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An Agnostic Defense of Religion

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You may not know it to look at me, but I am an enemy of religion.

Well, some people say that anyway based on two simple facts: I’m agnostic, and I believe the government should stay as far away from religious speech as it can.

This seems to be a sectarian version of “if you’re not with us, you’re against us.” To true believers, even a declared neutral on religion is an adversary. By such logic, there is no such thing as neutral. “Neutrality” is simply code for “doesn’t support,” which of course means “opposes.”

That may be helpful when trying to construct an “us against the heathen hordes” mindset, but it doesn’t really comport well with reality. I send my children to Lutheran preschools; I have written frequently about Abdul Rahman, and will write about other religious freedom cases in the future; I strongly support individual religious liberty. I respect the role of religion in society. I have tossed change into Salvation Army kettles.

I just happen to think that religion is not a government concern. It’s one of a whole host of things — like, say, clothing styles — where government should not have a role. As citizens, we all have a right to practice our religion as we see fit. What we do not have is the right to use the government to promote our religion.

An agnostic who supports religion
I was raised Presbyterian, so I have more than a passing familiarity with Christianity. But I’m an agnostic for the classic reason: I don’t believe the existence or nonexistence of God can be proven, so why waste time on an unsolvable puzzle? It’s fun to noodle on, but not really worth the investment of serious study. If He exists, great. If He doesn’t, okay. I guess I’ll find out when I’m dead.

Same thing with “Is there an afterlife?” Nobody knows, so any attempt to reason it out or “prove it” inevitably devolves into finding an explanation that is comforting to you. I sincerely hope there is an afterlife, and we all owe religion a “thank you” for coming up with the concept; but believe in it? Can’t do it.

Does that mean I think believers are gullible, easily deluded saps? Hardly. Just because they cannot prove to me that God exists doesn’t mean that they have not had His existence proven to their own satisfaction. Perhaps they’ve had a personal experience with God. Perhaps they see God’s presence in the structure of the world around them. Who am I to say they’re wrong?

So though I’m agnostic, I’m not hostile to religion. We discuss religious topics with our children, including the main tenets of the major religions. Why? Because I want my children to be able to make their own religious choices. As they get older, we’ll discuss religion in greater detail, even take them to church/synagogue/temple if they want. I see my role as providing information, not telling them what to believe.

Government, belief, and public policy
I think people should be free to worship as they please. And I respect religion’s role in society. Why, then, do I think government should be studiously neutral on religion?

Two reasons: public policy must have a rational, logically defensible basis; and government is for all people, not just the adherents of any single religion or group of religions.

Public policy: Personal, untestable, unprovable beliefs have no place in formulating government policy. As an individual, I’m free to believe that redheads are agents of God’s evil twin. Does that give me the right to enact anti-redhead laws? Not in a country that respects individual rights. In order to discriminate against a group or behavior, I must mount a logical public-policy case for doing so. Religious belief may inform my views as a voter or a legislator, but it cannot by itself be a basis for law.

Government for all people: If the government expresses a preference for certain religions, it is by necessity excluding those who believe differently. Our government belongs to all of us, in all our myriad beliefs or nonbeliefs; and thus it should not express a preference for any particular religion.

Blue laws — which force businesses to close on Sundays — are a perfect example of laws with no rational reason for existing, and which put government muscle behind one particular religion. If you don’t believe in working on the Sabbath, then don’t — but don’t use the government to force everyone else to take the day off, too.

Does this mean I’m trying to push religion out of the public square? No. Because individuals are free — nay, encouraged — to keep religion in the public square. Only the government should remain neutral and silent.

An analogy: If I don’t want cars driving on the sidewalk, am I anti-car? No. I just believe they belong on the road, not on the sidewalks. Similarly, religion belongs in individual discourse, not government discourse.

There are gray areas, of course. Religion should not be discriminated against, either. Religion plays a role in our society; its contribution can be recognized and acknowledged by the government just like the government recognizes the contributions of other groups. But the emphasis should be on recognizing the contribution, not the religion.

