to stop than a person with a gun. With a baseball bat, I like my odds against a person with a knife. Give that person a gun though and I am probably a dead man.

3)      We have a constitutional right to have guns.

And I am not advocating abolishing that right. However, all rights have limits and laws regulating them. With freedom of speech, there is the old standby of not being able to yell fire in a crowded theater. Also, you cannot just go anywhere and have your say – offices, schools, main street all have laws limiting a person’s absolute right to free speech. Then there are, of course, defamation, libel and slander laws.

Religion is also not an absolute right. Human sacrifice is prohibited. Most drugs are too. If you are a government employee you cannot proselytize while on the job. Churches have to follow zoning laws.

None of our rights are absolute. The reason for this is that we have many rights and because of this one person’s rights can conflict with another’s. In regards to gun control, people have a right to life and liberty too.

Yet those who argue against any sort of gun laws seem to believe that gun rights should be. Sorry guys, but our constitution does not work like that and I have yet to see a case made for why guns, out of all of our other rights, should be unlimited.

4)      We need guns for protection against crime.

Personally, I have never needed one. I used to investigate child abuse for the great state of Texas, and have been in the bad parts of town. My wife and I, in our poverty days, lived in those bad parts of towns. Yet I never needed a gun. Further, there are some studies indicating that owning a gun actually puts you at greater risk of being shot.

However, my personal comfort level is not the same as yours. If you feel you need one for protection then by all means buy one. Just register both yourself and your gun and enjoy the psychological benefit of owning a gun. Keep in mind that gun control is not the same as abolishing all guns. The only caveat here is that I see no reason to have military grade guns for protection – or for hunting. Nor cop killer ammunition. Nor large ammo clips. Protection and the joys of hunting can be had without these weapons, and their potential for extreme violence to others too great to allow them to be purchased by civilians. Again, one of those conflicts with others rights that I mentioned above.

5)      We need guns for protection against our government.

Sorry, if you think that owning guns, even military grade ones, is going to provide protection against a totally rogue government, then you have not kept up with the times. Or even with the times of our revolutionary war. Even with our forefathers all owning guns, we needed the professional army of France to win our freedom from Britain. It is a myth that a bunch of citizen soldiers on their own defeated the British. Without the professional help of the French in regards to arms, training and troops, we would still be British subjects today.  Today this is even more true.

To think that a disparate bunch of people armed with guns is going to be able to take on an organized and well trained military that can coordinate its various units and groups and which are equipped with advance communication equipment, advance weapons that include various types of missiles, cannons, aircraft, and other things that cause other things to go boom, have a strong logistics structure,  medical support and various and sundry other things that make for a modern, effective, and deadly military is delusional at best.

 

To summarize then – there is no reasonable and rational reason for being against gun control.  I would much rather face and deal with an epidemic of knife attacks from effective gun control laws than our current epidemic of attacks by guns.

Let me just say that this is not a complete discussion of this issue and was not meant to be. It was instead just dealing with some of the more popular arguments for exempting gun rights from any sort of controls, controls that all of our other rights, for good reasons,  have.

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Yippie kay yay people.   Ted Cruz is back from his incredibly destructive (and thus successful) visit to that foreign land of Washington D.C.  Loved his opening remark at the welcome home Ted bash here in Arlington this week – “Having spent the last month in Washington, it’s good to be back in America”.

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Now, although I am starting this blog with some totally justifiable Ted Cruz bashing, that is not the message of my blog.   However, it is necessary (one I undertake with a heavy heart and a great deal of reluctance…of course) as a lead in to the main point of this blog.   Which I will get to in a moment.  After I continue to express my opinion of Ted Cruz and his politics.

Ted Cruz, to me, is a man with strong values, a crafty wit, a dense set of blinders, and an ability to use his values in order to promote his own political career.  While he may have some interest in the good of the country he has a greater interest in his own career and if furthering that harms his country, oh well, too bad for the country.

As for his values and politics – they consist of anti-women, anti-gay, anti poor, anti-immigrants, anti-all religions other than extreme literalist Christianity, anti-intellectual,  anti-honest history, anti-knowledge, and anti-science ideas and policies.

Now that I have it set up, to the main point of this blog.   While reading the article about Ted Cruz’s welcome home party I was struck by something one of his supporters said.   It is something I, and I imagine most people, have heard many times; and each time it has annoyed me.  This time I decided to write about it though.   That annoying remark was by a Ms. Crandall.   “Ted is listening to the people.  I like that”.

coughlinmicNo, Ted is not listening to the people.  He is listening to some of the people.  He is by no means listening to all.  And that is a great deal of the problem here.  Only one voice is being heard and considered, all others relegated to being non-Americans.   When Cruz, or any representative, decides to represent only part of the people in his district or, as in Cruz’s case, state then compromise is not possible.    If you do not recognize those who do not agree with you as being part of the people and, most especially, being part of the people you are supposed to represent, then that is a huge problem.

Instead of finding a way that will give enough for each side to be satisfied with without necessarily being happy about then you set up the scene we have seen played out in the halls of Congress these last few weeks.  Without recognizing that if you go all the way with one group then you are going to screw another group of people – who are just as American and just as concerned about their country as the first group .  This makes for a large and distinctly unhappy group of people and thus setting the stage for more conflict and radicalization of positions.  SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

When Cruz shut down the government trying to shut down Obamacare he said that he was listening to the people.   He was not.  A quick look at the polls shows this.   The majority of Americans did not want the government shut down over Obamacare.   Instead, Cruz was representing just some of the people, a minority of the people, and then purposely confusing them with the majority.  Dealing honestly with numbers are apparently another failing of his.

Now, while I am picking on Cruz right now – and with very good reason – he is just the most visible signs of this problem; representing just some of the people and claiming and thinking that you represent all.   Without compromise, that is not possible.   And compromise is what is in short supply right now in Congress and is why Congress is failing America now.

 

 

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The sight of gallows loaded with the bodies of men and women hanged and sometimes mutilated just for their beliefs. Men such as the Jesuit John Ogilvie who was sentenced to death by a Glasgow court and hanged and disemboweled on March 10, 1615.

 by Jan LuykenThe thousands of men and women deprived of their property due to being of the wrong religion with the definition of the wrong religion changing when the English rulers changed. First Protestant, then Catholic, then Protestant again.

The thousands of Lutheran men, women, and children who starved and froze to death when, on October 31, 1731, 20,000 of them were expelled from their homes in Salzburger, Austria by the Archbishop Leopold von Firmian. They were given only eight days to leave their homes.

The drowning of Protestants by the Irish Catholics in 1641. After holding them as prisoners and torturing them, the Catholics then forced them to the bridge over the River Bann, forced them to strip, and then drove them into the water at sword point. Those that survived the plunge were then shot.

Our Founders remembered this and more. It is why there is no mention of Christianity, no mention of God, no mention of Jesus in the Constitution. Our Founders set up a secular state so that freedom of conscience would be guarded for all men.

The St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in Paris on August 24, 1572 when thousands of Huguenots (Protestants) were butchered by Catholic mobs. This was just the worst of the many killings and riots that occurred during the 30 years of war between the French Protestants and Catholics that started in 1562.RP 4

The Huguenots disemboweling and burying alive priests. The killing of Catholic children. The torture of priests and Catholics during the same 30-year war.

John Rogers being burned alive at Smithfield England, the “first Protestant martyr” executed by England’s Catholic Queen Mary.

The smell of burning flesh as John Lambert was chained to a stake in 1537 at Smithfield, England and then burned. He had defended his conscience and faith after being summoned to an inquisition.

For not enshrining God and Christianity into its text the Constitution was heavily criticized. This omission of God and Christianity was denounced by the Reverend John M. Mason who declared it “an omission which no pretext whatever can palliate.” He went on to warn “we will have every reason to tremble lest the Governor of the universe, who will not be treated with indignity by a people more than by individuals, overturn from its foundations the fabric we have been rearing and crush us to atoms in the wreck.”

 

Others warned of the dangers of not putting God and Christianity into the Constitution because it would be an “invitation for Jews and pagans of every kind to come among us.” and that “a Turk, a Jew, a Roman Catholic, and what is worse than all, a Universalist, may be President of the United States.”

 

Our Founders knew that, with most of the states having religious tests for citizenship and holding office, that pushing a thoroughly secular Constitution would be difficult. Yet they did push.

 

George Washington, John Adam, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and the others of our Founders considered the lack of religion in the Constitution important enough to weather the firestorm of criticism to get the Constitution ratified as it was – without God and without religion.

 

In fact, eventually all the states would follow the lead of the writers of the Constitution and erect their own wall of separation between church and state.

Anne Hutchison defending her beliefs and being banished by the Puritans from the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1637. The same Puritans who were persecuted in England and sailed to the New World carried the Old World’s intolerance of dissent with them. Anne Hutchison, her servants, and 5 of her children were killed by Indians in New York in 1643.