This, by the way, is why I generally support Bush’s push to make faith-based organizations eligible for government grants. Religious groups should be treated just like everybody else; they should receive neither favorable nor unfavorable treatment merely because they are religious.

As the above example demonstrates, trying to find the proper place for religion in a religiously diverse society is not an “attack on God.” It’s common sense, the accommodations that allow us to coexist peacefully with our neighbors as equal citizens.

Religious issues
Being agnostic, or defending everyone’s right to believe what they want, doesn’t mean I lack opinions on religious issues. I frankly enjoy religious discussions because of the big questions they raise. But these are debates about the shape of religion, not its existence.

For example, I’m not a huge fan of organized religion. Organized religion is all about claiming stewardship of the One True God. Since that’s an unprovable claim on the face of it, they have to resort to secondary measures to attract and keep a following. Eventually the church’s continued existence becomes an end in itself — an end that, while not totally separate from honoring God, is at least distinct from it.

The whole concept of Hell is a great example. Many religions claim something along the lines of “we are the one true faith; believe in us or suffer for all eternity.” This has always struck me as a transparent organizational tactic, not something that God would do. What kind of God would create a world that contains thousands of religions, and then say to each of us: “Pick wisely, because only one of them will get you into heaven”? If that is indeed the kind of God we have — petty and sadistic — then I for one choose not to worship Him even if He exists. No God worth the name plays shell games with people’s souls.

I choose to believe that if there is an afterlife, and the entrance requirement is based on what you do on earth, then the criteria will be things like living a good, honorable life, regardless of what particular creed you subscribe to.

(To be fair, I think the common depiction of Hell is a distortion. The most reasonable definition of Hell I’ve come across describes it simply as “the absence of God.” That’s simply a truism: If I don’t believe in the Christian God, then when I die, I will not go to the Christian heaven. It does not imply, however, that Hell is unpleasant: fire, brimstone, devils, demons. And it leaves open the possibility of me going to a different heaven, or the Elysian Fields, or Limbo, or whatever. Or being reincarnated.)

Or you can get into a discussion of why we should worship God. Doing so voluntarily out of simple joy or gratitude makes sense. But few religions present worship as merely an option; it’s the whole point, and often demanded by the God in question. Yet it seems to me that any God worth having wouldn’t care a whit about being worshipped, and thus Gods that demand worship probably don’t deserve it.

Is evolution opposed to God? Only if you think God couldn’t have chosen evolution as one of the mechanisms of creation. Is science opposed to God? No; science looks at the how of things, not the who or the why behind it. It’s only a conflict if your faith requires belief in easily disprovable things.

The questions go on and on. They’re great; they’re interesting; they make us think. They are why religion exists: to try to tackle the big questions, explain the unexplainable. It’s an ambitious undertaking, and it produces some first-class philosophy. And the redemptive power of religion has transformed lives and societies.

That is what religion does for us, and why it is valuable.

But religion, like any social tool, can also be used for ill. The religious wars that wracked Europe, the Crusades, the Inquisition, witch burnings, Islamic terrorism, and militant Jewish settlers all show belief being twisted to bad ends. And it usually occurs when one religion gains undue influence in secular government and starts using that government to further its own agenda.

So let each religion compete in the public marketplace of ideas. Let us build a society that knits together fervid and disparate beliefs into a vibrant whole. But let us agree that for any of us to be free, all of us have to be free. And that means keeping the government out of religion. For the government that today promotes your religion can tomorrow suppress it — and society will be the poorer for that.

About Sean Aqui

  • Steve

    Cool, Vern.

  • gonzo marx

    Steve in #94 sez…
    *they said it was a copy dated around 300BC. Which puts it in the same time frame as the rest of the Gnostic Gospels…and hey, how about that, from what was said about it’s contents, it most certainly is Gnostic. Case closed on that one.*

    ok..you seem to be confusing the Coptic copies of some texts with a plethora of Gnostic sects and scriptures….some of which are christian, and some of which are not

    the dates you mention are concurrent with things like the Nag Hammadi finds, and are accurate dats of when these copies of said scriptures were created utilizing the Coptic written language (egyptian language with greek alphabet)…this was common after the burning of the Alexandrian library…and even more so after about 180AD when Bishop Iraneus edited together what is now known as the New Testament Bible but AFTER he wrote “the Book of 5 Heresies” to refute ANY other scriptures besides the edited versions of the ones in his “unified” (read:catholic) “Book”

    many historians, theologians and biblical scholars have made whole carreers out of establishing the variances betwen the 4 Gospels in the NT….some of which Vern has covered…(different Nativities, different Last Words on the Cross, different inscription on the plaque above the ccross…etc)

    that is one of the things that make the Coptic texts so precious…these come to us with no intermediaries…the Coptics were generally hired to produce exact copies of scriptures and scrolls utilizing the techniques of the first books…ie:codex

    i could go on a lot more here…those that are interested will look about for themselves…those who adhere to certain dogma will refer to such as me in the way i often describe myself…

    apostate and heretic

    nuff said?

    Excelsior!

  • Steve

    No, gonzo, I was referring to them as Gnostic, because of their content (though they do tend to date later than the NT Gospels). Gnosticism is all about secrets and the keeping thereof, about how only those who are ‘initiated’ can really know the truth. And that was what was mentioned about this ‘new’ Gospel last night, re. Judas and Jesus. In complete contrast to the NT we have today. That’s why I say, this Gospel does not really provide anything new…it is just the same old Gnosticism.

  • gonzo marx

    with all due Respect, Steve…

    might i just suggest that you don’t have the slightest Idea of what you are speaking of when it comes to Gonstics, gnosticism, or christian Gnostic scriptures…as well as being a bit confused at to your dating of scriptural materials as accpted by both modern scholars, Jesuits, the Vatican and most theologians today?

    example: the Coptic Gospel of Thomas, consisting of only Quotes from Yeshua…is referred to by Iraneus in his Book of 5 Heresies directly, as is the Gospel of Judas Iscariot and the Gospel of Mary

    this was approximately 180ad

    those texts are considered to have been originally written from sometime between 35 and 76 AD, whereas the earliest dating for the NT Gospels are between 76 anbd 100AD (the first and second uprisings against the Romans)…and the Gospel of John, well after 100AD

    note, these are the tentative dates of the writings, NOT the copies…

    as for gnosticism itself….

    gnosis is merely the greek word for Knowledge…

    in the context we are speaking , it is usually meant to describe a deep , personal knowledge of a spiritual nature…to grok in fullness (borrowing from Heinlein)…something known in both your head, and your heart…persoanlly known…and not forced via authoritarian dogma

    the Concept that such is “secret” has been around since the roman Valentinius argued with Ceasar..if not longer

    on and on

    but just for a side bit, since this is probably boring to most…

    were you Aware that the oldest continuing sect of Christians still existant are the dualist Manichean Gnostics?….very christian, very much alive today…

    and living in Iraq

    just a Thought

    Excelsior!

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com Andy Marsh

    Steve – we’ve been here before…gnosticism and all…lotta good stuff to read out there.

    If you saw that thing on TV, then you saw the lady who’s books you might wanna read…before you get into a discussion on the gnostic gospels. That was Elaine Pagels…pretty smart lady.

    …oh…one more thing…I think gonzo groks it better than most…

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com Andy Marsh

    and gonzo…it’s not boring…fasinates the hell out of me…

  • Steve

    Actually, gonzo, I was just watching an interview with the guy who was in that lawsuit with Dan Brown over the Da Vinci Code. Baigent (spelling?) was his last name I believe, co-author of “Holy Blood, Holy Grail”. He admitted, by the way, that the reason he wrote his latest book, “The Jesus Papers” was political, concerns about religion entering politics. If only people would get into these issues without a political agenda, their ideas might not seem so suspect!!

    Anyway, he said that this Gospel of Judas does indeed fit into the broader Gnostic tradition, and he’s been writing about this stuff for 20+ years, and is far from being a fundamentalist!!