Roger Williams’ defense of the separation of church and state in the mid 17th century. He believed that the state should not be involved in religion at all. He believed that all men — the Muslims, Jews, infidels, and atheists – should have freedom of conscience and for the state to be involved in any way with religion would infringe on this right. His books were banned and burned in England. In America he was banished by the Puritans.

The persecution of the Quakers by the Puritans in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In 1656 the Massachusetts Bay Colony passed laws against anyone bringing Quakers into the Colony or anyone harboring them. They would be fined 100 pounds and then either imprisoned or banished. Other fines included 54 pounds for possessing Quaker books or writings, 40 pounds for defending the teachings of Quakers, 44 pounds for a second offence of defending the teachings, followed by imprisonment until the offender could be shipped out. The laws also allowed corporal punishment ie., whippings, cutting off of ears, boring holes in tongues, and hanging. Mary Dyer, William Robinson, Marmaduke Stephenson were some among many who braved these punishments in order to speak their conscience. All three had been banished, endured flogging, and were eventually hanged.

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Today we take the benefits of keeping church and state separate too much for granted. It has allowed us to avoid most of the religious violence that has embroiled much of the world despite our being the most religiously diverse nation on earth.

 

Even though we are home for Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Protestants, and Catholics we have avoided the strife that plagues India from the Hindus and Muslims, the wars that consume the Middle East between the Sunnis, Shiites, Jews, and Christians, and the violence between the Protestants and Catholics in Ireland.

 

We take these so much for granted that many do not understand why the state cannot favor any religion; why the state shouldn’t fund or help religious groups and organizations.

 

In An Essay On Toleration Benjamin Franklin wrote, “If we look back into history for the character of the present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution. The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the pagans, but practiced it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England blamed persecution in the Roman Church, but practiced it upon the Puritans. These found it wrong in the bishops, but fell into the same practice themselves both here and in New England.”

In his statement about why he refused to proclaim a national day of fasting and prayer Andrew Jackson in 1832 said, “I could not do otherwise without transcending the limits prescribed by the Constitution for the President and without feeling that I might in some degree disturb the security which religion nowadays enjoys in this country in its complete separation from the political concerns of the General Government.”

James Madison, the chief author of our Constitution, wrote in a letter objecting to the use of government land for churches in 1803, “The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries.”

The Treaty of Tripoli of 1797, carried unanimously by the Senate reads, “As the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen (Muslims) … it is declared.. that no pretext arising from religious opinion shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries. The United States is not a Christian nation any more than it is a Jewish or a Mohammedan nation.”

In a letter John Adams wrote to Thomas Jefferson, “I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved– the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced!”

These and more statements from our founders, from George Washington to Thomas Paine, from Ethan Allen to Thomas Jefferson all attest to the fact that they set up a secular government in order to preserve the new country that they had created from being torn by religious wars. A country where all men, not just Christians but all men, would be free to follow their conscience and express their beliefs.

During the beginning of the Civil War, the National Reform Association was founded in order to correct the mistake that was tearing our nation apart. No, it was not slavery that was the mistake in the eyes of these clergymen but instead it was the lack of an acknowledgement of God and Jesus in our Constitution.

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In 1863 an attempt was made to amend the Constitution’s preamble and there acknowledge not only God but also Jesus Christ as the source our government. A foreshadowing of one of our recent President’s use of Jesus as his political mentor.

The clergy involved in the National Reform Association devised a statement that would not offend any of the mainstream Protestant denominations (they were not worried of course about Jews, Quakers, or Catholics who, being religious minorities, were aghast at the idea). It proposed replacing “We, the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union…” with “Recognizing almighty God as the source of all authority and power in civil government, and acknowledging the Lord Jesus Christ as the Governor among the nations, his revealed will as the supreme law of the land, in order to constitute a Christian government…” Shades of the Islamic constitution in Iran.

The National Reform Association met with President Lincoln in February 1864 and presented him with their petition for a Christian government. His response was the observation that “…the work of amending the Constitution should never be done hastily.” and a promise to “take such action upon it as my responsibility to my Maker and our country demands.” He then took no action at all. Neither did Congress, instead tabling the resolution for years until it was forgotten.

 

Now these and other histories have been forgotten. We have taken for granted the benefits of a secular government. Now a new mythology is being created that our founders would be appalled by. The myth that the United States of America was created as a Christian Nation.

 

We no longer remember why that road is such a dangerous one. We no longer seem to understand why a secular government is necessary for the continued freedom of belief and conscience that we now so blithely enjoy.

 

Even such seemingly laudable actions such as giving government money to religious charities creates problems and raises troubling questions.

 

When the government gives money, as in the faith based charity programs, it decides which religions get money and which do not. Is it really any surprise that during President Bush’s Presidency the vast majority of the money is given to evangelical organizations that supported him?  Is it any surprise that only they, out of all the organizations that our government supports with our money, are allowed to discriminate in hiring on the basis of religion with that money?

 

And how will you react when Moslems charities start receiving money? How about Scientology? Wiccan charities? Secular Humanist charities? Do you approve and trust our government to start picking and choosing what religions are “worthy” of receiving money and government approval and which are “unworthy?”

 

Despite all the talk about original intent we are moving away from what our founders intended.

 

Although some of our founders were traditional Christians, most, while devout, were not traditionally so. Many believed that religion encouraged morality in the common people and so followed religious practices. All, though, recognized the danger that comes from religion and government becoming entangled. All recognized the necessity for a secular government. All remembered the reasons why a strict separation between church and state is necessary. I think it is time that many of us read more thoroughly our own and European history and take a good look at the world around us.

 

I think it is time that we start remembering again.

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The day after the election I was enjoying listening to various and sundry conservative talk shows when something caught my ear.  The two hosts of this show were lamenting over the fact that with this election America was now in decline and had lost its greatness; that this was no longer the America they knew and loved.

Now, I had been hearing some variation of this lament from several other conservative talkers.  However, these two went on to provide a glimpse of the America that they were afraid was now lost forever.

They talked about how our motto, the motto of the United States, was E Pluribus Unum – out of many, one.  They discussed how that was now no longer true.  We were a country of individual cultures, a multicultural entity who must forever be at war with itself.  Then they said that we were no longer the nation we were in the 1950’s.

Yes, they wished to take us back to the days when WASP was KING and all others bowed and scraped before it or else hid in fearful silence; including queen WASP’s.  For those who might not be familiar with this term, it stands for White Anglo Saxon Protestant.

Ah, the glorious and heady days of the 1950’s.  Those were the years when:

–          Blacks were had their own private drinking fountains, as well as special seats on buses.  Not to mention the fact that they had their own day to go to state fairs or to visit the public pools.  Hey, they even had their own theaters or at least special seats way in the back balcony.   And let us not forget that blacks had their own schools devoted solely to their needs.

 

Yes, that is truly a part of America’s greatness that will be sorely missed.

 

–          Those were the days when women were women, as can be seen in the ads of the times:

 

 

 

And hey, that doesn’t even consider how society protected a woman from such things as education, pay equality, and careers in “masculine” fields.  Nor such wonderful workplace benefits as sexual harassment.  Or rape – you think rape victims have it too easy today, then the 1950’s is your nirvana.

Yes, that is truly a part of America’s greatness that will be sorely missed.

 

–          Let us also not forget the Bible readings and Christian prayers in public schools that often lead to those of different beliefs feeling excluded; heck, they often were excluded and bullied if they did not take part.  “Your people killed Christ.”, or some variant thereof,  was something that was not uncommonly heard by the Jew.

 

Yes, such practices helped save the wandering, the wrong, the prone to evils, repent and accept the truth.  Or to face the social consequences of not doing so.

 

Yes, that is truly a part of America’s greatness that will be sorely missed.

 

My, this is getting quite long when I had not intended it too.  Let me just say that this is only the tip of the iceberg of what made the 1950’s great for America.  And to the Homosexual, the Latino’s, the Asians, and all of the others who are not WASP, I apologize for not making the space to do more than a brief mention to what the 1950’s meant to you – the same as for the women, the blacks, the religious minorities.  The details differ,  but the results of not being WASP are the same.

No, America was a great time to be a white male protestant.  For the others, not so much.  Not nearly so much.

The E Pluribus Unum of the 1950’s was accomplished by forcing a conformity that was not there – it mangled, crushed, tore and rended those who were not WASP’s, who were different, who did not conform, so that they behaved and believed like WASP’s or if not able to, then hid in silent holes and invisible nooks and crannies; or they deferred to the “superior” judgment of the WASPS.

The unity was the WASP and all were forced to conform no matter the cost to them.

Looking at this, looking at the then and looking again at the now, were I a believer I would say to these two conservatives, “Thank God that we no longer have your E Pluribus Unum!”

Since I am an atheist I will instead express a fervent “Thank You” to all the men and women who fought against the kingdom of the WASP… and brought it down.