    I am somewhat familiar with Pagels’ work but it’s been a while. Is she one of the ones that says the Gnostic Gospels are more favorable towards women vis a vis the NT?? Because from what I’ve read of the Gnostic Gospels, she must be reading them awfully selectively.

    Re. the NT and the others and dating, I haven’t read anything convincing that the Gnostic Gospels were written before 100AD. After all, that’s a big swing to go from Iraneus in 180AD to 35-76AD.

    Re. the NT Gospels, I think it’s hard to argue that Matthew and Mark were written after 70AD. Re. John, I thought the majority was saying 90-100AD (maybe that was majority UK figures). You may be right about Luke though.

    Most scholars and theologians that are widely quoted are generally liberal in theology (e.g. the Jesus Seminar) as are the Jesuits, so I would probably disagree with their presuppositions that bring them to their conclusions.

    I’m not a Catholic myself, so I don’t worry too much about what the Vatican says.

    Not really sure what your point is about Gnostics in Iraq.

    So, gonzo, looks like we have a discussion ahead of us, though I wont be around much tomorrow.

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com Andy Marsh

    Pagels is one of the people that says that the gnostic gospels are more favorable to women…kind of hard to argue that point based on the fact that one of them, the gospels that is, was written in the name of a woman. There’s one story in the GG’s where the story says Jesus said Mary had received the Word…

    And who’s to say they got it right in Nicea anyway? Maybe it’s all wrong. Maybe the Nag Hammadi scrolls are the real NT??? Think what it would mean to the church if like I’ve heard the Judas gospel says, Jesus was in on his own death…

    The NT gospels weren’t written by their namesakes anyway…it’s like finding out that the astronauts really did land on a lot in Hollywood.

  • onlooker

    “Or how about the two differing descriptions of the animals in the ark? Or the the fact that in the four gospels, only one has a thief that asks to be forgiven on the cross (two don’t mention thieves, one says, “..and they mocked him.”). How about the Book of John – “In the beginning was The Word…” and how it matches the way the world was created in one of the stories (“Let there be…)? Or the two differing Nativities?”

    Or how about two or more people describing an event such as a traffic accident?

    Exact copies leads to the conclusion that there is collusion between the writers.

    Better to have the viewpoint of each witness.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Gonzo, you appear to miss the points I made entirely.

    1. You cannot get a feel for a religious text by reading it in translation. Better to read the Coptic Gospel of Judas in the original language (if it is available) than in any translation.

    2. “Correcting” a text can denude it of all of its meaning.

    In sum, if you read a religious text, you must grant some level of belief in the Divinity that inspired it and read it in the original form.

    That’s work. Reading the Tana”kh in Hebrew requires knowing Hebrew. Reading the various Christian books in the original Aramaic or Koïne requires knowing Aramaic or Koïne.

    I would note that the Tana”kh refers to other books. Examples are the Book of Jubilees and the Book of Enoch. You’re being told that there is more to the story in front of you than meets the eye at first face in the most obvious way possible. It’s worth the effort to seek out those books.

    Finally, the term “literal reading” means one thing to Christians and quite another to Jews. This is something you should bear in mind.

  • gonzo marx

    Ruvy..my apologies if i gave that impression…i guess there are times when i am just not clear enough…

    1. well do i understand how much it helps to read a text in it’s original language…and much do i dislike not being able to in many circumstances, so by comparing various translations…and attempting to examine the authenticity of the original documents as best as possible, i try and gather as accurate a “picture” as i am able to

    2. of course…see my points in number 1

    as to “literal meaning”…well am i Aware of the differences, perhaps you might want to keep in mind that i am quite familiar with the oncept fo esoterica in scriptural/philosophical writings…

    Excelsior!