Martin Luther King Jr., Joachim Prinz, Cesar Chavez, Rosa Parks, Harry Hay, Luisa Moreno, Malcolm X,  Betty Freidan, Thurgood Marshall, Dolores Huerta, Margaret Sanger, Corliss Lamont, Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, Gloria Steinem, Paul Kurtz, Carol Hanisch, Madalyn Murray O’Hair and the list goes on and on, too many names to list and too many unknowns who fought against the WASP ideal in their own lives and will never be known by their fellow citizens.  Again, thank you for your efforts, your vision, your willingness to brave the odds in order to bring equality and justice for all.

So, what is the meaning of E Pluribus Unum.

Not a melting pot, which melts all individuality, all differences into one bland and blind whole that is less than its parts.  Nor does it mean a cookie cutter press making everyone in the image of a “Good American”.

Rather, more like a symphony composed of many different instruments making many different sounds.    Each group of instruments has its own unique sound and carries its own different, sometimes clashing part of the music.  However, despite the differences, indeed, because of them greatness results:  Beethoven’s 9th( (Choral) Symphony, Dvorak’s 9th (New World) Symphony, Mozart’s 40th (Great) Symphony, and others.

They did not try to make each instrument alike, nor did they try to make each instrument play the same notes.  Instead they used that individuality and created beauty and greatness.

Now many would not like my little analogy here.  They would point out that instead of a great symphony we have a discordant cacophony of noisy sound.  But what of it?   Even these greats threw away pages of notes that did not please as well as what they finished with; rough drafts that were the necessary stepping stones to greatness.

Besides, America is meant to be, at times, a discord.  To look for anything else is to miss the point.  While creating that discord we are still playing together to occasionally create that one beautiful moment that will carry us along to the next beautiful moment.

That is the only sort of E Pluribus Unum worth having.

 

 

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I often see blogs, facebook postings, comments expressing grave concerns over the state of the United States.  In the great majority of cases this is prompted by the views expressed by either certain politicians or groups.

Given that I am an atheist this is often expressed as concern that all of these religious conservatives in our government, or the conservative religious groups who are trying to replace evolution with creationism etc. are going to destroy our country (or if from a non-US citizen, your country).

Now, I do take such things seriously and support those that are actively arguing and fighting against them, as well as contributing what I can in support.  However, while concerned, I do not feel any fears that the United States is on the edge of doom because of this.

I do not believe that if we had a Mormon president, or a Muslim president, or a literalist Christian president that my country is doomed.  Not even if such a president had the support of most of Congress.  Rough times, yes.  Doomed, no.

Why?  Because I believe that the people occupying the different slots in our government are not as important as the structure of our government itself.

All governments have idiots and fools.

Doesn’t matter if they are a monarchy, a dictatorship, a direct democracy or republic democracy or any of the other forms of democracy.   All governments have idiots and fools.  Not all the time, and not wholly.  But at any given moment, government will have a significant number of such people.  Some times more, some times less, but they are always there.

They are also going to be filled with people you disagree with.  Often strongly.  That too is a fact, most especially in any sort of democracy.

Now given these facts, the question really should be, can your system of government deal with these facts.  I believe that ours has and is and will continue to do so.

We have a system where we can peacefully change who is in power and who is not.  We have a system set up that protects individual rights and liberties – speech, assembly, religion, and so forth.  As long as these structures are still in place, I am not panicked.

I may become angry, concerned, upset, and pissed off – but not panicked.  If  Romney had won, or worse, if Rick Perry had got the nomination and won, I would have been all of these.  However, I realize that we have a process in which governments come and they can go too, which would have kept me from panicking; although I may have started to carry my towel with me everywhere I went.

Our process, our system of government is limited.  It is broken into three branches that limit its power, it is divided between national and state which limits its power, and the Constitution on which this country was created limits its power.

It is a representative democracy in which there are term limits in which every representative must stand for re-election.

It has rights guaranteed to its citizens that allow them to influence and change their government.

All of this allows us to deal with the idiots, the fools, and the wrong headed who too often wind up holding office.

Are there some issues with our structure?

Yes, chief among them is this ridiculous Supreme Court ruling that corporations are people that set it up for these superpacs to contribute an obscene amount of money to the political races.  However, you know what?  Our structure allows for this to change.  Our congress can write laws that would restrict these contributions and still meet the Supreme Court guidelines.  Or if another case comes up the Supreme Court could reverse its decision.

The point is, that the structure of the government allows for peaceful change.  And, just as important, protects the rights of its citizens to work for those changes.

Me worry?  At times.  Me panicked and saying doom, doom, doom?  Nah.   Especially since Obama won!

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“I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state are absolute,  The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country…to say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes me want to throw up.” – former Republican Presidential candidate and former governor Rick Santorum

 

When you think about our Founding Fathers, they created this country, our Constitution, the foundation of America upon Judeo-Christian values, biblical values and this narrative that has been going on, particularly since the ’60s, that somehow or another there’s this steel wall, this iron curtain or whatever you want to call it between the church and people of faith and this separation of church and state is just false on its face. – Texas governor Rick Perry

 

“I don’t see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or from their faith. Our faith informs us in everything we do.”  Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan,

 

“U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris told a religious journal that separation of church and state is “a lie” and God and the nation’s founding fathers did not intend the country be “a nation of secular laws.”

The Republican candidate for U.S. Senate also said that if Christians are not elected, politicians will “legislate sin,” including abortion and gay marriage.” – News report from Fox News.

 

Preshambles

This is something that I originally posted a couple of years ago.   However due to our current political climate I have been having disturbing and frightful dreams about this, ones that have left me in a cold and clammy sweat.

So, with the idea that a fear shared is a fear diminished,  I thought that resurrecting and re-posting this appropriate – especially during the Halloween season, a time when our many fears are personified into ghosts, vampires, and monsters.

 

Here then is a personal nightmare story about a future history class.

 

Shambles

Once upon a time our beloved and blessed country promoted evil and ignorance and was a great help to Satan in his war against God for the possession of men’s souls.  It did this not through malice, although there were many in the government then who knew what they were doing and took great pleasure in destroying the souls of their fellow men. Rather, our country did this because of a twisted, perverted line of reasoning that allowed a separation between God’s church and God’s state and that allowed men to think for themselves on issues too complex and great for them.

 

They believed, wrongly of course, that the state should not foster a religion or any group of religions upon its people.  They believed that each person should be free to believe as they please.  This idea was even protected in a document they called the constitution, one of the subtler works of Satan.  This damnable constitution of theirs even protected those whose beliefs ran counter to those of the Christian majority.  This constitution protected the rights of all individuals – ungodly as well as Godly –  so that the government, even with the will of the majority of a Christian nation, could not infringe upon those rights.

 

Satan had implanted in our ancestors the idea that there had to be limits to the powers of government.  According to this idea if there were not certain basic individual rights that were not protected from both the government and the will of the majority of God’s people then either a tyranny of one man, group of men, or the mob would develop.  Of course, in their own twisted and perverted way they were right.  Without the moral and spiritual guidance of the one true church, to allow any government absolute power would indeed be foolish.

 

Following this line of reasoning these deluded souls even went so far as to ban organized prayers and displays of the Ten Commandments in the public schools and courtrooms.  Their rationale was that this was a land of diversity containing many people with different beliefs and that the government was bound by this constitution to respect those beliefs no matter how wrong and blasphemous.

 

They maintained that this diversity of thought and belief was this country’s greatest strength.  According to these people this obscene diversity allowed society to grow and mature, enabled it to find new and better solutions to problems, and let it adapt in an easier and better way to a continuously changing world.

 

This satanic government said that the place of religion should be in the hearts and minds of people and not enshrined in government institutions set up to serve a diverse people.

 

Praise God though that the people of this Christian nation finally saw through this twisted reasoning and elected responsible men who changed the laws and this constitution and put prayer back in schools, eliminated Darwinism from the classrooms, displayed the Ten Commandments in all the courtrooms along with enforcing all of its commandments and not just some of them.  Gradually, for Satan had invested much time and effort into building up this unnatural and evil barrier between the church and state, the separation between church and state was done away with.

 

With the help of God these good men and women returned this blessed government of ours back to its Biblical and Godly foundation.  A foundation now protected against those who believe wrongly by laws against them promoting their errors.  It’s need is seen by the vast numbers of those in prison for violating those laws.

We have much to be thankful for.  But we must be ever vigilant lest we once again let church and state separate and allow people to grope blindly through the darkness and arrive at their own misguided beliefs, for humanity is too easily led astray.  We truly are the descendents of the fallen Adam.

 

That is all for today class.  Remember that after the closing prayer there will be a book burning held in the football field.  All the works of the Great Heretic Thomas Jefferson will be consigned to the flames.  This will be followed by the witness of a newly outed and converted Jewish classmate of yours.

 

I know all of you will show up.

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