  • Apteryx

    Sean, I know I am late to the party. Came across this site looking for something else. I find it quite interesting although I am not sure of the existence of agnostics. I do, however, agree with virtually all of your posting. The only comment I wish to make is the use of the phrase “the government”. The government is an institution of principles and ambitions. The people who comprise the government cannot be divorced from their faith or lack there of. I don’t believe it is the government’s job to ensure that all citizens (or illegals) are free from expressions that do not comply with their beliefs. For example, the fact that Judge Moore of Alabama had a monument with the 10 commandments engraved on it, which he paid for himself, placed in the rotunda of the Alabama Supreme Court building should not have been a subject for court action. It speaks only to the beliefs of Judge Moore and not to the State of Alabama and anyone who wants to read more into that is free to complain but should not have their way. As long it did not cost the citizens of Alabama any substantial amount of tax money to create and install the monument and there was no rule or ordinance that anyone passing by must look at or contemplate it, it should not matter. The rental value of the space it occupies, that people have to walk around it since it occupies space is what the judges call “de minimus”. If it offends you, avert your eyes. The fact that a judge, or any public official, is willing to put his guiding principles up for public scrutiny should be applauded and encouraged.

  • http://midtopia.blogspot.com Sean Aqui

    Apteryx: Thanks for the comments. I must respectfully disagree with your take on Moore. Government employees have as much right to express their beliefs as anyone else. Want to hang a copy of the 10 Commandments on the wall of your office? No problem. On the wall of your courtroom? That would depend on the legal status of the courtroom, but I’d generally be okay with that, too. The key is that he would be using his personal space to express his personal beliefs.

    But the monument was a whole different animal. He unilaterally decided to use a prominent space in a government building for his “private” monument. And the monument weighed 2.6 tons; it is not easily ignored. He crossed the line by appropriating public space to express his personal beliefs.

  • Mark

    An Agnostic Defends Religion in America
    (reprinted from http://www.politicallyright.com)

    Criticizing Americans as religious fanatics has long been a preoccupation of Europeans in general and the left in particular. It’s no secret that Americans are far more likely to believe in God than are people in most other industrialized nations. The latest Harris poll on religious trends in the United States reaffirms this. According to the poll, 66% of Americans are “absolutely certain” there is a God. Conversely, the World Value survey conducted earlier this year concludes that only 30% of Europeans share such strong religious beliefs. Most leftist critics of religion in the United States cite these polls to prove the inherent “shortcomings” of the U.S. These critics argue that religion in the U.S. is diminishing freedom and preventing Americans from acting “rationally.” My contention is that traditional religion as practiced in the United States today reaffirms individual liberty and does little to hinder rational thinking, while those who denounce religion pose a greater threat to individual freedom and are more prone to illogical views.

    Why do so many Americans profess such strong faith in God compared with people in other countries?

    First and foremost, Americans are religious because they can be. They are free to practice any religion and believe in any god they wish, from Islam to Wicca, from Allah to Argowen. American Muslims, for example, enjoy greater freedom than do their counterparts in Muslim nations. Even in Western Europe, certain religions are banned by governments. In Germany, the government has actually criminalized the practice of Scientology, the Los Angeles-based movement that has gained millions of world-wide followers since its inception in 1958. In Russia, legislation has been introduced to thwart proselytizing by Mormons and other foreign religious groups. Ironically, the Russian Orthodox Church is applying most of the pressure to ban these religions (it was a victim of government proscription for more than 70 years under communist rule). Recently, the Canadian government ruled that parts of the Bible amount to “hate speech.” But in the United States, religious practices are protected by the Constitution.

    Constitutional liberty, which extends far beyond religious freedom, impels many Americans to turn to God. Because the United States was founded on a belief in individualism, each American must decide for himself the definition of “morality.” Some Americans find this task daunting, so they turn to a higher “order” to deliver the guidance they seek. Often, they look to God and the church to provide them the structure not afforded by the rest of society, which emphasizes individualism over collectivism. Others look to God or their church as a safety net to keep them from the “temptations” pervasive in a society with such wide sweeping liberty. Still, many more look to God and church as a form of “protection” against what they may consider “bad influences” brought on by a nation with so many competing lifestyles, opinions, and beliefs. This widespread and deep-rooted individual liberty, both religious and otherwise, fosters a more “God-fearing” public than one would find in most other industrialized societies.

    But doesn’t this apprehension of extensive liberty combined with strong religious beliefs create a dangerous devaluation of individual rights?

    Conservative religious groups, both inside and outside American government, have long attempted to incorporate their religious views into public policy. Cases of citizens and public officials disregarding the Constitution in favor of religious doctrine is as old as the United States itself. Up until 1996, for example, students in the Pontotoc County, Mississippi public school system began each day with a student-led Baptist prayer broadcast over the intercom system. Students were also routinely exposed to religious teachings in their regular curriculum and had scheduled Bible classes. Public prayer before lunch and at school sporting events was also common.

    Another example occurred last summer when Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore displayed a Ten Commandments monument in the rotunda of the Alabama Supreme Court building. Chief Justice Moore displayed the monument because, as Moore’s spokesmen Tom Parker said, he wanted “to acknowledge the very source of our rights and liberties and the very source of our law.”

    Such cases are utilized by critics who charge that the U.S. is a nation that merges church and state. But these critics fail to acknowledge one important, weighty detail: almost all of these cases, including the two illustrated above, have been found unconstitutional in American courts.

    In 1996, after a lawsuit was filed by a woman whose children were enrolled in the Pontotoc public schools, a Mississippi federal judge ruled that the school district, by holding public prayer and Bible classes, had violated the children’s Constitutional rights. U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers, who presided over the case, justified his ruling in these terms, “the Bill of Rights was created to protect the minority from tyranny by the majority.”

    In the Alabama case, a federal court found that the Ten Commandments monument violates the doctrine of separation of church and state. For this reason, the court ordered the monument removed. When Chief Justice Moore defied the court order, he was suspended and the state of Alabama removed the monument. Americans, like any other people, have opinions; yet, unlike the citizens of most other countries, Americans are neither prevented from expressing their opinions nor permitted to force their opinions on others.

    Religious groups in the U.S. have been instrumental in keeping government from stepping on individual rights, perhaps more than any other group. Historically, religions in the United States have played a major role in community care taking. Through parishioner donations, charitable events and outreach programs, the church has provided for the needs of the community in a much more cost-effective, efficient and humane manner than the government could ever hope to accomplish. Alexis de Tocqueville recognized this form of private civic-mindedness 170 years ago in his book Democracy in America. Americans see the role of their churches, Tocqueville wrote, in much the same way Europeans see the role of their governments. Tocqueville also noted that, because the Constitution guarantees separation of church and state, religion in the U.S. acts as a vital firewall between individual liberty and the tentacles of government.

    What about the “irrational” foundation of religious faith?

    Many leftists criticize the irrational nature of religion. When one peels back the layers of leftist rhetoric, however, it becomes evident just which group is more prone to fantasy and conjecture. Leftists have long leaned on the “scientific” theories of Karl Marx to support their ideology. Marx’s theory that a growing concentration of wealth in fewer hands will cause a frustrated proletariat to rise in revolt has simply never come to fruition. In fact, in the past 60 years, the living standards of democracies have increased substantially. (Anyone with eyesight can see that this is true.) Leftist mythology, however, insists that the gap between the so-called “haves” and “have-nots” has steadily widened.

    The list of untruths to which the left clings is endless. Traditional religious beliefs, on the other hand, are far more rational in concept. With traditional religion, one can neither empirically prove nor empirically disprove the existence of God (which is why one has “faith” in God’s existence in the first place). Socialist ideology, however, has been systematically and historically confirmed to be a catastrophic failure. So why would any reasonable human being still follow it? Even religious Americans are not so gullible as to believe in the long disproved political dogma of socialism.

    Critics of religion in the United States further claim that religion breeds contempt for scientific and technological advancement, and is leading to America’s supposed technological and scientific “decline.” Once again, empirical evidence suggests otherwise. Despite a majority of Americans who profess strong religious beliefs, the United States continues to lead the world in technological and scientific innovations, and there is no sign that its lead is abating. Indeed, the U.S. is the most modern society on earth. Americans’ firm religious beliefs have done nothing to thwart modern advancement. In fact, more Americans hold patents and have earned Nobel prizes than the citizens of any other nation.

    Secular Europe, on the other hand, shows a far greater disdain for technology and science than does religious America. While Americans embrace new advances in agricultural biotechnology, for example, Europeans view such technological progress with an almost “religious-like” superstition and fear. Protests against America’s genetically-modified food have become commonplace throughout Western Europe. Even the European Union has placed moratoriums on the new American technology, despite repeated international studies that show genetically-modified crops are harmless. As Europe’s cries of protest against new technologies become more strident, it’s evident that Europe, not the U.S., is becoming increasingly embroiled in irrational, superstitious thought.

    Just how secular is the left, anyway?

    In Europe, traditional religious beliefs have eroded steadily since the onslaught of the French Revolution. Indeed, ever since a small group of ideological Frenchmen sought to create “heaven on earth,” secular political thought has taken on an almost religious-like fervor. In many ways, socialism in Europe – and throughout the world – has replaced the church. One of socialism’s founding fathers, Robert Owen, referred to socialism as a “new religion.” Owen actually had his own “church” in which followers, including the young Friedrich Engels, would flock for Sunday services. It is not uncommon for Europeans even today to refer to socialism or communism as “their church.”

    Socialist philosophy is jam-packed with Judeo-Christian teachings, from self-sacrifice to charity. Socialism’s inherent disdain for the “rich” comes directly from the Bible. Repeated Biblical passages describe the dehumanizing manner in which the rich treat the poor. And Matthew 5:5 proclaims: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Of course, 2,000 years ago the rich probably were a pretty despicable lot. But today in the United States, where even the most wretched immigrant can make a fortune, the Bible cannot be considered contemporary in all its views. Yet, this does not stop socialists from working to implement ancient Biblical lessons (a la Karl Marx) into modern government. In fact, the United States, with all it stands for— individualism, materialism, moral lassitude—earns the wrath of both socialists and traditional religious zealots. Ironic that both groups, although one sees the U. S. as too religious and the other sees it as not religious enough, are in compliance as to which nation is to blame for all the world’s problems: the devil incarnate itself, the United States of America.

    With well-known leftist leaders such as the REVERAND Jesse Jackson and the REVERAND Al Sharpton, it is difficult to see just how “secular” the left really is. A recent Harris poll shows that of all the Democratic presidential candidates, Al Sharpton is second in name recognition behind Sen. Joseph Lieberman. Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew, once said that the Democratic Party should be more “God-fearing.” Roger S. Gottlieb, Professor of Philosophy at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, and one of the left’s most ardent followers, actually wrote a book entitled: “Joining Hands: Politics and Religion Together for Social Change.” British Prime Minister and leader of the socialist Labor Party Tony Blair routinely quotes passages from the Bible, most notably: “I am my brother’s keeper.” This proves just how extensive the Bible and religious teachings have influenced even those who proclaim to be the most secular.

    The chief difference between the left’s philosophy of altruism and the principles of selflessness and charity taught by Judeo-Christian religions comes in the form of how the followers of these faiths seek to “proselytize.” While the majority of Americans who follow traditional religions keep their faiths a matter of private concern, socialists, by nature of their creed, do not. Socialists seek to make their ideology law of the land (i.e. forced altruism). Less obvious than with traditional religious infractions on liberty such as in the Pontotoc County school case, socialism seeps into the public lives of Americans everyday, as the nation’s schools, museums, libraries, and governments become pulpits for socialism. Stealthily clad in false secular garb, socialism is a cult that people are forced to join.

    Conclusion

    The United States has a long tradition of honoring individual freedom. This freedom protects not only the religious, but the nonbelievers as well. As it stands, even an agnostic like me is free to think as he chooses in a nation where 66% of the population professes certainty in God’s existence. Unfortunately, this liberty is threatened by a secular religion, a religion based on irrational, false “sciences” and ancient premises. The Constitution can protect Americans from a chief justice who displays the Ten Commandments in a public court house, but can it protect Americans from Leftists who wish to force their penance onto the public in the form of government programs and other socialist sacraments?

    © 2003 Politically Right Magazine, LLC